Hermione Granger
Drama Romance
Multiple Eras
Philosopher's Stone Chamber of Secrets Prizoner of Azkaban Goblet of Fire Quidditch Through the Ages Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Published: 03/19/2002
Updated: 09/01/2005
Words: 220,150
Chapters: 28
Hits: 163,807

Falling Further In


Story Summary:
The story begins in the summer holidays before the sixth year. After her parents are murdered by Voldemort Hogwarts becomes Hermione's home. She joins the staff in the fight against Voldemort and learns more of the man behind the dark sarcasms of the classroom. Will *eventually* be Snape/Hermione. Lupin is again the Professor teaching Defence Against the Dark Arts, and has a black dog who lives with him - Sirius Black in his animagus form.

Chapter 13

Chapter Summary:
Hermione learns more about the man behind the dark sarcasms of the classroom


Staring at the door which had just clicked to a close behind Snape, Hermione took a step after him, then stopped. What could she possibly say? He had trusted her enough to permit her to question him and when he had been at his most vulnerable she had thrown that trust back in his face.

Blind to all the treasures around her begging to be investigated Hermione took refuge in her chair again, burying her face against her upraised knees. It had been immensely flattering to have the people she admired and respected most turn to her for help - perhaps too flattering. It had gone to her head. To imagine she could help them when all she had done was criticise and alienate them. Professor McGonagall had been staring at her as if she had grown two heads. And Professor Sprout had looked so...sad, as if her worst fears had come true.

But if Snape and the headmaster imagined she was going to roll over and say she forgave those bastards who had tortured mum and dad they could -

Unless they thought all her suggestions for fighting Voldemort had been about revenge rather than doing what was right - what was necessary if they were to survive?

It was then that she remembered Snape telling her the Dark Arts were everywhere, Madam Pomfrey warning her about the constant need for vigilance, Professor -

They had all been worried that grief would make her turn - not against those responsible for murdering her parents but that she would turn to the Dark Arts to gain revenge, or perhaps even that revenge itself would lead her there. She had finally and belatedly come to understand with her gut as well as her brain that the worst thing you had to fear wasn't Voldemort, it was what lay within yourself.

There were times when she felt as if she didn't know herself at all. So many certainties had been shaken or completely uprooted, preconceptions she hadn't even been aware she held turned inside out. She scared herself sometimes with the extent of her hatred and anger, which sprang from concealment when she least expected them.

Feeling uncertain, afraid and very alone, Hermione tried to control her breathing, the fabric of her dress pressed to her nose, which was buried in the dip between her upraised knees. Her arms tightened around her legs hard enough to make the muscles ache.

She usually thrived on responsibility but right now she would have given almost anything to rid herself of it all. To go back to being plain Hermione Granger, destined for a First in the subject of her choice and a glittering career, with parents to be embarrassed by and moan about. What she hated about herself most of all was the anger she felt at them, for deserting her - and for the sense she had been unable to shake off that she was abandoning them every time she forgot and laughed, or enjoyed pitting her wits against Snape, or Madam Pomfrey, or started planning for a future in which they had no part.

She might never be a 'great' witch but she had the ability to cut to the heart of a problem faster than many, and the application to learn and apply what she had learnt. And her wand control was excellent.

She gave a brief, harsh laugh because even that was better than tears but did not raise her head from her dark cocoon. She wasn't ready to face the world yet, let alone herself.

It would have been such a relief to go back to worrying about schoolwork again but somehow it didn't seem important any more. It would have been even more of a relief to be able to believe that Dumbledore was an all-knowing, all-loving, dotty old wizard who never made mistakes, or that Snape was just a sarcastic, bad-tempered puppet without depth or complexities or a history which -

Not wanting to go there just yet, she raised her head, squinting in the brilliance of the afternoon sun, just as Dumbledore came back into the room, Fawkes on his shoulder.

"What, still here, Miss Granger?" Depositing Fawkes on his perch, Dumbledore sat behind his desk.

"Yes," she agreed vaguely, feeling exhausted, as if she had been on a lengthy journey too great for her strength. "I should have left when Professor Snape did. I'm sorry."

"I wasn't aware you had anything to apologise for. When did he leave?" While his expression was benign, there was something in it which made Hermione want to fidget. Other people's disappointed expectations were always hard to bear; Dumbledore's were just harder than most.

"A few moments after you." Her feet firmly on the floor now, her shoulders straight as she sat in the full beam of the sun, she concentrated on pleating a small portion of fabric from her dress. "I didn't mean what I said to him. It was just... " Before she could stop them words spilled from her, tumbling out one after the other in a dizzying rush.

"Why couldn't he have discovered what was going to happen to mum and dad? He could have stopped it. Could have saved them. Or you. You must know who killed them. You must have some idea, you know everything. How can you protect those people?"

"If I knew everything I would never have sent Severus back to Voldemort," said Dumbledore quietly.

As he had hoped that sidetracked her. "You mean he didn't tell you what Voldemort...?" She couldn't bring herself to say it.

"Are you surprised?"

"No. No, I would have expected nothing else from him." Exhaling shakily, she wiped a hand over her face. "I'm being ridiculous, over-dramatic, I know but sometimes... There must have been a way to stop it from happening to my parents. To the others."

"You think we would stand by and allow Muggles to die just because they're Muggles?"

"I don't know," said Hermione with truth. "Would you?"

"Oh my dear, we really have failed you all if that's something you have to question. Life is life, whoever it belongs to."

"Yet you protect pupils and ex-pupils who've become Death Eaters. You allow them to remain at Hogwarts."

"Are you referring to Professor Snape?"

Taken aback, Hermione stared at him. "That's not a fair question. He's different."

"And who's to say that another ex-pupil might not, after a few months, repent of a rash choice they made at eighteen? At least they would still be at Hogwarts, with easy access to people they can trust."

"But in the meantime, by allowing them to remain at school, you risk everyone else - particularly Harry. And Professor Snape - and his House, come to that. How can he be an effective Head of House when he has to manage this ridiculous balancing act."

"You imagine a child is seduced by the Dark Arts overnight? It's rarely that simple. Most things happen one step at a time. At Hogwarts we turn no one away. The children of the blackest Death Eater are entitled to the chance to make their own choices as far removed as is possible from parental pressures."

"Because that's going to work so well with Nott, Goyle or Crabbe. Malfoy. The staff must be the only ones who don't know what they're like," said Hermione, suddenly angry again.

"Or the only ones who refuse to give up hope that they might learn to think for themselves," said Dumbledore, a hint of steel in his voice.

"I think their fathers killed mine. If I ever find out for certain I'll kill them. I'm not like you, Headmaster. I can't forgive them. I won't!"

"You would hold them guilty for the sins of their fathers? You'll find yourself facing Severus. He takes the safety of those in his care seriously. As do all of us who work here. It isn't necessary to love or respect those you protect - although I admit it makes the task a great deal easier."

"No, I meant their fathers but - I... I want revenge," Hermione whispered, her hands clenched in her lap as she shook with the force of the emotions racking her. "I want blood."

"If it's any comfort, I believe you probably drew some in this office earlier," said Dumbledore.

Her head rising, some of the ferocity left Hermione's eyes before her shoulders slumped as she picked up on the reference. "From Professor Snape?"

Dumbledore nodded, noting that yet again a reference to Severus had managed to divert her. "In an extremity of grief it isn't uncommon to lash out at those closest to us. I'm constantly amazed how our instincts know with whom such behaviour is safe."

"Professor Snape - "

"I have no doubt he will be better able to rationalize your reaction when he is feeling less...exposed. He trusted you, child."

Hermione looked away from those all-seeing eyes. "I know. It's why I tried so hard to be careful in the way I questioned him. I didn't want to do anything which might make it even more difficult for him. Right up until... I can't believe I said that to him."

"The fact remains that you did. What concerns me even more is your thirst for revenge. If you're not careful it will eat away at you until there is nothing else left. When my dear wife was murdered by Grindelwald I believe there was a period when I lost my reason. I never realised I was capable of such hatred. I would have killed him with my bare hands. I would have done anything, used anyone, anything - even the Unforgivables.

"Yes, my dear. Even those. But I was fortunate in having some dear friends. March, Ceres -and others no longer with us - all of whom went through some difficult and unpleasant weeks on my behalf as I savaged them. But it's thanks to them that by the time I had to meet Grindelwald in a wizard's duel I was thinking about more than my own loss. Something I would not have believed possible earlier. I don't pretend my experience was the same as yours, or that what worked for me will help you, but I do understand something of the grief - and rage - you are experiencing. I can only say that trusting in friends enough to confide in them helped me. As did work - particularly hard, physical labour. And time, of course. But we all react in different ways, at different times. There is no right or wrong reaction, only the impulses that drive us. But we don't have to be ruled by them completely. You have a fine mind, an active conscience and a loving heart and you offer them up without thought for your own well-being. Your parents must have been so proud of you. In their absence we trust you to do the right thing."

Hermione went pink at the compliment paid to her. "I - I don't deserve it. Not now."

"Really? And what has occurred to bring about this change?"

She blinked. "You were here. You heard what I said to Professor Snape."

"Ah. That. As you already know yourself, from your experiences with Messrs Potter and Weasley, we sometimes tolerate from our friends things that would be unthinkable from anyone else."

"Friend?" Hermione could feel her flush extending down her neck and chest.

"You don't consider Severus to be a friend - or that he might regard you in the same light?"

"Uh. You think he does?" The irritating squeak was back in her voice.

"I wouldn't presume to speak for Severus, or claim to understand how his mind works much of the time, but I would have said so. Although whether he ever will is another matter. The trick with Severus is to pay attention to what he does, not what he says while he's doing it."

Despite herself, Hermione grinned. "I think I already knew that." Her smile faded. "His remark about revenge caught me on the raw, so I - "

" - lashed out. Of course. How could you not? You've been studying under a master all summer. It's a highly effective defence mechanism."

"He'll never forgive me," muttered Hermione miserably. Even Harry and Ron would have taken weeks - maybe more.

"Nonsense. Once he knows he still has your respect - assuming that's true, of course - I feel sure - "

Hermione stared at Dumbledore in honest puzzlement. "Why wouldn't he? He's the bravest person I've ever met."

"Yes, well I shouldn't try telling him that. Severus doesn't react well to compliments."

"It doesn't mean he doesn't appreciate - even need - them."

There was a startled silence.

"Just so," said Dumbledore, swallowing the unwelcome experience of being brought to task by a pupil. What made it all the more unpalatable was his suspicion that she might have a point.

Hermione grimaced. "And now I've offended you, too. If you'll excuse me, I should leave."

Dumbledore nodded, grateful that not all Gryffindors had such forceful and forthright personalities.

Too accustomed to Snape's expression of black fury to pay it much attention, Professor Sprout detained him by the simple expedient of stepping out in front of him, thus blocking the doorway through which he had been about to pass. For a moment she wondered if that might have been a mistake before his natural good manners brought him to a standstill.

"Yes?" His tone was not inviting.

"You were kind enough to say you would attend to the removal of the willow root at the fringe of the existing market garden so I can prepare the new seed bed. You haven't forgotten that it's manual labour only? No magic. A badger sett goes past only a few feet from the root and after all these centuries I see no reason to disturb them from their usual runs. Severus? Are you listening?"

"As if I had any option," said Snape disagreeably, before he focussed on her for the first time. "You want it done now?"

"You don't appear to be doing anything else. The fresh air will do you good." That the exercise would help dissipate some of the energy virtually crackling from him was a thought she kept to herself. But she couldn't shake off the feeling that he had just received some appallingly bad news. Knowing better than to touch him, she said, "Is everything all right?"

The ferocity of the look she received made her blink, then he was gone. But when she arrived in her quarters she glanced out of the window and saw him heading in the direction of the market garden.

Two and a quarter hours of hard physical labour did much to dispel Snape's sense of humiliation. Sweating and breathless he slumped on the side of the root with which he had been battling, pensively eyeing his palms. Hands toughened by years of potions-making had withstood only twenty minutes digging before the first blister had formed. He was getting soft.

Well, that was certainly true.

Merlin's balls, what had he been thinking? Well, of course, he hadn't. That was the crux of the problem. Bad enough that he should have allowed himself to be turned into Voldemort's lapdog, whatever might have been done to him, but to confess the fact to a pupil?

The enormity of his mistake coming home to him, Snape stared sightlessly into the depression the root had occupied, knowing he didn't have the luxury of being able to hide away.

A sense of being under surveillance penetrating his abstraction, Snape looked up to see the last person he wanted to talk to heading in his direction. Dishevelled, dirt-streaked and his black shirt unfastened almost to his navel, he still made an imposing figure as he rose to his feet in an automatic gesture of courtesy as she approached.

"Please don't go," Hermione said, her voice high and tight with nerves and her senses awash with him. "I know I must be the last person you want to see right now but... It was just temper talking. I didn't mean it. I swear it. I just used the weapon you gave me."

There was no point pretending not to understand her. "I noticed. Potions classes should be interesting next term."

"That won't be an issue. I intend to keep my promise about having the memories erased. I just wanted to apologise to you while I still remembered an apology was necessary."

"Fine. You've cleared your conscience. Don't let me detain you." Suddenly appreciating that his left forearm was bare where he had rolled up his sleeves, Snape drew them back down, fastening the cuffs, before taking out his wand. "We're done, Miss Granger. And you're in my way." Using a Lifting Charm to move the willow root from the area, he proceeded to ignore her totally.

As he headed back to Hogwarts he knew she was still standing there, staring after him. He would have to get used to that until she forgot the more salacious details of his revelations, he went to the hospital wing. Successfully liberating a bottle of Easiheal Potion he turned to find Madam Pomfrey watching him with a quizzical expression. It was another ten minutes before he was free, although he had to concede, she had done a good job on his hands.

Feeling twitchy and exposed, he wondered if it was his imagination or had she been looking at him oddly. His stomach roiled as he wondered if he might have said or done anything the other day, before he had caught up on his sleep. Exhaustion had provided a legitimate excuse not to face his demons but did he really want to ask for another Dreamless Sleeping Potion? He could brew a batch of course but the process was time-consuming. Besides, it wasn't advisable to take it often. Even nightmares were better than no dreams at all.

It wasn't that he was afraid Hermione would discuss what he had told her but she was oozing doe-eyed pity and girlish sympathy. Just what he wanted. Not.

He would give almost anything not to have to meet Albus' eyes.

Time to close down - if only he could remember how - and deal with this the way he had dealt with everything else in his life - one minute at a time.

But maybe not right now, he eventually conceded, going back to the hospital wing for another Dreamless Sleeping Potion.


Sprawled on the grass under the shelter of an ancient oak tree on the edge of the Forbidden Forest, Snape was so deep in thought that he didn't hear Dumbledore's approach until the headmaster stood beside him.

"I'm glad I've finally tracked you down," said Dumbledore. "No, stay where you are. Have you been here long?" He settled himself beside Snape.

"Just after dawn. The sun woke me. I wanted space in which to think."

"Ah," said Dumbledore after a moment. "You're angry," he noted.

Snape's head shot up. "Take long to work that out, did you? Of course I'm angry. Not least for placing myself in the position where I must answer to a chit of a girl who can spend the next year in my class feeling sorry for me! If I'm really lucky she'll want to take Potions at Salamander Level, adding to my joy." His mouth compressing, he fell silent but he gave Dumbledore an edgy look. He hadn't planned to see Albus until the headmaster had had a chance to forget the revelations he had been stupid enough to make to Hermione.

"Severus, I - "

"Don't! I don't need sympathy, or a lecture, or counselling or a pep talk. And I certainly don't want an offer of the Obliviate. Clear?"

"Very," said Dumbledore.

"You were never supposed to know about - " His mouth compressed, Snape fell silent.

"So I realised," said Dumbledore quietly. He had spent a sleepless night contemplating the extent to which Severus had chosen to protect him, while gaining a better understanding of the events of eighteen years ago. It had not been easy to face up to the knowledge that even if he had known, he would still have sent Severus back to Voldemort. Worse, he suspected that Severus already knew that and had chosen to relieve him of the necessity of making that decision.

For some time the only sound was that of the bees harvesting nectar from the dog roses tangled in the nearby hedgerow; there was no birdsong, nothing that toothsome survived for long this close to the Forbidden Forest. The butterfly which had been perched on Snape's wrist, drinking the salt from his skin, flew away. Remaining silent, Dumbledore lightly caressed the back of Snape's head.

Without haste Snape moved to escape the contact, his gaze on his knotted fingers. What could be seen of his face between the swathes of his unbound hair looked stark with muscle, his curtaining eyelashes shockingly dark. He flinched when an apple bounced off his shoulder.

"Morning, Albus! Ah. There are people who would pay a small fortune to see Severus Snape sitting at their feet," called Black as he strode up to where they sat, immune to the prevailing atmosphere.

"Sirius!" said Dumbledore with exasperation.

Making no attempt to rise, Snape stared up at Black, a dangerous expression in his eyes. "You think they would? I'm here to serve. I've certainly had plenty of practice."

"Severus - " began Dumbledore.

Snape gave no sign that he had heard him, his eyes boring into Sirius. "The Dark Lord insists that we first drop to our knees before prostrating ourselves and inching forward on our bellies to kiss his boot. If we lick it he sometimes forgets to kick us before he moves on to other pleasures. What would you like from me? I've been well-trained," he added in the same damask-soft voice that both stroked and spiked the senses.

"Well, I wouldn't mind watching," said Black. "Though if it's the kiss of a boot you crave I'd be happy to oblige."


Both men ignored Dumbledore.

"I'm sure you would." While he had yet to move Snape was clearly poised to attack as he goaded Black into violence with nothing more than his silken voice and the expression on his face. It was obvious he was spoiling for a fight - and from the look on Black's face close to getting his wish.

"Enough!" said Dumbledore, in the tone he used rarely but always to great effect. "Sirius, I'm ashamed of you, sneaking up on us like that. Tell me what you overheard when you arrived."

"Sneaking?" Black's surprise was obviously genuine. "It was the last thought on my mind. I heard nothing. I give you my word," he added. "You had just rested your hand on Severus' head. I lobbed the apple to make him jump. I didn't mean any harm by it."

"That should be inscribed on your tombstone," said Snape but the edge was gone from his voice. In fact he looked faintly embarrassed by his over-reaction.

"Leave us," Dumbledore told Sirius sternly. "I'll speak to you in my study tonight. I'm not prepared to tolerate this childish - yes, childish! - bickering when we should be concentrating all our energies against the common enemy. Now go away. I want to talk to Severus."

Making his escape while he could, Black loped through the lush knee-high grasses. Only now, with the sun on his face, the sweetness of the meadow in his nose and his body responding to the demands he made of it did he realise he was free of Azkaban - except for the portion he still carried around in his head.

He didn't envy Snape his interview with Albus. The last time he'd seen Dumbledore this furious had been when he had sent Severus into the Whomping Willow after Remus.

On the rise of the hill he turned and saw the figures of Snape and Dumbledore in the distance. Squinting, he shaded his eyes. If he hadn't known better he would have said Snape was comforting Albus... Shrugging off the thought, he walked into the orchard, hooking several Victoria plums from a tree as he passed

Because they were too juicy to eat and walk, he settled himself on the grass to enjoy his haul. He hadn't let himself think about what had taken place between Snape and himself for years. It was hardly surprising; he had come out of it even worse than Snape. Yes, he'd felt hurt and betrayed and angry enough to obliterate Severus from the face of the earth but never once had he stopped to think about the possible consequences to Remus. Or to Severus himself. He'd hated him but not enough to see him trapped in the same half-life Remus endured.

And all because Severus had given him his closely-guarded heart's desire and gone to bed with him. Afterwards, when he had started to babble romantic nonsense about their future together, Severus had turned to him, his face alight with malice, and laughed. Only then had he discovered it had all been a trick. That Snape had used sex, as he used every other advantage he had been given, to his own ends.

His face stilled burned with the echo of that scalding humiliation and the bitter pain of unrequited love.

Why had it been Severus? Even when they were eleven he hadn't been able to take his eyes off the sulky, self-possessed little git. How anyone so ugly could have that much sex-appeal was a mystery. Besides, how had he managed to fool himself that Snape felt anything for him but the loathing he'd felt for all the Marauders. All except Lily.

Why couldn't he have spent all those years pining after James - or Remus? But no, it had to be Snape. He'd never been able to forgive Snape for not loving him when he had been so in love himself. Or what had passed for love at seventeen.

Being seduced into spilling the inmost secrets of your heart was no reason to try and kill someone. Or much of an example to set Harry.

Small wonder Severus still hated him so. When James had pulled Severus out of the Whomping Willow Severus had been so terrified he'd pissed himself. But then so would most people coming face to face with a werewolf without warning. Poor James. It was lucky he hadn't expected any thanks. But then James had Lily, whom Snape had... Had he loved her? He'd said not but... Was Snape capable of loving anyone - even himself?

Who knew or cared. It had been a tangle, everyone in love or lust with the wrong person, except for James and Lily - with Peter fucking Pettigrew muddying the waters at every opportunity. Peter should have been in Slytherin. Although they said there was nothing worse than a Gryffindor who went bad...

Harry would be all right. No son of James and Lily's could be otherwise. But... Staring up into the canopy of leaves above him, Black finally admitted what bothered him most. How close he had come to losing himself. It was too easy for hate to become a habit. He had clung to it in Azkaban because at least it had enabled him to retain his sense of self. Ironic that he owed his sanity to hating Severus - amongst others.

When you came down to it, it was crazy to hold a grudge against the man who had given you some of the best sex of your life. Yes, Severus had been toying with him but...

It was time to let go. Albus was right. They were different people from all those years ago - and there were more important things.

Like Remus.

He was tired of clinging to old hatreds. He wanted a life with his lover, a home - a chance to get to know Harry and give him the family life he so desperately wanted. And Harry needed a godfather he could rely on to do the right thing.

Getting to his feet, Black was two hundred yards closer to Hogwarts when he stopped, grimaced and reluctantly headed back to where he had left Dumbledore and Snape. He may as well start that truce he had so rashly promised Snape the other night.

Dumbledore was gone but Snape was a graceful sprawl along a gnarled, low-growing branch, his back to the immense trunk. He looked... Still trying to identify what was bothering him about the other man, Black paused, then hooked himself up on the branch close to Snape's outstretched feet.

"If you've come back hoping to get your boots licked, you're too late," said Snape without looking up.

"No. What I said earlier..."

"Let it go, Sirius." The warning was unequivocal.

Black took his usual amount of notice. "Look, what I'm trying to say is - " He caught hold of Snape's ankle.

"Move it or lose it," Snape warned.

This time Black had the sense to listen. "I came back to apologise!"

"Then you can leave with a clear conscience. Apologise for what?" Snape added a moment later.

It belatedly occurred to Black that Snape's anger was a camouflage for something else. Something had hurt him. Or someone. Hurt him more than he knew how to deal with. But because of it Black told the unvarnished truth.

"What I said - not that you would have believed it. But mainly for putting you and Remus at risk all those years ago. I wanted you scared out of your normal cool. Nothing got to you. I wanted to make sure something did. I wanted you terrified and grovelling. It never occurred to me that you could have been killed, or transformed. Let alone what it would have done - did," he corrected himself, "to Remus. It killed our friendship. I hurt him so much with that betrayal. And you... I don't think I ever fully appreciated what I did to you until last week, when we didn't know if you'd been infected. I'm sorry. I didn't think."

"The perennial cry of Gryffindor down the ages," murmured Snape but he was too taken aback for there to be much bite in his voice.

"Only some of us," said Black. He was surprised to discover he was experiencing none of the humiliation he had been expecting, only a curious sense of relief. "I should have apologised before only I wouldn't let myself think about it. To this day I've never really explained it to Remus. Why I hated you so much, I mean."

Snape studied the toes of his boots. "Don't you think you should?"

"That would mean telling him I'd loved you."

"You mean you thought you did."

"I did, you bastard. I - Well, yeah. Thought I did," Black admitted with a poor grace. "Remus has taught me what the real - " Embarrassed, he stopped.

"How he stomachs you is beyond me," said Snape idly.

"Me, too," conceded Black, rubbing his nose. "But he does. In fact... You know that we're - ?"

"Oh, please."

"Yeah, I suppose you would know. He likes you." Black's incomprehension drew the faintest of smiles from Snape.

"Don't worry. It isn't catching."

"Don't you ever stop? I'm trying to - "

"I know what you're trying to do and there's no need. I've made my peace with Remus. It's just that... I can't forget who - what - he is," Snape muttered.

"Only for four days a month. And not from choice. He's the gentlest, kindest of men and he fights so hard not to..." Again Black stopped, glaring at Snape as if daring him to comment but Snape was studying his boots again..

"While we're so busy bonding, I suppose you realise I'm responsible for the whole sorry mess," said Snape. "If I hadn't seduced you - "

"You seduced me? Why you egotistical - " Black stopped. "I wanted to kill you when you told me what good sport I'd been. I wanted to make you..."

"Yes," agreed Snape tonelessly.

"I still... Hurt pride," Black added.

"It's always been a talent of mine," said Snape.


"Knowing exactly which spot to strike first. Sex should never be used as a weapon."

"You didn't hurt me," said Black quickly. "Far from it. It was...wonderful," he added bleakly.

Snape gave him a patient look. "It was supposed to be," he said, before he rubbed his face. "I would have given you over for the Dementor's Kiss."

Black shivered, despite himself. "But you didn't. You didn't kill me in the Shrieking Shack when you had the chance either."

"But I wanted to. You have no idea how much I wanted to."

Staring into those dark eyes and seeing absolutely nothing, Black believed him implicitly.

"So much for our truce," he said at last, his shoulders slumping. He was tired of fighting.

"Oh, I don't know. We're both alive with our faculties more or less intact. Were you serious about wanting to brew potions?"

Black looked up, direct and intent. "Very. And not just for Remus' sake. I know you won't believe this but I'm not sure how I'm going to get through another term. I'm so bored having to stay in our quarters. I know I can get out in my dog form but it's hardly stimulating - except to the senses, which doesn't help anything. There's nothing to occupy my mind but..." Looking self-conscious, he stopped and shrugged.

"Then the sooner we fill those echoing spaces in what passes for your brain, the better. Come on. I've promised Poppy that I'll fill her store cupboards. I need all the help I can get." With a supple flick Snape was on his feet and heading for Hogwarts.

Black hurried after him. "You think I'm good enough?"

"For many of the basic potions, certainly. Once the hospital wing has the supplies it needs we'll start work on the Wolfsbane again. You might want to do some reading."

"I have been," Black admitted. "Though I won't be able to do much once term starts. If Remus starts borrowing too many books on Potions it will attract attention."

His hands in his pockets, his shoulders hunched, the length of Snape's stride increased, as if he was trying to outpace his thoughts.

"Serpens Tower is screened. You can use my library. You can work in the laboratory when I'm not there. When I am, you leave. Clear?"

"Clear. Thank you, Severus." Black eyed Snape's shark-like smile with obvious distrust. "What?"

"Don't thank me until you've seen how much work I have planned for you. You had a good brain once, but it needs exercise. If you have questions, ask them. We don't have time to waste. Ah, I see Remus has come to check that I haven't disposed of your body."

"It didn't occur to you that might be the other way around?"

Snape glanced at him. "No," he said with simple arrogance. "Remus, good morning. We're going to brew potions. Would you care to join us?"

"Yes, I should." Without thinking Lupin moved between the two men, tucking an arm in each of theirs. It was a moment or two before he realised what he had done. His arm slid from Snape's.

"Severus, I beg your pardon," he said formally, before he stopped in his tracks. "You didn't flinch away from me! And you don't smell of - There's hardly a trace of fear."

Snape glared at him self-consciously. "How are you at identifying irritation?" he inquired.

"I suspect I'll be improving in leaps and bounds," said Remus, his smile reaching his eyes. "You're really over - ?" He couldn't bring himself to finish the question.

Snape shrugged. "It would seem so. I presume I have my four days in the cellar to thank for that. Between a wolf, a dog and a Potions Master we have three of the best noses in the business. Don't even think of saying it, Sirius," he added.

Black just grinned and led the way into Hogwarts.