While Harry, Hermione, and Professor McGonagall were still in Professor Dumbledore’s office, Severus Snape was heading down to his dungeon office. He was silently ranting in his head about Potter and his know-it-all girlfriend, Granger.
He was so absorbed in his own thoughts that he was on autopilot. His feet were carrying him on his usual path down from the Headmaster’s Office to his office in the dungeons.
Years of having students scurrying away from his approach had made him complacent in their midst. He never thought that he would be attacked within the confines of Hogwarts as an adult.
That is why it was a total surprise when he felt something smash into the back of his head.
The force of the blow rendered him insensate. He was fighting to stay conscious as he fell to his knees. Turning his head slowly, he tried to spot his attacker. Instead, he was greeted with the sight of a heavy boot sailing directly towards his face.
Severus was too woozy to dodge the incoming blow. The last thing that he remembered seeing before the blow rendered him unconscious was the trim of an elegant cloak flapping near the leg of his attacker. The trim was a very familiar shade of green.
With a sickening crunch, the boot connected with the jaw of Severus Snape. Since he was at the top of a flight of stairs when he was knocked unconscious, he fell backwards. His limp body slid down the stairs, breaking a few more bones before coming to rest in a heap at the bottom.
It was a terrified first year Slytherin student that discovered a very bloody, and broken, Professor Snape ten minutes later. The sight of her head of house sent her screaming in terror back to the common room where she quickly alerted her housemates to the situation.
The assailants had left the area as soon as Snape’s body began tumbling down the steps. They had been warned about the portraits and as a result, they had taken precautions to avoid being discovered. Their escape from the scene of the crime went completely unnoticed by person, portrait, or ghost.
By the time Madam Pomfrey arrived on the scene, all of Slytherin House was present and they were convinced that Harry Potter had something to do with it.
Ignoring the muttering students, Madam Pomfrey began scanning Severus for internal injuries. Relief flooded through her when she didn’t find any internal bleeding. Quickly, she began checking over the rest of his injuries to make sure none of them were life threatening.
There were numerous broken bones, cuts, and contusions all over his body. Stone steps were very unforgiving.
With nothing immediately life threatening, she conjured bandages for most of the injures and began levitating him up to the Hospital Wing. He was going to be a patient of hers for the next few days.
The portrait network would not catch wind of the attack until Madam Pomfrey had Professor Snape back in the Hospital Wing, treating his injuries, some twenty minutes later. By the time that the first portrait reached Dumbledore, Harry and Hermione were walking hand in hand down by the lake, oblivious to the goings on inside the castle.
Harry and Hermione had entered their garden by the lake after a short walk down by the shore. It was fast becoming a habit for Harry to stretch out his magical senses as he entered a new area. This whole tournament had him on edge and if he wasn’t careful, he could end up like Professor Moody, jumping at every little noise or movement.
“Constant Vigilance, indeed.” Harry muttered darkly under his breath when he found an Eavesdropping Charm on one of the benches.
He was just about to remove it when Hermione’s tiny hand came to rest upon his forearm, forestalling his spell. He turned to face her so he could see what she wanted.
Hermione had placed a finger to her lips to indicate that she wanted him to stay quiet. When she saw Harry’s nod in understanding, she pulled out her wand and silently cast a Silencing Spell around the entire bench that he had indicated.
When she turned back to face Harry, he surprised her by pulling her into a hug and kissing her passionately. After a few blissful kisses, he pulled back a tiny bit to look into her eyes and said, “I love you. Thank you for standing up for me today.”
Hermione’s brain had yet to recover from those kisses. Her lips were slightly parted and a bit puffy. She was vaguely aware that Harry had said something to her a second ago. With no conscious thought, her tongue slowly licked the contours of her swollen lips before she closed her mouth.
Harry was about to ask Hermione a question when he saw her tongue slowly lick her lips. It was perhaps the most erotic thing that he had ever seen in his short life. Deciding that there was nothing better than seeing that look on Hermione’s face, he leaned back in and began kissing her just as passionately as before.
Hermione’s thoughts and emotions were just calming down from the best snog ever when Harry’s lips returned. Their gentle, passionate, warmth made her body respond by molding itself to his as she deepened the kiss.
Harry heard the soft moan escape Hermione’s lips and it fueled his passion and drove the hungry kisses that they were sharing to new heights.
It could have been minutes or hours later. Neither teen had any ability to comprehend the passage of time when they broke the embrace. Somehow, Hermione’s hands had found their way beneath Harry’s jumper and were slowly rubbing his chest. Harry’s hands were still outside of her clothes but they had done a bit of exploring as well. One of his hands was entwined in her hair, gently rubbing the base of her neck and head. His other hand was resting just below the waistline of her skirt, just above the gentle curvature of her bum.
Both of their hearts were pounding and their breathing was irregular. When they looked into each other’s eyes, there was no awkwardness, just adoration and love. Their bond was practically humming with emotions. It was difficult to sort out which emotions belonged to whom they were so similar.
In that brief moment, Hermione saw the man that Harry would become reflected in his eyes and she loved what she saw. The one thing absent from those emerald orbs was something that she would miss most, their innocence.
Harry was holding onto the most important person in the world to him. He would move heaven and earth for Hermione if need be. He had made peace with his inner demon’s desire to keep her safe at all times and at any cost. Her defending him finally conquered that fear.
He knew that this tournament had cost them both deeply. They were on the cusp, caught somewhere between adulthood and childhood. It was a childhood that neither of them could ever return too, they had seen and done too much.
Silently, Hermione pulled Harry over to a bench and sat him down before she snuggled into his side. She was content to sit there all day and watch the world go by while letting the troubles of the day wash away like grains of sand in the changing tides.
They were still sitting side by side, cuddled together, when Neville and Ginny finally found them.
When they had sat themselves down on the bench near Harry and Hermione, they shared a look before Ginny spoke.
Her voice was laced with concern as she said, “Are you two okay? We heard about what happened in the hall this morning.”
Harry gave Hermione’s shoulder a gentle squeeze with his arm that she was tucked under, letting her know that she could tell them about it.
“Pansy Parkinson jinxed Harry from behind and he broke his wrist when he fell. I hexed her in return and then Professor Snape showed up. After we got Harry’s arm fixed, we had a meeting with the Headmaster, Professor Snape, and Professor McGonagall.” Hermione finished speaking in her classroom voice.
“And?” Ginny prompted, “Did you get into trouble for hexing that cow?”
“Pug.” Harry corrected her as he broke out into a low chuckle.
“What’s a pug?” a confused Neville asked.
Hermione supplied, “It’s a dog with a squashed face that is popular in the non-magical world.”
The mirth still present in his voice, Harry said, “And Parkinson’s face is about as flat as you can get. I mean, look at her nose! It looks like it got smashed when she was a baby or something.”
After the laughter had died down Neville looked over at Hermione and asked, “Did you get in trouble?”
There was an edge to Hermione’s voice when she replied, “Yes, I lost forty points and I have a week of detentions with Professor McGonagall. I’m not sorry though, Parkinson got what she deserved, and her punishment is the same as mine.”
His voice had returned to the low, well modulated, timbre that Hermione was getting used to, “You were brilliant.”
In truth, that tone of voice made her insides squirm in a good way. She knew that it masked the emotions and desires that he would let loose when they were alone. It may have been selfish, but she liked that there was now a side to Harry that only she was allowed to see.
Harry could feel the smugness through their bond and he guessed what it was about. Leaning down a bit, he planted a soft kiss on the side of her head, before turning his attention back to the other couple present. “How was your day then?”
Neville smiled before he spoke up, “Pretty good, actually. We explored the castle a bit and then headed out to the grounds to look for you two. I think that we may have found out what the next task is going to be too.”
That peaked Harry and Hermione’s interests. Any information on the Third Task was extremely valuable and could quite possibly save Harry’s life.
Eagerly, Hermione asked, “What did you two discover?”
Ginny piped up, her voice full of pride, “Neville actually figured it out after I noticed that something was different about the Quidditch pitch.”
Neville was blushing slightly from the praise, but his voice was firm in its conviction when he spoke, “It’s a maze. Hagrid is growing hedgerows. They are only two or three feet tall right now but my guess is that Hagrid will have them twenty feet tall in no time.”
“Harry,” Ginny said in a small voice. When his emeralds eyes turned their focus upon her, she almost shivered. They seemed to bore right into her soul. Her voice quavered a tiny bit as she spoke, “I made a drawing of the maze from one of the towers. It’s not great or anything, but I hope it will help.”
Harry took the offered piece of parchment from Ginny’s outstretched hand, a true smile plainly visible for her to see. His voice rang with gratitude when he said, “Thank you, Ginny. This is probably the best drawing ever. It may very well save my life.” Gently disentangling himself from Hermione, he stood up and pulled Ginny into a hug while placing a chaste kiss on the top of her head in thanks.
Turning to Neville, he held out his hand. When they shook hands, he said, “Thank you too, Neville. Hang on to her, she’s a keeper.”
Both teens blushed at the praise and rare showing of affection towards them from Harry. It was something so rare and it was a precious thing to them.
The two couples spent the next hour discussing the Third Task. How to best utilize the map to Harry’s advantage was thoroughly covered in their talks. By the time they all headed back up to the castle, they had a rudimentary plan in place to handle the maze.
Their good moods were going to come crashing down around them when they entered the Great Hall for dinner.
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