Author's Note: I know you will never believe this but I'm back, sorry for the long absence, I think my muse was AWOL. I can't promise to update quickly but certainly at a better rate than I've been doing. Now if you can just remember the last 20 chapters.
Although Remus was several inches taller than Severus, he found himself having trouble keeping up with the other wizard, as Severus seemed to nearly fly through the halls of the castle toward the Room of Requirement. As the two professors approached the Room, they saw the male portion of the Golden Trio pacing outside it.
"Professors," Harry said excitedly, "we haven't been able to get in the room!"
"No matter what we've tried!" Ron added.
"Of course not, Hermione is in there and she probably asked the Room to give her privacy," Severus answered sharply, obviously having no patience for the 'dunderheads'.
"Mippy," Severus called for his house elf and with a pop, the diminutive elf appeared in front of him. She seemed startled to see Professor Lupin and the two Gryffindors with her master, but she quickly recovered and curtsied to her master.
"What does master need of Mippy?" she asked.
"Mippy, can you get in the Room of Requirement, no matter what the Room has done to itself?" Severus asked the young house elf.
Fear crossed Mippy's face for a moment, but she nodded and added, "Yes sir, house elves can go into the Come and Go Room, if a master wants that."
"Good, now Mippy, I don't think what I'm going to ask you to do will be at all dangerous," Mippy relaxed visibly at his words.
"What does Master want Mippy to do?" she asked, sounding very willing.
"Miss Granger has gone into the Room of Requirement and we," Severus indicated Remus and the boys, "want to be sure she is all right. So I want you to go in and ask her to either come out or let us in. Do you think you can do that?" he asked gently.
"Of course, Mippy be right back," she said cheerfully. Another pop was heard and she disappeared.
"Why didn't we think of asking a house elf to go in and check on her?" Ron pondered.
"Because the brains of the Golden Trio are in there," Severus said as he gestured toward the Room of Requirement.
Remus couldn't suppress a grin at Severus' comment, and he noted that though the boys both flushed, neither voiced any protest at the dig at their intelligence.
The unlikely quartet waited impatiently for the young house elf to reappear. Before Severus could voice his concerns about what was delaying his servant, he noticed that Weasley was staring at him.
"Problem, Weasley?" Severus asked drawing out the first word into an entire sentence as only he could.
"Uh, no, not really I was just, uhm, well, actually I was wondering what you'd done to yourself?" Ron asked, and then belatedly added, somewhat nervously, "Sir."
"What?" Severus replied in confusion.
Remus jumped in, saving the conversation, "I think Ron's just a bit taken aback by the youthfulness of your appearance without your teaching glamour," he offered.
"Oh, yes I dispensed with it when I went to visit my Uncle and hadn't thought to restore it," Severus answered distractedly, continuing to stare at the door to the Room of Requirement.
"A teaching glamour?" Harry let those few words beg for clarification.
"Yes, many of Hogwarts teachers wear some sort of glamour to disguise their true age or appearance, particularly the younger teachers," Remus explained. "Severus here started teaching when he was only a few years older than most seventh years, so he's worn a glamour ever since to make him appear older than he is."
"And uglier," remarked Ron in typical Ron fashion, that is, before he had time to think what he was saying.
Before Severus could even register the backhanded comment, let alone come up with a retort, Mippy reappeared before the quartet of Hermione's anxious supporters. The young house elf alternated between twisting an ear and wringing her hands.
"Mippy, have you something to report?" Snape promoted the elf.
"Yes, Mippy is suppose to say," the young elf closed her eyes to help her concentration, "that Masters Harry and Ron are to go to Gryffindor Tower and wait for Mistress Hermione, and Master Severus and Professor Lupin can comes in to the Comes and Goes Room," Mippy positively beamed when she finished her report as she knew she'd gotten it all right.
"Well then," Lupin said, "that's it then, you two toddle off to your common room and wait for Hermione, and Severus and I will go in and talk to her for a few minutes. I'm sure everything will be fine," Lupin placed a hand on Harry's shoulder and began trying to move him off down the hall.
"Wait just a minute," Harry countered. "Beginning your pardon, but Hermione is our best friend and we've been through a lot with her."
"Yeah," Ron added in his usual inarticulate fashion.
"Apparently at this moment she would prefer to discuss her situation with more mature acquaintances," Severus pointed out. "And as Professor Lupin is your head of house I seriously suggest you do as he says before you lose points for Gryffindor."
Lupin raised his eyebrows at the two as though to suggest he might just go along with his colleague's suggestion, and so the two young men turned on their heels and left. Unaware that the two older men could hear their muttering, they complained bitterly about the unfairness of the situation.
Severus wasted little time or thought on Harry and Ron. He turned to the door of the Room of Requirements and placed his hand upon the doorknob and turned it, all the while trying to exude a confidence that he wasn't sure he actually felt, but he kept telling himself if he believed the door would open, and he willed it to, then it would. As the door opened did, Severus let out a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding. Remus cocked his head a bit and smiled, adding Severus' concern to a growing list of what to him were telltale signs of his 'friends' growing infatuation with the brightest witch of her age.
There inside the room was what to Severus was a heart-wrenching site, but to Remus seemed like something out of one of the old Romance novels his muggle-born students liked so much. Hermione Granger sat upon a Victorian fainting couch, clutching a very damp handkerchief. It was obvious from the redness of her eyes and the way she sniffled that she had been crying.
Severus again moved with greater alacrity than Lupin and was soon perched on the couch next to Hermione.
"Her-Miss Granger," Severus corrected himself, realizing it wouldn't do to be overly familiar with Hermione in front of the werewolf. "Are you quite all right? Professor Lupin and your friends and I have been most concerned about you."
Hermione looked at Severus and then up at Lupin who gave her a smile. She gave back a weak smile and said, "I'm sorry to have worried everyone. I just, I, oh I ruined everything, me and my big mouth"- she stopped and buried her face in her hands, whatever she said next was lost in a muffle of tears and her hands.
Severus pulled her hands away from her face. "Now stop that!" he said in an authoritative but not unkind voice. "You didn't ruin anything. Stop apologizing for something that isn't your fault!"
Hermione jumped up and looked at the two professors in the room and said defiantly, "But it is my fault! I let that stupid cow of a reporter get to me with the terrible things she was saying about you, and then I opened up my great big Gryffindor know-it-all mouth, and as usual I just didn't know when to shut up." With that she sunk down on the couch again and Gave every indication that she would begin to cry again.
"Hermione, look at me," Severus requested. "Remus here told me what you said. It sounds to me like you defended me and set that reporter straight about a few things. You laid the blame for this fiasco at the feet of the right person, and there's no real harm in that."
"Severus?" Remus had been reluctant to break in until now, and in fact, he'd felt a bit like a fifth wheel, but he was shocked to hear Severus say he thought Hermione's suggestion was a good one.
"Well, look it's certainly not my fault I'm Albus' bastard son, now is it?' Severus asked rhetorically. "If the newspaper reporters want to know why Albus Dumbledore sired a bastard son and let a muggle marry the witch carrying his child and let that muggle act the part of father to his son, well let them ask his portrait," he concluded heatedly.
"But your privacy," Hermione protested.
"What privacy? My name and picture are already plastered all over the front page of the Prophet and I'm sure people are speculating about all this anyway," Severus countered rather heatedly.
"But the Prophet shouldn't be rewarded for the way they've handled things," Remus argued.
"What are you suggesting? That Albus and my mother give an exclusive to The Quibbler?" Severus asked sarcastically.
"Either that or give a Wireless interview to Lee Jordan," Hermione suggested with a smirk.
Severus actually laughed out loud at that suggestion. Soon the threesome was actually deeply involved in the mechanics of arranging an interview for the two portraits with a reputable wizarding publication.
Remus noticed that focusing on how Severus might have his parents tell their true story to the pubic seemed to be pulling Hermione out of her funk. Which he realized was only natural, giving Hermione a problem to solve was a sure fire way to cheer her up.
"Well, I think I'd better be off to make these arrangements with Wizard Week," Remus said by way of excusing himself, his main intention was to leave Hermione and Severus alone, as he wanted to give them as many chances as possible to realize they were perfect for each other.
"Remus," Severus called out to his 'friend', "don't let that take you too long. You should spend some time at home this weekend," he suggested.
Remus turned back as he stood with a hand on the doorknob to the Room of the Requirement, "Right you are. In fact, if you don't mind, may I delegate these arrangements to someone else?" he asked.
"Of course. Ask Flitwick, he's offered to help me in any way he can," Severus replied.
"Right, well, I'm off to see Dora and Teddy then," Remus said as he ducked out the door as Hermione said goodbye.
"What was that all about?" she asked
"What was what about?" Severus replied.
"You telling him to go home. In fact, what's he doing here at all, instead of being with Tonks and Teddy?"
Severus considered for a moment whether he should tell Hermione about Lupin's situation, Remus was after all her head of house and she a student, but it was hard to think of her that way. She was a fellow member of The Order of the Phoenix and she was close to Tonks. He sighed and decided he would tell her and count on her discretion.
"He and Tonks have been on the outs, and he really wasn't sure what the problem was, but we think we've puzzled it out. So I think it's time he went home and got things straightened out."
"What's the problem, I thought Remus and Tonks were a perfect match?"
"Oh, stupid Wolf, he's kept her too far away from him, so that she only sees him on weekends. That's not a proper marriage, specially when they've got a young child. He needs to move them to the castle," Severus explained.
"Is that allowed?" Hermione asked.
"Well it's not common, but it is allowed."
"I suspect Headmistress McGonagall would like having Remus' family here," Hermione speculated.
"Yes, for her, the more she can mother hen over the better," Severus remarked.
"Does she try to mother you too?" Hermione asked, her voiced peaked with curiosity.
"Yes, to a certain degree," Severus pondered his answer a moment, "I suppose looking back on it, she's done as much mothering of me as one could expect a Gryffindor to give a Slytherin, perhaps on my mother's account."
"Pardon?" Hermione asked, feeling Severus' answer was a bit of a non sequitur.
"Oh, uhm," he hesitated, realizing he was speaking very freely with Hermione, who though very intelligent and mature, was still his student, he decided he'd answer this last question and then steer the conversation in a less personal direction. "I just learned that the headmistress and my mother were friends when they were apprentices."
Suddenly a small café table appeared with a luncheon for two.
"Apparently the room thinks one of us or both of us are hungry," Hermione observed.
"Either that or Minerva has found a way to get the room to act as a mother hen."
At Hermione's inquisitive cock of her head, Severus explained, "Minerva keeps telling me I'm too skinny and I don't eat right and now that Narcissa Malfoy is here, she's doing it too."
"Poor Severus," Hermione said sarcastically and grinned.
Severus couldn't help himself, he grinned back and Hermione sat back a bit taking in his countenance for the first time since he'd entered the room. She marveled at how silky his hair appeared and how straight and white his teeth looked, his complexion was still quite pale but not at all sallow and there were fewer wrinkles in his skin.
"What have you done to yourself?" she asked.
"I really must restore my teaching glamour," Severus said, and started to pull his wand out of his sleeve, but Hermione reached out a hand to stop him.
"Please don't, at least not right now." Hermione requested.
Severus paused; he was beginning to realize how confused he was in his dealing with Hermione. One moment he was relating to her as an equal, the next he was thinking of her as a possible paramour and then in the next moment, it would dawn on him that she was his student.
"Your quite handsome without it, and well, it would be quite pleasant to have lunch with you looking this way," she offered, hoping he'd acquiesce.
"Alright, I leave it off for now," 'in for a penny in, for pound' thought Severus as he gave in to her request.
"Shall we?" he motioned to the table and she nodded and rose. He helped her with her chair like a perfect gentleman.
After an exchange of pleasantries, Hermione asked, "Why do you wear a glamour that makes you look older and less handsome than you are?"
"I'd received my Masters in Potions in record time and so I began teaching here when I was quite young. It was decided that I should do something to make me look more mature and also a bit less attractive to the older girls, and well boys for that matter, who might fancy they had a crush on their Potions professor," he explained.
"Good idea, I can imagine a few girls in my class would have made goo-goo eyes at their Professor rather than listen to him lecture had he looked like you do now," Hermione stated with a smile.
"And would you have been one of them?" he asked. He immediately felt like an idiot for saying it. He had no business flirting with her, but he hadn't been able to resist.
Hermione smiled, "Yes, I suppose I might have been."
He looked down at his lunch and a pregnant silence filled the room.
"It's a good Lunch, heh?" Severus said to change topics.
"Yes, but I miss Muggle take away," Hermione answered glas to move the conversation along to a more comfortable place.
"Oh me too. What do you like best, Fish and Chips or Indian?" he asked, glad the awkward moment was bypassed so easily.
Their lunch conversation flitted from Muggle cuisine to academic subjects. Just as Hermione was about to bring up Severus' speaking to the Wizengamut about the Marriage Law, Mippy popped back into the room. She was shaking.
"Excuse please, Master, your mother says you come back now," Mippy said.
"Are you alright Mippy?"
"Mippy scared of Master's mother," Mippy replied honestly.
"It's only my mother's portrait Mippy, she can't do magic," he reassured the young house elf.
"Still you comes quick," Mippy pleaded and then disappeared with her characteristic pop.
"I'm sorry Hermione," Severus said as he stood and tossed his serviette on the table, "as much as I've enjoyed our luncheon, I'm afraid I must attend to my filial duties."
"I understand, and I should be leaving too. I've hidden out in here long enough. I'm sure Ron and Harry are beside themselves with worry."
"They did seem quite concerned for you. Let me walk you to Gryffindor Tower," Severus offered.
"You don't have to do that. You've done enough," Hermione protested.
"Did it ever occur to you that I might like to walk you to your quarters?" he asked.
Hermione looked down shyly. "Oh, well then, of course."
They walked the short distance back to Gryffindor Towers in companionable silence, each lost in thoughts of the other.
"Well, here you are safe and sound," he said as they arrived in front of the portrait of the Fat Lady.
"Yes, thank you for escorting me and thank you for, well, letting me off the hook," she said.
"There's no need to thank me, because there was no need for you to assume any blame," he reached a long index finger out and lightly tapped her nose to emphasize his words. "Are we clear on that?" he asked.
Hermione nodded and then turned, said the password to the portrait and waved goodbye.
Serverus left Gryffindor Tower planning many things. He would ask Minerva for one more day off so he could change his name to Prince. Then he would set himself to really concentrating on fighting the marriage law AND he would court Hermione Granger, as soon as she graduated, that is, and providing he could get the stupid marriage law repealed so she didn't have to marry some other bloke. OF course if he couldn't get the law repealed he'd have to petition for her himself. He wouldn't stand to see her marry some other wizard.
Yes, he had a plan of action and it put a smile on his face and a spring in his step, if he weren't in Hogwarts castle where students could see him he would have whistled on his way back to his quarters, even the prospect of being scolded for being late for his mother's summons couldn't seem to dim his good mood.