Contemplations of Birth - REVISED
Disclaimer: I don't own it, I don't need to. I have more fun playing with it this way.
Summary: Hermione is in trouble and goes to the one place she thinks will hold her salvation. Is the solution worse than the problem or is it in fact better?
A/N: This story was started before the advent of book 5, way back in 2003. It was completed the night before the book was released. As such it is now incredibly AU. The setting is my version of what their 6th year might have been like. Slight corrections were made to bring the story in line with Book 5 – these are available as snippets and drabbles under the title "Convergence of Birth". No such changes/additions were made for later books. It is, however, just now under going a heavy editing/revision. (Mostly because I'm finally getting around to finishing the sequel and I needed to re-read it all because it's been so long!)
CHAPTER ONE: Crescendo
You never really think about how intimidating a door really is until it's looming like a monolith in front of you, oak and iron rising to unimaginable heights and taking your terror with them. The gentle curve of the top starts to look like the blade of a guillotine and you know the cold metal of the iron handle and knocker will burn your flesh. Doors are simple things – everyday things, until you need something that resides on the other side, then a door is far more than you can ever imagine. Hermione Granger stood outside such a door, her robes in perfect order and her hands for once empty of textbooks and quills, but her eyes full of much more than their share of weight. She'd been there for what felt like days, memorizing the wood grain and attempting to quell her irrational fear of nothing more than a door.
Hermione raised her chin in sudden defiance, gathering her courage around herself like shroud, and knocked.
"Enter." Snape's voice was as cold as ever from behind the dreaded oak. Hermione pulled her robes about herself as if to ward off his chill and stepped bravely into the office. "What is it?" His voice was even colder now that she could see him and it took all her force of will not to shiver.
"I need your help sir." She somehow managed to not squeak out the words, the small tremor in her voice nearly undetectable.
Snape's head snapped up from the pile of papers he'd been working on, his eyes burning in the faint light of the candle. "Granger, you mean to tell me you are actually incapable of accomplishing an assignment? Where IS my calendar, I must remember this date." He glared hard at her and then lowered his gaze back down to the parchments, slashing through one with a violent movement of his quill.
Hermione cringed, "No sir. This isn't academic, it's personal."
Again, the quill ripped through some poor student's paper leaving a blood red wound over the words. "You're Gryffindor. Take your petty love squabbles to the witch. Leave."
Hermione stiffened her spine and felt her anger start to dissipate her fear. "Sir, Prof. McGonagall would not be able to help. And it's not petty or a love squabble." She raised her chin even higher. She had nowhere else to go if he would not help, or could not help. He had to help her, there wasn't any other option.
"What has Potter done now?" Snape still wasn't look at her, but his quill stopped moving.
Hermione squashed her anger before she said something she'd regret and took a deep breath to calm down before answering. "Nothing that should concern you, at least not at the moment. Harry doesn't have anything to do with this. I am the one in need of help, sir." She hoped she didn't sound too desperate.
"Granger, what makes you think I care what you need?" He raised his head long enough to sneer at her before turning back to his grading, dipping the quill in preparation for another attack.
"I don't think you do, sir. I was hoping you'd help me out of a sense of obligation to your position as a professor." Hermione felt a stab of hope as Snape frowned in annoyance and threw down his quill, splattering ink over most of the ungraded papers.
"Spill it and get out." Snape picked up the now stained papers and began to shuffle the parchments, rearranging them on his desk further smearing the ink. He looked back up when Hermione coughed to cover a nervous laugh.
Hermione closed her eyes and reached into her robes and pulled out two scrolls. "First sir, I must ask that you not inform the headmaster or anyone else about this without my permission. Not only my life depends on it but my family's." She held the scrolls just out of his reach.
"Stop being melodramatic, and get on with it." At her glare Snape sighed dramatically, "Oh all right. I agree. Now get on with it and get out." Hermione handed him the first scroll. Snape opened it to find a wizarding birth certificate. "Hermione PENWRATH?" She nodded. Snape looked back at the document. Mother: Elliania Penwrath Father: unknown wizard
Hermione spoke softly, "I was adopted by my mother's husband." She lowered her gaze somewhat sadly to floor. "That's the name I always use in the wizarding world, for obvious reasons."
Snape looked up and failed to keep the surprise from his face or his voice. "As fascinating as this is, what…" Hermione handed him the second scroll before he could finish. It was a letter sealed with the Penwrath family crest. Hermione pulled a necklace out of her robes and pressed it to the seal, opening the scroll.
"It came yesterday. It should explain why I need your assistance better than I can." Snape began to read the letter.
Dear Little Dove,
I know you are reluctant to help in our endeavor child, and I do understand. But every event in your life has been leading to this. I know this has come as a surprise but you didn't let me finish explaining over break. I don't ask this lightly or without reason, dove. Listen to my words now and try to understand.
When the Dark Lord first started recruiting he wanted your Great- grandfather Marrius to join him. Marrius had been the chief supporter to Grindelwald as you know, and wanted nothing to do with a new upstart halfblood with delusions of grandeur. He refused to be marked. At the time He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named was still trying to gather Deatheaters and wanted to set an example. He warned Marrius to consider carefully. Marrius again refused to serve him.
Now understand that Marrius Penwrath never served a soul, Dove. He RAN the strategy council for Grindelwald. He was an alley, not a lackey. The Dark Lord never understood the difference. Marrius had three legitimate children, and myself. My mother was a muggle, as you will remember, so father considered me to be 'unworthy' of being considered for heirship. That wouldn't have posed a problem, but one of the three heirs, your grandfather, was a squib. My half-brother Arern had already married a squib from the Malfoy line when both of the magical heirs died. We have no proof, but it is commonly believed that You-Know-Who killed them to punish father for refusing his mark. Arern could not directly inherit since he had no magic; I could not because of my mother and my status as a bastard child. That kept the family in limbo, without a rightful heir.
Father knew the chances that Arern would have a child with magic where quite slim considering his spouse was also a squib. The Malfoy's would not allow a divorce and her death at such a time would have meant a feud. And it would have done little good. No pureblood would have married into the family after such a 'tragedy', not to mention no pureblood wizard would marry a squib, Penwrath or not. Your great-grandmother Rosemary pointed out that our only option would be to insure that the family remained off of You-Know-Who's hit list and to return magic to the line at ALL costs. It was decided that Arern and Salze, your grandparents, would 'neglect' to file the appropriate documents with the Ministry of Magic (MOM) when your mother was born. We made sure there were records pertaining to her status as a second-generation squib, but we didn't file them with the MOM. Instead we hid them and Obliviated the midwife and witnessing MOM official.
Then father and I began to plan. When it came time for your mother to marry we found a nice muggle man of good family, for muggles, and arranged for the match. Dr. Granger has always been rather receptive to our wishes. I believe he has actually come to care for Elliania. While the marriage is in fact legal and binding, your conception and birth took place beforehand to insure you kept the family name. Not only that, but I took measures to enable your mother to bed a wizard and to make conception a guarantee. So you see Dove, Allen Granger isn't your father. I'm not sure quite who is. I found a man that resembled Allen, slipped him a little something, put him in a room with Elliania, and well, you can guess the rest.
You knew about your connection to the Penwraths, and I'm sorry you had to keep it a secret. Life for a muggleborn is not very comfortable and it would have made your school days easier if we had let you go under your real name. And I am sorry that we let you believe that Allen is your father. We had no choice. When father died, a month after your birth and then Rosemary a few weeks later, I was left in charge of the family until you came of age. When You-Know-Who disappeared I considered ending the charade. But somehow I knew he wasn't really gone. He wants our family wiped out Dove, for Grandfather refusing him. (And hexing him off the grounds. Father was a bit overzealous at times.) You're the last of the Penwraths; I couldn't risk you getting killed before producing an heir.
Now here comes the part you overheard me discussing with your mother. Yes, I have arranged a marriage for you. And no you don't have any choice; you are under the age of consent and by wizarding law I can do with you as I please until your sixteenth birthday. Which means you have one week until I collect you for the ceremony.
Now don't get upset. I'm sure the young man isn't all that bad. He comes from a pureblood family in good standing and they are aware of your background. Marcus Flint may not be your first choice Dove, but we needed a young man with the proper connections.. This bonding will put the past troubles behind us. If you had been male, other avenues for eliminating the resurrected tragedy would be possible. As that is not the case this is the only option left. We must bring the family name out of the shadows, Dove. After three generations without a magical heir the family will be stricken from the books. You are the third generation. But if you come forward without the protection this bonding will give you, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named may come after you. He will be looking for supporters once more and to get them he very well might use his earlier tactics of join or die. He can not allow anyone to escape or he loses his weapon. Dove, please don't fight this. We have no choice.
I will come to Hogwarts to collect you in one week's time. Please be ready. The Flints have expressed their wish for you to remain at their household and forgo any further education, so say your good-byes beforehand. I am sorry Dove, but you can't tell them where you are going. I do not want Mr. Potter to try anything. If your association with him is brought before certain individuals you may be placed in a position you would find intolerable. I would advise you to end all associations with him and the Weasley publicly and quickly.
Do not cry, little Dove. This is your destiny. With this sacrifice you restore the Penwrath line. Your first born son will be for the Flints, your second will re-establish the Penwrath name. I believe you know how to ensure the proper heirs are produced?
Remember, I will collect you in one week.
All my thoughts are with you Dove,
Snape looked up, the parchment clutched in his hands and his eyebrows reaching for his hair line.
Hermione swallowed thickly and steadied her voice. "My Uncle believes that if I bond with a Deatheater, or the son of one, Voldemort will not continue his vendetta against the family allowing us to keep the line alive."
Snape looked down at the letter than back up to Hermione's face, his eyes unreadable. "You have never told anyone of this?"
Hermione shook her head. "No. Until this past Christmas all I knew was that mother was a Penwrath and that my great-grandfather was Marrius Penwrath and that I wasn't to speak of it outside of the family. I had no idea that this was all prearranged!" Hermione shook her head again hard enough pieces of her hair fell out of the clip she'd worn. "What am I going to do?"
"That, Miss Grang...Miss Penwrath is a good question. One we should take to the headmaster." Snape stood up and started to come around the desk.
"But..." Hermione choked on the word and stood stock still.
Snape eyed her carefully and crossed his arms, eyes flashing in irritation. "Miss Penwrath, you were right, McGonagall would not know how to handle this. Your Uncle is thinking like a Slytherin and your family is operating on my house's rules. Believe me when I say we need to stall until your birthday and Albus can help with that."
Hermione cooked her head to the side. "Magical or chronological birthday, sir?"
"Magical, why?" Snape sounded suspicious and his body tensed infinitesimally.
"I already had my 16th magical birthday, several months ago."
Now Snape's suspicion was clear and his voice was practically a hiss. "Miss Gra…Penwrath, WHY do they differ for you?"
Hermione couldn't help a small smirk. "I'm not supposed to tell, but at the moment I don't care. Third year I had a time-turner. It effected my age by a good three months."
In a swirl of robes, Snape turned on his heal and went back behind his desk and sat down. He picked his quill back up and dipped it back in the blood red ink pot. "Then the problem is solved, you are over the age of consent. You can stop the bonding." He tapped the quill on the side of the pot and picked his stack of papers back up.
Hermione rushed forward and leaned over his desk, blocking the light from the candle and causing him to stop his aggressive marking. "Yes, but what about Voldemort? Has he forgotten about his little plan to keep the Penwraths from remaining in wizarding society?"
Snape sighed and laid down his pen, more carefully this time. "No. Last week he issued new orders to track down the remains of the families he ordered eliminated before his little vacation. The Penwraths where listed as believed to be eliminated but to finish the job if any were found. Unless of course they agreed to join."
"Hence my Uncle wishing I was male. Although he could have insured that with his conception potion."
Snape snorted. "He most likely insured your birth as a female. The Dark Lord has always overlooked female power and presence. He concentrates solely on the males. Your Uncle would have known that and used it to help hide you and your mother. Your last name and your muggle father would also have deflected suspicion."
Hermione nodded. "So if He's still after my family I can't come out and stop the bond. The Flints already know about me. If I back out ..."
Snape frowned and his voice took on a bitter edge. "The Dark Lord will know within the hour. The rumors about the Flint's losing their fortune must be true. This is a rather risky match for them to make."
Hermione snorted. "Well worth it in influence and galleons however." She crossed her arms over her chest and shivered.
Snape's eyes lost a bit of their coolness and he nodded grimly. "True, Miss Penwrath, true."
Hermione bit her bottom lip. "So if I can't come right out and appose the marriage, what do I do?"
Snape stood back up and paced twice in front of the desk. "I am not sure." He stopped in front of her and when he spoke his voice for once was soft and seemed to hold a note of sympathy. "Will you let me discuss this with Dumbledore? I realize why you need to keep this a secret, but the headmaster is quite probably your best hope for an agreeable solution."
Hermione meet his eye and nodded with grim determination. "If you must, but please Professor, nobody else."
Snape nodded and held out the two scrolls. Hermione reached out hesitantly to take them. Snape let her hand close around them but did not release them. "How did you get a wizarding birth certificate, Granger?"
Hermione yanked them away before answering. "The same way as my mother I would presume. They simply had the officials there to sign it then memory charmed them and never filed the paperwork. I would image that the original of the copy I have here was sent to the MOM along with my mother's when the match was made."
Snape nodded and wordlessly walked to the door and held it open.
Hermione tucked the scrolls back into her robes before moving towards the door, far less intimated by it now that she was on the other side. "Thank you, professor."
Snape snorted darkly. "Don't thank me. We haven't found a way around this yet."
A small smile flittered over Hermione's face before disappearing. "No, but you listened. So you will help?"
"Granger, I have watched far too many of my female students leave here for similar reasons and never come back. They end up unhappy and ignorant without a way to support themselves and no hope. However loath I am to admit it you are an intelligent being and I do not like to waste anything. Especially the rare gift of a functioning mind. Gryffindor has so few of those that the loss of one will surely mean the end of all intelligent conversation in the tower. Now go. I will inform you if I make any progress towards a solution." He held the door open and motioned her out of it. Hermione got the sudden impression that the dark threatening look on his face was more out of habit than actual dislike.
She smiled without reservation, her eyes dancing for the first time in weeks. "Thank you, sir, and goodnight."
Snape scowled. "Goodnight, Miss Gr...Pen…Hermione."
There really wasn't any reason to fear large oak doors, Hermione thought as she left. Sure, they look intimidating but they be incredibly reliable in a crisis.