The Trial of Severus Snape

Disclaimer: I'm not J. K. Rowling.

Summary: Severus Snape is judged for his acts. Twice.

A/N: This story was written for elise_wanderer as a gift on the Summer 2010 round of the sshg_exchange on LJ. Her prompt was a dialogue:

"They seemed to think that we were serious about each other."
"How silly of them."
"Indeed."
Who's speaking? Where does this come in the story?

I hope you'll enjoy reading what came out of it. :0)


"Order! Order!" Gawain Robards, Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, called loudly, his amplified voice carrying through the arched walls of Courtroom Ten and being lost, ignored.

There was an uproar of voices when the accused—Severus Snape—was called into the room. Not even the presence of two big Aurors prevented those closer to the ground floor of the round space from retracting in fear when the killer of Albus Dumbledore was led to the chair in the center and chained to it.

But the most vilified man of the post-Voldemort wizarding world wasn't walking to his Fate alone. Waiting by the chair were two young heroes, defying the crowd and Wizengamot to go against them. Harry Potter shortly took the seat closer to Minister Shacklebolt; Hermione Granger remained standing, raising her chin and eyes proudly.

"Order!"

The room finally heard and quieted. Robards glared at Hermione as if his will alone would drive her away to a seat. When that didn't work, he glared more fiercely and threatened, "Young lady, take a seat or I'll be forced to ask you to leave this courtroom."

"Mr. Robards," Hermione addressed him, "my name is Hermione Jean Granger, and I appear for the accused in this matter, Severus Tobias Snape."

Robards frowned. Witches and wizards behind him looked at each other in confusion. "No one can appear for the accused. The accused is here already. Now, take a seat, Miss Granger."

Hermione didn't move, maintaining a calm stance that her peers would recognize right away as a sign of impatience with ignorance. "It means I'm here to defend him, sir." Yes, her voice confirmed that impatience.

The noise in the room raised in volume once again; murmurs from the public took on interrogative tones of curiosity and surprise.

"Why?" the Head of Magical Law Enforcement questioned. "Is Mr. Snape unable to speak for himself?"

"I assure you, Mr. Robards, that I can speak for myself very well," Severus answered, his grave and raspy voice quieting the crowd once again.

"But," Hermione intervened, "it's in his best interests that I represent him in this matter, sir."

"And you agree with this, Mr. Snape?" Robards was looking strangely at the man chained there.

Hermione turned on Severus with her hands on her hips. Severus sighed. "Yes."

And to the world at large, that was when Severus Snape's life landed in Hermione Granger's hands. In the privacy of Severus' mind, his life had been in the delicate hands of this aggravating woman for months already, since she'd decided she would be silly enough to devote her time to him, a convicted man—tried or not.

The trial would be up to Hermione, because to Severus, his conviction was a certainty, so why bother? It was selfish of him to want to watch her waltz in the courtroom anyway, owning the space like she belonged there, to listen to her defending him with fervor, and to believe that she could get him free just because she cared whether he was freed or convicted. What would happen when she realized that her carefully prepared arguments were nothing more than a vain attempt to convince a Wizengamot whose mind was already made up? It was all a big waste of time. He'd known this since the day he woke up, painfully not dead.

Her campaign to defend him continued blissfully without his active participation, until...

"Mr. Snape, do you agree to this? Are you sure you want to make these memories public?" Shacklebolt asked, before the Head of Magical Law Enforcement dropped into the room's Pensieve the contents of the vial Hermione had handed him as evidence.

She looked at him apologetically. Severus nodded, resigned.

Her campaign was mad and sure to bring his pride lower than Azkaban would by the end of this farce of a trial.

Today. Very soon.

The vial was emptied into the stone basin, and he closed his eyes to avoid seeing Lily rise from the Pensieve. He deserved to rot in Azkaban for what he'd done to her. As the memories played, Severus tried to forget them, to let them go, to stop feeling guilty and then angry for being made to feel as guilty as he felt. Then Albus…

Severus heard his memories of the old fool and felt the contradictory feelings attached to them. He hated what Albus had done to his already miserable life, and yet, Severus had still loved him like a grandfather—a testament to how messed up he was. If he spent one year, one decade, or one lifetime in Azkaban, no one would notice any difference.

"I'm sorry, Severus," he heard her whisper beside him and knew instantly that she would notice a difference. He opened his eyes and nodded once to acknowledge Hermione. Yes, she would notice if he lost his mind.

"Is that all you have to say on Mr. Snape's behalf, Miss Granger?" Robards asked, apparently unaffected by what he'd seen and heard so far.

The look of despair on Hermione's face was almost too much for Severus to take. She had truly believed that she could prove his innocence, the silly girl, and now she was suffering, like all the good souls who had ever decided to help him.

Hermione had just opened her mouth to answer Robards when the door to the courtroom banged open. A woman, followed closely by Aurors, approached quickly and, taking Severus' face with both hands, kissed him soundly and thoroughly on the lips. Severus, chained to the chair, couldn't have escaped the deranged woman even if he had had the reflex to do so. Their lips parted, but the woman continued to hold his head, looking at him with unfocused, deranged eyes.

"Mary?" Severus asked, recognizing the woman and thinking he was losing it, too. "Mary McDonald?"

She smiled tenderly at him, and it made him shudder. What was Lily's best girlfriend doing here, kissing him at his trial?

She turned from him to address the Ministry officials. "My dear Severus is sweet as a lemon drop."

And magic made the walls of the courtroom shine as bright as day, blinding them all. When the intensity of the light dimmed, gasps and shocked yelps sounded from all directions, but Severus had only heard one: Hermione's.

Well, two: Hermione's and his own.

How could he conceal his surprise at the sight of Albus Dumbledore just a foot away from him?

"Ladies. Gentlemen." Albus' voice was as calm and captivating as ever. "If I'm here today, it's because I'm dead and Severus here was generous and wise enough to end my life at my request." The image of Albus smiled at him, then. Severus' throat constricted with emotion. "Congratulations, Severus. You're far braver and more loyal than any man I ever knew, and I'm really glad you survived to finally get your share of glory."

Severus gulped past the lump that had formed in his throat. He could hear his breathing in the silent room.

Addressing the Wizengamot once more, this materialized version of Albus, which Severus now knew to be some sort of recorded memory, started explaining how and why he was there. As was Albus' modus operandi, he'd used magic never seen before to put a much-too-complicated scheme in motion, with no one the wiser—including the parties who benefited from said scheme—to show off and save the day. Severus was barely listening to Albus' tale, not knowing whether to laugh hysterically or succumb to angry tears before again deciding on neither, just as he'd done so well during all these years of duplicity.

"… I leave you with your conscience free to honor this great wizard. He deserves not only his freedom, but also our eternal gratitude."

Turning to Severus again, Albus' memory added, "I'm truly sorry you have to go through this after all you've gone through already, Severus. I wish you the best of luck, dearest friend."

Severus was numb, watching the image fade into smoke and then nothing. The room remained quiet for another second before exploding into a cacophony of voices. When Severus' sight focused, Hermione Granger was staring back at him, and the confusion he could never show on his face was there, everywhere on her face, and then their eyes met, and he saw hurt added to the confusion.

"Order! Order!"

She turned towards that voice, but the hurt expression stayed with Severus.

"Any other surprises or evidence for us, Miss Granger?" Robards asked when he could again be heard without shouting.

"No, sir. Professor Dumbledore said it all," she answered meekly.

Her lack of enthusiasm hit Severus where none of the accusations and insults had.

"I believe we have enough information to come to a fair decision, Mr. Robards. We shall proceed to the verdict," Shacklebolt intervened.

Severus went cold. Now that it seemed possible, he knew that he wanted his freedom. He wanted to leave this life behind and start anew. The Wizengamot was deliberating, and Severus' eyes were blurred.

"Not guilty," the Chief Warlock declared. The chains clicked open on Severus' wrists and ankles. "You're a free man, Mr. Snape."

He stood from the chair and arms encircled him in a strong hug. "Oh, Severus! I'm so happy for you!" the woman squeaked.

Severus, still dazed, looked around, anxiously looking for her, and when his eyes found Hermione, he almost took a step back at the force of her glare. She didn't share his happiness. But she should, shouldn't she? He'd hoped she would be happy. He had to go to her, talk to her, find out why she wasn't happy. She was going to leave without talking to him. She was leaving. She was gone.

He stared at the door, confused.

With Hermione out of the room, Severus finally saw the others staring at him with a mix of expressions, knowing smiles, more than one accompanied by whispered conversation and—he closed his eyes—giggles. He looked down at Mary in his arms and cursed.

"They seemed to think that we were serious about each other," Severus pointed out, glaring at the woman hanging on to him, the same woman who had kissed him in front of everyone gathered in Courtroom Ten—reporters, Wizengamot members, Ministry officials, former students and Hermione.

"How silly of them." The woman giggled again.

"Indeed," Severus agreed, distracted by thoughts of the shock and betrayal on the face of his only true defender.

It was then that he understood that despite the Wizengamot's sentence, Hermione seemed to have sentenced him by herself, and it was quite the opposite of not guilty.

~o0oOo0o~

Hermione entered the library of Harry's house, annoyed at being disturbed in her much-needed reading time, amongst other things. As soon as she saw who was there, though, surprise took over all her other sentiments. She turned on her heels and tried to leave, but the door shut and locked. She narrowed her eyes.

"Enjoying the use of your new wand, I see."

She heard him take two steps towards her and turned, glaring. He stopped. She hadn't noticed how distinguished he looked in his old black robes when she first saw him there. Why, after seeing him like death warmed up for months, of course he was looking much better in them than she remembered from her student days.

~o0oOo0o~

"I'm glad you went back for him, Hermione. I'll be forever grateful."

That was typical of a very tired Harry. As battered as he had been after the Battle of Hogwarts, he hadn't left Professor Snape's side since the moment he had been brought into the Great Hall to lie with the other injured.

When he had been transferred to St. Mungo's, Harry had followed, never allowing the unconscious man to be left alone in the company of people he didn't trust. Professor Snape's safety was too important to be jeopardized.

"How's he doing?" Hermione asked quietly, approaching the bed to look at the palest man she had ever seen.

"He's slowly recovering. Much too slowly, if you ask me."

Harry was frowning angrily at the man, as if accusing him of delaying his own recovery. Hermione placed a comforting hand on her friend's shoulder.

"It's to be expected, you know. We even thought he had died. We should be glad that he's recovering at all."

Harry nodded, and the energy drained visibly from his thin body.

"You, on the other hand, did die that day. You need to rest more, Harry."

He collapsed into an armchair. "I know, Hermione. How's Ginny?"

She had shared guard duties with Harry from the beginning, and as time passed with little change in the man's condition, Ron's patience and understanding at the amount of time she spent in St. Mungo's had diminished exponentially. It was only when Hermione had decided that her commitment to Snape's recovery was more important than her love life that she ended things with the redhead.

If she'd known back then how much more complex her feelings had been….

~o0oOo0o~

Hermione was still visibly angry with him. All Severus wanted was a chance to talk to her, but it seemed that they would have to argue first. After the trial, he'd meant to go after her right away, but it had been days before he was actually free of all the bureaucracy and media attention. Potter had been with him more than once in the last week, but Hermione…

"You left before we had the chance to speak," he told her.

"You seemed very busy at the time. It's a wonder you even noticed."

Her posture was defiant, but her bright eyes were looking so tired…. She must be burying herself in work instead of sleeping full nights. He searched the gold nuances in her dark-shadowed eyes for reassurance, as had become his habit.

~o0oOo0o~

Pain hit every cell of his body. Severus didn't know he'd moaned aloud until the pain in his throat made him forget he had other cells at all. He opened his eyes to the inevitable, and amber eyes met his.

Not green.

Never Lily's.

She smiled with sincerity, and he saw nuances of gold shine in the amber of her eyes. "Welcome back," she whispered, and a tear rolled down her cheek before she was gone from his sight.

Just thinking about turning his head to follow her with his eyes heightened the pain in his neck. He closed his eyes, but the image of hers remained imprinted in his memory.

He'd survived.

~o0oOo0o~

Hermione averted her eyes from his penetrating gaze. She didn't want him to know how much his intensity could affect her; Hermione didn't want to feel affected by him anymore. He could go back to his perfect free and healthy life with the woman of his choice. Hermione wouldn't care one inch for him anymore.

"Of course I noticed when you left," he said as if she didn't know it was a big fat lie. "We won, and where were you? Gone! You left before I could even thank you."

"If that's why you're here, you're welcome, even though what I did wasn't what convinced the Wizengamot in the end."

I made a fool of myself for him and he's here to gloat? What a bastard!

"Open the door." Hermione didn't want to stay in the same room as him one minute longer.

"No."

"Open the door, Snape!" she repeated angrily.

"Not before you have heard what I have to say. It's the least you can do after all the time I had no way of escaping your chattering."

~o0oOo0o~

"Shut. Up."

Those were his first two words for her. She was so stunned that she didn't even notice that she'd stopped speaking instantly. She laughed when she did.

"You're speaking! That's wonderful, sir!"

He rolled his eyes, and she laughed again, delighted by the familiar reaction. He'd been recovering at a more satisfying pace after he'd woken from the coma, and although she'd told Harry his vocal cords had been healed enough to allow speaking, Snape hadn't spoken a word to prove her right.

"Harry will be very happy, sir." She beamed at him, and he sighed and turned his head away. Hermione continued to speak about her visit to her parents in Australia, despite his wishes.

~o0oOo0o~

Severus watched her measure his words and knew she'd listen, if only to satisfy her honor-bound Gryffindor conscience. Hermione stomped past him to one of the armchairs.

"Be brief. I have more important things I'd rather be doing."

Severus took the other armchair by the cold fireplace and rested his elbows on his knees, hands intertwined over his mouth as he thought his words over. He wouldn't miss his opportunity.

"I wasn't aware of Albus' plans for my trial," he started. It seemed to be the right place to start. "As per usual, he'd taken care of my life and forgotten to let me know." He chanced a glance at her; she was staring at the empty fireplace. "I still don't know what that spell was," he said, trying to pull her into an academic discussion like he knew she liked.

~o0oOo0o~

"Tergeo."

It was the tenth time she'd erased whatever she'd been writing. The scratching of the quill on the parchment had been blowing his headache into migraine proportions.

"Tergeo," she spelled the parchment again, erasing her writing and driving him mad.

"For Merlin's sake, girl, think before writing and spare the poor parchment and me of your abuse," he rasped at her, coughing afterwards.

"Sorry, sir. It's just that I usually think aloud, but I didn't want to disturb you. I have better ideas when I put my thoughts into words."

"You're disturbing me already," he rasped back and managed not to cough. It was getting easier every day.

"Is this an invitation to hear my thoughts on Memory Charms?" she asked, the excitement in her voice unmistakable. "The sooner I reverse the spell on my parents, the sooner we can start working on your trial, sir."

He didn't answer but endured her speech with resignation, and her voice lulled him into a peaceful sleep. He'd stopped being too bothered by the sound of her voice ever since.

~o0oOo0o~

Hermione had thought about the spell that had played Professor Dumbledore's memories in the courtroom, but she wasn't in any way starting a discussion about it now. If the Slytherin thought he could get her side-tracked, he was very mistaken.

"Was there a real reason for your visit?" she pressed.

He sighed.

"Because, if you don't mind, I have a book I need to finish reading," she told him, leaving her armchair.

A house-elf popped in, left a tray with tea on the small table between the armchairs, and popped out.

He had the audacity to snort and offer, "Tea, Hermione?"

~o0oOo0o~

Hermione was on her way to Severus' room in St. Mungo's when she heard him yell at whoever was feeding him and then cough. The poor woman rushed past Hermione and the Auror in the doorway, almost bumping into her on her way out.

"What happened?" she asked Snape.

"Soup," he told her, as if the word meant something much more repugnant than the dead parts he'd used to keep in jars on his office at Hogwarts.

"It can't be that bad," Hermione commented, peering at the bowl left on the tray, and earning a fulminating glare. "It can't," she insisted. "What could be so horrible about soup, anyway?"

"Taste it, then," he challenged.

Making a show of treating him like a four-year-old, she agreed, "All right. If I eat it and find nothing terribly wrong with it, you'll eat it, too."

He continued to look at her expectantly. She took the spoon and sipped, and at the same moment regretted it with all her being. "Good God! What kind of soup is this? Ash? Dear Merlin!"

When her eyes stopped watering, she looked up and found him smiling, holding back laugher, even. She dove for a glass of water, and when she returned, he was looking out the window with melancholy eyes.

"Do you like chicken broth?"

He turned his attention back to her and nodded once.

"I won't be above a minute," she told him and left to bring him some quality food.

When she returned, she found him looking out the window again. "I've brought you lunch," she announced, smiling and placing the pot of chicken broth on the small table.

He looked longingly at the fragrant pot. When she took her customary chair by the window and noticed that he was still only looking at the pot, she frowned. Then realization hit: he wasn't able to eat on his own yet.

"Your hands are still not steady enough, are they?" she asked, and his frown gave her his answer.

Sighing, Hermione left the chair and lifted the spoon to feed him. His horror at seeing her doing that both irritated and amused Hermione. She filled the spoon with chicken broth.

"Here comes the plane, here it comes, where will it land?" she joked, moving the spoon to his mouth.

He refused to open it.

"Come on, sir. You know you want to." She smiled.

"Mediwitch," he told her.

"As if she would come back in here now after what you said to her earlier. Now, open your mouth and eat it, sir. I won't offer a third time."

The fury in his eyes remained even as his mouth opened to take the spoon. Hermione didn't even try to suppress her smugness as she fed him spoon after spoon of chicken broth.

Long after the pot was empty, when Hermione was ready to leave him for the day, she heard his rough voice call to her on the doorway.

"Bring tea."

She left, and she brought tea and lunch with her from that day on.

~o0oOo0o~

Severus had known she would refuse his offer of tea, but he took his time preparing a cup for himself. Not looking away from his task, he asked her, "Why did you run away?"

"I didn't."

"Well, it wasn't what it looked like."

When she remained silent, Severus held his cup and looked at her.

"I'd like to understand what was so bad to make you go hide like a little girl after the trial you spent months preparing for."

~o0oOo0o~

"You could at least pretend you're listening to my questions." Her respect came clearly as an afterthought. "Sir." Also, clearly not that respectful.

Severus had been listening, but he would have preferred his ears had been as affected by the snake poison as his throat, just so he wouldn't have to. Why couldn't they leave him alone to his misery?

"Harry got us more time, but if we won't use it to build up a solid defense, what will the advantage be?" she continued. "Without your help, sir, it'll be much more difficult." Her tone was pleading.

Severus hated it when she pleaded.

"My motives are not any of your business," he said, as he'd do whenever she'd start interrogating him.

She sighed, but instead of leaving him alone, as she would usually do, she approached his bed and, very seriously, told him, "Mr. Snape," and after only a slight hesitation, added, "Severus, we're your best chance of staying out of Azkaban for the rest of your life. I'm not here to judge you, or shame you, or whatever you think of me. I'd hate to see such an obstinate, intelligent, noble wizard rotting in a prison just because of his arrogance and pride."

Before he had the opportunity to collect himself from his surprise, she continued, "I'm not expecting a fairy tale, but the story of an honestly lived and fought-for life a rational man like you would try to live. I am aware of the mistakes we make trying to follow what seems to be our best options; I'm not naïve. We all make mistakes we come to regret at some point. It only makes us human to regret them."

She paused, but her eyes remained serious, pinning him to the bed in silence. "The Ministry will hold a trial to judge what you've made of the options you had." She frowned, shaking her head slightly when she added, "I cannot let them make the mistake of believing that you didn't take your best options, Severus. Your decisions saved our lives, and that's why we'll walk in there, heads held high, and tell them how important it is to have you free. I want you out of Azkaban."

"What if I disagree?"

"You're not a fool. I've thought this over, and I know you won't. You might have other reasons to think you deserve a life in Azkaban, but until I've seen them, I'll continue to come here to help with your defense." She held her eyes on his for a while before turning and walking to the door. "Think about it, sir." Then she left.

He had trouble sleeping that night. The vehemence of her speech, the force in her eyes, those golden rays in the amber holding him awake, made him contemplate fighting Fate, even if he was still a killer.

Hermione had walked into his room a girl and had left a woman in his eyes, and he'd never mistake her for a silly girl ever again.

~o0oOo0o~

Oh, Hermione wasn't going to let him accuse her of being childish for leaving.

"We spent months discussing your trial, collecting evidence of your motives, your options, and for what?" she questioned him. "Dumbledore and that little friend of yours had it all ready and just waiting. I cannot believe you expected me to stay and congratulate you after making me play the fool like that! Don't tell me it's childish, when you made such a low move." She wanted to hit him in that big nose of his. Balling her fists helped. "That was low even for you, Severus," she hissed.

"Will you sit down and listen?" He fixed her with a glare that held that pleading aura Hermione had come to see in his eyes whenever he was uncomfortable with whatever he was going to tell her. She contemplated sending him and his pleading eyes to hell, but sat down.

"I'm all ears," she told him, making sure he could feel her sarcasm.

~o0oOo0o~

Hermione entered the room in St. Mungo's, but stopped short after the threshold, surprised. Opening a bright smile, she'd walked to the window to stand beside him.

"It's good to see you on your feet again," she offered.

He acknowledged her words with a barely perceptible nod, never taking his eyes from the urban landscape of London.

"I miss all the nature we had in Scotland, don't you?" Hermione was always careful not to say anything about missing Hogwarts, because no one in his position could ever miss that place.

Instead of answering her, he turned from the window with eyes so intense that her breath had caught. "I… I used to live in an industrial town. My father worked for many years in a mill." He'd opened his mouth to say something else, and something almost innocent crossed his eyes, the intensity of them never wavering. "Lily used to live nearby," he added in a whisper, that same expression coming back and now staying in his eyes.

Hermione was still trying to find her voice. He had been pleading with his eyes, and if she hadn't known she would never betray his trust before, after those pleading eyes, she'd die first. She found her voice, eventually. "It might have been nice to have someone else with magic around," she told him, hoping he could feel reassured by the comment.

And he had.

From that point on, they worked together on his defense. From that point on, they grew closer and closer to each other. It was inevitable, and she was glad he'd taken her with him on this journey into his humanity.

~o0oOo0o~

"Mary McDonald, Gryffindor, Lily's best friend, Albus' pet from the Order," Severus started menacingly. "She was contacted by the great old bastard to hold a password and to help him ridicule me in front of the whole wizarding world."

Hermione didn't comment, and Severus hadn't expected her to. He continued, "Of course, she hadn't known what trick her sweet password would trigger. The great old clown would never jeopardize his pretty light show, now, would he?"

"Can we leave the sarcastic comments for another time?" she asked, surprising him. "I'm sure you'll try to fit James Potter in this somewhere before the tale is over."

That was way out of line. Maybe it had been a mistake coming after her. Severus stood up, ready to leave the room and her life. "I see you don't want to hear my explanation. You've judged me already, haven't you? Well, then, I'll take the 'guilty' and be out of your life."

He was halfway to the door when she reached him and held his arm with a strong hand. "She kissed you, and I'm very sure it wasn't the first taste you've had of her lips. Deny that if you can!"

"Will it matter if I did? You're a hypocrite, Hermione. She was playing Dumbledore's part, and you can't see past your pre-conceived ideas of her. After all you've told me about how the Ministry was mistaken about me! You're the greatest hypocrite of all!"

"You're shouting accusations at me and not once have you denied it," she told him, a silent tear running down her face.

"I don't care for Mary McDonald. I care for her as much as I ever cared for Hagrid's fluffy creatures. She could drop dead now, and I wouldn't shed a tear in her behalf is how much I care for Mary fucking McDonald! Is that denial enough for you?"

She brought a hand to his face and traced his angry eyebrow, then the sharp lines of his face.

~o0oOo0o~

They were checking her speech for the fourth time. The trial would be in four days, and Hermione didn't want to step into the courtroom without knowing she would not compromise their carefully prepared defense.

She wouldn't, of course. Severus could not think of a more dedicated and prepared defender. She was simply apprehensive because he would be leaving St. Mungo's that afternoon to head straight to Azkaban and they would not be able to meet before the trial.

Severus rested his head on the back of the chair and closed his eyes, listening to her and enjoying the cadence of her voice. He would miss her. He didn't know precisely when he'd fallen for Hermione, but he knew he'd miss her the moment she left.

He startled when something soft and warm had touched him forehead. Severus opened his eyes, and it had been her turn to be startled to be caught with her hands on him. They had tried to communicate through their eyes; too much needed to be said, but neither was sure if there were words that could say what was needed.

She ran her hands down his head, through his hair, and then moved away. "You must be tired. I… I'll leave so you can rest." But she didn't move to leave.

It was painful to watch her struggle, but there was nothing he could do then. He was, for all his surprising optimism, a convicted man, heading for Azkaban in an hour, for life. He looked straight into her eyes, making her understand that without having to say it.

Hermione approached him and kissed him tenderly on the forehead. "I'll see you on Thursday."

His heart ached for what Fate was doing to her on his behalf.

~o0oOo0o~

"That was deliberately cruel of you to say," Hermione told him, not as disapproving as she ought to be. He was practically killing a woman to prove his point.

"Not believing me was much worse," he countered, but didn't step away from her.

"I didn't know what to think. That last day in St. Mungo's, I thought you were holding back something, and that, maybe, it was about me… you… us. Then that woman entered that courtroom, and my head spun, and then days went by, and it only got worse, until I was doubting even myself, let alone you." She watched intently, her fingers intertwined in a loose lock of his hair. "I'm sorry I interrupted your explanation." She let go of his hair and moved away from him with her head bowed.

"You were right," he told her, but she refused to look at the disappointment she was certain she would find on his face. "I was holding something back." She heard him approaching and closed her eyes so she would not see his face when he crushed her heart.

When his lips touched hers, she whimpered and melted, holding onto him before her knees gave way. He held her closer, safer. He showed his care for her, for her mouth, her hair, her back, and even when the kiss ended, he still showed his care for her with his precious eyes. "Don't you ever walk away from me again, understood?"

She smiled before kissing him again.

They were snuggling in a single armchair by a now lit fireplace in Potter's library. They had been so occupied with each other that Hermione had almost forgotten to ask, "Severus, what had that kiss Mary gave you to do with Albus' plan, after all?"

"Apparently, Albus placed a spell on her that activated when she read or heard the words 'trial of Severus Snape.' An urge to kiss me at my trial was the result. By kissing, she suddenly remembered a password, and the light show started. Albus must be dying again of laugher, the old fool."

She ignored his customary insults of the late Headmaster of Hogwarts and asked, "What was the password?"

He took his chin from her head to glare down at her.

"I found myself distracted when it was said," she said in way of justifying herself.

He sighed and mumbled something in response.

She moved from his arms to turn and look better at him. "Come again?"

"My dear Severus is sweet as a lemon drop," he repeated louder. Hermione didn't know if his serious expression was helping or making it worse.

She couldn't help it and laughed.

"Now, you're laughing."

She sobered and held his face in her hands. "Let's kiss you and see what that triggers." After a long, languid kiss, she looked straight into his eyes and said, "My dear Severus will never be sweet as a lemon drop, but I love him anyway."