Continuing Tales

Heart Over Mind

A Harry Potter Story
by Regann

Part 20 of 27

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Heart Over Mind

For the second time in two decades, the wizarding world suspended its usual business in order to celebrate Lord Voldemort's demise at the hands of Harry Potter. Shops were opened, of course, but only in order to facilitate gossip and good cheer, while the streets were filled to overflowing and the skies hung heavy with owls and unscheduled meteor showers. It was only those poor souls who worked for the pertinent offices of the Ministry of Magic who were expected to resist such merriment and actually perform their duties, those being the onerous tasks of dealing with the legal and political consequences of the Dark Lord's death.

Even Hogwarts - or perhaps, especially - was loud with celebration, even at the obscenely early hours at which Severus Snape awoke with clockwork precision. And even after months of living on nothing but his wits and nerves, and a late night at making potions with Hermione, his body refused to let him sleep much past dawn and he made no try at resisting such ingrained behavior. Instead, he arose and performed his perfunctory ablutions, dressed and headed for his lab, unable to kindle any more celebratory emotion than profound relief.

It was over - again.

He was free - again.

Waiting for him just as he had left them were the labors of his late-night work: carefully stacked and labeled vials of medicinal potions, all neatly packed in the rickety wooden crates he used to transport them up to the infirmary from his private workspace. Snape remembered that he'd almost left the task until the morning because only by stopping to work himself would Hermione retire as well, though she'd been dead on her feet for the last two hours of their time together - so tired and sleepy, in fact, he doubted that she would be able to recall exactly how she got from his laboratory to the guest chamber that had been secured for her once she awoke this morning.

As he quickly inspected the crates before attempting the delicate task of carrying them up to Madam Pomfrey, he noticed that his original observation had been incorrect. There was one bottle of potion which was not in the crates with the others; instead, it sat beside its brethren, a small scrap of parchment propped against it. He snatched up the parchment and furrowed his brow as he read its short lines:

This is that potion that I made for Remus while you were droning on about your aconite supply - a complaint that I don't much care about or believe, by the way, since I happen to know that Professor Dumbledore purchases most of it. Anyway, make certain when you take the medicines to the hospital wing that Remus takes this potion as soon as possible. Otherwise, the silver damage will take an eternity to heal, something that will cause him a great deal of trouble with the next full moon less than a fortnight away.

He snorted, as much amused as exasperated, when he saw the hastily scrawled "HG" that closed the note. An unnecessary piece of information, he decided, when it was obvious that the note could have come from no one but the meddlesome creature who'd kept him awake half the night while she wasted his precious materials on innovative potions made to speed healing in werewolves. He shook his head as he pocketed the parchment and tucked the stray bottle - marked in the note-writer's crisp writing as "FOR REMUS LUPIN" - into the padded nestle of one of the crates.

Despite the unnatural amount of noise rumbling through the castle's halls, Snape met few on his trip through the winding corridors marking the distance between the dungeons and the infirmary. As he passed the Great Hall, where much of the commotion was centered, he exchanged curt nods of recognition with some harried Ministry workers and - to his perplexed amusement - a testy glance from the tall, young Irishman who he knew to be a friend of Hermione's. He returned the glare with practiced ease, having found no reason in their brief acquaintance to grant the boy anything outside of it. The noise dimmed as he climbed higher, a fact that he attributed to the meters of stone and mortar which separated him from the common rooms where the children were probably still cavorting. He spared a moment to be relieved that the damage to the student population had been so minor as that they could celebrate.

Snape also acknowledged a vague sort of guilt about not yer having visited the Slytherins who, while technically under Sinistra's care, he thought of as his own. But, he knew that it would not be a pleasant task and he was selfish enough to want to postpone that inevitable hardship for as long as possible.

The truth of the matter was that those few emotions - guilt, relief - were about the only ones Snape had the energy to feel at that moment in time. The last few months of his service to the Order had drained him in ways it hadn't since the first war. Anything other than those few, almost instinctive feelings involved more effort than he was willing to expend. Except...


Except he had been more than simply relieved to see Hermione.

Oh, Snape admitted that he'd been that - relieved, after seeing so much death in those brutal hours, that she stood before him healthy and alive - but he also had been struck a sudden, posthumous terror at the sight of Hermione in the Hogwarts infirmary. Through all that had happened just in the hours surrounding the last desperate campaign against Voldemort, there had been a part of him put at ease, knowing that she was safe from it all, outside of the country where she could not be a target or casualty. That fact had been a...comfort to him in those fretful, intermittent moments that he'd been able to spare for deeper contemplation in face of his last mission for Dumbledore, to know that she was protected - not only from harm but from those things she had written that she had never wanted to be forced to do.

As uncomfortable as it made him to acknowledge it, Snape knew that he had spent a great deal of his time thinking of Hermione since she'd left him near the summer's end. It had been a failing that had become most especially bothersome when idea of his death had occurred to him less as a vague possibility and more as a distinct probability. While Snape had often faced death, there were very few times when he'd actually believed that he was going to die. He was lucky to have only suffered from those kinds of self-aware moments of one's own utter mortality a handful of times in his life but never would he forget them. Those moments - rare, leaden - had a way of bringing clarity to the most inscrutable of problems, making that which had seemed dense and opaque, crystalline - clear and sharp and, sometimes, as icy and painful as glass. Those were the moments that could make a young man realize that he was fighting for the wrong side in the battle between Light and was also the kind of moment that could make an old man realize that perhaps what he felt was more than simple affection, or even attraction but...

The infirmary, Snape noticed as he stepped into the wing, was still and quiet, the morning light sparkling along the cut panes of the infirmary's windows, filling the high-ceilinged room with a soft, golden glow. There were only a handful of beds still filled and most of the patients were hidden from the casual visitor behind curtain and screens. Despite that precaution, Snape still knew exactly where the famous Harry Potter lay recuperating in one back corner - behind the same curtains from which Pomfrey choose that moment to emerge. Her eyes brightened at the sight of Snape with his arms laden with potions and he nodded almost cordially to her as she gestured for him to follow her toward the high cabinets where she kept her supplies.

"Thank you, Severus," she told him quietly as she began to transfer the new supply of potions from the crates to her cabinets. "I can't believe that you managed all this overnight."

"I had help," he explained shortly, watching as Pomfrey's work lightened the weight of the crates he held. When she emptied the first, he tugged it away so that she could repeat the process on the second batch.

The mediwitch's mouth twitched as if she wanted to smile. "I know; Hermione stopped by about just before you did," she told him. There was only one potion left that had not been placed onto the shelf - a bottle precisely labeled "FOR REMUS LUPIN." "She wanted to tell me about this."

"Yes," he said coolly. "Miss Granger was very preoccupied about that particular potion of hers."

Pomfrey pressed the cold glass of the bottle into Snape's hand. "Why don't you give this to him for me, while I sort out the rest?"

His fingers curled around the bottle as he grudgingly accepted the task. "Where is he, anyway?" He spoke as if he referred to some kind of lower life-form and not the valued ally which Lupin had been in the fight against Voldemort.

A wheezy chuckle sounded from behind the closest curtained bed, followed by a quietly-pitched hoarse voice. "I'm over here, Severus...and may I say what a pleasure it is to hear you so early in the morning."

Pomfrey took a second to gesture toward the bed with her eyes before primly turning away from Snape, busily sorting through potions and murmuring to herself about which patient would need which potion and when.

Snape sighed the sigh of the long-suffering and pushed open the curtains around the bed to see Lupin sitting quietly with a book propped open on his blanket-covered lap. Despite the fact that his skin was as white and bleached-looking as the hospital linens and his sunken eyes were darkly ringed, he looked as calm and serene as he ever had. Even on the edge of death, he still managed to be kind and pleasant, as if all the hardships he'd endured left no mark on his psyche. Of all things about Lupin that Snape hated, he found his obstinate goodwill to be the most offending.

"Lupin," Snape grumbled in greeting, glaring down at the sick man's cheerful face.

"Severus," he replied in kind, closing his book and placing it on the bedside table.

"I was told you'd be in need of this," Snape said with no preamble as he thrust the potion at Lupin who took it with shaking hands.

"Yes, thank you," he murmured, holding the bottle up so that he could examine the potion's thick, dark color. "You were told by Hermione, no doubt."

"No doubt."

Lupin managed a weakly mischievous smile as he reached for the goblet of water on his bedside table, sipping at it before speaking again. "She was very glad to see you alive yesterday," he remarked, almost conversationally.

Snape ignored the opening and instead tersely explained, "You're to take that..."

"Immediately. Yes, I know," Lupin nodded, holding the bottle up so that he could again examine the potion's thick, dark color. "Hermione stopped by to visit before she left this morning." When Snape made no move to leave his side, Lupin looked up inquiringly. "Yes, Severus?"

"The potion, Lupin. If you know that it is to be taken immediately, perhaps you'd like to get on with it?"

"I didn't know you cared," the werewolf teased, faintly amused.

Snape snorted, glowering. "I don't care if you live or die - take the potion as you please, Lupin. Good day." Without another word, he stalked away from his sickly man, not pausing even to redraw the curtains around his bed as he headed for the infirmary's exit.

Lupin's voice floated back toward him, quiet but clear. "Thank you again, Severus."

Snape made no attempt at an answer or even an acknowledgement of the man's last statement; his mind was already busy with the tasks ahead of him for the day, a list of dozens of necessary obligations he'd need to fulfill...all of which were underscored by quiet, tumbling thoughts about life-changing moments.

Of all the places Hermione might have visited on the day after Voldemort's defeat, she decided that the most important place of all was her own home. She had known how much her parents had worried about her because of the threat of the Dark Lord and, unlike all her wizard friends, her parents, being so thoroughly Muggle, would have no way to know that their daughter's life was no longer in danger. Before the sun had arisen much in the eastern sky, Hermione trotted down the path toward Hogsmeade until she was clear of Hogwarts's anti-Apparition ward and - literally - popped in to visit her parents.

Carolina, who had been sitting in her kitchen while she enjoyed her first cup of black coffee, had given a rather indignant squawk of surprise at her daughter's precipitous arrival, but she'd gamely recovered and asked Hermione a dozen questions before the young witch had been able to answer the first of them. As Hermione had suspected, the visit had lasted most of the morning with her mother exacting every detail she could from her before allowing her to leave again - and that had been only after a bone-crunching embrace and a celebratory gift to be shared with "all those lovely friends of yours" back at Hogwarts.

An hour later, back within the castle walls and heading resolutely toward the infirmary with the gift tucked back in her room - she had plans of her own for it - Hermione was still smiling at the memory of her mother's cautiously joyous face at the news, an expression as relieved and ecstatic as any witch or wizard she had seen upon receiving the same information. It hadn't been until that moment that she'd realized that her parents' lives were as ruled by fear of Voldemort as any wizard parent whose children faced the same danger. And though it never affected their daily lives, the threat to Hermione had made it as much of their war as anyone's.

Sometimes Hermione loved her parents more than life itself.

The hospital wing, Hermione learned upon entering it, was the quietest place left in the castle, although it too was filled with the buzz of excited chatter. The grin which had been playing at her lips widened into a full smile at the sight which greeted her: Lupin, still pale but animated as he spoke with Pomfrey in low tones; Clarissa, bandaged leg propped up on pillows as she flipped through a book, her face clear from the pinching pain it had revealed the day before; and, most wonderful of all, Harry sitting up with Ginny and Ron perched on either side of his bed, all three grinning as they shared the sweets from one of the get-well-soon baskets that had already made their way to his bedside.

This was the true measure of her happiness; this sight, so ordinary and unimportant but right. For a moment, Hermione was content only to watch her three friends as they laughed and talked, satisfied simply with seeing them alive and well.

She hovered by the entrance watching until Ron caught a sight of her out of the corner of his eye. He turned to fully face her and grinned, motioning for her to join them. "C'mon, Hermione," he coaxed. "Don't just stand there all day - get over here or leave us in peace." His tone was warm and bright, much like his eyes.

Hermione rolled her eyes in response, falling into step with the teasing routine they had made theirs. "Very well, but only because you asked so nicely," she replied, faintly sarcastic.

Ron's grin widened. "Did I ask?"

"...and I've so wanted to see Harry and Ginny," she added blithely as she claimed a spot on the bed near Harry's feet, half-sitting on Ron's long legs to make herself comfortable. She nudged him playfully with her elbow. "Others here, I'm not so sure about."

Harry who had seemed the most quiet of them, gave her a devilish grin. "Yes, Hermione, I understand. I've wanted nothing else but some nice quality time with you and Ginny..."

"You love me," Ron protested laughingly, an arm over Hermione's shoulder. "Both of you."

Ginny joined in, laughing. "Unfortunately, yes, we all do."

It was such a rare treat for the four of them to sit and talk and be no more serious than one of Ron's endearingly bad jokes - and Hermione relished it like nothing else. Although she had had plans to offer help to anyone who might need it in the castle, the visit which she had only envisioned as lasting a few minutes stretched into a hour and more, even Pomfrey too indulgent of the wizarding world's hero to run off his company. Harry, his friends noticed, still looked a bit lost when his attention wasn't fully engaged, like there was a sadness in him that was fighting to hold onto his mood but they also noticed that he was making an effort to ignore that sadness and they were willing to help, if only for a little while.

"Dumbledore's canceling classes for the next fortnight," Ginny informed them all around a mouthful of ice mice. "And he's not even certain if the school will be running after that. Some parents are already demanding that their children be sent home."

Ron threw her a skeptical look. "And how do you know all this? I didn't realize that the headmaster confided in you."

Ginny wrinkled her nose at him as she reached across Harry's legs to snatch a chocolate frog out of her brother's hand. "I ran into Mum on my way here and she told me, if you must know."

"Well, it makes sense," Hermione cut it, giving them both a reproving frown. "With the Ministry hanging about and all the damage, a fortnight is an optimistic estimate."

"I don't even understand why the Ministry is still here," grumbled Harry, clearly still unsettled from the "interview" that one of the officials had tried to have with him earlier in the day - before Pomfrey ran him out with her protests ringing in his ears. "They aren't accomplishing anything. Instead of wasting time bothering Professor Dumbledore, they ought to rounding up the Death Eaters that escaped."

"I hope we aren't in for a repeat of what happened last time," Hermione added. "I'd like to think that we've learned something since then about the way this needs to be handled." "Oh, we have," Ginny said archly. "I just wonder about those idiots in the Ministry - Dad, excluded, of course."

"Of course," Hermione hurriedly agreed as she gestured for Ron to hand over a handful of jelly beans.

"Yeah," Harry added, suddenly quiet and thoughtful. "Just because Voldemort is's not over."

Hermione fiddled with the edge of the blanket that covered Harry's legs while Ginny watched him with soulful, somber eyes.

Ron, determined to plow through the suddenly awkward silence, cleared his throat loudly. "You're right, mate. Even before we've got to worry about the trials, there'll be the...funerals."

As Ginny's face crumbled from solemnity to sadness, Hermione lowered her eyes, watching as she traced a random pattern on the blanket with the tip of her finger. She knew that Ron and Harry had lost fellow Aurors-in-training and that the Weasleys had had cousins to fall in the last few months. She couldn't help but feel both horribly guilty and horribly, selfishly glad: glad that no one she truly cared about had died and guilty that she could feel so selfish in the face of her friends' losses.

As if he could read her mind, Ron reached over and clumsily grabbed her hand in his, clutching as he mumbled, "'M glad that we're all still, you know, here. Together."

She tightened her fingers around his and laid her other hand against Harry's covered leg. "Me, too. I'm so thankful that no one...that everyone who means so much to me...that everyone survived.." A slight shudder rippled across her shoulders as she recalled the painful ache that had dogged her because of her worry for Snape, as well as the indescribable fear that had strangled her when Craig had told her about Harry. Suddenly, the guilt didn't matter nearly so much as the happiness did, in the face of having her friends all around her and knowing that Snape was safe somewhere in the castle.

"Yes," Ginny agreed, completing the hesitant circle by taking Harry's hand with her right and covering Hermione's with her left. She locked eyes with her friend, brown eyes speaking volumes as she echoed, "Everyone."

Eventually, despite her elevated mood, Pomfrey shooed Hermione, as well as Ron and Ginny, out of the infirmary, dosing Harry with something to make him sleep as his friends waved him good-bye. Ginny and Ron both went in search of their mother while Hermione went in search of something constructive to do, actively forcing herself not to search out Snape. Now that she knew he was safe and relatively unharmed, she decided that her near-compulsive need to be in his presence was something she needed to curb before she thoroughly embarrassed herself.

The young witch was on her way to McGonagall's office when she noticed a very familiar face lingering in one of the halls, nodding thoughtfully as one of the paintings - a Rubenesque woman with a cherubic but crying baby - spoke rapidly to him.

"Craig!" she called out in greeting, interrupting the prattling painting as the Auror turned to acknowledge her.

"Hermione," he returned, his tone much more subdued than it had ever been in her presence before. She was puzzled, accustomed to the exuberance he usually displayed toward her.

She reached his side and nodded toward the woman in the painting who was currently trying to shush her infant. "What are you doing?"

He grimaced as he tucked his quill absently behind his ear. "Oh, this. Well, Mr. O'Malley wanted someone to talk to some of the paintings to see if they had any useful far, the answer t' that is naught."

The Flemish woman gave him a dark look over her shoulder before she began to croon to her sniffling baby. Craig rolled his eyes and tugged on Hermione's arm to draw her away from the portrait. "It's been like that all day," he muttered, stuffing a crumpled piece of parchment in his robes. "Bloody portraits."

"Been at it all day?" she asked sympathetically.

"Aye," he told her, glancing warily at her out of the corner of his eye. Hermione noticed that he seemed to have some difficultly looking directly at her; currently, his gaze was focused over her head.

"Is...something wrong, Craig?" she finally inquired, also noting his uncomfortable body language.

"O' course not," he assured her with little conviction. Hermione folded her arms across her chest, watching as he shifted guiltily from foot to foot, his face puckered in a frown.

She raised an eyebrow. "Somehow, I find that difficult to believe."

"It's nothing," he assured her again, giving her a wan smile. "Just a bit knackered from all that's happened, I promise."

"Of course," she accepted dubiously.

"You worry too much, old girl," he teased, running his hands down her arms in a familiar gesture of affection. The frown eased and his smile grew to a facsimile of its usual brightness. "C'mon, walk me to the Great Hall. I get lost here everytime." She agreed.

Despite Craig's assurances, Hermione could not rid herself of the idea that Craig was uncomfortable around her for reasons she could not fathom. She had just seen him the previous afternoon and nothing had been amiss. And, for her part, Hermione could think of nothing that had transpired in the meantime that would make him act in such a way toward her. As much as she'd have liked to blame it on stress or fatigue, her instinct told her it was something else entirely.

Hermione had almost convinced herself to ignore her doubts when Craig abruptly stopped moving, reaching out to grab her arm to bring her to a halt. She glanced at him questioningly as he used his grip on her arm to pull her closer to him. She didn't repeat her earlier inquiry to him but it was plain to read in her eyes.

"Hermione," he began, brow furrowed and face tight. "D'ye remember when I asked ye, in the spring, if ye had...if there was someone waiting fer ya?"

"Yes, of course, I remember," she told him patiently. "What does that have to do with..."

"It's your old professor, ain't it?" Craig quickly continued, his voice drowning out her exclamation. "That old git who wrote you all the letters. Snape, right?"

"Craig..." she faintly protested, color draining from her face. Hermione had never figured on having to live through one of these conversations after she'd told Ginny and never had she expected it to happen in the middle of Hogwarts castle with half of the Ministry of Magic likely to stumble over them.

"Just answer the question, Hermione," he urged her, his expression dark and pained. "Although I'm all but certain of the answer." Craig paused and fixed his gaze unwaveringly on her face. "I was there, remember? In the infirmary, when you found out he was alive."


"The truth, Hermione. That's all I'm askin' ya for."

"Yes," she answered softly in a hurried puff of breath.

Craig eased his hold on her arm. "Aye, I thought so. I should have guessed, I think. You were ne'er happier than when ye got an owl from him."

She glanced away from the wounded expression in his face. "You said then that it didn't matter, Craig. Why does it matter now?"

He snorted, releasing her in order to cross his arms. "Because I think it's daft for ya to be wastin' your time on him, Hermione. I mean, I dunno know him, not much at all, but what I've seen of him isn't very pleasant. And...he was your professor, girl. Ain't that against some kind of rules, here?"

Hermione angrily stepped away from him. "It's not as if I were having some torrid affair with him while I was still a student! What I told you this spring is true now - he doesn't feel anything for me. We've become friends of a sort, but that's all - so this entire conversation is not only highly insulting but unnecessary!"


"No!" Hermione jerked away before Craig could lay a soothing hand on her. She straightened her shoulders and tossed her head haughtily, pausing to gather her dignity about her. Her voice was low and barely controlled. "I don't want to hear this, Craig. I didn't ask for your opinion on the subject and I certainly don't want to hear any more of it. Now, if you'll excuse me...I'm sure you can find your own bloody way from here!"

With another defiant toss of her hair, Hermione walked away from Craig, only her innate need to remain dignified restraining her from storming down the halls in a fair imitation of Snape. Her hands were trembling and her anger - though justified she felt - was more explosive than she'd expected on the subject. All she knew was that she needed to escape, at least for a little while, and calm herself down.

"I think ye're wrong, y'know!" Craig hollered at her back, making her cringe at the possibility of what he might say as a Ministry official passed her on his way down the hall. "I think he does care, more than he bloody well should!"

Like most of her generation, Molly Weasley had already lived through the aftermath of Lord Voldemort's defeat once by the time she gathered with friends and family to celebrate the second. On that first Halloween night, she'd been locked away tight with her children and husband in their home, unaware that somewhere else, in some other home, a family was being torn apart for the price of peace. And, in the days of near-hysteric joy that had followed, Molly had not let that euphoria of sudden, tangy freedom taunt her into her shirking her duties: motherly duties, wifely duties and even Order duties had not ceased simply because Voldermort was gone.

Almost two decades later, she could say the same: evil had not died along with the Dark Lord and there were still things to be done. But, in those twenty-odd years since, Molly had gotten older and, she hoped, a little wiser. Wise enough, she decided, to know that when Albus Dumbledore opened the doors of Hogwart's Great Hall to students - former and current alike - in order to celebrate the occasion, one did not refuse, especially when all seemed as right with the world as it could be since her children were safe, Harry was alive, and the Dark was finally giving way to the Light.

The "celebration" was something informal and lazy, more an outlet for overflowing energy than anything based on actual ceremony. After two days of being cornered in their common rooms or corralled in the undamaged parts of the school, the students were finally allowed to out of their dorms and into the Great Hall, where the bounty lay as lavish as any Hogwarts holiday to date. Mixed among them were a relatively small handful of adults, some professors, some Aurors, some vaguely known to be part of Dumbledore's not-quite-secret cabinet of allies, and some simply having no where else to be at such a time except Hogwarts.

The atmosphere was bright and buoyant, the collective happiness - fueled by hope and relief - too much to be contained and so Dumbledore allowed it to spill throughout the castle, every light lit and every face as bright as if it were Candlemas night.

Standing with the old wizard herself, Molly could see that the celebration was as good for him as for the children. He looked more at peace than she'd seen him in years and there was an odd difference about him that spoke of a new inner spark. The matron wondered if anyone else saw it on the old man's face and, sneaking a glance over at her daughter as she spoke with her former headmaster, she thought that Ginny, too, might have noticed the brighter twinkle in the Dumbledore's eye.

"...unfortunately, Madam Pomfrey eventually ran us off," Ginny was explaining to Dumbledore when Molly came around from her motherly musings. "Ron and I went to look for Mum and Hermione decided to go see Professor McGonagall and..."

"Speaking of Hermione," Molly cut in, frowning ever so slightly as she glanced around the room, looking for the familiar form of the girl. "I haven't seen her much since she's been here. And I haven't seen her at all tonight." She paused to take a sip of her strong, warm cider. "I do hope she's well."

Ginny giggled at her Molly's question, her own sparkling cider in a fluted goblet that looked much more festive than her mother's practical mug. "Oh, I promise she's fine," she said, as bright as the atmosphere and as bubbly as the cider. "She did have a bit of a fright - terrible one, actually - but it ended right for her and all's well."

"Ah, yes," Dumbledore murmured, smiling at Ginny conspiratorially as she sipped at her beverage. "I think that instances such as that, as terrible as they are, sometimes act as catalysts. This is a time for second chances and - I only hope - such a rare thing is not wasted by those that are still young enough to enjoy them."

Ginny grinned knowingly at the old wizard. "I agree, Professor."

Molly gave them both an inquiring look but her daughter only looked amused and her mentor slyly innocent behind his long, white beard. She looked over the crowd again, suddenly thinking that a talk with Hermione might prove very beneficial. On her third examination of the Great Hall, she still had not spotted Hermione - but she had spotted someone who seemed so uncomfortable and out of place that his appearance was more shocking than she'd cared to admit.

"Look, even Severus is here," she noted to Dumbledore, waving a plump hand in the other wizard's direction. "I never would have thought it of him."

"Where?" Ginny wanted to know, peering around to see where her mother had pointed. Molly was surprised again, this time by her daughter's sudden, uncharacteristic interest in her hated old Potions professor.

"Ah, so it is," Dumbledore chuckled, beaming as he nodded toward the hall's entrance where an obviously displeased Snape stood, glaring across the room as if he hated the mere idea of celebration. "And looking so festive as well."

Both Molly and Ginny glanced at Dumbledore to see if he had well and truly lost his mind but he ignored them, raising a wrinkly hand to signal for Snape. The younger man noticed the gesture, nodded tightly and made a beeline for the small trio, his face set firmly in harsh, unhappy lines.

"Headmaster, Mrs. Weasley, Miss Weasley," Snape said in greeting when he reached them.

Molly's "Hello, Severus" and Ginny's "Good evening, Professor" tangled together as Dumbledore smiled at the other wizard. "So nice of you to join us this evening, Severus."

Snape, spine rigid, favored the headmaster with a raised eyebrow. "I have no plans of joining you, Headmaster. I have other...obligations for this evening."

Molly thought Ginny might have giggled but a dark look from the Potions professor ended any such noise before it could properly reach her mother's ears.

"Ah, but here you are," Dumbledore gently disagreed.

Snape crossed his arms over his chest. "Only because I found a note from you, asking me to meet you as soon as possible."

Dumbledore's eyes widened as if this news surprised him. "Did you now?" At Snape's nod of confirmation, the old wizard looked pensive. "I think old age is finally catching me," he told them sadly. "For, alas, I cannot remembering sending that note or what it was about. A mistake, no doubt."

"No doubt," Snape answered dryly and Molly had to fight to cover her amusement.

"Well, since you're already here..." Dumbledore's amused voice trailed off as he clapped his hands and produced a fluted glass of sparkling cider. He offered it to Snape. "You may as well remain and enjoy yourself."

Snape grudgingly took the proffered glass. "As much I would...enjoy...doing so, I cannot. As I said my presence is required elsewhere."


The younger wizard looked resigned. "Yes, there are still several more complicated remedies that Madam Pomfrey needs to have brewed and I had promised her that she would have them by morning. In fact..." Snape, for the first time that evening, glanced around the Great Hall without his customary predatory look. "...I had hoped to ask Miss Granger for her assistance, but I do not see her tonight."

"Perhaps she's in the infirmary, visiting Harry or Remus," Molly suggested, recalling that Pomfrey often allowed Hermione to pay visits after hours, ostensibly because of her mediwizardry training.

"I have already thought to check with Madam Pomfrey," Snape told her. "She has not been there since this afternoon. With neither Pot - with neither Mr. Potter or Mr. Weasley in attendance, I had expected to find her with you or your daughter."

"I haven't seen her neither," Molly admitted. "I was beginning to wonder about her myself. I do hope that she's not working herself too hard. Ginny told me that Hermione had been helping wherever she could."

"I assure you, Molly, that Miss Granger is at her happiest when she's making herself a nuisance," Snape explained, tone still dry.

"Severus," Dumbledore chided.

He gave the headmaster a knowing look. "Now, if you will excuse me..."


Snape stopped mid-turn and acknowledged Ginny with a lifted eyebrow. "Yes, Miss Weasley?"

Ginny took a moment to answer, as if it took all her courage to speak directly to her old professor without provocation. "There's a little open courtyard, near the old Muggle Studies classroom that Hermione likes to visit..."

Snape nodded, almost thoughtfully. "Yes, I know well of her predilection, Miss Weasley. Thank you. I had not thought of it." With another nod of goodbye directed toward the group, he swept out, being given a wide berth by the students he passed on his way.

When Molly glanced back at Dumbledore, she noticed that he was smiling almost smugly as he drummed his fingers absently against a taffeta-stiff fold of his robes. "I do hope that this means that they've finally worked through their problems," he announced. "It has been so awkward since Midsummer, after all."

Molly was confused. "Midsummer?"

The old wizard nodded. "Yes, Midsummer. They went to the festival together, you know, and -"

"WHAT?" Though her surprise was vocal, Molly would not exactly have considered it shouting - much.

Dumbledore's eyes were too bright and too blue against the blandness of his cheerful voice. "Yes. Didn't you see them there?"

"We didn't go..." Molly began, her voice falling away as the headmaster spoke up again.

"Ah, well, that's understandable," he murmured. "But Hagrid saw them together, and Rosmerta. Remus, I think, ran into them on their way back to the castle the next morning and he told me that -"

For a moment, Molly considered checking her mug to make certain that she was not imbibing something stronger than cider. "Severus? Hermione?" She couldn't keep the disbelief out of her tone, her mind reeling with the implications of Dumbledore's cheery statement. Surely, not Hermione and Severus...?

Mrs. Weasely jumped at the gentle touch her daughter laid on her arm. "That was exactly my reaction, Mum," she admitted, still patting her mother's arm. "Except, you know, with more feeling. And volume."

The night was cool and clear but the warmth from the wine she drank kept Hermione from minding the nippiness of the air against her cheeks as she sat in the still emptiness of "her" courtyard. It was the same stone bench, the same view of the sky, now darkened and specked with stars, peeking around the high juts of the castle's architecture, the same gothic fountain whose running water provided the only background noise to the scene. She breathed deeply - one crisp, tingling breath - and released it slowly, savoring the moment of quiet peace.

It had taken her most of the evening to calm down after her altercation with Craig, the anger that he had unexpectedly ignited in her having to burn itself away. Even now, after having spent hours thinking on it, Hermione was confused by the way she'd lost her temper. Surely, what Craig said hadn't been all that defamatory? There had been concern in his words, beneath his own confusion, and - in some of her more troublesome fantasies - Hermione had imagined Harry or Ron flinging much worse words at her if they ever discovered the truth about where her affections lay. She had always thought of herself as a basically sensible person, but her reaction, so violently incensed, had been extremely insensible, or so she thought. Anger was a valid emotion but she couldn't help but feel that, by and large, she'd...overreacted.

In the interests of her own insanity, Hermione had decided to blame the outburst on stress and the see-saw dip-and-sway of emotions she had faced in the past few days. Her worries over Snape, her worry for Harry, coupled with the sudden fear of Voldemort's attack and the subsequent rush that followed in the wake of his defeat had left her emotionally drained, she reasoned. Her nerves were raw and exposed and Craig had been the unfortunate victim of coincidence and circumstance.

But even after coming to that logical conclusion, Hermione had had no desire for company. Instead of joining the Hogwarts population in their celebration, she had grabbed her mother's gift, a glass and her bright blue robes before leaving her chamber with the express purpose of sitting in the cool, dark quiet of the secluded courtyard and taking the time to absorb the events of the last few days.

Voldemort is dead. Harry is safe. It's over. Snape is not dead. Ron survived. Remus will recover... All those disjointed sentences were almost too good to believe and Hermione had realized that she hadn't taken the time to truly accept it all. The barriers she had placed around herself - and the same was true for her friends, she knew - because of the looming threat of Voldemort were gone. There were no more boundaries for the sake of "safe" and "cause" - the future was a wide open field, and undecided issues begged for resolution...

Feeling chilled, Hermione took another sip from her wine glass, relishing the sweetness of the vino santo on her tongue. It had been her mother's gift, the bottle of her grandparents' wine; it was one of the best years ever produced and Carolina had been saving it for a special occasion for over two decades. Hermione had been touched that this event had earned the cherished bottle. The only drawback to spending her evening alone was that there was no one with whom to share the wine and she could easily - too easily - think of someone she wanted to taste it with her. He was, after all, one of those pesky undecided issues begging for her attention.

"Miss Granger."

As if summoned there by her thoughts, Hermione turned quickly to see Snape's form melt out of the shadows of the darkened castle corridors, his face and hands lit ghostly pale by the light of the waxing moon. She watched as he crossed the manicured courtyard toward her, barely aware that she topped her glass before sitting the bottle of wine beside her on the stone bench as her eyes followed his precise movements.

When he reached her side, Snape awarded her with one of the dark, teasing looks that she'd come to enjoy over the summer. "I would have expected you to be more...festive...this evening."

She lifted her wine glass slightly with one hand and pulled her robes closer with the other. "I'm festive - enough," she softly disagreed.

"So I see," he nodded, his honeyed voice heavy with sarcasm. "Sitting by yourself, in the dark, whilst everyone else is partaking of the Great Hall. Festive, indeed."

Hermione smiled at his comment, deciding that sarcasm was a two-way mode of communication. "And I see that you are so very eager to partake of said atmosphere."

The corners of Snape's lips threatened to lift into something vaguely resembling a grin. "Touché. However, I am somewhat known for my inability to stomach such moronic spectacle. You, on the other hand, are not."

She sighed, tugging at the robes as if she were cold. "It's been...a long few days," she explained solemnly. "I just - needed the quiet, I suppose."

Something in Snape's expression closed and his spine stiffened. "Then I am sorry to have disturbed you. I will leave you."

"That's not necessarily, really," Hermione hastened to say, lifting her empty hand in a panicked staying motion. "If you'd like to stay...I was just thinking that there was some disadvantage to solitude."

"Such as?"

"Such as there was no one to share this bottle of wine with me," Hermione said, touching the cool glass of the bottle invitingly with the tips of her fingers. "It would be a shame for it to go to waste and I know that I can't finish it alone."

The invitation in her voice was clear and Snape made no show of ignoring it. " would have to be more palatable than the swill the headmaster is offering..." He raised his still-full fluted glass, the one he'd received from Dumbledore in the Great Hall.

"It's a very good bottle," Hermione cajoled, her voice teasing. "It's even better than the one I gave you for Christmas."

Snape looked amused by her persuasion but he answered her with a humor-touched tone of his own. "I suppose I would be amiable to sharing a glass with you, if for no reason other than to save it from waste."

She laughed - a soft, breathless sound - as she watched him unceremoniously pour out the cider Dumbledore had given him. "Yes, I can see how much you dislike waste."

"Things of quality should not be wasted," he clarified, nodding expectedly toward the bottle at Hermione's side. She easily filled his glass and added to her own.

"So you admit that the wine is good?" She questioned archly, setting the bottle carefully near her feet.

Snape sampled the wine from his glass before lowering himself to sit at her side, so close on the stone bench that the his heavy robes brushed against her stocking-clad legs and Hermione could almost believe that she could feel the heat of his body through the layers of her clothes. His nearness was so distracting that she had to concentrate to comprehend his answer. "Miss Granger, you and I both know that the wine was excellent. Otherwise I would not have drank it nor would you have had the terrible manners to give it as a gift."

When the meaning of his words permeated her sense-drenched brain, Hermione grinned at him. "I believe that you're damning me with faint praise, Professor."

"On the contrary," he assured her, sipping his wine. "I have to admit that I'm curious as to how you procured such an excellent vintage on such short notice."

Her smile broadened, mystery in its lines. "I have my ways," she told him vaguely. At his raised eyebrow, she added primly, "Ways that you are not privy to."

"No doubt."

Their conversation lapped into familiar, comfortable silence, almost the kind of not-speaking that they had shared in Snape's laboratory on numerous occasions except for a tiny frisson of awareness that Hermione could not ignore. It most reminded her of the quiet walk they'd shared on their way back to Hogwarts the morning after Midsummer.

She took another drink of her wine.

Snape, she decided, also felt the strange, slight tension in the air between them because he cleared his throat and broke the silence. "The headmaster seems to think I owe you an apology."

Hermione was surprised not only by the headmaster's words but that Snape had chosen to share them. "Really?"

He nodded. "Not that I agree with him," he quickly warned.

"Of course not," she said, a flicker of humor on her face.

Snape caught it and returned it before his face settled. "I am sorry if I caused you any undue worry because of my last letter."

"I was worried," Hermione admitted, thoughtful. "Though I wouldn't call it undue worry."

"Nevertheless, I did not mean to cause you any worry," he explained, his voice soft and low. "I had hoped it to have the opposite effect, actually. I did not want you to be concerned when I was no longer able to continue our correspondence." There was such uncharacteristic remorse in his voice that Hermione pulled her eyes away from the tiny, cold stars of the night sky to look at Snape. His eyes were intently focused on something far-off in the distance, presenting Hermione with only his profile, much of the cheek hidden straight, dark hair even while the nose remained prominent.

"Apology accepted," she told him lightly, trying to defuse the well of emotions gathering in her chest.

"I don't remember apologizing," Snape informed her, his dark eyes darting toward her.

"Oh, right, I'm sorry," she replied, noticing that humor was once again threatening his mouth to smile.

"Apology accepted."

"More wine?"


After the mundane task of refilling the wine glasses had been taken care of, the conversation again ebbed into silence, half-jointed phrases of their last exchange still snatching for meaning in Hermione's mind. She realized - she wondered if it were belatedly - that everything seemed a blurry in her mind; emotions, thoughts, words - they were jumbled into a chaotic mesh with nothing discernible to connect them except for the fact that they were centered on the man at her side, and that something dark and wild in the middle of the chaos was urging action. Later, she would blame it on the wine.

In an action absurdly similar to Snape's, Hermione cleared her throat to break the silence. "Do you remember this summer...when I promised to tell you about the hayam? About my experiences with it?"

"Yes," he answered cautiously as if unsure of question's importance.

"That's what I thought of - when I thought that you were dead," she confessed, looking down at her hands wrapped tightly around her wine glass. "That I had made that promise to you, about the hayam, but I wouldn't be able to keep it because I - I had waited too long."

Snape was unsettled by the amount of emotion in her voice and looked at her inquiringly.

"I know it sounds very silly but..."

"Not at all," Snape assured her. He frowned, thinking as he watched some sadness play across her face. "Your concern shows that you are a remarkably honorable woman."

"You think so?" Hermione asked, sadness wavering. She tilted her head up to look at him and her eyes were luminous in the silvery sheen of moonlight.

"I wouldn't have said it otherwise," he told her stiffly, as if offended that she'd doubted his sincerity.

"Thank you, then. It means a great deal to hear you say that." She took a deep breath. "But I think - the best way...well, you're here and I'm here...and I think...that - I'd like to tell you now. You know, fulfill that promise. Tell you who...tell you who it was...the object that kept me immune to the hayam."

The silence of the cool night suddenly felt oppressive to Snape and he struggled to speak quickly enough. "It's not necessary, Miss Granger. I'll gladly release you from your promise. It's really none of my business - your experiences with the hayam."

"But, as you said this summer, it's not a potion that you know much about...and I'd hate to deprive you from the chance," Hermione said in grim determination, a restless quality in the way her hands roamed over her glass, over the hem of her robe.

"Miss Granger..."

"No," she interrupted him, knowing that she'd made a irrevocable decision. She wanted to tell him the truth - here, now. Hermione suddenly realized that that need to tell Snape the truth was the wild thing in the middle of her muddled musings, the thing that wanted action. "I think...this is something I need to do, Professor. Please."

"Miss Granger." Snape seemed uncomfortable, ill at ease. There was a echo of desperation in his voice that matched Hermione's. "While your desire to keep your promise is admirable, there is no reason for you to..."

"...embarrass us both by confessing my deep, dark secrets to you?" Hermione finished, smiling wanly at his attempt to preserve her dignity. If only you knew.

Snape was not amused by her attempt at levity and continued to watch her face with black, stormy eyes. "I was going to say that there was no need for you to relive something that it obviously very personal and private."

"But I thought you wanted to know more about the hayam?"

"I did..." Snape answered automatically.

"So, then I should tell you, if for no other reason than that. Since there's so little information available," Hermione told him logically, stubborn in her need to confess.

"Actually, I found an extremely informative book on the subject. Much more informative than the ones available here in our library," Snape explained.

"Really?" In spire of herself, Hermione was curious about the hayam and she wanted to know what Snape might have learned.

"Yes. I've already learned a great deal more about the hayam than I knew, even a few months ago," he said, his tone slipping into the perfect lecture tone.

"Such as?"

"Such as...that the hayam is one of numerous love-related potions developed by an Arabic wizard. Not only was he a potions master but he fancied himself a philosopher and a poet. He wanted to developed a series of potions, each named for a different Arabic word for "love" of which there are over seventy, I believe. He didn't quite make it that far, but I believe his creations numbered in the thirties..." Snape's voice was melodic and captivating as he offered the information.

"That's very interesting, but I think...I still think I should tell you." Hermione felt panic add itself to the wild feeling in her heart. She couldn't understand why Snape seemed so reluctant to hear her confession. Perhaps...he knew the truth and wanted to spare her? Or perhaps he had come to his own conclusions and didn't like the answer? She knew nothing other than the fact that she needed to tell him the truth. "It's..."

"...the hayam is just one potion of many and its name is from the Arabic word meaning love which comes from wondering thirsty in the desert and it is subtly different from other words used for love, such as hub, or fitna, which means love but also illusion and civil war, and then there's a word which specifically deals with passion and infatuation, and then there's ishq which, most closely, means..."

"It's you."

The words were faint and hardly more than breath, but they rang clear like a bell in the stillness between them and the night, in Snape's stunned silence. The moment stilled and lengthened, leaden with expectation and shock.

In the utter vacuum following her confession, Hermione could swear she heard the sound of her heart breaking.

"Well..." Moving unsteadily to her feet, she didn't dare look at Snape, unable to face whatever unsavory emotion his features might shown. Her hands were shaking as she abandoned her wine glass and tugged her blue robes tightly around her as if the cloth could magically protect her from her own heart-sickness. She stumbled away from the bench, her blood roaring in her ears and her eyes too wet to make much sense of the shadows that surrounded her.


Suddenly there was a large, warm hand on her arm and she was being stopped, turned around on her shaken knees so that she faced Snape. His face was as pale as she knew she had to be, his eyes so dark and fevered that it was painful to look into them. But Hermione remained focused on them as Snape pulled her close, one hand still clasped around her arm as he lifted surprisingly gentle fingers to ghost across her cheek. His face, like that night on Midsummer, was serious and intent but soft in ways she could never explain, and his thin, firm lips were tantalizingly close to hers and Hermione had no idea how one moment she'd been moving away from him and another found herself wrapped in his arms and so certain that he would kiss her this time that she'd have bartered her soul on it.

In that breathless moment, when reality began to bleed into fantasy, there were no twinges and pangs for Hermione. Instead, there was only a hum in her veins and an unexpected surety of movement as she gathered all her courage and hope into a burst of action and closed the infinitesimal space between their mouths.

If there had been anything tentative left in Snape's reaction to her, it was lost in that moment; Hermione felt his arms tighten around her and his lips move against hers in ways she had only dreamed of; and there was fire in her blood and sparks of light in her brain and there was nothing but a singing triumph in her heart replacing the cold, wild fear of moments ago. The vino she had always loved tasted sweeter on his tongue than it ever had on hers, the subtle almond she had always missed in the flavor now exploding in her mouth. She could feel the slickness of his hair against her hands, the heavy roughness of his robes against her knees and she couldn't breathe because she was drowning but she was happy to die.

Their lips parted and Hermione dazedly looked up to see Snape's dark, unreadable eyes on hers. A slightly calloused hand rose again to touch her flushed cheek and Snape's head dropped near her shoulder, so that his warm breath blew against her ear.

"And ishq is love that entwines two people together - inseparable yet still distinct. Independent and yet utterly entangled."

Before Hermione could properly remember realize the importance of the whispered words, she was drowning again, her lips and hands too busy touching and tasting to let her mind think. But there was a harmony spreading through her- like light or warmth or wine - that words could never do justice and so she let go of them and reveled in the brightness of it.

Heart Over Mind

A Harry Potter Story
by Regann

Part 20 of 27

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