Nothing you recognise in this story is mine, it all belongs to JKR and various other people who still most definitely aren't me. No lawsuits.
I realise this is one man's sin
But I can't deny that you're pulling me in
You found a way to get inside my head
And yes, I'm gonna know better than to sleep with you
But at the same time I've got this need to feel you
Let me put my hands all over you
I feel I'm falling in…
-Falling In by Tapping The Vein
As Hermione lugged her shopping bag up the long corridor to her hotel room, she thanked God for whichever Muggle had invented lifts. She was booked into the honeymoon suite on the top floor of the hotel and she doubted very much that she would have survived past the sixth floor if she'd had to make it on foot. Harry would have probably found her decomposing body in one of the stairwells days later, heaving shopping bags still clutched to her chest. Having a baby had definitely made her unfit, she decided.
She put her bags carefully down by her feet, trying not to dislodge anything as she found her key and slid it into the Muggle lock of the hotel room door. Before she had managed to turn the key her skin was prickling and all her senses were alert. Her wards were down; she couldn't feel the soft hum of them against her skin anymore, and the light that she clearly remembered switching off on her way out of the room earlier was now clearly shining out from underneath the door.
As much as Hermione claimed to be out of practice and out of shape, her body adopted her natural defensive stance automatically, betraying the years of training with a teacher who demanded perfection from her. The physical and mental exhaustion she had been feeling earlier had completely disappeared as she readied herself for a fight.
Her wand clasped tightly in her hand, she wondered for a moment if it would be wise to get someone to back her up before she attempted to take on whoever was in her room. The person or persons who had broken through her wards would have to be powerful and Hermione was all too aware that there were still a handful of renegade Death Eaters on the loose who would love to have the famous Hermione Granger at their mercy. What better revenge than to kidnap or kill her the night before her wedding to The Boy Who Lived To Ruin Their Lives?
Impatience won out, along with the need for solitude that had made her refuse Ginny's offer of company at the hotel in the first place. If she sent for Harry, Remus or Ron she would end up stuck with them for the rest of the night. She knew she could handle whatever was on the other side of the door, and if she couldn't she could Apparate to The Burrow in seconds and find someone who could.
Hermione silently spelled a clear patch in the door to check for any obvious dangers before turning the key and pushing the door slowly open. She entered the room, her wand out before her and her back against the wall so she didn't need to worry about anyone sneaking up on her from behind.
When she spotted the lump in her bed she felt incredibly foolish – fighting in a war had made her paranoid and she suddenly felt some sympathy for Alastor Moody. She was incredibly grateful that whoever was in her bed hadn't been there to witness her very Mission Impossible style entry into the room; if it was Harry waiting for her he'd never have let her live it down. She summoned her shopping bags into the room and silently shut the door with her wand.
As unlikely as it was that a Death Eater would come into her hotel room, get into her bed and lie in wait for her there, Hermione still approached the bed carefully. Hope rose in her chest for a moment before common sense squashed it down firmly – no amount of hopefulness could possibly make her think that Severus was that very small shape in the bed and it was a little unlikely that his feet has suddenly shrunk several sizes and he had developed a taste for pink sandals in her absence.
Relief combined with fury at having been made to panic when she had already been having the day from hell before all this had happened. She waved her wand at the covers on the bed and they folded neatly back to reveal the girl lying beneath. Hermione glowered and marched over, shaking her friend's shoulder with a little more vigour than was strictly necessary.
"What the hell do you think you're playing at? You couldn't have let me know you were coming? Texted? Sent your Patronus? You could have been unconscious for a week if I hadn't recognised your latest impulse buy peeking out from under the sheets." Hermione reached down to shake the girl again. "Ginny!"
Ginny hadn't moved a muscle through Hermione's entire rant despite the older girls none too gentle attempts to wake her up, and the sharp edge to her voice that would have sent Harry and Ron scurrying from the room if they had been there.
"What's wrong?" Hermione tried again, deliberately gentling her actions and the tone of her voice. "Is it Harry? Ron?"
A silent Ennervate didn't move her so Hermione leaned closer to look at Ginny's pale, freckled face. Fairly fresh tear tracks streaked her face and after a moment of watching her face closely Hermione knew that the red-head was completely awake.
"You're here to tell me you can't be my bridesmaid because you and Harry are running away together and will be on your way to my honeymoon instead?" Hermione guessed jokingly, keeping her tone light. "Molly won't babysit Nicole for us? Harry's got cold feet? Ron won't be best man? You didn't manage to get Draco as your rather dubious date for tomorrow? The world is ending again? Voldemort is back? You're here to tell me that you faked my Seventh Year exam results and I actually failed all my N.E.W.T.'s?"
After a few seconds of waiting for a response, Hermione sighed impatiently – Ginny had been weird with her for a couple of days now and she needed it resolved before she went away. If it wasn't sorted out she knew Ginny well enough to know that she'd stew over it for the entire two weeks she was away with Harry, only to explode the minute they arrived home. She cast her eyes around the room hoping for some hit of inspiration. She was terrible at dealing with people who sulked, especially when Ginny obviously wanted to talk to her. She wouldn't have been there in the first place if she didn't.
"I must say I'm impressed you managed to break through my wards on the door so quickly," Hermione said, kicking her trainers off and padding over to the kettle in her socks. She put it on to boil, ripped open two of the complimentary tea bags and glanced back at Ginny.
No. No way.
Tea bags still clutched in her hand, Hermione walked slowly over to the other side of the bed and tapped her wand on the small, closed, wooden trunk that was sitting there. It sprung open, the painstakingly applied wards obviously already long gone.
No. There was no possible way that Ginny could have got into that trunk or even have had it in her possession in the first place – it was meant to be safe and sound at Hogwarts, far away from this London hotel and most definitely far away from Ginny.
Hermione dropped to her knees next to the trunk, suddenly feeling too weak to stand. She buried her head in her hands and took a handful of deep breaths to try to clear her head. There is an explanation for this – Ginny couldn't possibly have found out, not after all this time. It isn't possible.
Severus couldn't have, wouldn't have betrayed her like that. The Diaries had been a goodbye and if he had wanted to return them there would be no way Archimedes would have left the parcel with anyone but her; that owl was more paranoid than his owner was and that paranoia would have meant that Severus would have warded that trunk at least as well as she had when she had sent it to him. There was no way he would have wanted any of the details inside those diaries known to anyone else. None of it made sense.
Hermione lifted her head, barely aware of the sound of the kettle fiercely coming to a boil. She froze; Ginny was sitting up in bed, completely still and completely silent. Her eyes were trained on Hermione and they were burning with a fury that Hermione hadn't seen since the day she witnessed the young, red-headed witch in battle by her side. Only at that time, Hermione had been completely sure that Ginny was firmly on her side and not about to curse her into next week. Her hand reached automatically for her briefly forgotten wand, where it lay next to her trunk.
"Don't make me Stupefy you," Hermione warned gently, knowing that although they were somewhat evenly matched, duelling with Severus for years had given her an edge over the other witch. "If you want to talk, you're going to have to part with your wand, Ginny."
"What?" Ginny spoke through clenched teeth. "You don't trust me?"
"This isn't about you," Hermione warned, still speaking softly as if dealing with a wounded animal. She rose smoothly to her feet and trained her wand on the witch, whose knuckles were standing out white around her own wand.
"It never is, is it?" Ginny growled, still not moving from the bed she was sitting stiffly on top of.
"Give me your wand and we can talk," Hermione repeated. "I just want to talk to you - you can't think I want to hurt or Obliviate you?" Tempting as it is…
Ginny's bottom lip trembled which inexplicably reassured Hermione.
"It took Bill nearly two days to get into that box," she said, her voice trembling too. "When I first saw what was in it I laughed, thinking that only you would ward a box of useless books so tightly. I was so relieved that I very nearly didn't open them." A tear ran down Ginny's cheek and she brushed it away angrily with the back of her hand. "You know, I thought you were under the Imperius Curse?"
Imperius Curse? What on earth was she talking about? Had all Molly's hinting about Ginny settling down and having babies finally driven her to insanity?
"Why on earth would you think that?" Hermione asked. She toyed with the idea of using an Expelliarmus to get the wand out of Ginny's hand so she could finally lower her guard, but Hermione wasn't sure she was capable of doing it gently enough not to tumble Ginny off the bed, and she didn't think that hurting the girl was the right way to handle the situation, tempting as it was.
"You've been acting like an Inferius for weeks!"
Fury, vexation and accusations Hermione could handle – it was Ginny's cold anger that had scared her and that was quickly coming away to reveal a Ginny Hermione had seen before. She opened her mouth to give Ginny a proper explanation of what an Inferius would have really acted like and then snapped her mouth shut. Being pedantic probably wouldn't help – maybe she really had been spending too much time with Severus.
"The other day in that bridal shop, anyone else would have showed at least some emotion trying on that beautiful dress," Ginny continued, waving her arms expressively in exasperation, making Hermione eye her wand warily. "It was the perfect dress and all you could do was smile faintly and then take it off!"
It had been the perfect dress and Hermione had shown as much emotion as she could cope with at the time. Picturing herself walking down the aisle of a beautiful, small church in the country to find Severus standing there, his eyes shining and his lips curling upwards when he saw how beautiful she looked hadn't done wonders for her mood that day.
"You barely spoke when we had your hen night – those handcuffs didn't even get a blush out of you."
Well they wouldn't – Hermione had a pair much like them at home. A hysterical giggle was fighting to the surface and she was beginning to hyperventilate in her effort to keep it down. She had an entire matching set of toys actually, safely, or apparently not so safely warded in a slightly larger trunk in her and Harry's flat that almost exactly matched the trunk next to her hotel bed right now. She was definitely going to have to work on some stronger wards or Harry would get the shock of his life one day.
Or possibly today, Hermione thought to herself, cringing.
"You've been disappearing at all hours – did you think I wouldn't notice, sharing my room with you for the last few weeks?" Ginny asked, now sounding more desolate than furious. Hermione took a tentative step towards the bed.
"Why didn't you just ask me what was wrong instead of having bloody Curse Breakers open my post?" Suddenly all of Bill's guilty looks over the past few days made perfect sense. "Does Bill know what's in those diaries?"
"No." Ginny shook her head, wiping her nose with a scrunched up and not very white looking tissue. "He just knows I was worried about you – I made him do it, Hermione. Don't be mad at him over all this, he kept telling me I shouldn't pry into your business. He reckoned you were in the middle of some research again and pointed out that you always do the mad Professor thing. But this was a bit different from you putting salt in your tea or calling Ron Harry."
"It might have been an idea to listen to him," Hermione snapped, sitting on the end of the bed and lowering her wand. Let Ginny curse her if she wanted – she was suddenly past caring. "You could see they were diaries – not all diaries are possessed by Voldemort, you know."
Ginny's face paled and Hermione immediately felt guilty. Two days ago they had been best friends, now Ginny couldn't look at her, her eyes trained on the hideous, garishly patterned hotel bedspread instead.
"Did… was there a letter?" Hermione asked tentatively, wondering if Ginny would explode again at the sign that Hermione cared.
"No." Ginny moved up the bed to lean against the headboard and pull her feet under her body. She placed her wand on the bed. "How could you Hermione? All this time? Lying to us all? Lying to Harry!"
"You read the diaries – you should know the answer to that," Hermione answered softly. "Passion? Loneliness? Pain? Addiction? Love?"
She toed the box with her bare foot, wondering how such a well kept secret could be found out a week after it had all finally finished for good. Years of lies, sneaking about, wondering and worrying who might find out, and now it had come out. She was supposed to be getting married in the morning – what was going to happen now?
"Have you told Harry?"
"I haven't been anywhere else yet. I flicked through the diaries, not expecting anything too sinister, and when I realised what they were I came here to confront you."
"I was shopping," Hermione felt compelled to explain, hating the guilt that was twisting her stomach into knots. "Last minute holiday things. My day of peace was driving me mad."
"With so much on your conscience, I'm not surprised," Ginny said sharply, then took a deep breath and visibly forced herself to calm down. "Harry's with Nicole – they've both gone shopping themselves. He wanted to get a surprise for you for your honeymoon."
"Not more handcuffs I hope?"
Hermione cringed at the scornful look Ginny was directing at her and she slid from the bed onto the thickly carpeted floor. She leaned over the box to rake through it, on the off chance that Severus had enclosed a note or message of some sort, although she had to admit to herself that Severus sending her diaries back said enough all by itself. Apparently he hadn't wanted to keep memories of their time together, although at least there was a chance he might have read them if they had only been sent back two days earlier – it had been exactly a week since she had shrank the trunk herself and sent it to him by his own Owl.
There was nothing but the diaries in there. Severus had read her innermost thoughts and feelings, from the beginning of their relationship to the very end, and he hadn't thought it worth comment. Her hands ran over the familiar leather-bound covers as she pushed them back into a straight row in the trunk and fought the tears that she had been holding back all week. Her brow suddenly furrowed as she tried to focus on the books in the dim light inside the deep trunk and she brought her wand up and moved the lighted end closer to the book covers.
"These aren't mine." Her suddenly numb fingers dropped the wand they were grasping and the Lumos spell faded as it rolled unnoticed under the bed. Hermione pulled the entire pile of books from the trunk and looked at their spines. Black instead of red, and with the words 'Diary of Severus Snape,' written on each spine, these were most definitely not the diaries she had placed so carefully in that trunk a week ago.
"I didn't say they were yours," Ginny pointed out, scrunching her nose up and looking suddenly confused.
"Ginny, I sent him my diaries, not these. These are…" His. Severus' diaries lay in her hands and all she could do was stare at them as if they were something Hagrid had just rescued from the Forbidden Forest and asked her to take care of.
"Why would you send him your diaries?" Ginny asked curiously.
"It was over," Hermione murmured absently, reading over what years were printed on the spines of the diaries. "I just wanted him to have something to remember it all by – to prove it truly was real and that I really did care."
"So this is something for you to remember it all by," Ginny pointed out. "Which you don't need if you're going to go through with marrying Harry. Burn them or something! Send them back, Hermione!"
Hermione looked up, her heart beating wildly in her chest and making her feel a little sick. She was used to the feeling – it started whenever she saw Severus or even thought of him these days. "It's all over with both of them Ginny – when Harry finds out he's not going to go through with the wedding."
"He doesn't have to find out. Convince me you're over Snape; that he used Imperio on you, or it was a moment of madness."
"A moment?" Hermione raised her eyebrow, unconsciously mimicking her former Potions Master perfectly. How hadn't Ginny seen it before?
"A very long moment stretching into years," Ginny corrected, throwing her hands up. "I'm trying to help you here, Hermione – you can't possibly want to be with Snape. So I was angry, I felt betrayed for myself and everyone else involved, but this is fixable. Don't go back to Snape."
"I couldn't be with Severus either," Hermione answered distractedly, oblivious to her friends panic. She ran her fingers over the silver lettering on one of the diaries. Minerva was incredibly unimaginative in her gift giving, Hermione decided absently. She had received the first of her own diaries from the Transfigurations Professor as a 'Congratulations' present when she had got the Head Girls badge in her Seventh Year. These were the exact same diaries, if in a less Gryffindor colour.
"I told you, it's finished," Hermione added, her mouth forcing the words out before her brain and heart could object.
"Forgive me if I don't believe you, Hermione," Ginny said. "But you've been lying to me for years."
"I'm sorry Ginny," Hermione said, finally looking up at her friend. "At first there was nothing to tell, and you and I weren't as close then. And then when there was something to tell, there was so much to lose if people found out."
"Harry, you mean," Ginny interrupted, scornfully. "You'd have lost Harry."
"Severus would have lost his job," Hermione explained. "He'd have been found out as a spy and lost his life! I'm Muggle-Born and Harry's best friend, no true Death Eater would have touched me unless it was to take me to Voldemort. You don't know how much I needed to talk to someone about it all, it's why my own diaries became my best friends. I had so much to hide, and I couldn't talk to anyone."
Hermione took a deep breath.
"I am over Severus Snape," she told Ginny, impressed at how steady her own voice sounded, when she could barely breathe. Or was she hyperventilating? She couldn't tell and she needed to be alone before she let all these confused emotions come to the surface for Ginny to see. "Been there, done that, got the mental scarring. It is over."
"Then we'll forget all this and start over." Ginny pointed her wand at the diaries in Hermione's hand. "Let's get rid of those and we'll go and get drunk, and you can tell me what an idiot you've been."
Hermione eyed the diaries in her hands and shook her head, fighting the urge to dive on top of them to protect them. Years of guessing and second guessing Severus' every action, of reacting to things she thought he felt rather than things she knew he felt – these books could change everything. Her fingers were already caressing the soft leather of the covers. She had to know.
"I have to read these. I'll answer anything you like, come clean to Harry, or whatever you want, but I can't do anything until I've read these."
"You know what happened Hermione, you were there too," Ginny protested watching as her friends eyes shone with a combination of terror and hope. She wished she could go back a few hours in time and destroy the entire trunk before Bill had ever managed to open it, but Hermione was the only person she knew who was still illegally in possession of a Time-Turner after they had all been confiscated and locked away in a secret location in the year after the war.
Ginny had been shocked, furious and had felt utterly betrayed, but that was nothing compared to how Harry would feel if Hermione didn't turn up at the Church in the morning. She couldn't let Hermione's ridiculous crush ruin everything they had worked so hard for. Ginny had given up so much and she would be damned if it was all for nothing. Hermione would get over this.
"Either stay here with me, Gin, or leave me until morning. The wedding isn't until eleven, we'll get a chance to talk so you can decide what you're going to do with all this."
"I'm not leaving you alone to make the biggest mistake of your life," Ginny muttered, eyeing the diaries darkly, as if Hermione were holding a box of Voldemort's own toenail clippings.
"Then get comfy," Hermione replied, choosing to ignore Ginny's tone. She placed all but the first diary on the bedside and climbed into the bed next to Ginny. She pulled the covers over her jean clad legs and rested the diary on her lap.
"Right," she said, determinedly.
After a few moments of complete silence, except from the faint sound of traffic that came through the hotel window, Ginny turned to look quizzically at Hermione. She hadn't moved for a full minute.
"I can't do this," Hermione whispered. "I can't."
"You've done worse," Ginny observed dryly, pushing the book open on Hermione's lap and leaning her chin on her shoulder. They would read, Hermione would put the past behind her, and Ginny would get her to the Church in the morning if she had to drag her there.
Author's notes: This story holds true to canon until HBP, which I have chosen to pretend never happened for this story.
Thank you to both my betas Twice1203 and DeathStarring for everything – you're both amazing, and any errors found in my story are entirely my own fault.