Hermione ran through the castle with her heart pounding in her chest and tears streaming from her eyes. Leaving the claustrophobia of the dungeons, Hermione headed towards the entrance hall, out the front doors and into the grounds of Hogwarts.
For two hours Hermione sat by the lake, sobbing until her throat was raw and her lungs ached. A harsh wind blew around her but, despite not having her outer robes on; Hermione found that her numbness prevented her from feeling the cold. She was embarrassed and angry for having allowed that confrontation to take place, and she was scared to face the consequences of her actions.
Hermione knew that being around Snape was damaging her severely. She had allowed herself to get too close. Sure, she had succeeded in not trusting him and not loving him, but she still found herself caring about his opinion of her. Like any daughter, she wanted her father to be proud of her and she resented those feelings badly. As Hermione calmed herself, and, using a pocket mirror, applied a small amount of make-up to hide her blotchy face, she knew that she never wanted to see Professor Snape again.
Rising from the rock she had perched on, Hermione made her way slowly but determinedly back to the castle, praying that by now most people would be in lunch and she wouldn't meet anyone she knew before arriving at her destination.
At McGonnagall's office, Hermione took a deep breath and raised her fist to knock two sharp raps of three on the old oak door. She hoped that her Head of House had stuck to her usual routine of having a late lunch and would therefore still be in her office. She was in luck.
"Enter." Came her Professor's rich tones from within and Hermione pushed the door open without further hesitation.
"Sorry to disturb you, Professor, but I was wondering if I might speak with you?"
Minerva greeted Hermione with a smile. Miss Granger wasn't a stranger to her office as she often came to ask questions about further study she'd done on Transfiguration or to get more feedback on one of her perfect essays. That being said, the girl's visits had become something of a rarity this term and the elder witch now hoped that this unexpected meeting would bring some enlightenment of Hermione's recent unusual behaviour.
"Of course, Miss Granger, do take a seat."
Hermione did so, and then started her request without any further preamble. "Professor I was wondering if it would be possible for me to drop Potions."
Minerva sat back, slightly shocked for the moment. Miss Granger was the most intellectual student she currently taught, she excelled in every subject and was usually in McGonnagall's office complaining that she couldn't take enough subjects.
"Miss Granger, why on earth would you want to drop Potions?" The Professor asked in a bewildered tone.
"The subject isn't for me, Professor." She replied in a rehearsed tone. "I have no talent for potions and trying to keep my work up to an acceptable standard is taking up a disproportionate amount of my time." She lied coolly. "I would much rather drop the subject completely and use that time on a subject that it is possible for me to do well in. I would of course still have the required number of subjects due to my already overfull timetable."
If anything, McGonnagall was even more aghast, but as she regained her composure she said, "I'm afraid, Miss Granger, that your request will not be possible. Potions is a compulsory subject for all students until they have completed their OWLs, that is school policy. I am, however, surprised that you feel you are struggling. Professor Snape hasn't mentioned anything to me about you failing."
"I manage to scrape by." Hermione answered distractedly. "But Professor, surely as I already do more subjects than everyone else, an exception could be – "
"Absolutely not!" The elder witch interrupted sternly. "Potions is a compulsory subject Miss Granger and I'm afraid you're just going to have to live with that for the rest of the year. Now, if you are really struggling to fit everything in, we can discuss the possibility of you dropping one of your optional courses…?"
Hermione huffed. "No. It's fine, Professor. Thank you for seeing me anyway." She said getting up to leave.
Minerva could not stop the girl as she left her office, although she could have sworn she heard her mutter, "I guess I'll just have to endure him, " Before she was gone.
Hermione decided to skip the rest of the day's classes, seeing as she was a week or two ahead in most of them anyway. The first time she saw Ron and Harry, therefore, was at dinner, where their concern for her was clearly etched on their faces.
"Hermione," Ron said with a mouthful of mashed potato as she sat down on the bench opposite him and Harry. "Where have you been? We've been looking for you all day!"
"Sorry guys, I just needed some time alone, you know? I was by the lake this morning and then I've spent this afternoon up in my dormitory." She answered honestly.
"Are you alright though, Hermione?" Harry asked. "I've never seen you lose it like that before. – Well, except when you hit Malfoy, but that git was really asking for it."
The three chuckled at the memory and Hermione replied, "Yeah, I'm fine Harry, really. It's just Snape that's all. I really can't bear the way he gets at me all the time."
Harry snorted. "Join the club." And with that Hermione knew that they understood how she felt – or at least part of how she felt.
They continued the meal in companionable chit chat, until, just as they were finishing their main courses, a small barn owl discreetly made its way into the Great Hall, landed beside Hermione's plate and held out its letter clad leg. Hermione opened the letter dutifully and then cursed. It read:
If you thought that running to McGonnagall and attempting to have yourself removed from my Potions lessons would get you out of the week's worth of detentions you have earned, you are sorely mistaken. My office. Tonight. 7pm. Don't be late.
Having received his note Hermione had quickly eaten some pudding and left for her detention. It was now 6.57pm and she was stood outside his office trying to gain some composure. Having steadied her nerves to an acceptable state, she knocked sharply on the door. She had expected to hear his voice from within commanding her to enter, but instead the door was swung wide open by Snape himself and he glared down at her with intense dark eyes. Before she had a chance to say anything he stood to the side, allowing her to pass and ordered, "In."
Hermione did as she was bid, not daring to speak, and stood awkwardly a few feet into the room.
"Sit." Snape commanded, pointing towards a stiff wooden chair at his desk. She did so; shrugging her bag off of her shoulder and sitting uncomfortably across from Snape's own plush leather seat.
Snape walked around to his side of the desk, but instead of sitting down he remained standing, placing his hands on the desk in front of him and shifting his weight onto them so he was leaning towards her menacingly.
"Miss Granger." He started in his dangerously soft tones. "Let me make a few things very clear to you." He paused. "Firstly, you will never again leave my classroom without being dismissed. Secondly, you will not go behind my back to your Head of House asking to leave my subject and spouting some pathetic sob story about how it's too hard or how I'm mean to you." He said, finishing with a mock whiny voice.
"I never –" Hermione tried to defend herself but Snape cut in.
"Silence! You will listen." He scowled at her with pure fury in his eyes.
"Finally, you will never ever speak to me again with the disrespect with which you spoke to me today." He finished but continued to glare at her, never breaking eye contact.
"The consequences for breaking any one of these rules will be severe. Am I understood?"
Hermione could think of many things that she would like to say in response to his 'rules' but decided that in the interests of getting out of this office any time soon and with all her limbs still intact she should settle for an obedient, "Yes, Sir."
"Good. Follow me." He replied, swooping from his office and leading her into the potions classroom. "Once you have cleaned every cauldron, without magic, to my satisfaction you may leave." He instructed sharply, and with that he turned and sat at his desk to mark essays.
Hermione took a deep breath and rolled her sleeves up. There must have been around thirty cauldrons for her to clean so she decided she had better get started.
Over two hours later, Hermione informed Snape that she had completed her task and, having inspected her work for himself, he reluctantly allowed her to go. "You will be back in here the same time tomorrow. Don't be late." He then turned swiftly on his heel and stormed back to his office.
For the most part Hermione's detentions with Snape continued in such an uneventful fashion. She would obediently complete whatever task he had set her each night, whilst trying to avoid eye contact, and he, having set the task, would studiously ignore her for the rest of the evening. Except, that is, on Hermione's fourth night of detention. Having already had the girl clean cauldrons, tidy the office and sort the store cupboard, Snape had resorted to the far less imaginative setting of lines, and Hermione now sat at a desk, quill in hand, scribbling 'I will adjust my attitude and be polite and courteous to Professor Snape at all times.'
Hermione had been sat there for half an hour when she was interrupted by Snape speaking from his desk. "Miss Granger."
Her hand halted its movements on the page and Severus watched as the muscles in her shoulders tensed. "Yes, Professor?" She replied in a cautious voice, though her hand never moved from the page and she never looked up.
"Miss Granger – Kindly look at me when I am speaking to you." He snapped.
Hesitantly, she did as instructed, though she maintained a guarded expression of her face as she raised it to him.
Satisfied, Snape continued, "Miss Granger, why did you attempt to drop potions?"
Hermione blinked in surprise. She hadn't been expecting that. When she did regain her composure she merely shrugged and looked back down at her parchment. Snape ground his teeth together in annoyance but still managed to growl, "That is not an acceptable answer."
Hermione huffed in exasperation, looked back at him and replied in an obviously false tone. "It's like you said, Professor, I was just trying to get out of my punishment."
"I was wrong." Snape looked straight into her eyes and waited. However, after a few moments, when she had still replied with nothing more than a blank expression, he continued, "When Professor McGonagall first informed me of your…little chat, I did make the assumption that you were just trying to wheedle your way out of punishment. However, it has since occurred to me that that explanation of your behaviour is non-sensical."
"Really? And why's that?" Replied Hermione in a bored tone that sounded somewhat forced.
"Firstly, because you, Miss Granger, are obsessed with both learning and succeeding. You would never sacrifice your education over the sake of a few measly detentions and furthermore, you would view dropping the subject as a failure; something you abhor. What's more, your stubborn Gryffindor tendencies would never allow you to walk away from a challenge in such a cowardly manner."
Hermione merely raised a sardonic eyebrow. "I believe the Gryffindor trait is bravery not stubbornness."
"Debateable." He remarked, dryly. "And you still haven't my question."
He fixed her with a cool glare. "Why did you try to drop Potions?"
Hermione huffed. "As I told Professor McGonagall, I simply feel my time would be better spent on study in other areas."
"Miss Granger, if you are going to continue lying to me then there is no point in us having this conversation."
"Oh good, we agree then." She sassed, picking up her quill and turning back to the lines.
"Miss Granger." He purred in warning.
Once again sighing in exasperation, Hermione looked up. "What is it you want me to say to you?"
Snape's eyes softened in concern. He heard the edge to her voice that sounded tired and desperate – almost defeated. "I just want you to tell me the truth. About this, about everything. A blind man could tell that you're hiding something and the worst part is, you're pushing anyone who cares about you away. As far as I'm aware you haven't told your friends about running away from home this summer, you won't talk to Professors McGonagall or Dumbledore and you still haven't spoken to your parents though they send you letters weekly and are worried sick about you."
Hermione hung her head in shame at her lack of communication with her parents. She wasn't really angry with them for lying to her anymore, but every time she tried to write a reply to their letters she found herself with no words.
Snape noted her reaction but continued, "Whatever your secret is, if you don't let someone in, it will eat you up inside. Trust me."
Hermione's head had drooped down as he spoke and now she looked up he could see tears welling in her eyes.
She spoke in the softest of voices. "Why can't you just accept that some truths are better left unsaid."
"Better for whom?" He pushed.
"For everyone." She bit back.
There were a few moments of silence where they looked back and forth at each other from their respective desks. Finally, Hemione sighed. "I'm not discussing this anymore." She said with a calm finality. "You can set more detentions if you like but it's not going to make me tell you anything. I'm done with this conversation."
Hermione expected Snape to be furious so she was surprised when he merely shook his head in frustrated disappointment, "Fine. Continue with your lines, Miss Granger."
Hermione obeyed and not another word was spoken until it was time for her to leave.