Though she was exceedingly relieved that he‘d chosen to continue working with her, she was very tense about returning to his personal workroom. This silly infatuation of hers had gone on long enough. It was near to the point of obsession and almost cost Hermione her life—not once, but, more than likely, twice. What would have happened if she’d given him even more blood than she had?
For the past five years, she’d happily blocked him from her mind and, for her own safety, she had to return to that oblivious state of being. She lay in bed that night mulling over what had changed to tear down all her carefully placed walls. The obvious answer, of course, was that she’d almost lost him. She tried to not dwell on that horrible emptiness she’d felt watching him lie in a pool of his own blood. The other answer was the simple fact that they now shared blood. They had each given freely to save the other. What was a stronger bond than blood?
She set about building up her walls again. She thought of what Harry had seen in his memories. Lily. He’d spent most of his life pining for Harry’s dead mother. His own sense of guilt and love had kept him leading a double life and under constant threat of death. She ignored the swell of pride and love she felt for him at that moment, convincing herself it was only respect for his strength. She began repeating it in her head. A mantra, a life boat to save her from herself.
He loves Lily. He loves Lily. He loves Lily.
Because if he loved Lily, he couldn't be jealous after all. If he wasn’t jealous after all, he wasn’t interested. If he wasn’t interested, it was all in her head.
If it was all in her head, her heart couldn’t break.
Emotions fully in check and two mugs in hand, she entered the dungeons just before 9 a.m. To her relief, he did not try to engage her in small talk or banter. He quickly and precisely explained to her that, over the past two weeks, he had made a “first draft” of the potion and they would be testing it. She felt a wave of apprehension shatter her carefully compartmentalized mental state.
She regained control as he laid out the experiment. They had to make sure that he wasn’t inadvertently using his Legilimency to communicate with her instead of the potion. Therefore, in this first test, they would retain the potion’s dream use. In this version, however, both should be able to project and change the dream, instead of one simply being the viewer, as in the original. He had also slightly altered it, making the effects only short term by reducing the amount of sleeping draught involved. It should only last an hour, instead of an entire night. They would each pick a location to take the other in the dream. She was pleased. The entire business seemed within reason and control. She would choose a place first and then he would do the same before he ended the dream and woke them up.
She transfigured the two arm chairs in his office into much more comfortable Muggle recliners for comfort. He’d seemed surprised and then content to settle in. They each took the small vials of potion and closed their eyes. She only had time to briefly wonder where he’d take her before drifting off to sleep.
She had chosen the place because she found it funny. It would be even more amusing because he would be irritated if he didn’t get the humor. They were sitting together quietly in a small boat, facing a tree-lined shore. The colors assaulted even her expecting eyes. Everything was extraordinarily bright and delightfully surreal. Giant yellow and green flowers loomed in the orange distance. She turned to him laughing, knowing what he’d see when he looked in her eyes. He looked annoyed when he turned to face her but she was almost certain she saw amusement in his eyes. Forgetting everything but the dream and her giddiness, she took his hand. She caught a flicker of something else in his eyes and started to let go.
Instead of releasing her, he slid his fingers up to catch her wrist and then shocked her by jumping overboard. She panicked and considered screaming before he pulled her over and she plunged into icy darkness. Her body was pulled deeper underwater and she lost her hold on him. She never learned to swim and wondered first, if she could die in a dream, and then second, if that had been his plan all along.
He seemed to realize his mistake and pulled her to the surface. Apparently, in his dream, she could swim. Or at least float. When she regained her breath again, she saw he was floating too. His robes spread out like a raft, his hair a black halo in the water. She leaned her head back, dipping her hair in the water in attempt to get it out of her face. She realized a moment too late that this small movement pushed her chest out of the water. When her wet body hit the cold air, it automatically tightened in response. She pulled herself immediately back down into the water, blushing wildly, head snapping to see if he had seen. His face was unreadable but she felt herself being jerked into consciousness, violently ripped from the dream.
She opened her eyes slowly, berating herself and fervently hoping he really hadn’t noticed. If he mentioned it, she was certain she would die there in his office and welcomed the thought. She quickly got up when she heard him move. He locked his gaze on hers, slowly rising with his usual unnatural grace. She looked away, embarrassed.
“I can’t swim, sir,” she said softer than she’d meant.
“So I see, Miss Granger.” He crossed back into the lab. “You do, however, have a surprising taste in Muggle music nearly as old as I am.”
She was infinitely grateful that he didn’t mention her completely inappropriate display, unintentional as it was. She was also pleased that he’d gotten her musical reference but given his age and half-blood status, that had been her goal.
They spent another half hour discussing the potion and what steps would be taken next. Since the test had been successful, they would next try the same exercise awake. They decided to continue their work the next day, though it was Sunday. She left the dungeons slightly less horrified, but glad at least that she hadn’t inflicted any physical harm to herself.
She still had a couple hours until lunch and was completely exhausted from their little jaunt into dreamland. She decided to take a short nap and then catch up with Ginny at lunch. After such an awkward experience, she needed the familiar company of her friends. She climbed the stairs to Gryffindor tower, happy that that the Head Girl’s rooms were near the base. She stripped off her robes, jumper and shoes, but was too tired to remove her t-shirt and jeans. Leaving them on, she climbed into bed and immediately fell asleep.
The dream started the same as always. She was running through the passage to the Shrieking Shack. She flung her body down, kneeling in blood over his motionless body. She felt her grief like it was fresh and tasted hope like the first time when she heard the faint pulse. She worked the healing charms, felt the despair when they didn’t work. She quickly rolled up his sleeve, fingers pausing then tentatively gliding over the Dark Mark on his muscular forearm. She soon felt the blood draining from her, paying attention this time to how much was leaving her body. She distracted herself from the dizziness sliding over her, but looking at his arm again, a small smile playing at her lips.
“Tell me, Miss Granger, what on earth you would find amusing at a time such as this.” Her eyes flew to his face. Instead of being unconscious as per the norm, he was looking at her expectantly. She pulled herself from the dream and found herself sitting upright in bed, panting.
“No,” she moaned, jumping out of bed. She shoved her feet in her trainers and fled from the room. She raced through the castle, frantically thinking of what to say to him. She wasn’t sure why she was so opposed to him knowing that she’d saved him, but she was certain she hadn’t want him to find out like this. Obviously, the potion hadn’t stopped working just because they’d woken up.
As she ran down the stairs into the chilliness of the dungeons, she finally noticed that she had not only forgotten her robes but also her jumper. She was only wearing jeans and a slightly too small t-shirt with a Muggle band on the front. Shit. How much worse could this get?
She rounded the corner to his office to find him leaning on the door jamb, arms crossed over his chest. She skidded to a breathless halt in front of him.
“Well, well, Miss Granger. It seems we’re even after all.” He arched one brow at her and turned to enter his office. The door didn’t slam shut behind him so she assumed she was meant to follow. She was not prepared for his next words. “I had my suspicions, of course, but as no one had any information as to my...revival, there was no way to confirm them.”
“You knew, sir?” In her disbelief, she’d forgotten she was supposed to be horrified at her accidental revelation and her improper dress.
“Let it suffice to say I guessed. Now please tell me what you found so humorous as I lay dying on the floor.”
“Oh, um,” she stammered. The horror had returned and left her tongue-tied. She considered lying but couldn’t think of anything fast enough. “I was thinking that was the most of you I’d ever seen. You’re usually buttoned up to the neck and down past your wrists.” She faintly enjoyed the shock that crossed his face. Whatever he’d expected, that wasn’t it. He composed himself quickly.
“Very well, Miss Granger. I shall expect to see you at the appointed time tomorrow. It seems there is more work to be done than I thought.”
“Yes, sir.” She said, relieved and slightly unnerved at their anticlimactic meeting.
For the first time since they had begun working together, she dreaded seeing him. Each step into the dungeons had her fighting the urge to flee back up the stairs. It was only her Gryffindor courage that kept her moving forward. What would she say? Should she remain silent and wait to see if he spoke of it? Or should she blurt out something--anything--to make him send her away, expel her from his class, never speak to her again and thereby avoid this terrible shame that had settled around her? She was still arguing with herself as she entered the lab, pausing at the door.
“Miss Granger, I have no intention on further discussing the ravings of your unconscious mind at this time. Please come into the lab and assist me, if it is your wish to continue doing so.” He spoke slowly and concisely, his back to her, without turning or lifting his head. She let out a breath in relief and crossed the room to begin.
They were preparing ingredients for another slight variation on the potion. They hardly spoke during their time together. She was quite glad. As dinner approached, she wondered how long he intended to work. It wasn’t long before he spoke, still not lifting his head. He hadn’t made eye contact the entire afternoon.
“Miss Granger, seeing as next weekend is a Hogsmeade weekend, I assume you will be otherwise engaged. We shall continue this in two weeks’ time.”
“You do not wish to work Sunday instead?” she asked tentatively.
“No, Miss Granger,” his voice was softer, but he still didn’t look up at her. “I will be away from the castle this weekend. I wish to do further research in another location.”
“Of course, sir.”