Disclaimer: I do not own anything involving Harry Potter except for the hundreds of posters and memorabilia I have stored in small compartments around my house.
Hermione slammed the book shut, her usual respect for the old tomes out the window. Her frustration was mounting by the minute and there were no signs of it getting better any time soon. She let out a deep sigh before taking the rather large book back over to the shelf and putting it back in its correct place. She turned around fast at the noise behind her, her wand out in a flash and pointed at the intruder's chest. She let out an audible sound of relief when she saw it was only Ron, holding his hands up by his head.
"Geez, it's only me Hermione," he said, lowering his arms as she lowered her wand.
"Sorry Ron. Just been on edge lately."
"Well that's understandable. We all are," he supplied as he plopped down in the chair Hermione had been occupying only moments ago.
"Has Harry had any luck?" she asked, knowing what his answer would be as she saw the crestfallen look wash over his face.
"Nope, not even a clue. You'd think he would have found something by now. He's been at it for weeks! If it wasn't for mum practically knocking down his door at mealtimes, he would have wasted away already."
Hermione sat down in the chair beside Ron, her head resting on the table and her hand reaching for his on his lap. She held onto it as if her life depended on it.
"Hermione," he started. "I wanted to talk to you. You see-"
"Ronald! Hermione!" came Mrs. Weasley's call from the fireplace. "Supper's ready!"
Hermione gave Ron's hand a brief squeeze before standing up and grabbing the next book off the shelf to take with her. Ron gave her a weak smile before they both apparated from the library and into Ron's bedroom at the Burrow. Hermione set the book on the bed before walking into the hallway after Ron and down the stairs to the kitchen.
"Find anything?" came Mr. Weasley's hopeful question.
Hermione opened her mouth to answer when she realized the question wasn't directed to her. She saw a very disgruntled Harry take his seat next to Ron and take off his glasses to wipe his eyes thoroughly.
"Nothing," he said after a moment. "Not a bloody thing."
"Harry," Hermione started. "You can't expect to find the answer just inside the Penseive. We don't even know what we're looking for."
"I do," he said flatly. "Anything related to the location of a possible Horcrux. Anything related to the bloody bastard that killed my parents and my mentor."
"But we don't-"
"I DO!" Harry shouted. He laid his head down on the table, burying his face in his arms.
"How about you Hermione?" Arthur asked expectantly, trying to change the subject a little.
"Nothing in the last 4 volumes. I brought back another volume and I think I'll start working on it tonight. R.A.B. has to be in there somewhere and-"
Hermione was cut off by Harry's laughter. Everyone looked over at him as he raised his head. "Hermione," he said as his laughter dwindled to chuckles. "The answer isn't always in a book. There are some things that will NEVER be in a book."
"And there are some memories that Dumbledore DIDN'T put in that Penseive, but that doesn't stop you," she bit back, offended at his laughter.
"Don't you DARE tell me it's the same thing. Don't you-"
"I DARE! What's so different? Dumbledore obviously didn't know about R.A.B., OR where the other horcruxes were located, or what most of them were."
"At least he knew something! And we don't know if he knew about R.A.B. or not. I have to keep looking until I find something."
"And while you're looking for something that may not exist, people out there are suffering. We need to concentrate on something more substantial than a selection of memories in a Penseive."
"Like your books that have anything to offer?" Harry spat back at her, the exhaustion clearly written on his face as well as hers.
"I think that's enough you two," Arthur said with a sad look on his face as Molly brought in their dinner.
As Molly set the food on the table, Hermione stood up, her chair scraping the floor loudly in the silence that had fallen over the room. "I'm not hungry," she mumbled before brushing past Molly and up to Ron's bedroom to gather the book she had brought with her.
"Well that went brilliantly," Ron mumbled before reaching across the table to serve himself.
"Hermione," said Professor McGonagall. Well, I guess you could say Headmistress McGonagall now. "Hermione," she repeated, waking the girl that had fallen asleep on top of her book in the study.
"Professor?" she asked wearily, wiping the fuzziness out of her eyes.
"I think it's time you head to bed. You would have been mighty sore tomorrow if you had stayed like that all night."
"Oh!" Hermione exclaimed as she realized where she had fallen asleep. "What time is it?"
"Almost 3 in the morning,"McGonagall sighed as she slowly sat down in a chair across the room.
"Are you just getting here?" Hermione inquired.
"Yes, it's been a long night at the Ministry. And there is a meeting of the Order tomorrow evening. One that will probably be more difficult than I care to imagine at this late hour."
"If it's about Dumbledore's Penseive, watch out for Harry. I got yelled at for suggesting it might not hold all the answers."
McGonagall sighed. "It's going to be difficult tearing him away from that after we finally defeat You-Know-Who. He's dangerously attached to it, hoping that it will bring Albus back," she said, a hiccup in her throat as she mentioned the former Headmaster's name. It was hard to beleive he had already been gone for a year. The wound was still fresh for the entire wizarding world. The only good thing that had happened the past year was Hogwarts had been allowed to stay open and the trio was able to graduate without incident. The entire wizarding world was shocked that no other Dark Marks had been seen since the night one was prominently displayed over the Astronomy Tower of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. It seemed Lord Voldemort was planning something that took all his resources. And that did not bode well for the rest of the world, muggle and wizarding alike.
"I only hope he does find something useful in it before it's too late," Hermione said quietly.
"Well," McGonagall said in a more professional tone. "I think it's time for you to be off to bed. And try not to wake anyone, they need all the rest they can get. I think tomorrow night will be a long night indeed."
McGonagall eyed everyone sitting in the room for a minute as they settled in for a long evening. Molly had been kind enough to pass out coffee to everyone and leave a warming coffee pot on the table. Minerva was tired, more tired than she had been in years, but her new responsibilities wouldn't let her rest for more than absolutely necessary. She sighed deeply and cleared her throat, gaining the attention of everyone in the room.
"As I have warned most of you, this evening will be a trying one. One which, I'm sure, a few of you won't want to sit through or listen to," she said, her eyes settling on Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Ron looked away from the towering woman, hoping to escape her notice. "It has come to my attention that we are flying blind here. We have neither an inside spy with He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named or anyone who could inform us of You-Know-Who's intentions or where his other horcruxes are. So, the ONLY thing we can possibly do is hope for the best with what we have."
There were murmurs around the room, speculating at what she was getting at. Minerva cleared her throat again. "OR," she said loudly. "We could have a man spy on You-Know-Who again."
This time the speculating was loud and overpowering.
"None of us would ever be able to get close to him. He knows all of us!" Arthur protested.
"Right," Tonks supplied. "And Remus is taking every risk he can with the werewolves and that isn't getting us much of anything."
"There is one person that isn't here that can very readily do that job for us. They are waiting for me inside the sitting room, anxious to help. They just need some understanding." Minerva sighed. Here comes the hard part. "As much as you all think this person is wholely evil, and will never be on our side," McGonagall said as her eyes washed over Harry. "They are on our side. Their past acts may have been evil and will not endear him to us at all, BUT there was a reason for them. A reason that I would more like this person to explain than me."
McGonagall walked out of the room, leaving it to the whispers of the occupants. Hermione looked over and saw Harry's fists clenching and unclenching.
"Harry?" she whispered, getting his attention. "Are you all right?"
"It's Snape," Harry hissed back. "She brought him back into this house after what he did," he insisted.
"Don't be silly Harry, Professor McGonagall would never do something like that!" Hermione reasoned. She looked desperately at Ron for a little support when the gasps from the rest of the room made her eyes dart forward to the large body hunching in the doorway.
"I do beleive Severus would like to resume his duties, IF-" she shouted, cutting off their yelling so they settled into death glares. "You will all just LISTEN!"
All eyes in the room turned to the lanky figure of the man they hated more than Lord Voldemort at the moment and waited for something to spill out of his lips that would explain why he murdered the only man they beleived could protect them. Hermione glanced over and saw that Harry was holding on by a thread. One wrong word and she was afraid Harry would be guilty of murder.
"I realize," he started in a tired voice, "that to some of you, what I did was unexcusable. And I have to admit, it was. But do not blame me entirely for something I was forced to do."
"You weren't under the Imperius, Snape. You knew what you were doing," Harry spat at him.
"I never said I was," the dark man answered flatly. "'I was under the Unbreakable Vow to either assist young Draco Malfoy with his mission to kill Albus Dumbledore, or to do it for him if he were to fail."
This admission caused the room to break out in a frenzy. "Unbreakable Vow's are taken willingly, not forcefully," said Remus's voice above the others.
"You are quite right. I did do it willingly. But I had to prove my loyalties to the Dark Lord or I would not be able to assist you now. Albus knew this. He-"
"YOU LIAR!" Harry yelled as he stood up out of his seat. "He begged you not to do it! He was trying to tell you not to!"
"NO! He was telling me TO DO IT!" Snape sneered. "We both knew it had to be done. We had many...loud discussions about it before. He did what he thought he had to do to protect a young man from dying and an old fool from being useless in his cause."
"To protect Malfoy?" asked Ron with venom in his voice. "He wasn't worth protecting."
"That may be your opinion, Mr. Weasley," Snape answered. "But if you were close enough to him, he did not want to do it. That was not the life he chose for himself, but rather one his father chose for him. He didn't want to kill Albus any more than you did."
"He's right," Harry said, surprising everyone in the room. "I saw him."
At this Snape paled. "You were there?"
"I was. Dumbledore had me hidden under my invisiblity cloak and I was frozen against the wall when Draco barged through the door. Dumbledore was arguing with him. Draco sounded...afraid, scared. But even though he threatened so many times to kill him, he lowered his wand slowly after every word. His wand was down, he wasn't going to do it." Harry looked up at Snape, tears of hatred in his eyes. "Until you came up and did it for him!"
Hermione stared at the ceiling, the tears falling freely from her eyes, but she did not make a sound. She didn't want to wake Ginny who was sleeping on the bed beside her. At least McGonagall hadn't lied when she said it was going to be a long night. They hadn't even bothered to adjourn officially until well after 3, and no one even left after that. The shouting match that had occured between Snape and Harry was something no one dared interrupt. After it had gotten quite out of control, Hermione had done the one thing she could think of. She cast a silencing charm on the entire room, causing a lot of glares to come her way, particularly from Harry and Snape.
"I think there has been enough unproductive yelling here. This isn't helping anyone, and neither is being unagreeable. Whether you two like it or not, we NEED Snape. I'm not saying I trust him farther than I could throw him," she added quickly when Ron and Harry both looked at her like she was the one that had murdered Dumbledore. "All I'm saying is he's all we have and there is no use wasting time like this. Now I'm going to release the Silencing Charm, but do NOT start arguing again or I might have to do it again, and forget the counter spell!"
With a flick of the wrist and the spell rolling off her tongue, Harry and Ron had both started yelling at her while Snape took his chance to glide back into a dark corner and glower at the trio.
"How could you do that Hermione?" Ron started. "You know he did it because he wanted to!"
"Oh please Ron, can't you listen to reason when it's staring you in the face?"
"I. Can't. Beleive. You. Did. That. To. Me," Harry said, his temper barely under control, his right hand clutching his wand dangerously tight.
"I did it to stop this nonsense and try to get this settled in a more civilized way. We can't afford to waste the time arguing-"
"How dare you!" Harry shouted at her, silencing everyone else in the room at the anger and hidden threat in his tone. "Next time I want you to intervene in MY business, I'll ask you for a BOOK!"
Hermione stared at her best friend, shocked into silence. She looked over at Ron who was avoiding her eyes and standing beside Harry for support. "Am I really that useless to you?" she asked quietly.
"You do nothing but read books all day long. You haven't provided anything we need," Harry said venomously.
"And you staring into the Penseive for the last 23 days has? I don't remember you telling us some vital piece of information you have found in there!" Hermione said back forcefully, trying not to cry in front of the people around them.
"It's more useful to me than your books are to you."
"It's not going to bring him back," Hermione said with a stony glare at Harry.
At this Harry actually raised his Wand at Hermione. If McGonagall hadn't immediately 'accio'd' his wand away, Snape might not have been the only one in the room that was a murderer.
Hermione glanced around the hallway before slipping out of Ginny's room and into the Study. She was surprised to see Snape and McGonagall in there, talking in hushed voices in the corner. They both looked up when she walked in. It was only 5am and she was supposed to still be in bed.
"I-I'm sorry," she stammered. "I couldn't sleep and I thought I would just work a little more in my useless books," she said, trailing off her last few words before more silent tears disobeyed her and ran down her cheeks.
"Come over here and sit down," McGonagall said, guiding Hermione over to the table where she poured the young woman a cup of tea. "I know this is hard for you, it's hard on all of us."
"It's not that. I know it's hard for everyone, but for Harry to just-" Hermione couldn't finish her sentence. She just stared down into the cup of tea, wrapping her hands around the mug to warm them.
"Ms. Granger," Snape started as he made his way over to them. She looked up at him, wiping a lone tear off her cheek. "I know it will take a while, but Harry and Ron will eventually come around and-"
"No they won't," she whispered. "And I don't think either of them will ever forgive me for trying."
"I think right now, everyone is a bit on edge. We've been cooped up trying our best for a month now without a break," McGonagall explained. "I think it would be best, Ms. Granger, if you found someplace else safe to stay for a while." McGonagall sighed and tried not to look too upset about the entire situation. "Just until Mr. Potter and Mr. Weasley settle down from this whole...thing..."
"I know," Hermione sighed. "I was going to go anyway." This confession took both adults by surprise. "Harry and I haven't been getting along very well since graduation and Ron is nothing but a puppy dog that follows Harry around all the time. All it took was one more wrong move by me to send him over the edge. I knew I had crossed the line when I did it, but it had to be done. I thought maybe it would show him how silly he was being about everything. But that backfired quite brilliantly," she added in a resigned voice.
"I realize that this situation has changed everyone, but after it's all over, things that were said will be forgotten and we can all pick up the pieces again," McGonagall said with a comforting smile.
"Thank you for lying to me," Hermione said with a smile.
"Do you have someplace to stay?" asked the older woman.
"I think so," Hermione said, chewing on her bottom lip. "I just hope the invitation is still open."
Guess WHO? >:)