Continuing Tales

Heart Over Mind

A Harry Potter Story
by Regann

Part 7 of 27

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Heart Over Mind

Miss Granger,

I am beginning to believe that you are even more of a nuisance now that you have graduated and relocated a great distance away than you were when you sat in my class. At least, then I was not accosted by owls from you every morning as I seem to be now. It also leads me to wonder how much time you actually spend studying; so much of your time is spent in writing correspondence to me, I can only imagine and shudder at the sheer volume which must plague other persons, Potter and Weasley most especially. Perhaps you have chosen the wrong occupation -- I hear that professional writers earn a great deal of money and since I am not afflicted with a literary soul, you would no longer be able to justify what seems to be your perverse pleasure in bothering me.

Oh, and you are correct in assuming that the goat's rue works most effectively if added only in the latest stages of brewing.


Professor Snape,

Allow me to apologize if my correspondence is so troublesome to you. I had thought that someone of your supposed intelligence would delight -- perhaps that is too strong a word to use in your case -- in having a forum in which he could put that expertise to use, as you do not do so in your classroom. However, your last letter has shown me that you are not up to the task of answering my fundamental questions about medicinal potions; it seems that your teaching has you too taxed for such reflection. Or perhaps you simply find the questions a little beyond your depth of knowledge as it was you who pointed out at graduation that medicinal potions were not your specialty. And I must agree that you are the kind who seems more likely to poison than to heal. Taking this into account, I will have to find another potions master for my inquiry on whether the use of lemon basalm would be able to negate the poisonous effects of heliotrope while strengthening its positive aspects. I am truly sorry to have wasted our time on this letter.


H. Granger

Miss Granger,

Cunning is a good and useful thing -- however, when cunning is employed on such childish and simple-minded level as you displayed in your last missive, it only manages to make one look even more foolish. Your thinly veiled barbs at my supposed intelligence were ineffective and comical, at best. Do not think that what you wrote in trying to goad me into replying has worked in any way. Nor will I feel compelled to tell you that the lemon balsam will only fully negate the poison of the heliotrope when it is strengthened itself by the use of a simple honey-lemon infusion in order to defend the insult against my title as a master in my field. As your continued need for my aid proves on its own -- I am certainly your intellectual better in this subject, even though it is your concentration. This whole line of thought is becoming tiresome. I should not have to continue to teach you even after you have graduated. But if you plan on attempting any more subterfuge in the future and you would like to do it well, I suggest you locate a Slytherin former classmate and take some lessons. And perhaps they would offer you another outlet for all the leisure time you seem to have that you currently spend in sending me letters.



The letters were not very nice, nor were they usually very long, but Hermione still felt as if something more were being said in them than the simple words which she and Snape wrote on the parchment. She was unexpectedly pleased with their sometimes stinging correspondence; Snape sounded in print as he had in person while she felt freer now that she was no longer at Hogwarts and his student. For once, she was at liberty to express her own sharp wit.

More than once, she had wondered if she had developed it from watching him for seven years.

Life at Trinity College was generally a pleasant one and her classes were the type for which she had always dreamed: challenging, engaging and deeply intellectual. As part of her general education requirements, she had to study a variety of subjects and her first term's classes consisted of Advanced Transfiguration, History of Magical Britain, Advanced Theoretical Arithomancy, Orientation to Mediwizardry and Medicinal Potions. With the exception of Arithomancy and her two mediwizardry periods, her classes were mostly to fulfill those general collegiate requirements.

The only drawback to the new campus was her dorm mate, a snotty Anglo-French witch named Giselle Boisvert, a sophomore at Trinity seeking a degree in Astronomy. Despite the fact that she was dark-haired and dark-eyed, her whole countenance put Hermione in mind of Draco Malfoy: sleek, studied and snobbish, with a tangible air of supposed superiority about her. Giselle had spent the first two days of classes squabbling over closet space and regaling everyone who would listen about her impressive international -- and completely magical -- lineage which spanned Britain, France, Germany and Northern Italy. Hermione, whose maternal grandmother's family hailed from Sicily and had roots which could be traced through Italian, Arab, Norman and Greek -- but Muggle -- families, was unimpressed. Her dorm mate had become swiftly disinterested in Hermione's own background once the word 'muggle' had been mentioned and she suspected Giselle of holding Malfoy's own prejudice against Muggleborns. Not that it actually mattered to Hermione, since anyone who held such antiquated and uninformed opinions were beneath her in very way which mattered.

Luckily, Giselle was in the minority at the internationally-oriented university and Hermione quickly found a kindred spirit in her HoMB study partner, an American who planned to pursue history degrees from both Trinity and a nearby Muggle college. Like Hermione, Maureen had been raised Muggle, but only because her mother -- a witch -- had chosen a non-magical life over a wizarding one. "She's so bizarre," she had admitted laughingly. "But now I think I'm as bad -- sometimes, I miss not being plain old un-magical me."

It was a sentiment that the British Muggleborn witch sometimes shared and the two of them had become fast friends. Her new circle also included Wyatt, who had went to Hogwarts but had been a Hufflepuff three years ahead of her, and Elena, a Greek-Canadian who had attended as many boarding schools as years Hermione had spent at Hogwarts.

The quartet spent much of their free time at a friendly pub located a few blocks away from the university's main campus, where Maureen worked part-time as a waitress and where the locals had a good many laughs at the expense of her accent. "What accent?" she'd joked with them when an elderly wizard exclaimed that her accent made her speech unintelligible.

A few weeks into the fall term, she'd developed the amusing habit of trying other people's accents.

A fortnight before the Christmas holiday and one week before final exams, Maureen felt the need to be Australian, although it sounded too-Crocodile Dundee to be believable. "What can I do for you, mates?" she greeted them when she reached their table. "You're me last order before I'm off."

"That accent is very very bad," Elena winced.

"Too right," Wyatt imitated, laughing.

"Just gimme your damn orders before Hermione adds her two cents," she told them good-naturedly, in her usual American English.

After their waitress departed, Elena turned to Hermione, who had pulled a thick stack of letters from her satchel so that she could sort through them. "Are all of those yours?"

Hermione nodded, neatly separately them into three piles, mentally marked 'bills,' 'friends' and 'other.' Snape's missives usually found themselves in 'other.'

"Anything serious?" Wyatt inquired quietly, uncharacteristically serious. Since Elena and Maureen were both from North America, horrors such as Deatheaters and Voldemort seemed far removed to them, something from news reports and text books. But to Wyatt and Hermione -- both British, alumni of Hogwarts and acquaintances of Harry Potter -- they were very real, and the war which raged between Dark and Light was never too far from their minds.

"No," she smiled, having finished with her classification. The bills were quickly returned to the satchel, while she opened the first of four in the friends' pile. There were no letters which contributed to the 'other' pile. "But I've letters from Harry, Ron, Ginny and my mother. No doubt they all want to know about Christmas."

"Hear, hear," Elena grinned. "That's something that I'd like to discuss as well. Are you both going home?"

"I'm not," Wyatt revealed. "Mum and Da are coming here instead, as well as Victoria. It's a bit of a celebration for my new flat. I hate to leave it for so long when I'm paying good money to live there."

"Well, I am although I might spend a few days with the Weasleys," Hermione told them. "It'll be the first Christmas in ages that I didn't stay at school. My mother is very excited -- she even invited my grandparents for Christmas dinner."

"How about you, Elena?"

"I'm off to Greece," she answered. "A big family celebration on the island. And Maureen is coming with me."


She nodded. "I spent last Christmas with her family. It's her turn."

"Although, I bet Greece will be a whole lot more exciting than Iowa is," Maureen laughed as she appeared with a heavy tray laden with their orders. After she distributed the plates piled high with food, she plopped gracelessly into the empty chair and sighed. "Shift is over."

As they ate, Hermione quickly read over the letter which Harry had sent her. Snape had been correct in his assumption that she, Harry and Ron stayed in very constant contact with one another -- a week rarely passed when there was not an exchange of letters.

Dear Hermione, his letter began. I hope school is treating you well, with the exams and homework assignments that you love to do. Training for Ron and I is intensive as ever but satisfying and ever so much more interesting than classes could ever be. Of course, you know I'm writing about Christmas. I'll spend most of it at the Weasleys (naturally -- it's not as if the Durseys would be thrilled to see me ) but I'm going to Hogwarts for a few days to visit Snuffles since it's the only safe place we can meet. How about you? I'm sure your mother will be glad to have you home for once. Write back and let me know when we can all meet up. Love, Harry.

Hermione smiled fondly at the familiar messy scrawl before tucking it, along with the three unread letters, back into her satchel. She noticed how late it was and cringed. "I've got to leave," she announced to her friends. "It's late and I wanted to finish my History essay tonight so that I can start revision tomorrow."

"Oh, no you don't!" Maureen protested as she grabbed Hermione's arm. "You sit down, missy and enjoy this our last dinner before exams make us crazy! You work too hard as it is. You need to have more fun."

Elena and Wyatt added their agreement to Maureen's declaration.

"This coming from the girl who has two full course loads and a job," said Hermione sarcastically. "I really can't. I told Giselle I'd be home early in the evening. She might worry if I don't show."

"Uh huh, sure she will," Maureen rolled her eyes. "Come on, Hermione. When has she ever cared?


"Well, never, but..."

"Say no more," Elena chimed in. "Sit down."

Defeated, she lowered herself back into her seat, knowing that her friends were correct. Giselle had probably only asked so that she could make plans to be away from the room if Hermione had planned to stay in. It was one of the many ways which they used to ensure that peace reigned in their cramped living space.

In what seemed like only a few minutes later but was in actuality a solid three hours, the owner of the pub nicely ordered them to leave so that he could close for the night and the four students strolled down the half-moon lit streets, lazily heading for the old brick building which served as the girls' dormitory, in no hurry to reach their destination. Since the university was woven through half-dozen neighborhoods of the city, few of the buildings with the exception of the main campus were actually connected in conventional ways; instead, Apparition points and a complicated Floo Network allowed for movement between classrooms and dormitories. The Aldersgate dormitory for female students where Hermione, Maureen and Elena lived was actually located in a small, quiet neighborhood about three miles through the city streets away from Trinity's main Hall.

"I wish that they had wizarding karaoke," Maureen was giggling as they crossed a narrow avenue, mindful of the few cars still out. "Hell, I wish I just knew where a Muggle bar was in this city with a karaoke machine. It'd be great fun."

"Not if you sang," Elena said. "You sound like a dying frog."

Maureen was indignant. "I do not! Do I, Wyatt?"

"A suffering horse in need of euthanasia," he shook his head sadly. "Although I don't know what a karaoke machine is, if it involves you singing, I don't want to know."

"I sing fine," Maureen argued stubbornly.

"Of course, you do," Hermione patronized, knowing well that Maureen's singing was atrocious. "You try to sound that horrible when you sing."

"Ha, ha. Just for that, I will punish you." She flung her arms out at her sides and bellowed, "ROCK ON GOLD RUST WOMAN! TAKE YOUR SILVER SPOON AND DIG AGAIN!"

"Somebody save me from the noise!" Elena laughed, covering her ears.

"Doesn't she mean Gold Dust Woman?" Hermione asked Wyatt, grinning.

"I think it's like that song she sang the other know, Blinded by Your Height. Wyatt expl"ained.

"Americans," Hermione shook her head in mock-disapproval, stifling her laughter as the other young woman pretended to dance along with the sounds she made, her long skirt flowing with the quick movements of her hips. "I didn't know that you were supposed to belly-dance to Fleetwood Mac songs!"

Sticking out her tongue, Maureen was preparing to launch into another verse of Gold Rust Woman when the sky suddenly erupted into an eerie green which cast its sickly color over the witches and wizard. Aghast, Hermione spun to see the too-familiar skull hanging in the air like some kind of grisly shroud, the Dark Mark burning into her eyes just as it had the first time she'd seen it light up the night sky.

She must have swayed on her feet because Maureen and Elena suddenly flanked her, both with wands drawn. It was only when she felt the Hellene's grip on her elbow that she realized that she, too, had instinctively drawn her wand, even as her mind had went numb with shock.

"All right, there, 'Mione?" Wyatt questioned, from behind her. He glanced in concern over at Maureen, who had went as white as a sheet, green eyes huge against her bloodless face.

She nodded but kept her eyes glued on the horrible apparition as she came to a terrible realization. As if icy hands slid down her spine, she shuddered.

"It's over Aldersgate!"


By the time that Hermione had reached her dormitory, it was swarming with Aurors and other Ministry officials, while many of her dorm mates stood huddled in their nightclothes on the sidewalk outside of the stately building. A handful of the officials were interviewing the distressed students, while others filed in and out of the entrance of the apartment building, all looking extremely busy. She could hear Elena and Maureen whispering frantically behind her but she was busily searching the scene with her eyes, attempting to understand what had happened in greater detail.

The sight of a huge orange cat clawing and hissing at the Auror who held onto him tightly finally caught her attention. "Crookshanks!" she screeched, flying through the milling people, intercepting the burly Auror where he stood a few meters away from the building.

When her familiar saw her, he let out a long, high-pitched cry, his nails sinking farther into the man's arms. She called out to him again before Auror finally noticed her.

Out of breath when she finally reached him, Hermione held out her arms in time for Crookshanks to make a desperate lunge from the stranger's arms and into hers. He purred loudly as she hugged him against her chest, the icy feeling driven away by his warmth.

"Is this monster yours?" the Auror demanded to know.

She nodded, still busy snuggling against her cat. "Yes, he is."

"Then is your room on the fifth floor, apartment D?" he inquired.

Confused, Hermione answered. "Yes, it is. Is that where you found him?"

The Auror's hard expression melted into a stony mask, still tinged with sadness. "Come with me," he ordered, although his voice was softer than it had been. "You can even bring that monster of yours."

"I take it you aren't a cat person?" Hermione asked before she realized that the comment had escaped her lips. Crookshanks had arranged himself around her neck like furry scarf, his claws happily shredding at her shamrock-speckled muffler.

"That's not a cat," he informed her. "That's something else entirely. But, no, I'm not a cat person." He led her into the building to where a bald man dressed in wrinkled gray robes stood in the foyer. He wasn't much taller than she with blood-shot eyes and thick lips which were set in a grim line.

"Mr. O'Malley," he called out to the short, grave-looking man. "This girl says her room is 5-D. Her name is..."

"Hermione Granger," she supplied shakily, completely baffled by the sudden turn of events.

Mr. O'Malley fixed his eyes upon her face. "Do ye have a room mate, Miss Granger?" he asked in a heavy Irish brogue.

"Yes, of course I do,!"

Everything suddenly settled neatly into place as the haze of shock which had settled over her dissipated and her quick mind began to function properly once more. She stepped forward as if to shoulder past the Irishman to climb the stairs, and the Auror moved to restrain her but O'Malley shook his head. "Let 'er go, Shannon," he told him.

Taking the steps two at a time, Hermione dashed up to the fifth floor and then shoved through the gaggle of officials who were loitering in her doorway. Crookshanks uncurled from around her neck and leapt gracefully from her shoulder to her bed as she gaped at the pitiful sight of her room mate huddled on the floor.

Giselle had always been proud of her natural beauty, which she had chose to accent with fashionable attire and expensive beauty regimes...but not even what Nature had given her was evident in the drawn, gruesome expression frozen on her face. Her glorious dark hair was matted and wild, her clothes soiled and torn. She lay on her side, arms wrapped around her legs in a sick semblance of a fetal position, but none of that was what pained Hermione. It was the dull, utterly empty look in Giselle's once-lively eyes which made her want to weep.

She knelt down to touch gentle fingers to the girl's chilly forehead, while her other hand gripped her wand so tightly that her knuckles turned white. "Giselle?" she murmured to her quietly, hoping for a response. "Giselle, it's me, Hermione. Speak to me, dear."

"It'll do you no good," a kind voice spoke from behind her as a reassuring hand held onto her shoulder. "She's gone."

Hermione rose from her knees and faced her Medicinal Potions professor, Dr. Sedgefield. "What are you doing here, Professor?"

"They contacted me because I'm the residence staff-head," she explained softly, eyes lingering on the broken girl who lay in death on the floor. "I'm so sorry, Hermione."

She shook her head as if to reject sympathy. "We...we weren't close," she revealed. "In fact, she seemed to hate me, but...I..."

"Miss Granger?" Hermione hadn't realized that Mr. O'Malley was standing at her professor's side. When she looked over at him, he continued. "I'm Angus O'Malley, with the Irish Ministry of Magic. Miss Boisvert was your room mate, yea?"

"Ye....sss." The world was beginning to become hazy once more, Hermione's vision swimming as she struggled to concentrate on the wizard's words.

"We've tried to contact her parents at their home in Orlèans, but they weren't there. Do ye know where they might be?"

She tried to remember what Giselle had said to her that morning about her parents. She had said that she would be joining them in... "Nice," she whispered hoarsely. "I think her parents are in Nice."

He nodded and signaled at one of the Aurors who loitered in the doorway. "You, there. Try for the Boisverts in Nice."

O'Malley turned his blood-shot eyes back to Hermione. "Now, Miss Granger, I know that this will be difficult, but I've got to ask you think that the Deatheaters --"

"Sir!" Shannon, the Auror, interrupted nervously. "You know what the Ministry said! They're aren't any Deatheaters any more! It's just a rumor, people trying to--"

"Shut your damned mouth, Shannon!" O'Malley roared, glaring at the younger man. "Don't repeat those lies to me! If ye are so keen t' believe the Ministry, you go and try to feed them words to her parents when ye tell them that their daughter was murdered by people who don't exist! Cold comfort, that'll be fer 'em, with their daughter just as dead!"


It was the first time anyone had spoken the cold truth: Giselle, the room mate she had disliked so greatly, was dead. The hazy whiteness veiled Hermione's eyes even more strongly, even as O'Malley ended his tirade. He spoke to her again. "Miss Granger, I need you to try to answer me questions, all right?" She nodded dumbly. "Do you think that the Deatheaters came fer Miss Boisvert, or do ye think that they might have been here...fer ye?"

What do you think!? she wanted to shout into his face. Who would the Deatheaters really come to kill -- the cultured daughter of a pureblooded French wizard or the mudblood best friend of Harry Potter? Of course they had been after her!

Guilt crashed down on her shoulders so tangibly strong that Hermione gasped for breath, choking back a guttural noise which she would have released as a scream had she not lost the ability to move her muscles in order to form and expel sound.

With heart-wrenching clarity, she finally understood how Harry had felt after the Tri-Wizard tournament with visions of Cedric's dead eyes haunting his dreams.

Giselle's empty eyes floated to the surface of Hermione's mind.

She dimly realized that O'Malley, Shannon and Dr. Sedgefield were watching her expectedly, waiting for her answer. An answer that she no longer had the presence of mind to deliver. Everything was becoming whiter by the moment, like she was slowly being drowned in fluffy white cotton which pushed against the edge of her vision as it swallowed her into its emptiness....

The emptiness of Giselle's dark, dark eyes...

"I think I can answer any questions you may have, Angus." The voice which echoed from the door was familiar and gave Hermione a warm feeling which she never thought that she'd feel again. She couldn't quite place it in the confusion of the evening but she was grateful for its owner as she felt all attention shift away from her. A blur of dark green velvet moved toward her, the blur wrapping a comforting arm around her shaking shoulders. Another voice, just as familiar and comforting, spoke softly in her ear. "Come along, my girl. Let's get you away from these people." Aloud, the authoritative feminine voice announced. "She's in no condition to be answering any questions. I'm taking her to Hogwarts."

Voices sounded around her, but she could no longer discern one from another, and she processed them only as a blanket of noise. How long had it been since she'd first seen the Dark Mark? It felts like hours, but it couldn't have been more than fifteen minutes, each second slowing to crawl across time, sputtering to a stop in that awful instance when she had realized that Giselle had been killed.

And it was all her fault.

Colors swirled around her and Hermione felt her stomach lurch before everything came to a sudden standstill. As she blinked and tried to focus her eyes, she discerned the vague outline of her former school in the distance, the castle jutting against the star-specked sky. "Hogwarts?"

"That is where I said that I was taking you, Miss Granger," Professor McGonagall's voice was firm but sympathetic. "Come now, you need some rest. Let Albus deal with Angus -- they've been friends for ages."

The Transfiguration teacher kept her arm firmly around the girl's shoulders, guiding her weary student toward the school gates. Neither of them said anything, not that words would have helped the situation. The silence and crisp air of the snowy wilderness held the whiteness at bay from Hermione's mind. She felt the oblivion ebb away, only to be replaced by profound sadness and nerve-numbing fatigue.

Once they reached the school's gates, a sense of relief claimed her as the iron clattered shut behind them, locking her firmly within the near-impregnable grounds which had become like her second home. She craved rest and her body was being forceful about its demand -- she stumbled for the third time since she'd entered the Hogwarts grounds, her legs refusing to obey her simple command to walk. McGonagall was having trouble supporting her, Hermione's slight weight deadened by fatigue.

"I'm sorry," she apologized through gritted teeth, willing her legs to move correctly.

A slight movement in the shadows of the courtyard grabbed Hermione's attention away from her non-reactive limbs. The darkness seem to rustle in the way that the fine cloth used in robes might, and she watched as a small section of the penumbra created by the castle's height pulled away from the mass, gliding toward them. Dark, dark eyes soon became distinguishable, sallow skin strangely luminous under the half-moon's light.

"Severus," McGonagall breathed in obvious relief, still trying to keep her former student upright. "I'm very glad to see you there."

"The headmaster asked me to wait. Can I be of some service, Minerva?"

The elder witch nodded. "Miss Granger seems to be having a bit of trouble."

"No, I'm fine," she stammered unconvincingly, pulling away from the Animagus's support. "I'll be fine, now." She valiantly took a unaided step forward, only to have her knees buckle under the effort. Hermione would have crumpled to the ground if Snape had not moved with surprising speed and unsurprising grace to her side, hefting the girl's limp form up into his arms, one beneath her knees and the other supporting her back.

"As usual, Miss Granger, your Gryffindor stupidity and impulsive bouts of pseudo-heroism rear their ugly heads at precisely the wrong moment." His deep, silken voice washed over her frayed nerves like salve, bringing such a feeling of safety, of home that she was left shaken by it, fighting tears which she refused to shed.

Instead, she rewarded him for his comment with a sad hint of an appreciative smile, her teary eyes drowsy with the soothing comfort his presence fostered. "Thanks," she managed to whisper before she laid her head against his shoulder and gave into the darkness of exhaustion.


Guilt was an emotion with which Severus Snape was quite familiar. In fact, he'd come to view it almost as one did the presence of an old, steadfast acquaintance who offered nothing if not a sense of normality by his existence.

Guilt - or remorse, or regret - reminded Snape that he had once made a terrible mistake, although the proof of said mistake was still evident on his left arm. But the guilt also reminded him that he'd been forgiven for it and been given the chance to correct it. For guilt, more than any other emotion of which humans are possible, lends itself toward penance in some form or another.

Since guilt was his stalwart companion, Snape found it strangely unsettling to have other emotions outweighing it in him that night.

Most strange of all, those emotions were relief and a gratitude directed toward the cosmos, in the way Muggles might thank God whenever life's events have occurred in their favor.

Snape was relieved that it had been Giselle Boisvert in residence at the Aldersgate dormitory room when the Deatheaters had arrived and he thanked whatever grace it had been which had kept Hermione Granger away from her home earlier that evening.

In the dark and light view of the world to which most prescribed, Snape knew that it was wrong to be thankful for anyone's death, no matter how wicked or deserving they might have been. In his opinion, however, such either/or positions were reserved for the Dumbledores and Potters of the world. He, by virtue of his own nature, had always lived in the grays, in the shadows cast by the light, an illusory sort of darkness. Perhaps it was Slytherin of him to see his dubious morals in such a fashion. Or, perhaps, it was simply more pragmatic.

In his own twisted mind, he was completely justified in his relief at Miss Boisvert's untimely demise, although, he also knew that his relief should have made him feel even more guilt.

It did not, however.

Snape reserved little sympathy for people who tried to damage what he considered important to him, and even less for persons who helped in the propagation of Voldemort's reign of terror over the wizarding world.

Giselle Boisvert had done both.

It had been on her information that Lucius Malfoy had decided to make his move against Hermione on that particular evening, assured by the young Frenchwoman -- who entertained aspirations to greatness - that the girl would have been home when they arrived. When Hermione had not returned as expected, Giselle had been forced to suffer the punishment of one who failed Lucius Malfoy and, by extension, the Dark Lord.

Lucius had murdered the girl for misinformation; Severus had been willing to watch her die because she had betrayed Hermione, prepared to deliver the young woman into the hands of her worst enemies in order to gain favor and power.

Even if he could have prevented her death, Snape knew that he would not have. And there was no guilt in the realization.

Sitting in the dim glow of his fire, Snape dwelled little on the implications of what he felt. Self-analysis was only useful to him to the extent which it aided the professor in his attempts to justify his own actions satisfactorily. Once that same self-analysis exposed doubt or weakness, it became superfluous.

So, Snape wasted no time contemplating what it truly meant that he had feared so much for Hermione's safety, or when he had been so relieved at her narrow escape. He refused to dwell on the comfort it had brought him to know that she was sound asleep within the safety of Hogwarts Castle.

But he himself would sleep more peacefully than he would have otherwise, knowing that one less of Voldemort's willing accomplices still breathed on the earth.

And, surprising for a man whose life seemed mired in it, there would be no guilt.


The wintry morning dawned clear and cold. Still caught in the throes of sound sleep, Hermione murmured incoherently as she snuggled deeper into the warmth offered by the heavy quilts of the huge bed on which she slept. She stretched languidly as she tucked her face against the down pillows, vaguely wondering why her usually toasty room suddenly had that damp coldness in the air which she had always associated with old castles and stone.

Her curiosity got the better of her and she reluctantly sat up, realizing that she was not in her dormitory, but in a unfamiliar bedroom, one which was elaborately decorated in medieval style. The quilts slid away from her body as she moved, and a sudden chill swept over her, causing her to shiver and reach over for the blankets. The only place she knew of such décor was at Hogwarts, she thought sleepily, yawning.

Finally, the events of the previous night came rushing over her just as the chilly air of the room had. She was at Hogwarts: Professor McGonagall had brought her there after...after Giselle had been murdered by Deatheaters.

How much she wished she could forget the last twenty-four hours.

Hermione spied her wand lying on the desk opposite the resplendent bed in which she had slept, its gleaming wooden surface otherwise empty except for a scrap of parchment underneath her wand. She quickly retrieved both the wand and the parchment, her eyes scanning the lines of elegant script.

The note commanded her to make use of the facilities of the room -- namely the bathroom -- as well as the clothes in the wardrobe in order to freshen up. Once that had been accomplished, she was to find her way to Professor McGonagall's office. It was signed by the Transfiguration instructor but a postscript followed, informing her that several of her classmates at Trinity were concerned for her and that they would appreciate contact at the earliest convenience.

Hermione winced at the postscript; she could easily imagine the state in which Maureen and Elena must have been after she had disappeared into the building with Auror Shannon, never to reappear again. She promised herself to owl them as soon as possible.

Deciding that McGonagall's suggestion of a bath would do her some good, Hermione filled the marble claw-foot tub in the exquisite bathroom with hot water and the sweet-smelling salts she'd found waiting there. Hermione sank luxuriously into the steaming bubble-filled water, breathing in the soothing scent of lavender which wafted upwards on the wisps of steam. Once she had thoroughly cleaned her long hair, she leaned her head against the back of the tub, allowing the hot water to wash away her stress and anxiety. She could feel herself pleasantly escaping the horrific events of the past day as she relaxed in a long bath.

She knew that she was very lucky to be alive; if Maureen and Elena had not cajoled her into staying with them at the pub, then she would have certainly been home at the time of the attack. And she would have met the same end as Giselle. Or perhaps, something even more sinister, considering who she was. Hermione suppressed a shiver at what might have happened to her if she had fell into the clutches of someone like Lucius Malfoy. She recalled the looks he'd given her at graduation and found herself thanking Providence for giving the friends which had kept her out late on a Friday night.

She could not suppress the guilt she felt, however. Just as her friends had saved her, she had been the reason why Giselle had died. The girl's death had been decided only because she had shared a dorm room with the wrong person.

And Hermione was most certainly ashamed of her own reaction. Wasn't she supposed to be brave and strong? Instead of exhibiting that famed Gryffindor nature, she had crumbled upon the truth, so stunned by Giselle's death that rational thought fled her mind. Everything after Dr. Sedgefield had spoken to her was a blurry jumble -- she remembered Professor McGonagall bringing her to Hogwarts and, by that time, she hadn't even be able to walk. She did remember vividly when Snape had caught her from falling when she'd attempted to walk on her own. She could only assume that he had carried her inside, since she couldn't recall anything after that point. How could she expect to help people in times of need when she was unable to handle critical situations herself?

As if to forcibly expel all the questions in her mind, Hermione shook her head vigorously, sending sprays of water across the room from the wet tendrils of her hair. She couldn't let herself drown in such thoughts. It would be of little use to her to do so.

She briskly dried herself and donned a fluffy dressing gown before exploring the wardrobe as the letter had instructed. She was surprised to find her own clothes neatly hung within the old oak cabinet, but she was nonetheless glad for the familiarity. Choosing to wear a long woolen skirt and sweater under her good winter robes, she dried her unmanageable hair with a quick spell and left it to its own devices, to snarl and tangle its way down her back. When Hermione reasoned that she looked presentable, she collected her wand and stepped into the silent corridor.

Judging by the sunlight pouring through the high, paned windows which dotted the hall's expanse, Hermione guessed the time to be closer to afternoon than morning. She glanced down the hall one way, then other. Having never been in that particular wing, she was not certain of which way to travel in order to reach McGonagall's office. She'd taken a few tentative steps in one direction when she heard a sound which amazed her.


Her head whipped around to see a huge bandy-legged cat strolling in her direction, his tail high in the air.

"Crookshanks?" she questioned in astonishment, kneeling to pet the cat as he rubbed his squashed whiskered face against her legs. Once she was on her knees, he seized the advantage and craned his neck to rub his cheek against her chin. "How on earth did you get here?"

"He was quite adamant that I was not leaving Ireland without him," came Dumbledore's voice from the direction from which Crookshanks had appeared, the elder wizard slowly approaching her. "He was quite intent on joining his mistress." He smiled at her benignly. "Good day, Miss Granger.


"Professor Dumbledore," she began, straightening while her cat transferred his affections to the hem of the headmaster's robes. "I don't know how to thank you. Last night --"

He held up his hand to silence her. "There's no need," he assured her. "It is reward enough that you escaped injury in the attack. And it gave me a reason to visit Angus. We so rarely see one another these days."

At that, she chuckled.

"Now, I suspect that you are on your way to Professor McGonagall's office?" he inquired. When she nodded, he continued. "There is no need for that, now that I found you. How would you like to accompany me to the Great Hall? I'm sure that you're famished."

With so few students remaining for the holidays, the Great Hall was virtually empty for the noon meal, with few of the professors even attending. Other than herself and the headmaster, Hermione counted only Professors McGonagall, Flitwick and Sprout seated at the staff table.

The meal was enjoyable, although the instructors seemed reserved around her. More correctly, they were trying to be considerate and respectful of what had happened to her. And what was going to happen.

The task to bear the bad news about Hermione's immediate future was left to her former Head of House. "I am been in touch with your professors at Trinity, Miss Granger," she announced in the midst of the meal.

Hermione glanced up. "Yes?"

"Professor Dumbledore -- and others -- have expressed concerns about your safety once you return to Ireland. Due to those concerns and the nature of what has has been decided that you should remain here for the remainder of your school semester, before returning home."

"But...what about exams?"

The professor looked solemn. "You've been exempt from them, my dear. None of your professors felt that you needed to take them, anyway."

Before she could express her disappointment, the headmaster patted Hermione's hand. "There, there, Miss Granger," he soothed her, eyes twinkling. "I'm certain that we can find you something to work on while you are here."

There was a quality about his tone which informed her that he did not necessarily mean school work.

After lunch, Hermione settled into the library with a handful of parchment and a borrowed quill to write a stack of letters. First, notes to Maureen, Elena and Wyatt, assuring them of her safety and asking the girls to finish the job of packing up her trunks which someone -- Dumbledore had been vague on that point -- would collect for her in a few days. Then, she wrote to Harry and Ron, reassuring them of the same, along with recounting her version of the events which they had already heard from Professor Dumbledore. Along with those were a few quick scribbles for Ginny and Mrs. Weasley.

The letter to her mother was more difficult -- Hermione had to phrase each line carefully as to not arouse Caroline's maternal fear or indignation while not lying to her or trying to diminish the dangerous nature of the events. A precarious balance had to be found and the task took Hermione the better part of an hour to do. When she was satisfied, she delivered the letters to the owlery, then trekked through the winding corridors, intent to return to the library, consciously forcing herself not to think about Giselle, or Deatheaters or the guilt which hammered at her.

For some reason, her feet had other plans. Instead of returning to the warm library, Hermione trailed across the snow-covered lawn of one of the enclosed courtyards, the same one where she had sat with Dumbledore in the spring of her seventh year. She pulled her dark, winter cloak more tightly around her body, burying her face in the muffler wound around her neck, the white one decorated with lively green shamrocks which Seamus Finnegan had given her as a graduation present.

"I did not expect to see you traipsing through the snow this afternoon, Miss Granger," Snape's voice rang out across the stillness of the empty courtyard.

Hermione paused, whirling to observe a dark figure glide across the white snow, in such perfect contrast that it struck her as poetic. "Nor did I expect to see you here, Professor," she replied.

"Well, I have retained continual control over my mental and physical faculties -- unlike some of us," he reminded her coolly.

Suddenly reminded of how she'd felt when he'd held her the previous night, she shot back. "I think that your mental control might be questionable, given some of your more violent outbursts. The Muggles have the perfect solution for people such as yourself."

"Do they now?" he challenged.

She nodded. "Anger management classes."

A tug at his wryly twisted lips was his version of a smile. "Touché, Miss Granger."

She smiled too-sweetly at him before looking away. Her brown eyes lingered on the frozen fountain, the mirth fading from her face.

Snape noticed the hint of sadness and guilt which lay buried in her face, plain to anyone as accustomed to seeing it as he. His own expression darkened thoughtfully. "Do you intend to spend the duration of your stay here standing outside in the freezing wind?" he asked her briskly, his tone harsher than he'd intended. When she glanced sharply at him, he added in his silkiest tone, "Or would you rather have the chance to prove that you can be marginally...useful?"

"And how would I do that?" she wanted to know.

He made a sweeping gesture with one arm, causing his full sleeve to fan dramatically against the snowy landscape. Hermione was once again struck by the poetry of the vision. "Madame Pomfrey is in need of various medicinal potions," he explained offhandedly. "I, of course, could make them myself but...since the opportunity has arisen, perhaps you could produce the required medicines."

"Why, Professor, are you asking for my help?" she exclaimed with feigned coquettishness.

"No, Miss Granger. I'm asking you to prove to me that you're worthy of the time which I have wasted on correspondence with you." There was an unreadable gleam in his dark eyes, but Hermione thought it something akin to amusement. She crossed her arms, pretending to consider his proposition, her eyes cast heavenward. His eyes narrowed. "Quickly, now. I don't have the day to wait for your answer."

"In that case..." she waltzed past him, heading toward the building. When he did not follow, she glanced back at him. "Lead on, Professor. I'd hate for you to think your ever so precious time has been wasted."

With two long strides, he was at her side. "I don't appreciate insolence from students, young lady."

"Good thing I'm no longer your student then, isn't it?" she said smugly, her upturned face mere inches from his.

That unreadable gleam sparked once more in his eyes as he regarded her, keenly observing her glowing eyes, cold-reddened cheeks and long, riotous hair. He surprised her by taking firm hold of her arm just above her elbow, his slender hand capably strong as he tugged her to follow him. "Come along, Miss Granger."

Hermione ruthlessly ignored the tingle which shot through her because of his hand on her arm, torn between basking in his unusual vicinity or protesting against his controlling behavior. Sighing, she allowed herself to be led without complaint into the drafty halls of the boarding school, down into the chilly damp regions of the dungeons.

"Where are you taking me?" she asked suspiciously when he escorted her through the classroom where she had once attended Potions class into his office which lay beyond. Snape dropped his hold on her arm and reached for his wand from somewhere within the folds of his dark robes.

"I have much higher standards in space and equipment than the classroom laboratory," he informed her smoothly. "I assumed -- perhaps erroneously -- that you would as well."

She thought of the sophisticated facilities she had utilized at Trinity and how poorly Hogwarts Potions classroom compared. "No, you are correct."

He nodded. "I am allowing you to work in my private laboratory space. See that you don't destroy anything."

She glared at him as he flicked his wand at a far wall which shimmered until it revealed an ancient-looking door above which was a stylistic carving of a slithering serpent, also of mottled green serpentine. He opened the heavy door with another grand sweep of his wand-arm , then motioned impatiently for her to enter.

Hermione had expected a smaller version of the Potions classroom, dark and claustrophobic in appearance with work surfaces stained and marred by years of use. Instead, she found an immaculate room, longer than it was wide, with a huge cabinet commanding one of the shorter walls while one long wall was lined completely in floor-to-ceiling shelves. There were no windows in the dungeon room, but the room was sufficiently bright, which Hermione attributed to some kind of incantation. The various workspaces were smooth and devoid of any marks, and there were variety in the table tops: she noticed that at least one top was marble, while another was made of dark metal. Yet another was of simple wood.

"Wait here," he ordered her, still standing in the laboratory's threshold. "I have to find the list of needed potions. Do try to behave yourself until I return." Before she could reply, the door shut behind him as he left.

With time on her hands, Hermione idly perused the wall of shelves, each tier crammed with the fascinating paraphernalia befitting a potions master's private collection. Books filled much of the space, some with spines creased with use while others looked as if they had never been opened. She only recognized a fraction of the titles and she itched to pluck any of the unfamiliar dozens to read but she refrained ruefully. Interspersed amid the volumes were ancient-looking scientific instruments, cauldrons and wax-sealed bottles containing viscous solutions which she couldn't identify.

On one of the higher shelves, a flash of rainbow light caught Hermione's attention and directed it to a small glass figure perched there. Standing only about 20 cm tall, the figure of a classically-dressed woman had been molded out of iridescent glass, its translucent quality reminding her of a pearl. In her tiny glass hands, the figure held an orb of lustrous gold, shined to reflect the artificial light brightly. The figurine's presence on the shelf surprised her; it was hardly what one would expect to find in a laboratory and it was certainly...un-Snape-like. Unable to resist, Hermione reached out to touch the tips of her fingers against the smooth, pearly line of the figure's draped robe.

"I thought that I specified that you were to behave yourself."

Startled by Snape's voice, Hermione jumped guiltily, quickly withdrawing her hand. "I -- I'm sorry," she stammered apologetically. "I didn't...I didn't mean any harm. I--"

"Calm yourself. There's no harm done," he assured her, his tone devoid of its usual harshness. Snape laid the small bundles he carried on the marble work surface, then looked pointedly at the small crystalline figure as he circled the table. "It's very beautiful, is it not?"

She nodded her agreement. "Who is she?"

"You don't know?"

She shook her head.

He snorted in disbelief. "Miracles never cease. Miss Granger admits that there's something she doesn't know ."

"I don't know everything," she protested.

"A pity you didn't know that when you were still a student." Snape ran his hand through his dark hair as he studied the glass woman. "Still, I'm not surprised that you didn't recognize it. It's called the Idol of Mnemosyne. And she, of course, is Mnemosyne. You do know who she is, do you not?"

"The personification and goddess of memory for the ancient Greeks," she supplied dutifully. "She was the mother of the Muses."

"Yes, exactly," he nodded, gently turning the figure so that its profile faced them. From the new angle, Hermione could see the craftsmanship of the piece, the classic S-curve to its shape which spoke of the fluid Hellenistic school of sculpture. "This little figure is a traditional alchemist's statue, a ritual decoration in his laboratory. The early Egyptian alchemists refined the art of glass-making, particularly the technique for making faux pearls. She is a symbol of accomplishment as well as a reminder of what alchemists must remember above all else."

"Which is?"

His eyes moved away from idol to Hermione's contemplative upturned face as she examined the small figure. "It commemorates two things: that the ultimate goal of the discipline was perfection...mentally, physically and spiritually. And also, that one's thoughts must be as pure as the gold in Mnemosyne's hands if that goal is to be reached."

"I wonder if Nicholas Flamel had one? If anyone attained such the goal, it would have been him," Hermione grinned. "It's a very lovely piece. Although, I would not have expected you to be sentimental enough to purchase one for your private workroom."

"I didn't," he explained. "She was -- a gift."

Something about the way he communicated that last tidbit of information suddenly made Hermione uncomfortable. Clearing her throat, she motioned toward the bundles on the worktable. "I'm sorry to wasted your time on that. Shall we begin on those potions?"


As efficient as Snape was within the settings of a classroom, Hermione found him to be even more so within the confines of his personal workroom. Although he still moved with the natural grace to which she had become accustomed during her years at Hogwarts, she noticed that he was more relaxed and less dramatic in his movements, as if the intimidating demeanor he had projected to his students had slipped away. As he opened the bundles -- new ingredients -- and commanded his new assistant to her tasks, there was a new easiness to his air, with much of the studied cruelty lost from his words.

She chastised herself for spending so much of her time watching him.

In an attempt to thwart her roaming mind which seemed intent to catalogue every move Snape made over the course of the afternoon, Hermione stringently applied her concentration to the process of mixing a topical healing salve which was especially effective in soothing burns from magically-created fires.

While her mind no longer wandered into thoughts of Snape, her single-minded attention to healing salves was slowly eroded by errant thoughts which had begun with her Potions class at Trinity, then had drifted to Dr. Sedgefield before settling on the sad events of the previous evening which had culminated in Giselle's death.

It's all my fault! the irrational part of her mind cried. Poor Giselle! If only I had went home like I said I would. Maybe I could have helped her...

A second voice, a vicious little nag of an inner voice, joined the first. You, help her? it taunted. You couldn't even handle the fact that she was dead! What were you going to do against a room full of Deatheaters?

"Miss Granger...Miss Granger? Miss Granger! Hermione!"

She looked up at him with wide eyes as if she had just sensed his presence in the room with her. "Yes?" Her voice seemed hoarse and raspy to her own ears but Snape only heard the melancholy in it. She hadn't realized that her thoughts had manifested themselves into hitched breathing or a slight shake which permeated her whole form, as if she suffered from a perpetual chill.

"What ails you, girl?" His question was more like a demand, but its militant edge provoked her into a truthful answer without thought.

Hermione carefully laid aside the knife with which she had been cutting the spiny aloe leaves into long, thin strips, closing her eyes as if in defeat. "It's all my fault," she told him baldly.

He raised his eyebrow in surprise at her response, but merely asked. "What exactly is your fault?"

"Giselle's death." No mincing with words; she relayed the thoughts which plagued her in clear, concise language. "If it hadn't been for me, she wouldn't have died."

Snape's face darkened, but not for any reason which Hermione understood. He knew the truth of how the girl had betrayed her roommate to the Deatheaters, dying only because of her own actions. He had hoped to keep silent to Hermione about the Boisvert girl's real loyalties, but he would not watch her suffer needlessly under the delusion that she was to blame.

Standing across the workbench from her, he laid his palms flat against the surface. "You cannot blame yourself for her death," he told her. "It was not your fault in any way. The blame can be shared in numerous ways but none of them offer any share to you."

"How can you say--"

"Silence!" he barked, pinning her with his dark, savage eyes. She froze and fell silent, her own eyes looking as if she were the proverbial startled doe. "Miss Granger, you are supposed to be a very intelligent creature. Have you not wondered why last night was chosen for the attack?"


"Did anyone know where you were supposed to be?"

"Giselle wanted to know if I planned on being in the room. I told her I would but I stayed out later with some friends..." she trailed off as she caught his meaning.

"Exactly," he nodded in answer to her horrified expression. "Miss Boisvert was most certainly not an innocent victim. She had made a bargain: you in exchange for a chance to gain the Dark Lord's favor. She died because you were not in the room as promised. It was her own stupid fault."

"I had no idea," breathed Hermione, slowly reaching for the knife so that she could complete her task. The shakiness which Snape had observed was subsiding and he was heartened by the flash of anger he had seen in her eyes -- it, more than any other emotion, would keep the guilt under control. "I knew she didn't like me, but...I just never expected that."

"Undoubtedly, that was part of her plan," he commented, returning to his own work. Silence blanketed the pair as they worked on the potions, but Snape could still sense from the diffident expression on her face that something else was still gnawing at her.

"Anything else you'd like to discuss, Miss Granger?" he asked of her as he dropped the dried herbs into his frothing cauldron, carefully stirring the boiling mixture.

Hermione hesitated, as if she wished not to answer, but she finally responded. "My was not very good. I was scared and...and distraught by seeing Giselle on the floor like that...I can barely remember much of what happened," she confessed abysmally.

He didn't immediately answer; instead, he made certain that his potion was progressing correctly, then lowered the flame beneath the cauldron. "You feel as if you handled the situation badly," he surmised.

She nodded, still slicing the fleshy plant. "Yes, that's it. I feel as can I help others as a mediwitch if I can't handle myself in such situations? How will I ever survive this war when I'm not ready for it?"

"No one is ever prepared for war," Snape heard himself saying, as Dumbledore had once told him. "But I have seen you live through ordeals which many adults wizards never dream of experiencing. Despite whatever doubts you have developed, you are strong enough to see this through to the end. If anything, you are plagued by something worse -- a righteous determination to do the right thing."

She noticed the humor in his words and grinned, almost unwillingly. "Let me that part of my 'Gryffindor stupidity and impulsive bouts of pseudo-heroism?' You seem fond of saying that.


"It is precisely part of that," he agreed, weaving around the workbenches as he returned a phial to his supply cabinet. Instead of circling to his original place, he leaned against Hermione's side of the workbench, watching over her shoulder as she stirred the aloe burn salve she was preparing. "Rest assured, Miss Granger. You will make a fine mediwitch."

"You think so?" She leaned over to watch the thin curls of aloe disappear into the milky liquid.

"Everyone seems to think so," he evaded, watching her slowly stir the ingredients in her cauldron.

The young woman glanced up at him, a impish glow in her eyes as she inquired, "But what about you, Professor?"

"I see no reason to believe otherwise."

She laughed quietly at his answer, relieved by his grudgingly admitted belief in her abilities. She peered more intently into the bubbling cauldron to hide the pink which stained her cheeks and betrayed just how much his words had meant to her.

Hermione was surprised a moment later when she felt his slender fingers brushing back the wild strands of hair which framed one side of her face, gently tucking the disheveled locks behind her ear.

When she up at him questioningly, he gestured toward her cauldron. "It would be of little intrinsic value to the potion to have your hair dipped into it."

"Of course."

Heart Over Mind

A Harry Potter Story
by Regann

Part 7 of 27

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