Summary: Sometimes what seems so out of reach is just as tangible as your own skin. The Front Door promises to be a romance between Severus Snape and Hermione Granger, two people who seem as different as Black and White, but in the end don't we all discover that there are no blacks or whites, only grays? To add a bit of plot in, Voldemort has been incinerated, yet he's back again because of a gift he received from Severus Snape oh so many years ago, and now it's up to Snape and Hermione to find the counter-potion, Harry Potter is twenty-three and confused about his life path, and Dumbledore's got some things occupying his mind.

            Author Note: Here is my next attempt at a Hermione/Snape romance, except this one is intended to be a bit more plausible… I am now keysersoze on , and this fic should be coming on there any day now… This story is a sort of supplement to Simply Turbulent… Anyway, all feedback would be appreciated. Thanks!

Dear Albus,

                        I have some depressing news. Harry was just over here with Ron, and he said that his scar was hurting last night. Voldemort is dead. We confirmed that. We burned his body! I spat on the ashes. What else could possibly be making Harry's scar burn? Please write back as soon as possible.


                                    Sirius Black.

            Albus Dumbledore sat down so abruptly that his glasses flew off his face and onto the floor. He ignored the crackle of glass breaking, and thought about the letter. Voldemort is dead, he thought. But then, how?

            He hastily pulled out some parchment and a quill and began writing-

            Dear Hermione-

                        There is some urgent news. I know it's summer break, but I need you back at Hogwarts. Get here as soon as possible. It's about Harry.

                        Albus Dumbledore.

            Hermione Granger was relaxing on the beach. Her feet were inches away from the salt water, and when it would roll in on her toes she would shiver. This was the greatest idea she'd ever had. A vacation solely for herself. She had been living the last three weeks in seclusion on Hilton Head Beach in South Carolina. And was savoring every minute of it.

            Yes, she loved her position as librarian at Hogwarts (she was just waiting for a teaching job to be available), but sometimes work was overwhelming. Hermione had been counting the days until summer break this last year. And when the students left, so had she.

            She sighed, stretching her legs out.

            And Ron. She had needed to get away from him as well. She had needed to figure out what she wanted with him.

            Ron had asked Hermione out nervously about three months ago. She had said yes, mainly because she was curious if her feelings for him that had been so fervent at Hogwarts were still alive today.

            After spending the evening with him in Hogsmeade, she had decided they were. And they had been dating ever since.

            Ron had asked her before she left for this vacation if she wanted to date him, and only him. Hermione hadn't known it was getting this serious. And she wasn't sure if she wanted it to.

            "Enough thinking about Ron," she scolded herself out loud.

            Just then, she heard the hooting of an owl and sat up.

            A brown owl she'd never seen before landed besides her, carrying a note that she soon found out was from Dumbledore.

             Harry Potter, after several changes of mind, had decided it would be best to go to Dumbledore. He could probably give him some reassuring reasons of why his scar was hurting again.

            "Let's go," he told Ron, hopping on his broomstick.

            "Harry, knowing Sirius he already sent Dumbledore a letter. . ."

            "Well then I won't have to explain." Harry replied.

            Harry had been to Hogwarts several times since he'd graduated six years ago. Dumbledore was his mentor, and his friend. Whenever he needed advice or someone positive to talk to, he always went to the headmaster. Dumbledore was like his second father. And he treasured him.

            They arrived at Hogwarts in good time, and Harry was surprised to see Hermione walking up the steps. He landed besides her.

            "Herm! What are you doing here? I thought you were on vacation?" he asked her, noticing her tan. She looked really good with a tan.

            "Me too," Ron said, landing on the other side of her. He leaned over and gave her a quick kiss on the lips. For a couple that hadn't seen each other in three weeks, their exchange was very non-passionate one.

                        "I was on vacation. But I got this letter from Dumbledore, about you," Hermione said, waving the letter at him.

            He felt his heart drop. If Dumbledore was asking Hermione for advice. . .

            "That's why we're here," Ron told her, smiling. "You look really nice, Hermione. Very sexy with that tan."

            Hermione blushed, and simply said, "Thanks."

            She walked inside, and Harry followed her. Ron was looking bewildered, but he followed momentarily.

            Dumbledore appeared, stopping and exclaiming, "I didn't know all three of you were coming!"

            "I didn't either, to be truthful." Hermione said. "I apparated to Hogsmeade when I received your letter. And walked here."

            "And then we arrived. I have a question," Harry said timidly.

            "Yes, I know all about it. Your godfather wrote to me." Dumbledore said, and Ron exclaimed, "I told you!"

            "And . . ." Harry beckoned.

            "I don't know." Dumbledore frowned. "I have no idea. That's why I wrote to Hermione here, the queen of research. I'm sure there's a reasonable answer somewhere in those books . . . some spell . . . some charm . . ."

            Albus Dumbledore quickly explained the situation to Hermione, and asked, "Do you think you can find something with that much information?

Hermione nodded, heading down to the library.

            Dumbledore studied Harry for a second. "I suggest you go home, Harry. I think you need plenty of rest for the game tomorrow, eh?"

            Harry nodded, recalling that he did indeed have a Chudley Cannons game tomorrow. "Write to me if you find out anything."

            Dumbledore smiled grimly. "You'll be the first to know."

            Harry somehow doubted that. The world seemed to know when Harry Potter was in peril weeks before he himself knew.

            Hermione had gone on vacation to get away from work and Ron. And here she was, up to her ears in stacks of books to look through, with Ron sitting across the table from her going on about how much he'd missed her.

            "It's so good to see you Herm! I mean, I was counting the days till your arrival."

            Where had she heard that phrase before?

            "And it's such a pleasant surprise to see you back already!"

            Won't he ever stop groveling?


            That caught my attention. The voice that had just spoken wasn't Ron's, but a deeper, more attractive voice. Hermione looked up and found herself staring at one of the most handsome man she had ever seen—with beautiful oval, brown eyes, shaggy eyebrows, and lovely eyelashes. And nicely trimmed hair, compared with Ron's outrageously unkempt mop of red.

            "Pardon me, but may I inquire who you two are?" he asked softly.

            "Er . . ." Hermione started to say something but she couldn't find the words.

            "I'm Ron Weasley. And that's my girlfriend Hermione Granger. She's the librarian here. Who are you?"

            Hermione blushed, and turned to look at Ron. He was glaring at her.

            "Oh, you're Hermione Granger? I've heard a lot of good things about you. My name is Alexander Lockhart. I'm the summer librarian; I guess you could say. I just dust the books and keep them orderly for your return, Miss Granger." The man smiled cordially.

            "Hermione," she said automatically.

            "Hermione, then."

            Alexander silently held her eye for a few moments, than asked, "What is it you're doing? I wasn't expecting you for another two months."

            "We're researching. It's a secret project for Albus Dumbledore," Ron threw in boisterously. He obviously did not like the way they had been looking at each other. He obviously did not like Alexander Miller.

            Hermione glanced at Ron, and then said, "I don't know if it's secret, but I'm not sure so I better not say anything."

            "Fair enough. I just wanted to know if I could assist . . .?"

            "Hermione doesn't need any help." Ron said flatly.

            She saw Alexander look at Ron quickly, as if he were some piece of vermin that needed to be exterminated. And that Hermione didn't like. Not at all. Alexander may be incredibly good-looking, but Ron was her . . . friend.

            "Not at the moment I don't. But if I need anything, I'll know who to ask." She said brightly. "You said your last name was Lockhart—any relation?"

            "Yes, unfortunately," Alexander nodded. "But if you'll excuse me, I have some work to do."

            After Alexander retreated, Ron exclaimed, "Finally! I thought he would never leave!"

            Hermione glared at Ron. "You could have been a bit nicer to him."

            "Nicer?" he replied incredulously. "Nicer? Herm, he was trying to steal you from me!"

            "He was doing nothing of the sort!" Hermione said.

            "And even if he wasn't, you were looking at him as if he were . . . were the sequel to Hogwarts: A History!"

            She blushed. "I was not. And since when do you go around saying you're my boyfriend?"

            Ron's expression made her anger melt away. He looked defeated, deflated. He looked crushed.

            "I'm not?" he asked slowly.

            Hermione reached out and took his hand. "Ron, I don't know. I've been thinking incessantly about that. I don't know if I want that yet. I don't want anything to move too fast."

            Ron nodded. But she could tell he didn't understand. "Move too fast, Herm? Hasn't this been going on since… hell, since fourth year? . . . But, you haven't been dating anyone else, have you?"

            "No. But if the chance were to come, if someone were to ask me out, I'd want to make sure that I would say no."

            "I guess I can understand . . . or try to anyway."

            Ron looked so depressed, that she asked him- "Do you want to go out this Friday?"

            "I guess. Sure."

            Hermione knew his bad mood would wear away eventually. Ron wasn't a negative person at heart.

            "Great." She smiled at him, and leaned over to give him a quick kiss on the cheek. "Now then, unless you want to research with me, I suggest you go home."

            Ron looked at her suspiciously, but relented. "Yeah, I have to do my laundry anyway. And maybe I'll go visit Harry, cheer him up."

            "I'll talk to you later. Tonight maybe. Tell you what I've found."


            She looked up, knowing beforehand who was standing there.

            "Hello Alexander,"

            "I prefer Alex. I've talked to the Headmaster about what you're doing here, and he told me. So if you would like—may I help you?" He asked tentatively.

            Hermione smiled. "I'd love you to help!"

            He smiled back, sharing his white teeth with her. And sat down.

            "You've been working too hard, I think. Every time I've come into the library during the past three days you've been sitting at this table muttering to yourself. Headmaster Dumbledore chuckled when I told him—he said you'd been doing it since your days as a student."

            Hermione laughed. "Yes, that was my reputation. Bookworm. Know-it-all. Ms. Librarian In Training. On that last one they were right. I get so involved in a project that I feel guilty when I try to anything else but work or sleep."

            "And you're supposed to be on vacation," Alex said sympathetically.

            "I should tell you that I'm happy to be doing this, and in a way I am . . . I mean Harry's one of my best friends . . . but I really wish I were back in America." She replied wistfully, remembering the clear blue skies void of rain for the most part.

            "I just recently met Harry. About four days ago in fact."

            "Oh really? He's wonderful, isn't he?"


            Silence overcame them then, and Hermione flipped through some pages of the book she was currently engaged in.


            "Yes?" she looked up.

            "Would you like . . . to go out on a date with me tomorrow night?"

            "Tomorrow? Is that. . ."


            "I'd love to, but I've already got plans." Hermione said sadly.

            "Oh. With Ron?" he asked her, causally.


            "Is he your boyfriend?"

            Hermione paused for a second. "No," she said hesitantly. "I don't really know what to call him right now. My special friend, I guess."

            "You've known him awhile?"

            "Yes. We've been best friends since my first year in Hogwarts. And then we started dating. He wants to make a commitment, but I didn't feel ready."

            "So, you're not completely taken? Can you go out on Saturday? I know it will be tough, spending two nights away from your work and all. . ."

            She laughed. "I think I can manage. Where will you be taking me?"

            "Where ever you'd like to go."

            "Even a muggle restaurant?"

            "I'm a muggle born." He smiled at her.

            Severus Snape had been enjoying (as well as he could) a vacation himself also in America, along the Boundary Waters. The place where he stayed was called The Kawishiwi Lodge, and he immensely enjoyed its serenity and quietness. There weren't many places where you could sit outside and hear absolutely nothing, except for the occasional cry of a loon. He had rented a cabin for a month and idly spent his days fishing, hiking, and canoeing, picking up special ingredients for potions in the forest. It was amazing how Muggles just trampled over rare plants and couldn't care less.

            But, he grudgingly admitted, they picked plants that he intentionally stomped on. Flowers. He shuddered. He abhorred flowers.           

            At the moment he was floating in the middle of a lake, admiring the trees and wildlife. Ducks, lily pads, eagles. Loons were fun to watch; they went underwater looking for food and popped back up unexpectedly. More than once a loon had resurfaced near him, causing him to start.

            Severus wished he could spend his life here. No people to bother him. No pupils to annoy him. No evil wizards to destroy him. Just the wind, the water, and the loons.

            Ironically, a letter arrived for him at that moment. It was a Hogwarts owl; it wore the Hogwarts symbol around its neck proudly. He accepted the letter and shooed the owl off.

            Severus thought for a moment about tearing the letter up.  He didn't want to leave this paradise just yet. And he had told everyone not to contact him unless it was an emergency.

            He sighed, and then used a long fingernail to rip open the envelope.



This is very important. I received a letter from Sirius Black the other day that said this- "have some depressing news. Harry was just over here with Ron, and he said that his scar was hurting last night. Voldemort is dead. We confirmed that. We burned his body! We spit on the ashes. What else could possibly be making Harry's scar burn?"

      Do you know of any potions that could possibly bring Voldemort back to life? The word 'ashes' sticks out at me. Did Voldemort ever say anything about a spell cast on himself involving the use of his ashes?

                        Please reply quickly!

                         Albus Dumbledore.

            "Goodbye Kawishiwi Lodge," Severus muttered. "Potter's in trouble again."

            Hermione walked to the library early Friday morning, anticipating seeing Alex again. But instead of finding the charismatic Alexander, she found one of the most disgusting individuals she'd ever met. Severus Snape, the Potions Master.

            He stood up as she approached her table, exposing his intimidating height to the library.

            "Miss Granger." He said by way of greeting, holding out a hand.

            She shook it gingerly, surprised at the softness of it. He was such a hard man; she'd expected him to have callous hands.

            "Hello, Professor." She replied, as if she were still in school.

            "Albus wrote to me, and explained this situation. And I believe I can help. I went straight to him last night, and told him all I knew. He sent me down here to talk to you. And ask for your help." She saw him sneer slightly, but ignored it.

            "Go on, I'm listening."

            "Sit down, it's quite a long story." Severus motioned.

            After they'd seated, he began:

            "I don't know how much you know about the rituals of Voldemort and his followers, more commonly known as Death Eaters. So I will tell you this story as if you were as ignorant as a muggle. You know about my past, you know I once foolishly worked for Voldemort . . . Before you became a certified Death Eater, before you were branded with the Dark Mark; you had to prove yourself worthy of the Dark Lord's trust.

            "Every October 31st, Halloween, Voldemort held a ceremony. It was held on Halloween, because it was said to be the most fiendish, demonic night of the year. During these ceremonies, prospective Death Eaters gave Voldemort a gift. Some gifts were the killings of dangerous Aurors; some were special Dark items that would help him in his quest to destroy all Muggle and Muggle-borns.  Well the year I turned eighteen, 1948 I presented the dark… Voldemort a gift. My gift was a potion.

            "This potion was a very special one. It was a potion that had, most likely, only been used once before. It took me a whole year to create it, six months to find the ingredients, and the remaining months to brew it. Perhaps I should show you this . . ."

            Severus Snape reached into his pocket and pulled out a very wrinkled and faded piece of parchment. He slid it across the table to Hermione, who picked it up and studied it.

            "Is this supposed to be hard to read?" She asked.

            "Oh. I forgot. It's written in old English. There's a spell that will convert it to modern English. I'm surprised you don't know it already—you seem to know everything else—in any case, let me show you," Severus said, reaching for his wand.

            "Ah, yes! Modernica." Hermione said clearly, pointing her wand at the parchment. "It's not a difficult spell to remember."

            Then she read it, fascinated.

            This potion will be very useful for the lucky brute that finds it. I, Salazar Slytherin, have been working on creating a potion that will increase a person's power by one hundred percent. And here, this recipe you hold in your hands, is that potion. But, be warned, the effect will wear off in approximately fifty-five years. And don't try to use it twice, it won't do anything more to improve your magical ability: it works once.

            And for a bonus, if it is taken after five P.M. and before midnight on October 31st, it will make you able to come back to life after you've died. The instructions on how to do this are included with the potion.

            There is also a counter-potion, which will do the exact opposite. I have hidden this potion in my house also, but it will be a lot harder to find.


                                    Salazar Slytherin

            Hermione looked up at Severus, her mouth open in shock. "He can come back to life? How? And where did you find this?"

            Severus sighed, looking completely human. Civilized.

            "I'll start with the last question you asked. I found this in Slytherin's house."

            He looked at her expectedly, and she asked the question- "Where is his house? How did you get in?"

            "Slytherin's house is my house. My family, well, we're a branch off of the Slytherin family. Some sister of his married a man by the name of Pachac, whose grand-daughter married a Snape . . . One day I was . . . exploring when I ran into this secret room. I discovered a trunk, one that had been locked. I broke into it, and discovered this. Obviously someone else had found it first and had secured it. The counter-potion was not in the trunk, and I have no reason to believe it is not in my house at this very minute. I never tried looking for it; I didn't care to have it. I always wondered . . . well, this is just a theory, and judging on how eccentric Slytherin was I wondered that since the potion increases power by one hundred percent, wouldn't the counter-potion decrease power by one hundred percent. . ."

            Hermione smiled. "And if your power decreased by one hundred percent, you wouldn't have any power left! Brilliant!"

            Severus nodded.

            "So, if Voldemort came back to life . . . how would he do it?"

            He frowned. "That's the thing. I can't remember. In fact, I couldn't even remember that I'd given him that potion until I received a letter from Albus. It was as if Voldemort had cast a memory charm on me. But a temporary one."

            Hermione sat up suddenly. "Oh!"

            Severus looked at her, grimly reminded of the days when he had taught her. Always knowing the answers to everything. She read far too much.


            "I read somewhere . . . about a memory charm that lasts only until the caster has died. Would that have been something Voldemort would have done?"

            Severus thought out loud. "I don't see why he wouldn't just use a permanent one . . . unless, unless he was planning ahead? Unless maybe he thought that he would eventually die. Maybe he was leaving a way for his followers to continue his quest even after he was destroyed?"

            Hermione nodded. "That could be."

            But it didn't seem right.

            "Or! I know—Perhaps the way he is supposed to be brought back to life involves another's assistance? Actually, that sounds right, if I remember . . . I'm thinking that he put that memory charm on me until after he died, so that I could bring him back to life. And then he found out I betrayed him, and told another how to do the task . . ."

            Hermione's eyes lit up. "That's it! It must be!"

            Severus found her enthusiasm horrifying, but very refreshing as well.

            "It does seem to be a good explanation. I rather like it."


            "Then, sir, where is the potion? I mean, shouldn't we find out how he was brought back to life?"

            "Yes, I suppose . . . let me think . . ."

            Severus thought hard. All these memories kept floating back. His anticipation of the night that he was to propose the potion, the compliments he'd gotten from Voldemort, and . . .

            The potion was written carefully out on a piece of parchment as old and shabby as the one that held Slytherin's note. And he saw it—he saw himself hiding it . . .

            "It's at my house." Severus said promptly. "I hid it. In . . . my old bedroom. The small one at the end of the first hallway on the third floor."

            Hermione looked down at her hands for a second. Than looked back up at him. "Well, I guess you should go get it, huh?"


            Severus wondered if he should—but he really didn't want to—but it would be the right thing to do. Dammit, you don't care less about doing the right thing . . . Severus, look at the poor girls face. She wants to be with you to find it. This is about the most exciting thing she's ever been involved in. Working to save humanity and all that.

            "Would you like to . . ." Severus started to say. Why was he doing this? To be nice? "Accompany me? Since you are involved now . . ."

            "Oh yes! I mean, that is, if I'd be no bother." She said bashfully.

            Severus wanted to roll his eyes, but resisted. "No bother. Just don't talk too much."

            They walked out into the Forbidden Forest, than apparated to his mansion.

            Snape Manor, as it had been called, once was a very elegant, prominent building. It had once been looked upon with great respect and when people would visit it, they were tentative about touching the doorbell. They didn't want to disturb anything. And once it had been a beautiful building, a five story white house with glamorous stone pillars in the front for show. Everything had been carefully planned out. Every room, every corner, every wall color, even every plant had been planned. All the furniture was color-coordinated with the wall and carpet of the room. All the plants had a "Long-lasting" charm placed on them to guarantee they'd never die or dry out. The walls had an anti-bug charm, and the carpet had an anti-dust charm. Everything was immaculate. Everything was perfect. Everything was looked upon with impressed eyes. Until he'd become the owner. Than he'd destroyed all the plants in fits of rage, thrown several pots of flowers out several windows (which had yet to be fixed). He'd blasted furniture apart with his wand, and torn wallpaper, leaving it hanging down still attached to the walls. All the charms that had been placed were unplaced. All this had happened because of that blasted Voldemort.

            The exterior of Snape Manor was no better off; covered in unattractive weeds that were definitely not ivy leaves. The paint was peeling, and some vindictive students of his had one time sprayed on his door some nasty words. Severus hardly ever came to his Manor, so why should he care about its upkeep?

            He watched Hermione uneasily as she looked upon the Manor with surprise. "You—live here?" she asked slowly, looking horrified.

            "No. I live at Hogwarts. You go away in the summer, you wouldn't have known, but I stay at Hogwarts year round, unless I take a vacation. Which I was doing just hours before." He said longingly.

            "You too? I was as well. On this lovely little beach in America, it was wonderful to get away . . ."

            Severus looked at her, a dull expression on his face.

            She looked back at him clearly not intimidated.

            "Let's enter."

            Hermione looked uneasily at the door. "You should really do something about that."


            "It's kind of degrading."

            "Just a little bit," he said sarcastically.

            To his amazement she giggled.

            "Am I humorous? It wasn't my intention." He responded dryly.

            "What are your intentions?" the girl asked him rather boldly.

            "To appear charismatic. How am I doing so far?"

            It didn't fail. Only this time she flat out laughed. No quiet little giggle, but a loud, furious laugh. Maybe it was all the stress that the girl had been under. Or maybe it was funny. It didn't matter. He didn't have the time to think petty thoughts such as those. He was too busy trying not to smile—it felt nice to evoke this emotion out of the girl.

            Laughter was contagious, but he fought a hard battle and won.

            "Okay, where's your little room?" Hermione asked him, looking around the Manor curiously.

            Severus led the way, feeling a bit ashamed at the state of the Manor. If his parents had known this was what it was bound to look like . . . he shuddered to imagine what his father's reaction would have been.

            "This must have been a magnificent place at one time," Hermione said voicing his earlier thoughts.

            "It was," he admitted. "I remember all the parties here. I would sit on top of this very staircase and look down at all the people dancing. . . until my father found me and . . . punished me."

            He decided to stop sharing his life with his former student and continued until he reached his room.

            Severus opened the door and stepped in; coughing from the dust he inhaled. This door had not been opened for quite awhile, not for almost twenty-two years. Once James and Lily had died, he never wanted to be reminded of his past life when he spent days alone in his room worshiping that auburn-haired beauty.

            Furnished nicely with a matching furniture set of the same prosaic wood: a four-poster bed (what else?), a roomy desk, a large dresser that had always been half empty, and a nightstand. No carpet, but a wooden floor that seemed identical to the furniture (a nice Illusion Charm took care of that), and white walls. One would say it looked like a boarding school room before the students arrived. Empty with no personality. As it had always been.

            He closed his eyes a moment, trying to recollect where it was he'd hidden the potion. In the hollow under the nightstand's bottom.

            Severus went to the nightstand, and swallowed. Prepare to go back in time he warned himself, picking up the piece of furniture both hands firmly supporting its weight. He stepped back, and knew from Hermione's gasp that the potion was indeed there.

            Severus set the potion down and glanced at Hermione quickly, before nonchalantly leaning down to pick up the dusty parchment. He wiped off the dust and flattened the paper. Then handed it to Hermione, who accepted the parchment greedily.

            "Amazing!" she whispered.

            Severus chuckled. So youthful. Almost puerile. Easily amused. You would think she hadn't lost close friends and seen the many evils of Voldemort.

            "Modernica." She said simply, and then sat down on the edge of the bed.

            Slytherin's Potion

            This intensely complicated potion requires these quantities of the stated articles:

            3 strings of unicorn hair

            2 ounces of Kappa blood.

            7 petals off of a Yellow Lotus

            3 ounces of Unicorn Blood

            The recipe went on, but Hermione wasn't interested in that part at the moment. She skimmed over the rest of the page, and read out loud-

            "There is a bonus to this potion—it will allow you to be recreated. But you will need the assistance of another person, and an animal. There are a few steps which are listed below," Hermione stopped and looked up at Severus quickly before returning to the parchment. " This so-called animal is none other than the rare and beautiful Phoenix. If you're any kind of wizard at all you'll know that Phoenix tears have healing powers."

            "I'm going all over the place here, but your faithful accomplice needs to take your dead body and incinerate it completely. Salvage as many of the ashes as possible and secure them safely.

            "The faithful friend should now capture a Phoenix, and somehow make it cry. I've found that poking it in the eye with a stick is a good method."

            Hermione looked up again as she heard Severus snicker. "That's not funny! That's just plain cruel!"

            She resumed her reading- "Your friend needs to capture at least twenty tears and secure them as well. I wouldn't suggest holding them in your pocket.

            Hermione rolled her eyes. "Your sidekick must now make Slytherin's Potion. Once completed, he must put your ashes, the potion, and the tears in a cauldron together. In promptly twenty-four hours you shall be revitalized, rejuvenated, and reborn."

            Severus nodded. "I remember it now. The first time I laid eyes on that potion I was thirteen years of age. I found it in a room here . . ." he motioned with his hands limply.

            "So, Professor, what's next?"

            Severus studied her briefly, than looked at Slytherin's Potion. "I think . . . first you must stop calling me Professor. I am not your professor anymore, we are now . . . colleagues."

            "Well, what shall I call you, then?"

            "Your Majesty should do just fine."

            Hermione wasn't sure if he was being serious or not.

            Severus gave an amused smirk. "Severus."

            "Okay. Severus."

            "And the next step—We should thoroughly search Snape Manor. To find the counter-potion recipe."


            "Yes. You are involved now. And, well, your mind thinks differently than mine. And two different minds, both that are highly intelligent, together should be able to come up with one correct answer for every problem." Severus said frankly.

            Hermione smiled shyly. "If you don't mind my saying so—in this one afternoon I've spent with you . . . You been nicer to me and more civilized than I've ever seen you."

            "It was hard at first, believe me. . ." he sighed. "But I do treat people I like nicely."

            "I should hope so. But, I'm curious . . . if this life-threatening issue hadn't arrived, and we hadn't been made to work together . . . would you have been so nice to me? If we had just met by chance one day on Diagon Alley?"

            "I'm not sure. I like to flatter myself I've grown up a bit more. I know I don't hate James so much anymore. And I don't hate Harry at the moment either. But that could be because I haven't seen him in person since he graduated. But old habits die hard . . . I doubt I'd have been as warm if the meeting had no purpose."

            "And . . . well, I know I'm being nosy and you can tell me to shut up anytime, but are you still so harsh on your students?" Hermione asked quickly.

             "Of course. Now I suggest you do shut up before my joviality fades away."