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Binding Darkness

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Author’s Note

Please forgive any spelling and/or grammar errors. I hope you enjoy it, please let me know what you think!

I’m not J. K. Rowling, so I don’t own anything.

~

Ch 5: Adjusting

For the next several days, Hermione refused to leave her dormitory in the Gryffindor Tower. She’d showered, changed, then gotten into bed and not gotten out again. Not on Christmas, perhaps even especially not then. Not for the epic snowball fight someone organized between Gryffindor and Hufflepuff. Not to visit the library. Not even for meals. She couldn’t bring herself to face anyone or pretend to be all right when she wasn’t.

After the third missed meal, a tray appeared on her nightstand. She forced the food down, not wishing to make herself sick, but it was tasteless. Unsatisfying. Initially, she assumed Dobby had brought it for her, but a note accompanied one of the trays on the second day, and she learned it was actually from Professor Dumbledore.

The note was brief and to the point, but she’d stared at the short spiky script so many times that it seemed seared onto the back of her eyelids.

Madam Snape,

I trust you are processing the changes that have recently occurred in your life. Your father is safely out of the country and all traces of you have been removed from his memory. I have taken the liberty of laying your mother to rest near my own family in my home town of Godric’s Hollow. Your friend, Mr. Potter’s family is there as well. I hope you find some small measure of comfort in that.

Sincerely,
Professor Dumbledore

After the first day, she’d stopped crying, and merely felt numb. Hollow. As though all of her emotions had been scooped out, leaving her a vacant shell. Then the letter arrived and she was a blubbering mess all over again.

Lavender, to her credit, didn’t bother Hermione, but she had noted the girl casting her worried glances periodically when she came into their dorm room. Hermione was grateful. She wanted the peace to work through the “changes” as Professor Dumbledore had referred to them.

The responsibility she felt for what happened to her mum was second only to her grief for all that she’d lost. As a child, she’d been so close to her mum. Hermione had never found it easy to interact with others her age growing up, so her mum had been her best friend. That all changed when she received her Hogwarts letter. Her mum couldn’t relate to the experiences Hermione had in the Wizarding world, so they’d slowly stopped talking altogether. It had been a gradual, but undeniable distancing.

It had been the same with her dad. Only with him, it had been more a result of his perceptiveness after a few choice conversations with Mr. Weasley. Ron’s father hadn’t known that Hermione didn’t share all of the gory details of what she, Harry, and Ron got up to while at Hogwarts. All the dangerous adventures and near death experiences. Once he learned of them, he started asking a few too many questions. The sort of questions that inevitably would have ended with yanking her out of Hogwarts and forcing her to attend Muggle school once again.

Hermione didn’t want to lose him as well, but there really wasn’t another choice. What happened to her mum would have been all the confirmation he needed that being a witch was too dangerous. He’d have insisted she abandon her friends, and that wasn’t something she simply could do.

Particularly not now that she was bound to Snape.

Part of her isolation had been spent adjusting to that situation as well. Hermione had no idea what to make of the man. He was every bit as ornery, harsh, and resentful as the man she’d come to know over the years, while at the same time, he was considerate, tolerant, and…passionate.

There was no other way to describe their encounters. He was remarkably skilled, and Hermione couldn’t attribute it entirely to the spell. The spell hadn’t helped her know how to touch him to bring him pleasure, it had simply enabled her to try without hesitation. Snape, on the other hand, had worked her body with easy practice, thoroughly enticing her.

And Hermione was rather startled to find that she had actually enjoyed being intimate with him. Far more than she would have thought possible. She liked sex. Rather a lot.

Theoretically, it sounded a bit messy and overrated. People wasted so much time thinking about it, pursuing it, and actually having it. There had seemed far more engaging and worthwhile ways to occupy oneself than getting all sweaty for a few seconds of fleeting pleasure.

Her experiences with Viktor and Cormac hadn’t been particularly exciting or enjoyable. And with Ron… Well, she’d always fantasized more about him suddenly acting mature and romantic with her than she had about snogging or shagging him. Hermione supposed that what it came down to was that other guys just weren’t interesting enough to compel her to investigate.

Now, here she was almost looking forward to being with Snape again. And she had no idea what to think of that.

Was it just because he managed to get her out of her own head for a bit? A feat no one else had ever successfully managed to do? That was something to consider.

Then there was also how he’d allowed her to stay with him, both overnight and the next morning. How had he known she wasn’t ready to face her loss? Why had he bothered to show her such kindness? It wasn’t required of him. Too much had already been asked of him for her sake.

Why did he have to be so shrouded in secrets and closed off? It was maddening!

Hermione rolled over to glance at the letter still sitting on her nightstand. Madam Snape. The title Dumbledore had used gave her pause. Was she to start going by that? Certainly not. They were keeping their binding secret. But what about after the war? Snape said he didn’t plan to survive it -- a matter she’d need to seriously contemplate later -- but what if he did?

Career. Love. Children. Her whole life would be different from how she’d always imagined. Hermione was a planner. She made goals, then set about meeting them. This binding threw all of her careful planning out the window. She’d have to scrap the life she envisioned, and start all over.

Trouble was, she didn’t know where to begin.

The only concrete plan she could come up with, was one day going with Harry to visit their parents’ graves together. After he got over the fact that she’d married the professor he most hated, of course. Hermione appreciated Professor Dumbledore’s consideration in having her mum buried there. She’d not even thought about what to tell him to do for her. Hermione had never discussed her parent’s wishes. She’d not seen the need -- more fool her. But this seemed fitting.

It took her three days to get to the point that she was even up to reading. Then she’d devoured the books Snape had loaned her from the isolation of her bed. The one she’d been reading in his room was merely interesting. The other he’d provided mentioned the spell used on them.

There hadn’t been much more than what he’d already told her. Only that time, as in years, would decrease the effects and frequency. A slow wearing off as usually happened with most spells. Also, that it didn’t automatically mean those under the influence would always enjoy everything the other person did sexually. This seemed to be confirmation for Hermione that Snape was, in fact, skilled, and that she liked being intimate with him. Whatever that was worth.

There was also a reference to another book, and the text alluded to it containing details of how the spell was created. Hermione wondered if Snape planned to acquire the book. Knowing how it was created would help if they had any hope of modifying the spell or developing a counter-charm. Because even though she found she enjoyed the act, with him no less, she didn’t appreciate being at the mercy of a spell’s unpredictable whims.

By the fifth day, Hermione was too restless to remain holed up any longer. That morning she got ready and headed down to the Great Hall for breakfast. Her stomach was turning long before she actually reached the room.

For a moment outside the large wooden doors, she hesitated, worried the spell had started up again, but she quickly realized that wasn’t it. This was something else, though she didn’t know precisely what. Sighing, she headed inside, figuring it was just the looks she was bound to get for returning early from break. With any luck, Lavender would have already spread the news.

The second she entered, her eyes sought out Snape. He was at the Head table, stiffly eating breakfast and discretely arguing with Professor Dumbledore. Hermione watched him, and felt herself frowning at their exchange as she took her seat and began eating. Why was he so upset?

She’d barely taken a bite before he stood and strode briskly from the room, never having noted her presence. Professor Dumbledore’s worried eyes trailed after him. The rest of the meal was rather uneventful after that, with the notable exception of Lavender receiving a letter from Pig that she hastily tucked out of sight after a less than covert peek in Hermione’s direction. At least she was trying to be considerate. It was more than she used to do.

Pig fluttered over and hooted at Hermione, excitedly hopping from one shoulder to the other as she offered the owl a strip of her bacon. She’d sort of expected at least a note from Ron over break, but he was remaining stubbornly silent, giving her the cold shoulder as he had ever since he’d begun dating Lavender. She could have really done with hearing from her friends, what with everything going on. Guess that was what happened though when your best mates were boys. Then the overly eager owl was off again, unable to remain stationary for long.

As she made to leave the Great Hall, the uneasy pit in her stomach became more persistent. A hook in her navel tugged as a guiding hand at her shoulder pushed, both aiming her towards the dungeons, urging her to check on Snape and see what had been amiss with him at breakfast. Hermione debated with herself. She could go to him and risk getting her head bitten off or spend the day with Lavender as she inevitably ended up gushing over her relationship with Ron.

Never would Hermione have anticipated that time with Snape would be her preferred way to spend the day. Yet there she was a few minutes later standing outside his door.

Still, she found herself gasping as the door swung inward to allow her entry when she made to knock. Did the castle wards recognize her position as Madam Snape and automatically grant her access? Snape was going to be furious! She could come and go as she pleased, not that she would. She had more respect for the man than that.

Shutting the door quietly behind her, she hesitantly called, “Snape?”

He’d be livid when he discovered the liberty she’d taken at invading his space uninvited. She walked forward despite that knowledge. The invisible hand nudging her onward.

The sitting room was empty. Should she have tried his office? There was no reason for him to be in his classroom, they still had more than a week before classes resumed. Perhaps he’d gone to the teacher’s lounge or left the castle altogether. The latter seemed more likely. She doubted he was in the mood for company, if his earlier scowl was anything to go by.

Maybe she should take the hint and leave too, before he found her and assumed she was snooping. But the tugging hadn’t let up. If anything, it pulled her harder -- towards the closed bedroom door.

Bracing herself, Hermione knocked on the door.

Nothing.

“Snape?” she tried again.

Still nothing.

Cautiously, she opened the door, worried for a multitude of reasons -- not least of which was herself, knowing how Snape could be at the best of times. But something was responsible for bringing her here, and the same something was silently encouraging her to see it through.

With the door open, Hermione could hear the shower running. Along with the sounds of someone grunting. Her mouth went suddenly dry as she approached the open bathroom door, curiosity guiding her forward.

Water sluiced over his bare shoulders, cascading down his back as he stood in profile to her. The glass and stone shower seemed to frame his body. It was the first time she’d really had the opportunity to study him.

Snape was rangy, lean and toned with a sparse spattering of dark hair on his chest. The dark contrasted sharply with the paleness of his skin. He was tall, and shockingly fit. She’d known his waist was narrow from their previous encounters, but now she could see how defined his abdomen and legs were. His arms too. He had a runner’s physique. Strong. Without an extra ounce of fat anywhere to be seen.

As she watched, he fisted his cock, roughly stroking it with harsh pulls and tugs of the thick appendage. He looked and sounded thoroughly frustrated. The spell must have started for him some time ago. He’d left the Great Hall close to an hour earlier. A clenched fist banged against the back stone wall, and a guttural sound echoed from his chest, but it was one of need, not release.

The scene before her was more erotic than anything she’d seen or heard in her life.

Hermione must have made a noise at the sight of him struggling to bring himself off, because his head snapped up to stare at her. His black eyes were little more than molten lust, and Hermione felt her body responding, quite apart from the compulsion of the spell, to the naked desire there.

“Granger,” he rasped, reaching to open the stall door.

The silent invitation prompted her to strip out of her clothing as hastily as possible and join him. A hand caught her own as she entered, pulling her flush against his slick body. Wet hands slide all over her, everywhere at once as they attempted to caress every inch of her.

Her hand found him for the first time, timidly grasping him. Hermione stroked his length, lightly pulling as she’d done once to Viktor, though nowhere near as roughly as she’d just seen Snape doing to himself. She had no idea if she was doing it correctly, and Snape seemed too fixated on touching her to guide her as he had during their last encounter.

What did he think of her body? Did he like it? Was it arousing, or at least satisfactory?

Hermione had never really thought she was all that attractive herself. Skinny, but not adorably petite like Ginny. She wasn’t well endowed like Lavender either, her breasts barely managing to fill out a B cup. Nor did she look exotic like the Patil twins. Her hair wasn’t bushy anymore, thanks to puberty, though it’d probably be a bit frizzy thanks to the steam from the shower curling about her, but that wasn’t a vast improvement.

Without the spell, doubt and insecurities crept in. She found it very easy to focus on all of her own failings. Or she did, until Snape’s hand slipped between her legs. Oh, dear, Merlin! His finger found the sensitive bundle of nerves and swiped over it. Once. Twice.

“Mhm,” she moaned, letting her head fall back.

It was so much different this time without her mind being addled. She was in control, able to think and decide her actions, while he was at the spell’s mercy. Which, based on her own experiences, meant he wasn’t the least bit concerned about what she looked like. Instead, it was all about what he felt.

It seemed a bit like she was taking advantage of him as she enjoyed his fingers playing with her, teasingly stroking her sex while his mouth once more suckled at her tight nipple. Even if she was doing this to help him, she was getting something out of it too.

His temper after they’d been together on the couch made much more sense.

Then he was batting her hands away. Hermione opened her mouth to ask if she was doing it wrong, but he suddenly lifted her up, pressing her against the cold stone wall. Her head spun when he pressed close, rubbing his heated chest along her own. The temperature contrast made her gasp, and clutch his shoulders, the ends of his wet hair brushing the backs of her hands gently.

“Oh!” she cried out mindlessly. He’d entered her as her legs moved to lock around his waist. The stroke was deep and rough, harder than anything she’d ever felt before.

Hermione clung to him as his hips snapped against her, sharp, quick thrusts. It didn’t take him long to finish. With a deeper press, he groaned in her ear as warmth filled her. Hermione absently noted that it had still felt really good even if she didn’t feel that ultimate burst of pleasure he usually incited when he made her climax.

“How did you get in here?” he huffed, resting his forehead on her shoulder while water continued to pound against his back. She could feel it sliding over her legs before falling to the stone floor.

“Your wards recognized me,” she admitted.

“Albus,” he gritted out, the name a curse.

“Because I’m your...because we’re bound?” she asked, having already assumed as much, but seeking verification.

“Yes,” he muttered, shifting his stance.

Hermione felt his softening member slip free of her channel before he let her slide down the length of his wet body. Her toes touched first, and she feared her wobbly legs would give out. Snape stayed close, arms braced around her, caging her in.

“Why were the two of you arguing earlier?” she asked, curiosity plaguing her.

“What have I said about staying out of my business?” he barked, tensing against her.

She swallowed, regretting asking the question and feeling small in the face of his justifiable anger. Then another one quietly spilled from her without permission, “Why didn’t you get me sooner?”

Had he waited because he was revolted by the idea of being with her more than necessary? Was he truly so averse to this arrangement? Was it not nearly as pleasurable for him since she didn’t know what she was doing?

“I intended to wait until you had need of me,” he said sharply, tensing further.

“We agreed --”

“Do not lecture me,” he snapped angrily, balling his hands into fists by her head as he pulled back enough to glare at her. His eyes were chips of onyx, sharpened to deadly points, and they were aimed directly at her.

Why? What had she done wrong now? She didn’t understand, and she was tired of trying to understand his motives and thoughts. After the emotional roller coaster of the last few days, she didn’t have the energy to fight with him.

His reaction, both the anger and his avoidance when he needed her, wounded her pride. She ducked under his arm, intending to beat a hasty exit, but his arm snaked around her waist, hauling her back against his chest.

“You didn’t…”

“It’s fine,” Hermione said, not comfortable discussing such topics with him when he was in a temper. Or ever really, but especially not then. That wasn’t the sort of relationship they had. Ha. Relationship. That was rich.

“I am aware I waited too long. But it was not my intention to be selfish. If you would like,” he said crisply, sounding slightly uncomfortable himself, but his fingertips stroked low over her belly, trailing lightly along her hipbone as he spoke.

The teasing touch renewed the need in her core. The fires had been temporarily banked by the verbal wall he’d slammed down between them, but the simple touch had reignited them, making them blaze brightly.

The temptation was too much to resist, even if he’d just acted like a git towards her. She wanted to forget all of the awful things going on in her life. Even if it was only for a minute.

“Please,” she agreed, shifting her feet slightly farther apart. It was easier to admit she desired his touch and the pleasure he knew how to give while not facing him directly.

Slowly, his hand drifted lower, having not stopped moving since he made the offer. Droplets from his wet hair landed on her shoulder, winding paths over her cleavage, one stopping to dangle from the pebbled peak of her nipple. His hand slipped between her parted thighs to cup her.

As he had earlier, Snape ran a finger along the seam of her lower lips, stroking her from opening to clit and back. Again and again he traced the length, letting only the tip of his finger dip in or brush a circle over her nub before the digit was gone again.

“Snape,” she whimpered, needing more, but still he teased her.

Again and again, all he delivered were fleeting, barely there caresses. Every bit of the tension and pain of the last few days seemed to get sucked into her belly, coiling tighter and tighter. Hermione clutched his solid forearm, her hips bucking and writhing against his hand with wanton abandon.

Then he shifted back, pulling her beneath the shower head. Water poured over her and the hand he’d been using to grip her hip slid up to cup her breast. He plucked and pinched her beaded nipples as he finally inserted his entire finger into her slick sheath.

“Yes,” she moaned, begging, “more, please.”

She gasped and sputtered, water rushing over her head as a second finger joined the first, working in and out in a steady rhythm. Everything felt heightened. His thumb pressed firmly against her clit, rubbing and flicking it.

Her body shook, threatening to burst apart as more of the recent negative energy ebbed away from her limbs. The dark ball at her center grew, expanding in time with his movements. Then it exploded, thundering through her as she shuttered in his arms.

Snape pulled her tighter against his chest, holding her and slowing his movements to ease her down from the high.

Hermione hadn’t known until that moment just how much she’d needed that. Maybe he’d sensed as much and that was why he’d offered. Perhaps it was his way of apologizing for being an ass. There really was no telling with him.

Her breathing was still slowing when he shut off the water and stepped out of the shower, conjuring a second towel that he handed to her. It was a thoughtful gesture, and one she didn’t know what to make of -- except maybe he just wanted her covered up now that the spell wasn’t compelling them to touch.

“You’re hurt,” she gasped, catching sight of a long, vicious looking cut on his shoulder that she’d not seen earlier.

“Lucius and Crabbe organized another excretion last night,” he said flatly, though it was far less curt than he’d been with her earlier.

“Why so soon? Wasn’t the last one enough entertainment for them?” she asked bitterly, wrapping the towel tightly about herself while Snape tucked one about his waist.

“You’ve formed your opinion of Azkaban inmates off Black. He was...an anomaly. And even he…”

“Was occasionally confused?” Hermione supplied. It was so much easier to make allowances for him, and his occasional reckless streak, now that he was gone.

“Indeed,” Snape snorted, clearly having thought up a few other choice descriptors. Thankfully, he refrained from sharing them.

“If Sirius was an anomaly, as you put it, then what is Lucius?” she asked, wondering how the Ministry could ever condone using Dementors knowing the effects they had on the inmates.

“Typical. Bellatrix is a much more accurate example of a prisoner’s psyche,” Snape drawled casually, nodding at her as she absorbed the truth of his words. Hermione felt horror wash through her, replacing the relaxation he’d just finished providing. “Most lose their sanity within a few weeks. Lucius and Crabbe were trapped with the Dementors for over five months. Goyle and Macnair are not much better off. The others --”

“All already spent years there, and have already clearly demonstrated their insanity,” she finished, swallowing back her revulsion as she thought of Dolohov in particular.

Hermione surveyed Snape. He seemed far more inclined to talk to her than he had in the shower. Why had he been so surly before? Was it because of his fight with Professor Dumbledore? The revel the night before? His insane former friends? Her? All of it?

It was a lot for any one person to put up with. Especially alone.

“I can’t believe the Ministry makes use of the Dementors knowing the end result,” she said, verbalizing her earlier thought, and wondering if he felt the same.

Hermione couldn’t imagine sentencing anyone to that fate. Or being sick enough to have created them in the first place.

There were no concrete records, only speculation. The most likely origin theory was that Dementors were birthed at Azkaban by the original occupant, Ekrizdis, since that was where they were first discovered back in the fifteenth century. He was known to practice the most horrific and twisted Dark Arts, and often murdered the Muggle sailors that he lured to the island fortress.

“They make a rather effective deterrent to keep many from breaking the law,” Snape said coolly, raising a brow at her as though daring her to refute the claim.

“Not everyone,” she said, glancing at the Dark Mark on his forearm.

It was the first time she was seeing it clearly. The black skull and snake stained his forearm. The very same forearm she’d just been gripping, holding onto for dear life as he pleasured her, the Mark pressed tight against her stomach. It looked like a Muggle gang tattoo, only even more sinister because she understood it’s history and personal significance.

Hermione couldn’t understand how he ever came to be a Death Eater. He didn’t seem the type. Not truly. Perhaps at first glance, but not once you knew anything at all about him. And she couldn’t ask him.

“Do you have anything to treat the cut? It looks deep, and I don’t know any Healing Charms,” Hermione said hastily, veering away from the rocky path she was heading down. The only thing it led to was a treacherously steep cliff and a brutal fall.

“Get your wand,” he ordered, seeming to approve of her self restraint in changing the subject without him needing to say a word. “Trace over the wound, and say VUL-ner-ah sah-NEN-tour.”

She tried it in the air before her, mimicking him precisely. He nodded, and presented his back to her.

She stared, dumbfounded. He meant for her to heal him? Voluntarily?

“Well?” he drawled smoothly, glancing down at her from over his shoulder.

Vulnera Sanentur,” she said quietly, performing the spell exactly as instructed.

Hermione watched, amazed as the wound knitted itself closed, fresh pink skin forming across where the cut had been seconds before. He rolled his shoulder, seeming to assess the quality of her work, and she held her breath as she waited for his reaction. Her actions earned a sharp nod, and not one word of complaint.

It surprised her to realize he actually was a good teacher when loathing didn’t drain his patience.

“I thought you didn’t care for foolish wand waving?” she remarked, feeling slightly emboldened by her success.

“How does aiding another fall under the category of foolish?” he smirked, raising a sardonic brow at her.

She was surprised enough by his jest to find herself laughing. He looked uncertain or possibly surprised that he’d made her laugh, which only made her chuckle again. The action caused the tucked end of her towel to loosen, and she realized they were both still clad in nothing more than a scrap of terrycloth apiece. Hermione moved to kneel by her clothes, and Snape turned, giving her his back.

It was much easier to ask the question that had been plaguing her for the last couple days without having to face him. “I know you don’t wish to share about your personal life, but please, Snape, I have to know -- has my situation damaged a relationship for you?”

She’d wanted to ask if he was in a relationship prior to this, that first night actually, but she’d not been able to bring herself to. Already, she was struggling not to assume he’d stop just because they were now bound. She knew she didn’t have a right to say anything, but she didn’t want to think about him bedding her, then going to someone else, strange as their situation was.

“No,” he said briskly, the word clipped and warning her not to pry further.

She ignored the tone to venture, “I’d understand if --”

“I am a spy. My position is precarious, to say the least. I would not dare endanger someone by getting involved at this time, nor is there anyone I wish to pursue,” he said flatly. There was so much finality in the statement, that Hermione knew he’d answer no further questions on the subject. “You, being the exception.”

Honestly, though, Hermione wasn’t sure what to make of what he’d said. Maybe that was the point. He didn’t want her knowing about his life. So every statement could be taken multiple ways, and possibly all of them were intended. No wonder he made such an effective double agent.

Uncomfortable, she forced herself to pursue a different topic of conversation to get past the awkward silence as they each finished dressing.

“Professor Dumbledore said Professor Vector married a student,” she prodded.

“He did say that,” he replied, amusement underlying his agreement.

Huffing, Hermione demanded, “Is it true, Snape?”

“Have you known the Headmaster to lie?” he inquired, turning to raise a single brow at her. When he saw she was fully dressed, he leaned casually against the edge of the sink.

“When it suits his purposes,” Hermione stated blandly, crossing her arms.

“Touche,” he allowed, inclining his head as though acknowledging her victory on a point well made. “She married a former student two years after he graduated.”

Hermione processed the information. She couldn’t believe it wasn’t widely discussed. Professor Vector was still quite young, so she couldn’t have married all that long ago. Hermione wondered who the witch’s husband was, and if she’d ever met him. Professor Vector’s situation likely had some influence in Professor Dumbledore’s decision to have them undergo a binding ceremony.

“But I am certain what you really wish to ask after is your Head of House,” Snape said knowingly, studying her with a critical eye.

“Am I that obvious?” she mused wryly.

“Yes,” he said seriously.

Hermione waited, then sighed, realizing that he was not going to share the story with her unless she specifically asked what she wanted to know.

“Why didn’t it work out?”

“This tale is not to be repeated. Understood?”

“Yes,” Hermione agreed at once.

Snape pursed his lips, surveying her a moment before he slowly explained, “I was a first year when I originally heard the story. The father of a seventh year was involved the prior year, and he enjoyed bragging.”

Wait. That didn’t make sense. Snape was only thirty-six. If he’d been a first year, this would have happened much more recently than he’d implied in the Headmaster’s office.

“First year? But I thought you said --”

Snape cut her off, demanding, “Do you wish to hear the story or not, Granger?”

“Yes, please,” Hermione said quickly, worried he’d decide not to tell her after all if she interrupted again or pointed out how he’d deliberately misrepresented the facts to suit his purpose before.

“Minerva was around my age when a seventh year Ravenclaw turned her head. I do not recall his name, and she has not mentioned him in all my years as her colleague. From all accounts, he was remarkably gifted. Honorable too. And quite infatuated with the witch.

“It happened over Easter Hols the spring before I started. The Dark Lord was just starting to recruit followers outside of those he went to school with personally, and Minerva’s young man had the misfortune of displeasing the Dark Lord when he refused,” Snape said, painting a dark picture in Hermione’s mind. She could easily picture it happening.

“He has a history of recruiting students then,” she murmured, thinking once more of Harry’s insistence that Malfoy was a Death Eater, and how right he was about it.

“They do not usually take the Mark until after they have left, but yes,” Snape agreed, pushing his wet hair back. It actually looked quite nice like that, instead of the usual lank curtains concealing most of his features.

She wondered if the same had happened with him. Students would be far more impressionable. More easily seduced by the promise of power and prestige as well.

“Is that why Professor McGonagall wasn’t in the Order during the First Wizarding War?” Hermione asked, having always wondered.

“Yes. She was distraught after he died. Completely shut down to everything outside of teaching. It took her a long time to come to terms. Several years after I began teaching here.” So well after Voldemort had been defeated the first time, Hermione silently thought. Her heart ached for the older woman.

Snape shifted, standing straight and nodding towards the door. Hermione realized he was subtly requesting she leave.

Hermione made to exit the room, then paused, asking, “Snape?”

“What?” he asked wearily, seeming to dread having to wade through more of her questions right then.

“Why didn’t you send word?” she asked again. He’d never really explained earlier, and she really wanted to know if he planned to do this every time. It would only make things more difficult for both of them, and it was likely to give her a complex.

“You needed time to recover,” he said quietly, not meeting her eye.

“The potion you gave me --”

“Your mother.”

“Oh,” she breathed.

For a moment, Hermione thought he was going to offer an ear, but thankfully he didn’t. That wasn’t his style. She wasn’t ready to share pain of her loss and guilt.

“Was it the spell that let me know you needed me?” she asked, confused. There’d been nothing like that mentioned in the book he’d loaned her.

“No. That knowledge would have come from the binding ritual your meddlesome headmaster performed,” Snape grumbled darkly.

“It might prove useful,” Hermione mused, considering the implications of such a spell. As well as wondering what else Professor Dumbledore had added in the binding that they weren’t yet aware of.

“I’m certain he believes so,” Snape said crossly, pursing his lips.

“You disagree?”

“I am currently too busy to ponder it further, Granger,” Snape said pointedly, glancing more meaningfully at the door to his rooms.

“Right,” she said, rolling her eyes and leaving. It wasn’t like there wouldn’t be ample opportunities to talk more on the subject in the future.