Lavender grinned at Hermione. Technically they were supposed to be on their way to classes, but Hermione looked tired, having only just been released from Madame Pomfrey’s care the other day. Besides, Lavender needed no excuse for pausing to gossip within an alcove in one of Hogwart’s sunlit corridors.
“Ron gave you chocolates? What kind? Mint crèmes? The ones with those gooey centres you like?”
“Well, it’s hard to explain,” Hermione hedged, trying to stifle a chuckle. She shouldn’t laugh really, but it was hard not to see the comical side.
Besides, thinking about it would help take her mind off her accident, for Neville’s latest mishap with cauldrons had resulted in Hermione being knocked unconscious and spending time drifting in and out of consciousness in the infirmary.
“What do you mean?” Lavender questioned, adjusting her load of books for her seventh-year classes in her arms. “You did eat them, didn’t you?”
It had only been recently that Harry and Ron had realised that Hermione was a Woman, and after arriving back at Gryffindor Tower after her accident they had been falling over themselves to spoil Hermione.
Hermione went on. “So there Ron was on his knees before me with a wrapped box of what he assured me was ‘the finest box of chocolates from Hogsmeade, Hermione!” when suddenly an Invisibility Cloak comes off Harry, who’s behind Ron with a bunch of flowers.”
“Ron gets a fright, yells out and somehow Harry trips over Ron. The flowers go flying and Harry and Ron land in a painful heap with the chocolates squashed underneath them.”
Lavender whooped with laughter.
“Look, it wasn’t funny!” Hermione scolded her friend, even though her cinnamon eyes were twinkling. “I had to take them down to the infirmary for a check up, with both of them blaming the other of course and Madame Pomfrey telling us all that we ‘are all beyond hope!’ “.
Hermione shook her head ruefully. She was fond of both Harry and Ron…and that was the problem. Which one really, did she like the most?
Harry, or Voldemort-Slayer as he was known at the moment, was the handsome and powerful wizard whose experiences at Hogwarts had given him an often weary maturity beyond his years.
On the other hand Ron was the cheerful and outgoing Quidditch Captain, his success in Quidditch in his fifth-year having giving him the popularity and confidence he had long wished for as well as an identity of his own away from his family.
At the moment they were both vying for her attention, each trying to outdo the other. It was a heady feeling to be noticed this way, after so long being treated as ‘reliable Hermione, she knows how to fix things!’ It felt at times as though they were more interested in fighting over her rather than having her as a girlfriend, but such niggling thoughts were easily ignored.
“I don’t know which of them I like the most, Lavender,” she confessed to her friend.
Lavender looked sympathetic. “If only there was a good way to foresee who would be the best guy for you,” she mused.
There was a rustle of robes and suddenly Professor Snape was standing there before them, ignoring Lavender since his narrowed, beetle-black eyes were glowering down at Hermione.
“While I am sure you must enjoy…boring people in discussing your love life you do have classes to go to, do you not Miss Granger?” he said in a tone of soft malice.
Resisting the urge to glare at the Potions Master, Hermione nevertheless tilted her chin at him. Even though he had been a member of the Order of the Phoenix and she was quick to defend him when Harry and Ron grumbled about him, a more arrogant, bat-like man she had yet to come across. He was always dressed in his black frocked-outfits and sweeping outer robes, his piercing black eyes and low-pitched voice of silky menace terrifying younger students, though she had to admit that sometimes in his class she was well, aware of him in a way that confused her…
“I’m just on my way to class, Professor,” Hermione said steadily, though she was finding it hard at the moment to be polite to him.
“Then you should be going – as you know you have had enough time off classes thanks to your latest…holiday in the infirmary,” Professor Snape said mockingly. “Twenty points off Gryffindor, and it will be a detention if I catch you between classes blabbing about your precious Potter and Weasley again.”
With that he wheeled and swept away.
Hermione was furious. It wasn’t as if she had chosen to be in the infirmary. Neville had not caused the accident on purpose – he had stammered his apology to her in such a heartfelt way it was impossible not to be angry with him.
“How could he say that – it was no holiday for me in the infirmary!” Hermione fumed.
Lavender looked at her strangely, having stared for a moment after Professor Snape. “I’m probably insane in saying this, but if it was anyone but the Greasy Git acting like that I would say he was um, jealous.”
“Don’t call the professor that,” Hermione automatically said.
Then she blinked. “Jealous?” Hermione said blankly, feeling as if she had walked into a brick wall. “Why on earth would you say something like that?”
Lavender looked sheepish. “I knew that was an idiotic thing for me to say; just forget it.” Then she looked oddly thoughtful. “But you know, every time Harry and Ron pay extra attention to you now at meals, Professor Snape looks as if he wants to give them a months detention there and then.”
“That doesn’t mean anything,” Hermione countered swiftly, alarm on her face. “He always looks that way at them, and besides, he doesn’t care for anything besides his work.”
Lavender nodded. “Yes, well, we all know that…but a funny thing was that I happened to overhear from Madam Pomfrey that he spent a lot of time in his lab after hours and in the infirmary working on a way to help you get better and for your face to heal. He was livid when Neville caused the accident – right now he’s scared of Snape’s very shadow.”
“I thought it was the Headmaster who was behind that!” Hermione said in bewilderment. Certainly the kindly old wizard had been there when she awoke to find a poultice on her face and a restorative potion in his hand for her to drink. There had been no sign of Professor Snape and indeed, when she had returned to the Potions class it was as if he couldn’t have cared less that she had returned.
She remembered though at one point having woken in the night, disorientated as she blearily wondered where she was. She had felt though there was someone in the room nearby, a presence watching over her. She assumed it had been Dumbledore. It had been Dumbledore, hadn’t it?
“Well, if that’s the truth then I’m grateful that the professor was there to help me,” Hermione said slowly. “But I think you’re being silly in saying he’s jealous - so don’t bring this up again, all right?” she said firmly.
Lavender shrugged and changed the subject as they both headed off to class, neither of them realising that Dumbledore had been a silent observer nearby, a twinkle in his eye as he thought of Severus and Hermione…
As she and Lavender walked along the corridors, Hermione wondered in bemused alarm what she had done to attract the attention of the irritable professor if Lavender’s words were true. Not that she really believed Lavender, Hermione thought hastily.
But if so…was it something she had done or said? Any sort of romance (it seemed odd to think of ‘romance’ and ‘Professor Snape’ in the same thought) between them would be disastrous of course, Hermione thought with detachment, even without taking into consideration that she was his student until she graduated in a couple of months. He was not the most approachable person she had ever encountered, his very self all sharp angles and lethal barriers to keep people at as much distance as possible, thank you. Why, when the Order of the Phoenix had started meeting at the family home of Sirius Black in her fifth year, Hermione remembered how he had always eaten his meals elsewhere…
Hermione had to admit though that she admired his sharply intelligent mind…and the dark elegance in the way he swept around his classroom. There were more shadows in his eyes than there used to be, but then, the same could be said about all of them at Hogwarts. Practically all of her school years here had been lived in the shadow of Voldemort, and so there had always been an underlying current of tension in her life. But now that he was dead, it felt as though she had been running for a long time and had suddenly stopped, leaving her feeling oddly disorientated and weary inside.
Sometimes at nights she would lie there in her bed, with various memories denying her sleep. When the traditional method of counting sheep did not work, she would pad down to the silent kitchens to make a cup of chocolate, the warm drink soothing her. How did Professor Snape cope with his various memories; how many sleepless nights did he have?
Hermione shook her head impatiently. Thinking about Professor Snape now for more than one minute – that was worrying, she thought, as she turned her attention to what Lavender was saying enthusiastically about her own boyfriend.