Continuing Tales

Heart Over Mind

A Harry Potter Story
by Regann

Part 21 of 27

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Heart Over Mind

Considering the revelry that had rollicked through the halls of Hogwarts Castle only a few hours earlier, Severus Snape was not at all surprised to find himself in the minority when he woke early and set out down the empty corridors of the unusually quiet school. On his way up from the dungeons as he traveled toward the Great Hall, he encountered no other stalwart souls who had just started their day; he met with only one being that was neither portrait nor ghost and he -- a guilty-looking Seventh Year Hufflepuff -- had a look about him that told Snape that the student had yet to see a bed since Voldemort's defeat. Feeling uncharacteristically magnanimous, he only docked the boy's House a handful of points before pointing him solidly toward the Hufflepuff dormitories with a reminder that classes were set to resume soon.

Snape was pleased to see that the reminder of an Advanced Potions essay had the power to eradicate the goofy look of distraction that had set into the boy's features.

Snape was also hardly surprised to see that the Great Hall had returned to its usual, impeccable state after the celebration Dumbledore had hosted within its walls the night before, banners meticulously in place and tables set for breakfast, silver polished and goblets gleaming. He was, on the other hand, mildly surprised that it appeared that he'd arrived at breakfast before anyone -- even his colleagues on staff. And while not unheard-of, Snape knew that Minerva McGonagall, consummate in her role as deputy headmistress, rarely met this hour of the morning without having risen and accomplished half a dozen tasks. Imagining the state she'd have to be suffering in order to still be abed, Snape shook his head in wry amusement before he focused on his meal, a meal that would be enjoyed in utter silence -- a rare occurrence at the boarding school.

Of course, despite his early rising and arrogant attitude, Snape had had as little sleep the night before as he'd had the previous night and, while both nights had involved Hermione, the events of less than twelve hours before had impacted his life in ways that making potions with her had not. His world had tilted on its axis in rather startling ways in the past few days and Snape couldn't help but analyze his own reactions to the changes. So far, he could only congratulate himself for handling the transformations in his life so calmly -- wonder when the true import of the changes would actually permeate into his stunned skull.

Sitting alone at breakfast, sipping his tea, Snape mulled over the events that had led up to his actions the night before, the least of which had been his impulsive revelation of feelings that he had long decided to ignore -- feelings he would have never acknowledged if Hermione had not confessed first. He once again found himself marveling at her courage, ironically thankful for her headstrong, impulsive, Gryffindor-ish nature. Her quiet admission had freed him from his own doubts, his own sensibilities, his own fears, and, coupled with the pain he'd heard in her voice, had spurned him to act. He'd stepped outside so many of the boundaries that set around his ideas about right action and right thought and, ignoring most everything that he believed to be sensible, Snape had kissed her. It had been a rash, foolish action; but at that moment, he hadn't much cared for propriety or decorum because nothing else had mattered in the face of such an unbelievable truth: that Hermione -- this incomparable and infuriating creature -- loved him.

Even after having it affirmed many times since that first, hesitant confession, Snape still couldn't ignore the incredulity in the thought. Hermione Granger loved him. Simple, direct, concise -- small English words, easy to understand. But the weight, the importance of that fact shaded and gilded the words, filled with them fascinating nuance and made them drip with hidden meaning.

"Good morning, Severus."

Snape, only through years of training and laboratory work, was able to keep his hands steady in the face of Professor Dumbledore's unexpected presence behind him as the old wizard strolled toward his place at the head table. Snape turned slightly in his seat to watch the headmaster's progress. "Headmaster," he nodded politely, the inherent contrariness of his nature present under the platitude.

"It seems that we'll be eating alone this morning," Dumbledore pointed out in amusement, sweeping a gnarled hand out over the empty hall.

"I find it a refreshing change," Snape admitted stiffly.

Dumbledore's eyes were twinkling, a smile twitching at his mouth. "Yes, never one to turn away from peace and quiet, are you, Severus?"

"I enjoy them, yes."

Lowering himself into his seat, he shook his head in familiar exasperations. "Sometimes you strike me as being one of the oldest wizards of my acquaintance."

Snape glanced up over the rim of his teacup. "I could say the same to you."

Dumbledore chuckled. "Yes, you could and it would be the truth." He paused, staring off toward the tall windows that were bright with the morning sun. His wrinkled face changed, grew pensive. "Things have changed, my boy," he told Snape quietly, serious but not solemn. "The world that we knew for so long is over and we've emerged into a completely different one."

"It isn't over," Snape reminded him just as quietly, now frowning into his cup. "Just because the Dark Lord has finally been defeated for good doesn't mean that his ilk are gone."

"No, you are correct," Dumbledore agreed, eyes drifting away from the windows to look at the ornate goblet around which he'd wrapped his fingers. "Darkness can never be completely gone but...this is a brighter future that we have before us." He took a sip of his iced pumpkin juice. "I will admit that sometimes I did not believe that I would live to see it."

"Nor did I."

"And yet...we did, Severus." Dumbledore reminded him, weary triumphant in his voice.

"Indeed," Snape agreed, one quick nod of his head to emphasize his words.

"We all have a bright future ahead of us, even you, Severus, despite your eternally dismal outlook on life." Dumbledore glanced back toward the golden glow of the glittering windows, spreading his hands as if in supplication. "At least the weather had decided to agree with me this morning," he observed amusedly, motioning toward the windows.

"I always agree with you, Headmaster," Snape pointed out, the feigned disbelief obviously for sarcastic effect.

Dumbledore lowered his hands and peered at the younger wizard over the rim of his moon-shaped spectacles. "Of course, you do. I've just imagined all those disagreements we've had."

"Your age, no doubt," Snape said helpfully, busying himself by reaching for some toast.

"Perhaps it is my age -- but that's something you don't have the ability to blame," the headmaster told him. "You're young, yet. Take advantage of this bright new world. To quote an old's yours for the taking."

Snape's eyebrow rose in obvious scorn as his nimble fingers allowed the unbuttered toast to drop onto his plate. "Have you given everyone this rousing, inspirational speech or is this especially for my benefit?"

"Not everyone is as stubborn as you," Dumbledore admitted grudgingly, a hint of paternal pride in the complaint. "Most people would make sure to take advantage of the situation -- a chance at new beginnings, freedom from the past...a bright future to be had..."

"My future is bright enough, thank you," came Snape's biting, automatic reply.

Unfortunately for him, it seem to be the exact reaction that Dumbledore wanted because Snape quickly found himself facing that damnable twinkle. "Yes, well...Miss Granger can have that effect on people."

Having tried diligently to ignore the headmaster's flights of fancy even in the face of the damnable twinkle, Snape almost choked on Dumbledore's sly remark. He dropped his fork in a fit of consternation. "I knew that there was a reason behind this conversation."

"I beg your pardon?" Dumbledore murmured innocently, pulling his eyes away from the windows to look questionably at Snape as if the old wizard had spent the last few minutes daydreaming instead of ladling out maudlin advice.

Snape had spent almost two decades with Dumbledore and, like most of the staff, knew better than trust the elderly wizard's innocent facade. "How long have you known?"

"Know what, Severus?" Dumbledore asked, feigning surprise even as his eyes twinkled devilishly and a rakish grin twisted beneath his long beard. "Known that you and Miss Granger are rather close? I didn't realize it was a secret. After all, you did take her to Midsummer and Ljajla..."

Snape's dark scowl spoke eloquently of his displeasure at the headmaster's sly teasing. Instead of answering, he devoted his attention to spreading jam on his toast.

As Dumbledore watched him, the oblivious innocence fell away to be replaced by a more somber, contemplative expression, the very blue eyes suddenly serious and surprisingly earnest as the old wizard watched his former student. "I have watched you be nothing but unhappy for almost three decades, Severus," Dumbledore revealed, genuine sadness in his voice. "I have always hoped that I would live long enough to see you truly happy for once in your life."

He noticed the sadness echoing in the old wizard's voice and turned to look at him, seeing the thoughtful, almost-frowning expression on Dumbledore's face. Snape remembered the thoughts he'd had just before Dumbledore's arrival at breakfast -- his disbelief in the fact that Hermione had confessed to being in love with him, his incredulity that he had been fortunate enough to have this chance...

Snape's mind drifted back to the night before, to that incredible, unbelievable moment when that first kiss had ended and Hermione -- still the more brave -- had spoken first, her voice shaky and uneven as she jokingly explained that this was the reason that she hadn't taken the course of action he'd suggested that summer which had involve confessions in the Great Hall. And he had replied, quickly shaken but more adept at hiding it, that he was astonished at the way her mind worked because she'd tricked him that same summer with her enigmatic statements about saying his name...

There was still an echo of that feeling buried deep in his chest, something heavy and aching but still wonderful, something solid and buoyant and seemingly without a proper name -- except perhaps one.

"I think..." Snape began, his voice quiet and low and hesitant, each word measured carefully. "I think that perhaps you have."

Dumbledore's face softened, turning into a gentle mess of grandfatherly lines and affection. He nodded briskly, smiling. "Then I have lived long enough."

Snape cleared his throat and took a long drink of his own pumpkin juice, allowing the emotions and confessions to be washed away by normative silence. "That sounds terribly fatalistic, Albus," he finally commented dryly, nothing lingering in his face or in his voice to tie him to his confession a moment before.

But still Dumbledore smiled -- though the smile was again the usual infuriating, enigmatic, twinkling variety. "Oh, don't worry about me. I happen to adore this bright new future. In fact...I like it so much I might just live forever." The old wizard lifted his golden goblet in a merry toast, head bowing to the invisible denizens of the room.

And Snape couldn't help but to raise in his own goblet in return, just as he couldn't fight the smile that threatened his face, small though it was. After all, there was no one there to see it and it seemed appropriate, considering.

The merry morning light, streaming through the beveled glass of the tall windows, heartily approved.


As much as Hermione loved wine, wine most emphatically did not love her.

It was for exactly this reason that Hermione faced the inevitable arrival of morning with extremely mixed feelings. Groggy, suffering from cotton-mouth and a terrible banging in her head, her eyes were tightly shut against the sunlight threatening the edges of the curtains, her face buried against the pillows in a last-stand attempt to avoid light. However, despite the absolutely terrible hangover she had symptoms of, something tickled at the back of Hermione's sleep-addled mind, telling her that there was a very good reason that she should want to wake up and face the morning.

Since her face was still hidden in the plump bed pillows, the hangover was winning.

According to Maureen, wine hangovers were the worst kind and her current pitiable state left her in no doubt of this fact. Reared in a household where her parents consumed wine at almost every evening meal, Hermione had been taught the value of moderation and the evils of overindulgence. Carolina, daughter of a winemaker, would have been horrified to know that her own daughter had been prepared to drink an entire bottle of good dessert wine all by herself.

It was degrading as well as painful, she decided, slowly floating toward consciousness on the wave of thundering head pains. Hermione had never once before indulged in alcohol to the point where she was left ill the next morning; it was a serious lapse in her usually-sound judgment-making, no matter how much she'd needed solace and, then, Dutch Courage. The most humiliating part of this morning-after was that she knew several spells that cured and tempered the ills of overindulgence -- at that moment, though, her head was pounding too much for her to even look for wand, let alone remember the incantations.

But still there was something telling her that there did exist a very good reason that she should get out of bed. Now.

It was probably the emphatically loud click-click sound of her door handle being turned, followed by the sound of the door creaking open.

Registering exactly what that sound meant spurred Hermione into action: she quickly sat up and groped around the bedside, finding for her labors both her wand and her dressing gown. Pulling them both up into her comforter-draped lap, she only had an instant to give consideration to the fact that she wasn't quite dressed properly for visitors and she could only hope that it wasn't Ron because he would never let her forget about it if he caught her in such obvious disarray as well as undress.

Though she was glad that it wasn't Ron who stepped into her chambers, Hermione was still surprised when her visitor quietly stepped into the room and closed the door.

She had never expected her morning visitor to be a ruffled, almost-distressed-looking Molly Weasley.

"Mrs. Weasley?" she asked uncertainly, squinting against the dimness of her chamber, as if the plump red-head might be an illusion brought on by her pounding headache.

"Hello, Hermione dear," Molly murmured in greeting as if it were normal for her to burst unannounced into Hermione's bedroom. She stood uncertainly just inside the room, her back almost against the door through which she'd just entered. "I hope you don't mind my dropping in on you like this. I had hoped to speak to you at breakfast."

"No, of course, it's fine," the young witch replied automatically, the words, though sincere, returned by rote. "It is unexpected, though."

Molly nodded absently, obviously nervous and ill-at-ease -- characteristics that set Hermione on edge. Mrs. Weasley cleared her throat before striding briskly toward the heavy curtains drawn over the room's windows. "It's not good for you to sleep so late," she chided, sounding more like herself. She flung the drawn curtains opened, flooding the dim chamber with light. "There now! That's better."

Hermione, raising a hand to shield her sensitive eyes, didn't agree but she remained silent on the subject. "Is it very late?" she asked lamely, her mind still working against the handicaps of headache and sleepiness.

Mrs. Weasley turned away from the uncovered windows to look at Hermione, frowning thoughtfully. "It's almost noon," she informed her.

Hermione winced, this time from the knowledge that she'd slept most of the morning away. She decided to blame the time difference between Peru and Scotland.

Mrs. Weasley must have noticed her wince because she was noisily sympathetic. "Don't worry too much," she told her. "After the celebrations last night, you aren't the only one having a lie-in." Molly tutted in obvious displeasure. "Ginny was still asleep when I left the Burrow this morning and she's probably still asleep."

Hermione nodded to show that she was still listening, despite the pain it sent shooting across her temples. Ignoring the pain, she self-consciously pushed her tangled hair away from her face and turned her attention to Molly. "What did you want to speak to me about?" she asked, watching curiously as Mrs. Weasley's face seemed to freeze, plump features caught in an unpleasant-looking tableau between two diverse expressions. "Is something wrong?"

Molly's face relaxed slowly as she answered, "Oh, no, dear, nothing's wrong," she assured her. Her voice was brittle with its false cheer. "I just...there's something I must discuss you."

"Alright," Hermione nodded again. She watched as Molly gestured toward the two chairs sitting around the room's small fireplace and, understanding the gesture as well as the fact that Mrs. Weasley was making herself comfortable in one of the high-backed chairs, she slid from bed and hastily pulled on her dressing gown before tucking her wand in its pocket. She glanced longingly back over her shoulder at her hair brush that lay on the dresser but gathered from Molly's dark, pinched expression that she had no time to waste in prolonged grooming. It was obvious that the Weasley matriarch wanted to have this discussion and have it now.

She arranged herself in the second chair, fidgeting under Molly's somber, nervous examination. Hermione couldn't help but be confused; it was as if Molly were searching for something on her face, in her hair, in the shiny lines of her dressing gown, though what it could be Hermione had no idea. She cleared her throat and gazed steadily at the elder witch. "What's this all about?" she asked, allowing her confusion to show in her voice. "Is it something about Harry? Ginny?"

"No," she shook her head, her frown becoming more pronounced. "It's about you, Hermione."

"Me?" There was surprise in Hermione's voice, as well as a bit of defensiveness. While she had always admired and respected her friends' mother, Mrs. Weasley had, on occasion, turned her strong maternal instincts in Hermione's direction, to the unhappiness of both of them. That streak, however, had not made its appearance in several years and Hermione wondered about it now.

"Yes," Molly nodded, hands folded tightly in her lap, lying against the bright pattern of her robes. She hesitated, then began to speak rapidly, words rushing from her. "Hermione, you know that I think about you almost as if you were one of my own children. It's the same way I feel about Harry, and...I know you're a very clever girl but sometimes there are just things that someone needs the kind of advice that can only come from a mother, and..."

"Mrs. Weasley," Hermione interrupted her quietly, eyebrows raised high on her face. "I have a mother and, if this is the talk I think it is, we've already had it."

Molly had the good grace to turn a bit pink on the ears from Hermione's insinuation even as she shook her head. "No, not that. And I know you have a mother and I know she does her best by you..."

Hermione's eyebrows shoot back up again but she remained silent, knowing that the conversation would not be helped if she pointed out the fact that she and Carolina knew how disapproving Molly Weasley was of some of the "scandalous" ways in which Carolina dealt with her daughter.

"...but she is a Muggle and there are some things that she just doesn't know enough about to help you." She paused, still disapproving, and took a deep breath. "And while you and she might have discussed how things are for Muggles, some things are very different for us. For you."

She was getting more uneasy by the moment and she was tempted to reach for her wand, if only to hit herself with a pain-reducing spell. Her headache had not lessened in the face of this strange conversation with her best friends' mother. "I know that things are different, Mrs. Weasley. I've been living in the Wizarding World for years now."

Mrs. Weasley opened her mouth as if to contradict her but snapped it shut, sighing. "I think I'm going about this all wrong," she admitted sadly.

"Please, Mrs. Weasley. You can speak frankly. Just say what you want to say."

The plump witch seemed to take the advice to heart and squared her shoulders, pinning Hermione immobile with the flinty gaze of her eyes. "Hermione, I know that things are very casual in the Muggle world about things like love and courtship and...romance...but you must understand that it's very different here. Some witches get married right out of Hogwarts and they settle down,'s very important to understand these things about our society. This is important, not to you but to everyone else. It's not that I'm saying that you should be thinking about marriage, it's just that these things matter and what you do now will matter. And the worst possible thing you could do right now is to not take these things seriously. Very seriously."

"Mrs. Weasley," Hermione protested, faintly amused. She almost expected to hear the words "scarlet woman" next from Molly's mouth. "I don't know what you're suggesting exactly but I can assure you..."

"I know about your relationship with Professor Snape," the older woman admitted bluntly, her words sharp and meant to end protestation. Hermione had heard her use the same tone on the twins more times than she could count. Even as she knew that she turned white at Molly's pronouncement and felt heart nearly jump out of her chest, Hermione could still dimly hear Mrs. Weasley over the sound of the blood rushing in her ears. "...and it's completely inappropriate. You', please listen to me when I say that not a good idea."

At the end of her speech, Mrs. Weasley looked to be somewhere between triumphant and horrified; her eyes were bright, color high in her cheeks but her mouth was compressed in a unhappy slanted line and her knuckles had turned white from the force with which she had clasped them -- something Hermione understood because she'd done the same, hands clawing at the generous folds of her dressing gown. For a moment, the silence choked them and the only response Hermione could summon was muteness, horrified and dumbstruck.

She recalled her reactions to Craig's similar sentiments about her and Snape -- she remembered the anger and the way she'd lashed out at him. While she knew she was angry, what she felt now was completely different from that, not only because of who was giving the unsolicited advice but also because circumstances had changed. The relationship she had with Severus Snape this morning was not the same one she'd had the morning before.

Perhaps it was that reason alone that she could react more calmly, her emotions controlled and mediated. There was heat and anger, but it simmered instead of boiled as Hermione loosened her frown in order to answer. "What exactly, may I ask, do you think you know about my relationship with Professor Snape?"

Molly detected the undercurrent of anger and seemed surprised by it. "I know from Dumbledore that you went to the Midsummer festival with him," she replied. "I know that you've carried on a correspondence with him ever since you left school and that you've managed to spend a great deal of time here at Hogwarts since you've left. I know...I know that you passed most of last evening with him alone...need I go on?"

"No, thank you," Hermione said coolly. "However, I don't think anything that you've said so far makes my relationship with Professor Snape inappropriate."

"Hermione..." Molly leaned forward and unclasped her hands, almost as if she wished to reach for the younger witch. "I'm not saying that you've actually done anything inappropriate -- yet. But you must realize that there will be talk and none of it will reflect well on you. You and I both know that Severus has been an invaluable member of the Order but to the society at're a smart girl. You know what people say about him. You're too young to be associating yourself romantically with someone who has such an unsavory past. People will talk, if they aren't already."

"The talk must not be as bad as all that if you've just heard of it from Dumbledore," Hermione snapped without thought.


She regretted the barb but couldn't help but feel satisfaction from the shock in Mrs. Weasley's voice. Hermione closed her eyes and took a deep breath before she spoke again. "Mrs. Weasley, I understand that you think you're helping," she said slowly, trying to keep the tremble out of her voice. "But I'm quite old enough to make my own decisions about who and who not to associate with, either platonically or romantically -- without any help from you."

Molly's frown deepened and the concern in her face hardened into steel, the way it had whenever one of her children would not listen to reason. "What exactly do you think you're going to get from this...relationship? You're a young witch, bright with your whole life ahead of you. You could do anything you want, now that the war is over. Severus is twenty years your senior and has little to offer you, no matter how you look at it. And he's certainly not worth tarring your reputation and I know he has no plans of...whatever promises he may have made you, don't put much faith in them. I know..."

"What you know," Hermione cut in, rising to her feet, trying to suppress her temper, "is absolutely nothing about me or my relationship with Professor Snape. And since I doubt we're ever going to agree on this, I suggest that you leave, Mrs. Weasley."

As she tried to brush past the older witch to open the chamber door, Molly grabbed her by the arm, holding her steady. Hermione looked down at the matronly witch resentfully, silently telling her to release her iron grip. Molly held firm, though her voice was strangely soft as she asked, sadly, "You've haven't said, Hermione...not once. Do you...really? Do you actually care for him enough to make it worthwhile? You're obviously willing to fight for whatever it is you two have, even with those of us who love you. It won't be easy, if you choose this road. Is it worth it to you?"

For a moment, Hermione didn't answer; she calmly extracted her arm from Molly's strong-fingered grip and regarded with older woman with thoughtful eyes that only hinted at the anger that made her body stiff and tense. Then, she sighed and answered. "The answer to all your questions is yes. I know that it isn't what you wanted to hear but it's the truth and, I'm sorry, but no amount of motherly advice from you or anyone else will change how I feel. I don't know what else to tell you."

Molly, still frowning, sighed and shook her head. "I'm sorry you feel that way, Hermione. I think you're making a mistake. And I don't want to see you hurt."

"I know," Hermione said wearily, suddenly aware again of her pounding headache and raw nerves. Quietly, she added, "I really believe it's time that you leave."

Molly's eyes searched the serious lines of Hermione's expression before she nodded, sighing deeply, as she stood up and headed toward the door. Hermione watched her, arms crossed, as she opened the door but hesitated at the threshold, turning back to look at Hermione. "This won't be the last conversation you'll have like this," Molly reminded her softly, sad and concerned. "I just hope you know that it'll be difficult for your friends to understand."

Hermione nodded. "I know."

"For now, I'll keep this to myself," Molly told her, "but, if you continue with this, it'll come out and you won't be able to avoid hurting your friends over this. I hope it's worth that, too."

Having said her piece, Molly firmed shut the door behind her as she left, the sound of it ringing in Hermione's ears.


"You should have warned me!" Hermione said quite vehemently half an hour later, her voice low despite the statement's emphatic nature. "I have never been so horrified in my life!"

Ginny Weasley, the object of her ire, looked sleep-deprived and contrite. "I'm sorry," she apologized sincerely as they exited Hermione's guest quarters and headed toward the Great Hall, hoping to make it there in time for the castle's midday meal. "I knew she found out and I had planned on telling you as soon as I saw you again. I didn't expect her to rush over here after having no sleep in order to give you advice on your love life."

"Dictating orders, more like," Hermione grumbled unkindly.

"Welcome to my world," Ginny quipped wryly. "All interference, all the time."

"As bad as all that?" Hermione asked sympathetically.

"Worse than what she gave you," Ginny admitted. "I'm her actual daughter."

Hermione shot her another sympathetic look as they hurried down a staircase. Ginny had arrived, breathless and full of information, almost on her mother's heels; so soon, in fact, that Hermione hadn't even had time to put her mediwizardry skills to good use and rid herself of her headache. Despite the fact that she had much to tell her friend about the events that had transpired the night before, her attention was swept up in the recent confrontation with the Weasley matron and it had been that story Hermione had wished to share. The red-haired witch had listened intently to her friend's account of the conversation she'd had with Mrs. Weasley while Hermione busied herself not only with recounting her tale but getting dressed and getting rid of the headache that was her last lingering reminder of her overindulgence the night before.

"Not that I think my mother will be anymore pleased than yours when I tell her the truth," Hermione revealed, wincing. "I don't think she'll take it well at all."

"I thought Muggles were all free and easy about that sort of thing," Ginny said thoughtfully. "I didn't think she'd mind."

"Some of the more modern thinkers are very accepting," Hermione explained. "Others are...not."

"And your mum? She's not modern thinking?"

Hermione rolled her eyes. "She's very modern in some ways," she admitted. "In others...not so much."

Ginny couldn't help but grin at the look on her friend's face -- a sort of mix between fondness, exasperation and befuddlement. "Ah, parents. The fun they are."

"Yes," Hermione deadpanned. "They are."

Ginny laughed and was heartened to see that Hermione's mood, though still unhappy, had lightened considerably. She could only imagine the kinds of thoughts running through her friend's head after a confrontation with her mother. She knew exactly how painful one of them could be. They rounded a corner and passed a familiar courtyard, a sight that prompted Ginny to change the subject. "Getting away from talk of my mother," she began, looking rather mischievous as they neared the Great Hall. "Let's talk about you."

"What about me?" Hermione asked suspiciously, glancing at her as they walked.

"Well, for one thing, despite this morning's melodrama...someone took a great deal of time with their appearance," she remarked, mock-casual as she eyed Hermione critically. "And while it certainly was worth the effort, it's hardly the usual Hermione Granger approach to life, now is it?"

Hermione looked down incredulously at her clothing -- a jumper and a skirt. "What are you talking about?"

"Hermione, you're wearing jewelry," Ginny pointed out as if it were a mortal sin, tapping the spot on her own throat where the amethyst pendant lay against Hermione's skin.

"This?" Hermione's hand unconsciously lifted to touch the heavy pendant. "I always wear this. Well, I have since I've gotten it but usually it's tucked under my robes where it can't be seen. And since when did jewelry become a sign of something ulterior?"

Ginny just grinned. "Since you're doing it."

Hermione rolled her eyes. "Will I ever understand the way your mind works?"

"Most likely not," her friend countered amusedly.

Hermione shook her head but she was smiling as the pair finally reached the hall at which one end stood the Great Hall. Suddenly Ginny paused, almost lost in thought, and exclaimed, "Oh! I almost forgot."

Hermione stopped moving forward and turned back to look at her. "What is it?"

"What happened last night?" Ginny asked, once again walking.

Her friend valiantly fought against the color sweeping over her face. "What do you mean?" she countered evasively. While Hermione had every intention of telling Ginny about what had happened, it wasn't a conversation she wanted to have in the main hall where any passer-by could eavesdrop.

"Did Snape ever find you?" Ginny clarified, unaware of her friend's evasion and self-consciousness. "He came by the Great Hall, asking after you. I was with Mum and Professor Dumbledore. I was just wondering if he ever managed to track you down."

"Actually...yes, he did," Hermione admitted weakly.

Ginny studied her friend. "And...?" she prompted, waving her hand in a motion that asked for Hermione to continue.

"And...we talked," she reluctantly said, brushing past her friend and striding down the hall. "Really," Hermione said in a hushed tone when Ginny caught up with her, "this isn't something I want to discuss here or in the Great Hall."

"What...oh, yes, sorry," Ginny agreed, realization dawning. Her own voice was low as she asked, "But you will tell me everything later, won't you?"

Hermione nodded. "I promise."

"Good!" Ginny announced, grinning brightly. "Now that we've got all that out of the way, I have some fantastic news."


She nodded, red hair slithering around her shoulders with the action. "Before I came to see you, I stopped by the infirmary and..."

As the two witches took the last few steps that brought them to their destination, their entrance into the Great Hall was interrupted as Snape chose that particular moment to exit. Ginny's voice trailed off, warily watching as a strange look crossed Hermione's face now that she looked up to find herself within a few meters of Snape -- it was somewhere between frightened and joyous, knowing but shy, something brightly secretive glimmering under the surface.

Suddenly, Ginny couldn't wait to find out what had happened the night before.

Seeing them, Snape nodded briskly in greeting, though Ginny thought that there was something different in the way his eyes lingered on Hermione's face. "Miss Granger, Miss Weasley." His voice was the same as always -- smooth, low, touched faintly with a richness that seemed to hint at danger.

"Professor Snape," Ginny murmured almost in time with Hermione.

"I take it that you're both rather eager to eat, seeing as how your absences were noted at breakfast," Snape said in his usual silkily sarcastic way that reminded Ginny of times when she'd forgotten her Potions homework. "It's lucky that you were able to rise before you missed this meal as well."

It was Hermione who answered, her voice amused and faintly sardonic -- a fact that only managed to strengthen Ginny's curiosity. "Yes, wasn't it?" she told him, eyes lit with some pleasant but devilish light. "Well, if you'll excuse us, Professor..."

As Hermione reached out to tug Ginny into the Great Hall, Snape -- whose eyebrows has arisen challengingly in the face of Hermione's words -- stepped forward in a swirl of black robes and held up a halting hand. "Actually, Miss Granger...I was hoping to speak to you."

"Oh?" Hermione asked, glancing back at him over her shoulder as she released Ginny's arm.

Snape nodded -- a short, sharp movement of his head. "Yes, there are several...advanced...potions that Madame Pomfrey has found herself needing. While the task is manageable, it would be accomplished more quickly with someone to assist me. I was wondering...if you would like to help."

Hermione nodded, faintly confused. "Of course, I'd be glad to help," she told him, something uncertain in her tone. "When?"

"The sooner you are able to assist me, the happier Madame Pomfrey will be," he answered dryly. "Apparently, several of the patients are in a desperate way -- Lupin, I think is the one she mentioned."

"Professor Lupin?" Hermione echoed, frowning in concern.

"Yes, that one," was Snape's less-than-appropriate response, one that made Ginny wonder how Hermione could continue to converse with him without bristling at his sneering tone.

But instead of looking offended, Hermione was contemplative. "I could come down to your office as soon as I finish eating and..."

Suddenly, Ginny galvanized into action and exploded into the conversation which had, until that pointed, excluded her. "Oh, no you can't!"

Both Snape and Hermione looked over at her surprise. "I can't?" Hermione asked dubiously, absolutely perplexed.

"No, you can't," she repeated, ducking her head at the incredulous stares her words earned her. "I'm sorry," she added, addressing Hermione. "I was just about to tell you: Harry is being released today. We're all supposed to meet Mum and Dad in the Hospital Wing in an hour or see, since Harry is coming to stay with us until he recovers, Mum's got something all planned and...

Ginny trailed off as Snape bowed in acquiesce. "Another time, then," he told Hermione, looking strangely bereft at losing his chance for a lab assistant. "Whenever you are free, please--"

"I'm free now," Hermione hastily interrupted him. "I can help right now and skip eating. After all, if Mrs. Weasley is behind this celebration for Harry, I'm sure it will involve food. I'll eat then."

"If you're certain..."

Hermione quickly nodded, then glanced at Ginny apprehensively. "I'll meet you and your family in an hour," she promised.

Ginny, understanding Hermione's ill-disguised worry, gave her hand a squeeze. "I'm sure it'll be fine," she told her before heading into the Great Hall. "See you in an hour!"

The pair waited until Ginny had disappeared from their sight before moving; Snape made an ushering gesture and Hermione hurried past him, walking steadily toward the dungeons. Snape was right on her heels and, though he rested a light guiding hand on her arm, he said nothing as they walked. She couldn't help but be harried by conflicting emotions -- confusion as well as exhilaration. There was also some diffidence as well; after having spent so much time carefully learning how not to betray herself with her actions, she wasn't certain how she wanted to act now that all that had changed.

Her confusion grew when they reached the stairs leading down to the dungeons and, instead of following her onto them, Snape tugged on her arm and pulled her away from the stairs, down another corridor.

"This isn't the way to the dungeons," Hermione felt the need to point out to her silent companion.

"Yes, I noticed that," Snape returned, faintly acerbic and definitely amused.

"But I thought you were in need of help to make some apparently urgent potions for Madame Pomfrey," Hermione reminded him even as she continued to follow him down another hall that lead them further away from the dungeons.

"There were no potions," Snape admitted brusquely as he led her down another corridor.

"No potions?" Hermione echoed, glancing up at him in confusion.


"But what about Remus?" she wanted to know.

Snape rolled his eyes as he slid his guiding hand from her arm to the curve of her back. "Lupin is in nauseatingly good health, thanks to you and Madame Pomfrey," he informed her sourly. "I hardly need to sacrifice my time to help him along."

"So you...lied?" she asked slowly, confused.

"I...obfuscated," he corrected her as they came to a hall that ended in a large wooden door, its iron hinges and ancient-looking knob and keyhole fairly ominous. Hermione wondered what could lay behind it.

She turned away from her examination of the door at the dead-end to give him an impatient look. "Yes, but why exactly?"

Snape ignored her for a moment like he pulled an antique-looking key from some pocket in his robes and used it to open the old, oak door. The ancient tumblers seemed to protest but the lock disengaged and Snape was able to turn the knob and open the door. He turned back to her, a challenging gleam in his eyes. "After you," he told her, mockingly formal.

"You still haven't answered my question," she chided him as she passed him and stepped through the doorway. Her steps immediately flattered as she looked around and instead of finding herself in some other part of the castle, she found herself outdoors in the cool autumn air in a sort of garden. It was obviously supposed to be a garden, if one that was a bit overgrown, but it was tucked into some strange hollow in the castle architecture so that while there was no roof to block the sun, the stone walls of the castle up on every side, towering over her and the small patch of cultivated wilderness. It was secluded, quiet and inviting and Hermione turned back toward Snape in inquiry as he was closing the door behind him.

Before she had a chance to ask, however, Snape spoke. "There would have been no need for deception had you not been in Miss Weasley's company," he explained, answering her earlier question. "However...I was not...certain of how you wished to present your friends."

"Oh," Hermione replied, thoughtful. "Oh, I hadn't even thought about it, actually." She smiled at him. "How very Slytherin of you."

He raised an eyebrow at her comment, amusement threatening his face. "Hardly a surprise, I should hope."

Hermione's smile brightened, widened, suddenly struck by a giddiness she couldn't explain. "No, not at all." She peered around once more at the unusual garden that surrounded them. "So, what is all this?" she asked, arms wide to indicate it all.

"A private garden," he explained. "It's rumored to have been the personal garden for one of the former headmasters but it is rarely used now."

Hermione was obviously impressed as she spun around to observe the entire area in turns from the ivy that climbed up one gray stone wall, to the thick, haphazard lines of overgrown flowering shrubs and the artful naturalness of the entire walled garden. "I've never noticed this place," she said at last.

"It is private," he reminded her. When she appeared to protest, Snape added, "even from meddling Gryffindors armed with magic maps."

Hermione smiled. "Point taken." After she cast one more appraising look around the walled garden, she turned around to find Snape quite near her, arms crossed over his chest. He was watching her intensely, almost alarmingly so, and Hermione found the earlier giddiness turning to nervousness in the pit of her stomach. She idly ran her hand over the top of one of the nearby shrubs. "So..." she darted her eyes away from him as she began to speak. "How should we spend our hour?"

"I had thought that there were things you might have wanted to discuss," he explained, something odd in his voice that she didn't understand. "And I also thought that a place where we are unlikely to be overheard would be best."

"That makes sense..." Hermione answered, still puzzling over the edge to his tone. It was stilted and apprehensive, she noticed. Somehow...halting. Or perhaps...uncertain? It suddenly hit her that the oddness in his voice was the same strangeness she'd heard in it the night before when he had kept trying to stop her from confessing her feelings and that it meant that she wasn't the only person who was feeling nervous about the change in their relationship. It was exhilarating, yes, and completely wonderful but it was also terrifying -- at least for Hermione. It had taken her almost two years of interaction, of give-and-take to become something like friends; now, their feelings had outstripped their comfortable roles and they were left floundering in its wake.

It was a relief to know that Snape felt the same as she; Hermione felt the tension leave her spine as she took a deep breath and felt the knot in her stomach ease before she was finally able to face Snape and his riveting, watchful eyes.

Snape must have noticed her deliberate relaxing because his own posture lost some of his sharpness and he dropped his arms to his sides. "Then you agree?"

"Well, yes," she admitted, her face softening. "There is a great deal to talk about." She paused, considering, as she idly tapped a finger against her pursued lips. "A great deal of questions that need to be answered..."

"Such as...?"

Hermione managed to smile again, a tentative but teasing expression. "Well, for one thing, we should really discuss how you feel about long distance relationships." She raised an eyebrow inquiringly. "Unless you fancy relocating to Peru for the next year or so?"

Snape looked caught between amusement and horror; it eventually played across his face as a raised eyebrow and a twist of his lips that might have been the faintest echo of a smile. "I do not," he told her dryly.

"See? Lots to discuss, then," she teased, answering Snape's lightening mood with her own.

He seemed to take her continued attempts at levity as a good sign because he moved closer to her, closing the gap between them until he could gently rest his hands against arms, a light touch against the wool of her jumper. It was barely an embrace of any kind but it was contact and it felt right and Hermione relaxed just a little bit more, stepping closer to him, strengthening the embrace.

"When will you be leaving?" Snape asked seriously.

"End of the week," she admitted ruefully. "I had an owl from Senora Luisa this morning."

"Will this unexpected sojourn affect your training adversely?" he questioned.

"No," Hermione assured him, absently allowing her fingers brush against the heavy fabric Snape's robes, indulging a small fantasy that she'd harbored since her last year at Hogwarts. "Luisa has been very understanding."

"It's not everyday that a Dark Lord is defeated," Snape pointed out wryly, then asked slyly, "You received an owl this morning? Was this before or after you missed breakfast?"

"After," Hermione admitted laughingly. "I was very tired this morning."

Snape looked unconvinced as he raised a hand to touch his fingers lightly against her temple. "And how is your head?"

"It's fine," she stated firmly. At the utter disbelief on Snape's face, she admitted, "So, I was a little under the weather this morning. It's fine now -- I do have the training to deal with a simple headache." Narrowing her eyes at the smug satisfaction on Snape's face, she continued. "And exactly why did you think I would have a headache this morning?"

"The wine," he said simply.

Hermione winced in remembrance. "It didn't help," she acknowledged. "Though my headache probably wouldn't have been so terrible if I hadn't woken up to..."

"To?" Snape asked sharply, wondering at the sudden grimace on Hermione's face.

She looked back up at him, something like regret in her eyes as she tightened her hold on his robes. "Mrs. Weasley knows," she explained, still grimacing. "About us, that is. Actually, I don't know how much she knows exactly but...she asked me and I didn't deny it and...well, and you needn't worry about Ginny -- you don't have to worry about hiding from Ginny, anyway, she knows the truth of it, too." Her eyes were dark with anxiety. "I know that perhaps we should have talked about that before but..."

Snape's finger to her lips silenced her in mid-diatribe. "Hermione," he began, voice smooth and utterly commanding. "When I said we need to discuss this, I didn't mean..." He paused to gather his thoughts as he removed his finger from Hermione's mouth. "There are very few people in this world whose opinions matter to me," he told her, "and none of them are important enough for me to base my decisions upon them if our positions differ. However..." Another pause before his velvety voice began again. "You have many friends, and, though I sometimes doubt your sanity in the choosing of those friends, I don't doubt their importance to you."

He cleared his throat, as if suddenly uncertain. "My only concern for discretion was for your benefit, not mine. I don't care who and who does not know"

The anxiety ebbed away from Hermione's eyes, replaced by a shy pleasure that made her duck her head for a moment before steeling herself to look straight into the dark eyes that watched her so carefully. "Thank you," she murmured. "I didn't never expected you to be so...forth coming."

"I still draw a line at snogging in the Great Hall," he warned her, a genuine smile breaking across his face, first at her surprise then at the laugh it had elicited from her when she recalled the teasing comment he'd made about just such an occurrence only the night before.

"That's good to know," she laughed again, a free and generous sound. Snape's rarer laughter joined hers and the shift from friendship to something more seemed to slide into place just as easily as their laughter mingled together in the air. Hermione's only began to fade when Snape's hand came up to cup her cheek, his expression kind when he spoke. "We need make no decisions this very moment," he assured her.

She nodded her agreement. "We do need to discuss some things, though. And it will take more than the half-hour I have before I have to meet Harry and the Weasleys."

Snape's arms, so careful and uncertain minutes before, wrapped tightly around her with a ease that spoke of surety and possession. "And how do you propose that we spend the remainder of our time together, then?"

Hermione, never one to be out-done, stood on her toes to twine her arms around his neck. "Oh, I have some ideas," she told him impishly. "There were some very interesting ideas raised last night."

His eyes were dark -- with warmth, and innuendo and invitation -- and Hermione felt the giddiness come over her again, seeping into all corners of her until the knots were loosened and there was not even a chance for a twinge or pang.

And while the kisses the night before had tasted of wine and night and revelations, these tasted of tea, sunlight and promises.

Hermione was equally dazzled.

Heart Over Mind

A Harry Potter Story
by Regann

Part 21 of 27

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