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Another one done for the hp_uk_meetup, about the price we pay for getting our heart's desire. Enjoy :)

A Price Beyond Rubies (HG/SS, PG)

Hermione yawned and looked at the clock on the library wall: nearly midnight. She rotated her shoulders, feeling the twinge of muscles too long in the same position. Time to get to bed, definitely. She stood, gathered her books, and shoved them into her bookbag. Hopefully the other Gryffindor girls would be sleeping; she really didn’t want to listen to any giggling or whispering. Or answer any questions about herself and Ron. She left the library heading for Gryffindor Tower, but as she approached the last turning she heard a voices: a boy’s teasing, a girl’s laughing.

“Oh, Won-Won, you’re so funny!”

She stopped dead, disgust curling in her stomach like a slug. Oh no, not again! Another session of the Ron and Lavender Lovefest would be worse than a Crucio spell. She glanced around the empty hallway, desperate for something to hide behind. A few yards back a doorway beckoned; she ran towards it, slipping through just as Ron and Lavender rounded the corner. Slowly, wary of rusty hinges that might creak, she pushed the heavy door closed until the voices were muffled beyond recognition.

Sighing in relief, she leaned her back against the oak panels. The room was dark, lit only by shafts of moonlight coming through the an arched window on the opposite wall. Motes of dust circled slowly in the air, sparkling in the silvery light. To the left, dim sheet-draped forms loomed in the shadows; to the right stretched a bare grey wall, with a single tall oval shape in the center. Curious, Hermione picked her way towards it until she was close enough to pull a corner of the sheet aside. Something reflective glimmered beneath it. She shifted to one side so as not to be directly in front of whatever it was – you never knew with mirrors, and it was better to be safe than sorry – took a firmer grip on the sheet and gave a sharp tug. The sheet cascaded to the ground with a shushing sound, throwing up a cloud of dust that made her sneeze and revealing a smooth oval of glass in a frame of dark wood. Around the edge words were inscribed: Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi.

Hermione’s eyes widened. The Mirror of Erised! Harry and Ron had talked about their encounter with it when they were First Years, but Dumbledore had moved it, no one knew where. Yet here it was. What would it show me? she thought, a little bitterly. Two months ago she would have seen herself and Ron as a family, maybe with two or three red-haired children, but now… Did she dare look? When she herself didn’t know her heart’s desire?

Oh, why not? What harm could it do? She stepped in front of the Mirror and looked hesitantly into the misty depths. Fog swirled across its surface; for a moment she saw Ron beside her, then briefly Viktor Krum – Viktor? she thought, oh please! – and, even more briefly, Harry, before the fog closed in again. Apparently even the Mirror of Erised was having trouble discerning her heart’s desire, she thought with a tinge of self-mockery. Then the shifting grey cloudiness parted, revealing a tall pale-faced figure with black hair and dark eyes, vaguely familiar but not clear enough to recognize. She peered closer, trying to identify him…she could almost see…

“Miss Granger.” The silky, condescending voice was like a bucket of cold water dumped over her.

She whipped around in shock, her heart pounding. “P-professor Snape,” she stammered. “I – what are you doing here?”

“I might ask you the same thing.” She stepped back involuntarily as he came towards her, his black robes swirling around him. His dark eyes studied her incuriously, like a potion that had failed to resolve properly. “Students – even Gryffindor prefects – are not permitted to wander the corridors after midnight.”

“I know…I was just studying and I didn’t realize how late it was…and then –” she stopped. There was no reason to tell Snape about Ron and Lavender. He wouldn’t understand; even if he did, he wouldn’t care.

“And what is so seductive that you linger here?” His eyes flicked towards the glass. “Ah. The Mirror of Erised.”

“Yes.” She waited for him to go on, to make some cutting remark or take fifty points from Gryffindor. But he was silent, his eyes fixed on the Mirror. His pale face wore an expression she had never seen before; the mask of scornful dislike had fallen away, exposing regret, sorrow, and – could it be fear? He looks so tired, she realized with a sudden unwilling pang of sympathy. So alone.

A sound from the corridor outside awakened him from his reverie. He closed his eyes for a moment, shook his head once sharply, then turned to her. The angry sneer was firmly in place again. “As your friends have no doubt informed you, the Mirror is a dangerous magical object, Miss Granger. It is not a toy to be casually meddled with.”

A sudden surge of anger gave Hermione the courage to answer back. “What’s dangerous about your heart’s desire?”

“The heart’s desire does not always bestow happiness. And there is always a price for gaining it. Sometimes one pays in Galleons, sometimes…” his eyes went back to the Mirror, “in self-respect.”

“I don’t understand.”

He cocked an eyebrow. “Is it possible?” he asked mockingly. “The brilliant Miss Granger does not understand something?” He waved an arm dismissively “Get out. Don’t let me find you here again.”

“Thank you, Professor.” She hurried to the door, unable to believe he was letting her off so easily. She grasped the iron handle, then glanced back.

Snape stood gazing into the Mirror, transfixed. Loss and despair were plain on his face, and moonlight glistened on the silvery drops on his cheeks.


For a week Hermione stayed away from the Mirror. What would be the point in looking into it? Besides, her mind was occupied with the puzzle of Snape. What had he seen in the Mirror? And what had she seen in his face, in that unguarded moment: the man he had been years ago, or the man he was now? She took to planning her way through the corridors so she would encounter him, all the while wondering, pondering. His face and demeanor were as arrogant, as cold as ever, and he gave no sign that their conversation had ever taken place, but a new perceptiveness whispered to her that the vicious anger he directed towards everyone arose not from hatred, but from pain. Was it possible? She had always defended him against Ron and Harry, who persisted in believing “once a Death Eater, always a Death Eater,” but now her defense took on a new tone of conviction.

And the memory of him standing hopeless before the Mirror, like a man condemned by his own heart, would not leave her mind.

Ten days later, Hermione found herself in the fourth floor corridor once more. The door stood half-open as it had before and she slipped inside. The Mirror was draped again – Snape apparently had covered it before he left – but she went straight to it and without hesitation pulled the dust sheet off it. The glass gleamed like a pool of water held vertical; it shimmered faintly as she placed herself directly in front of it and looked into the depths.

This time the mist cleared almost at one. A shape coalesced behind her in the Mirror: a man, tall, with long dark hair and eyes black and fathomless as a starless night. She felt no surprise when she saw the familiar face, only a sense of rightness. He stood close behind her reflection, his hands resting gently on her waist. Black robes hung in silky folds from shoulders broader than she remembered. His face was pale but calm, without the tension and venomous wit she was accustomed to, but it was unmistakeably...

The door slammed behind her, startling her so that she whirled and almost fell. “Professor Snape!”

He stood by the door, black robes and pale face almost camouflaged by the moonlight and shadows of the room. “I believe I instructed you not to return here,” he said coldly. “Perhaps you feel your intelligence or your friendship with...certain people...places you above the rules, but I assure you that is not the case.”

Did he see? she wondered in sudden panic. No, other people couldn’t, Harry and Ron had said so. Thank Merlin for that. “No, Professor, I –”

“As a teacher at this school I am responsible for the well-being of all its students, even those whom I personally dislike. I think perhaps I should know what this desire of yours is that keeps you wandering the halls.” Snape came forward, robes rustling like autumn leaves, until he stood directly in front of her. A scent of sandalwood came from him, and something else, something spicy, a tantalizing melange of vanilla and pepper and smoke. It was, oddly, not at all unpleasant. “Turn around and look into the Mirror.”

She wanted to speak but somehow her tongue wouldn’t cooperate. “You can’t do this,” she managed to croak. She cleared her throat. “I mean, Professor, you can’t see what other people see in the Mirror.”

“You are impertinent. And you are incorrect. Now turn and look.” His voice cracked like a whip.

She obeyed, reminding herself even Voldemort hadn’t been able to see what Harry saw. He was bluffing. Fixing her gaze on the Mirror, she watched as the fog cleared and the tall black-robed form of Snape appeared behind her, a smile with no cruelty, only a trace of gentle self-mockery, on his lips. She felt a moment’s disorientation as the Mirror-Snape placed his hands on her reflection’s shoulders in a caress, while the Snape behind her remained motionless. He can’t see, he can’t see, he can’t see, she reminded herself, even as a surge of desire rippled through her.

Then she heard him say, in a low voice, “Legilimens.”

Stunned, she snapped her eyes closed so he wouldn’t see, but it was too late. The memories were there, open to his view. All of them. She felt him stiffen in surprise, heard a quick intake of breath as he gripped her shoulders so tightly it was almost painful, uncannily echoing the actions of the Mirror-Snape. She braced herself for the knife-edged wit at her expense, the cutting sarcasm. But when he spoke after a long moment, his voice was hoarse, disbelieving.

“This is what you desire? Despite all you know of me, of my past service to the Dark Lord. Despite the suspicion in which your friends – and many of my colleagues – hold me. Despite my bitterness, my anger, my cruelty. Despite everything.”

“Yes,” she whispered. Her nerves tingled with a strange combination of cold and heat where his body pressed against hers.

“Open your eyes,” he whispered harshly, urgently. “Let me see.”

She looked. She met the eyes of the Mirror-Snape, sensing the real one looking back at her through her own eyes, a reflection of a reflection, a longing and a loneliness that echoed her own.

“I have given you no reason to trust me, and every reason to hate me,” he said slowly. “And yet…”

“And yet. Yes.” She shivered involuntarily, her body responding to what her eyes perceived, as the Mirror-Hermione tilted her head and the Mirror-Snape bent his own to brush his lips across the sensitive skin of her neck...and then she felt breath warm on her neck as life became a reflection of the Mirror and he began to kiss her, and then there was nothing but love born of perfect trust, and the passion of a condemned man momentarily reprieved.


Six months later…

Hermione stood with Ron and Harry, watching the phoenix rise singing into the sky over the white tomb of their staunchest defender and most powerful protector. Though the other two could not know it, her tears were not only for the white-haired wizard who had died, but for the dark-haired man who had, unbelievably, killed him. For love and for loss. For all that had gone before, and all that would come after, and all that would never be the same.

There is always a price for gaining your heart’s desire.


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Oct. 11th, 2009 04:13 pm (UTC)
Sometimes one pays in Galleons, sometimes…” his eyes went back to the Mirror, “in self-respect.”

This is lovely, dark, melacholy, sweet, sexy, and ANGST. THE ANGST.

It's beautiful. You sekrit shippar, you. *giggles*
Oct. 12th, 2009 05:37 am (UTC)
Heh, the ANGST, yes. But when you're talking about Snape's heart's desire, well, how could you NOT have angst LOL?! I tried to make it good solid angst, not gooey or revolting angst though :)
(Deleted comment)
Oct. 12th, 2009 05:41 am (UTC)
Thanks muchly!! Yep, not all potions ingredients smell bad. He must have been cooking up a new batch of Felix Felicis or something equally nummy. As for sneaky -- when you're a double (or is it triple?) agent, sneaky is pretty much all you've got, heh heh.
Oct. 15th, 2009 06:40 pm (UTC)
I was the one to receive this little gem in my goodie bag at Obliviate 2009!

Thank you so much - I love this story and appreciate very much that you have taken the time to write it for somebody you don't even know.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Oct. 15th, 2009 08:41 pm (UTC)
Glad you liked it -- I had great fun writing it :)
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