Continuing Tales

Just Let it Happen

A Harry Potter Story
by La. Bel. LM

Part 14 of 35

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Just Let It Happen

Visions of her nightmare plagued Hermione all through the next day. She couldn't so much as look at Professor Snape without remembering the sight of him twitching and screaming on the hearth rug with Voldemort's black robed figure looming over him. She was furious with herself for believing that it had been real, and for creating a ridiculous fuss. She hated making a fool of herself, and every time she was around Snape, it seemed as though that was all she was capable of doing.

Perhaps it was because of this that Hermione went on to spend most of her time either visiting with Sirius or holed up in the library. On rare occasions, she would camp outside the basement door and listen to Professor Snape hammering away at the piano, entranced despite herself by the way that every melody seemed to take on a life of its own. She had no idea whether he was playing from sheet music, from memory, or simply making it up on the spot, but she found immense comfort in his playing — as though she were catching a glimpse of his softer side, the martyr, the side that had saved her life.

Hermione began to find her days rather lonesome after a while. At first she had somewhat enjoyed the solitude and the freedom to spend her time as she pleased. But it wasn't long before she truly and deeply began to miss the constant, bracing presence of her friends. She even would have been grateful to listen to Ron moan on about his Divination homework, if it meant she could be in his company for a few hours.

Then she remembered what happened last time she had been with Ron. She remembered his confession, the kiss, and the terrible way she had handled it all.

Hermione snapped closed Potions in War and rubbed her eyes vigorously. It was late, and she was immensely irritated. How frustrating, to do so much research, as she had done, and then not have any materials or workspace with which to actually practice. She had so many new ideas and no way to test them!

Hermione pulled the shawl tighter around her shoulders as she climbed the stairs on her way to bed. She walked quickly down the hall, but paused when she saw an odd, green light pulse beneath the door to Professor Snape's bedroom. Taken back to the night of her terrible dream, Hermione was instantly ablaze with curiosity. She thought she had simply imagined the green light before, but here it was again. What was that? Surely Snape knew all magic was forbidden — he had even told her so himself. Repeatedly. And with unwarranted venom.

Hermione's curiosity got the better of her, and after taking a moment to steel her resolve, she tip-toed up and tapped lightly on the door. She held her breath as she heard muted footsteps approach.

"Can I help you?" Snape hissed through the barest crack in the door.

Hermione swallowed hard. "I — er — saw a flash of something underneath your door. Are you doing magic, Professor? Because you told me that–"

"You are a nosey little thing, aren't you?" he snapped. "Of course I'm not doing magic — not with my wand in any case. I was unaware, Granger, that you thought me senile."

Hermione checked the impulse to scoff. "I don't think you're senile. Honestly, I was just…"

Hermione trailed off as, with a roll of his eyes, Snape opened the door about an arm's length to reveal a table at the far end of the room. On top of it sat various items, some small, some large, and right in the middle of them all sat what was unmistakably a steaming, glowing cauldron.

Hermione's jaw fell slack. "You're brewing?" she said excitedly. "What are you making? Where did you get your ingredients?"

Snape made an irritated noise in the back of his throat. "Always bloody questions with you, isn't it? I will answer, but only if you promise that after I do so, you will remove yourself from my doorway and do your utmost to never bother me unnecessarily again — agreed?"

Hermione nodded (though she secretly crossed her fingers behind her back).

Snape folded his arms and spoke in a very flat, snide voice. "Yes, I am brewing. It is a very simple draught, though one which might interest you, Granger, as it is a much more potent rendition of Dreamless Sleep. I assume that you will want a dose for yourself when I've finished — I know I will certainly sleep better without you running around banging on people's doors in the middle of the night and screaming through the halls like a mad woman. As for the ingredients, I requested the Headmaster to owl me some necessities from Hogwarts. As long as he continues to use a different owl each time, he will continue to do so until I have most of my stores returned to me. There are many projects I currently have in progress which require constant attention—as I am sure you recall."

Snape paused and Hermione took this moment to interject anxiously. "So, Dumbledore sent those things to you? Do you think he might be able to do the same for me? Perhaps my notes, for instance — and maybe those new ingredients you ordered — and really, it would be nice to have my own clothes—"

"Merlin's beard, girl, decidedly not! This isn't a resort hotel — you can't send out for every blasted luxury you want. Go to bed, Granger. I have answered your questions, now do as I asked and get out of my sight."

"Maybe just my notes then?" Hermione appealed quickly. "Please, Professor, I have nothing of my own. No classes to go to, or teachers to learn from. Vol…You-Know-Who is out there somewhere, and I'm just sitting around in this stupid cottage doing nothing all day. At least let me attempt something productive." Hermione gazed pleadingly into his hooded eyes, her teeth subconsciously worrying her bottom lip as she tried to interpret his blank stare.

"We'll see," he snapped. And then without another word, he shut the door in her face.

Hermione shrugged. That was a substantially more hopeful reaction than she had been expecting. And anyway, soon she would have a decent night's rest to look forward to, and maybe even a project or two to keep her mind off things.

As Hermione crawled into bed and tried to clear her mind of violent images of the Dark Lord, she couldn't help thinking that prolonged solitude definitely did not agree with her.

At least she had Sirius.

Much to Hermione's surprise, a day later found her settled into a now very familiar study with every one of her neatly organized notes and an impressive layout of ingredients spread out on the table in front of her. She had just found a book with new information on "quick-heal" spells and she planned to put it to good use.

Her objective was to create a sort of quick-mend-on-the-go sort of potion for an Auror in action. There were a few relatively similar potions already in existence, but they were all limited to a specific illness or injury. What Hermione hoped to create would be, if not more potent, then at least much broader in terms of what was to be healed. It would be malleable—able to adapt to a variety of different needs.

The real key to her theory was the order of phoenix tails that she had finally managed to attain (through Snape of course, and his black market apothecary back channels no doubt, which he was none too happy about using), which she hoped might produce at least a hint of the regenerative properties that were mostly displayed in a phoenix's tears. The tears would have been most useful, but they were a fickle substance and easily spoiled - nearly impossible to combine with other ingredients successfully. And anyway, with the very meager allowance she had been granted to spend on ingredients for her studies, she could hardly afford them.

So Hermione at last found something on which to bend her every thought. The days went by quickly once she had a purpose, and Hermione took bounds and leaps in her ambitious project that she never would have achieved with just her two-hour lesson per week back at Hogwarts.

She was also spared her frequent night horrors (and even the sleepwalking) by Snape's new better-than-standard Dreamless Sleep. She wondered fleetingly what exactly had spurred him into creating such a potion, but she almost immediately shrugged it off as simply another one of his projects. A convenient coincidence.

One afternoon, after a tiresome hour spent studying the effects of powdered thyme and exactly what sorts of temperature and mixing techniques would keep it in a more or less stable condition, Hermione shut her books and shuffled off to the kitchen for tea.

Just as she was passing by the sitting room, she heard Sirius and Snape discussing something quietly. They stopped talking when they caught sight of her through the doorway, though not before she had heard something that instantly piqued her interest.

"Please return to your studies, Miss Granger — this does not concern you."

Hermione glanced at Snape darkly. "Doesn't concern me? I just heard you mention my name. What's going on?"

Sirius gave Snape a meaningful look, who, in return, made an exasperated sound and rolled his eyes as if to say, Hell if I care what she knows.

Needing no further encouragement, Sirius hesitatingly went on to explain to Hermione that they had just received word from the Order about new information concerning developments in Voldemort's plans. Arthur Weasley had called together a conference that was to be held the next morning at the Order's new headquarters (no one had dared return to Grimmauld Place after Sirius's narrow escape).

"So, what's the problem?" Hermione replied eagerly. "Is it transportation? Because I know we can't Floo or Apparate — well, unless we walked for a long ways first. Or maybe we could use brooms. But then, of course, I really—"

"Hermione, you're staying."

"—hate to fl — I'm what?"

Snape made a loud noise of irritation before Sirius could reply. "You're not invited, Granger, so stop acting like you are. And our problem is not how we are going to get there, but who is going to have to stay behind to babysit you."

Hermione was silent for a moment, Snape's condescending tone still seeming to dig painfully into her head long after he was finished speaking. "Is it because I'm too young?" she said eventually.

"What's that?"

"Am I staying behind because I'm too young, or because I am not trustworthy enough to merit invitation?"

Snape made yet another rather noisy exhalation.

"Don't, Hermione," Sirius said, standing up from his chair and walking towards her with a slightly forced smile on his face. "You know it doesn't have anything to do with trust. We just thought—"

"That I'm too young — yes, great, I understand," Hermione quipped, trying but failing to keep the bitterness out of her voice.

"No, that's not it," Sirius said, beginning to sound annoyed. "Dumbledore—we all—thought that you'd been through enough, and we didn't want to put you in further danger."

Hermione looked over to see Snape sitting with his ankle crossed over his knee, his hands resting casually on the armrests as he looked at the ceiling, his expression just as bored as could be.

Clearly, he didn't give a flying fuck about anything she did.

And that drove Hermione absolutely crazy.

Sirius could be a real darling sometimes, Hermione thought as she poured herself another shot of firewhiskey and downed it one gulp.

It was very late, and all three of them were sitting by the fire, discussing, of all things, Hermione's "plans" for the future. This discussion was mainly being held between Sirius and Hermione, of course, for Snape had made a particular effort to sit as far away from the two of them as possible in order to avoid being drawn into just such a conversation.

The evening had initially begun with the three of them laying out plans for the next day. Sirius volunteered to stay behind, which greatly disappointed Hermione, as she knew she had just missed her chance to be all alone in a secluded cottage with a man whose enigmatic character she desperately wished to unravel.

When they then attempted to go over how Snape intended to coordinate his departure, Snape had simply growled, "I can coordinate by myself, thank you," and that was the end of the conversation.

But by that time it was already well after dinner, and Sirius was content to simply sit by the fire and ask Hermione about the project she was working on and what she intended to do with herself after Hogwarts.

The reason it had taken so long for them to even begin this discussion in the first place, was mainly because it had taken that long for Hermione to stop sulking in the library. Which was odd, because Hermione did not often take to sulking. But since she had formed her rather one-sided attachment to Snape, it seemed that she had plenty more things than usual to brood over.

In any case, the firewhiskey was Sirius's idea (probably an attempt to smooth over Hermione's ruffled ego and make her feel less like a child — which was completely irritating and insulting, though she accepted it all the same).

"Y'know what I really wann'be?" Hermione said slowly, doing her best to articulate and avoid an embarrassing slur—she had a suspicion that she was not doing so very successfully. Her head felt heavy and sluggish, and the world had a pleasant buzz about it. All the while she watched out of the corner of her eye to see if Snape might actually look up from his book and take a bloody interest in what she was saying. But his face was as blank and impassive as always, and he seemed to be ignoring her effortlessly.

At least Sirius was interested. Raptly attentive, might even be the most accurate way of putting it. Admittedly, if the only other option for company was Snape, Hermione did not blame Sirius for trying to secure a connection with her.

"What's that?" Sirius replied from the seat next to her on the sofa, taking a delicate sip from his glass and stretching his legs out on the ottoman in front of him.

Snape was still not looking up from the damn book in his hands.

"An Auror," Hermione enunciated loudly, watching carefully for any sort of reaction on Snape's dark face. She could have sworn she saw his jaw twitch, but that also could have been the firelight throwing deceiving shadows across his cheeks.

"That's ridiculous, Hermione," Sirius exclaimed almost immediately. "You don't want to be an Auror — you'll just get yourself blown up."

Still hoping to goad a reaction from Snape, Hermione went on. "So what," she exclaimed. "I dun' care f'I get blown up — I wan t'get blown up. Least it's a better way to—to go—right? Isn't it? Than jus' sitting 'round here all… cozy and safe. Y'know, growing old while other people're out there, and—they, well, fuck it f'they're not fight'n and dyin' to protec' us! You! Me! All 'f us!"

Snape's eyes remained on the pages in front of him when he finally opened his mouth to speak, his voice just as flat and disinterested as always. "You think that now, Granger," he drawled. "But you're too young and impulsive to know what you really want."

Once again, Snape's nonchalant manner infuriated Hermione.

"I do so know," she countered loudly. Perhaps a bit too loudly. She was beginning to wonder whether she'd had a bit too much to drink. Instead of pursuing that thought, she simply poured herself another shot and took a big gulp. She wished Snape would drink more—maybe it would loosen him up too.

"As much as I hate to admit it — Snape's sort of right, Hermione. You can't be sure that what you want now is what you're going to want later. A year down the road, you'll be sorry you threw everything away just for a bit of excitement—adventure. You know. After all, you're still only a child…"

Hermione felt her insides ignite with fury and indignation as she saw Snape's little smirk of agreement.

"I'm not a child!" she snapped vehemently, while at the same time contradicting herself by beating her fist against the armrest.

Sirius laughed and Snape gave a small snort.

Hermione's body silently screamed for Snape's attention. She wanted so badly for him to notice her — to look at her the way she looked at him. But he wouldn't even look at her at all!

Then she would just have to make him look.

The alcohol then proceeded to do what it always did best: it made Hermione bold. So, with a foolishly brazen plan forming in her mind, as though by divine inspiration, Hermione turned to look at Sirius, who looked right back with his kind brown eyes. "I am not a child," she repeated, this time in a very different tone.

Before she could change her mind, before she could even begin to wonder what the repercussions might be, Hermione leaned over and ran one hand up Sirius's thigh and the other through his hair. She moved in towards him, making it painfully obvious just what she intended to do. Sirius's mouth opened wordlessly to say something, and he made a very half-hearted attempt at pulling away, but before he could get out a single word, there was a roar of anger from across the room. Suddenly, Snape grabbed Hermione's arm and tore her away from Sirius.

"WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING!" he spat, eyes ignited with fury, boring into hers.

Hermione just smiled loopily back at him, wildly happy that she had at last secured his attention — though now that she had it, she wasn't quite sure what to do with it.

Snape whipped his furious glare in Sirius's direction. "How long has this been going on!"

Sirius looked baffled out of his mind. "I — er — about two seconds — Calm down, Snape — Her-Hermione's obviously had a bit too much to drink…"

And then, as if to prove exactly that, Hermione turned and threw up all over the carpet, narrowly avoiding the tops of Snape's shoes.

Sirius leapt forward to steady her. "Okay, Hermione — I think it's time I took you back to your room."

Snape swatted Sirius's arm away. "No you don't, Black," he hissed. "I'll do the honors — you stay here!" Then he added in a dark, chilly tone, "You and I are going to have a talk."

That said, Snape reached out and grabbed Hermione by both elbows, leading her stumbling and swaying, towards the stairs.

"Nothing's happened — I swear!" Sirius called after them. "Hermione, tell him! I never—"

Hermione, unphased by her recent vomiting, and still giddy from seeing what she had recklessly convinced herself was mad jealousy from Snape, turned to clumsily blow Sirius a kiss. My, I make a brazen drunk, she thought hazily.

Hermione looked up, expecting to see an outrageous reaction from Snape, but his face merely hardened into his customary blank mask, his iron grip on her arms tightening even further as he led her relentlessly on up the stairs.

Despite what her wildly imaginative mind had hoped for, Snape merely dumped Hermione off at her room with a snide, nasty comment, and then turned right back around and strode off down the hallway.

It wasn't until Hermione was tucked away in her bed and caught the sound of yelling from downstairs, she observed that giving Snape and Sirius yet another reason to fight probably wasn't the smartest thing she'd done in her life.

Before she could pursue the thought any farther, she fell dead asleep.

Hermione woke the next morning with a blistering headache.

She squinted her eyes against the sun pouring in through her open drapes and turned her mind back on exactly what had happened last night. She didn't remember much. The best she could dredge up from the recesses of her mind was that Snape and Sirius had both been called off to an Order meeting this morning, and that she, regretfully, was uninvited.

Yet again donning the same pink sundress that she had been wearing for the past week (the repetition felt reassuring, almost—like having a uniform, like she was back at school), Hermione splashed some water on her face, ran a hand through her hair to tame it as best she could, and then went downstairs in search of breakfast.

She walked into the little dinning room and found, to her utmost surprise, none other than Severus Snape, sitting quietly at the table with a cup of steaming coffee in his hand and a crumpled newspaper spread out in front of him.

What in the world was he doing here?

Severus glanced up from The Daily Prophet he had just received by owl from Dumbledore early that morning, and scowled at the sight of that same stupid dress she had worn every day since their arrival.

"What time is it?" Granger demanded sharply (clearly she was not the sort of person who coped well with a hangover). "Weren't the two of you supposed to have left already?"

Severus sneered. "Black left. I stayed to mind the infant."

The girl actually had the nerve to roll her eyes. "Oh, yes, I forgot how incompetent you think I am."

"Incompetent does not even begin to describe what I think you are," he responded irritably. "After your actions last night, revolting might be more on target." Severus smirked in anticipation of the reaction he was sure of have goaded with that remark.

To his surprise, however, she did not explode with anger, but merely plagued him with more questions.

"What actions?" she asked, sounding a bit shrill. "What happened last night? And why did you stay? I thought you were supposed to be gone. Why couldn't Sirius stay?"

That last comment had been unexpected; despite himself, Severus felt stung. He had become used to Granger's quiet (albeit visibly offended) acceptance of his remarks. He was not prepared when she went on the offensive like that.

"I should not have to explain myself to you," he snapped. "And the fact that you cannot even remember what happened last night simply proves my point."

Her little brown eyes narrowed and she put her hands on her hips in an annoyingly defiant Gryffindor-like way. "Fine then, don't tell me," she seethed. "I'll just make my breakfast and then get out of your sight, shall I?"

"How thoughtful," Severus drawled in return, flicking open his paper again. Though instead of looking down at the page, he found himself following Granger's sleep-mussed, disgruntled figure as she stormed off into the kitchen. He noticed with pride how she appeared to be infinitely more red in the face than she had been when she first entered the room.

Severus turned hurriedly back to the paper when a ridiculous notion came randomly butting into his brain.

As much as he ordered the girl out of his sight all the time, he certainly did seem to watch her more often than was necessary.

Hermione Granger could no longer deny the fact that there was something unequivocally and undeniably wrong with her.

She was absolutely furious with the man, hurt and offended by just about everything that came out of his mouth — and not at all attracted to the way he hadn't seemed to once wash his hair since they had arrived — but yet here she was, hiding out behind an enormous crate of dusty wine bottles, in the basement, in the vain hope that she might be able to catch a glimpse of him at the piano.

She had so many better things to do. There were plenty of subjects to study, ingredients to prepare, research to be done. Sirius was gone for who knew how long, or what sort of danger he was in, and this was how she spent her time?

She was disgusted with herself, yet her curiosity was eating away at her like mad. And, to be quite honest, she was a little burned out on her studies. She felt reckless. Defiant. Entitled. She felt that Snape owed her this in some way. She deserved to invade his privacy. Not to mention, she had a very hard time believing the images in her head of Severus Snape "expressing" himself through anything other than a cold sneer and a pithy insult—despite what Sirius had said to the contrary. Could there honestly be another side to him? She had always assumed that there was, but the idea of actually seeing this side seemed like the most impossible—

All thoughts were instantly whisked out of her head as Hermione heard the basement door open and the steady thunk of Snape's footsteps on the stairs. She scrunched herself as small as she could behind the moldy crate, and watched through a tiny crack between the boxes.

Snape went straight to the piano, carefully opened the lid covering the ancient black and white keys, sat down on the bench, and then simply stared at his folded hands. He sat just like that for what seemed like ages, his eyes wide open as though he were staring right through to the floor, deep in thought. Hermione watched curiously as time passed and he remained motionless, still as a statue, simply breathing in and out, every so often blinking slowly.

Finally, after several long, silent minutes, Snape shook his head, snapped out of whatever reverie he had been in, and turned to the piano.

At first, he simply rested his long pale hands on the keys — like white spiders waiting to pounce. Then, in a moment, he began to play, soft and low, almost like a lullaby.

Hermione was beside herself with fascination. His eyes were not narrowed in concentration like she had imagined they would be, but closed. The lines on his face were eased like she had never seen them before, and his mouth was soft and relaxed, instead of hardened into his usual cruel sneer. The entire length of his back seemed to melt out of its rigidness, forming a gradual sort of arch that followed all the way through his neck.

Slowly the melody began to change — growing louder and faster. Hermione propped herself up into a rudimentary crouch, craning her neck around the boxes as far as she could, entranced by the way his hands danced effortlessly across the keys, and the way his foot kept perfect time on the pedal.

The song continued to build, churning faster and faster, picking up momentum, and Hermione leaned farther and farther over, until, quite suddenly, her foot slipped, she face-planted into a rather precariously placed crate, and twenty wine bottles fell crashing to the floor.

There was a blindly terrifying moment of silence while Hermione lay sprawled ungracefully in a growing pool of red liquid, and Snape simply stared back at her with a slack, disbelieving look on his face.

Finally, Hermione scrambled to her feet, her limbs flying every which way on the slippery surface. "So sorry — terribly sorry," she stammered, inching her way towards the door. "I was just — I mean to say — I was looking for… I was looking for… er — anyway, I found it — and — er — I'll just… I'll just be going now — so sorry to disturb you—" Without a backwards glance, Hermione hurried up the stairs, out the door, and ran as fast as she could up to her room, where she threw herself, still sopping wet with wine, face down onto her bed.

She groaned.

Oh, hell.

Death Eaters be damned. Snape was going to kill her first.

Severus crumpled up the letter and threw it into the fire.

He had fought it, and fought it, but there was nothing more he could do and he had finally been worn down. As usual, he would simply have to give in and do as the Headmaster requested.

Almost since their first conversation outside The Sleep Inn, Dumbledore had insisted that Severus do his best to teach Hermione Occlumency. She knew too much; if she were captured (which was now a very likely possibility), she would be putting everyone in danger.

Rather put-off by his latest experience teaching that particular subject, Severus had flatly refused each time the idea was brought up. But Dumbledore knew what he was doing, and when he wanted something, he almost always got his way. Severus knew that all those "deliveries" (e.g. his notes, his quills, his ingredients, his cauldron, etc.) would not be free, and now Dumbledore had finally named his price.

Severus growled and gave the ottoman an irritable kick.

On the bright side, at least the girl wasn't as dumb as a brick like Potter—though her actions of late had done nothing to support this idea. Severus had spent a long time in quiet reflection down in the basement as he watched a dirty rag appear from thin air and mop up Granger's mess (there had been a series of rather convenient automatic cleaning spells installed in the house).

What in the world had she been doing down there? Spying on him? Severus's stomach churned at the thought of being caught with his defenses down like that. Piano had always been his one indulgence, really.

It was one of the many things of which his father had never approved, and it was the one thing that Severus had always managed to keep from him. As a child, music lessons had been his and his mother's little secret — even after that night she had slapped him, his mother never told.

Now, as a grown man, with both his parents long dead, and with nothing of real value in his life to covet, Severus found a peculiar comfort in the music he created. It was the only beautiful thing that truly belonged to him, and he never liked to share it with anyone but himself.

Damn that stupid girl. Why did she have to go snooping around all the time? Why couldn't she just mind her own business? And what the bloody hell had she been thinking when she was down there?

Severus stood from his chair and stormed off towards the study in which Granger so often hid.

The only potential good to come from these ridiculous Occlumency lessons, was perhaps an opportunity to finally find out exactly what was going on in that deranged little head of hers.

Damn, damn, damn.

Fuck, fuck, fuck.

How did these things always seem to happen to her?

Hermione was terrified out of her mind, as she stood rooted to the spot in the largest of the sitting rooms on the first floor of Pruitt cottage. Rain lashed against the windowed double doors to her right, and she cringed at the ominous rumble of thunder.

Snape stood exactly opposite from her, his hands at his sides, his black hooded eyes staring directly into hers.

"Normally," he said at last, startling Hermione into jumping slightly, "magic of this magnitude is performed with a wand. But, as I am not allowed to use one…" Snape held a hand out in front of him, subtly, as though he were trying to find his balance. Yet he was sturdy as a rock.

Hermione felt her knees begin to tremble.

How did she let herself get into this? Of all the people in the world she could choose to be poking around inside her brain, suffice it to say, Snape was not top on that list.

But he had been so angry with her for spying on him. So angry about being forced into giving her these lessons; she didn't dare say no to anything he asked.

"Prepare yourself," Snape hissed.

Hermione sucked in a shuddering breath and attempted her very best to clear her mind of all incriminating thoughts. She continued to brace herself as the seconds ticked by. Soon, she began to wonder if Snape intended to do anything at all, and then, out of nowhere, Snape's hand jerked, he said, "Legilimens," and Hermione's unprepared mind exploded into a flurry of images: A bright red bicycle sitting under the Christmas tree as Hermione's tiny fingers grasped th handle bars; the sight of her grandmother lying cold and still in her hospital bed with a whining monitor looming overhead; her mother's smiling face as she gave Hermione's hand a squeeze through the window of the Hogwarts Express—


Hermione fell to her knees, her whole body shaking and her palms damp with sweat.

"Get up and try again," Snape said.

Hermione nodded and got to her feet.

Snape leveled his harsh gaze on her once more. "Clear your mind — it's not that difficult, Granger, I assure you. Legilimens."

She was at school now, walking into the Hogwarts library for the first time with her mouth gaping open in wonder; now she was arguing with the Sorting Hat, Ravenclaw or Gryffindor? Ravenclaw or Gryffindor? Gryffindor! Gryffindor!; now she was at home in the kitchen watching her mother throw expensive china against the wall—there was a note on the counter, and just as Hermione picked it up and began to read…

"No!" She wrenched her mind out of Snape's grasp, wobbling dangerously on her feet as she did so, but did not fall over this time.

"At least you're trying now," Snape growled, with a surprising hint of approval in his voice. Thankfully he made no comment about the last memory, curious though he undoubtedly was.

It was the night her uncle had taken his life. That note had been meant for Hermione's mother and only her mother, but, young as she was, Hermione had read it anyway. She truly wished she hadn't, but she had, and eventually she'd more or less made peace with her blunder. It was very difficult, however, to remember that peace when Snape could pluck the memory right out of the back of her mind.


Then, all of Hermione's memories were about Snape: The first time she saw him as he banged open the classroom doors and came swirling in with his ominous black attire; that horrible thud as he slammed against the wall in the Shrieking Shack when she, Harry, and Ron had simultaneously hexed him in their Third Year; the time he had looked at her magically enlarged teeth and sneered, "I see no difference."—

Again, Hermione managed to wrench herself free. She shook her head groggily.

"Good, Miss Granger," Snape said, giving her a critical eye. "You have managed to narrow your thoughts down to one subject — your attacker. Now try to wipe them away entirely."

Hermione nodded determinedly, but she had the sneaking suspicion that the fact that Snape happened to be her attacker was only coincidence. Her defenses were growing weaker, not stronger, and the things she most wanted to keep secret were now bubbling to the surface of her mind. Surely it was only going to get worse now. She was tired, her head ached from the effort of resisting his attacks, and she definitely did not like where her memories were headed…

Before Hermione could begin to gather herself again, Snape shouted, "Legilimens!" and her mind flashed once again with image after image of her dark, stoic Professor: She was watching him out of the corner of her eye during their lessons, studying the arch of his hand, the fall of his hair, the curve in his neck; then she was back on the plane to Switzerland, and the brief touch of Snape's hand had her glowing warmly in her seat; now she was whispering his name into her pillow at night, just to know what it sounded like, touching herself, thinking of him; now she was sitting on his lap and leaning down to kiss him in her dream; now she was talking quietly to Crookshanks, all alone in her dorm, "Is it mad? I want him. It's bloody mad, I know it, but I want him! I want him!"

Immediately, the images stopped. She didn't know who had stopped them, but both she and the Professor staggered backwards out of the encounter, shocked and out of breath.

Snape's eyes were wide with horror, his mouth gaping slightly open.

"Oh no," Hermione moaned. "Nonono." She had done it. That was it. He knew. He knew everything. Before Snape could say a single word, Hermione turned, made as though to run for the hallway - but Snape stepped to the side and blocked her path - so she turned again, too frightened to remain indoors, too upset to be with him beneath the same roof. She took three swift footsteps in the opposite direction, threw open a set of windowed doors, and bolted as fast as she could outside into the freezing, pouring rain. She couldn't stand the way he was looking at her for one moment longer.

She ran with no direction, desperate to put as much distance between her and the house as possible, so on fire with embarrassment, and righteous fury, and she didn't even know what else. Eventually, she reached the beginnings of the surrounding forest and she hid behind a tree, leaning her back heavily against the trunk and burying her face in her hands. How did everything become such a mess? she thought miserably as she sank to the ground.

Hermione did not look up when she heard hurried footsteps approach.

The footsteps slowed as they got nearer, and eventually stopped altogether no more than three feet in front of her.

There was a short silence. Still Hermione did not look up.

"You are not allowed to be here," Snape said finally, his voice hard and thick with an emotion that Hermione could not quite interpret.

"I know," she replied quietly.

Another long silence followed.

"What…" Snape began to say, but trailed off. His voice became dangerously quiet. "Was that supposed to be a joke?" he said, the tremulous anger behind his words impossible to mistake.

Hermione looked up sharply, finally meeting his dark eyes — ones that were heavy-lidded and mostly shaded, but still roiling with emotion. His stoic mask had broken slightly, and she could see a glimpse of something underneath it.

Hermione took a moment to steel herself before replying. "No," she said firmly. "No, it was not a joke. Personally, I do not find matters like this very funny."

There was another significant pause.

"Neither do I," Snape replied, his voice still rocky and strange. He did not continue, and it was obvious that he was waiting for her to say something.

Overwhelmed and frightened by the tumult of feelings welling up inside her, Hermione simply got to her feet and turned to leave. "I'm h-hungry," she stammered, shivering from more than just the frigid air.

"I expect an explanation from you, Granger," Snape called after her as she once again walked out into the pouring, icy rain, sheets and sheets of it slamming into her in waves, soaking her through in an instant.

She let out a short, bitter laugh. "An explanation?" she repeated loudly, turning to find him following close at her back. She was embarrassed to feel stinging tears begin to prick beneath her eyes. "I wish I had one to give you, Professor!" She threw her arms up in defeat. "But I don't! I've been trying to find one for what seems like years, but you know what? I give up! The feeling's there! It happened! I don't know how, but it did, and there's nothing I can do about it!"

Snape's eyebrows drew together and his face flushed with anger. Water plastered his dark hair to his forehead and ran in a steady stream down his chin and off the tip of his nose. "This is—" he sputtered. "This is ludicrous — and — inappropriate — and — AND I WILL NOT STAND FOR THIS FOOLISHNESS!"

Foolishness? Anger positively exploded inside Hermione's chest and, with a wail of rage, she reached out and slapped the unsuspecting Snape full across the face.

"YOU IMPOSSIBLE, UNFEELING, HORRID, NASTY, HATEFUL MAN!" she shrieked as she threw herself at him, hitting him, pushing him, Snape's shocked body making minimal efforts to parry her blows. "I WANT YOU! DAMMIT ALL I'VE SAID IT NOW AND I'M SORRY IF YOU HATE ME, BUT THERE'S NOTHING I CAN BLOODY DO ABOUT IT SO PLEASE GOD JESUS GOD JUST BUGGER OFF AND LEAVE ME ALONE!"

With one last shove, Hermione turned and stormed back towards the cottage, trying so hard to contain her sobs that she felt like her heart was going to split down the middle.

She did not get very far.

It all happened very fast:

Hermione heard the sound of Snape's footsteps running up behind her, then the feeling of a warm hand snatching her wrist, yanking her back, whirling around. Snape looked down into her misty eyes with his own wide and blazing, growled, "It's not that easy, Granger," and then slammed his lips into hers.

The utter shock of what was happening jarred her momentarily, and then, an instant later, sank Hermione's world into a thick, heavy haze. It was all so surreal, unimaginable. Instinct took over. She arched into the kiss, pressing her body up against Snape's, hungry for the heat that poured from him through their wet clothes and into her skin—her thighs and her hips, her chest. Snape's hand was on the small of her back, strong and demanding, encouraging her, pressing her more firmly against him.

Hermione opened her mouth to his tongue, hot against her own. She snaked her arms up his chest and wrapped them around his neck, her fingers sliding smoothly into the wet, velvety locks on the back of his head. His hand on her back clenched convulsively, pulling at the drenched fabric of her dress. He made a small groan against her mouth as she deepened the kiss, pulling her hands slowly through his hair.

The tip of Hermione's thumb brushed a fine, golden strand at his temple, largitio, and a sudden jolt of electricity zapped them both. The shock instantly seemed to bring Snape back to his senses.

The haze disappeared. Snape leapt away, pushing her backwards, his eyes once again wide and unblinking, his breathing heavy, ragged.

"I'm sorry," he gasped, still staggering backwards. "I — I don't know what came over me."

Hermione moved towards him, but he jerked back again sharply.

"I — You—" he started again. Then he took a shuddering breath, seeming to gather himself at last.

Hermione felt her heart clench as she saw that blank, expressionless mask once again smooth over the contours of Snape's face.

"Return to the house, Miss Granger," he said in a level, toneless voice, though it appeared to cost him an immense effort. "As I have told you. You should not be outside."

"What? But you're outside! I want to–"

Snape's expression changed into one of terrifying anger and he seemed in that moment to become extraordinarily tall. "DO AS I SAY, GRANGER!" he roared. "GET BACK INSIDE!NOW!"

Hermione did as she was told.

Just Let it Happen

A Harry Potter Story
by La. Bel. LM

Part 14 of 35

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