Age-Range Category: Five
Character(s)/Pairing(s): Severus Snape, Hermione Granger
Beta Reader(s): LucyS Malfoy
(Highlight to View) Warning(s): None.
Note: EWE. Word Count: 3633.
Summary: Professor Granger admits to a secret regret/desire to Headmaster Snape.
Hermione Granger almost staggered into the staff room and fell back into the old-but-comfy couch, arms and legs askew, head lolling on the back and her thick plait falling behind.
"Thank heavens that's over," she remarked to the room, thinking she was alone. Which explained the undignified squeak that matched her undignified posture when she heard a reply.
"Really, Professor, anyone would think you didn't enjoy entertaining your... friends ...for the weekend. Or wasn't that you who was rhapsodising at having them over en masse for the weekend just three, short, days ago," teased the dark and silky voice of Headmaster Snape from where he had been perusing the bookcase in the corner.
The decade since the defeat of Voldemort and his almost miraculous survival of the injury he'd incurred had been good to the wizard. He had lost some of the sharpness of his appearance as age broadened, if not softened, him somewhat, yet retained a now almost casual aspect of power and grace of bearing. The slightly more congenial face he wore further enhanced him, although the once familiar air of intimidation still lurked just under the surface for him to call on if needed. Hermione had certainly been pleasantly surprised by him in the four years since she had returned to Hogwarts as a teacher.
Pulling herself together somewhat, Hermione replied. "It was lovely," she paused as he scoffed, "but it was all just so exhausting! Up to all hours of the night talking about... I'm not even sure what we did talk about, come to think about it! All that food and drink, then outside to 'work it off' — which meant me, as usual, watching as most of them made asses of themselves using the school brooms for a pick-up Quidditch game. It was all I could do to sneak off for half an hour for a quiet read," she bewailed before she noticed the headmaster watching her with glittering — no twinkling, thank goodness — eyes that betrayed his amusement. "What?" she demanded.
"Oh, I was just thinking that so very little has changed over the years," Severus said with an air of exaggerated nostalgia, repelling the cushion that was flung his way with a casual gesture. Hermione couldn't help but admire the ease of it, despite her frustration, and sent him a mock glare.
"You know, you would have been welcome to show your face if you wanted," she said, nodding in silent thanks at the elf that had just delivered a tea tray. She played Mother, pouring two cups just as each preferred while Severus collapsed his long body gracefully onto the seat next to her.
"Yes, so you said. I can't help but think how your other friends would have reacted if I'd popped in for an evening of nostalgic reminiscences, followed by trying to drink a yard of ale and judging of the resultant belches and farts," he quipped dryly. He managed to avoid spilling his tea as she shoved hard against him with her shoulder.
"It wasn't as bad as that," she said, only to have him raise a single eyebrow at her. "Not this time! I warned them to behave well in advance. And Ginny did apologise about that the next morning at breakfast — well, brunch."
"Yes, well, heavens forbid I stick my head through the Floo again to make sure there isn't a massacre happening in your quarters," he deadpanned
This proved to be too much for Hermione, and she made a strangled snerking sound before giving in to a good laugh, her head resting on Severus' shoulder, he going as far as a smile and small shake of his head. Surprising as it seemed, even to themselves, they had formed a thoroughly comfortable friendship.
"And so the summer meeting of the 'remind Hermione what fun she's missing' committee is over. Any regrets?"
It had become habit for him to ask, since the first time he found her sniffling on the front steps of the castle as her friends waved goodbye from the gates as they left. They'd not been quite as close then, but his awkward attempt at comfort had brought the smile back to her face. Each time she'd say it was fine, or something similar, and he'd watch her closely for a moment before nodding his head firmly to close the subject. But this time, it would be different.
Severus went very still, then slowly brought his cup in for a sip. "And what would that be," he asked finally.
"Oh, don't worry, it's nothing serious. It is just my need to achieve gets to me every time I see them messing about on brooms. They seem so comfortable up there, and I... I guess I'm a little jealous of that," Hermione gave a small shrug and looked down into her tea cup as if it held all the answers.
Severus turned in his seat to look at her, a little nonplussed. "But you fly too, don't you?"
Hermione shook her head. "I barely scraped through Flying class with a passing grade. I just couldn't seem to get the hang of it. I mean, I've had white-knuckle rides by thestral, hippogryph and even a blind dragon, but none of them made me sweat as much as the thought of flying around on a broom, let alone the aerobatics required to play Quidditch."
Severus didn't know what to say to this confession. He wasn't anything special on a broom, but he flattered himself as being quite good all the same. He took one out for a spin once in a while to keep in practice, and was still called upon as reserve referee for inter-house matches. Yet here was Hermione, who prided herself on being able to achieve most things to a more than acceptable level, admitting to failing at something all her friends managed well. He put down his cup and turned toward her.
"So, do you have any idea what the problem is? Forgive me, but you don't seem to have a crippling fear of heights, you also appear to be fairly dexterous, so is there something else I should be aware of?" Severus asked carefully. Hermione put down her now empty cup and sat back with a sigh.
"I'm not entirely sure, but I think it is just being on a broom that is the trouble. As I've said, I do well enough with Beasts. Thinking about it, I've always been a little iffy about Muggle air travel, but not to the same degree. To trust myself to a simple broom, relying on the Charm-work of an unknown witch or wizard not to fail me while I'm who knows how many feet in the air?" Hermione shook her head. "I can never really relax enough while on one to get comfortable with it."
Severus nodded slowly in acknowledgement as he mused. Flying in one form or another had always been a bit of an escape for him, so it saddened him that she couldn't really enjoy it like she obviously wanted to. He stared out of the window for a while. The long summer evening was slowly drawing in, but it would be light for some time yet. An idea was forming in his head. Later he would wonder why he behaved so uncharacteristically, but before he could think better of it Severus was drawing a surprised Hermione to her feet and pulling her along with him. Curious, they had reached the lawns outside before she made an effort to free herself from his impulsive grasp.
"Severus, what's got into you," she asked with a curious smile. He turned to her and reached up to unwind the long silk scarf she wore in a broad band on her head to keep the shorter hair out of her face. Without it, small curls sprang around her face and ears, despite the plait. She didn't pull away, but watched him with wary eyes.
"Very well, Miss Granger. If you want to fly, then fly you shall. I will be your professor," he said in his best teaching voice, ignoring her attitude as she stood now with arms akimbo and the start of a scowl on her face.
"Severus Snape, I can do without the teasing, thank you very much. I get enough of that from Ginny and the boys as it is!" Before she could do more than start to turn to the castle, Severus pulled her back firmly and she stumbled into his body. As they stood there, chest to chest, something in the air seemed to change, but before either of them could analyse it Severus was busy tying Hermione to his waist with her scarf.
"This is just for your added security, a safety net of sorts, in case your sticky spell should suddenly fail — not that it ever has," he said with a smirk. The spell in question was a personal Charm she created to gently but firmly fix her to the ladder when she was exploring the stacks in the Library. She'd developed it after a few near misses when she'd been so engrossed in what she'd found she'd forgotten where she was and almost stepped off. It could also fix her to any other object — or person. "You want to fly. If the broom is a problem, let's try something else. Consider this as your first lesson. Now, step up onto my toes — no, I mean it — and cast."
If she'd felt a little odd before, it was now magnified as she followed his direction and the spell pulled the witch and wizard together from thigh to belly with a slightly spongy feeling as a buffer between them. Severus's arms had been looped loosely around her, and Hermione mirrored him now for want of something to do with her own.
"Are you ready?" Severus asked gently, looking down into her face. Blushing slightly, she nodded. "Then look down."
Severus at least had the grace not to laugh as the witch let out a yelp and clutched herself tighter to him, finding them floating about 18 inches from the ground. Instead, he cleared his throat and fought off a blush of his own as she wriggled closer into him. It wouldn't do him any good to lose his concentration now, nor his dignity.
After a smack to his chest and a few words that made Severus glad there were no students left on the grounds to hear — as if floating around with the Charms professor stuck close to him wasn't enough — he coaxed Hermione into loosening her hold and opening her eyes as he gently rose up and down to get her used to the sensation. He felt a little smug with himself as she quite quickly calmed in his practised control, and allowed a tiny smile following the whoop she made as he dipped her from the vertical slightly on a descent. Now for the next step.
"All right, Hermione, if you loosen the sticky charm for a minute, we can try something else," he said once they were back on terra firma. Loosening the scarf belted around them, he got her to turn around and, still stood on the toes of his boots, pulled her back against him and asked her to reapply the spell. Feeling her stiffen once again, he gently rubbed her shoulders and leaned over to talk next to her ear, hoping the shiver he felt run through her didn't mean she was going to back out.
"Now, Hermione, do you remember that godsawful movie you made me watch at your flat," he asked, and was pleased to feel her relax a little as she twisted to look over her shoulder at him.
"Which 'godsawful' movie is that, Severus? Apart from a couple of action movies and classic mysteries, you seem to think all my film choices are awful — although don't think I haven't noticed you still sit through them, stuffing your face with popcorn," she said with an arch look. Severus had to admit, she nearly had the raised eyebrow thing down as good as himself, but for some reason he was sure it looked better on her.
"That overly long piece of 'romantic' claptrap about a shipping disaster."
"You mean Titanic?" Hermione asked after a moment's thought. She had taken to asking the headmaster over to her other home from time to time during holidays as their friendship progressed. She was aware he was unlikely to want to socialise with any of her other, 'Gryffindor', friends when he came over, but instead they spent some time going through her DVD collection or letting him roam the internet for a few hours while she cooked a meal.
"That's the one. Do you remember the scene where the couple stand on the bow, arms outstretched so they could feel as if they were flying?" With a gulp, Hermione nodded her head, realising where this was going.
"I see you get the idea," Severus said, reaching around to hold her hands and pull her arms out to the side. "Now, just trust me, Hermione. I won't let you fall."
Once again they rose slowly into the air, but this time Severus angled them slightly more comfortably for active flight. He could feel Hermione press herself back into him hard and squeeze his fingers in a death-grip as he took them up to a height of about 5 feet and then moved forward. He murmured constantly to her, as if gentling a scared animal, until a sharp elbow into his ribs and a looser hold told him she was feeling more like herself again.
Despite doing this for Hermione, Severus soon felt himself falling into the calming thrill he usually felt when flying for pleasure. The exercise he'd used to introduce her to the idea of flying with him actually took a lot more effort of control than free flight, especially wandlessly, and it felt good to loosen that tight hold on his magic. Rather than it being a distraction, he felt oddly comfortable guiding the witch with him through the air, and he gladly felt her become more accepting of each change of speed, angle or altitude as he moved across the manicured grounds between the castle, forest and lake with her.
Feeling her relax more fully in his arms, finally trusting both her own spellwork and his prowess, Severus lifted them a little higher and pushed just a little faster before the sun dipped below the horizon and brought on the start of twilight. It was time to call an end to this little jaunt, but Severus couldn't resist the chance to let Hermione feel the thrill of one of his favourite things. With a slow barrel roll he went into a shallow dive, skimming low along the shore of the Black Lake, hearing the whistle of the wind and the gentle lapping of the water under them. Hermione had tensed and brought her hands to her face at this point, so he wrapped his arms firmly and comfortingly around her waist.
A final turn and he righted them, coming to a slow stop by the main entrance. Although it had been neither the fastest nor most demanding of flights, he felt exhilarated after sharing this with her. He kept his arms around her, extending the moment, until he felt her dissolve the sticking charm and loosen her scarf so she could step away. Severus couldn't help his satisfied smirk as he waited for Hermione to react to their first flight together. However, this changed to confusion as she turned on her heel to face him and sent him a glare in what was obviously a show of displeasure.
Stunned at this unexpected reaction, it took Severus a few moments to realise she was already storming back inside. Had he overstepped? He thought he'd made sure she'd been fine with it, even thought he'd felt her laugh briefly through where they were connected, so what was her problem now? Luckily, his longer legs had him catch up just as she stomped into her quarters (having missed a staircase at one point, no doubt the Castle attempting to protect him), catching the door as she attempted to slam it behind her. Hermione turned on him sharply and opened her mouth to speak, only to give up after a couple of attempts, throwing her hands in the air and bringing them down sharply as she headed further into her chambers.
Severus followed. He found Hermione leaning over her dressing table to squint at herself in the mirror. Swearing once again (her visiting friends really were a bad influence on her), she scrubbed at her face and hair, then reached to undo her plait with one hand while she scrabbled around with the other for a wide toothed comb.
Severus's eyes fell to the normally pristine wooden surface which was now spotted with small debris, mainly in the form of midges, gnats and bits of leaf. His sharp gaze caught a flash of striated bronze from the carapace of a small beetle, which he surreptitiously Summoned for a closer look while Hermione was distracted. Yes, a Pelophia Borealis1, not usually found in these parts, he thought as he slipped it into a small paper collecting envelope of the type he carried for just this kind of happen-stance. How fortuitous!
Turning his full attention back to Hermione, he caught her hand as she tugged the comb through her locks. He pressed her down on the padded stool, stood behind her and, ignoring her now not-so heated swearing, started to smooth her hair for her. If she really meant it, he'd have known it by now, Severus thought.
In the last few years, if there was one thing that kept his survival instincts, crafted under the likes of the Marauders, Voldemort and Dumbledore, fine honed it was this witch. Of course, there had been others that had had Severus using one or another skill over the years since that Final Confrontation, but none of them required the all round awareness needed to deal with having Hermione Granger about on a regular basis. She was quick with her wits, her wand, almost as quick without it in some cases, and quicker than most to spot his obfuscation, leading him to finesse his skills on her if he had any hope of keeping ahead. Normally he loved to rile her up so much she forgot her usually proper demeanour, but not today.
Hermione sat stiffly as she allowed him to ply the comb gently through her hair. He couldn't remember when exactly they'd originally started this, only that she'd gone off at him for using his wand on her hair for some reason and made him help to calm the resultant 'electrified' look as punishment. He'd combed her hair a few times since, mainly when she was distressed or having a fit of pique, like now. It always proved to have a calming effect, and it felt rather pleasant for himself, much like stroking a cat (not that he'd ever suggest such a thing, which would likely find him on the wrong end of the wand of a powerful and inventive witch). As expected, Hermione soon relaxed under his ministrations. It seemed as if the last few hours alone had proved his expertise in soothing, calming and even exciting this witch, but he felt a sudden need to stop his thoughts from wandering further down that potentially dangerous track. She was his friend, after all — and he still had to figure out what the problem was.
Finally, Hermione let out a deep sigh, and caught his eye in the mirror before speaking.
"Severus, do you remember what I said about brooms? That I wasn't at ease with trusting the Charms? Well, you have just gone about proving my point," she told him.
"How so? I was in perfect control of the spellwork I use for flight," he insisted.
"I'm sure you were — as far as it goes. How often do you carry passengers, though?" Hermione glanced down meaningfully at the tabletop. "When you performed what I suspect was supposed to be an enthralling end to the flight, you flew me through several swarms of gnats and things there on the shoreline. It was all I could do to keep them out of my eyes and nose! I believe the standard Charms on a broom protect the passenger from the odd airborne insect and small debris, but not a downpour or dust cloud. I suspect that—"
"There is a similar element in the spellwork I use for flight," he interrupted, realising her point. "It covers myself, but not any baggage I hold."
"Are you calling me a baggage," she asked with an arched brow.
"I meant, of course, a precious cargo of immeasurable worth," he deadpanned
They stared at each other for an extended moment before breaking into mutual laughter.
"My apologies, Hermione. Can you forgive me?"
"Yes, well, just make sure you use proper precautions next time," she replied with feigned hauteur.
"Next time? You'll give me—it, you'll give it another go?"
Hermione sighed, closing her eyes and flicking her hair over her shoulder. "Just get on with the hair, Flyboy, and we'll see."
Severus Snape, Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Master of Potions and many other things beside, felt the tension drop away and continued grooming the woman before him, revelling in the intimacy of her hair running between his fingers and her quiet acceptance. Whatever else, whatever foolish thing he might do in the heat of the moment, she remained his friend. All was well.
1Pelophia Borealis, a heart-shield beetle commonly called the 10-lined Dimpleback. They are roughly 1 cm in length with bronze-coloured upper parts marked with dimpled lines. Usually found along lake margins, they are scarce, found only in the Orkneys, Shetlands and one site in the Highlands. I have no idea of its potential in potions, but Snape informs me he would be happy to foster a colony at the Black Lake and investigate any changes living in proximity to magic would have on them. Maybe Professor Granger could help with that?