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  Chapter Two  

Diagon Alley

 

 

The rain didn't stop until Hermione and Harry returned home. 

 

It was a nice, cozy flat Harry had bought in the hopes that she would one day be returned to him. 

 

And three months ago, his dreams were finally coming true. 

 

 

“Home sweet home!” he announced, placing his arms around her waist and kissing her cheek as he opened the door for her. 

 

Hermione nodded and managed a weak smile in return. “I’m going to rest.”

 

Harry's smile faded a little when she moved away from him.

 

"Right." Harry said placing the keys on a side table. "Hot chocolate?" 

 

Hermione nodded at him.

 

"Well, just make yourself at home. I'll be in the kitchen." 

 

Harry kissed her again before walking off down the hallway and into the kitchen. 

 

It has been three months and every time they came home from the courthouse, the Ministry or the Weasleys or as trivial as an errand, he hoped that Hermione's face would light up at the sight of the home he worked so hard to built. 

 

 "Here you go." 

 

Hermione looked up as Harry entered their small and cozy living room. 

 

It was a dimly lit room. 

 

Two long couches sat atop an expensive-looking carpet. Bookshelves paneled the walls, and they were filled with Defensive magic reference guides and some collections he'd bought in anticipation of Hermione’s homecoming through the years. 

 

The way Hermione could describe it, Harry built the house, well-prepared and decorated as if two people were already living in it - as if her absence only meant she was on a faraway vacation and was coming home too. 

 

He had never lost hope of her ever returning home.

 

"Thanks," Hermione said laying the cup down on the wooden table. 

 

Harry stared at it but eventually decided to ignore her reluctance to drink. 

 

"What do you want to do tonight?" he asked as he sat next to her, taking her hand and kissing it. 

 

Hermione let him but slowly drew her hand back when Harry moved closer to the couch, his hands moving around her for another kiss. 

 

"If the weather is better tomorrow, let's go to Diagon Alley to buy a new wand for you? I already wrote them a note ahead of time so they will prepare a selection for you. I got a note from them this morning that the wands are prepared." 

 

Hermione only nodded and smiled at him. 

 

He smiled back at her and had moved forward to kiss her on the lips but she turned away and had picked up the hot chocolate to take a sip. 

 

Harry sighed heavily watching her slow drawn movements as she drank from the cup he made. 

 

"Good?" he asked her. 

 

"Yeah. Really good. I was thinking of maybe just staying in and reading tomorrow" Hermione replied placing the cup back down and moving a few inches away from him on the couch as she reached over for a book from the table. 

 

Harry stared at her cautious movements and body language. 

 

He was unsure how to feel about her homecoming. 

 

Although he had been advised by St. Mungo's that she was physically healthy, an elder healer had already advised him that there would be changes in her that would slowly come around as the days go by and he should not only take note of them but be patient about all of it. 

 

Hermione was a victim of verbal abuse and for obvious reasons, possibly physical and emotional abuse as well. And for these reasons, Harry had been advised not just by Healers but by the Order and Weasleys as well that bringing Hermione home after a decade, would possibly be like bringing another person they've never met. 

 

But Hermione Jean granger - the love of his life - had been safely returned to her and that was the only thing that mattered to him. 

 

He wasn't stupid. 

He was noticing all the changes since she woke up from St. Mungo's at the time they have successfully extracted her from that godforsaken cottage - for which the first thing she asked for was Snape and if he was alright. 

 

She was with him, she was physically well but he knew that somewhere behind her eyes, was a hollow soul. 

 

Snape had damaged her beyond anyone would understand. 

 

The road to her recovery was going to be quite long. But he was patient. 

 

A few more days or weeks or inevitably months of waiting for her to be returned to her old state was nothing compared to the ten long years of waiting he had to make. 

 

"Harry?" Hermione's voice pulled her back to reality. "I'm just going to clean up and get some nap." 

 

She was standing before him and her hand held his. 

 

He nodded coherently before deciding to pull her back to him. 

 

Hermione was too shocked at the movement but before she could move against him, his hand had wrapped around her waist, his other hand holding the back of her head still as he kissed her deeply. 

 

For a moment she had pulled back and fought against his hold but the moment that he was deep in their kiss and she felt his muscles relax around her, she roughly pulled herself away from him. 

 

"I'm sorry." Hermione said quickly stepping away from him. "I'm just.. I'm not... I'll see you later." 

 

Harry sat on the couch, his arms still in midair as Hermione broke their kiss and went up the stairs as fast as his legs could carry her. 

 

He stayed still on the couch, eyes narrowed and fists unconsciously curling. 

 

When she was taken, their relationship was just becoming something more. The night of his transfer when they were ambushed, they were just about to announce that Hermione had said ‘yes’ to his proposal. But the tragic night ended all their dreams. 

 

Now he was unsure if Hermione still wanted him the same way she did then. 

 

She seemed so distant.

 

Three months it had been, and it still felt as if Hermione wasn’t home. Harry had demanded they repeat the tests at the hospital to make sure she was physically and mentally healthy. He was worried she has been under some kind of curse or enchantment. But everything was normal. 

 

The first month was spent at St. Mungo's where he oversaw her treatment, double-checking that she got the psychological support she needed. To his and the Weasleys' delight, all the examinations showed she was in perfect health and perhaps the only thing to keep an eye on was her low weight. Harry made sure everything she needed or wanted was attended to.

 

He had bought her new clothes, took her to large libraries and parks—everything he could think of to make sure she felt safe now that she was back. And yet, despite his efforts, none of it seemed to matter to her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Thanks," Hermione said, setting her empty mug on the table. "I'm going to bed early. Goodnight." 

 

Snape just nodded gruffly. He was sitting on the couch by the fireplace completely exhausted.

 

"Are you ill?" she asked.

 

Snape shook his head and waved his hand. "Go to sleep," he told her. "I just need to get away from this headache."

 

She placed her hand over his forehead, and he quickly opened his eyes and grasped her wrist, brushing her away.

 

"I'm sorry. I'm just worried. You don't look good."

 

"If you'd been spending weeks and months taking care of a whole castle full of dunderheads, you’d have a headache too.” 

 

Hermione turned to the window where she could see the snow falling. "Hogwarts is beautiful at Christmas." she whispered.

 

She missed the castle, especially during the holiday season.

 

It had been a few months since the ambush on Harry's transfer, and she still didn’t know how the outside world was faring. 

 

Was Harry all right? How were her parents?

 

"About the other day," she said reluctantly. “You said if it was safe, you would take me to Diagon Alley.”

 

He didn’t answer.

 

Thinking he might’ve fallen asleep, Hermione headed for bed.

 

"It's not yet safe to be out there," Snape said. “I know I made you a promise—and I intend to fulfill it once it’s safe."

 

Hermione stared at him for a moment and nodded to herself. She’d heard that answer many times.

 

“About my parents,” Hermione continued. “I Obliviated them before I left for the Burrow, but I was wondering if you’d allow me to visit if—“

 

“I will check on them this week,” Snape told her, his impatience growing. “If there is any sort of emergency, I will let you know.”

 

“I was wondering if I can go with you. I don’t need to show myself. Just a glimpse of them from afar and—“

 

“And which part,” Snape began, turning to her, “about keeping you safe do you not understand?” 

 

His eyes glinted upon her. 

 

She looked away. 

 

“Do you want to jeopardize the plans we have? I’m trying to protect you. Do you have any idea what the Dark Lord would do if he found out that the Muggle-Born is alive? He could use you against Potter.” 

 

He towered over her, and she looked like she was going to cry again. 

 

“Do you want to be out there, to be seen and to be used against your beloved—“

 

“No, no,” Hermione said quickly. “I’m sorry. I was just… I just miss my parents and Harry and everyone else. I just thought maybe—“

 

“Not now Hermione,” Snape said, regretting his earlier indifference. 

“When it’s safe, I’ll take you to see them. Right now, this is where you are safe. Here, I can protect you. I have placed extra wards around your parents’ home. I am sure they are safe and there is nothing to worry about. Just stay here.” 

 

He moved a step forward as if to touch her but halted at the last moment. He just stared at her and slowly lowered his hand. 

 

“You have to trust me,” Snape said looking down at her cowering figure. 

 

“I trust you,” Hermione assured him. “That’s why I’m here... because you’re protecting Harry, and you’re protecting me. For the Order. I trust you with my life.”

 

Snape didn't say anything. 

 

Hermione knew that expression. 

 

He stared at her as if wanting to say something, but he didn’t continue. Without another word, Snape walked out of the living room, leaving her to her thoughts and her tears.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Hermione? Hermione!” Harry’s voice woke her out of her reverie. 

 

They’d arrived at Diagon Alley. 

 

He tried to act normal when they were in public, as they were being closely watched. The Daily Prophet still kept reporting on Hermione’s abduction and trial.

 

"Where have you been?" he asked letting go of his hard grip around her wrist as he reached her at the corner of the street. 

 

"I'm sorry." Hermione said rubbing her wrist. "I was just looking at the other shop..." 

 

He stared at her with disbelief in his eyes and a loud thumping in his heart. 

 

He had a growing panic in the pit of his stomach every time Hermione becomes out of sight. 

 

"I'm fine." Hermione assured him reaching for his hand. "I'm here, I'm here, Harry." 

 

"Please don't.. don't do that again." Harry bitterly said before grabbing her arm painfully and dragging her with him to the pizzeria. 

 

They took lunch at a small pizzeria at the heart of Diagon Alley where they bumped into Neville and Ginny, who were having lunch after picking up some things for Neville’s new job as Professor of Herbology at Hogwarts. He invited Hermione to come to visit the school anytime. There was an opening for a new professor, and he said it would be nice if she applied for the job. Hermione nodded and thanked him and said that she would visit Hogwarts once Harry was free to accompany her.

 

“You see anything you want?” Harry asked.

 

“No, I’m good.” Hermione smiled at him as they entered the bookshop.

 

“They said at Ollivander’s that they would have your wand delivered.”

 

“It’s fine, Harry,” Hermione said, squeezing his hand and kissing his cheek. "Let's browse around." 

 

“I’ll check some books as well.” Harry kissed her forehead before allowing her to walk down the book aisle by herself. 

 

She went through aisle after aisle of books, reading the titles and not knowing what to buy. She had been reading a lot since she returned. Harry had bought her every possible book he could get his hands on. She kept reading, but it felt different now. Nothing she read seemed interesting anymore.

 

Hermione’s mind was drifting off again when she passed the Potions section. She stared at the titles and took one book from the shelf. She opened it and read through the pages. It was a thick book with instructions on interesting Potions. It also had the histories and makers along with graphic drawings. She stared down at each page and could almost imagine each potion being brewed thoroughly….

 

 

 

 

 

“Aaaaargh! It burns! It burns!” Hermione screamed as she dropped the vial and backed away from the cauldron.

 

“Evanesco!” Snape commanded, and the caldron disappeared altogether. 

 

He ran over to her. 

 

"It burns - it burns - help me-" 

 

“Let me see it.”

 

Hermione felt a hand trying to bring her to her feet. “I can’t walk,” she cried as the boiling potion scalded her thigh and dripped over her legs.

 

“I need to see it,” Snape said, roughly pulling her leg to him.

 

“I can’t stretch it out!“ she wailed as the pain burned deeper. “Don’t touch it. It hurts!”

 

“I said I need to see it!” Snape barked, and without warning, he scooped her in his arms and carried her back to their living room, and set her on the couch.

 

“Granger, I need to see it,” he told her as he tried to stretch her legs, but she remained curled in a ball. “I need to—“

 

“It hurts when I move it—“ she cried, not wanting to see her burning skin beneath her pajamas.

 

“I told you not to touch it! It was not yet ready!” Snape spat. 

 

He grabbed a pillow and placed Hermione’s leg over it.

 

“Really! You’re going to scream at me right now about what I did or didn’t do—aaaaah!” she screamed again. 

 

Her skin was blistered. 

 

Either he had to do something about it or they’d have to go to the hospital. Her impatience had ruined an important potion.

 

“Granger, look at me,” he said, kneeling next to the couch. “I need to see it so I can heal it. You need to stretch out your leg for me.”

 

“It hurts, I can't move it!” she wailed, trying to shove him away. “It’s burning my legs!”

 

“I can see it’s burning,” he spat, losing his patience with her.

 

He took out his wand and rolled up his sleeves. He tried to calm himself down so she wouldn't panic. “I need to see it so I can heal it. “

 

“No! It hurts.“ She tried to shove him away, but he grasped her wrists tightly.

 

“Granger.” He took hold of her arms, but she shook her head and refused to move. “Granger, look at me. Hermione! Please look at me,” Snape said softly. 

 

She slowly opened her eyes and looked up at him. He saw the pain in her eyes as the potion continued to burn her skin. 

 

He breathed heavily.

 

“Hermione, you need to trust me. You know I can't take you to the hospital. I need to see it so I can heal it now, please.” 

 

He was growing impatient, but he also knew that he couldn’t do anything without her cooperation. The seconds were ticking. The more she delayed, the more damage the potion would inflict.

 

“It hurts,” she whispered, reaching out for his arm as she shook her head. “It feels like I'm dying in pain.”

 

“I know,” Snape whispered as he knelt closer. 

 

He then realized that he had to take off her pajamas so he could fully see the damage. He looked at Hermione, and she seemed to sense what he was thinking. She closed her eyes and more tears spilled out.

 

“Please just make it stop hurting.” She lifted her upper body and started removing her pajamas.

 

Snape swallowed hard as he watched her. When they were halfway down her thighs, she refused to move anymore. 

 

He slowly placed his hand over the waistband. 

 

“Hermione, I need to—“

 

“Just do it.“ Hermione said, biting her lower lip in pain and embracing the other small pillow he’d given her. “Please hurry.” 

 

She looked away, unable to watch.

 

Snape nodded and muttered an incantation as he placed the tip of his wand over her pajamas. 

 

He traced a line down each leg, and the material sliced itself following the path of his wand. He winced at the sight of her beautiful skin marred by the burns. He knew he could repair it, but it would take time for her to heal completely.

 

“Hermione,” Snape said, still reluctant to touch her skin. ”The potions I'm going to use are going to sting, but you need to just hold still and it will be all right.” 

 

She didn't seem to hear him. He whispered a Freezing Charm and pointed his wand over the burn marks.

 

“This will cool it down a little.” He carefully turned her face. “Hermione, look at me.”

 

Hermione stared up at the Potions Master. She’d never seen him so worried.

 

“I'll go get the potions.” 

 

She nodded incoherently and pressed his wrist tightly. 

It looked as if she was on the verge of passing out from the pain.

 

“Please help me,” she whispered, tears in her eyes. "Please don't leave me. Please help me." 

 

“I will,” he said, and without knowing why he did it, he moved towards her and kissed her forehead. “I will, love. Just hold still. I'll take care of you. I've got you, Hermione. I've got you." 

 

Snape’s voice echoed somewhere in her head as her eyes closed in pain. She blacked out after that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Ms. Granger?” asked the attendee, shaking Hermione back to reality.

 

The whole courtroom was staring at her. Her brown eyes blinked and glanced around the room. Everyone was waiting for her to answer the question.

 

“I’m sorry,” she answered in a small voice, staring back up at the wizard questioning her. She saw that at the left side of the room Dementors and Aurors surrounded the small table where Snape sat quietly with his face down. 

 

“Please look at me,” she thought. " Please.

 

The wizard questioning her breathed heavily and stared up at the Wizengamot, who nodded and encouraged him to repeat his question.

 

“Miss Granger,” he started as he walked around the witness stand, “I will repeat my question as it seems you were not listening. In the ten years that you were held captive by Mr. Severus Snape, was there any instance where you were forced to disrobe?"

 

 

Hermione stared back at him and then glanced over at Snape, who was silent and unmoving in his chair. She did not want to answer the question, but she was sworn to tell the truth. Her heart was pounding as she struggled to find the words. She swallowed, unsure what to say.

 

“Forced me?” she repeated, knowing what they wanted.

 

“Miss Granger,” the wizard repeated with impatience.“I am asking if—“

 

“I heard you,” Hermione answered through gritted teeth. 

 

Harry's fists clenched under the table as he wore an encouraging nod before the public. 

 

“Yes,” she answered, her fingers clawing her skin beneath the table. “Yes, but it wasn't the way you think.“ 

 

Her heart sank as the whole room started speaking loudly and pointing in Snape’s direction.

 

“No, wait!” Hermione said, panic in her eyes. "I'm not done with my answer! Let me finish." 

 

But the wizard just nodded and smiled at her. 

 

"The answer is yes." the attendee repeated louder for the whole room to hear. 

 

But it’s not what you think—there’s a story behind why he did it.” Hermione reasoned as her body edged from her seat. 

 

Nobody was listening to her. 

 

She looked in Harry’s direction, and he nodded at her with a gentle and encouraging look on his face. She shook her head with tears in her eyes. 

 

“No! That’s now what it was. It was an accident and there was a potion that spilled and he had to—“

 

“No further questions right now.” the wizard said, walking away.

 

Hermione knew that nobody was listening to her. She stood from her seat and banged her fists on the table. 

 

“No! I said it wasn't like that. Why won’t you listen?”

 

Tears began streaming down her face, and she stared at Snape. 

 

Amidst the chaos and the noises around them, she saw him for the first time, staring straight at her. She swore she saw the light of appreciation in his eyes. His expression was still passive, but there was something in his gaze that told her what he was trying to say.

 

“It’s all right,” his black eyes seem to communicate. “You're doing well. Just tell them all truth there is to be told.”