Continuing Tales

Just Let it Happen

A Harry Potter Story
by La. Bel. LM

Part 20 of 35

<< Previous     Home     Next >>
Just Let It Happen

It was a dark and gloomy morning that dawned that day — as though someone had come through during the night and whitewashed every surface in sight. Even the grounds were bleak, misty and gray beneath the feeble glow of sunlight that barely managed to squeeze through the clouds.

Hermione sat rigidly in a chair at Harry's bedside. Her hands were folded loosely in her lap and her face was stern and pale as she gazed stonily out the Hospital Wing window, lost in thought. She had been awake for a good three hours already, her eyes snapping sharply open well before sunrise. Her dreams had not been good ones.

Even though Hermione was physically fine, after a brief run-down of recent events, Madam Pomfrey had insisted on everyone within her line of sight staying the night in the Hospital Wing (strangely, Snape had not been present at the time). Spending yet another night trapped in that stuffy old room was the very last thing Hermione had wanted. Frankly, all she had felt like doing at that moment was curling up in her soft familiar four-poster in Gryffindor Tower and slipping peacefully into a coma. But Madam Pomfrey had been adamant. And Hermione felt compelled to stay with Harry anyway.

"A sickle for your thoughts."

Hermione started at the gruff voice behind her. She turned to find Remus Lupin propped up on some pillows, eyes open, smiling weakly. He looked very tired.

"I'm not sure they're worth a sickle, Professor," she replied gloomily.

Lupin's smile did not fall. If anything, it widened. "Ah," he breathed. "It's nice to be called Professor again."

"Is it?" Quietly as she could, so as not to wake Harry, Hermione scooted her chair closer to her former teacher.

Lupin shrugged. "I suppose it sounds dignified… or something. At least more so than Were... than other things."

Hermione couldn't help but feel a sharp pang of empathy for the incredible, sweet, caring man in front of her, one whom the world had so sorely abused. Even though he did not voice it directly, Hermione thought she understood a little of what Lupin might have been trying to say. As a Professor at Hogwarts, he had found something that made him belong, gave him a respected position in society, grounded him. It had made him almost normal, in a way. Or at least, identified him as something other than an unemployed Werewolf.

Hermione said none of what she was thinking however, and tried instead to force herself (with an effort so great, it almost hurt) to return Lupin's tired smile. She could not quite make it reach her eyes though, and so knowing that it was pointless to fake a happiness she did not feel, she soon gave up. "I do wish you would come back," she said to Lupin at last. "I don't think we've ever had anyone better. I don't know if we ever told you, truly, but I think I might as well say it now. We really learned in your class—we really benefited from it, you know. With the exception of Professor Moody — who wasn't actually Moody, so never mind, I guess — Defense Against the Dark Arts has been absolute rubbish every year. And such an important class! We desperately need preparation, but what we've had to suffer through time after time borders on the absurd. I suppose there might have been a few useful hexes here and there in our textbooks, but none of them were very impressive, or even applicable. I wish there was someone with the proper intelligence and genuine interest in student learning who could… I know it's insensitive to say when I'm already pretty certain of what your answer will be, but… can't you come back, Professor Lupin? Is there anyway?"

Lupin chuckled. "Never knew you thought so highly of me."

"I do. We all do."

Lupin sighed tiredly, "I would love nothing more, you know I would. But I can't, Hermione, I'm sorry. You'll just have to make do with what you've got—which is really all you need, actually, when you look at it."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean… friends. Courage. Loyalty. Oh, listen to me—I don't know. Just… You're doing alright, is all I'm trying to say. You and Harry and Ron, all you of you—I can't imagine how hard it is rely so heavily upon yourselves and each other without the proper guidance from an instructor, but that can be a strength too. Your friends. Who could possibly be more invested in your success? Be more willing to help you and listen to you? I can't tell you how many times when we were in school I would sit Sirius down and…"

With a guilty jolt, Hermione's face fell. What little surge of comfort she had gleaned from Lupin's words vanished in an instant. She felt, momentarily, as though she had just hugged a Dementor.

Lupin's entire demeanor quickly followed suit. "I'm sorry," he amended quietly. "I—didn't mean to mention… I mean, I know you're upset about it. I'm upset about it too—more than you could ever… I… guess what I'm trying to say is…" Lupin's haggard face tried once again to arrange itself into a reassuring smile. He reached over and settled his rather cold hand upon hers. "It's alright, Hermione," he said softly. "It'll all be alright. I promise. Just keep doing what you're doing. I'll be here anytime you need to talk."

Hermione merely nodded, solemnly. She knew Lupin meant well, but, despite it all, he wasn't making her feel better. She didn't want him to make her feel better; she didn't deserve it. There was such a depressing heaviness on her shoulders now, all over her body in fact, that tugged down the corners of her mouth and made her jaw rigid and tight, as though it were screwed shut with iron bolts. She just barely restrained herself from muttering, "No, it won't."

Even though Lupin appeared friendly and warm towards her now, Hermione couldn't help thinking how his face would distort and his manner turn instantly cold if he knew… If he knew that when his best friend in the whole world had died, Hermione had been the last one to see him alive, and done nothing to help.

As that thought echoed through her mind, the aching emptiness inside Hermione continue to grow ever wider. Vaguely, distantly, she had the notion that there was something out there that her heart was seeking — a perfect sentence containing the perfect words that she needed to hear in order for her to truly feel whole again. It was something she couldn't say to herself, but had to come from someone she trusted. And she hadn't the faintest clue what that something was. So if she didn't know, how was poor Professor Lupin supposed to know? Or anyone else, for that matter...

Sheer, utter torture. That's what this was.

Severus all but sank beneath the table in the Great Hall as Dumbledore stood before the entire student body and publicly denounced every lie previously stated about Severus in The Daily Prophet. Each one. Individually.

Granted, the looks of terror and revulsion aimed Severus' way seemed to dim somewhat after this speech, but Severus was not quite sure whether he appreciated this or not. On the one hand, he did not exactly revel in the idea of being seen as a sort of pyromaniac child-snatcher, but on the other hand, they were all bound to be staring at him anyway (what with his foolish new haircut and that infernal stripe on his head — not to mention the stubbled jaw, which, despite his previous intentions to do otherwise, he had yet to shave), so why not looks of fear? He did appreciate those so much more.

As Dumbledore moved on from what didn't happen to what did, Severus couldn't help but note that the old wizard certainly liked to skip details. Severus felt a rush of gratitude replace his embarrassment as Dumbledore finally sat down again, having mentioned nothing more explicit than, "All responsibility lies with Lord Voldemort." No one could deny, at least the man had tact.

Severus shuddered to think how many eyebrows would have been raised in that room if Dumbledore had revealed the particulars of Severus and Granger's little… adventure. Student and Professor, together in the mountains, alone in a secluded cottage. Oh, the rumors that bit of information would reap.

In any case, The Prophet's outrageous stories seemed to have been quelled for the moment and the instant Severus deemed it safe to make a graceful exit, he did so, desperately hoping that his day would improve.

He was, unsurprisingly, disappointed.

"Can I help you, Miss Patil!" Severus barked sharply later that afternoon, causing the girl quietly calling his name to let out an involuntary squeak of terror.

"I — I — I—" Parvati stammered, helplessly lost for words as she gaped wide-eyed at Severus's recently altered visage.

"You — you — you — what?" Severus mocked her waspishly in return. He had been in a foul mood since the moment he opened his eyes that morning, which meant that after all of the whispering, pointing, and dumbfounded ogling throughout the day, he was now fit to murder. And it was only lunch time.

Severus truly hated being the center of attention… when it was involuntary, anyway. As a Professor he had to expect a certain amount of attention when at the front of a class — but that sort of attention was very different than the kind he was receiving now, the kind that only happened when his back was turned, or when the people around him thought he wasn't looking. It was a secret attention, the sort that Severus used to get all the time when he had been a student. Needless to say, nothing said back then had been very kind, and he strongly doubted that these hushed conversations now following him through the halls like a swarm of locusts were any different.

Yes, his nerves were being rubbed very raw indeed.

"You — this — er — dropped it — I think—" Cheeks glowing hotly, Parvati shakily held out a roll of parchment with a periwinkle ribbon tied around it.

Severus's eyes widened and he snatched the parchment out of her hand quicker than a flash. "Fine, Miss Patil. A point to Gryffindor. Now stop gaping like a buffoon and return to your table."

"Y-yes sir."

Severus paused just long enough to watch the girl all but sprint back to her seat in the Great Hall before turning smartly and stalking off, the small roll of parchment clutched tightly in his fist.

The parchment was a letter — a letter from Granger. He had received it less than an hour ago right there at the lunch table, but had yet to actually read the thing. He had only opened it long enough to see who it was from, and then promptly shoved it into the pocket of his robes. Minerva McGonagall happened to be seated directly next to him, and he hadn't wanted to take any chances. Not that the old woman was in any habit of reading people's private mail over their shoulders… but, still. You could never be too careful.

In any case, upon receiving the letter, Severus had searched the Hall for its author, but Granger was nowhere to be found. Though it was entirely possible that she was still locked up in the hospital wing, he thought. Poppy could be merciless with her patients' freedom at times. She held them like hostages of war, and Merlin forbid anyone attempt to leave when they had not specifically been dismissed. Severus had certainly received his fair share of that woman's lectures, and he was none too envious of anyone in danger of receiving one now.

As Severus swept down the stairs en route to his laboratory, he toyed briefly with the notion of visiting Hermione — but then discarded the idea almost as soon as it came to mind. For one thing, there were far too many people in that room who might raise potentially awkward questions, and for another, he was still feeling rather odd about the whole… thing. Their "relationship," if that was the correct term.

He was not quite sure how to approach it. There were so many questions to which he wanted answers, but none of them were questions he actually wanted to ask. He had never been very keen on heart-to-hearts, and any emotionally-involved conversation with Hermione Granger was bound to stray into things Severus would rather not discuss. Like feelings. He hated talking about feelings. He would much rather just… what, for fuck's sake? Plow blindly onwards in confused, frustrated ignorance? That certainly did not sound productive.

Severus snarled inwardly. Why did everything have to be so bloody complicated? Why couldn't they just be together when they wanted, and not be together when they didn't, and that be the end of it? He barely resisted the impulse to slam the laboratory door behind him. No need to be childish, after all. He could handle this like the mature adult he was. Adult. Adult.

That word echoed in his head. The harder he tried to dismiss it, the stronger its impression became. What the hell was he doing? Messing around with a student. His student. A girl. A young girl. What the hell was he doing?

Severus swallowed the lump of guilt and revulsion creeping up his throat, and sat down at his desk. He placed the letter directly in front of him, scowling at that stupid periwinkle ribbon as it flirted with him cruelly. Then, after the smallest of pauses, he opened it.

The message was short:

Dear Professor Snape,

Just wanted to check in and confirm that lesson times for my independent study were the same as last semester's.

Please let me know,

Hermione Granger

Severus stared at the note for a long time. Lesson times? After everything that had happened in the past month, that's what she decided to owl him about?

Severus knew he shouldn't care. He knew that this was perfectly in-keeping with everything he had asked of her and everything they had mutually decided upon. But there was no stopping the surprising sense of indignation that welled up within him in the face of such informality. She might at least have asked how he was recovering, ungrateful little thing. It made him feel short-changed somehow, and he had the overwhelming desire to reciprocate that feeling.

Making an instant decision, Severus whipped out a fresh scrap of parchment and scribbled a hasty reply:

Miss Granger,

Due to recent circumstances, I do not think it wise for you to be serving under my private tutelage any longer. As of now, your independent study in potions has ended and you are henceforth free to waste someone else's time with impertinent questions on whatever topics you so desire.



Then, without even reading it through a second time, Severus rolled up the letter, slipped it into his pocket, and set off immediately for the owlry to mail it.

Yes, it was childish, yes, it was pathetic and spiteful — but, then again, tact had never exactly been Severus's most manicured quality. Even he had to admit, he could be quite a bastard sometimes.

"Don't be stupid, Hermione. Stop wallowing — Sirius wouldn't have wanted a fuss."

Hermione stared back at Ginny dully. Nope. That wasn't what she needed to hear either.

They were sitting in the library; Neville on one side of her, Ginny directly across the small table.

Harry was still in the hospital wing and Ron was out on the Quidditch pitch with the rest of the Gryffindor team. The moment she had been released from Madam Pomfrey's grasp, Hermione had sought comfort in one of her very favorite places on Hogwarts grounds.

However, in light of recent events, her friends seemed to have developed an annoying habit of following her about, apparently convinced that she was in dire need of "cheering up." She was. But they were no better at it than Professor Lupin — perhaps even worse.

The only time she had managed to shake them off was for a few brief moments early that morning in the owlry while she had scribbled a quick note to Professor Snape. There were so many things she wanted to talk about with him, so many things she wanted to say, that she felt as though she might explode with frustration trying to write it all out on parchment. She needed to see him face to face, she needed time to gather her thoughts, and she needed to look into his eyes and actually see his reaction to get a feel for what exactly they were supposed to do next. In any case, she thought their private lessons would be a perfect time to do this, as that, at least, would assure her some privacy from her "concerned well-wishers."

Still, she didn't want to be rude. "You're right Ginny," Hermione said with a barely repressed sigh. Then she stood. "Excuse me — I've got a Snapping Zanzibara in Greenhouse Four that is in desperate need of pruning."

Then, just as she was gathering up her stuff to go, Neville spoke, very quietly.

"We know you were scared, Hermione. We understand. I — I probably would have been too. Anyone would have been — even Harry."

That definitely wasn't what she needed to hear. "No, he wouldn't have," she muttered as she slung her bag over her shoulder. "No, he wouldn't have."

If Severus had been hoping for his day to improve after lunch, he was sorely disappointed. Again. Everything up until that point had been a sun-dappled walk in the park next to what happened that evening at dinner, when it all really started.

There he was, dicing his vegetables and minding his own business like any respectable person (and pointedly avoiding Granger, who had been trying to catch his eye all night), when what should be dropped on the table in front of him — by means of a large barn owl — but two brightly colored envelopes. Red envelopes.

Severus's eyes widened. But only for a minute, because in a flash he had reached out and snatched them up in his hand. What he had not been expecting, however, was that these envelopes would not, as normal envelopes do, wait for him to open them. Upon his touch, they open themselves.

What then issued forth was an explosive duet of voices screaming things that made Severus feel as though the pit of his stomach had momentarily fallen through his shoes:













With an almost perfectly synchronized finality, the letters fell back to the table, once again quiet and unobtrusive.

The silence in the Great Hall was so thick it felt tangible, as though Severus could reach up with his butter knife and slice a piece of it right out of the air.

Apparently, there were still those outside Hogwarts who firmly believed what was written in The Daily Prophet.

Severus looked around at all the many faces turned his way. They were slack, shocked, eyes wide and unblinking.

He stood quickly, and, with as much dignity as he could muster, reached out for the letters again, intending to sweep them into his pocket. But just when he thought things couldn't possibly get worse, the letters jumped back to life.





"OH, FOR MERLINS SAKE!" With a snarl of outrage, Severus stuffed the still screaming letters into the pocket of his robes and exited the Hall as fast as he could manage without actually full-out sprinting.

That stupid girl.

The things he got into for that stupid girl.

That poor man.

Hermione watched Snape tear out of the Great Hall amid barely muffled peals of laughter from her fellow students.

The things he got himself into, that poor man.

As Snape disappeared through the door, and a significant portion of the Great Hall's attention instantly turned to her, Hermione hurriedly packed up her stuff and made an equally hasty exit.

There was no mistaking what those howlers had been about — and whom. Yes, there was the rumor of Snape setting the Forbidden Forest on fire, but that was so questionable it was almost comical; there wasn't a shred of proof implicating him in that crime. What really bothered her (and how could it not) was knowing that there were people out there who thought Snape had kidnapped her and… well, who knows what else they thought. But it certainly wasn't good.

Poor Snape, poor thing. The corner of Hermione's mouth gave a weak twitch at the thought of the last time she had addressed him as 'poor thing.' Unsurprisingly, the twitch never quite made it into a smile.

Why had he canceled their lessons? What did that mean?

Did he truly think that it would be too risky, or was there something else Hermione had missed? Had she upset him in some way? That letter had been painfully formal. But, of course, why wouldn't it be? That was their deal. That was what they had decided was best — it wouldn't do for anyone, even Dumbledore, (especially Dumbledore), to find out about them. After all, who knew who might be snooping through her mail.

Surely Snape was aware of this, and yet he had still canceled the lessons. What did that mean? What if, without her around, he was re-thinking everything. What if he had suddenly decided that all of this really was ludicrous after all, and he no longer wanted any part of it. Those howlers certainly hadn't helped anything. It was all so confusing! Why couldn't they just be together and that be the end of it?

Hermione buried her face in her hands as she leaned against a space of wall between two suits of armor. All she wanted now was for finals to come, and with them, graduation. All she wanted was to be done. Done, fucking done with this.

For the first time in her life, Hermione didn't care about the upcoming exams, she didn't care about playing catch-up with all of her missed assignments, she didn't care about grades — in the end, all of it was so insignificant in the face of death. A death that she, Hermione Granger, could have prevented.

Severus did not exactly mean to bang the dungeon door open as loudly as he did, but was nonetheless amused by the startled jumps and looks of trepidation that it caused.

"Today, you will all be tested on the first stage of the Luminetus potion. You were scheduled to begin work on stage two today, but, quite obviously, that is impossible without having completed stage one. All of the ingredients you will be needing have been set out in the back of the classroom for you. Come to me when you are in need of ogre's blood, and then I — and only I — will administer it to your potion. If you have been keeping up with the scheduled readings in my absence, this test should not be any problem." Severus reached his desk and sat down. "You are being graded." He paused, his smirk widening. "Alright then. Off you go."

The class was in a state of shocked silence. Severus put out all the stops to keep the smugness from running rampant across his face; he was dead confident that he was about to send every single student's grade average running for its life. Even his little Slytherin pets were looking two blinks shy of nauseous.

"I said go," Severus snapped, and all at once the entire class jumped into bemused, wide-eyed action — grabbing things off shelves and putting them back seconds later, wandering aimlessly around the classroom "in search" of something, stirring their cauldrons even with nothing inside them — basically doing anything they could think of in order to appear as busy as possible.

Severus looked in Granger's direction, feeling a secret thrill of anticipation at seeing the Wonder-Brain of Gryffindor rifling nervously through her book (after all, how could she of all people possibly be caught up with the reading?)

But Granger was not rifling nervously through her book. Nor was she picking random things off the shelves, or wandering aimlessly around the classroom, or stirring an empty cauldron… She was sitting at her desk, hands folded in her lap, her eyes half-closed and staring vacantly at the tabletop. Neville Longbottom was in the chair next to her and nudging her shoulder anxiously, his normally pale face slightly green, his eyes round and lost.

Granger remained nonresponsive.

"Miss Granger," Severus said calmly.

Granger looked up. "Yes?" she replied, echoing his coolness, her demeanor unchanging.

Severus's eyebrows raised. "Is there a reason why you are not currently working? I did mention that this assignment was to be a graded, did I not?"

"Yes, sir, you did."

Severus's eyebrows continued to rise as Granger continued to sit in her chair, staring back at him with that same fathomless expression. "Well?" he snapped. "Get to work, then."

Granger took the slightest of pauses, then, "No, thank you," she said.

All movement ceased at once. Everyone was now looking open mouthed between teacher and student, an aura of sheer, utter disbelief hanging like a cloud in the air. There was not a single sound in the room — all except for the slow, steady dribble of Potter's Bergamot oil, which he was pouring a full five inches from the intended beaker and directly onto the tops of Weasley's shoes. Neither boy seemed to be taking any notice.

Several seconds passed before Severus managed to produce a response. "Excuse me?" he said at last, very slowly, very pointedly.

What was this girl playing at?

Longbottom still had his hand poised over Granger's shoulder and looked as though he might faint at any moment. Granger, however, remained calm and stony faced.

"I said, no, thank you, sir," she repeated. "I would rather not."

Dead silence reigned again. Even the dribbling had stopped — though this was not because Potter had realized what he was doing, he had simply run out of Bergamot oil. The empty jar in his hand still hovered comically in mid-air.

Severus stood from his chair and walked slowly towards Granger's desk. He stopped just inches from her empty cauldron and glared down at her. "Miss Granger," he hissed in a tone so quiet, so cold, so unmistakably full of danger that a unanimous shiver seemed to run through everyone in the room. "Either explain yourself immediately, or remove yourself from my classroom."

Granger actually had the nerve to shrug. "I haven't done the reading, Professor… I suppose I just don't see the point."

Again, Severus took an alarmingly long amount of time to process the girl's response. "Very well," he said at last, his voice sounding strangely tight, even to him. "Sit there, then, and contemplate what this zero will do to your grade." Then Severus whipped his head around to glare at the still ogling students. "The rest of you," he barked. "Back to work!"

And they did — once more scurrying hurriedly from place to place, doing everything in their power to appear busy, while at the same time proving to be just as useless and unproductive as before. Even Longbottom had the good sense to make a run for the ingredients table in the back of the room.

Severus did not immediately leave Granger's desk, however. Daring to believe himself no longer the center of scrutiny (now that everyone had their projects to fret over), Severus allowed his mask to fall. Ever so slightly.

"What are you doing?" he hissed quietly.

Granger merely blinked at him, her mouth thinned and frowning.

As Severus glared back, he couldn't help but notice something strange in Granger's eyes — something dark and painful and desperately sad. How long had that been there? Since the cottage? Surely it was from… from when she… After all, there had to be something that changed about a person when they… died.

And yet, it wasn't that, was it? It wasn't that she had died…

Severus managed to hold himself back from probing through her mind (it lay there so wide-open and vulnerable before him) — but only just. He lightly grazed the surface of her thoughts, the very tip of her emotions, and what he felt had nothing to do with what Frend had done to her, nothing to do, even, with the way Severus was treating her now. But it had do with a death — a different death than her own, a death she was still mourning and raging and linger over with an almost obsessive fervor.

Severus withdrew the finger of his mind sharply, as though stung. Was this the reason she "didn't see the point"? Was this the reason she had been moping about the castle for the past four days? Sirius Black?

That stupid man went and got himself killed and now Severus was paying for it. He hadn't expected to feel guilty, but the idea that Granger might hold him partially responsible for what happened put everything into a completely different light. After all, how could she not blame him? How could she look at Severus and not be reminded of the choice she had been forced to make?

Severus stood there staring at the mess of a girl in front of him, hating the unexpected waves of emotion that coursed through him. And as another second ticked by, Severus's well-trained mind sensed danger. Sensed danger and took immediate action. With an almost audible clang, something inside him — a door, a latch, a gate, something he never knew had opened or even existed — slammed shut. His face hardened once more into a sheet of expressionless steel.

"Pathetic," Severus snarled in disgust, turning at last from Granger's desk and striding rigidly back to his own, he himself not even fully aware of what the carefully constructed defenses in his mind had just done.

Was it pathetic? Hermione thought as she watched Snape's retreating back.

Yes, she supposed it was. No, she knew it was — and yet she was powerless to stop it.

But 'pathetic' did not belong to the set of words her heart was looking for, and so Hermione remained as she was, sitting stoically at her table, watching Neville dump ingredients into his cauldron with an alarmingly hapless abandon.

She wanted to retain her quiet, stoic exterior, but some things just couldn't be ignored. "Neville," she whispered.

Neville instantly stopped what he was doing and gave Hermione his full, undivided attention. "Y-yes?"

"I don't know what you're trying to brew there, but whatever it is, adding that newt's tail will probably make it explode. I think what you want is—"

"Oh, no you don't, Granger!" Snape barked unexpectedly from across the room.

Hermione's mouth snapped shut.

"You can sniffle and pout all you want, and mope around like a toddler who's lost her puppy, but don't you dare interfere with another student's work." Snape stood from his chair. "This is an examination, Miss Granger, and you have spoken out of turn for the last time — I am through putting up with your childish tantrums. Pack your things and leave my classroom this instant!"

She did so without saying a word.

It was midnight in the castle and Severus was stalking the hallways, miserable, angry, frustrated, wondering what the hell to do with himself.

Perhaps he had been a bit too harsh on Granger; she seemed so dangerously on edge lately, and certainly humiliating her in front of the entire class hadn't helped things. But she asked for it, whispered a nasty, silky little voice in the back of his head. She's being pathetic and troublesome – like a mewling child. You were right to chastise her. To correct her.

Severus gave himself a mental shake. In any case, it didn't matter. Whether his actions had been abnormally harsh or not, it was of no consequence. She had misbehaved, and he had put her promptly in her place. Solidly in her place. Cruelly in her place… No, not cruelly. She needed it. She needed a swift kick in the jaw to knock her back to her senses.

That feeling of unease began to creep back into Severus's stomach again. Why was he thinking these things? Shouldn't he be worried for her? After all, that was what someone did when they were…

Severus paused.

But they weren't… involved, were they? Not for the moment, at least — not while at school and under the persistent watchful eyes its many occupants. Still, shouldn't he befretting over her or something? Sending her precious little letters to get her through the days, giving her secret little winks when no one was watching, leaving soppy little notes on her homework…

Ugh. It was no use. All of those things sounded trite, embarrassing, and to be frank, downright nauseating.

Severus Snape was not the sort of person who fretted, who pined over someone he could not have. Certainly Granger knew that.

But just as that dratted little mouth had spouted at him so long ago, ignoring something was not going make it "go away"— especially in her case — and there was definitely something about her demeanor of late that signaled a problem of some sort. It had to do with Black's death, he knew, but was that all? Might there be something else?

Perhaps the Howlers, he thought. Severus knew the students of Hogwarts could be cruel, and as much as he himself despised the whispered conversations behind his back, he could only assume that it was the same, if not worse, for Granger. Perhaps there was more behind her strange behavior after all.

Severus frowned, deeply.

The seed of doubt in his mind was growing. Surely he had mistreated her. After she saved his life – saved his damn life – he couldn't stop being a wanker long enough to give her a little slack. He was nettled into cruelty, and he shouldn't have let himself be so affected. So what if she blamed him? She had a right to, didn't she? Severus paused at that thought, a spark of something else growing unbidden in his mind.

Did she blame him? Did she really? She had never said as much, never sent him a single accusatory glance.

Who did she hold accountable, then? Who did she mean to punish? Herself?

Severus climbed the last staircase on his way to the top floor of Hogwarts and commenced his final prowl for the night. Granger was upset, that much was obvious. So, why didn't someone just give her a new book and kiss her on the forehead and make it all better? Her idiot friends did their best, he supposed, but hanging all over her night and day, blithering and drooling like a bunch of poorly trained primates, surely only served to make matters worse. That wasn't what she needed — clowns and buffoonery, pesky little well-wishers latched to her side like a swarm of leeches. What she really needed was to talk to Dumbledore.

Severus had no idea how he knew this, but he did. Perhaps it stemmed from the fact that he himself had spent a fair amount of time in that strange, circular office, getting "a talking to." Admittedly, those visits were usually accompanied by generally good advice and, most importantly, a quiet presence who listened and nodded while he talked — a person who heard his problems without interruption and then responded as though he actually gave a flying fuck. If someone as distant and dark-spirited as Severus could find comfort in that, there was no telling what good it would do for Granger.

At the thought of her again, Severus felt weirdly stifled in the castle and longed to be in the open air. He made an immediate turn and headed for the Astronomy Tower. It should be a nice night, he thought. The weather had warmed up significantly, and with a light breeze on his face and a blanket of stars overhead, Severus felt as though his mind would be much clearer (though for what exact purpose he needed a clear head, he was not sure).

Severus opened a small wooden door and headed up the cramped spiral staircase.

The more he thought about Granger, the more he convinced himself that there was something very, very wrong with her – and the more he started to realize that not doing homework and sitting out exams might only be the beginning of something that could turn very nasty. At that realization, Severus felt his brain automatically reach for an emotion, and then, quite suddenly, was denied; as though there were a steel-plated door barring his way, Severus failed to attain something he was sure he should be feeling, but did not quite know how to find.

It puzzled him, but he let it go. He was used to denying emotional indulgence – and it was about time he reined himself in a little. That silly girl had caused far too much of an uproar in him already.

Severus opened the door at the top of the stairs and stepped out into the crisp night… only to be met with a most astonishing surprise:

There she was. Hermione Granger, still in her uniform robes, sitting precariously on the ledge of the tower with her legs dangling out into a fathomless expanse of open air.

Severus's whole chest seemed to give a colossal thud. The steel-plated door inside his mind clanged open and the words came bursting out of his mouth before he even knew what he was saying. "What are you doing—Get down from there!"

Granger, startled, whirled her head around to face him.

Severus hardly dared move. "Get down from there! Get down from there this instant!"

To his great surprise, Granger sounded mildly irritated. "I'm not going to jump or anything – honestly, Professor," she said, rolling her eyes. "I just came up for a little fresh air."

"Oh. I see."

Snape looked significantly embarrassed.

Hermione simply felt strange; she didn't have the first clue what to say next. They shared a long, awkward silence.

"You should not be out here after curfew," Snape said eventually. "Ten points from…"

Hermione raised her eyebrows.

Snape paused, then shot her a withering glare. "Never mind," he growled. "Stay up here and get a little fresh air if that's what you want. I'm not your babysitter."

He turned to leave and Hermione's heart sank (but, seeing as there really wasn't much farther for her heart to sink, she didn't give it a lot of thought). Frowning, she turned back to look over the landscape beneath her. Frowning, frowning – always frowning now it seemed.

When another minute went by and Hermione still did not hear the Astronomy tower door close, she glanced back over her shoulder. Snape was standing there, looking at her with a strange expression on his face.

"It…" he started to say. His face screwed up a little as though he were thinking very hard about something. "It… was not your fault – Black, I mean. Bad things happen, people die, and it wasn't your fault. Blame anyone you want, the Dark Lord. Blame Frend. Blame God, I don't care. Just not yourself, is that clear? It was not your bloody fault."

There it was. Hermione felt as though someone had suddenly snipped free the rope to a heavy leaden weight that had previously been tied around her middle.

"Oh," she said quietly. Then, suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, she was crying – hard. "Oh," she said again, and this time it came out as a sob. Her shoulders were shaking and the grief of Sirius's death washed over her anew – only it was a different kind of grief than before, the sort of grief that she knew would eventually fade with time and a few good cries — not the sort that was tainted by guilt and only festered because of it, magnifying, getting heavier with each passing day. She hadn't even realized how heavy that weight had become until Snape released it just then.

She wanted to stop crying, but she couldn't. It was embarrassing, but she didn't care. At last, those were the words she had been searching for all this time, and bloody helldid it feel good to hear them.

With three quick footsteps and a rustle of robes, Snape was instantly at her side. He didn't touch her, or reach out to her; he simply stood there. Did he even realize what he had said? What it meant to her?

At first Hermione thought that for him to just stand there would be enough – that she would be comforted by the mere presence of his body. An instant later, however, she had hurled herself off the balcony railing and into his arms, hugging him so tightly that the buttons of his shirt dug painfully into her cheek.

As usual, he stiffened beneath her touch, his arms turning rigid at his sides as he let out a short, clipped gasp of surprise.

"I'm sorry, I'm s-sorry," she sobbed into his chest. "This is s-so s-stupid – I don't even kn-know why I'm — you must think I'm—I'm completely deranged—"

Snape heaved an impatient sigh. "For such a bright witch," he muttered into her ear. "You are, at the same time, paralyzingly stupid. I'd express surprise, but you do have a rather stubborn obtuseness to you that I have never quite understood."

Hermione stopped crying immediately and pulled back to give him a very hurt look. "W-what did you say?"

Snape reciprocated with an uncharacteristic roll of the eyes. "For Merlin's sake, Hermione. If you took a minute to actually asses, to look at the situation for how it really happened, and not through eyes blinded by that ridiculous, self-sacrificing hero-complex you Gryffindors seem so fond of contracting, you would not have been so… You would not have needed me to tell you that… Do you understand what I'm saying?"

Hermione stared at him blankly.

Snape's mouth twitched. "Wise-up, you foolish twit. You can't go taking responsibility that doesn't belong to you. It's brazen and idiotic, and, to be quite honest, the most unflattering thing about you. Well, that and your constant hand-raising, but here's to hoping you have mostly outgrown the latter."

Hermione's cheeks puffed out and her eyes narrowed angrily. OH! That man! "You… you…" she spluttered at him, her face growing hot and red. She was so furious she didn't even know where to begin. "You…"

Snape grunted, sounding slightly amused. "Well, you think on that for a bit and get back to me tomorrow. By then I'm certain you will have managed to conceive a perfectly pithy and juvenile remark to finish that sentence – and I must say I look forward to the points I will undoubtedly be deducting from Gryffindor the instant you deign to share it." With that, Snape detached himself from her arms, turned sharply, walked the short distance to the Astronomy tower door, opened it, and left.

It was a good ten minutes before Hermione followed suit, a good two hours before she realized Snape had said her name, and it was a good eight hours before she decided exactly what she was going to do about it.

Just Let it Happen

A Harry Potter Story
by La. Bel. LM

Part 20 of 35

<< Previous     Home     Next >>