Understanding your Allegiance

Ghick and Choc-Chip

Snape took a moment before he followed her to pinch the bridge of his nose impatiently. Manly chat? If youths like Potter and Weasley are what counts for men these days women take heed. At the thought of women his mind turned straight back to Hermione. She had seemed so despondent when bearing the brunt of everyone's displeasure, but had rallied magnificently. Lying like a professional. I wonder what she's lied to me about? Shaking himself from his reverie he flooed to Diagon Alley.

~

On the other side of the fireplace Hermione stepped out of the hearth and walked over to the window looking out into the street. Harry was acting just like the teachers, but he was less able to control the emotions on his face. He knew the reasons for the professors not wanting her to do the project, and she'd bet her bottom knut Ron was about to be filled in too in her absence.Trust Snape to be mysterious about what Harry had probably learned in twenty minutes. Everything was always made easy for the boy-who-lived.

Hermione sighed and attempted to smooth her hair in the mirror of the window, she was always very aware of what she looked like in front of Snape. Ever since that incident with her teeth.

The fireplace glowed green and Snape stepped out. "We're going to take a short diversion Miss Granger."

He stalked out of the room onto the street and Hermione had to walk quickly to keep up with his long strides.

"Where are we going sir?"

"Knockturn Alley. I trust you're up to it?"

Hermione's step faltered for a moment, but not from fear. She had deeply jealous of Harry when he accidentally found himself in Knockturn Alley but had only tried to get there herself once, when she'd been alone with her parents. But at one glimpse of the place they had redirected her away from it. "Yes sir."

Snape glanced down at the witch beside him, impressed at her attitude. His first misadventure down the Alley had been attempted with a lot more trepidation on his part. She wasn't naïve of what was done there, the Potter boy had been caught there once. With surprise he watched her bring her wand out from her pocket into her cloak pocket so it was closer to hand.

"I doubt you will need that today Granger."

Hermione looked up at him with a dry smile, "Constant vigilance Sir." She said in a near perfect imitation of Moody.

Snape didn't even pause at the intersection between Diagon and Knockturn Alley but Hermione did. Thus far it was everything she remembered from her brief look with her parents. Dirty, dark and squalid. The shop signs were near indecipherable; clearly you were expected to just know what you were looking for. Hermione felt a tug towards it; she wanted to be one of those in the know. With a grin, she followed after Snape, at a quick jog to catch him up.

Snape cut a commanding figure amongst all the scum that were loitering in the street. Hermione found it easiest just to walk directly behind him. The homeless and what she could only assume to be whores didn't even try to interact with him. When he stopped outside a small shop Hermione had been looking to one side and bumped into his back, she nearly fell over backwards but he grabbed her hand and steadied her.

"This is our destination Granger, it's a bookshop that sells rare potions texts. I already own many of them in the private study so don't waste your time loading yourself up with them. We are looking for one in particular. It's called 'Loss of thy foes potency' referring of course to magical potency. It will not be easy to find, as copies are usually reported to be small and battered."

He held open the shops door for her. "After you."

Hermione didn't take a deep breath, she didn't touch her wand for reassurance and she didn't waver. She walked in with her head held high and was met by wall to wall bookcases, with a few piles of books sprawled in the corners of the small room. She was tempted to run her hand along the titles, but looked back at Snape before she did so.

"Is it safe to touch them Sir?" Snape raised an eyebrow.

"Once bitten twice shy Granger? What dark texts have you come across?"

Hermione smiled at him innocently, "None sir of course, but one does hear stories."

"It's perfectly safe."

Hermione turned back to the books and caressed their spines carefully, lost in the beautiful moment she felt before devoting herself to an activity that would enrich her. With a happy sigh she turned her head sideways so she could read the titles, and lost herself in the search.

When she found the book, she had a crick in her neck and wasn't sure she was right. The writing was small and very faint. She pulled it off the shelf and opened it. The pages were brown and damaged, potion mixtures staining many of the pages. She clicked her tongue in irritation.

"I've found it sir, but its in deplorable condition."

Snape held out his hand for it and she gave it to him. "Many potions masters in the past didn't feel that organised, tidy notes were important, gave no thought that their research would be useful in posterity. It would be a work of a lifetime just to sort many old wizards filing systems. Well done Granger, this is hard book to spot."

He turned and rapped smartly on a desk. A small weedy man that reminded Hermione sharply of a mole scuttled in from a back room, he had thick glasses and a sickly pallor you got from rarely venturing outside. "Master Snape." He simpered. "How can I help you today?" He peered past him myopically. "Perhaps your lady friend would be interested in something…"

"No Ghick, I have what I came for. "

Hermione flushed at Ghicks insinuation, but Snape ignored it so she did her best to keep her face blank. Though she did arrange her hair so the Hogwarts shield on her cloak was visible.

"Sorry Sir my mistake of course."

The man Ghick took the book from Snapes grasp and bent under his desk to get a bag. "Although she seems too old for a student yes indeed Ghick is sure she's a graduate if she's a day." Hermione had to control the urge to laugh, this man was muttering in the same manner the house elf at Grimmauld place used to, thinking no one could hear him.

Snape turned back to her and looked her up and down. "Your use of the time turner in you third year does make you look older than you should be."

"Oh!" Hermione hadn't thought of that before. Her blush at being looked up and down so frankly by him faded while she chewed over this new bit of information. So she was older than everyone else in her year, it certainly explained why she felt many of them to be so immature. Snape had taken the book in the brown bag Ghick had given him. "Put it on my tab Ghick, and send me the bill at the end of the month."

"Yes Sir."

Snape turned to leave and Hermione followed him unenthusiastically, she would have liked to have browsed longer.

"If you're ready Granger we will return now to Hogwarts."

"A field trip isn't complete without something to eat Sir, can we go and get an ice cream?"

"In this weather? And we are not in a field."

Hermione stifled a chuckle. "A field trip is a general term for an educational excursion organised by a school in the muggle world sir. I always thought Hogwarts would provide them, but this is the closest I've got. And ice cream is always welcome."

Snape was ready to put her back in her place, as he would do any other student. But that inexplicable urge to impress her reared its head again. "Very well, I was never one to pass up an opportunity to learn. Field trips without fields, and a ritual involving eating. Would the ice cream parlour in Diagon Alley suffice?"

"It would be perfect Sir." Hermione had no idea where her guts had come from to suggest getting ice cream of all things. It was spur of the moment and could have gone very wrong, so very Gryffindor. She just hadn't wanted to go back quite yet. To face the interrogations from Ron and Ginny, and she hadn't eaten in hours. Her blood sugar would be low. That was it, her decision was purely practical. It wasn't that she wanted to spend more time alone with him at all.

Snape ordered a mint choc chip cornet much to Hermione's amusement. "Does your role as head of Slytherin dictate what colour your food should be too professor?"

Snape glared over at her choice. "At least mine is a proper flavour Granger, what is that?" He jabbed his spoon towards her snack as he spoke, amusement underpinning his rough tone.

"Well its mostly Vanilla…"

Hermione had opted for a favourite of hers, not strictly ice cream but with ice cream in it.

"Mostly."

"Well it's a carrot cake milkshake sir, so that's carrot cake and milk in there as well. But it's also got vanilla ice cream in it."

Snape made a face. "Carrot cake?" Then he grinned. "Which is if I'm not mistaken, orange. And orange and red are…?"

"Gryffindor colours." Hermione raised her glass to him in a salute.

"I suppose we've more in common than you'd expect of a Slytherin and a Gryffindor." Said Snape quietly. Concentrating on his ice cream he put into action his plan. "On the subject of our two houses, how are you and Malfoy getting along?"

Hermione took a sip of her milkshake to think. "It's ok. I mean we're not friends or anything. We've both said or done too much to rectify that. But we're civil, which has got to be the most hoped of us."

"Why is that? You have more in common with Draco than with Potter or Weasley. His intellect, your twin level of maturity and your responsibilities as heads."

"That's true I suppose, but there's too much history to contend with. Plus we are at war, and with the allegiance of his family…but yeah. Its a manageable situation."

"You know little of allegiances Granger, but you will."

Hermione wasn't sure what he meant by that, so replied evasively."Well it's true I haven't joined the war yet, but it wasn't much of a choice was it? The order or the Deatheaters. And I'm a muggleborn. I mean, if you'd known what you know now when you first joined…"

Hermione tapered off, realising the dangerous territory she was entering. To her surprise, Snape merely chewed the end of his cornet and beckoned for the bill.

"I think its time we returned to Hogwarts Miss Granger."

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