A/N: thank god it's over.

No, not the story… my week. It was brutal. And now, now ladies and gents, its Saturday night. Or, my version of. I don't really get Saturdays. So Thursday is the closest to, really.

PS: have any of you ever seen "Are You Afraid of the Dark"? It was a show that used to air on YTV here in Canada in the nineties, when I was a kid, and it was all about these kids who'd get together in the middle of the night in this dark, scary forest and tell creepy stories, and those stories would be the episode for that week. Well, in case you have, you'll probably find this nifty… we're having "Are You Afraid of the Dark" night tonight, and it's hosted by Dave, one of our Dons. Now, Dave's a pretty nifty guy, and I've hung out with him a couple times, but I just found out something totally weird and awesome: Dave was a member of the Midnight Society!!! The whole time I was watching AYAOTD as a kid, Dave was on the show, and I never even knew it was him until two days ago! Isn't that AWESOME?!? I LOVE him!

Anyway, back to the story… thanks for the comments and reviews… it's always helpful to hear what people think. A few personal replies:

HermioneRemus4eva: Yeah, I know I wrecked the suspense, but I wasn't feeling like I could be that cruel to you guys again. And about Snape's good side… it's going to be important. Tee hee!

Snakeyes: I intend to keep it up… glad you liked it! And Draco… hm, I have a plan for him, but it's somewhat malleable… what do YOU think should happen to him? )

Mereschino: Crocheted presents are awesome. I'm glad I married you. You're paying off.

Anyway, enjoy it. It's longer than the last one. I'm trying…

-Nymph

PS: Chapter quote and title courtesy of Joni Mitchell, "Both Sides, Now"

Chapter 6: Both sides, now "Now old friends are acting strange

They shake their heads, they say I've changed

Well something's lost, but something's gained

In living every day…"

Remus stepped into Dumbledore's office tentatively, peering around the doorway. The old wizard caught sight of the werewolf and got up from his seat behind the desk.

"Ah, Remus… how are you this evening?"

"Fine, fine…" Remus looked around distractedly. "Yourself?"

"I am… quite well, considering." Dumbledore smiled kindly at his former student. "What was it you wanted?"

Remus frowned. This didn't look very good… "I was just wondering if Hermione had been in to see you yet. She left a couple hours ago to come see you, and I've been looking for her."

Dumbledore looked concerned yet understanding at the same time. "No, I have not seen Miss Granger tonight… perhaps we should try and find her."

Remus was about to reply when there came a loud banging sound from the spiral staircase that lead to Dumbledore's office, followed by some incomprehensible yelling. Remus jumped, Fawkes flapped his wings inside his cage, and whomever was in the staircase yelled some more. Only Dumbledore appeared calm. The old wizard lifted his wand and muttered a spell, unlocking the door to his office.

"You can come in, Severus," he said, and Remus wondered how, exactly, the old man had known who was in the staircase. The door swung open, and Snape entered, followed by…

"Hermione!" Remus ran across the room and took her hands, only just then realizing how worried he'd been. "Is everything alright? We were just wondering where you'd-" Remus stopped short, seeing the deadly look in her eyes. "What is it?" He asked warily. Hermione just glared and stepped towards Dumbledore.

"You told me to come and discuss things when I was feeling less hostile," she began. "Well, I'm not, but I think things need to be discussed anyway, and I think they need to be discussed right now." Dumbledore regarded her evenly, not a trace of the trademark gleam in his eyes. When he didn't reply, Hermione continued. "I was fully intending to resign tonight, seeing as everyone here seems to have lost complete and total faith in anything I have to say. But then… then I found a-" she paused to look at Severus "Slightly skewed bit of trust in the oddest of places."

Remus felt his heart jump to his throat. What was going on? Surely Severus wouldn't have convinced Hermione to do anything risky or stupid… Remus had begun to trust the man after so many years of hating him. But now here he was, and here Hermione was, and both were acting quite strangely. Remus hoped against all hope that this didn't have to do with what he though it did, but there was very little chance of that.

"Severus convinced me not to give up," Hermione said almost laughingly. "Isn't that rich? He convinced me to keep looking… you never know what you might find. Want to know what I found, Albus? No? Remus?" she turned to him, and he couldn't speak, couldn't make himself answer. "Fine… I'm going to show you anyway." She waved her wand, and the door to the office few open again with a loud crash as a heavy wooden coffin soared through it. Hermione slammed the coffin to the ground, looked around the room, and then, with a simple twist of the wrist, the lid to the coffin flew open. It was like a spell had been broken; Dumbledore stood up angrily, and Remus darted forward, grabbing Hermione's wand arm and trying to stop her. But it was already too late. Remus couldn't see what was in the coffin from where he was standing, but Hermione, standing still in his arms, looked up at him knowingly. Remus looked over at Dumbledore.

The old wizard was standing there, the look of anger on his face dissolving to one of shock and disbelief. Slowly, he stepped around his desk and over to where the open coffin sat. He knelt down, reached into the coffin, and stood up, something clenched in his fist. Then, ever so slowly, he opened his hand, and Remus watched, dumbfounded, as mere specks of gray dust floated back towards the coffin.

Dust. Only dust.

Snape, who had previously been standing still and unnoticed by the door, now crossed his arms and strode towards the three of them. "Well, it only makes sense… she's never really been wrong before, has she?"

Dumbledore looked around the room at the other three, his eyes finally coming to rest on Hermione. "Well," the old wizard said, sounding almost completely deflated, "It looks as though I owe you an apology, Hermione." Hermione shook her head.

"Don't bother… I've been proven right now, and that's enough for me." She pulled away from Remus, who didn't even try to stop her, and began to start for the door.

"If there is anything I can do to make amends…"

Hermione stopped and turned to face him again, her face hard. "I suggest that you start by finding yourself a new Arithmancy Professor. I'm through." And with that, she stepped through the door, slamming it behind her. The three wizards were silent for a moment, until the stillness was disturbed by the sound of Snape laughing. It was a completely humorless laugh, as one would have expected.

"Excuse me… I feel I have to go congratulate our Miss Granger on a job well done…"

"Severus!" Snape turned sharply at the sound of Dumbledore's voice.

"Yes, Albus?"

The old wizard couldn't force the look of disbelief from his eyes. "Why didn't you come to me?"

Snape shook his head. "If I had, neither of you would have seen Miss Granger as anything but mentally unstable. She had to prove this to you herself, or she'd feel as though you didn't trust her for the rest of her life. And I know what it's like to not be trusted by people you admire." With that, Severus turned and strode out the door, leaving Remus and Dumbledore to consider their next move alone.

When Remus stepped into their rooms, Hermione was already packed. She sat on top of her large blue suitcase, twining her fingers together and biting her lip like she always did when she was nervous or upset. Remus felt a familiar dull ache in his chest as he took in the scene.

"You're leaving."

Hermione looked up at him, and he could see that she'd been crying. "That was what I said back there, wasn't it?'

"You said you weren't going to teach anymore, you never mentioned anything about leaving."

"What did you expect, Remus?" Hermione looked as if she was about to go over the edge any minute. "That everything would be okay? That I'd forget how you and Dumbledore and everyone else treated me? That I'd just be fine with a simple apology?" Hermione shook her head. "No, Remus… that's not the way it works."

Remus didn't know what to say to this. He tried his best to come up with some argument, any argument, that would help him, but he couldn't think of anything. He HAD been distrustful… he'd barely even listened to her ideas because they were so ludicrous. But now they turned out to be right. He suddenly felt very ashamed of himself. "I can't imagine what you must feel like right now," He began, not able to look her in the eye. "Everyone turned against you, even me, and that must be the worst feeling in the world. I know it hurts to feel betrayed, and to think that I caused you that feeling is…" Remus couldn't even think of an appropriate description for how low he felt. "…well, it's horrible. Unthinkable. I would never want to cause you that kind of pain. I'm really very sorry. Sorrier than you can imagine."

Hermione looked at him silently. It was one of the best apologies she'd ever heard, and she knew that he meant every word of it, but she was still upset and hurt. Slowly, she got up from on top of the suitcase and walked towards him. "Give me a reason why I should ease your pain when you hurt me so badly." Remus shook his head, and Hermione knew that he couldn't think of a reason because there wasn't one. "Well then. There you go." She knew she was being needlessly harsh, but she was angry enough not to care. She grabbed her suitcase and started towards the door.

"Where will you go?" these words stopped Hermione in her tracks. She didn't know exactly where she was going, only that she need to get away. Maybe she'd talk to Severus… he knew where Harry and Ron were, after all… surely he could give her some ideas.

"I'm not sure. I'll let you know."

Remus felt his heart pounding in his throat. Even after all of this, he still loved, still needed her in exactly the same way as before and maybe even more than that. "Hermione…" He began. She turned to look at him, and he thought that for a moment he could see sadness behind the anger. "I love you," He said, feeling his throat close up. Hermione's eyes softened a bit.

"I love you too, Remus… but I don't know if I can forgive you." Remus closed his eyes and turned away, not wanting to watch as she left him.

"Are you mad?" Hermione flinched at the tone of Severus Snape's voice. She'd heard that one before, although usually it was directed at Neville, back when she was a student. It took her a moment to recall that she was no longer a student, and that she could yell right back if she wanted to. Instead, she opted for glaring.

"I suppose you have a better idea?"

"Any idea is a better idea than that!" Snape started pacing. "You can't just go marching into Voldemort's lair. There are death eaters guarding every entrance, and unless they know who you are, it's useless to even try."

Hermione shook her head in frustration. "There has to be a way for me to get in."

Severus sighed, defeated. "You really have lost your mind, haven't you?" Hermione glared in answer. "All right… since you seem so determined to kill yourself, there may be a way to get you in. But I strongly suggest that you bring back up… Of course I'm sure Lupin was already a part of this plan…" Severus narrowed his eyes at the look that crossed Hermione's face at the sound of Remus' name. It was then that he noticed the suitcase. "Ahh… I see now…"

Hermione shook her head. "I sincerely doubt that you do."

"Hermione…" Severus sighed, hating what he was about to do. "Listen carefully, because I'm only going to tell you this once. Life is short. Too short to hold every little idiotic thing a person does against them. If we all left the ones we love because they mess up every now and then, no one would ever be together." Severus paused, trying to keep his usual air about him. "The best advice I can give you is to love the people you love despite all of the stupid things they've done. Because in the end, those things don't make you love them any less."

When Hermione looked at her former professor after he'd finished, it was with new eyes. After he was done speaking, his face went back to its usual hard mask, but Hermione had seen the look in his eyes, and she knew what it meant. "You really do love him, don't you?" She asked quietly. Snape's eyes shot up to hers, panicked for a moment before turning hard and unfeeling.

"I'm sure I don't know what you're talking about." Hermione grinned.

"For what it's worth, Severus… he loves you too." Snape narrowed his eyes at her.

"Yes. Well. We'd better come up with a plan. We may be running out of time. Let's focus on the task at hand."

Harry looked numbly at his reflection. He was covered in black velvet robes from his neck to the ground. His usually unruly hair lay flat against his head, and his thin, emaciated face only served to make his green eyes look larger and more vibrant. But anyone who looked closely could see that Harry Potter was devoid of almost all emotions. Almost.

Voldemort was almost kind to him, in his own way. Harry supposed that Tom Riddle had once been quite capable of love, kindness and compassion. But Tom Riddle had disappeared, even though Voldemort now looked like an older version of his childhood self. Around Harry, Voldemort was almost a human again. He tried so hard to win Harry's loyalty and affection that it was almost pathetic. Maybe some wizards could even have forgotten everything Voldemort had done under these conditions, but not Harry. He kept his anger and hate towards the dark Lord in the back of his mind, polishing it every minute with his thoughts until it glowed inside of him. He let Voldemort do what he wanted with him, knowing that with every touch Voldemort was losing a bit of his power over him.

But for now, Harry was still trapped, still a slave inside a comfortable prison.

Harry looked up as he heard a key in the lock, and he watched the door swing open, noting with little surprise who his visitor was. He quickly looked back to the mirror as Voldemort walked up behind him. Harry force himself not to shiver at the feeling of a hand brushing the velvet robes against his back.

"Beautiful, aren't they?" Voldemort said quietly. "I had them sent here just for you." Harry remained motionless as Voldemort leaned in closer and brought his lips to the skin below his ear. "I can give you anything you want," Voldemort whispered, and this time Harry couldn't help but shudder. "What's wrong?"

"I'm cold," Harry managed to reply. And he was. So cold, inside and out.

Next Chapter:

Severus sighed. "As much as it pains me to say this, I want your help." Snape glared at Remus' surprised look. "I'm only saying this because your girlfriend is too stubborn to come ask you herself. If it were up to me, I'd let her go in by herself, but I've learned, over time, that's it's NEVER really up to me."

Yours,

-N