Continuing Tales

Heart Over Mind

A Harry Potter Story
by Regann

Part 12 of 27

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Heart Over Mind

It was those lonely quiet moments which almost convinced him that he cared.

Despite the rather romantic view of spying and double-cross work which most people seem to have implanted in their heads, Severus Snape had come to learn from first-hand experience that there was nothing glamorous about the old profession. Most people envisioned meetings in dangerous, exotic places and wizards with raspy voices or strangely-colored eyes; mainly, Snape's spying involved a great deal of listening, remembering, quick thinking and waiting. It had the proverbial cloak, but rarely the dagger.

The waiting -- it was the most difficult part, even in situations where he was far from immediate danger. One of the few true aspects of undercover work was the quick thinking, more so than the often-toted virtues which one might associate with such a dangerous field. But the advantage of that constant vigilance -- how Moody made Snape shudder at those words -- was the inability to think past the moment, to worry about anything more remote than the next few hours. In Snape's opinion, it was the only advantage of his work; while Dumbledore and the others in the Order spent time strategizing and considering every aspect of every hypothetical situation, Snape allowed himself to escape within the adrenaline of his mission and then ignore much of it when he was no longer directly involved that danger.

It was a good coping system, one which had served him well through the First War and all these years into the Second one. It was only those times when he was forced to wait did the worries and doubt catch up to him -- those longer-than-reality spans of time in which he considered the bleakness that the future could hold if everything failed. Depressing, but it was what had weighed most heavily on him for decades: the abstract horror of a world where Lord Voldemort and his ilk held power.

As terrible as such images were, Snape had recently come to wish for those visions to once again trouble him, for lately he'd been plagued with much more specific concerns.

Contrary to everything rational and logical in his world, Snape could not get Hermione Granger out of his thoughts.

Since Christmas, he'd spared her a stray thought on occasion, usually after having received one of her letters. It wasn't so preposterous to think of someone with which he had direct correspondence, he told himself. And, after the fiasco at Christmas, the officious Miss Granger had been foisted higher on the list of Likely Targets for Death Eater Attacks which he kept updated in his mind.

So, of course, he'd thought of her, just as he had to think of Harry bloody Potter -- because she was a member of Light especially targeted by the Dark against which he fought. However, he could no longer blame her residence in his thoughts on such an impersonal excuse, a fact which irritated him greatly.

At the moment -- one of those lonely quiet ones which he so loathed -- Snape had not seen her face for almost a fortnight; duty had called him away from Hogwarts and he'd gladly went at its demand. The morning of his departure, he'd told her that business called him away and that she'd have the laboratory space to herself for a fortnight, if not longer. She'd nodded and solemnly wished him luck -- the concern in her rounded brown eyes having told him that Hermione understood what true business had called.

Something about her eyes had spoke to him of something else as well: as much as he'd tried to ignore it, he no longer thought of Hermione Granger as only a former student or a body to protect. There was a lingering pang in his chest at their silent goodbye, a twin-edged sword of something-like-pain and something-resembling-pleasure at the mere idea that she -- that anyone, aside from Dumbledore -- would worry over him or miss him while he was gone. The pain came from the knowledge that something as inconsequential as his own departure might cause her sadness.

Damn bloody pang.

Snape had long since stopped seeing her simply as a former student. Even before her formal graduation, she had abandoned that particular label in his mind. If he had to pinpoint the moment in time at which the change had begun, Snape would have precisely identified it as the day she'd spent with him in the hospital wing during the spring of her last year. She'd shown him such kindness in that gesture that Snape had felt obligated to think of her in more genial terms than he did the majority of his students.

After Christmas, it had become something slightly deeper, more personal -- Hermione had been good company during her stay and she'd been a heady distraction from the portents which had been glowering over him since Halloween. And Snape had actually missed her when she'd had left for home, damn the werewolf and his overly-polite hints to the conclusion.

The letters had not helped; or rather, they had helped, but only in deepening whatever tenuous attachment he'd formed to her. Snape had looked forward to her letters more than he'd ever admit to anyone, even himself. But, he'd known that it was only a superficial acquaintance, born between people of similar minds and disciplines.

Now, sitting in the cool darkness of his rented room with his mind ablaze with ruminations, Snape had to make the hard confession that it -- whatever one defined "it" as -- had changed once again that summer, weeks more of contact and conversation, discussion and dialogue adding to the strands of that immeasurable substance which constructed connections between two individuals.

It had surprised him -- stunned him, in all honesty -- to realize that she actually seemed to hold some esteem for him. In Lupin's imprecisely impressionistic language, that she cared about him.

Snape wasn't certain of exactly what the werewolf had meant in using that word. In English, it could mean so much or so little when applied generally to one's ambiguous feelings.

Yet, in those quiet waiting moments when she would not fully leave his mind, Snape felt as if he also cared -- about her and what happened to her.

And when an unbidden image of her lingered faintly at the edges of his mind, he was almost able to admit that what he meant by the term was more than simple concern or dutiful anxiety over her welfare.

But then the moment would pass and Snape would find himself focused on his mission, caught up in the life-or-death risks of the moment and it would all fade to the back of his mind.

After all, it wasn't as if it mattered -- there was no advantage to any kind of emotional attachment at such times of darkness as those which covered the wizarding world and Snape doubted that he'd live long enough to see that darkness banished a second time. His first survival had been miracle enough.

A depressing thought, yes. But somehow he found the thought of his death much less disturbing than thinking of Hermione Granger.

Damn bloody pang.


During the fortnight which Snape was absent from Hogwarts, Hermione found herself with more free time on her hands than she'd had since the summer had begun, although Snape's absence was only partly to blame. She'd finished up much of the research for her Divination project and the preliminary paragraphs of her final paper were already scattered over several sheets of parchment, leaving little need for anything more than cursory visits to the library -- particularly since most of the pertinent volumes lay in sorted piles in her guest chamber. Her experiments, also, had reached a point in their reactions where patience more than participation was required for their completions. Even with the time she spent writing and revising her Divination project, working with McGonagall through more arduous training and attending to some personal duties which she had been ignoring, Hermione still had more time on her hands than with which she knew what to do.

For some unnamed reason, she felt uneasy about spending hours doing nothing important -- most certainly since it was those quiet moments of leisure which gave her mind the chance to wonder into the thoughts which she was steadfastly avoiding, the darker and worried concerns which she had for Snape. She knew -- knew -- that it had been business for Dumbledore which had called him away and she understood, at least on a broad level, the kind of dangers associated with it. Before he'd the left, Snape had told her that he could offer her no definite time for his return but that he planned to be gone only for a fortnight.

When a fortnight and three days had passed without his return, Hermione had begun to worry in earnest, a leaden doubt settling in her stomach. The thoughts which crept into her head at her most unguarded moments left her both furious and terrified, almost physically ill with worry. If at any moment, she allowed her mind to diverge from its specific task, the horrible flashes of what could be happening to Snape would press at the corners of her vision, as if trying to force her to face them.

And, with every day past the fortnight, they grew steadily worse.

Desperate to fill her time with anything which would distract her, the young woman invented a half-dozen tasks to occupy her and her attention.

One chore in which she engrossed herself was communication with the world outside of Hogwarts; she'd become very much behind in her written correspondence. Letters from Harry and Ron, Ginny, her mother, her grandmother and her friends from Trinity had long went unanswered. With the extra time, Hermione had dedicated a few hours a day to re-reading the letters and answering all of them as dutifully as she could. As it always had been, the letters to her two best friends were much more conversational and superficial than the others; all that was required of her in response was general comments about her health and a few mentions of her research -- more than that and she'd bore them to tears. As long as she felt as if she was doing fine, they were satisfied.

Ginny, however, had written a pile of letters, each one more emotional than the last. Hermione noticed that while Harry's letter had lacked much mention of Ginny, Ginny's letters seemed to focus on him, most notably on the fact that the two of them were having problems in their romantic relationship. Although she mentioned nothing more specific than "problems" such as "growing apart," Ginny still managed to fill feet of parchment with her prose on the subject. Not certain what kind of advice to give to the youngest Weasley -- after all, Hermione had never had these kind of problems -- she'd restricted her answer to vague expressions of sympathy and hopes that things would be sorted out soon. She very much hope that it would be sorted out to everyone's satisfaction.

In comparison to Ginny, Elena and Maureen's letters were much easier to answer. The two of them were visiting Maureen's cousins in America and much of what they wrote were accounts of their various adventures in the entwined Muggle-and-Wizarding-world of New Orleans, Louisiana. Hermione had laughed at loud when she'd read of Maureen's sudden interest in voodoo. Apparently, according to Elena, the American had been burned quite badly by some mysterious male she'd had her eyes on, and now wanted revenge. Once she'd caught up on her letter-writing -- including a book-sized letter to her grandmother who was still immensely fascinated by Owl post -- Hermione had decided to invest her free time in another fruitful endeavor, one reminded to her by her mother's letters. Along with many of her reference books, Hermione had carried with her to Hogwarts the Muggle novels which Carolina had given her for Christmas, although she had yet to read any of them.

Unsurprisingly, reading held a special place in Hermione Granger's heart; for years she had used it as a tool of escape from some of the most stressful times in her life. When she'd first learned that she was a witch -- quite an event for a Catholic girl who'd recently been confirmed -- she'd tried to allay her fear of that new unknown world with knowledge, absorbing the information from the pages of the many books in which her parents had indulged her on their first trip to Diagon Alley. In the beginning of her first term at Hogwarts, before Halloween had brought Harry and Ron to her, Hermione's old copy of Hogwarts, A History had acted as crutch and friend, helping her while away the hours and keep a brave face when she wanted to do nothing more than to cry and go home.

On the fifth day after the fortnight's end, Hermione attacked the collection of paperbacks buried in the bottom of her valise with a steely determination to think of nothing for the day but the three titles she'd chosen at random.

The need for levity -- for anything not drowned in the same murkiness as her heavy thoughts -- drove Hermione outdoors, out from within the heavy stone and thick atmosphere of the Hogwarts castled structure. Allowing her feet and instincts to lead her, she emerged into one of the open courtyards, the sun-drench patch of openness a welcome relief and days spent alone in the dungeon or cloistered into an unused classroom. She noticed with no small amount of irony that the courtyard to which her feet had led her was none other than her courtyard: it was the same place she'd come to read the books on the hayam and Nadir'ah, where she'd talked with the headmaster about hearts and minds and love. It had acted again as her refuge that past winter where Snape had happened upon her and asked for her help in making burn salves during her forced stay on the school grounds after the Death Eater attack which had left her dorm mate dead.

But Hermione tried to ignore those associations as she moved purposely toward the bench -- her bench -- in one corner of the greened courtyard, focusing instead of how good the strong summer sun felt on her cotton-clad shoulders and her bare legs. In a moment of childish whim, she chose to spread her robe on the ground and sit on it rather than the chiseled stone seat. She curled her toes in the sun-heated grass, inhaled the rich scent-laden air which came from everything being in bloom before tossing her hair back away from her face.

Relaxing, her back supported against the cool stone of the empty bench, Hermione took another deep breath and delved into her books.

She'd conspicuously chosen the slimmer volumes, being in no mood to muddle through something as dense as War and Peace. She'd also chosen the more modern of the novels, wishing to escape into a world as Muggle as possible -- it was, after all, a mechanism for forgetting about the troubles rumbling around her in the wizarding world. Her first selection was a novel of post-WWII Japan told in such a poetic way that she was left with a lingering image of lipstick-stained tea cup long after she lain it aside. It plucked at her for a moment, the bittersweet quality of the tale, but she quickly moved to the next novel, which promised to be much more of a challenge.

Hermione was glad for that. A challenge was what she needed to focus her mind on things other than worry, anxiety and doubt.

A slim and obviously used paperback, she realized as she flipped through the first few pages that the copy of Albert Camus' Les Justes which she held had been her mother's copy at university -- that fact explained not only the scribbled notes in the columns but also the fact that it was still in French. Both her mother and her grandmother had spoken warmly of it at Christmas, but she remembered that later her nona had teasingly admitted to never having read it.

"I was just teasing your mama," Rosalia had whispered conspiratorially in Hermione's ear over breakfast. "She's so silly, sometimes. And it's just too easy to tease her, no?"

Although the play was shorter than the novel, having to read it in French slowed Hermione's pace, a fact which did not keep her from making rapid progress. But it was engrossing -- the combination of the foreign language and the philosophical subtext at which her mother's school notes hinted held in her rapt attention. After the first few pages, she thought it to be a good choice to keep her occupied.

After the first act, she realized that it had not been an inspired choice.

As she finished the second act, she was struck with an unshakable sense of foreboding.

When the third act ended, Hermione was unable to stem the tears welling in her eyes.

And, as she rapidly read the fourth act, she couldn't help but echo Dora's -- the main character -- haunting words:

Ah! Pitié pour les jûstes!


Snape had always noticed a peculiar sense of unreality accompanied his return to Hogwarts after a long hiatus resulting from playing spy for Dumbledore. To return to somewhere as seemingly peaceful and calm as the ancient school grounds, to be enclosed within the austerity of its emptiness -- the abrupt change in physical situation seemed as physiologically trying as any curse or blow he might have fielded while on duty.

Coming home to Hogwarts always left him tired.

It was the kind of tired which registered as a dull ache in the muscles that came after long exertion. Marked by the absence of strain and adrenaline, it was the fatigue of rest after too long at toil.

And he'd been at toil for closer to three weeks than the two he'd planned.

As soon as he'd had time to converse briefly with Dumbledore and to settle his luggage into one corner of his quarters, Snape had immediately plunged himself into his regular schedule, taking no time to acclimatize or rest after his journey. There would, he decided, but time enough for leisure after he'd finished for the day. His late return to Hogwarts had played havoc with his plans but still he had obligations to fulfill before he could abandon himself to rest.

None of those obligations, however, called for him to be in his private laboratory at any time; however, it was the first place he visited after his debriefing with Dumbledore. The room was empty when he arrived, left as neat and organized as he might have. Perplexed by the fact that a certain young woman had not been in the laboratory, Snape next visited the library, only to be told by Madam Pince that Miss Granger had not been there in days.

As if he suddenly remembered the long night which loomed ahead of him, Snape abruptly ended his search -- although, he hastily reminded himself that it had only been for information and not the information's source -- and changed his direction back toward the dungeons. Instead of retracing his earlier path, he chose a swifter route, all the while as his mind was reviewing his plans and what he'd need for them.

It was by sheer coincidence that he was passing an opened archway which opened into one of the many Hogwarts' courtyards when he glanced out of the corner of his eye to notice an unusual dot of color against the monochrome of green.

Snape paused, swiftly turning to better examine the misplaced splash of black and purple only to find himself faced with the object of his earlier search -- it was Hermione Granger sitting on her black school robe which was lain across the grass, her head tucked down as she poured over a thin book in her hands.

As he loitered in the archway watching her read, Snape was assaulted by a strong sense of déjà vu; he recalled with sudden clarity when he'd happened upon Hermione in a similar situation, the book on the hayam clutched in his hands.

He might have remained there, watching from the shadows or he might have retreated without ever making his presence known if Hermione had not chosen that moment to lift her eyes away from the pages she'd been reading and glance across the length of the courtyard, still unaware that she was being watched.

It was the movement of her head turning ever so slightly to sling her hair out of her eyes that allowed the tears coursing over her cheeks to be so obviously visible.

Without thinking, Snape set out across the courtyard.

Still sitting on the ground and feeling immeasurably foolish, Hermione was wiping vigorously at her weeping eyes when she felt a shadow fall over her. When she realized that it was Snape who stood watching her with undisguised confusion written across his pale features, she was by turns surprised and mortified, the second emotion propelling her to scramble to her feet, brushing at the imaginary grass which had not clung to her bare legs or the back pockets of her denim shorts with the hand that wasn't still clutching the worn paperback.

"What's wrong?" Snape demanded to know, eyes traveling from her tearstained face down to her hands where which busy wringing the novel like a handkerchief. There was an edge to his voice, brought out by concern. Unfortunately, it sounded more like derision and exasperation.

"There's nothing wrong," Hermione protested, her voice wavering in the shaky way it did whenever she'd been crying. She brushed at her face with the back of one hand, feeling the little dignity she had left vanish as Snape grasped her by the shoulders and sat her down on the stone bench. He joined her on the bench, gently allowing his hands to ghost over her arms in a manner which forcibly reminded Hermione of how her mother had once checked her for minor injuries after a nasty tumble down a staircase.

"If there is nothing wrong, then explain to me why you've been sitting here crying all day," he answered dryly, his arms now crossed over his chest as he waited for her answer.

"I haven't been crying all day," she rebuked, a frown creasing her features.

"Miss Granger, your eyes are puffy and your face is red, along with all those other ghastly things which happen to a woman's face when she's been crying excessively. I daresay you've indulging for at least a quarter-hour, if not longer. So, I ask you again -- what ails you?"

"Nothing. It's nothing," she repeated, shaking her head and making dismissive gestures with her empty hand. When Snape's dubious expression remained unchanged, she sighed. "If you must know, it was because of this." She held out the paperback.

He took the novel in his hands and examined it. "You're crying because of a book?" There was definite exasperation in his voice but the concern was now detectable as well.

"Yes," she admitted, wiping at her eyes again before snatching her book away from him. She wanted to add that she'd also been crying over him, over thoughts of what could happen to him of which the novel had reminded her, but she held her tongue. "The story -- it was very sad. I couldn't help myself. It -- there's nothing wrong with crying over fiction, you know. It's cathartic."

"Indeed," he agreed, the sharpness waning now that he was certain that something real had not caused her grief. "And you needed your emotions purged? I do believe it's one's fear and pity which are released by reading tragedy, is it not?"

"So Aristotle says," she returned. "I really didn't mean to read something that would make me cry. My mother gave me that for Christmas and I had a bit of free time and.well, it was cathartic." She paused, as if unsure what words were correct to explain what she wanted to express. She swept her eyes out over the courtyard, letting them linger on the bubbling fountain. "But sometimes.well.sometimes it's easier that way."

"What do you mean?"

Hermione looked down at the worn cover once more. "Sometimes it's easier -- safer? -- to cry over what happens to imaginary people in a story than it is to cry over the things you're actually worried about. It would make it all too."

"Real?" Snape finished for her. She nodded gratefully.

A moment of awkward silence passed before Hermione spoke again. "I didn't realize you had returned," she commented softly, the breeze pushing her hair into her eyes as she steadfastly avoided his gaze.

"I've only just arrived a few hours ago," Snape explained, the same breeze tugging at his billowing robes. "I'd just been returning to the dungeons after.after a meeting with the headmaster when I noticed you here."

"I'm glad to see that things turn out alright," she told him.

Her comment won her a sharp glance from Snape's dark eyes. "And what makes you say that it did?"

Hermione straightened her shoulders and met his gaze levelly. "You made it back safely. That's "alright" enough for me, Professor."

"Then, you are remarkably short-sighted, Miss Granger," he snorted. "There are much more important things to be concerned with."

"Perhaps," she conceded aloud, although silently disagreeing in her mind.

To change the topic which he was finding most uncomfortable, Snape pointed to the yellowed paperback. "If I may ask, what was so sad about this particular novel you have?"

"Oh, well, actually it's a play," she began, trying to sort her thoughts into coherent patterns but failing miserably. "But -- what makes it sad? A great deal of things, really. But what I found to be so -- horrible -- was that Yaneck -- well, I mean Dora." She stopped and took a breath before trying to explain. Her words came out haltingly as she mitigated each word to ensure that she did not reveal too much about why she had been so personally affected the play. "Much of it is very political -- terrorists and socialists and the like, but.what I found so terrible was that there was one woman, Dora, who loved one of her fellow socialists but she lost him to the Cause -- he was executed. It makes her -- bitter, his loss does. Even if it was for something greater than either of them."

"It does strike me as a rather tragic tale, Miss Granger. Whyever would your mother want you to read something so maudlin?"

"It isn't maudlin," she objected, a half-smile tugging at her lips as she imagined what her mother's reaction to Snape's statement might have been. "It's Camus. It can't be anything but brilliant. If you don't believe me, ask my mother -- she loves his works."

Comprehension dawned on Snape's face. "Ah, I see. Of course, I'm not entirely certain who this Camus is, but I think I understand -- every parent attempts to force children to like what they do."

Hermione chuckled at Snape's rare admission to ignorance. "I think you'd like him, if you read some of his works. In fact, I think he'd suit you quite nicely."

"Miss Granger -- are you trying to imply that I'm maudlin?"

Another fit of laughter hit Hermione at the look on Snape's face, a look which she could read with surprising ease: she knew that he as teasing her. "Never, Professor," she assured him as she stopped giggling. "I don't think anyone will ever make that mistake."

"I should say not," he declared as he rose gracefully to his feet. Snape glanced uneasily up at the hot sun glaring overhead. "You'll have to excuse me. I have some important plans to finalize before this evening."

"Plans? What kind of plans?"

"The tedious kind," he admitted, sighing. "It's one of the downsides to being a renowned maker of potions -- one has to restock supplies much more often. And unfortunately, tonight is the only night I can procure some very important ingredients."

Hermione was suitably confused by Snape's qualifying remarks. "Why only tonight? Does the potion have to be made that soon?"

He shook his head, arching an eyebrow. "Don't you know what today is, Miss Granger?"

"Other than June 21st? Not really, I..." she trailed off, clearly lost in thought. "It's the night of the summer solstice."

"Five points to Gryffindor," Snape nodded wryly. "Tonight is the night of the Litha celebrations and it's a night known for particular potency when harvesting certain magical plants used in potions-making."

"And you plan on gathering them yourself?" Hermione wanted to know, fascinated.

"Of course. I certainly can't trust a merchant to be truthful as to either or not his flax seeds were gathered on Midsummer, now can I?"

"I guess not," she said, her eyes dancing. "But it all sounds so interesting. You know, I've read a great deal about Litha --"

"Surprise, surprise," Snape interjected.

Hermione shot him a glare as she continued. "But I've never seen much about it in practical application. And Muggles don't typically celebrate it -- well, there's St. John's Day, but really I don't think it's quite the same. Unless you count those druids at Stonehenge but I'm fairly certain that that's all for the tourists."

Snape narrowed his eyes and focused them directly on Hermione, so intensely that she paused in her soliloquy. "Something wrong, Professor?"

"Not at all," he answered smoothly. "However...would you like to help me tonight with the gathering?"

Hermione broke out into a smile. "I'd love to. Do you usually do it alone?"

He shook his head. "In fact, I was leaving to arrange for some help, but I remember what you said in one of your letters and thought you'd be a perfect assistant for tonight."

Hermione didn't trust the slanted glare he was giving her -- it smacked of smugness and warned her that there was something unpleasant buried in his words. "And what was that, Professor?"

His lips twitched. "You mentioned in your Christmas letter that you liked working like a house-elf. I figured to give you another chance at it."

She rolled her eyes, leaning over to rescue her dark robe from the ground where she'd lain it. "How nice of you to remember," she said, faint sarcasm coloring her response.

"The front steps, Miss Granger," he ordered in his clipped teaching voice in an obvious effort to cover his amusement. "In about three hours. And I suggest you eat something before you join me -- it's going to be a long night." With another nod in her direction, Snape turned away and disappeared into the darkness of the castle's hallway.

Hermione, left alone on the bench in the hot afternoon sun, looked skyward toward the blue and white expanse, rolling her paperbacks up in a bundle with her robe. Some part of her was chagrined at having worried so much when Snape was late, while the rest of her was simply glad that he has returned safely, while another part wanted to laugh loudly in relief. She chose to ignore that impulse, settling for a smile as she stood up to leave the courtyard behind.

After all, she needed time to get ready for her evening with Snape. Not only would she need to eat -- Maybe I can ask Dobby to bring me a tray... -- but she also needed to make a quick stop by the library before returning to her rooms. She wanted to do a bit of light reading about Litha before she went out to help Snape. It might come in handy, after all.

With her heart lightened and her relief almost tangible, Hermione hurried out of the courtyard, her heart as warmed by Snape's safe return as she had been by the bright afternoon sun. Unlike the poor, unfortunate Dora, she had yet to forget the summer -- and she was determined to never give herself over to that same eternal winter.

Heart Over Mind

A Harry Potter Story
by Regann

Part 12 of 27

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