Hermione woke with plenty of time to get ready for the ball. She rolled to her side, staring out the window and thinking of him. Suddenly, she was very nervous. What if she’d imagined it all? What if she’d misread him completely and they really were just settling into a comfortable friendship? Why would he be interested in a silly girl playing dress up? She got out of bed and strengthened her resolve. She knew his true friends were few and far between. If that’s what he chose, then she’d be pleased to offer him that and try to be satisfied. She had loved him too long not to at least attempt something more. She would show him she was an adult and then pray to whoever was listening that he’d respond favorably.
She piled her hair atop her head, leaving her neck bare. In addition to the magic she used to hold it in place, she added some rhinestone hairpins her mother had given her. She left a few strands loose and curly. For makeup, she chose a silvery-white eye shadow that matched her dress, black eyeliner and several coats of mascara. She kept her lips shiny but soft...hopefully kissable.
She had a minor internal struggle over what underclothes to wear. Certainly, no one but her would know what she chose, but she knew that it could change how she felt about herself. Throwing caution to the wind, she chose a lace pushup bra and matching knickers. She could get by with the silver dress at Christmas but if anyone knew she was wearing Slytherin green underwear, there would be hell to pay.
She pulled the dress over her body, relieved that it fit the way she remembered. The halter top showed just enough cleavage and left her back bare almost to the waist. The silver flowed over her curves into a small train. An almost hidden off-center slit gave a lovely view of her leg when she walked. She hoped it let the dress be sexy without making her seem like a complete tart. She slid on the heels that she’d charmed so she wouldn’t fall. One last look in the mirror, a spritz of perfume and she was off.
Feeling dramatic, Hermione timed her entrance after the ball started so that most everyone would be in the Great Hall already. She paused just out of view, taking a deep breath to steady herself and gather her courage. Lifting her chin, she confidently strode into the Hall. She stopped again inside to look around the room under the guise of inspecting the decorations. She smiled slightly and arched a brow when she realized she matched the décor.
The room looked like the inside of an ice palace. Silver and white glinted over most every surface. The giant Christmas tree that dominated one end of the room was trimmed in silvery snowflakes, blue garland and white lights. Professor Flitwick had used his signature mood lighting, charmed faeries scattered around the room. Snow fell from the ceiling of the hall, disappearing before it hit the ground.
Though she appeared to be taking in the room, her eyes automatically sought him. She found him staring at her from the corner where most of the teachers gathered.
Sir, she said, meeting his gaze.
Miss Granger, he said, his voice low. She gave him a half smile that was almost a smirk and turned to walk toward her friends. She knew the heels made her hips sway more than usual and was infinitely glad of it, knowing that he was watching.
“Bloody hell, Mione!” Ron almost shouted as she approached. The others turned to see at what he was gaping. She was quite pleased with herself when their jaws dropped.
“Hermione, you look amazing!” Ginny said happily rushing over to her. “I knew that dress would be perfect.” She leaned over to hug Hermione, whispering, “He can’t stop looking at me. I can’t thank you enough.”
She spent the next couple hours enjoying herself. She danced with all her friends, as well as the obligatory dances with the Head Boy and the male staff members. Most of the staff members anyway. Professor Snape had danced sporadically throughout the evening with the other Professors. She laughed inwardly at how he always looked so put out and obviously forced. Near the end, he’d been dancing with one of the Slytherin prefects. The girl was blushing and kept her eyes averted. She clearly had a crush on her professor, a sentiment that Hermione understood. To her relief however, Professor Snape looked incredibly uncomfortable and quickly walked away the instant the song ended. When he wasn’t dancing, he was standing near the wall scowling. She couldn’t help but notice how much his scowl had deepened when she was dancing. She wondered again if he was jealous of the attention her outfit had garnered.
She was resting at a table near the dance floor when the band announced the last song of evening. After a fleeting moment of disappointment, she made the decision to just ask him herself. When she looked up and prepared to rise, she saw him walking in her direction. Her breath caught in her throat when he stopped in front of her.
He said nothing, only offered his hand. She placed her hand in his and allowed him to lead her. They instinctively moved together, both noticing after a few seconds that they were probably too close for propriety’s sake. Looking him in the eye, she moved slightly away. She noticed his hand stayed firmly on her hip, though it should’ve been slightly higher. Her pulse thickened at the heat that radiated from him. She realized she was still staring at him and quickly looked away.
It’s after midnight sir.
Yes. It is. I have not been at liberty to speculate on why we are still connected.
I suppose we’ll just have to wait it out.
She found herself looking up into his face and leaning into him. Remembering they were surrounded by students and staff, she moved away and looked over his shoulder, trying to force a distracted expression. It would not do for the entire school to think she was enjoying being held by her Potions professor of all people. Though enjoying it she was. Immensely. His arms held her firmly in place and his movements were graceful as always. She longed to pull him closer. It was sheer force of will that kept her from tightening her grip on his bicep.
Miss Granger? His voice was soft in her head, but still startling given her train of thought.
Yes, sir? Her eyes flickered to his face when she noted his hesitance.
Is it my imagination or do your...shoes, the last word was said almost with disgust, include snakes winding around your ankles? She smiled mischievously but continued looking away from him.
Why, yes, sir. Actually they do. She risked a glance up at him. He was still staring over her head, with one eyebrow raised, mouth in its usual smirk.
Indeed, Miss Granger. They continued their dance in silence, both making a concentrated effort to look disinterested. The song came to a close too soon and she unwillingly stepped away from him after a moment’s hesitation.
“Thank you, Professor,” she said, realizing it was the first time either had spoken out loud. His only response was a nod.
As she walked away, she kicked herself again for forgetting to tell him that she was staying for the holidays. She assumed the Headmistress had informed him, but they still needed to make lab plans. Her heart sank a little when she considered the possibilities of him not staying for the holidays and also of him just not wanting to see her while he was on break. She pushed the thought away and focused on her duties instead of simply relaying the information through their connection.
The ball broke up and students began making their way back to their common rooms. She stayed in the Great Hall after saying goodnight to her friends. There was a brief meeting concerning who would patrol which areas. She took the opportunity to speak to Professor Snape as the staff left.
“Sir, forgive me, I keep forgetting to mention that I’ll be staying for most of the holiday.”
“Yes, I believe the Headmistress mentioned it, Miss Granger.”
After spending so much time conversing informally with him in their minds, his usual cold detached tone was stinging. Knowing they were surrounded by staff members and that decorum must be maintained, she refused to take it personally.
“Very good, sir,” she answered as politely as she could. “I just wanted you to be aware, in case you have any marking you need me to tend to. I’ll have much free time.”
“I doubt that will be necessary,” he said with a sneer before stalking out of the hall. She stared after him for a moment.
The Headmistress was quickly at her side. Knowing she had been listening all along, Hermione rolled her eyes and shrugged. The older woman gave her a comforting smile and the two parted ways without speaking.
She had not made it very far before an image popped into her head. During their dance, McGonagall had been eyeing them thoughtfully. She assumed this was his way of explaining and apologizing and she answered as such.
Of course sir.
Perhaps you should come by my office tomorrow afternoon to discuss our calculations. His voice had retained its usual softness. If you are free, he added.
Certainly sir, as long as the Headmistress doesn’t have some holiday foolishness for me to attend to.
Goodnight then sir.
Goodnight, Miss Granger.
She wandered the corridors for the next half hour trying to stay focused on her patrol. She listened for sounds of movement and felt for the tingle on her skin that accompanied the use of magic. She was glad she’d used a cushioning charm on her shoes, as well as the stability and balance ones. As it was, her feet and legs were tired. She yawned and counted the minutes until she could return to her room. She couldn’t wait to climb into the warmth of her bed where she could relax and properly revel in the memory of his arms around her.
She was winding her way back to Gryffindor tower when she heard a noise and felt a magical twinge. She intuitively knew it was not more amorous couples like the many others she’d caught that night. She rushed down the hall when she caught movement at the end. The figure was gone by the time she got there. She froze when she noticed the body on the ground. In the darkness, she could only see the pale skin of one long exposed leg as she approached.
Professor! She yelled in her head.
What’s wrong? He answered, alarmed. She opened their connection so that he could see what she did.
The girl’s dark hair was flung across her face, obscuring her identity. As Hermione leaned over to move it away, she saw the state the girl was in. Her dress was pushed high on her thighs where bruises were beginning to form. She was curled on her side, arms wrapped protectively around her abdomen as though she’d been kicked while lying there. Looking past the bruises and swelling of her eyes and the blood smeared from her nose and mouth, she recognized her as the girl Professor Snape had danced with earlier.