Chapter Eight

Hermione felt the sickening wrongness of redirection as the wards rejected her. Perfect, she thought. Dumbledore's bloody wards were sending her Merlin knew where.

Not that it mattered much. As long as she wasn't at the Potter estate, she'd be fine.

"Mr Weasley," familiar, silky voice intoned. "I would have thought you'd learned your lesson."

She landed in an undignified heap at the feet of her former Potions professor. "Professor Snape?" she coughed, attempting to dislodge the soot that had crawled down her throat.

"Miss Granger!" Surprisingly gentle hands pulled her to her feet. Eyes streaming, throat burning, she had to wait several moments to reply.

"May I ask why my own wards rejected me?" she asked, certain now that she had successfully left the Potter estate but been denied access to her own flat.

Professor Snape handed her into a stiff-backed chair and conjured a glass of water for her. "You were not rejected," he said, not speaking until she had started to drink. "I'm afraid Mr Weasley made rather a muddle of your wards, and the Ministry was forced to disable Floo access until such time as you chose to have it reinstated."

She blinked. "Ronald did what?"

"I believe you had rather stringent conditions in place for Mr Weasley's occupation of your flat?" he inquired, though it was obvious he already knew the answer.

Hermione nodded. "Yes. I didn't want him bringing strangers in and doing Circe knows what with them... Oh, Merlin. He tried, didn't he?"

The left side of Professor Snape's mouth twitched in what she thought might have been a grin. "Repeatedly."

"But he knew that I... Oh, bother. And the wards rejecting those attempts didn't dissuade him?"

"Apparently not. I'm sure you remember the sequence you set in place, but after the fifth attempt to bring, shall we say, undesirable company into your bedroom, young Mr Weasley was summarily deposited in the bosom of his family home, and barred from re-entering your flat." He paused. "I believe that you can thank Mr Potter for having your Floo disabled; it seems he didn't have faith that Mr Weasley wouldn't try to return, and he was somewhat concerned that the next time his friend breeched the wards, he would be redirected somewhere even less pleasant than Mrs Weasley's kitchen."

Hermione smiled faintly. "Harry's always been rather bright."

They sat in silence for a moment before Professor Snape swept to his feet, his robe billowing around him. "Tea, Miss Granger?" Without waiting for an answer, he disappeared into the kitchen. Hermione closed her eyes, trying to shut out the events of the last few hours. How had she gone from a proposal of marriage to sitting in Professor Snape's living room, waiting for tea?

She was roused from her reverie when he handed her a steaming mug, and she saw that he'd remembered exactly how she liked her tea, even though they hadn't worked together for three years.

"Thank you," she said, and took a sip of the steaming comfort.

He nodded sharply and concentrated on his own cup, giving her time to compose herself.

"James and Lily Potter are alive," she blurted not a minute later, the tea having loosened something inside of her.

To his credit, Professor Snape merely set aside his cup. "Oh?" he inquired.

"I've been working for him for the past few weeks," she said, her hands starting to shake. "Only I didn't know it was him." And she proceeded to outline the chain of events, beginning with her dissatisfaction at the Ministry leading to an interview with a mysterious employer, and ending with Harry discovering that he'd never been an orphan.

"He hired you as a research assistant," Snape said thoughtfully. "I'd have hardly thought research something Potter would be interested in."

"That's your first question?" Hermione demanded. "Dumbledore lied! To Harry! And to James and Lily! He hid people away, trapping them with horrific wards, and that's your first question?"

He inclined one sharp shoulder and let it fall. "Learning of new machinations by Albus Dumbledore is hardly likely to surprise me," he said. "The fact that Potter seems to have grown a brain, however…"

"I'll have you know he's a dedicated researcher," Hermione said stiffly. "Not to mention potioneer. In fact, we brewed an alternative potion in the hopes that it would work on lycanthropy…" Her voice trailed off.

"That was you?" Snape leaned forward. "There has been considerable talk in the underground werewolf community… Lupin was quite optimistic…"

"It's based on a potion I found in a very old journal," she explained. "It's similar to wolfsbane, but contains a drop of slivered moon."

He frowned, and Hermione pictured him mentally running through his catalogue of potion ingredients.

"Did it work?" Hermione asked. "Has anyone tried it? Mr Peters never told me what he planned to do with the potion…"

"Mr Peters?" Snape inquired, brow raised. "Peters. Potter. How very original."

She flushed at the implication, mortified that she hadn't caught on sooner than she had. Still, though. It wasn't as if she spent her life suspecting people of assuming false identities.

Although, apparently, she should have.

"I believe that there are several werewolves willing to try the potion at the next full moon," he said, thankfully leaving behind the topic of her stupidity. "If you would like to observe…"

"Oh, yes! Very much," she said, nodding emphatically. If the potion worked, she wanted to see it. And if it didn't, she owed it to the werewolves to see that, too.

"Very well." He paused. "Now, then."

Hermione frowned. Severus Snape didn't use extraneous words. Before she could question him, though, he let out a huff of displeasure.

"You may wish to remain here for some time," he said, staring at a spot slightly above and to the side of her head.

She blinked.

"Mr Weasley was ejected quite suddenly from your home," he continued, looking pained. "And I have it on good authority that your flat was perhaps not left in the most pristine of conditions."

"Oh, Merlin," she groaned, picturing the mess Ron had left behind.

"Mr Potter was in the process of having it set to rights, but I don't believe the task is yet completed."

"He didn't say a word!" Hermione exclaimed, and then realized how foolish she was being. Harry had, after all, other things on his mind the last time she'd spoken to him. She felt a stab of guilt for leaving him behind without so much as a goodbye, but even now, the thought of being in that house, watching James and Lily rejoice together over the return of their son, made her chest ache and her eyes smart.

"Yes, well, I rather believe that he intended to have the situation remedied before you returned."

And, no doubt, he intended to never tell her about it, either, she thought.

"I have several research projects of my own," Snape continued. "And I would not complain if someone were to offer their expertise to expedite said experiments."

It wasn't, perhaps, the most eloquent of job offers, but it would do.

"I'd like that," she said, knowing that she desperately needed to distract herself with intellectual pursuits.

"You're welcome to stay in the guest room until Harry finishes putting your flat to rights," he continued.

Hermione's grin was wry as she cast a reheating charm on her tea and took another sip. "That may be a while," she warned, but her former professor only inclined his head.

"I foresee no difficulties," he informed her. "No matter how long Potter distracts himself with his family."

Tears sprang unbidden to her eyes, and she had to blink rapidly to push them back. Professor Snape might be perfectly willing to make use of her intellect in the short term, but she had no delusions that he had any desire to comfort a distraught witch.

"You didn't say why the disconnected Floo directed me here," Hermione said slowly.

Snape's teeth flashed in a fleeting smile. "Mr Potter merely informed Mr Weasley of where he would end up if he continued to try to access your flat. We both believed that a better deterrent could not be found."

She blinked. "You did that for me?"

Snape looked away. "It was not entirely altruistic, I assure you. The opportunity to antagonize the youngest Weasley son was not to be dismissed."

"You can be such a nice man!" she burst out, grinning broadly.

Flashing black eyes snapped back to her immediately. "You will retract that statement immediately, young lady," he demanded crisply.

Hermione only smiled more widely. In an uncharacteristic fit of unbridled enthusiasm, she flung her arms around him and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek before dancing away from his stunned expression.

"This is going to work out splendidly," she told him. "We'll work well together, just as we did when we were brewing wolfsbane for Remus."

"Yes," he said thoughtfully. "Wolfsbane. If you don't mind, Miss Granger, would you be willing to share your findings on this new Sliver Moon potion?"

She shrugged, a dead weight settling on her chest as she remembered the excitement of producing the potion with Mr Potter. "I don't see why not," she finally said. "I doubt that Harry's father will come after me for divulging trade secrets."

Snape raised an eyebrow. "If he's half the man I remember him to be, he most certainly will. You can't imagine that he'd be pleased with you sharing your discoveries with me, of all people."

Hermione met his gaze. "I should think he'd be happy to have a Potion Master test our theory."

Snape nodded in concession, and Hermione began to outline the process that had led to the production of the possible new treatment for lycanthropy.

"I see no reason not to begin brewing and distributing the potion to test subjects immediately," he said. "None of the ingredients you've listed have any known harmful effects, either on their own or in combination. With safety measures in place for the werewolves, I think we may move forward as soon as possible."

Hermione nodded and threw herself into the developing of the Sliver Moon potion.

After all, research had been all she wanted in the first place.

Hadn't it?


"Hermione, I really do wish you would reconsider—"

"Harry," Hermione warned, moving to a more comfortable position as she sat in front of the Floo in Severus' living room. "We've been over this."

And they had. Almost every day since she'd left Potter Place. She grimaced mentally and reminded herself not to use the term she'd coined in front of Harry.

"He misses you," Harry continued, his voice low. "And he hasn't done any research in weeks."

"That's because he's getting to know his son!" she exclaimed. "Harry! You can't expect him to want to bury himself in books when he has a chance to get start over with you!"

Harry coloured. "Well, I guess not. But, still…"

"This is your time to get to know each other as a family," Hermione continued, her voice firm. "I couldn't intrude on that. And if your father really is desperate for someone to discuss ideas with, I'm sure that he can hire another researcher. Or get in contact with Miss Bentworth," she finished bitterly. Having gone over every event of the last several weeks in her mind, she had come to the conclusion that Harry's father's relationship with the woman had been far more than professional. What was it Mona had said? Dirty, nasty Floo calls? Her eyes narrowed in anger, and she had to take several breaths before she could continue. Not that she was jealous, of course. It simply wasn't professional. Or honest, considering that Mr Potter was a very married man.

"He's not happy," Harry blurted. "I mean, he's happy enough to get to know me," he scrambled, "but he's not happy in general. He misses you."

"Harry," she warned. "Why are you doing this? I don't know what your father has told you, but..."

Harry flushed crimson. "He didn't say much. Just that you and he got on quite well." He sighed heavily. "I don't know what to do."

"What do you mean?" she asked, setting aside her own problems. "You're getting to know your family. Isn't that exactly what you should be doing?"

"Well, yeah," he agreed. "But finding out what Dumbledore did..." He shook his head. "We figured out the wards. They started breaking down as soon as Dumbeldore died, but it would have been years before they completely disappeared. Everything was warded so that no one could know who my parents really were."

Hermione nodded; she'd suspected as much.

"The only reason I could Floo in and out was that I was blood related," he continued. "And even that wouldn't have worked if Dumbledore were still alive." He paused, and Hermione had to fight the impulse to go straight through the Floo to him. But no. She wasn't setting foot in Potter Place again if she could help it. Not until she could face the owner without remembering the feel of him—

"The wards allowed you to leave because they were weakened, and, I think, because you don't pose a threat to my family."

Hermione shrugged. It was possible. She hadn't had enough time with the wards to be able to support his opinion unequivocally, but it wasn't a bad theory.

"But what really concerns me," Harry said, his bright green eyes filled with pain, "is my mother. She's not well, Hermione. Not well at all."

"Oh, Harry."

"She greets me. Seems to know who I am. And then offers to let me hold her baby." Harry's fists were clenched. "And she gets so angry. Dad and I have been trying to talk to her. We spend most days in her room with her, because she refuses to come downstairs. We talk about everything. Did you know she had some of the highest marks at Hogwarts?"

Hermione shook her head.

"Well, she did. And she had some excellent ideas on the wards, once we were able to convince her to put Baby Harry down for a nap."

Hermione shivered. No wonder Harry was stressed out. Dealing with someone trapped in a delusion had to be terrible.

"But she's not well, and I don't think there's anything anyone can do," he finished bleakly. "She won't leave her room, much less the house, and Dad can't really leave her. They're still trapped."

After a moment of quiet contemplation, Hermione asked, "You're moving in with them, then?"

Harry blinked and looked up sharply. "No! That old house? What made you think I'd want to live there?" he asked incredulously, shaking his head.

"Oh, just the fact that you haven't been back to Grimmauld Place for over a week," she said mildly. "Have you taken a leave of absence from work, or have you been using the Floo?"

"The Floo," he admitted. "I just… It seems wrong to leave them all by themselves, you know?"

Yes, Hermione did know. She'd been fighting the urge to check on Mr Potter for days. Only the fact that it really wasn't her place had kept her safely ensconced in Snape's house.

"I could ask the same of you," Harry went on. "How long are you going to stay shacked up with Snape?" he asked.

"Mr Potter." Severus' low, threat-filled voice filled the room, causing Hermione to start. "I assure you that Miss Granger is far too much a lady to 'shack up' with me, as you so prosaically phrased it."

Harry grimaced.

"Miss Granger, supper is ready," he said, explaining his interruption. "I do hope you won't let this dunderhead ruin your meal."

"I should go," Harry said, giving Severus a strong look. "But I'll be by to check on you. And to finish fixing up your flat," he admitted sheepishly.

"See that you do," she teased. "I can't presume on Severus' good will forever, you know."

"I assure you, Miss Granger. If you are ever in need, you will have a home," Severus said before turning and leaving the room in a billow of ink-black robes.

"What was that?" Harry asked, eyes wide as he stared after him.

"I have no idea," she admitted. "Probably he just wanted to pull your chain a little," she decided.

"I don't know," Harry said thoughtfully. "It sounded as if he might—" he grimaced, "like you."

"And why shouldn't he like me?" Hermione bristled. "I'll have you know that some people enjoy spending time with me, even when I'm going on about some theory or other."

Harry held up both hands in protest. "I know that. Dad tells me every day how much he enjoyed working with you."

She flushed and looked away, unable to meet his gaze.

"Hermione," Harry said softly. "When you Floo called me, you said something about engaged..."

She felt one hot tear slide down her cheek.

"Oh, shite," Harry cursed. "I didn't mean—"

"It's okay," she said, sniffling. "I'm sure it didn't mean anything to your father." She left it unsaid that it had meant quite a lot to her, but Harry was brighter than he looked.

"I'll stop pestering you to come for a visit, then," he said quietly. "And Hermione, whatever you need..."

She shook her head. "I have you. I have a job researching with Severus. I have a place to live." Sort of. "I have everything I need."

"We'll fix this," Harry said firmly. "I'm settling back in Grimmauld Place this weekend, and I'll only be visiting Mom and Dad once or twice a week. We'll make things right."

She smiled. Dear, sweet Harry. Always trying to solve everyone's problems.

"Miss Granger?" Severus appeared in the doorway again, and she quickly concluded her conversation with Harry.

"This weekend," Harry promised.

She nodded, and followed Severus to the dining room.

"I've been thinking," Severus said, as they sat down at the table to a simple meal of stew and biscuits. "A professional organization I'm a part of is sponsoring a trip to South America in the hopes of finding new medicinal plants."

Hermione nodded mechanically and took another bite of the chicken stew.

"I've decided to take advantage of the opportunity."

She nodded a second time. Since his Hogwarts days, Severus hadn't been known for staying in England for longer than a few months at a time. He was already overdue to embark on some sort of adventure.

"There is room for another on this venture," he continued, studying his spoonful of stew intently. "I suppose it would be acceptable if you chose to accompany me."

Hermione choked and gratefully accepted the glass of water Severus handed her.

"It is a two-year commitment," he continued, and she proceeded to choke on the water.

"Two years!" she exclaimed.

"Yes. And we would have very little contact with others during this time. The areas to which we'd be traveling are...isolated."

She looked up sharply, and saw what he was not saying. If they went on this trip together, it would not be as two friends or colleagues. They would definitely be more to each other.

Was that what she wanted?

After all, she and Severus worked well together. They were quick-witted, like-minded, and slow to suffer dunderheads. She was attracted to his intelligence, his strength of characters, and yes, even to his habitual snarkiness.

It was definitely enough to make her consider the proposition—both the articulated and unarticulated portions of it. While she was still mulling over her stew, he rose and placed a hand on her shoulder.

"An answer is required by Monday next," he informed her, and allowed his fingers to trail over her neck and upper arm. "I'll leave you to consider."

Two years, she thought, as she pulled the covers over her head, lying in the plain bed in Severus' guest room. Two years to recover from an obviously ill-fated attachment and to test the waters of a new attachment. All the while enjoying the excitement of travel and discovery.

She considered. During the day, while reading or tending potions, she found herself picturing days with Severus, reading, tramping through the jungle, cataloguing plants.

At night, her thoughts strayed to the more carnal side of the arrangements.

Sharing a room with Severus, perhaps even a bed.

She shivered.

It was not until the third night, Saturday night, that she began to dream.

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Author's Notes

Characters from the Harry Potter series are the property of J.K. Rowling. They are used without permission and not for profit.

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