Continuing Tales

Heart Over Mind

A Harry Potter Story
by Regann

Part 3 of 27

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Heart Over Mind

Hermione was looking forward to dinner that night with as much enthusiasm as conversos must have looked forward to the Spanish Inquisition and she expected no less than that as she was dragged by her two best friends toward the Great Hall. Of course, for propriety's sake, the young men weren't actually dragging her -- they flanked her on both sides, each with a firm grip on her elbow to make escape impossible. The situation left her with two choices: follow quietly or scream bloody murder. For a moment, she almost opted for the second one.

Shaking off their hands, she glared at them. "I am capable of going to dinner by myself. I know where the Hall is."

"We know 'Mione," Ron nodded, speaking to her in the soothing tones usually reserved for the dangerous, easily offended creatures in Hagrid's lessons. "But we just thought it'd be nice if we all walked down together."

"Of course," she snorted, tossing her head haughtily. "I think that both of you are having just a little too much fun at my expense."

When faced with a direct accusation, the boys shuffled their feet and shrugged -- a sure sign that it was the truth. Hermione crossed her arms and waited. "We're just trying to show you our support," Ron rallied valiantly after a moment of quick thinking. "I mean, yeah -- it's rather funny but you know we only want to help."

"You're our friend, and we've always faced difficulties together," added Harry. "No different this time."

"And hiding in your dorm room isn't going to stop them from pestering you," Ron reminded her. "They'll just be after you next time."

"Better to just get it done with tonight, right?"

"Like what you say about homework, you know?"

"Alright," she sighed, straightening her shoulders. "Let's go to dinner."

Harry and Ron both grinned at her, pleased. With renewed courage, the trio made their way to the Great Hall.

Moving quickly and with the grim purpose of ignoring everyone, Hermione claimed the empty seat on Ginny's left, while Harry took the seat on the Head Girl's other side. Ron swung around the table and sat in front of her, so that the three friends formed a ring of protection around her. In that moment, she felt intensely grateful for friends like the ones she had. Heartened, she began to eat, artfully oblivious to the looks of curiosity which were being sent her way. Lavender and Parvati, in particular, were watching her like hawks intent on their prey. To herself, Hermione conceded that that was exactly what they were doing: watching her to catch a clue as to who the mystery man might be. For that reason, she didn't once raise her eyes to the staff table, although she did glance over at the Slytherin table, and then made certain that her friends caught her searching the Ravenclaw table with her eyes.

"So, where have you been since class, Hermione?" Lavender -- who sat on Ron's right -- wanted to know, after a few minutes of silence.

"The library."

"Should have known that one," Ron teased. "Where else would she be?"

Hermione pretended to glare, although her eyes were bright with humor. "If some of you spent more time there," she pronounced huffily. "Then, you might have an easier time in class."

"Like you do?" Dean's infectious smile was a little too broad to be innocent. He sat on Ron's left, with Seamus next to him. Trying to appear inconspicuous, the Irishman was leaning into the conversation.

"Yes."

"You mean, like today in Potions?" Dean laughed. "You had it real easy. You didn't have to go around mooning over someone all afternoon! It was so embarrassing."

"And it'll give me a completely different perspective from the rest of you when I write my essay," she added.

"Which means we won't have any help on ours," Harry told Ron. "We'll be left to suffer alone. "

"Hey, we've made it through Divination without her," Ron reminded him. "We can do without her sometimes."

"Is that right?" she challenged. "Well, I wouldn't consider Divination much of an example, Ron. You and Harry lie on all your assignments! On top of that, it's nothing but a sham, anyway."

"Hermione!" Lavender chastised. "There's no need to be insulting, just because you don't have the gift for it."

"Of course, I'm sorry."

"Besides," Parvati broke in. "It isn't a sham. In fact, what happened today in Potions proves it."

"How's that?" Harry questioned. "Did Trelawney predict that Hermione was going to be immune to a love potion?"

"No, of course not," the Indian girl scoffed. "But, in class last week, when we were discussing crystals, she made a reading, remember?"

"Uh huh," Harry nodded, uncertain as to the relationship between a sleep-worthy Divination lesson and Hermione's predicament. "Lavender asked her who she was reading for and she said--"

"For someone who cannot read for themselves," Lavender finished. "That must be Hermione. Since she has so little aura and all."

Hermione couldn't decide whether her comment had been made in earnest or in jest, and narrowed her eyes at the girl. "Your point?"

"The point is," Parvati continued. "She blindly drew blue lace agate and a ruby for the querant -- represents a young woman with aspirations to perfection, and a tendency to overwork."

"That is you, 'Mione," Ginny giggled.

"Then, there was a citrine quartz -- a new venture in life, but with problems. Next to it was a piece of serpentine and gray jasper. It makes perfect sense!"

"How's that?" Seamus asked, looking as confused as Hermione looked annoyed.

"Serpentine is authority and age, and usually means an old man is part of it," Lavender began where Parvati stopped. "And gray jasper means that someone older is going to affect the querant in a significant way. That has to be Snape."

Hermione paled dramatically at her friend's statement, her hands clutching spasmodically into the fabric of her black school robe. The movement caught Harry's attention and he glanced down at her white knuckles, then to her face in concern. "What's Snape got to do with this?" she snapped, recovering quickly as she forced herself to relax against the sudden tension in her spine.

Lavender rolled her eyes. "What's Snape got to do with it? What do you think? It was in his class that you took the potion and he was the one who told you about it," she explained. "He's got everything to do with you figuring out the problem."

"Oh," she returned, her muscles suddenly loose from the drain of tension. For a moment, she had thought....

"But what was her problem?" Ginny interjected. "I don't think that's very clear."

"The problem of loooove," Parvati giggled, earning another sharp glance from her friend. "It's obvious that Hermione's got herself a secret crush and now she knows the truth about it. He must fancy her, too!"

"And Professor Trelawney foretold it last week," Lavender added, a hint of smugness in her smile. "I can't wait to tell her next class."

"Why? I'm sure she already knows," Hermione retorted. With that, she stood up. "Now, if you'll excuse me. I have some assignments to finish." Nodding a terse goodbye to the group and giving Harry a silent dismissal of his concern, she strode out of the Great Hall. At least, she sighed to herself. No one had a chance to ask who it was.

From the staff table, Remus watched in concern similar to Harry's as one of his favorite students exited the Hall abruptly, without any of her friends at her side. He knew that the information about the hayam potion was going to be making her life difficult; he'd heard several students discussing it in the hallway before dinner and Harry had told him of the excitement in the Gryffindor common room. While Professor Lupin knew her to be strong-willed and independent, he also knew that she had been particularly anxious in the past few weeks, with NEWTs approaching, as well as the lurking anxiety she always carried with her about Harry's welfare. The werewolf also knew that she was concerned for her parents back in the Muggle world where they would be virtually defenseless against Voldemort if he so chose to act. While Hermione had always tried to maintain the fašade of strength, she had come to him once in desperate need of a shoulder on which to cry near the end of the sixth year. Remus knew, where even her friends might not, that there was something fragile at the core of all the steel in Hermione's heart.

"I wonder why she left...?" the DADA professor asked aloud, more to himself than to the hook-nosed man at his side, not expecting a response to his rhetorical question.

Snape, surprisingly, offered one. "If she finds her company as intolerable as I find mine, I daresay she had good reason."

Remus grinned wolfishly at his dour colleague. "It's nice to feel the love, Severus."

Coming from Snape, Hermione would have thought had she not left, there was even something rather elegant about a snort.

***

"Are you sure you're alright?" Ginny asked worriedly later that night. It was almost curfew and the youngest Weasely was lying on Hermione's bed, watching as her friend moved about the small, circular chamber tidying as she went. The seventh-year student was already dressed in a ankle-length flannel nightgown, her long hair still damp as it fell in a thick, dark tangle down her back. Ginny, on the other hand, still wore her rumpled school uniform and robes.

Hermione sighed, a stack of books in her hand. "For the last time, I'm fine," she assured her. "I'm just irritated with Lavender and Parvati about their bet. It's rather degrading."

The redhead sat up, trying to smooth her robe. "Are you sure? I mean, if you've got something on your mind, I'm more than willing to be your sounding board. If you need someone to listen."

"Thanks, Gin. But it's fine." She placed the books on top of her desk, piling them neatly beside a stack of cream-colored parchment sheets. She quickly straightened the few quills also lying on the desk's surface. "It isn't as if someone has died, or I've failed my NEWTs or something equally as dreadful. It was a silly love potion and I'm immune to it. Nothing more."

Ginny looked pityingly at her older friend. "It's more than that and we both know it," she remarked. Like Harry earlier that evening, she suddenly seemed anxious. "I...I know it isn't my place to ask but..."

"You want to know who it is," the girl finished, meeting Ginny's gaze in the reflection of the vanity mirror. She sighed and turned around after retrieving the silver-backed comb which lay on the vanity's smooth surface. When she saw the guilty look on the Ginny's face, she laughed softly. "Come on, Ginny. I'm not going to kill you for asking."

"You don't actually have to tell me," Ginny rushed to explain as Hermione sat down next to her on the bed, running the comb through her damp hair. "I just want to know...is it....is it..." She hesitated, her eyes almost haunted. Hermione reached out to touch her in reassurance but the redhead brushed away the comforting gesture, making the Head Girl wonder is something had happened which was more serious than her botched potion's aftermath.

"Out with it, Weasely," she prodded. "You know you can say anything and I won't be angry. Not very, anyway."

Ginny smiled weakly at the attempt at humor, but her eyes remained somber. "Hermione, I just need to know...it's not Harry, is it?"

"Why would you ask me that?" she squeaked, the breath she was holding rushing out with the words. "He's yours, for goodness' sake. You don't think that I would go behind your back and--"

"No, of course not," Ginny interrupted, sadly shaking her head. "It's just that..." She paused, nervously tracing a pattern on the crimson-colored quilt which was thrown across the bed. For some reason, she suddenly couldn't bear to look into Hermione's sharp yet concerned eyes. "You never told me that you had your eye on someone. We're best girl friends and that's the kind of thing you'd share with one. I mean, you told me when you thought that you had an interest in Ron."

"That lasted only about a month," Hermione reminded her.

"Exactly!" The girl exclaimed. "That was something passing but you told me. So, I figured you must have had a reason to hide whoever it was from me -- and who would you have to hide from me except Harry? And I thought...well, it's possible, you know. You and Harry, soul-mates or destined or whatever. You've been such close friends for ages...sometimes you even finish each other's sentences. But I know you'd never do anything behind my back, you're not the kind. But if it is Harry, then I won't stop you, I--"

"Virgina Weasley," she said gently, placing a hand over the girl's nervous wrist to stop its motion. Fighting against the urge to hide her face, Ginny looked up at her friend as she spoke. "If Harry Potter is anyone's soul-mate, it's not mine. Let me assure you on that fact." She breathed a sigh of relief, as Hermione continued. "He's happy with you, Ginny. It's you he loves, no one else. So I wish that you'd stop second-guessing yourself at every turn or flying into jealous tantrums every time some girl looks his way. He is Harry Potter, remember. He's bound to have women throwing themselves at him all the time. But you have to learn to accept that.

"

"I know," she sighed, running at agitated hand through her loose hair. "But sometimes it's hard. And that feeling that he's going to throw me over gets stronger the closer you three get to graduation. With him away and me here, I'm not sure it'll last."

"Do you think that Harry is the type to 'throw you over'?"

Ginny's frowned softened. "No, he's not," she admitted. "He's not the type at all."

"Then there you have it." Hermione told her gently.

She glanced at the other girl. "Thanks, 'Mione. For telling me. And I'm sorry if I..."

Hermione interrupted her apology. "I didn't tell you anything," she teased, pointing the comb at her. "Remember that. I just reminded you of what you already know."

"Yes, yes," Ginny smiled, rolling her eyes. "Or what I should know if I wasn't a jealous harpy." The terse mood which had settled over the pair during Ginny's inquiry dissipated in the wake of the light-hearted ribbing.

"You aren't a harpy," she objected. "You might be insanely jealous, but you're no harpy. Much too young for that. Give it a few years."

"Ha. Ha. Aren't you the funny one?"

Hermione grinned, but winced as she dragged the comb through a particularly vicious tangle of hair. "You'd better head off to bed, now. You've got a date tomorrow with the aforementioned boyfriend of yours in Hogsmeade."

"Yeah, right," Ginny intoned dubiously as she stood. "Not really much of a date with my brother breathing down our necks the whole time. He can be such a prat when he wants to be."

"I know," she smiled. "That's why I love him." At the horrified look on Ginny's face, she added, "I love him the same way I do Harry."

Ginny narrowed her eyes in an expression of mock-suspicion. "Good thing I'm not the jealous type," she pretended to huff. "If I were, I'd think you had a rather entertaining sex life. Changing Harry off for Ron every other night."

"Please!" Hermione protested, laughing. "You'll give me nightmares."

Ginny laughed as well. "I'm giving myself nightmares!" She opened the door to leave, but paused in the threshold. "I'm not going to ask who it is," she told her. "Because if you want me to know, then you'll tell me."

She nodded. "That's right. Thank you."

The redhead shrugged. "No problem. But I am here for you, if you need it." The door closed behind her and Hermione grabbed her wand to activate the wards. Although they were only a little added security, she liked the extra sense of well-being their existence gave her.

As if on cue, Crookshanks suddenly appeared from behind the bed, his bottle-brush tail in the air as he curled around his mistress's foot which still touched the floor. She glanced down at the large ginger cat and greeted him. "Hey there, Crooks."

The purring intensified as she trailed a lazy hand over his head and then down behind his pert ears. "Like that, huh?" She scratched at the quilt with her other hand, signaling for the cat to join her on the bed. Without pausing Crookshanks did just that, contentedly rubbing against her as he walked the length of the bed. She grinned as he stepped up on his little paws in order to nudge her nose with his, then slid his cheek against hers. "Trying to mark me as your territory, are you?" she laughed, gathering the cat up like a baby in her arms. While the creature didn't looked pleased with the situation, he didn't protest as his mistress snuggled him close to her face.

"Today has been crazy," she told him as he purred. She placed him on her lap and he was more than willing to curl up in a ball, contentedly snuggling against her. "I feel as if I've been up for days." Hermione absently stroked the soft orange fur. "I wish you could talk, Crookshanks."

At the sound of his name, he lifted an ear but otherwise remained still. "I know you're a extraordinary cat and I'd bet that you're the only one who would even remotely understand what I'm going through." She flicked her hand in the direction of door, in indication of the others who slept in Gryffindor Tower. "I can't tell them. I mean, really! 'You want to know who my supposed soul mate is? Snape, that's who. Yes, I've had a strange fixation on him since sixth year.' " She snorted indignantly. "That wouldn't go over very well."

She gently pushed the cat off from her lap and she moved from her bed to the simple wooden chair which stood in front of her vanity. She continued to work the snarls from her hair with the silver-backed comb, watching in the mirror as she slowly repeated the hypnotic motion.

Despite the silence, her mind was still working at a fast pace, thoughts flying through her attention so quickly she had little chance to sort through them before they were lost. A fact for which she was grateful at that moment. Hermione didn't want to think any longer, particularly about the whole love potion-soul mate-Snape triangle of insanity from which she was currently suffering.

At that moment, what she found so alarming about the whole situation was that somehow...everything and nothing had changed over the course of the day. She was, in fact, in no different of a situation with her professor than she had been before she'd taken the potion. Yet, it was so changed because now she knew something she had never expected to learn: that what she felt wasn't simply a passing admiration or strange fascination. It was real, a word which was infinitely important when it was used to describe emotions, an entity which was so ethereal in form. Not only was it real, it was strong and loyal, deep in her heart -- even if her mind was still struggling with the idea.

Get a grip, Granger, she told herself firmly, setting down the comb with a clack. You just said you didn't want to think about this. So, don't.

But there was a nagging, unpleasant realization hovering around in her mind, one which caused her a strange ache where her heart sat in her chest. She frowned at her reflection as she soothed her hair back from her face, then split the mass into three sections for plaiting. If it was true -- And it is true, that evil little voice in her head reminded her -- then that would mean that she would never care about anyone as deeply as she did...or would...feel for Snape. Which meant...

That she was going to spend the rest of her life alone.

A very unpleasant thought, she shivered. And a bleak one, at that. Depressing sentiments aside, the thought had the cold, hard ring of truth to it. And Hermione was, at the core of her being, a rational, intelligent and honest being. She wouldn't deny the total improbability of anything ever progressing between she and Snape -- in the present or in the future. So, whatever it was in him to which her heart had decided -- without her consent, she added to herself -- to be faithful, her heart would have to live without it.

The 'it' was probably love.

It wasn't that she thought him unable to love...well, perhaps that was it, after all. Oh, she knew everyone was born with the ability to love someone and that Severus Snape must have loved someone at some point in his life, if only as an infant loves its mother. She was willing to bet, however, that whatever mysterious machinations which had propelled him through time to his current position in the world had not been kind to him and if his downright-evil personality wasn't enough to convince her of that, then the mark which lingered on his left arm was. There was something elementally unpleasant in him, something which did not lend itself to love or fidelity or... emotions which weren't anger, hate or bitterness, in her mind.

Oh, but was he brilliant, to the point of it being daunting even to someone as academic as herself. Hermione Granger, of all people, knew what it took to become a master in anything magical. Like its medieval origins, to gain the rank of master took years of work, study, ingenuity and determination. In the last wizard census, she remembered, there had only been eight registered Potions masters within the United Kingdom, with Snape being the only one under the age of fifty years.

Not to mention that he was extraordinary brave, a characteristic highly prized by all Gryffindors, even the rational and level-headed ones. In fact, sometimes Hermione preferred his Slytherin approach to courage over the more haphazard and impulsive ways of true Gryffindors like Harry, Ron and herself. She knew that she could not imagine what he must go through every time he was called to a Death Eater meeting -- only uneasy half-truths about the torture and humiliation that he was forced to endure to prove his allegiance. To return every time, each trip placing his life in danger from both sides of the fight had to be a nerve-wrecking, frustrating way to live. Particularly when neither side seemed very certain about your motivations, in the first place, always questioning and forcing him to prove himself repeatedly. Snape was tested by the Deaths Eaters constantly while he was treated with suspicion and disdain by the fighters on the side of Light. From her point of view, his life seemed to be strange and horrible balancing act, a tight-rope he had walked for fifteen years.

Sometimes, she thought she could understand how he had become such a twisted and bitter person. And, in her most generous moments, forgive him his actions toward them.

Almost.

After tying her plait with a length of scarlet ribbon, Hermione padded across the floor and got into her bed, pulling the quilts up over herself just in time for Crookshanks to bury his large body in the extra bedding at her feet, purring loudly as he stretched before curling up in his usual sleeping position. With one tiny candle flickering on the nightstand, she tried once again to banish her tumultuous thoughts which were drawn to Snape as if he were a magnet attracting iron filings. In this way, he would not leave her -- a problem she had rarely experienced since she had first come to terms with what she felt for him. Once she had given names to those feelings -- admiration for his mind and respect for his work in the war, among others -- they had not plagued her into sleepless nights.

Tonight would be an exception.

Her traitorous mind slid back into examining the events in the classroom culminating in the discovery of the damned potion and the reason for her immunity to it. Hermione remembered all too clearly the moment when he had stepped almost-uncomfortably close to her in order to see into her eyes, and how he had lifted her face toward his, his calloused fingers brushing against the sensitive flesh under her chin. The friction between his roughened hands and her baby-smooth skin had sent sparks tingling through her nerve endings, heightened by the strange intimacy and paradoxical formality of the gesture. The fingers had been cool against the heat in her face and it had taken a great deal of will-power to keep herself from leaning into the touch. If her class work had not been in question, she may have given in to that temptation.

She closed her eyes briefly, reliving those moments: his hand on her skin, his dark eyes intent upon her while his face was so close to hers, close enough for her to feel his breath against her cheek bone....

With an exasperated groan, she sat up to furiously plump her bed pillows. Those were not the thoughts that she wanted to be having just before trying to sleep. They were already affecting her physically; she was almost breathless and her fingers suddenly starting to prickle with sensation. She knew dismally that those kind of proto-erotic thoughts would mean that the little sleep that she did have would be filled with frustratingly half-remembered dreams which would leave her with vague impressions of movement and touch, sight and sound mingling until it resembled the images played from a blurry, warped VHS cassette tape, ragged and jumbled.

With a sigh, she blew out the last sputtering candle, prepared to manage through the long night ahead.

Just before she fell asleep, she promised herself to forget the matter come the morning, leaving the whole love potion-soul mate-Snape triangle of insanity behind her in the light of a new day.

Heart Over Mind

A Harry Potter Story
by Regann

Part 3 of 27

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