Hope and Glory
All characters belong to J. K. Rowling.
AN: This is a continuation of the oneshot 'Bricks and Mortar'. It is recommended that that be read first.
It was early evening when Hermione Granger strolled home from town carrying several bags of shopping. She could have Apparated with it, but lately she'd found a new love in walking. Perhaps, it was because she could let her mind wander freely and the tension flow from her body during the exercise. Entering the house in which she lived with her parents, Hermione went through to the kitchen to find her mother cooking dinner.
'Here you go, Mum.'
'Thanks, love. Stick it on the table and I'll sort it out in a minute.'
Hermione placed the bags down and poured herself a glass of water. 'Will you be coming to St. Mungo's tomorrow, Mum?'
Mrs. Granger shook her head. 'No, I need to do a few hours at the surgery tomorrow, but you know he's been very good all day, today.'
Hermione smiled at her mother's obvious pleasure and wished she could share in her optimism. The days when her father appeared to be fine were sometimes the worst for Hermione. She couldn't help but think that maybe this time, this time, it would be permanent. It never was, making it all the more distressing when he suddenly looked at her and couldn't remember who she was. How long would it be before the Healers made some, or any, progress?
'Oh, Hermione, there was an owl arrived for you earlier on. Hang on,' said her mother wiping her hands on her apron. 'Here it is; it's from Hogwarts.'
Hermione raised her eyebrows, and her mother looked on with clear curiosity. Ripping the seal, Hermione pulled out a piece of parchment.
'Ah, it's from Professor McGonagall,' commented Hermione as she read the letter. 'It's Hagrid's birthday next weekend; they're having a celebration at The Three Broomsticks to mark the occasion, as well as his recent return to health.' Hermione smiled at the thought of the half-giant.
'Well, that will be lovely, won't it?'
Hermione blinked. 'I, well, I won't be going.'
'Why on earth not?'
'Because…' shrugged Hermione, stuffing the parchment back inside the envelope.
'Your father and I will be fine for one night! You hardly ever go out with your friends anymore, love.'
Hermione didn't say anything.
'Come and sit down; I've been meaning to speak with you about something.'
Hermione sat down at the kitchen table and looked at her mother with interest.
'I've been thinking a lot lately, about your father, and the prospect that he might not get better.' Hermione looked away, but her mother pressed on. 'It's a very real prospect, Hermione. And who knows, he may even get worse. With that in mind, I've been thinking it's silly not to make the most of it while we still can. Now, we can't go away during the week of course, we'd miss his sessions at the hospital. But the weekends could be a different matter. I think your father would like to go and visit some new places, see the country a bit more.'
'But Mum, you know how he gets sometimes. Are you sure you could manage on your own?'
'Yes,' affirmed Mrs. Granger. 'It will be good for you too, dear, to have a bit of time to yourself, to go out with your friends, and to go to Hagrid's party.'
You're probably right. I do think it is a good idea for you two to go and enjoy yourselves. If there's anywhere I can Apparate you both to, you'll let me know?'
'Of course,' replied her mother, patting her hand.
Her mother left the kitchen and Hermione allowed herself a long sigh. Picking up the letter from Hogwarts, she ran her finger over the familiar wax seal. She would like to see Hagrid again, and she hadn't seen Professor McGonagall in a very long time. No doubt Harry and Ginny had been invited, and Ron too. And maybe Professor Snape would be there as well. Surely he would have been invited; without him, Hagrid would not have even reached his latest birthday.
She hadn't seen or heard from Professor Snape since their last meeting at St. Mungo's. Hermione didn't mind admitting that she had enjoyed talking with him those times he had been there. Well, why else had she impulsively run after him to ask if they could stay in touch? Hermione still cringed whenever she remembered that. Did he think her desperate? She wasn't really sure what to make of it all. He hadn't seemed to be too put out by her, but then, he had Disapparated without telling her how she could contact him. What was she supposed to do? Send a poor owl off with a letter, unaddressed, to find a man who could be anywhere in the country? Besides, it was probably for the best; she didn't know what she'd put in a letter that would be of interest to him anyway.
Still, she would go to The Three Broomsticks next weekend, and she would give it her best shot at enjoying herself.
'Good evening, Minerva.'
'Severus! Oh, you startled me,' replied Minerva McGonagall as she appeared out of the darkness.
Minerva paused at the door to The Three Broomsticks and surveyed him critically. 'You know, I wondered whether you would turn up tonight.'
Severus shrugged. 'I enjoy a good drink along with the rest of them, Minerva.'
'Yes, well,' muttered Minerva averting her eyes, and Severus fancied she looked a bit sheepish about something. With one brief glance up to the distant lights of Hogwarts castle, Severus followed the older woman inside the pub. He was unwinding the scarf from his neck when he glanced up to see a large table around which the guests sat. There was Hagrid, hard to miss, of course, and there was… He froze.
'Bloody hell, Minerva; what have you done?' Severus looked at her aghast.
Minerva turned to him as she hung up her cloak. 'What?' She still looked sheepish.
'You failed to mention they would be here!' Severus flicked his eyes towards where Harry Potter, his wife, and Ronald Weasley were sitting around the table.
'Well, you definitely wouldn't have come if I had.'
'No, I wouldn't! And I can just as easily turn around and go back now!'
'You will not. You will sit down and have at least one drink. Then you can do what you like.' Minerva turned on her heel and walked towards the group in the corner. Severus, gritting his teeth in irritation, followed her.
'Here he is,' roared Hagrid. 'Saved my life 'e did!'
Severus inwardly groaned. Hagrid was obviously three sheets to the wind already. For someone of his size, he had a remarkably low threshold when it came to alcohol consumption.
'Severus!' squeaked Filius Flitwick. 'It's been too long.'
'Indeed,' replied Severus, shaking the little man's hand. He greeted some of his former colleagues and managed a terse nod in the direction Harry Potter and his cohorts.
'Good evening, Professor Snape, Professor McGonagall.'
Severus looked to see Hermione Granger returning to her seat next to her friends. He was about to say something when Minerva barrelled past him to embrace her former student.
'Hermione, dear, there you are!'
Severus settled for a staid, 'Miss Granger,' before sitting down at the end of the table.
'Get this down yer, Sev'rus!' Hagrid's loud tones reverberated from the other side of Minerva. The half-giant plonked a large tankard down in front him, sloshing the contents everywhere, and then proceeded to slap him heartily on the back.
'Thanks,' managed Snape, surreptitiously checking his spine to ascertain whether it was still intact.
As it turned out, Severus did stay for more than one drink, but he should have known that inevitably there would come a point when he would sincerely wish he had left after that first pint. And that point arrived halfway through the evening, around the time Hagrid began regaling the table with Muggle sea-shanties, taught to him by his father. Hardly a person with an outgoing and gregarious nature, Severus found his attentions wandering.
He noticed Miss Granger to be still in rather low spirits while her companions were clearly enjoying themselves. He thought about talking to her, but over the din of Hagrid's and Flitwick's combined cacophony of noise, such a task would not be easy. As the last strains of the Hogwarts school song died away, Severus realised Hagrid was crying. Minerva was vainly trying to comfort him, by patting him on the arm.
'What's wrong?' Severus asked her in surprise.
Minerva merely looked at him with a helpless expression, while Hagrid continued snuffling into his beard.
'People 'ave always 'bin so good to me,' sobbed Hagrid haltingly. 'Me Dad, Dumbledore, great man 'e was…'
Severus felt his insides freeze, as they always did at any mention of Albus Dumbledore.
'… And now, Perfessor Snape, savin' me life! I'm sorry for the way I treated yeh, Sev'rus, when you were 'Eadmaster, I shoulda– '
Minerva hurriedly spoke over Hagrid, urging him to calm down, but it was too late. The frivolous atmosphere that had pervaded the air was now an uncomfortable tension with the only the sound of Hagrid's sniffles to break it. Severus gripped his tankard with all his might, inwardly cursing the half-giant for being a sentimental old fool. He didn't need to look around the table to know that everyone was studiously avoiding his gaze. The old adage was correct, people forgave, but they never forgot.
'I should probably get Hagrid back to Hogwarts,' said Minerva in a small voice. 'He's, ah, had a lot to drink. Horace, perhaps you could help me?'
Severus stood up to let Minerva pass as she led Hagrid away from the table.
'Sorry about this, Severus,' Minerva murmured vainly trying to keep Hagrid steady.
Snape nodded fractionally and once they'd left, turning to see that everyone was still awkwardly trying to pretend nothing had happened, he sighed irritably. He couldn't be bothered with this. Draining the remains of his ale, he sharply set the tankard down on the table and headed for the door, collecting his scarf and cloak as he went. Stepping out into the cool night air felt wonderful after the stuffy atmosphere of the pub.
He moved out of the doorway and into the shadows to put on his cloak. He knew he should Apparate home straight away, lingering in Hogsmeade with such proximity to Hogwarts, and indeed, the Shrieking Shack, would not help his mood. But as Hagrid's faux pas had cemented his melancholia, he reasoned he might as well feed it. The door to the pub creaked open and Severus looked to see Hermione Granger appear, hugging her cloak tight around her and peering up and down the street. Hmm, maybe the end of his evening didn't have to be quite so melancholic.
'You know, Miss Granger, I've been sat at my window every day these past two weeks, eagerly anticipating your owl.'
Hermione turned around, startled for a moment, before she narrowed her eyes. 'Oh, very likely,' she scoffed.
Severus stepped up to join her on the pavement. 'Don't believe me, then.' He moved away into the road, seemingly for no reason, but it afforded him a better view of the castle. Suddenly he wished it wasn't dark.
'Perhaps you approve of sending owls on wild goose chases? Seeing as you never gave me any indication as to where you live.'
Severus tore his eyes back to Hermione. 'Ah, yes; how forgetful of me.'
'I'm sure,' commented Hermione suspiciously.
'What are you doing out here, anyway?'
'Oh, um, I thought someone should come and see if you were…' she trailed off uncomfortably.
Severus gave a harsh laugh. 'If I were all right?'
'Sorry; Irealise how naive that sounds.'
'It doesn't matter.' Severus sat down on a nearby bench. 'How is your father?'
Hermione stuffed her hands within her cloak to warm them. 'The same,' she said with a tired smile. 'They've both gone away this weekend. My mother must be sick of my long face all the time; she told me to get out and enjoy myself for a change.' Hermione said, chuckling at the memory.
'It didn't look like you were enjoying yourself.'
'Obvious, was it? Harry and Ron they… Oh, I don't want to get into it now; I make myself sick sometimes, droning on all the time. You know what? I am going to enjoy myself and you canhelp me.'
'I beg your pardon?' replied Severus giving her a sidelong glance. What was the girl blathering on about now? He was going home to keep his old bottle of Ogden's company and she definitely wasn't coming with him.
'Yes, I'm not finished with my night, yet; I'm off to the Hog's Head.'
'A pub-crawl, Miss Granger? I didn't know you had it in you.'
She ignored his sarcasm. 'Two pubs do not a pub-crawl make, Professor. Are you coming?'
Severus eyed her speculatively. 'I'm sure you'd be much better off with your friends.'
Hermione glanced back towards The Three Broomsticks. 'Oh, they won't want to come. Well, it's your choice, but I'm going to get drunk.'
She started walking off in the direction of The Hog's Head and Severus remained seated, caught in two minds. He didn't particularly want to play nursemaid to a dejectedly reckless Gryffindor, but, ugh, there was this feeling creeping about inside him that he was sure was masquerading as responsibility. That was what fifteen years of teaching did to a person, he supposed. It, instilled a maddening sense of responsibility. He could simply go inside and warn Potter… but…
Severus sighed long-sufferingly. 'Miss Granger, hang on.'
'It's just dawned on me that I should probably have told Harry or Ron where I was going.' Hermione let out a carefree giggle. 'Oh well.'
'Do you mean to say I should expect an early morning wake-up call from the Aurors tomorrow, to interrogate me as to where I've abducted you?'
Hermione smiled and sipped her wine, feeling pleasantly light-headed. 'Oh no, Harry won't turn up on your doorstep with accusations; he's a big fan of yours now, you know.' She laughed again when the expression of her companion turned from blank to horrified in a split second.
'I beg your pardon!' spluttered Snape.
Hermione nodded enthusiastically. 'Oh yes! He won't have a bad word said against you, not anymore.' Her smile became distant. 'Funny how things change, really.'
'Frightening, is more apt,' came the dark reply.
'Don't worry; he's not going to start a fan club or anything. And Ron still doesn't like you, if that helps.' As soon as the words were out of her mouth Hermione felt herself blushing furiously. Perhaps she should ease up on the drink, she thought; her tongue was becoming dangerously loose. 'Um, I shouldn't have, um… .'
Snape snorted. 'Please, you don't think I could have worked that for myself? It's as plain as the freckles on his face.' There was no trace of bitterness in his tone.
'They are rather plain.' Hermione nodded sagely.
'He's an idiot,' muttered Snape into his glass.
'No no, he's not an idiot! Why do people always say that about him? He's just… I'll have you know I nearly married him, I did.' Hermione jabbed her finger onto the table to emphasise her point.
'You nearly did what?'
'Don't look so aghast, Prof, Professor Snape, I wanted to marry him.'
'By all that is sacred, why?'
Hermione shrugged dismissively. 'Because. Why does anyone want to get married?' She glanced over at him sardonically. 'Anyway, quite clearly we did not get married, in the end. He broke it off when it became apparent my father wasn't going to get better any time soon. I'd already moved back into my parents' house, so…'
Snape, she noticed, had trained his gaze on his glass of whisky, which he twisted about in his hand. He seemed disinterested, but she had an idea that he was listening. Either that or she was talking to herself—not an unusual occurrence in the Hog's Head, at any rate.
'I couldn't expect him to put his life on hold, could I? Besides, I had more important things on my mind; I don't think I was even bothered… in the end.' She drained the remains of her glass and set it down heavily. 'Ugh, we're supposed to steering clear of maudlin topics, tonight. How about another one?'
'Miss Granger, I think you've– '
'Excellent!' she interrupted breezily, and stepped very cautiously over to the bar. She wanted to retain some of dignity, at the very least.
Some time later, when they emerged from the pub, Hermione felt wonderful. The cold breeze soothed her flushed cheeks and well, everything was so funny and fabulous. Now, if only she could remember how to walk in a straight line.
'Prof,' she hiccoughed. 'Professor, where are you? I'm going to be on the floor if I move.'
'I'm here, Miss Granger.'
'Oh, yes,' she replied as she turned to see him standing several paces behind her, shrugging on his cloak. She chuckled loudly at the amount of time it was taking for him to clasp it together.
'What are you cackling about now?' He crossed over to her, and grabbing her arm they moved unsteadily into the street.
'Nothing; just glad to see I'm not the only one tipsy.' Hermione kept her gaze on her feet, making sure they were staying one in front of the other.
'I may be tipsy but there are far better adjectives to describe your condition.'
'I don't think so… Oh I can hear music! Can you hear it?' Hermione wrenched her head in the direction of The Three Broomsticks, from where the sound was emanating. 'Come, let's dance, sir!' She grabbed his arm.
'I think not! It'll take more than a few drinks for that, Miss Granger!'
'Oh but…' she tugged harder on his arm.
'I said…' Suddenly his expression changed and he was smirking. 'All right; you want to dance, do you?'
'Um,' began Hermione, now unsure. His arm flew out clasping her waist, and then she was being spun round; immediately Hermione felt sick. 'All right, all right, stop!'
He let go and Hermione clutched one hand to her spinning head and the other to her stomach. 'I see your point; but did you have to throw me around like that?' she groaned.
Snape continued to smirk as he sat heavily onto a bench. 'It was the only way I could think of to shut you up. I need some quiet to gather my wits about me. You do realise one us needs to Apparate us out of here? Clearly, you are in no fit state. Unless, of course, you fancy running up to Hogwarts and asking Minerva for a bed for the night?'
Hermione threw herself down beside him and closed her eyes. 'Oh, I'd forgotten about that, sir.'
'And stop calling me "sir" would you? I feel like I'm going to be arrested at any moment for getting one of my students inebriated.'
Hermione opened her eyes and looked at him. 'Sorry, you never invited me to… And, well, you are always so formal.'
'I am not a teacher anymore.' He sighed. 'I should have brought some sober-up with me.'
Hermione let her head rest on the back of the wooden bench. She wasn't concerned; she knew he wouldn't splinch them both—the cold air was beginning to have a sobering effect even on her.
Snape stood up and held out his hand. 'Come on, Miss Granger; it's now or never.'
'Maybe you should stop calling me "Miss Granger" all the time!' Hermione accused as she precariously got to her feet.
'Is this permission for me to address you as "bothersome girl" or some other such moniker?'
'It's not,' Hermione glowered. 'And just for that I won't promise not to be sick once you've Apparated us.'
'On your own head be it,' he warned. 'Now, quiet; I need to concentrate.'
Closing her eyes, she began preparing herself for the motion sickness that would follow. It seemed an age had passed before they appeared, with a loud crack, in a darkened room.
Hermione wasn't sure what made her do it; well, it was the drink, probably. 'My arm is gone!' she gasped loudly.
Immediately the lights in the room flared to life and a startled 'What?' reverberated off the walls.
Hermione bent double with laughter. 'Your face!' she spluttered. 'Oh, Merlin!
Snape frowned at her deeply. 'That was in very poor taste, indeed!'
Hermione clutched her aching stomach till her laughter died down. She wiped her eyes and sighed pleasantly; she couldn't remember the last time she'd laughed so completely. She was almost afraid to look at Snape, in case he was angry, but when she did it was to catch him biting his lip. Hermione smiled; perhaps that would be one of her goals in life, to get Severus Snape to genuinely laugh out loud. Noticing she was standing next to a settee, she leant on it slightly and blinked several times, as if to clear her head.
'Where are we?'
'My house; where do you think? I will fetch some Sober-Up potion for you to take and then you can Apparate home.'
He disappeared and Hermione slid fully onto the cushions of the settee. It was surprisingly comfortable, and suddenly she did feel awfully tired…
The next morning Hermione opened her eyes and immediately closed them again. Surely she was dying? She brought her hand up to her mouth and grimaced. She was going to be sick. Breathing deeply, Hermione concentrated with all her might on getting her roiling stomach under control. A thought suddenly struck her and her sickness was, for the moment, forgotten. Where the hell was she? What had happened last night? She sorted through her fuzzy memories, one by one.
Oh, Merlin. Please, Merlin, no. No, no, no!
Hermione cracked her eyes open and found she was looking at the back of a settee. How she wished the cushions would swallow her whole and never ever spit her back out. How could she have let herself get into such a state? And what must he think of her? Hermione mentally groaned; well she couldn't play dead forever. She moved to sit up and whimpered, one hand reaching up to clutch her head.
'Good morning, Miss Granger.'
Hermione cringed. 'Um, good morning.' She removed her hand and swivelled her legs onto the floor.
Snape set a small vial down onto the table in front of her. 'I'd drink that directly, if I were you.'
Her stomach flipped at the thought of consuming anything, but she reached over and downed the contents gratefully. She sighed and already she could feel her sickness settling.
'Thank you, sir, um–'
She was interrupted by a long sigh. 'Call me Severus, Miss Granger; it is my name, after all.'
'Oh, of course, then Hermione, please, um…' she felt herself blushing. 'Listen, I, uh, want to apologise for last night, I don't normally get so, well–'
'Yes, quite,' agreed Hermione tightly. 'I hope I wasn't too much of an inconvenience, either.'
'Well, it isn't a crime to let one's hair down, as they say.'
She was reminded of what her own hair might look like, not to mention her face; the phrases 'bird's nest' and 'panda eyes' sprang to mind.
'Thank you, for being understanding; I'd better be going now.'
Snape stood up. 'You are OK to Apparate?'
Hermione also stood up, albeit much more slowly. When the room didn't spin around her, she nodded. 'I'm fine, Prof, ah, Severus.' Saying his name only added to her seemingly permanent blush. 'Goodbye.' She turned on the spot and appeared in her living room. Collapsing in an armchair, Hermione put her head in her hands. Well, that was it, then; she'd never be able to face him again.
It turned out that only a month elapsed before Severus was stepping over the threshold of St. Mungo's hospital again. This time, however, he knew it was not to be the onerous task he'd shouldered last time he had been in the building. Indeed, he was aiming to be in and out very quickly. Unfortunately, on finding that Healer Glossop was detained in an emergency, such imaginings were effectively binned. He was debating whether to rearrange the meeting when he was informed Glossop would meet him in the tearoom, shortly. Severus sighed. Just how long was shortly?
Nevertheless, he travelled up to the fifth floor and picking up a copy of The Daily Prophet, he entered the tearoom. He scanned the room until his eyes alighted on a familiar sight. Collecting a cup of tea, he headed in the direction the recognisable bushy hair.
'Well, well, Miss Granger; fancy seeing you here.'
Hermione looked up in surprise. 'Pro – Severus! Yes, fancy indeed; am I not a fixture here?'
'It would appear so,' remarked Severus as he sat down. He noticed she seemed determined to avoid his gaze and he smirked inwardly. It was just too easy. 'I trust there's only tea in that cup, Miss Granger?'
'Hmm?' began Hermione, confused, before comprehension dawned and she flushed. 'Ha ha, it was one time; I am not an alcoholic.'
'I'm glad to hear it; I was concerned you might become a bad influence on me.' Perhaps he shouldn't tease her so, but he couldn't resist. He found it oddly charming that she was so embarrassed. Though why it should matter to her that she had his good opinion, he couldn't understand.
Hermione smiled rather reluctantly. 'I still can't believe I got into such a state…'
'It's not your fault you are such a lightweight.'
Hermione raised her eyebrows accusingly.
'Indeed, it could have been worse. I would have left you behind had you turned out to be another Hagrid when inebriated.'
'I'd better be thankful for that then. Poor Hagrid, he's always been a liability when he's had a few.'
'Indeed,' muttered Snape darkly.
Hermione sipped her tea. 'So, we know why I'm here, but why are you? If you don't mind me asking, that is.'
'I'm not ill. I'm merely here to discuss a matter with Healer Glossop. I occasionally edit articles for The Practical Potioneer, and they want me to write one on the Dragon Pox potion. Well, it wasn't all me, so it will be a collaborative effort.'
'I didn't know you worked for The Practical Potioneer.'
'Well, you never mentioned it before when I asked what you did.'
'A man's allowed a bit of intrigue, isn't he?'
'Only "a bit"? Some might say you had it in spades, Professor.' Hermione quirked an eyebrow, 'I expect you would say that I am transparent?'
Severus studied her. 'Perhaps… Gryffindors' generally are.'
Hermione laughed and shook her head in resignation. Severus cleared his throat and made a show of reaching inside his robes for his potion. Something about their exchange had struck an odd chord within him, and he had no urge to examine it at present. He set the vial down on the table.
'You'll get addicted to that stuff,' ventured Hermione in a warning tone.
'No? I had no idea!'
Hermione frowned at his sarcasm.
'Why do you think I pour it into my drink?' He demonstrated by tipping a measure into his tea. As if he wouldn't be aware of the pitfalls of taking certain potions!
'Probably doesn't dilute it that much…'
Severus glared at her. 'I was unaware you were an expert in the field.'
Hermione shrugged and turned her attention to her own tea. For several moments there was silence between them, until Hermione began speaking again.
'My, ah, drunken escapade wasn't a complete folly, you know.'
'Yes, well it made me think. If my mother, and indeed my father, can make the best of things, then so can I. She says they'll find someone else to help out in the surgery, so I'm officially looking for a new job. Nothing major, of course, as I still have to be available to bring my parents here every morning. I've had a look around Diagon Alley and enquired in a few places, Slug and Jiggers, Flourish and Blott's, and the like.'
'Indeed,' commented Snape thoughtfully 'No doubt a change of scene is probably wise.'
'Precisely; it'll be good to apply my mind to other things.'
'I wish you the best of luck, then.'
Hermione smiled pleasantly and her face brightened in a way that Severus felt did not happen very often anymore. He wondered if perhaps he could… No, such an action might appear rather suggestive, but then, he could do it on the sly. They were very discreet, after all, and would not want to alienate him by going against his wishes. Decision made, Severus glanced up at the doors wishing Glossop would hurry up. He had something he needed to attend to in Diagon Alley before he went home.
Two days later Severus received an owl.
Slug and Jigger's has offered me a job! Can you believe it?
Indeed, Severus could.
They were very understanding of my situation, and well, they didn't even want a reference! Very generous of them, wouldn't you say? Perhaps I shall see you in the not-too-distant future; apparently you are one of their most 'valued and respected' patrons.
Severus crumpled up the parchment with a suspicious frown and cursed himself. Perhaps he was just as transparent as the rest of them.
Hermione levitated the rather heavy box out of her arms and knocked briskly on the door in front of her, rocking on her heels in anticipation. Eventually the door opened and she smiled brightly.
'Miss Granger, what are doing here? Jigger usually brings my order himself.'
'It's Hermione, and I hope you don't mind but I wanted to bring it myself.'
Snape looked at her blankly. 'Why?'
'Because I have something to tell you, that's why.'
He moved aside to let her in. 'What is it that you want to tell me, then?'
Hermione didn't need to be asked twice and she enthusiastically clapped her hands together. 'It's my father; the Healer's have actually managed to remove part of my spell from his memory! It's been a week since and you can really tell the difference; his periods of memory loss are far more infrequent. And, do you know what? When they removed it, some of his memories were taken with it, but thankfully, they don't seem to be anything important! They say they might even be able to return them if they can destroy the remains of the spell! I know I'm talking a mile a minute but I can't help it!' Hermione breathed deeply. 'Where do you want your ingredients?'
'Over there,' said Snape, indicating the kitchen table, trying to process the volley of facts thrown at him. 'I am glad to hear you have had some good news, indeed.' He moved over to the box and began pulling out the various items he'd requested, giving them the once over. Hermione, far from being affronted by this, was more deflated by his lack of enthusiasm towards her news. Although, why should he get excited by it? Did anything excite him, for that matter? Still, the wind was taken out of her sails a bit. Ron, and the others, had been over the moon for her.
'You seem, ah, unconvinced,' stated Hermione carefully.
He looked up from where he was examining some snake fangs. 'On the contrary, what is there to be unconvinced about?'
'Well, you tell me.'
'Does it really matter how I express my sentiments, Miss Granger? What should my cautionary nature matter to you?'
Hermione frowned behind his back. What did it matter what he thought? She didn't have an answer to that and she changed tack. 'It's Hermione; Merlin, you were the one who was complaining about student-teacher reminders!'
'Yes, but technically you are still Miss Granger; I am not Professor Snape, and, you did say that I am fond of formality, after all.'
'Are you winding me up on purpose?'
'That would imply I took pleasure in such diversion, and that wouldn't be very generous of you, would it, Hermione?'
Hermione harrumphed loudly and stepped over to the table. 'Is everything to your satisfaction?'
'Then I will be off.' She picked up the box and was halfway across the room when his voice stopped her.
'You don't want payment? Now that is generous of you.'
Hermione gritted her teeth; how could she have forgotten that? She pulled out a receipt from her robes and unfolded it. Turning, she held it out to him sweetly. 'Payment would lovely, thank you.'
He was smirking infuriatingly as he counted out the Galleons.
'Smirk at me like that…' she muttered darkly, and was annoyed to feel a smile threatening to break out. She pocketed the money and headed once more to the door, which he dutifully held open for her to leave.
'Thank you for your custom, Mister Snape.' She could do formal too.
'Pleasure,' he said serenely, before shutting the door.
Hermione sighed. Either she'd caught him in a funny mood or she'd forgotten how aggravating the man could be. She suspected it was the latter.
Severus put his quill down and looked at his watch. Where the hell was she? He specified to have his deliveries made in the mornings and it was now approaching three o'clock. In all the weeks she'd been bringing him his ingredients, this was the first time she'd given him reason to complain. He'd have some words for her when she did arrive.
An hour later there was a knock on the door. Severus flung it open with a scowl but was surprised when she just shoved her way past and dumped the box on the table. He shut the door sharply. 'Determined not to stand on any ceremony today, are we, Miss Granger?'
Hermione ignored him and began unpacking the box. Severus joined her, slightly concerned at her behaviour.
She scrubbed a hand over face tiredly. 'I'm sorry I'm late; I just couldn't face… I have had a bloody piss-poor day! I got on the wrong side on a barrel of horned slugs earlier! ' She set down a jar of beetle eyes with a loud thump. 'There was slime everywhere… And if you're wondering what that smell is, it's me! I'm beginning to smell like that place, of cabbage and of bloody rotten eggs…'
Snape grabbed her arm and pulled it away from the box when she nearly upset a container of rat spleens. 'Careful!'
Hermione closed her eyes and sat in a nearby chair. 'Sorry.'
Looking at her, it was obvious that she was tired and anxious. Severus began unloading the box himself. 'What is wrong, Hermione?'
'You were right,' she said in a quiet voice.
'You didn't want to get my hopes up about my father, did you?'
Severus paused for a moment, but did not say anything. He had a feeling he knew what was coming next.
'They've given up on removing any more of the spell. They located one of the remnants but it's so infused with other memories that they will not risk it. Indeed, we do not want to risk it, either.' She took a shuddering breath and tugged at her hair. 'That's it; it could be worse, of course, and he has improved, but still, I always imagined, wished, that some day he would get back to normal.'
'He is alive, and that is the main thing. You will come to accept his ailment in time, and live with it accordingly, till that in itself constitutes normal.' He watched her absorb his words but the expression on her face was sorrowful. Severus found himself wishing he could offer words of comfort that were not so brusque and forthright, as was his wont. Was he of any use to her? Sometimes he wondered.
Hermione was nodding in slow agreement. 'You are right, of course.' She shrugged. 'Time to accept it, and move on, I guess.'
'You don't still blame yourself?'
'No; well, put it this way, even with hindsight I'd do it all over again. As you say, he is alive, and that the important thing. We'll learn to adjust; it's just hard, I… I hate seeing him forget who I am. That's the nature of the spell, though; I erased all memory of me.'
Severus wasn't sure what to say, and instead opted for the universal panacea. 'Would you like some tea, or do you need to get back to the Apothecary?'
'Thank you; no, this is my last task for the day.'
Severus set down a steaming mug in front of her and sat down opposite. He was halfway through pouring his potion into his tea when he realised he probably shouldn't have done so in front of her. Not if he wanted an easy life, anyway.
'I wish you wouldn't use that stuff all the time.'
He bit the inside of his mouth to keep himself from sounding off.
'Your voice doesn't even sound that bad.'
He dug his nails into his palm, trying to be mindful of her gloomy frame of mind, but he was not sure how much longer he could hold out.
'How long have you even been taking it? Don't tell me ever since it happened!'
'No,' he ground out evenly. 'Do you think I would take a pain reliever for five years running? I probably wouldn't be sitting here talking to you right now.'
'I'm just saying…'
'Well don't. You'd prefer I brave the pain? I'd like to play the martyr for you, I'm sure, but– '
'That's not what I meant. You can't keep taking it forever.'
'It is not your concern.' He fixed her with a stare, before muttering into his mug about 'interfering busybodies.'
Hermione sighed. 'Fine. Are you coming to Grimmauld Place for the Order reunion two weeks from now?'
Severus nearly choked. 'Are you insane, woman? Why on earth would I want to do such a thing?'
'Oh, come on; you can't leave me to mercy of slobbering couples and babies!'
'Well, there's an incentive if ever I heard one!'
'Loads of people will be there, Professor McGonagall–'
'I don't care if the Queen is going to be there; I am not going.' He got up suddenly and placed his mug angrily into the sink. Meddlesome girl.
'All right, keep your hair on,' Hermione muttered as she gathered her things together.
Severus stared out of the window at the falling rain and wondered, grimly, how it had come to the point where she could speak to him like that and get away with it.
'Here's your receipt.'
Severus dumped the money onto the table and went to sit in the living room. As soon as she was gone, he would pour himself a hefty measure of Scotch. He was vaguely aware of her moving to leave, and part of him was reluctant to let her go on such a low note, but he didn't know what to say. He was grateful when she spoke, proving that she at least was not limited by such shortcomings.
'I'm sorry; I should realise… I do understand why you don't want to be there.'
'It's all right.' He nodded towards her and she left without another word. Yes, it would be a hefty measure, indeed.
Two weeks later, Hermione travelled by Floo powder to Grimmauld Place and was greeted enthusiastically as soon as she emerged from the fireplace.
'Hermione! You came!'
'I haven't seen you in ages, Hermione!'
'Hermione, look at James; doesn't he look adorable!'
'Hermione, come and meet my new girlfriend!'
Hermione smiled dazedly. It was time to get back into the swing of things.
'What the devil are you doing at my door at this time of night, Minerva?'
'May I come in?'
'No, you may not.'
'Oh, suit yourself.' He huffed. Moving to slump back into his armchair, Severus closed the book he'd unsuccessfully been trying to read with a snap. Minerva raised her eyebrows and closed the door.
'I thought I'd drop by en route back to Hogwarts.'
'Why, pray tell?'
'Well, I knew you wouldn't come to Grimmauld Place and I thought I'd come by and see how you are. I left early; I can't keep up with these young ones anymore, you know.'
'Oh,' said Snape flatly.
'"Oh"? Severus? You're not normally one for monosyllables.'
'I fall short so often, Minerva…' he commented wryly, giving a small wave of his hand.
The older woman looked at him with a strong hint of a frown. 'You should have come, Severus. It was a pleasure to see everyone again. I had a lovely chat with Miss Granger, and it is good to see her looking so much happier than she did at Hagrid's birthday. She's turned into a wonderful young woman. Mr Weasley was a fool not to snap her up when he had the chance.'
Severus stared hard into the fire.
'I had no idea you were so friendly with her, Severus.'
'We're not friendly,' he dismissed emphatically.
'Oh really? You may want to tell her that. She speaks very highly of you.'
'Is this the real reason for your visit, Minerva, to fish for information about relations between Miss Granger and myself? And here I was thinking you had better things to do with your time.' He gave her a fleeting, impatient glance.
'I was merely surprised to hear it, Severus.'
'What, that I hadn't yet managed to alienate her?'
Minerva huffed. 'What is the matter with you? You're strangely defensive and, dare I say it, a bit self-pitying tonight.'
'I saw her a few times at St. Mungo's when she was there with her father and I was helping Hagrid. She delivers my ingredients from the Apothecary. The end.'
'I was only making an observation, Severus.'
'Yes, well, I would like to be left alone, Minerva, if you don't mind.'
'Hmm… Very well, as you wish. Goodnight to you, then.'
Severus ran his hand through his dark hair and looked at the door through which Minerva had recently left. The sinking feeling that had settled in the pit of his stomach for most of the day bubbled to the surface. He had an idea why he had been feeling so disgustingly irritated and off-kilter all day. There was only one reason why he should be left feeling so deflated, and that was at the thought of Miss Granger out enjoying herself while he moped about on his own. It was jealousy; it had to be. It wasn't as if he didn't have enough experience with the emotion to not recognise it.
It wasn't quite the same though; it wasn't an intense feeling that left him angry and hateful, but more like a disheartening weight resting on his shoulders. Why did he even care? Why was he even bothered what Miss Granger was doing? Was it because he was becoming increasingly aware of the differences between them? This one incident highlighted all she was, and all he'd never be. He would never be that carefree, happy person out to enjoy himself; he was unfriendly, alone and weary. It bothered him that he should wish to make himself more amenable to her.
He also felt ridiculous and unreasonable. After all, he could have gone tonight. She'd even asked him to, so what grounds did he have to complain? Perhaps, unconsciously, he'd hoped she might try and persuade him further, or worse, come to see him instead of interfering old Minerva. Clearly, he had plumbed new depths of maudlin sentiment.
Merlin, he was so pathetic; he needed to get a grip. Quickly.
AN: Part 2 will be along in the next two days or so. Hope people enjoyed this.
Thanks very much to astopperindeath for her beta help : )