Continuing Tales

Just Let it Happen

A Harry Potter Story
by La. Bel. LM

Part 21 of 35

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Just Let It Happen

What a glorified wanker.

Voldemort was still at large, the Order had lost its most valuable resource, and here she was, Hermione Granger, slobbering after a no good, soul-sucking, pain-in-the-arse prat. And nothing, it seemed, was going to change that. Not even his personality.

Yet, Hermione couldn't help a small smirk from creeping onto her face as she sat at the edge of her bed, pulling on her socks. Today was double potions – and, as her previous encounter in potions class had taught her, there was no better place for a confrontation. Because however many quippy remarks, snide comments, thinly-veiled (or painfully blunt) insults he threw at her, there was nowhere for Severus Snape to escape. He had to talk to her. She was his student, he was her teacher, and as long as she didn't give him a justifiable reason to send her packing, he was required to give her the attention she desired.

Once again, Hermione realized that the plan she had concocted (the things she wished to say to him) could easily have been executed by use of owl mail, but, as always, she firmly believed that a face-to-face encounter was the best possible option. Now that she found herself slightly less wrapped up in her own remorse, her head was clear again and her willpower sharpened and stronger than ever. Certainly, the sadness was not entirely gone, and every time she thought about Sirius her insides felt suddenly very hollow. But she was strangely more accepting of it all now – more inclined to believe that everything truly would be "alright" in the end. It was uncomfortable and wearying, but manageable all the same.

Finished dressing for the day, Hermione stood up and swiped her book bag off her chair. Her eyebrows seemed to furrow of their own accord as she made her way down the stairs, out the portrait hole, and through the maze of Hogwarts castle to breakfast.

She still had no idea if this plan would work – especially considering the fact that the word "plan" was a sadly generous term. It wasn't so much a plan as it was a theory, anattempt, perhaps. A valiant stab at shaping her own future. There were things she wanted (things she knew he wanted) and the only way for both of them to get those things was for her, Hermione, to be the grown-up and take initiative. She wanted to be with Snape, and so help her, she wasn't going to let a few silly rules and snarky sarcasm get in the way.

She only hoped she wouldn't lose too many House points…

Severus Snape despised teaching. Why he had continued to do it over the past seventeen years, despite his blatant distaste for the position, was painfully apparent (double agent and all that); why he continued to do it now however, now that his identity had been revealed, was in all other ways completely inconceivable.

He detested children. He loathed stupidity. So it would only follow that one of the greatest banes of Severus Snape's life would be stupid children. Something that Hogwarts had in abundance.

There they were, every day, an endless line of blubbering, fumbling, inattentive Longbottoms who dissolved into shivering, pathetic messes at the slightest provocation, turning their woe-begotten eyes and trembling lips to their friends every time they made a mistake and were justly punished for it. If not for the joys of unprovoked detentions and snatching House points from their grubby, undeserving little fingers, Severus would have gone stark raving mad years ago.

Yet, every now and then, there came a student whose brilliance was like a breath of fresh air. Someone with a cool head, steady hands and a sharp wit — who could read a problem, calculate it noiselessly in their head, and deal with it promptly and efficiently — who did not crumple or balk at harsh guidance, but took it in stride.

Hermione Granger was just such a student.

She had the word POTENTIAL plastered in big red letters across her forehead, and Severus was undoubtedly one of many who wondered (perhaps with a bit of jealousy) what that potential would eventually blossom into. She had her whole life set out in front of her, an endless array of choices to be made, paths to take, deeds to be done, differences to make – and, once again, Severus was undoubtedly one of many who wished that they had such an array spread out before them. It was not something Severus was proud of, but there was no denying the fact that could he go back in time, there were more than a few things he would have definitely done differently.

In any case, the way Severus saw it, nowhere within Granger's vast expanse of potential did he consider himself a positive influence. Perhaps as a mentor – yes, there was no question that the girl could be a legendary Potions Mistress if she sought it, and there was equally no question that he would be an asset in that regard.

But in all other ways – in all romantic ways – Severus did not see the potential, therefore he did not understand it.

Hermione Granger was not an idiot, that much was clear. So it disturbed Severus when she did things not in-keeping with that brilliant disposition. Why did she want to be with him? Of all the people in the world, why him? Why not someone younger? Someone nicer? Someone not so obviously wrapped up in writhing tendrils of guilt and impending doom?

It was all very suspicious.

Though, Severus supposed he could simply chalk it up to a lack of common sense, which, in all honesty, would explain an awful lot. After all, one had only to look at the company with which she surrounded herself every day to be assured of that assessment. Potter and Weasley – surefire piss-for-brain dolts if he ever saw a pair. And even Granger had to recognize the helpless train wreck that was so ungracefully embodied in Neville Longbottom.

What she needed (yet did not pursue) was to be surrounded by those who would encourage her studies, stimulate her, inspire her, share her passion for progress and knowledge. Severus always wondered what she was doing in Gryffindor – Ravenclaws seemed to be so much more her type.

…And yet, did they?

Granger had certainly betrayed her lioness spirit from time to time (many of them while saving his life – his damn life!), so Severus supposed he could see how she might fall into that big-chested group of ruffians. Still… there had been a question – even in Granger's own mind – about whether or not Gryffindor had been the right choice.

Severus had not forgotten his little foray into her mind. Their Occlumancy lessons. He remembered very distinctly the few painful minutes Granger had sat debating with the Sorting Hat dropped low over head, weighing each House against the other with a detailed list of pros and cons she-had-devised-and-referenced-from-some-book-or-another.

That thought almost caused Severus to smile, but he repressed it.

It would not do for him to go around smiling in front of a classroom full of students.

He blinked as he realized that all of said students were now gazing at him expectantly; apparently the first bell had rung, and he, lost in thought, had been unaware. He instantly collected himself.

"Stage two—" Severus barked, and a Slytherin girl in the front row gave a startled jump. "—of the Luminetus potion, will unfortunately have to wait until next week. Needless to say, every one of you failed in spectacular form on yesterday's test and will therefore need to start over with a fresh attempt at stage one today. I trust you have all caught up on the reading this time around? Let yesterday's disaster be a reminder: Laziness, idleness, failure to keep up with your assignments, will not be tolerated in this classroom. This is a N.E.W.T. level course, and I expect you to treat it as such. I expect only the best from those of you who deigned to take it."

All eyes were on him, unblinking – terrified, but, it seemed, more or less "up to the challenge." Because the instant he snapped, "Begin!" everyone instantly leapt into a much more productive and accurate state of action than their previous, rather comical flounderings. Granger too, it seemed, had done her reading.

Severus easily noted that the girl was much more chipper today than she had been before, much less dull, and that worrisome glaze had mercifully retreated from her eyes. Her countenance had improved immensely, all except for the fact that she was undeniably miffed about something.

Severus thought he knew exactly what that something was, and, in all honesty, he didn't blame her. He knew only too well how nettling his remarks had been the night before; in fact, he had said them with no other purpose in mind.

Because, besides the fact that he generally just enjoyed pushing people's buttons, Severus also felt the desperate need to distance himself from Granger. He knew that if he had allowed her to speak plainly to him that night on the tower, if he had allowed himself to hold on to her a little bit longer, allowed himself even the tiniest slice of emotional indulgence, it would have been that much harder to rein himself in again.

After all, just because he appeared so adept at falling back into his former role as snarky professor, that did not mean he was not continuously overcome by the desire to throw her up against the nearest wall, slip a hand beneath that infernal skirt, and take her shuddering and moaning into the next world.

Watching her methodically dice her ginger root, pausing a moment to pull that abundance of hair away from her face, worrying her bottom lip with her teeth – he found himself quite willing to throw her up against that wall right now... if not for their arrangement. And the presence of twenty or so other students in the room. Though he couldn't help but take a brief moment to amuse himself with the image of Longbottom's face under such circumstances. The worthless lump would probably faint dead away. Or wet his pants. Or both. Probably both.

In any case, Severus needed the distance, Granger needed the distance, and as long as she stayed at her desk and him at his, he fully expected that things would go right back to normal. Which is just the way he wanted it.

Hermione double-checked her book one last time to make sure that she had done everything properly, set the fire under her cauldron at a low simmer, and promptly raised her hand.

Now or never, she thought to herself. Class is almost over, and if I'm going to do this, it's got to be

"Yes, Miss Granger?"

Hermione swallowed the dry lump in her throat. "It is my understanding, Professor," she said, with what she hoped was a confident voice, "that I still have five remaining detentions to fulfill."

Even though he was sitting down, it was obvious in that moment that Snape's entire demeanor changed, became instantly wary. He was caught unbelievably off-guard.

The two of them shared a look, and Hermione couldn't help but smile slightly.

That's right, you clever thing, she thought with no small amount of smugness. You're not escaping me this time.

Hermione paid very little attention to the rest of her classmates, but in the back of her mind, she had the vague realization that this was perhaps the second strangest thing she had ever said in class – and following only twenty-four hours after what was undoubtedly the first. There was no telling what everyone thought of her. She assumed it was something along the lines of St. Mungo's.

Snape, in usual Snape fashion, recovered himself quickly. He cleared his throat. "Actually, I believe it was four detentions, Miss Granger, but I don't—"

"Oh, yes," she interrupted sharply before he could shut her down. "Four detentions – you're right, Professor – or, four and a half, rather, but that's hardly worth a quibble. In any case, sir, I was wondering what time you would like to begin?"

"I — Given the present circumstances, I might be willing to overlook—"

No you don't, she thought, and jumped in again. "No, no, I wouldn't dream of shirking my responsibilities, Professor, I am Head Girl after all. Is eight o'clock alright, sir? Where should I meet you?"

"Miss Granger, you really needn't—"

"Here, perhaps, or at your office?"

Again, Hermione was focusing all of her attention on Snape and spared none for her classmates. They might as well not have been there as far as she was concerned, except for the fact that their presence prevented Snape from outright denying her. Because who had ever heard of Snape saying no to a detention? He practically handed them out like candy. If Snape handed out candy. Which he didn't. Because he handed out detentions instead.

Snape, meanwhile, was glaring daggers, his body language suggesting quite clearly that he knew what she was trying to do and that as a result, his most potent desire was to wrap his hands around her neck and squeeze extremely hard.

Silly man, she thought. You can't get rid of me that easily.

Severus took a very long time to respond.

Twice now, she had thrown him for a loop, and right in the middle of a teaching! This had to stop. And it had to be stopped quietly.

Severus smoothed down his ruffled feathers, slipping on a mask of cool confidence once again. "Has your most recent visit to the hospital wing addled your senses, Miss Granger, or do you simply not remember?"

Granger's snippy little smirk disappeared in a flash. "Pardon me?"

Severus folded his arms loosely behind his back. "We have already discussed this at great length," he lied easily. "If you remember, I set up your detention with Mr. Filch yesterday."

Granger's face was starting to redden. "But sir, I don't recall—"

"There is no need to visit my office tonight, Miss Granger," he continued. "Simply join Mr. Filch in the trophy room at half-past nine – I must say I am surprised at your forgetfulness. It is hardly appropriate for the Head Girl to be so irresponsible."

Her eyes were very round. "I — no — but you—"

Severus pressed on. "Please do not bother me with such trivial nonsense again, Miss Granger, your memory lapses are not of my concern. However if you do feel the overwhelming need to pester someone, I suggest that you do so by owl, and not simply blurt it out in the middle of class. There are other, more responsible students attempting, admittedly in their own limited way, to learn. Honestly, Miss Granger—" He smirked. "Where are your manners?"

That horrible man! That horribly, slippery, brutish, devious, ungrateful, horrible man!

The desire to reach out and knock over her bubbling cauldron with an angry sweep of her arm was almost overpowering. But Hermione suppressed it. Storming out in a huff was not going to get her what she wanted – it would only serve to embarrass her (and not to mention lose Gryffindor a hefty chunk of well-earned points).

So, instead she did something only slightly less immature: she sulked.

The first stage of her potion was done well before everyone else, so Hermione had little to do except sit and glare at her offending professor (who, unsurprisingly, did not look her way).

When class was over, and after Professor Snape had finished inspecting everyone's progress, they all stood up to leave – all except Hermione. She remained in her chair.

Snape, however, caught on quickly and he too packed up his things and headed for the door.

"Professor Snape—" she called after him.

He stopped and turned at the open doorway to give her a half-scathing, half-triumphant look. "Detention, Miss Granger," he said smoothly. "Nine-thirty. Mr. Filch. Trophy room. Don't be late."

Then he closed the door and was gone.

Hermione found herself fuming all alone once again, and wondering belatedly whether she would ever have a conversation with the man again in which she would actually come out the victor.

The odds did not seem likely.

Hermione was just leaving the library when Ron cornered her. They hadn't been alone together since before Hermione's capture, and she was not quite sure where their relationship stood. Was he still angry at her for slapping him? Was he embarrassed? Knowing Ron, it was probably a whole manner of things.

"Hermione," Ron said in a surprisingly quiet voice, pulling her down an empty hallway. "I've been meaning to talk to you all week, but I could never get you alone. Listen, I wanted to… Well obviously, I mean, I wanted to ask you about… Well, you know…"

Hermione, tired, cranky, not to mention still fuming over a completely different failed relationship, did not feel like playing games.

"Yes, Ron, I know what you want to talk about. And I wish there was something else I could tell you, a better way to say it, but I really can't make it any nicer. I like you. You are dear to me, and I would do anything for you – of course you know that. But… I don't really, It's just that... Alright, I'm just going to say it. I don't like you that way, Ron, and I would prefer it if we could just forget the whole thing – just put all this silliness behind us, don't you think?"

Ron's face momentarily transformed into something harsh and shadowed. An expression that made Hermione feel very uneasy.

"Silliness?" he echoed darkly.

In the lingering wake of that echo, Hermione found herself briefly thrown back to another moment in which a very similar word had been used in a very similar fashion, only it was she who was on the receiving end of it. It had been raining and her heart had been broken. Foolishness.

Hermione hurried to amend. "I mean – not silliness, you're right, Ron. What I mean is… You see, it's hard really to put into words exactly, but—"

But Ron interrupted her. "Who is he?" he said suddenly.

Hermione opened her mouth at once, and yet it took a full ten seconds to actually produce a response. "What?" she asked dryly.

Ron's frown deepened. "I'm not angry, I won't get angry, just tell me. If you don't like me, then you must have someone else in mind. Who is he?"

Alright. This was a sticky situation. Oh bugger, Hermione thought, as her mind reeled for an answer. If she told him that there was no one, then he would only be more hurt and embarrassed. If she told him someone random, he could easily find out that she had lied. And if she told him it was Snape… well, let's face it, she wasn't going to tell him it was Snape. (Though Hermione couldn't help being slightly curious about what Ron's reaction would be if she did).

"He's um…he's…" Hermione took a deep breath. "Look, Ron – I don't think telling you his name is going to get us anywhere."

"There is someone! I knew it!" Ron was starting to look positively scarlet.

"No – I mean yes, there is, but I don't think you understand what I'm—"

"Some wanker, is it?" Ron hissed angrily. "Some pea-brained git, is that it? You probably like them dumb so you can boss them around and tell them what to study—"

"That's not fair, Ron – and he is actually very clever – But that's not the poi—"

"Just a no-good pretty boy like Krum, then, is he?"

"Victor was not a pretty boy! And neither is—"


"There's no need to shout Ron—"


"Ron, please stop shout—"


"Are going to lose fifty points from Gryffindor if you keep that up, Weasley."

Both Hermione and Ron whirled immediately around to face what they had previously thought to be an empty classroom.

It was an empty classroom – but only because the man who had previously been occupying it, had just stepped into the hallway.

Severus Snape strode slowly from the doorway and straight to Hermione's side, staring coolly at Ron beneath dark, raised eyebrows all the way.

Ron gaped back, his mouth still hanging open as the redness rapidly receded from his face.

Hermione too, stared dumbly back.

How long had he been there? she wondered. What had he heard? Either way, she was marginally sure that this was shaping up to be a very unpleasant experience.

As the silence pressed on, Snape gave Ron a stern look. "Move along, Weasley. I need to speak with Miss Granger."

"I – but we were—" he spluttered.

"It is in regards to her detention this evening, and is subsequently none of your business. Do not make me tell you again, or I will be happy to give you several detentions of your own. Move along."

Ron looked for a brief moment as though he were going to argue, but then his face hardened again, and he gave Hermione another dark look. "Fine," he said shortly. "I don't even care." Then he slouched away.

Ignoring the twinge of guilt she felt as Ron slunk off, Hermione turned back to Snape, a big fat question mark written plainly across her face.

Snape remained as cool and expressionless as ever. "It seems Mr. Filch was mistaken about his availability this evening," he said bluntly. "Therefore, due to his characteristically poor scheduling abilities, it seems that your spot has, unfortunately, already been filled."

"Oh," Hermione replied.

"Oh, indeed," said Snape gruffly. "In any case, I suppose I will have to take the task upon myself… yet again." Snape gave an impatient sight. "My office, Miss Granger. Nine o'clock. And don't—"

"Be late. Yes, sir — I'll be there."

"Hm," was all Snape offered in reply. Then he too turned and strode away.

Hermione felt as though there should be a whole plethora of things racing through her mind at that moment – but all she could think about was the possibility that things were starting to go her way again. Whether by accident or design (had Snape planned this?) Hermione would at last have Snape to herself. One way or another, she was resolved to get to the bottom of something tonight. One way or another, Snape was going to talk, she was going to talk, and they were finally going to sort it all out, no matter what it took. Though she sincerely hoped it wouldn't involve pickling any discarded animal limbs.

Why had he done that?

Severus mentally slapped himself. That had been stupid. Stupid, bloody stupid.

He hadn't meant to listen in on their conversation. Honestly, it was hard not to, what with Weasley carrying on like a deranged five year-old.

And he hadn't meant to interfere either – but it was something about the tone of her voice that had compelled him to act. She had been talking about him, defending him, hiding him, and all of a sudden he had felt extremely childish for avoiding her. He realized just how juvenile he had been acting (comparatively speaking – next to Weasley, he seemed downright responsible), and that it was in no way proper for Granger, the student, to have to act like the adult. Especially when it was he who was mostly responsible for the whole thing to begin with.

As Severus had stood there listening, feeling slightly guilty for it, he found himself begrudgingly coming to the conclusion that perhaps he did owe Granger a little more than he was giving. Perhaps he did owe her a say and a private confrontation. Because, in all honesty, he was the most to blame, he was the instigator. There was no question that it had been he, Severus Snape, who was first to lay his lips upon hers.

It was early evening and Hermione, Ginny, Harry and Ron were all sitting by the fire in the Gryffindor common room after dinner. Harry and Ron were playing chess and Ginny had been giving Hermione strange looks over her Transfiguration homework for the past half-hour.

Finally Hermione couldn't stand it anymore and asked, quite snippily, "Well? What is it? Why do you keep staring at me?" She was convinced it had something to do with Ron (because even though she had not divulged to anyone what had happened, she assumed that Ron had told Harry and Harry, in turn, had told Ginny – they were dating after all).

Ginny flashed a surreptitious glance at the two boys sitting at the next table before saying in a low whisper, "Alright, Hermione, I think it's been long enough now."

Hermione felt slightly taken aback, not only by what had been said, but also by the apparent secrecy involved. "What?" she asked, hesitantly mimicking Ginny's quiet whisper.

"You know what I mean." Ginny seemed slightly wary, but at the same time ready to fight for whatever it was that she wanted. "I'm your friend and I think I have a right to know what happened to you. You were gone for almost a month – who knows where – with all sorts of people after you – and we were all losing our minds. We know the basics, but I'm sure there are plenty of things you haven't told us. Just girl to girl here, Hermione. Spill it."

First Ron, now Ginny, Hermione thought, slightly exasperated. It seemed as though all anyone wanted from her today was information she did not care to give.

But in the split second that Hermione was developing her reply, she began to think that perhaps it would be nice to tell someone what had really happened. Dumbledore knew most of it, of course, but Snape had been the one to tell him, not Hermione. She wanted a chance to tell her side of the events (with the obvious exclusion of anything and everything to do with her and Professor Snape's relationship).

It would be a bit rocky around the actual attack on the cottage, in particular her brief exeunt from life, but maybe it would be good to get it all out.

How was she going to explain why she had stayed, though? That was the really tricky part. How was she going to explain why she had chosen to remain, and not follow Sirius – a man whom they all knew and loved (as opposed to Snape, whom they all, most assuredly, did not).

Damn it, she thought. I'll just have to think of something. Harry always shared with us, no matter how weary or painful the memory, and now it's my turn.

Hermione took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "You're right, Ginny. You deserve to know – you all do." She said the last bit loud enough for Ron and Harry to hear.

They turned to look at her (though Ron did not quite meet her eyes).

And then, slowly at first, but with a growing determination, Hermione told them everything; starting from the moment she was captured in the Forbidden Forest, to the minute she stumbled through Dumbledore's office fireplace with Sirius's death roaring like a hurricane in her ears.

It was strange recounting everything, reliving it. Surprisingly, the more she told, the better she felt – less like she was hiding something and more as though she were truly part of their close circle of friends again.

Her audience made few interruptions throughout the tale, every now and again throwing in the odd comment ("Snape saved you?" or "A church? Really?" or "You wereblonde?").

When at last Hermione reached the part of her story in which the Death Eaters appeared, when Sirius had grabbed her hand, dragged her up the stairs, and brought her before the portkey, she had it all set up in her mind to simply blurt it out – all of it – the whole truth of why she had stayed… But then, for some reason she couldn't quite pin down, Hermione did something that she rarely ever did, and hoped she would never have to do to her friends:

She lied.

"You see I… I thought we were going to grab the portkey on the count after three — and Sirius went on three… I had no time to react – I just—"

"Hermione, it's okay."

Hermione looked, rather startled, at Harry. She had not expected him to speak first, nor so kindly. He was giving her a slightly forced, slightly pained smile, and Hermione's heart thudded guiltily.

"It's okay," he said again. "I mean, it's not like you did it on purpose – it was just an accident."

Right, Hermione thought. An accident.

"Keep going," Ginny encouraged.

Ron, staring determinedly into the fire, said nothing.

So Hermione continued. She went through everything. Through her narrow escape off the balcony, her transformation (they too — though they were the only ones besides Snape – oh dear, had he told Dumbledore? — knew about her Animagus form), Frend's appearance, the terrifying battle that ensued. Then she paused just before the moment in which Frend's Avada Kedavra had blasted her full in the face.

In that brief moment, Hermione realized how difficult it would all be to explain. Even now, a week later, Hermione still had no idea what that potion had done to her. She assumed it was the potion – for honestly, there was no other variable that made the least bit of sense. What else could it have been? And just as equally strong was Hermione's confidence that, out of all the things she put in that potion, the real key to it had been the single golden hair. That little shred of life power (her life power) and the ancient workings of Largitio that had kept her from death.

Maybe she could explain the potion – the basics of it anyway – but if she brought that up, she would also be forced to explain where that hair had come from, and what had happened to her the first time she saved Snape's life (details from that night were widely unknown as well).

The difficulty of it all made Hermione's head ache, and a split second later, she decided to simply skip over the whole death thing completely. It wasn't all that that important anyway...right?

Especially since there isn't any proof, she thought angrily. I never grabbed the potion before we left, and now… Well, there wasn't any Largitio left to make a new one. She had used it up, taken the magic back into herself, and she seriously doubted (and in all honesty hoped) that there wouldn't be another chance to replicate it – as that would require yet another life-threatening disaster to take place.

An hour later, Hermione was making her way down to Professor Snape's office, her head still swimming with all the things she hadn't said, and she wished, not for the first time, that her life would stop being so bloody complicated.

The knock was not quiet, not timid or polite. It was sharp. Insistent. Annoying. It could only be Granger.

"Enter," Severus said at once, sounding much calmer than he actually felt. Briefly – and for what was perhaps the hundredth time in the past hour – the notion of how stupid he was being thumped Severus squarely between the eyes.

Then Granger entered, and momentarily the sting from that thump became substantially less noticeable.

Unbeknownst to him, it appeared as though Severus had somehow developed a weakness for the girl when she was in this particular state: flustered, irritated, positively ignited about something. Her complexion had a rosy glow about it and that hair of hers entered a realm entirely of its own. One look at her, so determined, so small and defiant, and Severus's mind instantly flooded with memories of the way her soft body had felt beneath his, the thrill of her hands on his chest and in his hair, the way she moved when he—


Severus snapped to attention. He opened his mouth, but Granger promptly cut him off.

"Before you start me off on some torturous task – which, justified or not, I'm certain I will inevitably end up doing – I am going to ask you right out. What am I really doing here?" Granger was now standing directly in front of his desk. "I'm sure we could have a very long conversation in which we dodge awkwardly around this question for a few hours before ending up in the same place we started — probably because you have somehow backed me into yet another verbal corner, or simply assaulted me with the appropriate amount of colorful insults. But in all honesty, Professor, I don't feel like doing that tonight. I'm tired of playing games, especially when they always seem to blow up in my face, and for once I just want the simplest possible answer. What am I doing here?"

Severus did not take long to respond. "Well," he said sharply, "as much as I enjoyed that eloquent display of girlish petulance, Miss Granger, I'm afraid that I don't—"

"STOP!" Granger stamped her foot as she let out an exclamation of sheer frustration (and subsequently, another perfect display of girlish petulance). "YOU did this to ME! You were the one who asked me here tonight, knowing full well it had nothing to do with 'scheduling problems.' I know you did not talk to Filch, and there was therefore no proper reason for you to stick your nose into a private conversation that—"

"If you are talking about Weasley, I must say that was hardly private. The boy was all but wailing like a—"

"It doesn't matter! You had no right to—"

"He had no right."

That got her attention. "…Pardon me?" she said, momentarily startled out of her rant. To say Granger looked surprised was grossly understating it. "Professor, I…"

Perhaps that had been a bit strong. Severus backpedalled. "I mean to say, you should not have allowed him to embarrassed you like that."

Granger recovered quickly and responded with a surprisingly clever, snide sort of edge to her voice. "You mean out there in the hall? Yes, very well, Professor – it would have been much more appropriate for him wait until we were in a classroom full of students before commencing his assault."

There followed a small, shocked window of time in which Severus had no idea what expression crossed his face. "Hm," he eventually managed to grunt. "Walked right into that one, didn't I? How very unlike me."

Then suddenly, quite out of nowhere, the tension was gone. He hadn't really meant it to be a joke, but that was undoubtedly how it had come across.

Granger smiled hesitantly.

Severus did not return the smile. All the same, something in his chest gave one tiny, almost imperceptible flutter. "In any case, Miss Granger," he continued. "That being said, I must confess I haven't the faintest idea how to answer your question. I don't believe I fully understand what you want me to say."

To his slight annoyance, Granger walked over to a nearby table, grabbed a chair, and hauled it back to his desk. Then she set it down directly across from him and settled herself in it as though she fully expected to have a long, heart to heart confrontation.

Severus groaned inwardly. He knew she would want to talk about feelings.

Despite her previous statement that she actually expected to fulfill a detention in the next two hours, Hermione now withheld no such expectation. She had been surprised, pleased by her own bravado, and at how many things had actually come out of her mouth (though honestly, with all the different thoughts bouncing around inside her head at any given time, it was rather hard to keep track sometimes of what she verbalized).

She hadn't exactly planned beyond her initial monologue, and now here was Snape, asking her what she wanted him to say. Yet Hermione found that privately, she hadn't the faintest idea.

Surely deep down, she harbored some sort of wild fantasy about a soppy, heartfelt confession of love and admiration, of how hard it had been for him over the past week to be so mean, how hard it had been for him to push her away when really he was aching to be with her every minute of every day, and after all this why didn't they just put the whole thing behind them and shag each other senseless on the classroom floor right now?

But it was very, very deep down.

For, Hermione Granger, Head Girl of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, was a realistic sort of person, who more or less made a good go at keeping her hopes and ideals at a relatively sensible level.

Hermione looked across the table at her one, rather large, exception to that otherwise grounded persona.

She sighed. "It's not that I want you to say anything in particular, Professor – quite obviously you feel what you feel, and there isn't much I can do, nor should do, to change that – but I was really just sort of hoping you might…" She repressed another sigh (best not to seem too exasperated within the first five minutes). "I suppose, I'm not sure exactly – Though," she narrowed her eyes at him, "putting away some of that delightful sarcasm for a minute or two would be an excellent start."

In the past few seconds, Snape's face had somehow become closed and unreadable again. "You are asking me to be honest, Miss Granger?" His voice was hard as iron. "The fact is, you yourself brought up the incomplete detentions, not I. I merely tried – and admittedly failed – to detain you. If anyone should be explaining your presence here, it's you. Though I feel obligated to point out that you did promise me a detention, and it would be dishonorable of you renege on that boast now."

"You know very well I am not here for detention," Hermione snapped back irritably. "All I wanted was to get you alone so we could talk, and anyway who are you to talk to me about honoring promises?"

The words were out of her mouth before she could stop them. Then it was too late.

Though Snape's face betrayed nothing, and his demeanor did not visibly change, Hermione felt the room slip into a deathly quiet. Danger, she realized, suddenly seemed to be seeping from the professor's very pores.

"Why shouldn't I talk to you about honor, Miss Granger?" he said slowly, and his voice sent one single, terrible chill down Hermione's spine.

In all this time they had been together, only once had Hermione ever questioned Snape's moral code, and even then she had been quick to realize her mistake.

If ever there was to be something worthwhile between them, Hermione realized that she was going to have to be a great deal more careful about what she said. For the time being, Snape's past was inaccessible. She needed to refrain from dredging it up, or he would never trust her.

Hermione swallowed thickly. "Sorry – I mean, I was just… irritated. I… I didn't mean to say… It just came out. I don't know why – I was just caught up. Sorry."

Snape paused, looked as though her were going to say more on the subject, and then, unceremoniously, dropped it altogether. "Regardless," Snape said dismissively (though Hermione could tell, somehow, that her comment had affected him far more than he was showing), "you still have not answered the question at hand."

"No, Professor," Hermione said quietly, shaking her head. "I did answer the question. I am here to talk. That's all. What I want to know from you is – what made you change your mind? Surely you knew what I wanted when I spoke to you in class, and you took obvious pains to avoid it. But now you aren't. I just want to know why?"

Hermione could tell he was mulling something over furiously in his head, and it frustrated her that she didn't know what it was.

A minute ticked by. And then another.

Hermione began to get fidgety.

"Professor—" she started at last, but Snape silenced her with a look.

"Do you know why I did not want you to come here alone, Miss Granger?" he said finally, shattering the silence all over again.

She snapped an instant reply. "Because you weren't in the mood to listen to me yammer away at you about feelings, I expect?"

Snape looked surprised – only for a moment. Then he was stoic again. "No," he said, and this time it was Hermione's turn to be surprised. Snape paused again before correcting himself. "Perhaps that was a little bit of it, yes. But, the real reason…" A flicker of unease surfaced behind his mask. He was struggling, Hermione could tell (though the question in her mind was whether that struggle was for good or for bad). Was he struggling to say something because it was uncomfortable, or was he struggling because it would hurt her feelings?.

Hermione leaned forward slightly, trying to rein in the almost overwhelming surge of hope that seemed to be bubbling up inside her at that moment; please say it's because you want to be with me, go on, say it, say it—

The tiny movement of her body towards his seemed to be all it took to finally push Snape over that invisible line he had been teetering on. Only, it pushed him the other way – the wrong way. He shrank away from her, into himself again, and Hermione felt all her hope simmer away into nothing again.

Snape shook his head angrily. "This is idiotic," he hissed. "Never mind, Granger, you were correct. I don't want to hear you blabbering at me. Now, please, if you are not going to take responsibility for those detentions, then I suggest you leave. The quicker the better."

"But Professor, I—"

"Get out of my sight!"

Hermione, her teeth grinding, stood up so fast that her chair clattered spectacularly to the ground. "FINE!" she shrieked, not even bothering to pick it up. "If you don't want to tell me, that's fine. I'm sure it would only have been insulting anyway!" She gave another strangled, furious yell and then stormed towards the door.

Hermione grabbed the handle, pulled it, and was just about to step out into the hall, when suddenly, he was behind her.

Snape reached over Hermione's head and slammed the door right in her face. The handle slipped from her fingers and she spun on the spot, looking up to find her professor towering over her, so close he seemed to swallow up the entire world around them. He smelled like… cedar and hearth fire. There was also the faint hint of something else. A spice maybe.

Snape was close to shaking with fury, his coal black eyes so narrowed they were almost closed. When he spoke his voice was rough, violent.

Hermione could feel every thud of her heart resonate like an earthquake through her body.

"Because," Snape growled, his cheeks flushed, his gaze umoving, "I want to hold you so badly that my hands actually ache every time I see you."

Hermione could almost feel the tightness of the clenched fist he still held against the door above her head.

"Because I want to kiss you and touch you and do all manner of inappropriate things. Because I—"

"So do it!" Hermione almost yelled, not knowing whether she wanted to wrap her arms around him or give him a good kick in the shins. "Kiss me," she hissed. "Hold me, touch me – everything! No one's here to see you!" Now she was almost pleading. She leaned forward to close that painfully small gap between them, but the moment she did so, Snape pulled his arm back, pulled his entire body back, and freed her from his shadow.

"No," Snape breathed heavily. His eyes were dark and shining. "As long as you are a student within these walls, Hermione, I will not lay a hand on you."

Hermione didn't have the faintest clue how to respond to that.

It turned out, she didn't need to. Snape, it seemed, was done talking. "Go," he said, turning sharply away from her and walking rigidly back to his desk. "You got what you came for, Granger. I've answered your bloody question and I refuse to say anymore. This discussion is over. Now get out!"

Defeated, confused, yet somehow undeniably elated, Hermione did as she was told.

She left.

Just Let it Happen

A Harry Potter Story
by La. Bel. LM

Part 21 of 35

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