Continuing Tales

Heart Over Mind

A Harry Potter Story
by Regann

Part 14 of 27

<< Previous     Home     Next >>
Heart Over Mind

As silly as the comparison seemed, Hermione couldn't help but feel as if she were once again fourteen years old, nervously perparing for the Yule Ball as she stood before the opened wardrobe of her guest chamber, trying to decide what she was going to wear to the Midsummer celebration in Hogsmeade.

Precious minutes were wasted as she deliberated, wasted on something which she felt was actually very inconsequential. And with each moment that ticked away, she worried that Snape would not uphold his end of the compromise if she were to leave him waiting for too long. Yet, she continued to deliberate over what should have been an easy decision, all the while feeling foolish because of it.

As she'd hurried back to her chambers, Hermione had simply envisioned herself slipping out of the stained clothes she'd been wearing and into something clean but similarly comfortable and serviceable. But as her hand had hovered over a hanger from which hung a clean white blouse, she'd suddenly felt that plain attire at such an important festival would be out of place. As she'd racked her brains to remember if she'd read of any special clothing guidelines associated with the holiday's celebration, her eyes had glanced through the lines of neatly arranged clothes in the carved wardrobe until they had settled on something light-colored and half-hidden in one far corner.

Like a siren, the dress had called to Hermione, irresistibly tempting and faintly scandalous all at once.

In fact, Hermione had long considered it as such -- if not scandalous, then inappropriate for wear anywhere outside the safe confines of her home. It had been a graduation gift from her aunt Sophia and its décolletage alone attested that it had been chosen by her orchidaceous and shameless aunt. The clinging cut and the sheer fabric of the dress only added to the obvious association.

Having an aunt like Sophia Morazzano had both its advantages and disadvantages.

Unlike her older, responsible sister Carolina, Sophia had chosen adventure over academics and had fled from home to find herself as soon as she'd been able. She'd traveled to parts far and wide and had had a dozen different occupations in as many years. In Hermione's mind, Sophia had always seemed larger than life with her flamboyant antics and devil-may-care attitude.

Those very traits were ones she'd bemoaned in her friends but ones she adored in her aunt. She had idolized the older woman ever since she was four years old when Sophia had arrived -- unexpectedly, of course -- on the Grangers' doorstep on summer evening, her arms full of the exotic gifts she'd acquired from a half-dozen different places.

But more than anything else, Aunt Sophia had taught Hermione about magic -- not the wizarding kind, but the special kinds of experience which the Muggles labled so. Fairy tales and imagination had always been Sophia's province, much more so than Carolina's. While the Grangers has always been loving and kind -- good -- parents, they'd never been ones for frivolity or flights of fancy. So, the role had fallen to Sophia and it was one she'd been born to play.

Once she was older, Hermione realized that Sophi's most appealing characteristic was that her nature was the the polar opposite of Carolina's. Although she loved her mother dearly, Hermione had learnt early that sometimes there were things that she could talk about with her Aunt Sophie that she could never discuss with Carolina. And Sophia would do things for Hermione which her mother would have never dreamed. The older she'd become, the more like an acomplice her aunt had become.

Carolina would never have bought Hermione her first trashy romance novel before she was not even twelve years old.

Nor would Carolina have sent to Hermione the lacy -- and racy -- lingerie which Sophia had purchased for her as a late Christmas gift.

And Carolina would have never bought her the dress that now teased Hermione to wear it.

Unfortunately -- or fortunately -- there was a bit of her aunt in Hermione, somehow existing alongside the stalwart dash of her mother which her own grandmother had always noted. And that recessive wilderness of the soul for which Sophia was known was sparking in Hermione, appealing to her dangerously provocative side.

It was that dash of Sophia, Hermione reasoned, which made her more Gryffindor than Ravenclaw.

Horrified when she realized that she'd spent nine entire minutes doing nothing but staring blankly into the darkened depths of the wardrobe, Hermione made a decision.

Giving into temptation, she snatched the flimsy garment from its hanger and tossed it across the bed, the silken fabric an incongruous streak of pale color against the deep crimson of the brocaded bed coverings. She methodically shed her shirt and shorts, then used a damp washcloth to wipe any vestige of the mistletoe-gathering adventure from her skin before she slid the dress over her head and down over her curves, where it settled until the hem's lacy edge skimmed her calves. She paused in front of the mirror to adjust the microscopically thin straps which slipped from her shoulders with the barest movement.

She had a nagging suspicion that Sophia would have liked it that way.

Even as she frowned at her reflection, Hermione decided that she'd already wasted enough time without worrying about her hair or about any kind of cosmetics. Giving her hair a quick comb-through with her fingers, she shook the tangled mess out around her face and was content with the fact that it no longer resembled a mistletoe bramble.

Silly, vain and utterly ridiculous, she chastised herself as she checked her reflection in the mirror again once she'd slid her feet into the same leather sandals she'd wore earlier. Here I am, wasting extremely valuable minutes when I should have already been back at the entrance to meet Snape.

And even if he's not there, I'm going to Hogsmeade, she declared silently. He bloody well can't stop me.

But Hermione knew that as much of the fluttering anticipation in her stomach was about Snape as it was about the Midsummer festival. It somehow struck her as significant that the Midsummer festival and Snape were coinciding, something half-forgotten fighting to be remembered at the back of her mind.

She shook that needling suspicion away from her thoughts just as she glanced at the clock and realized that it had taken her almost fifteen minutes to change -- an amount of time tantamount to an eternity for someone as efficient as she.

"Stupid, feminine, narcissistic conceit," she sneered at herself in a fair imitation of Snape before she gave her hair one last combing and dashed toward the door, tripping over a pile of books on the way.

She cursed -- in Italian -- as several books went skittering across the floor, but Hermione stooped to pick them up and placed them carefully on the desk. On top of the stack was the library copy of A Book of Days, Witching Edition that she'd gotten to research Midsummer. She flipped to the bookmarked page on the holiday and was tempted to scan the cramped script in order to satisfy that tickle of curiosity which told her that she was forgetting something vital, something about the holiday...

Fighting the urge, she snapped the book closed and laid it on the desk as she headed toward the door. Hermione paused once more, wondering if perhaps she should bother with a robe. But since all she'd brought with her were the basic black robes she'd worn at Trinity, she decided against it. After all, there was no point in wearing the daring dress if she planned to hide beneath yards of black fabric.

Exactly twenty-one minutes after she'd reentered the castle, Hermione dashed out of her room to leave the enchanted candles to dim in her wake, intent on her assignation with Snape.

And within the pages of the A Book of Days by Rhea Runnymede, a very interesting paragraph remained unread:

The playful nature of love and flirtation which is present at Beltane escalates into true passion at Midsummer. Couples who have made promises the year before around Beltane tend to make formal their ties at this time of year -- it is one of the most popular times for weddings. Old folklore tells us that the ancient magic of love stirs heavy on this night, and it is a night where certain feelings can no longer be ignored.

For some, this makes Midsummer as dangerous as it is passionate...


Hermione was breathless by the time she reached the entrance of the school and any work she might have invested in her hair would have been undone by her hassled traveling. As she stepped through the heavy oak doors and onto the front steps, she glanced around, searching for Snape against the backdrop of the darkness.

She folded her arms over her chest and craned her neck around toward the direction from which she'd seen him emerge earlier that day, stretching onto her toes to try and see around the bend of the castle's architecture. Dejected when she neither saw the professor nor any indication that he was approaching, she sighed as she settled back squarely on her heels.

"Looking for me?"

The deep voice rumbling from behind her startled Hermione, causing her to jump in surprise as she spun around. Of course, the voice had been enough to identify her companion and so she was nonplussed to find herself glaring up at Snape, who was watching her with unmistaken laughter in his eyes.

"Must you walk so lightly?" she snapped irritably, unfolding her arms to lay a palm against her heart. "You nearly frightened me into a heart attack."

"I shall endeavor to walk more heavily in your presence," Snape demurred, still enjoying her discomfiture.

"You do that," she shot back, although her irritation was abandoned in favor of astonishment as she stepped back to better examine Snape's attire. "You...changed your clothes."

"As did you. Astounding, Miss Granger, your mastery of the obvious," he said. "After all, it was the reason for which I delayed our going to Hogsmeade, was it not?"

"I just can't believe my eyes," Hermione explained, ignoring the jeering words as if they hadn't been spoken. A grin twitched on the corner of her mouth. "You...well..."

Snape straightened his spine and arched an eyebrow in inquiry. "Is there a problem, Miss Granger?"

"No, of course not," she assured him, still struggling to remain serious. "It's just that I never imagined seeing you in something, so..."

"Casual?" he offered briskly.

"I was going to say colorful," she admitted, laughter in her voice as she continued to appraise him. "But casual works, as well."

Truth be told, Hermione thought that Snape looked good -- while the word wasn't quite the one she wanted, it fit her perception nicely. Although the black frock coats and robes which Snape usually wore invoked a certain mysterious fascination, there was something differently but equally appealing about the loose dark-blue tunic over the plain black trousers. Though simple, the tunic looked to be of some kind of sensuous fabric almost like velvet and lined in thread made of actual silver, an expensive luxury in the wizarding world. It was certainly more casual than she'd ever seen him dressed, but Hermione found no fault with that fact.

"If you have finished gawking," Snape began, each word staccato in his precise tone. "We may go. Unless, of course, you've changed your mind about this dimwitted notion of going to the Midsummer festival."

"I haven't changed my mind," she stated firmly, much to his obvious disappointment. Hermione motioned out toward where the balefires sprinkled the dark countryside and where Hogsmeade lay in the throes of celebration. "Let's go."

The journey to Hogsmeade began in relative silence; however, Hermione's excitement grew as the pair neared their destination and she couldn't stop herself from speaking, allowing the inner energy to bubble forth in a litany of words which centered on her excitement which led into a discussion of her appreciation of the night-cloaked landscape and the Midsummer fires and how she'd finally noticed the heavy scents of summer on the air. When she once again remarked on the beauty of the night sky, Snape snorted. "Really, Miss Granger. Must we go through this again? It's little wonder that you prefer maudlin tales in literature."

"Do you find beauty in anything?" Hermione asked him, her question half-jest and half-exasperation. "I'm beginning to doubt that you do, except perhaps in potions."

"Then you'd be wrong," he told her, slowing his gait and looking at her strangely. She noticed a hidden depth in his dark eyes, something that spoke of mysteries for which she knew no answer. "I happen to find beauty in a great many things, though they are usually in unexpected places, ones which are oft overlooked by others."

"Such as?" Hermione questioned, falling in rhythm with his slower steps.

Instead of answering, Snape took gentle hold of her arm and pointed her toward the fuzzy outline of the Hogsmeade train station. "We're very close," he announced as they cautiously descended the slope. "If you remained quiet for a moment, you might be able to hear the music at this distance."

Hermione nodded, grateful for the steadying hand against her back as she crept slowly down the sloping hilltop. If she strained her ears, she could hear the faintest strains of music, something lively and spirited a pitch above the murmur of the crowds. Once the ground leveled near the train tracks, Hermione quickened her pace, her unwilling companion trailing closely behind her as she finally set foot on the main road of Hogsmeade town.

It was, Hermione reflected, much more than she had ever imagined. She was immediately reminded of illustrations from children's fairy-tale books: the robed villagers crowding the streets and the whole atmosphere alive with song and sound and light.

In the empty lot beside the Three Broomsticks, there was a large bonfire crackling merrily, olivine smoke rising from the flames in winding ribbons. The pungent smell of burning herbs filled the air while the licking flames which consumed the oak and fir logs threw off the warm, golden light that pushed back the edge of the darkness. Of course, the light of the massive bonfire was not alone, as flickering torches also lined the street, wedged in between decorated wooden tables laden with food and drink. There were a dozen other kinds of stalls and stands but Hermione could not see them clearly through the thick throng of people that packed every available space. Some were laughing and talking, while others were dancing to the lively music she'd heard before, the energetic notes produced by violins and lutes which hung in mid-air and played themselves. Others were eating or drinking, or simply smiling as they watched the activity which surrounded them.

Suddenly, the scene called up memories of her grandmother's stories about of her youth in Italy, of the great feasts which the different vineyards would held and the fun she'd had. If those fetes of old were anything like Midsummer in Hogsmeade, Hermione could easily imagine her laughing grandmother as a girl of her age enjoying such a festival.

Gentle pressure on her back pulled Hermione away from her open-mouthed appraisal. Snape stood closely behind her, so near that his breath brushed against her ear as he spoke. "Do you wish to stand here gaping all evening or did you actually plan on going into the town?"

She turned her head to give him what was fast becoming her usual look for him: a half-frown of consternation. "Of course I plan on going in."

"Let us go, then," he prompted, his hands on her shoulders as if to spur her into movement. "If I'm forced to be here, I refuse to do so by skulking in the shadows."

"I thought skulking was one of your best talents," Hermione teased as her impatient companion simply took her by the arm -- his fingers wrapped tightly around her arm just above the elbow -- and pulled her toward the celebrating crowds.

As they neared the pub, she saw Madam Rosmerta smiling down at the festivities from where she stood in its entrance, dressed splendidly in brilliant red robes which showed as much shoulder as Hermione's Muggle dress. Behind her ear was tucked a blooming red rose and her pale hair was in bouncing ringlets. She waved at them as they passed, a mug of butterbeer in one hand as she talked prettily with a great hulking figure dressed in anoversized moleskin coat. The figure turned when he noticed that the barkeep was looking past him and he let out a great bellow when he saw Hermione move toward him.


"Hagrid!" she laughed as she was swept up in a one-arm bear hug which almost crushed her. Although it had only been a week since she'd had tea with him in his hut, he acted as if it had been ages, making a production of his welcoming embrace. However, his rose-tinged cheeks alerted Hermione that Hagrid had been drinking something strong -- she suspected Firewhiskey added to the tankard of butterbeer he clenched in his other hand -- and that he was pleasantly inebriated by this hour of the evening.

"I didn' know yeh'd be comin' tonight," he boomed happily.

"Neither did I," she explained. "It was a spur-of-the-moment decision."

Hagrid's happy expression waned. "Yeh shouldn't be here by yehrself. 'S dangerous for yeh ter be out all by yehrself..."

"For heaven's sake," she rolled her eyes, knowing that Snape would be gloating that Hagrid had offered objections similar to his own. At the worried look on Hagrid's face, she hurriedly continued. "Don't worry, Hagrid -- I'm not alone at all." She gestured over her shoulder to where Snape stood, arms crossed over his chest and his face set in its usual stern lines.

Hagrid followed her gesture until he, too, saw Snape standing there. His large face rearranged itself back into a grinning example of happiness. "Ah, hello there, Professor," he greeted him. "Didn' know that yeh were here with Hermione."

"Hagrid," Snape nodded in acknowledgment.

"Well, then...nothin' ter worry about," Hagrid said to Hermione, smiling down at her. "From the looks o' it, yeh're in good hands."

"Absolutely," she agreed airily.

"C'mon, yeh two," the half-giant invited, his one arm still engulfing Hermione's frame. "Best way ter start out is with somethin' ter drink an' Madam Rosmerta's offering up a-plenty."

The tables around the Three Broomsticks' entrance held not only rows of butterbeer tankards, but also small cups of hot cider and elegantly curved glasses half-filled with dark-colored wine. These stood beside an army of other glasses containing a variety of beverages which she knew to be served at the tiny inn. Although she longed for a butterbeer, Hermione decided upon a glass of the wine whose claret color reminded her of the wine she'd had over Christmas. She chose a glass from the line while Snape did the same, bringing the glass to her lips for a tentative sip of the liquid. Her nose was immediately bombarded by the overwhelming scent of spices -- she recognized cloves, anise and cinnamon -- and the texture of the wine as she swallowed was more akin to honey than to any vino she'd ever tasted. By the time she had taken two sips from her glass, there were tears in her eyes.

"Careful, Hermione," Hagrid warned as she deliberated on whether she wanted to try another sip. "That's special spiced wine an' it's a bit stronger tha' the Muggle stuff. Maybe yeh'd best stick with butterbeer."

"No, I'm fine," she assured Hagrid, who was once again watching her nervously. "It's different, but good. It just takes a moment of getting used to, that's all."

"Miss Granger, it's brought tears to your eyes," Snape pointed out reasonably, although he was faintly amused by the determination on her face. "Perhaps butterbeer would be a wiser choice."

"I said I'm fine," she reminded him firmly. "Let's just call it cathartic, hm?" As if to emphasize her point, she took another, longer sip, one which did not reduce her eyes to watering. Giving him a triumphant look, she turned away to chat animatedly with Rosmerta.

Snape shook his head, wondering if he'd momentarily gone mad to agree to any sort of compromise which had meant that he'd spend his evening in the midst of drunken revelers and smarmy vendors of worthless magical trinkets. As a younger man, he'd attended a lifetime's worth of Midsummer festivals and he had little desire to relive any of the memories which he had associated with them. Still...he refused to let his former student's impulsive curiosity lead her into trouble. He quickly drained his own glass of wine and was reaching for another when he noticed out of the corner of his eye that the Hogwarts gamekeeper was watching him with a very strange expression on his face.

Snape looked away from where Hermione and Rosmerta were still talking and fixed his dark gaze on his colleague with such heavy force that it looked as if the half-giant flinched under the intensity. "Do you have something you'd like to say, Hagrid?"

Hagrid glanced over at the oblivious young woman with a paternal mixture of pride and anxiety. "I can trust yeh with Hermione, can' I?"

"I've been watching after her and her idiot friends for over seven years now. Surely, you think I'm up to the task for a few hours?"

He'd expected one of the gamekeeper's patented dumb grins and a bruising pat on the shoulder; however, he realized that his answer had the exact opposite effect when Hagrid's expression darkened until it was almost serious. "That's not wha' I meant," he shook his head sadly, as if Snape had misunderstood something elementary. "Maybe I should jus' say it this way -- yeh had best treat 'er alright."

To say that Snape was confused would have been an understatement. He was on the verge of snapping, "What in the bloody hell are you talking about?" at Hagrid when Hermione appeared, wine glass still in hand.

She must have noticed the awkward tension of the situation because she frowned ever-so-slightly. "Something wrong?"

"O' course not," Hagrid smiled at her, patting her on the head as if she were his favorite pet cat. "The professor an' me was jus' havin' a nice talk, that's all. Yeh enjoy yerselves, yeh hear?"

Hermione tried to nod from beneath the enormous hand on her head and managed a squeak of a response before Hagrid pulled away and moved into the crowds, somehow cutting through the milling bodies on his way farther down Hogsmeade's main avenue.

"So...what was that all about?"

Snape sighed and shook his head, answering automatically. "I have no idea."

Hermione patted his arm in a friendly manner. "I wouldn't worry too much, Hagrid tends to ramble when he's been nipping into the Firewhiskey."

"I shudder to think of the amount of Firewhiskey that would be needed to inebriate him to such a point," Snape observed, still frowning thoughtfully.

Something about his matter-of-fact statement made Hermione giggle, although she quickly covered her mirth behind her hand as she fought to control it. When he looked at her inquiringly, she waved away his questioning.

"So, what were you and the good Madam discussing so energetically?" Snape asked instead, placing his second empty wine glass on the wooden table.

"Oh, I was asking her what one actually does at the Midsummer festival," she admitted.

"I answered that question before we even came," Snape declared, looking disgruntled.

"Well, I don't particularly consider "drinking and carousing" a fitting and accurate description," Hermione told him dryly. "Madam Rosmerta was kind enough to explain all the attractions to me."

"I have the distinct feeling that I'm going to be forced to experience all these "attractions," aren't I?" Snape sighed, dark eyebrow raised in speculation.

Hermione's good humor faltered. "Of course, you don't have to," she said, suddenly tentative. "You're more than welcome to go around with me, if you'd like, but you could always find yourself a nice quiet table in the Three Broomsticks and wait for me there. After all, you said you were only interested in protecting me, not chaperoning me."

He rolled his eyes, raising a pale hand to stop her rambling speech. "Miss Granger, I am perfectly aware of my options. However, I am also in little doubt that leaving you alone for even a few moments could result in disaster."

"Exactly what are you saying, Professor?" she asked, pretending to be affronted.

"Exactly what you think I'm saying," he stated, his own humor improving. "That you attract trouble like a flame attracts moths."

Hermione half-shrugged, rolling her eyes as her shoulders moved in the mockingly coquettish gesture. "Does that mean that you plan on chaperoning me all night?"

"In a word -- yes," Snape told her firmly.

"Well, then, let's go," she smiled, "Because Madam Rosmerta told me that there's another bonfire on the other side of town and people are actually jumping it for good luck. That's something I really have to see."

Snape feigned utter exasperation but allowed his companion grab him by the wrist and lead him into the jostling crowds which were -- in his vaulted opinion -- doing little more than drinking and carousing. While he doubted few people liked being pushed and shoved within the smothering confines of a crowd of people, Snape had a particular dislike for it. He'd never enjoyed being around a great many people, no matter how spacious the accommodations, but having to fight his way through the sandwiched bodies made the proximity of so many persons even more unbearable.

Hermione, he noticed, seemed to enjoy the challenge of weaving through the other merrymakers -- in fact, she simply seemed to be enjoying herself. They had not made it as far as the post office before she'd halted in her quest to see the fire-jumpers. Instead, he'd found himself positioned at one of the white-draped tables heavy with food, being pestered into eating something from the bounty spread before him. Snape found it strange -- and, to some extent, amusing -- how easily he allowed the girl to order him around and how willing he was to submit to it. When she pushed a handful of strawberries at him with nothing more than a "Aren't allergic, are you?" before she helped herself to some, Snape had done little more than take the proffered fruits and enjoy the sweet taste of berries on his tongue while he watched indolently as she listened to the story of another young witch's colicky baby and nibbled on dandelion shoots.

As strange as it would have seemed to him otherwise, Snape wasn't particularly unhappy about his current position. He was, though, glad to know that there was little chance of Dumbledore seeing him and Miss Granger in such an intimate predicament; if the old wizard had, Snape would never be able to escape his exultations about his "friendship with Miss Granger."

Once Hermione had finished grazing on the salad greens and had told the young mother to try a Muggle product called gripe water, she motioned for Snape to continue with her through the crowds, still intent on seeing a few fool-headed wizards try to jump over a bonfire. Most of the crowds seemed to have similar ideas and the number of people flooding the way seemed to double, making any movement almost impossible. Snape was becoming more impatient by the second but all Hermione did was laugh good-naturedly when an obviously drunken man collided with her, almost knocking her off her feet. It was only Snape's timely invention which saved her: he reacted quickly, planting his hands firmly on her waist as she stumbled into him. She was still leaning against him as she tried to find her balance when the man stumbled over to apologize and did so in stuttering abundance under the malicious watch of the potions master before slinking away, severally castigated.

"That really wasn't necessary," Hermione pointed out as the pair watched the offender meld into the crowds. "He didn't do it purposely. And he did apologize."

"Drunken lout," muttered Snape under his breath. "If he can't take care to behave himself in public, then he need stay out of it."

Hermione simply shook her head. "If we don't start moving again, we'll be crushed in this crowd."

Snape, distracted by his dislike of unruly crowds and slovenly drunkards, paid little attention to the fact that he kept one arm loosely around her as they pushed their way through the crowds.

Hermione, on the other hand, paid the fact a great deal of attention.

At last, their journey ended at the end of the High Street where the crowds had gathered in a loose semi-circle and where the smaller bonfire was burning. She watched in undisguised interest as a handful of people -- mostly young wizards -- tried their luck at jumping the fire, though few were in actual danger of injury as they used a myriad of charms to protect themselves. Still, even without the risk of danger, it was fascinating to watch each hopeful approach the fire and first toss in a bundle of herbs -- she remembered reading about that and how it was for luck -- then, take off galloping toward the fire and try to hurtle over it. It was little wonder that a small hunched wizard stood ready after every attempt to rearrange the scattered logs and cinders with a grand sweep of his wand since most of the would-be jumpers floundered in mid-air, landing on the fire instead of over it.

"Have you not yet tired of watching these idiots?" Snape whispered in her ear after they'd seen a half-dozen attempts. "It's becoming rather redundant."

"It's not idiotic or redundant. It's tradition," Hermione whispered back, eyes watching the latest hopeful as he fell near where the two of them stood on the far side of the bonfire.

"Are you a very fervent believer in tradition, Miss Granger?" Snape's smooth voice rumbled quietly, his head bent close to hers so that she could hear him under the roar and music of the crowds.

She knew that there lay some mischief in his question, so she answered simply, half-turning to look at him. It was only then that she realized exactly how close he stood to her. "Some traditions over others," she managed to say. "Now, do shut it so I can watch."

"As you wish."

It was as Hermione turned away from him and back toward the bonfire that she saw another young wizard land rather ignobly, only he managed to actually make it over the bonfire before crashing to the ground. A roar of approval swept over the crowds as he clamored to his feet, waving energetically with one hand as he used the other to brush away ash from the seat of his brown trousers.

Hermione was cheering as loudly as everyone -- except Snape -- when the jubilant jumper turned to bow dramatically in her direction. Stunned, she stopped clapping but cried out in delight. "Wyatt!"

The young man sought out the source of his name and when his eyes found Hermione's smiling face among the spectators, his large grin widened. "Hermione!" he exclaimed, rushing forward to throw his arms around her as she bustled through the crowds to his side. She returned the greeting warmly with a similar embrace, completely unaware that Snape was scowling at the pair as he watched them exchange pleasantries.

"I can't believe you made it over the fire," Hermione laughed, speaking first as she pulled out of his arms.

"Me, neither," he admitted, also on the verge of laughter. "I wish Victoria would have stayed around to see it. But she said her nerves wouldn't manage it and disappeared up near Gladrags."

"Victoria's here? I'd love to meet her," Hermione told him. While she'd never actually met Victoria Gringle, she'd heard a great deal about the girl from Wyatt, who had told her before Christmas that he planned on marrying his childhood sweetheart. If her friend was to be believed, Miss Gringle was one of the loveliest and kindest witches on earth.

"She'd be thrilled," Wyatt returned, beaming. "She's always wanting to meet you since she's met both Maureen and Elena already. Of course, the fact she's read about you in Witch Weekly probably adds to that desire, I daresay."

Hermione snorted, although good-naturedly. "I hoped you told her the truth about those awful articles."

"I told that whatever the articles said, that you were twice as bad," he teased. "If you'd like, you can go with me now to find her. She should be waiting for me by Scrivenshaft's now that I've jumped the fire and got myself a year's worth of good luck."

"That's fine," Hermione agreed, even as she twisted to glance over her shoulder, allowing her eyes to scan the homogeneity of the crowds. "Just -- let me -- I need to tell..."

"You came with someone?" Wyatt asked, genuinely curious. There was a teasing innuendo echoing in his words. "Now, that's something that I didn't expect so soon after...unless it is Craig?"

"Craig? Of course not," Hermione refuted absently, still trying to find Snape in the crowd. I thought he was right behind me...

"Who are you here with, then?"

"Professor Snape," she answered without hesitation as she spotted him amongst the masses. Hermione realized as she waved her hand to gain his attention that he'd simply moved back from the front line of spectators, no doubt to give a better view of the fire jumping to those who actually cared.

"Professor Snape!?" Wyatt's exclamation was both disbelieving and dumbfounded.

"A rare...pleasure to see you again, as well," Snape drawled dryly as he reached the pair. Hermione turned back toward Wyatt to find him nervously gaping at his former instructor. Obviously not even the causal nature of the meeting helped mollify the Hufflepuff's reaction to seeing the potions master with his university chum.

"Well, no need to ask the two of you if you remember one another," Hermione put in, amused by both of them.

"No, indeed. I remember Mr. Hartford quite well," Snape assured him. "Hufflepuff, 1994. Unusually skilled in Ancient Runes. Not so in Potions."

"Thanks, er, sir," Wyatt returned uneasily, surprised by the unusual civility in Snape's address. "Nice to see you again, Professor."

"I did not realize that the two of you were acquainted from Hogwarts," Snape commented to Hermione, relieving Wyatt of the burden of his black gaze.

"Oh, we weren't," she admitted. "Wyatt just completed his last year at Trinity. We were re-introduced through a mutual friend."

"And did you study Runes at university?" inquired Snape, chillingly polite. Wyatt was under the distinct impression that his old teacher was being nice for Hermione's sake, a fact which mystified him.

"Languages, actually," he clarified. "I've mastered all of ones available for study at Trinity."


Though amused by the stilted attempts at small talk, Hermione decided to save them from the awkward silence. "Wyatt wants me to meet a friend of his," she explained to Snape. "Why don't you head over to Madam Puddifoot's? I'll meet you there in a few minutes."

"May I inquire as to why you'd like to meet there?"

"Because Madam Rosmerta said that --"

Snape held up a hand to stop her from explanation. "Say no more, I understand completely." He pinned Wyatt with a scrutinizing look, mouth set in a disapproving frown. "Remember what I said earlier, Miss Granger. Moths to flames."

"I'll be fine," she told him exasperatedly. "It's only a few minutes, I swear. If I'm too long...well, I'll allow you to make good on your second offer of the night."

Snape knew that she was referring to his earlier threat to drag her back to Hogwarts bound and gagged. "Very well. But make no mistake about it. I have every intention of holding you to that."

"I wouldn't expect anything else," she grinned at him briefly before focusing on Wyatt. "Lead on to this paragon of witchly virtue!"

As Wyatt pulled her toward on the quills shop, Hermione did not see Snape disappear in the other direction, all her attention centered on Wyatt's stunned monologue once they were out of the professor's earshot.

"Snape! I can't believe that you're here with ruddy Snape," he said, torn between amusement and the vestiges of disbelief.

"It can't be that hard to believe since you just saw him," Hermione pointed out jokingly. "What are you on about?"

Wyatt did laugh fully at that. "The great Hermione Granger doesn't know? Or doesn't want to admit to it, eh?"

"What are you talking about, Wyatt? No more hedging," Hermione warned.

"I think I've finally sussed it out," he continued amusedly. "I mean, Maureen's been mad to find out if what Craig said about you pining away for some bloke back home was true and, I didn't really believe it -- not really, I mean--"

"And why were you and Maureen and Craig discussing me behind my back?" Hermione wanted to know, stopping in mid-step to force her friend to look directly at her.

"Not me and Maureen and Craig," Wyatt clarified. "Just me and Maureen. Craig told her and she told me."

"So why were Maureen and Craig discussing me?"

"You're missing the point of this revelation, Herminoe," he informed her impatiently. "The point is that I've figured it out -- the man that you've got stashed back home is Snape!"

"What? I -- you -- Wyatt Hartford, whatever gave you that idea!?" she shrieked.

"Oh, come on, Hermione," Wyatt said, rolling his eyes. "It's as plain as the nose on -- well -- Snape's face, it is. A mysterious man you're pining for; all those owls you got from him during school, and now -- here, with him, at the ruddy Midsummer festival!"

"What does one have to do with the another?" she snapped.

"Midsummer? It's just the most important night of the year for love and passion and romance, m'dear."

"And here I thought that it was Valentine's Day," she muttered sarcastically.

"Maybe for kids at Hogwarts," he told her. "But Midsummer is the ancient festival of looove in the wizarding world since ancient times. It's still one of the most popular nights for marriage ceremonies."

Hermione groaned inwardly. How could she have let that important fact slip her mind when she was reading? "It's not like that," she contradicted, a bit dismally. "Snape's only tagging along with me because he thinks Dumbledore will skin him alive if he'd let me traipse around alone and something were to happen. I swear to you that I had every intention of coming here alone until he decided to play chaperone."

"Really?" At Hermione's vigorous nod, he sighed. "Aw, hell. And I'd finally thought that I had some gossip to give Maureen instead of being the last to know."

"Rotten luck," Hermione empathized insincerely.

"Yeah, yours, too," he told her as he looped an arm around her shoulders and nudged her in the direction of Scrivenshaft's. "I mean, if you had been pining for Snape and he'd come along with you to this thing -- to older folks, it's about as good as a proposal, you know."

Hermione buried that small part of her that was desperately hopeful that it might have meant more to Snape than simply a baby-sitting assignment, her logical mind firmly dousing that spark before it kindled to fire. Instead, she turned the discussion toward Victoria. "So, is that what this is for you and Victoria? An engagement outing?"

"No, that was Beltane for us," he admitted, smiling the dopey smile which Hermione had come to equate with young men in love. "We haven't decided on a date quite yet but -- soon. Before the year's out. Personally, I want it to be sooner but her family thinks that this engagement's running too short." Wyatt looked as if he wanted to say more but his eyes lingered on someone a few paces ahead of them and he flung his arm up to wave frantically. "Victoria!"

In response, Hermione saw a shy-looking blonde smile sweetly back at him, mimicking Wyatt's raised-hand gesture. Hermione noticed that, like herself, Victoria was wearing a Muggle dress as opposed to robes, although the style of the other witch's attire was dowdyish in comparison to Hermione's more modern garb. Like Rosmerta and most of the other witches at the festival, she had tiny white flowers tucked into loops of her braided hair.

Hermione's initial impression of Victoria being shy had not been correct; while she wasn't overly outgoing, she had a quiet energy to her that reminded Hermione of Ginny and a wicked sense of humor ready under the surface of her composed demeanor. Friendly and polite, she had the good grace to look chagrined at Wyatt's teasing mention of her dedicated following of the Witch Weekly magazine -- much to Hermione's amusement -- and when Hermione offered congratulations about the couple's impending nuptials, Victoria thanked her profusely, the feminine version of Wyatt's sillily-in-love smile taking hold of her delicate features.

"I'm so excited -- no nervousness about it, really," she replied, color still high from the Witch Weekly comment. "I only wish that my parents weren't being so old-fashioned about it. They've been wanting us to wait until Midsummer next but I firmly refused. I don't really see the point in waiting in uncertain days like understand?"

"Yes," Hermione agreed wholeheartedly. "I do."

Something in Hermione's -- or Victoria's -- face must have darkened because Wyatt frowned. "None of that, now," he chided. "This is a celebration. There'll be no moping around. Understand?"

"Yes, yes," Victoria complied testily, giving her fiancé a pointed look. "Fun, relaxation -- I remember." When she cast an exaggerated long-suffering look at Hermione as if to seek sympathy, Hermione couldn't help but laugh. Victoria Gringle had made a very good impression on her and she'd found herself approving Wyatt's choice.

Suddenly, Victoria looked quizzically at Hermione, tilting her head to one side as she did. "I just noticed that you've no flowers in your hair."

"So?" Hermione asked, tossing her hair over her shoulder. "I spent the first half of the night getting plants out of it."

"It will never do," Victoria said brightly. "This is Midsummer. All witches should have flowers in their hair!"

"I'll manage, thanks," Hermione chuckled.

"But it's tradition, Hermione," Wyatt argued playfully. "Just wait right here. I'll be back in a trice." As Wyatt bounded across the street over to where an old witch had a small wooden cart overflowing with blossoms, Victoria called after him, "A clover wreath!"

A moment later, he reappeared with a circlet made of braided clover which he handed over to Victoria. Before Hermione could protest, the other young woman had her hands in her hair, rearranging the wild mess and fixing the wreath upon her head.

When she stepped away, she nodded satisfactorily. "Lovely, if I do say so myself."

"I'll take your word for it," Hermione quipped, glancing upwards dubiously as if she would see the wreath upon her own head. She could feel the weight of the hair which Victoria had gathered within the confines of the wreath, though much of it still remained loose. She patted the wreath gingerly.

"Now, you're fixed up proper," Wyatt approved. "Even if it's only for Snape!"

"Oh, you're here with someone?" Victoria echoed, looking around. "Where is he?"

Hermione sighed, giving Wyatt a dark look. "I don't have a date," she told Victoria. "I have a chaperone, which is something else entirely. Speaking of which...I'm supposed to be meeting up with him over near Madam Puddifoot's."

Although Wyatt thought that Snape was best left to his own devices -- Let 'em wait! It's not as if you're not old enough to be out without a chaperone -- Hermione felt compelled to keep her word. And not only because he'd threatened to drag her back to Hogwarts in chains, she chuckled to herself. No, Hermione could admit that she enjoyed spending time with Snape, even if he was under duress to do so. Shouldn't she take advantage of the chance? Her project was nearing an end, after which she'd return home and wouldn't see him again for months, if she saw him at all. In these uncertain times, the future was not always guaranteed.

Remembering Victoria's words, she shivered but firmly pushed away the cold grip of fear they brought her. It was -- as Wyatt had so eloquently stated -- Midsummer, a night for fun and joy and love.

For a moment, Hermione wondered what it would be like to be celebrating this festival as Wyatt and Victoria were, with someone who one loved so deeply that she was happily prepared to spend the remainder of their long lives together...

With a shuddering sigh, she realized she was -- only it was depressingly one-sided.

On this night, she could no longer simply live with her conflicting opinions about Snape. She knew, with the same clarity which she'd come to have on dozen less important topics, that she was in love with Snape, just as the hayam potion had indicated over a year before.

Hermione Granger loved Severus Snape.

What kind of insanity had taken hold to produce that situation?

As heady and heavy as the spiced wine had been, Hermione allowed the truth of her realization to sweep over her, suddenly dim to the carousing crowds around her and even to the friend who helped guide her through them.

While it had taken time and the ancient magic of Midsummer, Hermione's head had finally come to agree with her heart.

Heart Over Mind

A Harry Potter Story
by Regann

Part 14 of 27

<< Previous     Home     Next >>