Past Imperfect By Jessie Rating: PG-13 overall, but they'll probably be a few "R" rated chapters in there at some point. Spoilers: All four books! Disclaimer: I own nothing!!!

Prologue

Scotland, 994 AD

Salazar Slytherin stood, as always, slightly away from the others gazing at the spot in question, sizing up its suitability. The mountain terrain was rough, but it would certainly discourage any unwanted guests, as would the thick fog, which made it nearly impossible to see. All in all, he thought to himself, a most promising location.

"Gryffindor," Slytherin said quietly, " It will serve our purposes nicely, I think."

"I quite agree, Salazar," Godric Gryffindor answered smiling, " Ladies, what are your opinions? Would this be a good place for our school, you think?"

Tall, blond Rowena Ravenclaw looked critically at the spot and said, "Well, it certainly looks remote and forbidding."

Salazar said silkily, "I believe that is what we're looking for, isn't it? Something remote forbidding enough to keep the Muggles away?"

Rowena snapped, "Well, we don't want to frighten away the students, now do we? I daresay it wouldn't be much of a school without them. Honestly Salazar, must everything be dismal and dreary to meet with your approval?"

Black eyes glinting dangerously, Salazar opened his mouth to retort but Godric interrupted, " Well Helga, Rowena and Salazar have voiced their opinions, what about yours?"

Helga Hufflepuff, a short, pudgy witch with soft brown hair, eyed the spot in question and replied tactfully, " It does look a bit intimidating at first glance, but as Salazar said, we don't exactly want it to look like a place Muggles would try to disturb. I think, with careful design and the right charms, of course, that this would be an excellent place for our school."

"So, we are all in agreement, then?" Godric asked. Salazar nodded his assent and Rowena reluctantly did the same. "Good. Now shall we go back to my home and begin the planning? I've taken the liberty of making a few rudimentary sketches.." His voice trailed off as he and the ladies began walking away. Salazar stayed behind for a few moments.

He looked at the place as with something akin to wistfulness. Here, in this place, children who would have been reviled or even harmed in the Muggle world would be protected. Without the fear of discovery or injury, they would be free to learn about their gifts and how to control them. He smiled slightly. He acknowledged that he was not entirely without selfish motives. One day, these children would become powerful witches and wizards in their own rights, and he would be known by all as one who'd helped to train them.

"Salazar," Gryffindor's voice called out impatiently, " Do come along, it would be most inconvenient if our Potions Master were to disappear into the fog."

Slytherin chuckled softly at that. Godric Gryffidor was perhaps the bravest, kindest wizard who'd ever lived, but he couldn't make a potion to save his life. A slight breeze ruffled his silky black hair and he gave the place a final glance. Then, green cloak billowing, he turned abruptly and strode quickly but gracefully to catch up to the others.

End Prologue

Chapter One: The Gift

Eighteen-year old Hermione Granger walked down Diagon Alley purchasing the items for her seventh and final year at Hogwarts. The school term began in less than a week and Hermione felt both excited and disappointed at the thought of going back. This came to quite a shock to Hermione, as she'd always loved school, but she'd had such a lovely summer and she almost didn't want it to end.

Her mother, feeling she spent too much time with Harry and Ron, had refused to let her spend the summer at The Burrow. Instead, Hermione was packed off to London to visit her cousin, Georgiana. At first, Hermione was furious. Always rather shy, Hermione's shyness increased ten-fold with members of her own sex, and she was certainly not looking forward to spending her summer with a more adult version of Lavender Brown or Parvati Patil. However, after she met her cousin, her feelings about her prospective holiday changed completely. Georgiana, or Georgie, as she preferred to be called, turned out to be great fun. Twenty-two and very pretty, Georgie was a kind, friendly girl and took her responsibility to Hermione very seriously. Her aunt had begged her to bring Hermione out of her shell and Georgie set out to just that.

Georgie explained to Hermione that she had inherited a lot of money when she'd turned twenty-one so she could afford to live as she liked. Studying art at a prestigious university, she planned to one day own her own gallery. Her home, while large and flawlessly decorated, radiated a comfortable aura and was filled with books. Hermione had never lost her love for Muggle literature and found, to her surprise and pleasure that her cousin possessed all of her favorites and more besides. As her parents had never enjoyed the city, Hermione had never really gotten to explore it as much as she'd like, so that first week, Georgie took her to the various libraries and museums that London had to offer. However, conscious of the promise she'd made to Hermione's mother, the one that included Hermione not spending her entire summer buried in a book, Georgie suggested something during the second week which made her young cousin go a little green in the face. She insisted on taking her shopping. First, they went to a salon for what Georgie called "a full beauty treatment." Hermione's bushy hair was cut just above her shoulders, and with help from various styling products, transformed from an uncontrollable mop to a shiny, sleek mane. Next, she was handed over to a make-up expert who explained how to apply the products she used so Hermione would be able to do it herself. After nearly three exhausting hours, Hermione looked at her reflection only to see a complete stranger looking back at her. She was so shocked that she made no protest when Georgie suggested that her wardrobe should be next.

Hermione had never really cared much about clothes, so she found Georgie's enthusiasm rather silly. However, after trying on some of Georgie's selections, her feelings began to change. Until this last year she'd always been rather flat-chested and bony, but now out of nowhere, her body had developed curves, and these clothes showed them off beautifully. Under Georgie's careful eye, she began selecting clothes which were sexy, yet classy, nothing too revealing or too short, though privately she thought she had rather nice legs.

Over the course of the summer, Hermione's physical appearance wasn't the only thing that had changed. Georgie was a great listener, gifted with ability to draw Hermione out, getting her talk about things she'd never told anyone, not even her mum or Ginny. She talked about school, not the magic aspect of course, but just that she felt so much pressure to succeed at everything. She told her about her ill-fated romances with Victor and Ron. With Victor, she'd been so shocked that a boy, and a famous one at that, could actually like her that she'd never really considered her feelings for him. She'd visited him during the summer between fifth and sixth year and realized she didn't feel anything for him but friendship and respect. He took it well, and the two still wrote from time to time. Last year, she and Ron had "dated" for three months, although "feuded" was probably a better description. As friends, Ron and Hermione had always had spats, but as boyfriend and girlfriend, they had battles. Poor Harry and Ginny, they frequently got caught in the crossfire. Finally, their three month romance culminated into a twenty minute screaming match which cost them twenty points from Gryffindor and very nearly cost them their friendship. A miserable week later, their tempers cooled and they sat down and decided that they were better being just friends again. So, after awhile, Ron started dating Lavender and Hermione decided she had no more energy for romance. She concentrated on her studies and on getting the highest grades in the school.

Georgie introduced her to all of her friends, who of course turned out to be every bit as charming as Georgie. Though they were all in their early to mid twenties, Hermione, who'd always been mature for her age, felt almost completely at ease with them. They dragged albeit somewhat reluctantly to the trendy dance clubs and encouraged her to dance with and chat up the various guys they introduced her to. She found that, with the right partner, she enjoyed dancing a great deal. However, a few weeks later, she discovered something else about herself. The girls took her to Melody's, a very fun, upscale karaoke bar. Georgie, extroverted person that she was, volunteered to sing, but after a few verses, Hermione was forced to admit that her new favorite cousin was definitely no singer. Some of her thoughts must have shown on her face because Georgie said slyly, " You think you can do better? Well, you take a turn, then."

Horrified, Hermione replied, " Um, no I don't think I'd be very good at it."

"Well, how do you know until you try?" Georgie narrowed her eyes, "You're not scared, are you?"

"Of course not," Hermione replied indignantly. "I'd just rather not make a fool of myself in front of all these people."

"Uh huh, sounds like fear to me. Pity, Hermione, I never took you for a coward."

Glaring at her cousin, Hermione summoned up all of her Gryffindor courage and marched towards the stage. She told them her name and selected her song, and climbed onstage, knowing in her heart she was going to make a complete ass of herself. The music started, and very quietly she began to sing. Gradually she relaxed, and then a funny thing happened, she realized she wasn't bad. She let herself go and when the song ended a few minutes later, she realized she had the complete attention on the whole bar. She left the stage amid thunderous applause, feeling better than she'd ever remembered. After that, she and the girls went to Melody's three or four nights a week. She sang four or five times each night and pretty soon she was known by nearly all of the regular patrons. She admitted to Georgie that while she liked the applause, she loved the feeling she got from singing, the ability to forget who she was and become someone different, someone sexier. She blushed at that revelation, but Georgie just smiled.

Now, almost three months later, Hermione found herself almost wishing she didn't have to go back. She liked this new side of herself, the side that wasn't just Harry and Ron's best friend, or the teachers' darling, or the smart girl everyone ignored unless they needed an answer. Deep in thought, she walked down the alley, not really paying attention until a woman stepped out in front of her, blocking her path, and startling her out of her thoughts.

"Excuse me," Hermione said politely and attempted to walk past her.

The woman took her arm gently and looked into her eyes. She was tall, and had silvery-white hair and a pair of eyes blue enough to rival those of Albus Dumbledore himself. Perhaps that thought was what kept Hermione from whipping out her wand and threatening to hex her, instead, she simply tried to remove her arm from the woman's grasp. When she didn't succeed, she became both frightened and irritated.

"Who are you? Let me go this instant!" Hermione snapped, trying to keep the fear out of her voice.

"I mean you no harm, child." The woman, whoever she was, had a very kind, soothing voice. Hermione stopped struggling and really looked at her. There was something very familiar about her. "You are worried aren't you, about who you are, your role in life? " Shocked, Hermione could only nod. " You feel guilty because, though you love your friends, you want more than they can give you?" Again, Hermione could only nod. The woman reached into her silvery-mauve robe and withdrew a small bottle. She pressed into Hermione's hand and closed her fingers around it. "Take this."

"What is it?" Hermione asked breathlessly

"A gift. A reminder of who you are," the woman answered cryptically, "Drink the entire bottle before going to sleep and you will remember who you are and where you belong."

Hermione held the bottle up to the light. The liquid in it was sky blue. She looked to where the woman had been standing and was shocked to find that she had disappeared. She spent the next hour walking up and down the alley looking for her, asking if anyone had seen her, but she was nowhere to be found. In fact, it seemed that she was the only one who had seen her. She might have imagined the whole incident if not for the little bottle in her pocket. The woman's words echoed in her mind and Hermione left Diagon Alley even more conflicted than when she'd arrived.

End Chapter One

Author's Notes: Like it/Hate it? Let me know, but bear in mind, this is my first HP story, so please tell me gently.

Jessie