Yes, so, erm...
I should be writing something else...as I only have till next Monday to get the finished story in. I have 33k of rambling mess to edit and 10k of new words write. So here I am with a first chapter I put up LJ earlier this month.
I had lots of good intentions of having more written before putting it up here on FFN/A03 etc. But I'm in full wip-avoidance mode. So here it is.
I'm such a bad author...
Hermione stood before the gargoyle guarding the Headmaster's office. Her fingers pressed into her palms and she winced at the damp trace of sweat she found there. She murmured a spell and dried her skin. Merlin, it wasn't as if she wasn't expected.
She'd had a return owl to arrange the meeting. It even had a set agenda. And Hagrid had been waiting for her at the gates to let her in. And she'd whipped out a patronus to alert the Headmaster that she was, in fact, on her way…
No surprises. No shocks. Just her digging out the courage to ask Severus Snape for an apprenticeship. It wasn't even as if she were asking him to mentor her. No, she wanted to study Arithmancy…and had been assured my a number of friends that Septima Vector was willing to chew off her own arm to get her claws into Hermione Granger, war hero, bookworm and all-round swot.
Yet still, Hermione paused. She pressed her hand to the stone sentinel's curved chest, finding it smooth and strangely warm.
It was a little over six weeks since Voldemort had fallen and in that acre of time she'd not set eyes on Severus Snape. Her last memory was of him dying. Horribly. A brief agonising moment of blood and death, of yet another betrayal by yet another master, a vision that gave her nightmares above and beyond all the horrors she'd witnessed in the war.
But he was alive. Somehow. And waiting for her in his tower office.
She drew in a breath and murmured, "Asphodel."
The stone guardian rolled away to reveal the turn of steps leading up. She half-jumped on the bottom stair and, biting her lip, she rode up to his office. And another barrier in the form of a thick door.
Hermione growled at herself. What was she scared of? The image hit of him dying…again. It was stupid and irrational. He was hardly going to be covered in blood… Her guilt. It was her guilt at leaving him alone. The pain of it still formed a fist in her chest. One that didn't want to loosen its grip on her heart.
Closing her eyes, she rapped on the door. Her constricted heart thudded.
"Come in, Miss Granger."
He sounded the same, for all that a snake had taken out his throat. The beauty of his voice was intact… A splinter of her guilt fell away. She pushed the door open and willed herself forward.
Snape sat behind his great desk, tucked beyond the stepped arches. Summer light gilded the back of his chair and it threw his face into shadow. The door shut behind her. Her breath caught. Merlin, she was nervous.
"No, Sir." And the rote response broke a smile from her. He still had the talent to force obedience.
Painted eyes from the numerous former headteachers followed her as she took the few steps to the solid, dark block of his desk. A chair had been conjured. Something with padding and one that looked almost…comfortable. Very unSnape-like.
"Sit." He pointed a long, pale hand to the chair and his pitch black eyes narrowed on her. She couldn't hold his gaze. "I won't bite, Miss Granger."
She dropped into the chair, her fingers digging into her little bag. His scars. A raw and painful red, they spiked out of the starched, white collar of his shirt. "No, Sir."
"Look at me."
Hermione gasped, her hand snatching to her mouth and digging hard into her jaw. Tears burned and her throat tightened. She wanted to run. Escape. Gods, those words had haunted her…
Snape swore under his breath. "I apologise, Miss Granger."
Her head snapped up. Words burst form her, hot and pressured. "You have nothing to apologise for, sir. Nothing! We… I left you." Her hand was at her mouth again, pressed hard to her bloodless lips fighting to deny the fall of tears. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry, Sir. I should've—"
"It was another life." He asked for tea, and a full service appeared on his clear desk, thick with little cakes of every description. He sighed. "I am the Headmaster. You are a very promising student, who will soon graduate and wishes to ask for an apprenticeship. That is who we are now. In a sane world, it is who we should always have been."
Hermione blinked at the easy calm to his tone. Her obvious disbelief was met with the hint of smile from the wizard. He poured a tea and lifted an eyebrow.
"Just milk, please."
"And before you ask, Miss Granger, no I am not on some mood-altering potion."
Hermione snorted a laugh and almost spilt her tea. "I didn't like to ask, Sir."
His eyes gleamed, sliding her a dark, amused glance for her impertinence. "Please help yourself to…whatever these are. The kitchen elves are united in the belief that I need fattening up." He glared at a mini eclaire. "They are trying to bludgeon me into submission with cake."
Hermione bit her lip, her throat tight and that need to cry sweeping over her again. But it was happy tears. This Severus Snape was still sour, but the edge of dank bitterness was gone. He was right. He was simply her Headmaster now. And the final tight bindings of guilt loosened and fell away.
"I have my full proposal, Sir." She conjured a coaster and placed her cup on it. "A copy for you and Professor Vector."
Hermione handed across the two tightly-bound-but-still-fat scrolls.
The Headmaster frowned at them. "All this in only a few weeks, Miss Granger?"
"Longer." Heat warmed her cheeks. "It's an idea I toyed with at the beginning of my Sixth Year. And last year, well, it took my mind off…" She waved a finger to her chest and throat. But she had no clue if Phineas had shared with Snape anything of the time in that gods-forsaken tent. She lifted her chin. "We took turns in wearing the locket. It bled into your thoughts…"
She shivered and the sour, creeping memory of Ron's desertion flickered through her mind. She shoved it down. He was…better. Changed. More thoughtful. She clung to those new facts.
She gave the Headmaster what was no doubt a lame smile. "It helped."
Snape simply nodded and put the scrolls to one side. Hermione blinked. Was he not going to discuss them? That had been the main focus of their agenda.
"You listed one of your points, 'Other Business'. I would prefer to clear that away before I call in Septima to discuss your…"
He tapped a long finger to the dangerously thick scroll. Hermione blushed. Yes, she may have gone a little far…
She snorted and pressed her hand to her face. She hadn't expected to find the Headmaster so funny. She was certain some of it was her enjoying the fact that he was alive to be so biting. "Yes, Sir—"
Hermione blinked and stared at him. His endless eyes were dark and calm. "Sir?"
"I have every confidence that we will be colleagues come the New Year." He frowned at the roll of parchment. "We may even still be in this office at that time."
She snorted again and her face bloomed with heat. Where were all these pig noises coming from? The traitorous thought rose… Ron.
"And as such, I will allow you to grow…accustomed to using my given name." His brows drew together, his eyes growing —impossibly— darker. "In private."
She jerked a nod. "Understood…Severus." The name tasted…odd to her lips and tongue. Had she ever spoken it out loud before? She picked up her tea and took a fortifying sip. "Other Business is my parents."
Severus—it was as alien in her mind as it was to her mouth—sat back in his chair and sipped his tea. "They are in Australia."
"Yes…yes." Hermione stumbled over her words. Did he know all of it?
"You were right to protect them, Miss Granger. Riddle was most…vexed when Yaxley found them gone." The hint of a dark smile pulled at his mouth and a hot shiver ran down her spine. For all his honour and new calm, Severus Snape was still a dark wizard. "Most vexed."
"The memory charm I used, I have its counter, but…"
"You are unsure. Fearful that in trying to restore what you have suppressed, you could harm them?"
"Yes, sir… Severus…"
The relief at his understanding came out in a rush. Ron had simply declared her worries silly. You're you, Mione. Of course you got it right. They'll be fine. His confidence was…nice. But not helpful. She'd wanted to discuss, thrash out what she had done and how the counter-charm could work or fail or fail horribly. Ron didn't have that knowledge. Or patience. She needed an expert. And the Headmaster was it.
"I will need your copy of every book you read and detailed notes on each part of the spell and wand movements. Your thoughts and feelings at the time." His mouth twitched upwards. "I'm certain you can fill multiple feet of parchment." He put his cup down. "Do you know where they are in Australia?"
"No. I'm heading out at the end of the week…"
Her thoughts were whirling. He was going to help her—
"I will need all of the above before then. When they are found, contact me. I will arrange a portkey and come out to meet you."
Her mouth fell open. "Meet…?"
"I am an expert in charms and very probably the greatest legilimens still living." His mouth twitched upwards in one of those strange new smiles. "Who better?"
"But… Your position here. The castle, after the Battle…" She winced, not wanting to drag either of them back to that dark time. "I mean…"
"Hogwarts has almost completed its repairs. This is a magical castle, Miss Granger. Did you not notice?"
"Hermione." She blurted out her name. "If you're giving me back my parents, it's Hermione."
Her breath caught in her chest. Her name spoken for the first time with that voice. Something flickered on the edge of her emotions. But she didn't examine it. Not at all. Because it would be wrong to—
She was not thinking about it!
Hermione worked a smile across her mouth. She would question his motives later. No, not motives, that was unfair. He was offering to help. Help when no one else could. But…she would still ask him why. Later. Now, she wanted to push them back to their agenda.
She looked to the pile of little cakes. "Should we eat all of these before Professor Vector gets here?"
Severus smirked at her, his dark eyes gleaming. "We could try…"
Let me know what you think!
Edited to add: This story was inspired by Ladymage Samiko's 'Jewels' series. :)