I told McGonagall about what I'd be doing this weekend. She smiled at me and commended me on following her advice. I merely stood there during her praise, then told her she could reach me either late Saturday night or Sunday should anything come up. Not wanting to make a bigger fuss, I quickly returned to my office, and to work.
Friday afternoon I briefly considered my wardrobe. Potter was trying to show he meant what he'd said about starting over; I felt enough had happened that I could finally forgive a boy for his father's mistakes. I hoped that a sense of 'new' about me would help ease the passage. With this in mind, I swung the doors of my closet wide open.
To most, I would imagine the interior of my clothes cabinet would be a boring place. There were many who assumed, and a few who commented, that I wore the same thing every day. Far from it. Even glancing about, I was able to discern how one vest was more worn than another, how this cloak was made of a different material than that, and so on. My penchant for detail translated into my work; only the best ingredients yield the best potions.
I felt myself drifting off track, and walked into the small room. Toward the back wall, where a full length mirror stood, were my 'special' clothes. Here I had two vests of velvet in crimson and emerald, a mimic of my usual uniform in rich sapphire, dress robes of midnight fabric with silver buttons pairing a deep forest green cloak, and a pair of dragonhide boots. While my dress robes were too formal for this occasion (or really any occasion I could readily think of), and I felt that going out in jewel toned blue was far too much for right now, I felt a vest would be quite acceptable.
In a few minutes I was wearing my emerald vest beneath my teacher's cloak, dragonhide boots padding softly down the hall. I thought I might change the boots before I left, but for now I enjoyed their comfort and inability of getting tangled in yards of weave. The comfort they gave also allowed for a quicker pace down the corridor, something I noted for later.
When I reached the Great Hall, I was greeted by the enticing scent of breakfast. I took my seat in front of a plate of sourdough toast wrapped around thick sausage and helped myself to some, before being a little different and filling my goblet full of strawberry juice. Immediately I dug in, hoping to get a good portion down before I was slowed by conversation.
"Well, this is a surprise." Minerva's voice proceeded her arrival, as she sat down beside me. Luckily, I managed not to groan.
"Being early?" I mused.
"The outfit." She slid an omelet onto her plate.
I sipped my drink. "I felt wearing my emerald doublet would be a sign I, too, am trying to start things over with Potter."
"You can forgive the past now?"
I thought a moment chewing as I did. I swallowed and answered. "I can. I do."
She nodded and cut another bite from her food. "Where are you meeting them today?"
"The Three Broomsticks."
"Not Madame Puddifoot's again?"
I shuddered. "No."
She took another bite. "No chance of you losing your temper today, I trust?"
I slowly took another bite, savoring, before I answered. "Not likely. We'll be in public, and I know the insults they could hurl at me."
"What about the compliments?"
I looked at her. "I don't quite understand."
"Insults you can handle. What if they decide to be nice to you? Can you handle making friends?"
I sipped from my goblet. "Potter I could be friends with. Miss Granger will still be a student whom I'm on fairly good terms with."
"It's 'Miss' Granger now?"
I scowled. "A problem?"
She looked at her plate. "No, not at all."
I ignored her smirk and continued. "I'm putting things behind me, Minerva. She's not so insufferable anymore."
"She's a very bright, kind girl, and I'm glad you're realizing it."
Again I scowled. "The only thing I'm realizing is she can help when she tries to... and perhaps, she's not so bad."
"I have to get back to my rooms now."
"Did you check on if the subjects whom your seventh years will be Polymorphing are aware of it?"
It was my turn to nod. "Of course. All have been notified, though we do have a pair gender swapping this year."
"I'll ward the bathrooms."
I bowed slightly and left.
A few blessedly quiet minutes later and I was finally ready to go. I decided against changing my boots; I didn't wear them often and they were comfortable enough to put me in a good mood. Experience told me that Granger would be early, so when I walked up to my office, I checked. Sure enough, she was there, this time wearing a long light blue wool dress over white stockings.
"Good morning, Professor Snape."
"Good morning, Miss Granger. Do you think if we left now, we'd be early?"
"It would just mean we could get our drinks early."
"Ah. Then by all means." I opened the door for her this time, and we left.
This time there was no rush, so we enjoyed a more breezy stroll.
"I haven't ever seen Peeves down here in the dungeons. Is there a reason for that?"
"There is." I felt my mood lighten as we walked down the hall chatting. I wondered what could have been causing it, and settled on the boots. "The Bloody Baron is House Slytherin's ghost. Peeves never comes down here, because he never knows when the Bloody Baron will show himself."
"But I seldom ever see that ghost."
I lowered my voice; even though we were alone, I didn't want to create an echo that would carry upstairs to where Peeves could be. "Truth be told, the Baron doesn't usually come down to where the classrooms are. He tries to stay closer to Ravenclaw's house; I think you know why."
She nodded. "I'll remember that if I ever need to get away from him in a hurry."
We continued talking easily like that all the way down to where the carriage was (magic driven, I steered), and were still conversing when I pulled up in front of the Three Broomsticks. A wave of my hand and it went to park itself while we kept talking. By now, the conversation had turned back to Potions.
"I am not going to let you know, Miss Granger."
"But Slughorn said we'd need to know Amortentia, Veritaserum, Polyjuice Potion, and Felix Felicis by the end of our Seventh Year, and right now we're doing Polyjuice, so it would make sense-"
"I will not discuss it, and you are far too bright for your own good."
"So we are doing those potions."
"Why don't you order yourself a drink? Mention that you'd also like to pick up Professor Snape's order, too. They know what my favorite is."
I handed her the money for our drinks and waved her off. She sighed, then went over to the bar. I picked a spot for us near to the window, so we'd be able to see Potter coming and bring him over.
A few minutes later and she had returned with two tall snifters. She passed one to me, and I drank deeply.
"What did you get?" I asked, curious.
"Butterbeer with ginger. I much prefer it with ginger."
I looked at her quizzically. "I always get that drink myself."
She looked at me curiously and sipped hers. We each drank in silence for a few minutes, before a slam of a glass on the table and the scrape of a chair caused us both to jump.
Harry Potter, his crazy hair tamed slightly by length, sat down. More surprised than startled by his sudden appearance, I looked him over. Again I marveled at how old he looked, especially up close; his trials had definitely aged him. Despite that though, he had a warm smile for Hermione, and a respectful handshake for me.
"Did you Apparate?" I inquired.
"Yeah. Hey Hermione. Hey... Professor." He said awkwardly. "Umm... Nice vest, Sir."
"Potter, you don't have to call me Professor. I don't teach you anymore."
"Would your first name be alright?"
I nodded. "Same for you?"
He returned the nod.
"I'm glad that was worked out," Granger cut in, "but if you don't mind, what am I called?"
"Don't be foolish Miss Granger," I said. "You're my student still."
"It will be a very awkward meeting if you are calling Harry by his first name and he your first name, but I am 'Miss Granger' to you and you are 'Professor' to me."
This has to be a woman problem. "I can't go around being on first name basis with my students, Granger. Especially in such a public place. The papers would have a field day."
"Actually you wouldn't have to worry about that." Harry interjected over his mug.
"And why not P- Harry?" I asked.
He grinned at the slip up, but continued. "Really, the same reason I don't mind being here with nothing to disguise who I am. The new Ministry has taken to personally editing the Prophet, along with the other main magazines and materials. Only, instead of before, where they were doing it to avoid 'fear mongering'," I rolled my eyes, remembering the Ministry of before, "they want to make sure nothing slanderous or in bad character is written. Which means two things: Rita Skeeter is now officially out of work, and as long as you don't go snogging a student in public, it won't end up in the papers."
"Well, that's a relief." Hermione said.
"Why? Planning on being snogged by a teacher in private?" Harry ventured.
"Should I report you Miss Granger?" I smiled coolly over my drink.
"No!" Hermione exclaimed. "And Harry, when did you become Fred?" She rubbed her forehead a moment, then continued. "I just meant... Well, now there's not much of an excuse not to call me by my first name, I think. At least here. As... friends."
There's that word again. "You can't be my friend Miss Granger. You are a valued student, but we can't have a personal attachment."
"You heard the man Granger."
She scowled at Harry, then turned back to me.
"I like your vest." she ventured.
I could have slapped my forehead.
Harry started. "I think, if you called him Professor still, and he called you Hermione, it would be alright."
I looked at her. "Does that sound fitting to you?"
"I can live with that, Professor."
"Then it shall be, Hermione. Until we return to school. None of this silliness there."
She rolled her eyes, then blinked. "Sorry, Professor. Alright, I agree."
"Good. Then, I propose we move past this and enjoy our drinks." Harry raised his mug to us all. We joined, and together drained our glasses.
The sun was setting as we exited the sweet shop. I had to admit, I'd enjoyed myself. Harry, given the chance, was down to earth and good company, and we spoke easily about shared tragedies. I'd spent the day telling him what his mother had been like, and he in turn told me how it was to grow up not knowing anything about magic. Hermione knew everything. Every time I saw something, or commented on something, she had something to say that clarified it, or made it more interesting. She also corrected me on more things than I had ever been corrected on in my life. What surprised me the most about it was I didn't mind. It felt easy, easier than I thought it would, talking to people who, a few short months ago, I wanted almost nothing to do with. I wondered what had put me in such a good mood. Again I settled on the boots.
Another light snow began to fall. I looked up at the clouds; a large storm could be seen rolling in. I turned to the others, still sorting through their purchases. "It's starting to snow."
Harry looked up with me, noticing the same thing. "I'd better get back. Hermione? Did you want me to send a message to Ron?"
She gave me a sideways glace, suddenly dismal, then shook her head. "No."
Harry looked at me, questioning. I shook my head an inch, warning him to not make an issue. He got the hint, and put a hand on her shoulder. "Take care then."
She started for the carriage. I was going to walk after her, but Harry called me back. "Severus? Could I... a word?"
I turned and walked back to him. He stood silent for a moment.
"Is she doing alright?"
I sighed. "Honestly Harry... No, I don't think she is. I have reason to believe she only talks to me, and that only because she doesn't have to do the Potions assignment right now; she knows how to do a Polyjuice Potion already."
He almost smiled, but it slipped off his face. "Are you taking care of her?"
My gaze flickered. "The Headmistress asked me to when I returned to teach."
"McGonagall... Yeah, she would do that."
A few moments of uncomfortable silence followed.
"She's like a sister to me, sir. If she thinks it won't work out with Ron, well, that's her choice but..."
"We just have to show her she can depend on us. Questioning her decisions right now would be a very bad idea." I looked toward where she'd gone. "She's stubborn enough that she'll do what she wants, no matter what it is."
"Right. Thanks Professor."
The snow was coming down harder.
"I'll be getting back now."
"Take care Harry."
A pop, and he was gone.
I walked over to where Hermione stood waiting for me.
"Ready, Miss Granger."
I climbed in and helped her up.
She didn't say anything. I could tell she was having mixed feelings, probably about the good time she'd had seeing her friend, but the pain at being reminded of Ron. I came to a decision of my own and let out a long sigh.
"What is it, sir?" she asked, looking my way.
"We'll be doing Veritaserum and Amortentia at the same time, and Felix Felicis last, finishing right before your N.E.W.T."
Understanding of what I was saying dawned on her face, and for a moment she looked overjoyed, before she faded into suspicion. "Why are you telling me this?"
I thought for a moment. "I don't really know myself. But, I do what you to know that, even if as student and teacher we can't be friends, you can depend on me."
She didn't reply. Together we neared the castle, reaching it just in time to watch the snow turn gold as it fell over a vast white landscape.