A/N: I was going through a bit of a creative slump, so I decided to do a few challenges to get the creative juices flowing again. This is for SophyWald's Impossible Love challenge. I chose the pair (is it surprising?), she gave me the reason they couldn't be together (he's her teacher) and five prompts. I'll admit taking a few liberties, but I've included all five.
Enjoy, and please review.
The crisp remnants of grass that hadn't been completely destroyed by the November frosts crunched lightly under her feet as she crossed the grounds. She tightened her scarf and shoved her hands deeper in her robe, desperate to get to her spot, the spot she always escaped to when the boys pushed her just one step too far and she needed to calm down and collect her thoughts. Unfortunately she found that, for the first time ever, her secluded spot was already occupied.
Snape sat on her favorite rock, overlooking the blue-gray waves of the lake before, though even from a distance she could see his eyes were not focusing on the water. His robes pooled lightly on the damp ground, though he didn't seem to mind that the moisture of the rocks was slowly working its way up the fabric, causing the black of the robe to appear even darker. His eyes were closed, but as always they were curtained by his hair. There was something different about him, something in his face. Away from the students and the castle, where neither of his masters nor the threat of their presence were bother him, he looked like a different man. Somewhere between resigned and defeated. His shoulders were slumped, his back bowed in a concession to the hand life had dealt him, his hands rested on his legs as though he didn't have the energy to hold them up. The longer she watched him, the more her heart broke. She wanted nothing more to go to him and comfort him, but there was a good chance he'd hex her if she went anywhere near, so she twirled around to hurry back to the castle before he noticed her there, but before she got two steps she heard his voice.
"It is rude to stare, Miss Granger."
Slowly she turned back to him, and wasn't surprised to find his face had hardened, and his coal-black eyes were narrowed as he scrutinized her- very much the Snape she knew from her lessons.
"I.. I'm sorry, Professor," she whispered, knowing he could still hear her. "I was just..."
"What did Potter and Weasley do this time?"
She opened her mouth to respond, but decided against it. "Can we just leave it at they were themselves?"
"If you wish," he replied.
"I really am sorry, Professor. I didn't know you were here, or I wouldn't have bothered coming."
"It is quite the spot you've found," he replied. "An escape. I should thank you for letting me know about it."
"Sir?" she asked, confused.
"I was returning from Hogsmeade one day when I noticed you walking alone across the yard. Times being what they are I followed you to make sure there was nothing wrong, and instead watched you for an hour sitting here and crying over whatever insensitive thing Potter and Weasley had done at the time."
Her fists were clenched as anger surged through her. "You sat around and watched me cry?" she hissed. "You had no right..."
"I needed to make sure you were not meeting any unsavory characters or trying to sneak a dark object into the castle."
"Dark object!" she clenched her teeth to prevent herself from shouting. "Exactly what in my past would lead you to believe that I would be attempting to smuggle a dark object into Hogwarts, sir?" she added the last part with all the venom she could muster.
"What did I say made you believe that I thought you would voluntarily touch a dark object, let alone smuggle one into the castle?" he shot back, his smooth, calm voice irritating her further. "
"You said..." she started, but he cut her off.
"Nothing more or less than you may meet someone unsavory or sneak a dark object into the castle, but nothing about your intentions in doing so. Do you forget that the Dark Lord's side hardly needs your consent to make you do either of those things?"
She came up short, her face flushing.
"You are an extraordinary witch in many ways, Miss Granger. You have a brain to be envied, the ability to recall information that is nearly unrivaled in our world, and a fierce loyalty to those who seem hell-bent on pushing your boundaries as far as possible, but sometimes you have the extraordinary ability to let your emotions drive your decisions. If you were able to curb that trait you would be nearly unstoppable, but even here you fail to see logic in the face of someone making what you perceive is an accusation against you. If I were an enemy or a lesser man I would exploit this weakness."
"I'm... sorry, sir," she whispered.
"That is another weakness. I offer criticism to you, and you apologize to me. You have nothing to be sorry for, Hermione, I merely pointed things out because I believe you will be playing a pivotal role at some point during this war."
She stared at him in surprise. For a moment she wondered if it really was Severus Snape sitting in front of her, but Snape was too clever for anything like that, and castle security was so strict that she was sure no imposters would be getting on the premises anytime soon. And did he just call her by her first name?
"I will try to work on those things. I honestly wasn't aware I was doing any of them," she replied, dropping any sort of formality to see if he responded.
"You would do well to work on them," he replied. "I do not trust Potter or Weasley to be in control of their emotions, at least one of you should, and you are the easy fix."
That certainly sounded like Snape.
"Thank you, Professor. I should probably leave you alone..."
"You are more than welcome to stay. I daresay I am the one who intruded on your spot, it would be rude of me to ask you to leave."
"I'm sorry, but as I came here looking for solitude, as I'm sure you did, sir..."
"We are not in the castle, nor are we doing anything to deal with your education. No need for the formalities."
"Would you prefer I call you Snape as Harry and Ron do?"
"I do have a first name."
"I... I don't think... it's not..."
"Just say it, Hermione," he snapped, clearly annoyed.
"Yes, si... Severus," she murmured the name, surprised it wasn't as uncomfortable to say she had thought.
"That wasn't difficult now, was it?" he asked flippantly as he waved his wand, conjuring up a chair and motioning for her to sit. She did so slowly, wary that the whole move might be a set-up for Gryffindor to lose a couple hundred points. "Would you like to revisit the subject of what Potter and Weasley did this time?"
"Why would I? So you can take points off Gryffindor for their being a couple of insensitive prats? If so you might as well just drain our hourglass now, because they're not going to stop anytime soon."
She thought she saw the corner of his mouth tug slightly upwards. "You are the one who, on at least five separate occasions that I know of, have sought the solitude of this place. Is it so difficult to believe that, as your teacher, I'm showing a bit of concern for your well-being?"
"To be honest, yes, it is difficult for me to believe that after five years and a couple months, you are finally showing concern for me when it has been obvious that it's previously not been a priority for you."
"That's fair. At this point I'm sure you're expecting me to discourage the friendship, perhaps by saying something first that praises your intelligence, then insults theirs, and finally points out the lack of shared traits and interests between you."
She smiled despite herself. "I wouldn't be surprised."
"As much as I'd enjoy watching them struggle without your constant help during class, I'm afraid I must disappoint here. If they try to face the challenges ahead without you they may as well just walk up to the Dark Lord and attempt to kick him for all they are going to accomplish. Without you I doubt they'd survive a month."
She stared at him, letting his words sink in. "What are you trying to tell me, Severus?" she asked in a whisper.
"Do not act like you don't know what must lie ahead. Things will only get worse until the Dark Lord is vanquished, and I do not doubt that there will be a time in the near future where Dumbledore trusts Potter with a very difficult mission, and not soon after he will enlist the help of you and Weasley. I also do not doubt that, of the two of you, you will be the more important asset."
"Do you know what kind of mission?"
"If I did, do you think I'd be at liberty to tell you?"
She didn't believe him for a second, but the intensity of his gaze made it impossible for her to stop looking at for a moment. She realized she had leaned so far forward she had dragged the chair several inches closer to him, and if she moved any closer she'd be touching him, though for some reason he did not seem to object to her proximity.
"Do you think we have a chance, Severus?"
"It depends," he said casually. "Mainly on Potter's ability to finish whatever it is he must do. The Dark Lord has weaknesses he is unwilling to admit, pride atop that list, that can be exploited, but must do so delicately."
"What can I do?"
"That I cannot answer, as I do not know exactly what lies ahead for either one of us."
She felt a chill settle in the air, and tightened her robes around her.
"For what it's worth, I think you have the intelligence and the talent to get through this alive."
"But not everyone will."
"How many wars have you read about where there haven't been casualties?"
She bit her lip and focused on her hands, determined not to cry in front of him, knowing there was little chance of any sympathy if she did. But to her surprise his long, pale fingers were suddenly touching her forearm lightly.
"You have made some incredible choices to get to this point. I will not discount everything you have done and accomplished thus far. I understand how difficult it is not to give up, and I commend you for it."
She looked up into his eyes, and saw a softness she didn't expect. "I'm sure everything I've done so far pales in comparison to your contributions."
"There is a difference between contribution and retribution," he murmured, making a motion as though he were going to stand and leave.
"No," she shook her head emphatically and grabbed his arm to hold him in place. He looked down at the contact in surprise.
"Don't. You don't know the half of what I've done. I don't deserve your compassion, as abundant as it is," he hissed, pulling away from her and standing to leave, but she stood and grabbed him, twisting his arm so he turned to face her. He was not used to anyone, let alone a student, restraining him in such a way. There was a fire behind his eyes, a life that she realized in that moment had been lacking every other time she had ever dared look into them. It was impossible to read, but it changed his face. For the first time he looked more like a man than a vampire as was the constant joke, no longer a shell of what he could have been had he never met Voldemort. For the first time in a long time someone was seeing the real Severus Snape, and it lit a fire inside her, made her feel like she could fight the world, love passionately, and, as hopeless as it felt at times, live.
"You deserve so much more than my compassion," she murmured, and before he could shoot some snarky reply at her she threw herself at him, her lips crashing into his.
Despite everything she expected in that moment, which admittedly involved various hexes and a probable trip to the hospital wing, his hands found her sides and roughly pulled her body into his. She threw her arms around him, pressing herself into him, deepening the kiss as his tongue slipped into her mouth to clash with her own. He pushed her back a couple steps until her body collided with a tree, pressing so hard into her she found it difficult to draw a full breath.
All sorts of scenarios passed through her mind, though the longer the kiss went on the more vulgar they became. She found herself wondering if they'd be able to make it to his private rooms without anyone noticing. She wanted to rip his robes off, to feel him pulling her own off, to have him buried deep inside her...
"Wait," he growled, pulling away from her. They stood, arms wrapped around each other, each trying to catch their breath and waiting for the other to speak.
"We... we can't do this," he murmured.
"Why not?" she asked, her stomach sinking in disappointment.
"Any number of reasons, the foremost being I am your professor, and it is against the rules to have a relationship with a student."
"That doesn't matter to me, why does it matter to you?"
"Because my job is the last thing I have. It is keeping me alive. If I am caught carrying on with one of my students even Albus will not be able to save my job. If I lose it, I might as well swallow poison, because I will be of no more use to the Dark Lord and he will punish me, probably twice as hard as usual as I would have not only cost him his insider at Hogwarts but I lost it for a muggle-born, and dispose of me in the most gruesome way he can think of."
"If anyone could keep a secret in that castle it is us."
"No. If I let my guard down for one moment, if anyone finds out about us, I am not the only one who will suffer."
"I can take care of myself."
"I won't," he said, and he unexpectedly twisted away from her, backing away so quickly he might have Apparated several feet away.
"But Severus, I want..."
"Don't finish that. Please."
"Don't you want me?" she whispered.
"More than anything. But I will not jeopardize my job, and possibly the fate of the war, for this."
She bit her lip and fought tears, the cold settling back in, despite her efforts to keep it at bay by wrapping her arms and her cloak around herself.
"I'm sorry," he murmured, and started back towards the castle. After three steps he paused, and turned back towards her. "If we both survive this...?"
"Yes," she agreed to the unfinished question.
There was a flash of surprise across his face as he tried to process that she admitted she wanted more than that very moment. He nodded once, and continued back towards the castle, disappearing into the gathering darkness.
She dizzily walked the few steps to the rock and sunk onto it. She drew her knees up to her chest as she let the first of the tears fall, and for the first time started saying a prayer for Snape's survival.