I hit 200 reviews! YAY! Now I am working on getting you guys to make it 250 as the next step ;-) So, keep ´em coming! RussianDestruction once again did the beta-work for me. She is still mucho, mucho awesome!
Ok, on with the story. Let me just say four words before we start:
Oh, Severus, you idiot!
Chapter twelve- Feeling anything but safe
Professor Snape and Hermione Granger stared at each other. While the former looked absolutely furious, the latter wasn´t able to do anything but gape at him. For several seconds, neither of them moved. Then the enraged wizard stormed towards his student.
"Hand over that damnable cloak, now!"
That finally got to her. In a panic, she scrambled away from the approaching man and tried to cover herself with the offending piece of cloth. "Sir, I ─"
The dark wizard didn´t hesitate. With a rather gleeful expression, he ripped the cloak from her body and threw it on the table in front of them. The way he stared at it afterwards was eerily similar to the way one might glare at a disgusting spider or a dead animal. Then Professor Snape turned his head and looked at her. Hermione had been completely naked in front of him only a few hours before, but somehow - wearing his borrowed white shirt while sitting on the couch in his private quarters, and with him only half-dressed - she felt even more embarrassed under his scrutiny.
The whole scenario was just too clichéd. Not only was she wearing his shirt and sleeping in his quarters; no, since she had been lying down, her hair was all messed up, too. In fact, she looked exactly like she would have after a thorough afternoon shag with her Potions Professor on a nice sunny Saturday. Then there was the little fact that her teacher had chosen to confront her wearing nothing but his trousers and a hastily donned cloak. A rather distracting gap formed between the panels of his cloak each time he moved. Hermione couldn´t stop peeking at the pale flesh revealed by the black material.
Even distracted, she noticed the moment he realised what he was looking at. If possible, his eyes burned an even darker shade, and his lips curled into a sneer. Hermione knew that she needed to intervene, before he got the wrong idea about her current getup. Trying to look as business-like as possible, she sat up, unfurled her legs from underneath her body, crossed her legs and covered her thighs with the tails of his white shirt. His eyes followed every movement she made.
"Professor, that isn´t −, I mean, it´s not what you think. It´s not like I took your shirt just like that, but I needed something to wear, because I - Oh God, I can´t say it. I´m sorry. It´s not like I wanted to be here, honestly. I really, really tried to leave, but it wouldn´t let me. I didn´t mean to come here at all, why would I? No, that didn´t sound like I wanted it to. I didn´t mean to imply, that I didn´t want to see you, Sir. I just didn´t want, eh, plan to see you. I trust you, of course, as I said before, but you said that you wished to be left alone and I wouldn´t think of imposing on you, but I just couldn´t go down to the Great Hall like nothing had happened and see all those happy, unknowing faces and−"
"Miss Granger −"
"I know, I know, and I am sorry, so, so sorry, I really didn´t mean to−"
The young witch didn´t finish her sentence and stared up at her teacher in shock. Professor Snape had closed the distance between them in three quick strides and was now leaning over her, his arms on either side of her with his hands resting on the back of the couch. His legs were very close to touching her knees and his nose was nearly pressed against hers. This close, Hermione realised for the first time that her teacher had a small birth mark under his left brow. Her heart, she also realised, had started racing, and adrenaline was coursing through her veins. Then his silky voice washed over her like a bucket of icy-cold water.
Every word was pronounced with precision and spoken with utterly misleading softness. Hermione wondered, somewhat absentmindedly, whether Professor Snape had ever killed before. Then her instincts kicked in. Hesitantly, she raised her eyes to his burning black orbs.
"Please, Sir, step back." Merlin, where did that come from? He is going to snap, you stupid idiot. "Please, I need you to step back." Why am I doing this?
The former Death Eater frowned and straightened. He even took a further step back, before looking at her again. Instead of the rage she had expected to see, she thought she saw dismay on his features for a moment. There was that strange uncertain and uncomfortable version of her teacher again. She couldn´t grasp just how he switched from angry and really, really frightening to closed-off and uncertain in milliseconds, but here he was. Now that she had learned to discern his moods a little better, she could see that at this very moment, he was only pretending to be aloof. It was really strange how well she could read him now. It hadn´t taken that much of an effort, really. She had simply decided to not take anything about that man at face value. And still, he remained an enigma. Why on earth had he so easily acquiesced to her request and even looked dismayed afterwards?
I want that connection back again. Please, allow me to get it back.
"Thank you, Sir. I appreciate that very much."
Her professor lifted his chin and crossed his arms over his chest. Then he shifted his weight from his left foot to his right and stared down his nose at her.
"Now that I have given in to your wilfulness, I expect a more satisfactory explanation then your last pitiful attempt."
Hermione had to laugh and even managed a weak smile in his direction. "Yes, that really was rather pathetic, wasn´t it?"
Professor Snape raised his eyebrow and kept staring at her. Obviously, the time for gentle teasing had not yet arrived. Well, maybe he was right. After all, she still owed him something better than pubescent stammering. So Hermione decided to use the same strategy she had employed during their time in the hut. Straight answers, no embellishments, short sentences.
"After being told to leave by the Headmaster, I at first followed his advice to go down to the Great Hall. On the way there, I realised that I wasn´t in the mood for merry company. Therefore I went to the – somewhere else. I didn´t know that the room I entered was connected to your quarters, Sir. Actually, I believed myself to be in the Slytherin Common Room at first. After realising my mistake, I tried to leave through the door in your study. However, the door wouldn´t open for me. I do not know why."
Professor Snape narrowed his eyes at her and leaned forward slightly. His features now showed a kind of malicious incredulity. His eyes still didn´t leave her face. "You mean to tell me that you accidentally wandered into my heavily warded private quarters, Miss Granger?"
"I didn´t intend to enter your quarters, Sir."
"You happened upon an unknown room, decided to hop in, and suddenly found yourself inside my study?" His voice had begun to get that certain strained undertone again.
"No, Sir. I did know where I was, I just didn´t know that the room would lead to the office."
"There is only one entrance accessible to students, Miss Granger, and that was closed and warded while I was away. Furthermore, the entrance is well-known to all students, and as far as I can recall, it isn´t connected to any mysterious room at all."
"I swear I didn´t enter through the dungeons."
"So, you did not use the only accessible entrance to students in existence and didn´t want to sneak into my study, but still you ended up getting on my nerves? Pray tell, how did you find an entrance to my office that even I´m not aware of?"
"I didn´t find it. I was shown the way."
"Shown the way by whom, Miss Granger?"
"May I ask a question before I answer that?"
Her teacher snorted rather derisively and removed some imaginary lint from his coat. He continued to stare at her face the whole time. "In my experience, it is nearly impossible to prevent you from doing so, Miss Granger. I am already feeling a bad migraine approaching."
Hermione decided to ignore his jibe and continue on the avenue of 'detached and professional'. It had helped before, hadn´t it? "Sir, were you made aware of how the DA met undetected for so long last year?"
Professor Snape once again frowned and sighed rather dejectedly. "How does that change of topic pertain to the explanation you still owe me?"
"Were you told, Sir? I really need to know."
"Yes, Miss Granger, I was told. Not that there were many other possibilities how you could have −"
The tall man trailed off mid-sentence and an irritated hiss left his lips. Then he turned around and walked over to the couch facing her. The black-haired wizard sat down with his elbows resting on his knees. The sides of his cloak fell even further apart and Hermione could see that the smooth white skin was marred by many scars and bruises. It nearly made her cry to realise that she hadn´t even noticed them before. She had been so self-absorbed in the hut that she hadn´t paid any attention to his older wounds. Of course, he had been very fast in covering himself up again. Her professor rubbed his forehead and pinched the bridge of his nose. He muttered something unintelligible under his breath and looked up again. Hermione immediately saw that his brilliant brain had come up with the right answer straight away. Still, some unbelieving scepticism remained in his eyes. In response, the young Gryffindor simply shrugged her shoulders apologetically.
"The Room of Requirement, well, fuck me."
The Slytherin sighed and leaned back on the couch in a rather defeated looking manner. He remained still for quite some time, and Hermione started wondering if he had fallen asleep, when his eyes suddenly snapped to hers again and his back straightened. This time, his voice was laced with a kind of uncertain hostility.
"So, now we have established how you managed to break into my rooms. That still does not explain why the Room of Requirement led you here, though, Miss Granger. Decided to make me your new pet project, did you? I assure you, Miss Granger, that I neither need nor want your meddling in any way. Get out, now."
"I can´t, Sir."
He let his eyes stray from her face this time, and let them flick to her bare thighs. He chuckled derisively. "Well, if you think that this will make me give that damned cloak back to you, you are even more of an idiot than I thought. You do realise that you are a witch, Miss Granger, don´t you?"
Now Hermione was completely lost. What on earth had her attire to do with Professor McGonagall´s wards preventing her from leaving? "Sir?"
He snarled and leaned forward again. "Oh, Miss Granger, you cannot truly believe that I think you wouldn´t be able to simply elongate or transform your stolen shirt, do you? Just as easily, you could also ask a house-elf to fetch your clothes for you. But still you wish to tell me you cannot leave out of a feeling of modesty? While you haven´t made any attempt to cover yourself up while in my presence?"
"What? Sir, I−"
And now his face contorted into utterly disgusted rage. "Or are you enjoying this? Did you think you´d get a repeat performance from this morning? Maybe you thought I needed that kind of entertainment to get whole and happy again?"
Hermione´s right hand was starting to shake around her wand. Her instincts had made her grab the elegant wooden stick when his hurtful words had hit like bullets from a gun. She could feel the power of her magic rise inside her with her fury.
"Well, I am sorry to disappoint you, Miss Granger, but –"
"I didn´t exactly see anything that I found worth looking at again. So−"
The dark-haired wizard sprang up from his couch and whipped out his spare wand in milliseconds. Hermione Granger stood facing him in a combative position, her arm shaking with rage and tears of hurt and betrayal running down her cheeks. The witch´s wand was pointing straight at his chest.
"Oh, please, you do not –"
"You will not speak to me –"
"You arse, you, you – how could you?"
Hermione was screeching now, but she didn´t care. How could he imply something like that? After everything she had done to treat him respectfully and keep his modesty intact.
"How could I? I´m not the one who broke into someone else´s private rooms. I´m not the one disrespecting the other´s privacy and laughing with her friends about it. I´m not the one wearing the other´s clothes as if they belonged to me. I´m not the one running around half-naked in front of a teacher!"
"Oh, really? Looked into the mirror lately, have you? And, by the way, I was decently covered until you decided to storm in like a cave-man and rip the cloak away from me. Maybe it is you who wanted to get a look again?"
"These are my private rooms and you stole into them by wearing that bloody cloak. I have every right to defend myself against your infringement."
"Defend, yes. Demeaning me and treating me like a whore, no! And I didn´t sneak into your private quarters, I just wished for a place to feel safe."
"I didn´t demean – what?"
Panting heavily, both witch and wizard stood staring at each other, wands raised. Professor Snape furrowed his brows and jerked his head. His lips curled into an uncertain snarl.
"Repeat that," he barked.
Hermione sighed and let her arm fall to her side. Somehow the furious energy of her hurt had left her, and only a numbing void was left behind. In for a penny, in for a pound. He had already shredded every last bit of self-esteem she had been able to retain. It couldn´t get worse, now, could it?
"I said that I asked the Room of Requirement for a place where I would feel safe."
Her teacher finally lowered his wand, as well. "And it led you here?"
"Yes, it did. When I realised where I was, I tried to leave, but it wouldn´t let me."
"I cannot say. I tested the wards, I used Alohomora, everything I knew, but I couldn´t leave."
"No." His voice was more on edge than she had ever heard it before. "I meant to ask about why it would lead you here."
The young Gryffindor sagged onto the couch and burrowed her face in her hands. Her brown locks fell forward and fluttered with every sigh that escaped her lips. Her posture was utterly defeated and numb. She mumbled something very quietly. Her professor took a step closer and hesitated again. His hand was clawed around his wand and his eyes flicked from side to side in unusual panic. He stretched out his hand, only to withdraw it again. He bared his teeth and closed his lips again. Then he took another hesitant step. Closing his eyes and breathing deeply, he came to stand in front of his student. The young witch didn´t react.
Still, no reaction.
"Miss Granger, please!"
Only then did he realise that the Gryffindor was silently crying. He kneeled down and was now level to her small form on the couch.
"Miss Granger, look at me."
She shook her head and turned her body away from him. The sobs had begun to become more pronounced.
"Please, tell me what you said before."
The young woman shook her head again. "No."
Finally her tear-filled eyes snapped to him and she searched his face for any sign of malicious intent. Professor Snape looked unusually out of his comfort zone and his eyes held a kind of deep sadness she couldn´t place. It was enough for her to decide.
"I said that I have always felt safe with you near before, Sir."
The former spy closed his eyes and let his head fall forward. His face was covered again by a curtain of his black strands. When he opened his eyes again after several seconds, Hermione could see honest regret in their dark depths. He was about to say something, but she simply couldn´t bear anything anymore. Therefore she let herself fall to the side, tugged her legs up on the couch, and curled up into a ball.
"I want to be left alone, please."
Professor Severus Snape stood up very quietly and stepped away from the couch. He walked towards his bedroom and stopped again. Hermione had closed her eyes, but she could sense his presence coming closer again. Then a protective warmth settled over her and she felt the weight of his cloak cover her completely.
The silent click of a door announced that he had left again.
AN: Oh great, now I am crying…