Darkness was falling over the cottage, and Harry was lying on the rug in front of the crackling fire. I was evening again, and while the rain still pounded on the windows, it showed no sign of stopping. Snape was sitting in the armchair again, brows furrowed and swearing almost inaudibly under his breath as he fiddled with the muggle sewing cards. When the wind calmed down you could only just hear what he was saying.
"If I spoke like that I think you would make me eat a bar of soap," Harry said absent-mindedly, scribbling away with an old pack of crayons he had found in a drawer in the spare room while he was rearranging things. Along with this he had unearthed a stack of yellowed colouring pages.
"You would swear too if you had to do one of these blasted sewing cards," he growled irritably. "My left hand isn't a problem; it's the blasted right one."
"Is it at least getting easier?" asked Harry, watching as Snape missed one of the holes yet again as he tried to thread the shoelace through it.
"Not really," Snape said bitterly.
"Well you know, you could take a break from it," said Harry. "You have been at it for at least an hour now."
"And then do what, Potter?" said Snape scathingly.
"Er, colour?" Harry suggested weakly, looking down at the stack of yellowed colouring pages he had unearthed. Snape raised his eyebrow, and Harry sought to defend himself. "Colouring is good for coordination, you know. Staying in the lines is hard ... and when you finish one of these pictures, they start to move!"
Harry went red, regretting his enthusiasm.
"They ... move?" Snape said rather curiously, surprising Harry.
"Yeah, they must be magic. They're way better than the muggle ones we had in primary school."
Snape frowned, looking down at the sewing card.
"Well, I'm going to keep colouring at the kitchen table," Harry said, gathering the crayons and thinking himself rather sly. "If you're really, really bored you could come too."
Harry gathered his crayons, hoping a little that Snape would join him. It wasn't much fun colouring by yourself. He hoped that moving to the table might make it easier for Snape too if he wanted to join him. Sitting on the floor would have been a difficult task with his Professor's leg being the way it was.
Snape did not follow Harry, and he found himself a little disappointed as he arranged the colouring pages on the table. Rather unenthusiastically, Harry picked up the red crayon and kept colouring the Quidditch scene in his picture. He had almost finished one of the players when he heard the squeak of the floorboards. He looked up only when Snape had thrown himself into the chair opposite, looking rather annoyed. The annoyance seemed a little forced, strangely enough. Harry fought the urge to laugh.
"I am only here to keep myself from going insane from that ridiculous sewing card," Snape informed him, a warning in his voice.
"I know," said Harry quickly.
There was an awkward silence between them where Harry did not colour. Seeking to break the silence, Harry spoke.
"There's a cool dragon picture over there. You can colour it if you want."
Snape raised an eyebrow as though ‘cool dragons' were beneath him.
"Madam Pomfrey would probably approve, because it'll be good for your hand," Harry wheedled.
"Fine," Snape said, snatching the picture up with his good hand. He examined it, and seemed to deem it fit. The fingers on his right hand groped at the navy blue crayon lying on the tabletop, and after a moment Snape had gotten it in his hand.
"I will personally hunt you down if you mention this to anyone," Snape said sharply.
"I won't say anything," Harry said.
Snape stared at him with narrowed eyes for a moment, but seemed to decide that Harry was telling the truth, and he carefully set the tip of the crayon on the page and started to colour, his left hand holding the picture down. He lowered his head closer to the table in concentration, and Harry went back to his own picture. They coloured in silence for quite some time, only speaking to ask the other to pass a certain colour of crayon to them.
Having long finished his own picture, he watched Snape work on the dragon, seemingly without Snape's notice. Snape's picture did not appear to have been coloured much more skilfully than Harry's, although Harry had to admit he liked his Professor's choice in colour scheme. The dragon's body was a deep navy blue, the folds in the wings a greenish grey. Its claws were the colour of iron, the spikes on the tail the same. At the moment, with utmost care, Snape seemed to be blending two colours together. He was currently colouring the snout of the dragon black, lightening the colour so that it blended into the blue of the rest of the body. Harry liked the effect quite a lot, and noticed that while Snape's hand was still clumsy with its strokes, it seemed almost a little less so. It occurred to Harry that this may have been because the hand was more relaxed, just as Snape was. He was almost finished the picture now, and Harry watched as he coloured in the last part. Snape put down the crayon, flexing his hand as much as he could. He looked rather tired.
"I like the colours," Harry said, raising himself up on his chair (he had been sitting on his knees on the seat) so that he could see the picture better.
The picture gave a shiver, and Snape looked down at it with interest. The dragon suddenly launched itself up from the two dimensional ground, flapping its wings on the paper. Harry gaped in amazement when Snape let out a low chuckle. It was a rather dark sound, but he seemed to genuinely enjoy the dragon flying around on the paper and blowing two dimensional flames on the page.
"Cool, isn't it?" Harry said, not expecting an answer.
"Quite, actually," Snape replied. "I would have been very excited to colour one of these as a child."
"Were your parents muggles?" Harry asked a little hesitantly, amazed to hear his Professor actually speaking of himself.
"My father was," said Snape, the smirk sliding off his face, seemingly lost in thought. He scowled then muttered, "he and Petunia were one of a kind."
As soon as he finished speaking, Snape paled, looking panicky. His response to the drop of the name Petunia could only mean one thing in Harry's books.
Aunt Petunia?" Harry asked, taking Snape's expression into account. "My aunt? Did you know her?"
He stammered slightly at Harry's question, seemingly searching for some way to avoid answering. Just then, a voice called through the house, the sound of the front door opening and closing drifting into the kitchen.
"Hello!" Mrs. Weasley said.
Snape shot out of his chair like a rocket, stumbling slightly as he sped away, leaving Harry sitting at the table, amazed and filled with curiosity. Harry heard Snape speaking to Mrs. Weasley. He heard another voice coming from the sitting room. Like a bolt of lightning he remembered who Mrs. Weasley was bringing, and not a moment later the newest addition to Bell Point came into the kitchen.
"Hermione!" Harry said excitedly, forgetting for a moment why she was here.
"Hello Harry," Hermione said, slowly walking to the table to drop into Snape's empty seat.
She looked awful. Her hair was tangled slightly, and her eyes had deep shadows under them. Her face was a bit splotchy as well, and she was pale. Somehow she looked thinner than when Harry had last seen her, even though it had only been a day or so since her parents had been killed.
"How are you?" Harry asked quickly, changing his expression to something more appropriate given the circumstances. "Sorry, stupid question."
She tried to smile, but she dropped her eyes from his gaze and to the table. Footsteps could be heard coming out of the sitting room and toward the kitchen.
"Did you colour this?" Hermione asked, looking down at the coloured dragon, still moving around on the page. Her voice was flat and tired. She did not sound like herself at all. It worried Harry.
Snape was standing in the doorway with Mrs. Weasley now. He glared at Harry pointedly after hearing Hermione's question. This went unnoticed by the others.
"Um, yeah, I did," Harry lied, eyeing Snape out of the corner of his eye.
"It's nice," Hermione said awkwardly, clearly trying to keep the topic from her.
"Harry, why don't you show Hermione to her room?" asked Mrs. Weasley gently.
"Alright," Harry said, getting up. Hermione too got to her feet, although she looked as though she could have sat there forever. Snape and Mrs. Weasley took the two spots at the table and began to talk, leaving Hermione to follow Harry out of the room.
They went the short distance to the staircase and Harry led the way up it. He paused at the top, waiting for her.
"That's my room," he said to Hermione, pointing to the room on their immediate left. "You can see it later if you want. Hermione?"
"I'm sorry I haven't written you back for the past few weeks," he said quietly, stalling in the hallway. "I wanted to, really ... but Dumbledore said I couldn't tell you or Ron what happened by letter, and if I would have written with the way my writing is ... well, you would've wanted to know why my writing has changed. I'm sorry. Ron only found out because Mrs. Weasley was able to tell him in person because she came to stay with me a while."
"I forgive you, Harry," said Hermione. "Ron did say that he knew you were okay, but that it was kind of complicated why you couldn't write me."
"He did?" Harry said, suddenly relieved, finally understanding why the letters she had sent him did not badger him too badly to write back. He had felt so guilty about it.
"Yes," she said. "He told me not to worry."
"That's your room up ahead," Harry told her suddenly, hearing her unspoken words saying that she worried anyway.
Hermione nodded, and followed Harry to the end of the hall. On the left was a second room. The door was closed, and Hermione pushed it open gently, staring into it. Harry waited for her to step forward into the room. It was a little bit larger than Harry's, but Harry had liked it less because the wallpaper was floral patterned, unlike the plain light blue paint in the bedroom he had decided to take up residence in. Hermione's trunk had been sent up the stairs and into the room by magic, and sat at the foot of the bed. Harry had tried to get the sheets on the mattress as nicely as possible, and straighten the patchwork quilt as best he could, but it was imperfect.
"I'm sorry the bed isn't really neat," he apologized gloomily. "It's hard to do now that I'm so small. I tried to make the room a little bit homey. Figured it might help a little ... what with everything ..."
Hermione glanced around the room, seeing the little vase with sea lavender in it by the windowsill and the knitted throw on the chair in the room for when she was cold. There was a muggle photograph in a frame on the wall that Harry had found up in the attic. It was of a lighthouse. Harry had replaced the magical wizarding photograph of a ship in a storm, thinking that Hermione would feel more at home with a muggle picture.
"It's nice, Harry," she whispered, eyes filling with tears. "Thank you."
"It was nothing," said Harry, feeling nothing but sorrow at the tired look on her face.
"We can visit later, if you want," Harry told her, taking her fatigue as an indicator that she wanted to be alone.
He gave her a pained smile, and then turned to leave.
"I'm sorry about what happened to you," she called to him softly. "I know you don't like depending on people."
His heart ached at her concern. Here she was, having just lost her parents, and all she could ask was how Harry was.
Harry nodded, and he backed away. She lay down on the bed and toward the window. He closed her door behind him, and went into his room to lie on his bed as well, holding Buttons close and calling silently to the universe the question of why Hermione's parents had to be taken from her. And why Sirius had been taken from him. He fell asleep despite the early hour, and this was how Mrs. Weasley found him before she left. Harry knew she had been there because when he awoke in the morning he had the covers tucked around him and a freshly sealed letter from Ron on his bedside table.