Letters and Plots

Disclaimers: Do we need disclaimers? (looks incredulous, then grumbles) Okay, okay. Every character belongs to J.K. Rowling.

Chapter 1: In which Severus Snape receives yet another letter from Hermione Granger

[Dear Professor Snape,

Congratulations on your brilliant presentation at the Potions Masters' Convention that took place five nights ago. Regrettably, I could not attend it, but the Headmaster and Professor McGonagall were kind enough to send me a detailed account of the evening.

Apparently, you have not lost that acerbic wit of yours, to put it very very very mildly. Happily, now that I have graduated from Hogwarts and hence have no fear of your punishing me, I can tell you plainly that I was howling with laughter together with Crookshanks over the more interesting and colourful incidents. You will probably glare and sneer as you are wont to do, but you can be amusing when a person is not at the end of your attacks.

The reason why I am especially busy of late is due to a breakthrough Professor Balabus has made, regarding the Imperio Curse. Professor Balabus is especially excited about the possibility that a countercurse can be developed. Hopefully, things will go well.

Sincerely,

Hermione Granger

P.S. Just so you know, the speech you gave in the convention has been contributed to the Witchcraft and Wizardry Magazine. No doubt it will be published. I shall look forward to it.]

Severus Snape moaned slightly when he read the postscript. It was a double catastrophe. A speech he had not prepared to be read by every student in the school, in a magazine set by, of all the nightmarish editors, the Fred and George clownish twins. One would expect them to be sober after being active participants in the War. And he did not have to think who the culprit was who gave his speech away.

Bloody Albus Dumbledore, he fumed. Later on, his wry humour asserted itself again. He smiled resignedly to himself. He always had a soft spot for the old wizard, though he would never admit in so many words. Besides, he and his mentor had an understanding that stood against the tests defiantly for years.

Not that he cared much how his students and other readers were going to react to what he had previously said. There would simply be a 'controversial' debate about the finer points in his argument before everyone moved on. Truth be told, he was concentrating on this unimportant piece of news in order to turn his musings away from the Impertinent Chit that was Hermione Granger.

How else could one explain the fact that after graduating for two years, she was still constantly writing to him? Oh, she did write regularly to Minerva, Albus and the rest, but it was unnecessary for her to write to him. It was not as though their relationship took leaps and bounds in bringing them closer together in her last years here. A treacherous whisper crept into his mind. No, not in the progression of teacher-student relationship, but in another direction. . . Severus slammed the door shut, locked it and threw away the key into the darkest corners in his head.

Did she imagine that he would act any different toward her after she left? Did she actually hope that he would regard her letters as significant in his daily life? That he would be touched and the greasy git attitude would simply melt away? That they could embark onto amicable terms? For even though she always addressed him as professor, the tone of her letters suggested otherwise. She genuinely wanted him as a friend.

He sighed, and pinched the bridge of his nose hard. So many complications, all thanks to her. Did she expect gratitude?

'She'll have to wait for me to dress up as Gilderoy Lockhart before that happens,' he said out loud to the wall opposite him. He snorted at the disturbing imagery floating in his mind.

'Really? I'm disappointed.'

Severus spurned round and lashed out at Albus, 'Do I have so little respect these days that one does not have to knock before he enters my office?'

'At least it is not your private chambers that I choose to barge into.' There was an unmistakable twinkle in Albus' eye.

Severus swept haughtily to his seat and sat down. Waving a chair across his table, he indicated for the Headmaster to join him.

'Thank you Severus. Is there a lemon meringue to add to the hospitality?'

'There's tea, if you trust a Potions Master to brew it.'

'By all means! No one makes tea like a Potions Master.'

Severus shrugged. Waving the kettle to the fireplace using his wand, he allowed the water to boil before lifting the kettle towards the table. He was loathe to show it, but there was something soothing in doing something as mundane as making tea.

'Ah,' said Albus in satisfaction. 'This tea is of the highest grade Severus. I must remember to visit you more often.'

'You come often enough Albus.'

'You may feel that way for I am your only guest.' Severus noted the slight rebuke in Albus' voice.

Severus smiled grimly, 'It may be because it takes sheer blind bravado to come into my rooms without my explicit permission.'

'What are the consequences?' Albus asked lightly as he sipped his tea.

Severus stared intently at the row of bottles lining the shelf near him, containing preserved. . . best to just call them things.

'Severus. . .'

Severus smirked, 'Now, now, Albus. There's no harm in frightening the students occasionally.'

'I'm glad you maintain such a healthy interest in the students' well being,' countered Albus dryly.

'Naturally. What is it that you wish to see me for?'

Albus stirred the spoon in his cup slowly. 'Messrs. Fred and George Weasley have owled me. . .'

Severus shook his head, 'You must think yourself very clever for sending that behind my back.'

'I thought it would be a pleasant surprise. It'll be the feature for next week,' Albus finished his tea and poured himself another cup, 'I suppose it was Miss Granger who informed you about it in her letter.' He cast an overtly curious eye at the cream paper Severus had placed on the table.

Severus followed the direction of Albus' sight. He looked at Albus, surprised. 'How did you know?' He might have piled heaps of disapproval upon Gryffindors, but he knew Hermione to be discreet. Surely she did not tell everyone in the world that she was writing to the batty bastard in Hogwarts?

The gears in his head whirled to a halt. Hermione? When the hell did he start calling that girl Hermione?

'Oh, a useful combination of logic and intuition,' Albus replied ambiguously.

Severus valiantly fought against scowling.

Albus smiled. He stood up. 'Thank you for the tea Severus. Shall we see you in the Hall for dinner?'

'Not tonight Professor. There are several things I have to take care of.' Severus made his excuses on the spot. He wanted to prevent Minerva from expounding him with further news of that Gryffindor.

'If you say so. Don't overwork yourself, and sleep early. You spent quite a lot of effort for that convention.'

'The next thing you'll be telling me is to drink a glass of milk,' Severus said morosely, 'You treat me like an inept child sometimes.'

'At age one hundred and fifty-six, forty seems young. And you are very immature in some ways, laddie.'

'I!' Severus protested, 'Immature!'

But Albus had already slipped away to avoid Severus' wrath.

'What in Merlin's name did you mean by immaturity Albus?' Severus turned his attention at the girl's letter. He was not stupid. Albus had never called him immature, even when it came to his grudge with Black. He suspected Albus was referring to his response, or more appropriately, lack of response, regarding her letters. Did everyone believe it was a matter of etiquette, that he should return her letters?

'Damn, damn, and damn again!' He snatched the letter and intended to rip it into tiny, tiny pieces.

His hands refused to listen to him. Instead, they soothed the creases in the paper and opened the table drawer. They took out a wooden box and placed the latest letter on top of the stack that had grown in thickness since he used the box to contain her letters. He repeated to himself over and over that there was no specific reason why he kept them. It was merely a whim.

He called her Miss Granger in public, but he always thought of her as she, her, the girl, or the infuriating know-it-all. He pondered over the fluke that occurred only several minutes ago.

He gave up. No revelation came. His head was buzzing and he came to a conclusion. There were indeed times when one should heed the advice of one's seniors.

He decided to turn into bed at once.

~***~

Author's Note: Balabus is derived from the latin word balbus for stammering, stuttering, fumbling.