The next weeks went by quickly. She was as busy as she'd anticipated. When she wasn't in class, studying or marking essays, she was patrolling, helping the new students and performing her various other Head Girl duties. She was grateful not to have much free time, as she wouldn't have to make excuses why she wasn't spending as much time with her friends. She loved them dearly but she was tired of being a trio. She'd never stood on her own and it was about time. She wouldn't completely ostracize herself from them though. She still enjoyed meals and the few classes they had together.
She was ecstatic when the first Hogsmeade weekend arrived. Bill and Fleur were bringing Teddy to see her. She decided to stay up as late as she had to on Friday to get as much done as she could, leaving her Saturday open. She had all her tasks planned, if only the school day would end so she could get to it. Her last class was Advanced Potions with Ginny. Upon hearing of Professor Snape's unexpected return, the boys had quickly withdrawn from the class. The revelation of Snape's true allegiance had only slightly changed their feelings for him. While they had begun to respect him, too many years of his wrath kept them from having anything do with the man. Hermione decided it was just as well. It was much easier not having to worry about what they might be about to blow up while not paying attention.
"Hermione, stop humming. Snape's glaring at you," Ginny whispered.
"What? Oh, sorry," she mumbled, embarrassed. She met his eyes briefly before returning to the potion simmering in her cauldron.
"Why are you in such a good mood?" Ginny asked.
"It's the first Hogsmeade weekend," she answered happily.
"Does that mean you have a date with the love of your life?" The younger girl smiled at her friend's excitement.
"Absolutely." Hermione couldn't stop smiling. "Oh, Gin, I didn't think I'd miss him this much. I'm just glad I get to see him tomorrow." She looked up to see Snape staring at her with outright hostility. She looked away quickly. While he had been just as snarky and rude as always, since they'd begun working together, it hadn't been directed at her. The look on his face said that was about to change. She tried to ignore the sadness that thought caused and just focus on the next day. She did not, however, hum for the rest of the class.
His mood had not improved by the time she came to drop off the 2nd years' tests she'd been marking.
"Glad you had time to grade amidst your day of mindlessly flitting about the castle, Miss Granger," he said with thinly veiled anger. "And I don't appreciate the idle chatter of foolish little girls in my classroom if you could please keep that in mind and inform Miss Weasley of the same."
"Yes, sir, " she mumbled as she fled the room. She didn't know what she'd done to put him in such a snit but she was infinitely glad it was the weekend.
She got up early for a Saturday simply because she was too excited to sleep. She took her time getting ready, making sure not to wear any jewelry, as pulling on anything shiny was Teddy's favorite pastime. She decided her hair better go up too, to be safe. Since she was taking the time to do all the rest, she put a little make up on too. Not a charm or glamour. Just a little Muggle mascara, eyeliner, blush and lip gloss. She put a stasis charm on the makeup and messy French twist so she wouldn't have to worry with touch ups, wind, and little fingers. She liked doing some things the Muggle way, but being a witch had its benefits too. Finally killing enough time, she made her way to the Great Hall for breakfast. By the time she arrived, she was almost giddy and had lost all appetite.
"Calm down, Mione," Ron grumbled with a full mouth.
"Leave her alone, Ron," Ginny admonished. "You're excited to see your girlfriend too. And, Hermione, you look lovely today."
"Sorry," he grunted, still chewing. He reached to get yet another piece of toast then quickly spun around. "Blimey, Hermione, did you blow up Snape's favorite cauldron?
"No, why?" she questioned, already turning toward the Head Table. Once again, she was met with Snape's eyes filled with what she could only describe as contempt. She blushed bright red and looked away, quietly adding, "I must have." She had no idea why he was so angry with her. She hadn't done or said anything. She was getting all her work done in a timely matter. She thought they were even starting to be, if not friends, then at least friendly acquaintances.
"Come on, Hermione," Ginny said brightly. "We aren't going to let that git ruin your day." She tugged her friend's arm and the two girls walked out to the courtyard and waited for the boys to finish breakfast. Just as they were finally coming out, she remembered the one task she'd put off so long that she'd almost forgotten about it completely.
"Blast!" she cursed. "I forgot to tell Sna-Professor Snape that I wouldn't be coming today. I'll run and tell him and meet you guys there."
"Are you sure?" Harry asked anxiously. "We can come with you. I didn't like the way Snape was glaring at you."
"No, no, I'll be fine." She waved them off and turned to go back inside. As she rounded the corner, she ran directly into a black wall, almost knocking herself over. Strong hands steadied her, the painfully familiar scent of him washing over her.
"Miss Granger, I'm sure you have something pressing that requires your attention but do try to watch where you are going!" Something tightened in her stomach as she realized he was still holding her. Realizing it himself, he released her and moved to go around her.
"Wait, Professor!" Without thinking, she stepped in front of him and reached out to stop him. She was completely mortified when her hand came to rest on his chest. Blushing furiously, she dropped her hand, but not before noticing how surprisingly muscular he was. She tried to collect her wits and hoped he didn't notice that her eyes had lost focus for just a moment. "Um. Sorry, sir. I was actually coming to look for you." When he only raised a brow in response, she continued. "Sir, I was wondering if it would be okay if I didn't come to work in the dungeons today. I've an appointment in Hogsmeade."
"I have something to discuss with you but as I'm on my way to Hogsmeade myself we could converse on the way." His voice was surprisingly soft in light of the horrid glares he'd been giving her for the previous two days.
"Of course, Professor," she said, trying not to sound too surprised. "Thank you, sir." She followed him down the path, noting that the tightness in her stomach had not released. They walked a few moments in silence before he spoke.
"Miss Granger, it seems as though, with the fall of the Dark Lord, I find myself with much more free time of late. I have decided to take this opportunity to do some research and experimentation on a few potion ideas that I've toyed with over the years."
"Really, sir? That's wonderful." Her apparent happiness over this small bit of information surprised them both.
"I will be in need of an assistant and you have done an adequate job thus far in your other duties..."
"Sir...I mean-I...well I," she stuttered in shock.
"Miss Granger, if you are not interested, then please just say so and I will set about finding someone else." His tone had returned to the hardened one she'd heard the last few days.
"No! I mean, no, sir. I just wasn't expecting that. I'd be honored to assist you in your work."
"I am starting tomorrow, right after breakfast, if you are free." His voice was slightly less harsh, but not as relaxed as before, as though maybe he didn't quite believe her.
"Of course, sir."
They continued in silence to the village. As they entered, she could feel the excitement rising again. Her heart was pounding and tears began stinging her eyes. She had completely forgotten about the imposing wizard at her side. Embarrassed at her unrestrained show of emotion, she tried to regain control of herself before he noticed. It was not quickly enough, it seemed.
"Miss Granger!" The sharpness had returned completely.
"I'm sorry, sir," she whispered, completely losing control. "It's just--I miss--It's been so long since I've seen--"
"That is quite enough, Miss Granger! Your personal affairs are no concern of mine." She was taken aback by the disgust in his voice. She'd caught the emphasis he'd put on the word affairs. He sounded just like Ron when he wasn't getting his way or when he was jealous. Wait. Jealous?!
"Sir!?" Her voice carried only some of the outrage she felt.
"Good day, Miss Granger!" he snapped and stormed away, cloak billowing in the breeze.
Her mind raced through the last couple days when he'd seemed so angry. In Potions, while she and Ginny were talking about...seeing the love of her life. At breakfast, talking about being able to see someone. Just then, she said she missed someone. Merlin's pants. Could Severus Snape be jealous?
"Bloody hell." She had no idea what to do with that information. Emotions swirled within her. Outrage that he had been eavesdropping, fear that he wouldn't want to work with her now, shock at the whole situation and maybe a little smug at the turn of events. Underneath it all, hope.
Filing that all away for later thought, she rounded the corner to Honeyduke's. The first thing she saw was Ron and Clair locked in an almost obscene kiss for a few seconds before Fleur smashed a dainty foot into Ron's. Harry and Ginny were still laughing as she approached. Before she even greeted them, Bill was already handing her the baby. She pulled him close and squeezed the child to her chest. Tears gathering, she pulled back to look at him. He'd grown so much! She laughed in delighted awe as the barely six-month-old child smiled at her and reached out to hug her again. Her eyes were closed but she felt the others moving away, giving her privacy when the tears started to fall. When she finally opened her eyes again, she found herself staring across the street at the completely stunned face of her Potions Master. Teddy pulled away again, blocking her view momentarily. When she looked again, he was gone.
She was definitely feeling smug.
She spent most of the day clutching the boy as she shopped. She was still amazed at how advanced he was for just a baby. According to Bill, he had already started doing small bits of magic and was even beginning to crawl. She wondered if it was the werewolf hormones that caused his accelerated development, even if none of the other...traits were manifesting. Tonks had taken Wolfsbane potion the entire pregnancy hoping to override the gene. Remus said only time would tell how much had come through. The thought of Tonks and Remus made Hermione's chest ache. She missed them and wished Teddy had been able to know his parents and how incredible they had been. The war had made orphans of many. She supposed this included her. While her parents were technically alive, they were on the other side of the world with no memory of the daughter they left behind. Teddy's laughter brought her back to the present and made her quite grateful for what she did have.
Hermione had taken the baby on her own so Bill and Fleur could have some alone time. With no one there to rein her in, she'd spoiled him unchecked. She bought him Sweet Milk at Honeyduke's, a new toy from George's store and various other things from the stores they passed. They roamed the streets, pretending she didn't notice a glimpse of billowing black every now and then.
To her credit, when she returned Teddy to Bill and Fleur, she did not cry. She just clutched him tightly, told him she loved him and turned to go. She did, however, cry openly on the walk back to Hogwarts. She'd left the others to their own farewells and made the trip back alone to have time to herself.
Well, mostly alone. She ignored the shimmer of air that moved behind her, slightly to the right. She could feel him, smell him, so near though she couldn't actually see him. She was tempted to reach back and take his hand. She was certain she would find comfort in its warmth. She resisted. If he wanted to stay Dis-Illusioned, so be it. She was too emotionally over-wrought to deal with whatever fallout would occur if she acknowledged his presence. Knowing he was there gave her enough food for thought.
She wasn't entirely surprised when he owled her that night.
Unfortunately all the necessary supplies I ordered have not arrived for our experiment. I will inform you when we will be able to proceed.
Enjoy your Sunday.
As she lay in bed that night she considered his note. Our experiment, he'd said. Enjoy your Sunday, he'd said. Professor McGonagall had been wrong. He definitely seemed different. She went back over the crazy sequence of events that had taken place that day. Snape was jealous. He'd asked her to be his assistant, in his own roundabout manner. He'd stayed with her when she was upset, albeit anonymously. Maybe it was all just a strange coincidence. As she drifted off to sleep, she hoped it was more.