Continuing Tales

The Buried Life

A Harry Potter Story
by Kalina Lea

Part 18 of 27

<< Previous     Home     Next >>

Hermione woke in her own bed the following morning, coming to awareness in stages. The first thing she noticed was the lingering soreness in her muscles – an after-effect of the curse. That triggered the memories of the previous day and her consuming worry for Harry. She remembered Snape holding her in the rocking chair and Dumbledore's visit, but the memories were hazy, softened by fatigue and pain so that they had taken on a dreamlike quality. She supposed he must have carried her to her bed.

Snape. Carried her to bed.

That should have seemed more disturbing than it actually did. She knew she should feel embarrassed about falling asleep in his lap, about feeling so content in his arms, but she didn't. Somehow, he had known that she needed physical comfort just then, needed the reassurance of strong arms and a steadily beating heart. She considered for a moment just how he had known, but her mind shied away from the contemplation of Severus Snape in the aftermath of Cruciatus, alone in his dungeon.

It was easier to consider her own situation, which was odd, but not uncomfortably so. She would have to face him over breakfast, just as she had in the previous days, but she felt no awkwardness about it. Instead, she was, well…actually looking forward to seeing him. A bit, anyway. There was certainly no hint of the dread she had always felt as a student when forced into close contact with Severus Snape. The man she had gotten to know in the last few days bore little resemblance anymore to her feared Potions master, and yet, she still couldn't really presume to know him. She had made it past his initial defences and caught glimpses of the man behind the cold mask. There was warmth there, and humour and bravery and honour…she was sure of that. But he was still the man who had lived a decade in the Hogwarts dungeon without leaving the faintest imprint on his rooms. She didn't really know that man, and she wondered if there was anyone who did.

She rose stiffly and went to her suitcase, exchanging her slept-in clothing for clean jeans and a shirt and then pulling the tangled mess of hair back into a clip. She didn't bother with anything more; she was too anxious to see how Harry was doing.

Peeking into the room next to hers, she saw that Harry was still sleeping and approached the bed, standing there quietly for a few moments. She nearly reached out to touch him, to add the reassurance of his warm flesh to the sound of his light snore and the rhythmic rise and fall of his chest, but she suppressed the urge and tiptoed out and down the stairs. The solarium and kitchen were deserted, and the fact that she couldn't smell coffee told her that Snape wasn't yet awake. She felt most of the soreness dissipate as she began to move around, fixing herself a glass of pumpkin juice and then putting the coffee on to brew. She didn't care much for coffee, but she loved the smell of it; it reminded her of when she was a child and went on trips with her parents. Her Dad always took a thermos full of coffee in the car with them, and she could remember early mornings sitting sleepily in the back seat watching her parents pass the thermos back and forth, sharing the coffee and talking quietly. Ever since then, the smell of coffee had given her an all-is-right-with-the-world feeling of contentment, regardless of how misleading that feeling might be.

Today, all really did feel right with the world. The sun was rising over the pond – despite the fact that it had set over the pond two nights before - and the day looked glorious. They would have to deal with the events of the previous day, but at that moment, she wished it could be put off – that a holiday could be declared from kidnappings and Dark potions and she could have a whole day to enjoy the end of the summer. She wanted to find a good book and dangle bare feet in the pond and let the sun warm her skin. She wanted to talk to Harry for hours, the way they had in the quiet of Gryffindor tower before he'd run away. She even wanted to spend time with Snape, talking companionably as they had by the pond two nights before.

She had a feeling she should prepare herself for disappointment.

She finished her pumpkin juice and went again to Harry's door, opening it just a crack. He was wide-awake this time, on his back and staring at the ceiling.

"Harry?" She spoke his name softly, so as not to startle, but he didn't move. "Harry?" Louder this time.

She moved to the bed and sat on the edge, giving into her previous urge to touch him and smoothing one hand over the spiky blond hair. "Come have some breakfast with me. It's such a beautiful morning. I think I'll eat outside by the pond."

He did look at her then, a distant, disinterested look, but it was something. "Come on," she urged. "Do you want me to help you up?"

He shook his head and sat up. He had shed his trousers during the night, and she automatically handed him a dressing gown she saw draped over a chair and then helped him into it when he seemed disinclined to bother. There were limits to even the closest friendships, and she had no interest in watching Harry wander the house in his underwear. She had him seated at the small table and was putting a glass of pumpkin juice in his hand when Snape emerged from his room and joined them. He too was in his dressing gown – black of course – and his eyes had much the same glazed look that Harry's had, but Hermione knew now that the cure for him was a simple one.

She grinned at Harry. "Watch this. I'm not sure what to do about you yet, but him I can fix." She stepped into the tiny kitchen and poured a cup of coffee, adding a bit of milk to cool it and then handing it to Snape.

He grunted something that might or might not have been "thank you" – and in his case it probably wasn't - and raised the cup to his lips, sinking into a chair at the same time. Hermione fixed another glass of juice and sat down at the table with the two men. "Look," she said to Harry, nodding at Snape. "The fog is lifting already."

"Miss Granger, it is positively indecent to be that cheerful this early in the morning – especially after the day we all had yesterday," he growled, his voice still rough with sleep. "I would like a few minutes of peace in which to drink my coffee. Is it at all possible that you could grant me that simple request? We do have an agreement."

"We had an agreement," she corrected sweetly. "It was to do with finding Harry, and Harry – quite clearly – is found, so our previous terms are now null and void. Your room is that way. If you want solitude, that's the perfect place for it. If, however, you choose to inhabit the common areas of the house, I'm afraid you're stuck with me and my cheerfulness."

He glared at her and muttered something about silencing spells.

She snorted at that. "You won't even be able to find your wand 'til your second cup."

"Maybe Potter will cast it for me. You must be irritating him, too."

"Oh he's used to me by now," she said, grinning at Harry. "But I think the thought might have crossed his mind a time or two when I tried to get him to study at breakfast."

A hint of a smile fluttered across Harry's face at that, and she and Snape both saw it and exchanged a quick glance. "Speaking of breakfast…" Snape said.

"I haven't summoned it yet," she said. "But I thought it might be nice to eat out by the pond. It's such a beautiful morning, isn't it?"

"I'll take your word for it." He rose to pour a second cup of coffee, black this time. When he returned he sipped it and said, "Are you hungry, Potter?"

Harry shrugged, and Snape turned his attention back to Hermione. "How do you feel this morning?"

"Much better. I was a bit stiff when I woke up, but moving about seemed to help."

"That will probably persist for several days," he said, "but the potion Pomfrey is sending will alleviate the worst of it."

It was on the tip of her tongue to thank him for the comfort he had offered the night before, but at the last second she changed her mind. He watched her expression change and looked at her with raised eyebrows, but she just smiled and reached for her wand, which she had decided to begin using again, rules or no rules. "I'm going to go set the table outside."

"Wonderful. I've always wanted to breakfast al fresco with my two favourite Gryffindors."

"Your room is still quite handy, Professor," she said tartly, nodding in the direction of his bedroom on her way out the door.

"How do you stand her?" Snape asked. Harry didn't answer, but Snape thought he might have seen the faint smile again. The two men sat in silence while Snape finished his second cup of coffee, and then he said, "I'm going to go get dressed. I suggest you do the same."

Harry nodded but didn't get up. "Potter!" Snape's voice had lost its morning gravel and was now capable of its full range of viciousness. "Go. Get. Dressed. Now."

Habit engendered compliance, and Harry rose from the table and went to his room, missing the flicker of concern that crossed Snape's face. Snape reached for his wand and went to the fireplace. "Incendio." He tossed in a pinch of Floo powder and stuck his head in the fire. "Albus Dumbledore."

"Good morning, Severus," Dumbledore was up and dressed and greeted him with a smile. "Did you all sleep well?"

"Fine," he said. "But Potter's no better for it. I think he may need a little more than just time."

"What do you suggest?"

"I'd like for you to have Pomfrey order an anti-depressant for him. I'd make it myself, but it takes a week, and I don't think it should wait that long. You could also check my stores for some Oatstraw infusion. That might be helpful as well."

Dumbledore nodded. "Perhaps you're right," he agreed. "I'll bring them with me when I come. Poppy has already given me the potion for Miss Granger. How is she this morning?"

"Much better and as annoying as ever. At the moment, she's outside preparing for a picnic by the pond." He rolled his eyes and Dumbledore chuckled.

"It sounds perfectly delightful," he said. "Enjoy yourselves. I'll see Poppy immediately and bring both potions with me when I come."

"Thank you. Now if you'll excuse me, I should go dress and return to my babysitting duties."

Dumbledore just laughed.


Breakfast by the pond was remarkably pleasant - though of course Snape never would have admitted it. He and Hermione both ate with enthusiasm, having skipped dinner the night before, but Harry picked at his food, mostly staring out at the pond and letting the conversation wash over him. The only time they saw a reaction from him was when a snowy owl swooped from the sky and landed on the table in front of him, hooting happily.

"Hello girl," he said softly. "Missed me?"

"She's missed you terribly," Hermione said, looking hopeful at his short speech. "We all have, Harry."

Harry just shook his head, as if there was something he wanted to say, but he didn't know how to articulate it. He handed Hedwig a bite of toast and continued to stroke her soft feathers.

"What will you do with your morning?" Snape asked Hermione.

"I thought I might bring a book out here and read. It's nice not having anything much to do, isn't it?"

"Nice for you," he retorted. "I, however, have suddenly remembered that I have a job aside from finding lost Gryffindors. I need to work on lesson plans for next term."

"Can I help?" she asked.

"Surely you can find something more interesting to do than that."

"Of course I could. But the offer stands."

When they were finished, she cleared the table with her wand and then said to Snape, "Bring your work out here. It'll go faster if we work outside."

"What a fascinating theory. Is that something Vector taught you in Arithmancy?"

She stuck her tongue out at him. "If you want my help, you'll do it my way for once."

"I don't recall ever saying I wanted your help, and we seem to do things your way more often than not," he groused, but he summoned his books and papers from inside the house. "Here," he said, handing her a roll of parchment. "The syllabus for the first year class. I've written out the schedule of assignments already. Cross-reference the assignments with the proper sections of the text, and write in the page numbers. Here, Potter. You do the second years'."

Harry looked up in surprise, but he nodded and reached for the materials Snape held out to him. Soon the three of them were working quietly in the morning sun.

"Done," Hermione said finally, handing him the syllabus. "Do you have more?"

"Here are the third years'," he said, giving her another text and another roll of parchment. "I'm working on the fourth right now."

"Do they change much from year to year?"

"Not usually," he said. "This year, however, I'm using new texts for the first through fourth year students, so I've had to revise those schedules the most. I shouldn't have to make many changes at all to the upper years since the texts aren't changing. The most time consuming thing is ordering the supplies. I won't be able to do that until I get back to Hogwarts and do inventory, but once I'm through with each syllabus I can go through and make lists of what I need to have on hand for each potion."

"You've a lot to do in a week," she said.

"Usually I have it done by mid-summer. I hadn't counted on being distracted by our recent adventure."

"Well, don't worry. We'll get it done," she said cheerfully. "Harry, are you just about finished with yours?" At his nod, she went on. "Well then, when you're finished doing the page numbers, go back through and begin making the supply lists."

"Bossy," Snape said under his breath, glancing at Harry.

Harry nodded and they saw the trace of a smile again.

"You'd both do well to thank me instead of insulting me," she said haughtily. "I could go inside and find something to read, you know, and let you worry about your own classes."

"No you can't," he said. "I'm in charge, remember? And I'm telling you to get back to work."

"You forget, Professor. That deal expired yesterday. We're going to have to renegotiate our terms."

"Soon enough we'll be back at Hogwarts where our terms are perfectly clear and I can deduct points for your insufferable cheek," he snapped.

Hermione smiled and bent back to her work.


Dumbledore Apparated to the garden just before noon, holding Harry's Firebolt in his hand. He found Hermione and Snape still sitting at the table. Harry had ignored Hermione's order to begin working on the supply list and instead had gotten up and was sitting on the grass near the pond, tossing bits of debris into the water.

"How is he?" Dumbledore asked, keeping his voice low.

Hermione shook her head. "He won't talk – about anything. He nods his head occasionally, and a couple of times he's smiled a bit, but mostly it's as if he's a million miles away."

"I brought something that hopefully will help." Dumbledore reached into a voluminous pocket and withdrew two small vials and handed them to Snape.

"This one is for you," Snape said, holding up the larger of the two for Hermione's inspection and conjuring a spoon. "Go ahead and take some. It's most effective on an empty stomach."

"I really don't think I need it. I feel so much better this morning."

"For once in your life could you please do something without arguing?"

"I'm afraid I agree with Professor Snape, Miss Granger. Please take the potion – to ease my mind if nothing else."

"Yes, sir." She poured the potion into the spoon and sniffed it a bit. "It smells vile."

"It is," Snape assured her.

"Wonderful." She drank the potion quickly, making a face and shuddering as she choked it down. "You know, the Muggles have a wonderful invention called tablets. Is there some reason you can't direct your energies toward developing a magical equivalent?"

"Yes," Snape assured her. "Several hundred reasons, in fact. Each one more obnoxious and irritating than the one before."

"I'm wounded, Professor."

"You should be. You're at the head of that list."

"Wow. Bumped Harry right out of first place, have I?"

"Well, he seems to have quit talking."

"All right you two. That's enough," Dumbledore said, his mouth twitching. "Harry, would you please come join us?"

Harry turned and looked at the Headmaster, and then he nodded and stood up, dusting off his shorts.

"Hello, Harry. How are you?"

"Fine, sir," Harry mumbled.

Dumbledore put a gentle hand on Harry's shoulder. "I don't think you are, Harry – not just yet anyway – and there's no reason why you should be. But we're going to do what we can for you. Professor Snape is going to be giving you a potion that should help raise your spirits a bit and make it a little easier to talk about what's bothering you. We all want to help."

Harry nodded but didn't meet Dumbledore's eyes. Hermione did, however, and gave him a shrug. "Maybe we should go ahead and eat, sir," she suggested. "Harry didn't have much breakfast."

Dumbledore nodded, and with two claps had cleared the table of Potions classes and set it with a lavish luncheon.

"What is this obsession you Gryffindors have with being out-of-doors?" Snape asked, settling himself back at the table with a sigh.

"Missing the dungeons, Severus?"


"Well, you'll be back there soon enough," Dumbledore said. "But I think I'd like for you all to stay here a few more days, at least until I can settle this business with the Ministry. They know where you are, of course, but they wouldn't dare come here without my leave. I think you'll have a great deal more peace here than you would at Hogwarts, despite the absence of a dungeon."

Snape nodded, serious now. "What are they saying?"

"Horatio Barter is claiming that you attacked Finbar of your own volition - to settle some grudge dating back to your schooldays."

"Rubbish," Snape snapped.

"Of course," Dumbledore agreed calmly. "And we can prove it. I'd like to prove it without having to go through a formal Ministry enquiry, however. Let's start at the beginning and go over everything that happened from the time Harry disappeared from Hogwarts."

Hermione and Snape did their part, telling the whole story, even the parts Dumbledore had already heard before. Harry stubbornly refused to say a word, so his portion of the story remained supposition, though they did get him to confirm through nods and shakes of the head that Peter Pettigrew had indeed led him to Arnold Street with an attempted Imperius curse and that he had cast Cruciatus in retribution. He had not, however, cast the curse that killed Pettigrew, and Dumbledore seemed relieved by that.

"Now about what happened yesterday," Dumbledore began carefully. "You were a bit unclear in your owl, Severus. The Aurors will have collected Neilus's body by now and examined the house. There will be questions about his death. I need to know exactly what happened."

Hermione and Snape exchanged a look, and then she glanced at Harry, who had his head down and was pushing his food around his plate. "I'm not exactly sure, sir," she said. "I was being tortured, and then suddenly it was over and he was dead. I did think…" she looked at Snape again. "I thought there were two killing curses…but he couldn't have cursed Professor Snape while casting Cruciatus at me, could he?"

"No," Snape answered. "He couldn't have. One of the lights you saw was from my wand. The other one…came from Potter." He looked at the Headmaster. "No one else need know that, Albus. They'll have all the proof they need in my wand, and there's no way of knowing which of the two actually killed him. I truly don't know myself."

Dumbledore sighed and removed his glasses, rubbing tiredly over the bridge of his nose. "You'll be questioned, Severus. Barter is already involved and is clearly trying to make this as bad for you as he can."

"I was defending two students," Snape said coldly.

"I know that, of course, but it is an irregular situation, to say the least. Your presence in the house – all of you – will be cast in the least appealing light possible. Of course, there is evidence of Harry's confinement, and that will work in our favour, but Barter is arguing that if you knew Harry was in the house, the Aurors should have been called immediately. And then to have a student use Dark Magic to get him out…well, you can see how they might make this difficult for us."

"Sir, the Aurors missed all sorts of important evidence at Finbar's house in London," Hermione exclaimed. "Who's to say they wouldn't have bungled Harry's rescue even worse? It's because Professor Snape made the decisions he did that Harry is sitting here with us right now. How dare they question that!"

"The end justifies the means," Snape murmured, cutting his eyes at her.

"In this case, yes," she snapped. "Surely when they see that horrible hole…"

"They've seen it," Dumbledore said quietly. "And no one is arguing that Finbar was anything but terribly wrong to have taken Harry." Dumbledore glanced at Harry, who was still staring at his plate. "Harry, I think your testimony in this matter will be crucial. I believe that when they've heard what you suffered at Finbar's hands, they will realize that justice has already been done and let the matter drop."

Harry stiffened a little and then nodded slightly. "Can I go inside now?" he asked. "I think I'd like to sleep some more."

Dumbledore nodded, his forehead creased with concern, and Harry rose from his chair. "Here, Potter," Snape said. "Take this." He held out a spoonful of the potion, and Harry drank it without changing expression.

"I'll go in with you, Harry," Hermione said, standing up too. "Professor Dumbledore probably wants to talk to Professor Snape without us anyway." She gave the Headmaster a small smile and took Harry's arm, walking with him into the house.

The two men watched them go. "I can handle the Ministry, Severus - I'm going to take this matter straight to Cornelius and insist that these ridiculous insinuations stop - but I'll need Harry's help, and right now, he doesn't seem capable. Do you think he's going to be all right?"

"I don't know. Fortunately, there was sufficient evidence that Finbar never completed the potion I conceived back in my school days. I think all Potter was given were sleeping draughts and depressants, both of which should be out of his system. That means that this business now is psychological rather than physiological. The anti-depressant might help, but cheering people up has never exactly been my forte."

Dumbledore smiled at that. "Perhaps not, but I think what Harry needs most right now is someone who understands how he's feeling."

"Well that changes everything. I've long been known for my empathy."

An outright laugh this time. "You underestimate yourself, as always. Try. Please try."

Snape sighed.


Harry spent the rest of the day either napping in his room or staring out the window while Hermione and Snape completed the work on the Potions syllabi and discussed the topics the seventh year students would be covering that year. They all avoided the subjects discussed during their luncheon with Dumbledore, Hermione making an obvious effort to keep the conversation light.

While they were eating supper, she encouraged Harry to go for an evening ride on his Firebolt, but he shook his head. He'd eaten almost nothing since he'd arrived at the cottage, and Snape finally insisted, telling him that his potion was more effective on a full stomach and demanding that he clean his plate. Harry glared, but he did eat a bit more than he had a previous meals, and after dinner Snape administered the anti-depressant again.

It was early when Harry told them he wanted to go to bed, but Snape just looked up from the book he was reading and said, "Fine, Potter. We'll see you in the morning."

Harry looked at Hermione. "Will you…will you come up with me?" he asked softly.

"Sure, Harry," she said, rising and going to him. "I'd be happy to." The two friends walked across the solarium and up the winding stairs together, a pair of dark eyes following them.


"He's asleep," she said, coming down the stairs and leaning against the window frame. "He never said anything, but he seemed anxious when I made to leave, so I thought I'd better stay with him until he drifted off."

He nodded. "That's fine. In fact…" an unreadable look crossed his face and she looked at him more attentively. "We are not at Hogwarts, Miss Granger."

"Yes, I'd noticed," she teased.

"Of course. What I'm getting at is that inasmuch as it is between terms and we are off the grounds, I see no reason why school rules should apply. You and Potter are both of age, and if he feels better with you in there…"

"Oh," she said, finally understanding what he meant. "Professor, Harry and I aren't…that is to say, we've never been…Harry and I are just friends," she said finally.

She was rewarded for this bit of inarticulation by the first look of astonishment she had ever witnessed on Severus Snape's face. It was there and gone in a flash, but she knew she had read him correctly and laughed. "I promise," she added.

"But that morning, back at Hogwarts…" he began suspiciously.

"It was just strange for both of us being alone in the tower that night, especially for Harry, since he was used to sleeping in the room with Ron." She shrugged her shoulders at him. "It wasn't a big deal, really, except that you all walked in on us the next day and jumped to the wrong conclusions."

"You have to admit it looked incriminating."

"It wouldn't be a crime even if it had been what it looked like," she countered, "but yes, I will agree that it probably gave a wrong impression. It was in no way habit-forming, however, and I think Harry will be fine in his own bed tonight." She crossed the room as she spoke and perched next to him on the edge of the sofa. "But…" She bit her lip, an activity he had come to recognize as a symptom of indecision.

"But what?"

"Well, I was just wondering if you meant all of that about it being between terms and us not being at Hogwarts."

"Neither of those points is debatable, Miss Granger, as you yourself indicated. Of course I meant it." When she had known him less well, she would have been offended by his insulting drawl, but now she recognized that he was deliberately baiting her and she took no offence.

"So normal school rules don't apply here?"

He raised an eyebrow. "Given your history, perhaps I should find out what hideous infraction you're planning before I answer that."

"I assure you, Professor, I have no history of this," she said, giving him a searching look. He met her eyes with frank curiosity but nothing more, and she somehow found the nerve to reach up and place her hands gently on his cheeks. She was struck by the warmth of his flesh beneath her palms. He looked like a marble sculpture, all cold planes and angles, the image of a man rather than the man himself, but his skin gave lie to the illusion. She felt the rasp of his slight beard with her sensitive fingertips and the contrasting silky length of his hair as it fell forward and caressed the backs of her hands.

His dark eyes widened slightly in incomprehension, and she took advantage of his rare delayed reaction, gently pulling his face down to hers. Her lips brushed his a little awkwardly, experimentally, and she felt him stiffen and heard his sharp intake of breath. She thought he would pull away and felt an immediate rush of mortification, but instead, a hand cupped the back of her neck and pulled her closer, deepening the kiss. Embarrassment subsided and was replaced by adrenaline soaked pleasure as she forfeited all control of the encounter, gave herself up into his more experienced hands, and allowed herself to become lost in the sensations he was arousing.

How could she have ever thought him cold?

The mouth that she was accustomed to seeing twisted in a scowl was now passionate…pliant…hard and soft by turns, demanding one second and teasing the next. Her world narrowed to include little more than those lips on hers and then expanded just enough to welcome the eager exploration of his tongue. The cottage, Harry, the recent week – it all seemed to disappear as their kisses became more frantic, more hungry, and they fought to get closer in the awkward confines of the sofa. His hands were everywhere, stroking and pressing her to him in a way that was nearly desperate. Somehow – she was becoming quite fuzzy on details – he pulled her on top of him, looping one long leg over hers to hold her firmly in place. Instinct fuelled her urge to be closer still, and she rocked her hips against him, gasping at the rush of primitive pleasure.

She heard an answering guttural sound from somewhere deep in his throat, and then he froze. His eyes flew open and she watched the passion in their black depths ebb and become replaced by icy panic as it dawned on him what he was doing – and with whom.

"Don't," she whispered urgently. "Don't you dare pull away."

"We can't…" He tried to extricate himself, but for the moment she had the advantage, and she made the most of it, pressing herself to him, tangling her legs with his. "You don't know what you're playing at," he whispered, subsiding back onto the sofa. "You have no idea what you're doing."

"You seemed to like it," she countered.

"I'm human. Contrary to popular opinion." She relaxed a little when she felt that he wasn't going to try to pull away again. He didn't, but he didn't reach for her either; he just searched her face, taking in the swollen lips and the eyes still burning with desire…for him. It didn't seem possible and was, in fact, so far out of his normal range of experience that he found himself quite at a loss as to how to behave. He had never once, ever, laid a hand on a student. He had never made a single suggestive comment or, in fact, even lusted after a student. Having to watch them make their slow, awkward and often downright painful way from childhood through adolescence was enough to remove any possibility that he could be attracted to them. They were just students, there to be suffered rather than enjoyed. A mere week ago, Hermione Granger had been no different. But now he knew her for more than just the know-it-all with a propensity for following Harry Potter into trouble. He knew her intelligence, her wit, her bravery, and he admired her more than he had allowed himself to admit. And now she was in his arms, making him an offer he had to refuse, but her nearness and the effect that it was having on him was making it nearly impossible.

"We can't," he said again, stronger this time. "Teacher…student." He pointed to each of them in turn. "We can't."

"We're not at Hogwarts," she said. "You're not my teacher right now."

"Hermione." Hermione, be reasonable. Don't twist my words around. Don't make me choose between you and my job because at the moment, the job is losing.

"Oh, I like it when you say my name," she breathed, leaning down to kiss him again.

He stopped her, long fingers gently gripping her jaw. "Then I won't do it again," he said softly. "Please."

She nodded then and lifted herself away from him, awkwardly scrambling away and sitting some distance down on the sofa, biting her lip again. She pulled her hair out of its clip and hid behind the curtain it formed while he leaned forward and put his head in his hands.

"I'm sorry," she said finally. "I should have known you wouldn't want to…with me. I'm sorry – I've gone and ruined everything now, haven't I?"

"You're wrong on both counts," he said taking a deep breath. He pulled his hands from his face but kept his gaze trained on the floor. "I didwant to – very much, in fact, and I don't think you've ruined everything, exactly. Changed things a bit, perhaps…"

"I'm not in the habit of, well, throwing myself at men," she said, risking a peep around the curtain of brown curls.

"I didn't think you were," he responded. "Are you somehow under the impression that I think less of you? Your actions call your good taste rather seriously into question, I'm afraid, but my opinion of you is unchanged."

She smiled at that and tucked her hair behind her ear. "I've always thought my taste in men was rather above average," she said, "at least when compared with the other girls in my year."

"If they were aware of tonight's events, I doubt very much that they would agree," he said dryly, and she laughed softly.

"Well, perhaps not," she agreed. "But that's only because they don't really know you."

"And you do?" he challenged. "After a few days in my company?"

"Oh yes. Or at least, I know everything that matters about you. I know that you're brilliant – well, I've always known that, I guess, but now I also know that you're brave enough to risk your life for what you believe in. I know that you care about Harry, no matter how much you try to pretend you don't. I know that when I was scared you made me feel safe, and when I was stupid you made me stop and think. I know that for some reason you think you don't deserve to have a normal life with things like friends and people who love you, but I think you're wrong about that."

He stood up stiffly, glaring down on her. "I think, Miss Granger, that it is time for you to take off those rose-colored glasses and see me as I really am. I am living the life that I have chosen. I am not waiting around for you or anyone else to rescue me."

"Then you should be," she answered coldly, refusing to hide from his glare.

"Goodnight, Miss Granger," he snapped, and then he pivoted and went to his bedroom, wishing the damned room had a door, just so he could have the childish pleasure of slamming it.


Hermione slept fitfully and arose early to find Harry sitting on the sofa staring out the window at the pond.

"Hi," she said softly. "Did you sleep well?"

No answer. No sign he'd even heard her.

"Let me get you some breakfast." She went to the kitchen and began moving around while keeping up a running patter of conversation. "I'm thinking of going for a swim today. Would you like to go with me? We'll need to wait until the sun is high though. What would you like to do until then? I promise I won't ask you to study – did you ever think you'd hear me say that? We have so little time before school starts though, and it will be nice to spend it together. You're going to be better soon, Harry. I just know it…" The babbling went on and on, and still Harry gave no sign he'd heard.

The bookcase leading to Snape's room slid open and she abruptly fell silent. He entered the kitchen and reached for the coffee pot, and she automatically handed him the milk but didn't wish him good morning or offer any other greeting.

"How is he this morning?" Snape asked, surprising her with pre-coffee conversation. Perverse man. The one morning she didn't want to talk…

"The same."

He nodded and went to sit at the table with his cup. He finished it quickly, as usual, and then said, "Mr Potter."

No answer.

"Potter…you will look at me when I talk to you." Something about the tone got through because Harry turned his head. "Come to table. You need to eat something."

Harry nodded slightly and rose from the sofa to make his way to the table, where he dropped into a chair. Hermione set a plate in front of him but didn't join them as she had the night before. Instead, she took her teacup to the sofa, taking Harry's place gazing out the window.

"What's wrong?" Harry's voice startled them both, and for a moment they froze, looking at him.

"Harry?" Hermione ventured.

He turned and looked at her and repeated his question. "What's wrong?"

"What do you mean?" she asked carefully. There was, after all, a list of potential answers to that question.

"You two," he said, gesturing from her to Snape. "What happened? Why aren't you talking?"

Hermione felt her face flaming and couldn't have looked at Severus Snape if the Minister for Magic himself had ordered her to. "We, uh, just had a misunderstanding, Harry. It's no big deal."

Harry turned then and looked into Snape's black eyes. "You're a fool," he said quietly before rising from the table and walking out of the cottage.


"Explain yourself." Snape found Harry out by the pond in the same position he had occupied the day before, tossing bits of grass into the water and watching the ripples spread out towards the water's edge.

"You first." Harry continued to stare at the water.

"I beg your pardon?" Snape towered over him, glaring furiously. "What possible explanation could I owe you?"

"The misunderstanding. With Hermione."

"Concerns Miss Granger and me and is none of your bloody business."

"She's my friend. She's my business."

"And you were so concerned for her that you ran away, leaving her an owl and a three-sentence note."

Harry turned then and looked at Snape, a fierce expression in his green eyes. "Yes. That's exactly what I did and exactly why I did it. I wasconcerned. Nearly everyone I've ever cared about is dead, Professor. I think I have pretty good reason to be concerned about the few friends I have left."

"You've known her for six years. You should have known her well enough to know she wouldn't just let you go."

"She should have. You all should have."

Snape didn't know what to say to that, and he inwardly cursed Albus Dumbledore and Sirius Black and anyone else who had one shred of responsibility for putting him in his current position. "But we didn't," he said harshly. "So now the question is what are you going to do about it?"

"I'm going to run away again," Harry said simply. "Not today, but eventually."

Snape squatted down a few feet away from Harry. "Why?"

"There was a rumour going around school last year that I was gay. Did you ever hear that?"

Snape's eyes narrowed as he tried to wrap his mind around the apparent non sequitur. For the love of what little is good in this world, please don't let Harry Potter start jumping out of closets in my presence. "I…might have," he answered slowly.

Harry looked at Snape, a little amused. "I'm not gay," he said. "But that rumour got started because I've never really had a proper girlfriend. I could have, you know. There have always been girls who wanted to date famous Harry Potter. But after Cedric died, I started to realize that anyone close to me was in danger. That I was in danger pretty much all the time. How could I have a girlfriend, knowing that she might get killed because of me? Or that I might up and die on her? I couldn't do anything about Ron and Hermione – they wouldn't let me – but I decided then not to form any more close friendships. Once Voldemort was killed, I thought maybe it was finally my turn to be, well, normal. To have friends, maybe a girlfriend if I met someone I liked. And then Sirius died, and I knew it would never happen. I grew up in a cupboard with no friends, no one who cared about me, and as long as I'm Harry Potter, I might as well still be in that cupboard. I don't want to live that way anymore." Harry shrugged. "I don't want to be Harry Potter anymore."

Snape sighed. "You are Harry Potter. You don't get a choice about that. You can change your hair and wear that ludicrous earring and you'restill going to be a wizard – and a damned powerful one. That comes with a responsibility that you can't just walk away from."

"What more do I owe the wizarding world, Professor?" Harry asked coldly. "I've given them my parents, my godfather, my best friend. I've defeated Voldemort. Why should I give them a single other minute of my life? I can't live like that. I can't live like you."

Snape went rigid. "What the hell is that supposed to mean?"

"What happened between you and Hermione?"

"I told you. That's none of your business. And it has nothing to do with the question I asked."

"It has everything to do with it, and you know it. Just because I didn't talk yesterday doesn't mean I wasn't paying attention. You probably have no idea how obvious you both were."

"Shut up, Potter. I would think that your own considerable problems would be sufficient for you right now without getting involved in something that doesn't concern you in the least."

"I knew yesterday what was going to happen," Harry went on, ignoring Snape's warning entirely. "I didn't know it would happen so fast, but I knew it would happen. You can't let her get close to you, can you? You can't let anyone get close. I know that feeling, Professor. I know it because I've lived with it for years. Not as many years as you have, probably, but long enough to recognize it when I see it."

"Spare me your psychobabble, Mr. Potter," Snape sneered. "I'm her teacher and twice her age. It's no more complicated than that."

"Fine. Then who are your friends, Professor? Why haven't you ever married? You probably don't even have your own owl, do you? You think I don't know why? I know what you've been doing for Dumbledore all these years – I know better than anyone how dangerous it was. It's easier if you're not leaving anyone behind, isn't it?"

Snape felt light-headed. His ears were ringing. The urge to drive his fist into Potter's face was so strong that he quivered with the suppression of it. He didn't even consider his wand. A hex wouldn't be nearly satisfying enough, nearly personal enough. He wanted to feel the bones breaking beneath his hands, feel the boy's flesh splitting open and the warm flow of his blood over his knuckles. He'd only felt this way a few times in his life, and there had always been a Potter involved.

Potters. He hated the whole fucking family.

"I'm sorry."

Snape's rage was so consuming that it took a minute for him to process Harry's soft words.

"I shouldn't have said that," Harry went on. "It's your business how you live your life. I don't care – really. I just wish Hermione wasn't involved…but it's still your business. But just because you're able to exist the way you do doesn't mean that it's right for me. I'd rather live as a Muggle than be alone for the rest of my life. Shouldn't I be allowed to make that choice?"

Snape got up and walked away, his hands still clenched into fists. He turned his back on the boy and his poisonous insights and took several deep breaths, trying to calm himself enough to finish the conversation. He shoved his hands into his pockets as he turned around, and he felt his right hand close over the coin Black had given him. There was the flash of warmth again, and then words crossed his lips that he wasn't sure had ever journeyed through his brain. "I'll help you."


"If you want to live as a Muggle, I'll help you do it," Snape said. "You can go anytime you want, and I'll see to it that no one comes looking for you."




"You're right. You've earned the right to make the choice."

Harry nodded. "I'll stay long enough to make sure there's not a problem with the Ministry – to testify if Dumbledore needs me to."

"Fine." Snape turned to walk back to the cottage.


"What?" Snape answered without turning around.

"I've never seen Hermione like this about anyone. Every time she looks at you – well, it's just obvious, you know? Are you sure you can't…?"

"Mind your own business, Potter," Snape said wearily. He stalked back inside, leaving Harry behind.


Snape retrieved the materials for his classes and settled with them at the table. He refused to hide in his room, but the thought was tempting.

Hermione moved about quietly, cleaning up her breakfast dishes and removing a book from Dumbledore's shelves, pointedly not offering to assist him again. Only a day before, silences between them had been comfortable; now they were oppressive, and he was relieved when she took Harry's Firebolt and went outside.

He glanced out the window and saw her settling in with her book as Harry soared into the sky, and he tried to tell himself that things were as they should be. The natural order had been restored, and the Gryffindor heroes were outside in the fresh air and the Slytherin spy was holed up in the house, even if the house was a botanical nightmare. What had happened the night before - the whole week before - had represented a deviation from that natural order, an unlikely fraternization between Gryffindor and Slytherin, student and teacher, optimism and bitterness. He had no doubt that what had been accomplished in a few short days – surely a schoolgirl crush and no more - would be undone just as quickly. He acknowledged that fact to himself and then savagely beat back the weak and traitorous part of him that was inclined toward regret.


Hermione sat with her book open in her lap, watching Harry swoop through the sky. Several times he disappeared from sight, and she worried that perhaps he would take advantage of his freedom and run away again. He didn't. He always returned, occasionally coming close enough to flash her a smile. He was clearly happier than he had been since they had pulled him out of Finbar's basement, and it made her a little sad that he was finding that happiness alone on a broomstick rather than in her company.

She didn't get much reading done.

When her mind wasn't occupied with Harry, it was on the brooding, taciturn man inside. What had she been thinking to kiss him like that? With that one foolish act, she had justified every comment he'd ever made about the reckless, impetuous nature of Gryffindors. She hadn't spent the day thinking about kissing him. She hadn't spent even ten minutes thinking about kissing him. But when he gave his little speech about them not being at Hogwarts, it seemed as if kissing Severus Snape had been something she had wanted to do for days and had to do right then, and she had acted on the impulse without thinking about it at all. Had she but paused for thought, it never would have happened.

And now that it had happened, she could think of nothing else. If that was what kissing Slytherins was like, she planned to make a habit of it. If that was what kissing teachers was like, no male teacher would ever be safe from her. She paused a moment to smile at the idea of attacking little Professor Flitwick in the corridors, and then acknowledged to herself that what she had felt the night before was not because he was a Slytherin or a teacher or anything as simple as that. It was because he was Severus Snape, and somehow – and this was the part that was hard to believe – she had come to feel something for him over the last difficult days. A less sensible girl might have rushed to call it love. She wasn't prepared to go that far, but it was attraction, certainly, and interest along with a respect and admiration she would never have believed possible back in the days when she had known him only as her teacher.

Over the past few days, she had seen other sides of Snape, had peeked behind the mask he wore to such great effect. He had tried to maintain a cool distance and to be as superior and infuriating as ever he was in Potions class, but even he couldn't keep up that act twenty-four hours a day, and she had caught glimpses of the qualities she had mentioned to him the night before – his devotion to the Order, his bravery, even unexpected flashes of humour and occasional tenderness. Cool distance had given way to lukewarm companionship, and then last night it had disappeared, to be replaced briefly by something that wasn't cool - or distant - at all.

It was, she reflected, impossible to maintain a cool distance whilst snogging someone nearly senseless. Even for Snape.

And that left her…where, exactly? Embarrassed. Infused with a fresh dread of Potions class. Wishing desperately that Dumbledore would call them back to Hogwarts and she could either go home or hole up in Gryffindor tower with a very large stack of books.

But also perversely wishing that he would kiss her again…and again…and again, and not stop there - not stop at all. She'd never wished that about any of the boys she had kissed before, but last night she would have given herself to her Potions Master without pausing for a second thought.

Perhaps it's high time you started pausing for second thoughts, she told herself, in a voice that sounded much like her mother's. It just might keep you out of messes like this one.

Harry came zooming into sight, passing just above the trees, and she smiled and gave him a small wave. He did a loop in midair over the pond and then swooped down and landed gracefully beside her. His cheeks were flushed and there was a light in his eyes she hadn't seen since before Sirius died. He dropped his broom and threw himself on the ground next to her.

"That felt good," he said.

"I can tell. You look better."

"A little maybe. I think Snape's potion is probably helping." He glanced out at the pond and began plucking at the grass, as he had the day before. "I was just…I don't know how to explain it, Hermione. All day yesterday, all I could think was that you should have just left me there. You risked your life to save me, and I'm not sure I can even thank you for it."

"I didn't do it to be thanked."

"I know." He reached for her hand and then paused to examine the entwined fingers. "I may…need to go away again," he said softly. "I want you to promise me that if I do, you won't come after me."


"I mean it, Hermione. I don't want to be Harry Potter anymore. I'm sick of it. Sick of the whole bloody mess. I'm sick of being the boy who lived while everyone he cared about died."

"It's not your fault." She punctuated her statement with a squeeze to his hand.

"And I'm not going away to punish myself," he insisted. "I'm going away because it's the only way I'll be able to live the life I want to live."

Hermione withdrew her hand and wrapped her arms tightly around her knees. "This is so unfair," she said, her voice quavering with the effort of holding back the tears. "First Ron, and now you…Harry, I'm not sure I can…"

It was simply too much, and she put her head in her arms and cried. Harry, always uncomfortable around feminine tears, patted her arm helplessly and said, "I'm sorry…I'm so sorry…please don't do this, Hermione, please stop crying…"

"Shut up, you," she managed finally, her voice hitching over the words. "If you're going to leave me, the least you can do is listen to me cry about it for a few minutes." She lifted her splotchy face and glared at him. He looked utterly stricken, his eyes pathetic behind the odd new glasses, and somehow that was funny and her mouth twitched slightly. "You're a real prat sometimes, Harry."

"I'm a real prat most of the time," he said, relieved that the tears had stopped, at least for the moment.

"Why doesn't that ever make the papers?" she wondered, and then they were both laughing.

"Once I'm gone, you can write one of those unauthorized, tell-all books about me," he suggested. "You have my full permission."

"Idiot. How can it be unauthorized if I have your permission?"

"Oh. Well, I take it back then. It'll sell better if it's unauthorized."

"Don't joke. I just might do it."

He put his arm around her and hugged her to his side. "I hope you make a mint."

"When will you go?" she asked softly, leaning into him.

"Not right away. I promised Snape that I'd stay long enough to make sure there was no trouble with the Ministry."

"You told him you were running away?"

Harry nodded. "He said he'd help me. Two weeks ago I'd have said it was because he couldn't wait to get rid of me, but now…I dunno. I think maybe he actually understands."

"Well, he did go to a lot of trouble to find you," she agreed. "If he'd just wanted to get rid of you, he needn't have bothered."

"I suppose so," he said, and then after a brief pause he went on. "Can I ask? About the misunderstanding you two had?"

She sighed. "I made an idiot of myself. That's the short version."

"Give me the long version and I'll decide if I agree."

"I…er…kissed him."

Harry winced a bit at the mental image that evoked, but Hermione was quite absorbed with something across the pond and didn't notice. "Did he kiss you back?"

"Oh yes," she said, and something about the vehemence of her tone made Harry wince again and wish he'd never asked.

"So…how is that making an idiot of yourself?"

"He…uh…seemed to suddenly realize what we were doing and broke it off. He gave me the teacher-student speech and was actually rather nice about it all, and that's when I really messed up. I told him…well, it doesn't really matter exactly what I said, but he seemed to think I was feeling sorry for him and basically told me to leave him alone, that he liked his life just fine the way it was."

"Then he's the idiot," Harry said firmly. "I told him that this morning if you recall."

"So you did. How did you know then what had happened?"

Harry shrugged. "Lucky guess. I saw yesterday how you felt about him – couldn't believe it at first, mind you, but I saw it clear as day – and just had a feeling it wasn't going to go well. I don't think it has much to do with him being a teacher, either. You're so close to finishing school that it hardly matters."

"Then what is it?"

Harry shook his head. "You should ask him. I'd just be guessing."

"I'm certainly not going to ask him."

"What is it about him, Hermione? I've never seen you like this about anyone, and to have it be Snape of all people…"

"I know," she gave him a wan smile. "I can't believe it myself. He's just…not what we always thought he was. There's so much more to him, and I've only caught glimpses so far, but I really like what I've seen. He's loads more interesting than the boys at school, and smarter, and brave, and quite funny, actually, when he wants to be. He's…well, that voice and those dark eyes…I know he's not what most girls would call handsome, but there's something about him..."

"I'm feeling a little sick," Harry said, cutting her off.

"Well don't ask if you don't want me to answer."

"I know, I know. Sorry. I've just never pictured him in quite that way, and now my brain is running screaming in the other direction. It'll pass."

"I hate to think we're waiting on your brain to do anything," she snapped.

Harry laughed. "So what are you going to do?"

She shrugged. "Nothing, I suppose. He made himself quite clear. I'm going to keep my eyes on my cauldron in class and hope the year passes quickly."

"That's probably for the best."



"If things were different, do you think he could be interested in me?"

Harry sighed. "I think he is interested in you. But he's Snape, and things aren't different. I wouldn't want you to get your hopes up."

"Harry, my hopes are about as far from 'up' as they can possibly get."

Harry nodded, and the two friends sat together in silence until hunger drove them back into the cottage.

The Buried Life

A Harry Potter Story
by Kalina Lea

Part 18 of 27

<< Previous     Home     Next >>