Continuing Tales

Just Let it Happen

A Harry Potter Story
by La. Bel. LM

Part 17 of 35

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Just Let It Happen

Severus lay awake that morning, staring placidly at the ceiling. The sun was just peeking in through a slight crack in the heavy drapes at his window and cast a long, narrow ray of orange light across his bed. He knew he should get up and go to breakfast, face the day and all that, but the thought of inspiring a frown instead of a smile on Granger's face, made him want to pull the covers over his head and remain there for the rest of the day.

Oh hell, Severus. Pull yourself together. Christ.

Despite himself, he had grown accustomed to the sparkle in Granger's eyes and the laugh lines on her cheeks. Seeing both of those things in response to his own words gave him such a deep, unexpected sense of satisfaction that it made him wonder belatedly whether he might actually be going clinically insane. Before Granger, he couldn't remember the last time he had said something in order to illicit happiness; everything that came out of his mouth had always been to antagonize, to anger, to irritate.

Severus's eyes narrowed. Speaking of irritating…

Black had, yet again, shown the most astoundingly terrible timing in the whole bloody world. Severus had no regrets about the way he had treated him. Granted, the things he had said had been primarily out of annoyance for something that was not completely Black's fault (namely, blundering in on what was promising to be a very satisfying snog). Then again, it was not as though he had ever been particularly civil to Black prior to said interruption.

Finally, Severus grudgingly pulled back the covers and eased out of bed. He had been awake for over an hour already, and it was about time he got up.

Besides, his head was aching, and he needed his coffee.

It had been a very long time since Hermione had managed a good night's rest, and, unfortunately (though not unexpectedly), last night was no exception.

She woke that morning to the sound of her own teeth chattering. The air inside the house was nearly as frigid as the icy wind outside, because apparently, everyone had been in such a foul mood the previous night that no one had remembered to turn the heat up. She glanced out the window and made a small groan as she saw the massive flurry of white snowflakes. Brilliant.

Wrapping her arms firmly around herself, and walking stiffly across the hall to the bathroom, Hermione poked around in some old cupboards before finally finding an old, moth-eaten robe tucked away behind some grungy towels. It was a dreadful furry thing, colored the most obnoxious shade of pink, but it was mercifully warm so she put it on.

Sirius was already up and about by the time Hermione made it downstairs. Neither of them said a word to each other, the sting from their previous argument still smarting on both sides.

In light of her exhaustion, and the near-glacial state of the house, Hermione took a stab at making coffee. Her hands were so numb with cold, however, that she spilled what little was left and so was therefore forced to make tea instead. Sirius simply made a bowl of porridge (as there was no ruddy way that Hermione was going to fix his breakfast for him) and then, after muttering something about waiting by the window for the newspaper, he left the kitchen and headed for the sitting room down the hall.

As childish as he was acting, the moment Sirius left the room, Hermione regretted not speaking to him. She thought briefly about going after him, then the kettle started to whistle from atop the stove and the promise of a hot drink made her turn right back around.

It wasn't until after she had poured herself a full cup of near-boiling water that Hermione realized the only teabags left in the kitchen were from a warped, little yellow box of something lemon and hideous, which, normally, Hermione would not touch with a ten-foot pole. But the house was cold, the hot water in her mug was steaming invitingly, and as irritated and disappointed as she was, she went ahead and made it.

So it was that Hermione found herself two minutes later sitting bleary-eyed at the kitchen table, swathed in a long puce nightgown, overlaid with a fuzzy pink monstrosity, and scalding her tongue on the most revoltingly flavored water she had ever put in her mouth. Needless to say, she did not begin her morning in a very good mood.

Hermione looked up from her mug as Snape appeared in the doorway. He seemed tired, disheveled, grumpy, frozen solid, and clearly in no better spirits than she was herself. Perhaps it was because she was so exhausted, or perhaps it was simply the fact that she knew she couldn't have him, but either way, at that moment, Hermione had never thought Severus Snape looked more attractive.

With Sirius gone from the room, they silently allowed themselves to stare at each other for one long, undisturbed moment, neither saying a word, neither making a move.

Hermione drank in every detail of him — from the top of his sleep-mussed head all the way down to the bottom of his cold bare feet. She studied the way that his jaw curved with an almost poetic grace into his neck. She studied the wrinkles on his forehead and at the corners of his eyes, the frown lines etched into his cheeks, the lock of gold that shone in brilliant contrast to the rest of his black scruffy hair, the wide breadth of his shoulders, the way he carried himself; he was straight-backed with a sturdy frame, exhausted but proud. Hermione noticed and noticed, until she at last came to rest once again on his dark, hooded eyes.

It was then she realized that he had been studying her as well, and she blushed at the thought of what she must look like in her strange, colorful attire. Not to mention with hair like a rat's nest and deep ugly circles under her eyes.

Snape's expression did not change as his gaze raked over her once more, but she swore she could see a sparkle of amusement buried somewhere behind his stoic mask (no doubt at her expense!). She didn't mind, though, really. She already knew that she looked ridiculous. At least I'm warm, she thought smugly, for Snape looked chilled to the bone.

"Coffee," Snape muttered at last, his breath coming out in a white, hazy cloud. The spell was broken between them as he shook his head and proceeded stiffly towards the kitchen counter.

Hermione listened to him ferret around in the cupboards for a while until he suddenly slammed one of the little doors shut with a snap, and growled, "Well, where is it?"

Hermione did not turn around, staring stoically into her tea mug as she found it much easier to act indifferent when Snape wasn't in her direct line of sight. "Afraid I spilled it," she said. "Sorry. I made some tea, though, if you would like a—"

"What do you mean, you spilled it?" Snape hissed threateningly. "All of it? You stupid girl, what am I supposed to drink?"

Hermione's lips puckered angrily. "I didn't do it on purpose."

"No, no — of course not," Snape replied in a snide, nasty tone that made Hermione's jaw clench and her hands grip her mug so tightly that her knuckles turned white.

"I've made tea, Professor," she ground out angrily. "And you are welcome to it." She hoped Sirius was listening (they were being rather loud), because she definitely did not enjoy doing this.

"I don't want your bloody tea, Granger," Snape snarled.

Hermione's heartbeat began to speed up despite her earnest insisting to herself that this was all just an act. Snape was only pretending to be angry, right? She couldn't help it — a seed of doubt had lodged itself in her chest, and now Hermione began to wonder whether he really was acting after all. She wanted to turn and look at him, but she was afraid of what she might see. She was afraid that the fragile new spark of warmth would be gone from his eyes, and she would once again be staring down a cold, unfeeling mask. Perhaps some of her nervousness began to show on her face, because as Snape passed her on his way towards the sink, Hermione felt a strong hand close briefly over her shoulder and give her a soft, brief, affectionate squeeze.

Hermione's heart was instantly soaring again, and she watched out of the corner of her eyes as Snape walked over to the stove and grudgingly poured himself a mug of hot tea.

Both she and Snape jumped in surprise when there came a sudden blast of howling wind from the room down the hall, accompanied by the unmistakable sound of a screeching, thoroughly distraught owl.

"Shut that window, you bastard!" Snape roared. "As if it isn't cold enough in here already!"

Sirius yelled back what was probably a very scathing retort; it was impossible to make out over the wind. Finally, the sound stopped, and moments later Sirius came back into the kitchen with a very disgruntled owl on one hand and a rather damp copy of The Daily Prophet clutched in the other.

"Here," he said irritably, walking over to where Hermione sat and dumping the owl unceremoniously on the table in front of her. "He needs a rest." Then, without another word, he turned and disappeared once again into the hall.

Thoroughly irritated by Sirius, but not wanting to take it out on the poor animal, Hermione attempted to coax the owl towards her, cooing comforting words and wondering whether or not Snape was still watching her. The owl simply sat there in response, giving Hermione an almost disdainful look—as though it resented any notion of beingcoddled. It flinched horribly when Hermione reached out. Then, a moment later, it narrowed its eyes warily, and scooted forward so that her fingertips were in reach. She began to stroke it softly, brushing away the snow on its back and putting its windswept feathers back into place. Eventually, the owl seemed to enjoy this, and its eyes wandered shut as it allowed her to continue.

Hermione looked up to see that Snape was indeed watching her from where he stood by the sink, leaning against the counter and sipping quietly on his tea.

She caught his eyes again and they had another significant moment, simply staring at each other without speaking — the silence only broken every so often by the owl's contented hoots.

Hermione was just about to open her mouth to ask him what he thought of the tea when there came another loud noise from the room down the hall — this time, a shrill yelp and an answering clatter.

Hermione leapt up in surprise, causing the owl to shoot into the air in a flurry of feathers and irritable screeches. She immediately headed towards the door, but Snape cut her off.

"Wait here," he ordered, sparing a moment to give her a firm look, and then turning and hurrying off towards the sitting room.

Hermione entertained only a split-second of hesitation before deciding that she would do nothing of the sort. She sprinted to catch up with Snape, nearly running flat into his back when she rushed through the doorway and suddenly came up right behind him.

A thousand different scenarios had flashed through Hermione's head, most of them involving Death Eaters, and all of them involving something horribly dramatic. But the room was just as it had always been, empty save for Sirius. He was standing with one hand grasping the back of a tall toffee-colored rocking chair and the other holding The Daily Prophet out in front of him as though it were a bomb about to explode. The scattered remains of his porridge bowl and spoon lay on the ground at his feet (which immediately explained the clatter).

"What is it?" both Hermione and Snape asked at once.

Snape shot Hermione a brief, furious glance, but otherwise did not comment on the fact that she had just disobeyed a direct order.

Sirius's eyes were glued to the newspaper. "It's—it's you," he stammered. "Both of you, you're on the front page!"

"What," Snape strode forward and snatched the paper out of Sirius's hands.

Sirius gave a sharp "hey!" of surprise, but otherwise, let him have it.

Hermione hurriedly positioned herself behind Snape and peered over his elbow. She gasped. Sure enough, there was her very own face plastered across the front of the newspaper. She was wearing what looked like her favorite blue sweater (where did they get that picture?), and every so often the image of herself would glance nervously at the image of a scowling Snape that was positioned directly beside her.

Snape's picture was even larger than hers, and under it read a long caption in big bold letters:


With a bitter, derisive snort, Snape flipped open the paper to the article itself.

Hermione scanned it furiously.

"Hey!" she said, reaching over Snape's arm to point out a piece of text. "You didn't set fire to the Forbidden Forest, you were helping to put it out!"

"I know," he growled in reply, shoving her arm away with his elbow.

Hermione kept reading. "Hey, what is—You didn't drag me off into the woods — it was that thing, that monster. You—you were the one who saved me!"

"I know."

"And WHAT? You did not try to kill me over the holidays. That was just an accident!"

"For Merlin's sake, I KNOW!"

"I mean, of course it was bound to get out sooner or later that we were missing," Hermione continued, ignoring the increasingly irritated looks she was drawing from Snape. "But this is — this is too absurd. How can they print what is so obviously ridiculous? How can they think that you would want to kill me. This isn't even Rita Skeeter writing the article—Why didn't Dumbledore set them straight?"

Sirius jumped in before Snape could answer. "I'm sure he tried," he said bitterly. "But he may not have been asked to comment. Even if he was, any reporter worth his stuff would undoubtedly be very selective about what they included in print. Why does that surprise you? It happened to me, didn't it?"

Hermione shifted uncomfortably. "Yes, well, but I mean, everyone thought that you were… Even Professor Lupin was convinced that you had…" Then Hermione saw the furious expression on Sirius's face, and she quickly backpedaled. "I mean, it's not fair, in any case. They shouldn't have the right!"

"Well, they do," Snape cut in harshly, "and there isn't a blasted thing we can do about it. What a load of rubbish." He crumpled up the paper and tossed it into the nearest bin before exiting the room.

"Oi! I wasn't done with that!" Sirius yelled after him. Unsurprisingly, Snape did not answer.

The following afternoon, all three occupants of the cottage were gathered in the sitting room and Hermione, unsurprisingly, was still seething over misquotes in The Daily Prophet. Snape, after becoming fed up with her long-winded tirades about proper journalism (as if she even knew the first thing about proper journalism), finally suggested, quite waspishly, that if she felt so offended by the whole thing, why didn't she just write them a letter?

"Maybe I should!" she had snapped back, prickling at his sarcasm. "You know, I'm only taking offense on your behalf. You should be grateful."

"Oh, yes, I should just fall weeping to the floor and worship you for all that whining you've done over the past three hours. Thank you so much for distracting me from my book — you must have sensed somehow that deep down I didn't actually want to read it."

Not wanting to be caught up in the impending argument, Sirius observed that he might as well see how their owl friend was doing (they had thought it best to wait for the snowstorm to die down before releasing it again) and made a swift escape.

Hermione and Snape's bickering had hit its stride at that point, and so even without Sirius in the room, it continued on unhindered — every so often escalating to bouts of shouting, or in Hermione's case, physical tantrums. She had been attempting to pluck the petals off of a lovely bouquet of purple Verbena for later use in her potion, but through her anger, she had accidentally reduced it all to a shredded, unusable mass on the tabletop.

Snape's derisive snort at her flower massacre was the final straw.

"Fine," she said briskly, sweeping the shredded purple remains into the dustbin and then standing to leave. "I'll be in my office if anyone needs me."

"Good to know. I'll be sure to pay you a visit if I find another book that I don't want to read."

Hermione was beyond caring about pretense and by now had thoroughly convinced herself that none of what Snape was saying had anything to do with convincing Sirius. He was simply being an irritable arse. "You're impossible!" she seethed.

"So I've been told."

"Ooooh," Hermione growled. She glared furiously at Snape as he sat there in his favorite armchair by the fire, his legs stretched languidly out on the ottoman. She lowered her voice to an angry whisper. "Sirius isn't even here. Why are you being so cruel!"

Snape's eyes were two dark slits as he looked at her over the spine of his book and hissed reproachfully, "Pardon me for keeping my end of the bargain, Miss Granger. Would you rather I penned you love poems and sank to my knees kissing your feet every time Black left the room? I, for one, would rather not risk it. Excuse me for trying to keep you out of the hands of the Dark Lord."

Hermione was beside herself. "Why do you still call him that anyway," she snapped, giving up on her dulcet tones and letting her annoyance get the better of her. "The Dark Lord indeed!"

"Why do you think I call him that," he replied, the book in his hands long forgotten, "you impossible girl—"

"I don't have the faintest bloody idea!" Hermione put her hands on her hips and looked at him in a mocking sort of way. "Are you really so terrified of him, is that it? Does speaking the name just send you into pants-wetting hysterics, Professor?"

"Now you listen here, Granger—"

"And if you're going to call him anything, don't call him 'The Dark Lord' — that horrible brute shouldn't be 'Lord' of anything! For Merlin's sake, it's only a name! Just say it! VOL — DE — MO—"

But no sooner had Hermione's mouth began to form the final syllable, when something erupted out of Snape's pocket. It was the tiny, one-sided mirror that Snape normally used for communicating with Dumbledore (he had shown it to Hermione briefly on the cab ride from the Airport), and for some mysterious, spectacular reason, it was now spinning rapidly in the air between them, reflecting the light of the fire so that it almost seemed to glow with a celestial light.

A split-second later it stopped, quivering in mid-air, and Dumbledore's booming voice reverberated through the house:


Then, Dumbledore's voice stopped just as suddenly as it started, and the mirror gave one last shudder before promptly dropping back down to the carpeted floor with a soft thud. The silence that followed was deafening.

Hermione's ears were still ringing as she and Snape shared a wide-eyed glance. That was close, she thought, trying to form words, but unable to force any sound to pass her lips.

Momentarily, Sirius appeared in the doorway looking just as frightened and confused as Hermione felt. "Who was that?" he gasped. "What happened? What name can't we say?"

"I need to speak to the Headmaster," was all Snape offered in reply, and stooped down to snatch up the mirror before quickly exiting the room.

Hermione swallowed, turning to face Sirius. "I-it was Dumbledore." She pointed after Snape. "The mirror. We can't say You-Know-Who's name — his real name — or… or we'll be found… I think. I don't know — something about a curse — Oh, that was scary!"

"Alright. Well. I think the 'don't say his name' part sounds clear enough," Sirius replied, his expression grave. "You sure it was Dumbledore?"

Hermione nodded.

"Okay, then. Don't say his name — I think we can handle that."

Hermione nodded again.

Snape was shut up in his room for over two hours that afternoon, and when he finally did emerge, it was to reveal that he and Dumbledore had constructed an elaborate safety plan — an escape plan — to be used in the event that, Merlin forbid, they were ever found.

The idea was to have a Portkey on the second floor, closest to the bedrooms. Should anything go seriously wrong, for any reason, they were to get to that Portkey as fast as they could (preferably all together, but better one than none), and it would transport them directly into Hogsmeade — second floor of the Three Broomsticks. From there, they were to go straight to Dumbledore, no matter what.

The creation of this Portkey would be breaking more than a few Ministry laws, but Dumbledore, understandably, was willing to risk it. He would be sending the item through the Floo in approximately three hours time, when most Ministry staff members were on break, and Arthur Weasley said he would personally oversee the transaction.

After finding a place to put it, Snape would then perform sort of hocus-pocus (advanced wandless magic — Hermione was quite looking forward to seeing this) to activate the thing, and then it was not to be touched unless they were in the throes of some sort of dire emergency.

There was a brief argument over which room in which to place the Portkey, after which it was eventually decided that Hermione's room would be best.

Hermione thought this insane, seeing as she wasn't even a member of the Order, and was probably the most 'expendable' out of the three of them. But the two men were adamant.

For the first time (perhaps ever), Snape and Sirius argued as one, and it was a rather intimidating experience to say the least.

"Enough, Granger," Snape said as he and Sirius came barging into her room that evening, bearing a broken-down quill and placing it on her desk. "It isn't your call. The Portkey stays in here."

Hermione frowned, though otherwise raised no more objections. "Thank you," she said stonily, and pulled a book in front of her face under the pretense of reading. Then, she peeked discreetly around the side of the book cover to watch Snape as he briefly touched the quill, muttered a few incoherent words, and then exited the room.

What she did not see was the wary look that passed on Sirius's face as he glanced back and forth between Snape and Hermione. There was something different about the two of them that he could not quite grasp.

But he was determined to figure it out.

Things went relatively back to normal in Pruitt cottage over the next week. At first, there had remained a bit of tension between Hermione and both men of the house. Snape was nearly always shut up in his room or down in the basement, and she was still not on easy speaking terms with Sirius so did not go out of her way to seek his company.

Hermione tried to release the owl the next day, when the storm had calmed down, except it refused to leave her arm, sidling up to her shoulder and nuzzling her neck until, with a giggle, she decided that it could stay a little while longer. Though it had the most shocking blue eyes, which were often unsettling to her, Hermione simply wrote it off as a reaction to the fact that she had never before seen a snowy owl with such interesting coloring.

Besides, she liked having a companion with whom to study. Since she didn't have Crookshanks around anymore (she wondered if the boys were taking good care of him), she was grateful for a warm little body to stroke and to coo over, and to keep her company through the long nights. After all, she was spending an awful lot of time locked away in the study — doing research, testing ingredients, and working relentlessly towards her ultimate goal of a new branch of quick-heal potions.

Unsurprisingly, this kept her up late into the night — and even when she did sleep, she would oftentimes wake up minutes later, her mind suddenly possessed by a new, miraculous idea. Then she would throw on her robe and race downstairs to the study to write it all out.

Whenever she chanced a glance in the mirror, the girl she saw looked frazzled and tired — but there was a light of excitement behind her eyes that could not be ignored. Finally, she was starting to accomplish something worthwhile! Something that would actually have an impact on the rest of the world. For so long she had simply learned about other people's discoveries and inventions, and now it was finally time to make her own.

After a while, though intense and bright at first, that excitement began to fade. Despite her hard work and careful research, nothing Hermione tried was working. Time after time she tested the potion on herself, and time after time the small pricks and cuts she made on her arms remained exactly the same. (She did, however, discover a few interesting side effects — including an alarmingly violent case of the hiccups that refused to go away for a day and a half).

Meanwhile, she avoided Snape like the plague, and he did likewise. She supposed that it probably would have been extremely helpful to discuss her ideas for the potion with an actual Potions Master, but she felt loath to share her research — she wanted to be independent, and to make her own mistakes. Not to mention, of course, the fact that she was pretty sure Snape would take one look at her failed attempts and laugh right in her face (the Verbena incident was proof enough of that).

So, in the interest of her rather waning sanity, Hermione decided that she should probably do her best to avoid the possibility of such an encounter, and struggle along in solitude.

Severus itched at his jaw irritably. Now he remembered why he never grew in a beard — it was ruddy uncomfortable.

The house was quiet as Severus left his room and walked down the hall towards the stairs. He wasn't exactly hungry, but he wanted to get his food before the other occupants of the cottage showed up. Avoidance was always the best way to deal with a problem, in his opinion, and so far, it seemed to be working just fine.

Severus could hear the shower running in the bathroom as he approached it along the hall. Just when he was about to pass, there came a shrill scream from inside. He stopped, and the door burst open. Amidst a cloud of steam emerged a sopping wet Hermione Granger, wearing nothing but a towel and a thoroughly nauseated expression.

"Oh, Professor!" she squealed as she saw Severus, pointing blindly behind her as she darted into the hall. "Please you—Kill it, for Heaven's sake, you've got to kill it! Please kill it!"

Severus stood in shocked confusion for only a split-second, and then an enormous cockroach scuttled out of the doorway and along the wall, its antennas waving wildly back and forth, its wings fluttering noisily.

Granger let out unearthly shriek. "THERE IT IS! Professor, please!"

Severus could hardly breathe for laughing. He took off his shoe and aimed a throw, but missed entirely because of the tears that were clouding his eyes. "You'd face down a Death Eater," he gasped. "But you're scared of an insect!" He was absolutely beside himself.

Granger gave a great big shudder as the roach scuttled away towards Severus's end of the hall. "I don't like them," she said adamantly, in a low voice, as though if it heard her, the cockroach might come charging back at her in defense of its honor. "I mean. I try not to be a girl about it all the time, or whatever, but I just… And it's not funny," she pouted, tucking the towel tighter around herself and pulling the wet hair out of her face.

That's when it happened. Suddenly, Severus wasn't laughing anymore. Before he knew what he was doing, without knowing how he even got there, Severus had Granger trapped against the wall, his forearms on either side of her head and his face a mere inch from hers. He could smell the soap off her skin, the shampoo radiating from her damp curls and he could feel her knees trembling against his shins. He pressed up against her. She turned her head upwards, her big brown eyes all round and filled with an expression that he simply could not get enough of. Want.

No one ever wanted him.

They wanted him gone most of the time, but they never wanted him.

The thought of this brilliant, spirited, passionate young woman pining for him, lusting after him, wanting him, was intoxicating. Severus leaned in closer, his whole body hyper-aware of every move she made—the way her breath quickened, her chest heaving, the water rolling down her cheeks and her neck, between her breasts, the way her mouth was parted slightly in what he keenly hoped was anticipation.

A mere moment later, Severus pulled sharply back. They had made a deal, and he needed to keep it. He had made Granger promise that the relationship would end the moment Black returned, and like it or not, lust-driven insanity or not, he had to keep his end of that promise as well. Besides, now that he thought about it, he actually rather liked the idea of leaving her feeling a bit frustrated, wanting more. It gave him this perverse sense of power — this different sort of power that he had never known before.

"Good day, Miss Granger," he said pertly, giving her a slight nod, and promptly walking away.

There was a moment of silence, and then, "Ooooh, you're impossible!" Granger snarled.

Severus grunted as he felt his own shoe thrown, rather viciously, at his retreating back. He turned around just in time to see Granger disappear back into the bathroom and slam the door behind her. He chuckled to himself all the way to the kitchen.

Hermione threw down her quill with a barely suppressed wail of frustration.

No matter what she tried, the potion refused to work, and now she had gone and ruined another whole batch beyond repair by adding the essence of Milkweed too soon.

Her head was aching and her eyes were itchy and tired. All of her insides had felt strung into a tight tangle of knots since that episode with Snape in the hallway, and she found it almost impossible to focus on anything when her mind kept flickering back and forth between intense longing and intense annoyance.

Hermione's stomach grumbled. She was hungry, and even though she knew that this was relatively the time around which Snape usually got his dinner, she did not care. She was tired of avoiding him, and tired of him avoiding her.

"That's it," she said through clenched teeth, giving the desk a quick pound with her fist. "I'm sick of this! All this hiding is getting ridiculous."

Hermione marched downstairs with every intention of bursting into the kitchen with a well-prepared tirade about Snape's foolishness. But, on her way past the basement door, she heard a compelling melody from down below. Her bravado faltered, and she paused.

She reached for the door, turned away, turned back, turned away again, and then, with a frustrated sigh and shake of the head, she finally opened the door and strode boldly inside.

Snape stopped playing and looked up the instant Hermione entered.

She stood at the base of the stairs and put her hands on her hips. "That was rather a juvenile thing for you, don't you think?"

"Hardly," Snape growled, turning his eyes to the black and white keys in front of him, though he made no move to play them. "I do, however, apologize for teasing you. It was unprovoked. Now, go back upstairs before Black finds you here."

"Sirius is taking a shower," she replied simply.

Snape still did not turn his gaze from the piano. "Oh," he grunted.

Taking a deep breath and clearing her throat a bit nervously (for, despite everything that had passed between them, being in close proximity to Snape still made her a bit nervous), Hermione approached the piano bench and sat down beside him.

Snape remained as still as a statue.

"You know," Hermione began quietly. "I thought that this would be easy. I could just ignore you and pretend like nothing happened — after all, I have become quite practiced at it—"

Snape's eyes flickered briefly in her direction.

"Only, I can't stop thinking about…" She rolled her eyes. "I can't concentrate, you see, and I wanted desperately to—"

"If this is how you are going to react after only a week, Granger, then how do you suppose you are going to last the rest of the term?"

It took all of Hermione's self-restraint to keep from reaching out and taking up his hand in hers, or leaning against his side, for she so dearly wanted to touch him. She was afraid, though, that if she broke "the rules" again, he might leave. And she still wanted to talk. "School is different," she replied. "At school I have friends to talk to, and school work, and classes, and I only see you once or twice a day. Here there is very little to occupy my time — and for Heaven's sake, we sleep right down the hall from each other! Forgive me if I find that a little distracting."

"Forgive me if I don't think that you being 'distracted' is just cause to endanger your life—"

Hermione scoffed irritably. "Endanger my life, indeed. You just don't want Sirius to find out."

"No, I don't want Black to find out — satisfied?"


"Of course not. And what would satisfy you, Miss Granger?"

"You know perfectly well what — and would you stop calling me Miss Granger? Sirius isn't even here."

"Even so, I'd rather not risk—"

"You worry too much, you know that?"

Snape gave Hermione a very shocked look. "I worry t—Well, if that's not the most hypocritical thing I've ever—"

"Oh, fine," she snapped. "It's just that I don't understand why we have to keep pretending like this, even when there's no one around. It all seems so stupid. Why can't we just…" Hermione trailed off when she realized that Snape's expression was no longer harsh or even angry. It was softer. Not sad or anything (that was beyond his radar), but… softer.

"I was under the impression that you trusted my judgment," he said simply, the tone in his voice suggesting that he did not think this impression very accurate.

Oh, fucking hell, so he's playing the trust card, is he? Hermione thought irritably. How just like a sneaky, manipulative little Slytherin! The Sorting Hat certainly knew what it was doing with him.

"Of course I trust you," Hermione said sharply. "It's just that I… that I…" She trailed off yet again as an expression of unguarded anxiety crossed Snape's face at her dismissive tone. Was he really that worried about Sirius finding out? Hermione took a breath. "Of course I trust you," she repeated, this time with much more conviction. "It's just that if I had known… I mean, we never really had the chance to… That last kiss wasn't exactly…"

"Another kiss? Is that what this is all about?"

Hermione was taken aback by the frankness of Snape's words — and even more taken aback when he did not even wait for her reply before wrapping his hand around her neck and pulling her face to his, and capturing her lips, her breath, and her heart all in one.

One thing was for sure — she certainly did seem to bring out the impulsive in him!

Hermione was fast growing to love the feel of his mouth, warm and soft against her own, his whiskery jaw rough against her cheek. She sighed with pleasure as he pressed her up against the piano and there was a dull smatter of notes as her backside connected with the keys. Snape moved in so close, she could feel the heat off his body. Snape's hands found their way to her hips, her waist, at once pushing her against the piano, and the next moment pulling at her dress, pulling her towards him, pulling the fabric upwards so his hand could find the bare skin of her thigh. Eventually his wandering caresses traveled all the way up until his thumb just barely brushed the bottom curve of her breast… And then, as though suddenly realizing what his hand was doing, Snape jerked it away.

For some reason, this made Hermione giggle. Was the infamous Professor Snape shy of second base?

Snape pulled out of the kiss the instant he felt her laughing against his mouth and was just beginning to form the words, "What's so fun—" when he was immediately interrupted.


Sirius stood at the head of the stairs, his eyes bugging out of his head, his face scarlet, and his mouth distorted into an expression of intense and utter disgust.

There was a long moment of silence, and then, "I told you," Snape growled in Hermione's ear.

There had been at least half an hour of heated, vicious arguing following that fateful moment, in which both Sirius and Snape very nearly turned their wands on each other (but a frantic shout from Hermione caused them to remember their strict limitations). Thankfully, no punches were thrown — though Hermione thought it an absolute miracle. Sirius was beside himself with horror and anger, yelling over and over again about the hypocrisy of Snape's actions. He had not forgotten the night that Snape told him off for a 'supposed' affair with Hermione.

Snape simply retorted with his usual stinging comments, though, to Hermione's immense surprise, he did not deny Sirius's accusations. While he made a pointed effort to avoid the actual confession itself that there was a relationship, or that he even had feelings for her, in any capacity, Hermione was touched all the same. Meanwhile, she did her very best to bring some of the heat off of Snape and onto herself, claiming adamantly that she was the one who had instigated everything, and that nothing had happened without her full consent, encouragement even. But Sirius would not hear a word of it. In fact, he wanted to go straight to Dumbledore with the whole thing. A near sobbing outburst from Hermione was the only thing that managed to silence him.

"Please not yet!" she had cried. "Please don't tell Dumbledore. Nobody can know."

It was then that she quickly explained the circumstances that Snape had relayed to her on that early morning nearly two weeks ago — all about the Death Eaters and Dumbledore's "real" reason for why she was hidden.

Unable to bear the re-telling of this bit of information, Snape took his leave of the room at last — with Sirius's furious eyes following him all the way.

It was not long before Sirius lost interest in Hermione's hypothetical tale of Death Eaters tormenting her for information from Snape, and instead requested (demanded) that she go to the library to work on her studies while he "had a word with the Professor."

Hermione did not like the sound of his tone, but she did not want to push her luck. She had finally managed to coax Sirius into a semi-if-not-calm-then-relatively-coherent state, though he still looked an inch away from another colorful explosion.

So, nervously, Hermione did as Sirius said and went to her little study to once more attempt to focus on the development of her potion. Seeing as everything she had done so far in this vein, had resulted only in dead ends, she was less than enthused about this prospect.

She thought that the warm company of her owl friend might do her some good, but for some reason, it too was acting distant and standoffish, simply glaring at her with its cold blue eyes far away on a high shelf.

"Fine!" she snapped. "If you find my company to be so distasteful, then why don't you go downstairs! Sirius and the Professor are having a grand old argument. Maybe that will be more entertaining for you."

To her immense surprise, the owl blinked once, threw a pointed glance at Hermione's work desk (as though making a silent comment on her lack of progress) and then did exactly as she said. It leapt off the bookcase with an irritable screech and then soared out the door.

"Fine!" she said again, slamming the door closed behind it.

Now that she was thoroughly agitated, Hermione was determined to find something to occupy her hands. She saw a half-diced bit of ginger root, and even though she was completely unsure as to what the addition of this ingredient would even do to her already painfully complicated potion, she decided to finish cutting it up anyway.

As Hermione went to pick up the knife, she noticed something clinging to the back of her hand. It was a strand of hair. Her first instinct was to shake it off, but then she noticed what color it was and she stopped. It was gold, not brown, and now that she thought about it she was pretty sure that she could feel it, in a way, through her skin — all the way to the very tips of her fingers. It was almost like a constant, electric thrill (though much dimmer than the shock she usually experienced). As she stared at it, not quite sure why this affected her so, her mind slowly but surely began to form a wild, impulsive, brilliant idea.

Was this it? Was this the secret she had been waiting for?

With her heart hammering in her chest, Hermione very carefully reached out and picked up the strand of hair, instantly aware of the hum that it made against her fingertips — a warm, gentle buzz. She paused briefly as she held it over the green tar-like contents of her cauldron. "Do something miraculous," she whispered. Then, without any further deliberation, she dropped it in.

There was a great flash of light and an enormous plume of thick, yellow smoke billowed from the cauldron, shimmering and sparkling with an almost overwhelming splendor. Then, almost as suddenly as it appeared, the smoke vanished, leaving behind a potion that was now a blinding, brilliant yellow-orange color. It crackled and popped as though emitting hundreds of miniscule fireworks off of its roiling surface.

Hermione stared at it wide-eyed, her jaw slack with shock. That had certainly been dramatic — but what had it done? For some inane reason, she had the overpowering feeling that whatever she had just created was very special.

There was nothing else to do but try it and find out.

The tiny voice of reason in the back of her head (which was usually very loud, but seemed to have shrunk quite a bit since she first set out on this adventure) was screaming at her not to do anything stupid—like drink the potion herself. She ignored it, her attention still transfixed by the brilliant, sparkling concoction in front of her. She began to realize that the hum she heard and felt was not just her adrenaline—it was coming from the cauldron itself. In fact, the very air around her seemed to vibrate and crackle with a mysterious power.

Was this… her life energy? Was this what Dumbledore had been talking about? That "energy" she had so unexpectedly given to Snape?

Largitio. Hermione mouthed the word silently.

Old magic. Ancient magic. Not even Dumbledore knew the full details of its power.

Maybe she was about to uncover some of those details right now…

So, with her whole body shaking and her breathing nearly non-existent, Hermione carefully dipped a small beaker into the potion and filled it with barely even a mouthful of the orange, crackling liquid. She set it carefully on the table before taking the tip of a silver letter opener and making a small cut on her forearm. Then she once again picked up the beaker, brought it to her lips… and downed it in one gulp.

It burned and fizzed all the way down her throat. Then, after the initial sting wore off, there was nothing.

Hermione stared long and hard at the cut on her arm, never blinking even as her eyes began to water. She willed it silently to heal, willed it to change in some way. But it remained the same.

"Bugger," she breathed at last, collapsing into her chair and feeling utterly defeated.

She leapt up a second later, however, as an extremely loud commotion suddenly came from somewhere on the other side of the house — the living room by the sound of it. There was a loud owl-like squawk, a few bangs, and then some muffled, angry voices.

Her first thought was that Sirius and Snape had finally snapped and were now officially duking it out in some sort of battle royale. Then she heard footsteps pounding at an alarming speed down the hall towards her study. A mere split second later, Sirius came bursting into the room looking extremely pale and more frightened than she had ever seen him.

Sirius opened his mouth, but before he could even say a word, there came a strangled, distant yell.

"Run, Hermione!" Snape's voice thundered through the house, and Hermione knew that it meant their hiding place had been found.

"Is it a Death—" she began to say. Sirius raced forward, snatched up her arm and began to drag her quickly towards the door.

"An army of them!" he gasped, his eyes wide and round, his wand gripped in a shaking fist. "We need to get to the Portkey—NOW!"

"What about Professor Snape!" Hermione replied frantically. "And how did they find us? What's—"

"I'll explain later!" Sirius barked savagely, giving her another furious pull as he sped into an almost full-out sprint towards the end of the hall and up the stairs, forcing Hermione to take them two at a time.

Already she could hear footsteps stampeding towards them down the hallway they had just exited.

Hermione knew what the plan was, she knew what she was supposed to do, but all she could think about were the images she had seen in her dreams—the images of Snape lying defenseless on the floor, curled into a defeated heap, blood everywhere, his eyes dimmed with pain…

"No!" Hermione shrieked, pulling against Sirius's grip. "I won't leave him! He'll die, we have to do something! We have to—"

Sirius rounded on her, his chest heaving and his breath as ragged as an angry bull's. "We have to do what Dumbledore says, Hermione. We'll get help and come right back — it's all we can do!"

Without waiting for a reply, Sirius turned and continued on. Within moments they reached Hermione's room, and, still unable to free herself from Sirius's superior strength, Hermione allowed herself to be dragged inside.

She could hear voices now — in the stairwell. Cries of anger, of vengeance, and cruel laughter.

Sirius led her to the Portkey, holding his hand over the broken quill. After only a moment of hesitation, Hermione followed his lead.

"On three," Sirius said, his eyes flickering nervously towards the closed door.

"But I can't just—" Hermione gasped desperately.

"One—" Sirius cut her off.

"But, Sirius, you can't just let him—"


Hermione was nearly in tears. "After all that he's done for every—"


Both Hermione and Sirius lunged forward… but the sight of Snape's mangled, bleeding body flashed before Hermione's eyes once more, and with another cry of, "No!" she pulled back at the last second.

Sirius's wide, shocked eyes were the last thing she saw… and then he was gone.

Hermione was alone in a dark, vacant room.

Not for long, however; the Death Eaters were getting nearer by the second — and blasting open every single door on their way, judging by the explosive bangs and the sound of shattering wood.

Hermione did not have time for hesitation. She had made a decision, and now she needed to commit to it, fully and completely — or both she and Snape would surely be dead.

Wand. I need my wand, she decided.

Hermione raced to her bedside table, pulled open the drawer and snatched up her most treasured weapon, clenching it so tightly in her hand that the wood bit painfully into her palm. Then, knowing that there was no place to hide, no other place to run, Hermione raced to the windowed doors leading out onto the balcony. She threw them open and then stepped out into the night.

"Not in here — check the next one!"

Hermione's heart gave an almighty leap as she heard a man's gruff voice just outside her bedroom door. Looking frantically around, she saw a gutter pipe to her left. Jamming her wand into her mouth to free her hands, she leapt over the balcony railing and wrapped herself as best she could around the pipe. But it was so cold outside, and the metal was slick; her grip slipped, and with a barely muffled cry of terror she careened towards the ground. Her ankle twisted horribly as she landed and her wand flew out of her mouth, clattering loudly on the cobblestones a few feet away.

"Did you hear that? Down there — can you see anything? I swear I bloody heard something."

Hermione's heart gave another bone-jarring thud as she looked up and saw a huddle of dark forms leaning over the balcony. Death Eaters! Could they see her? Was it all over? She was well into the shadows, so maybe not, but it seemed like they were looking right at her. Maybe she was too far beneath them. Maybe it was too dark. Please let it be too dark!

Hermione lay as still as stone, her ankle throbbing viciously and her hands stinging painfully from the friction of the cold metal gutter.

"Did you even check for the Portkey, Goyle?" said one of the cloaked figures. "Where did Frend say it would be? A broken quill on the dresser — that's what he said, is it there?"

Hermione barely withheld a gasp. How did they know about the Portkey? How did they know exactly what it looked like, where it had been placed? Did that mean they also knew the location it was linked to? What if Sirius was headed straight for a trap!

Dozens of terrible scenarios flashed through Hermione's mind, each more fearsome than the last. None of it made any sense! How could they know?

"Well, they're obviously not here," drawled a deep, familiar voice. Lucius Malfoy's voice. "We should return to the first floor. I hope they haven't killed Snape yet — I do so wish to see the look on his face before he dies."

Need a plan, need a plan, need a plan, Hermione repeated in her head over and over again, as she desperately tried to ignore the image of Lucius Malfoy laughing over Snape's dead body. She watched as the dark figures slowly disappeared back inside the house, and willed herself to focus.

She needed her wand. That was always her first step. She needed to get her wand, and then she could take it from there. One step at a time.

Slowly at first, but with an ever-growing sense of urgency, Hermione pulled herself up into a kneeling position and then crawled towards the place she had last seen her wand. A cloud had passed over the moon since she had been lying on the ground, and now it was almost impossible to see anything a foot in front of her face.

Thankfully, her wand had not rolled too far, and after only a few moments of frantic groping about, her hands closed over the familiar cherrywood handle.

Okay, next step, next step, she thought determinedly, as she sat there in the cold of the courtyard. Apparently the temperature spell was beginning to wear off.

Hermione jumped as she heard a crash and an angry shout to her right. She turned to see a bright yellow light splashed out across the cobblestones just thirty or so feet away. It appeared to be coming from the sitting room windows. She could just see the dark shadows of three men fighting, wands out, their arms flying about as they hurled spell after spell. The window was alight with flashes of every color imaginable.

She also noticed that one shadow was separated from the other two, and that it was not quite as bulky as the others. This was a man without his wizard robes. This was a man in danger. This was Severus Snape.

With that realization, Hermione's brain finally jump-started and she threw herself back into action. I cannot be seen, she decided right off. That was her first priority, and already she knew precisely the way to handle it.

Closing her eyes, trying desperately to block out the sound of shattering glass and shouted spells, Hermione concentrated every bit of energy she had into transforming herself into her still rather unfamiliar Animagus form.

Swift as a flash, she felt her arms and legs shortening, her ears lengthening, her skin sprouting a thick layer of downy fur — and then it was over.

Hermione opened her eyes, blinking rapidly. This change in perspective was always hard to get used to at first, and made her feel nauseous for a good five minutes or so before she got used to it — but she didn't have the time!

Wand, she thought instantly, and leaned her head down to snatch it up between her enormous front teeth. Now, MOVE, she commanded herself.

With the stealth and agility of which only a rabbit was capable, Hermione scampered towards the fighting shadows, praying and praying that she could somehow find a way to rescue Severus. Was the element of surprise going to be enough? She was only a Seventh Year — she hardly knew anything about dark magic. And she also had no idea how many Death Eaters there even were. There had been at least four up on the balcony (which was already a distressing amount) — and by the steadily increasing number of shadows she was witnessing through the window, there had to be at least five more on the first floor. Not to mention Frend! She feared him almost as much as she feared Voldemort.

Thinking back on the battle she had witnessed in the dungeon beneath the church (it seemed so long ago, now), she already knew that Frend was equally matched with Snape, if not more powerful; there was no way that Snape would be able to defend himself against Frend and a dozen other Death Eaters. What did she think she was doing? She had no idea how to handle this; if anything, she might only distract Snape further.

No. Hermione shook her head furiously. She couldn't think that way. The damage was done, she missed the Portkey, she had decided she was going to save him, and she was determined to see that decision through.

What about Sirius? What about Frend knowing exactly where the Portkey had been? That was too frightening to be ignored.

Let Sirius be alright, let Sirius be alright! Please let him find help and bring it here!

As Hermione steadily crept towards the sitting room windows, she at last began to make out individual voices — and the spells that they were casting.

"Avada Kedavra!"

"Avada Kedavra!"




Hermione swallowed the very dry lump in her throat.

Merlin help her.

Just Let it Happen

A Harry Potter Story
by La. Bel. LM

Part 17 of 35

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