“If you haven’t forgiven yourself something, how can you forgive others?” -Dolores Huerta
A week passed by and the students spoke of little else than the upcoming ball. Girls were anxiously owling their parents with demands for money, dresses, jewelry, shoes and hair accessories. Guys were attempting to infiltrate the packs of girls, in hopes of procuring a date. Harry was grateful for Ginny, because she meant that as long as he bought her a stunning dress, he could avoid all other panic.
Defense Against the Dark Arts had been going surprisingly well, everyone had to admit. Rowena Snape was proving to be a highly talented witch, and her practical teaching style suited her students well. They had been learning basic wand-less spells, which Hermione mastered instantly. Harry, who had difficulty focusing his mind, was having a harder time at it.
One day, towards the end of September, Harry, Hermione and Ron walked into Defense class, and were surprised to find that all the desks had disappeared and in their place was a small circular arena, surrounded by stacked benches. They were fortunate, and obtained seats in the front row.
Rowena Snape swooped into the room, graceful as a hummingbird. She was dressed in a black dueling suit, similar to those worn by Muggles competing in fencing. Her hair was tied back in an elegant bun, but a few strands escaped, making her look wild and untamed. She smiled as she faced the class.
“Today, I have a delightful surprise for you. It is one thing to simply learn about Wand-less Magical Combat and Dueling, but many witches and wizards do not fully understand it until they have seen it. After a great deal of begging and pleading on my part, I have managed to convince another Professor to help me demonstrate a wand-less duel,” she said, looking highly amused.
The students applauded with anticipation.
“Who do you think she’s dueling with?” Harry asked Hermione.
“It would have to be someone equally powerful, focused, disciplined, and…” She stopped mid-sentence as Severus Snape entered the room.
The students sat, entranced, and watched as Snape removed his heavy cloak to reveal a similar outfit to Rowena’s. Both Snapes set their wands on a table outside the ring, and mumbled some sort of enchantment, to ensure they stayed there. They stood like tin soldiers at opposing end of the dueling ring, hands at their sides. Slowly, they bowed deeply to each other. Rowena and Severus made eye contact as she mouthed ‘Ready?’ to him. He nodded ever so slightly. The duel began.
Rowena immediately threw a bolt of indigo light, seeming to originate from the palm of her hand, at Severus’ right ankle. He flew out of the way and threw a red fire ball at her. It nearly hit her square in the chest, but she cast a spell that sent it flying off. Quickly, she sent a yellow burst at Severus, which made contact with his knee, knocking him down.
“For fuck sakes!” he swore aloud, to the students' shock.
“Watch your mouth or I’ll take points from Slytherin,” she taunted.
He threw himself up, and sent a violent green curse her way. It skimmed her arm, causing her sleeve to melt away, and flesh underneath turned a throbbing red.
“You bastard!” she yelled back at him.
“Now, now. Since you don’t have a house, I can just subtract points from all of them except Slytherin,” he said silkily, grinning.
She wasted no time in hurling an orange jet at him, which he matched with a black fireball. She rolled, dodging his spell, and he leapt out of the way, avoiding hers. She was quicker to the draw and threw a bolt of pure white at him. It made solid contact with his abdomen, knocking him backwards, unconscious. Hermione gasped, and covered her face with her hands. It felt as thought the air rushed out of the room as she broke the incantation over her wand, summoned it, and ran to his side.
Gently, she placed her palm on his forehead, and mumbled an incantation. Slowly, his eyes fluttered open. Hermione sighed with relief. He rose to his feet without assistance, and weakly summoned his wand. He whispered something inaudible to Rowena, and she whispered something back.
“Hmm… Miss… Granger, could you please escort Professor Snape to the Infirmary? I have a sneaking suspicion that he will not have himself checked out, unless he’s forced to,” Rowena Snape said.
“Really, I’m fine,” Snape attempted to protest.
“You were knocked senseless. Miss Granger will escort you to the infirmary,” she said in a commanding tone.
“Yes, Professor,” Hermione replied, walking in Severus’ wake, down the cold stone corridor.
Hermione fought to keep up with the Potions Master, whose stride was twice as long as hers. She jogged up alongside him, and he slowed down to accommodate her pace.
“Miss Granger, I suppose I should thank you. My sister is constantly reminding me that I owe you my freedom,” Snape said, at last.
“I…It was evident from her testimony that you were innocent,” she stammered.
“Now you can go to an early lunch. I don’t need to be escorted to Madam Pomfrey.”
“I’m highly capable of healing myself. Watch,” he said, pointing his wands at the few small scratches and bruises on his arm, making them disappear.
“Those are only surface injuries,” Hermione protested.
“Miss Granger, I have been effectively healing myself for longer than you have been alive. Despite your lack of belief on the matter, I am perfectly self-sufficient,” he growled.
“Magic can’t heal everything! A flick of the wand and a spell can’t fix the soul.”
“And what makes you think my wretched soul should need healing?” he contended.
“You’re always sulking alone. You taunt children for fun. You wear only black,” she said, her voice rising.
“Thank you for that in-depth analysis of my personal life, Miss Granger,” he said as he swooped away, leaving Hermione to crumple to the floor.
She pulled her knees to her chest and let out a wretched sob. She felt cold inside. She knew she had hurt him, and that was not what she intended.
The bell tolled, and Hermione rose to her feet, as students swarmed the dark corridor on their way to lunch.