I Don't Remember

Real Importance

Severus

In the days following, I got a lot of things taken care of. I got the first positive result from my potion with a cauldron I'd soaked the insides with didn't melt when a first year's potion became a highly corrosive acid. I spoke with McGonagall about where I would be going and recieved a smile and an extra piece of chocolate cake, which I ate on principle. I went through my closet and found some clothes with color on them, before I realized what the heck I was doing and grabbed my normal robes with a winter cloak. I also managed to get everything graded, sorted, and ready for my first class Monday by skipping dinner on Friday and having food brought to my office. Having made sure that taking Saturday 'off' wouldn't put me far behind on my work, I went to sleep easy and woke with the dawn.

I dressed quickly, slipping on my boots before the sunlight started coming into my window. I decided I would wait for the more personal grooming until after breakfast; so, stomach growling, I headed up to the Great Hall.

I was nearly alone. Professor Sinistra, who'd returned to continue teaching astronomy (thus keeping the same crazed hours as I do) was there, along with a few 5th year students with books in front of them, gnawing on bacon while they studied for their O.W.L.s. Not dissuaded, I headed for my place at the Head Table and sat down to a plate of waffles with ham on the side.

Roughly a quarter of my meal had been eaten when the chair next to me scrapped and the Headmistress sat down next to me. "Good morning, Severus."

Rather than answer with a full mouth, I raised my goblet of pumpkin juice to her. She grabbed a bowl of oatmeal dotted with raisins and began her own meal. After a few bites and a pleasant smile at the taste, she looked to me. "Are you ready to escort Miss Granger to her visit with Misters Potter and Weasley?"

I nodded my head.

"And does she know where she should go to meet you?"

I nodded again.

"Are you prepared, should anything go wrong?"

I nodded, taking a moment to swallow before answering. "All the precautions are in order. I have the personal Portkeys, a few bars of chocolate, and the spare Invisibility Cloaks you ordered for us."

"Good." I shook my head slightly and turned back to my food. "Then all there is to do is meet her. When is that, by the way?"

I tossed her an irritated look. "Roughly an hour from now. I hope to finish my meal before then."

She reflected my look back at me. "You will have plenty of time for getting ready even if you answer my questions. I don't think you see why this is so important."

I flexed my fingers slightly, trying to relieve some tension. "Honestly, I truly don't."

She looked at me like I had told her I'd painted my classroom magenta. "How can you not realize why it's so important that you do this?"

I cut another piece of waffle off. "She's a grown woman, she can take care of herself."

Minerva grabbed my hand and had me look at her. "She's a girl, who made friends with a young boy that ended up being famous for the worst reason, and then ended up being famous herself for that same horrible reason. We're not talking about her taking care of herself. We're talking, Professor Snape, about her learning she can be taken care of."

The strength behind Minerva's voice and words flattened me. I sat staring at her for a full minute before I broke the gaze, feeling slightly ashamed. I was holding someone else to the same rigid standards I held myself, someone who had maybe half the experience I did. I should have known better. I did know better. I took a deep breath and let it out, slowly.

"You're right, Minerva."

She let go of my hand and patted it. "That's all I need from you, Severus. I know how apologies are with you." I nodded. The rest of breakfast passed blessedly quiet, until we ended up rising at the same time.

"I hope to see you when you get back from Hogsmeade to discuss the potion you've finished." I nodded with a soft smile and turned to walk down to my office and personal quarters.

Within 5 minutes I was in my office, taking care of the details to my grooming and appearance to go to Hogsmeade as an official unofficial escort. My last detail was to comb my hair flat so it would stay inside the hood of my cloak, and clasp my Head of Slytherin pendant around my neck. When I was done I found I had 20 minutes left to wait, so I headed into my office to do last minute checks on my stock of ingredients and make sure I had spare vials to give to McGonagall tonight. I heard a noise and found Hermione already waiting at the door, wearing a burgundy sweater over black trousers with a gold ribbon tying her hair back. Hanging on her arm was a long black cloak, lined with fur and her Gryffindor badge pinned to it.

I nodded. "You're wearing your colors. That will help."

"Good to see you too, Professor."

Instead of answering, I ushered her to step back and closed and warded the door. Then I faced her. "How have you been, Granger?"

"Well enough." She looked uncomfortable. I felt the same. "Thank you again for this."

I waved this aside. "Are you ready to go?"

"Yes." She set her jaw again, and set off. I walked a few steps behind her.

"We won't be Apparating. Instead, I thought it was best if I had one of the school's carriages take us, the ones the Thestrals pull, so it seems more like it's a school trip."

She didn't answer, only nodded. Though I was a full head taller, she easily kept her place in front of me as we journeyed through the halls. In almost no time we were exiting the castle and on the grounds. There our steps slowed slightly due to the snow and the slick sloping hills, until we reached the long path where our carriage waited for us.

"Can you see Thestrals?" I asked Hermione as we walked to the doors.

She nodded. "Now I can." I patted it on it's neck, then helped her into the carriage before I climbed in myself and closed the door.

"I won't discuss it."

"Thank you." The sudden movement of the wheels turning on snow silenced them both for a few minutes. I looked out the window. Snow wasn't falling anymore, but I knew there would be at the very least one more snow before the end of February. I looked over at Granger, who was clenching the edge of her seat and looking pale. I looked back out the window.

"Where are we meeting them?" I asked.

"Madam Puddifoot's."

I felt sick.

"You don't have to go in if you don't want to."

"No, no it's fine." I swallowed hard to keep my breakfast down. "I want to be there for you."

"Are you feeling alright Professor?" I nodded, not trusting myself to speak. "You're looking green, and being nice to me."

I nodded again, finally getting my stomach back under control. "I'm not being nice, I'm being decent."

She looked back out the window. I hoped that meant she'd dropped it, but I'd been wrong about women before.

Roughly ten minutes later and I was walking in the snow next to her. We were both wearing our cloaks, though her hood was down and mine was up, toward the tea shop. Granger entered first, and I took a deep breath, then followed.

When I entered, the couples who previously had been nestled, snogging or whatever else they'd been up to, stopped and quickly hid behind menus. I rolled my eyes, but the pink ceiling did little to keep the disgusted feeling at bay. I always avoided this place like the plague. Quietly I whispered to Granger, "Why did you choose this place?"

She was scanning the room, but I still heard her response, "They thought we would stick out less here, since it's where most teenagers hang out. We could say you're chaperoning." She saw Potter and Weasley toward the back and ran off. I hung out by the door. A waitress approached me.

"Would you like a menu, sir?"

I would rather be run through by a manticore. "No, thank you. I will just... I'll be outside."

I stepped outside and looked at the sky. It was a clear, cold, powder blue. I sighed, and looked down the rows of shops. I was no drinker, but the thought of spending five minutes longer tempted me to start. I considered walking back in to tell Hermione she could find me at the apothecary when the doors flew open and she ran out. Ron was behind her.

"Come on 'Mione I didn't mean it!" He had grown a short beard as red as his hair, which was longer. It wasn't a good look for him. That was the only thing I saw before a snowball hit him in the face.

"How am I supposed to take it?" I was pleased to see that, whatever she was mad about, she had remembered not to yell his name in the middle of a wizarding town. "You're pretty much telling me what I'm doing is a waste of time!"

"I'm just saying they're giving us jobs and we didn't finish!" He wiped the snow off his face, but it clung to his hair and beard. "You can get one too without having to spend another year here studying this stuff."

"Is that what you think this is? That I'm only doing this for the job?"

"Well... yeah." He walked toward her. Harry appeared at the door. He nodded to me, but didn't intrude on the scene. Ron had put his arms around Hermione, but it didn't seem to have the effect he'd wanted. "I thought you'd want to be spending this time with me. You know... Important stuff."

She almost shoved him. "This is important to me! Its always been important to me. Of course I would want to finish. Don't you care about that?"

He nodded, but I knew from experience his eyes were very guarded. "I care about us, and I want to be with you. You've spent enough time in school, we all have, and I wanted us to move in together."

She wrestled away from him, and over to me. She didn't look at anyone for a few minutes. I thought she was crying, but when she finally spoke, it didn't waver. "It was nice seeing you both, but I think I'm going to head back."

"You want me to send you an owl later?" Harry called from the door. Hermione started to shake her head, then nodded.

"Sure... Tomorrow though, okay?"

She started to walk off. Harry looked to me, then turned and went back inside. Ron didn't look at anything but the door, and he too walked off. I ran after Hermione, closing the distance in a few short steps.

Slowly we walked back to the carriage. Again I loaded her inside, taking care not to bump her on the walls of the interior before I got in myself and latched it closed. I also closed the curtains, so she could have some privacy.

We started moving. It didn't take me long to notice she was shaking more than the back and forth of travel would allow. I stood and allowed the shifting to sit me next to her, so I could speak quietly.

"Are you alright?"

She shook her head slightly. Maybe it was my conversation with Minerva earlier, maybe I was moved by what I'd just witnessed, maybe I was going crazy. Whatever the reason, I lifted my arm with a layer of my cloak and put it around her. She leaned into me, crying softly.

"It's alright Hermione." I patted her shoulder softly. "Pain never lasts forever."

I kept my arm around her, letting her cry until the sudden stop announced us back at the castle.

"You don't have to go in if you don't want to."

She said nothing, merely pulling away slowly to exit the carriage and make the long, joyless walk across the grounds.



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