The next week went along in the same blur as every other. Without much thought, Hermione quickly found herself at Friday. She was terribly excited again for Hogsmeade but had not at all let herself dwell on it until then. It made the time between almost unbearable. By Potions, she was in a delightful mood and couldn’t wait for the day to be over. She had the good sense not to appear overly cheerful in Snape’s class, even if he knew why this time. She knew that happiness irritated him. The thought made her infinitely sad. Even after all he had done, he didn’t believe he deserved happiness and, therefore, sought to avoid contact with it.
When she’d seen him during classes that week, he’d still not made any eye contact with her. Afraid that she would not see him again until Monday, she spent most of their Friday afternoon class willing him to look at her.
Finally, her last chance came as he was coming around to check cauldrons near the end of class. If she hadn’t been so hyper-aware of him, she may not have noticed at all. He was only there a few seconds. One ghost of a breath against her neck, one quick rush of his scent, and he was gone. She finished her work and began cleaning up her space in silent resignation.
“Hey, Ginny,” she said, as they packed up their books. “What are you guys doing for lunch tomorrow in Hogsmeade?” She’d been spending all her time working on the potion with Snape, doing Head Girl things, or studying for NEWTs. She finally had a weekend to herself and she was missing her friends.
“Nothing that I’m aware of. Why? What’s up?”
“I was just thinking maybe we could all get together. Even George, if he can get away.” She continued when the girl looked at her questioningly, “I’ve just been really busy lately and I miss...my family.” Ginny made a move to hug her, but one glance at Snape had her discretely squeezing Hermione’s hand instead.
“I know things have been hard on you, Mione. Harder than it is for the boys. It’s okay that you’re sorting it out on your own,” she said, giving her a small reassuring smile, “but we miss you too.”
“Thanks, Ginny,” she whispered, afraid to say more. Tears were stinging her eyes and she absolutely did not want to cry in Snape’s classroom. She had gotten her emotions under control before Ginny spoke again.
“No, Hermione, thank you,” Ginny said, laying her hand on Hermione’s arm as they walked towards the door. “They never would’ve made it without you to take care of them. To most people, the war was about defeating Voldemort. To you, it was only ever about saving the people you love.”
Hermione had no words; she could only squeeze Ginny’s hand as they left the classroom.
“Miss Granger.” She stiffened and waited by the door until Ginny walked through and it closed behind her. She slowly turned to face him, tears still in her eyes. She was surprised that he was so close, only a few feet away, searching her face. His face was soft but still unreadable. His voice was hardly a whisper. “You didn’t have to come back.” She didn’t need to ask where.
“Yes, I did. I had to save you.” If his voice was a whisper, hers was a sigh. She blinked once and a single tear slid down her face. She wiped it away, unembarrassed for once and gave him a small smile. “Have a good weekend, sir.” He gave her the half smile that she adored but rarely saw.
“And you, Miss Granger.”
She slipped out the door, feeling better than she had in months. She was half way back to her rooms when she realized she’d not only cried in front of her Potions Master, the horrible dungeon-bat-former-Death-Eater-turned spy, but had also insinuated that she loved him.
“Oh hell,” she muttered, but smiled the rest of the way.
The next day was one of the best she’d had in a very long time. She was elated to find Teddy had actually started walking already. Fleur had been concerned about how fast he was growing. He was only seven months old, but, physically, he was well over a year old. Hermione had the same reaction over the summer when she noticed how alert he was for a baby. Her research showed that werewolf children developed much quicker, almost twice that of human children. However, it seemed that his growth would slow after he reached puberty.
“Of course, that won’t make you any more prepared to have a six-year-old teenager!” George laughed.
“Actually, that might not be a bad thing,” Bill said slowly, sneaking glances at his wife. Hermione wondered if anyone else had noticed his comment and his wife’s answering blush. He didn’t say anything else so she didn’t mention it. A moment later, when she caught his eye, she lifted a questioning brow. Beaming, he winked and returned to the conversation he was having with his father.
Surrounded by her “family” she wondered how she’d spent the last few months without this. Ginny was right, she had tried to work it out on her own and had come to terms with herself and what had happened. The time had come to return to her family, finish healing, and move on with life. She looked around and was pleased to find she really had missed them all. Ron, Harry, and George were arguing over something Quidditch related. Bill and Arthur were discussing the new dragon story Charlie had passed along now that he was back in Romania. Fleur, Claire and Ginny were chatting about some new glamour charms Fleur had read about in some witch’s magazine. Molly was telling her about a new recipe she wanted to try. She looked down at Teddy, whose hair was changing colors while he dreamt in her lap.
She was happy.
Hours later, she walked with Harry, Ron and Ginny back up to the castle. The weather was finally starting to turn chilly. The scar on her arm was mostly healed but it ached. She rubbed her hand over it absently.
“It hurts in the cold,” Harry’s quiet voice startled her. “Mine did.”
“What? Oh. Yeah, it does,” she said. “Feels like I have ice running down my arm.”
“The exposed skin is just more sensitive to temperature.” Harry paused as though considering what to say next. He didn’t speak for a few moments. “Hermione, about what happened that day. What was wrong with your blood? Don’t tell me you just weren’t eating right. I know that isn’t what happened.”
She didn’t know what to say. Should she tell them nothing? Everything? Just a part of it? She felt Ron’s hand slip into hers.
“Go on. Tell them, love.” She whirled to face him, mouth open. “All those nights you came to me because you had nightmares,” he said by way of explanation. “You talk in your sleep, Mione.”
“I talk...so you...oh.” She guessed that made her decision. She turned to face the other two, her hand still in Ron’s. He squeezed reassuringly. She was done having so many secrets from them. There were some things she couldn’t share yet, but this she would. “While Harry was watching Professor Snape’s memories, I ran back to the Shack. He was still alive but had lost a lot of blood. I gave him mine, Apparated him to St. Mungo’s and Apparated back for the end of the battle,” she said all in one breath.
“Well, that makes sense,” Harry and Ginny said at the same time.
“What? Why?” she said, looking back and forth between them. Ginny answered first.
“I assume he knows because he’s been nicer to you than anyone else...Not that anyone would notice,” she added. “He just doesn’t pick on you anymore.” They turned to Harry.
“After the accident. He told Madam Pomfrey he had to be the one to give you blood when I offered. She questioned him and he looked unsure for just a moment before saying something Snape-ish and telling her to get on with it.”
“He didn’t know for sure then, but he said he’d had suspicions when he did find out."
“How did he find out?” Ginny asked.
“Something wasn’t right with one of the potions we’ve been working on and he saw my nightmare,” she answered.
“Well, I’m just glad you’re even now,” Ron said, oddly echoing Snape’s own words. “I don’t like him thinking you owe him anything for saving you after your accident.”
Ginny changed the subject and they chatted happily the rest of the way back. The boys seemed satisfied with her explanation and hadn’t questioned her motives. She was supremely relieved that she didn’t have to tell them she was in love with their sarcastic professor. She worried slightly, though, when Ginny cast a knowing glance her way.
That Thursday, she quickly fulfilled all her Head Girl duties before dinner, leaving her evening free. While she was certain that he'd gone on with his research and experimentation in the last two weeks, she felt painfully behind in hers. She decided to do what she did best—study. She ate a very quick meal, grabbed a snack for later and went straight to the Restricted Section.
An hour later, she found herself surrounded by books. She pulled everything she could find on Legilimency, telepathy, empathy and shared dreams. She knew the basics of Legilimency but decided that was where she should start. Maybe if she understood it better, it would be easier to replicate it. She read for another hour before stopping to use the loo and have a small snack. As she nibbled, she considered what she had read. While it hadn't offered any clues for the potion, it gave her a lot to think about. Having been exposed to Professor Snape, Dumbledore and Voldemort for so long, she had taken for granted that Legilimency was a very specialized and rare skill. It took a great deal of power and control to wield. A true master was able to not only choose when and who they used this skill on but also exactly which thoughts and memories to pull forward.
She knew more about Occlumancy since Harry had studied with Professor Snape for a time and then with Dumbledore himself. It was exceptionally rare to be a master at both Legilimency and Occlumancy, as Professor Snape was. Had it not been for that singular skill set, she feared the war would've turned out quite differently. He'd been able to give the appearance of letting Voldemort read his mind, but had in fact carefully chosen which memories to offer, saving their entire way of life.
At that moment, she couldn't help but love him a little more. She mentally kicked herself for her own foolishness and got back to work.
Yet another hour had gone by and she thought maybe she was finally getting somewhere. In a very old tome on Divination of all things, she found mention of a common plant called salvia divinorum that when harvested and contained correctly, gave the user temporary telepathy. The old fortune-telling Charlatans used it to lure in paying customers by telling them exactly what was worrying them. The effects of salvia were short-lived, however. She made a note to see if Professor Snape could preserve it in the potion. That would allow each person involved to read the others. The Shared Dream potion only let one person dictate the dream but had all the other ingredients to limit the exchange to just the participants. Maybe if they took out what caused them to sleep and put in what she found, it would lead them in the right direction.
Could it be that easy? She'd come to learn that most things that sounded too good to be true, usually were. Still she was excited to tell Professor Snape what she'd discovered and see if he knew anything about the plant. She wrote down the steps the books said were necessary for harvest and then quickly cleaned up her mess, shelved her books and left the library. It was almost 10pm by the time she left. She assumed he'd be starting his patrol soon so she headed in that direction.
“One would think that a Gryffindor Know-it-all would not be so foolish as to roam the dungeons after curfew.” His voice rang out in the darkness, a little louder than necessary. She assumed he was trying to sneak up and startle her. Fortunately, she’d felt the small tingle in her spine that alerted her to his presence an instant before he spoke. She would not appear weak to him, regardless of her admission the week prior. She turned slowly to face him.
“Actually, sir, I was looking for you.” Her tone was much more casual than she felt. She suddenly realized she was standing too close to him in a very dark hallway.
“And what, Miss Granger, could be so important that it could not wait until class tomorrow?” His words were harsh and still too loud but she could feel that he wasn’t angry. Was someone listening? She decided to err on the side of caution and keep her words guarded.
“I had a question about our assignment, sir.”
“Well, then, what it is it?” he said impatiently.
“Just something I noted in the library, sir,” she said calmly, handing him her notes. He skimmed the parchment, raising an eyebrow. He looked up at her, a ghost of a smile flickering for a split second. “I wanted to see what you thought before it was due tomorrow, sir.” He glanced back down at the parchment then nodded, understanding. He handed her notes back to her before speaking.
“It is a valid point, Miss Granger,” he snapped, “however, not one that warranted breaking school rules.” She felt disappointment wash over her but tried not to show it. “You will serve detention with me tomorrow at 8 p.m.” This time she fought to keep the grin off her face.
“Yes, Professor,” she said, as resigned as she could, hanging her head in mock shame.
“Now straight to the tower with you,” he said, then paused and looked hard at her. “Do not dawdle.”
“Yes, sir.” Fear trickled down her spine. Was something lurking in the shadows that he was protecting her from? She hurried along as he directed, just in case.
Once she was in the safely of her rooms, she allowed herself the elation she felt. Not only had he been pleased with her discovery, but he had given her detention so that she could accompany him in the Forbidden Forest to harvest. To work properly, the salvia had to be harvested at the new moon, shrouded in complete darkness.
She fell asleep with a smile, still laughing at a joke only she would find funny. She was Head Girl, curfew rules didn’t apply to her.