NOTE: Just reposted, not modified

NOTE: Amy doesn't get changed back. Willow finds Rack by herself and goes to England to recover. AU from there on

NOTE: This is definitely an AU. I might have muddled up events in the canon timeline so please forgive any inconsistencies. This is after the Glory mess but before the First. There is no First. The Geeks were run of the mill demon worshippers (for power, etc). The Scoobies still hasn't forgiven Willow's actions - nearly destroying the World and hurting Dawn.

NOTE: AtS until Connor. AU from there on. Cordelia accepts demonhood. No Jasmine. AI doesn't own Wolfram and Hart.


~*~ Problems and Still More Problems ~*~

"I'm so sorry my dear."

Hermione Granger stared at the Headmaster of Hogwarts through a veil of unshed tears. The lump in her throat grew to proportions that threatened to choke her.

"If it is any consolation I believed your parents died a quick death. They did not suffer too much."

[Stupid. How could dying not involve suffering? The survivors would always suffer.] Hermione did not say any of this out loud though. She respected the older wizard too much to be so openly disrespectful. A deep breath helped her regain some of her mental faculties.

"What am I going to do sir?" She was horrified to hear the slight quaver in her voice.

Albus Dumbledore glanced at Deputy Headmistress Minerva McGonogall who gave a tiny shrug in response. He turned back to Miss Granger. She did not deserve this. No student deserved this.

"I'm not sure my dear. First the funeral arrangements have to be made. Remus Lupin offered to take care of it. Then your parents estate and will have to be probated. That will take a few weeks. If they haven't made arrangements for you the Ministry of Magic will make arrangements to make you a ward of Hogwarts until you reach your majority."

"I don't have to leave Hogwarts?" Hermione was ashamed to be so glad she didn't have to leave the sanctuary of Hogwarts.

"Just for your parents funeral." Dumbledore reassured the young student. "Minerva and Arthur Weasley will handle the lawyers for you."

"Thank you."

"Come along Miss Granger." Professor McGonogall spoke briskly. "What you need is some of Poppy's Pepper-up potion."

"Yes Professor."

Dumbledore watched the older woman shepherd the younger one to the Hospital Wing. He knew she was strong and had friends to support her through this trying time. Hopefully she would come through with few or no scars on her soul. Deep inside he doubted his optimism.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

A few weeks later found Hermione Granger in the Staff Room with all of her professors, the headmaster and in horrified shock.

"I have to go to Sunnydale?"

The Transfiguration Professor coughed discreetly.

"I'm afraid so Miss Granger. It was a surprise to all of us. We did not know you had any extended family. You never mentioned it to us."

"I know mum had a sister Sheila but after she refused to married a Jew they didn't keep in very close touch. Aunt Sheila moved to America they lost contact. Mum always said Aunt Sheila was a snob because she had a doctorate in psychiatry. I don't remember ever meeting them." Hermione added thoughtfully.

"Well stranger or not your parents named Sheila Rosenberg as your guardian in the event of their deaths." McGonogall spoke briskly. "The Ministry has attempted to contacted the Rosenbergs directly but failed. Their lawyer Mark Malkin reassures us that Mr. and Mrs. Rosenberg would be willing to take on the responsibility. They have a daughter Willow Rosenberg a few years older than you. She is currently enrolled in Sunnydale University. Mr. Malkin describes her as a studious girl with a bright future. She had several offers of full scholarships from Cambridge, Harvard, and Stanford but surprisingly she chose to remain in her home town, possibly to stay with friends. She would help you adjust to your stay in California."

"But what about Hogwarts? I have two year to graduate! I want to study at Colfax!" Hermione wailed seeing her career in wizard academia at the prestigious wizarding university vanishing.

"You can still do that!" Dumbledore reassured her hastily. "It is just that the Ministry feels it would be safer if you spent the summer in America. It will help you heal and adjust to the loss. It will also give your new guardians time to adjust to the reality of magick. You'll return to Hogwarts in September just like your other year mates."

"But what if they don't adjust?! What if they think I'm pulling a huge prank or delusional? I'm not allowed to use magick off Hogwarts grounds." Hermione protested.

"Yes, I thought of that. Professor Snape will accompany you and talk to your guardians. He will make sure they understand the situation clearly."

"Professor Snape?"

"Yes." Dumbledore coughed slightly. Snape's expression soured. "Well, Severus here spent a few summers in his youth in Massachusetts. He is familiar enough with Americans to handle them."

"Californians are flaming liberals with no sense of restraint." Snape bit sharply. "However they would be more willing to accept magick with the prevalence of the New Age movement in the state with their crystals and charlatan astrologers." His lip curled scornfully.

Everyone remained silent out of prudence.

Hermione couldn't resist a last objection.

"What if I don't want to go to California?"

"I'm afraid you don't have a choice dear." Albus Dumbledore's blue eyes were unexpectedly firm. "You have to meet your relatives before you can make a petition for a new guardian. Don't make up your mind before you meet them. They may be very nice people. Your cousin Willow sounds very much like you - bright, intelligent, studious."

"All right. When are we leaving?"

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

~*~ A Witch in Need ~*~

At that exact instant in time Willow Sarah Rosenberg was sobbing into her pillow curled up in her bed in her childhood home. She had moved back to the Rosenberg residence after it became too uncomfortable to stay in the Summers home when she returned from England. Buffy was wary. Dawn was scared. Xander was tense. Giles was torn in two.

The coven had tried to cleanse her of the Dark Magicks but failed. It was too powerful and intense - engrained in her flesh, her blood, her bones. It would remain a part of her until she died. Even that was questionable. The magic was not letting her die; it healed all minor and major wounds quickly, slowed down her aging process, metabolized any toxins ingested at a much faster rate. She couldn't drown her sorrows in alcohol without spending a fortune on spirits.

The only thing they could do was place a binding on her that limited how much energy she channeled in her spells. That made her useless as a witch. The only use she was of to the Scoobies was as a researcher - reading musty old tomes and surfing the web - things she could do in the privacy of her own home.

Tears seeped from eyes shut tight.

"I wish... I wish I could meet someone who can help me. Someone who can really understand what I am going through. Oh Goddess I know I did bad but please help me. A second chance, everyone deserves a second chance. I didn't mean to do it. I didn't mean to. I really didn't..."

Still weeping Willow Rosenberg sobbed herself into an exhausted sleep.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

~*~ Seeing Beyond the Surface ~*~

Hermione Granger was afraid. Not that she would ever ask the adult accompanying her for comfort or reassurance. Potions Master Severus Snape did not encourage his students to talk to him about their personal problems. Secretly she stole a glance at him through veiled lashes. Who would have thought the sour greasy git could look so good in Muggle clothes.

Tight black jeans clung to slim long legs outlining the shift of tendon and muscle as he strode on feet clad in gray snakeskin boots. A short sleeved green linen shirt tucked into the waistband shifted and strained to contain the surprisingly broad shoulders and pectoral muscles. His arms were toned and sinewy giving the impression of strength and capability. His appearance had shifted subtly. Fewer deep lines, less sallow skin, silky smooth hair restrained in a Celtic clip. A subtle appearance attracting charm Hermione guessed. Curious she studied the Potions Master and realized he was the youngest teacher at Hogwarts, in his mid-thirties and he taught Potions for more than ten years. He had to be a few years older than twenty when he started, the target of raging adolescent feminine hormonal crushes.

"Do you use an Appearance Detracting charm Professor?"

Severus Snape gave no sign of shock though inwardly he jumped.

"As a matter of fact I do."


"And do you plan to spread that bit of information when you return to Hogwarts in the fall?"

He plans on seeing me again. The thought reassured Hermione. He may not like me as a person but he respects me as a student. He will help me persuade these Rosenbergs to allow me to return to Hogwarts for sixth year.

"No. Though personally I think you don't need it now. You are terrifying enough with your detentions, points taking and cutting tongue." Hermione was horrified. "Oh Merlin. I'm so sorry I didn't mean that."

Snape gave a short bark of laughter. "Of course you did Miss Granger. I suppose it wouldn't be necessary now but when I started teaching it was. And now it has become a habit." He sighed. "As you know habits can be dangerous things when you take their targets for granted."

"Yes. You never know when you'll lose them."

"Yes." A few minutes of silence as they navigated through the airport from the janitor's closet they Apparated into. To her shock Professor Snape pulled a cell phone from his waist and speed dialed a number. After a brief conversation he ended his call and clipped the Muggle device back to his belt and glanced at her catching her shocked expression. "Yes?" He inquired silkily.

"You... Phone... Cell phone... Muggle... Electronics..." Hermione stuttered in shock.

"What of it? You have heard of the phrase 'When in Rome do as Romans do'? It is easier to contact Muggle departments and individuals like Mark Malkin using telephone or e-mail."

"You know of the Internet?" Hermione squeaked.

"Of course. I may not like Muggles but I do respect their ingenuity in certain areas particularly communications and reference. I do a lot of research and correspondence with Muggle scientists on subjects that interest me."

"But technology doesn't work in Hogwarts."

"Yes. But Albus shielded my private quarters so the wards influence doesn't extend there."

"Then why did you join Voldemort?" Hermione burst out. "I'm sorry I shouldn't poke my nose where it doesn't belong."

Snape was quiet for sometime, his face tense as he led them through crowds of travelers._

"You are right. It is none of your business but I will try to explain. Peer pressure is a very difficult thing to resist as an adolescent, particularly at Hogwarts as a Slytherin. A series of incidents pushed me into making rash decisions that made me take the Dark Mark. When I started thinking clearly it was too late. After sometime I couldn't tolerate it so I went to Albus for help."

"It must have been difficult. Admitting you made a mistake." Hermione ventured.

"Oh yes. Pride is a two-edged sword and any serving of crow is difficult to tolerate but accepting consequences and responsibilities is part of being an adult."

With that piece of wisdom Snape fell silent. Hermione didn't want to damage the fragile rapport between them so she bit her tongue and followed the older man.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *



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