Continuing Tales

Heart Over Mind

A Harry Potter Story
by Regann

Part 16 of 27

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Heart Over Mind

Despite the fact that she had liked Remus Lupin for as long as she'd known him, Hermione spent the last days of her summer stay at Hogwarts trying to decide if she loved him or hated him for his very inopportune appearance that morning after Midsummer. She oscillated frequently between the two poles, one minute certain that she'd kill him upon their next meeting before recanting her rash statements and vowing to thank him for unwittingly saving her from what might have happened.

Of course, then she'd remembered what had almost happened and the whole spiral started again.

On one hand, Hermione was most displeased by the unlucky chance that Remus should stumble upon she and Snape only seconds -- seconds -- before Snape was going to kiss her.

Snape. Kiss. Her.

Just the thought of what that simple memory might have meant was enough to make Hermione want to throw her ink bottle across the room and scream about the injustice of life. First, she was forced -- forced -- into taking the hayam potion which started the whole mess by informing her that she had no simple school crush on her mysterious professor but that she truly loved him and probably would until the day she died -- a day she was beginning to think was not as far off as she'd once thought. Then there'd been bloody Dumbledore and his lemon drops and his infuriatingly kind and wise manner, telling her not to lose hope and not to despair but nor should she ever disavow the truth of her heart's desire.

She'd borne it all quite well, she thought, everything from that horrible day in the classroom until the afternoon of Midsummer when she'd been so worried about Snape's tardiness that she'd become physically ill. She'd accepted her feelings and acknowledged them that Midsummer night, promising herself that she could live on whatever affection he gave her through their strange friendship and it would have been enough.

And it would have been enough had she'd not felt her nerves crackle at the undeniable certainty that Snape had been about to kiss her, only to have Remus bloody Lupin ruin it with his honestly coincidental presence.

Of course, at this point in her mental tirade, that little voice of reason in the back of her mind would clear its throat and, sounding uncannily like her mother, would remind her that perhaps the consequences would have been far greater and more dire had Remus not appeared when he did. There was as much evidence to support the idea that perhaps his timely arrival saved her from undue hurt and embarrassment, or even events far more dangerous.

With clarity granted only by time, Hermione knew that in the moment when he'd almost kissed her that she -- intoxicated not only by wine but by the headier spirits of the experience of Midsummer -- would have willingly submitted to anything that he might have suggested -- even if that something had been as innocuous as her retiring to her bed for a good night's rest or as temptingly dangerous as an invitation back to his for one-night assignation in the dungeons.

In all honesty, Hermione knew that she'd been quite ready to acquiesce to the slightest hint of seduction. She still found it strange how quickly her mind had thought of the possibility and silently hoped for it even as she felt as if she'd lost all ability to think properly.

What if that had been what Remus's intervention had prevented? Her logical side admitted that it would have not have helped her if such a thing had happened. It would have only made her feelings harder to bear, especially when she'd have had to face herself in the mirror the morning after.

It still smarted, wondering if Snape saw the almost-kiss only as a by-product of the combined effects of the wine and the night, nothing more than an impulsive and probably regretted moment. She didn't want to imagine how she'd feel if there had been a seduction and she'd had to face that epiphany.

In the end, Hermione decided that indecision about such a complicated matter was forgivable and she settled for feeling something nebulous between resentment and relief in regards to Remus's timing. She wished he'd been a few moments later, and that she'd had that kiss to remember but she was just as grateful that his appearance might have diverted her from any reckless decisions or actions taken in the heat of the moment.

Once she'd stopped wanting to simultaneously hit and thank her dear former DADA professor, Hermione's tedious mental analysis had a much more tender topic to mull: that of how to act around Snape now that she'd all but thrown herself at him on Midsummer night. On the immediate morning -- or rather, afternoon, when she'd finally risen -- she'd chose the time-honored tactic of avoidance. She'd had her meals in the her room and had not ventured any closer to the dungeons than absolutely necessary. It worked well, and had continued to work beautifully, especially since Snape seemed to be engaging in a similar line of defense.

In a place as large and empty as Hogwarts in summer, two persons who had no desire to meet had no reason to.

It had been the second morning when Hermione had become suspicious that Snape was avoiding her just as she'd been avoiding him. Gathering her courage, she'd attended breakfast and no one had looked at her with even faint curiosity aside from Remus, who'd tossed her a concerned look over the marmalade. Afterwards, she'd clenched her hands and steeled herself for a trip to Snape's personal laboratory where her experiments awaited one final procedure before they would be ready for data collection. Though she agonized over any possible interaction, she'd decided she would not allow her own personal stupidity to interfere with her schoolwork.

Her worries had been in vain since Snape was nowhere around in the dungeons that afternoon. And he'd continued to be absent from the Great Hall, library and his own office and laboratory whenever Hermione might have been present. She'd begun to wonder if he'd taken to confinement within his quarters until she discussed the matter with the small portrait of a raven-haired witch hanging in a easily ignored niche of the laboratory whose subject assured her that the professor had merely "stepped out" only moments before her arrival.

With that bit of knowledge, she'd then begun to wonder if Snape had set up some clandestine network of informers to let him know when she was heading in his general direction. She certainly thought him capable of it.

While Snape was being almost obliging in his own decision to ignore her throughout the last few days of her visitation, Remus Lupin was not so easily discouraged. Though he'd accepted her attempts at dodging him for the first few days, the werewolf had refused to accept another one on the morning of the fourth day. Remus had appeared at her door and had suggested -- in the same way Dumbledore was known to do -- that she join him for a walk around the school grounds.

Knowing that the discussion was inevitable and that perhaps speaking to Lupin could help, Hermione abandoned her diversionary tactics and agreed.

The morning was still cool and dewy as she and Lupin followed the familiar path around the Hogwarts lake, one which she and Harry had walked innumerable times in their careers at Hogwarts and one which she felt certain Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs had taken in the course of their own seven years.

They walked slowly and Hermione waited miserably for Remus to speak. Though they'd become something like friends in the years since he'd first left the post of DADA professor, there was still a touch of formality about their relationship and Hermione prepared herself for the stern words she expected.

Remus Lupin, however, was nothing if not unexpected -- in his own quiet way, of course.

"I'm not going to ask you any questions about the other night," he finally said, his hoarse voice so concerned and kind that Hermione felt guilty for ever harboring certain homicidal thoughts against him. "I know what I saw on Midsummer and I'm intelligent enough to put two and two together on my own."

Hermione nodded, eyes downcast as they watched her sandals move against the green grass.

"But I do wonder...are my instincts correct in assuming that...this has been of some duration?"

Hermione slowed her steps, crossing her arms over her chest as Remus stopped to turn and looked at her. She glanced up at him, saw nothing but compassion in his expression, and sighed. "If what you're asking is about the hayam...then, yes. It's him. It always has been."

"Oh, Hermione..." Lupin sighed, his voice laden with sympathy. It reminded Hermione of her grandmother's teasing query as to whether she'd fancied this particular professor and again she wished that she had lost her heart to someone like Remus Lupin. Things would have been much more simple if she had.

"I know," she laughed shakily, forced and brittle. "Rotten luck of mine, isn't it?"

"Have you...does anyone else...?" Remus seemed reluctant to finish his question.

"Know?" she guessed, continuing at his affirming nod. "No, no one expect Dumbledore, of course, because he knows everything. I certainly didn't tell him, I mean..." Hermione trailed off, her expression somber. "I couldn't actually tell anyone, now could I?"

"I'm sorry," Remus told her truthfully. There was great understanding in the simple apology and she realized that it actually helped in its own limited way.

She glanced back up at him, smiling timorously. "Nothing for you to be sorry over, Remus. You didn't do anything."

Remus laid a gentle hand on her arm in a silent offer of comfort. "I will ask no more questions," he repeated solemnly, "but if you need to talk to someone, I will be here for you, Hermione. I hope you realize that."

"I know. Thank you," she added, gently pulling away. Though her eyes were dry, she felt compelled to brush at them with the back of her hand.

Ignoring the defensive nature of the gesture, Remus smiled winningly at her as he motioned for them to continue their walk. They continued circling the lake, their conversation easy and unstilted as they spoke on inconsequential matters like books and plants and Crookshanks.

And slowly, Hermione felt the weight of dread which had been knotted in her stomach loosen slightly and she was lightened by the knowledge that she had someone who knew the truth, someone with whom to share the burden.

More than she thought it would have been, that knowledge was liberating.


As soon as he reached his chambers after having left Hermione to Lupin on the front steps of the Hogwarts castle, Snape had taken the precaution of closing the ornamental lock on the carved doors of his antique liquor cabinet before tossing the key to the very bottom of the lake.

Hermione Granger or no Hermione Granger, Snape should have never attended the Midsummer festival in Hogsmeade.

Though some would call it cowardly, Snape had decided the best course of action in the wake of the embarrassing events of that night was to refrain from any contact with Miss Granger for the duration of her visit at Hogwarts. Old memories of Midsummers past had led Snape to a serious overindulgence in alcohol, an act in and of itself outside of the proper bounds of behavior for someone of his impeccable lineage and background. The imbuement had caused the events of the night to become fainter and fuzzier with time and each new glass, until its end had become little more than flashes of color, feeling and fog.

Yet, not even this eased his regret because he knew that a few days' passing would allow him to remember whatever stupid things he'd said and done in those blurry, uninhibited moments.

He was doubly mortified by the fact that his lack of good sense had been witnessed by one of his former students and that particular fact sharply stung in his ego. So, Snape decided to punish himself further by refusing any magical methods to alleviate his hangover and to repair his tattered pride in the preferred solitude of his chambers.

It wasn't until the fourth day of his self-imposed quarantine that anyone dare approach his personal rooms and intrude on that welcomed solitude. At first, he'd thought that the light knock had belonged to Dumbledore, but he quickly dismissed the notion because the headmaster rarely knocked and even more rarely waited for an answer before entering.

He did know that it was not Hermione who bothered him. He had it on good authority from the Lady Lovell portrait in his sitting room who'd spoken to the fresco of San Marco near a certain entrance that Hermione had not left the confines of the library since noon. He had checked the fact before going to his office since he'd had no desire to meet her accidentally as she visited her experiments in his laboratory.

When another, more forceful knock sounded, Snape resigned himself to the fact that his unwanted guest had no intention of leaving and so wrenched open the door to find himself face to face with a politely determined Remus Lupin.

"Good afternoon, Severus," he answered pleasantly to the professor's growled demand of what he wanted. "I just decided to stop in and have a friendly visit with an old colleague. It is time for tea, after all."

Never quite sure how it came about, Snape found himself having a cozy tea in his chambers with Remus Lupin. The werewolf made quite a spectacle as he stubbornly clung to the "friendly visit" description of his excuse by chatting about the weather ("quite lovely, actually, which you'd know if you came above ground"); his immediate plans ("I'm leaving in two days' time, for Corsica of all places"); as well as making polite inquiries into Snape's current laboratory work. While Snape doubted that his former colleague was interested in the newest research on the use of other bodily fluids as a substitute for blood, Snape answered his questions with icy dignity as his guest listened with rapt attention and ate a handful of raspberry scones.

Finally, Lupin could evade no longer and he cleared his throat, setting aside his teacup. "So, you took Hermione to the Midsummer festival, did you?"

"Yes," he admitted, frowning to show his dislike of the topic at hand. "It's not as if you didn't see us, Lupin."

"You're right, of course," Lupin agreed uncertainly, his words slow as he wasted a moment to reach for his teacup. He did not drink, however, but simply held the fragile porcelain in his hands. "It's just that I had not realized that your feelings for Hermione had taken on so serious a romantic dimension."

At that declaration, Snape nearly choked on the sip of tea he'd just taken, snorting and sputtering as he tried to keep from being strangled. "I think you've finally surrendered your mind to the moon, Lupin, because you've gone mad."

"Have I?" Lupin wanted to know, glancing up from the amber liquid in his cup. "I don't see where I've said anything so crazy."

"To think that I ---"

"What else am I to think, then?" Lupin asked firmly. "I know the two of you have become close since she's left school and --"

"A few owls about bezoars hardly makes us close."

"--- and I have suspected that you'd grown fond of her. Then I show up here to see the pair of you having come from a Midsummer festival together. I know what that means, Severus. I'm not so ancient as to think it's a bloody engagement, but I do know the significance of it."

"I merely went to make certain that Miss Granger did not find trouble," Snape argued icily. "While I am as aware of the traditions as you, I hardly thought you would be so daft to believe that they apply to myself and Miss Granger in such a fashion. I can promise you that I did not take her to Hogsmeade as a sign of my intentions to court her. You must see how ridiculous it is to even think that."

"What I see," Lupin stated steely, "is a quick-witted, intelligent wizard who's found himself a proper match in an attractive like-minded young witch. There's nothing wrong with it, you know. Most normal people in such a situation would be happy."

"That is hardly the case," Snape snapped. "I harbor no kind of romantic intentions toward Hermione Granger."

Lupin sighed, as if greatly disappointed. "You may continue to lie to yourself if you'd like," he told him, "but I was there, Severus. If I had arrived a few seconds later, I'd have stumbled on something much more significant than the cozy scene I did find waiting. Say what you will, but I know what it looks like when a man is about to kiss a woman."

"Lupin..." It was Snape's turn to issue the warning.

"I think that you're being deliberately obtuse," Lupin stated, rising. "And if you weren't, you might realize something very important. Good day, Severus, and thanks for the tea."

Head-spinningly fast, Snape was alone in his chambers with nothing but the echoed remembrance of Lupin's words and his own thoughts to keep him company. Not that he actuallygave much credence to Lupin's babble.

Snape had not been about to kiss Hermione Granger; the whole idea was preposterous. He had never harbored the tiniest sliver of affection or attraction for any of his students, current or former, and frizzy-haired, moralistic Granger was not the sort to change his mind on the subject.


He did think her beautiful, and she'd been enchantingly so in the glow of the torchlight, her smiling face etched vividly in his memory. And it had felt nice to hold her to him in that facsimile of a dance they'd shared.

Then, there'd been that moment on the front steps in the light of dawn, when he'd thought, when he'd almost entertained the notion of...

Touching her, which he'd done.

Kissing her, which he'd desperately wanted to do.

Oh dear god.

He would have given into that last temptation as well had it not been for Lupin's appearance, though he'd always prided himself on his restraint in such matters.

For Severus Snape had learned many years ago that it did not do well to allow himself to be lured into giving into temptations, especially dangerous ones. When he'd been a teenager, nothing had been more dangerous, more tempting or more seductive than the lure of the Dart Arts and that had ended badly.

An image of Hermione just as she'd been moments before Lupin's arrival arose up in his mind, suddenly freed from the fog of his liquored memory: her hair in disarray around her face and down her bare shoulders, the clinging dress, the shadowed quality of her eyes...

Tempting. Dangerous. Seductive.

The fact that he had begun to compare Hermione Granger to the Dark Arts alerted him to the great extent to which he'd fallen prey to his own traitorous desires.

Snape wasn't certain what kind of lunacy had taken hold over him in the past few months, but he realized that prolonged physical exposure to Hermione's presence was the cause of it, though it had taken Midsummer for it to reach a level where he'd been unable to ignore it any longer.

In fact, it had taken old, toothless, tactless Ljalja and meddling, officious Lupin to point out what should have been obvious to a man of his perception.

Somewhere between her seventh year and that summer, Snape's tolerance of Hermione had given way to an affection that he admitted went beyond the waspish kind of friendship which he usually cultivated between himself and others, when he bothered to cultivate anything at all.

Affection, even to his own ears, sounded hollow and inadequate, but there was no stronger word for him to use. Truthfully, Snape was too busy counting himself a fool to think much on semantics, though he was certain that he'd managed to make a damn fool of himself.

What else could he be called but a fool? He -- a brilliant and capable wizard of almost forty years -- had allowed himself to become attached to a mere girl, an enterprising but wholly unsuitable creature who had once been his student. It was ridiculous to his own ears; he could only imagine what others would say about the situation.

And it had taken his own weakening control that had almost resulted in some very inappropriate behavior to clue him into the fact that he'd been engulfed by something he'd never noticed threatening him.

With Lupin as a witness to his unfortunate slip that night as well as his strange behavior at tea, Snape had come to expect a visit from Dumbledore to occur at any moment, one replete with kind admonitions and gentle hints about proper conduct. When none came, he assumed that Lupin had kept silent on the matter out of deference of Granger's feelings.

Snape refused to contemplate very deeply on what she might be thinking of his suddenly-obvious behavior, but none of the few scenarios he reviewed were amiable ones.

How could it be otherwise? He knew her interests were already engaged elsewhere and those feelings were stronger than most. Although he was not certain on their object, he had his suspicions and he knew that it was not love of him which had protected her from the hayam potion. To believe so would have only been self-delusion and Snape had little time for such nonsense.

He refused to think of the pain that that realization caused in him.

In the end, Snape decided that he would continue to keep to his rooms and hope -- pray, if necessary -- that after Hermione was safely ensconced at her Muggle home far away from him and Hogwarts, he'd be able to free himself of whatever metaphysical fever had left him delirious enough to make him act in such a foolish manner in regards to something he'd learned long ago was rarely worth the humiliation.

He refused to give coherent thought as to what that matter was.


It was amazing, Hermione reflected, how much more quickly she was able to work on her research project when she focused whole-heartedly on its completion, instead of allowing the distractions -- usually in the form of Snape -- surrounding her to divide her attention. It also helped that she no longer wanted to prolong her stay at Hogwarts any longer than necessary. Snape was still avoiding her and she felt that nothing but space and time would mend the damage done to their fledging friendship by the disastrous end of Midsummer night.

It did sadden her, though, that she wouldn't have a chance to say goodbye. It seemed ominous when times were so dangerous to leave the simplest things unsaid.

She did make certain to wish Remus a fond farewell the night before his early morning departure was scheduled, and the pair spent a quiet evening together discussing all and sundry, though the conversations seemed to particularly gravitate to Harry and particularly ignore Snape, a fact which Hermione silently appreciated. While one part of her desperately wondered what Remus might think of her feelings for Snape, she did not feel quite up to the challenge of dealing with Lupin's opinions if they were as negative as she feared.

Perhaps driven by such thoughts, Hermione felt in no mood to retire after Remus had departed her guest chambers for his own and had little trouble in finding the time to add the polishing touches to the final draft of her project. Pleased with the neat roll of parchment filled with crisp black lines of her handwriting, Hermione set the original and the magically-made copy on her desk where they would await both her own wax seal and Dumbledore's before being shipped off to a board of Trinity professors for examination. After that, all she had to do was wait for the score to arrive to her by owl-post and she'd have neatly managed to reduce her course-load by several classes with a few weeks' diligent work.

Still far from sleepiness, Hermione indulged in a long, hot bath in the guest facilities that rivaled anything she had for her use at Trinity and dwarfed the adequate bathroom in her Muggle home. But not even the warmth of the water nor the soothing effect of the lavender-scented bath oil could lull Hermione to sleep; instead, she busied herself with stacking books and parchments. The Hogwarts library books could be returned to Madame Pince, she noted, now that she'd finished her project and her drafts would be stored away in case any questions arose about the methodology of her research. Her personal tomes would be packaged for shipment back to the Granger household, only to be sent back to her Trinity dormitories in September.

Her fingers lingered over the cover of A Book of Days as she added it to the top of the stack to be returned to the library.

It was at that moment that truth hit her forcefully, unexpectedly at the sight of that particular book: she would be leaving in a few days, possibly as early as tomorrow afternoon, depending on Dumbledore's schedule. She'd return to her home to spend some time with her parents and then she'd be back at Trinity until Christmas. It could be months before she even laid eyes on Snape after she left the school grounds. Perhaps, she could summon the courage to write him again, but...

So much could happen in a few months. The war, raging everywhere. Wasn't that what Remus had told her? The fighting was escalating and everything was more dangerous. What if...what if something...

Suddenly, the spacious guest chamber was much too small and suffocating for Hermione's taste. She barely remembered to grab her dressing gown as she dashed out of the room and into the dark halls of the school. Despite the season, night had dawned cool and silent over the castle, the vacant halls painted in tones of blue by the stillness of the night sky through the vaulting windows. The sharp damp coolness of the stone corridors brought a welcome chill to Hermione's flushed skin and she quickly wrapped her dressing gown around her though the thin, satiny fabric did little to alleviate the pleasant cool. It did, however, do a much better job of covering her than the matching nightgown worn closest to her skin. At the first touch of that coolness on her skin, Hermione's initial frenzy ebbed away, leaving in its place nothing but a vague sense of restlessness and she was loathed to return to the stifling confinement of her bedchamber.

Instead, she wandered the cool, empty corridors.

Her walk -- slow, ambling -- had no purpose and little direction. As a student, she'd never been one for roaming the halls at night, as Harry and Ron had. But as she did so in the quiet of solitude, she slowly came to understand the appeal Harry had attributed to it in his last year -- the calm it could bring, the reflection it allowed. Allowing her bare feet to lead her with no premeditation, Hermione drifted through the castle, her unhappy thoughts stilled by the quiescent landscape of her surroundings. By sheer force of will, she tried to banish all ideas of leaving and the war and Snape out of her foremost thoughts.

Unfortunately, it was not as simple a task as she'd have liked and the troublesome thoughts continued to skim the surface of her attention, not entirely coherent but present nonetheless. Once again, she wished she'd had had the courage to talk to Lupin about it before he'd left. She needed advice and was frankly leery of bringing anyone else in to her confidence on the subject. Ginny's name rose in her mind as the only likely candidate but Hermione was intelligent enough to know that this kind of information wasn't something one simply dropped into a casual letter.

Hello Ginny, I'm in love with Professor Snape, was hardly going to receive its proper due.

There was also her aunt Sophia who had to know something of love after having been engaged five times to four different men over as many continents; or her grandmother Rosalia, the romantic of the family; but neither of them were any more available for ready consultation than Ginny.

No, she decided, following the curve of the familiar corridor, she would have to act without any outside opinions and her own instinct was to continue avoiding her former professor until she was safely away from Hogwarts. Once she was settled at home, she could simply owl him and -- hopefully -- everything embarrassing which had passed could be ignored.

Hermione could not dwell on the chance that she could lose him, no matter how true such a threat was. To think in such a way would slowly drive her mad, just as it would if she worried herself constantly over Harry or Ron or any number of her dangerously networked friends. She would simply hold fast to her stubborn hope and optimism that the fighting would end soon and end well for the Wizarding World.

She was noting with some irony how miserably she had failed at driving Snape from her thoughts when she passed through another passage and into another section of Hogwarts, very close to the kitchens entrance she had learned of in her fourth year. While Hermione was not one to enjoy making undue demands of the legion of house elves who ran the castle, she could find no harm in asking if she could procure some tea, preferably chamomile. Finally with a destination in mind, Hermione's gait gained its usual no-nonsense speed as she altered course in order to reach the painting of the pear which begged to be tickled.

It was not until she turned onto another long corridor that Hermione was bombarded with the niggling sensation that she was no longer the only creature to be haunting the hallways, Peeves notwithstanding. At first, she thought that the presence she sensed might have been that of a wayward apparition or a particularly lively painting but the few oils and watercolors which dotted the walls were resting peacefully and nothing minutely supernatural crossed her path. Hermione was ready to concede to paranoia when she finally caught sight of a dark figure moving through the darkness of an intersecting hallway and it only took an infinitesimal glimpse of a flaring dark robe for her to be able to recognize Snape's form in the blurry shadow moving toward her.

In hopes that he would not be able to sense her presence, Hermione slowed her steps, clinging to the shadows of the castle's gothic structure in order to remain unseen. However, her cautious measures were too late -- a tiny pinprick of light from one of the frosted-pane windows had danced across the light-colored fabric of her dressing gown and the effect had teased at Snape's attention. He turned toward her to peer down the seemingly empty corridor only to find a very still Hermione a few paces from where he stood.

Just as Hermione had felt electricity lick through her veins at his almost-kiss, energy pulsed between them. But this time it was suffocating and tense, both of them staring at the other, unsure and awkward at how to proceed now that they were face-to-face.

"Miss -- Granger?" Snape asked, as if to assure himself that she were not some mirage brought to life by his own unsettling thoughts.

"Professor Snape," was her faint reply.

Snape did not allow himself to be intimidated by his own discomfort or his companion's obvious unease. "I did not expect to see you wandering the halls so early in the morning," he told her tersely, his tone as cool and piercing as it had ever been in the classroom.

"Nor I, you," Hermione returned, her clipped tone an instinctive reaction to his. "There are no students to be caught out of bed, after all."

An eyebrow rose in typical fashion. "And you are," he noted, a shade of accusation in his tone as if he blamed her for her presence.

"I am not a student," Hermione pointed out dryly. Though her own heart was beating rapidly in her chest, she was still able to discern a similar kind of stress in Snape's unusually stiff motions as he jerkily crossed his arms over his chest.

"And yet still there seems to be little reason for you to be wandering the corridors," he said, tone dark. "Obviously there must be some reason for it?" He eyed her closely, expression hard and suspicious. "'re looking to see Lupin again before he leaves? Well, I'm afraid he's already left on his assignment if that was your...motivation." Heavy secret meanings lurked in his pauses and intonation but Hermione could not quite understand what.

"Looking for Remus?" she repeated in puzzlement, her voice growing faint as she spoke. "Why would you immediately assume that?"

"You have been little from his company since his arrival. I -- assumed -- you wanted to ...ah...wish him a fond farewell."

"We said our goodbyes this afternoon," she informed him, almost suffocating under the tension and unspoken anger rippling between them.

"And again this evening, no doubt," Snape snapped back icily.

Her irritation cut through her awkwardness. Hermione frowned at him as she pinned him with a dark look. "I detect your reproach lurking somewhere in this conversation, Professor."

He unfolded his arms and held them up in a physical expression of forbearance. "Far be it from me to judge your choice of... friends."

With little thought, she chose to ignore his uneven stresses as she snapped, "Particularly since you're one of them."

Her annoyed retort froze Snape mid-reply. He gave her another inscrutable look as he slowly lowered his arms to their original position, his eyes locked on hers. "Am I?"

Her response was quiet and heartfelt, devoid of irritation but heavy with wistfulness. "I'd like to think so. At least, I had ... hoped."

Almost simultaneously, they both chose to look away, Snape's gaze lingering over the sleeping animals of a nearby portrait while Hermione traced a sliver of moonlight with her eyes. Again, everything was still and silent, with the awkwardness no longer blanketed by snappish anger or annoyance.

"I'm --- flattered," Snape finally spoke again, still looking away.

"So am I," Hermione admitted, her voice nearly a whisper.

The silence stretched between them, hanging listlessly in the space between them, neither certain of what to do with such an admission.

Snape cleared his throat uncomfortably. "Although you are no longer a student, it is not -- prudent -- for you to wander the halls," he said, quite subdued.

"Oh, you're right, I suppose," Hermione took a few steps away from him. "I guess I'll head off to my chambers. Goodnight, Professor."

"Goodnight, Miss Granger," Snape echoed, turning away from her. "Pleasant...dreams."

"Same to you," she returned before spinning on heel and retreating rapidly in the direction from which she'd come.

As Snape watched her disappear, a vision of moonlight-colored brightness against the pitch of the darkened walls, he knew that pleasant though they might be, his dreams would be haunted with thoughts of her.


Just as he'd suspected, Snape found his dreams that night to be far from peaceful. He rose early and, having breakfasted before the meal would be served in the main hall, he quickly retreated to the staffroom where he planned to spend most of his day working on some correspondence as well as other tedious lesson changes for the new year -- a fact which made him wonder why he'd chosen to try a new textbook for his upper-level courses. While he usually chose to do his work closeted in his office, the days of avoiding Hermione had given him a strange and singular case of cabin fever in regards to the dungeon environment of his chambers and office and he hoped that the wood-paneled, windowed staffroom could cure him of it. Luckily, he knew that few teachers occupied the room during off-terms and he expected few distractions or interruptions.

He was correct until mid-morning when Professor McGonagall entered the staffroom, her heavy traveling cloak tossed over one arm as she scanned the room as if in search of something. When she glanced over Snape sitting in his preferred chair by the fire, she crossed toward him.

"Severus, you haven't seen Albus in the last few minutes, have you?" she asked him and he noticed that the hideous piece of tartan cloth which she called a purse was also swinging from her arm.

"I have not had that pleasure all day," he answered stoically, overlarge nose buried in the new Potions text. He paused in his reading to lift his quill from a small side table, dip it into the waiting ink and scratch something scathing in the margin of the paragraph he was reading.

McGonagall sighed the long-suffering sigh of a woman accustomed to continual interaction with Albus Dumbledore. "Well, if you see him, tell him that I'm still waiting for his list and I do plan to leave sometime today."


"Yes, a list of things he wanted me to bring him from London," she informed Snape, rolling her eyes. "I believe that a great deal of it consists of Muggle candy." Snape made a noise of sympathetic agreement even while he remained engrossed in the textbook. "By the by, Severus, is there anything you have need of from London? Muggle or from Diagon Alley."

"Nothing that cannot wait until I may procure it myself," he told her. "But thank you for the kindness."

She waved away his unusually polite remarks. "Well, if you change your mind, just let me know before lunch; Miss Granger and I have plans to leave just after it."

Despite himself, Snape could not help but close his book and focus his attention wholly on McGonagall as he asked, "Miss Granger is accompanying you?"

"She's the reason that I'm going," Minerva explained, matter-of-fact as she plucked a stray cat hair from her cloak. "I'm escorting her to the Ministry of Magic this afternoon."

"Whatever for?"

"She wants to test for her Apparition license before she returns home. I was surprised myself that she not yet done so but apparently there was an incident -- and you know the kind of which I speak, Severus -- the last time she went to test and she was never given a chance that day."

Snape remembered the "incident" in question quite vividly and tried to focus on details of the Voldemort-led sabotage in an attempt to distance himself from the unpleasant emotions he felt at the knowledge that Granger was finally -- as he'd been hoping -- removing herself from Hogwarts. It did not help. "So, Miss Granger is leaving today to return home, then?"

"She finished her project yesterday and Albus was kind enough to contact me before breakfast and ask if I minded a quick trip to London. Of course, I didn't mind. At all." The sarcasm was faint but Snape easily caught the wry twist of McGonagall's mouth. Then, she softened, adding, "But I really don't mind helping Hermione." Snape was about to comment when the older woman snapped her fingers as an expression of comprehension lit her face. "I think I know exactly where the headmaster is. If you would excuse me, Severus..."

At Snape's nod, McGonagall hurried out of the room she'd just entered, still clutching her hideous bag and cloak as the door banged loudly behind her. While news of Hermione's departure should have pleased him, there was nothing but a hollow feeling left in him at the reality of the news. Over the summer, he'd become so accustomed to her presence at the school and in his daily affairs that few days which had passed lately during which he had not seen her had seemed unfamiliar and strange. He had had to curb his almost-unconscious actions to seek her out when she'd remained far from the dungeons where they'd worked together over the month of her research visit.

It also seemed too hasty, her departure; Snape was wrestling with the ramifications of their shared Midsummer experiences as well as the conclusions it had led him to make. His own newly discovered...affection...had left him unable to express -- or hide -- his feelings in any manner he found fitting but made him want to do just that, and eloquently. As evidenced by the halting, awkward quality of their unexpected meeting the previous night, Snape was unable to adequately purport himself when speaking to her, a fact which made any sort of conversation loathsome. He could control neither his anger, his jealously nor his sensibilities in a satisfactory manner.

But he did not want Hermione to leave without having one last chance to speak to her. If no other business carried her to Hogwarts' gates, the chance of him seeing her again after she left was virtually nonexistent. While he might have the chance to contact her by owl -- if she chose to continue their correspondence -- letters were hardly adequate. For what they were inadequate, he made no conscious attempt to define.

The day ticked by at snail's pace and Snape tried to occupy himself with the work he wanted to accomplish. Instead his mind remained firmly planted on the all-too-unimportant decision of whether to seek out Hermione before she left the grounds. The fact that something so trivial was clearly absorbing his time disgusted him.

And yet, he still thought and deliberated. He made decisions and changed them twice over before changing them again. And finally, he decided that he would live without seeing Hermione one last time.

It was this firm, resolute decision of which he was proud; and it was because of this firm, resolute decision that Snape found himself navigating the castle's winding pathways at a pace which could only be called breakneck, struggling vainly to convince himself -- and any unknowing audience -- that he was not trying to find Miss Granger before she left the grounds, but only that he'd suddenly remembered that he had meant to discuss with Professor Sprout the addition of another small bed of medicinal herbs in one of the outlying greenhouses.

It was with a great deal of surprise that Snape finally encountered Hermione as she emerged into the Great Hall from the entrance to the dungeons, a valise clutched in one hand and her expression crestfallen. He slowed when he noticed her and waited until she glanced over and noticed his approach.

"Professor Snape," Hermione breathed in relief, tugging her bag along with her as she rushed toward him.

"Yes, Miss Granger?" he asked coolly and detachedly, as if he had not just flew down a flight of stairs in order to find her.

"I was just looking for you," she admitted softly as the awkwardness crept over them once more. She struggled against it as she continued. "I wanted to tell you goodbye."

"Yes, Professor McGonagall informed me that you've finished your research project," Snape said curtly. "Congratulations."

She nodded, grasping onto a topic as safe as her Divination project. "Yes, just last night. It was very interesting, really, because now that I've finished the essay, I have this strange feeling that I've seen the reading -- or something similar to it -- before. I don't know exactly, but the something about the positioning of the agate, ruby and citrine...then, the amber and the serpenti..." She trailed off, eyes widening.


Hermione shook herself, the shocked look replaced by a contemplative one. "Sorry. I finally realized why the configuration sounded so familiar." Snape gave her a piercing look but she would divulge nothing else about her epiphany. Instead she continued her earlier thread of discussion. "So, yes. It's finished. Nothing to do but wait at home for my results to arrive from Trinity. Well, and my mother is threatening me with garden work but I plan to spend the remainder of my holiday finishing some reading."

"It seems that your holiday will continue much as it has been while you were here," Snape observed, sliding a teasing tone into his uninterested expression.

Hermione thought about the statement for a moment before grinning at him. "I do believe you're correct, Professor. Though my mother does not employ scythes in her gardening."

Snape awarded her with a quirk of his lips -- a smile, in his case -- and Hermione felt a rush of happiness run through her as the tangible uneasiness of their precious encounter seemed to lessen, slowly fading away like fog burned away by the rising sun.

"Nor should she," was Snape's dry answer.

Hermione's smile widened but it was colored with a tinge of sadness. "Well, this is goodbye, I think. Professor McGonagall is waiting for me at the entrance."

Snape nodded. "Goodbye, Miss Granger. And...I wish you well for the remainder of the summer and on your next term at Trinity."

"Thank you, Professor," she told him. "I hope everything goes well for you, too." A pause. "Try not to frighten too many of the first years."

"Me? Frightening?" Snape dryly feigned surprise, giving her the look she'd come to expect to accompany his sarcasm.

Hermione merely returned his look with a "Yes, you" expression of her own before tightening her grip on her luggage. "Well, I'm off."

Trying to remain strong in the face of a painful separation -- she was beginning to wonder how she'd survived those two terms at Trinity -- Hermione quickly turned and marched toward the entrance, knuckles white around the suitcase's handle. Hermione thought herself safe from any lingering chance of doing something impulsively embarrassing as she walked away. She had not counted on Snape's parting comment, which floated across the distance between them as softly and deeply rich as a caress. "Take care, Hermione."

She paused mid-step and slowly lowered her case to the floor before she turned back to face Snape again. Without discernible deliberation, Hermione strode toward him, her eyes fixed on his face and his perplexed expression. Once within arms' length, she faltered -- but the steely determination which Snape noticed in her eyes quickly melted into the shadowed quality he remembered from Midsummer, causing his breath to catch in his throat.

Hermione then reached out and laid her hands lightly against the heavy black material of the frock coat he wore as she leaned upward and forward until the space between them dwindled.

Her lips brushed against his cheekbone.

"You, too," she said softly, sincerely, almost shy as she quickly pulled away, escaping from his personal space before he could take any action. "Be safe."

As if only then she'd understood what she'd done, Hermione darted away, her feet carrying her hastily back toward the forgotten valise. Her fingers had wrapped around its handle when Snape's voice sliced through the air, forcefully like the crack of a whip. "Miss Granger!"

Hermione looked at him, both hands holding up her heavy valise. "Yes?"

Snape's carefully neutral face softened almost imperceptibly. "As difficult as it may be for you, do try to give me at least a week's peace before pestering me with your insufferable letters. I deserve that, at least, for having bore your constant presence this summer."

Hermione smiled warmly. "I'll try," she assured him, mock-serious. "But I can't promise anything."

And so finally Hermione Granger felt that her heart could survive leaving Hogwarts castle and Severus Snape thought that he could survive watching her go.

Heart Over Mind

A Harry Potter Story
by Regann

Part 16 of 27

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