"That is my room," Hermione said pointing to the open door at the end of the hall, "my parents room is here," she said, pointing to the room in front of them at the top of the stairs, "then the bathroom, and then the guest room, which will be yours." Together they walked to the end of the hall where the guest room was located.
Harry stopped in the doorway.
"What's wrong?" Hermione asked.
"Nothing," Harry murmured, stepping into the room. The bedroom was of average size, with a double bed, pale blue walls, and two white trimmed windows which let in the late afternoon sunlight and a wonderful cross breeze. Harry smiled; he might miss Ron's rambunctious, fun-loving family, but this serene, peaceful home had a charm all its own. "It's perfect."
As Harry unpacked his clothes, Hermione sat on the bed and chattered about her summer. Finally, she asked the question that Harry had suspected she'd been leading up to all afternoon.
"Harry, what happened this summer?" At Harry's frozen expression, Hermione stammered on. "I mean, I'm really glad you are here, but it was quite unexpected. Yesterday, Professor Dumbledore and Professor Snape showed up on our doorstep and had a private conversation with my parents. I don't know what they said exactly, but then my parents said that you'd be coming to stay with us for the rest of the summer. Professor Dumbledore left, but Professor Snape stayed."
"Snape stayed?" Harry asked. "What for?"
"Well, he placed a bunch of protective spells and enchantments around our property. I'd already done that, of course, but he knows a lot more than I do."
"Wait," Harry said as her words sunk in. "You put wards around your home?" At Hermione's nod, Harry said, "But what about the restriction for underage magic?"
"Well, I petitioned the Ministry for special permission to place defensive wards around my house at the beginning of summer. Now that Voldemort is out in the open, and as he has a history of hunting Muggleborns, and I'm known to be..."
"A friend of mine," Harry finished for her when her words had trailed off. She gave him an apologetic look.
Looking at her feet, Hermione said, "I suspect Professor Dumbledore had something to do with it. I got an owl the next day with permission." She glanced up tentatively at Harry. "Anyway, as I was saying, the odd things about Professor Snape was that when I went outside to see if I could help, I expected him to make some derisive comment about how inadequate my wards were."
When she didn't immediately continue, Harry prompted, "And did he?"
"No," she said thoughtfully. "That was what was strange. He actually complimented me on my spell work. And then he explained the spells that he was adding to mine. He even let me help with some of the simpler ones."
"Huh," Harry replied. "I guess he's... different... outside of school."
"What do you mean?" Hermione asked.
Harry hesitated, not sure where to start. "It's a long story, but the Dursleys found a will that my mother had written before she died. In it, she assigned guardianship of me to... well..." Harry swallowed, "to Snape."
Hermione's eyes widened in shock, her mouth opening in an "oh".
"Yeah," Harry confirmed. "Scary, isn't it? Well, they packed me up and dropped me on Snape's doorstep. Neither of us knew what had happened until Snape read the will. And the Dursleys were long gone by then."
"Oh Merlin," Hermione breathed. "I bet that didn't go over well."
"No, not at first," Harry said. He thought about all he and Snape had been through. There'd be time later to explain if he felt like it. "We were stuck together for a week before I came here."
To avoid the storm of questions that he knew Hermione wanted to ask, Harry abruptly the changed the subject. "Why did your dad call him 'Dr. Snape'?"
"Oh," Hermione said, brightening. "When Professor Snape arrived yesterday, he handed my parents a Muggle business card. I guess he did it to put them more at ease. My parents showed it to me after he left. The card listed his name and his advanced degrees. Being a Potions Masters in the Wizarding world is equivalent to earning a doctorate degree in the Muggle world."
As Harry digested that statement, Hermione added, "He's won several awards too. I didn't realize how well known he was for his potions skills outside of Hogwarts."
Harry nodded absently. The more he learned about Snape, the more he realized what an enigma the man was. As his mind wandered, he remembered something he wanted to show Hermione.
"Look," Harry said, fishing inside of his shirt for the necklace. "Snape gave this to me right before we got here. It was my mother's." Harry held out the Gryffindor amulet, rubbing the raised emblem with his thumb.
"I've never seen anything like it," Hermione said, taking it in her hand and examining it. "It's really beautiful."
"Yeah," Harry murmured.
Finally, Hermione handed it back to him and Harry found himself worrying the oval charm between his fingers as he told Hermione more about the last week. It was a relief to tell someone about the confusing time he had spent with Snape. Aside from the battle of wills, he'd felt protected and cared for when he was with the taciturn older wizard. Hermione listened attentively. Periodically, she would interject her thoughts. Her logical conclusions seemed to put everything into perspective and Harry felt better about Snape after hearing her clearly reasoned reassurances.
Mrs. Granger's voice echoed up the stairs, interrupting their conversation. "Time for dinner!"
"It's really great to have you here," Hermione said as she slid off the bed and lead the way downstairs.
"Yeah, it is," Harry said, tucking the necklace back inside his shirt.
Hedwig arrived, as promised, that evening. Harry got her settled in her cage and gave her a few owl treats which she promptly devoured. Then she tucked her head under her wing and went to sleep.
"Sometimes I wish I had an owl too," Hermione said as she sat on Harry's bed and stroked Crookshanks who was curled up in her lap. "Not that I don't love you," she cooed to the furry ginger cat as she scratched him behind the ears.
Harry said nothing, only reflected on the fact that Hedwig had been his first real birthday present, given to him by Hagrid.
"She's so beautiful and regal and intelligent. Plus it would be nice to have easy access to owl post over the summer. As it is, I have to go all the way to Paddington to find a post owl. Well, there are probably some closer if I knew where to look, but..."
Harry listened with only half an ear as Hermione rambled on. He was content to be here with one of his best friends. He was unconsciously stroking the pendant on his mother's necklace and thinking about his summer, when suddenly the amulet began vibrating. He started violently, his eyes going wide.
"What is it?" Hermione gasped, jumping to her feet. Crookshanks hissed at being unceremoniously dumped onto the floor and sauntered out of the room. "Harry?"
Harry pulled the pendant out from beneath his shirt and studied it closely. "It just started vibrating," he said.
Suddenly, Hermione looked scared. "You don't think it's cursed or anything, do you?"
"No," Harry said. "If it was, Snape would have..."
"Look!" Hermione exclaimed. "There's writing on the back."
Harry flipped the charm over. Glowing green letters taunted him with their presence. Harry squinted at the tiny, spiky writing.
Wear it. Don't play with it.
Hermione leaned over his shoulder and read the inscription. "What does it mean?" she asked.
"It is meant to be worn, Potter, not idly played with" echoed in his head. Harry's eyes flitted to Hermione's in stunned realization. "It's Snape."
Hermione looked startled. Then she said, "Try writing back."
Hermione thought for a minute. "Here," she said, popping an amethyst earring out of the piercing in her ear lobe and handing it to Harry.
Confused, Harry accepted up the tiny object. "Now what?"
"Try and write with it. I'm guessing you need only some sort of sharp object and the intention of conveying a message."
Harry stared at the spiky letters, unsure if he should write over them or not. He took his thumb and rubbed at the amulet, amazed when the letters vanished.
"Okay, what to write," he mumbled. Grasping the earring by the jewel at the end, he used the sharp point of the stud to write: Snape? Is that you?
Although no marks appeared on the metal when Harry wrote, the letters appeared as a bright red light, shimmering on the surface. Harry and Hermione exchanged a surprised glance. They were both staring hard at the back of the charm when Harry's letters disappeared and a new set of glowing green ones appeared in a spiky script.
No, it's the tooth fairy.
Harry chortled. Then he wrote: More like the Grinch.
Hermione looked shocked at Harry's impertinence. "Harry, you really shouldn't..."
Touché. Now stop fondling the damned thing.
Harry stared in bewilderment at the message. Then he wiped the slate clean with his thumb and wrote: Why? What happens when I touch it?
Instead of a response, he felt the pendant glow warm in his fingers. Amazed, he looked at Hermione. "He has one too."
"One what?" Hermione asked.
"A necklace, just like this one. Except his is probably Slytherin instead of Gryffindor."
"You mean it's a communication tool?"
"Yeah, like the coins you made for the DA. The necklaces must have been charmed to pass messages back and forth between Snape and...Snape and..." Harry paused, swallowed, "...and my mother."
Harry released the charm, letting it fall back against his T-shirt. He turned away from Hermione, staring out into the darkness beyond the window.
"Oh, Harry," Hermione said, coming to stand beside him, her shoulder gently brushing his in silent support.
"It's not fair. Snape knew her, he got to spend time with her, even share this secret form of communication with her," Harry said in anger, flicking the pendant with a snap of his index finger, "and I can't even rememberher."
"No, it's not fair," Hermione agreed. "Nothing about your life has been fair, Harry."
Harry snorted in wry acknowledgement of that statement.
"But, Harry, Snape can remember your mother. And I think he gave you that necklace to help keep you safe."
"Well, if you get into trouble, you can send him a message and ask for help. Let him know where you are," Hermione reasoned.
"Yeah, a lot of good that would have done me since he never told me how to actually use the damn thing," Harry snapped.
"Maybe he didn't need to. You've already figured it out and you've had it less than a day."
Harry grunted and continued to gaze out the window, knowing that once again, Hermione was right.
After a long pause, Hermione gently suggested, "Perhaps you should write back."
Harry made a noncommittal noise but reached for the pendant. Using the point of Hermione's earring he wrote: Got it. Don't bother you.
"Harry..." Hermione chided, "I don't think that's what he meant."
Harry gritted his teeth. He was too angry to give credence to Hermione's reasoning at the moment.
Enough melodramatics. I am here if you need me.
Harry made a dismissive gesture.
Hermione put her hand on his shoulder. Gently, she said, "He's doing the best he can. Give him a chance."
Harry had the urge to deny Hermione's words, but he knew they were true. He rolled his shoulders in an effort to relax his tight muscles. The conversations he'd had with Snape came back to him unbidden. Snape had done more for him than any other adult ever had, save his parents. The least the taciturn wizard deserved from Harry was a chance. Slowly, Harry picked up the pendant and wrote: Trust. I'm working on it.
Good. And Potter?
What? Harry scratched out.
A/N: Thank you for reading this. When I set out to write this, it was supposed to be a very short piece describing two weeks one summer that Harry spent with Snape before going to the Burrow. It has grown into something much more. Rest assured I WILL BE WRITING A SEQUEL! It will be called Lily's Last Wish. Thanks for your support.