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A More Merciful Man by Berkana [Reviews - 8]

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Hermione had managed to beg the map off Harry during sixth year. “I want to know how it works,” she had said, with the confidence of someone that thought wanting to know and actually being able to find out were one and the same. Harry had agreed, albeit reluctantly. In truth, curiosity had gotten the better of him, and the hope that they could reproduce the magic somehow. His obsession with the Half-Blood Prince had rather diminished his interest in any other magic anyway.

But after nearly a year of fruitless prodding, all Hermione Granger had managed to find out was that map was, most often, completely disagreeable.

“I solemnly swear that I am up to no good,” Hermione would intone, but more often than not it refused to believe her. When it did work it would only do so haphazardly, opening reluctantly, and then only showing the footsteps of the house ghosts, or outright insulting her. On those rare occasions that Hermione allowed him to touch it, Ron had much better luck getting it to open. But as soon as Hermione began murmuring over it the bloody thing grew recalcitrant.

Mssrs. Moony, Padfoot, Wormtail and Prongs request that Miss Hermione Jane Granger mind her own sodding business, it had told her once, causing Ron to laugh so hard that pumpkin juice shot out of his nose. And after that, the map grew even more abusive. It had called her a twat at least three times, by her count. But still she persevered.

She was forced to realize in the end that the map did not work well for her because she was lying. Hermione Jane Granger was not “up to no good.” Hermione Jane Granger was never up to no good. Hermione Jane Granger, the smartest witch of her age, was studying the map with the aim of discovering its secrets.

She could not bring herself to go to the one person that could have helped her most. She would not go to Professor Lupin. It had not taken Hermione long to grow incredibly possessive of the map, and she feared he would wish to reclaim it, or ask to "borrow" it. Remus Lupin would have done no such thing, but Hermione could not entertain even the remote possibility of being parted from her latest challenge. Harry she could put off, but if Professor Lupin asked for the map, she would have to acquiesce, and she could not have borne that.

Finally she became so frustrated that she actually made a special trip to see Fred and George Weasley in hopes that they could help her. It wasn’t hard to find them. Immediately after Voldemort’s demise they had reopened Zonko’s (which they had renamed “Fred and George Weasley present: ZONKO’S”), and now they spent alternate weeks there. The shop was a rather spectacular success.

But when Hermione entered Zonko’s, interrupting the brothers as they were restocking the Pygmy Puffs and Extendable Ears, she realized almost immediately that her trip would be fruitless.

“Oi, look who’s here!”

“Ron’s better half.”

“His far better half.”

Long pause.

“Not saying much though, considering Ron.”

As they laughed, jostling each other about a bit as they did, Hermione placed the map on the counter. She said something vague about “trying to figure out this bloody map,” and immediately they stopped laughing and their eyes narrowed, both at once, and to an identical, vaguely suspicious diameter.

“What are you trying to find out then, Hermione?”

“Going to put it to good use, isn’t she, Fred?”

“Well isn’t that a perfect waste?”

“We didn’t try to find out how it worked, did we?”

“Course not! That would be rude! We used it for what it was intended.”

“To spy!”

“To avoid detection!”

“To advance the cause of mischief everywhere!”

“And it never once steered us wrong, did it, George?”

“Never. Why’d Harry go and give it to her, anyway?”

“Prolly nagged him until he gave in.”

“Think she got Ron that way?”

Fred shook his head. “Naw. She’s too good for him. He always was a lucky bastard.”

And then they laughed again. A lot. And that was pretty much the way it went with Fred and George. They were No. Help. Whatsoever. She went off red-faced, the sound of their guffaws ringing in her ears.

She brought the map back to the Great Hall, plopping herself down by Ron as he studied for their next Herbology exam.

“No luck?” he asked, not taking his eyes from the textbook.

“No,” she answered sullenly.

She sat there dejectedly for awhile, her face pulled into a frown, until even Ron took pity on her. “Hand it over, love,” he told her at last. “Maybe I can figure it out…”

Hermione’s hand curled about the map possessively. “Don’t be silly, Ron,” she chided. “I’ve been studying it for months and months! You can’t do anything but get it to open!”

“Well, we all know I’m not the genius you are,” Ron said, his eyebrows rising high on his head, “but it’s obvious to everyone that the map likes me. Now give it over.”

Hermione rolled her eyes and handed it to him.

“Now you go over there…” he ordered, gesturing vaguely down the table. “Your brain waves will suck out all my map mojo.”

“Oh, for Merlin’s sake…” Hermione murmured. But she got up and moved down the table a bit. She’d never allowed Ron to really have his way with the map before. Maybe it was time to admit he could discover something about it that she couldn’t.

“I solemnly swear that I am up to no good!” Ron Weasley said seriously, and the map obediently opened itself.

Ron gave her a patronizing smile as he cracked his knuckles for effect. He then affected an intense stare, which he immediately trained on the map. He stared for an awfully long time.

Finally, curiosity got the better of her. “Anything?” she asked, leaning a bit forward.

Ron shooed her back. “Give a man some space, woman!” he said, and then began staring again.

Hermione pursed her lips. “What is it, Ron?” she asked eagerly at last.

Ron put his finger to his lips, and proffered her a serious look. “Apparently, Flitwick’s taking a piss.”

“Ron!” she cried, entirely frustrated, but Ron only laughed. Then he quirked an eyebrow at her. “Y’know, we might find out what Snape’s up to…”

Of the three of them, Ron was the one who still completely distrusted Snape, and no matter what she said to him, the suspicion remained. It made sense, though. Ron had not accompanied her to Spinner’s End, and in fact had forbidden her from going (not that this mattered, of course—she went in secret without telling him). Ron had not been with her when she found Snape drunk and hopeless and disconsolate. When Snape saw in her eyes that Dumbledore had returned…well, in that moment, Hermione had not needed to be a Legilimens to know the depth of the Potions professor’s feelings for the dead man. Their eyes had met for a brief second only, and after that Snape’s impenetrable armor had returned. But no one could tell her after that that Severus Snape was not, and had not always been, on the side of good.

Harry, of course, was Dumbledore’s confidante in a way that Hermione and Ron were not, and Dumbledore had explained everything to him, and told him everything, and this time Harry had believed him.

But Ron? Ron still hated Snape, and no amount of explaining could convince him otherwise.

“Ah, there’s the git himself,” Ron was saying. The quavery letters reading “Severus Snape” were exactly where Hermione expected them to be: in his office in the dungeons.

“So what?” she said. “Where else do you expect him to be?”

But then, oddly enough, just as the words were out of her mouth, the letters reading “Severus Snape” disappeared entirely.

“Flooed out--where’s he going then?” Ron asked suspiciously. Hermione watched as his eyes grew hungry to find Snape again.

“The library?” Hermione volunteered, though she knew as well as anyone that Snape seldom visited the library until after curfew.

Ron shook his head.

“The Slytherin common room?”

Another no.

“Well, Dumbledore’s office then? Draco’s room?”

No and no.

“Honestly, Ron, who cares, really? I mean…”

“Gods!” Ron whispered suddenly. “There he is!”

And then Ron pointed--right to the square that indicated Professor Flintrammel’s private rooms.

“What’s he doing at Professor Flintrammel’s rooms?” Ron said, frowning.

Hermione crossed her arms in front of her chest and said nothing, still more than vaguely annoyed at Ron’s relative success with the map. The fact that Professor Snape had Flooed into Jane Flintrammel’s rooms was a rather provocative fact indeed, but she didn’t want to encourage Ron in his suspicions.

As for those suspicions, however, they hardly needed her encouragement. Suddenly, Ron Weasley emitted a noise of profound disgust. “He’s gone there to snoop around with that overgrown conk of his.”

Hermione pointed to the map again. “Don’t be silly, Ron. See there, he’s going into her classroom. He’s going to wait for her there. Probably he’s gone to talk to her about a student or something.”

“But she’s not even in there!” Ron insisted. “And does that sound like Snape to you? If he wanted to talk to her, he’d send her a bloody summons, not wait for her in her classroom! Besides, what’s he doing Flooing into her private quarters? Digging up trouble for her’s my guess…”

Though Hermione saw the inherent logic in this, at that moment she was quite happy to argue with him. “Ron, that’s not fair,” she said. “I know he’s not a particularly pleasant person but we all know the terrible sacrifices he made. You can’t still be thinking the worst of him all the time.”

“He was a spy for the Order, Hermione,” Ron told her. “And old habits die hard. Besides, everyone knows he can’t stand Professor Flintrammel. Thinks he’s above her because she’s a Squib. We both overheard him ranting at Dumbledore last year about Professor Flintrammel, just going on and on about what a mistake it was to hire her. Seems like everyone that Snape doesn’t like ends up getting tossed from Hogwarts, doesn’t it?”

Hermione shook her head again. “Except for you and Harry, of course. And every other bloody student at this school, even most of the Slytherins. Be reasonable. He doesn’t like anyone. I mean, why would he single out her for special punishment?”

Ron pondered this for a bit, then nodded reluctantly. “That’s a bit true…the only person he seems on about these days is Malfoy...he’s even left off Harry for a change.”

Hermione put her elbows on the tables, and grew suddenly thoughtful. “You know, Snape started in on Draco right about the same time he started going soft on everyone else…” she said.

Which was true. In the past couple of months he had gone a bit soft on everyone else. Less quizzes, less homework, less vindictive malevolence in general. Even Neville seemed more at ease in Potions class these days.

“Don’t try and figure him out, Hermione,” Ron said, bending his eyes back toward the map.

“Who better to figure out?” Hermione said, raising an eyebrow. “Even you’re fascinated by him!”

Ron pulled a face. “I’m not fascinated by him, Herm…”

But suddenly Ron gasped. “Look!” he said, pointing to the map. Jane Flintrammel had appeared in her classroom.

“Oh, so what?” Hermione said. “It’s her classroom! Why shouldn’t she be there? Why shouldn’t…”

Look!” Ron said again, more forcefully. And Hermione did.

The quavery letters indicating the position of Jane Flintrammel and Severus Snape seemed almost to be wrestling, the characters on the map crossing over and under each other. Then, the names separated themselves, and Snape’s name actually seemed to be pulling at Jane Flintrammel’s. As Ron and Hermione watched, Snape’s name seemed to yank Professor Flintrammel’s name towards her rooms.

“The bat’s caught her!” Ron cried. “Bloody hell! Come on, Hermione!”

And to Hermione’s horror, Ron Weasley suddenly sprang up, abandoning his Herbology textbook and all of his notes, and immediately set off towards Professor Flintrammel’s office.

“Ron!” Hermione called, gathering up the map as best she could. “Ron!”

If Ron had grabbed her wrist and pulled her (as Snape had obviously pulled Jane Flintrammel), Hermione might have dug in her heels a bit and slowed him down. Perhaps she could have talked some sense into him. But there was no chance of that. Ron ran ahead, and Hermione raced to keep up with him. Whatever he was going to do, she was beginning to think it was a terrible, terrible idea, and she was beginning to think as well that she had to stop him.

Ron Weasley was rattling at the door of Professor Flintrammel’s classroom when she caught up to him.

“At least wait, just a second, Ron! They could be…I mean perhaps they’re not arguing, Ron…perhaps they’re…” The truth was beginning to dawn for Hermione, but it was a truth so vast and unfathomable that she could not quite get her mind around it.

“They’re what?” he whispered tensely. But then, meeting her eyes and finally discerning her meaning, his face contracted into a rictus of disgust.

“Whatever it is he’s got on his mind, it’s not that. The bat hates her. And who would, with him? Of their own free will, anyway…”

“Ron, for God’s sake…”

But Ron was already pulling out his wand. He spelled the lock open, and she followed him into the classroom. The classroom was dark, but the door to Professor Flintrammel’s quarters was ajar. A warm light spilled out and the two moved into its halo, Hermione uttering warnings as quietly as she was able.

For a moment, Ron halted, listening. Then, suddenly, there was a banging sort of clatter, and the sound of scuffling feet.

Then, the two heard Professor Snape. And from the sound of it he was absolutely furious.

“Oh, just try to escape me now…just try!” he fairly shouted.

Hermione and Ron stood stock still, shocked into silence, as there came from inside Professor Flintrammel’s rooms another clattering noise, accompanied by a shriek. A distinctly feminine shriek.

“Now I have you, you wench!”

There was another squeal, and then the short, sharp, unmistakable report of fabric tearing, accompanied by a yelp.

Ron’s mouth fell open in utter horror, as the two of them stood unmoving just five feet from Professor Flintrammel’s door.

Another yelp, an odd sound of shuffling. Then “Take it!” Snape cried out.

It was a shout of anger and triumph. In answer, Professor Flintrammel’s cry was a surprised sort of plea. And it was just one breathy word: “Severus!

Hermione felt a flush of heat course through her body, along with the very insistent urge that they needed to leave. Now.

Not Ron, however. Ron heard the plea in her voice, heard what he obviously interpreted as anguish, and his face grew red with fury.

Take it!” Snape cried again, and now instead of clattering there was a rhythmic pounding. “You begged for it, and now you are going to take it!”

“Ah, Severus, please!” Jane Flintrammel cried, something far more than anguish in her voice. There was yearning in it. Desire.

There was another flush of heat, and Hermione involuntarily took a small step back.

Take it!” Snape ordered again.

“That Slytherin freak!” Ron hissed. “He’s beating her!”

Then, everything seemed to happen at once.

Ron Weasley broke from Hermione, wand raised, intent on saving Jane Flintrammel.

“Ron, for god’s sake, no!” Hermione hissed.

She saw him move, but he was too quick for her. Her hand tried to close around his robes, but he was already in motion, and he slipped away from her. She saw him push the door open, shouting as he did, shouting “Get away from her you…”

Then there was another shriek (Professor Flintrammel’s to be precise), and a bone-chilling howl of rage.

Snape’s.

Hermione entered the room only two seconds later, and the first thing she laid eyes on was Ron, who was squeaking softly, his face a mask of not only horror, now, but confusion, an excruciating embarrassment beginning to work its way in there as well. His wand was hanging limp from his nerveless fingers, and Hermione watched it clatter to the floor. Whatever Ron had seen, it had not been what he expected.

Hermione Granger turned, and now, instead off moving too quickly, everything afterward seemed to follow in slow motion. She saw Professor Snape, his black robes open (a thatch of black, a red pillar of flesh), lifting himself off of Professor Flintrammel, and moving to shut his robes and stand in front of her.

Snape’s right hand, however, held his wand. Even distracted by ecstasy Snape was far too quick for them. Hermione had only another two seconds to take in the scene before she heard Professor Snape yell “Stupefy!” and she was suddenly held motionless and silent. Then, another spell and the room fell dark.

By far the hardest part for Hermione was the few minutes they spent in Jane Flintrammel’s rooms as their teachers collected themselves (difficult, in the dark, especially for Professor Flintrammel, who bumped herself several times) and considered what they would do. Most terrifying was that Snape decided not to in any way attempt to conceal his plans. It was as if he wanted her and Ron to hear him pondering their fates.

Crucio Crucio Crucio…” Snape hissed this over and over again. Hermione found herself vaguely grateful that he hadn’t started with Avada Kedavra.

Professor Flintrammel let him rant for a bit, only emitting little cries of pain as parts of her body connected with various hard objects as she dressed, but then finally she said, “I’m sure it was an accident…”

Another howl of rage from Snape. “Don’t you dare defend them!” he railed. “They broke into your private quarters, Jane!”

Then Snape began chanting ‘Crucio’ again, until Professor Flintrammel said, “We must tell Albus. Obviously they’ll have to be Obliviated. We can’t handle this sort of thing without informing him.”

She said a variant of this two or three times, until Snape shouted, “Not the old man!

Then, there was a long silence, until Professor Flintrammel spoke again.

“It’s not against Hogwarts rules for us to…”

“This is not about rules,” Snape interrupted. “If Dumbledore knows that I…that we…”

“He’s the epitome of discretion, Severus. Surely you must know that.”

Hermione heard him breathing heavily. “Oh, no, he won’t tell anyone. But after the fuss I made about your hire, he will never let me hear the end of it!”

“He won’t say a word, Severus, even to you, not if you ask him not to…”

Snape made a disgusted noise. “No, that smug old bastard won’t say anything. He’ll just twinkle at me insufferably every time you and I are in the same room! It will be absolutely intolerable.”

To this, Jane only sighed. And then, when Snape’s breathing began to quiet, she spoke again, her voice low and calming, almost a croon.

“And whose fault is that? Besides, what else are we to do? Surely he’ll agree that they should be Obliviated. We needn’t worry. We could go back to fucking right now and they’d never remember a thing…”

Hermione heard Ron make a terrified noise, and Snape said, bitterly, “Why stop there? Why don’t you just offer a bloody seminar on my anatomy and my sexual habits? Why not catalogue my every erotic response and give a presentation in the Great Hall?”

Snape was working himself up again, Hermione could hear. But in response Professor Flintrammel’s voice was small and teasing.

“Because I haven’t completed my research,” she said playfully.

There was another silence, then, followed by soft rustling, as some communication passed between the two professors that Hermione could not hear.

“Where’s that bloody owl of yours?” Snape murmured at last, something like defeat in his voice.

Then suddenly the room was flooded with light. Snape was standing menacingly by the fireplace, glowering at them as if he would be perfectly happy to cut them both into tiny bits. Jane Flintrammel had obviously abandoned the torn dress she had been wearing, and had clad herself in another, equally shapeless one. She would not meet their eyes.

Hermione and Ron blinked stupidly, as Jane went to the window and called Napoleon, and drew out a parchment.

“What should I tell him?” Jane asked.

Snape’s eyes never left his students. Hermione could feel them on her. “Be brief, but tell him everything,” Snape said. “It will save us the indignity of having to explain it to his face.”

Hermione could hear Jane scratching on the parchment. After a minute or so, she called for Napoleon, who flew obediently through the transom to perch on her outstretched hand. She whispered to the bird and with a trill he flew off, clutching the parchment in his tiny claws.

After what seemed to Hermione to be an uncomfortably long time (but which was really only two minutes or so), Dumbledore finally appeared, his ghostly form falling straight down through the ceiling. He looked around briefly, refusing to let his face betray any emotion whatsoever as he assessed the situation.

“Severus,” he said at last, “perhaps the first step would be to remove the spell.”

With a grunt, Snape did so. Ron whimpered, and immediately Hermione felt her legs go out from under her. Professor Flintrammel caught her just before she crumpled to the floor, and sat her on the sofa.

“Your attempt at currying sympathy will not avail you, Miss Granger,” Snape said icily.

Hermione wisely thought it best not to defend herself. Besides, she felt woozy.

“Now,” Dumbledore began, “I assume that the two of you have a good reason for this invasion…”

“Forgive me, Headmaster,” Jane interrupted, “but why question them? Surely they should be immediately Obliviated.”

“Yes please, Obliviate us!” Ron said “Me at least! I can’t take it!”

“Unacceptable,” Snape said through gritted teeth.

Professor Flintrammel looked at her lover uncomprehendingly. “Why?”

Snape would not answer.

“Severus, I don’t want to stare into the faces of these two for the rest of the year after tonight, considering what they’ve seen.”

“You have nothing to be ashamed of!” he said fiercely. “It is they who should be ashamed.”

Professor Flintrammel considered this. “I’m not ashamed, Severus. Never that. But I am…embarrassed. And…they’ll tell. They’re human. You can’t expect them to hold such a confidence.”

“I won’t say a word,” Hermione insisted earnestly. She meant it.

Ron put his palms to his eyes. “I’m planning to kill myself, so I won’t say anything either.”

At this Snape advanced on the boy, as his long fingers closed into a hard fist. “Oh, I can help you with that, Mr. Weasley,” he said. “In fact I would relish the opportunity…”

“Severus…” the ghost of Albus Dumbledore interjected quietly.

At this Snape turned on the Headmaster. “What business do they have in her private rooms? What excuse could they possibly have? They charmed open the lock to her classroom! Witnessing an…intimate encounter is hardly the worst of what they might have been planning! Stealing exams, provisions, perhaps rifling through Jane’s belongings for the ingredients to the Polyjuice Potion…”

“We didn’t, Professor Snape!” Hermione said, her voice quavering. “We wouldn’t ever...”

Snape spun around furiously to face her. “As if you haven’t done exactly that many, many times before, Miss Granger! Deny it! Deny it!”

Then, Snape bent down, his fist closing on the arm of the sofa. He looked into her eyes, and searched them. She could not bear it for more than a few seconds.

I’ve never stolen an exam!” She exclaimed at last, horrified. And then she burst into tears.

Ron immediately tried to comfort her. “Now you oughtn’t to make her cry about it! It was my fault anyway! I’m the one who dragged her in here! I’m the one who thought…”

“Who thought what, Mr. Weasley?” Snape queried. He stood now, his back to the students, his anger somewhat diminished.

“Who thought what?” Snape repeated, turning around again. “Thought that the ugly, unpleasant Potions professor hunted down the far more agreeable Runes professor in order to facilitate an attack?”

“Well, I…I…”

“Bully for you, Mr. Weasley, as that is exactly what happened. Though obviously not in the context that you imagined.” And at this Snape smiled grimly at the boy, his eyes glittering, until Ron Weasley averted his eyes.

“Oh, why are we even talking about this?” Professor Flintrammel asked, frustrated. “Surely this situation merits Obliviation. Shouldn’t we just get on with it?”

At this Severus Snape only glared, first at her, then at the two students before him.

“Professor Snape is opposed to Obliviation,” Dumbledore asserted.

“Well, why?”

“Because, my dear,” Dumbledore explained, “Miss Granger and Mr. Weasley could not then be punished. One cannot discipline someone for a transgression that they cannot remember.”

“The Ministry seems to think it…unfair,” Snape said, with some disgust.

“And that is correct,” said Dumbledore.

The headmaster looked thoughtful, then. “But that is not my main concern. In truth I am opposed to Obliviation in this case as well, and it has nothing to do with punishment.”

Hermione saw that the Runes professor was growing even more aggravated. “Why, then?”

In answer, Dumbledore looked questioningly at Hermione. “Do you want to answer that, Miss Granger? I think it would be appropriate.”

Hermione cleared her throat and sat straight up, and Snape let out a snort of disgust.

“Just what every swot needs,” he intoned, his voice dripping with sarcasm, “encouragement.”

Dumbledore gave him a ghostly glare, and Snape glared right back. But he ceased his protest.

“Obliviation is used mostly on Muggles, to conceal the Wizarding world. Those Obliviations are actually quite simple, as they have experienced a world that does not, to their conscious mind, even exist.”

“But there’s a difference between concealment and Obliviation…” Jane asked, “Isn’t there?”

After a nervous look at the Headmaster, who smiled at her blandly, Hermione continued.

“The term ‘obliviate’ is something of a misnomer, rather like the term ‘delete’ on a Muggle computer’s hard drive,” she continued. “Obliviation does not completely eradicate the memory. Often the memory resurfaces, especially in dreams. Many Muggles have had dreams about dragons, for example, that originated with Obliviations. It’s relatively common. There is always a small chance that some fragment of the Obliviated memory will resurface somehow, most especially if the experience Obliviated is emotionally intense.”

“And I’d say this incident qualifies…” Dumbledore added.

“What about all the people that the Ministry has Obliviated over the years?” Professor Flintrammel asked. “From what I understand it’s a fairly common procedure. One can even train to be an Obliviator.”

“In those cases Obliviation is a kindness, and actually less damaging than allowing them to continue to believe what they’ve seen,” Hermione said, nodding. “Because then they would begin to question their own sanity. In a very real sense it is far easier to Obliviate the outlandish and unbelievable rather than the ordinary and the everyday.”

“Thus the problem with Obliviation in this situation,” Dumbledore stated. “If Miss Granger were to start having dreams about her Potions professor, or Mr. Weasley about his Runes Professor…”

Dumbledore trailed off then, but his meaning was more than clear.

“For God’s sake,” Snape huffed, and Hermione felt the blood rush to her face again. Ron made another squeaking noise, and Jane suddenly became very interested in her lap.

Unbidden, a picture sprang to Hermione’s mind: Snape’s erect cock; large, red, and rooted in black hair. If she were Obliviated, and that red cock suddenly began to make inexplicable appearances in her dreams, that would be disturbing indeed. The last thing she needed was a crush on Severus Snape.

Jane was confused, now. “Well if they’re not going to be Obliviated then what on earth is to be done with them?”

“Mr. Filch has a rack in his dungeons,” Snape intoned. “I suggest we set them up in there.”

Dumbledore ignored him. “We let them finish explaining themselves, first of all.”

The Headmaster’s voice was polite, but there was steel under it. “I for one am curious as to how you even knew that Professor Flintrammel and Professor Snape were in her quarters together, and why, if you knew that, you had the temerity to assume that she needed your assistance.”

It was only then that Hermione realized that the half-opened map was still clutched in her hand. Slowly, she set it on Professor Flintrammel’s coffee table.

“Hermione…” Ron warned. Doubtless he worried that the map would be confiscated.

“What else is there to do, Ron?” she told him.

The Runes professor leaned forward, peering at it curiously.

“The map knows where everyone is,” Hermione said. “Everyone in the castle, if you look hard enough.” And then Hermione pointed to the square that indicated Professor’s rooms.

“Look, there I am!” Professor Flintrammel said, indicating the quavery letters reading “Jane Flintrammel”. “And there you are!” she added, pointing down at the letters that read “Severus Snape”. (Snape grunted in disgust.) “And you…and you…and even you Headmaster, though the letters are a bit harder to read!”

“Because he’s a ghost,” Hermione volunteered.

“Even me…” Dumbledore said, chuckling.

“Well isn’t that a thing…” Jane said, marveling. “How does it…how do you…”

Then all of a sudden, realization dawned.

“You…you saw us on the map…”

Hermione nodded.

“And you thought…”

Hermione nodded again, turning towards the ghost of the headmaster. “When we entered the classroom, we heard Professor Snape…he sounded angry. And then…and then there were…sounds.” Hermione felt her face reddening as she spoke. “Ron thought…he thought Professor Snape was…”

“He attacked her! I heard it!” Ron insisted.

Snape sprang to his feet. “Be silent, you prying fool!” he roared.

“Well it certainly sounded that way,” Ron amended glumly.

Hermione looked toward Professor Flintrammel, who had resumed interest in her lap.

“It wasn’t like that, Ron,” she said, softly, but only Hermione heard her.

“Calm, please. Everyone calm…” Dumbledore was saying.

Professor Snape gestured furiously at his students. “I have always suspected that this map contains Dark magic, and now here is the proof!”

But the ghost of Albus Dumbledore only shook his head. “My dear boy…” he began, “it takes no Dark magic to find a couple in the midst of making love. Much of the time in fact one discovers them all unwilling, as is the case with these two….”

Hermione thought that “making love” did not quite seem to describe it. She had never heard Snape sound so utterly in control, so masterful and dominant. All of a sudden she felt very warm. She glanced sidelong at Ron, who met her eyes and gave her a small, encouraging smile, a smile of pure love and support. She wondered if she could somehow transform it into something more feral.

“I still believe it contains Dark magic…” Snape reiterated.

Mischief, Severus,” Dumbledore’s ghost countered. “Not Dark magic. Mischief.” But then the ghost paused. “Perhaps, however, I ought to keep a proper eye on this map after all. We seem to have enough mischief around here these days since Zonko’s reopened.”

“Bloody hell! Harry will kill us!” Ron said softly, and Dumbledore turned to him.

“I will inform Harry that I have confiscated the map, and that it will be returned to him upon his graduation.”

Snape stared at the two Gryffindors, wearing a malevolent smile. “Now, about that punishment…”

But then, all of a sudden, Jane Flintrammel stood, and bowed to the headmaster rather formally.

“May I question these two before we assign punishment?” she asked.

Snape rolled his eyes. “Sit down, Jane…” he ordered. “You’ll make things worse.”

At this Professor Flintrammel gave him the most severe look that Hermione had ever seen her give anyone, and Snape actually pursed his lips and looked away.

“Headmaster?” Jane prodded politely.

Dumbledore tilted his ghostly head slightly. “I don’t see why not…”

Professor Flintrammel took a deep breath, and turned to Ron Weasley. “Professor Snape meant me no harm, Mr. Weasley,” she said. Ron, however, would not meet her eyes. Hermione was grateful for that. Another boy, someone slyer, more worldly, would never have had the decency to be so profoundly embarrassed. She felt a sudden flare of love for him.

“Do you believe me?” Professor Flintrammel urged.

Ron mumbled something under his breath then, a vague challenge that he did not quite want to vocalize.

“Speak up, Mr. Weasley…” said Dumbledore, though Hermione had the feeling that the Headmaster had heard him perfectly well.

Ron looked up then, but at Dumbledore, not Professor Flintrammel. “He could have Imperioed her!”

Professor Snape let out a furious growl. “If you do not cease your baseless accusations I will surely rip your throat out…”

“Severus, please…” Dumbledore said wearily.

But Professor Flintrammel looked stricken. “Do you really believe that?” she asked.

Ron did look at her then. “He didn’t want you hired! Everyone knows that!”

Jane nodded seriously. “And you extrapolate from this, even after everything good that you know he’s done, and all the sacrifices he’s made, that he’s capable of assaulting me?”

“Well, he was yelling at you—and you were obviously trying to get away from him. I heard it. Sounded like he was giving you a beating! How was I supposed to know that you two were…that you were…”

“You were supposed to mind your own bloody business!” Snape shouted. “Something of which you seem congenitally incapable!”

Ron opened his mouth as if to say something, but then thought the better of it. There was a long, uncomfortable silence.

“Why do you think Professor Snape is capable of doing that to me?” the Runes professor asked at last.

Ron, however, was already mortified, and a sullen gloom descended upon him.

“You’re wasting your breath,” Snape said, disgusted.

But Professor Flintrammel turned on him then, obviously frustrated.

“I can’t stand that he doesn’t think better of you!” she cried.

And the two of them, the Runes professor and the Potions professor, looked at each other then, and what they were thinking, Hermione could not tell.

At last Snape shook his head slowly. “Jane, I don’t want him to think better of me,” he said quietly.

But his resignation only seemed to anger Professor Flintrammel further. “And do you care what he thinks of me? Of us? Do you want him to think I am your victim? Someone you had to lure into bed with spells and threats? It’s not right, Severus.”

“What’s right and what is are often two entirely different things,” Snape said, disgusted. “I thought you would have discerned that by now.”

“I’m sure she has, in most instances,” Dumbledore said gently. “But perhaps not when it comes to you, Severus.”

“Perhaps not,” Professor Flintrammel said then, folding her arms across her chest. “But I would like this opportunity to set the record straight,” she said frostily, “so that there is no doubt left in anyone’s mind.”

Ron looked more uncomfortable, if that was even possible. “You needn’t do that, Professor…” he mumbled. “I’ll take your word for it…I’ll…”

“Professor Snape and I are lovers,” Jane Flintrammel announced. “We have been sleeping together for months, and if recollection serves it was I who seduced him. I have not been under the influence of an Unforgivable. I have not been Confounded.”

Professor Flintrammel looked back at Professor Snape then, who met her measured gaze with the barest hint of a smile.

“And I sleep with Professor Snape for one reason only. Because I want him. Is that understood, Mr. Weasley?”

Ron, whose gaze was directed at the floor again, nodded, then swallowed hard. “I’m sorry…” he said softly, at last, “to both you and to Professor Snape.”

Snape grunted again in disgust, but Jane Flintrammel nodded kindly. “I forgive you, Ron.”

She put out her hand and Ron took it, and smiled at her. Then Professor Flintrammel took Hermione’s hand as well.

“All settled, then…” Professor Flintrammel said to the headmaster.

“Save for the matter of punishment…” Snape said, every syllable a threat, “and keeping these two permanently quiet about what they’ve seen…”

Snape’s voice was intimidating enough to give Hermione pause.

“I plead for leniency,” Jane Flintrammel said to Dumbledore. “I personally am appeased. They’re sorry about what they’ve done, they understand that it was wrong, and they’ve been terribly embarrassed to boot. That’s enough for me.”

“Well it’s not enough for me!” Snape insisted, pointing at the two offenders.

The Runes professor ignored him, fixing her gaze only on the Headmaster.

“They invaded my quarters, not Professor Snape’s,” she said. “And though Ron was most obviously wrong about Professor Snape’s intentions, his intent was to help me. And I am satisfied that they have learned their lesson.”

“I am not!” Snape fairly roared.

Jane turned to her furious lover with an exaggerated politeness. “From what I understand, Severus, in cases like these punishment is often meted out by the head of house,” she said. “Shall we get Minerva?”

There was a smile playing at the corners of her mouth, and Snape looked horrified.

“Severus?” Dumbledore prodded, and Hermione got the very clear idea that he too was suppressing a smile. “Jane makes a very pertinent point.”

The thought of Minerva McGonagall becoming privy to his sex life as well was something Snape obviously could not bear.

“Damn you, Jane…” he murmured under his breath. Jane smiled, and raised an eyebrow at him.

“But there is the matter of keeping them quiet…” Jane Flintrammel added, her brows furrowing. “I don’t know how we’re going to do that.”

At this, Dumbledore looked over at the surly Potions master, most obviously still angry that his revenge had been thwarted.

“I believe Severus can aid in that regard.”

“Oh, now you find me of use. How touching.” Snape’s voice was dripping with sarcasm. He had stalked to the window and was glaring out over the darkened grounds, his arms folded in front of his chest.

Jane gave the Headmaster an apologetic look, then moved to stand next to her lover. He continued to look pointedly at the grounds, attempting, it seemed, to ignore her.

“Severus, please let me handle this…” she asked. “Do me this one favor…”

“It is not a favor to you to encourage such behavior in your students,” he said stiffly.

But Jane Flintrammel put her hand on his arm, then, and her voice became a gentle plea.

“Ron broke into my quarters to save me, Severus, and he risked the fury of the most powerful wizard alive to do it. Could you not find it in your heart to forgive him?”

Something softened in Professor Snape’s demeanor then. His shoulders relaxed slightly, and taking a deep breath he turned his head enough so that he was barely meeting Professor Flintrammel’s level, pleading gaze.

Hermione could only marvel. She had never seen anyone capable of moving her Potions professor to forgiveness. Never seen anyone capable of softening his feelings at all.

“I will find it in my heart to assent to you,” he said. “As for those two…they are extremely lucky to have such an advocate. Neither one of them deserves it.”

“You have my gratitude, Severus…” Professor Flintrammel said, and Snape gave her an almost imperceptible nod. Then, he turned again to the students, his eyes glinting.

“Mr. Weasley and Miss Granger must agree to be subjected to the Drivel spell,” he said ominously.

Ron moaned, but Hermione was curious, “Drivel spell? I’ve never heard of a Drivel spell…”

Snape smiled grimly at her. “There are many spells of which you are not aware, Miss Granger, as they are not contained in any book.”

“The Drivel spell is a minor sort of Fidelius charm,” Dumbledore explained. “Severus’ own invention, actually. He concocted it somewhere around his fifth year, didn’t you?”

“Actually, it was near the end of my fourth,” Snape corrected. “You were first made aware of it in my fifth.”

Dumbledore nodded. “Yes, when Minerva told me she had come upon James Potter, wand out, railing at Severus, reciting word for word the American Constitution.”

Snape smiled despite himself. That had been one of the high points of his career at Hogwarts.

“What does it involve?” Hermione asked.

“You will soon find out, Miss Granger,” Snape said, “though the spell will prevent you from revealing your knowledge of it to anyone.”

Hermione sighed. “Well, on with it, then.”

Snape turned to Professor Flintrammel. “Do you wish to be able to talk about this incident…with me or anyone else?”

Professor Flintrammel thought for a moment. “Well, I don’t know. I’m not sure. But I don’t think I want to unable to talk about it.”

“Then you must leave.”

The Runes professor shook her head. “But I want to…to watch you.” There was an odd look on her face then, a tinge of eagerness, and more than a hint of admiration, emotions she could not hide. And when her eyes fell upon him the angles in Snape’s face softened, almost imperceptibly.

“You may stay, but anyone within the sound of my voice will be subject to the charm. I’m unsure of its effect on the dead. That’s never been tested.”

“I will remain to observe, nonetheless,” Dumbledore said.

Snape’s nod was cool, appraising. He had recovered himself, and if anything looked more self-possessed than he had before the discovery of his affair.

He’s changed, Hermione thought. He’s not quite the dour and bitter man he used to be.

And as Jane Flintrammel left her own quarters, heading a bit reluctantly to where she would not be subject to her lover’s spell, Hermione’s eyes fixed again on her Potions professor, who slid his wand from an inner pocket of his robes, and pinned her with his dark stare.

Severus Snape waved his wand, his hand dancing smoothly through the air, and his voice, sonorous and deep, began to echo through her head. Another hot flush surged through her, and as she looked away, Hermione Granger began to wish that she had been Obliviated after all.

A More Merciful Man by Berkana [Reviews - 8]

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