Continuing Tales

Thirty-One Days

A Harry Potter Story
by keelhaulrose

Part 9 of 29

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Thirty-One Days

When Hermione woke up the next day the sun had yet to rise above the horizon, though by the colors painting the sky it wasn't too far off. She decided to get an early start to her day, and gathered her things to take a shower. After she got dressed carefully to not wake her roommates up, and went downstairs to get breakfast. She was one of the first into the Great Hall; most of the others were fifth years or seventh years who needed every minute they could get to study for the OWLs or NEWTs. She found an empty section of table, sat, and fixed herself a plate of food. While she ate she opened one of the potions books and started flipping through it, looking for information that might help them complete their potions assignment.

"I have that book," Severus' voice preceded him, and he sat down next to her. "I looked through it last night. There wasn't as much as I had hoped."

"Thank you for saving me the trouble, then," she smiled as she closed the book and busied herself putting it away. "You're up early."

"Not as early as you, obviously," he pointed out, buttering a piece of toast.

"I got to bed early last night. I haven't gotten a full night sleep in a while. I think I got seven hours, which is a lot for me," she pointed out, looking up at him, and she was startled by what she saw. Severus looked... different. His hair didn't look as greasy as usual, in fact, it looked more shiny than greasy, though it was hard to get a good look at it, since he had tied it back with a leather holder he must have borrowed off Lucius. For the first time she got an unobstructed look at his face. He was looking at her, a hint of concern in his eyes, and she smiled widely, which earned a quick smile in return.

"You need to get more sleep," he noted.

"Are you telling me you get much more?"

"I said nothing of the sort. But that doesn't mean either one of us is getting what we should."

"Well, this was a pleasant morning conversation about how neither one of us gets adequate amounts of sleep. Should we move on to hygiene habits? Or, perhaps, our vices?"

"You have a vice?"

"I may, but you'll never know."

"You don't like to offer me much personal information."

"You want personal information? How about this? I once set my professor's robes on fire, but I was too afraid to tell him I was sorry because he was such a cantankerous prat I was sure I'd be in detention for the rest of my life if he knew it was me."

"Really?" he smiled.

"Every damn word."

"Why would you set your professor on fire?"

"I thought he was trying to hurt my friend."

"And your instinct was to set him on fire?"

"My instinct was to try to get him to stop hurting Ha... my friend."

"But you said he was trying to hurt your friend."

"He knocked into the one who was actually hurting my friend."

"Remind me to never be suspicious around you. I don't want to wind up on fire."

She looked at him, forcing herself not to smile. "Somehow I think that might be difficult for you, Severus."

"I am not suspicious," he protested with a sneer.

"Most of the time, no, you're not. But you seem like you'd be the type to be subtle about what you're trying to do to someone."

"Being obvious wouldn't help me, would it?"

"Sometimes being obvious is the best way to get what you want."

He looked at her as if he wanted to say something, but instead he turned to drink the rest of his pumpkin juice.

"What do you have this morning?" she asked.

"Transfiguration before our Runes class. You?"

"Charms with the Gryffindors. Where I will be, unfortunately, subjected to more of Sirius Black's questionable charms," she finished darkly.

"Does he really bother you that much?" he asked, unable to hide the excitement from his voice.

"I don't know how many more ways I could tell him I'm not interested. I wouldn't mind if he just wanted to talk, but he is so persistent about asking me to..." she trailed off, making a face. "At this point I think he's just doing it because he doesn't like you."

"It's the driving motivation for most of the stuff he does around me," he scowled.

"It's a nice morning. Want to sit on the lawn and talk about our assignment?"

"Sure," he nodded, scowling as he saw the Marauders entering the hall. "Let's go."

He stood, offering her a hand. She looked at it for a long moment, debating whether to take it or not. So far she would happily be seen on his arm, there was a casualness about it, often the Slytherin boys 'escorted' girls around the castle like this as a nod to old traditions. But hand-holding was different. It was more intimate, more a sign that things had progressed beyond 'friendship'. She checked to make sure Danielle, Selena, and Jennae were nowhere in sight and took his hand, standing, and letting him lead her out of the castle. They settled under a tree by the lake, sitting side by side so their knees were touching, but neither made an immediate move to get out their books.

"The lake really is lovely on mornings like this," she sighed, as a soft mist swirled lazily upwards from the surface before dissipating just a few feet above the surface in a beam of sunlight.

He grunted noncommittally, and she could see out of the corner of her eye that he was looking at her, not at the lake. A million things ran through her head that she could say, something about what might lay ahead, or something about the importance of life, but something was telling her that being quiet was the right thing in that moment. She leaned against the tree and looked from the lake to the castle. How different it looked now, in it's pristine grandeur, than the smoldering mess she left when Dumbledore sent her back here. The last time the castle looked like this to her was before Dumbledore's death. Even though the castle was still in tact afterwards, the feeling of security had gone. But now, back here, with the threat of Voldemort still securely on the outside, the castle was like it was before everything happened. Before Moody the impostor, and Cedric's death. Safe. Strong. A place she wanted to be. What she had hoped would be her magical education. Twenty-three days. In a little over three weeks she'd be dropped back in that half-destroyed school, still in the midst of battle, and everything would be put on her shoulders again. She wondered what part of the battle she would be sent back to. Would it be the moment after she left? When she would have to say good-bye to her best friend for the last time? After she had already seen Severus die?

No, she told herself. It couldn't be then. If it was, all this was in vain. But the memory was still there, the image of Nagini attacking him still fresh in her brain. None of it had changed. She must not be doing something right. The thought was more terrifying than it should have been. Professor Snape's death had been sad. Upsetting enough to send her on this mission, even. But if Dumbledore had asked her then what would happen if she failed, she would probably pat herself on the back for doing everything she could, mourn her Professor the way that any student who wasn't particularly close to him would, and move on to more personal deaths. But now... now Severus' death ranked with Fred's. One she knew would effect her and stay with her the rest of her life. That she would think about as she moved along, be reminded of at seemingly random moments, that would cause her to cry herself to sleep for many nights throughout the rest of her life. Going back on this mission was a hope before. The closer she got to Severus, however, turned the hope into a necessity. She could not fail.

"Is everything alright?" he asked softly, bringing her out of her trance-like thoughts.

"Hm?" she shook her head to banish the thoughts and bring herself back into the moment.

His hand came up, and he swiped at a tear she didn't realize was falling down her cheek. She turned to look at his eyes, needing and finding genuine concern in their depths.

"Just thinking about..." she swallowed, and forced herself not to tell him the truth, "... my grandfather."

"Do you need to see him? I'm sure if you talk to Flitwick or Dumbledore they could arrange for someone to take you to him during the Hogsmeade trip."

She tore her eyes from him to look at her hands, unable to lie to him anymore. "That's not it. My relationship with him is complicated," she muttered, and a loud bell tolled the time.

"We should probably get to class," she said, standing up.

He was beside her in a moment, taking her hand, and she quickly decided she didn't care who saw them linked together. "I'll walk you to Charms."

"Thank you."

He was wordless during their walk, and she was grateful for the silence. Any words of sympathy, or attempts to cheer her, would have further shattered her image of her Professor, and he had already shown her how much he had changed from his time in school. There was still hope in the man beside her. He was damaged, but not completely broken. Briefly she wondered if she was helping that damage, or if her departure would make it worse. And what happened between that moment, and when she first entered Hogwarts to turn him so cold.

They stopped behind a tapestry that emptied into the Charms corridor. She turned towards him, nearly running into his chest in doing so. "I can go from here," she muttered. "You don't want to be late for Transfiguration."

He looked confused for a moment. His hand started up towards her, then jerked back down. His eyes lingered on her lips for a moment. It might have been her imagination, it appeared as if his head dipped slightly towards hers, but he shook it, and looked at the stones behind her right shoulder. "I'll see you for Runes."

"See you," she whispered, and she watched him disappear around a corner, staring at the spot for a long moment before she realized she was late and scurried into the Charms classroom, sliding next to Jennae just as Flitwick entered the room.

She had long since mastered the Aguamenti charm, and had no problem casting it repeatedly as she thought about her situation. Maybe Danielle and Selena had been right. Perhaps Severus was wanting more from their friendship than just companionship. And while the thought was a little thrilling, she knew it would not be a good idea for them to get carried away with each other. She needed to get a plan set, and set herself some boundaries. Going forward with no plan, as she had done to that point, had got them to a place where she could not put a definition on their relationship, but knew it was leaning towards a place it shouldn't be allowed to get to. A three-week romance that ended with her apparent disappearance off the face of the planet would probably damage him even further. Flitwick started a lecture about the limitations of magic when used with food, a lecture she could give herself, so under the guise of taking notes she started to lay out her plan and the rules she wanted to follow on a spare bit of parchment.

-Complete the assignment on antivenins, pushing Severus towards the development and have him focus on the practical (he'll probably insist on this anyways)

-Continue to be friendly towards Severus, though not too friendly

-Discourage his friendships with certain other Slytherins. Perhaps encourage friendships with those from other houses (mainly Ravenclaw)

-Continue to show preference to him over the Marauders to boost his confidence

-Try to let him know that he will be missed if something happens to him

-Hand holding is okay, anything more is not

The bell rang, but before she packed thins up she underlined the last one twice. It wasn't the best plan, and she was sure that Harry and Ron could pick it apart in no time flat, but it was the best thing she had.

"We missed you this morning," Jennae said as they started walking towards the grand staircase together.

"I'm sorry. I woke up early and couldn't sleep, so I decided to get an early start on my day. I wanted to get working on that Potions assignment."

"Let me guess, you're working with Snape."


"Figures. Which one are you doing?"

"The one about antivenins."

"Antivenins?" she sounded surprised. "You got him to work on antivenins? I would have thought he found that boring, considering there's nothing much left to discover in that field."

"You both seem quite sure that every magical creature out there that is going to be discovered has been discovered. Like no one could possibly breed or create another magical creature that so happens to be venomous."

"Breeding new creatures is against the law."

"And no one has ever broken the law before?" she raised an eyebrow and fought against mentioning blast-ended skrewts.

"True," she sighed. "Lunch together?"

"I'll be there," Hermione smiled, and they broke away from each other, Hermione climbing upwards towards Runes while Jennae hurried onto the grounds. As she turned the corner to the Runes classroom she already saw Severus standing outside the room, watching the spot, and she couldn't stop her face from lighting up.

"Miss me?" she smiled as she came level with him.

"You certainly think highly of yourself, don't you?" he replied in a tone that made it obvious he was happy to see her again.

"If I don't think highly of myself, who will?"

He let off a small snort, and muttered something that sounded a lot like, "Insufferable."

"Excuse me?" she asked with a smirk.

"Nothing," he said quickly. "Did Black annoy you?"

"I got in just as Flitwick started the lesson, and left as soon as it was over. He didn't have a chance."

He looked at her in concern. "I dropped you off with plenty of time to get in before class started."

"I ran to the loo," she waved it off. "It nearly made me late."

He seemed to accept this without question, and when the door opened they started to walk in together. He stepped back to let her go in first, and she felt his long fingers lightly touch the small of her back as she walked in front of him. She straightened up involuntarily at the touch. Only two men had ever done anything like that to her. The first was Fred Weasley, who had always tried to keep on her good side so she'd be a little more lax on the twins while they were at Hogwarts, and apparently it was a habit he never felt the need to break. The second was Viktor, who might not have been the best conversationalist, but certainly made up for it by being a perfect gentleman... at least, a perfect gentleman when they weren't stealing a moment together. She decided to quickly dismiss the gesture from Severus as one of those old-fashioned Slytherin habits.

Still, it was hard for her to concentrate on anything during Runes. It was becoming clear that Severus did want more out of their friendship, and while part of her wanted to go along with that she was too afraid of what would happen when she left. However, she had no clue of how to turn him down. It was funny in a way, that when she went back in time she suddenly had two men fighting over her, when she had spent four years next to Ron before he even seemed to notice that she wasn't one of the boys. Turning boys down wasn't a big problem, the only time she ever had to do something of the sort was when she had to ditch McLaggen, and she probably could have done that with a well-placed picture of him making some spectacular save during Quidditch. There was that time she had to turn down Neville for the Yule Ball, and that was painful because she had no idea that Neville thought anything more of her than a casual friend and she didn't like turning him away, but the revelation had been so startling, and Neville so shy, that a quick 'I'm sorry' sent things back to the way they had always been between them. Things with Severus had already progressed beyond what she and Neville had, and she knew the line was more delicate. It was obvious that Severus had been rejected by others a lot thus far, including...

It was so obvious that she nearly smacked her own forehead. Jennae, Danielle, and Selena had told her that he had one good non-Slytherin friend. Sirius mentioned that Lily had once been 'afflicted' with spending time with Severus, but had 'gotten over it'. Lily and Severus had been friends at one point. And now that they had some kind of falling out his pool of friends was limited to future Death Eaters. If something very nasty had happened between Snape and Harry's mother, she could easily see why Snape had something against Harry. It was obvious there was no love between James and Severus, and that was what she always thought Harry looked and acted too much like his father for Snape's liking, and she knew there was some kind of friendship between Lily and Severus, but what if that ended poorly as well? What if Harry was the reminder of not just one, but two people who had hurt him? She had to know exactly what happened.

She walked with Severus to lunch, but kept her hands firmly in her pockets, and luckily he didn't try anything. She hastily said good-bye to him when she saw Jennae sitting alone at the table and hurried to her.

"Where's Danielle and Selena?" she asked, sitting down but not taking any food.

"They went to put their books up and change clothes. Grubbly-Plank had a hippogriff, and it kicked up some mud that hit them."


Jennae shot her a look.

"Sorry, I mean, there's something I want to talk to you about, and I'd rather do it alone."

"What's up?"

"Last night Danielle mentioned that you had only ever seen Severus with one non-Slytherin friend. That one friend was Lily Evans, right?"

"Yes," she nodded. "They were practically inseparable until around our OWLs last year."

"They were that close?"

"I know you don't think there is anything between you, but what you have with him is a lot like what they had together. He cared for her a lot, and I think his feelings for her were deeper than her feelings for him. You could tell he was thrilled just to be her friend, but that he wanted to be more. And she kept him at bay on that aspect, but still continued to be friends with him. He was always following her around."

"What happened?" she asked softly.

"There was an incident last year after one of our OWLs."

Hermione nodded, eager to hear more.

"You should know that you have caught James, Sirius, and Snape at a rather calm moment. There's usually a lot more physical harm towards one another. Both sides are guilty of it, but it's well known to everyone around the castle that they hate each other and aren't slow to hex each other for any reason or no reason at all. What you've seen has been tame for them."

She swallowed hard. "Okay," she whispered, needing to hear more.

"I saw this all happening, so I know what really happened and not the rumors. Snape was walking across the lawn, but I think he was ready for a fight. As soon as Potter said something to him he turned to cast a spell at Potter, but was hit by one himself. That's how it started. Snape didn't say anything to them, but he was quick to want to throw a hex. He was just slower than James, who I think was just waiting for an excuse.

"I don't remember the exact words that passed between them, though if I remember Severus didn't do much of the talking. James and Sirius said some mean things, but nothing worse than anything they usually said. Snape returned with some pretty foul language, and James cast a scourgify on his mouth. Snape was choking on it when Lily showed up. She told James and Sirius to stop, several times. James promised to stop hexing Snape if Lily went out with him, which I think got Snape even more worked up, even though Lily was refusing.

"Snape cast a spell that left a cut on James' cheek, and James retaliated by hanging Snape in the air and exposing his undershorts..."

Hermione let off a horrified sound.

"It was awful, though a lot of people thought it was funny. Cheered them on, even."

"That's disgusting."

Jennae nodded. "James let Snape down, cast a full-body bind on him, and Lily insisted they leave Severus alone even more forcefully. James finally stopped, and told Snape he was lucky Lily was there. And Snape called her..." she paused her voice lowering. "I remember what he said. He said 'I don't need help from filthy little Mudbloods like her'."

She groaned and closed her eyes.

"After that we don't see them together anymore. I haven't seen them around each other at all, but from what I've heard he tried to apologize, even waited outside the Gryffindor common room for her, but she refused. And she's started seeing James Potter. Something must have happened over the summer, because she didn't have very nice words for him during the incident."

Hermione sat in silence, digesting everything. A lot of things were making more sense in light of this new information. She looked up at Severus, and found him looking back at her, concerned. She forced a smile at him, and avoided him the rest of the day. For every nasty thing she had ever heard Professor Snape say, the word Mudblood never crossed his lips, and she knew it was the one thing he could say that would cause her to lose all respect for him. And yet, he had said that word. She needed some time to process the information, and decide if it changed anything.

That night she closed her curtains and put a silencing charm, as she knew the dreams were going to be bad.

She was standing on the dusty floor of the Shrieking Shack, practicing summoning charms with Severus. He suddenly cast one at her robe, and the left sleeve was ripped violently off, exposing her Mudblood scars, which were still bleeding. She grabbed the dirty, mouldering sheet off the bed and tried to stop the bleeding, but it seemed to be getting worse.

"Forget you're a witch, Miss Granger?" he asked, his voice cold, and she looked up to find her Professor standing there. His eyes flashed menacingly and a cruel smile twisted his lips. "Can't even stop a little blood? Did you really think you're on par to practice magic with those whose right it is? That you could ever be more than a filthy little mudblood? Did you honestly think that I would ever dirty myself with the likes of you?"

She fought the tears in her eyes as she tried to stop the blood, but it had turned to mud, and wouldn't slow. She was suddenly yanked to her feet, but Snape was gone, as was the shack, replaced with Bellatrix and Malfoy Manor. She braced herself for what was coming, but the pain was still as fresh as when it first happened. She was on the floor again, screaming, begging for it to stop...

As she awoke with her face in her pillow, stifling her scream, and wondering if she had made a mistake.

Thirty-One Days

A Harry Potter Story
by keelhaulrose

Part 9 of 29

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