Shadows of Prejudices
Disclaimer: I don’t own Harry Potter and gain no profit from this fanfiction other than writing practice. Harry Potter is owned by JK Rowling.
AN: Could be read as a companion piece to When All is Lost, One is Found.
Hundreds of floating pumpkins with candles drifting inside them illuminated the corridors of Hogwarts. With each step she took, her shadow acquired the silhouettes of grotesque monsters that would scare most people.
Months ago, Hogwarts was destroyed and bathed in blood, so shadows likely did very little to unnerve most of Hogwart’s staff and students, and didn’t affect her at all. After encountering life-threatening puzzles, giant serpents, werewolves, death eaters, and finally Voldemort, this was as scary as a fluffy Kneazle kitten.
She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Now she could face almost anything without the slightest hint of trepidation. Things had become better. She was getting better. The nightmares still came on occasion, but she had support through them.
Support from the person she felt most proud of after everything that happened. He’d been treated cruelly; he’d been isolated and misjudged. The man that endured more hardships than anyone and managed to survive. Through all of this, he’d gained her respect and her love, and she never once stopped believing in him. Her faith was unwavering and her Gryffindor self was proud that she’d defended a Slytherin.
She smiled and adjusted her clothing so the hems were straightened, careful not to hit the surly looking bat resting on her shoulder. It was a strange accessory but it played well with her attire. The black and red dress hugged her form much more than her usual clothing. The laces of her corset were done up in the typical style of a medieval witch. Her long dark cloak billowed behind her, reminding her of her wizard. She had contemplated not wearing it, but it tended to be chilly in the Great Hall this time of year.
The Great Hall’s doors opened before her and what was a slight mumble behind the door turned into yells of happiness. Her smile widened even more when she spotted her group of friends in the distance. As expected, they were near the pumpkin pies and caramel apples.
The bat moved its wings to brush against her cheek as she walked with wide strides towards her friends.
Around her, the students laughed and played with the various decorations around them, some making spooky noises and trying to scare their classmates.
The ghosts wore their best clothes and their pearl colouring seemed to shine more than usual. They were enjoying themselves just as much as the students were.
She felt her small bat companion studying her. She was about to say something to it, but her friends finally noticed her and called her over. When she reached the Gryffindor table, her friends slid down the bench, making room for her to sit. She sat down.
“Hermione, finally! We were thinking that you weren’t going to show,” Ron said between each bite of his food. His plate was packed full regardless of the fact he could just reach out and get another serving anytime he wanted.
She let a small grin flash on her lips. There were things that would never change. That was one of them.
“I’m glad you came,” Harry said. “Though, it wouldn’t have been unusual if you didn’t. I overheard some teachers talking about this being the lowest attendance for a Halloween banquet. After everything that’s happened, I can’t blame them. The Carrows’ banquet certainly wasn’t filled with sweets. I almost didn’t come myself.”
Hermione sighed and felt a tickle on her neck from the little bat. She decided to ignore it. If she didn’t, she’d end up trembling and holding the bat in her hands for comfort.
“It looks like Snape is too ashamed to show his face.” Ron pointed to the front with a fork, in the direction of the teacher’s table.
She frowned and her lips tensed. “He has no reason to be ashamed. If anything he should be proud to show up.”
“After what he allowed the Carrows to—” Ron started but she cut him off.
“Show some sense,” she said. “He couldn’t stop every servant of Voldemort, and especially not then. He was a spy, and he had to do his job.” She stabbed the sausage on her plate, as if trying to murder it. It was decorated with eyes that looked like they were made from mashed potatoes and black olives, and was far more comical than scary.
“Come on, Hermione, there's no reason for you to keep defending him. We all know it. The thing is that he could have done something to stop them.” He shoved a large piece of ham in his mouth.
“I don’t think he could. It was too risky,” Harry said. “I don’t think I would’ve either. He had to protect us all while still convincing everyone he was a soulless git.”
“He didn’t do a very good job at the protection part,” Ron snapped.
Hermione leaned back slightly and sighed. Her fluffy hair covering the bat moved, revealing its position.
Ron yelled and jumped as if he’d never seen one of them before. This of course, was utterly ridiculous.
“Why are you wearing that?”
“Because he decided to accompany me. I suppose he likes the place.” She picked up a slice of pumpkin pie. She saw from the corner of her eye how the bat moved his focus to Ron, extended his wings, and made a loud sound, a combination of hissing and clicking.
Hermione tried not to laugh.
“For being an enchanted bat, he looks at me like he wants to suck my blood.”
This time she couldn’t contain her laughter, especially when the little bat gave an indignant huff.
“It eats fruit, Ron.” She said as the bat folded his wings and cuddled against her neck again.
“Well, be careful. It seems that he likes to be near you.” Ron went back to his food, looking in between bites at the furry animal on her shoulder.
Harry shook his head and decided to turn to talk with Ginny. She was able to notice a wink towards her before he did so. As for Ron… Well, Ron would always be Ron.
Hermione reached out and took one of the caramel apples from a plate. She cut it up and picked up a piece without the caramel. She raised her fork and offered the piece to the bat. It sniffed it and was hesitant at first.
Ron’s mouth turned into a grimace of pure disgust.
“Are you crazy? You aren’t going to share forks with that thing?”
“Didn’t you often eat from the same bowl as Scabbers?”
Ron’s mouth opened to respond, but he said nothing, closed his lips, and she smiled with pride. The bat hissed at him and snatched the fruit. It stared at Ron, slowly opened its mouth, and bit into the fruit piece, chewing slowly with its head raised slightly, as if mocking the redhead.
Hermione took a sip of butterbeer. She didn’t need divination to know it was going to be a long, annoying night.
New foods started to appear, and Ron attacked the dishes, losing focus on her and his unreasonable dislike towards the bat on her shoulder. It wasn’t like it was going to bite and infect her with an illness. Magical animals, at least this kind, couldn’t do it.
Her eyes went to the empty chair at the teacher’s table as she offered the bat another piece of apple.
She looked down at her plate and went deep into thought for so long that the dishes disappeared before she knew what was happening and the music filtered throughout the Great Hall. The flock of bats flying over their heads moved to hang on the rafters, the buttress, and on the pointed arcs.
Her tenant declined to join them, deciding instead to nestle deeper under her hair. She didn’t know his exact intentions but part of her was delighted to have him with her. She would later laugh when she saw Severus again with his imposing stature and neutral expression. She vaguely wondered if he’d accept seeing her tonight when she went to his rooms.
The absence of his tall form showed his difficulty to socialize after what happened last year. That man was still carrying a guilt he didn’t need to.
He’d suffered enough, but she understood how difficult it was to push back the guilt and memories. Perhaps he would come next year.
A hand touched her arm, forcing the bat to sink further into her curls. She turned her head and saw Ron standing there, smiling at her. The young man bowed, an oddly gentlemanly thing to do for him. It looked awkward.
Her brown eyes looked around the Great Hall. Various pairs of dancers were gathering on the dance floor. She knew some of them were only friends, so she saw no harm in a brief dance. She took his hand and stood, Ron’s smile widening with the gesture. Upon seeing his expression, she was hesitant to continue out to the dancing couples. She forced herself to walk with him even as the bat hissed ever so slightly in her ear. She reached up with her free hand and stroked under its jaw. She would make it as short of a dance as she could.
Ron’s hand moved a little too low on her hip, and she moved it up to her waist, as he lifted her other hand. She saw this as a dance from a friend, yet she instantly hated being this close to him. If it were Harry, she wouldn’t have felt the same. But Harry didn’t have the feelings that Ron held.
This was a terrible decision. He wasn’t the one she wanted to dance with. She didn’t want to make him think he had a chance.
She wished Ron would understand that she would never love him romantically. She’d drawn a line between them numerous times, she’d even told him once that they were only ever going to be friends, yet he kept sending her amorous looks. She wanted his friendship, wanted to give him a chance to just have that with her, but if he kept up his actions, she may have to end it.
There was only one man she’d ever love.
His hand slipped slightly lower and she moved it back up, causing him to frown. She gave him a nervous smile. A new song began and she was about to pull away, but he led her into a new dance, and into the middle of the other dancers.
Her hands started to sweat. An unpleasant shiver ran around her body and her nerves grew. She saw from his face that her friend misjudged the shiver as something positive. Ron pulled her closer to him, her stomach went queasy, and her muscles tighten at the closeness. She moved to pull away slightly but his arms were surrounding her, and his faced threatened to get too close to hers.
He wasn’t going to…
She swallowed hard. She had to move away before he got the wrong idea again. She didn’t want him.
But she was frozen. Why couldn’t she move?
When she whimpered, Ron quickly pulled away from her, but didn’t look pleased about it. His teeth were clenched and his eyes looked as if tears threatened to burst forth.
It was then she spotted it. He was holding his wrist, trying to remove the black mass that hung from it. The bat on her shoulder had sunk its teeth into his skin. She thought Ron had pulled away on his own, but the bat had protected her. It was welcome but she couldn’t help but laugh. She hadn’t expected it to bite Ron.
“Get this thing off me,” Ron cried while trying to remove the animal himself. She knew he couldn’t hurt it, so she waited a few more seconds just to watch the bat sink its fangs even deeper.
She gently took hold of the bat with her hands and it immediately loosened its fangs. It kept its sights on Ron and showed its fangs again with a loud hiss, daring him to come near her and try his actions again.
“Get that disgusting thing away from me.” The bat’s “lips” formed into what looked like a smile, increasing Ron’s fury.
A warm pulse of energy emitted from it, and increased in strength periodically. Hermione held her breath. She knew what was going to happen, but she couldn’t believe it. He hadn’t wanted to show his face that night.
The bat’s body deformed, growing and extending. His wings became hands, the claws formed into fingers. His muzzle disappeared to form an aristocratic nose. His black fur changed into clothes of the same color. Elegant, imposing and terrifying all at the same time.
The music had died long ago, creating silence in the Great Hall. The scene had left all the students with one of two expressions. Some had their mouths hanging open in surprise, others looked extremely amused. Ron, to his credit, looked terrified.
“Detention for a week for your inappropriate behaviour, Weasley.” The velvet voice was slow, resentful, and echoed in the whole room. Chills shot through her body as she heard it. This time the shivers were pleasant.
She noticed that he had hold of her hand, and then she felt herself being guided around and through the students. She knew most students had their suspicions about them, but short of a few rumors, there was nothing concrete. They didn’t for a moment dare to claim Snape of all people showed favoritism, especially since she was no longer taking his classes.
She felt Ron’s stare on her back, and got a sinking feeling in her stomach, but she pushed it back. She heard Minerva order the music to start again via spell, but her voice was dull, as if she was hearing it under water.
The students all went back to dancing, some giving her smiles as they walked past. The last and biggest source of comfort, other than Severus of course, were two smiles and winks from Harry and Ginny that she’d noticed from the corner of her eye.
After the Great Hall’s doors shut behind them, they continued walking and she wondered about the new rumors that would fly tomorrow. But she didn’t care. She’d been, no, they’d been through too much to care about that now. Minerva, though she hadn’t outright said anything, likely knew the two of them were more than friends. It was a matter of time before she brought it up and she dreaded that moment. There was still a heavy tension between Minerva and Severus even though she’d shown him cautiously subtle support during his tenure as headmaster.
When they were out of sight of the partygoers and anyone wandering the hall, they stopped. She let herself smile, understanding why he appeared the way he had, when she knew he’d much rather have kept hidden.
He turned his body towards her, an odd expression that she’d never seen before on his face. She gasped when she realized what it was. “You’re . . . you’re jealous,” she said.
Severus crossed his arms and scowled.
She never thought she’d ever see a jealous Severus Snape, and especially not jealous because of her. Hermione took his hand. His frown relaxed bit by bit until it disappeared completely.
“Severus…” she started to say, but he interrupted attempts to ease his mind.
“I don’t doubt you, witch, but I don’t trust that ignoramus. He still hasn’t realized that you aren’t interested. Seeing him push himself on you the way he did makes me even more wary.”
“I know. I think I need to be more careful around him too,” she said. “As much as that pains me to say.” She closed her eyes when his pale hand came up to stroke her cheek. “I think he might’ve learned his lesson tonight.” She’d said that before about Ron, so the uneasiness still hadn’t left her completely.
“Let’s hope he does. I don’t want to go to Azkaban for destroying one or both his arms for acting inappropriately.”
His words were a mere whisper, and the fact she heard them so well, that she could feel them collide against her skin, made her realize he was much closer now. She opened her eyes and found his looking straight into hers.
Then, he took possession of her lips, and she relaxed in his hold. This man would be the only one to kiss her for the rest of her life.
She eagerly returned the kiss. She needed to show affection to him, needed to show she loved him. To convey just how much she appreciated what he did both tonight and in the past.
When they pulled away, they smiled at each other.
Severus lifted her hand to his lips and kissed the back of it.
She let her bat guide her through the shadows towards his dungeons.