“Feeling without judgment is a washy draught indeed; but judgment untempered by feeling is too bitter and husky a morsel for human deglutition.” -Jane Eyre
Hermione flew up the stairs to her room. She heaved open the door and immediately pulled the yellow satin dress from her closet. With remarkable speed, Hermione dressed and ran down to the Great Hall. She made her way into the Great Hall to find Rowena Snape dancing with Professor Flitwick, as the band struck up a quick waltz. Ron spotted her immediately and swayed over.
“M…Mione, did yuh sn...sneak outta detention?” he slurred.
“Ron, are you drunk?” Hermione asked, shocked.
“Nn… no. I didn’t drink nuthin’ but some p…punch.”
“What punch?” Hermione asked, with concern.
Hermione walked over to the punch bowl, supporting Ron on her arm as he swayed from side to side. She picked up a glass and carefully took a small bit of punch. Hermione lifted the glass to her nose and smelt it, noting the obvious smell of alcohol. She took a sip, and coughed. Someone had definitely spiked the punch. Hermione suspected a student, but more likely it had been Peeves.
“This punch is spiked, Ron,” Hermione said, as Ron was slipping to the floor.
“Yo…you look p…p…pretty tonight,” he stammered, reaching at her chest.
She smacked his hand down.
“Stay away from me, Ron,” she growled, shoving him hard.
“Come on! You… you know you like me,” he continued to say.
“Just shut up, Ron” she spat back, walking away.
Hermione looked around the Hall high and low for Ginny and Harry, but they were nowhere to be found. She was beginning to think that her night would have been better spent in the dungeons with Snape than going to this wretched Ball. She found Luna in the corner and asked her if she had seen Harry or Ginny.
“No, Hermione, I haven’t seen either of them,” Luna replied dreamily.
Hermione found that she would prefer to be in the company of a man she was slowly falling for without his knowledge, than wandering miserably between the dancing pairs. Hermione made her way to the punch table and decided, on a whim, to have a glass of the liquored concoction. Then, Hermione made up her mind. She was going to keep Snape company in the dungeons, even if it meant scrubbing cauldrons in her new dress. With her nerves soothed and new courage from the punch, Hermione walked down to the dungeons with confidence.
She took off the slipper flats she was wearing, relishing the cool feeling of the stone corridor on her feet, as she silently made her way to the Potions room. She tried the classroom door but it was locked fast. Just as she was about to give up and go to bed, she noticed light peering out from under Severus’ office door. She knocked lightly at the door, feeling fear rise up in her chest.
“Come in,” came his low voice, sounding empty.
She pushed open the door slowly, trying to think why she had come here to begin with. Severus Snape was sitting in an arm chair, his tall frame reaching higher than the back, facing the fireplace on the opposite wall. She thought he looked particularly handsome in the glowing light on the fire.
“Rowena,” he began to say, believing Hermione to be his sister.
Hermione savored the way he enunciated each syllable as the alcohol infiltrated her mind slightly.
“Actually, Professor, it’s me, Hermione Granger,” she said slowly, hoping not to incur his anger.
He turned slowly in his chair, to reveal a glass of red wine in his hand. He raised his eyebrow slightly.
“Miss Granger, I believe I excused you from your detention. Why aren’t you out prancing around like every other mindless teenage witch?” he asked.
“Professor… I actually had a question about,” she stammered, trying to come up with an excuse.
“About what exactly, Miss Granger?” he asked, raising the glass of wine to his lips.
She mumbled an inaudible excuse.
“Forgive me, Miss Granger, but I could not hear that. You shall either have to speak louder or come closer,” he said silkily.
Hermione shuffled closer to Severus’ dark figure.
“I had a question about Potions,” she mumbled, still trying to come up with a question which could justify her presence there.
“What question is it?” he asked, as she flushed bright red and bite her bottom lip.
Hermione was desperately trying to invent a question, when she noticed a book laying open on Snape’s lap.
“What are you reading?” she asked, without thinking.
“Macbeth,” he said.
Hermione was shocked that Snape would read Muggle literature.
“Is it any good?” she asked.
“I thought you had a question about Potions,” he said, raising his eyebrow.
“I did, but I seem to have forgotten it. Perhaps I’ll remember it in due time,” she said, shuffling on the spot.
“I see,” he said suspiciously, sipping his wine once more.
“I’m sorry. I’ll go,” she said turning.
“No, Miss Granger, have a seat and stay until you remember your question,” he said in a low voice.
He drew up a chair by the fire for her.
“Was the Ball not to your liking?” he asked, observing at last that she was dressed in a gown.
“I don’t believe I belonged,” she said. For the first time in her life, Hermione felt herself growing apart from her friends.
“Are you aware that you are barefoot, Miss Granger?” he asked, chuckling at her softly.
“Yes,” she said, blushing. She felt childlike and pitiful.
“Why did you remove your shoes?” he asked, like a scolding parent.
“My feet hurt, and I thought the cold stone might help,” she admitted, sitting back in her chair. She was beginning to regret coming down to the dungeons. It was evident to her that she was just a folly-some school girl with a crush, but her heart disagreed.
“What a bizarre thing, Miss Granger.”
“Perhaps. However, may I say that I find that you read Shakespeare to be more bizarre?” she said, hoping to show him she was more mature than a barefooted seventeen-year-old.
He chuckled softly. He seemed oddly amused by her.
“Is it really so odd that I read?” he asked, gesturing to the open manuscript on his lap.
“Surprising,” Hermione whispered.
“I enjoy a good novel, especially with a glass or two of wine.”
“Oh, yes,” she said, realizing that she had never tried wine.
“Of course, you mustn’t tell anyone, or else I fear I’ll lose my fearsome reputation amongst first-years,” he laughed, genuinely.
Hermione nearly fell out of her chair with shock. Not only was Severus Snape laughing, but he was kind and humorous. They conversed a little on the subject of Macbeth, until a soft knock came at the door.
“Enter,” Severus said, somewhat brightly.
Rowena Snape padded in, looking tired. Upon seeing Hermione and Severus sitting at the fire, her face took on a look of shock.
“Good evening, Severus. Miss Granger, I can’t say I’m not surprised to see you here,” she said, walking towards them.
“I was just going,” Hermione mumbled, rising from her chair.
Hermione went towards the door, feeling her face flush.
“Thank you for answering my question, Professor,” she said as she crossed into the hallway, closing the door behind her.
Hermione made her way up to her room, with a heavy head and a heavier heart. She nearly beat her head against the wall. What a stupid child she must seem like to him. She crawled out of the yellow dress, and sunk into a warm bath, before going on to spend a tormented night dreaming of Severus Snape.
“Severus, if I didn’t know better, I’d say you were trying to seduce young Miss Granger,” Rowena chuckled, taking the chair beside Severus at the fire.
“Really?” he asked, surprised. “Why?”
“You were enchanting her with talk of books by a cozy fire,” Rowena said.
“Bah. I was only talking to her about the play. She‘s a curious young girl.”
“She’s a pretty little thing. A little plain, but fairly pretty all the same.”
Severus let out a groan at his younger sister’s implications.
“You know, she reminds me of that woman you went around with for a while, after finishing Hogwarts,” Rowena stated.
“Elizabeth?” he asked raising an eyebrow.
“Yes, a shame that she died so young.”
“Perhaps, but Elizabeth was nothing like young Miss Granger.”
“Hermione Granger certainly looks like her,” Rowena remarked.
“Don’t lie to me. I’m sure you’ve noticed.”
“Appearance is the least important trait a woman can possess.”
Author's note: The title is Latin for "He Calls". Interpret that how you will.