Continuing Tales

Just Let it Happen

A Harry Potter Story
by La. Bel. LM

Part 22 of 35

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Just Let It Happen

It felt as though a dam had been blown. The world as he once knew it, now made very little sense to Severus Snape.

Of course, if someone were to walk into his office at this particular moment, the world would probably make very little sense to them too. First of all, they would be surprised to find that what was normally a very well lit area, was now immersed in total darkness – and anyone who knows anything about potions making knows that it is a very difficult thing to do in the dark; therefore this person might then wonder what Professor Snape was doing alone in his laboratory if he was not mixing potions (they would assume, as Professor Snape does not seem the sort of person who would attempt to mix potions in anything but prime conditions, if he can help it).

The next action this unfortunate person might find himself compelled to perform is to immediately rush to said professor's side in order to check his neck for a pulse, as there could be no other explanation for him to be half-sitting in his chair, half-lying face down on his desk, other than the fact that something truly terrible and detrimental had happened.

It had.

But that something, as far as Severus knew, was not affecting his pulse.

That is… it was… but not in the life-threatening manner that might require a trip to St. Mungo's. Quite the opposite in fact. His blood was racing through his veins, thundering in his ears, making his heart leap against his chest and his hands tremble and flutter in a useless, infuriating sort of way. It was this behavior that accounted for Severus Snape's unusual position, slumped unmoving over his desktop in the dark. And it was this behavior that Severus Snape deemed as something truly terrible and detrimental.

It was that damn girl. That damn girl had done something to him, and he had no idea how to make it (whatever the bloody hell it was) stop. All he wanted now was for his heartbeat to cease racing, and the avalanche of naughty and inappropriate thoughts currently crashing through his brain to finally give way to that cold, collected, clever sense of his that had, for so long, kept him alive and coherent.

Breathing. That, he decided, was the most important part of control. That was the thing on which he most needed to concentrate his efforts. Just breathing in and out, slowly and calmly.

Easier said than done – however, eventually, bit by painful bit, Severus's pulse began to normalize, and what was once an almost overpowering impulse to run after Granger, pull her into an abandoned classroom, and ravish her within an inch of her life, slowly melted away into a distant, niggling notion in the back of his head.

He was a weak man. A weak, randy, foolish man. And Merlin be damned if he was going to let himself get the better of himself.

"Come in, Miss Granger. Please, take a seat."

Hermione stepped into Dumbledore's office, shutting the door quietly behind her. She approached the wide, trinket-laden desk at the end of the room, and upon reaching the only available chair, sat down.

She was very nervous.

This was due, partly, to the fact that no one had told her why she had been summoned to see the Headmaster this afternoon. And it was due mostly to the fact that she thought she knew exactly what that reason might be:

He knew. Somehow, some way, through some divine magical influence that only Albus Dumbledore seemed to be able to access, that clever old man had discovered Hermione and Snape's deeply hidden secret, and was now about to punish her accordingly. After all, why else would he pull her out in the middle of Charms? Why else would he pull her out of class unless he was going to – Hermione gulped – expel her.

Dumbledore cleared his throat. "I apologize for interrupting your studies, Miss Granger. I have long since been acquainted your magnificent dedication to academia, and I am loath to tamper with that bond – however, recently, an interesting piece of information has come to my attention that I feel obligated to address."

"W-what information would that be, sir?" Hermione stammered, her heart feeling as though it were momentarily lodged somewhere beneath her tonsils.

To Hermione's great surprise, confusion, and overwhelming relief, Dumbledore smiled. "It appears," he said softly, "that when sweeping through the Pruitts' cottage, just yesterday, a team of aurors stumbled upon a rather remarkable potion..."

Hermione felt as though her body had leapt twenty feet in the air (though in reality, she had merely sat up rather fast in her chair). Her potion! It wasn't lost after all! What did this mean? Was this what he wanted to talk about? Did Dumbledore not know about Snape after all? Was she not about to be expelled?

As if to answer all of those questions, Dumbledore reached inside his robe pocket and drew out a long, thin vial of golden potion that glowed softly against his wrinkled skin. He set it gently on the table, and Hermione, her hands shaking, picked it up.

Dumbledore gave her an assessing look. "Professor Snape seems to think that you might have some ideas about its origin, Miss Granger."

Her eyes widened. "Yes, Professor. I do."

Half an hour later, Hermione exited Professor Dumbledore's office with the vial of potion humming warmly in her pocket.

Snape had already told the headmaster what the potion had done – how it had guarded her against Avada Kedavra – but Hermione was the only person who could tell Dumbledore why it had manifested the power to do that. Or rather, what she had done to make it manifest that power.

Hermione tried to explain the best she could, but a long time had passed since she had seen her notes (which, Dumbledore explained rather sadly, had been lost to the Death Eater's destruction), and anyway, the whole process had been so long and complicated to begin with; some things she hadn't even bothered to write down at all.

Strangely enough, Dumbledore had not seemed particularly interested in the ingredients or how they were put together. What he appeared to focus most intently upon was the fact that, as far as he knew, the Ministry was intensely interested in what Hermione had made – deliriously beside themselves, was actually how he had put it – and that they would undoubtedly be willing to offer a large sum of money in return for whatever notes she could put together… and, of course, for what remained of the potion itself.

"But I leave the choice with you, Miss Granger," he had said, his eyes piercing, serious, yet still with that glint of inescapable kindness. "From what you have told me, it is obvious that this potion cannot be replicated – not intentionally in any case, nor without a rather convenient and highly improbably twist of fate. If you gave this sample to the Ministry, they would surely put it to use for tests and study, in hopes of replicating it – or mass-producing it, I would imagine. Though how they expect to control the Largitiofactor, I haven't the foggiest idea. By doing so, perhaps they would be able to learn something, and it would be time well spent. But, just as likely, they might not learn anything at all… and then they would have wasted something very precious.

"As of now, the Ministry has no idea about the particulars of this remarkable discovery of yours, Miss Granger, and they will continue to remain ignorant if you think their experiments are not worth the risk of losing what you already have. If the latter is what you wish – if you wish to save what little is left, then I will comfortably allow you to do so, as I am confident that you will be able to find an equally, if not more, useful application for it." He had smiled at her again. "But, as I said. The choice is up to you."

What the hell was I supposed to say to that? Hermione thought furiously as she made her way down a flight of stairs. A group of fifth year Hufflepuffs passed her and waved in greeting, but she didn't pay them any notice.

Yes, it was her discovery, and yes, it was very likely that the Ministry (or anyone else for that matter) would be very interested, but Dumbledore made an excellent point. What if they wasted it?

Voldemort was still lurking somewhere beyond the safe cozy walls of Hogwarts, and it would be an infinite advantage to have this Phoenix-like concoction on their side – especially when the Death Eaters knew nothing about it. Thanks to Frend's selfishness, the existence of Hermione's discovery was yet unknown to Voldemort – but (Hermione was thinking fast, now), if she gave the potion to a team of specialists at the Ministry, how could she be sure that it wouldn't somehow get back to Voldemort? He had spies crawling all over, in who knew how many departments.

Hermione ducked into a bathroom and closed herself inside one of the empty stalls. She wanted to be somewhere private; this was the closest place she could think of. She sat down and pulled out the potion. The heat emanating from it felt pleasant in her hand.

Still… the possibility that a team of specialists could find something useful in it, the possibility that they could find a way to replicate it in order to save lives… wouldn't that be worth the risk?

Hermione heard the door to the bathroom open and a group of giggling girls walked in. She hastily returned the potion to her pocket and was about to exit the stall, when she heard a name mentioned that made her stop quite abruptly in her tracks.

"What really happened to him, do you think?" said one of the girls, quietly. "His hair is all… I mean, just hacked right off – like he didn't even have it properly done. And that patch of white wasn't there before, yeah?"

"No," replied a second girl, slowly. "I don't think so. Anyway, I've heard that kind of thing can happen under high stress. You know, your hair turning funny colors. Or maybe… maybe he was in really intense pain or something."

"Well," said a third girl, her voice somehow stuck in an annoyingly high octave. "I don't think it was stress…"

"Maybe," replied the first girl. "Not that much, in any case. It must have been pain. Don't you think? I mean, You-Know-Who's not exactly gentle, is he?"

The entire group let out a gasp. Hermione's eyes narrowed.

"Do you think – Do you think it was… Could Professor Snape have fought against You-Know-Who?"

There was another sharp, collective intake of breath.

"Must have! You heard what Dumbledore said — All responsibility lies with Vol – with… well, you know…"

The girls paused in their conversation, apparently sobered by the thought of their very own professor facing down the most dangerous dark wizard in the known world.

"Mary," said one of them at last. "I know what you're thinking, and I'm just going to say it, alright? I think I should."

"What? No — don't!"

With juicy gossip apparently afoot, the girls immediately fell all over themselves pressuring Mary into revealing her secret.

"Come on then!"

"Spill it!"

"What is it?"

"Something about Professor Snape?"

"It is! It is!"

"I… I…"

"Ooooh," exclaimed the girl with the high-pitched voice. "Look at her, she's all red! What do you think of Professor Snape, Mary, eh?"

"Yes! Go on then – you like picturing him without his trousers, don't you?"

"I, um… I… God, this is so embarrassing!"

High-pitched girl let out a squeal of delight. "She does! She does!"

The bathroom positively rang with shrieks of laughter.

Hermione's mouth hung open.

"What!" Mary exclaimed defensively over the squeals. "Tansy was saying just yesterday that she thought he looked—"

"Well, yes, I suppose, with all that greasy hair done away with, he doesn't look quite so repulsive…"

"I never knew he had such a strong jaw!"

The girls erupted into giggles again and Hermione felt her body temperature rise to an absurdly high degree. She grit her teeth.

Those stupid girls. They didn't know what they were talking about. They just liked him now that his appearance had changed, and now that they had a small taste of his bravery. She, Hermione was the one who had seen him first for who he truly was. No one else, not these girls, only her. He was her strong-jawed professor. Funny that it came to her that way, but it did. She felt possessive. She didn't like it.

Two minutes later the conversation deteriorated back into un-Snape-related gossip. The girls finished washing their hands and touching up their make-up (or whatever they had come in to do), and soon Hermione was left alone in the bathroom once again, seething with jealousy.

And feeling absolutely pathetic for it.

Dear Professor Snape,

Putting aside for a moment the rather dramatic conclusion to our most recent conversation, my only motivation in writing you this letter is with specific regards to the continuation of my private tutelage in Potions. I understand and respect the concerns that you previously expressed to me on this subject, so, in light of that, I was rather hoping you might allow for my training to be conducted through owls instead. Even though I find a strictly letter-based relationship exceedingly disappointing, I am also willing to admit that written interaction is better than no interaction at all. Please take a moment to consider my proposal before dismissing it outright, Professor, and perhaps think about doing this, if not for my emotional benefit, then at least for my intellectual one.

I still have not given up on a career in Potions, and there is no doubt in my mind that you are the best person to help me attain my goal.

Anxiously awaiting your reply,


Hermione's quill hovered over the parchment for a very long time before, with a defeated sigh, she tacked on a hasty Granger. She felt assured that any extra effort she made towards formality would greatly improve her chances with Snape. If distance was what he wanted, then distance was what he was going to get… For a little while, anyway.

Dear Miss Granger,

If you are able to acquire the proper permission from the headmaster in order to support this rather unorthodox proposition (and do your absolute damndest to refrain from any more embarrassing outbursts in my classroom) then I might be willing to consider this potentially problematic idea of yours.

Things for you to consider:

1. Effective instruction requires personal observation of the student while working. That seems largely impossible while under the circumstances you are suggesting.

2. Workspace: Unless you have failed to notice, Miss Granger, I spend quite a lot of time in my laboratory, and I refuse to sacrifice any of those valuable hours on your account. Where do you intend to conduct your experiments?

3. The end of the year is fast approaching, and with it will inevitably follow more homework and exams than even you could possibly imagine. I expect only the best from my pupils, and meeting that expectation requires just as much, if not more, studying than any one of your regularly scheduled classes. I merely want you to answer honestly when I ask if you will be able to keep up with the extensive reading and laboratory hours this commitment would entail.

As you understand and respect my choices, I too understand and respect your desire to pursue Potions, Miss Granger. I do not fault you for attempting to overcome the obstacles I have so selfishly placed in your way. But, as you can see, there are more than a few holes in this plan of yours that need filling before it can even begin to become a reality.



This was in no way an ideal situation she had placed him in, Severus seethed as he finished up the letter and folded it deftly. However, he found himself hard put to deny her anything when she spoke with such conviction. The maturity of her letter had surprised and pleased him. After all, just because he couldn't stand to be alone in a room with her without wanting to run his hands over every inch of her body, nose his way between those warm thighs… did not mean that her future as a Potions Mistress should suffer as a result.

And in any case, he was marginally sure that the problems he had pointed out would keep her occupied at least long enough for him to figure out how to get himself under control (honestly, he was beginning to act like some manner of hormonally challenged teenager. Most distressing).

To his great surprise and vexation, Granger's reply was almost immediate:

Dear Professor Snape,

I have already taken the liberty of speaking to Professor Dumbledore about this idea, and though he expressed puzzlement over the complications that inspired it, he gave us his unwavering consent, urging us to use whatever methods we deemed necessary.

My answers to your thoughtful considerations:

1. The Pensieve, sir. I will bottle my memories from each work session, send them to you by owl, and then you may observe them at your leisure. With the understanding, of course, that my memories will be returned to me – hopefully intact, and hopefully with your written criticisms attached.

2. I have a very special Room in mind that I'm sure will meet both of our Requirements.

3. You wanted honesty, and this is my honest response, Professor: Bring it on.

Eternally grateful,

Hermione Granger

Fine, Severus thought as he tried to suppress the small tickle of pride and admiration now welling up inside him. He flipped the parchment over to scrawl a grudging confirmation on the back of it. She obviously wanted a challenge, and it just so happened that a challenge was exactly what he was prepared to give her.

Severus folded his reply and tied it to the leg of the owl currently nibbling on the remains of his salad. Then he watched it fly away, with the beginnings of a smirk tugging at his lips.

As you wish, Miss Granger.

Hermione stared at the back of her letter and fought with all her might to keep her uncontrollable grin under control.

We will begin on Tuesday next. Be prepared, be discreet, and don't, under any circumstances, make me regret this.


Hermione quickly shoveled down the rest of her dinner, made a rather unintelligible gesture to Harry that meant she would see him later (Ron was still not speaking to her), and power-walked as fast as she could back to her dorm. She couldn't wait to get started – she had so much to do! There was a mountain of reading to get through, sheets and sheets of parchment just waiting to be filled, and most important of all, she needed to decide which project she wanted to start on first (so many choices!).

As Hermione slammed her door closed behind her and threw herself onto her bed, smiling so wide that her face actually ached, she couldn't help but think that at least one thing was for certain: school was about to get a lot more interesting.

Severus watched across the Great Hall as joy positively ignited across the girl's face when she read his response. He hated himself for the slight swooping sensation in his stomach that followed.

Was he making a mistake? They were being cautious, no denying that. Even he had to admit that Granger had more than answered the problems he had proposed. Still… there was something about the whole ordeal that made Severus nervous. And Severus did not like to be nervous.

Hermione pursed her lips moodily.

She hadn't meant for this to happen. Honestly, she hadn't planned to spill her entire potions kit on the floor, forcing her to remain long after the bell in order to clean the whole mess. She hadn't set this up on purpose – being alone in the room with Snape (she would never do anything to endanger her tutelage so close on the heels of her hard won victory), but it just sort of… happened.


Hermione looked up at her professor, startled. He beckoned to her from behind his desk, stoically. She hated it when she could glean nothing from his blank expression.

"Come here."

Leaving her mess just as it was, seeping through the cracks in the stone floor, Hermione did what she was told. As she approached the desk, Snape did not look at her, instead focusing his gaze on the partially graded papers in front of him. Before she could ask what it was that he wanted, Snape reached into a drawer, drew out a small cloth, and tossed it to her (all without looking up).

"Here," he said dryly. "You seem to have acquired something vile and orange on your blouse."

Hermione looked down, grimacing. A rapidly spreading, bright orange spot had blossomed on the white knit of her shirt. Perfect, she thought irritably. The rag did very little to help the matter, but she dabbed it against the wet spot a few times anyway, resolved to give it a good Scourgify the moment she got back to her desk.

"Was that all you needed from me, Professor?"

Snape grunted an affirmative, "Mh."

But, just as Hermione was walking away, Snape called her back.

"Hold on a moment, Miss Granger. I just realized – there is something else you may do for me."

Hermione returned obediently to her previous position in front of him.

"Yes?" she prompted.

Snape's eyes narrowed, though otherwise his expression remained stoic and unreadable. "Well, you certainly won't be able to do anything properly from there," he drawled. "Walk around."

Snape indicated that she should come and stand directly beside his chair. Though this puzzled Hermione exceedingly, once again, she did as he asked without question.

The moment she neared him, Snape stood, towering over her with such magnetic force and power that Hermione felt the muscles in her legs give, ever so slightly. There was something different about him today – something wild and seductive that made her want to bury her fingers in his hair and kiss the hell out of him. It was pathetic beyond measure, but just a glimpse of that jaw and those eyes, those lips so long thought to be cruel and hard yet recently discovered to be soft and warm, made her shiver with desire.

As though sensing her thoughts (and perhaps he was employing a bit of his famous skills in Legillimency), Snape's breath began to quicken; Hermione could almost feel his body temperature rising.

Hermione cleared her throat. "Yes?" she asked quietly. "What was it that you wanted me to do?"

It happened so fast, she barely had time to register it. All of a sudden, Snape's broad palms enveloped her shoulders, tight and demanding, sending ribbons of delight all through her body. Then he was leaning down so close, so near, that she could feel her hair flutter against her neck as he whispered, dark and husky, into her ear:

"I want you… to take your clothes off for me."

A thrill, like a bolt of lightning, ran the length of Hermione's spine and she was momentarily out of breath, out of words, out of anything but a deep, blazing fire that smoldered like lava in her gut (and perhaps a bit south of there as well).

"I…" she started dryly, without the faintest clue of how she intended to finish the sentence.

But it didn't matter, because in that moment of hesitation, Snape drew away, hissing something angry and inaudible. Then, without warning, without any sort of purpose or provocation at all, Snape reached out and slapped her full across the face.

Hermione sat up with a gasp, her hand instantly flying to her cheek where she was sure that less than half a moment ago, Snape's palm had struck her.

But it was not so.

She rubbed groggily at her eyes as her strange, moonlight-washed surroundings swam into view. She was in the library. And no, she realized, it was not because she had been studying late. It was because she was sleepwalking. Again. This was not a particularly thrilling revelation.

With a deep, guttural sigh, Hermione picked herself up off the floor (she had been wedged in between the wall and a row of books that appeared to be dedicated to various forms of magical disguise) and exited the library as quietly as she could. It was lonely and dark as usual in the hall, and the air had a very eerie, a little too quiet sort of quality to it. Just because she thought it might be worth a try, Hermione checked her sleeves for her wand. Unsurprisingly, she was met with only empty fabric.

She moved quickly through the castle, trying not to think about what had just happened in her dream – how that bolt of pleasure had ripped through her at the idea of (she felt her face grow hot) stripping for her professor, and how the sting from his slap still seemed to linger on her cheek long after she had woken.

Hermione gave a startled jump as she heard a door open and close just twenty feet or so down the hall. Someone was here! She prayed it wasn't Filch. Even though she was Head Girl, and more or less allowed to be out of her bed after curfew, the headmaster had been very adamant about students staying in bed after dark (what with Voldemort upping the offensive), and Filch would be only too pleased to turn her in for breaking even the slightest hint of what may or may not be a rule.

The footsteps were growing nearer – did she have time to escape? No, too late, she was caught. She would just have to face whoever it was. The approaching figure (with wand drawn) soon entered a shaft of moonlight streaming through one of the windows, and Hermione breathed a sigh of relief when she saw who it was.

That relief did not last very long, however, because the moment Professor McGonagall saw Hermione, her demeanor turned very stern indeed.

"Miss Granger!" she announced shrilly, pocketing her wand and closing the distance between them in three quick strides. "What are you doing out of bed at this time of night?" Her tone was slightly higher than normal, the usual terseness transcending into that tightly-strung-worried-mother-I've-been-trying-to-call-you-for-hours tone that every child knows spells trouble.

"I'm sorry, Professor," Hermione said quickly. "I was just… you see I…" Should I tell her? Hermione thought. Yes. Might as well. "I was sleepwalking. I don't know why, but it's sort of been a growing problem over the past few months. I've tried to stop it – and I really thought it had gone away. But apparently…" Hermione trailed off, thinking that it was probably best not to mention what she believed to be the cause of these nightly escapades (her dreams). Yes, perhaps it was best just to leave it at that, Hermione decided, as understanding began to dawn on McGonagall's face.

"Oh, yes…" McGonagall said quietly. "Yes, I remember Poppy mentioning something about that before the night you… Hm, in any case, Miss Granger," her demeanor turned stern again, "I want you to march right back up to your dorm, put yourself to bed, and stay there. Tie yourself to the bedpost if you must, but I will not have you roaming the halls unconscious and vulnerable in the wee hours of the morning. Heaven's, if we haven't got enough on our plate with Potter trying to sneak off and avenge his Godfather every chance he gets – it would hardly do for you to go missing again, Miss Granger. I shudder to think what Potter would do if… if you were…" She shook her head. "Bed." She pointed down the hall. "Now. And stay there."

Hermione nodded grimly. "Yes, Professor."

McGonagall had been right about Harry. Ever since Sirius's death, and Hermione's slow, grudging acceptance of it, Harry's determination to defeat Voldemort had flourished into a full-out obsession. Every morning he scoured any paper he could find for updates on the Death Eater Frend and what the Ministry had managed to learn from him (though the news remained suspiciously bare of any mention of the "missing M.A.R official"). He questioned Hermione, almost every hour it seemed, about the minutest details of her encounters with the Death Eaters: Where had they come from? How many of them were there? Who were they? What did they want? Were they looking for something in particular?

When he wasn't doing that, he was studying the Marauder's Map, planning his escape route if ever the opportunity arose to "go." He was always talking about "going," as though they (Hermione and Ron) didn't know exactly what he meant – as though they didn't know he would be running head-long into the most desperate fight for his life. They told him it was stupid, to go behind Dumbledore's back, to endanger himself so recklessly. But Harry was relentless. He kept planning, and he kept asking questions. Whenever he was with Ron, he would go over and over their battle with Voldemort in Hogsmeade, looking for weaknesses – looking for something, anything, that might hint at the possibility of Voldemort's downfall.

Every time they started into that, Hermione promptly left the room. She had yet to know the full story of Hogsmeade, and in all honesty, she would rather it stayed that way. Battle did not interest her. She loathed battle – everything to do with it. The pointlessness, the mindless killing, the ruthless end of so many lives. It sickened her.

But as much as those thoughts turned Hermione away from Voldemort, all they seemed to do for Harry, was spur him on. There was no question: He was more determined now than ever that the time had come for this thing to end, once and for all. All he needed was a chance to prove himself. And later that evening, that very chance would come along.

But, first, it was Potions again, and for once in a long time, Hermione was mildly dreading it. All she could think about was her dream from the previous night. Snape's voice in her ear. She couldn't help replaying it over and over again in her head. I want you… to take your clothes off for me.

At the moment, Snape was standing at the head of the class, explaining some long-winded and complicated technique that Hermione had already mastered at least two years ago. She wasn't hearing his words, simply concentrating on his voice. The deep timbre, the pleasing cadence.

It was idiotic of course, hopeless and swoony beyond anything Hermione could ever remember feeling since Lockhart (oh, how that silly crush still haunted her), but these days, it seemed to be growing more and more difficult for her to control her own body's impulses.

Snape finished speaking and with a sweep of his arm, announced that everyone should begin working.

As Hermione read carefully through the list of ingredients on the board, double-checking to make sure she had properly shredded her Centaurea petals, she slipped her hand inside her pocket and fingered the vial of golden potion – or, Phoenix Potion, as she had so creatively decided to call it. She carried it around with her everywhere now, nervous to leave it any place she couldn't keep an eye on it.

After all, she still had that decision to make – one which hadn't become any easier since Dumbledore first proposed it. She supposed she could ask her friends, but for some reason Hermione felt as though this was a decision she needed to make on her own.

There was something else about the potion, as well; every time Snape walked near her (while perusing his students' progress), the vial's dull hum would escalate to such a strong, pulsing buzz, that Hermione could feel it even through the thick, layered cloth of her robes. Interesting, she thought, eyeing Snape's back as he passed her table for the third time in the past hour and the muted vibrations in her pocket slowly died away again.

As though sensing her gaze, Snape looked over his shoulder, catching her eyes. "May I help you, Miss Granger?" he asked, smooth as silk.

Hermione merely shook her head, blushed hotly, and then went back to work.

I want you… to take your clothes off for me.

Damn it all to hell if that man wasn't going to be the end of her.

It was evening. Harry, Hermione and Ron had just finished dinner and were walking back to their dorm room, talking quietly. Ron had yet to officially "forgive" Hermione for all the things she had "done" to him, but through their mutual worry over Harry's single-minded obsession, their relationship had mended a few of its broken ties.

"Where?" Harry seethed, muttering to himself as they made their way around a group of fourth year Ravenclaws. "…just come out and show himself already, the bloody coward… hate how he sneaks around, letting arrogant bastards like Frend… bloody coward…"

Hermione glanced at Ron and they shared a look. Harry was thinking about Sirius again. They could always tell; his tone would darken, his teeth would clench, and his hate-filled words would circle relentlessly around the whereabouts of Voldemort and his followers.

"Harry," Hermione said softly, adopting a trepid tone of comfort she had become particularly adept at in the past week. "I'm sure that if anyone knew anything about Vol… You-Know-Who—" (Hermione was still shy of saying his name, especially after the cottage) "—they would tell you straight away."

Harry's green eyes narrowed behind his glasses as they began to climb a flight of stairs. "Would they?" he asked darkly. "Do you really think so, Hermione? Because I certainly don't. The only reason Ron and I were even there at Hogsmeade was because we knew about the Portkey — and the only reason we knew about the Portkey was because we've been spying on the teachers."

"Yeah," Ron admitted grudgingly. "They want to keep us out of trouble, I guess. But, honestly, mate," he put on a very forced smile, "when the time comes for us to do something – I think we'll know. When V-Voldemort shows his ugly face, it's not going to be quiet. We'll find out about it. And we'll be there to fight him." Ron glanced uncertainly at Hermione. "All three of us."

Harry stopped walking suddenly, catching Ron and Hermione off guard. They stopped two steps later, turning to look down into Harry's fierce, stubborn face.

"But why?" he said angrily. "I'm the one who Voldemort really wants to—"

"No." Hermione did not shout, but she didn't need to. The strength in her voice was enough to silence him. "No, Harry," she said again. "You are not doing this alone, and you bloody well know it. We have stood by you for six years – almost seven, now. We have always followed you, always believed in you, always been there to support each other. We deserve the right to fight beside you this final time."

Ron didn't say anything, but he was nodding enthusiastically in agreement.

The fierceness faded slightly from Harry's expression. "Yeah," he admitted softly. "I suppose you've earned the right – this is your fight too, I guess. But you've got to promise me something…"

They both gave Harry their undivided attention.

"Ginny can't. I swear it – I don't want her there."

"But, Harry, she's not going to—"

"Stay quietly – yes, I know. But you have to make her. You understand what I'm saying? We will be fighting for our lives – I'm going to be up against… up against him. I need all the concentration I can get. I'll be distracted enough already just worrying about the two of you. It would be too much… knowing she was out there – fighting, or whatever – and I couldn't... Voldemort is going to take all of my focus. I don't know yet how I'm going to do it, but I swear to you, I will do it. I'll kill him. I'll end it."

Hermione walked down the two steps between them and put her hand lightly on Harry's shoulder. "I believe it, Harry. I truly believe you—"

But Hermione stopped talking immediately in order to scream as something sharp, large and feathery crashed into the wall beside them and fell screeching to the floor.

"Errol!" Ron nearly toppled off the stairs in his haste to assist the stricken bird. "You shouldn't be flying – What are you doing here?"

"He's got a letter," said Harry anxiously, helping Ron lift Errol and remove the roll of parchment from his trembling leg.

Hermione hung back slightly, wringing her hands and watching with wide eyes.

Harry finally freed the letter and unrolled it as Ron tried to sort out the old owl – who was wheezing heavily and looking around dazedly as though unsure of which way was which. When Errol did not immediately right himself, Ron got impatient and promptly shoved the bird into Hermione's arms, leaving himself free to circle around Harry and read over his shoulder.

Hermione spluttered as Errol, giving a disgruntled flutter, caught her full in the face with his wing. Seconds later he was comfortably settled in the crook of her arm, and Hermione looked at Harry, who spoke.

"It's from your dad, Ron… But it… it's for me…"

"Just read it!" Hermione prompted, burning with curiosity.

"Harry," Harry began, "I hope this gets to you. Strictly speaking, Errol should not be making deliveries any more, but there isn't a single owl available to use here at the Ministry. Something has happened. Turnus Frend is dead."

Hermione gasped. Ron's jaw dropped. Harry's hands tightened on the parchment, nearly ripping it in two, but he continued.

"They discovered him late this afternoon, and everyone is in an uproar trying to find out how it was done. We believe there might have been a spy among Frend's guards who slipped him the poison. That's how he did it, by the way. He took his own life, rather than betray You-Know-Who. And this is the bad news, Harry, he was never interrogated. Fudge kept putting it off, unwilling, I suppose, to face the truth. But he waited too long, and Frend's secrets died with him — DAMNIT!"

Harry slammed his fist against the wall, causing the two small boys in a nearby painting (who had been eavesdropping intently on their conversation) to shriek and flee behind an old woman's skirts, three floors up.

"I hate Fudge, that stupid bastard!"

Ron reached over and eased the parchment out of Harry's clenched fist. "Wait, there's more. I'll read it."

Harry gave Ron a furious glare, but did not say anything to oppose him.

"I know this is upsetting news," Ron continued from his father's letter. "But we are not entirely without hope. Travers is at still recovering at St. Mungo's – in bad condition, but he will live. I have spoken to his doctors, and though Travers has not yet been lucid enough for interrogation, they are optimistic that he will be ready soon. The security on him right now is unbelievable. In any case, perhaps this fiasco has taught the Minister that putting off a bad thing only makes that bad thing worse. Maybe he won't wait as long before talking to Travers."

"Bastard," growled Harry.

Ron kept reading. "I know I don't have to ask you to share this information with Ron and Hermione, because I assume you will do so. Honestly, Harry, you were the first person I thought to tell. Molly may kill me, but you deserve to know." At this, Ron began to look a bit peeved that his own father had initially written to his friend instead of to him. He said nothing about it, however, and instead unrolled the last bit of parchment.

"Oh, there's a little more, look — P.S. There will be a meeting soon. Where I don't know, nor would I dare disclose it in a letter. But I think the three of you should be there. Again, Molly will probably have my head for this, but go to Dumbledore. Ask him if you can come, and don't take no for an answer." Ron looked up at Hermione and Harry. "An Order meeting? Is he serious? He wants us to be there?"

"Why shouldn't he?" quipped Harry.

"That was a dangerous thing to put in a letter," Hermione replied quietly. "Did he say anything else?"

Ron looked down. "Oh yeah… he says, Please, Harry, whatever you do, don't make me regret this by doing something rash. I'm trusting you. Don't leave the grounds unless you are with Dumbledore – I mean Dumbledore. These are dark and unstable times, so you've got to be extra careful. Stay smart, stay safe. Arthur Weasley."

There was a brief silence in which the three of them looked at each other. Then Harry snatched the letter out of Ron's hand, shouldered his bag, turned around, and proceeded to march quickly down the stairs. "Come on," he called over his shoulder. "Let's go."


"Go where?"

Hermione and Ron stumbled after him – Hermione more slowly than Ron, because she still had an armful of disgruntled owl to deal with. "Harry!" she called anxiously, struggling to keep her book bag from slipping off her shoulder and not drop Errol at the same time. "Where are we going?"

Harry stopped just long enough to turn slightly and give her a stern look. "To Dumbledore," he said simply, and then he was off again.

The confrontation with Dumbledore was surprisingly short, but what it lacked in length, it more than made up for in intensity.

McGonagall, Hagrid, Flitwick, and Snape were already gathered in Dumbledore's circular office when Harry barged in (followed closely by Ron and hesitantly by Hermione, Errol still tucked tightly against her chest).

"Potter, Weasley, what are you doing?" Snape snarled when he saw them. He and Dumbledore stood in front of the wide desk at the center of the room, while the rest of the staff members crowded closely around. It appeared as though they had all been discussing something Snape was holding in his hand (a letter by the looks of it), but the moment they entered, Snape quickly hid it from view. His mouth twitched slightly when he saw Hermione. "Granger, too? I should have guessed."

"Now, Severus," Dumbledore soothed quietly, motioning the three of them forward with a wave of his hand.

Hagrid ambled over a few steps so they could squeeze by, his black eyes looking anxious and curious beneath his bushy eyebrows.

Once told, Dumbledore was not surprised by Mr. Weasley's letter – obviously news of Frend's demise had already reached the castle (after all, there could hardly be any other reason for such a meeting of Order members to be taking place). He gave a significant pause, however, over Mr. Weasley's final suggestion that Harry, Ron and Hermione should be present at the next official Order meeting. The moment he read it – out loud so the rest of the room's occupants could hear – there was an explosion of outrage.

"You can't be serious, Dumbledore—"

"Surely Arthur didn't mean for—"

"It's far too dangerous to—"

"They aren't even part of the Order!"

Snape was the last to be heard before Dumbledore silenced them with an impatient gesture. "Perhaps Arthur has a point – after all, Harry has a right to know what he's up against," he said simply, looking grim, all traces of a twinkle gone from his eyes.

"Yes, Headmaster, but why not simply relay the information?" argued Flitwick, with an apologetic glance at Harry. "I'm sorry, Potter, but what reason is there for you – for any of you – to put yourselves at more risk by leaving Hogwarts?"

Dumbledore shook his head. "You speak of risk, Filius, but, as of yet, we have not even decided where the next meeting will take place. Why not here, at Hogwarts? "

"You know certainly well why not Hogwarts," said McGonagall shrilly. "How would it look if all of our members suddenly showed up at the gates one night? Surely You-Know-Who is watching us closely – everyone's identities would be immediately debunked."

Dumbledore looked stern. "I am not saying that we shouldn't be mindful of possible surveillance, Minerva. As you well know, there are plenty of other ways into this castle yet unheard of by Voldemort and his followers. And Portkey is not entirely out of the question."

"Besides, we don't have to meet here," suggested Harry aggressively. "We don't care about leaving the grounds – we can be careful. All I want you – all of you – to know is that no matter where this meeting is, we – Ron, Hermione and I – are going to be there."

Ron stepped forward. "Yeah. And we want to be inducted. We want to be part of the Order."

That, as it soon turned out, was the crux of the matter. Safety was merely a hurdle to be jumped; it was the secrecy involved that, deep down, seemed to be ruffling everyone's feathers (especially Snape's). Harry, Hermione and Ron were not part of the group – they were not official members, and therefore, according to the rules, should not be part of the official meetings.

The outrage against Ron's suggestion was even more explosive and furious that the last. But the three of them stood their ground. As, surprisingly, did Dumbledore.

The negotiations that followed were not altogether pleasant. Quite a few nasty things were said (mostly by Snape, and always without looking in Hermione's direction). However, they did eventually manage to funnel their argument into a decision — an outcome that did not seem to sit well with anyone but Hagrid, who was safely satisfied with anything Dumbledore decided as the correct course of action. The Gamekeeper's rumbling voice could be heard echoing every so often from the back, supporting Dumbledore's recent argument, or simply telling Snape to "shut it."

So, despite all odds, it was eventually decided that Harry, Ron and Hermione were to be inducted into the Order. The only condition was that their induction would have to wait. The official meeting itself was not even set to happen for at least two weeks in order to avoid suspicion – as every Ministry employee was being closely monitored, and members of the Order dared not stir or risk a mysterious disappearance.

"We will talk more on that later," Dumbledore continued, when everyone had at last fallen silent, and the conclusion had more or less been grudgingly accepted by all. "Meanwhile, there is something else of a more pressing importance that needs to be discussed. Severus, if you wouldn't mind…" Dumbledore held his hand out towards the Potions Master, who, hesitating slightly and scowling heavily, handed over whatever it was he had been concealing in his robes.

Dumbledore picked it up and opened it, revealing that it was, indeed, a letter. "As I was saying before you three arrived," he looked at Harry, Ron, and Hermione in turn, "it appears that there is a great deal more to the death of Turnus Frend than we initially thought."

"He was murdered, wasn't he?"

Everyone in the room turned sharply in Hermione's direction, most of them with mouths gaping slightly. But Hermione kept her eyes on Dumbledore, her arms tight around Errol, who hooted softly.

Even Dumbledore was thrown enough out of sorts to raise his eyebrows. "Yes, Miss Granger. He was. Might I ask how you came by that knowledge?"

Hermione was prompt in her response. "Frend was a proud man, Professor. A selfish, proud, evil man, whose only interest was in his own gain and his own survival. When Harry first read us the letter, I was too shocked to really think on how it appeared to have happened. However, since then, I've come to realize that Frend is the last man on earth who would kill himself for another's cause. Therefore, he must have died against his will. Someone – a Death Eater, I assume – murdered him before he could talk."

Dumbledore nodded gravely. "That is exactly right, Miss Granger. A Death Eater murdered Turnus Frend. And that man…" he said, holding up the letter in his hand, "wishes to speak to Severus."

Hermione's eyes flew to Snape. He was not looking at her, but his frown and the fierce anger in his eyes confirmed what Dumbledore was saying.

"Wh-why?" asked Hermione dryly.

McGonagall answered. "It doesn't matter why, Headmaster. He shouldn't go – he simply shouldn't."

"Funny, I would think that was my decision, Minerva," Snape hissed. "The letter was for me, and me alone. If this fool wants to meet me and—"

"MEET you?" Hermione blurted before she could stop herself, startling Errol who screeched in surprise.

"Here. Give 'im to me," muttered Hagrid, holding out his arms and accepting the feeble old owl like a newborn baby.

"Yes, Miss Granger," Snape growled at Hermione through gritted teeth. "He wants to meet me. Which, as I have been saying, is no one else's concern but-"

"Now, see here, Severus!" Flitwick had clambered onto an armchair in order to put himself on eye-level with the rest of the group. "This man is openly admitting to murder – not to mention being a Death Eater as well. How could you possibly think that it would be safe to—"

"I didn't say it would be safe!" Snape was getting angry again. "It won't be safe at all, not by a long shot – but it's necessary."

Dumbledore laid a hand upon Snape's shoulder, and it was a testament to how deep their relationship ran that Snape did not immediately shake him off. "It isn't necessary, Severus," he said, rather sadly Hermione thought. "You want to be helpful — that is admirable of you. But you don't need to put yourself in harm's way. If this man has information, he can come to all of us, or none at all. You shouldn't have to face him alone."

"You don't understand," Snape replied darkly, finally dipping his shoulder so that Dumbledore's hand slid off.

"What do I not understand?"

Snape's face was all harsh lines and shadows. "Him. You don't understand him – how his mind works, what he's thinking."

"Alright, will someone please explain what's going on?" Harry finally said, verbalizing what Hermione and Ron had equally been wondering. "Why does Sn – Professor Snape – have to meet this bloke?"

"The man who wrote this letter," Snape snapped impatiently, "extracted information from Frend before murdering him. Now he's holding that information hostage unless I meet him somewhere and personally retrieve it. He claims that he will only trust me."

"Why?" pursued Ron. "I mean, if he's a Death Eater and all that, why is he giving us information?"

"Because he doesn't want to be a Death Eater any longer," Snape replied promptly.

"Or so he says," Flitwick muttered. "Doesn't anyone else besides me smell a trap?"

"Of course we do!" McGonagall was looking incredulously at Dumbledore. "Surely you don't think this man is telling the truth, Headmaster. We can't let Severus—"

"Severus," Dumbledore interrupted, "will, I'm sure, do whatever he thinks is best, regardless of what we let him do. Because he is right on one account; we do not know anything about this man. Severus, to some extent, does. He knows what it is like to turn from Voldemort's side – and is living proof that such things do happen." Dumbledore looked at Snape. "If you believe this man is telling the truth, that he wants to trust his anonymity to you, Severus, then…" He gave a deep sigh. "I will give you whatever protection I have to offer, when you go to meet him."

Hermione cleared her throat. "Excuse me, Professor Snape." Snape looked sharply in her direction. "May I ask… why this person wants to meet you – specifically?"

There was only bitterness in Snape's voice when he replied. "Because I am the only one who has betrayed my master. Because I am the only one here who has turned sides. I suppose he finds somewhat of a kindred spirit in me." Snape's eyes narrowed. "But, I say again, that doesn't matter, Granger. All of you, it doesn't matter who he's asking for, he has information that we require, and if I am the only one who can negotiate this, then I will do so without question. This must be done – no matter who is called. The Dark Lord will never fall if we don't have the resources to bring him down, and if I am the only one who can obtain these resources, then so be it."

"So be it," Hermione echoed quietly, feeling her heart seize so tightly in her chest, she thought for a moment that she might actually faint. She swayed slightly where she stood.

"You're going, then?" Harry said, looking at Snape for the first time with a touch of something Hermione could not quite place. It wasn't admiration or respect by any means... It wasn't hatred either.

"Yes." Snape replied with a nod. Then he looked at Dumbledore, who nodded back. "Yes," Snape said again. But this time he looked straight at Hermione.

Hermione looked at him right back, and for the briefest flicker of a moment, the fear that she felt inside herself, the fear she felt at any time would open up its wide jaws and swallow her whole, seemed to reflect faintly in Snape's face.

They shared a look of deepest understanding, and just like she had learned to do at Pruitt Cottage – to read what was really meant beneath Snape's words – when Snape said for all to hear, "I am going to meet with this man," she knew without a doubt, as though he were screaming it in her head, that what he had really meant was, "I am going to meet with this man because I have failed the Order, and because I want to protect who I can. Especially you. I wish to protect you. Hermione."

Safe in her pocket, the warm vial of Phoenix Potion shuddered violently.

Just Let it Happen

A Harry Potter Story
by La. Bel. LM

Part 22 of 35

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