Chapter 14: The Wind of Change
Hermione skipped the rest of her classes that day, something that she would never have dreamed of doing in her worst nightmares. Unable to stand her friends and teachers whose faces would probably be transformed into masks of disappointment and disgust by her hyperactive imagination, she decided to flee like a coward instead.
Figuring out that no one would be present in the Gryffindor Common Room, she found her escape there. As far as she was concerned, she would not be forced to enter the dungeons again until the last breath escaped her body.
The seemingly endless hours spent in the unusually silent room gave Hermione an opportunity to brood upon her fatal situation. As far as she was informed, sexual intercourse between a married couple sealed the marriage until either of the concerned individuals passed away, therefore giving the Muggle phrase of \"until death do us part\" a fresh new meaning. Presently, Hermione was cursing herself for her earlier lack of thoughtfulness upon this delicate subject. The speech that Professor McGonagall produced when the topic of marriage was discussed, rushed back into her head with a vengeful force.
But no, instead of taking caution towards the situation at hand, she threw herself headfirst in the now absurd argument with Ron, drawing her concentration away from the most important matter.
Thinking about the recent argument with her friend, Hermione could not suppress a mirthless smile. It was quite ironic really, that the very subject which nearly caused a break-up of friendship and the absurdity of which has eventually brought her and Ron back together, had actually transformed into reality.
Passing a hand through her curls, Hermione\'s eyes happened to glance upon the Muggle watch on her other hand. With something akin to despair, she realised that in less than fifteen minutes lunch will be finished, meaning that in about twenty the Common Room will be swarming with Gryffindors.
Making rapid calculations, she decided that she had enough time to slink to the library and stay hidden until...she wasn\'t sure when.
“Stupid twit! Look what your stubbornness has gotten yourself into this time,” murmured Hermione as she briskly made her way to the portrait hole.
But from whom or what she was possibly hiding now, she did not know.
Or perhaps she was not yet ready to give the answer.
Severus\' brain did not register the meaning or content of what Potter or the Weasley brat voiced in the deadly silent classroom.
To say that the encounter between Hermione had shaken Severus Snape would have been a huge understatement.
Severus had continued to stare at the door of the classroom long after it soundly shut behind the so called storm, his wife. Standing there, silent in the middle of the classroom, with a clear print of a hand upon his pale cheek, Snape felt devastated. He had been beaten, even tortured, on countless occasions during his dragging life, but on no occasion did the pain stretch beyond the physical abuse. Until now.
Somehow, without even knowing it, Hermione had managed to do something no other man or woman had ever achieved. With a single slap and an accusation, she turned Severus\' whole being upside down. Making him feel a series of feelings whose mere existence his self long ago rejected;
Guilt...pity...compassion...and something else that his hardened heart could not even interpret.
“WORK! One sound and every one of you will have a detention with Filch until the day you GRADUATE,” he snapped, but even as he said that, his own voice sounded too far off to his ears.
Absently waving his wand in the primary direction of the blackboard, Severus heavily sat at his desk, not even bothering to look if the instructions were even related to the subject he now taught.
Resisting the temptation to touch the stinging cheek, Severus instead snatched the first parchment his eyes fell upon. Starting to furiously scribble upon some unfortunate second year’s essay, he tried in vain to suppress the same feeling of helplessness settling around him.
As usual, he had managed to obtain what he wanted.
But what price will he have to pay this time?
After a successful escape from the Gryffindor Tower, Hermione finally found herself in a place which she counted as her second bedroom in Hogwarts; the library.
Today, however, everything seemed different. When she set her foot onto the carpeted floor, instead of feeling the usual excitement lurch within her heart, the only thing she felt was emptiness. The time spent in solitude had managed to evaporate all of her anger, leaving a somewhat nervous feeling in its wake.
The famous Hermione Granger\'s mind had returned to work in full force.
Firstly, she had ultimately failed to control her rare anger.
Secondly, she had actually HIT a TEACHER. Without mentioning the countless things she must have said to him, the things that she did not clearly remember now.
And as a perfect conclusion, she managed to walk out of the classroom BEFORE the lesson finished and without a dismissal.
Hermione heavily slumped into the nearest chair and buried her head in her hands.
“You are busted, Hermione...totally bloody finished,” she muttered.
“I cannot disagree with you on that one.”
The witch\'s head whipped up. With sinking dread she realised how naive she must have been even to think that her solitude would continue until she gathered enough courage to resurface again. As she watched the two figures approaching her, she realised she should have thought beforehand that the first place her two best friends would come looking for her was the library.
“And me either,” said Ron, agreeing with Harry.
Hermione did not like the looks of stone determination reflecting on the faces of both boys one bit as the two of them looked down at her. With an air of indifference, she crossed her hands beneath her breasts.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
One of Ron\'s eyebrows sardonically shot up right into his hairline.
“Oh, really? And what was that scene you performed in the Defense Class this morning, eh? Perhaps you just wanted to take a stroll and figured out that hitting Snape across the face would be the quickest way to be dismissed from the class?”
The young woman began to scrutinize the redhead with her stare.
“I-do-not-want-to-talk-about-it. That is all, finito! None of your concern, anyway,” she bit out.
“Now you’re wrong, Hermione!” exclaimed Harry, putting both of his hands upon the desk. “What kind of friends would we be if we didn’t give a damn about your welfare? Either you are trying to insult us or you really don’t feel we truly care about you as best friends.”
Hermione frantically shook her head.
“No, no...don’t say things like that, Harry. You know yourself that’s just not true.”
“Then tell us, ‘Mione,” piped up Ron more gently now, “Please, do tell us. We are always here for you and nothing can drive us away from you.”
The sigh that she gave managed to shake her entire body.
“You will...never...understand, either of you. What has happened...it is unforgivable. The two of you will never forgive me for...what I’ve done,” she half whispered, stammering a bit.
“Like sleeping with Snape?”
Her eyes growing wide, Hermione’s face first turned beetroot red before it rapidly lost all of its colouring, leaving her as white as a corpse. Harry, who had thrown the accusation, was watching her with intense green eyes.
“What-how- I mean...impossible!” she exclaimed, fruitlessly searching for coherent words.
“Hermione, we’re not THAT thick. We can put two and two together,” spoke Ron in a soothing voice, one more suited for nervous horses. “First your unexplainable behaviour at breakfast and then the show you put on in Defense class, I mean...you would have never slapped a teacher for giving you a nine out of ten, would you?”
Ron’s light try for a joke failed as the still ashen Hermione anxiously looked up at her two friends. The look upon her face expressed her indecision concerning their upcoming actions; either she expected them to jump upon her and beat her to death or turn away and never speak a word to her again.
Seeing this, it was Harry’s turn to take a shaken intake of breath, readying himself to ask the question that both he and Ron were dreading the answer for. After discussing it quietly with his friend, both had reached the same disgusting conclusion, the only explanation why Hermione would be forced to act as she did today.
Just a single word was needed from her and Harry would be only too happy to take the rest of the matter into his own hands.
“Hermione, did Snape...rape you?”
This time the colour mounted so quickly into her face that it brought involuntary tears into Hermione\'s eyes. Harry, who interpreted her reaction in his own way, didn’t want to see his friend suffer any further.
“Don’t worry. The son of a bitch will be dealt with, I promise you that,” he said quickly, the muscles of his jaw tightening with the strain to sustain the rage boiling within him.
“The bastard!” bellowed Ron, his own face harmoniously matching the colour of his hair now, “He had no FUCKING right to treat you that way! The SCUM! Taking you by force while you must have squirmed with disgust and endless pain! The mere image of the act makes me want to throw –“
Ron froze with his mouth still open at Hermione\'s furious interruption. The young witch jumped to her feet, her fisted hands pressed tightly against her sides.
“He did not rape me, ok? Neither was there any ‘disgust’ or ‘endless pain’! UNDERSTOOD?” she cried.
Both boys mutely stared at her for some time, their brains slowly trying to process her words. A few minutes must have passed before Harry soundly cleared his throat.
“Eh...’Mione? In that case, could you please explain to us what really happened between you and...Professor Snape?”
Feeling as if his penetrating green eyes saw right into her soul, Hermione tightly hugged herself in a gesture of mute defense.
“I...he...I mean-WE- have...ehh...well, you know!” she loudly muttered, refusing to meet the accusing stares of her closest friends.
“I know what happened in that sense of the word. The only thing I do NOT know is whether the act was...mutual,” replied the dark-haired wizard, his voice carefully neutral.
Something like a sad smile appeared upon the witch’s face.
“Mutual? I guess you can call it that. If the burning feeling that he had sparked within me was in any way genuine, uninfluenced by any existing lust potion, then...yes.”
With her eyes still firmly downcast to the floor, Hermione failed to notice the look that passed between the two devastated young wizards. The words that were spoken next, however, turned her momentarily speechless as well.
“Then don’t you think you are behaving a drop selfish right now?”
Unable to believe her ears, Hermione at last looked up. The stern expressions on both Ron’s and Harry’s faces instantly excluded any lame prank or joke from their parts.
“You can’t be serious!” she bellowed with mounting frustration.
“Look,” began Ron, who was looking at Hermione with a half-disbelieving expression, “It takes both man and a woman to copulate. This can happen on two terms; either the female participant is raped or both parties mutually throw themselves into the act. As you have so strongly objected to the mere idea of rape, well...it leaves us only one solution, doesn’t it?”
“What Ron means, Hermione,” continued Harry, “is that if you haven’t been actually physically forced into sex, then in one way or another you have silently agreed to it. In that case, neither could be blamed as both of you willingly succumbed to one feeling.” Here he produced an impressive grimace. “As you are well aware, I am not really...fond of Snape, but even I can sympathise with him right now. In the end, you are to be blamed as strongly as him for what happened between the two of you.”
The witch felt Harry’s words wash through her and right into her rapidly beating heart. The female part of her brain comprehended the logic reasoning and the undeniable truth behind the words. Hermione’s present dominating part, however, found it simpler to blame everything upon Severus Snape. Husband or not, she has slept with a professor, and the student long planted within her could not let the issue pass away so simply.
Even as all of these thoughts filled Hermione to the brink, she felt helpless tears starting to well in her eyes.
“And now what? I will be forced to suffer all my life for a single night of sin?” she demanded in a strangled whisper.
She barely registered the movement of Ron’s hand through the mist covering her eyes. Only the gentle weight of his hand upon her shoulder indicated that he put it there.
“We have no right to judge in this frail subject. From now on, it is up to you and Snape to decide what will become of you and your lives,” said he sadly and with a last squeeze lifted his hand.
He was half-way to the exit when Harry spoke again.
“Don’t take it the wrong way, Hermione. I think that the best solution is for us to think about this separately from each other. Even though we’re not in your situation, both Ron and I will in some way or another be affected by your actions, and this will take some time to get used to.”
The young man stared at Hermione’s lost expression for a few agonizing moments before he leaned and placed a gentle kiss upon her forehead with a barely audible promise;
“Wherever this takes us, to doom or to the gardens of Eden, I will stand by your side. Until the day I die, you will have my protection. Even the cursed Veil will not prevent my spirit from protecting those I love.”
And then he was gone.
Against her unvoiced promises, Hermione continued to live in the dungeons. Silence became her sole companion within those chambers, giving an impression that she was the only resident.
Rare coincidences criss-crossed her and Snape’s paths these days, and when they DID manage to appear at the same time in the living room, both left by different exists without delay. Due to all the tension which stood solidly in the apartment, a cemetery would have appeared to be more cheerful than where Hermione lived now.
In classes, on the other hand, nothing had undergone drastic changes. Snape continued to act like a bastard toward the student body while Hermione followed every instruction with horrifying precision. The lack of interaction between the two of them, however, was one thing that stood out the most in each Defense class.
Either way, nothing indicated that less than a month ago the two of them had sex.
The only other people aware of that delicate fact were Harry, Ron and Ginny. Upon a silent agreement, neither of them spoke about this subject again. Leaving everything up to Hermione’s decision when best to bring it up again, the three individuals decided to concentrate upon their studies with more vigour than it was usual.
Nevertheless, not a day passed without either of them thinking about what this would mean to the couple involved and the entire wizarding world.
Harry Potter was right in the middle of one of his endless ponderings when a loud clearing of throat abruptly dragged his mind to the present.
Headmistress McGonagall was standing in the middle of the corridor, blocking Harry’s way towards the Gryffindor Tower. With a tiny tinge of embarrassment, he understood that if the elderly witch hadn’t attracted his attention, he would have walked right into her without noticing her presence.
“Excuse me, Professor McGonagall. I must have been lost in thought and didn’t notice you,” mumbled Harry apologetically.
“Indeed,” replied Professor, stretching her lips into a thin line. Whatever was the source of her apparent displeasure, Harry did not possess any wish to find out. He was just about to step around her when she spoke again.
“Come with me, Mr. Potter. There is an important matter about which I feel obliged to speak to you personally.”
With a sinking feeling that this had something to do with Voldemort, Harry followed the quickly retreating figure of the witch without a word. Indeed, a long time had passed since anything had been heard from the vile bastard and his Death Eaters. In Harry’s opinion, the situation was becoming rather suspicious with every passing day.
As soon as they entered the Headmistress’ office, she gestured him towards a chair in front of her desk and followed suite, positioning herself into the grand chair.
“Now, Mr. Potter,” she began, after a period of silence, “Do you have any idea why I have called you to my office so abruptly?”
A slight frown creased Harry’s black eyebrows.
“Well, it is something concerning Voldemort, isn’t it?” he asked, ignoring the usual flinch that the professor gave at hearing the dreaded name.
“No, it isn’t. Though I have to say I believe that the time runs short until we will do more than speak about him.”
Without looking at him, McGonagall stood up and started pacing around the area behind the mahogany desk.
“No,” she repeated, “Something else of great importance has reached my ears recently.”
Suddenly, the former Head of Gryffindor stopped her pacing and faced Harry squarely. The young man resisted the urge to squirm in his seat at the unidentifiable set of emotions being directed right at him.
“I want you to tell me, TRUTHFULLY, what has taken place between Professor Snape and Hermione Snape within their state of wedlock.”
Momentarily shaken by her demand, Harry tried desperately save the situation;
“I’m not the one married, Professor, and Hermione is not the kind of person that considers-“
“Tell these fairy tales to someone else, Mr. Potter, but not to a person who has known you from top to bottom since you were eleven years old!” interrupted the Headmistress sternly.
“With all due respect, I am not a person entitled to reveal such personal issues, especially my best friend\'s.”
Harry\'s stubborn words, however, must have held a different meaning to McGonagall\'s ears for she slowly sat back behind her desk. Massaging the temples with her wrinkled fingers, she barely audibly muttered;
“So the marriage had been sealed.”
Getting more uncomfortable with every passing second, Harry weighed his chances of darting to the door without being noticed. As if sensing the path of his thoughts, the witch suddenly opened her eyes and pinned him to his chair with one of her infamous stares.
“Pray tell me, Mr. Potter, did you notice anything...UNUSUAL during Professor Snape\'s and Hermione\'s wedding ceremony that evening?” she enquired. The Headmistress herself had noticed the peculiar way Snape and Hermione stood pressed together during the ceremony, but saw no cause for it at the time and now was hoping against hope that she had indeed missed something.
The dark-haired wizard frowned.
“Unusual? I don\'t think so.”
“Think carefully, boy. Perhaps something insignificant caught your attention at that time. Anything at all that looked a bit peculiar to you, even for a second!” Headmistress was now leaning towards him, watching Harry\'s face as intent as a hawk.
“I told you already, Professor! There was nothing out of –,” Harry suddenly stopped his exasperated tirade as a memory suddenly resurfaced to the open.
“What, Mr. Potter?”
Harry shook his head in dismay.
“Maybe it’s not important, but I suddenly remembered a moment from the ceremony. The second after Hermione said ‘I would’, she was suddenly...pressed to Snape\'s side. And judging by both of their expressions, neither purposely caused it.” Here Harry paused, slowly replaying the memory. “In fact, as far as I saw, neither of them could have moved as much as a finger! It looked almost as if...” the wizard absently waved his hands in the air, searching for the right word, “...wind had pressed their bodies together.”
As he finished, a rather startled look settled upon Harry\'s face, as if he couldn\'t fully believe that he chose these words in his description.
Professor McGonagall, on the other hand, started to laugh uncontrollably.
In fact, the witch laughed so hard that in a few seconds tears of merriment started to gather at the corners of her eyes. Rarely witnessing even a crack of a smile from McGonagall, at present Harry was literally gawking at her.
“P-professor...are you OK?” he anxiously demanded, his green eyes wide.
Her laughing subsiding a notch, the elderly woman managed to wave her hand in a carelessly dismissive manner.
“Never been better, Mr. Potter. Oh, Great Scot! The wind!” That set her off again.
Seizing his chance, Harry appeared before the door in a mere second, his hand already clutching the door knob tightly. Nevertheless, he hesitated enough to permit him to turn slightly towards Professor McGonagall, who has restored to chuckling.
“May I ask a question, Professor?”
“You may,” replied she.
The young man hesitated again before opening his mouth.
“What does this thing with the wind mean?”
Thankfully, this time the witch merely produced the wildest smile ever to grace her face in all the years Harry Potter had known her.
“But of course, Mr. Potter. I will just request you to step away from the door so that you will not be as foolish as to crack your precious skull against it when you fall.”
“And why should I fall?” asked the now more than suspicious Harry, instead tightening his hand more firmly around the metal of the door knob.
“Because the appearance of The Wind during a wizarding ceremony can indicate only one thing.”
It seemed practically impossible for her smile to widen further, but it did.
“Using the Muggle term it is simple: Hermione Snape and Severus Snape are actually, in fact, soul mates.”
Sweet Surrender by witch