Authors Note: So, um, remember me? Don't suppose y'all expected to be hearing from me again, but life's unexpected that way, I guess. Life, for me, sucked for a long time. There was a lot of sickness and doctors, medical leave from college and time spent in hospitals, getting better and fighting to finish school, then going to grad school in another country (and let me tell you, spending your days writing academic papers is a damn strong deterrent from writing anything else when you have free time!), and then, finally, coming back. And through it all, the sucky, the scary, the good parts, I've been hearing from you.
This chapter here, this is for you guys--all you nice people that left me reviews, that sent me messages and emails telling me how you liked my fic and missed it and hoped my health wasn't too bad and I might write more soon. It's been years, and I still hear from some of you; if that's not a reason to write some more, then I don't know what is!
But this is the thing. The reason I stopped writing this (other than RL and all that entails) is that I've developed a bit of a dislike for the pairing. I can't explain it, guys--I just stopped shipping HG/SS (weirdly, I think it was caused by playing Snape in an RPG--if you're really curious, I can explain), and it's kinda taken the fun out of writing this. And while I love you all and am tres grateful for your support, I can't write something that's not fun for me. It wouldn't be fun for you either, honest.
So, here's what I've got left. If someday the notion of HG/SS stops making me cringe, maybe I'll pick this up again. For now, I'm giving you all I've got. Hope you enjoy! Piton
The stunned tableau was broken when Hermione burst into hysterical laughter, collapsing against Remus as she struggled to gain control over her giggles. "That Veritaserum must be older than you, Professor, because I think it's gone under," she choked out, tears sliding down her cheeks. "Draco… in love with me… Let me guess, it was my heritage—no, no! It was my ability to kick his sorry arse in every subject, or maybe it was my overly large front teeth. No! I've got it, it was the joy of getting beaten up by a girl in our third year!" Hermione trailed off, although her laughter was closer to sobs by that point.
The men, save Draco, exchanged alarmed glances. They had all seen Hermione laugh and cry before, but never quite like this. Remus ran a hand down her back, circling it in small, soothing motions. Glancing at the other men, he murmured softly, "Kitten, why don't you and I go into the kitchen and have some tea, all right?" He slowly helped the woman to her feet and gently guided her weeping form into the kitchen.
Severus had reached the end of his rapidly fraying rope. His wife was in the kitchen hanging all over a werewolf and now he had someone else to fight for her affections? With deceptive calm, he called to Harry, never turning his gaze from the blond before him. "Potter?"
Harry took a tentative step forward. "Yes, Professor?"
"You aren't secretly in love with her too, are you?"
Harry blinked. "I don't believe so, sir."
"Excellent." Severus's smile was so unhinged even Draco, floating placidly in his potion-induced haze, was alarmed. "I'd hate to have to kill her godson."
"Excuse me?" Harry gasped. "Pro—"
His question was cut short by the sound of the Potions master's fist hitting his classmate's jaw. "Oh, bugger," Harry breathed, rushing to his side. Dodging a second swing, he grabbed Snape's arm, attempting to haul the taller man away from his prey. "Come on, Snape," he growled, struggling to keep his grip, "You really don't want Hermione to see this—"
As Remus and Hermione flew back into the room, Harry retreated into the corner. "Oh, here we go," he muttered, running a hand through his hair.
Hermione could not recall the last time she'd been so angry. With the exception of Remus and Harry, she felt like she could cheerfully hex the entire world's population, starting with her husband.
She settled for a good, old-fashioned slap.
"What in blazes is wrong with you?" she bellowed, staring up into his shocked eyes. "You decide to hit him now? You gave him the benefit of the doubt when all you knew was that he had tried to rape me… even dragging him here, making me see him… and now that he claims to have feelings of a more positive nature toward me, now you hit him?" Her eyes filled with tears that she stubbornly refused to let fall. "Are you still protecting your Slytherins, Professor? Don't want them to associate themselves with the likes of me, do you?" The memory of her Severus had never seemed more distant.
"Hermione," he started weakly, "that's not—"
"Save it," she snapped, betrayal emanating from every pore. How could she have been so wrong about this man? "We all know there's only one use for Mudbloods according to a Death Eater, isn't there, Severus?"
The moment the words left her mouth she knew she had gone too far. But Hermione had never learned how to gracefully back down from an argument.
So she ran.
As the door slammed closed behind her, Remus made to follow, only to find his way blocked by Harry. "Oh no," he said grimly. "I think I'll leave the members of the Hermione Appreciation Club to have a little chat." He gave Remus a mildly sympathetic look. "I know you may not have applied for membership, but Snape seems to have enrolled you by proxy."
He moved back to Severus. "You know she didn't mean it," he murmured, his voice intent. "She wants you, not them, but you have to show her you still want her, too, and this is a bloody stupid way to do that." Without waiting for a response, he left.
Harry found her curled up in a corner of the Owlery, surrounded by a dozen birds begging for her attention. With careful steps, he found a path through the feathers and sank down beside her. They didn't speak for several minutes, the only sound soft coos and rustling wings. Finally, Hermione spoke, her gaze focused intently on the small gray owl in her lap. "I really crossed a line down there, didn't I?"
Harry shrugged, dislodging Hedwig from his shoulder. "You were angry, and frustrated, and awfully confused, I reckon." He glanced at her. "You know, I've never seen Snape as shaken as he was during your disappearance. He and Professor Lupin were acting like mates!"
She closed her eyes. "How could I have failed to prepare myself for this?" She flew to her feet, scattering the owls, her hands opening and closing as if aching for something to throw. "Sod all, Harry, I knew something like this might happen! I entered this relationship knowing full well the complications, and God knows I was familiar with the Professor Snape of our day. How was I not prepared?" She fell to her knees, but he reached her in time to ease her to the cold stone floor. She leaned her head on his shoulder as he wrapped an arm around her. "It must be so much harder for him," she muttered. "To him, it's been seventeen years, and he had to see me grow up, and say nothing…" With a quick twist of her neck, she buried her face in his chest. "I just see him and get so angry, Harry. Angry at him, for making the choices I knew he would, angry at Albus for not stopping him, angry at the world for creating those lines on his face and the bitterness in his voice, but most of all, I'm angry at myself, because it was really all my fault, wasn't it? And I'm terrified that he knows that, and he has to know that after thinking on it all those years, and now he'll toss me away like I deserve." She sighed, the heat of her breath warming him through his threadbare jumper.
Harry rested his chin on her head. "Toss you away? Everything he has done since your return has been an attempt to bring you closer to him, Herms, can't you see that? He's been friendly to Lupin, he cancelled his classes today… hell, he attacked a student for you! Yes, he's a bloody fool to attack Draco only after his little confession, but he's so terrified you don't love him he's even battier than usual." He stroked her hair. "I wish this was easier, luv, but you like a challenge, don't you?
Hermione tried to laugh, managing a watery hiccup. "I like intellectual challenges," she corrected. "Romance is hard enough without any extra complications." Exhaling shakily, she whispered, "I'm not sure who he is anymore."
"He's not sure who you are anymore," Harry pointed out. "The only question here is, are you willing to find out? You can't go back to the way it was before, but maybe it can be better." He really did not want to play marriage counselor to the Snapes, so he changed the subject to the one statement he was unable to chase from his mind.
"Hermione? Snape said the weirdest thing right before clocking Malfoy. Why would he call me your godson?"
As the door shut behind Harry, the three remaining men stared at each other in silence for a single, blissful moment before all hell broke loose. Remus lunged at Severus, growling unintelligibly, while Severus dodged, shouting, "What in Merlin's name is wrong with you, you flea-bitten dog?" Deciding he didn't care if Remus could wipe the floor with him, Severus tackled him, and they spent a moment grappling on the floor before they found themselves flying off each other.
The veritaserum had worn off.
Draco smirked slightly, twirling his wand extravagantly in his hand. He had the other men's wands, as well, though neither could recall when he might have taken them. "Professor Snape, now I understand why you always tell us not to get blinded by our emotions," he taunted, waving both teachers into seats. "I've faced a bigger challenge disarming Crabbe and Goyle."
Severus rolled his eyes. "Accio wand." His wand slipped easily from Draco's surprised grasp and smacked into his hand. "Pity you did not listen when I warned against overconfidence." He felt an extra surge of smugness at the knowledge that Draco would not fall for the same trick twice, and Remus was still unarmed.
Remus sighed noisily. "Severus, I have no romantic interest in Hermione. She is my sister. I don't know about you, but where I come from we reserve romance for people outside the immediate family."
Severus rolled his eyes. "Spare me the sentimentality, Lupin. Do you not remember basic biology? She's your friend, not your sister."
The look on Remus's face was growing more and more dangerous. "Blood does not always make someone family, Severus, as you well know. I am her family, and she is mine. When I had nothing, I had her, and when she knew no one, she had me." His voice softened the tiniest bit. "There's room in her heart for us both."
"Well, isn't that touching." Both men jumped; they had forgotten Draco was still in the room.
Severus growled so realistically Remus gave him an odd look. "Do not push me, Draco. We haven't even begun to discuss your little revelation, and I assure you, you do not want me angry for that."
Despite his best effort at looking unaffected by his professor's words, Draco couldn't hold back a hard swallow. Fighting an enraged Severus Snape sounded less than fun. He held out his hands in a placating gesture and wished Snape hadn't managed to get his wand back. "You don't understand, sir. You didn't ask the right questions."
Remus jumped in before Severus could let out the devastating retort he had been formulating. "We all heard you say your father was punishing you for your…feelings for Hermione," he carefully pointed out. "I don't see where there's room for misinterpretation in that."
"Don't you?" Draco asked, a supercilious lilt to his voice that was the oral equivalent of rolling his eyes. "Were you two not listening or something?" Seeing the rapidly darkening expression on Snape's face, he hurried on. "I said I fell in love with her. I didn't say I love her now."
Remus nodded thoughtfully at this new piece of information, while Severus stared at Draco, torn between suspicion and relief. Finally, the silence became too much and Draco, his confidence soaring with every second Severus refrained from hexing him, sighed impatiently. "So? Don't you want to hear the whole story?" How could they not? his tone said. The story was about him.
Hermione gulped, her previous upset replaced by panic at Harry's question. "Er," she said eloquently. "I mean… Well. I was the same age as your parents, you know, and your mum and I were roommates at Hogwarts. We got along awfully well; she was my matron of honor."
Harry shook his head at this mind-bending detail. After Hermione disappeared, he had been too preoccupied with worries for her safety and, later, bewilderment over her love life, and once she had returned there had been her health to think about, and Ron's reaction, and hunting Draco… The ramifications for him finally hit, and for the first time he really thought about the fact that Hermione hadn't just been in the past with Snape and Lupin, but his parents, too. She had known them and befriended them, had his mum in her wedding—his mind slid past this fact, refusing to be distracted by the bizarre fact that Hermione was a married woman—Hermione had years with his parents. Harry closed his eyes and rubbed his forehead, pushing away a hot wave of jealousy.
"They were your friends," he summed up. "My parents." His eyes shot open, thoughts of his parents temporarily forgotten as the realization thundered upon him. He stared at Hermione as though he had never seen her before. "Holy hell, you are my godmother."