Weeks crawled by and still, Hermione didn't yield in her grudge against Snape. Every time he looked in her direction, her body would beg her to move and wrap her arms around him but then he'd have won and Hermione didn't do losing. She wouldn't let him win, watch her fall to her knees, come crawling back; no, she was stronger, stronger than any of the idiots she knew (in all honesty, she was the only real mature one).
"Why do you do that?" he asked as she leaned over the cauldron to document the potion's texture, her pin-straight hair falling over her shoulders in curtains. She clicked her pen and swished her wand, lowering the flame; an eyebrow cocked at his question.
"Your hair…" He clucked his tongue as he measured out Fluxweed leaves and Coriander into his own potion. Turns out Muggle ingredients worked nicely in potion making; they stabilized the Wizarding ingredients and created an aroma that was pleasing to the senses.
She examined a piece. "What about it?" she asked, folding the potion over and turning away.
"You straighten it…like you hate your beautiful curls," he grumbled. Anger flared inside her. Nothing about her was "beautiful"—especially not her ratty, untamable hair.
"It's like you're trying to change who you were—are," he murmured.
"More like disappear," she grumbled.
Something went crunch when she said that and when she looked over, she saw he'd broken his stirring rod. Slivers of glass pierced his palm. "Merlin," she sighed and headed closer, closer until she could turn off the heat and clean up the glass appropriately. "It's just barely broken the surface," she told him and glanced up; he was staring down at her with a pinched expression on his sallow face. "What?" she demanded as she cleaned his wound and Vanished the potion (contaminated potions were useless).
"Why?" His voice was unnaturally soft and raspy as she wrapped a bandage around the cuts.
"Why what?" she asked carefully, holding his hand as she tied off the ends of the bandages.
"You very well know what," he snapped, suddenly sharp and vibrating anger.
Hermione closed her eyes and calmed her racing heart. "I don't believe I do," she responded coolly and his eyes flashed like hellfire as he pulled away quickly.
"You're changing everything about yourself," he spat. The words resonated fiercely but she looked away, watching clouds pass by the window slowly.
"Maybe I am," she said quietly.
Silence reigned as minutes slipped by, each one quieter and more strenuous than the last. At last, he spoke. "Maybe you shouldn't."
She met his glare and her stomach plummeted. He looked unkempt, his cheeks flushed under the pale light, hair falling into his face, so unprofessional. He was wearing a dark blue sweater with a fraying collar and a patch on the elbows paired with torn blue jeans and hiking boots and he looked so Muggle that, had she not known him for so long, she would've swooned at the sight of him coming undone.
"I'm going upstairs," she said abruptly, turning away. "I…" Snape started hesitantly but she was already hurrying up the stairs, frantic to be away from him. She couldn't deal with him.
The shop was bustling and she kept busy, thankfully. "Thank you. Come again soon," she said as the man with two sulky boys left.
"Good job, Miss Granger," a silky voice purred and she turned, startled, finding Snape standing behind her.
He was collected once more; his hair tied back, a long tail of ebony gliding down his back. "Thank you, Mr. Snape," she managed to squeak as she brushed away her long hair. It was beginning to frizz up, she realized absently, twisting around a strand around her finger.
"It's almost five," he said, "you should get going."
"I have nothing to do," she said before she could stop herself.
Snape's eyes looked up slowly from adjusting the Gillyweed in the display counter. "Would you like to go grab something to eat?" Her mouth was working before her brain caught up. Surprise filled his eyes.
"I suppose." He headed downstairs to grab his coat.
"Snape?" Hermione called, glancing into the basement as a chill crawled through her. "Sir?" she said, shriller now, fear replacing her apprehension. The step creaked under her weight and a musky smell rose. "Severus?" His first name tasted sweet on her tongue as she continued down the steps. No answer.
The backdoor was open, cool wind blowing in. Shivering, she cast a diagnostic spell. It rippled from her wand and spread like water, scanning; it flashed red and then purple. No intruders, although, there was someone lying on the floor in the storage room. At first, she thought it was an intruder, that maybe the diagnostic spell was somehow defected, but then, as she got closer, she realized it was a sleek, black animal, laying in a lifeless heap on the floor.
On its left forearm was a pattern, several shades lighter than the rest of its pitch-black fur, a Dark Mark.
St. Mungo's wasn't all that busy and she was thankful for that when she Apparated into the mediwitches' station, carrying a half-limp Animagus in her arms, bleeding horribly. The front of her coat was thick and sticky with blood as he stirred halfheartedly, looking up at her with frightened black eyes.
"Please, help me…he's my boss. I found him in the basement…he's stuck in his Animagus form," she babbled as a mediwizard rushed forward and took him. I'm so sorry, she thought quietly as her knees buckled under her weight and she hit the ground hard. The blow rattled through her teeth as another mediwitch tried to calm her down.
Hours passed as the wizards and witches worked on Snape. "He's going to be okay," said a mediwizard with kind eyes, running his hands through his graying hair as she sat blankly, staring down at her black coat. It had been light brown, turned black with his blood. Bile rose painfully. "Miss Granger, while he's recovering, do you know of anywhere that he can reside? While his body builds its defenses back up, he won't be able to move very much or Turn back," the mediwizard explained, standing as his knees cracked.
"So he wasn't lying." A little piece of guilt welded up inside her stomach as she scrubbed at her face. "Yes," she admitted quietly, "he does."
And Merlin preserve my sanity, she added silently.