Continuing Tales

Thirty-One Days

A Harry Potter Story
by keelhaulrose

Part 10 of 29

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Thirty-One Days

She couldn't avoid Severus for long, as the very next morning she found herself sitting next to him in their Potions class. She slipped in at the very last second, taking her seat as Slughorn began to give them instructions.

"By now I have expected you to pair up, and to have chosen your assignments. I expect many of you have a potion that needs starting today if it's to be completed by the time the assignment is over. Others may use the time to work on their essay, or practice their potions. There is also a list of potions that will be on the NEWT tests, and I expect you to be able to produce at least two of those potions by the end of this month-long assignment. You may begin."

About half the class stood and went for the supply cabinet. Hermione went to get a copy of the list of potions they were expected to work on, as their Doxy antivenin wouldn't take more than a couple days. She placed it between her and Severus, looked it over, and decided to work on a Truth Serum. She opened her book to the correct page and went to get her ingredients.

"Did you want to work together?" Severus asked.

She grunted and shrugged.

Cautiously he took the beetle eyes she collected, put them in a mortar, and began crushing them. She started to clean her daisy roots and prepare them for cutting in silence.

"You didn't come down for breakfast," he said quietly, sounding concerned.

"Wasn't hungry."

"And you were nearly late for class."

"Forgot how to get here from Ravenclaw. Had to go through the Great Hall."

"Did I do something wrong?" he asked, abandoning the beetle eyes.

"No. Maybe. Did you really call Lily Evans a Mudblood?" she asked, looking up into his face.

He was not expecting the question, and his face registered the shock of hearing her ask it. His features slowly hardened, and the light went out of his eyes as he straightened up and suddenly seemed distant. A wave of panic rushed over her, and she felt that asking him might have totally blown her whole mission, but she was frozen, needing to hear the answer.

"Yes," he said shortly.


"For what it's worth, I regret it," he added through clenched teeth as he turned away from her, opened his book and began to angrily flip pages aimlessly.

"Severus," she whispered, touching his arm, but he jerked away from her and refused to speak to her for the rest of the lesson. She was so distracted that she horribly burned the potion and had to vanish it before the green fumes rising from it poisoned them both. While she was cleaning Severus swept from the room. She finished as quickly as she could and hurried after him, but he had already disappeared by the time she got out to the hallway. She saw Jannae up ahead, but decided she didn't want to talk to her right now. Instead she turned the other way, heading up, as far up as she could, all the way up to the Astronomy tower. She pointedly turned away from the spot where Dumbledore had been killed and sat.

She shouldn't have been surprised Severus used the word Mudblood. From her own experience it was thrown around by Slytherins as casually as any other insult. It stung because, despite Professor Snape being mean-spirited and short-tempered, he was never truly cruel, and he didn't seem to treat her any differently than any of the other students because of her blood status. She didn't take the news that he had once said it as well as she should have because it personally hurt her. But she failed to look at the context. Severus had just been attacked. He had been humiliated. It was two against one at the core, but really, there was so much more. Remus and Wormtail, who may not have been an active part of the bullying, did not suggest that things were going too far, even though Remus was a prefect and should have been duty-bound to stop it and report his friends. The spectators not only didn't try to stop what was going on, they actively encouraged James and Sirius with laughter and cheers. Jennae didn't mention if Severus had managed to retaliate or not, but the truth was Severus had been bested and embarrassed in front of a large group of people, and only one came to his aid. And that one, even though she was his friend, also happened to be a girl. So she could add emasculated to the list. She remembered how he reacted when they had their altercation with the Marauders out on the lawn. Even though Sirius had been bothering her Severus took her engaging them personally. Severus was poor. He was a half-blood in a house that valued blood purity. He was not attractive. She strongly suspected he came from an abusive past. There was not much Severus had going for him, his intelligence and his pride seemed to be all he had. And, as she knew so well, intelligence wasn't always a valuable trait. His pride was hurt, he would have said anything to salvage a little dignity out of the situation. And it cost him his only true friendship.

Mudblood wasn't a completely unforgivable word in the end. Had she had heard Harry or Ron say it she might not speak to them for a while, but if they offered a sincere apology she would have forgiven them in time. Hadn't she forgive Ron for abandoning them during their Horcrux hunt? That was arguably a much worse crime than what, to someone in Severus' situation, amounted to a casual insult.

It was hard for her to forgive the word, but there was only one other thing that he had said about the situation. That he regretted it. He shut himself off from her from the just mention of what had happened. He was obviously still hurting over it, and there was no way for him to know why she took the insult so personally. Her friends knew the word was horrible, but none of them truly felt the weight of it when it was used against them, and, of course, none of them was permanently physically branded with that word. She didn't help things by acting so cold towards him when she found out about his use of the word. It wasn't the same situation, but it was the same outcome. The use of his word Mudblood had cost him Lily, and she had turned on him the moment she knew about the incident. Of course he would close himself off as soon as it looked like he was losing his second friendship to the word. He had to close himself off, or show that he was hurt.

She had to talk to him. Stumbling to her feet she flew down the stairs, not slowing until she got to the Great Hall. She paused in the doorway to catch her breath and saw him. He was sitting alone at the Slytherin table, an untouched sandwich in front of him, no one within ten feet. His shoulders were slumped forward, he had taken his hair out of the tie so it curtained his face once more. Cautiously she approached him and sat next to him, but not too close. He looked over at her, but as soon as he realized who it was he started to get up.

"Please wait, Severus," she whispered, grabbing his robe.

"What do you want?" he snapped.

"To apologize."

Whatever he was expecting, it wasn't that. He sunk slowly back onto the bench, eyes downcast so she couldn't see what he was thinking.

"I shouldn't have gotten mad at you for using that word. I had a bad reaction to the news, and I should have let you tell me your side of the story before I made any judgement. I just had a personal reaction to it. I... detest that word. But that doesn't mean I should assume that it wasn't merely something said in the heat of the moment. And it doesn't excuse me not asking you about what happened."

He looked up, studying her face for sincerity. "I detest that word, too," he said softly after making sure none of his house mates would be able to hear him.

"I can understand why. Jennae told me about Lily."

"What did she tell you?" he said with an edge to his voice.

"That the two of you were very good friends, until you said that word, and that you haven't been seen much together since."

His face darkened and he moved to get up, but she stopped him again.

"It was wrong of her to throw a friendship away like that. Friends mess up on occasion. The right thing to do is forgive your friend for something they said. You had been friends since first year..."

"Before," he added softly.

"That's a long friendship to give up over something said in a situation like that. And it's completely unforgivable what James and Sirius did to you."

He looked her over skeptically. "Do you really mean it?" he asked, sounding vulnerable.

"I've had a couple of close friends since soon after I started school. If I ended the friendship because they said something insensitive and boneheaded in a bad situation the friendship wouldn't have lasted two months."

"What did they say?"

"Lots of things. For example; we were having a dance one winter. One asked me to go with him, at the last minute mind you, first by insinuating that he had just noticed I was a girl, then by expressing disbelief that anyone would have asked me in advance. He expressed this opinion several times, and was convinced I didn't have a date up until the dance itself when I entered on my date's arm."

His eyes had narrowed when she mentioned 'date'.

"It didn't work out with my date, but it certainly upset him that he was wrong. It caused a bit of a row."

"So he couldn't find a date, and was upset with you when you weren't available?"

"Funny how these things work, isn't it?"

"Why didn't he ask you from the start?"

"As I said, he didn't seem to notice I was of the female persuasion."

"He's an fool without proper use of his eyes, then. Whoever your date was had to be lucky to have you on his arm."

A blush crept over her cheeks. "Thank you, Severus," she muttered. "Am I forgiven for my reaction, then?"

"Of course."

"I should probably also beg forgiveness for burning that potion, as well."

The corners of his lips tugged upwards momentarily, and he pretended to think about it. "I guess I can forgive you for that, but don't expect my benevolence again if you prove yourself no more competent than a first-year at potions."

She scoffed, as if affronted. "One potion. I muck up one potion, and you compare my abilities with a bumbling first year?"

"It was a pretty grievous mistake."

"Well, instead of belittling me, perhaps it would be a better use of your time to help me figure out where I went wrong?"

"Who do you take me for? Your professor?"

"You never know where your career path may take you, Severus. Perhaps teaching is in your future."

"I don't think I'd make much of a teacher. I don't have much patience for stupidity, and some students here seem to have it in spades."

"You never know," she shrugged.

"If I am going to start teaching, I would point out that you added the armadillo bile during the second step of the brewing process, not the murtlap essence which was sitting next to it and has a similar color, though the bile burns at a much lower temperature and does not do well in longer brewing processes."

"If you saw me making the mistake, why didn't you stop me?"

"I had about much desire as you to talk during that class."

"Can we just agree that in the future we'll suspend any non-communication when it comes to things that could potentially poison us?"

He let off a soft chuckle. "Okay. When you manage to irritate me into non-communication, I will warn you when you are about to completely fuck up our potion."

She looked at him in surprise. The word sounded bizarre coming in his smooth, low voice. She covered it up by turning her look of shock into one of affront. "am going to irritate you? I hardly think that's going to be the case."

"Care to make a wager out of this?"

"Are you suggesting you want us to anger each other until we aren't willing to speak to one another? Sounds like a pleasant proposition, but I think I'll pass."

He let off another chuckle as the the bell rang. "Are we on good enough terms that you'd like to walk to Defense together?"

She pretended to mull this over. "I guess," she said, holding her hand out to him.


The next day Hermione was sitting in Charms, chatting with Jennae when the Marauders sat down in their usual seats in front of her. After the story the day before she had no desire to deal with any of them, especially James and Sirius, and her stomach lurched as they turned to her.

"Change your mind about Hogsmeade, love?" Sirius asked, flashing his most charming smile.

"Not hardly," she shot back.

"Come on, love, what is it that Snivellous has that I don't?"

"A great many things," she replied icily.

"Including some of the dirtiest shorts I've ever seen," Peter sniggered.

"And why would you have cause for seeing his shorts?" she hissed.

"James and Sirius had to teach him a bit of a lesson last year..."

"Yeah, I heard about that," she interrupted with an angry glare. "What, exactly had he done to you at that point to provoke such an attack?"

James and Sirius shifted uncomfortably in their seats, and Lupin looked guiltily down, but Peter obviously didn't have the ability to read the situation as well as they did, because he continued, "Puckle, he doesn't need to do anything. The fact that he's there is provocation enough."

"Whoa, Hermione," Jennae whispered, grabbing Hermione's wrist as Hermione automatically went for her wand. Even though she was restrained her face reddened, her body drew to full height, and she didn't care that everyone was moving as far as they could away from her.

"How dare you, you idiotic vermin!" Hermione hissed dangerously, and James, Sirius, and Remus exchanged surprised looks. "Severus might not be the most pleasant man to be around, but that does not justify what you have been doing to him. Attacking someone for who they are makes you no better than Death Eaters!"

"Easy, Puckle," Sirius murmured, and Flitwick came into the room, immediately looking at their group.

"Is everything alright, Miss Puckle?" the Professor asked, concern written across her face.

"She might need a trip to the hospital wing," James said suddenly, obviously concerned for Peter's safety.

"You may be right, Mister Potter. Why don't you make sure she gets there alright?"

James looked nearly terrified for a moment, but nodded solemnly. "Come on, Puckle," he murmured as he stood up, and motioned for her to come with him without actually touching her. Hermione stood up so quickly she nearly knocked Jennae off the bench and stormed from the room.

"Don't you dare follow me!" she growled at James as soon as they were far enough away from the room she was sure Flitwick wouldn't overhear them.

"What the hell, Puckle?" he nearly shouted back.

"What the hell?" she repeated, her voice an octave too high. "Your cruelty cost Severus his best friend, and the best explanation you can give is his very existence is worthy of the torment you've laid on him?"

"You obviously don't know what he's done to us," he shot back.

"Do I need to? How many of him are there to how many of you?"

"He has gotten his friends to help."

"But you've tormented him when he's been alone and not doing anything to you. Because he's there. Is that the kind of person you are? When you're older and you have a son, how would you like it if you found out he was bullying someone because he was there? What if he was the one bullied because he exists? If it was four boys who took his pants off in front of an audience because they didn't like who he was? Is that the legacy you want to leave for your child?"

James stood in shocked silence for a long moment. "You don't know what he's like... what his friends are like..."

"You obviously do. You took Lily from him. Do you think he would make a serious commitment to the Death Eaters with a Muggle-born as his best friend? You know how smart he is. Right now you know there are two sides. You're giving him and his talents to the other side."

He paused, looking contemplative. "It's Lily's decision," he whispered.

"And she's chosen. But at times like these you need as many allies as you can get."

"Are you an ally?"

"I would give anything, everything to stop what's going on."

He studied her face for a long moment.

"You're not a bad person, James. But doing cruel things for the sake of doing them isn't going to help anything. You, and Sirius, and Remus, and Lily... you could make a big impact. But it's not going to be done by being a bully."

"You seem to know a lot of what's going on."

"More than you realize," she replied in a low voice. "They use fear as their main weapon. If we're showing we can also be cruel and something to fear, why are we better than them?"

He nodded. "Is there anything you need?"

"Just... keep Peter away from me. If Jennae didn't hold me back..."

"Sometimes he doesn't know when to shut up," he shook his head. "Are you alright now?"

"Yeah. I could use some fresh air. Tell Jennae I'll see her later?"

"Okay," he gave her a half-smile and walked back towards the classroom. She turned and headed out to the lake. After making sure that no one was looking she lifted the charm off her forearm. She shouldn't have lost her temper, but her patience with Peter was razor-thin to begin with. If it had been James, Sirius, or Lupin who had said it she might not have had as extreme a reaction, but it hurt to see him with James, who would be dead because of him, and Sirius, who would be spending over a decade in Azkaban. It hurt to know what Harry was going to go through because of him. It was horribly tempting to try to corner Wormtail somewhere and permanently take care of a problem, but then who knows what she'd return to? Still, it was hard not to fantasize about it.

"Good morning, Miss Puckle," Dumbledore said jovially as he came to stand next to her.

"Good morning, Sir," she said, scrambling to her feet.

"You are missing Charms, if I remember correctly?"

"Let's call it avoiding temptation."

"An admirable goal. May I ask how things are going for you back here?"

"A little more difficult than I imagined. Not with what I originally came to do, but with everything else."

He nodded knowingly.

"I know I can't change things, but I also know the pain those things cause. As a friend I want to stop certain things from happening, but as a person who wants to end this war I know I can't."

"It is a difficult, and from what I gather, unique position to be in. I do not know, nor should I know, the circumstances which led you back here. I should not know who your target is, though I could hazard a guess based on what I've seen and the rumors flying around the school. Being an intelligent man I have an idea why I would find it necessary for someone to return to this time for a single target. It is brave of you to do so, and I encourage you to remember what drew you back here."

"It is not a pleasant memory."

"Could it be?" he asked, and before she could respond he started again. "Unless I am mistaken it is almost time for you to be in Runes. I daresay that is one of the classes you do not want to miss?"

"No," she said, grabbing her bag as the bell rang, and rushing inside, excited to see Severus again.

Thirty-One Days

A Harry Potter Story
by keelhaulrose

Part 10 of 29

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