"What did you say?"
"You heard me, Finnegan. I said that they should toss Granger out on her bum before she starts killing people."
Seamus stood up from his worktable, hands clenched, but Terry Boot beat him to it by whirling his fellow Ravenclaw seventh year around and punching him dead on. A Hufflepuff got up to pull Boot off, but Seamus grabbed him from behind. In short order Herbology had turned into a free-for-all with Professor Sprout shouting for them to quiet down.
The same had been happening all over the school as loyalties became sharply divided. Ironically, it was the Muggleborns and the half bloods who sided behind Hermione in the greatest numbers. Gryffindor house and the members of the D.A. from their fifth year had formed a seemingly impenetrable wall about her. For her part, however, Hermione was lifting her chin and sailing through stormy waters with calculated indifference, stepping in when she felt it was needed.
She gripped her accuser by his shoulder and pulled him free from Boot's gasp. "Enough, Terry. Let him speak." She turned to the other student, who had suddenly gone chalk white and trembly. "You have something to say to me?"
The boy looked to his few supporters, smaller in number now that those who still considered Hermione a friend and ally were standing shoulder to shoulder behind her. He swallowed and tried to keep his shoulders from shaking. "Y… yes. You shouldn't stay here. You don't belong around decent people."
"Mr. Whitehall!" Professor Sprout stormed up between the divided students. They had forgotten that this was a class. "I will not tolerate another word! Class, you are dismissed for today, but I expect an essay on the current chapter on my desk by Friday. Three feet of parchment." There was a collected groan, which made her scowl all the more. "Be thankful I don't throw the lot of you into detention! Now, you, Mr. Whitehall, will come with me. I expect the Headmaster will want to have words with you."
They gathered up their books and left the class, now left with the entire afternoon to themselves. Neville scowled. "That's hardly fair, loading us all with homework. Let Whitehall and his cronies do it. They started it."
"And we were going to finish it, Neville. I appreciate that you all are standing up for me, but we have to avoid getting into trouble."
He rounded on Hermione, brow furrowed. "But it's pure stupidity, them all turning on you like that!" Seamus nodded in complete agreement with his fellow Gryffindor. "I mean, Harry still trusts you. I still trust you, and I've got more reason to hate You-Know-Who than most. You know what he and his followers did to my parents! You've seen them! I don't blame you for that, you and me were just babies, and you were still thinking that you were a Muggle."
Hermione gave him a grateful smile. She had been terrified that her housemates would turn against her once they knew the truth, and had been relieved beyond measure when that had not happened. "That's because you judge a person by their own merit, Neville. There aren't many clever enough to do that." She gave him a quick peck on the cheek, which made him blush scarlet.
"Hey, Hermione. Got one of those for me?" Ron had come out of the charms corridor sporting a rather impressive split lip. He gave her a lop-sided grin. "It might help with the smarting. We had a little trouble in our study group."
"I will stand behind my decision, Minister. Hermione remains at Hogwarts."
Fudge spluttered incoherently for a moment, his face darkening. "Dumbledore! The girl is a menace!"
"Don't be preposterous!" Severus admired Minerva's restraint. She was standing with her fists tightly clenched, her wand still within her sleeve. Had it be him, and one of his students, he would have turned the Minister of Magic into a toad long ago. "Hermione Granger is a dedicated student and an asset to the Wizarding World!"
"She is the daughter of You-Know-Who! Parents are concerned that she will attack their children."
"Of all the outrageous…"
"Minerva, please. We are all on the same side here." Dumbledore poured a snifter of brandy for the Minister of Magic. "Hermione Granger has an unfortunate biological heritage, but only from one man. The rest of her family, both magical and Muggle, is exemplary. No one can find fault with the Wiggentrees and her mother's family is made up of generations of decent, upstanding individuals. As for Miss Granger, herself, she has been nothing short of a delight to teach and has already proven herself to be against Voldemort and his followers. She was one of the students who went to the Ministry of Magic to stop the Death Eaters in her fifth year."
"Yes, but what is she likely to do now that she knows her connection with You Know Who?"
Minerva gave a little growl. "Minister, do you even have a brain? She has been attacked by Death Eaters. She has seen her classmates and friends suffer from Death Eater attacks. She knows all too well what sort of monster Voldemort is and she only learned of her connection to him by nightmarish visions of him raping her grandmother! Why would she ever stoop to working with him? She's more likely to lead the charge to destroy him!"
Severus cleared his throat. "I will admit that Miss Granger can be a trial in class, with her constant sucking up to teachers and inability to keep silent and let others answer questions for a change," he ignored Minerva's sputtering, "but she is not evil. If anything, she is too tender hearted. She would never have the ruthlessness required to being following in her grandfather's footsteps."
Fudge looked about to say something else, but Dumbledore cut him off. "Minister, the decision of who will be allowed into this school and who will be sent away falls to the Headmaster. I say that Hermione Granger has done nothing to warrant expulsion. If anything, it is for her own safety that she remains at the school. Hogwarts is the safest place for her at this time in her life." The minister made to say something else, but Dumbledore cut him off again. "My decision is final, Minister."
Cornelius looked fit to be tied. He shoved his bowler hat on his head and stormed out. Severus arched a single brow. "We're likely in for another attempt by the Ministry of Magic to take over the school."
Dumbledore unwrapped a piece of candy. "I believe that Cornelius has too many pressures from other areas at the moment to trouble with Hogwarts. There is a war going on."
Minerva was tapping her foot. "Meanwhile, we have a school full of children prone to breaking out in fights over Miss Granger. I would not have thought any of them could question her loyalty to this school and to us."
"Fear breeds suspicion, Minerva. And war causes a great deal of fear."
Snape was about to speak when he felt a tug at his robes. He looked down to see a house elf by his side, holding up a letter to him. "Begging your pardon, Professor Snape, sir, but this came for you. It is marked urgent." Severus took the letter. It was in a Muggle envelope, sealed with a gummed strip rather than wax, as a wizard would do. He tore it open and took out a letter. Unfolding it, he glanced over it with a dark expression.
"Perhaps. It is from Emma Granger, she wishes me to come to their home immediately." Severus folded up the letter and tucked it into his robes. "Forgive me, Headmaster, but I should go see to this."
Albus looked surprised. "And your class this afternoon?"
He scowled. "It will have to be cancelled, but I am assigning an essay on invisibility potions, four feet in length. That should keep them out of trouble."
"Of course. Be careful, Severus. Call us if you need help."
Severus nodded in response and walked over to the floo. He selected a pinch of powder from a silver snuffbox on the mantle and tossed it in. Taking the floo network, he made his way to the private room in the Three Broomsticks that Madame Rosemerta kept closed for use for a 'private party' and apparated from there. He soon found himself in the Grangers' warm, inviting hallway.
There was a sound of someone being surprised by the loud crack of apparating. A moment later, a rather strained and weary Emma peered out from the kitchen. She gave a sigh of relief when she saw who it was. "Professor Snape, thank you for coming."
Severus studied the tight look about the woman's eyes with some concern. "What has happened here?" She had come into the hall to meet him and he noted that her skin seemed pulled tight across her bones and almost translucent.
"It's John. He shut himself up in the basement a few days ago and refuses to come out. He won't even come out to eat. He even cancelled all his patients at the clinic. There have been some truly foul odors coming from there. He keeps his chemistry set down there, but it's never been this bad before. And this morning… I woke up to the house shaking."
Severus frowned. "I see. Has your husband received any unusual… packages? By owl post, perhaps?"
She frowned, and then nodded. "Yes, right before he went down there. I can recognize the owls that the Wiggentrees use, but these were different. They were carrying these grubby packages and the birds themselves just seemed… wrong."
Snape nodded. "Mrs. Granger, I want you to go to your clinic. Behave as though nothing is wrong. You are likely being watched at all times, so we must keep up an appearance of normalcy."
"But what about John?"
"I will see to your husband. Right now you need to appear as though nothing is wrong."
Emma gave a glance over her shoulder towards the kitchen, and then gave a shaky nod of agreement. Severus remained where he was as she collected her coat and her handbag before leaving the house. After that, he moved into the kitchen and towards the door leading into the basement. Pulling out his wand, he unlocked the door before lighting the tip and moving down the stairs.
"Dr. Granger? Can you hear me?" There was only a slight scuffling. He detected the scent of potion ingredients. Nightshade and ginger root were the most easily identified, but they were masked under something that came across as dark and sinister. "John?"
"She makes it look so easy."
Snape followed the voice to find John sitting on the floor with his back to the wall, hidden between two shelves crammed with books and items for his chemistry set. "John?"
The other man looked up, his expression desolate. "Hermione makes it look so easy. Oh, she had her problems at first. Trouble with control and the occasional freak accident that we couldn't explain until we were told what she was, but she never lost total control."
Severus glanced over at the chemistry apparatus. Over a burner was a metal cylinder, no doubt the best the man could do for a cauldron under the circumstances. "What have you been doing here, John?"
Dr. Granger gave a bitter laugh. "I figured out where all those wizards went wrong. I figured out why no one ever figured out how to reverse the potion's effects."
"What were they missing?"
"They were wizards." He shook his head. "That's the trick of it. In order for it to be undone, the counter agent has to be brewed by the affected party. I was the only one who could do it."
Severus stared at him in muted shock for a moment. It was so simple, and so bloody clear. How it had been missed over the centuries was mystifying. "How did you do it?"
"Chemistry, a bit of Muggle intellect and ingenuity. I got the herbs I needed from various apothecaries I found advertised in Hermione's magazines. I got what it would take to brew the potion first, figured out what the opposite would be, then worked backwards from there."
Snape shook his head. "What have you done?"
"I did what was needed to protect my family!" John's voice rose in strength and the basement began to tremble. Severus gave a glance towards the shelves on either side of Hermione's father, making certain that they were not going to fall atop him.
"John, your daughter made it look easy because she was a child with a child's strength. You have awakened yourself as an adult, with an adult wizard's power and none of the training on how to control it."
The other man put his head in his hands. "I had to. Can't you see that? I had to do something. They hate my wife because she isn't a witch. They want to control and destroy my little girl." He looked up; his eyes shining with unshed tears. About them glass and metal trembled. "I had to do something."
Severus could feel his pain. "I know you did, John. I can't say that I wouldn't have done the same in your place." He ran a hand over his face, pondering the situation. "You cannot remain here, and you certain cannot see patients. Not in your state. We'll need to move you somewhere else and find someone who can teach you. You've got more than three decades of magical education and training to make up for."
He looked at the man before him, torn between sympathy and anger. He did sympathize with John Granger and the uncomfortable position that his unwanted father had put him in. However, he could not help but feel enraged that the fool may have just given Voldemort what he had been wanting when he pulled Helena Wiggentree down into the Chamber of Secrets and raped her all those years ago.
He had given Voldemort his magical son.