A/N: Hey, there. Sorry for disappearing for a while. RL decided to kick me a few times in the ribs, and I needed to recover. I took some of that time to write 'The Advocate' (now I'm not sure if I love Loki more or Severus...) because I wanted to try something new and 'tis the season for fic exchanges (also, meet the new mod for the Hermone smut exchange on LJ). But I'm finally back in this game, and will hopefully be getting better about updating, though with the holidays coming up who knows.
Thanks to everyone for sticking with me. Also, thanks to my beta, bunnyhops.
Molly seemed to have gotten over the shock of Hermione's sudden engagement by that Sunday brunch, eagerly welcoming Severus into her home and piling his plate high with food. The table engaged in small talk for a while, but halfway through the meal Molly finally broached the wedding subject.
"I read you must be married in the next six months," she said pleasantly. "Have you thought of a date?"
"Yes, the twenty-first of November," Hermione nodded. "That gives us enough time to plan without getting into the Christmas season, and we'll be back in time to spend the holidays with our friends and family."
"It will be cold, so we must find you a suitable place indoors. Have you thought about how many people you're going to invite?"
"Honestly, we haven't done much planning. Neither of us is looking for something large, however: your family, obviously, and Harry. Maybe a few more friends from Hogwarts, like Neville and Luna, and some of Severus' friends."
"Do you have family, Severus?"
"No one I'm willing to invite," he shook his head, and ignored the inquisitive look Hermione shoot him.
"Well, it will be easier to find a place with a smaller party. Have you made any other plans?"
"Not yet. It's a discussion Severus and I are going to have in the next week, though I would love to have your help once we have a general idea of what we want," Hermione skillfully ended the conversation without insulting the Weasley matriarch.
"Of course, dear."
"Hermione, when you're done eating, we need you to look over some paperwork for us," George quickly re-directed her before Molly could continue.
"Sure. What's going on?" she asked, genuinely curious.
"Our inventory numbers aren't working!" Fred replied with a dramatic wail.
A chuckle circled around the table, and the group fell back into idle conversation. After cleaning up her plate, Hermione followed Fred and George into the sitting room to look over their paperwork. Severus, left alone with the Weasleys, suddenly turned to Ginny.
"May I have a word, Miss Weasley?" he asked.
Ginny studied him for a moment then nodded. "Sure. Let's go outside," she said, standing. Harry stood with her, and Severus set his jaw.
"Alone, Potter," he hissed.
"But..." Harry protested.
"It's alright, Harry," Ginny motioned for him to sit, and he grudgingly sank into the seat. Severus followed Ginny out the back door and to a picnic table. He sat across from her, and folded his hands in front of him.
"I would like to apologize to you for what I did to you this last year at Hogwarts," he said softly.
"Hermione has told me everything. You don't need to do this for appearances," she replied, crossing her arms.
"I'm not," he shook his head. "I'm doing this because it should be done. What you and your friends went through is unforgivable in any situation, but in an educational institution it is particularly inexcusable. As Headmaster, it was my duty to protect the students of my school, and I failed miserably in that task."
"With all due respect, sir, you were hardly a headmaster so much as a puppet of Voldemort. Your job was to protect the students, but you were severely restrained in your ability to do so by the threat of Voldemort coming to the school. You did what you had to, and we didn't make it easy on you."
"That does not excuse what you and your friends had to suffer through."
"It could have been worse. Alecto Carrow threatened to kill me at one time. I know they threatened Neville to the point where he went into hiding. I doubt that news of their behavior didn't get up to you."
"They discussed the possibility of making examples of you in front of the school," he replied. "I warned them they would more make martyrs for the other students to rebel behind. And I mocked them for being unable to keep a few teenagers in line. I think it embarrassed them enough to forget their idea of killing you, and they didn't have the chance to broach the subject again."
"I accept your apology, though I really don't think it was needed. However, I don't speak for Luna or Neville, perhaps they would appreciate one."
"I will keep that in mind," he muttered.
"If it would help clear your conscience, there is something you could do for me," she said slowly. "Hermione is giving a lot up for you. I know you two have an arrangement, you're living together, but you're nothing more than glorified roommates. She deserves to be treated with respect for what she's giving up. I know you didn't ask, but someone as smart as you could have figured out a dozen ways to get out of it by now."
He scowled. Of course there were ways to get out of it; though none he had yet found that didn't involve a return to Azkaban or his own death.
"Just don't be horrid to her. I don't think she expects anything over-the-top, but something nice on occasion is in order."
"I understand, and I had plans for something to that effect."
"Good. Fifteen years is a long time, though. Don't let it slack," she said, standing and heading back into the house. He waited a moment then followed her. Whatever she told Potter must have appeased him, as he seemed to have no interest in Severus when he walked in. He walked through the house and found Hermione in the sitting room, on the floor between the twins, scowling at a piece of paper.
"Why did you send this shipment twice?" she asked, thrusting a yellow form out to Fred. "Did they order more?"
"Which shipment?" Fred asked.
"Of your fireworks to a joke shop in America. You sent one on the fifteenth, and one on the eighteenth."
"We did?" he asked, as he took another set of papers and studied them. "Damn, we did."
"I'm assuming it was unintentional, then?"
"There's only one order slip," he grumbled. "How the hell did we mess that up?"
"Who is in charge of shipping out products?"
"I am," Fred and George responded in unison.
"I thought we said I would be in charge, because I get the shipments out faster?" Fred scowled.
"I thought I was in charge, because I have a better rate of things getting there without damage," George shot back.
"And there would be your problem," Hermione sighed, flipping through the pages and pulling some out seemingly at random. "You really should put in some sort of shipping area where, once things are shipped out, the order form is properly filed so you still have it, but it's not in danger of being re-sent. I can see you've done this at least three other times."
George swore. "Are you sure you can't start tomorrow, Hermione?"
"I still want to go back to Hogwarts," she said, shaking her hand. "However, I have a little free time on my hands before September; perhaps I can come by and set something up for you."
They each planted a kiss on her cheeks and hugged her. "Thank you so much!" they chorused.
"Just promise me you'll stick with it, so I won't inherit a giant mess when I do come work for you," she said, carefully picking up papers in the proper order.
"We promise," they said, Fred packing the papers away.
"Okay. I've got that Hogwarts meeting tomorrow, so I'll be there Tuesday to start setting things up. Try not to mess up by then."
"No promises," George beamed. "Have I ever told you I love you?"
"Not nearly enough," she smiled.
"You fix this problem, and I will tell you every damn day," he said, throwing an arm around her and kissing her cheek again. "I'll send you flowers and those chocolates in heart-shaped boxes at least once a week."
"Somehow I think there's someone who might not appreciate that gesture," she chuckled.
"You're right. I'll have to find a more subtle way to proclaim my undying devotion to you, Granger," he smirked.
"You're incorrigible," she shook her head.
"How about we give her free reign of the Wonder Witch products?" Fred offered.
"You're worse," she shook her head as she stood up and stretched her back. "Are you ready to go home?" Hermione looked at Severus, startling him. He didn't think she had realized he was watching them.
"Bloody hell!" Fred shouted as he caught sight of Severus, dramatically clutching his chest. "I'll give you a bell to put on him, Granger."
"That will hardly be necessary," Severus replied in his usual drawl.
"Is this the part where you threaten us with all sorts of bodily harm or mental torture if you ever catch us kissing your fiancé again?" George asked.
"Consider that your warning, and work on your subtlety," he said, hiding a smile. While he would never admit it out loud, he had liked the twins' antics while they were at Hogwarts, at least, he enjoyed the ones not directed at him. "Let's go, Hermione."
"Coming," she smiled, following him out to the kitchen to say her good-byes.
Monday morning came, and Hermione found no sign of Severus in the house, though that was as normal as finding him reading the paper over coffee in the morning. She dressed to fit in, nondescript jeans and a t-shirt, hair pulled back in a tight braid so its natural bushy state didn't give her away. She debated wearing sunglasses, but feared they would draw attention rather than repel. Her best bet was to surround herself with friends and hope the group would protect against anyone saying something stupid enough for her to overhear. Or, perhaps, Harry's fame would be a good shield, and with a little luck, no one would be looking at her.
She waited until the exact moment she agreed to meet Harry, Ron, Luna, Neville, and Ginny in Hogsmeade, and Apparated to the spot outside the Shrieking Shack. She was the last from their group there, but several others were Apparating around them. She tried to shrink between Ron and Neville and be as unnoticeable as possible as they joined the queue for the carriages to the castle. As they rode, a debate over a new addition to the Chudley Cannons quickly whipped up, with Luna in her normal world beyond their own, and Neville took the opportunity to grab Hermione's sleeve and moved away from the group for a little privacy. She hadn't had a chance to talk to Neville since they were preparing for Severus' trial, and of everyone, she felt the most guilt over not giving him some kind of warning. Her hopes that she wouldn't have to talk about her engagement were dashed with his first question.
"So, how long was all that going on?" he asked, and it was not hard to figure out what he was talking about.
"We struck things up while I was on the run," she replied, swallowing.
"While he was Headmaster?"
"Did he... tell you anything about how things were at the school?"
"He mentioned they were awful, but I think he kept details from me because I had enough on my plate with our Horcrux hunt," she replied, a pit in her stomach.
"I think he saved my life," he whispered unexpectedly.
"Alecto Carrow really wanted to kill me. He hated how I stood up to him, and I bore the brunt of his punishments to avoid younger students getting hurt. I think he got so fed up, he was begging Snape to let him kill me, preferably messy, in the middle of the Great Hall in front of all the other students to set an example. Snape refused, on several occasions, and one day I told a blatant lie, that I had done something a first-year had, and we both were Crucioed. I think Alecto was at the end of his rope, and someone had broke into his office to steal some of the darker artifacts. It wasn't me, but he thought it was. I got a note that said, "The Army needs you". I went to the Room of Requirement, and it locked me in. Eventually a house elf showed up and told me I should stay there, and somehow there was a rumor that I escaped through an unknown passage, and that Snape punished Alecto, who had been in charge of finding the passages and sealing them. That note, I think it was in his writing."
"Severus was one of the best double-agents anyone could hope for, no one knew his true motivations until the war was over."
"Except you," he added as though it were obvious.
"Not even me," she shook her head. "I had a good idea, but there's always a shadow of a doubt. I was always afraid that he was just leading me along, getting information about me, and would betray me."
"Then why did you start something?"
"Matters of the heart are never easy."
He nodded as though he understood. "May I ask why you didn't tell me? We went through my testimony together half a dozen times. You could have mentioned it during one of those."
"We were trying to keep things quiet. We didn't want the publicity. Severus was recovering, and didn't need a constant deluge of owls from angry Prophet readers. We decided to keep it from everyone until our friends had some time to get over the war, and we had some time to grow as a couple outside that context. Then he was taken to Azkaban, and I thought that if details got out about us people would think he was only with me as a way to try to get out of prison. We..." she trailed off, a sudden compulsion to take some of the shock away from Neville's face overtaking her. Quickly she looked forward, but the rest of the group were still otherwise engaged, and the nearest carriage was a fair distance away. She dropped her voice so only he could hear, and continued, "We weren't engaged until that day."
"But the Prophet said you got engaged in the hospital," he said in surprise.
"The Prophet said what we told them. But we hadn't even discussed marriage at that point. We weren't really ready for that step. Our relationship was born in secret, hiding in small towns and always looking over our shoulders to see if someone was trying a little too hard to overhear or if someone's gaze lingered slightly. And then I saved him, and he had to recover, and romance wasn't exactly on the forefront of either of our minds. He went right from St. Mungos to Azkaban, and I had to focus all my energy on freeing him. I went to visit him I told him about the law, and we agreed it would be best to become engaged and announce it only if the worst happened."
"So, it wasn't in the hospital?"
"That's the story we released to hopefully get rid of some suspicion. If they found out we were engaged only when he was told to go back to Azkaban they might think it's not real."
"But it is."
"Of course," she said, keeping a straight face, but the lie hurt.
"Then I am happy for you. For both of you. You deserve happiness."
"Thank you, Neville."
"And might I add that this is the most I ever want to hear about your relationship."
She laughed. "Don't worry, I don't think he would be happy if he found out I was divulging information about our personal lives."
"Is there anything I could do for you?" he asked, sounding genuinely concerned.
"Neville," she smiled, taking his arm and giving it a friendly squeeze. "Your support is more than I could have asked for. I know you and Severus don't have the best history..."
"He's never forgiven me for the Boggart," he chuckled nervously.
"I'll work on that. If anyone has the right to speak up against our relationship, it's you. The fact that you are happy for us is more than I had hoped for."
"You don't need my support."
"But it means a lot. Will you come to the wedding?"
"Of course!" he said, sounding as though the answer was obvious before she asked. "Maybe I'll even wear my Gran's hat."
Her laughter drew attention from the group as they came to the gates of Hogwarts, but a silence fell as they passed onto the grounds. The castle stood before them, still majestic, but it was obvious there was still work to be done. The entrance hall had been repaired, the new stone gleaming against the weather-worn salvaged rock. The astronomy tower still had a large gash in the side, and Hermione could see the stairs through the wall. One wall near the greenhouses was being filled in by Ministry workers; several more were rebuilding the Quidditch pitch. The bridge to the grounds was only half-complete, and Hagrid's hut was still in shambles.
A hand found hers, and she looked down at it, vaguely wondering who it belonged to, before she looked up to see Harry looking at her, obviously in pain. Next to him Ginny used her shoulder to swipe a tear, as her hands were tightly gripping Harry and Ron's. Ron's free hand was gripping the side of the carriage so tightly his whole hand had gone pale. Hermione reached to her other side, finding Neville's hand waiting for hers, and she was surprised at how tightly he held to her. The closer they got, the more she recognized certain places, the spot near the forest where Voldemort emerged with what she thought was Harry's dead body, the place where the wall had been blasted in onto Fred, where she found Greyback over Lavender's limp body... She closed her eyes to prevent the pain in her chest from spreading, and did nothing to stem the flow of tears onto her cheeks until the carriage paused to let them out. They all dropped hands in unison, and tried to dry their eyes before getting out.
Neville helped her climb out of the carriage, and they matched the pace of the group ahead of them towards the castle to keep from having to talk to anyone. But the solitude did not last long. As soon as they entered the Great Hall, she heard conversations stop and felt several pairs of eyes turning to look at her. The house tables had been broken up and turned so now students could easily face the front and have some room to write while doing so. Most of the seats in the back of the room had been taken, and in order to sit together they were forced to walk down an aisle to a group of seats near the front. Harry seemed to sense her tension, and was by her side immediately, and held her hand in support as they moved through the crowd, but the whispers were impossible not to hear.
"... always seemed he didn't like her..."
"... no wonder she got top marks in potions..."
"... Professor Snape..."
She sat between Harry and Neville, keeping her back straight and trying not to let the whispers get to her. Her eyes were drawn to the chair that Snape had always sat at during her time at Hogwarts, and tried to picture him in the Headmaster's chair, but couldn't. She glanced up and down the tables to see who had come, and was surprised to see Malfoy tucked into a back corner staring at her, surrounded by nervous looking Slytherins.
McGonagall led a procession of the Heads of House into the room. Slughorn had agreed to take over for Slytherin until a suitable Potions Master could be found and trained, at which point he planned to make his retirement permanent. He looked at her as soon as he entered the room and smiled. How excited he must be, to have so many of his Slug Club members in the news. Hagrid was behind him, the beaming new Head of Gryffindor house. He flashed her a friendly, but disappointed looking smile. Flitwick came after, glancing at her without any readable expression. Sprout pointedly looked away.
"Thank you all for coming," McGonagall said, quieting the room immediately. "As you may have heard, Hogwarts has undergone enough repairs to offer a full schedule of classes come the first of September. You all, for various reasons, have had a difficult educational road. Last year was..." she trailed off, glancing at Hermione. "It did not live up to the educational standards we hold dear here at Hogwarts. Many have expressed concerns that they are not where they need to be to take their NEWTs, or feel they have not gotten the proper education for the last year. And so the staff here and the school governors have decided we will offer you the chance to repeat your last year of education. For some of you, this means you will be returning despite already going through seven years of education. We have decided that, for those students, a temporary dormitory will be set up. This dormitory will house students from all four houses, and only those we will term eighth-years. These students will take classes with the seventh-year students of their original house. Any student who chooses to repeat their sixth year of education will remain with those they roomed with last year, and will move into the new dormitories next year, and this will continue until all students who were enrolled in Hogwarts or were supposed to be enrolled in Hogwarts last year have completed their education, after which the dorms will be converted to a center for students of all houses to gather socially.
"For those of you who were seventh-years, you have three additional options. The first of these will be you may return for a half-year term, and an additional session of NEWT testing will be offered before the Christmas holidays. We will be offering half-year accelerated courses only for those students, and all students who choose this option will learn together regardless of house. The second option is that you may choose to study at your home and return for either the winter or the spring NEWT sessions to sit your exams. Some tutoring will be available at staff's availability, though we cannot make promises as to how many sessions will be offered. This option will require written permission from your head of house who will assess your academic history before approving your at-home studies. Those who choose this option will be offered a full or half year syllabus to keep on pace with their peers at the castle. The final option is you may forgo any further education, and leave Hogwarts without NEWT scores. I do not recommend this path for anyone who doesn't already have employment lined up." She paused, scowling at something at the back of the room then motioned Flitwick forward with a jerk of her wrist.
Flitwick tapped a stack of papers and a box of quills, sending them to each of the students. "You are not required to make your decision today; however we ask you return your paperwork by Monday next." As he finished, he went to sit at a spot at the staff table, a seat across from him for student consultations.
"The heads of house and myself will be available for questions, and to consult with those who are considering at-home study. I encourage you to ask all questions you may have.
"I thank you all for taking the time to come. The formal part of this meeting is now concluded. You may leave, or stay and fill out the paperwork."
Hermione immediately jumped up and started towards Hagrid, falling into the seat in front of him.
"At-home study?" her friend asked with a knowing smile.
"Was it that obvious?" she murmured.
"Hogwarts will be sad to see yeh go," he murmured, taking the proper form and starting to fill out his section. "How are yeh, Hermione?"
"As well as can be expected for walking in to a place that seems full of people who think I'm some form of traitor," she replied, with a sigh.
"It was a shock," he nodded. "And yeh know a lot o' people won' like it, but they don' have ter live yer life. Yeh've earned the righ' ter happiness, however yeh may find it."
"Thanks, Hagrid," she smiled.
"I jus' wish yeh would've told me."
"I'm sorry," she said, sincerely apologizing. "Things were so chaotic..."
"I understand, but an owl would've been nice."
"How about tea?" she asked.
"Perhaps a cuppa with Harry and Ron?" he asked, sliding the form back to her.
"Of course. Do you need any help repairing your home?"
"Nah," he waved her offer off. "The Ministry will be workin' on that after they're done with the pitch."
"Good. Let me know if I can stop by and help make it feel homey again."
"I'll do that," he nodded, patting her hand.
"I'll let you get to the line," she said, nodding at Dean waiting not far behind her. "Good to see you again, Hagrid."
"Take care, Hermione," he smiled.
She gathered her things and hurried away from the table. She was about to get back to her seat when she found her way blocked by Draco. Before she could utter a syllable, she felt Harry and Ron suddenly move behind her.
"Mother wanted me to offer her delight at your acceptance of our invitation," Draco drawled with no introductions.
"I'm just as thrilled at the prospect as you," she shot back.
"I promised her I'd relay the message," he grumbled. "And to let you know the password to get onto the grounds," he added, holding out a bit of parchment.
She took it carefully, taking care to not touch him. Without a word, he turned and walked off.
"What was that all about?" Harry asked.
"Severus and I were invited to lunch with Draco and Narcissa," she replied.
"Not at the Manor?" he looked at her, concern flooding his face.
"No," she shook her head quickly. "Their estate. I wouldn't go back to the Manor, and Severus knows better than to ask me to."
"You're going to have lunch with the ferret?" Ron asked, disgusted.
"And his mother. They are Severus' closest friends," she replied, stuffing the parchment in her pocket without looking at it.
"That sounds like a special circle of Hell," he shook his head as they sat.
"Are you already done?" she asked, starting to fill out her forms. "Or are you waiting for me to fill it out for you?"
"Well, I do like to forget my middle name..." Ron smiled.
She quickly filled out the paperwork, and as a group they went to McGonagall to turn in their forms. Minerva made friendly chat with Harry and Ron, but when Hermione came up her face dropped.
"You did not tell me he was coming," she said, taking the form.
"I had a thought he might be, but he didn't tell me for sure. Probably so I couldn't warn anyone. You know how he is," she replied, immediately knowing Severus was somewhere in the castle, trying to gather his things before the meeting wound down.
"I thought I did, but, as he has done before, he has surprised me greatly as of late," she said with a stern look.
"Professor, nothing happened while..."
"I know, Miss Granger. But I am also understandably skeptical of the story you told to the Prophet. Forgive me if I feel you may be making a rash decision that will affect a good portion of your life."
"I understand your concerns, Professor, and hope you trust me enough to know I'm not making some idiotic school-girl decision based on hormones."
"I do not think you would do such a thing. However, I wonder if the situation would be the same without the pressure of the Ministry on your shoulders."
"Of course things would be, but perhaps not so different as you may think," she said, being careful about her words. She knew Minerva thought highly enough of her to not insult Severus in her presence, but wasn't sure if the Headmistress would raise alarms if she knew the truth of Hermione's engagement.
Minerva studied her for a long moment. "If you need anything, Miss Granger..."
"You know me and studying, Professor. I'll probably be by more often than I'm welcome," she interrupted with a half-smile.
"You are always welcome, Hermione," she nodded.
Hermione left with Harry and Ron, pausing at the staircase long enough to look up and see if Severus was there, but he was nowhere in sight.
The door to the Headmaster's office opened quietly as Minerva walked into the room, her arms already crossed.
"Good morning, Severus," she said coldly.
"Damn your efficiency," he shot back without looking at her as he carefully packed books in a trunk.
"Did you honestly think you would be able to get in and out of the castle without notice?"
"No, but I had hoped for another half-hour of your meeting," he replied. "At which point I will be out of the castle and the grounds, with no need to ever return, and well away from this conversation."
She watched him for a minute. "When, Severus?"
"You're going to have to be more specific. I'm not going to make any admissions until I know the accusation."
"Ah, the topic du jour."
"I don't believe your story, and told Miss Granger as such," she snapped. "She claims that, had the Ministry not been involved, there would be some difference in your story, but not much."
"Of course there would be some difference," he shot back, slamming the top of the trunk closed. "We had kept it quiet that long, how difficult could it be to hold onto the secret a few more months or years?"
She raised an eyebrow. "You weren't planning on telling anyone for months?"
"For her sake, I assure you. That way if the relationship soured, her good name would not be sullied with mine."
"How altruistic of you."
"One of my many good traits," he shot back, opening a drawer and starting to sort through some correspondence.
"You have evaded my original question."
"I have no reason to furnish you a reply."
"I am merely looking out for Miss Granger..."
"As the one marrying the girl, I would think that that concern more falls on my shoulders," he snapped without looking up.
"She is going through a tumultuous time, she does not need something so overwhelming added to her burdens!" she retorted.
He slammed a fist onto the desk as he stood, brandishing the papers in his other hand. "Then take your objections up with the Ministry! It is their law forcing us into this position. They gave Hermione the choice of wedding me, or seeing me return to Azkaban, she chose the former. I would not have blamed her for one damn moment if she chose the latter and said good riddance to me. If you believe she does not need a marriage at this time, argue her case with someone who can change the facts, because at the moment, the only alternative to this marriage is my return to prison, something Hermione has made abundantly clear that she will not stand for."
They stared at each other for a long moment before he threw the stack of correspondence into the fire, and Minerva dared try again. "She is too young, Severus, and she just lost her parents..."
"Let us get to the real reason you are upset, Minerva. It has nothing to do with Hermione or my relationship with her. You are upset with me, both my tenure as Headmaster, and my worth as a human in general. I will not argue; you have the right to be angry with me."
"What you did to this school was inexcusable," she hissed.
"Inexcusable things happened at this school, but it could have been much worse," he muttered, putting a few small artifacts into a box and stacking everything by the door.
"I don't see how..."
"I was the Dark Lord's puppet, as you said several times yourself. However, as you are well aware, his grasp of sanity was tenuous at best during the last year of his life. My job, as Headmaster, was first and foremost to keep this school and its students safe from harm. I failed that miserably, insomuch as students were being brutally physically punished, however I fed the Dark Lord every lie I could possibly feed him to keep him happy and away from this place. More than once it was suggested that he enter the school and kill any staff thought to still harbor loyalty to Dumbledore, which would have meant more placements of those like the Carrows and, quite probably, the death of every student connected to a known Blood-Traitor. I played off whatever thin shred of loyalty and reverence he still had for this place to convince him that a proper education was worth a few suspected Dumbledore loyalists on staff, which is why you are still here to raise your objections to me, Minerva. My legacy is shot, I know that. I am as pleased to be done with this castle as I'm sure those inside it are pleased to see me go. However, if you are going to harbor hatred of me, do it for the right reasons. Do it because I did not defect earlier, and stay to help secure the school. Do it because I am a murderer, who has left a legacy of brutality with this school that will take it years, if not decades, to recover from. Do it for whatever reason you must, but do not hate me because of Hermione's decision. I would never make that girl go through the accusations and scorn she is going through. She made that choice," he finished, staring her down. When she offered no immediate reply he shrunk his things, gathered them up, and left the school without another word.