If you never tell anyone the truth about yourself, eventually you start to forget. The love, the heartbreak, the joy, the despair, the things I did that were good, the things I did that were shameful - if I kept them all inside, my memories of them would start to disappear. And then I would disappear.
Cassandra Clare, City of Heavenly Fire
All in all, it was not the most restful night, but looking back, Severus often thought of it as the foundation for all that followed, the start of the camaraderie that sprung up between them. If their sympathy and patience hadn't been increased twofold by Hermione's terrors in the night, Severus wasn't sure it wouldn't have come about as it had.
His mood, admittedly, was sour the next morning. Severus tried not to overanalyze it. Pain, frustration, humiliation, vulnerability. Those were ample enough reasons to leave one feeling cross and out of sorts, surely. It could also be explained by the too-close-for-comfort presence and queries of Miss Granger in the night, but Severus was too busy ignoring that host of issues to acknowledge such.
It was hard to maintain too much ire in the face of Miss Granger. She largely ignored or simply allowed his black moods. Often, she raised her eyebrow and gave him a perspicacious look, and sometimes she looked flat out humored and did a poor job of hiding her smirks. Both of these things tended to reduce his anger to wary grumbling. 'What exactly does she see?' The unwelcome answer was, 'Too much!'
Hermione did have bouts of anger and frustration, but, strangely enough, they weren't usually brought on by his own.
Anger flared in her eyes when she took in the damage done to his person in the night. Severus shot her a wary but challenging look.
"Oh, don't worry," she said testily. "I won't go spare on you as it's my fault, and I'll give you credit for having enough sense not to do anything else that will set you back even more."
Severus rather wished for some distance and time alone after the night before, and while Hermione did hie off to different tasks periodically throughout the day, he began to notice a pattern. She would return to the room frustrated and rattled, and his own testy anger would calm her down and bring back her good mood. Severus couldn't account for it.
She spotted his confusion on one of these occasions.
"What?" she asked.
'I regret that my formidable scowl is not affecting the typical, desired outcome, namely your absence. What is wrong with you that my bad mood is putting you into a good one?' was more than he could mime or accomplish with a whispered word or two. She handed him a Muggle notebook and pen, which was when he discovered his vision and fine motor skills left something to be desired. He opted for anger rather than fear and began shredding the paper.
Hermione had the good sense not to laugh at this, but what she did do stunned him. She looked at him for a moment then ripped out a few pages of her own and started shredding them too. Then she sat down next to him grabbed up the litter of pieces, tossed them into the air and charmed them into paper butterflies that danced in a mesmerizing flutter above them. She laughed at the sight and reclined next to him. Before his consternation could be transferred to action, she deflated it.
"If you must know, I prefer your rotten, angry mood to being danced around like I'm about to break," she said waving off in the vague direction of elsewhere. "It's comfortable by comparison, honest, straightforward...leaves it up to me to handle it or not instead of assuming that I can't."
Severus was obviously not the only one who could appreciate that sentiment.
"Ear, ear," said George, entering the room with Harry and Ron. Subdued, self-deprecating humor was evident in his tone. The look on Ron's face was priceless.
"I imagine the Burrow was unbearable that way," Hermione said. "and that it's better to hear Fred's name and it be okay to fall apart if you need to than to hear everyone avoid mentioning Fred or back peddle when they mention him on accident."
Harry looked less startled than Ron, whose look of bafflement and alarm, already in place upon seeing Hermione reclined beside Severus in a room full of paper butterflies, increased upon hearing Hermione talk to George about his deceased twin. It served to amuse Severus out of his black mood. Acting as if Hermione's proximity were acceptable was worth it just to see the look on Ron's face.
"You've no idea," George said, "or apparently you do. Think we can not do what you said...the awkward dancing around it thing?"
Hermione looked at Harry, "Whaddya say, Harry, add 'no walking on eggshells' to 'might as well tell the truth?'"
"Sounds good to me," Harry said.
Ron looked confused. "Why would you walk on eggshells, and what are you talking about?"
"It's a Muggle saying, I guess," Hermione explained. "When someone's sensitive about something and it's like eggshells on the floor you have to try to walk around or trod lightly on so as not to crush them. We'd rather walk through whatever it is, come what may, instead of walking around it. And somewhere along the way, Harry and I started this thing where we give each other honest answers. If we can't tell each other the truth, who can we tell?"
No one answered this rhetorical question. Hermione cocked her head in thought for a moment and then continued. "You know, I've been wondering...If you come through it all different than you were, and you don't find a way to be honest with yourself or anyone else about who you've become, do you then lose who you really are, who you're supposed to be?"
This turned an almost cliché question into a very pertinent and distressing one, even and perhaps especially for Severus. They all looked a little bit sick.
"Right," said George. "Let's not do that bit. 'It is what it is so just say it' and 'No eggshells round here'...and maybe 'Remember them.' It'll be like our manifesto"
Hermione grabbed what was left of the notebook and summoned the pen Severus had thrown in his fit of pique.
"Is she writing it down?" Ron asked.
"Of course. She's Hermione Granger. She's writing it down," George answered with a half grin.
"This feels vaguely familiar," said Harry.
"Well, if you're going to put a nasty hex on it and make us sign it again, what name are we giving ourselves this time?" George asked.
Severus figured this had to do with the infamous Dumbledore's Army. This assumption was furthered when he heard Ron mumble to Harry, "Kinda makes you miss Ginny's flair for names, huh? George didn't have free reign like this last time round. Who knows what we'll wind up with."
In the end, much to Severus' disgust, George had come over all enthused with the 'Super Secret Severus Snape iS AweSome Society' or 7S (SevenS for short), and they'd let him have his way no matter how much Severus shook his head and rolled his eyes. He regarded Hermione with a look of betrayal as she scribed the ridiculous name at the top of the page. Her grin was at least a little commiserating.
Then somehow, they'd moved on to identifying each other's 'issues' which was mixed in with 'remembering' and a fair deal of drinking, which thankfully involved butterbeer, else the four who could drink more than a few sips of milkshake would have passed out dead.
"Well, mine's easy enough...Fred," George said, his eyes glistening. "I remember Fred." He lifted his bottle of butterbeer, they all said "Fred" and took a swig.
"Sectumsempra?" Hermione asked.
Severus stiffened. George fingered the site of his severed ear. "Yeah, maybe so," he said.
"Think we saw a sign of one of yours last night, Hermione," he added. "Imagine yours include Bellatrix and the Malfoy Manor...what else?"
"Greyback," Ron said.
"Being restrained," Harry said.
Hermione nodded. Her eyes looked a bit haunted, but she also looked relieved to hear it said and not avoided. Her visage then morphed to murderous. "That cow, Umbridge and..."
"Rita Skeeter," Harry and Ron joined her.
Severus smirked, remembering some of the Skeeter witch's articles which had graced the Daily Prophet in their fourth year. He watched thunderclouds of anger storm through Harry and Hermione's eyes. If Umbridge and Skeeter knew what was good for them they would flee the country...immediately.
"The Department of Mysteries," Hermione added after a moment, lifting her shirt just high enough to show part of the scar Severus knew Dolohov had marked her with. "This and the bigotry behind it," she said lifting her arm to show the scar, "and...my parents," she finished sadly.
"You'll get them back," Ron placated.
Knowing what Hermione had done to protect them, Severus didn't think this outcome as certain as Ron sounded. Neither, apparently, did Hermione.
"I hope so," she said. "If I can restore their memories and get them to forgive me...but not yet, I'd only scare them in this state." Severus agreed with her good sense. At the moment she was entirely too gaunt and showing all the symptoms of PTSD.
Harry and Ron shared sad smiles with her then Ron smirked and added, "flying."
"Which kind?" George asked.
Looking only slightly disgruntled she said, "Most kinds. Dragons are better than thestrals...though a thestral wouldn't be invisible anymore and dragons have the potential to eat you when you land. A hippogriff is slightly better than either, and I might eventually get used enough to a broom that I'm not in terror the whole time, so long as I don't have to fly chased by a sky full of Death Eaters shooting off killing spells or trapped in a room filled with fiendfyre ever again...I'm totally fine with planes though."
Severus had heard mention of most of these, but he was still slightly aghast. Who but one of the so-called Golden Trio could claim even half that variety of flight, most of which was an invitation for death?
"How about you, sir?" she asked.
"Great bloody snakes, I imagine," said Ron.
'Just great,' Severus thought. Eventually, he nodded.
Hermione looked at him steadily. "Professor Dumbledore...your parents," she guessed...correctly.
"My parents," added Harry. "The Marauders."
"Everything you had to do act chummy with Riddle when your heart wasn't in it," Ron said, uncharacteristically perceptive.
Severus sighed and nodded, and hoped to Merlin they were done dissecting him. He lifted an eyebrow and gestured toward Ron, attempting to prod them along.
"Spiders," Harry, George, and Hermione all said.
"If Fred and George hadn't..." Ron began, scowling at George who gave him a sad half a grin in return.
"Yes, we know," said Harry. "If I'd had a teddy bear turned into a spider when I was little instead of growing up in a cupboard full of them, it might have been the same for me...especially after second year."
"Follow the bloody spiders...who but Hagrid would send a couple of second years into a grove full of a hundred bloodthirsty acromantulas deep inside the Forbidden Forest? Mental...we never did set him straight on that, did we?"
Hermione snorted. "Who, the same Hagrid that introduced me to his violent half-giant brother as 'Hermie' and asked us to go to the Forbidden Forest to babysit him and teach him English whilst Umbridge was trolling about? Who named a man-eating three-headed dog that nearly killed us 'Fluffy,' a vicious, biting, fire-breathing dragon that we had to evacuate off the top of the astronomy tower in the dead of night before it could burn down his house, 'Norbert,' and his gentle, cowardly boar hound 'Fang?'" Of course you'll never set him straight...spiders or otherwise.
'Riddle aside, How did these three survive six years at Hogwarts?' Severus wondered. He nearly snorted at the idea of his 'watching over' Harry through the years. It was almost a joke.
"What else, mate?" Harry asked
"Fred," Ron said, then pushed back his sleeves to show oddly shaped scars and added, "foul brains in the Department of Mysteries, Riddle's ruddy cursed objects, and...splinching." Ron shuddered slightly and looked a little grey.
"Imagine your list's a mile long, Harry," George said.
Harry clenched his fists and looked down at the scar that read, 'I must no tell lies.' "Fudge and Umbridge," he grated out. "And I'm not a fan of being dragged underwater by an army of inferi." This last was said with a repulsed shudder.
"Dementors," Ron added.
Hermione grimaced knowing what was coming.
"Only because I hear my parents being murdered every time they come near. If I never have to hear Mum scream like that again..."
A dark look came over Harry's face. Severus's felt the blood drain from his own.
"Right," Harry went on. "Everyone who died in my place getting between me and Riddle, especially Mum and Dad, Sirius, Fred, Remus and Tonks, Dumbledore, Dobby, and Cedric." Harry's face contorted for a moment with a terrible look of desperate grief. It mellowed as the others toasted the list of the fallen.
And then continued a long list of remembering, toasting, and drinking. Everyone else they knew by name that fell in the last battle, those who fell in the last couple of years including Mad-Eye, Ted Tonks, Sturgis Podmore, Bartemius Crouch, Emmeline Vance, Amelia Bones, and Rufus Scrimgeour, and then the others they knew of who had fallen in the first Wizarding War, including, to Severus' surprise, Regulus Black, were all remembered and toasted.
From that night on, they lived amongst themselves the 7S Rules of Being Real. These Hermione tacked up on the wall, charmed to look like something else to anyone besides they five, and yes, hexed (though less severely) to discourage faithless disclosure to anyone outside their circle.
Phrases like 'Alright?' 'No eggshells here,' 'Just say it,' and 'I remember,' became part of their regular repertoire. The honesty they breathed was often uncomfortable but at the same time freeing.
Severus, who had been unable to contribute much at its inception, had at first considered 7S as having to do with the other four and associated with him by only name and by virtue of his being privy to its goings on. It had a touch of the ridiculous and was entirely Gryffindor apart from the secrecy, but it was somehow too real and necessary for Severus to deride entirely. By degrees, he began to accept his inclusion.