Title: The Man Within 1/?
Rating: PG13 for now - becoming R or NC17 in later chapters
Author: Lady Osolone
Disclaimer: These characters all belong to J. K. Rowling - I'm just playing with them because I'm bored and I promise to put them back when I've finished.
Archiving: Just ask!
Summary: Hermione makes some discoveries
Notes: My first Harry Potter fanfic!!! I'm British so will be using Brit-slang throughout. I'll try to clarify what I can for US readers in each chapter. For this one "fringe" = "bangs", "pinched = "stolen" , "Sheffield Thursday" is a rather lame joke on the name of the football (soccer) team, "Sheffield Wednesday". Thanks to Dace for the Beta!!!
* * *
"Look out boys, here he comes!"
Ron hastily flicked a piece of Chocolate Frog off his exercise book with his fingernail, aiming it for Draco Malfoy's head. He sat up straight, grasping his quill and put on his soberest face for a double lesson with Hogwarts' sardonic Potions Master, Professor Snape. The Professor had just swept into the classroom in a cloud of voluminous black robes and bad-humour.
"I am in no mood to be trifled with today!" snapped Snape as he stepped gracefully up to his large dark-oak desk. He esconced himself in his high seat and steepled his fingers on the desk in front of him.
Fixing the class with his blackest of black looks he continued. "This class has exactly . . " (Snape consulted a small calender on the desk, glaring at the item as though it was something particularly nasty), "three months until it will be sitting its N.E.W.T.s, and I pity the unfortunate examiner who has the job of marking the resulting poor scripts. We still have a large portion of the syllabus to be covered if any of you, even the more able," he cast a quick glance at Malfoy, who smiled back sickeningly, "hope to achieve even a passable grade in your examination. So I suggest you all take out your textbooks and turn to page 140. Today we will be preparing a elementary Memorandum serum - a powerful aide to memory which is one of the basic components of . . . "
Harry tuned out Snape's voice as he usually did in Potions class, and concentrated on the text in front of him. Ron began idly picking his nose. Neville was furiously scribbling down everything that Professor Snape said, whether he understood it or not, in an attempt to get through one Potions class without any horrendous mistakes.
Only the Head Girl, Hermione Granger, was concentrating as usual. She sat beside Ron and Harry, listening intently to Snape's words, occasionally making notes in her exercise book or checking the page in the open text book before her.
She could not say that Potions was her favourite lesson. Snape had seen to it that his lessons were rarely more than a trial for most of the students. Yet her academic mind found much enjoyment in the complex procedures of preparing ingredients for potions. Now that they were in their final year at Hogwarts, the work they had been undertaking was much more interesting - close to Professional Wizarding standards. It gave Hermione of sense of great satisfaction.
The class collected the ingredients for their potions and began preparing them. Neville occasionally glanced up at Hermione, seeking her approval that what he was doing was correct and she either nodded or corrected him by pointing to the part of the text book he should be following. She had long ago stopped trying to offer him practical help, which usually resulted in ten house points apiece being taken from Gryffindor and a detention for the two of them. Besides, she reasoned, Neville would be alone when he sat his Potions N.E.W.T. He had to manage on his own one day.
Today, however, the Professor's attention seemed to be directed elsewhere. Instead of moving around the classroom to observe, making the pupils' hands tremble with nerves and more likely to make mistakes upon which he could pounce with sarcasm and detentions, he sat at his desk, hands folded in front of him, staring, it seemed, into space. A few pupils had already noticed this, and were taking advantage of the fact to whisper among themselves and pass a copy of "Which Broom?" under the tables. Hermione shrugged and continued with her work. Passing her N.E.W.T.s with 'A's was too important to her to waste a moment of time in these last few months.
When the bell rang for the end of class, it took everyone by surprise even the Professor, who started and came back to himself quickly. He hadn't even tested any of the potions, which was a relief to many of the students who hadn't got beyond chopping up their lacewings. Instead he drew himself up, gathered his robes around him and glared at the class.
"This potion is a complex preparation", he announced haughtily, "which will take more than one class to finish. I therefore suggest you all bottle the ingredients that you have prepared so far and bring it to the next class, when we shall complete it. And I warn anyone who fails to bring their potion that they will be serving detention with me for a month. Class dismissed!"
The class immediately scrambled to quickly bottle up the contents of their cauldrons and get out of the dungeon in time for their next lesson. Hermione, however, had already finished her potion. She saw little point in bottling it. With a sigh, she made her way over to Snape's desk.
"Er, Professor . . ." she began, hestitantly. He had that far-away look in his eyes once more.
"What?" he came back to himself with a start.
"Erm . . . I have already finished my potion - I was wondering if you would like to test it now . . ." Hermione secretly hoped he wouldn't - it would allow her another week to test it herself and correct anything that was wrong.
Snape looked at her for a moment as if he didn't know who she was - or where *he* was. Hermione was startled to see his face, stripped of its dark humour and malice. He looked almost . . . human.
"Er, no, I'm sure that will not be necessary, Miss Granger". Even his voice was softer, stripped of its hard edge. He passed a weary hand over his brow. "I'm sure your work is up to its usual high standard. Just bring it to the next lesson along with everyone else."
"Yes, Sir." Hermione, feeling stunned, returned to her desk to bottle up her potion. Meanwhile, making more noise than usual, the rest of the class made their way out of the room, leaving her and Snape alone.
She cast another few quick glances at him as she bottled the thick, blackish liquid and hastily scrubbed out her cauldron. He was staring into space again, a strange expression on his face. It was almost - if Snape could be capable of it - sadness.
Abruptly, he drew himself together, stood up and swept out of the room, his robes billowing behind him.
As he went, something slipped from his desk and fluttered to the floor.
Hermione shrugged, placed her newly cleaned cauldron on the upper-sixth-form shelf and made her way towards the door. She would be late for Charms now. Damn Snape! He always did something to mess up her day!
Her attention was drawn to a small, rectangular piece of paper lying on the floor near to the Professor's desk. Being inherently tidy, Hermione always felt compelled to pick up after her fellow students. She bent down to retrieve it, and frowned in surprise when she turned the paper over.
It was a photograph. Not new, but not old either. And not a moving Wizard-photograph, but a regular Muggle-one, of the type Hermione was used to taking with her family. A photograph of a little girl.
She looked around 4 or 5 years old, and very pretty. Straight, glossy black hair was cut into a neat little page-boy bob, which framed her pale, heartshaped face perfectly. Large dark eyes sparkling with laughter peered from beneath her fringe. Her small mouth was split into a heartwarming, gap-toothed grin and she clutched a rather battered looking teddy bear. Hermione found herself smiling back at the picture. What a little sweetheart! But who on earth did this photo belong to?
Hermione glanced around the room. Could one of the students have dropped it when they made their hasty retreat? Then she remembered the object that had slipped from Snape's desk as he swept out. A feeling of cold dread came over her at the idea of holding in her hand an item of Snape's property, and what he would do if he found out. He would probably accuse her of stealing it for a prank and put her in detention for the rest of her time at Hogwarts. She quickly slipped it back onto his desk
As she made to leave the room, she hesitated. This was obviously a personal item - a family picture or something of the sort - although the idea of Snape having a family or anything as humanising as a photograph of a sweet little niece seemed strange. She felt uneasy about leaving it on the desk where it could be pinched by mischief-making students or lost again. Maybe she should return it to him in person?
Or maybe not. The thought of walking up to a glowering, sarcastic Snape, handing him this photograph and saying sweetly, "Please Professor, I found this - and I'm sure it belongs to you!" made her stomach turn over. He frightened her at the best of times.
She glanced again at the picture. There was definitely a resemblance there. The little eyes which smiled back at her were dark, as dark as the Professor's, but unlike his they gleamed with happiness and laughter. Very strange.
Hermione glanced at her watch. Damn! Charms class had started 5 minutes ago - and it would take her another 5 minutes to make it up to Professor Flitwick's classroom. She hated to be late!
Stuffing the photograph into the pocket of her robe she broke into a run and decided to sort it out later.
* * *
The rest of the day was so busy that Hermione gave little thought to the picture in her pocket until the evening meal. The school was gathered in the great hall, and the Professors had just entered to take their places at the high table on the dais, when Hermione looked up and saw Professor Snape. She immediately remembered the photograph and slipped a hand into her pocket to make sure it was still there. It was.
The Professor, for his part, seemed to have fully recovered from whatever had been ailing him that morning. He cast a sneering glance in the direction of the Grynffindor table, snatched a Zonko's jolly-joke hat from the head of Justin Finch-Fletchley as he strode past, and over the din in the room Hermione could see his sardonic mouth form the words "ten points deducted . . .". She sighed. Snape didn't look in the mood at all to be approached by a student bearing an item of his personal property.
Hermione hesitated, then nudged Harry in the ribs.
"Ow!" exclaimed Harry, through a mouthful of mashed potato. "Wassat for?!"
Hermione sighed. "Listen" she said, dropping her voice so that no-one else would hear. "Today, after you'd all left the Potions room, Snape dropped something . . ."
"What?" asked Ron cheerfully, as he poured gravy over his lamb chops. "His head, hopefully!"
"Or his pants!" suggested Seamus, helpfully. Obviously Hermione's words had not been quiet enough.
"Oh yuk! Seamus, man!" declared Ron with a grimace. "Thanks, I can't eat my bloody chops now! What a thought!"
Harry laughed out loud
"Yeah, imagine that - Snape the flasher - showing off his black leather g-string to the girls . . !"
"Eurgh!" cried Ron and dropped the chop bone he had been chewing on. The rest of the Gryffindor table that was within earshot erupted into laughter and Hermione sighed. She turned back to her plate and helped herself to another spoonful of peas. She should have expected no support from the others where Snape was concerned.
When the laughter had died down a little, and Ron was engaged with Seamus and Neville in a discussion of the Chudley Cannons' upcoming Premiership League match against Sheffield Thursday, Harry gave Hermione a quick nudge.
"So what was it?" he asked, his green eyes still sparkling with laughter.
Hermione looked around to see if anyone else was listening. They weren't.
"A photo" she whispered back.
Harry eyes shone with interest "Yeh?" he asked "What of?"
"I'm not sure." Hermione dug in the pocket of her robe for the photo. "It's a Muggle-photo and it looks like a family picture - niece or something I expect." She showed the photo to Harry under cover of the tablecloth.
"How could a sweet little kid like that belong to Snape's family?" he asked with a snort.
"I don't know" Hermione sighed. "But I'm sure its his and I need to give it back to him. I just don't fancy walking up to Snape with an item of his personal property. He'll have a go at me, for sure."
"Hmmmm". Harry frowned. "Miserable git. Well, maybe give it to Dumbledore then - or McGonagall. Just say you found it in Snape's room. I'm sure they'll know what to do with it."
He frowned. "Why would Snape have a Muggle-photo anyway? He's a top-class Slytherin snob!"
Hermione shooke her head. "I'm not sure either. Oh well - I'll give it to Professor Dumbledore this evening. Let him sort it out. Thanks, Harry."
* * * * *
The Head Boy and Girl of the school were given the password to Professor Dumbledore's private office in case they should ever need to contact the Headmaster. As soon as dinner was finished and the Professors had filed out, Hermione rose and made her way upstairs towards Dumbledore's rooms.
She hesitated before the door. She really only had permission to disturb Professor Dumbledore for important matters, for which this hardly seemed to qualify. Still, she trusted him more than any other teacher in the school.
"Lemon Bon-Bon" she said quietly, and the door opened.
Dumbledore was sitting at his desk, with a steaming cup of tea at his elbow, marking a pile of exam parchments. A fire blazed cheerfully in the hearth and Fawkes the Phoenix gave a friendly trill as Hermione entered, the door closing automatically behind her. Dumbledore looked up with a smile.
"Hello Hermione" he asked. "Is everything alright?"
Hermione smiled back. "Oh, yes Professor" she said, hurriedly, not wanting to detain the Headmaster any more than was necessary. "I just came to see you because . . ." she reached into her pocket and drew out the photo.
"I believe this belongs to Professor Snape" she said, handing the picture to Dumbledore. "He . . dropped it in Potions this morning, and I wanted to make sure he got it back . . ."
Professor Dumbledore glanced at the picture. His smile faded slightly.
"Ah . . . yes" he said slowly, never taking his eyes from the picture in front of him. "Yes. . . Severus will be glad to have this back, thank you Hermione." His voice held a tinge of sadness.
He looked up at Hermione. She smiled.
"I thought it might be a family photograph, Sir" she said, nervously.
"Yes". Dumbledore put the photograph down on the desk and fixed Hermione with serious, pale blue eyes.
"It was his daughter".
* * * *
Hermione was amazed. She had never even known that Professor Snape was married, let alone had a daughter.
Her surprise must have shown on her face, for Dumbledore gave a sad smile, and gestured to the armchair in front of his desk. Hermione sat down, expectantly.
The Headmaster gazed at her for a few moments.
"Yes, Severus was once married and had a daughter" he said, with a slight twitch to the corner of his mouth as if he knew how surprises Hermione would be at this information. "His wife was a Muggle-born witch and the Snapes were not terribly pleased about the match - Aristocratic, Pure-Blood Wizarding families being what they are. . . "
He smiled conspiratorially. "However, they were young and in love, and determined - and I don't beleive that Severus ever saw a lot of his family anyway - from what I know of the Snapes they are not the closest or most loving of clans"
Hermione nodded dumbly.
Dumbledore regarded her seriously for a moment. "I would not normally impart personal information like this about a teacher to a student, you understand" he went on. "But you my dear have so very nearly finished your studies here, and you and your friends have seen so much, and been through so much, that I feel I can trust you with this. There is little more to the story anyway, except that there was a tragic accident and Severus' life changed irreparably. His involvement with the Death Eaters stems from this period."
Dumbledore paused again. A sadness had once again descended over kindly face.
"He is cold, my dear" he continued at last, in a soft tone. "He is forbidding. He does not allow anyone to get close to him - I sometimes believe he is afraid to. But he was not always as he is now. And I hope that perhaps this knowledge means that you can perhaps look upon him a little more kindly in your last few months here."
Hermione didn't know what to say. Dumbledore, however, solved the problem by standing up and placing a hand on her shoulder.
"I will make sure he gets the photograph back tommorrow morning" he said, with a smile. "And I'm sure you'll be wanting to get to bed, my dear. Thank you for bringing it to me, you are most thoughtful."
Hermione stood up gratefully. "Thanks Professor," she said warmly. For a moment she wondered if it would be inappropriate to give the Headmaster a daughterly kiss on the cheek for being so sweet. Instead she simply returned his smile, gave Fawkes' brilliant plumage a quick ruffle, and left the room, making her way towards the Gryffindor Common Room, her head in a whirl.
Life never ceased to surprise her.
* * * *
For some reason, Hermione did not feel willing to share the knowledge that Dumbledore had given her with anyone else - not just yet anyway. She knew how many of her friends loathed and mistrusted Snape, as she had for most of her seven years at Hogwarts. He was sarcastic, bad-tempered, snobbish, vindictive and had given none of them any reason to like him. But the truth was that since Dumbledore had told her Snape's story she was beginning to feel sort of . . . sorry for him.
After a double lesson of Transfiguration that morning, she found herself with a free period. Ron and Harry retreated to the Common Room but Hermione decided to go to the library to work on her Dark Arts Essay - it was not due in for three weeks, but she liked always to be prompt. It saved so much rushing around later.
She was making her way down the 3rd floor towards the library, when the strap of her bag, packed as usual with books, suddenly gave way. Books, quills and notepads tumbled everywhere, and Hermione, with a muffled curse, stooped down to pick them up.
Gathering them into a hasty pile in her arms she looked around for her large black Herbology notebook and jumped a mile into the air when it was suddenly thrust towards her by an elegant, well-manicured hand.
"Miss Granger?" said a familiar, deep voice.
Hermione froze, and looked up to find herself face to face with Professor Snape, who was regarding her with an expression of wry amusement in his black eyes.
"Oh Professor, thanks, I . . " she found herself flustered and quickly took the book from him. "It was my bag, it . . "
"Yes, well" Snape folded his arms. "You carry too many books around Miss Granger. Anyway, I merely wanted to thank you - Professor Dumbledore returned to me an item I had lost yesterday and told me that you had, er, been thoughtful enough to hand it in to him. I am most grateful."
His voice, whilst haughty as ever, had lost some of its venom, its hard edge was ever so slightly softened, and this made Hermione feel strange. Indeed, he sounded awkward if anything, perhaps not used to showing gratitude to a Muggle-born Gryffindor student.
"Don't mention it" she said, hastily, feeling the need to get away as soon as she could. "Glad to help, you know."
To Hermione's amazement, Snape gave a snall, slightly sardonic smile. He nodded once in a formal way and turned around abruptly, heading down the corridor away from her.
To her dying day Hermione never knew what caused her to call out after him.
"Oh, Professor?" she called. And as soon as the words were out of her mouth, she cringed inwardly.
Snape turned around, frowning. His old demeanour was back.
Hermione wilted under his dark stare. Oh well. She had three months left. After that she would never have to see him again.
"What - what was your daughter's name?" she heard herself asking.
Snape stared at her in astonishment. For a moment, Hermione expected him to let loose a tirade of fury at her insolence. But then, suddenly, he gave another of those very tiny and oh-so-foreign smiles.
"Selena" he said. And he turned and walked away.
End Chapter 1