Continuing Tales

Heart Over Mind

A Harry Potter Story
by Regann

Part 9 of 27

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Heart Over Mind

Rosalia Morazzano was sixty-five years old and, unlike most persons of her advanced age, she recalled the events of her life with little regret. Perhaps her strong Catholic faith was responsible for the surprising ease with which Rosalia could remember both the good and bad, for she had lived through events which would have given others reasons for remorse or bitterness without either touching her. Or perhaps it was simply that she'd found that when the good and bad were measured on the cosmic balance of time, the good far outweighed the bad. Against the hardships of her youth -- growing up under Mussolini and Fascism, the Second World War and the slow reconstruction of her nation -- Rosalia compared the happiness she'd found with her husband Vincenzo, the delight she enjoyed from raising her two daughters, and the satisfaction she gained from managing their small Tuscan winery, finding all of the joy to be worth the price she paid in sorrow.

It was her one wish that her children would be able to say the same when they reached their sixth decade, content with their choices as they looked toward the seventh.

Despite the years and its challenges, Rosalia's dark eyes still held the fiery spark which spoke of her passionate personality, though many of the heavy strands of her long hair had long since silvered. She still stood straight and proud, much as her husband did, both of them too strong to have their backs bent by something as inconsequential as age. Vincenzo was almost a head taller than his wife, his skin perpetually darkened by the sun from his years at work in the fields, deep lines left in his face from both exposure and a natural tendency to laughter. She was Sicilian, her blood a complicated mixture of Greek, Latin and Arab strains which left her a woman of brilliance and temper while her husband's extravagant Florentine nature was softened by the influence of his Milanese great-grandmother on three generations of Morazzano men.

From them, her maternal grandparents, Hermione Granger had inherited much.

"Nonna!" Hermione waved emphatically when she spotted her grandparents in the crowds of the cluttered airport as they waited near the Alitalia terminal. At the sound of her voice, Rosalia looked up, smiling her warm, grandmotherly smile as she watched her only grandchild striding purposely through the milling masses.

"Hermione!" As soon as she was within reach, Rosalia grabbed her granddaughter into a fierce hug, murmuring in rapid Italian. Hermione returned the affectionate greeting, patiently allowing the older woman to gently push her away so that she could inspect her. After a moment, she nodded slowly, as if satisfied. "You're looking very well," she stated, smiling. "I see that university agrees with you."

"It's so wonderful to see both of you again," Hermione quickly announced before hugging her grandfather. "It's been too long."

Vincenzo ruffled her hair affectionately, despite its confined style. "Let us go. They'll be time for chat once we've gotten the hired car."

As she chatted excitedly with her beautiful grandmother, the young woman easily pushed the lingering memories of Gisele's death firmly from her thoughts, even as the wizarding world itself seem to slide into a far corner of her mind, although the small valise she carried contained not only her own magical relics, but a shopping bag filled with presents suitable for her witch and wizard friends. When she and Professor McGonagall had arrived early in Diagon Alley, the Animagus had insisted that she chaperone her former student as she quickly finished her Christmas purchasing. Despite the awkwardness of the situation, Hermione had felt safer knowing that McGonagall was there with her.

Thinking of Christmas presents reminded Hermione of a letter which she had sent to her grandmother. "Did you receive my last letter?" she asked, projecting her voice forward from her place in the rented car's backseat.

Her grandmother nodded, twisting in the front seat of the hired sedan in order to see the young woman. "I did," she acknowledged. "I must admit, it was a bit odd to find a large owl sitting in my kitchen, waiting for me one morning! You witches and wizards have a most ingenious postal service. Much speedier than anything we've got, I'd bet."

"It has its good points," the young witch admitted. "Did you...bring the merchandise?"

Another nod. "Yes, and I chose very well, if I say so myself. Although, your nonno was a bit put out that I chose so well. I think he wanted to keep it for himself."

"Do you really mind?" Hermione questioned her grandfather who had remained silent, his eyes focused on the road. "I mean, if you'd rather I didn't, I'm sure that I can find something else."

"Non si preoccupi, cara. Il piacere e' mio," he assured her gruffly, eyes never wavering on the road. "I just hope that this person is worthy of such a fine gift."

"And I'm sure he is, since Hermione has such good taste and judgment. Like her nonna," she added, winking.

The young woman leaned back in her seat, idly staring at the landscape which sped by her eyes in streaks of gray and green. The weather was dreary and hardly festive, the threat of rain hanging over the land in the form of low clouds which swirled ominously about the sky. The weather, however, had little effect on Hermione's mood as she allowed the excitement and delight at seeing her grandparents to settle over her. More than her grandparents' visit, she was happy to be going home.

When the hired car rolled to a halt in the drive of a brick two-story house situated on a quiet cul-de-sac, she quickly leapt from the car once she was satisfied that her grandparents needed no aid with their luggage, and her own small valise was forgotten as she bounded into her house, leaving the door ajar in her wake.

"Mama?" she called out as she peeked into sitting room from the entrance hall, searching the immaculate room for a sign of her mother. Sighing, she bustled through the sitting room and into the dining room. "Mama!"

"For heavens' sake, Hermione!" She heard her mother's admonishment as she entered the kitchen where Caroline Granger stood at the sink, her hands submerged in hot, soapy water. On seeing her daughter, she quickly wiped them dry on the front of her faded jeans, her own face brightened by a smile similar to the one which Hermione wore. As if she were suddenly shy, the girl hung back, lingering uncertainly by the end of the long, white counter. Caroline, arms akimbo, raised an eyebrow at her daughter's uncharacteristic behavior. "Well?" she asked impatiently. "After all that noise, don't I get a hug?"

Looking much like she had on her first trip home from Hogwarts, the young woman threw her arms around her mother, tightly hugging Caroline as if she were afraid to loosen her grip. "Oh, cara," Carolina crooned, running a hand through her daughter's tangled hair which had refused to remain neat in its strict braid. "Something the matter?"

"I missed you, Mama," she told her sincerely, pulling away as she composed herself.

"I missed you as well," Caroline admitted. "Where are your grandparents?"

Hermione motioned toward the door. "They're coming."

The dentist slung an arm over her daughter's shoulder. "Come along, then, my girl. Let's go help that crazy old woman before she starts bellowing for us."

Laughing, she allowed herself to be led toward the entrance hall where her grandparents were waiting.

Yes, she was happy to be home.


Like her mother, Carolina Morazzano Granger was known not only for her intelligence but for her volatile temper as well. Her husband, William, had always teased her that it was her Italian blood which made her so quick to anger; William, on the other hand, was rarely angry and even more rarely lost his temper. While Caroline would shout, curse and -- when she was truly furious -- revert into doing both in Italian, Will Granger remained calm and unruffled in most situations, his unflappable demeanor acting as his wife's saving grace as well as her one of her greatest irritations. In her opinion, it was unnatural that he never seemed to lose his composure.

She had spent the first six years of her life in Italy, until her parents had decided to immigrate to Britain in search of something better than what they had had in their homeland. For she and her younger sister, Sophia, more opportunities had been opened by the migration; but her parents, strong and hardworking, had never been very happy so far north, so far away from their home. When Carolina had entered university and Sophia had finished her basic schooling, the Morazzanos had returned to Italy to settle on the small patch of land which Vincenzo had inherited from a childless uncle. While Sophia chose to roam Europe, following her vague dreams of fame and fortune, her older sister had earned a degree in Organic Chemistry, then continued on to become a dental surgeon. When she met and married William, Carolina had firmly planted her roots in England's soil, rearing her daughter in the land of her husband's family.

Carolina Granger walked the fine line between being both Italian and British, never quite comfortable in either role; Hermione, like her mother, lived precariously as both witch and Muggle, determined to succeed in both worlds.

After the initial euphoria of being home once again finally dissipated, Hermione settled comfortably into her usual home routine, but one which included her nonna in almost every activity. While her parents still had to work and her grandfather spent his days visiting old friends and business associates, Hermione and Rosalia had all day at their disposal, crisp morning to chilly dusk with which to do what they pleased. The witch loved spending the time in the familiar surroundings of her hometown, and her grandmother was willing to help her with any task she needed to complete.

On the first morning, Hermione carefully unpacked her trunks sent from her rooms at Trinity as well as the small valise of items she'd used while at Hogwarts. With careful precision, she neatly arranged books and bottles on the high shelves which lined her bedroom, meticulously organizing the souvenirs she had required over her first term in Ireland. Her clothes were hung neatly in her closet, a quick charm murmured over the robes to clean them before they were stashed away while the Muggle items were dropped into the hamper. Now repaired, the shamrock-covered muffler lay folded in a bureau drawer, safely tucked away from her cat's destructive claws. Crookshanks, who had been sent to her home via Floo from Hogwarts, lay across her tidy bed, sleeping soundly with his bottlebrush tail flicking lazily as if he dreamed of the action. Satisfied, Hermione gathered her bags of Christmas gifts which were in need of similar organization and hurried downstairs to find her grandmother.

She absently noted that the long lines of shelves in her small room reminded her of the ones which she'd helped Snape clean and rearrange in his private workroom.

With the afternoon light filtering dreamily through bisnonna's lacy curtains hung proudly in the spacious dining room, the young woman scattered her small stacks of gifts to be wrapped across the shiny polished maple tabletop, haphazardly dropping pools of color on the buttery wood. When Hermione returned to the dining room after having raided her mother's stash of wrapping paper and supplies, Rosalia was sitting at the head of the table, looking every inch the matriarch with her silver-black hair fastidiously coiled into a heavy knot of twisting braids at the nape of her neck. She slid her eyes over the array of knickknacks strewn before her then glanced up at her granddaughter whose arms were full of shiny rolls of wrapping paper.

"Hello, Nonna," Hermione greeted, a little out of breath. She dropped her armload onto the table, then produced a pair of shears from her jeans pocket.

"Afternoon, dear." Rosalia looked pointedly at the wand jutting from Hermione's other jeans pocket. "Isn't there an easier way for you to do this?"

"Yes," she admitted, surveying the scattered menagerie before her. "But I prefer to do it myself."

"Good girl," her grandmother nodded approvingly. "That was one of your parents' fears about you being a witch, you know. That you would always look to magic for the easy way."

She thought of her teeth and grinned to display them. "Well, not always. But sometimes magic is...helpful."

As Hermione chose a seat to her grandmother's right, the older woman pointed toward a cluster of particularly strange items which she knew instinctively had to be magical. "Those for your friends?"

"And a few old professors," she answered, picking up a small brown box which held a small brooch she'd purchased for Professor McGonagall.

"How do you plan to deliver them before Christmas?" Rosalia asked, clearly curious about the magical world. "You don't have an owl."

"When I was in Diagon Alley yesterday, I stopped by the owl post office there," she explained, as she began to sort through all the gifts she needed to wrap. "I've arranged for two owls to deliver some of them. The ones for Harry, Ron and Ginny...I'm going to visit the Burrow early on Christmas Eve."

Her grandmother's dark eyes suddenly lit up with mischief. "And what about the package I've got?"

"It's going to Hogwarts," she told her, trying to remain matter-of-fact. The last thing Hermione wanted was her inquisitive and formidable grandmother nosing around about Snape. "It's for a former professor who has been very kind to me this last term."

"He must have been very kind," Rosalia remarked slyly.

"He's been corresponding with me, helping me with my university lab work. He didn't have to -- it's always been on his own time."

"This professor wouldn't happen to be young and handsome, would he?" asked the matriarch. "Perhaps that Professor Lupin you always mention?"

"Nonna!" she chided, giggling at the idea of Remus Lupin being the secret infatuation, although admitting to herself that he'd be a better candidate for it than the Potions Master, despite his lycanthropy. "What ever gave you such an idea as that?"

Rosalia sifted through the tangled ball of ribbon which had been packed away with the wrapping paper. "Just teasing you," she laughed. "Although, your mama...I distinctly remember Carolina fancying one of her teachers. Chemistry, I believe it was. A younger professor...Irish. Donovan, I think his name. Later, she confessed that she almost failed her first exam because she spent so much time watching him."


The grandmother nodded. "She did. But that was a very long time ago."

Hermione smiled at the anecdote, taking care to remember the tale. "What about you, Nonna?" inquired she conversationally as she precisely trimmed some red-foil paper with which to wrap McGonagall's gift. "Do you have any great love affairs in your past that you've been hiding from me?"

"I only had eyes for your grandfather," she stated emphatically, a nostalgic smile softening her aristocratic features. "I was sixteen years old when I met him. He was twenty-one." Her smile twisted wryly. "And he told my parents and me that he was only eighteen. It was the only way they'd let him court me."

"What a sly devil," she observed, winding a small golden ribbon around the now-wrapped box. Frowning at the untied ribbon, she brandished her wand, tapping the ribbon lightly with its tip. The gold ribbon obligingly arranged itself into a perfect bow.

Rosalia arched an eyebrow at the display. "Helpful...I see."

Hermione tried to look innocent. "When did you discover his real age?"

"After we were married," she continued, examining wrapped gift appraisingly, twirling it in her hands. "I asked your bisnonna Carolina what I should buy for his twentieth birthday." She laid the gift aside. "She told me that I was two years too late."

"I can't believe that!" The witch tapped her wand against another red-foiled box to add a ribbon to it, along with a tag reading "For Harry, Love Hermione," before reaching for another present. "How did you ever forgive him?"

The older woman waved her hand dismissively, shrugging. "It was all very romantic then, cara. I was in love."

"I don't see how that was very romantic," Hermione told her, eyes downcast as she worked. "I mean, lying to you for almost a year!"

"I see that romanticism is something you did not inherit from me," Rosalia said fondly, patting her granddaughter's hand affectionately. "It seems instead that you've got your mother's pragmatism."

She looked up sharply at the odd way her grandmother stressed the last two words of her statement. "I sense that there's a criticism in there somewhere."

"Not at all," she assured her. "Just pointing out how much like your mother you are."

It was Hermione's turn to raise an eyebrow. "Now I know there was."

The pleasant laughter of her grandmother rang out, making her look much younger than her sixty-five years. "You know I love my Carolina...even if she is a prudish killjoy of the first order."



Made extremely curious by her recent first contact with the magical system of owl post, Rosalia insisted on being present when the hired owls arrived to collect Hermione's mail the next morning, rising early in order to do so.

"Mama, really," Caroline admonished, as she helped herself to a light breakfast before leaving for her office. "They're just owls."

"So you say," she returned, helping herself to a cup of coffee, a beverage enjoyed by Caroline but not her husband. "But I think they're fascinating. And I want to know everything I can about my granddaughter's life, even the owl post."

"I remember you were interested, too, when we first discovered that Hermione was a witch," Will pointed out to his wife. His statement earned him a glare from Carolina and a satisfied smirk from his mother-in-law.

"But they're just owls, Carolina. Whatever did you find interesting?" her mother intoned, amused.

Saying nothing, the dentist shot an exasperated look at her daughter behind her own mother's back; Hermione was so amused that she had to hide her smile behind her own cup of tea. It seemed as if, no matter what the occasion, there was always something about which the mother-daughter pair could bicker, although there was rarely any heat to the words.

The days passed in a haze of errands and tasks, each day flowing rapidly into the next. Suddenly, as if all the time she had spent at home had passed in a minute, it was the morning of Christmas Eve and the Granger-Morazzano household was overflowing with activity. Carolina and Rosalia were engaged in a battle of wills over domain -- namely, the kitchen. Wisely, Vincenzo and Will had retreated to the study where they could animatedly discuss the current issues, everything from the year's harvest of Malvasia grapes to British politics while their wives discussed preparations for the Christmas Eve dinner. In honor of the visiting Italians, they had planned a traditional seafood feast.

"Maybe I should check on them?" Hermione asked her father nervously from her own cozy spot in the study. "They've been at it for a while."

Will patted his daughter on the shoulder. "Believe me, honey, that's the worst thing you could do. They'll just drag you into the middle."

"Your father is right, cara," Vincenzo added sagely. "Take this old man's advice and leave them be."

She acquiesced, nodding as she stood. "Fine, then. But I think I'm going to head over to the Burrow to give Harry and Ron their presents."

"Don't stay too long," her father advised. "Or else your mother will be after you. Give my best to the Weasleys."

"I will," she promised as she opened the door.

"Oh -- there's an old broken radio out in the garage," he told her. "Perhaps you'd like to box it up and take it to Arthur? He seems to enjoy such things."

Hermione laughingly agreed, hearing her grandfather's questions about why anyone would want a broken radio as she headed upstairs.



As the sound of Lupin's voice wafted through his office and into his private workroom, Snape couldn't help the scowl which immediately darkened his face.

"If you're here about the Wolfsbane, Lupin, you won't need it until after New Year's so I can't understand why you're bothering me about it now."

"That's not it at all," Remus answered, his voice no longer echoing as he appeared through the connecting door. He softly closed it shut behind him as he entered. "I've come from the headmaster."

Snape did not look up from his cauldron. "Yes?"

"He wanted me to express his utmost desire to see you at the staff Christmas gathering tonight," he explained, his eyes watching the mesmerizing motions of Snape's hand stirring the bright green liquid which bubbled in the cauldron.

The Potions Master knew that 'utmost desire' translated into 'you must attend' when specified by the Headmaster. "You've delivered the message, Lupin. You may go."

Instead of leaving, Remus rested his elbows on the clean work surface as if he were settling in for a longer visit. "I've been here a few days and this is the first time I've seen you," he observed casually. "Although, from what Professor Dumbledore tells me, you were quite...visible while Hermione was visiting."

"Much easier to work when I don't have an overeager student tripping underfoot."

"Of course, Severus," Remus said mildly, somehow amused by the statement. "Although I've ever really seen Hermione as a hindrance to anything. She's usually very helpful."

"To the point of officiousness," Snape acknowledged.

"And she's no longer a student," he continued as if Snape had not commented. The humor in his expression sobered. "How is she?"

Snape turned his back on his companion, searching his shelves for a needed ingredient. "She is...coping," he answered haltingly, choosing his words carefully. "Although the experience was difficult for her...she will survive."

"She's a very strong young woman," Remus agreed quietly. The silence stretched thin between them until Lupin straightened. "I'll leave you to your work, Severus. See you tonight at the party."

"Of course." He did not bother to glance over his shoulder as he heard the door shut after the werewolf's departure. Spying the required phial, he returned to his bubbling cauldron, carefully adding a measured amount of the ochre-colored powder to the brew, then stirring vigorously.

As much as he did not want to admit it, Snape found the stillness of his workroom to be unnerving after having Hermione there with him every day for a fortnight. While she'd been gone several days, he still half-expected to hear her voice asking him a question, or humming to herself as she did when she had worked, an unconscious habit he'd noticed in her.

For the first time in a very long time, the silence and the solitude of his private laboratory disturbed him.

The fact that it disturbed him only managed to add to those uneasy feelings which the silence caused, which only made him more unnerved.

That the disturbance was triggered by the absence of the same young woman whose presence in his classroom he had cursed only a year ago made the whole situation preposterous -- and even more disturbing.

Snape wouldn't admit that he missed her presence -- as an equal, someone with whom he could converse freely, and enjoying doing so; as someone whose mere existence in the same room he found beneficial.

Lupin had been correct about one thing: in his mind, Hermione had become completely separate from her one-time position as his student, a process which had begun the morning he'd found her asleep at his bedside that past spring and had been completed the first day in his workroom that winter when he had unconsciously reached out to smooth her hair away from her face.

That difference in Hermione which he had noticed during the last months of her seventh year had bloomed until there was nothing but that glorious difference left in the place of the girl he had taught for seven years.

Snape recognized the difference but he couldn't name it, which was just as well.

The truth of that difference would have only disturbed him.


As usual, Hermione arrived at the Burrow to find it overflowing with people and abuzz with furious activity, activity which made her own busy home seem still in comparison. Harry and Ron were delighted to see her, swinging her around and crushing her in embraces tighter than the customary greeting, a kind of frantic assurance which she recognized from the way she had greeted her own mother, a byproduct of knowing how narrowly she had escaped harm only weeks before.

Like old times, the three friends settled into the homey sitting room before the crackling fire, voices humming in the background like soothing white noise in an eerily quiet night. "Here are your Christmas gifts," she announced to the young men, placing each wrapped present on a cluttered table. "And there's one for Ginny as well. Where is she?"

"Last minute shopping with Mum," Ron answered, eyeing the gift bearing his name. "She'll be back in a few hours."

"I can't stay that long," Hermione admitted. "My mother will have my hide if I'm gone too long. If she doesn't, my grandmother will."

Harry, who had grown up without a family, was always interested in other people's, including his best friend's. "How's it having your grandparents visiting?"

"Wonderful," she reported warmly. "Although my mum and my grandmother bicker quite a bit. They both can be quite bossy but neither take it well from others."

Harry and Ron exchanged knowing glances. "I never would have guessed," Harry joked. "It's not as if you inherited that at all."

"Hermione? Bossy?" Ron mocked-scoffed. "Who'd have thought it?"

"Ha, ha," she rolled her eyes. "I would think that my best friends would be nice to me on Christmas, especially since they haven't seen me in months."

"Hey, you know we love you," Harry protested.

"Especially since you brought us presents," added Ron, eyes glinting with mischief.


It was exactly like old times, only Auror training and university life were the topics of conversations which were interspersed with Ron's attempts to open his gift from Hermione a day early.

"C'mon, 'Mione..."

"No. It'll be Christmas can wait."

"What will it hurt, huh?"

"Put it down, now, Weasley!"

"Yes, Mum."

Talk of Voldemort and Death Easters was carefully skirted, as if to mention such a topic on a festive occasion would have been a sacrilege. Hermione did not ask about Harry's scar, or if he had had any prophetic dreams, while he and Ron never once mentioned the contents of the letter she had sent them, never asking about Gisele or her protective custody at Hogwarts. It was an unspoken, tacit agreement between the trio, one which spoke to the depth of their friendships.

Glancing down at her wristwatch, Hermione sighed as she noticed the time. "I've got to leave," she told them. "I have to get ready for early Mass."

Harry nodded, but Ron seemed confused. "Mass? A mass of what?"

She ruffled his brightly-colored hair good-naturedly as she gave him a goodbye hug. "It's a Muggle thing," she explained. As she pulled away, she added. "Oh, my dad sent your father a broken Muggle radio. It's in the box on the table in the kitchen."

When Harry wrapped his arms tightly around her, he whispered softly in her ear, his voice suddenly heavy with emotion. "It was good to see you."

"Yeah, yeah," she laughed softly against his cheek as she pulled away. "I see what it takes to get a little appreciation around here."

The dark emotions melted away as he smiled at her, a boyish grin which lit his green eyes and made him look eleven years old again. "Happy Christmas, Hermione," he wished her.

"Happy Christmas to both of you," she returned as she prepared to Disapparate. "And give my love to Ginny and Mrs. Weasley!"

And then she was gone, escaping once again from the magical to the Muggle world. When she appeared safely back within the confines of her own less chaotic household, Hermione quickly ran a brush through her hair and replaced her casual attire with the simple green dress that she had decided upon for Christmas Eve services at St. Anne's, not wanting to incite the wrath of either formidable matron in her household.

As she twisted her hair up and pinned it tightly against her head, she observed that time seemed to be passing very quickly, flying and spiraling at an alarming speed even as she desperately tried to savor each moment. She knew, of course, that time could not technically speed or slow its passage, remaining at a constant measure throughout eternity; but she also knew that her perception could change, which was why the happy moments she cherished with her family seem to be slipping by faster than she could experience them. Hermione hoped that the sensation of the days were passing in a dizzying rush would fade, freeing her from the delusion of lost chances which gave her manner a slight manic edge, tainting her daily interactions. She only wanted to enjoy the time spent with her family, since their times together were few and far between.

If anything, Hermione had come to understand even more fully that time was a precious commodity -- no one was ever guaranteed to have more of it than they had already had.


In the Muggle sense of the word, Hermione had always viewed the celebration of the Mass on Christmas as something magical, something in the ritual combined with the ambience of the candle-lit church and glowing stained glass creating a surreal and almost-unearthly atmosphere which could only be labeled as such. She briefly thought of her father all by himself at the house, and wondered if he ever regretted adopting an agnostic view of religion which made him unwilling to attend most church-related activities. Only at his wife's insistence had William attended his daughter's infant baptism where she had officially been christened as Hermione Susanna Granger -- Susanna for his deceased mother -- as well as her confirmation to the faith. Otherwise, he kept a respectful distance to any religious service.

As she listened to the priest's words, Hermione couldn't help but let her mind wander to thoughts of Snape in a way she had not let them during her two-week stay at Hogwarts. It had been difficult as well as infinitely wonderful, working in such close quarters with him but his nearness had caused the tumultuous feelings which she harbored for him to roar into life, storming to the surface from the place where she had neatly buried them upon leaving school. Being weak in the knees was one problem -- but being weak in the knees while on a ladder was an altogether different one.

But she had enjoyed it, particularly because there had been something different in his manner toward her; Hermione could only describe it as something akin to equality. And he believed in her, and her abilities. It was a compliment coming almost seven years late, but it had been there when she needed it. Despite the sardonic tone of his comments, he had lacked the sneering superiority which he had always used with students in the way he addressed her, the title of 'Miss Granger' not spoken as a mocking epithet but as a courtesy of...respect, perhaps? It warmed her to notice the difference, even as his voice still had the same mesmerizing effect on her, his proximity still feeling like safety in a strange way only surpassed by her mother's. It had taken every ounce of poise and self-control she possessed not to act on impulses fostered by her emotions, not to reach out and touch him when the situation had presented itself so often.

He knew about Gisele's bargain with Malfoy, her mind pointed out suddenly, as if she actually needed reminding about the danger he faced working for the Light. She remembered that the solstice had been two days before and she wondered if Voldemort had called his followers together for a sabbat on the longest night of the year. If he had, she guessed that Snape would not have fared well. It caused her to shudder, recalling the state she had seen him in the night Crookshanks found him, the tremble so tangible that her mother glanced at her in concern, silently comforting her with warm hand pressed against her arm. She was comforted, but her imagination did not dim in its speculation of what he might have faced.

When she bowed her head, Hermione prayed for Harry, as she always did. But she also prayed for Snape, with an immediate fervor that her usual prayers did not have. It was fierce and entreating, a plea made to God on behalf of a man who had probably never prayed in his life, and certainly not to a Catholic divinity or any sainted personages approved by the Holy See. She prayed for him, nonetheless, out of her own innate faith, out of fear and worry and concern.

Her heart knew that she also prayed out of love, but her mind steadfastly struggled to ignore that knowledge.


It was not until the quiet stroll on Christmas Eve that Hermione was finally alone with her mother, the two companionably matching strides as they walked just out of earshot of the Morazzanos as they tread on foot from the church. The granddaughter smiled as she noticed the way her grandparents were snuggled together against the cold air, Vincenzo's arm around Rosalia as they spoke in quiet, intimate tones. So obviously in love, after a half-century of marriage. It was no wonder, she thought, that her nonna was such a romantic; her life had proven her correct on the matter.

With her grandparents seemingly oblivious to their existence, Hermione and Caroline filled the idle minutes with unimportant chit-chat, stiltedly discussing the polite topics only slightly less shallowly than they had been at any given common meal. Slowly, however, the conversation eased and flowed, straying to topics such as Hermione's visit to Harry and Ron earlier in the day and her grandmother's famous panforte. Finally -- and hesitantly -- the pair wondered onto the subject which they'd both paradoxically wanted to discuss and ignore.

It was in the soothing, hushed voice which she usually reserved for skittish three-year olds that Carolina carefully questioned her daughter about Giselle and the night she'd died. When she began, Hermione's response was halting and unsteady but, as she gained in confidence, her soliloquy became clearer, more firm. Before she realized it, she'd had confessed the whole incident in minute detail to her mother, speaking frankly of the fears and anxieties she had tried to keep hidden.

Her mother wrapped an arm loosely around her in an offer of comfort, a half-embrace that was neither too confining nor too tenuous which Hermione gratefully accepted as she finished the tale. "I discovered a bit later that there was some evidence that she had been working with the Deatheaters. I feel so stupid -- I never expected that she was so..."

"Evil?" her mother offered helpfully.

"Ruthless," she decided, still uneasy about speaking ill of her dead classmate.

Carolina's arm around her tightened spasmodically in a brief hug. "It's very difficult to be so useless," she confessed to her daughter. "You live in a world where you're in constant danger and there's not a damn thing I can do about it but be angry and worried --- which accomplishes nothing. I hate knowing that there are people willing to hurt my baby and I can't fight back. It's not in my nature to sit back while you're in danger. I just wish that there was something I could do to protect you."

"I know, Mama," Hermione sighed in answer to both statements, not certain how to answer otherwise.

She glanced over at her daughter's profile, so drawn and serious at such a young age. "I'm sorry, you know."

"For what?"

"For you, having to be suffer because of who your parents are, because we're aren't really part of that society."

"Mama, really," she protested. "It's not just because I'm Muggleborn."

"But, it's part of it, yes?" When she didn't answer, Carolina continued. "I know as well as you do that life would have been easier for you if your father and I had been wizards instead of dentists."

"I wouldn't trade you and Dad for the world!" the witch proclaimed, almost affronted. "The same goes for Harry being my friend."

"I know," her mother assured her, smiling sadly. "But I didn't want you to go through what I did."

"Mama, you're talking nonsense, now."

"No, I'm not," she began, moving her hand to brush Hermione's wild hair away from her face. "When we first came to Britain, your nonna's English was not so good for many years. We only spoke Italian at home -- we only speak English in deference to you and your father now. After a year of schooling, though, my English was strong, as good as any other child my age and no one knew that I wasn't just another British girl. Then Mama came to school one day...I'd forgotten something..." She paused, gathering the words in silence. "I was never embarrassed or ashamed of Mama because she didn't speak the language well or because she dressed differently, but I always wanted to belong, to be like everyone else. When I married your father, I decided that you'd never experience that -- you'd have a proper childhood without the taunts and cruel things children can say about such things. But then, we found out you were a witch and instead, history has just repeated itself."

"It's doesn't matter," Hermione told her fiercely, her brown eyes bright with emotion. "There is nothing wrong with being Muggleborn -- and I couldn't have asked for better parents. You've been great about everything." She was quieter as she added, "I was always a bit afraid you'd take me out of school after everything that kept happening."

"Don't you think I wasn't tempted to do just that!" her mother informed her, laughing at the memory. "I was willing to overlook the stunts in your first year, but after the petrification, then the time-turner business, I considered it. And then, after all the drama surrounding that Tri-Wizard competition and what happened at the Quidditch're a lucky girl that I married your father. He's the only reason you weren't locked in your room and never allowed to return."

"I'll have to remember to thank him," she teased.

"You do that," Carolina approved, mood lightening as she gave her daughter's shoulders another squeeze. After a moment of silence, she sighed. "I should be ashamed of myself, being so melancholy on Christmas Eve. Chi ha avuto ha avuto e chi ha dato ha dato but we'll have no more talk of this tonight. Alright?"

"Alright," she nodded.

"That's my girl," she said fondly.

Another length of silence passed before Hermione glanced uncertainly over at her mother. Carolina's eyes were intently focused on something in front of her and well above the horizon, as if she were studying the stars strewn across the sky in order to decipher their mysteries.


"Yes, Hermione?"


"Now, you're talking nonsense. What on earth are you thanking me for?"

"For everything, I suppose. For being you."

The older woman smiled. "Same to you, cara."


It was of little surprise to Snape when the Headmaster decided to pay him a visit in his chambers on Christmas Day. In fact, he would have been more surprised if the opposite had transpired, as Albus had made his holiday visits a rather annoying habit over the years during which he had taught at Hogwarts. Since Snape habitually refused to attend the meals served in the Great Hall on the festive occasion, Professor Dumbledore habitually appeared at his carved serpentine door to wish him a merry holiday.

As he sauntered into the rooms, Dumbledore found the Potions Master seated, a large book opened on the table before him as he idly flipped through the yellowed pages with feigned interest. A neat stack of brightly-wrapped gifts lay ignored at the other end of the clothed tabletop, the flickering fire of the hearth causing the foil wrappings to shine and sparkle as the flames danced around their surfaces.

"Happy Christmas, Severus," he announced cheerfully as he lowered himself into the chair at Snape's right, his old bones creaking with the effort.

"The same to you, of course," Snape responded politely -- or, as politely as he ever was.

"I see you haven't even touched your presents," he observed, pointedly looking over the rim of his glasses at the untouched pile of Christmas-colored packages, the majority of which were wrapped in green although a few bright spots of red dotted the mound.

"You're wrong about that," he corrected as he looked up from the tome, closing its pages to hold it up. "This was a gift from my cousin, Olivia."

"And how is she?" he inquired mildly.

"Tolerable, although I believe that living in such a warm climate has made her a bit...wild."

"Ah, so she likes Greece," guessed the old man, his long white beard twitching as he fought a grin.

Snape grimaced, running a hand through his dark hair, the long locks falling back as he shook his head in irritation. "So it seems. Likes it so much, in fact, that she's threatening to marry a Muggle she met on Crete and settle down with him. Although, I'm not certain that she has considered the glamour which comes with being the wife of a Zarosian goat breeder."

Albus chuckled appreciatively. "I doubt she has."

The younger man made a low sound which might have been laugh of his own before setting the book aside. "To what do I owe the honor of your presence?"

"You say that as if I don't visit you every Christmas morning," he chided.

Snape snorted before reaching for the cup of tea from which he'd been drinking. "And every year, I wonder why."

"Why don't you open your presents?" the old man evaded innocently. "It seems inconsiderate to let them sit there while people have taken the effort to give you something."

"Somehow, I doubt that anyone will be offended if they knew that I was awake a full four hours before I opened their gifts," Severus pointed out, his voice smooth despite its annoyed undertone.

"I know I will be," the headmaster gently teased, smiling at the scowl on his colleague's face. "Come now, Severus, it shan't kill you to open them now. Humor a senile old man and pretend to be appreciative."

"Senile old man, my arse," he muttered as he grudgingly stood, moving around the table to the small stack of presents. "If you're senile, then I'm pleasant."

"I have always found you to be quite pleasant," Albus couldn't resist stating, watching Snape's scowl darken even further until he was glowering. "Now, open your presents."

"I don't even know why I bother," he sighed, examining the pile with a critical eye. "I already know what I've got -- you all are ridiculously uncreative." Snape pointed to one of the red-wrapped boxes. "From you, and it's candy," he revealed. Then he indicated another box decorated in crimson foil. "This is from Minerva, and it's a book." A long green package was designated as being from another cousin and it was a quill set, "which he sends me every year since he makes the damn things for a living," he explained. "I have a whole cupboard full of them.


Dumbledore chuckled, shaking his head. His bright blue eyes swept over the pile, noticing an overlarge package, unusual and out-of-place in Snape's usual menagerie of Christmas gifts. "And that one?" he wanted to know, pointing to the silver-and-gold-papered rectangle. "Whose it that one from?"

Snape frowned, deliberating before he shrugged, admitting with the gesture that he knew naught of said gift. He carefully removed the smaller boxes which had been stacked on top of it, realizing its concentrated weight as he lifted it from the table. "I suppose we'll start with this mystery item," he mused, clearly curious at its origin, made even more so by Dumbledore's obvious ignorance. "Let's just hope that it isn't dangerous or that my students haven't discovered a way to sneak their tricks past the house-elves."

"I doubt that," Dumbledore assured him. "Perhaps you've simply gained a new friend since last you received presents. "

Snape's dark eyes cut at Dumbledore in an expression which clearly spoke of his dubious belief in that possibility. Having resumed his original chair, the professor closely inspected the tag which graced the gift but the curving calligraphy which simply read "Prof. S. Snape" gave him little clue to its sender. Gingerly, he peeled away the layer of foil to expose a wooden crate, an odd sight which only fueled his confusion.

As the younger man impatiently ripped away the remainder of the paper to fully reveal the wooden crate-like box, the headmaster leaned forward to catch a better glimpse, his sharp eyes noticing the faint stamps which were embedded in the wooden surface, an obvious sign that the crate was Muggle in origin.

"Any ideas yet, Severus?"

The receiver still eyed the box suspiciously as he admitted reluctantly, "None whatsoever." Realizing that its lid was nailed shut, Snape reached into the folds of his robes to retrieve his wand, then dealt with the obstructing slivers of metal with an impatient tap before settling the carved verge on the table at the crate's side. Still with misgivings at opening a package from an unknown source, he removed the lid to reveal a dark long-necked bottle nestled among a straw-like substance which he knew Muggles used to cushion fragile cargo.

"Who would send you a bottle of wine?" Dumbledore wondered aloud, although his voice was less curious and more amused. "Hopefully not that cousin of yours from Norfolk, he-of-the-inferior-Chianti."

"No, it's not from Marcus," Snape informed him when he espied a note laid within the wine crate, a thick cream-colored parchment folded in half and addressed to him. Unlike on the tag, however, he immediately recognized the neat handwriting. "Bothersome girl," he muttered under his breath as he snatched up the sheet.

Unfolding it, the professor found a disconcerting number of lines penned in the same handwriting as the address, the letter signed with a flourished "H. Granger" at its end.

Professor Snape,

Although I doubt that you will agree with the sentiment, allow me to begin by wishing you a Happy Christmas and extending my hope that you have found it as enjoyable as I have thus far. In appreciation not only for your assistance during my term at Trinity but also for allowing me to assist you during my recent stay at Hogwarts -- I am certain that you have realized how much I enjoy working like a house-elf -- I have sent you a very nice bottle of wine, which I'm sure that you'll find more palatable than your cousin's Chianti. While you have told me that your prefer your wines dry, I daresay that you will still enjoy the bottle I've sent, even though it's a dessert wine. For your information, it's actually Vino Santo from a small but very reputable winery in Tuscany. According to the owner, this particular bottle is from the best batch of the last one-hundred years; she suggests that while it goes well with anything, she particularly likes to pair it with fresh marzolino cheese and toasted Italian bread.

Of course, I freely admit that I offer this gift to you with an ulterior motive: before I left Hogwarts, I did a bit of research and found that while there are a number of magically-run wineries in Europe that they are very few and very specialized. In my opinion, none of these wineries' products can compare to this Vino Santo. I dare you to tell me that you don't prefer this Muggle wine to any of its wizarding counterpart. Simply consider it the first step in overcoming your tendency toward snobbish ethnocentricity.

As for the wine, it's heavenly and very sweet; if you can, save a glass for the headmaster -- he'll love it.

Happy Christmas,

H. Granger

"Wasn't it nice of Miss Granger to think of you at the holidays?" remarked the headmaster as he glanced over the contents of the parchment which Snape had handed him. Meanwhile, the professor had removed the bottle from its cushioned box, spelling away the unsightly crate and its straw packing. Holding the dark bottle in his hands, Snape studied its cream-colored label which was decorated in an antique-looking golden filigree design while its information was stated in bold black lettering, some calligraphic and some plainly printed.

"I'm not certain that 'nice' is the correct adjective," he answered, still deciphering the calligraphy. It read that the "small but reputable" winery was called Artemisia della Agrotera, and that the vino santo was imbottigliato all'origine -- estate-bottled at the vineyard in Tuscany. "Ethnocentricity, indeed -- troublesome creature."

"Severus," Albus spoke admonishingly, although it was in jest. Then, devilishly he added, "I have faith that the house-elves could easily procure some of that marzolino cheese."

At that, Snape smiled -- a rare, untainted grin of mischief which only hinted at the arrogant smirk he usually wore. "Well, then...let's taste this gift and see if Miss Granger's boasts of its perfection are true. Nothing like a good wine early on Christmas morning."

Dumbledore noted the genuine affection in Snape's rich voice when he spoke of the troublesome creature who had sent him such a marvelous gift. As he watched the potions professor collect two long-stemmed wine glasses, Albus nodded approvingly to himself.

Well done, Miss Granger.


Unlike when she had been a child, Hermione slept soundly through Christmas Eve, not stirring from her warm bed until the sun had risen high in the eastern sky. Even at that late hour of morning Crookshanks meowed his irritation at being awakened as his warm, human pillow shifted under the covers.

"Stop scratching me, Crooks," she murmured drowsily as she sat up, stretching her arms high above her head even as her cat quickly moved to snuggle into the warm spot she had vacated. She rolled her eyes as the huge orange cat settled himself against her back to bask in the warmth she radiated, then trudged to her feet, earning another disgruntled sound from her familiar. Trying to stifle a yawn and ignore the muddled feeling which she correlated with her ravenous dining the night before, Hermione pulled on her dressing gown before sleepily descending the narrow stairs in search of another waking relative.

She passed through the empty rooms of the living room and dining room, knowing by the strong smell of black coffee that either her mother or her grandmother was awake and had been in the kitchen to brew their favorite hot morning beverage. Tip-toeing in her slippered feet, Hermione peeked into the kitchen as if she were still a small child to see her mother standing at the counter, holding a steaming mug in one hand as she looked out of the small rectangular window into the back garden, the ground lightly dusted with snow. What made the young woman smile was that her father was there as well, standing behind Carolina with his arms wrapped loosely around her.

Awww, Hermione sighed impishly to herself. Aren't they adorable?

As if the couple could feel the presence of someone encroaching on their quiet moment, they turned around, almost in tandem, to see their daughter leaning against the doorjamb, regarding them thoughtfully.

"Good morning, sleepyhead," Will greeted her, slowly releasing his wife. "We had thought that you were going to sleep through Christmas altogether."

"It isn't that late," she protested good-naturedly, smiling as she added. "Happy Christmas!"

"Happy Christmas to you, my girl," Carolina returned as she opened one of the high cabinets. "Would you like some coffee?"

Hermione wrinkled her nose at the offer, but accepted the mug she was handed. "No, thank you," she answered, bypassing the bubbling percolator for the tea kettle and the tin of cinnamon tea already placed on the countertop. "I'll take tea."

"She's got good taste," Will observed teasingly, reaching for his own teacup. "Foul stuff, that coffee. Stains your teeth something terrible, on top of it."

"So does tea," Carolina reminded him archly before glancing over at her daughter who was retrieving the sugar from another high cabinet. "Really, Hermione...couldn't you have at least brushed your hair before coming down?" Despite the nagging content of her words, the tone was mischievous.

The girl noticed for the first time that both of her parents were suitably dressed, while she was still in her nightgown and dressing robe, her hair no doubt a rat's nest of tangles from a night's sleep. In response, she shrugged.

Carolina tutted disapprovingly. "March right upstairs and get dressed," she mock-ordered. "And see if your grandparents are awake -- they aren't allowed to sleep through Christmas any more than you are, signorina!"

Hermione did as she was told, pausing on her trip back to her own bedroom to knock lightly on the guestroom door. Her grandmother answered the summons almost immediately, already dressed in a dark blue dress of rich velvet, although her long silver-black hair still fell in heavy waves past her shoulders. "We'll be along, much sooner than you," she told her briskly, giving her an appraising glance. "Off you go!"

Not wishing to raise the ire of either her mother or her nonna, Hermione quickly dressed, donning a stiff red skirt and ruffled blouse which reminded her of something she had seen Rosalia wear in the old sepia photographs that her mother kept in leather-bound books. Despite her attire's old-fashioned style, she liked the long skirt, the ruffling sound of the taffeta which followed in her wake invoking images of the formal gowns worn by the actresses in Masterpiece Theatre period dramas.

"Ouch! Stop it, your crazy animal!" she yelped as she tried to leave her room, only to have Crookshanks pounce on her hem, obviously intrigued by the skirt's audible rustling. Hermione yanked the hem away from his playful paws, glaring at him in annoyance as he danced after the retreating line of fabric. Instead of being quelled, the orange cat simply rubbed his furry body against her legs in an affectionate gesture before sidling out of the slightly opened door.

Shaking her head, she followed her familiar as he scrambled down the stairs, bottlebrush tail curving lazily as he glided into the living room where her parents and grandparents were assembling to open gifts, the Christmas tree twinkling in one corner of the room.

"Whose presents are those, dear?" Rosalia asked of her granddaughter as the older woman settled next to Hermione on the plush sofa, a ringed finger pointing toward an odd arrangement of gifts in the seat of a straight-back chair set away from the other presents which circled the tree.

"Mine," she revealed, raising an eyebrow at the faint sparkles which seemed to be emanating from the golden bow set atop one of the slimmer packages. "They're from my friends...the magical ones."

"I see," she murmured, once again intrigued. "How did they get here? Owl-post?"

"Some of them," she replied, noting the lumpy package which could only be her annual Weasley sweater, guessing that Hedwig had ferried her presents from the Burrow. "I think the others may come a different way -- through another magical courier." The witch did not want to spend Christmas morning explaining the concept of house-elves to her nonna, so she left her explanation at that.

Christmas in the Granger household had never been an ostentatious affair, never a holiday filled with pricey or extravagant gifts. Carolina's much-bemoaned pragmatism coupled with the amount of money which the household spent solely on Hermione's magical education dictated that presents were practical and affordable, a trend which suited their daughter's own nature.

After all, she had inherited her mother's pragmatism.

From her parents, Hermione received the usual staples: clothes, school supplies, money for when she returned to school. Her father had also gave her a framed watercolor painting of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris which he had purchased from a street vendor when he had last been in France. Carolina added to her daughter's personal library with several new books, ones which her mother felt she needed to read.

"Camus?" questioned Hermione dubiously as she held up the thin, worn paperback from amid the heavier, hardback editions.

"In the original French," Carolina answered, grinning. "Everyone needs a raison d'etre.


"And the story is grand," Rosalia added. "Love, loss and death -- bellissima. Very romantic."

"Mama, only you would read Camus for the plot," the dentist rolled her eyes. "And find it romantic."

After her parents and grandparents had opened their gifts as well, her grandfather placed a small wrapped present into her hands. She quickly tore away the paper and opened the tan box which was watermarked Firenze. Hermione gasped softly at the slate jewelry-box she found with the tissue. It was round, only as large as her palm but it was exquisitely decorated with full yellow roses and dark leaves, all inlaid into the pale green scagliola which mimicked veined marble.

"It's so pretty. Thank you, Nonno," stated she honestly, rising up from her seat to hug him tightly.

"You're welcome, dear," he returned, affectionately mussing her long hair. As Hermione pulled away, he motioned to his wife. "And I believe that your nonna may have something for you to keep in there."

Dark eyes dancing, Rosalia presented an even smaller box to her granddaughter, this one the traditional jeweler's velvet-covered case. Slowly, she pulled open the lid to find simple but lovely cross nestled against the case's silken interior, its surface decorated in an enameled floral pattern of lively colors. "Nonna..." she breathed in wonder.

"I knew it was for you the moment you were born," her grandmother told her dramatically. "It had belonged to my mother's mother's mother. I inherited from my Zia Magdalena when she died." She waved a hand at the box. "Look at the back of the cross."

"Mama, your tendency toward melodrama is trying."

"Oh, hush, Carolina."

Hermione gingerly lifted the cross from the box, then turned it over in her hands to see the smooth back which bore a simple inscription: Hermione.

"You had it inscribed?"

Rosalia shook her head. "That was my bisnonna's name -- Hermione. With such a connection, who else should have the necklace?"

The young woman looked over to her mother questioningly. "Was that who I was named after?"

"No," her father replied to the inquiry. "We named you after the character in A Winter's Tale."

"Did we?" Caroline drawled archly, catching William's eyes as she continued. "I thought we named her after that David Bowie song. Oh well."

"Really!" the girl in discussion huffed. "I can't believe you two. You've pinned me with this monstrosity of a name and you don't even know who I've named after? Why you chose it?"

"It was all the painkillers," her mother shrugged. "My head wasn't right for three days afterwards. And your father...well, I can only imagine what he was doing."

"Don't listen to either of them," Rosalia interrupted. "I was there as well, and your mother was not any more mad the day she named you as she is at any other time."

"I'm only teasing you," Caroline laughed. "For what it's worth, I think you have a lovely name. You could have been christened Carolina Viviana Appolonia Sciascia Morazzano or Sophia Teresa Aminta Sciascia Morazzano, both of which are quite long, tedious and very difficult to spell or pronounce. Be thankful that your father's British."

"There is nothing wrong with your name, either," Signora Morazzano protested sharply.

"Perhaps you should finish opening your presents, Hermione," Vincenzo suggested peaceably, wanting to diffuse any hostility for as long as possible.

Nodding amicably with her grandfather's suggestion, Hermione skirted through the piles of discarded paper and boxes, lowering herself to kneel beside the chair piled high with magical presents. As if sensing her new position, Crookshanks slithered out of the kitchen to once again playfully swat at the hem of her skirt. "You fiend," she muttered at him, trying to deter him with a shake of the stiff fabric.

She began with the gifts she immediately recognized, tearing away wrappings to find the standard presents from Harry (a book, Magical Maladies: a quick reference for everyday Mediwitches), Ron (candy, dark chocolate truffles which he knew she loved), and the usual Weasely sweater (this year, kelly green in honor of Trinity). From Ginny, who was always more varied in her gift selection, she received an atomizer made of pale blue crystal and containing a colorless liquid which smelled heavily of jasmine and mimosa blossoms along with a note: I got this from the new imports boutique in Diagon Alley, it explained. Comes from the Orient, I think. You're supposed to spray it on your pillow and it'll cause you to dream of your past lives. I don't believe it, of course, but I thought that it might amuse you.

Setting the atomizer aside, Hermione reached for the slim parcel whose bow emitted sparks -- little surprise that it was from Dumbledore with such festive accessories. She was surprised that the gift was a blue cloth-bound book called Illume -- it was an older edition of the biography on Princess Nadir'ah which she had once found in the Hogwarts library. Like Ginny's Dream-Incarnation atomizer, the headmaster's book came with a note -- short and cryptic, as his notes usually were. You have more in common with Nadir'ah than you might think.

Next, there was something from McGonagall: a thin gold bracelet from which hung two tiny stars. At the sight of the gift, she couldn't help but chuckle, understanding the symbolism behind the deceptively simple piece of jewelry. It was a reminder of work finished and work to come, as well as one of the secrets she shared with her strict but kind mentor.

It was the last package, long but narrow, which confused Hermione as she reached to open it. Underneath the wrapping was a plain black box, which she quickly tried to open, curiosity piqued as she fumbled in her haste. After a moment of struggle, she was embarrassed to realize that the box did not open as she suspected; instead she sat the box flat on the floor, then lifted the whole entire cube away from the base. As she did so, something iridescent became visible, earning appreciative 'ooohs' and 'aaahs' from her relatives who watched her actions. Hermione also gasped when she saw what was now revealed, her astonishment so acute that she merely stared at the small statue, hesitantly running a finger along the sleek draped skirt. In the light of the morning, the pearlescent glow of the statue glimmered like liquid rainbow, her delicate hands supporting the softly molded orb of gold, each detail masterly represented.

"How lovely," exclaimed her grandmother. "Whoever sent you that, Hermione?"

Although she did not answer her grandmother's question, she knew its answer, as impossible as it seemed. She collected the slip of parchment which had fallen from the box's confines, reading the sparse lines penned elegantly with a deliberate slowness which was at odds with the quickening of her pulse, a warmth spreading over her as she read his words.

Miss Granger,

Mediwitches, like alchemists, can benefit from keeping their thoughts pure and untainted -- for alchemists, the taint is fame and greed; for healers, it is fear and uncertainty. Allow Mnemosyne to be a reminder that you need neither.


Even if she had wanted, Hermione could not have suppressed the smile which lit her features, suddenly rivaling the heavenly statue as the most brillant thing in the room.

Heart Over Mind

A Harry Potter Story
by Regann

Part 9 of 27

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