Chapter 4

Severus ran a tired hand down his face before gently pulling the needle he'd placed into Granger's arm free. The drip he'd placed had restored some of what her body had lost but there was so little to her frame that he feared giving her too many fluids. She needed proper food, proper rest.

The salves he'd placed between her legs had sparked another unwanted reaction from her. The healing balm he'd used to sooth away the irritation had prompted her to reach down again. She'd rocked against his hand before he'd had a mind to understand what she'd been doing. It had settled something deep into his stomach that made his stomach curl.

He had tried to stop her but the action had caused her to become excessively agitated. He couldn't understand why she was doing this to herself nor why she seemed to think it was what he wanted her to do. Or rather, he didn't want to know the circumstances leading to her behavior.

It had only been when he'd bound her hands to the bed that she had gone still. A weak, wounded animal-like noise having passed her repaired throat. It wasn't anything he could call speech, rather the air in her chest expelling at just the right angle. He had taken that time to calm himself, trying to get his sleep-deprived brain in order. This was never going to work. They needed a way to communicate.

So there Severus sat, at his kitchen table looking at the smooth stones he'd collected from his mother's old jewelry box. The girl liked to feel the world with her mouth, perhaps he could train her similarly without having pieces of his person slobbered on.

He turned a blue Firestone in his fingers before tapping the stone, making it larger, it wouldn't do well for her to swallow it. He carved a hole through the center and pushed the golden chain through. Yes, this might work. He charmed the stone to be perfectly round and to taste like tea, should she put it in her mouth. This would be a signal to him that she was thirsty.

He picked up a tigers eye next shifting it into that of a cube, the same size as the other but he placed a charm over it to make it taste like mashed potatoes. He placed it on the chain making a knot so that they would stand apart.

What else did he need to know? What else did she have a mind left to tell him?

Pain. He needed to know if she was in pain. Severus turned his eyes down to the stones, pulling an oblong shaped onyx stone up next. He enlarged it and carved it like the others before thinking about what it should taste like. What did pain taste like? Bitter? Sour? No, he needed something that soothe her until he was able to come to her side. What was calming?

He wracked his brain for a while before deciding on chocolate. It may turn her off to the treat in the future but it was a risk he was willing to take. He set the charmed necklace down looking over his choices before creating one for himself, a pocket chain he could hide but would alert him to her status when she would put them in her mouth. Now, all he had to do was teach her how to use it.

A new purpose to fill the hours of the day before he set out to search for answers to her other ailments, he pushed himself up and towards the stairs. When he came into his room he let out a slow breath.

Granger had rolled onto her side, facing the sun that filtered in through the curtains. She'd pulled the blanket up under her chin but he could tell she was awake by the gentle sway of the curtains that she must have busied herself with. He had hoped she would have gone back to sleep but as always; the fates were unkind.

His tongue stalled in his mouth as he made to call out to her. It was a natural reaction, one that held no merit in the current circumstances. He looked down into his palm at the necklace before conjuring a glass of water into his hand. He set it down on the table he'd placed beside the bed before reaching out to take her shoulder.

A sharp jolt rattled up his arm before she slowly turned to face him. He touched the side of her face, something he'd quickly learned to calm her but pulled back before she made to taste him. His lips pursed deeply looking at her bandaged eyes, just one more day and he could let them breathe and just possibly see into her mind. He wasn't holding out hope that anything lied beneath.

Hermione adjusted her head, waiting for what he had come to take from her. She'd already started to raise her hands, reaching out towards the fabric of his slacks, the fabric soft yet pressed beneath her fingers, before he'd taken her wrists lifting them up. She didn't resist but she did let her fingers fall down to feel his arm. Again, soft pressed fabric greeted her fingertips. He wasn't dressed like the others either. Something that had niggled away at the back of her mind all morning.

Severus shifted her wrists into one palm before slowly raising the back of the bed once more. He lowered her wrists down to her lap as she settled into the more upright position. He waited for her attention to come back to him before he brought the necklace down over her head. She'd barely been able to lift it herself but he could see the muscle was starting to return. He supposed the collar had given her the support she'd needed for too long and was careful in his endeavor.

"Alright, Miss Granger... let's see just how much of that brilliant mind of yours remains..." Severus picked up the blue Firestone, gently pressing it to her partially parted lips. His eyes narrowed when her tongue came out to taste it.

Hermione's brow furrowed when the cool stone was pressed against her. There was no smell, aside from the lingering scent she had come to use to identify him but when she brought her tongue out her mouth flooded with the taste of tea. Her brain told her that it shouldn't have been possible that the two senses she had left were not communicating as they should have been. Her hand rose in her confusion but was slowly guided away and dipped into something wet. Her fingers jerked back from the sensation and the stone was removed as well.

Hermione tried to understand, but she just felt lost. The stone pulled back, and so did the hand that held her wrist. Then, just as before, he repeated the action once more. Her face twisted, her lips curling as she tried to keep the feeling of confusion from covering her face. What did he want?

Severus pulled back when her face twisted. He could feel her anxiety rising again and very much didn't want a repeat performance of that morning. His mind turned as he tried to get her to understand. Even a toddler could follow monkey see, monkey do; problem was, the only instruction he was able to give her was through touch and taste.

He pulled back trying to collect his thoughts. What had he learned thus far? Aside from her wanting to put everything in her mouth, what else about her behavior could he possibly relate to? His eyes shot down when her hand rose again, pressing her palm flat against his leg. She'd done that before, trying to—his eyes widened for a moment and he found his pride stuck in his throat.

He shifted the necklace taking hold of the stone he'd set to register her pain. He pressed it to her lips keeping it there until she opened her mouth. Instead of letting her taste just the outside he gently pushed it forward pressing his finger against her tongue, she took hold of it gently suckling before he took hold of her other hand that rested on his leg.

Shame filled his eyes when he pressed her hand over his groin, grunting when her fingers spread out, feeling him through his trousers.

"Pain...this means pain..." He knew speaking would do no good but he felt the desperation filling his voice. He pulled both hands back, quickly exchanging the stones and pulled her hand back into the glass of water, "Thirsty...this means thirst." He pressed the stone back into her mouth, his frustration giving him a bit more force than necessary.

"Thirst..." Severus' face contorted as he pulled himself back tightly under control. He released both her wrist and the stone, letting his own hands fall down to his sides. Did she understand?

Hermione bit back the wince when the stone clashed against her teeth, she wanted to understand desperately. What was he doing? What did he want? Her tongue slowly pushed out the rounded bead, her head lowering down as she tried to think of the proper course. He had let her touch him but nothing else. He'd taken away her opportunity for reward only to dip her hand in liquid again. It didn't make sense. What did one have to do with the other?

Minutes passed between them, Hermione having gone still, unsure of what he wanted. While Severus wracked his brain with any possible way to make her understand. Where was the girl who had made a mockery of all the traps he'd laid in only her first year? Where was the girl who had punched Malfoy square in his aristocratic nose? Where was the girl that had fought valiantly for the rights of elves who had no way to speak for themselves? Where was she?

Severus closed his eyes tight, stepping back and out of her range, he couldn't bear the sight. So many he had buried, why had she—above all others—survived? Why had he—believed himself to be greater than what he was? No, he couldn't do this...

Hermione felt him move away, his aura gone once more leaving her mind in shambles. She couldn't understand this new world. The rules were too different. She couldn't possibly find the strength inside her to learn another game. Her mind was barely held together as it was, learning something new might just break the fragile hold she had on her sanity. She wanted to go back, back to the forest. The rules had been clear there. Pain then pleasure. Pleasure then pain. It was simple.


Severus found no comfort as he leaned over the potion designed to help give her a voice. He wasn't sure what good it would do but it kept his mind busy from the bleak world around him. He had been so sure his stone idea would have worked that he hadn't prepared himself for his failure.

He needed to see into her eyes, into her mind. If he could just do that—maybe, just maybe— he could find the child that was lost. Unfortunately, it wasn't the only problem that was currently pressing on his mind. He had to return to Hogwarts. He was expected to be there early, for the start of the term. The Dark Lord would be wanting a roster of all returning students and any of those with 'questionable' heritage.

That in addition to the twins who were joining the ranks of staff meant he had to tread carefully, more than carefully. He couldn't very well disappear from the grounds to care for his charge. No, there was no doubt he'd have to bring her with him. What had he done?

His inner depreciation was brought to a halt when one of the stones on the pocket chain he'd set down on the table glowed. His sharp eyes snapped to the stone, his brow furrowing. Pain. She had put the stone for pain in her mouth. He turned his eyes up canceling the flame beneath the cauldron before placing a status charm over the half-finished liquid. Did she truly need him? Or had she begun to fiddle with it? Regardless. He needed to know.

He took the stairs in no time, coming into his room with wary confidence. His eyes snapping to the bed immediately. He blinked dumbly at the sight of her before he dared to come closer.

Granger's head was pressed back into the bed, her legs bent and her hips arched. Her face was pinched tight, the chain he'd left around her neck sticking out of her mouth. She held the other stones in her palm as she tried to hide her face into her fist. Her breathing was fast, worryingly so. The blanket he'd placed over her having been lost to the floor from her writhing.

He swallowed thickly turning his head down to look between her legs. The robe still mostly covered her, though the split had fallen open slightly revealing her inner thigh on the leg she had bent into the air. Her other hand held tight to the sheet as though resisting the urge to reach down. A quick glance at her face brought him closer and a small wave of his fingers opened the robe more.

His stomach churned as he watched the dragon's head slowly move inside of her, coming out than in at a slow torturous pace. How had that happened? Why was it moving? He hadn't activated it, yet it was clearly active. What had she done?

His eyes turned back towards her face, it was red and flushed but there was no mark of pleasure, not like before. No, he could tell this was not meant to bring pleasure. He swallowed thickly, his hands opening and closing on what to do. What could possibly be done?

A soft noise left her throat before she raised her hips again trying in vain to find the release she was apparently seeking. Severus had taken no time to research the device and it was clear to him now, that this was suddenly a top priority. Just as he made to announce his presence to her, she collapsed down, heavy panting breaths filling the stale air. The dragon's head inside of her pushed inward, sealing itself back in place.

His hand rose on its own, gently taking her cheek into his palm, "I'm here..." His words felt hollow, his eyes dark and deep.

Hermione let out a deep shuddering breath, pressing her nose into his palm. Her body tight and thrumming. She needed release, her entire being ached for what had been denied. She'd pressed the stone into her mouth, hoping that he would bring her release. That his message that morning had been meant as a way to work toward a reward. Yet, he hadn't touched her.

She pressed the stone out of her mouth, still heavily panting before rolling onto her side. Her hands took hold of his slacks before he had time to process and she pressed her cheek against him. Was he not aroused? Did her pain mean nothing to him? She pressed her face more, trying to send a message before the hands returned again pulling her free.

Her face twisted and her head turned in his hands. Why wouldn't he let her? Isn't it what he wanted? It was always what they had wanted. Why was he denying her? Was she not good enough? Was that why he was healing her? To make her worthy?

Severus had nearly jumped out of his skin when she'd nuzzled his private bits. It had taken him a full second to bring his mind back into focus before he was able to stop her from going any further. He didn't understand how she could want more pain. Why did she keep doing that? Surely, there was a reason.

He licked his bottom lip before gently adjusting the necklace, he pressed the smooth firestone to her lips before guiding her to lay back down. A cursory glance between her legs confirmed his fear that she would need more salve. The dragon's head was most unkind. He let out a heavy breath watching her take the stone into her mouth before pulling over the cloth he'd used that morning to give her tea. He couldn't trust that her throat was strong enough to drink.

He dipped the cloth into the refreshed glass of water before tugging gently on the stone, she released it without complaint and he brought his hand up again. Lightly thumbing open her lips, he pressed the cloth between them. He waited for her to take hold before moving away. What a mess...