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Hermione prepared tea in her kitchen, walking from one end to the other, gathering sugar, a kettle and a cup, not realizing that she was humming to herself. She was in much higher spirits than she’d been since she arrived, but didn’t consciously acknowledge the reason for the sudden mood change. She was so consumed with her thoughts, that she jumped when she heard a voice behind her.

“Well someone seems to be in a good mood,” said Lily.

Hermione turned around with her hand over her chest, to find Lily leaning against her door frame, watching her with humor in her eyes.

“Sorry.” Lily giggled.

“Merlin, Lily! You scared me half to death!” Hermione half-heartedly scolded her.

Lily laughed as she made her way from the doorway, and took a seat at Hermione’s kitchen table.

“Well that would be quite the accomplishment, considering our current state,” she joked.

Hermione shook her head in amusement, and silently summoned a second cup from her cupboard. “Tea?” she asked.

“I can manage to stay for a bit,” said Lily. “I was only just passing by and thought I would pop in to check on you.”

“That’s sweet of you,” said Hermione, as she sent everything to the table with a wave of her hand. She then sat down to join Lily.

“I see you figured out that we can still use magic,” said Lily, while she dropped a cube of sugar into her cup. “It took James and I about three days to finally realize.”

“Did it really?” Hermione laughed. “I only just found out earlier today,” she said, then took a drink of her tea, with a sudden feeling as if she said too much.

Hermione wasn’t sure, but it felt like Lily was looking at her suspiciously. She wondered if Lily’s visit was more than a mere coincidence, considering she arrived so quickly after she and Severus parted for the day. She began feeling a little uncomfortable, and shifted in her seat.

“Yeah, where were you today? I stopped by earlier, but there was no one home,” she asked a little too casually.

And then Hermione knew that Lily had spotted her with Severus. She took another drink of her tea to stall, then looked up to meet Lily’s eyeline. There was no reason to lie, or to feel guilty about who she had spent her time with, she told herself. Just because Lily may have had unresolved issues with Severus hadn’t meant that Hermione could not have a friendship with the man.

“Well...I met Regulus when I went into The Fallen Broomstick,” she hesitated for a moment. “Then Severus came in, and he and I left to go for a walk together,” she rushed out. She noticed the subtle widening of Lily’s eyes when she referred to him as Severus, instead of Snape, as she did the day before.

Lily looked down at the table. “I thought that was him who I saw leaving, right before I arrived,” she said softly.

Hermione could tell from the tone of her voice that there was still a lot of pain there for Lily, where Severus was concerned. She hoped one day, perhaps, they could make amends.

“I’m sorry, Lily,” said Hermione. She wasn’t even sure why she was apologizing, but she could not think of anything else to say at the time.

Lily lifted her head and smiled at Hermione.

“You have no reason to apologize,” she told her. “What happened between Severus and I is just that, between us.”

“I know, but still I —“

“Hermione really, it’s fine. I’m sure it would do Severus well to have a friend,” Lily cut her off.
Obviously Lily still cared for him, even if she hadn’t completely forgiven him.

“Do you think that maybe one day…” Hermione trailed off.

It really wasn’t any of her business, she knew that, but she wasn’t able to stop the question from coming out of her.

Lily shrugged. “I don’t know.”

I don’t know wasn’t a no, Hermione thought. There was still a chance that they could be friends again one day.

“So,” said Lily in a much brighter tone. “From your humming when I walked in, I take it you had a nice time?”

Hermione didn’t like the knowing smirk on Lily’s face, nor was she pleased with the stupid grin that formed on her own.

“We did, I think,” she admitted sheepishly.

ooo

What was he thinking, asking Hermione Granger to walk with him? And how did he let himself become so distracted, that he led her to that blasted forest? And why, in the name of everything holy, was he not able to get her face out of his head?

He didn’t want to acknowledge that he found her attractive. Loath he was to admit it to himself, he did find her to be quite pretty. But it wasn’t just her physical beauty that he found himself drawn to that day. It was the way that she carried herself, so strong and confident. How she spoke so intelligently, and was undoubtedly wise beyond her years. And also her tenacity, that she showed in surviving the war, and making sure the Wizarding World had become a better place.

She intrigued him, that much was certain. He thought back to the way she looked at him, the moment when they were discussing the youthful appearances of everyone’s souls. Her sad brown eyes scrutinized every inch of his face.

It puzzled him that he hadn’t detected any hint of revulsion as she looked at him. Surely, he would have assumed, that she would have disliked him. It wasn’t as if he was exactly pleasant to her, when they’d known one another while they were both alive. But for some reason, she treated him with the same kindness and respect that he’d witnessed her show so many others in her lifetime. He felt as if he didn’t deserve it.

Severus walked to the table in which he kept his whiskey and poured himself a glass. He downed it quickly, relishing in the burning sensation that traveled down his throat, and wished more than he had since he arrived, that the alcohol would have given him the same release as it once did, so long ago.

He hastily poured himself another glass, and began to pace his study, as he tried to clear his head of the girl.

As much as he tried, and much to his annoyance, he couldn’t rid his thoughts of her. Hermione’s face, after she had heard Bellatrix from the forest was the most prevalent image in his mind. There was undiluted pain, and pure terror in her eyes, and for some inexplicable reason he had felt compelled to hold her in that moment, and shield her from that pain. Of course he stopped himself from acting on the impulse. But it worried him, considering that he had not felt that overwhelming urge to protect someone in quite some time.

Obviously he knew there would have been no way for Bellatrix to have reached her, or harmed her, but he wasn’t thinking clearly at that time. It took every ounce of his restraint to pull his arm back from reaching out to her.

Why did the girl have to die, he thought for the second time in two days. Yet this time the thought was purely selfish. If she hadn’t have died, she wouldn’t have been there affecting him whatsoever. And why was she affecting him at all?

Several loud bangs pulled him back into the present. Severus’ head snapped up. Somebody was pounding on his front door.

His brow furrowed, as he wondered who would have been calling at his home. Surely Hermione wouldn’t have come, he worried. Then he cursed at the small part of himself that hoped that it was her.

He left his study in a hurry, and made his way through his sitting room to the door.

“Severus Snape! You open this door right now, or I swear I will blow it off its hinges!”

He froze. Why was she there? She had made it very clear that she still had not wanted anything to do with him. He suddenly felt ill.

When he gathered the strength to open the door, Lily was stood on the doorstep; there was fire in her eyes.

“Lil —“

She immediately pushed passed him, and invited herself into his home. Severus closed the door behind her, and turned to find Lily staring daggers at him, with her arms folded across her chest.

“What were you playing at, Severus?” she shouted.

He was undoubtedly confused. Normally the only times she ever shouted at him, with that look on her face, were when they were still at school together, and she had found out that he and Potter had a go at one another.

“I’m sorry?” he asked.

Lily took a deliberate step forward. “Hermione,” she said through her teeth. Severus felt like the floor started sinking beneath his feet. “You took her near that forest?” She wasn’t shouting any longer, but the chillingly low volume of her voice was every bit as powerful.

Severus wasn’t afraid of much. He spent nearly half of his life working as a spy for The Order, lying to The Dark Lord, and risked his life daily while doing it. But there was something about Lily’s anger that always caused Severus a small amount of apprehension.

He knew he fucked up. Wasn’t he just thinking about how badly he fucked up by bringing Hermione near the forest right before Lily arrived? He didn’t need Lily to be at his home, shouting at him like they were children once again.

“It was a mistake,” he said cooly. “It will not happen again.”

Lily’s eyes narrowed. “You’re planning on seeing her again?” she asked.

Severus didn’t know how to answer that question. He wasn’t entirely sure if he should have seen her again. They had only been in each other’s company twice, and she was already proving to impact him more than he had been comfortable with. Perhaps it would have been for the best if he stayed away.

“Most likely not,” he admitted.

For some reason, that seemed to anger Lily further.

“Oh? And why not? Hermione made it seem as if you both got on rather well,” she said accusingly.

He didn’t like the feeling that came over him when Lily said that. Avoiding anything that felt like hope or happiness was ingrained in him. It kept him from eventually dealing with disappointment.

A cruel smile came across his lips.

“I think we both know quite well my unfortunate habit of hurting the people I care for,” he said with acid saturating each syllable.

Lily recoiled as if he had swung at her. She then rolled her eyes, and scoffed at him.

“You’re an idiot at times, Sev, you know that, right?”

The sudden change in her tone, and the fact that she had called him by her childhood nickname for him, had Severus taken aback. Normally he would have seethed at the words that had just come from her mouth. And if anyone else had spoken to him in that way, he surely would have cursed them into oblivion. But the way she sounded so tired when she said it, like he was the only person in the room not in on some secret, caused his guard to drop.

“What do you mean?” he asked in earnest.

Lily shook her head sadly.

“If you don’t understand by now, you never will,” she told him.

There was nothing he hated more than when someone couldn’t be straight forward.

“Lily, what the hell do you mean?” he asked again, this time with a hint of anger in his voice.

She sighed and looked him straight in the eyes.

“You have to learn how to let go of this — this,” she threw her hands up in frustration. “This self-hate and anger that you’ve been carrying with you your entire existence! You have to learn to let people in who want to be there, without forcing them away!”

It was like she had slapped him. Severus stepped away from her. He couldn’t look at her in that moment. What would Lily have known? Lily who had loving parents, who was the perfect student, someone whom everyone loved, and a witch who was widely respected and idolized for her bravery in sacrificing herself for her son. How could she have ever known what it felt like to have lived his life.

“I think it’s time for you to leave,” he whispered with his back turned to her.

It was silent for a heartbeat.

“Severus, listen —“

He didn’t want to listen any longer. He shook his head.

“Goodbye, Lily,” he said, then swiftly made his way from the front room, and back towards his study. He heard the front door slam shut just before he threw his glass of whiskey across the room, where it shattered against the wall.

And that was precisely the reason he knew he needed to stay away from Hermione Granger. The last time a woman had shown him kindness, and affected him in the way Hermione was beginning to, it ended too painfully.

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