Authors' Notes: This story is part of an ongoing epic involving a natural Legilimens named Sydney (Siggy) Whetstone, a first year student at Hogwarts, his cat Morpheus, Severus Snape (who has become Siggy's guardian following the death of his abusive uncle), and Hermione Granger, who is studying Morpheus, a maneki neko with unusual magical powers. It takes place in roughly 2007 or thereabouts.

A Trip To Remember

A collaborative effort by Sinistra_Furze and SadiraSnape

CHAPTER 9 – The Last Evening

"Goodnight Siggy" I said, and turned to leave, "If you need anything in the night don't hesitate to call me, I'm just across the hall."

"Thanks" he smiled, his eyelids already drooping. He'll be asleep before long.

I stepped back into the guests' lounge, and dropped onto the comfortable sofa with a sigh. The wine had relaxed me somewhat but I hadn't fully let go of the tension after the wild broom ride earlier in the day. My hair had resisted all taming charms; I'd given up and tied it back loosely. Severus looked at me from his armchair.

"How is he?" he asked quietly.

"Fine" I replied. "He's probably asleep already."

Severus hesitated a moment. I wondered if there was more bad news...

"…and how are you?" he continued.

For a moment I was too surprised to speak. The MOB was asking how I was feeling. I considered the question.

How was I feeling?

"I'm tired and a little tense," I said honestly.

He got up and pulled a bar of chocolate from his pocket.

"This might help," he said as he held it out. It took a moment to sink in. Severus offering chocolate! He saw my hesitation and frowned. Quickly I reached out before he could withdraw the offer and took it, not wanting to offend him. I broke up the bar and raising an eyebrow offered him a piece, which he took while he stood waiting for me to eat a chunk. There must have been some doubt on my face as he said, "It's not just for dementors."

"No, it's for birthdays and apologies and watching trashy movies with your friends," I blurted. Too much wine dammit, too much information for Severus who stood awkwardly in front of me.

"Err, why don't you sit here so we can share it" I said, trying to break the tension. The moment he sat down on the sofa Morpheus jumped up and settled on Severus' lap, purring contentedly. He stroked Morpheus absently, staring at his hands.I placed the wrapper between us and wriggled more comfortably into the cushions.

My mind drifted back to the return journey I'd shared on Severus' broom. He'd taken charge and had me sitting securely in front of him before I'd realised the broom was there. Must have been the calming draught dulling my senses. But then again the memory of his strong arm around my waist and the firm muscles of his warm body were vivid enough in my memory. Another first, I thought and struggled to contain a blush that grew uncomfortably.

"You look a bit pink..." he observed.

"Just the wine, I had a glass too many."

"Ah, I see."

I took another chunk just for something to do. I was used to a comfortable silence between us of an evening, but for some reason I was feeling nervous. Severus took another piece and when he had finished it asked, "What do you intend to do when you get back? Will you return to the Ministry or do you have other plans?"

"I'm not sure," I said. I'd come away partly to get away from all that. "I'd like to stay in contact with Siggy, he's a lovely child with a lot of potential."

"I was hoping you would," he replied "it will benefit him to have an adult outside of the School he can confide in and he really likes you."

I was pleased that Severus had such confidence in me, and warmed again, but with comfort this time. I closed my eyes and melted further into the sofa, lulled by Morpheus' soft purring.

I'm not sure how much later it was I woke. I realised my head was resting on Severus' shoulder and my hand was resting on the empty chocolate wrapper. And Severus' hand was resting on mine. He must have woken the same time as me as he jumped when I moved, disturbing the cat, who stretched, sighed and settled again. I hoped most fervently I hadn't drooled on Severus' shoulder, but there was no way to check discreetly and no remedy anyhow. A bit flustered I struggled to my feet.

"Err, I'd better get to bed. Thanks for the chocolate, thanks for everything," I smiled sleepily in his direction and finally met his gaze. His dark eyes stared at me unblinkingly, his mouth not quite closed. He looked like he was trying to speak.

For a moment I waited but he said nothing so I mumbled sleepily, "Goodnight, then," and staggered to my room. My brain wanted to think it over but I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.

Ah. The last evening before we return to Scotland, and it has been quite an interesting and illuminating journey.

We finished our final meal with our host and his household, and he has assured me that he will have us all up early, so we should plan to make it an early night. I repaired to the guest lounge and settled down into the soft chair I've claimed as mine. The latest Practical Potioneer was close to hand; I sent silent thanks to our host and soon was absorbed in a fascinating article on the substitution of American Larch (Larix laricina) for Masters' Larch (Larix mastersiana) in the production of Mind's Ease Draught.

But I found my mind wandering before long – the trip has been very productive, we have collected all the specimens we set out after, including quite a few we stumbled upon along the way. Siggy has discovered a new-found confidence in himself and is building trust with myself and Hermione. Morpheus is not quite so annoying as he has been in the past. And Hermione herself…

Now there's a thought that bears examination. Miss Hermione Granger. I have found an unexpected depth to her that I'm quite sure wasn't there when she was my student. She is less prone to rattling off rote from some book or other, and her commentary is now mostly based in personal experience and considered research. In fact, I have found some of her commentary extremely profound and worthy of further investigation.

She is also quite lovely, something she most assuredly was not as a student. She is what, 26 or 27 now – somewhere along there. She has bloomed into a most beautiful young woman; not an English rose by any means, but something far rarer and much finer than that. You can find an English rose on almost every street corner; lovely it's true, but a common flower for all that. Hermione, though… Hermione is more like a glorious young tree, perhaps a willow, hiding its grace until an errant wind sets the slender branches swaying. She is far deeper than she appears, much like a willow's roots, and I have found her presence to be a balm in these past months, easing a pain I was unaware I had.

I would like to think I can call her "friend". More than that does not bear examination.

While musing on these thoughts, she came into the lounge, perhaps looking for a bedtime read. I imagined she would have a bit of trouble falling asleep, considering the crazed broom ride we'd had that day. Brooms! What an uncivilized mode of transport… it is truly a pity that carpets are no longer allowed in Britain.

I noticed that her hair had finally succeeded in defying her efforts to tame it – but the look was not as surprising as it was in her childhood. It was still full, true, but instead of bushing out like a deranged hedgehog, it now surrounded her head like an auburn cloud, soft and fine of texture. She had it tied back loosely, so it was framing her face rather than obscuring it. A very fetching look for her. With her complexion, you could mistake her for a Da Vinci, Raphael or Botticelli model.

She sank into the sofa with an audible sigh and propped her feet up on the table. I gazed at her for a few moments; there had been quite an extraordinary Burgundy served at our meal, and we had both indulged in it a bit more than was customary – at least I had. I was a bit light-headed, and I saw that she wore a faint blush herself.

I realized I was on the verge of being caught staring, so I cleared my throat and asked after Siggy. Hermione leaned her head back on the sofa and said, "He's probably asleep already."

I hesitated a moment, then before I knew it, I asked, " …and how are you?" Inwardly I cringed. Severus, you dolt. How are you? Are you meeting her for the first time? God…

During my internal castigation, she had apparently actually given the question some thought. "I'm tired and a little tense," she replied thoughtfully. Tense! Well, I could do something about that. I reached into my pocket and produced a large bar of Honeyduke's Best Chocolate, something I keep with me at all times. Partly for it's magical properties, but mostly because I'm quite a fiend for chocolate. Best thing to come out of the Age of Exploration, if anyone is interested in the opinion of Severus Snape. I rose and crossed to her.

"Here," and I extended the bar to her. "This should help." She eyed the bar with some trepidation – what, did she think I was going to poison her? I stood there for a few moments, and just before I began to pull my hand back, she accepted it. Thank Merlin, that was almost too awkward for words. I had an image of myself standing in the lounge, tall and skinny (again), trying to force a bar of chocolate on an unwilling young woman. Severus, will you never learn to be comfortable with other people? Probably not, I answered myself. Especially when your every move is scrutinized for some ulterior motive.

Hermione unwrapped the chocolate and broke off a large piece, which she then broke into two and, to my surprise, offered back to me! I accepted it, and stood there like a great ninny staring at her, waiting for her to eat. She stared back at me, one eyebrow raised. Was she truly worried there was something odd about the chocolate? I frowned a bit, and said, "It's not just for dementors, you know."

"No," she burst out. "It's for birthdays and apologies and watching trashy movies with your friends!"

Trashy movies? Really… I never would have guessed. But then no one knows I often sneak into Edinburgh to indulge my penchant for Asian horror movies… and yes, chocolate works nicely there.

Hermione scooted over on the sofa and patted the seat next to her. "Why not sit so we can share?" she said. I stepped over and sat down, rather abruptly too, the wine seemed to have affected my balance a bit. And wouldn't you know, as soon as I got settled, here came Morpheus, who immediately hopped up on my lap, turned about three times, and settled in rather smugly, purring like a demented sewing machine. Almost of their own volition, my hands lifted, one sliding around to cradle the cat's chest and front legs, the other slowly stroking his black, glossy fur. So soft, so warm, the vibration of his purrs resounding through my hands and legs, calming my thoughts and filling me with comfort and contentment… strange…

Hermione shifted slightly, and set the chocolate between us. We both settled in, staring into the middle distance, in a very comfortable and content mutual silence. I thought back over the day, and the broom incident… the horror that struck me as I saw her begin to fall behind as the dragon chased her, the relief I felt as my binding charm locked firmly onto her, the terror my evasive maneuvering would unseat her anyway, and the sudden flare of rage when we landed and I found that oaf Gregor with his arm around her, as if he'd done anything to prevent disaster beyond run for cover when he saw the dragon…

I felt very badly for her, looking so frail and windblown, sick and frightened, and The Oaf worried more about his precious brooms than this shattered young woman. I looked down and shook my head, sneering at his stupidity. Then I strode up to her, touched her elbow, and led her toward the nearby stream. I stopped at a handy bilberry bush and picked a handful, then offered them to her. She looked up at me as though I was offering her burning coals; I rolled my eyes and said, "They're only bilberries, Hermione. Eat them, you'll feel better." She took them and I went to fetch her some water from the stream.

I added a small amount of Calming Draught to the water before I brought it back – she needed to relax. I handed it to her, then began looking for Resurrection Flower, which does grow in this area. I found quite a few in a small dip near the stream, and collected them – good, I was running low. When I headed back to Hermione, I found she was sleeping.

I sat down beside her and watched her sleep. She was very pale, and her brow was faintly knit – no doubt due to bad dreams from the dragon chase. The breeze softly ruffled her hair, which had escaped from its clip and was spread around her head. A strand flipped across her face, and I reached out to gently move it away. Her brow unknit, and her breathing deepened.

At that moment The Oaf bellowed that we needed to be getting back. I sighed, and gently touched Hermione on the shoulder. "You need to wake up, now," I said. Slowly she came out of her drowse, and looked around with a charmingly bewildered air, her eyes big and soft with sleep. Then they cleared, and I saw panic flash into them over the thought of another broom ride.

"Don't worry; I believe your broom is a total loss. You will ride with me, and I will keep you safe. I also have a Calming Draught if you'd like some."

She nodded, and I gave her the flask. "Just one sip, it's rather strong," I admonished. She handed the flask back, gathered her Gryffindor bravery about her like a cloak, and nodded once. "Let's go," she said.

We flew back, Hermione mounted before me, with my free arm clasped firmly about her supple waist, pulling her back against my chest. I had charmed my cloak to gather around us to block the wind and keep us warm, and underneath it her hands clutched my wrist and forearm, first with terror, then with exhilaration. I think she'll be able to fly again, as long as she rides with someone she trusts for a while. She settled back against me most delightfully, and I was hard-pressed to keep my mind on my flying. Toward the end of our trip it was a decided difficulty to do so – all I can say is thank Merlin for wizards' robes and billowing cloaks!

And now here we were, drowsily sharing a sofa and a bar of chocolate, thinking our thoughts and – could it be? – enjoying each other's silent company.

I looked over at her, and surprised a deep blush staining her cheeks and throat. What in the world… was she thinking of our homeward flight too? I know how I reacted, but is it possible…? Ridiculous thought, Severus, you're old enough to be her father. No doubt she was reliving the embarrassment of losing her control in front of The Oaf.

Fumbling around for something to say, all that sprang to mind was, "You look a bit pink…" God, you're smooth, Severus. Inwardly I cringed and clutched my head.

She cleared her throat and murmured something about too much wine. Right. Wine has taken the blame for so much through the ages.

Our silent companionship broken, I cast about for something to say. She took another piece of chocolate, and after a moment so did I. Morpheus, almost forgotten, seemed to add another decibel or two to his purr. My anxiety flowed away under the onslaught, and I relaxed.

"What do you intend to do when you get back? Will you return to the Ministry or do you have other plans?" I asked. I had no idea where that came from.

"I'm not sure," she mused. "I'd like to stay in contact with Siggy; he's a lovely child with a lot of potential."

My heart leaped in my chest. Odd. "I was hoping you would," I replied. "It will benefit him to have an adult outside of the School he can confide in. Not to mention he seems to genuinely like you."

Morpheus' purrs were lulling me deeper into a comfortable, warm, half-waking state. It would be wonderful if she could stay at Hogwarts… perhaps I should ask Albus if there was a post she could take. A witch of her ability shouldn't be wasted at the Ministry, shuffling papers and stamping forms… Perhaps it was time for me to take the Defence Against the Dark Arts duties, now the curse was lifted… She would be an admirable Potions instructor…

Suddenly I felt a gentle pressure on my shoulder. She had slowly drifted across the sofa, laid her head on my shoulder, and gone to sleep. It seemed I should wake her and bid her good night, but she was so warm, the room was so warm, the cat was so warm, the purring was so warm….

Some time later my eyes drifted open. My head was pillowed on Hermione's head, which was pillowed on my shoulder. Her hand was lying palm up on the empty chocolate wrapper, and mine was lying on top of hers. I knew I should move, but I couldn't. Morpheus was sleeping smugly on my lap, and I would swear the creature had a smile on his face. I began to frown at him, then felt Hermione stir. I jumped a bit when she moved, which awakened Morpheus. He peered up at me, smirked, and settled back down. If ever a cat ate a canary, this one had…

While I fixed the cat with one of my best glares, Hermione staggered to her feet, mumbling something about going to bed. Not having caught the first part, my eyes flew to hers, my mouth partly open. "Thank you for everything," she said, and waited for a moment as if she expected me to say something. Nothing – nothing at all – crossed my mind. I was completely blank.

"Good night, then," she said, and left the room. I looked down at the cat, who was once again purring happily and regarding me with a particularly self-satisfied gaze. There is much more to this cat than meets the eye.

I stood up, dumping him unceremoniously on the floor. He gave a rowrl of displeasure. "It's more than you deserve, you match-making old flea hotel," I growled at him. He stood up, flicked his tail dismissively at me, and strolled off to join Siggy. I made my way to my own bed, where I lay awake for quite some time, trying to decide exactly what had happened. But before I could come to any conclusions, I had fallen into a deep and dreamless sleep.