- Hermione Granger
- Drama Romance
- Multiple Eras
- Philosopher's Stone Chamber of Secrets Prizoner of Azkaban Goblet of Fire Quidditch Through the Ages Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Published: 03/19/2002Updated: 09/01/2005Words: 220,150Chapters: 28Hits: 163,807
Falling Further In
- Story Summary:
- The story begins in the summer holidays before the sixth year. After her parents are murdered by Voldemort Hogwarts becomes Hermione's home. She joins the staff in the fight against Voldemort and learns more of the man behind the dark sarcasms of the classroom. Will *eventually* be Snape/Hermione. Lupin is again the Professor teaching Defence Against the Dark Arts, and has a black dog who lives with him - Sirius Black in his animagus form.
- Chapter Summary:
- Hermione learns more about the man behind the dark sarcasms of the classroom
It was like being a first year all over again - except worse because she had all her rudimentary Muggle knowledge getting in the way. After five days of working with Madam Pomfrey Hermione had no time to spare for martyr complexes, or much else. She was discovering that in her own way the benign medi-witch was as exacting as Snape, if less vitriolic.
Hermione headed back from the library, the stack of books she held so large that she couldn't see over them, although they were weightless, thanks to a Lifting Charm. In the circumstances it was ridiculous to maintain physical contact with the books but she enjoyed the feel of the different bindings; she even liked the disconcerting smells and suggestion of whispering that came from a couple of them. She hadn't intended to work today but she was sleeping so badly that it had been a relief to abandon the pretence and get up and do something to dispel the shadows which stalked her dreaming mind. Over breakfast she remembered a point Snape had made about the use of Adder's Tongue Fern that could well impact on the study of the plant she was preparing for Madam Pomfrey. She would have liked to discuss it further with him but there wouldn't be any more chats, even when he came back from his holiday.
Suddenly the incessant babble of slights, taunts and threats above her head became too much.
"Peeves, if you don't stop pestering me I'm calling the Bloody Baron again. I heard him down the corridor," she threatened as she quickened her pace, desperate to get away from the Poltergeist.
Peeves fled in a flurry of grovelling apologies, having learnt that Hermione's patience was no longer to be relied upon. The Gryffindor was discovering her teeth and claws. She had already set the Baron on him twice this week
Rounding a corner at a speed approaching a run, Hermione collided with someone hard enough to send them both flying off-balance. Her concentration broken, the weak Charm supporting the books failed; as volumes began to rain down she grabbed her wand, being more concerned with their well-being than with protecting herself from a tumble onto the stone flags.
"Leviosa!" she yelled, becoming aware that a male voice was echoing the Charm, just before she toppled into a suit of armour, which promptly fell apart with some unpleasant screeching noises. Crying out as one of the breast plates struck her on the shoulder Hermione landed on someone who, while softer than stone flags, was bonier than she would have chosen. Beneath the stink of rusting metal she smelt a hint of cypress and rosemary.
He gave a winded gasp and lay still for a moment, the vulnerable arch of his throat in front of her. Only then did Hermione appreciate that she had the tip of her wand digging into the vein pulsing under the sharp definition of his jaw. A trickle of energy flared blue before she controlled it and he flinched. Shocked, she tried to withdraw. Armour clanged and she learnt how little room for manoeuvre she had.
A couple of ragged breaths later, Snape's eyes snapped open, seeming to see far more than she was comfortable with before his attention moved to a spot over her head.
"Direct your wand a little to your left," he instructed breathlessly. "Exercise great care. You risk bringing the stand down on top of you."
A Lifting Charm later and Hermione was free to get up, which she did with alacrity when she appreciated the size and probable weight of that stand; it could have killed them both.
Looking sallow and underslept, Snape rose to his feet in slow stages and propped himself against the wall. She had never seen him look so dishevelled, or in need of a shave, before. The black stubble did nothing to make him seem more approachable.
"How could you be so sure I wouldn't use this against you?" Hermione demanded belligerently, gesturing with her wand. There was no need for him to assume she was another Neville Longbottom just because she wasn't one of his Slytherins.
"Apart from the tedious nobility of a Gryffindor? How else would you be able to maintain your feelings of superiority over lesser mortals?"
"Judging everyone by yourself again?" she retorted.
The dark gaze assessed, catalogued and - finding nothing of interest - moved on with hurtful speed. Disconcerted by that intensely masculine assessment of her person Hermione became aware that her hair had escaped confinement, her nails were grubby and that her clothing was creased and crumpled.
"No," he said, giving her a final look of disdain.
Rejection was never easy to accept, even when it came from Snape. Hermione stuck up her chin and blinked hard.
"I am not to going to cry again, whatever you say to me." Her voice held an ignominious wobble. Since he had broken down her defences she was prone to lapses into emotion when she least expected it; her lack of sleep in recent days hadn't helped her emotional control.
The laces of his thin black shirt torn, Snape abandoned his attempts at neatness to give her a look of surprise. "It never occurred to me that you might."
The urge to weep receding by the second, Hermione stared at him.
"Why not?" That had been close to a compliment and compliments from Snape were rarer than Roc's eggs.
"Because I have other interests apart from your undistinguished self," he said in his usual brutal manner.
About to snap a reply back to him, it occurred to Hermione that Snape's manner might conceal more than it revealed. She also had time to notice that for someone who had supposedly been on holiday he looked worse than when she had seen him last - in fact he looked as if he had been sharply ill. She wondered briefly why Madam Pomfrey hadn't done anything to improve the shape of his nose when she had mended it. It was so hooked it was a wonder it didn't meet his chin.
Discovering himself to be under surveillance, Snape gave her a look of hauteur. "What now?" he demanded with impatience.
"I shouldn't have hit you," she said baldly, avoiding the necessity of an insincere apology.
From his unpleasant half-smile he was as aware of the evasion as she was.
"No," he agreed, unobtrusively gripping for support the rough stone wall behind him.
"I thought I might be expelled over it."
"An entrancing thought. Unfortunately it isn't term time."
"So that's why - "
"No points were deducted from Gryffindor? Just so. Should there be a repetition, Gryffindor will find itself in minus points for the next decade. 'It is the first time that ever I heard breaking of ribs was sport for ladies.'"
"I thought it was your nose I broke."
"It was a quotation, Miss Granger. Just a quotation." Snape pushed himself away from the wall with a perceptible effort.
Hermione had a sudden unwelcome memory of Snape sprawled on the floor of the hospital wing. Despite her unprovoked attack he had made absolutely no attempt to retaliate, either verbally or physically. Odder still, it had never occurred to her that he might. Only then did she realise why she was so angry with him.
"I don't understand," she said, ignoring the books hovering within her reach. "I mean, I can see why you did what you did to me - now. But did you have to enjoy it?"
Snape spun back to her so fast that it made the thin fabric of his unlaced shirt flare out to reveal disconcerting amounts of skin.
"Why, yes. Sport is slow during the summer holidays," he said, a brittle, cutting edge to his voice. "Good day to you, Miss Granger." He stalked off down the corridor, his boot heels echoing on the stone flags.
Staring after that straight-backed figure, Hermione had the oddest feeling that this was the first encounter she had ever won with Snape. It didn't bring the satisfaction she had been expecting.
Sweat was clammy on Snape's skin by the time he turned the corner. Another corridor, even longer than the first, stretched out in front of him, but at least he didn't have those damnably honest eyes boring into his back.
It became more difficult to maintain the illusion of health now there was no audience and he faltered, restarted and faltered again. A high keening sound in his ears, cold waves of sweat submerged him and he slumped against the wall before he could lose consciousness. Misjudging the distance, he collided with the decorative carved arm of the stone bench.
The pain was excruciating, although it had the merit of clearing his head. His breath hissing inwards, he massaged his bruised thigh, grateful the collision hadn't been two inches to the left.
Not that it would have made any difference, except to the level of pain. It wasn't as if he'd used it to do more than piss with for the last seventeen years. Or was it eighteen?
You would think the date would be etched on his balls. Instead, impotence had become just one more knotted lash on his personal scourge.
He slumped down onto the bench and leant back his head, his eyes closing in despair. He was so tired. To the point where he didn't care about anything any more because he could see no end to any of it. Today, as for all the days he could remember, there was no one with whom he could share his thoughts. Not that he would share them - bad enough to live with this level of terror without giving it voice - but it would be nice to have a choice. Sometimes he felt as if he was bound on a nightmare journey destined never to end. Other times he thought the loneliness would drive him mad, or worse, that it had already done so.
And he could see no way of making it stop.
Or only one. And that way was closed to him, the only barrier a promise made when he was twenty one.
Ironic. How many people would credit that Severus Snape knew how to keep his word? It had been a matter of honour to keep this one: payment in full of an unwanted debt.
It was just a pity he was an emotional pauper and so had gained nothing while feeling as if he had lost everything.
Even Dumbledore didn't know how he had come to be a Death Eater. If only he could pretend it had been a hunger for power - even for knowledge - when in reality it had stemmed from nothing more heroic than the fact he was bored and bitter and felt unappreciated. Nothing at Hogwarts had challenged or stretched his talents. Surrounded by mundane minds and quantities of tedious virtue, and embittered by the blatant favouritism that went on, he had looked around for something - someone - more charismatic. Voldemort had offered excitement, and knowledge so arcane it was only whispered about in academic circles - oh, and power, of course. But that was almost incidental to the wealth of learning he had promised.
He could weep for the arrogant naivety of his teenage self. What had he really known of evil at eighteen? He had been reared in the lap of luxury and if his parents had been distant it was only because they rarely remembered they had a son. There had been no expectations to fulfill because they'd had none where he had been concerned. Sometimes he thought he would rather have been beaten than ignored but he was probably deceiving himself. He hadn't enjoyed the beatings he'd received during his early years at Hogwarts. Compared to most his childhood had been a sheltered haven of privilege. Of course, he had experienced the casual cruelties, petty jealousies and squabbles inevitable in any closed community; he'd been bullied, learned to defend himself, and then bullied others in his turn, if finding means more subtle than mere physical brutality. The only real trauma had been when Black had -
It had been years before he'd got the feral reek of the werewolf from his senses. Even now, when Remus came upon him unexpectedly and he caught the back notes of blood and fur the fear came crashing back, almost overwhelming him. But that wasn't Remus' fault. None of it had been Remus' fault, he could accept that now. Just.
As a child he had heard rumours of the Dark Lord, gossip that had intrigued and whetted his interest rather than the reverse, but he'd always been contrary. Nothing had resembled the tawdry, sordid reality of a man so scared of dying that he sought eternal life. It was the final insult that someone so...mundane should possess that astonishing level of power. There was more, of course. There was always more. The Dark Lord's charisma was such that even now, knowing what he did, the will of Voldemort was difficult to resist.
He had been thoroughly punished for his arrogance. The closest he had come to boredom in the years since joining the Death Eaters had been the rare moments when Binns cornered him in the staffroom. Sometimes he thought there would be nothing more pleasant than the chance for some uneventful teaching, with time for research and the writing of papers. Maybe a book or two. So much for Slytherin ambition...
Concentrating on breathing slowly and deeply, Snape fought for and attained a measure of control. In. Out. In. Out.
There. As easy as first year Potions.
The muscle spasms were less frequent now but their unpredictability was unsettling. His hands were still too unsteady for potion-making and he certainly couldn't control a classroom slumped to his knees, rocking in agony - although the sight would undoubtedly cause universal celebration, except amongst the rest of the staff, who would have to cover his classes.
Many of his colleagues looked forward to the autumn term. He dreaded it because all he could think about was who would go over to the Dark Lord this year. Crabbe and Goyle were certainties. He had never been able to reach them but sometimes he thought - hoped - that Draco Malfoy might have started to learn to think for himself. Family pressure made it unlikely though. So three from Slytherin. Possibly Cobb from Ravenclaw. And who else?
Fuck it, he thought with sudden ferocity. Not this year. No more. Too many had been lost already. This year he would -
What? Crawl more picturesquely on his belly before he kissed the boot that kicked him? He was powerless.
Which brought him neatly back to impotence.
Despite the fact he sat bathed in sunshine, Snape shivered.
Having stopped to rearrange the armour, Hermione smiled as she heard it grumbling to itself as it settled down. She used her wand to redo her hair and clean the rust stains from her person before collecting up the books.
In no hurry, she headed down the long corridor. It was eerily quiet without pupils and most of the staff and she hadn't yet grown used to the lack of noise. There was a strange atmosphere - not threatening - but as if the castle was some great animal that was dozing, waiting only for the signal to awake. There were so few external sounds that she became conscious of the whisper of the folds of her long voile dress, the shush of her soft-soled shoes on the stone flags and the subliminal murmur coming from Advanced Incantations.
Rounding the corner, Hermione stopped dead. She had assumed Snape would have disappeared ages ago. Instead, he sat on a low stone bench, his back straight, his feet firmly planted, his clasped hands hanging between his wide-parted thighs. His head resting against the wall, his eyes were closed, his pale face lit by the sun streaming through the large casement windows. The stark lighting left him with no secrets, revealing the muscle twitching in his jaw and under his left eyes and the way his left arm jerked and jumped despite the fact he was trying to hold it still.
She placed what had been bothering her when she had bumped into him a short time ago; he hadn't been on holiday, he had been ill and no one had wanted to tell her. Why? Unable to think of any reason that made sense she marched in where even most Gryffindors would have backed off.
Before she had taken more than two strides closer Snape's eyes snapped open abruptly enough to make her flinch and stop where she was.
"Miss Granger." Accustomed to controlling a classroom, his voice carried effortlessly down the corridor. "Here to make it three times lucky?"
It took her a moment to place the reference. "The second time I knocked you down it was an accident." She made no attempt to salve his pride with some face-saving half-truth.
The flicker of amusement which briefly crossed his sweating face acknowledged as much. "Thank you. Did you want me?"
"No," she said with cutting promptitude.
He appeared uncrushed. "Then go away."
"In a minute. I was told you were on holiday."
Finding it difficult to concentrate on anything but the pain he tried to focus on her. "I am."
"But you haven't gone anywhere."
"I'm catching up on some reading."
"I haven't seen you in the library recently."
"Where I won't be disturbed."
For a moment she could not conceal her hurt. "Oh," she said in a small voice, thinking of their lengthy discussions amongst the whispering rows of books and wondering why she had assumed he had enjoyed them as much as she had. "I didn't intend to interrupt your work. It won't happen again."
"Good. Now go and pester someone else."
He attempted to rise just as another series of muscle spasms ripped through him. They folded him sharply over, his arms wrapped around his torso in a vain attempt to subdue the pain. He could feel himself toppling forward without being able to do a thing to stop it from happening.
Snape regained consciousness to find himself cushioned against something warm and soft that smelt of -
That wonderfully enticing smell that meant warm woman. This one was young and sweet-fleshed. As was usual with women, beneath her own delicious scent were myriad others: hints of frankincense, lemon grass, sandalwood and orange with back notes of almond oil and geranium. He just managed to stop himself from continuing the extensive list. Better just to enjoy.
Something tickled his nose and he rubbed it gently against the curve of her breast, experiencing a familiar stirring itch of pleasure. He felt the nipple grazing his cheekbone tighten and turned his head slightly to nuzzle it only to be jolted back to an awareness of where he was and who the nipple belonged to by a tight, nervous-sounding voice saying his name.
Well, no, that was definitely not going to happen. But at least it seemed he might have a choice in the matter again.
His eyes squeezed shut, burning with a ridiculous prickle of tears of pure, unadulterated relief that after all these years...
It belatedly occurred to him that this particularly improvement in his well-being wasn't something he was eager to share with Hermione Granger - or anyone else at Hogwarts. If he stayed where he was the last thing the problem was going to do was go away. Of course it didn't help that the last thing he wanted was for it to go away.
He didn't want to move either. It had been a long, long time since anyone had held him like this, the hand cupping the back of his head massaging the base of his scalp in a way that made him want to purr with pleasure. And apart from the fact she smelt wonderful, she really did have the most splendid breasts.
And she was a student. He needed to concentrate on moving before his erection scared her into a lifetime of sexual abstinence. 'Snape-the-bastard' existed only to torment students, it was a well-known fact. Only right now one of his students was doing a pretty good job of tormenting him just by breathing.
Damn but she smelt wonderful.
Anyone aspiring to become a halfway decent Potions master needed an excellent sense of smell - way above average. Put him in a class of twenty hormonal teenagers and he could still tell the state of every cauldron and detect the balance of the various ingredients. Not that he had ever let his pupils become aware of that. Some actually learnt from their carelessness - except Longbottom, who seemed mentally defective. The Memory Charms which had been placed on him after the attack on his parents couldn't account for his seeming inability to obey the simplest instruction. But he was in the right House all right, he never missed a class, more was the pity. Perhaps -
Without warning another wave of cramps savaged him. His jaw clenched on a cry, Snape moved uncontrollably.
Hermione knew to the moment when 'Snape-the-bastard' slid away to be forever reduced to the status of a mere man: bad-tempered, often unjust, but just a man with all the faults and talents and hopes and fears that went with the title. It didn't happen when, shivering with pain, he buried his face in her lap in an attempt to conceal just how bad this was, his hands clawed and twisted; it wasn't even when guttural sounds escaped his control. It was simpler than that. The revelation came when, in an extremity of pain, he tried to crawl away in case he inadvertently hurt her. That he was even capable of rational thought was amazing enough; that it should be her welfare that was foremost in his mind...
Shedding preconceptions by the second, Hermione grimly held on to him through the worst of it, becoming increasingly desperate when no help came. There was never a house elf around when you needed one.
A hellish couple of minutes later she remembered how Dumbledore had used a simple spell to project his voice through the Great Hall. Fumbling for her wand, she pointed it at her throat.
But still no one came.
She could tell when the worst was over because little by little the starkly defined muscles of his back began to relax under her hand. His clothing was sodden with sweat and he was shaking almost as much as she was.
Hermione gave a determined sniff and angrily wiped her wet face dry with the back of her hand. A fat lot of use she'd been. She had never had to watch anyone suffer like this before and along with her fear for him it made her fiercely angry that she hadn't been able to do anything to stop it. The various pain-relieving spells she had tried had rolled off him like water down a pane of glass.
His harsh rasps for air were steadying, becoming slower and shallower. When his breathing approached normal he tried to push himself up into a sitting position. Still clumsy and uncoordinated, he succeeded on the third attempt and slumped against the support of the wall. His sweat-soaked hair clung to his face and scalp and he looked - pared to the bone, she thought with a pang.
"Miss G-Granger. D-did I h-hurt you?"
She shook her head, fighting to steady her inclined-to-quiver chin.
"I'm s-sorry if I f-frightened you."
"Why should you think you did that? All in a day's work. What's wrong with you?"
He was finding it difficult to think. "An o-old injury," he said at last.
"That repels magic?"
"How - ?"
"You think I could sit back and let anyone suffer that way without trying to help?" Her fear began to manifest itself in anger.
He held his hands up in front of his chest, palms outwards, in a universal gesture of surrender. "N-no," he said simply. It was, he supposed, inevitable that she should possess a full measure of Gryffindor sentimentality.
"You need to see Madam Pomfrey."
"I j-just n-need sleep. She knows. There's n-nothing she can do," he added, when she continued to glare at him. From her reddened nose and eyes she had been crying again; he must have scared her badly because she had the heart of a lion. "Thank you," he added, at his most formal as he wondered if he dared try to stand yet.
"Stay still," she commanded, trying to camouflage her concern. "If you try to walk any distance you're liable to fall flat on your face." A small movement of her wand produced a stretcher.
He eyed it with loathing.
"Haven't you spent enough time grovelling at my feet over the last few days?" she asked tartly.
Instead of being offended, Snape gave the faintest of grins and eyed her with new interest. "That was a remark almost worthy of m-me."
"If only you could be relied upon to show as much common sense as me. If you won't accept my help will you stay here while I go and get someone? I tried increasing the volume of my voice and it seemed to work but it can't have done because it was ages ago and no one has come." She finally wound down to stare at him, trying not to remember the worst of it.
"Did you think to give our location?" Snape smiled at her look of chagrin.
"Bugger!" said Hermione crossly. She got to her feet, looking for her wand.
It was then that he noticed her scraped hands and arms and the traces of blood around knee height on the flimsy fabric of her pretty dress.
"You're hurt," he said flatly.
Following the direction of his gaze Hermione glanced down at herself. "Oh. Nothing serious. Scrapes and bumps from where I tried to catch you. I couldn't use a Charm because I'd dropped my wand. I panicked," she added, as if he had made some criticism. Her glare dared him to make anything of it.
"So did I," he said, surprising her into a choke of laughter but it was obvious tears weren't far behind.
"I thought you were going to die," she said baldly.
Hating every second of this, Snape fidgeted but he didn't look away from those too-bright eyes.
"I'm sorry," he repeated inanely, wishing she would stop staring at him like that while wondering if she knew just how diaphanous that fabric was with the sun behind it.
"A fat lot of good that is. Don't be sorry, do something to stop it from happening again."
"Unfortunately the m-matter is outside of my control."
"Can't the headmaster do anything?"
"Has he tried?"
There was something in her tone which made Snape give her a look of surprise.
"Well has he?" she pursued.
"Of c-course." It was becoming increasingly difficult to keep his eyes open.
Sighing, she came and crouched beside him. "I know you hate the idea, I would too, but won't you use the stretcher - just this once? You can Obliviate me afterwards, if the idea of me knowing bothers you," she offered.
"The Obliviate spell should never be used for something so trivial. It's...an abomination," he growled.
"But aren't you afraid I might say something to Harry - to anyone?"
"Don't be ridiculous," he dismissed.
"You trust me?" she almost squeaked.
He gave her a narrow-eyed look of displeasure but there was no way out of it except to lie, which, in the circumstances, would be counter-productive. "Well it's h-hardly likely you would support Voldemort, is it," he retorted, wondering uneasily what she was looking at now.
"I wasn't talking about him - and you know it. But never mind that. You look terrible," she added, her look of worry intensifying.
"Bring the damn stretcher here," he said, in irritable capitulation. From the beam he received she obviously thought her backward pupil had just done something remarkably clever.
Beginning to get his measure, Hermione took no notice.
...it is the first time that ever I heard breaking of ribs was sport for ladies.
- As You Like It: Shakespeare
The image of Snape sitting on the bench was inspired by a photo of Rickman and no, I don't know where you can find the photo.