Feeling My Age
It was roughly three hours after I closed the door with Hermione, that I stopped kidding myself and realized I would not be getting any natural sleep tonight.
At first, I was going to go to my cupboard, pick up a random sleeping potion, and be out in no time. However, it was Saturday going into Sunday, my work was caught up, I was not expected to be anywhere, and this was hopefully the first of many sleepless nights that was caused for a pleasant reason. Bemused, I climbed out of bed, and decided to stay awake.
I considered a shower. It was always relaxed me before, even after the Cruciatus Curse, but I was afraid of my feelings washing away with the water. This was unfamiliar territory, and I wanted to spend time dissecting the day in a way that wouldn't let me forget. I pulled a silk shirt over my head, and put on some tea.
It started with McGonagal's letter and package. I remembered wondering what she could be thinking... and then not caring about anything. I didn't feel suspicious, or any desire to Floo to her office and discuss the meaning of this. Only now do I realize the strangeness of that, so unlike myself. But... I thought as I paced in front of the fire, I did want to spend some time with Hermione...
What I said when she fell... that was more like me. I make no apologies for that. I truly hadn't thought of helping her up, something that seems so obvious, but no one had ever asked me to help them up before. The sight of her taking my offered hand brought a smile to my face. But, I hadn't been used to trust long enough to refrain from being a bit distant as we parted. I perhaps, could have said more..
Pouring a cup with only the slightest bit of milk and sugar, I sat down in a chair, tossing my hair behind my shoulders. The warmth from the tea passed through the ceramic holder and into my hands, relaxing me while bringing my mind to events later.
What had transpired between when Hermione left, and when she appeared at my door the next morning, seemed miniscule and unimportant. And to be fair, it was. Much of the work during this time fell on the students; my work to teach them was nearly over for the year. All were papers, and my eyes were all too used to deciphering even the worst quill scratch. I had risen, ready with the dawn, taken a shower, and grabbed one of my nicer robes. I felt it was enough. I felt that, if I wore this, then it would be a usual meeting in Hogsmeade, where I was her teacher, taking my student out for a break from work, while I had a relaxing weekend as well. I shook my head, then sipped my tea. She had seen right through my clever schemes, and put me in my place very quickly.
My throat nearly caught, remembering what I had worn. The shirt and pants that were now laying in the laundry to be cleaned had been something I pulled out of a box in my closet, almost forgotten. I had worn them, and the other articles in there, many years ago when I was close to the age I was again. I was a young Death Eater, freshly introduced to the world, ready to be something, still hurt from James and Lily and trying to take my mind off them any way I could. The outfits had been there when I was not attending meetings and trying to distance myself from the person I was becoming as best I could. When my humanity had slowly given way to fear and hopelessness, I put the clothes away. When I became a teacher, I put the box in my closet, thinking I would never need it but wanting to keep them. When she screamed at me that I had to wear something short sleeved or she wouldn't go with me, the part of me that didn't want to curse her remembered the clothes in the box. I put some on.
I got up from my tea to walk over to my work station. A wave of my hand, and a small cauldron appeared, already full of a mixture that was not done. I busied myself rummaging through my cupboard for things to add to it... powdered lilac, soft pearls of a blue-green hue, lavender grown in the same soil as the roses already in the potion, and a dove's feather. My mind was only half on my task, the other was walking in the corridor, Hermione close behind me. She had put me at ease quickly; obvious that she noticed, but remarkable that she tried. After that...
I'd felt intrigued at her knowing a spell I didn't, and even an action I didn't. Skating down the path, hearing her ask me for a race, I felt like the years really had rolled backward, and I was out with Lily. I felt exactly like my young self again, and laughed like hadn't in years. It faded when I got to Hogsmead and stepped into the inn, I remember. I also remember how unnerved I was when she began talking.
I almost dropped my mortar and pestle, remembering her speech. Dear Lord, I was sure she was going to tell me she felt something for me, or else that somehow, somewhere along the way I'd given up my game and she knew. I almost fell off my chair when she said it was because of the Headmaster job. I slapped my forehead, thinking about it, and rolled my eyes. And I'd thought I was socially awkward. But even then, she demonstrated she cared, by trying to put things into perspective. She hadn't meant harm, she thought she was helping, and just the messenger. Another note in how I'd changed: before, I probably would have ripped her head off.
I looked at the table. The things I had pulled out were ground, pressed, or otherwise chopped. I added them to the mixture, and then stirred seven times clockwise, and thirteen times counterclockwise. The potion instantly went from dark purple to a light pink lavender with a pearly sheen. I breathed in the memory at the end of the day, when she was on my back, talking to me like an old friend, telling me she'd miss me after I was gone. I felt a mixture of emotions, with part of me wanting to pretend I hadn't done anything so silly and lovesick, and the other part of me secretly thrilled that I had acted that way. Like I was fresh out of school and out with a girl I fancied.
I turned my head quickly to the fireplace, to see Harry's face in the flames. "Harry?" I walked over, incredulous. "What are you doing here?"
"I knew you'd be awake, and I wanted to know how it went today with Hermione."
I blinked. "How did you know I went with Hermione?"
"She told me. Just got done talking to her, as a matter of fact. She seemed to have a really good time." He didn't seem to be trying to hide his amusement. "So... What happened? Did you do the things we talked about?"
I sighed. "Is this really the time?"
"Aw come on!" he replied. "We're just two young dudes talking about the chicks we dig, yo."
"Where do you come up with this nonsense? Have you been reading American books recently?"
"Are you going to let me come through?"
I sighed, rolling my eyes. Finally I waved my hand. "Come on." I turned to clean up my work station as the fire roared and Harry stepped through onto my carpet.
I saw him nod in approval as he brushed himself off. "So this is what it's like in the rooms of the venerable Potions Master." He sniffed the air. "Hey, it smells amazing in here."
"Don't get used to it." I growled. "I was just whipping up a small batch of Amortentia."
Harry's eyes danced. "You dog."
I rolled mine. "It's nothing like anything you're thinking."
"I'm thinking you make the potion because you spend the day with her and at the end of it still wish you were smelling her perfume."
I sighed. "It... might possibly be something like what you're thinking."
He clasped a hand on my shoulder. "It's love mate. It makes us do crazy things."
"Like talk to a former student when I'm wearing night clothes?"
"Nice silk pajamas by the way."
"Are you going to be here long?"
"As long as it takes you to tell me what happened today. I got Hermione's side. She's still utterly clueless about your feelings for her. But there were some parts there that I just had to get your take on."
I dropped my shoulders. "Like what?"
"Like when you took her all over town and said you wanted to meet her parents."
"Oh yeah. She walked up on Molly Weasley being concerned about my breaking Hermione's heart accidentally. I told Hermione we were throwing her a surprise party. We should probably start planning for that by the way." He kept looking at me, not to be distracted. Finally I sighed."Sit down. If I'm going to have this conversation, we should be comfortable. All right, so I let myself go a bit."
"It seems like you let yourself go a lot."
"Well, how was I supposed to act? She's sitting there across the table from me, looking..."
"Beautiful?" Harry suggested.
I put a hand to my forehead. "Do you understand how odd it is to have this conversation with you?"
He gave me a blank look. "A few years ago, my best friend was attacked in front of me by disembodied, tentacled brains."
I stared at him. "That... does give some perspective." He nodded. "I suppose I can loosen up a bit about this discussion." He nodded faster. I put my hand down, lightly, onto the arms of the chair and tilted my head back. "Yes, she looked beautiful. Isn't that weird? Before, I never thought she was beautiful. I could barely stand being in the same room with her. And I probably wouldn't have even noticed a difference, if it hadn't been for those orders to keep an eye on her. Obvious now, why they choose me. I had the most time for her, and the most past with her. The most amazing thing about it, is if it wasn't for that stupid Polyjuice Potion stunt you kids pulled in your second year, and I have always known it was you three, she would have had to attend the full potions class this year. But you had, and I knew she'd already successfully made it; no point in teaching someone the same potion twice. So she sat with me instead. And we talked. And I learned so much about her, without trying. Then that day in Hogsmeade... But I'm getting off topic. Yes, she looked beautiful. And she was talking to me like I was just a friend, a random young man she had decided to go out with. I felt like I had to do something for her, had to be with her... And then we were sitting there, outside Honeydukes, with all this candy." I laughed. "Candy. She wanted sugar quills, and she forced me into lemon drops. Did she tell you?" He nodded. I kept talking. "I just felt so... comfortable. Like the years were melting away, and I was a student at Hogwarts again, but I didn't feel like I was talking to Lily. I mean, the emotion was kind of the same, but it was... different. I was sitting next to her, and I knew that she knew everything about me. Everything there ever was to know, and I wanted to talk to her about it, let her know even more about me. And about her. And she was interested, Harry. Such a strong mind... And she was interested in what I had to say about my life. I just... forgot everything. And... I wanted to meet her parents. Meet the people who had raised this amazing woman."
There was a minute of silence, while I stared at the ceiling, waiting for Harry to respond. The fire crackled. "It sounds like you really love her."
I slapped my hands on the chair. "I can't love her, Harry."
"Because she's still a student. And I'm a teacher. And I'm no good at this kind of thing."
"Yeah, that sounds more like you. Self loathing." I waved him off, but he kept on. "However you say you feel, I know you care about her. It's obvious. It was obvious to me when she told me you gave her a piggy-back ride to the castle, and magically skated with her down the path, and pretended she was asleep to Filch so you could carry her to her rooms. You're different when you're with her, and maybe just about everyone is blind to it, but I'm not. I'm her best friend, and I was your student, and now I can safely call myself your friend. She does something to you, the same thing Ginny does to me. She makes you feel warm, like your whole body is tingling on the inside."
I kept my eyes on the floor. "It could just be my blood pressure rising." I muttered.
I saw him smile. "That also happens."
He was quiet for a few minutes. So was I. His next question nearly floored me. "Are you gonna snog?"
Correct that. It did floor me. I got up from the rug to glare ice cicles at him through my hair. "What?"
"If she likes you, she'll want to."
"What makes you think she likes me?"
"She favors your class over any other class."
"That doesn't mean much."
"Severus, Molly Weasley teaches here."
I ran my hand through my hair. Then I gave him a look that I had never given anyone else: a pleading one. "Harry, what do I do?"
He tapped his fingers on the chair. "Hermione said you were going to tell her something after semesters are over. I imagine it has to do with your feelings." I nodded. "Do you still want to wait until the end of the year to tell her?"
The reminder of our discussion earlier and my promise made me feel solid. I took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Yes. I have to, anyway."
"Then, I suggest you enjoy your time, talk to me if you really feel like you have no clue how to proceed, and take a potion that gives you dreamless sleep."
I tilted my head. "Why do I need a Potion of Dreamless Sleep?"
He shook his head to the side slowly, smiling. "Trust me, you'll need one."
With that, he got up, waved good-bye, and Flooed out, leaving me feeling more confused with what had happened than before.