Death's Dominion

Author's Notes
Full Summary: "And death shall have no dominion." A complex Snape-centric fic.
Severus Snape's life was changed when he was hit by an errant spell, and he comes to a decision that defies Dumbledore's wishes. Even the fate of the wizarding world is altered by this one ill-cast curse and Snape's subsequent resolve. Long after the spell itself has dissipated, its effects continue echoing in the lives of Severus, Albus, Minerva, and Hermione, and they bring with them a shadowy figure whom Snape does not trust. Conspiracies and schemes swirl around Severus as he continues on his path of deception to his final confrontation with the Dark Lord.

An AU Year Six and Seven fic. September 1996 - July 1998.

AU: Death's Dominion is not DH-compliant, neither with regard to Year Seven nor with regard to any of the pre-HP-Year-One (1991) "historical" details. It is only partially compliant with HBP. If you only like canon-compliant fics, I suggest you skip this one.

Nominated in round three of the SS/HG "Moste Potente Passions" awards in the "Polyjuice Potion" category (Best AU).

Primary Characters: Severus Snape, Minerva McGonagall, Albus Dumbledore, Hermione Granger

Other Main Characters: Poppy Pomfrey, Harry Potter, Neville Longbottom, Alastor Moody, Blaise Zabini, and other canon characters.

Severus Snape and Minerva McGonagall are two of the primary characters in Death's Dominion, but it is not an SSMM-pairing story, if that's what you're looking for. There is a very close Severus & Minerva friendship, and there's a touch of budding SSHG friendship.

Genres: Psychological Drama, Suspense

Prologue: And the unicorn evils run them through
Summary: On a sad day, Severus has an unsatisfactory conversation with Minerva, then an unpleasant encounter with Potter. (24 March 1997.)
Characters: Minerva McGonagall, Harry Potter, Severus Snape.

Prologue: And the unicorn evils run them through

And death shall have no dominion.
Dead men naked they shall be one

With the man in the wind and the west moon;

When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,

They shall have stars at elbow and foot;
Though they go mad they shall be sane,

Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;

Though lovers be lost love shall not;
And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.
Under the windings of the sea
They lying long shall not die windily;
Twisting on racks when sinews give way,
Strapped to a wheel, yet they shall not break;
Faith in their hands shall snap in two,
And the unicorn evils run them through;
Split all ends up they shan't crack;
And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.
No more may gulls cry at their ears
Or waves break loud on the seashores;
Where blew a flower may a flower no more
Lift its head to the blows of the rain;
Though they be mad and dead as nails,
Heads of the characters hammer through daisies;
Break in the sun till the sun breaks down,
And death shall have no dominion.*

When Minerva's voice died away, the final word barely whispered, audible only because of the Sonorous Charm, Filius Flitwick, eyes filled with tears, raised his wand in a signal to the others. Together, the four Heads of House waved their wands in a well-orchestrated set of spells, creating a tomb over the shrouded body of Hogwarts most beloved Headmaster. With one final swish, Filius set white flames to dance about the tomb. They would remain flickering until the final mourner left.

"He was a fool, Minerva."

"A fool who loved," she answered softly. "And you should not speak of him that way."

"No? He has left the boy to go on alone. He has left you—he has left you," he continued more quietly at Minerva's sharp look, "and not only to run the school without him. He would not even take his potions at the end. Not even the standard potions." His voice seemed to crack. "He wouldn't allow me to try anything new, nor even to brew for him. He . . . he might as well have slit his throat and been done with it."

"Do not say such a thing. And he did it for you, after all," Minerva answered coldly.

"I never should have said anything to you. He was right . . . I thought . . . I thought you should know, but then . . . . Do you know that, after you confronted him about it, he came to me that very night? I was sure he would be angry. I was prepared for that. But he was sad. And I didn't understand . . . but he said he would find another solution for me, if it meant so much." Severus swallowed and narrowed his eyes. "He was a fool, but I was a greater one."

"This is neither the time nor place, Professor. We will meet later."

Severus nodded sharply. Whether either of them liked it—and neither of them did, though for wholly different reasons—Minerva was now to be his primary contact within the Order, regardless of who might become its leader. They would meet secretly, and Minerva would decide what, if anything, would be passed on to the rest of the Order, and she would direct his activities as spy. Severus had very strong reservations about the latter, in particular. She was not a tactician, nor was she, in his opinion, temperamentally suited to such a task. She felt things too strongly and allowed her emotions to affect her judgment, despite her controlled exterior. Although Severus could hardly expect that Minerva's judgment would ever be clouded by her fondness for him . . . whatever fondness she had had for him, he had destroyed, and had done so knowing full well what he was doing, but willing to make the sacrifice of her friendship, believing he was saving something more important. As with so many of his well-laid plans, however, this one did not have the result for which he had hoped. Oh, one small part of his hopes had been fulfilled, but not at all in a way he had anticipated. He had failed to anticipate how others would react; he had fundamentally misunderstood their emotions and their motivations. And now he suffered for it, as did Minerva and the rest of the wizarding world.

The crowd was dispersing, the mourners having filed one final time past the flaming tomb, comforting one another, stopping to speak with friends—friends of the deceased and of their own. Aberforth had turned and left as soon as the ceremony was concluded, appearing stiff and emotionless. Scrimgeour and other Ministry officials were behaving as though this was their own great personal loss, and Umbridge, most distastefully, held a pink handkerchief to her eyes, dabbing at nonexistent tears. But few did more than glance at Hogwarts Acting Headmistress. Her friends had offered their condolences earlier, and there were no others who might guess that the Transfiguration mistress had suffered a loss greater than that of any other colleague who had worked beside Albus Dumbledore for decades. The new Transfiguration teacher, an old friend of Albus and Minerva's from Amsterdam, stood a few feet away, looking on. But only Severus stood beside her.

When he saw Scrimgeour headed their way, no doubt to speak with Minerva, not with him, Severus took silent leave of her and began to walk back up to the castle. It was becoming overcast after the bright morning; the world lay now in the shadow of the grey clouds above, and it would likely rain before the day was out.

"You're probably glad, aren't you." Not a question; a statement. From a familiar and extremely annoying voice.

Severus stopped. The person, who was behind him, stopped as well. Severus was not going to turn around to speak to him, so he began to walk again.

"Makes your job easier, doesn't it? Whatever that might be." The voice dripped with contempt.

Severus stopped again. "Potter, in honour of the Headmaster's memory, on this day, at least, I will not argue with you." He swallowed, a sudden wave of grief overwhelming the coldly burning anger he had felt for the last few days and weeks. "I know you grieve him—"

"What do you know about grief? What have you ever lost? You don't know—"

Severus turned only slightly and, his voice low, only a mild edge to it, replied, "I would not speak of my losses to you, boy. But neither will I discipline you as I should; you may mourn the years you will not have with him, but do not believe that greater years make this loss any easier to bear for those who loved him longer, nor that others do not mourn more greatly or more deeply than you, though your own grief may be sharp and painful. Look to others, Potter. Not just to yourself."

"And you loved him? Ha! And 'look to others,' that's a crock coming from you, Snape."

"I did not say I spoke of myself," he replied sharply. "It was foolish of me to think for a moment that you might prove . . . less selfish. I will not be such a fool again, Potter. Now leave; go have your adolescent hysterics with your little friends!" Severus strode off, paying no heed to the derisive comments following him, whipped away by the cold March winds.

*NOTE: The poem read by Minerva that opens the prologue to Death's Dominion is by Dylan Thomas (1914 – 1959), "And death shall have no dominion." The titles for the prologue and chapters 1 – 30 are taken from the poem. One of his most well-known poems is "Do not go gently into that good night." You may find his poems on the "poemhunter" website.

NEXT: Chapter One, Where blew a flower
When Dumbledore won't be persuaded, Severus makes a decision and prepares to take matters into his own hands, despite the consequences he foresees for himself. (Autumn & Winter 1996.)
Albus Dumbledore, Minerva McGonagall, Severus Snape.

A/N: Death's Dominion is a sequel to An Act of Love, but may easily be read on its own. Because An Act of Love is unavailable on ffnet, I am including the epilogue from An Act of Love here (below), for those who wish to read it. The epilogue will provide a little bit of background to Death's Dominion. You may read and enjoy Death's Dominion without having read AAoL or its epilogue, however, and the essential points of the previous story are summarized in the early chapters of DD. They are very different stories from one another. (An Act of Love was written in response to a challenge prompt.)

Epilogue to An Act of Love (early October 1996)

Severus closed his grades ledger with a sharp snap and put it in the warded drawer in his desk. As he did so, another parchment caught his eye, and with mixture of reluctance and a curious sense of warmth, he withdrew it from its resting place. He had put it there after Albus had handed it to him several weeks before and had not looked at it since. Not precisely true, he thought. He had looked at it each time he had occasion to open the drawer, but he had not taken it out and opened it. Yet despite seeing it almost daily, the parchment continued to catch his notice, and today, for a reason he could not have articulated even if asked, he removed the parchment and unfolded it.

A list of potions ingredients, it seemed to be, and in his hand. No doubt charmed by Minerva. Albus had said that the password remained the same. Severus raised his eyes from the parchment and with a slight flick of his wrist, he cast a Colloportus on the door, followed by an Imperturbable, not that he planned to begin talking to himself, he thought mirthlessly, nor to read the letter aloud, but one could never be too careful.

"Phoenix," he whispered, and the words on the page shimmered a moment before reforming themselves into the letter he had received at the end of September.

"Dear Professor Snape:

"I hope you are well and that you will forgive my impertinence. I was going to give this book to Professor Dumbledore after lunch, but could not find him, so I decided to give it to you, instead.

"I overlooked this text yesterday evening when doing my research. It may not be useful, but in case it holds any valuable information at all, I thought I should pass it on. The section that I found most relevant begins on page 114.

"I do hope that you have no need of this book, but in the event that you do, I hope that you have someone helping you. From what I read yesterday, the spell can affect cognition and judgment.

"I am sorry that I was unable to stop the argument before things got out of hand. I hope that you have come to no harm.


"Hermione Granger"

Gryffindor witch. Another bloody Gryffindor witch. Severus twitched a smile. There was something about certain Gryffindor witches. Lily had been one. And Minerva. Hermione—Miss Granger—was, of course different. She was his student. And he, he was different than he had been. Perhaps even with Lily, he had still been redeemable . . . at least until he had done the unforgivable. No, not unforgivable, perhaps, but she had never lived to forgive him. Not that it would have mattered. He had seen to that. Now, in retrospect, he saw that it had been his choices that had led to Lily's choice, and she had chosen Potter. But Minerva had forgiven him; she had said that he was redeemable. And he had worked toward atonement. That had been in the past, though . . . his "atonement" might, in the end, include the unforgivable. Even for Minerva. Especially for Minerva.

Severus shook himself. Whatever his relationships with the former two Gryffindors might have been, whatever had been left unfulfilled or would be forever unforgiven, Miss Granger would never know of all his acts of atonement, of his regrets, of his despair. She believed him a hero, and she would be sorely disillusioned. She would only know of the unforgivable. But only if it came to that. Perhaps it wouldn't.

Severus allowed himself a slight sigh. He had attempted over the last weeks to dissuade Dumbledore from the current course of action, with even greater urgency and desperation than he had during the summer. He did not understand why the Headmaster was so bent on that single course of action. With both of them working on a different solution, surely there had to be one. And if Minerva were enlisted, as well . . . but mention of Minerva in this context had only angered Dumbledore, and Severus was certain that he had discussed nothing of his condition or of their plans with the witch. That would have to change, Severus thought. He would see to it that it did. He would not do the unforgivable—or if he did, it would be an act of omission and not one of commission. For himself, for Minerva, even for Albus . . . and perhaps for another Gryffindor witch.

Minerva paced her sitting room. Albus was late again. She had expected him hours before. Each time that he left on one of his jaunts, she worried that he might not return, and her worry would grow as the time approached for his return, and when he was delayed, her worry increased to intense anxiety. She normally held the wards and at his return, he would take them back. Lately, though, he would arrive tired, depleted, and he would leave the wards with her rather than taking them back as soon as he was on the grounds, so she wouldn't even know he had returned until she actually saw him. Minerva thought that the curse on his hand might be affecting his general health and his energy, but Albus claimed that it was no worse, and he was merely finally showing the signs of his age. She still wished that he would see a Healer, but he had had Severus help him as soon as the curse had struck him, and she knew that Severus was still brewing a potion for him. Albus stubbornly refused to let a Healer see him, not even Melina, despite the fact that Minerva's niece specialised in spell-damage and curses.

And the other spell that she had found in one of the books they had used when doing research to try to find a counter-curse for the Actus Adfectus Amor Verissimus, Albus would not consider that one at all. The last time she had mentioned using it—trying to emphasise that it would be for the other effects of the spell, and not the primary one—Albus had kissed her lightly on the cheek, told her that he knew how she felt about him, and how he felt, himself, and there was no need for any spell. He wouldn't even listen to her arguments regarding the benefits they might attain, or the possibility of a cure for his afflicted hand. Minerva simply didn't understand his attitude. After almost forty years together, she knew that he didn't doubt her love or her constancy, even if he occasionally experienced some other insecurities, so it was difficult for her to believe that he might worry that she had some other "greatest love." That, however, was the only explanation she could imagine. Why else would he forego the possibility of a cure for his cursed hand? The fact that their wands were mated and their magic so mutually resonant only reinforced Minerva's belief that they might be able to cure his hand, make him whole again, if they were to use the spell. There were recorded instances of similar occurrences, after all, though none were identical to their own situation.

She would speak with him about it again when he returned. If necessary, she would have someone else cast the spell on her, take him unawares . . . but that plan made Minerva feel ill. She did not wish to force something on Albus that he did not want. And it was possible that, despite all he had always said to her, that he did not believe that she was his greatest love, and the side effects of the spell, the ones she wished to exploit, were strongest when the greatest love was reciprocal. Perhaps he was fearful of that, or even knew it, and did not wish to hurt her by having her learn that. Minerva swallowed hard. Even if that were the case, forty years of being together, of loving one another, that meant more to her than whether there had at some point in the past been some other love of his whom he had loved more, who had been his greatest love. Dervilia, perhaps, who had died before Albus was even twenty. And even were that the case, Minerva thought they still might be able to effect a cure for his hand, since they were so close in so many other ways.

Minerva nodded to herself. She would find a way to persuade him to try it, but she wouldn't . . . she wouldn't ambush him and have the spell cast on her without his consent.

Hermione Granger sat in the Gryffindor common room, ostensibly reading a large old tome on Arithmancy, knowing that no one would bother her if it appeared that she was engrossed in something they found dull. She had come down to escape the boys again. They had all been up in the sixth-year boys' room, and the conversation had once again turned to Snape—Professor Snape, she reminded them. Harry still unreasonably blamed Professor Snape for his godfather's death and, it seemed, for just about every other ill that had befallen him since he had arrived at Hogwarts. Hermione had tried to point out each instance in which they had thought that Professor Snape had been up to no good and it had turned out that they had been wrong, but neither Harry nor Ron would listen to her. She agreed that he was not the most pleasant person, nor the most agreeable teacher, but he was in the Order, and Dumbledore trusted him.

Neither of the boys had listened to her arguments, and she had finally left, feeling somewhat sick. She knew more of Professor Snape than they did, and she knew of more reasons to trust him, but she could share none of them. And, Hermione feared, even if she were to break confidences and tell Harry and Ron, neither of them would believe her—or they would turn it around somehow and make it one more reason he shouldn't be trusted. They would likely make fun of him, too, and she couldn't bear that thought. She knew that Professor Snape was more affected by their jibes than he let on—and more than she would have thought a grown wizard would be. They were just two stupid schoolboys.

What had finally made her leave their company, though, was the sudden desire for her to yell at Harry and tell him that if it was anyone's fault but Voldemort's that his godfather had died, then it was his fault. He had rushed off and done something completely mad—of course, she had gone with him, how could she not?—and he had not done anything sensible. Harry never stopped to think. Professor Snape was right about that, at least in the case of some Gryffindors: they didn't think, they just acted. And sometimes it turned out for the best. But sometimes, it did not.

Hermione turned a page, her eyes not seeing the words or symbols, but remembering the things she had done to help Harry. She wanted to help Harry primarily because he was her friend and he was a great wizard, or would be, someday, but as she got older, other motivations became equally strong: to fight Voldemort, to prove herself to the wizarding world, to shake off that last tiny shred of doubt that she had that perhaps she wasn't as good a witch because she was Muggle-born—though she would never voice such a thing. But she had helped Severus Snape, too . . . and when Hermione thought about that, she shoved her thoughts aside. It was bad enough that one of the last things out of a red-faced Ron's mouth was the taunt that soon she was going to get a crush on the greasy git if she weren't careful.

She didn't have a crush on him. Her reasons for helping Professor Snape had been complicated, but primarily, she couldn't bear to see someone suffer, regardless of who they were. After Pansy had cast that spell and she saw the sparks fly from Professor Snape's body, she had been horrified, first because someone had cursed a teacher (not that she hadn't done the same thing once, and on the same teacher), but also because he had been an innocent victim of someone else's argument. It later turned out that he hadn't been quite as innocent as she had thought, but even so, he hadn't deserved to have that spell placed on him, nor the accompanying humiliation. He had let her help him, though, this wizard who seemed so disdainful of any help from any quarter, and particularly disdainful of Gryffindors. She had actually believed that he would hate her when the spell was lifted and he remembered his behaviour and that she had witnessed it. Nonetheless, she had gone to see him, hoping that perhaps he wouldn't despise her for having seen him at his weakest, and wanting to see for herself that he was truly freed from the spell.

Much to her surprise and delight, Professor Snape had not been nasty to her. He hadn't even tried to pretend that nothing had happened. Her face grew warm as she remembered how he had wished her the enjoyment of her chocolates, the ones he had given her. She still had some, their Charmed box keeping them fresh. She couldn't very well explain where she had received a heart-shaped box of sweets, so she hadn't shared them, taking them from her trunk only when her roommates weren't present. She rationed them, each time she had one, remembering how Professor Snape had given them to her: he had tears in his eyes when he saw that she had put thought into the purchase, trying to do for him what he himself could not. And when he left, he had paid her a compliment. It was a compliment coming from him, anyway. She was not as big a dunderhead as the students he usually taught. Hermione smiled to herself and turned another page.

When she had gone to see him after he had supposedly returned from China—Hermione supposed that they had Polyjuiced someone to go in his stead, since he had been seen coming and going, and she was quite sure it hadn't been he—Hermione went with a bold and hopeful heart, though completely believing that he would turn her away, that he might even be cruel to her. She remembered again how he had once said he had "seen no difference" when she had been inadvertently cursed with the Densaugo spell, and a slight knot formed in the pit of her stomach at the memory, but then she thought of how he had allowed her to visit him in his office, warding the door behind them so that they could not be overheard. The knot evaporated completely, replaced with a growing warmth.

He had even thanked her, more or less, for her help, and even given her an apology of sorts. And he hadn't been afflicted by the curse when he had done so. And, she thought, her warmth growing, he had called her "Hermione." More than once. He had said that they couldn't see each other again like that, and that he would have to return to treating her as he always had. Indeed, he seemed even more distant than usual, scarcely looking at her, and never seeming to notice when she performed a spell well. But that didn't bother her. She knew that she had his approval. Somehow, those few occasions when their eyes met, she could tell that she still had his approval and his acceptance. Perhaps even some affection.

Hermione snapped her book shut. Now that was ridiculous. If she went on this way, Ron would be right, and she would have a crush on him. Not that that was a possibility. She was too sensible to have crushes, particularly on teachers. Particularly on not-very-good-looking teachers with bad hair and teeth worse than her own used to be, teachers who were Death Eaters. But he wasn't a Death Eater, not really. He was a hero.

Hermione stood and went up to her room, bringing her book with her. Fortunately, no one else was present, and she went to her wardrobe, pulled out her heart-shaped box of chocolates, and ate one. A lovely truffle. She looked at them, her gaze going unfocussed for a moment, then she Summoned some clean parchment and carefully wrapped a half dozen of the sweets in it, folding the parchment like a small envelope or packet.

She closed up her wardrobe again, opened her book bag and carefully placed the wrapped chocolates on top. She always readied her bag the night before, so the next day's books and supplies were inside, including her Defence Against the Dark Arts essay. If she required an excuse, that would be it.

Hermione left Gryffindor Tower as quickly as she could. No one called to her or wondered where she was going. They likely all thought she was headed for the library. There was still an hour and a half before curfew. She had time. And she would go to the library if he wasn't in his office.

She went down several flights of stairs, trying not to think about what she was doing. Catching herself, she almost laughed. Another Gryffindor acting without thought. She wouldn't seek him in the dungeons, of course, but if he were in his Defence office, there was no harm in stopping by. If he seemed displeased to see her, she wouldn't leave the chocolates. That was silly, anyway. But if he didn't seem to mind . . .

Severus replaced the charm on the parchment, returning it to a list of potions ingredients, then put the letter back in his drawer. He was just closing it when he heard someone knock. He closed his eyes. He was not there. The door was still warded, so he rose and went to it, listening. He heard shuffling feet. Just one pair. A female, he thought. He sighed. Umbridge was no longer at the school. The person could be no more dreadful than she had been. Probably a first-year Slytherin missing home. Hardly anyone else sought him out in his office. There was one more light, very tentative tap on the door, then he heard footsteps begin to walk away. He shook his head, and against his better judgment, he opened the door.

Hermione turned around and saw him. She smiled brightly. One of the few people ever to smile when they saw him, and the only student to do so without some ulterior motive. At least he doubted she had an ulterior motive.

"Miss Granger. It is late. What are you doing lurking about outside of doors?" he asked, a chill in his voice, though it was more of an effort than usual.

"I came to see you about the essay, sir. If you have time. I took a different approach, and I wasn't sure whether it was all right. If it's not, I will have to rewrite it tonight."

"Hmmph. A little late to be worried about that now, isn't it, Miss Granger? But get in here."

When Hermione was in the room, he closed the door behind them and, without thinking about why he was doing so, he recast the Colloportus and Imperturbable. Odd that she should have appeared just when he was thinking of her, and of his own lost soul. He sat back down behind his desk.

He gestured to a chair. "You may be seated."

"Thank you, sir." Hermione perched on the edge of the seat.

"You wished to discuss your essay?"

Hermione, emboldened by the fact that he had cast the wards, said, "Not exactly, sir. I did take a different approach, but I don't want to rewrite the essay. I just . . ." She was suddenly overwhelmed with nervousness. What had she been thinking? She had even just abandoned her only plausible excuse.

"Yes?" Professor Snape just stared at her, waiting.

"I was just . . . well, someone mentioned your name, and I was thinking about you, that's all. I just . . . wanted to see how you are."

Snape's eyes narrowed. "You see me every day, Miss Granger. Do I appear unwell to you?"

Hermione blushed and stammered, "No, no . . . not at all, no, I just . . . I'm sorry, sir –"

She began to rise.

"Sit back down." He didn't want to think about why he was asking her to stay. He had no need of friends, particularly not another Gryffindor, and most certainly not a student. But she was better than some, both Gryffindors and students. "I am well, thank you, Miss Granger."

Hermione nodded. She really had no idea what had possessed her to believe this was a good idea. Simply because she had been thinking about him, remembering when he had behaved toward her in a way that was not typical for him . . . . And he had told her, firmly, that they could have no more conversations of a personal nature. He hadn't even used those terms. But he had been clear that they were to behave as they always had, and she had agreed. It was the only way to behave. And it wasn't as though they were friends, even if she did happen to know some things about him that almost no one else did, even if she had seen tears in his eyes. Professor Snape had been kind to her, generously so, even if it was perhaps out of his own self-interest so that she wouldn't turn on him and betray his secrets. She would never do that, but she could understand that he might not trust her. He had so few people whom he could trust. Suddenly, as daft as it still seemed to her, Hermione was glad she had come, whether it was wise or not, and whether he wanted her there or not. She met his gaze.

"I doubt that it was the mere mention of my name that brings you here tonight, however," Severus said. "May I gather that your . . . friends were discussing me and my general sweet nature?" He tried to keep the sarcasm from his voice, but did not succeed.

"Some people were talking about you, that's all. I just wanted to see you." Hermione picked up her book bag. "And I brought you a little something. I thought . . . everyone likes a little surprise, after all." She took the small packet of sweets from her bag and placed them on his desk. "They're from what you gave me. Ones I thought you might like."

The corner of Severus's mouth twitched. "Are there any of those chocolate-covered coffee beans?"

"Three. Three of those, two mocha truffles, and one dark chocolate truffle, sir."

Severus nodded. "Thank you, Miss Granger."

They sat in silence for a few moments.

"Yes, well, I suppose I should go," Hermione said. "I just wanted to see you." She kept repeating herself, she thought. Professor Snape must think her one of the bigger dunderheads he had to teach.

"It is nice to see you, as well," Severus said softly.

"I wanted you to know . . ." What had she wanted him to know? "To know that I still appreciate all you do, and that knowing you are in the Order gives me hope every day." He was still listening, looking at her expressionlessly. "And that you have friends." Hermione blushed.

Severus lowered his gaze and looked away from her. "Thank you."

"I wish . . ." Hermione summoned every ounce of Gryffindor courage and continued. "I wish that I could remind you every day that you have friends, and I wish I could offer more friendship than just some chocolates. But I wanted you to know. And it doesn't matter what happens later. I know that appearances can be deceiving."

She stood as Severus looked up at her again. "Perhaps you should shout at me after we open the door, sir. Just in case there's someone around. Or for the sake of the portraits."

Severus nodded and stood himself. "Your visit was welcome, Hermione. Today. For today."

Hermione agreed. "Yes, today. I won't make a habit of this. Thank you for seeing me, Professor."

"Thank you for the chocolates, Hermione . . . and the other."

When he opened the door, he shouted at her about being a bothersome little know-it-all who couldn't write an adequate essay if her life depended upon it. Before Hermione turned and left, she gave him a cheeky wink, just as she had done weeks before, then she turned and left, looking morose and dejected, a slump to her shoulders, and the door slammed behind her, causing her to jump.

Perhaps one day, she would be able to visit him and truly offer him her friendship. Perhaps . . . one day.

Author's Note: If you are an adult and would like to read An Act of Love, it is available on three other sites: The Petulant Poetess, Sycophant Hex Lumos, and Sycophant Hex Occlumency. You can find links to An Act of Love and all of my other fics on my LJ or wordpress site. (See my ffnet author's profile for links.)

The full backstory and an ADMM romance are in Resolving a Misunderstanding, which is available here on ffnet or on TPP or Lumos. Death's Dominion can stand alone, but Albus and Minerva's backstory is in Resolving a Misunderstanding.

See full disclaimer in my author's profile, but suffice it to say (as I'm sure everyone knows), the HP universe and the HP canon characters were created by and belong to JKR. I just have fun with them and give the canon characters new playmates from my own imagination!