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Chapter 10 : x.
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The following week Hermione remained true to her word - Operation Stalk Severus was in full effect. Hermione had taken to keeping the Invisibility Cloak with her at all times; it was stuffed inside her beaded bag, which she carried in the pocket of her robes daily. After her classes she would excuse herself, saying she had to use the loo or by making up some other random excuse, such as needing to speak with a Professor or stating she had forgotten something in the dormitory. Once she separated herself from her friends, she would use the cloak and follow Severus. She tried to learn his schedule, which routes he took to his classes and where he went during his down time.
One thing that she had noticed was that Severus was not as much of a loner as he originally appeared. It seemed that he had at least two acquaintances whom he spoke to on somewhat friendly terms. It sickened her a bit when she realized the two young men were future Death Eaters – Avery and Macnair. However, there was something about the hint of disgust in Severus’ eyes when he was near them that satisfied Hermione. It seemed that he had not really cared for them at all, and she assumed that their friendship, if you could have called it that, was more out of convenience than anything else.
She learned after a few days that Severus Snape was very much a creature of habit. His schedule barely changed from one day to the next, which made her life a lot easier. He ate breakfast in the Great Hall, went to his classes – any free periods were spent in the library, had lunch, returned to his classes, disappeared to the Slytherin dungeon, reappeared for dinner and then ended his evenings in the library once more.
Hermione had not attempted to speak with him at all during the week. She had come to that decision for two reasons. One: she thought it would be better to study him a bit beforehand. Learn what he did during the day and possibly what his interests were, so she could come up with something substantial to speak with him about. Two: she was afraid that if she continued to try to force him into a friendship, which he seemed to not want, she would risk pushing him away for good. She had time, quite literally, and figured she ought to use it wisely.
During their Potions classes, Hermione would enter, nod a quick hello – that he surprisingly returned later in the week, and would spend the rest of the time quietly working on her assignments. A few times she thought she caught him looking at her, or what she was doing, but she had not acknowledged it. Only once did he speak to her. Hermione had not been paying attention as well as she normally would have in her own time - she was too preoccupied with her thoughts, and almost missed a step while working on her potion. She nearly added the armadillo bile before the scarab beetle in her Wit-Sharpening Potion before Severus stopped her.
“Scarab beetle,” he hissed as her hand nearly tipped the vial into her cauldron.
She jumped and let out a small squeak of surprise before thanking him and continuing on with her coursework. Afterwards, Severus went on acting as if Hermione had not existed.
The more she watched him, the more she noticed little things that made her feel confused and conflicted. For one thing, she found herself admiring the way he was so dedicated to his school work. She started to see that he was quite a brilliant young man; a person who she honestly could have seen herself wanting to be friends with. He was someone she imagined she could have had meaningful and intense discussions and debates with. Someone who could have stimulated her intellectually.
He was kind of funny, too. In a dry, sarcastic sort of way. There were a few instances in which she heard him mutter something about one of their classmates; she’d have a hard time keeping herself from giggling at his remarks. A few times he said some things that she might had thought, but never would have voiced out loud. Of course when you’re a bit more advanced than some of your peers, you were bound to become frustrated with them. Severus just didn’t seem as capable of keeping his opinions to himself as Hermione had been.
There was one day, during Ancient Ruins, a thought crossed her mind which completely threw her for a loop. She actually found him slightly attractive. Not that she was attracted to him, per say, but she couldn’t say that he was ugly. There was something about his dark eyes and the dark curtains of hair which contrasted with his pale skin that she found sort of beautiful. Even his nose seemed more distinguished than obtrusive. And, on the rare occasions that she actually saw them, his teeth seemed quite a bit straighter and whiter than they had become in his adult years.
She tried very hard after that day to shake any of those thoughts from her mind. She had a… boyfriend? Actually, she wasn’t exactly sure what she and Ron were, but she did not feel right looking so closely at another boy. Especially considering who that boy was.
8th October 1976
For the next few weeks it went on relatively the same way. She attended her classes, spent her free time either following Severus or becoming much closer to Amelia and Remus than she would have preferred. She worried more and more that they would recognize her in future. Then, much to her horror, after a conversation in the library Friday evening, she feared that Remus might have remembered her. The way their conversation ended was eerily reminiscent of a similar one she had with Remus and Sirius during her summer at Grimmauld Place, before her fifth year.
Somehow, Hermione, Amelia and Remus had gotten on the subject of House Elves and Hermione, who was unable to contain herself, went on a long winded rant of how they deserve to be treated better. How they should receive pay, sick days and holidays, just as anyone else would. Amelia somewhat agreed with her, yet Hermione suspected from her tone that she was just placating her, but that didn’t bother Hermione. She received the same response from Harry. She always knew that Harry had not taken her seriously, but she appreciated the fact that he did not outright make fun of her about it, as Ron did. Amelia, it seemed, was being just as polite.
Remus however did not hold back his laughter. Not only that, but what he said to her nearly caused her to fall out of her seat, because it was the same exact response that he had given her in the future.
“Hermione,” Remus chuckled. “I do agree that House Elves get a raw deal, but have you ever met one before?”
“Of course, Remus!” She responded indignantly. “They –“
Remus cut her off. “Then you would know that they’re perfectly content making the families they serve happy. It’s what they were born to do, Hermione. It’s what gives them purpose.”
He held up his hand. “I can see that we’re not going to agree on this issue,” he smiled. “I think it would be best if we dropped it?”
Hermione’s heart stopped for a moment.
Hermione could not sleep and found herself in the basement kitchen of Grimmauld Place with Remus and Sirius, who all sat drinking some tea. Although, from the smell of it, Hermione suspected Sirius’ cup held a much stronger drink.
Kreacher had entered the kitchen mumbling hurtful words about her under his breath, causing Sirius to throw a soup ladle at the old elf and order him out of the kitchen. Of course his actions horrified Hermione, who apparently had a difficult time keeping the angry expression from her face.
“What?” Sirius snapped after looking at her.
Hermione jolted a bit in her seat, it was the first time Sirius had ever used that tone of voice with her, and it took her off guard. Still, she had not felt right watching an elf being abused right in front of her. Kreacher hadn’t known any better, she understood that, therefore she did not take his words or actions to heart.
“That was rather harsh, Sirius,” she scolded.
Sirius snorted loudly. “Harsh? You’re taking the piss, right?”
An argument then began between the two of them and started to become quite heated. Hermione shouted about how they should have freedom, or pay; more rights in general. Remus intervened.
“They’re perfectly content making the families they serve happy. It’s what they were born to do, Hermione. It’s what gives them purpose,” he said in a tired voice.
Hermione looked affronted. “But surely you could see my reasoning behind-“
Remus raised his hand to stop her. “I can see that we’re not going to agree on this issue. It would probably be for the best if we dropped it.”
At the time, Hermione had not understood the smirk on Remus’ face. Also, the knowing look he shared with Sirius immediately after confused her at the time. But then she wondered. Had he remembered her?
Then suddenly, more things started to make sense to her. Like a brief conversation she had once with Sirius during Christmas break her fifth year.
Hermione was passing by the drawing room and noticed Sirius sitting in a chair, all alone and holding onto a bottle like it was his long lost lover.
She felt horrible that he was spending his holiday cooped up by himself in a place that caused him so much pain. Instead of just walking by, she decided to enter the room and sat quietly in a chair across from him.
“Happy Christmas, Sirius,” she said quietly.
Sirius picked his head up in a jerky motion, his bloodshot eyes wide and full of surprise. After looking as if he was trying to focus on the person who had just spoken to him, a smile slowly spread across his lips, though it did not meet his sad eyes.
“Same to you, Hermione,” he responded, and lifted his bottle in a mock toast before taking a deep drink of the amber liquid.
Hermione smiled sadly as he wiped his mouth with the back of his dirty sleeve.
“S’hard to believe you lot are the same three scrawny brats I met nearly two years ago,” he joked. “Breaking any hearts yet?”
Hermione never understood why some adults would ask that of teenagers. Like the only thing that mattered about their adolescence was if they dated or not. She laughed out loud. “Hardly.”
Sirius shook his head. “Don’t worry, Hermione. You will soon enough, trust me. I’m sure a bloke will come along who pesters you almost daily. Don’t be too hard on him though.” His eyes slowly began to close. Hermione was increasingly becoming more confused, but just chalked it up to Sirius being intoxicated. “It’s not like he had any idea who you were. If he did he wouldn’t have…” he trailed off before passing out.
Hermione called it an early night after realizing she may not have remained as unmemorable as she had hoped. She claimed she had a stomach ache, which technically wasn’t a lie. The whole ordeal made her feel exceptionally queasy.
9th October 1976
The evening of Hermione’s final detention, she entered the Potions classroom ready for another uncomfortable evening of Slughorn doting on both her and Severus while they continued to clean, not speaking to each other, only to their professor.
She hadn’t been expecting anything from Severus, which was why it was an absolute shock to her when he hadn’t rushed out of the room after Slughorn dismissed them, as he had done after each of their previous detentions.
Both of them wished their professor a goodnight and turned to leave the room; Hermione trailed a bit behind Severus. She walked behind him for a few steps when suddenly, he stopped.
“May I speak with you for a moment?” he asked her with his back still turned.
Hermione’s heart raced and, for some reason, her stomach felt like it was filled with fluttering butterflies.
“Of course!” she responded a bit too eagerly.
Severus turned around slowly, but did not make eye contact with her. He looked down at the ground, pushing a strand of his hair behind his ear.
“I’ve noticed during Potions that you do not seem as stupid as the rest of our classmates.”
Hermione assumed that was intended to be a compliment. The corner of her mouth turned up a little in spite of herself.
Once again, he started to tug on the cuff of his sleeve. “There are still some areas you could improve on, however,” he continued, condescendingly.
She flinched. It was almost like she was his student once more, listening to him belittle her and her hard work.
Her eyes narrowed as she placed her hands on her hips. Severus did not seem to notice.
“Potions requires instinct and imagination. You don’t always have to rely so heavily on what is shown to us in textbooks.”
Why was he telling her that? He had not seemed to her as the type of person who would offer advice to fellow students. Still, she didn’t speak. She waited to see if he would continue.
Severus reached up and rubbed the back of his neck; he still had not looked at her. “If – if, erm…” He stopped and shook his head.
Where was he going with all of this? She wondered.
“If what, Severus?” she asked.
She noticed him jolt slightly again when she said his name and once more wondered what that was all about.
Finally he looked up and locked eyes with her. She saw his Adam’s apple move up and down, like he was swallowing. He seemed nervous.
“I – I could help you if you want,” he offered quietly and again fixed his eyes on the floor.
Hermione noticed a hint of red tint his pale cheeks. She almost laughed. All of the plotting and sneaking around she had done and it hadn’t even mattered. She shouldn’t have been surprised that the way to get him to notice, or even possibly respect her would be for her to do well in class. Not only that, but what also must had helped her was how she hadn’t been raising her hand or answering every question that was asked in her classes either. She was determined, while she was there, not to come off like a know-it-all, only because she figured it would have helped her blend in with everyone better.
He must had taken her silence as the beginning of a rejection.
“I only offer, because it would be a shame for someone with even the most minimal amount of talent let it go to waste. Not many people appreciate Potions,” he added with a snide tone Hermione recognized quite well.
She rolled her eyes and was thankful he wasn’t looking when she did.
“I would like that,” she finally answered and thought she saw the hint of a smile form on his lips.
He nodded once and looked at her with a furrowed brow. “Right. Meet me in the library tomorrow evening. Eight o’clock.”
“I’ll be th-“
“Don’t be late,” he cut her off.
Without waiting for an answer, he quickly turned around and half-ran away from her. Hermione shook her head softly. Severus was truly a different sort of person.
“…there,” Hermione finished as she watched him leave.
For some reason, she had a difficult time keeping a smile off of her face the entire walk to Ravenclaw tower, which she still must have been wearing when she entered the common room.
“Well you look awfully cheerful for someone who just had detention,” Amelia said with a suspicious glimmer in her eyes.
Hermione shrugged. “It was the last one.” she responded as if that clarified everything.
She began to head towards the dorms saying a quick goodnight.
“Where do you think you’re going Miss Devereux?” Amelia demanded looking over the top of the book she was reading. “If you think for one moment I’m buying the whole, ‘It was the last one’ excuse, you’re sorely mistaken.”
Hermione stuck her tongue out at Amelia then continued her walk towards the stairs. Amelia quickly followed after.
“Really, Amelia, it’s nothing. I’m just glad to be done with it, that’s all,” she tried to convince her.
As she trekked up the stairs a little more quickly than she began, Amelia jogged to keep up with her.
“You’re clearly lying, Hermione. I haven’t seen you smile like that since you’ve arrived here. Now what’s going on?” she asked, slightly panting.
Hermione shook her head as a snort escaped her. As they walked into the empty dorm Amelia would not let up.
Truthfully Hermione didn’t even know where to begin. Why was she smiling like a fool? Why was she feeling nervous, yet excited about the prospect of spending the evening with Severus? Was it simply because she was finally making some progress towards her goal in the past? Or was it something else?
She sat down on her bed and tucked her legs beneath her; Amelia watched her face carefully.
“Well?” Amelia tried once more.
Hermione drew in a deep breath. “Severus asked me to study with him tomorrow night,” she admitted quietly. A blush slowly crept up her face as she watched Amelia’s mouth pop open. “I – er – I agreed to go.”
The look on Amelia’s face was very similar to the look someone who had just been clubbed over the head would be wearing. She looked dumbfounded.
“He – he asked you out?” Amelia whispered.
Hermione shook her head. “No, it’s not a date or anything,” she clarified quickly. “He just mentioned that he’s noticed my work in potions class and thinks that he could help me become better.” She had a hard time not sounding bitter at the end of that sentence.
Tucking a lock hair behind her ear, Hermione squirmed uncomfortably under Amelia’s astonished stare. To Hermione, it seemed like it was the first time Amelia had ever heard of anyone asking another student to study with them, she looked so shocked.
She couldn’t take the awkward silence any longer. “What?” Hermione snapped.
Amelia seemed to realize she was behaving a bit rudely. She shook her head and sat up straighter while forcing a smile on her face.
“No, nothing!” she said quickly. “It’s just – just that…” she bit her lip. “I’ve never seen him with a girl. Well besides Lily Evans.”
Lily and Severus had been childhood friends, up until the end of their fifth year; Harry had told both her and Ron that the morning after the battle at Hogwarts. Harry hadn’t gone into details as to why Severus and Lily stopped speaking. All he told them was that Severus had done something Lily couldn’t bring herself to forgive him for. Hermione was exceptionally curious as to what that was and wondered if Amelia had known what happened.
“Lily Evans and Severus are friends?” Hermione asked, as if she were ignorant.
“Were friends,” Amelia clarified. “Up until the end of last term. Right after we finished with our O.W.L.s.”
Hermione didn’t have to fake her curiosity. “What happened?” she asked eagerly and leaned forward.
Amelia scooted to the edge of her bed and crossed her legs underneath her.
“I wasn’t there,” she began. “But Alice was. She told us what happened afterwards. Actually,” she snorted, “the whole school knew afterwards.”
Hermione’s heart was pounding. What had Severus done that was so bad the whole school knew about it within minutes?
“Apparently Severus was sitting under a tree near the Black Lake. Potter, Black, Remus and Pettigrew were out there as well."
Hermione felt her stomach drop. She had a feeling she knew where this story was headed.
She listened in horror as Amelia described the scene by the lake that summer afternoon. She felt sick to her stomach as she heard what James and Sirius had done to Severus, who had done nothing to them. It was amazing to her how similar James and Harry looked, yet how different they both were in personality. Who knew? Maybe James changed. It already seemed like he had grown up quite a bit since last year, from what Amelia was telling her, but still. Harry had never hexed anyone just because he and Ron were bored. That behavior was more of something she would had expected from Draco Malfoy, never Harry. Was Professor Snape right all of those time he had told Harry that James Potter was arrogant and a bully?
However, whatever sympathy she was feeling towards Severus disappeared the moment Amelia told her what he had called Lily in the heat of the moment.
“He called her a what?” Hermione gasped threw her fingers which were covering her mouth. “No, he couldn’t have,” she whispered, more to herself than to Amelia.
Amelia nodded. “He did,” she answered matter-of-factly.
Hermione hung her head. How could have done such a thing? Lily was his best friend. She was a girl he cared for. Why would he call her that?
Her heart broke for Lily, as Hermione tried to imagine how she would have felt if Ron or Harry let that word slip from their mouths. She would had been crushed. Heartbroken. Horrified. Livid. Devastated. No wonder Harry had not told her or Ron what caused the end of their friendship. She was disgusted with him and was questioning if she really wanted to see him the following evening. Was he worth it? Was being there worth it?
“He tried to apologize immediately after, but Lily wouldn’t have any part of it. According to Mary, he threatened to sleep outside of the Gryffindor common room if Lily didn’t come down to hear him out,” Amelia continued while watching Hermione’s reaction carefully.
Hermione couldn’t seem to speak. She didn’t know what to say, so instead she nodded slowly. What if Ron or Harry had let that slip and tried to apologize? How would she have handled that? Obviously Lily did not accept Severus’ apology, as she clearly still was not on speaking terms with him. But would Hermione had been able to shut Ron or Harry out of her life for a mistake, albeit a horrible one, but a mistake nevertheless.
When you love someone, regardless if it’s a significant other, friend, or family member, you have to be able and willing to forgive them. Even if, or especially when, they mess up badly. Yes, what Severus did was horrible, but was it unforgiveable? She tried to look at the whole situation objectively. He had just been suspended in midair, robes falling down and his pants displayed for the entire school to see. James and Sirius had physically and emotionally abused him in front of an audience for their own entertainment. Severus was a proud young man and his ego had to have been severely damaged in that moment. Then Lily came along to fight his battle for him; something which Hermione was sure would not have sat well with him. It didn’t excuse what he had done, but Hermione understood why it happened. If she were in Lily’s position, she thought that she most likely would have come to forgive him. She would have been furious with him, shouted at him and probably given him the silent treatment for a few days, but if he was her friend, she would have found it in her heart to let him back in it.
“And she never forgave him?” Hermione asked after minutes of silence.
Amelia looked taken aback. “Well of course not!” she said as if it was obvious. “Would you have?”
“Yes,” Hermione answered without hesitation. Amelia looked like she was having a hard time believing her. “Sometimes the people we love are the ones who have the ability to hurt us the most. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t forgive them when they do. Everyone says or does things they don’t mean at times. It’s part of being human. I’m sure he didn’t mean what he said, and it sounds as if he regretted it the moment the word left his lips. I’m not excusing what he did, or saying it was right, but I don’t think it’s fair of Lily to hold it against him forever. Especially if they were as close as they were.”
Amelia shrugged gently. “I suppose you’re right, but still. It was a shit thing for him to do.”
“I’m not saying it wasn’t,” Hermione agreed.
“Just be careful around him Hermione,” Amelia said sincerely.
Hermione was taken off guard by the sudden turn in their conversation. “Oh!” Her eyes opened wide. “Right. I – I will,” she promised.
Amelia did not look anywhere near comforted by Hermione’s half-hearted response.
A/N - My dear HPFFBFFSOULSISTERBRAINTWINFRAND, thank you so much for wonderful betaing, friendship and advice on this chapter! *hug* I know how busy you are with RL, and I so appreciate the time you took to look this over for me.
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