This is just a little something I pictured. I'm not even truly sure where it came from, but I liked it. I've been kicking around the idea of taking up fencing for about a year now, but have never had the extra money to afford it (it's not the cheapest of pastimes). I'm not sure why I connected it to these two characters in particular, but it seemed to fit in its own, off-the-wall way. I plan for there to be two versions, one from Hermione's perspective and one through the eyes of Severus. I hope you enjoy them.
As usual, I don't own anything, except perhaps the plot. J.K. Rowling still holds my admiration for her ideas and characters, and I pray that she continues to dazzle us with them. Let us all send out our congratulations on her current pregnancy and wish her a problem-free time followed by an easy birthing.
Also, let's hope I can yet again avoid any dunderheads out there who might think to sue me. Trust me; if I can't scrape up a little extra money each month to learn fencing, I haven't anything worth value for you to take from me. It's just a story, a flight of fancy, and isn't meant to do anyone any harm.
A Fine Tension
She had been thrilled when she had stumbled across this room. Of course there were several different chambers within the castle that held various weapons and armors, but this was the only one where she had found the weapons of her choice. No weighty broadswords or maces, no clubs that had been kept as trophies after defeating trolls. These were more elegant weapons, more civilized. They lay in velvet lined cases with glass covers, the silver of their metal gleaming brightly in the flickering light of a hearth that lit itself whenever someone entered the room. The light and flexible foils, the slightly heavier and stiffer epees and the weightier, razor sharp sabers, all resting there as if waiting for someone to find them.
And find them she had, a few days before when an annoyingly playful staircase had shifted on her and forced her to take a detour. She had been looking for a new pathway to Charms class when she had stumbled across the room, hoping the door would lead to another hallway. She had stood there, enraptured at the sight of so many blades, captivated by the way they had been displayed with such loving care. No uniforms were present, but she had never truly bothered with them anyway. She would have lingered, but time had been swiftly leaving her and she had been forced to settle for a silent promise to return. Committing the location of the room to memory, and praying that it wouldn't be one with a habit of changing locations, she hurried off to eventually find her way to her classroom.
She had wanted to return that night, but could not shake free from the boys. It would have been easy to just tell them that she wanted to be on her own, but they would have wanted to know why, and then they would have wanted to follow. It wasn't as if it was some shameful secret, but it wasn't something that she wanted to share with a person who couldn't understand. Though she never considered herself to be an athlete, she did have this one skill, taken on in an act of love towards her grandfather when she had been only eight years of age. None of the grandsons had been interested in providing him with a sparring partner, and she hated to see him left alone. She had taken up her first foil to make him smile and had quickly fallen in love with the graceful movements of fencing and its demands on the body. In her most stressful times, she had been able to work out her tensions and frustrations with whatever challenge had been thrown her way by replacing them with the fine tension the weight of a blade brought to her shoulders and back. Sparring kept her senses focused and sharp, watching for any indication of what her grandfather's next move was going to be. It wasn't the typical thing to bring about warm memories of loving family members, but it always worked for her.
So she waited until Friday evening, then the boys would be too busy being… well… boys, to care if she went off on her own. They would just assume she had gone off to the library, taking advantage of the later hours, and grimace at the thought of "wasting" a perfectly good Friday night on something as boring as studying. Braiding her hair tightly against her head to fall in a heavy tail down her back, she donned the pair of black leggings and the good quality sports bra she had ordered the day after finding the room, the stirrups of the leggings wrapping under her heel. The Rapier Room, as she had dubbed it in her mind, had a plush carpet of deep claret, so she knew she would be able to go without shoes and not suffer for it. Throwing her robes over her, she shouldered her book satchel and hurried down the steps to the common room. Harry and Ron looked up from their chess game, took one look at the heavy book bag, and rolled their eyes. No questions asked.
It was late in the fall and the sun had gone down almost an hour ago. Still, curfew wasn't for another five hours for the sixth and seventh years, as they were given some extra time on the weekends. There was little danger of her encountering anyone on the higher floors where she was going. Most of them would be in their house common rooms, the library or in the Great Hall. She encountered no one during her journey and soon found herself at the door. She rested her hand on the handle and took a deep breath, praying that it was still there and not replaced by some storage closet. With a firm tug, she pulled open the door and stepped inside.
Off to her right, the great hearth roared to life while sconces on the walls ignited. Flickering firelight danced off the bright silver that was secured in the display cases along the walls. It was like looking upon the mythical treasure of some great dragon as they were depicted in Muggle fantasy. A smile touched her lips as she was once again enraptured by the sight of the gleaming blades. Stepping further into the room, she surveyed her choices. Her grandfather had become ill over the past couple of years and no longer had the strength to spar with her during the summer holidays and she had no blade of her own here. Though she felt confident that she remembered every move and stance, she knew that her muscles would have lost most of their strength. Casting a longing filled gaze at a beautifully forged saber, she sighed regretfully before looking at the foils. A foil weighed less than one pound and was quite flexible. She would need to build herself back up before taking on the heavier blades. Settling on a case with a pair of long, graceful practice blades, she nodded to herself before setting her satchel down by a high backed chair next to the door. Sitting down, she removed her shoes and placed them under the edge of the chair, then stood and removed her robes, laying them over the chair.
She stepped further into the room before the blazing hearth. It would be foolish to being without first warming up. She had, at least, kept her up yoga, in spite of the teasing that it brought her from the other Gryffindor girls. Next term, when she was Head Girl (she didn't doubt this for a moment), she would have her own room and be allowed to return to blessed privacy. With flexibility she doubted even Ron and Harry realized she possessed, she began her stretches, going over the names of the different poses in her mind. Starting with her legs and working up, she stretched and warmed each area of the body until her body temperature was sufficient that the last sensation of being chilled was gone. She then went back to her robes, took out her wand and walked over to the case.
"Alohamora." The case opened with a click and there was a soft hissing like that of air escaping. The scent of polish and age wafted out and over her, bringing another smile to her lips. She reached up and ran her hand over the length of the blade reverently, not touching it but hovering less than an inch from its surface. Once her fingers were in line with the hilt, she wrapped them around its thickness and lifted the foil from its place against the crimson velvet. Its slight weight felt warm and alive in her hand. She moved it experimentally, getting used to the feel of it as she walked back to the chair and set down her wand. She rotated her wrist, becoming more in tune with this new extension of her arm as she returned to the center of the room. Lifting her eyes towards the fire, she began with simple moves long ingrained in her mind.
In her mind she could hear the memory of her grandfather as he coached her through the formal motions. It didn't take long before her calves, thighs and shoulders were muttering their protestations at being called back into service. She ignored them, confident that her continued yoga would have kept them strong enough to endure. Once she was confident that she remembered all the basics, she imagined that she had someone to move against. Calling to mind sessions she had experienced in the past, she repeated the rigid, controlled movements. Fencing was not the flamboyant spectacle that was portrayed in movies and television. It was elegant and masterful. No cartwheels or swinging from vines, but a swift and intense dance that took place in a space that was only six feet by forty feet. Though she had never competed, her grandfather had told her that competitions were done by keeping up with touches scored electronically. Fencing uniforms provided protection though the foils were always tipped. She had not been afforded that luxury and had nursed numerous bruises throughout her life, much to her mother's chagrin and her grandfather's amusement. She hadn't regretted a one of them.
She could almost imagine her grandfather there before her, testing her and pushing her to higher and higher levels of motion. It wasn't the same, however, without an opposing foil to defend herself from. Still, she would settle for the soreness that she knew she would feel in the morning. That would be discomfort enough.
"You surprise me, Miss Granger."
She gasped and whirled, the foil brought to the ready. At the doorway, Professor Snape arched an inky black brow at the obvious threat, a smirk playing at his lips. She blinked, realized that she was pointing a blade at her teacher, even if it were a practice blade that still bore its protective tip, and lowered it quickly. To her relief, she didn't do anything as clumsy as drop it. "P… Professor! I… I didn't hear you come in."
"Obviously." He walked further into the room, the door swinging shut smoothly behind him. "I would not have though a modern young woman such as yourself would have had any interest in such an antiquated pastime." His eyes moved over her, taking in the attire and the foil before meeting her brown eyes with his own black orbs. "How long have you been fencing, Miss Granger?"
"Eight years, sir." She remained rooted in place. Was he going to give her detention? Try to have her expelled for handling potentially lethal weapons? Take one thousand points from Gryffindor just for the Hell of it?
"Any trophies or titles?"
"N... no sir. I've never competed. I... I was my grandfather's sparring partner."
"I see." His eyes drifted to the chair beside him and her robes lying neatly across it. Then, to her surprise, he reached up and began to unfasten his own robes. Her eyes went wide as he removed them and laid them atop her own, leaving him dressed only in a pair of black tailored trousers and a pristine white shirt. Her head turned to follow him as he walked over to the case still holding the other practice foil. He reached inside and took the other blade into his hand, then walked back to the center of the room, turning to face her at the proper distance to begin a match. He smirked at her obvious disbelief, and then raised his foil in salute.
Hermione snapped back to reality and closed her mouth. She returned the salute, and then both of them took a ready stance. They remained that way for a long moment, each waiting for the other to make the first move. The difference between a Slytherin and a Gryffindor was that a Slytherin could wait patiently for things to come to him while a Gryffindor would charge in brashly. This being true, she made the first move.
He had several advantages over her. He was taller than she, and taller than her grandfather, which gave him greater reach. He was still fresh, where she had been on the move for some time and was beginning to become fatigued. Also, he had been at this much longer than she had, and had moves she wouldn't have even dreamed of. She was more often on the defensive rather than the offensive, and her youth was doing little to lend her any extra speed. To her great relief, she was at least able to hold her own. He had yet to truly humiliate her.
Their breath made white plumes in the air of the room, the hearth unable to chase away all the cold. Still, their exertions caused them both to sweat. She ignored the sensation of moisture trailing down between her breasts and attempting to find its way into her eyes, just as she ignored the way Professor Snape's shirt was beginning to cling to him in some places. Apparently his painful thinness did not mean he lacked for muscles. Some of his parries made her grit her teeth they struck her blade so hard. Her hands and wrists were aching from the impacts. When he scored hits, and he scored them often, she had to force herself not to yelp. She was beginning to see why it was a common practice to wear the uniforms.
At least she scored on him as well. She felt her foil tip connect with rarity, but it did connect. Each time she did, however, he would attack with new vigor, forcing her on the defensive again. Her petite stature was not doing anything to help her. She would not resort to running around him like a rabbit, either. As they continued on, she began to loose strength. Somewhere in her mind was a voice scolding her for pushing herself too hard after being away from fencing this long, but she would not allow herself to beg off, not from him. She would not have this precious part of her life spoiled by one of his biting comments.
She would wonder for a long time about what happened next. She attempted to score another hit on him, but he quickly deflected her attack down, moving forward to grasp her wrist with his free hand. She stopped, meeting his eyes with her own. "I think, Miss Granger, that we will end this here. I do not believe you can go on much longer." She was released to stand up again as he stepped back. They saluted one another again, and then he held out his free hand for her foil. "My compliments to your grandfather. He has trained you quite well, though it is obvious that you have been neglecting your training." He walked to the display case, summoned a polishing cloth from thin air, and wiped both blades clean of their finger prints and sweat before placing them within their velvet resting place.
"I haven't had the chance to practice." She felt awkward. Part of her would have been quite happy to just collapse right here and sleep before the heart on the thick carpeting. Another part wanted to seek out the nearest hot bath. Still another part of her was too nervous about being in the same room with her Potions master who wasn't behaving at all like his normal self. "I… I didn't know about this room."
"Few do. There aren't many wizards who bother with learning this particular skill any longer. It was once considered to be the sport of gentlemen and an elegant alternative to wand waving and curses. A battle lasted longer and skill, more than strength, was often the deciding factor." He locked the case and turned to face her, forming his hands into a pyramid before him and studying her closely. She shifted uncomfortably under his gaze. "It has been some time since I've had someone to spar against. I thank you for your time."
"It was my pleasure, sir." The words surprised her, but she knew they were true. It had been a pleasure. Her grandfather often went easy on her and she knew he would never be too vicious in his attacks. Snape, however, was a different story. There had been a rush of adrenaline far greater than any she had ever experienced outside of pure terror.
"Indeed." His voice wrapped around her, causing her to shiver in spite of the blazing fire at her back. She ignored the tightening in her nipples, not wanting to dwell on the fact that she was wearing far less clothing than she had ever done before one of her teachers. "Then perhaps you would be willing to indulge me in further sessions."
That got her attention. To be able to come here again and to share this with someone who also held a love for the sport gave her a thrill. "I would be honored, sir."
"Three times each week, then? Tuesdays and Thursdays after the dinner hour, and Sundays one hour before breakfast." She nodded her agreement. "Do be mindful of what you eat on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Miss Granger. Too much food will make you sluggish and is apt to make you ill should you exert yourself as much as you did tonight." She bristled at this. She knew these things already! She wasn't about to stuff herself to bursting just to throw it all up again later.
"It is agreed then." He walked over to the chair and reclaimed his robes, donning them in a rustle of fabric. "I will expect you this coming Sunday, Miss Granger. Do try to be on time. Now I believe it is time you returned to your dormitory and sought out a hot bath. You are going to need it." He placed his hand on the door handle, and then turned to look at her before leaving. "I will send a potion to you in the morning for the muscle fatigue. You have pushed yourself too far this evening." He bowed slightly, and then left her alone in the room. She stared at the now closed door for a long moment before pulling herself back to the present. Donning her robe and shoes, she shouldered her pack again and left the room, hearing the hearth and sconces extinguish themselves once she crossed the threshold.