D/C: Okay, I confess. I know I tried to pull the wool over your eyes, but it's time I stopped my silly charade. I had something really funny to put here, but someone might have actually yelled at me for it, so I decided to stay on the safe side. Here goes. Not Mine.
A/N: Have I ever told you all how much I love you for leaving me reviews? Well, just in case, I absolutely positively without even a tiny bit of doubt love and adore you all endlessly! Muah! (There should always be a kiss after a confession like that. :*)
Chapter 29: Stories to Tell, Secrets to Share
Hermione finally managed to recover from her shock. She pulled back gently from his embrace, and studied his form carefully.
"How did you suddenly manage to be so real?"
"Did you think I was fake?"
"Well, no, but you-"
The boy laughed, and raised a hand to quiet Hermione, "I was just teasing you."
He reached for her hand, and Hermione hesitantly let him take it.
"This," he said, holding her wrist and pointing to the bracelet.
"My bracelet? How did that make you visible?"
"My soul is in it."
Hermione paused, was it a horcrux? But then, did that mean he was a murderer?
"Hermione," he started, almost laughing, "I can see all the questions on your face. However, I don't think we have a lot of time at this moment. Go comfort your friend, and I will meet you in the library whenever you're finished."
"But I'm not sure how long that will take. And I really don't want to leave, what if you disappear again?"
"Keep the bracelet on, and I will never disappear. And trust me, I can spend all day in a library. Not that I really need to be any other place anyway."
Hermione knitted her brow together, not sure if she should walk away from him.
"I promise, I'll see you soon."
"Can't you come with me?"
"I can't pass through any room with a password or ward."
"Hm. Alright. I'll see you soon."
Reluctantly, Hermione walked away from her ghost, if I can really call him that anymore. As she entered the Gryffindor common room through the portrait, she didn't notice the Slytherin girl watching her from the other end of the hallway.
Ginny was sitting on the couch in front of the fireplace, curled up and holding her knees close to her chest, head resting against them. She wasn't crying anymore, but her cheeks were stained with her tears, and her eyes puffy and red.
"Hey, Gin. How are you feeling?"
"Terrible. I must have the worst taste in guys `Mione. First, I spend most of my years here madly in love with a boy who only noticed as his best mate's sister, then screw it up horribly when he finally decides to see me. Now, I've fallen deeply in love with a boy who has dedicated himself to he-who-must-not-be-named. Why? He was perfect, Hermione. He acts the big jerk all the time, but one day he was walking by himself down the hall and found me struggling with the huge load of stuff I was trying to carry. He took it all out of my hands and I thought to hex him, thinking he was going to do something awful, but he just asked where I was headed." Ginny sighed, smiling a bit at the memory. "After that it seemed like we just kept bumping into each other. Then, when I studying in the same niche you saw us in on New Year's, he brought me dinner and we just sat and talked and studied together. He held my hand. Before he left, I pecked him. Then things heated up from there. I would have given him my virginity."
Hermione almost choked on her own spit.
"Wow, Gin, that's…"
"More than you needed to know, I know. But I honestly thought we were connected somehow. I thought he loved me. I know that I love him."
"Well, maybe he does. Maybe this is a terrible misunderstanding and you just need to go talk to him."
"A dark mark is not a misunderstanding. It's an oath."
"Not everyone who takes a dark mark dedicates their lives to him, you know."
"I know you've been spending a lot of time in the dungeon with Snape, and maybe you've come to find him tolerable, but that doesn't necessarily mean he's a good guy. I know Dumbledore says he's a spy, but that doesn't make it true. He could be lying to Dumbledore just as easily as he could be a spy."
"Ginny! That's a terrible thing to say!"
"Oh, I know! I'm upset, I feel betrayed, and I'm talking about something I don't know much about. But it doesn't mean I'm wrong, you know Harry honestly doesn't trust him at all, thinks he's evil through and through. Oh, stop looking at me as if I broke your heart, it's not like you know much more about him than I do."
Hermione realized that Ginny was mostly right. She didn't know much more about Severus than her friend did. She did know his evening routine, his work routine, his affectionate side. She knew his love of learning, almost as if he needed knowledge to fuel him. She also knew his temper, but then everyone knew that. Of course, it seemed he was always a bit more affectionate with her when he was angry with someone else. Almost as if he was making up to her for his mood, she'd bet no one else would experience that. She knew he was passionate about everything he did, and knew he felt as if he were unworthy of her affection. But she knew nothing of his past, nothing of his motivations in the war, why he was a teacher, nothing of his hope for the future after the war.
"Listen `Mione, I'm sorry, I can see that what I said bothered you. I don't really think he's evil, I'm just saying that we can't be sure. And so your case for Draco is invalid. I would really love it if Draco had some great way to explain away his mark, but I just don't think I could ever trust him with it."
Hermione's heart stung for her friend and, for some reason, Draco. She really couldn't believe that he would take the mark after what had happened to his father, and somehow felt that he had an explanation. She would deal with that later. Right now, she was going to ensure Ginny's well-being, then go find Anthony. Her head was burning with questions for him. And she still had to brew her potion tonight. Just then the boys came into the common room and spotted Ginny crying on the couch. Harry was at her side in a second.
"Ginny, are you okay? What's happened?"
He put his arms around her in a comforting embrace, and she responded by hugging herself tighter.
"I'm fine, Harry. I just had a tough day, that's all."
"Did he hurt you?"
"He?" Hermione asked, surprised. Who was he referring to?
Mistaking her surprise at his comment for knowledge of who it was, he just nodded.
"Yes, I saw him in the hallway with you this morning. What did he do to you?"
"He didn't do anything to me, Harry, really."
"Why would you cover for him? He's a bloody git, and he can't get away with it forever."
"You're more interested in getting him found out than you are about whether or not he hurt me. Well, if you're so upset, you can go show his bloody dark mark to Dumbledore! Just leave me alone!"
"Ginny, of course I care what he does to you. He'll get his, but I hate the thought of him hurting you in the process. Besides, Dumbledore's known about his dark mark for years."
"Years?" Hermione and Ginny asked together, looking thoroughly confused.
"Yeah, remember? Dumbledore told us about how Snape was found out as a deatheater, then turned spy, or so he's tried to convince us."
Realization dawned on Ginny's face and she quickly hid it as she responded, "Harry, he didn't hurt me. He took ten points from our house and threatened to give me detention if I ever barreled into him again. Honestly, he was rather lenient. Normally I think he would have given me detention without any such warning."
"That's why you're crying?"
"Not exactly, I had a setback on my broom today, too. I also lost my assignment for muggle studies, and got a zero for the assignment. It's just been a bad day."
Hermione was trying hard not to smile. Ginny's day had indeed been terrible, but it was funny how off they had all been. Although she had to admit she was a little annoyed at Harry's statements about Snape.
"Harry, I have to go," Ginny said, pulling herself from his embrace, "I still have to get to my other classes. I'll see you later."
"Well, okay Gin, I hope you feel better. I'm sorry you're having a bad day."
"I have to go, too. I'll see you boys at dinner."
Ron had been standing off the whole time and was giving Harry the look of death. Hermione had a feeling it had to do with the way he had put his arm around Ginny. They really had to get their feelings worked out.
"Bye, `Mione," Ron answered, never taking his eyes from his best friend.
"Bye," Harry said, before turning to Ron and gulping.
Hermione left before the yelling began.
Outside the common room, Hermione looked for Ginny, but it seemed the redhead had disappeared. She shrugged, and headed for the library. Anthony was waiting for her there, as promised. He was sitting right next to her favorite spot, reading a book. He looked up when he felt her presence, and motioned for her to take the seat next to him.
"Well, that didn't take long. I suppose Ginny is healing from her fight with Draco?"
"You know about that?"
"I happened to be passing by when she saw it."
"Do you think he's evil?"
"I know he's not. Well, at least I can say that I've seen a major change in him since he fell in love with your friend. I don't know why he has that mark, but I've seen the way he looks at it. He hates it."
"I need to find out what happened. I just can't let Ginny go on hating him when I really don't think he's evil."
Anthony put his hand softly over Hermione's. She was surprised by the contact, and almost pulled her hand away.
"It feels good to touch someone again. It's been fourteen years since anyone's worn the bracelet. The last person who did, threw it away the minute I told her about it. She yelled at me about Horcruxes and ran away. She didn't even give me a chance to explain what happened."
"What did happen?" Hermione asked, remembering that a horcrux was exactly what she thought of.
"Love." He looked pained as he said this, and closed his eyes as if to close off a distant memory.
Hermione waited patiently for him to continue, and after a moment, he did.
"I was always a good student. I found that I was extremely good at spells that transferred energy to inanimate objects. Well, in seventh year, I decided to propose to my girlfriend, Amber. We had talked about getting married when school was out, and thought it would be romantic to propose on Valentine's day. Well, I did, and she told me that the ring wasn't good enough. She wanted something that no one else could have. She said she wanted a piece of my soul," he sighed and ran his hands through his hair, "so I went to the restricted section, and found a book of dark magic. In it was a way to bind a piece of my soul to an inanimate object. That bracelet," he said, pointing to Hermione's wrist, "was a gift from my great-grandmother to my fiancé. She gave it to me to give to Amber when she accepted my proposal."
"So you put a piece of your soul into the bracelet."
"Well, actually, I put my whole soul into it. I have no idea what happened to my body, it simply vanished. I walked into the library a fully formed human being, and out of it, a ghost of sorts."
"What's terrible is that I could have reversed it if I had found the book before I became bound to it."
"What do you mean?"
"Well for the first few days, I still was able to go in and out of rooms as I pleased, slept in my bed, and sat with my girlfriend. She didn't know I was there, but I didn't know she'd be able to see me if I gave her the bracelet. So after three weeks of looking for a way to reverse the spell, I found it. But it involved dying or going back a week in time. Didn't feel like dying, and it's impossible for me to go back in time. So I remained invisible. June came, and I watched as my girlfriend cried by the lake the night before she graduated. She begged to the wind that I'd come back, or that I'd somehow explain why I left. She said she wasn't serious that the ring wasn't enough, that she loved me and would marry me the moment I returned if I still wanted her. I tried to communicate with her, I did. But nothing I tried worked. I can't write, the paper and the ink become invisible."
"That's so sad. Can I help? I can write to her for you."
"This was a long time ago. She's likely already forgotten about me. I appreciate it though, you're very sweet."
"So, what now? Is there anything I can do to help you?"
"I doubt it, but honestly, just being able to talk to you helps me. I believe there is a way for me to help you though."