I hoped to get this chapter up sooner, but oh wells. Such is life!
This chapter is a bit slower but I filled it up with some goodies! Please, don't forget to read and review! Each review encourages me to work and upload faster! Without further ado, here is Chapter Nineteen! Thanks or sticking with me!
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter or any of it's characters. They are property of JKR. If I did, however, Snape would not have died.
"So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love."
- 1st Corinthians 13:13, English Standard Version
"A-Are you sure you don't require any assistance, Professor Granger?" the meek and squeaky voice came from the tiny House-Elf. "Fingles is here to help you!"
The witch glanced down, smiling at the House Elf. "Don't be so fidgety, Fingles."
Turning back to her mantle, she adjusted the decorative owl candle holder a little to the left.
Her living quarters was nearly unrecognizable from before as it was recently decorated in lovely, but subtle, autumn decor. Bright and alluring colors of fall such as browns, oranges, reds, yellows and golds were delicately placed around the room in forms of leaves, pumpkins, and candles. She had spent all afternoon rearranging the living room to give it a more seasonal feeling that warmed her quarters.
Just decorating the place took her back to the times when she had lived with Ginny. They would get all hyped up about decorating their apartment and be talking about it for days on end. They would create a plan and agree to meet on a shared day off and shop for a couple of hours for the perfect ornaments and little knick knacks that would fit in their tiny apartment. Ginny would be excited for the shopping part, but would end up sitting on the sofa watching Hermione place all of the newly-purchased decor instead of actually helping.
The fond memories brought a smile to her lips.
It wasn't until she smiled that she realized the House Elf was still standing beside her, nervously wringing his clawed hands.
"Oh, silly Fingles... I believe I've told you repeatedly to please call me 'Hermione'."
Fingles' ears went flat and his eyes became so large that Hermione feared they might just bulge right out of his tiny skull. "F-Fingles cannot do such a thing!" he squeaked, sounding mortified. "Addressing Professor Granger on such a p-p-personal level is so disrespectful!"
Hermione couldn't help but laugh. She shook her head in delight, and when she did, she felt her twin braids hit her jaw line. "I can decorate my quarters just fine, Fingles. I don't think I require any assistance at this time. Besides, I'm really almost finished. But thank you so much for checking on me."
"If you truly want to do me a favor, you can tell Severus to stop sending you over. You have better things to do!"
"P-P-Professor Snape simply desires that Professor Granger is well and happy!" The House Elf's large ears sprung up at the mention of Severus' name. "He thinks about Professor Granger often, as he would not send Fingles as often as he does."
Hermione felt her face heat up at Fingles' statement.
"I..." She began to speak but she couldn't form any other words.
There was no doubt in her mind that there was something between her and the elusive Potions master. Sure, there was definitely a line a friendship there, but she couldn't help but wonder if there was something more. Why else would he always offer to help her with the smallest things? Why else would he take time out of his schedule to help her with the Cruciatus Cure (the name they finally agreed on to address it)? Why else would he send his own assigned House Elf to check on her and see if she needed errands or chores to be done?
There had to have been a reason behind all these kind and unusual gestures... At least, that was what she hoped...
She found herself clearing her throat, feigning that she had something caught in it.
"W-Well," she mumbled at first before raising her voice only a bit higher. "Tell him that it is much appreciated, but I really don't require any help decorating. This is kind of a one-witch job, really. Besides, I'm almost finished." She gave the poor, nervous House Elf a kind smile. "Thank you, though, Fingles."
Fingles' odd colored cheeks flushed red at the unexpected gratitude and with a mumble of excusing himself, he turned his back.
"Oh, wait, Fingles!" Hermione called, stopping the House Elf from leaving. "I do have a favor to ask... If you don't mind taking a trip to Hogsmeade?"
The Elf's ears perked up in excitement. "Y-Yes?"
"There is a tiny apothecary called Madam Adelicia's Apothecary. She sells large quantities of certain potions. Do you know of it?"
"She knows who I am, as I'm a regular. I purchase a large chest set of Dreamless Sleep from her every month. If I give you the money, would you mind picking one up for me? Please?"
"'P-Please'?" The House Elf repeated with wide eyes. "There's no need for such politeness..."
"You'll get it either way." Hermione said with a smile. Reaching into her robes, she pulled out a few Galleons and pressed them into the House Elf's small hand as payment for the Dreamless Sleep. Turning towards the bedroom and with a wave of her fingers, she Summoned the large empty chest from her bedroom and into her arms. "She will give me a discount if I return the chest and all the tiny bottles for recycling. Would you mind returning this to Madam Adelicia?"
"Fingles will!" Fingles said with a bright smile as Hermione handed him the large crate that toppled over his head. "And Fingles will return as quickly as Fingles can!"
"Thank you, Fingles!"
With a familiar 'pop!', the House Elf and the crate were long gone, leaving Hermione to herself again. "Just me, then. Now where was I...?"
As the witch went about decorating her quarters, her mind wandered as it usually did.
It had been nearly a month since her and Ron had officially ended their somewhat-relationship. It only seemed like a few days ago, but here it was: a full thirty-one days later and the world was still spinning. When she had discovered of Ron's unfaithfulness, she half-expected that the sun would stop rising (dramatically speaking, of course). But the days continued to come and the season's change set a familiar chill in the air that would ice her lungs first thing in the morning.
Although she had hoped to keep the news of their broken relationship under wraps, it didn't take long to reach the ears of Hermione's closest friends and her pseudo family.
Although she hadn't heard from Arthur or George so much about the subject, Ginny and Harry were quite insistent that they hear the full tale from her lips, but she hadn't had the time to properly sit down with them to give them the story. Molly had also sent her quite a few letters urging for an explanation, but Hermione didn't have the heart to give Molly the truth. The poor woman didn't need to hear that the reason why she and her son didn't work out was because her son had been unfaithful to her and had fled into the arms of another woman-
She paused in mid-thought.
That's not the truth, she reminded herself for possibly the thirtieth time. I can't keep thinking it that way.
Over the past month, the witch avoided the Weasley's and her friends by keeping herself busy, taking it one day at a time. Busying herself with her classes and grading her students paperwork, she found it quite easy to avoid the gatherings at the Burrow. Midterms were also coming up the next week around Halloween and she wanted to make sure her students were prepared for any surprise tests along the way, giving her another valid excuse to steer clear from the Weasley's.
It wasn't her intention to be so coy and rude to the family that had been so good to her, but now that it was certain that she was no longer going to be marrying into the Weasley family, perhaps she was no longer welcome to the Burrow for gatherings and meals.
You might not have a place there any more, a voice told her. You don't have any family now. You're not wanted. You'll be all alone now.
Hermione blinked as tears filled her eyes. The thought was terrifying that now she would be all alone... She would spend her holidays by herself. She wouldn't have special family dinner nights at the Burrow any more.
It was all so unnerving and depressing but she did her best to not ponder on these things. Keeping herself busy was something she was excellent at, as it kept her mind off her personal problems as frequently as possible.
Besides, she had Severus to keep her busy as well as keep her well entertained.
A quarter of an hour later, she was putting the kettle on for tea time when she heard a knocking on her door.
"Crooks?" She called to her ginger cat, lounging on the rug before the fireplace. "Mind getting that for me?"
As expected, the cat blinked at his name being called, stared at her, and he rested his head back upon his paws.
Shaking her head, the witch left her tea things in the kitchenette and crossed over to the door. Above the door was a small piece that held the shape of a mouth. Pressing her ear to it, the lips moved closer to her ear and moved against her skin.
It is the Potions Master, Professor Severus Snape. The mouth whispered quietly to her. It was an odd security system, but highly effective in case of impersonators or intruders.
Hermione nodded her head at the lips and when she did, the doorway opened and there before her stood her friend. He stood in all black as he usually did, the only differences were the pale skin of his face and hands and the small glass phial of shimmering purple in his hands.
Joy filled Hermione at his words. "Are you sure?" She couldn't help but squeal, but lowered her voice when she saw him flinch at her pitch. "Come in," she moved aside, inviting the tall man into her quarters. Quickly making sure the door was properly sealed, she followed him into her living room. "Severus... Are you positive?"
"To repeat my previous statement," the wizard spoke slowly and without much emotion, as he usually did. "It is simply a first-time prototype. If tested, it will determine whether we are making progress with this route of potion making or if we're wasting our time. I am sure it will only produce small results, if any at all, such as brain cells regenerating. Hopefully, it will not be for nothing."
"Oh, I'm sure it won't!" Hermione couldn't help but be optimistic. They had spent so many hours of fabricating this potion... She could only pray for positive results. "I'm sure there will be some sort of a change! We've worked so hard!"
"Hn." Came Severus' reply. His eyes were scanning her quarters in interest. "Fingles has done well."
The witch rolled her eyes. "I sent Fingles away. I did it all myself. I was already done by the time he arrived, anyway." Her eyes fell to the tiny phial in his hand. "May I see it?"
To her surprise, one of his pale hands grasped hers gently, turning her palm upwards. She felt heat crawling up her neck once more as he carefully placed the phial gracefully in her palm. "Careful." He reminded her. "This is the only batch from the potion I could gather. If you were to drop it-"
"I understand the meaning of 'careful', Severus."
Hermione's eyes became fixated on the elixir in the miniature bottle in her hands. She held it delicately, as if it were the most precious object in the entire world. The bottle was slightly chilled and touching it sent goosebumps up her arms. She didn't mind too much as her gaze was fixated on the potion inside. "It's got such a pretty color..." she said aloud. "Is that from the Weeping Willow blossoms?"
"And from the two and a half weeks of chilling at the same exact temperature, yes." Severus replied, his eyes still perusing her living room. "You did all of this by yourself?"
"Don't sound so surprised. I always used to decorate when Ginny and I lived together. It was a tradition we carried for about three and a half years. It was quite fun, really." Her eyes left the phial for a moment, taking in the room again. "After we would put the decorations were up, we would celebrate with tea."
A idea suddenly sprang into her mind and she couldn't resist blurting it out: "Would you like to join me?"
Severus' black eyes met hers.
"It could be a double celebration, I suppose." Hermione added quickly, absolutely sure that her face was pink at this point. She hoped that the more information she gave him that he would agree to stick around. "For finishing with the decorating as well as finishing our first prototype of the Cruciatus Cure?"
"It's about tea time, actually." Severus informed her. "If you are preparing tea, I suppose I could stay."
"Alright." Handing the potion back into Severus' possession, the witch scurried off into the kitchen where she began loading tea essentials onto a silver tray. "So, how did you finish the process, Severus? With the potion, I mean? And sit down! Don't be a stranger!"
Catching his reluctance out of the corner of her eye, she watched as he slowly eased himself onto the red couch but did not relax into it. Instead, he maintained his perfect composure and his eyes were fixated on her, which was a bit unnerving.
"As you know, the last few things the potion required were a filtering process and two full weeks of consistent cooling. According to my experience as well as my research, it's supposed to have a certain kind of consistency and color. From what I have read and studied, the results from the potion are spot on. All we can do now is test it out on a patient."
Adding a bowl of sugar cubes and a tiny pitcher of creamer to the tray, Hermione tried her best to listen to him while multitasking. "Do you believe St. Mungo's will actually let us test it out on one of their patients?"
"I already sought out a permission form from St. Mungo's and returned it. It is up to them to decide whether or not they will agree to the experiment. They won't exactly like the idea. There are plenty of Healers who will not appreciate us testing these experimental elixirs out on one of their patients. However, it is never-the-less completely necessary. I have crafted many potions for countless patients there before. My desire is that they will not forget all the good I have done in the past and they will grant us our request."
Hermione was adding a small tin of Newt Biscuits to the tray when she caught his tone. When she glanced up at him, he was no longer looking at her. His dark orbs were reflecting the luminous flames of the fireplace as if he were lost in a trance. It was then she understood his meaning.
"Surely they can't deny you," Hermione spoke, hoping he would look at her and became disappointed when he did not. "You have worked so hard for so long... You have something they do not. You have persistence and dedication to your work and you will not stop until your potions achieve perfection." Biting her lip, her hands gripped the tray. "What you have done in the past should stay where it belongs: in the past. You have earned a good name for yourself."
The wizard's eyes flickered back in her direction and his gaze was so smouldering that she had to tear her eyes away from his. She flickered her wrist, in the air. The kettle that was just about to boil over began lifted itself from the flames and began to pour hot water into a nearby teapot. Adding tea cups, saucers, and the tea pot to the tray, she carried it over to the coffee table.
"Earl Gray," she began as she handed him his tea cup. "That's your favorite, isn't it?"
"That it is." The wizard agreed in a light tone, almost as if he were surprised that she had remembered such a trivial thing. "Always this attentive, Hermione?"
Hermione couldn't help the sudden heat on her face from his compliment. "I try," Hermione murmured as she helped herself to the biscuits, having quite the appetite since she had been decorating since the early afternoon. The tea pot lifted itself of its own accord and poured just the right amount of steaming water into both their tea cups before resting itself back upon the silver tray.
"I believe they'll accept our request because there's nothing more that they're doing for their patients," Hermione informed him, recovering quickly from her flustered moment. "Neville told me that little to nothing has changed for them. They're just being made comfortable."
"Like they're expecting them to drop dead at any given moment," Severus sneered quietly in disgust, the bridge of his hooked nose wrinkling. "They would probably like that. Less work to do."
"I wouldn't say that-,"
"It is the truth," Severus spoke over her. "And you know it. Covering it up for them is a foolish thing to do."
"It's not covering up, per say." Hermione articulated slowly. "Just... They don't know what to do. It's been so many years since it happened. Well over twenty years. They probably assume that their brains simply can't process anything any longer."
The dark wizard sipped his tea quietly. "We will see what results we gather from this potion here." He gripped the flask in his hand before slipping it into his robes for safe keeping. "If there is any change whatsoever, we will know where to go from there. Until then, let us drink our tea and wait for a reply back from St. Mungo's."
Hermione nodded in agreement as she helped herself to another Newt biscuit.
"Until then... We have midterms and your House has a match coming up."
"Yes. Against Ravenclaw."
"They're much more of challenge than I've ever seen them."
"They do put up a good fight, but my House has annihilated theirs for the past few years. It is an embarrassment on their part." A cold grin spread on his thin lips but it was quickly hidden behind his tea cup. "They should give up while they still have their dignities intact."
Hermione didn't know whether to smile or roll her eyes and then proceeded to do both. "Oh, Severus..."
A faint 'pop' was heard, meaning Fingles returned safely. Trotting from behind the couch, he hefted a large chest that nearly toppled over his large head onto the coffee table. "F-Fingles brought back the potions, Professor Granger! Just like you a-asked!"
"Thank you, Fingles!" Hermione stated with a smile. One less errand she didn't have to run now. "Would you like some tea? Or a biscuit?"
The House-Elf didn't hear her question. His glassy eyes were fixated on the person sitting beside her. His shoulders were now hunched like a student in detention.
"P-P-Professor Sn-Snape..." the poor creature whispered Severus' name quietly, rather fearfully.
Out of the corner of her eye, she caught Severus inclining his head to Fingles, acknowledging him. "Fingles." he greeted in a dull tone. But the House Elf stood still, frozen in place as if he had been hexed. With a nervous, pitchy laugh, he turned his glossy eyes back to Hermione.
"I-Is there anything else you require from Fingles?"
"No, not at all, Fingles. Thank you for running that errand for me. Are you sure I can't interest you in a-"
It was too late. With a quick snap of his fingers, the frightened little House Elf vanished before her very eyes.
"I frightened him away."
"Don't be silly, Severus," Hermione argued, although she knew it in her heart it was true. "He's just shy, that's all."
"Hm... That is quite the case of Dreamless Sleep."
Hermione felt her insides chill over and her muscles stiffen. Forcing a laugh, she motioned her thumb at the chest. "Oh, those things? Oh no, no. Those... That is just a little something I keep around when I have bad dreams. I'm prone to bad dreams, you see. N-Not entirely unusual, right?"
The wizard was not remotely convinced and she could see it in the way he was staring at the case.
"I see... So naturally, for such irregular nightmares, you would buy the largest case of Dreamless Sleep available?"
Feeling nervous from the Potion master's probings, Hermione gave him her most convincing smile. "Oh, you know. Little things every now and then you keep around just in case. Like tea!" Grabbing her small tea basket, she held it up to him, showing him the numerous flavors of tea bags inside. "I never drink Earl Grey tea, so I keep it stocked just in case."
Severus' dark eyebrows furrowed and his thin lips were pressed into a line, reminding her almost a little of Minerva.
He didn't believe her.
Well, lying was never her forte. She could just tell him the truth... But then again, could she really? The Dreamless Sleep helped her to be rid of those horrible memories that were forever imprinted on her mind and gave her the peace she needed to get through the night and sleep properly. Her nightmares were only ever about him and his unfortunate death. If she did tell him this information, would he think that she was bonkers? Of course he would.
Images of Dream-Severus' weak and bloodied body flashed in her eyes and she had to shake her head to get them to leave. She didn't want to think about these things... The very thought of Severus' death caused a pang in her heart that was almost too much to bear.
She found herself tugging on one of her braids, gently running her fingers along the elastic band. "Ever since the Battle, I've had some pretty vicious dreams. I have them every once in a while and they're hard to get over, I suppose."
"Of course. You went through a traumatic experience. It could be years before the nightmares cease..."
"Yes." Hermione waited briefly for him to ask another question or two. Instead, to her relief, he remained silent and sipped his tea. "So I like to have some Dreamless Sleep before bed every now and then to help with the nightmares."
It was odd for Severus to drop an interesting topic so easily. She expected him to discuss this for the next few hours and give her his opinion on what potions she should take. She should just be grateful that he didn't ask her what she dreamed about, but she couldn't help but wonder why he didn't ask her. Repeated dreams over a period of time wasn't normal and she thought for sure that he would pester her over and over with questions surrounding the subject, but continued to surprise her when he simply enjoyed his tea and the Newt biscuits quietly.
"Do you have nightmares, Severus?"
The Potions master's movements stopped for a moment. "Don't we all." he asked offhandedly as he added more tea leaves to his cup and Charmed the spoon to stir.
The witch nudged him, catching his attention. "That bad?"
"Worse," he informed her. "Like you, they rarely occur. When they do, however, they are quite unpleasant."
Staring blankly into his tea cup, she saw his black eyes become cloudy, almost distant. Was he like her? Did he have nightmares about losing someone close to him? Was it his "most important person" that he had mentioned recently?
She couldn't help but wonder what this person was like to him. They must have been awfully close. Was it a wizard or a witch? Did they meet at Hogwarts? What did they do together? Were they in the same House? Yes, that was quite likely. If so, what happened to them? What happened between them and Severus?
After a few painful minutes of silence, Hermione wanted to break it, but she didn't quite know how. Torn between her desire to ask about his special person and what he thought of her nightmares, she decided against it. It was better if some things were just left behind and left unsaid. The last thing she wanted to do was damage what she and Severus had because of a few stupid, curious questions.
Feeling discouraged, she reached for the tray but she miscalculated her timing by accidentally brushed her hand against Severus', who was also reaching for something on the tray. At the contact, her stomach fluttered like mad butterflies and she felt her face flush with heat. Her mind went completely blank and her body became instantly aware of the texture of Severus' hands. Unlike how they appeared, cold and unusual, she could feel the softness of his fingers and just feeling his skin sent her heart beating rather rapidly.
"F-Forgive me," she mumbled as her voice returned her. "I was... Reaching for a biscuit."
"As was I." Severus's voice was different. Instead of his usual passive or drone, his tone was much lighter, and Hermione wondered if he was just as shocked at the sensations as she was. Did he feel it, too?
He must have...
Hermione waited for him to jerk his hand away as he had done in the past but as the seconds passed by in her mind he didn't move away from her nor did he pull his hand away. But it was just as shocking as it was lovely. Neither of them pulled away. Although his fingers were cold, his skin was surprisingly very soft.
Ron's words came rushing back to her: "You and Snape are an item, right?"
The statement was becoming more and more real each time she and the Potions master were together. There was something strange between them, more than friendship, that was tying them together. She wish that she had the words to explain what it was, but none came to mind. But she knew what she was feeling - those odd emotions that she had felt for both Ron Weasley and Viktor Krum at a time in the past, only different and... stronger, somehow.
But... How could she possibly feel this way for this man?
He was her friend and colleague! And she couldn't possibly forget the horrible ways he treated her as a student - the names he called her, the cruelty and malice he had shown towards her and her friends. Not to even mention his age! He was old enough to be her father, for Merlin's sake! He had to be in his mid-forties, at least! He wasn't a handsome man by any standard and was the furthest thing from being what they call "attractive". He had yellowed, crooked teeth from smoking, greasy long hair, his hooked nose was a distracting quality... And yet, she was. How could she be attracted to such a man?
Was it because of the changes he was making in his life? Was it because of the way he would give up hours of his precious time to help her with things that wouldn't benefit him in the least? Was it because of the way he had comforted her when her and Ronald's relationship had ended? Was it the similarities between them?
She felt his eyes on her, burning a hole into her, but she daren't look at him. Her throat suddenly became thick and scratchy and she swallowed in an attempt to get rid of it. She hadn't felt this nervous in a long time, but why? Their hands had touched, it was certainly not a big deal. He had held her in his arms before, so why all of a sudden was her mind going completely blank and her hands beginning to perspire?
With reluctance and fear, she looked up at him. Like she had guessed, his black eyes locked on hers.
Putting all logic aside, she had to base this on what she was feeling. And what she was feeling for him was something new and terrifying, but none the less true. Despite what he had done to her in the past, despite his downfalls and his insufferable sneers from time to time, despite his stubbornness and his temper... She still felt something for him. It wasn't exactly easy to deny. She blushed when he gave her a simple compliment for crying out loud! Even if it wasn't a full blown crush, it was definitely something and she couldn't put it off. It was real and it was between them...
And by the way he was staring at her, perhaps he felt it too? Hope bloomed in her chest.
It almost felt as if they were magnetic, and the closer they grew towards each other, the stronger the pull became...
Just then, without any warning, a bang echoed from the fireplace, causing a startled Hermione to leap backwards. Her back hit the cushions of the sofa and her gaze flashed over to the fireplace. She had no time to reach for her wand, but out of the corner of her eye, she saw Severus' wand already pointed at the stone fireplace. The fire's embers exploded with the color green as two familiar figures stepped through, covered in soot.
"Damn! I'm covered in ash!" came a familiar, fiery voice. The person beside her didn't have such a boisterous reaction, as he started laughing.
"Oh, Gin, you're fine. You're a witch, arencha? Just Charm it away."
Hermione stared blankly at the couple. "Harry?" She exclaimed, bewildered. "Ginny?"
The redhead, who was still shaking soot from her long red hair, stopped briefly to flash her a grin. "Hey, you! So sorry to drop in on ya! Ooh, it looks nice in here! You should come decorate the apartment for me!" Her bright eyes drifted a little to the left and her smile faded quickly. "Ooh. Sorry, did we interrupt something?"
Harry, who had just finished wiping off his glasses, replaced his spectacles on the bridge of his nose. He grinned at Hermione, but then his eyes found Severus. Unlike his fiancee's reaction, his smile only grew wider. "Oh, hello there, Professor!" he greeted the Potions master like an old friend rather than a former teacher. Leaving Ginny's side, he stepped forward and stuck his hand out to him. "Nice to see you again!"
Severus, however, didn't look nearly as pleased to see Harry as Harry did to see him. Regardless, Severus replaced his wand in his sleeve and reluctantly shook the boy's hand. "I did not know you were expecting company this afternoon or I would not have stopped by."
It took the witch a moment to realize he was addressing her. His eyes quickly fixated on Hermione and she felt her face grow hot from the heat of his stare. "Oh! I didn't know. This was an unexpected visit." She threw her friends a pointed look, feeling irritated. "You know, a little bit of warning isn't too much to ask for. Send an owl or a Patronus next time!"
The smiles from both her friends' faces faded almost immediately.
"Well..." Harry began, looking a little apprehensive. "If you would send a letter every once in a while or stop by like you used to, maybe we would have but... You haven't returned any of our letters."
"We've been worried, Hermione." Ginny added, stepping forward. "Ever since you and Ron broke up, it's like you've vanished from our lives. We're all concerned."
Hermione was at a loss for words. This wasn't exactly an ideal situation. The gentle atmosphere that was setting in around her and the emotions she was experiencing in that moment popped like a soap bubble. Now, two of her best friends invaded her quarters without asking and were asking her questions she didn't want to answer in front of Severus.
As if he had heard her mind, Harry's gaze turned to Severus. "Actually, now's a perfect time. Professor? Would you mind if I borrowed a few moments of your time? It'll only take a few minutes, I promise."
"So, what is it you want? Moments or minutes, Potter? Pick one."
Hermione giggled at the blank look on Harry's face. "Oh, he's being sarcastic Harry. Don't mind him."
"Oh. Right." The smile returned to his face. "So."
"So." Severus repeated as he stood up. Hermione found herself longing that he would look at her, to say something, to reassure her that he would return and pick up where they had left off. But instead, much to her disappointment, he followed Harry out of her quarters without a word to her, his cape flowing like a black clowd behind him.
Perhaps... Perhaps it was just my imagination... Hermione thought sadly to herself.
"Why the long face?" Ginny took a seat on the red couch next to her, concern written all over her lovely features.
Hermione did her best to smile. "It's nothing." She reassured her friend, despite the suspicious look she was receiving.
Ginny's curious eyes wandered about the room. "It really is beautiful in here. You always did have an eye for good decorations. I meant it when I said that you should decorate the apartment."
"I'm already working on flower arrangements and center pieces for your wedding. Isn't that enough?"
"True." Then, the redhead took in a breath and a serious tone set between the two friends. "Hermione... What's going on with you?"
"Nothing." Hermione replied, perhaps a little too quickly. Ginny, however, was not so easily fooled and saw right through her.
"Whatever." Ginny moved closer to her, her arms folded over her chest. "Look... I don't know what's going on anymore with you. First you and my brother break up, then he starts bringing freaking Lavender Brown to our family dinners, then you don't reply to my letters?"
A pang of guilt hit Hermione at Ginny's words. "I know... I haven't been on top of communication lately..."
"'On top of communication'?" Ginny repeated, sounding incredulous. Even as Ginny said it, Hermione realized how stupid it sounded. "Cut the crap. You have been avoiding us!"
"I'm not avoiding you guys, Ginny."
"The hell you aren't!" Her friend argued, her arms still crossed over her chest. To Hermione's surprise, the redhead let out a sigh and her shoulders relaxed. "Look," she started again in a calmer tone. "I didn't mean to lash out. I just wish I knew what was going on around here... Nobody is telling the truth anymore. All we get are half-stories and rumors that may not even be true. I got Ron's half of the story, and I don't buy any of it. Harry and I want both you and Ron to be in our wedding but we don't want there to be this tension there.I'm one of your best friends and I just want some answers... I deserve that at least, don't I?"
The Charms teacher was dumbstruck at her words. Ginny was right. She and Harry's wedding was going to be here before they knew it and the last thing they needed was drama on their end, especially when the Best Man and the Maid of Honor were the main problem. She couldn't argue with Ginny and hiding the truth from her would only make things worse.
"I... I didn't mean to avoid you. Or Harry. Or your family." She admitted honestly. "I just didn't know what to do after Ron and I broke up. I didn't know what was the right thing to do."
Feeling nervous, she found herself wringing her hands. Her throat became scratchy and her eyes watered with emotion, but she buried what she was feeling. "I had figured that now that Ronald and I had no future together, that I wouldn't be seen as family anymore. That I wouldn't be welcome at the Burrow anymore... I didn't want to face that reality."
"Don't be an idiot Hermione," Ginny cut her off, offended. "We're not that cruel, to just cut you off like that. Thought you knew us better than that."
"I know... I know you aren't like that. But your entire family expected me to end up with your brother. And now that I'm not... How will they treat me?" Hermione squeezed her eyes shut in an attempt to keep her tears away. "After I Obliviated my parents memories... I don't have any family. Your family is the only family I have left... And now, I don't even know if I have that. I don't want to spend my holidays alone... I don't want to be alone..."
Pity filled Ginny's eyes and Hermione had to look away. She didn't need Ginny's pity. She didn't want Ginny to feel sorry for her...
"And... I don't know if I'm ready to handle Ronald and Lavender smothering each other. I don't want to be reminded that I'm not a good girlfriend... I just don't know..."
The tears didn't stop and Hermione didn't wipe them away. There was a rustle of movement on the sofa and then two arms wrapped around her.
"'Course you're still family, 'Mione." Came Ginny's voice, unusually soothing and gentle. Just her soft tone helped calm her down. "Just because my stupid brother's got himself a new girlfriend doesn't mean we're going to just forget all about you. We aren't about to just toss you out. Mum and Dad have been worried about you because you haven't been around. Harry and I have missed you at family dinner. You're part of our family, even though you and Ron aren't together anymore."
"B-But..." Even as Hermione spoke, all words escaped her.
"We loved you before you dated my brother and we'll love you even though it's over. We wouldn't just cut you off... We love you. Also, Harry and I still want you to be in our wedding and we'd hate it if you couldn't be a part of it anymore."
Ginny's words and her reassuring smile caused relief to flood over Hermione.
Even though she wasn't going to technically become a Weasley, it was a great relief in the knowledge that the Weasley's still missed her. They were worried about her and they craved her company. Ginny and Harry even came over, even though without permission or invitation, to seek her out and reaffirm that she was still loved and wanted. Of course, it was silly to believe that they might not want her anymore, but it was still a terrifying thought.
"S-Sorry for breaking down. Stupid me."
"Aw, you aren't stupid. I can understand why you were freaking out. But it's not a big deal. At least you're okay now. I mean, I'm lucky that I've still got my parents... You don't."
Wiping her tears away, she managed to give Ginny a small smile. "Would you like some tea?"
"Forget tea. Got any Butterbeer?"
The Charms professor lifted her hand and Summoned two bottles of Butterbeer from the cooling unit. Ginny's eyes glittered with glee as her eyes fixated on floating bottles. "Rosmerta's Butterbeer, I'm assuming?"
"Of course." Hermione replied. "I bought it just for these occasions, you know, when you and Harry would stop by." Popping the tin cap off, small wisp escaped the bottle before Hermione swallowed a greedy sip. The sugary, buttery taste of the drink tickled her tongue. "Like now."
"Nice." Ginny complimented her with an unexpected cheeky grin. "And let me see..." With her freehand, she reached for the tea bag basket on the coffee table. Dangling it on her hooked finger, she cast her grin at Hermione and she couldn't understand why. "Do you also keep the Earl Gray for Professor Git?"
Hermione wasn't an idiot. She could hear the hinting in Ginny's not-so-subtle tone. And judging by the way she was quirking her eyebrows, she was definitely hinting something. "Yes." She answered in a clipped tone, trying to sound professional and distant. "For when he stops by. He doesn't like Butterbeer, you see, it's far too sweet for him. So I made sure I have tea for him-"
"You know," Ginny spoke over her, cutting her off. "You have been spending an awful lot of time with the man."
"Of course. He's been very good to me. Ever since I started-"
"He's also been awfully generous with his time and supplies for that potion the two of you have been working on!"
"Yes, he has been. But that's-"
"Not to mention when you brought him over to the Burrow for your birthday celebration, too!"
The bushy haired witch sighed, exasperated. "Gin, if you're going to keep interrupting me, you must be absolutely bursting at the seams with something to say. So don't be shy. Out with it."
"Okay! Straight to the point, like always! Well, then!" Ginny exclaimed in a high pitch that made Hermione flinch. She then leaned forward, a mischievous smile playing upon her lips, like a young child about to spoil a terrible secret. "I wanna talk about you and Snape!" she whispered quietly and quickly. Leaning back into the cushions, the same mischievous and playful smile remained on her face but she didn't say anything more.
"Snape and I what?" Hermione repeated, confused. In half a second, it hit her. "Oh no. No, no. Don't be ridiculous, Ginny Weasley."
"Oh, come off it! You and my brother were at least decent before he crawled into the picture! And now that you two are spending lots of time together, you lost interest in Ron and you are ready to move on with Snape!"
"Come on now." Hermione sighed, trying to calm her dear friend down. "You're sounding absolutely bonkers! Just because I have a few extra Earl Gray tea bags in my quarters doesn't mean that Severus and I are heading towards any type of intimate relationship! That's the most ridiculous analogy I've heard of! It's just..." Hermione threw her hands up in the air. "It's just tea!"
"If it's 'just tea', why are you so red?" Ginny teased in sing-song.
"I-I absolutely am not! Don't be stupid!" Even as she protested, her voice became high and pitchy and her face grew incredibly hot. She had just recently discovered her feelings for the dark wizard and now to have them thrown so eagerly in her face was something she wasn't at all prepared for. Like a samba, her heart was pounding in a hard and fast rhythm in her chest that she could not contain. "It was only polite to have his favorite tea here! It was polite!"
"'Polite'?" Ginny repeated, sounding absolutely thrilled at the very word. "More like 'passionate'! Listen to me, 'Mione, if you have feelings for him then go tell him! He's right there on the other side of the door now! Just go tell him!"
A dry, humorless laugh escaped Hermione's lips. "And to tell him what?" Hermione couldn't help but raise her voice. She was becoming more uncomfortable with this entire conversation all together! What had started out as a lovely, relaxing afternoon was suddenly the most awkward encounter she'd ever have with her best friend. "'Why, hello Severus. You sure are looking dashing today! Oh, wait a minute, no you're not. You're not at all attractive and yet I find myself undone by the very way you look at me! I know that you are old enough to be my father, and that you have no interest in relationships whatsoever, and that I really don't have a chance, but I really feel these high-school feelings for you and I think that we should talk about that! What do you say? Want to be my boyfriend?'?"
Ginny didn't look at all amused by her sardonic comments. Her nose was wrinkled at her. "Ha ha ha, very funny." She replied back in just as sarcastically. "What is the big deal? If you like him, go tell him!"
"It will never work Gin! Besides, I just got out of a five-year relationship with your brother that produced more bad than good! I could have been a better girlfriend and potential wife for Ron, but I obviously wasn't good enough for him and I wasn't what he wanted. What makes you think that if I couldn't make it work with Ron that I could work it out with a man who has no interest in love? For now I really just need to be single and work on myself! Severus would never want to relationship with me. To him, I'm just a friend and a colleague. A former student, may I remind you, that he used to abhor very strong, very negative feelings for."
But her words of truth didn't sway the Gryffindor lioness at all.
"Obviously times have changed," Ginny protested with her eyes becoming wide with persistence. "He doesn't see you as a student any longer. In fact, you are pretty much his equal. You to have more in common with each other then I have ever seen in a couple. If you would just go talk to him, maybe just open up even the idea-"
"It will never work!" Hermione spoke over Ginny. "I just have a tiny crush on him! Crushes are small and serve no purpose! They're here one day and gone the next!"
"My crush with Harry lasted for years and now we're engaged."
"Oh please. You two are winners of one-in-a-million chance of ending up with one's high school sweetheart. Those chances are very slim to begin with!"
Needing to distance herself, Hermione stood to her feet and began pacing. She didn't exactly have a plan for where she would pace, but her feet carried her around the couch and the coffee table in a large circle. Biting her lip and gripping one of her long braids, her mind spun around in circles.
The playful atmosphere was chipping away bit by bit the more serious the conversation became. Ginny's happy attitude and beaming smile was now replaced with folded arms and attentive eyes. "I get it. Really. It's a scary thing to be feeling, but you can't deny what you feel. If I had denied what I was always feeling for Harry, we wouldn't be together today. I know it's risky and it feels completely crazy, but if you really feel something for him... You should at least think about it."
"Think about it?" Hermione repeated. "There is nothing to think about, Ginny. My emotions that I feel for Severus are simply based on a simple formula."
"Love isn't a potion, 'Mione!"
"It's not love and it's not a potion, it's logic! I was spending more time with Severus than Ron so naturally Severus and I became closer. When Ron and I had ended the relationship, I was vulnerable. I was hurt and I felt alone and Severus was there for me and he had comforted me. It's the only logical explanation for these feelings..." Hermione rested a hand against her heart, which was still beating frantically at the thought of Severus' face. "This insignificant heart tie. In time I will be over him like I was over, like I was over Viktor Krum."
"This is different and you know it Hermione. This is way different. And to compare him to Viktor Krum is ludicrous."
Hermione stopped pacing immediately and spun around to face her friend. "Why are you so supportive of the idea of Severus and I having a relationship all of a sudden? Aren't you angry with me that your brother and I didn't work out?"
Something in Ginny's eyes had changed, catching Hermione's immediate attention.
"What? What is it?"
Sighing, the redhead propped herself up onto her knees on the cushions. Resting her chin on her folded arms, her eyes peeked up.
"Look... Ron told us what happened."
"Us?" Hermione repeated, surprised. "Whose 'us'?"
"He said you two had broken up, clean cut just like that. Buuut..." She bit her lip again, a sign she was worried. "I didn't believe him. So I asked George for the dirt."
"And the dirt would be...?"
"That Ron was cheating on you and that's why you broke up!"
"Oh, that dirt." Hermione shrugged her shoulders. "I've had a month to get over it. It no longer bothers me."
"Still!" Ginny raised herself on her knees again. "My brother cheated on you! With Lavender freaking Brown! While we three were the only ones that knew, no one is happy about Ron's quick new girlfriend! We can't stand her at family dinner - calling him 'Won Won' and her hanging all over him as if he were one of the Weird Sisters! It's driving us all up a wall!"
Hermione laughed. "She still calls him that pitiful pet name, huh? And he doesn't mind it in the least?"
"Well, who else knows about the 'dirt'?"
"Just George, Harry and me." Ginny informed her. "It's such a bummer! We had no idea that all of this was going on... It must have hurt you so badly when you found out about Ron's unfaithfulness. So we wanted to come over here and cheer you up. Oh, and also let you know that you're still welcome at family dinners."
"Well, I appreciate it. I haven't thought about Ronald all that much for the past month. Severus has been very supportive and distracting - oh, wipe that stupid grin off your face - so I haven't given him much thought."
"No wonder you fancy the git." Ginny shook her head. "Not only has Snape given up his time and store to help you with the potion, but after that he finds out about my stupid brother's cheating and he chased him down and threatened his balls if he didn't break it off with you, and THEN he's been a shoulder for you to cry on-"
Hermione's heart nearly skipped a beat at this unfamiliar news. "Hold on, wait wait!" She jumped in, holding up a hand to quiet her friend. "What did you just say?"
"Uhh... That he's been a shoulder for you to cry on?"
"No, no! Before that, Ginny!"
"That... That Snape found out about Ron and threatened him?" She tilted her head to the side. "You knew that already, didn't you?"
"Is this-?" Hermione pointed her fingers at her own face, gesturing the apparent shock on her features. "-the look of a person who knew that?"
"Well, I thought you knew, a'right? From what I heard from George, Snape cornered Ron and demanded that he'd better break up with you or it was his head. He even snapped Ron's wand to prove his point. You and Snape are so close I thought he told ya... I thought you knew..."
A weight what felt like lead dropped into the pit of her belly.
No wonder Severus was always on edge whenever Ronald was brought up in conversation. He didn't want to hear about him because he had discovered Ronald and Lavender's affair and from what Ginny was telling her, he blackmailed her ex into confessing his transgressions to her. He was livid with him and he was willing to go through such lengthy measures to make Ronald come clean to her. Regardless that Ronald didn't come clean and she found out on her own, Severus wanted to spare her that pain first.
It all suddenly made sense.
A surge of emotions for Severus Snape came swiftly and without second thought. If she had any sort of denial or refusal of her feelings, they were removed and replaced with nothing less than affection and connection that they had was only growing stronger.
The things that she was feeling towards him weren't going away or dampening. She couldn't stop them even if she tried. She couldn't help her emotions towards the dark wizard, regardless of all his flaws and imperfections.
He was not an ideal man by any standards. He was a broken, fractured shell of a man with a horrible temper and a sour attitude...
And yet she felt such strong emotions for him that she couldn't deny or hold back any longer.
He was a liar and a secretive man who kept to himself and snapped at anyone who came close...
But she desired to draw closer to the man and learn more about him...
It was clear:
She liked him. She not only had a crush on him, but she genuinely liked him.
And... If she had liked Severus, perhaps there was indeed a chance that he had some feelings towards her? Even by the way he was looking at her not half an hour ago, maybe he held something for her that was more than just friendship?
The very thought sent her stomach fluttering.
"Soooo..." Came Ginny's voice, drawing her attention back to reality. Her grin was now back on her freckled, lovely face as if it had never left. "D'ya still think it's just a crush?"
Wheeeeee! I love realization moments :3 It took a bit of convincing from Ginny, but sometimes people just need that one loudmouth person in their life to talk some sense into them and to help them realize the situation at hand!
I look forward to writing lovely Snanger goodness soon!
Be sure to leave a review! It's much appreciated!
Random fact of the day: I miss old anime shows. RAVE Master, Rurouni Kenshin, Gungrave, Trigun... Where did the magic go?