Disclaimer:- I neither own nor earn anything from this story. Harry Potter and his world are the intellectual property of JK Rowling and associates.
A/N:- This story will only have several chapters. It is timed for Christmas, and I've aimed it as a bonus story for those who follow my work, a sort of Christmas present, if you please. It will be a simple story of a friendship that grows into something deeper (yes, it is a love story between Severus Snape and Hermione Granger, if this upsets you, please do not read and then complain about it – because that's silly.) Also be aware that there will be Ron bashing, in this story Ron Weasley is a jerk, and he will be dealt with accordingly. So, again if you don't like that, don't read.
To everyone else, welcome. Happy Christmas to you all :-)
Chapter One – A New Start
It was with some trepidation that Hermione Granger approached her neighbour's house when she found her parent's suburban home seemingly still all but abandoned. The wards she had erected around it before she'd seen them safely to Heathrow were still intact. They apparently had not come home.
The shock of it had made her stand still at the front gate for what seemed like an eternity deciding how to approach this. Surely there was a logical explanation for it, they must have been held up, or maybe they decided to stay longer. In any case it was with a sense of dread building in her stomach and her heart thumping against her ribs that she knocked on door of the house next door to see if she could find out something more. When it opened she said, in a voice that didn't seem to sound like hers, "I'm sorry to bother you, Mrs Logan, but have you seen my parents, they were due back last week?"
Mrs Logan had always kept to herself, she was not a friendly neighbour, but had never been hostile, and the Peabody's on the other side had not been home. However, as she stood there waiting for her neighbour to speak, it very quickly became obvious to Hermione that the woman at the door did not recognise her, so she clarified. "It's me, Hermione Granger. I was just wondering if you knew where I could find my parents."
The very proper elderly woman sniffed, and her eyes panned up and down Hermione's form, obviously taking in the changes since she'd last seen the young woman. "It's taken you long enough to come home," she scoffed finally. "Didn't the authorities inform you?"
"Inform me of what, Mrs Logan?" Hermione asked, her voice becoming shaky. "I've been away… travelling."
One could say 'travelling' as the explanation for her absence. She had in a sense been travelling, just not overseas, but here in England, and she did suppose that she was unrecognisable. She hadn't seen this woman since she was fourteen, and she was now a grown woman of almost twenty.
"Wait here," the older woman ordered tersely, and shutting the door she retreated into her house. After a few minutes she came back with a newspaper. "Here," she said, "This will explain everything," and she shut the door once more.
Hermione's eyes widened in horror as she took in the headline, of all the things that she was thinking, this was the absolute worst. She wandered back down the front path in a state of shock. "Local Dentists Richard and Jean Granger Die in Plane Crash in Outback Australia," it said. The date was about two months ago, in fact the day after she had finally contacted them.
Walking back to the hidden place she used as an apparition point Hermione was in a kind of trance, how could this have happened? The three of them had discussed the war and its consequences for them all, and her parents had decided that they would take an extended leave; they had always been planning an adventure at some point anyway, but how could they be dead?
This was the last thing she remembered until she felt magic wash over her and heard a cacophony of sound in her immediate vicinity. Then after moment of total anarchy, the silvered tones of Severus Snape met her ears. "Miss Granger?… Miss Granger, are you quite well?"
Hermione managed to focus her eyes. "Sir?" she muttered, totally confused. "What?... Where am I?" It was at this point that she noticed that the confusing sounds she could hear were the results of a rather advanced Caterwauling Charm.
Severus could see that the young woman was very distressed and apparently completely disorientated, he raised his wand to silence the alarm and said, "Miss Granger, you are at Hogwarts, in fact you appear to have overshot your mark and managed to breech the preliminary wards that have been erected to get here. Would you care to explain why?"
Over the years, the Potions master had found that being calm tended to instil calmness in people, and he watched as Hermione vaguely nodded at him, but remained silent. Her eyes slowly panned down to the newspaper clutched to her chest, and she worked on unfurling her arms. She handed him the paper and sank down onto a boulder at the side of the driveway, with the attitude of a person completely lost.
Straightening the paper with a flourish, Severus glanced back at the young woman sitting so still with tears now trickling over her cheeks. She had been so excited this morning at breakfast, telling Minerva her plans for the day, even including me in her conversations, he remembered.
It still amazed him that this vivacious young woman considered him a worthy friend after everything, and she had told them at breakfast that her parents had agreed to disappear for a year or so, going on their grand adventure, so to speak. They had joined the Royal Flying Doctor Service in Australia as dentists, and were going to travel around in between working.
She'd said that she had only been in contact with them to tell them that the war had been won, but before that she'd feared any letters may have been intercepted before they reached their destination, and it could have put them in danger. At the time, Severus had mentally agreed that she had been wise; this would have been a real possibility given their daughter's position in things. They had replied with a date where they could return, and been due back last week. Today she had been going to visit them.
Severus' eyes came back to the paper in his hands and he instantly understood her distress. He grimaced, and sat clumsily beside her. Over the past two months they had been becoming what he would term, fledgling friends. "I am truly sorry, Miss Granger… Hermione," he murmured, but almost squeaked in surprise when she then fell against him, clutching at his robes and started sobbing.
Severus Snape had never given comfort to someone before, and he was taken aback at first. He tentatively and stiffly patted her back, but soon he got the hang of holding her unresisting body and just held her and let her cry. This witch had taken the first step that had saved his life, and then she'd told Minerva what had happened. It was because of her that he was still here, any longer and he would have bleed to death before help had arrived.
Not only that, but just lately as he recovered, there had been many quiet conversations, first in the hospital wing, and then in various parts of the castle. Stilted at first, but now their talk was fairly easy.
Her friends had left her to go back to the Weasley residence weeks ago. Severus had heard her telling an all but pouting Ronald Weasley that she wanted a little space to reconnect with her parents for a while.
"But, 'Mione," he had whined. "You're not going to see your parents for ages yet."
He had bristled hearing the boy's pet name for her. She had a beautiful, strong name, a name he realised he had just used for the first time. It was a dignified name, and he felt if you were speaking to someone, you should address them correctly. He pulled himself out of that thought, and went back to thinking of her reply.
"Ron, I'll come to The Burrow when I'm able. I haven't seen Mum and Dad since they left for Australia at the end of our sixth year, and I want to finish helping with the library before I go anywhere."
The redhead had simply glared at her and then stalked away without another word.
Severus looked down at the young woman with the honey coloured curls now clinging to the front of his robes. She had quieted somewhat, and he wondered how long it would be before she realised who was holding her and pulled away.
He was surprised at how natural it felt to have her in his arms, but his brain told him that he had better leave that subject alone. They were becoming friends, no more. Friends was proper, he could countenance that.
He thought back to their conversation in the library last night and what it had led to. They had both spent a lot of time in the library, repairing and re-shelving books and cleaning up. It had been just twilight when they'd finally finished the job completely and Hermione had looked out the window closest to her and sighed. "Oh, I love this time of night." She'd turned to him and smiled. "Have you ever just walked at this time of the night and named all the stars as they come into view?"
Severus loved the idea of her suggestion. It sounded like a wonderful thing to do with her company, and in fact something he himself had done alone on occasion, as it appeared she had. He considered his options. At the moment there is not the issue of being teacher and student, although that will come back no doubt, but I really have to admit that I enjoy the witch's company. "Is that what you would like to do this evening?" he had asked, finally.
"Yes, it was one of the little things that kept me sane through this last year. No matter what was happening around me, it was something constant that I could do to ground myself," she'd told him.
By this time they had been walking out of the castle and into the late spring evening. "Well, by all means I would very much enjoy participating in your night time wanderings. I too like this time…" he glanced around, "the cusp of the day and the night," he'd said, and had then taken another shaky step towards cementing their friendship and had revealed something he enjoyed. "The full length window at the front of the defence classroom, when I have been unable to go outside, I've been in the habit of watching the sky from there." He glanced upward and the corner of his mouth turned up slightly, "And I believe that is Venus, in her guise of the evening star, just coming into view."
Hermione had grinned at him and danced around in a little circle as she'd watched the sky waiting for the next star to rise.
Severus had gazed at her with pleasure, her joy of life in her new freedom was lovely, and he found that instead of being bitter and cynical of her enthusiasm, as he would have been before, he wanted to participate with her, the only problem was, he didn't know how to.
Regardless of her house, her friends and her age, they seemed to naturally gravitate towards each other. They were like minded in their ideas and opinions, something that had shocked him to find in one younger than himself, and people might say that he had mellowed, but really, he was just now learning how to reach out to people he considered worthy of getting to know.
Being able to choose to speak to someone was a luxury he had not been allowed for a long time. He was under no illusion that it would be easy, and he realised that most people would never see him as more than the bat of the dungeons, or a dirty Death Eater, but he was certain now that this witch would never be among them.
It was as he was thinking this that the sound of Hermione sniffing brought him back to the present.
The Gryffindor witch raised her head. "I'm sorry, sir. I had no right to inflict myself on you like that. Please pardon me," her rough, all cried out voice said.
He had been expecting this. "Think nothing of it, Miss Granger. Shall I take you to your head of house?" Severus was already starting to stand; occupation shielded the hurt he had no right to feel at her realising what she'd done when she had been vulnerable. He straightened as he watched her head move minutely. "Then come," he encouraged.
It had been almost a week after that before he had seen her to talk to her again. Apparently she had gone to the Weasley residence later that day but had soon returned to Minerva. "Miss Granger," he greeted on entering the library.
"Hello, sir," she returned kindly.
"I hadn't expected to see you again until term started."
"Well, plans change. Harry and Ginny are taking a little holiday, and well…" she hesitated, "I found the Burrow… stressful, so Professor McGonagall said I could study here."
That sentence is rife with information, Severus thought, but he was not going to enquire further. "So you're planning on completing your NEWTS with us this coming year?"
"Oh, most definitely, sir, I've already accepted the offer," Hermione grinned at him briefly, but then captured her lip between her teeth and looked past him.
Her actions bothered him, and he saw though that the smile didn't reach her amber-flecked eyes, and he mourned that. He also wanted to know how she was, and especially offer his further support for her plight, but he was now not in a position to do so. "Well, I best continue to my destination," he said, trying to fulfil his mentor role once more, and he was shocked at how insistent a new hitherto unknown desire to be more intimate with her was.
"Yes, sir," she replied, clearly disappointed, and looking straight back to her work. However, she watched the raven-haired wizard resume his progress into the library stacks from under her lashes. She sighed, she couldn't help remembering the feel of his arms around her, their conversations, how safe she'd felt while he held her, and how reluctant she had been to let him go, but knew that she had to.
Where did it go from here? She had loved each and every second she'd spent with the wizard while she was not a student of Hogwarts. She had once thought him to be so cruel and bitter, and well he had been, but that was obviously not the real man. Why had she not seen through the act?
She wished she had never left for that ill-fated trip to the Burrow, and now she had returned something seemed to be broken. Perhaps he thinks that I'm too young to be friends with him, or he's annoyed that I left, or that I don't… she abruptly changed her focus and went back to her work, swallowing down her hurt.
Deep in the library stacks Severus was thinking as well. She just looked very disappointed that I dismissed her, but I had to, everything has changed again now, come September she'll be my student again, but I can't help feeling that I'm losing something special that had begun to grow. He had committed the feel of her in his arms to memory and revelled in the recollection of comforting her, regardless of the awful circumstances.
He sighed as he pulled the volume he required from its well ordered niche. He would now forever associate this library with memories of Hermione Granger's smile, the scent of her roses and pomegranate shampoo as it had wafted towards his sensitive nose on many the occasions where they had started working first thing in the morning, and of simply her company, her intellect and her love of books.
Then of watching stars with her, and talking to her, the only thing that would have made that memory more perfect was a bottle of crisp white wine and some cheese to savour as they rested back against the boulders by the Black Lake that night. Is there a future now that she will be a student here again? I know Minerva has plans for her once she's finished her NEWT exams, but I'm going to be her teacher again, and therefore, regardless of her age, anything more would be wrong.
Hogwarts was now officially reopened and it made headlines in the Daily Prophet. It had made even more headlines the next day when it was discovered that the new helm of the school was an unusual one. Both Professors McGonagall and Snape were going to be jointly running the school, just for this one year.
Minerva McGonagall was the rightful head of the school, but it wasn't that simple. She could not just stop being the Transfiguration professor even if she had handed some of the responsibilities of Gryffindor, head of house over to the only other Gryffindor on staff, Rubius Hagrid. Hagrid had been unable to take on the whole role though because he did not reside in the castle.
The usual process for a professor moving into a different role at the school was a train a replacement beforehand, especially in the case of Transfiguration, as it was a very specialised field. These things were very set, and usually they were able to be planned. However, the war had impacted on this, just like everything else, and McGonagall now found herself needing to be headmistress without having someone to take her place in the classroom.
That was when Severus suggested that they both run the school this year while they taught and she trained her replacement. He therefore didn't completely relinquish the headmastership to her, but continued with the role, even though he had never wanted it, and had been forced into the position to begin with.
He happily surrendered his place as Slytherin head of house to Aurora Sinistra and breathed a sigh of relief there. He had enough responsibility without that as well, and even though he was looking forward to being able to just teach Potions once more, he knew he could make a different for one of his staunchest allies by doing what they were doing.
Apart from anything, Snape felt that he owed Minerva McGonagall for seeing behind his 'loyal Death Eater' routine to the real him and quietly supporting him. She was an intelligent and very observant woman, Minerva, and she had assisted him in many ways.
The duel in the Great Hall before Severus had fled the day of the battle had been her assisting him in protecting the students, as it was used to take out the Carrows who were standing behind him. It hadn't taken Severus long to work out what she was up to with her raised eyebrow as she stalked towards him challenging him to understand, and he had started deflecting her curses back towards the two behind him.
Then after the scene in the Shrieking Shack, when Minerva had been told by Hermione what had happened. That she had cast a Petrificus Totalus on the wizard to retard the spread of the poison and stop him bleeding to death until medical assistance could be arranged. Minerva had summoned Poppy Pomfrey and both witches had gone to him. Poppy stabilised him and Portkeyed him to a secure location before leaving him with another Mediwitch—her sister—and returning to Hogwarts.
Things would become easier after this year once Minerva had trained her replacement, and the only thing holding her back from offering the apprenticeship to Hermione Granger now was the fact that the young woman needed to complete her schooling.
Although, there was another thing as well, the austere witch was also concerned about Hermione's attachment to Ronald Weasley. She did not want to interfere with something was she was certain would die a natural death fairly soon, especially seeing how long the young woman had lasted at the Burrow before she'd fled again. However, she wanted Hermione to freely make the decision to end it, and not have to choose between Weasley and the professorship, because if there was one thing Minerva was certain of, it was that Ronald Weasley—mummy's boy extraordinaire—would never want his significant other to work.
The headmistress did not blame her would-be apprentice for not ending it outright with Ronald. She was at a very vulnerable point in her life emotionally. Even before she found out about her parents though, Minerva had noticed how uncomfortable Hermione was with Ronald in public, and she had also seen the furtive glances she was casting at Severus.
Minerva also realised that Hermione was currently seeing things through very rose coloured glasses because of her recent bereavements, and also the lack of other objective opinions. Molly certainly wasn't going to look beyond the surface; she was all in favour of Ron and Hermione being together, and Harry Potter and Ginevra Weasley were still away. The Transfiguration teacher knew that Hermione was going to be hurt, but she had to let her make own her mistakes, no matter how much she would wish it otherwise.
Hermione was oblivious to Minerva's greater plans and thoughts concerning her. She had tried to go back to the Burrow, but had only lasted there a little over forty eight hours. Her relationship with Ron had hit an all time low while she was there, and she'd come back to Hogwarts for sanctuary.
There was only one week left now before term started. She'd had no hesitation in accepting her invitation to complete her schooling, although she had to admit that she was hesitant about going back to school—she was just about to turn twenty for Merlin's sake—she should be well and truly finished school and even perhaps the training for her career at this point. However, it was a fact; she had to finish her schooling.
There was another reason she was hesitant as well, she had thought that Professor Snape and her were becoming friends, but no, this seemed not to be the case. She sighed, she was having a lot of trouble not thinking about him, she was constantly embarrassed by Ron and she would give almost anything to be able to mend the break between herself and the professor, but he had withdrawn from her, and she had to finish school so she wasn't going to make it any more unpleasant than it already was.
Before he had left for his holiday, Harry had quickly decided to follow her back to Hogwarts as Ginny was in the current 7th year, and had been named head girl. Ron, however, had been more difficult, he didn't want to be back at school—well to be fair he never really had liked school—but he eventually decided that if everyone else was going he might as well too because he'd be bored once they all left.
"That's no way to make a decision," Hermione scolded, but he just shrugged and pulled her into his lap and started snogging her right in the lounge room in front of everyone. "Ron," she hissed, all but jumping off his lap. He just looked at her, still not understanding her point of view as she quickly found something else to do.
It was after that that Hermione had gone back to Hogwarts, she knew in her heart that she was actually leaving him, but with everything else that was going on, she just couldn't bring herself to say it because it really did leave her with no one.