Chapter 9: Provoking the Unknown
Hermione absently stared at the blank blackboard without really seeing it.
Since yesterday\'s most peculiar incident, she found herself in deep thought. Countless questions whirled in her head to which she had yet to find the answers. As a student who knew the answer to practically every question asked by a teacher in the classroom, Hermione was in the process of realizing how little she really did know of the things that were not found in books.
It was amazing how infrequently two people could see each other while living in the same apartment, yet this was what was happening to her at the moment.
Hermione did not even dare to knock on Professor Snape\'s bedroom door yesterday night in fear that she would most probably be brutally cursed. Instead, she went to sleep with a rather heavy heart and was not surprised that the first thing to flood her mind when she opened her eyes in the morning was the name \'Snape\' and the face that went with it.
Her frustration at the Professor only heightened when she did not spot him at breakfast. It was not as if she would have walked up to him in public, but the idea that he was dodging his own wife, no matter how artificial, made Hermione’s gut turn with anger.
Without any explainable reason the greasy man began to invade her mind; and the young witch was far from happy at this rather disturbing realization.
\"Daydreaming, are we?\"
The unexpected invasion into her thoughts made Hermione blink. With a sigh that showed all of her irritation she turned to her desk neighbour.
\"What do you want, Harry?\" she snapped.
Far from being offended at her shut-your-mouth-and-leave-me-alone tone, Harry gave her a mysterious grin and thoughtfully muttered;
\"The last time I saw you in a state like this was during our fourth year when you were dating Victor Krum and battling your first relationship issues. Meaning that you imagined seeing his face before your eyes even during Transfiguration lessons.\"
Much to Hermione’s dismay she felt her cheeks grow hot.
\"Nonsense! I never daydream and the last thing on my mind during lesson time is going to be a man!\"
\"Ah, but it’s not lesson time yet, is it? I guess Professor Snape has to be in some sort of a dream as well for him to be so late for his Potions Class,\" replied Harry.
\"How can Professor Snape be late to a class he doesn\'t teach anymore? He\'s the DADA professor now. It\'s Professor Slughorn who is late, Harry,\" Hermione shot back with a sneer.
\"Not today. After breakfast I heard him telling Professor McGonagall he had business in Hogsmeade this morning so Snape was taking this class. Maybe he is wandering the halls, dreaming of you,\" Harry whispered mischievously.
Hermione did not like the odd twinkle in Harry’s eyes but she never got the chance to answer him back.
She already opened her mouth when the dungeon door suddenly flew open. She reflexively glanced towards the entrance and froze.
Hermione had to actually blink a few times before she was assured that what stood there wasn’t some sort of illusion or a trick of light. No, it was indeed Professor Severus Snape who stood at the doors of the dungeon classroom, but at the same time it wasn’t.
The young witch could not help but squint her eyes as she looked over the Professor from head to toe.
His usual black attire graced his tall figure, but as she looked closely this first judgment proved incorrect. Instead of a white collar it was silver, and there were other additions to his clothing. The edges of Professor’s sleeves were also decorated with silver and with a second glance Hermione saw that the emblems were actually two snakes entwined around each sleeve.
As the Potions Master processed to the front of his class she couldn’t help but notice that even his walk was different. Instead of his usual dramatic entrance with a rapid swishing of his cloak, Snape now took each step unhurriedly allowing his long midnight cloak to float lightly behind him. As he neared her desk, Hermione realized that it was also the first time she had ever seen her Professor in leather boots that reached his knees. These bore the same silver embroidery as his sleeves. And it was impossible to miss the way the black trousers fittingly hugged his lean but surprisingly muscular thighs.
This was not, however, what made the whole class stare at their Professor with eyes that would have made any owl go green with envy.
It wasn’t that Snape had cut his hair, but he did do something to it. Instead of disarrayed locks lying flatly across his pale face, now a number of slightly shortened locks fell lightly into his eyes while the rest of his shoulder long hair was tied into a ponytail. As before his hair shone, but while in the past it was to highlight the greasiness of their state, now the candlelight revealed its smoothness with an almost visible satin structure to it.
The same light only highlighted the revealed high cheekbones and the deep hollows in his cheeks. Even his nose did not look abnormally long anymore, giving him the look of a proud aristocratic eagle with eyes that could swallow a soul.
Hermione’s breath caught when Professor Snape leveled with her desk but his pace did not change as he passed her. She got only a smell of his cologne as he passed her chair. He did not glance or give any kind of acknowledgement of her presence. As far as Hermione was concerned she might well not have existed in the eyes of the damned Professor.
By this time, the mentioned teacher already reached the blackboard and faced the dead silent class with a blank face. Hermione followed his cue and shot a glance towards her fellow students. Each and every one of them seemed to have frozen the moment Snape entered the classroom. While Seamus and Ron\'s jaws were in danger of hitting the desk, Parvati’s cheeks were suspiciously red and as Hermione watched, the sugarquill fell from her slack mouth onto the floor. The noise of its fall echoed unnaturally in the chamber.
Even Harry had a look of a man who wasn\'t sure if what stood before his eyes wasn\'t some work of Dark Arts.
With his eyes still fixed on the man that was supposed to be Snape, he bent towards Hermione.
\"What did you do to him?\" whispered he as lowly as possible.
Hermione couldn\'t believe her ears. Before she could have even formed a reply she was interrupted by a husky voice that sent shivers down her back.
\"Page three hundred and seven. All the instructions are laid out clearly and I will expect a perfect potion to be ready in no more than forty minutes and thirty three seconds.\"
No one so much as twitched.
\"Will you be flabberstruck for a long time or should I start deducting house points already? Move!\" snapped Snape, causing a chaotic rush among the students.
In about fifteen minutes everybody was positioned attentively at their desks with more than one frown among the students\' faces. Hermione satisfactorily noted that she and Harry appeared to be the only pair who had proceeded to actually start the brewing of the rather complex potion. She actually disapprovingly ‘tsked’ when she saw that only Parvati was cutting up the needed ingredients while her partner Lavender appeared to be lost on which cauldron seemed the cleanest.
Even from a distance Hermione could see that Parvati was cutting up the mandrake root incorrectly, ending up with pieces that reminded her of chess figures.
Suddenly Professor Snape seemed to materialize beside Parvati\'s desk. Parvati must have missed his approach as well for the knife fell out of her hand as she stared at him like a doe caught up in headlights.
\"I have to say that your skills in cutting will not win you a husband who looks for a homely wife, Miss Patil,\" drooled Snape with a smirk.
\"No, Professor, it won’t,\" reflexively agreed the shaken Parvati, unable to tear her eyes from the Potions Master.
In one smooth motion Snape moved behind Parvati’s back. They stood close enough for his cloak to lightly touch her clothes, but not close enough yet for their bodies to do likewise. Right in front of the completely immobile class and a wide eyed Hermione, Professor Snape snaked his arm around Parvati’s side and placed his long fingers around the hand that held the knife.
With a slight shifting of his body Snape urged Parvati to bend over the mandrake root causing himself to lean in with the contours of her body. Lightly but firmly he glided her hand over the damned vegetable without forgetting to list instructions loudly enough for the whole class to hear his husky voice;
\"You have to lock your wrist firmly - chop,\" his instructions followed the combined demonstration as he directed her hand, \"- that’s it - chop - and glide your knife from the centre while extending the width of it’s cutting - chop - and as you master this skill speed becomes the essential material of your succession - chop - chop - well done, Miss Patil.\"
With the last comment he stepped away from Parvati who continued staring wide eyed at Professor Snape’s hand where it was still placed upon hers. As if sensing her shock Snape let his hand gracefully slide away from hers, but making sure that it slid lightly across the length of her arm before he brought it to his side.
That particular gesture sent visible shivers across Parvati’s body. However, Hermione could have bet all of the books in the library that this wasn’t caused by fear or disgust.
Professor bloody Snape was flirting with a student and getting the right flaming signals.
The first thing that caught Severus’ attention as he turned away from the dumbfounded Miss Patil was a pair of flaming chocolate eyes that could have rivaled with the furnace of hell itself.
Hermione must have noticed his peculiar actions as he hoped she would.
He knew that he wouldn’t have been a true Slytherin if he did not plan everything beforehand. No matter what stubbornness rode Hermione Snape, she was first of all a born Gryffindor. And Gryffindor lionesses were rather remarkable in their possessiveness over anything that belonged to them, no matter in what form or situation.
And at present Severus represented such a possession. No matter how formal their marriage and how many negative feelings dwelled between the two of them, in her eyes it was still his duty to keep up the appearances as it was hers in his eyes. The very thing that he blamed her for the other evening he was doing himself.
With a mask of blissful blindness towards her meaningful gaze, Severus swept past her to the front of the class. Aware that all of the students’ eyes were fixed totally upon his persona Severus decided to present Hermione with yet another surprise.
\"Thirty points to Gryffindor for following my instructions with deadly precision, Miss Patil.\"
He watched triumphantly as another blush appeared upon Parvati Patil’s cheeks. This did not stop her, however from casting him a long and meaningful glance underneath her eyelashes. His satisfied smirk widened when he noted that he was not the only one to see it as Hermione shot a venomous glance first towards Miss Patil’s direction and then focused it wholly upon him instead.
He doubted that the young witch was aware herself of what her face expressed.
Yes, there was anger, a lot of it. But it was mixed up with something else, a portion so small that Severus would have missed it if he wasn’t searching for it so intently.
Excellent, he thought.
His plan was starting to work.
\"What are you sulking about anyway?\"
Hermione frowned at her red haired friend.
\"I am not sulking! I never sulk!\" exclaimed Hermione, looking intently into Ginny’s eyes, daring her to say something else.
But Ginny was a Weasley and rarely bid to warnings.
\"Is it because of Snape?\" asked she innocently.
Hermione muttered something under her nose that suspiciously sounded like a curse.
\"First of all it is Professor Snape and second of all I have no idea what you are talking about,\" she muttered defiantly. \"Go and annoy Ron instead, I bet he will enjoy taking his anger for me out on you.”
But nothing seemed to throw Ginny off balance when she was in an attack mode. Instead she slid closer to Hermione at the Gryffindor table and whispered into her ear;
\"I heard what happened between Professor Snape and Parvati this morning in Potions Class. If I were in your place I would have boxed his ears right there in the dungeons. When I have a husband he won\'t so much as look at another woman, not to mention touch one in any intimate manner!\" and threw a sidelong glance at the blissfully unaware Harry who was peacefully drinking his pumpkin juice.
Hermione threw her hands into the air in growing frustration. She greatly disliked lying to Ginny but McGonagall\'s instructions were clear: only Harry and Ron had the ultimate pleasure in knowing what was really behind this marriage.
\"Ginny, Professor Snape and I agreed to marry due to our mutual feelings for each other. Everything is kept very formal and I am perfectly happy with what is between us,\" Hermione cried out and deliberately took a deep breath before continuing, \"And as far as I am concerned, I do not mind if Professor sometimes takes the liberty of flirting with other women.\"
The younger witch\'s eyes could have put Hedwig’s to shame.
But before she could open her mouth, Hermione warningly put up her hand, stopping whatever wanted to come out from it.
\"It is my marriage and I do what I see fit with it, Ginny. Just drop the subject, please.\"
Her friend surprisingly did not seem offended and just dismissively shrugged.
Hermione couldn’t help herself but to sigh in relief when Ginny turned back towards her plate and vigorously tucked into it. Her relief, however, was short lived for after no more than a minute of silence Ginny must have gotten bored.
\"Anyway, did you already decide how many?\" she chirped without turning her head from her vanilla pudding.
\"How many what?\" demanded Hermione, frowning into her goblet.
\"Did you discuss with Snape how many babies you would like to have?\"
The pumpkin juice spluttered out of Hermione\'s mouth. Ginny graciously obliged to tap her back as violent coughs overtook her.
\"No, we haven\'t touched on that subject yet,\" rasped Hermione once she calmed down a bit. And I doubt we will, she added silently.
The annoying Weasley at first looked scandalized but then an understanding look crossed her features.
\"Ah, no worries. I agree with you that the best time to raise children is going to be after this war is finished. Just take it easy, Hermione, I bet Snape is proving his best in the bedroom by the look of him nowadays,\" and winked.
Fortunately the younger witch focused her attention back upon her food and missed the ultimate pleasure of seeing a red tinge slowly creep up onto Hermione\'s cheeks. During all her years in Hogwarts the words \'Snape\' and \'naked\' did not even fit into one sentence and now she was forced to link it to \'babies\' as well. The rational part of her brain kept reassuring her that she had nothing to be embarrassed about, for nothing like this would ever happen. But her reaction proved to be deaf to her mind, it seemed.
She was suddenly snapped out of her deep thoughts as a similar name reached her ear.
\"...and I couldn\'t help but notice the way his muscles played underneath his cloak. With all his past attire you couldn\'t even have guessed the leanness of his body. It\'s not that I am complaining about his new look, on the contrary! I guess I will be only too happy to get used to his dark sexiness.\"
Parvati talked rapidly on one breath without bothering to bring her voice down. Indeed Lavender and all of the other girls in the radius of ten meters hungrily caught every word. And the majority of them were enthusiastically nodding their heads at Parvati\'s last comment.
Hermione had had enough and with an unneeded forcefulness slammed her goblet back upon the table.
Parvati absently turned towards the source of the noise and had the grace to flush when she realized who had overheard her rather heated speech. Her eyes however determinably stared back into hers with a challenging look.
Hermione expectantly waited for her fellow Gryffindor to say something provocative in order to be given an excuse for a good screaming match. But as she watched, the challenging expression slowly faded from Parvati’s eyes leaving them instead warm and inviting. Parvati’s eyes were firmly fixed upon something behind Hermione, and she knew who was coming towards them even before he spoke.
\"Miss Patil, good evening to you,\" came his silky voice that provoked a shameless batting of lashes from Parvati in return.
\"And to you too, Professor,\" she returned sweetly. The words might have been formal, but her tone was anything but.
Hermione scowled. The last thing she needed was to witness another flirtatious exchange between her former roommate and her professor, and her husband at that.
\"Mrs. Snape,\" Snape acknowledged her with a graceful nod of the head, her new name rolling from his tongue, if possible, even more effortlessly and silky than it was with Parvati. His choice of words, however, was what made her former roommate’s eyes shoot daggers into Hermione’s direction.
\"I didn\'t know you eat so fast, Professor Snape,\" commented Hermione, rising from the Gryffindor table. She never liked being towered over and Snape’s impressive height and the low bench did not help her courage in the slightest. This meant, however, that she ended up standing mere inches from his lean dark figure with his long cloak lightly touching her own school robes.
Snape did not appear concerned about the invasion of personal space and did not make any attempt of moving away from her.
\"I just wanted to inform you that this evening you shall find me in our living room, for we do have some readjustments to make to the interior of our quarters since you came to live with me. And as any other man, I will feel more confident in having the help and taste of a woman who knows what is best, especially a strikingly intelligent one like yourself.\"
Hermione knew that this particular speech was made especially for those who still held any doubts for the nature of their marriage, but she could not help herself but stare agape at the stranger in front of her who claimed to be Severus Snape. Her instincts were telling her that his last sentence was spoken in a sincerity that came very rarely, if ever, from the feared Hogwarts DADA Professor. The sudden heat in his voice at the mention of the ‘taste of a woman’, however, informed Hermione of a hidden double meaning behind his pretty words, a meaning that she presently did not even dare to dwell upon.
Without waiting for a reply, Snape did something that shocked not only Hermione, but the whole Great Hall.
Putting his long fingers underneath her chin, he lifted it up a fraction and pressed his lips lightly but at the same time firmly over hers. The pressure was feather light, but Hermione found her lips reflexively open beneath him. The silent invitation slid Snape’s hot tongue into her mouth which did not waste any time and started exploring her. Their tongues momentarily caressed each other before Snape pressed another light kiss upon Hermione’s half opened mouth and drew back from her.
Hermione managed to suppress the groan of protest that fought to escape her at the man\'s retreat. She had to actually shake her head in order to put her thoughts into the right place.
Did I just kiss Professor Snape?
The realization of where she was and what silence was around her made Hermione blush so hard that she began to hear ringing on her ears. Every students’ and teacher’s eyes were firmly fixed upon Snape and herself with mutually stunned expressions. She noted that Harry looked so white that it brought him to an eerie resemblance with the Headless Nick’s ‘skin tone colour’ while Ron’s freckled face took an unhealthy tinge of green and looked as if he was about to be sick any moment now. If looks could kill, then Hermione would have fallen cold dead upon the floor, such menace radiated from Parvati.
Thankfully, Neville was still in the Infirmary. A ‘stressful over-active nervous breakdown’ Madame Pomfrey called it.
Snape, for his credit, appeared to be not one hint affected by the kiss and the rather numerous audience that witnessed it. On the contrary, he had the nerve to wear a purely satisfied expression with which every male on earth was gifted once in a while.
With another half bow towards her direction, Snape spoke again deliberately not lowering his voice with his next words;
\"I hope you will soon be joining me in our chambers, dear.\"
And yet again, not concerned with hearing her reply, Snape departed towards the exit with a swirl of his cloak.
Hermione’s previous embarrassment rapidly evaporated as she continued to watch his dark form gliding among the two tables.
Her eyes became two slits as she saw that she was not the only one intently looking at the Professor. In fact every female\'s eyes, right from year one and up to the oldest woman among the staff, appeared to be unable to tear their eyes from his dominative figure. And she just imagined what kind of expression the arrogant man must have been wearing now. Triumph. Surety. Arrogance.
And Determination that the inexperienced ‘know-it-all’ will be ready to eat from his palm as soon as she sees him next.
Hermione absently touched her still slightly damp lips from the kiss and felt a mysterious smile creep up her face.
If Snape thought her to be that naive then he did not know her as well as he thought.
The poor son-of-a-Slytherin wasn’t even aware of what he just got himself into.
Sweet Surrender by witch