Short Disclaimer: I don't own anything, including a copy of any of the books, so please don't sue me. Also, for those wonderfully thorough readers, I may not be absolutely canon with the characters, but any deviations are purely in the interests of the story (which is, of course, the ultimate point). Please enjoy, and I'd delight in any reviews you would like to make, be they comments or flames. Criticism is an author's best tool.
Hermione glanced around the classroom slowly, feeling as if her head was full of water. Her eyes were mere slits in her face, blurring the edges of her vision uncomfortably. Her Head Girl badge dug into her skin as she leaned against the potions table, and her robes were horribly cumbersome and itchy. In front of her was a bubbling cauldron, smelling of cinnamon and night-blooming jasmine. A cluster of rose hips and orange blossoms rested to the side of it, and Hermione concentrated on mincing them with her knife. She couldn't read the instructions on the board and fumbled blindly through her memory for the recipe that she was sure she had learnt by heart. The voices echoing through the dungeon room faded in and out, dizzying in their intensity one moment and making her strain to catch the strands of conversation in the next. Hermione felt horribly ill. She didn't know if she could continue brewing the potion under these conditions, the thick, perfumed air choking her lungs and turning her stomach. Perspiration began to drip down her brow and she collapsed onto the desk, finally, raising her hand.
"Miss Granger." The tones were dangerous and close to her ear. Hermione lolled her head to the side and looked into the dark face of her Potions professor, eyes catching eyes and holding them there.
"Professor, I'm ill. I need to leave."
The professor ignored her plea and instead began slicing a strawberry, dropping it into the cauldron and unleashing another barrage of sickly sweet odors. "Think, Miss Granger. Strawberries are a powerful aphrodisiac."
"I know they are. Please, professor, I must see Madame Pomfrey."
"What are the properties of cinnamon, jasmine, roses, and orange blossoms? Quickly, Miss Granger. This is a test."
"Cinnamon is used for protection and psychic awareness. Please." Hermione tried to close her eyes, but the Potions Master spoke again, grabbing her chin roughly with a stony hand.
"What does that have to do with strawberries?"
"I don't know. I feel ill."
"What are the properties of cinnamon, jasmine, roses, and orange blossoms? Why the strawberries? Answer, Hermione."
The name brought Hermione to a start, and she sat up, classroom spinning. "They are all aphrodisiacs, and they are used constantly in divination. I don't know why we're making this potion, but I'm horribly ill, professor. Please."
He merely looked at her, fingers still gripping her face. Hermione felt as if she were falling.
With a wave of his hand, the classroom disappeared and they were suspended in darkness. "Ah, the magic word."
Hermione opened her eyes.
Light filtered in through gauzy curtains, striking the pillow beside her head and illuminating the stark but neat room around her. For a moment she was unsure of where she lay, the surroundings being only vaguely familiar, but as the lingering ill feeling in her stomach melted away with the dream, the memories of the past day flood back. She was in Diagon Alley, not Hogwarts or home, and the next term was drawing near. A glance at her bedside table confirmed only one aspect of the dream. The badge she had won glinted back at her, and a smile played upon her lips. Reluctant to rise and still rather disturbed by her night visions, she buried her head back into the pillow, a faint scent tickling her nostrils. Exploration under the pillow with one hand found an elegant sachet, smelling of rose. That's where that came from, she thought idly. Perfectly logical explanation for all of it, really. She was terribly worried about her Advanced Potions class, to be sure, so it was quite normal for her to be dreaming of brewing a potion she was unfamiliar with. The excitement she felt at starting the term again, combined with the pride and responsibility of being head girl, weighed as an almost queasy feeling in her empty stomach. One remedy for that: breakfast, and a checkup on her supplies. Hermione shook the dream from her hair and made her way towards the bureau to hastily choose a set of robes. Harry and Ron would probably be asleep for a couple more hours, so it was time to get obligations over with. They'd no doubt want to savor the last day of summer with a butterbeer or two later.
A strange feeling crept over Hermione as she realized that, in a matter of days, she would become legally eighteen, and wouldn't have to bother with only butterbeer. Not that she minded butterbeer – in fact, she preferred its taste to that of the wine or spirits she had sampled at a couple of her parents' parties – but she had physically been eighteen for quite some time due to her liberal use of the Time Turner, and was much affronted by the fact that she was still treated as a minor. Well, she wouldn't have that feeling much longer. She caught her own eyes in the mirror, glowing with rather more than a bit of pride, and she lifted her chin slightly. A delicious shiver ran down her spine as she pinned her Head Girl badge to her jumper and covered it with the robe. Just knowing it was there was wonderful enough – she didn't feel any need to show off. All business now, Hermione picked up her satchel and exited the room, placing a quick "thank you" note on the pillow. As House Elves weren't receptive to the idea of freedom, Hermione had compromised with her conscience and resigned herself to treating them with the utmost courtesy. A little kindness could go a long way.
The morning was bright and clear. Summer warmth still radiated from the waning sun, but a crisp breeze brought the promise of autumn. Hermione thought it quite pretty, and also conducive to her purposes. A hot summer day was not the best to be spending in dusty bookshops searching for texts. If there was one thing she would have liked to carry into the wizarding world, Hermione mused, it was air conditioning. Any sort of climate control, rather. Wizards seemed to prefer large tubs of ice in the summer and fires in the winter, however. In many ways they were entirely too old fashioned. Hermione pondered, for purely recreational sake, if it would be possible to rig up a sort of climate control using magic. It wouldn't be too difficult, she reasoned. Just some sort of broad-range warming or cooling charm tied to an object that could be used as a lever…
This train of thought carried her into Flourish & Bott's, where she immediately began to search on the subject of weather altering spells and linking spell effects to objects. True, she had intended to merely shop for textbooks, but the morning was still young and her mind was on the subject, anyway. Her search carried her up and down four aisles before she realized how silly she was being. Honestly, air conditioning. A small chuckle escaped her mouth and she shook her head, rummaging in her satchel for the list of needed books (and, of course, extra books that had been recommended by colleagues on the subjects). She knew the academic sections of the store so well that she found herself running on automatic, mind puzzling over several problems that she was sure she could find solutions to. However, when she became aware of her train of thought, Hermione stopped in her tracks.
Jasmine and rose hips? What on earth…? Hermione tried to shake herself from the thread, but found herself still musing over the potion that she had been making in her dream. All of the ingredients were, as she had said, aphrodisiacs, but also had properties with various clairvoyant connotations. It was the kind of puzzle Hermione usually enjoyed, but the subject matter of both love and clairvoyance were uncomfortable for her. Hermione had rarely experienced romantic encounters; Viktor had fancied her in her fourth year, but that had been a rather one-sided relationship which she had enjoyed as somewhat of a novelty. It had been over too quickly to come to any sort of conclusions. Divination, too, was a sore subject – she hadn't set foot in Professor Trelawney's class since she had stormed out of it in her third year. She glanced down at the books she carried and, hesitantly, opened the one she was buying for Advanced Potions. Hermione's fingers flicked through the pages until it came to the index. There were several entries for each of the ingredients that she had dreamed about, but as she browsed she noticed that each of them had an entry on page 1583. Hermione flipped to the section, eyebrows knitting together like dueling caterpillars. The page was plainly laid out, but the information was frankly disturbing. "Adamare Animae" was the title, and her knowledge of latin was enough to send a strange feeling shooting from her heart to her feet and back up again. Fall in love with the souls. A soul-mate potion. How strange, she reflected. What on earth had made her dream of such a potion, and to such an extent that she had dreamed each of the ingredients of it? Hermione had never even heard of such a thing, and wasn't sure exactly if it fell under 'love potion' or not. Hadn't it been said that love potions were banned in the wizarding world? Academic curiosity taking control, Hermione delved deeper into the explanations on the page. No, not exactly a love potion, she realized. It was more of an…awareness of love potion. And it wasn't intended for another person, but for oneself. The theory was quite technical, and convoluted enough that Hermione barely understood the concept, if at all. A nagging feeling at the back of her mind reminded her of her realization that Divination was an art, not a science. For some reason she was getting the feeling from this potion, too. It was hardly a pleasant sensation, and Hermione slammed the book shut and stuck it on the bottom of the pile quite angrily. The rest of her shopping was done in haste, and soon she was speeding away to Florean Fortescue's to meet up with Harry and Ron. If they weren't there already, they would be there soon by Hermione's unerring sense of time.
Sure enough, the boys were conversing over horrendously large portions of ice cream and a cool mug of butterbeer perched beside each overflowing dish. An almost maternal smile flickered on Hermione's face as she neared them, frustration cooling with the fresh breeze. With a warm greeting to both of them, she sat gratefully down at the table, placing her new books on the floor. Ron whistled through his teeth.
"That's a hefty load, Hermione. Are you using the…" Ron gave her a meaningful look, but didn't finish his sentence. Hermione laughed and shook her head.
"No, I just picked up a few suggested titles that Anthony told me about at the end of last year." She bet her bottom dollar that Anthony was in the running for Head Boy, and turned a curious eye on both of her friends. She didn't think that Dumbledore would have given Harry any more pressure, and Ron certainly didn't seem the Head Boy type, but…
"Shame about Anthony, really," Ron said with a slight glint in his eye. "We ran into him earlier. He offered his congratulations, but you could tell he really felt slighted." Hermione's eyes bulged as she caught the flash of a Head Boy badge pinned to Ron's shirt.
"Ron! You didn't!" Hermione gushed, looking to Harry for confirmation. Harry inclined his head slightly, a proud grin on his face. Hermione squealed and leaned forward to hug Ron excitedly.
"It's funny how things work out…my life is almost like the vision I saw in my first year in the Mirror," Ron mused. "When I knew what I wanted, all I had to do was go and get them. Of course, I really owe my thanks to you, Hermione. If you hadn't gotten me studying…" he shrugged. "Dumbledore owled me with a few explanations, though. Said I had the makings of a real leader. Me." He shook his head. "I keep pinching myself to make sure I'm not dreaming."
"Why, it's wonderful!" Hermione cried, eyes shining. She couldn't get enough of the sight of the badge pinned at Ron's chest. The smiling redhead prodded her shoulder with his thumb.
"Now, tell me I don't have to share a common room with some nitpicky Ravenclaw," he chuckled confidently. Hermione grinned widely and flashed her own badge, putting a finger to her lips.
"Shh, it's a secret," she replied in a stage whisper. The boys laughed.
"I don't think that anyone had any doubt. Honestly, who else is even in the running?" The two Head Students grinned at each other, and Hermione was heartily glad that she wouldn't have to share her living space with a stranger. If nothing else, she thought, smiling, he would be easy to keep in line. She'd be quite shy about berating the living habits of other students, but she had plenty of practice telling Ron what to do. The lingering apprehension from her dream and the strange happenings in the bookstore were banished from her mind as she looked forward to cozy evenings in with her two best friends in the privacy of her own common room.
"This is going to be the best year ever."
Hermione idly scraped her plate of the last bits of dinner, deeply absorbed in one of the extra transfiguration books she had procured at Flourish and Bott's the day before. It was fantastic to be back at Hogwarts, where she could read through her magic books without constant interruptions from her parents, who delighted in reading over her shoulder and asking her to define every other term. It was wonderful that they were attentive, but that quickly got exasperating. All she had to deal with at Hogwarts was the constant stigma of "bookworm," which had, as the badge on her robes proved, paid off. She frowned slightly to herself. Of course, Ron hadn't had to be such a bookworm to become Head Boy. Then again, he had proved himself time and again through bravery and loyalty, as had she. Not that she minded being a bookworm. It just seemed…pointless to look down on such a thing when it had saved both Harry and Ron and the entire school time and again. And slightly unfair, she admitted, that Ron had run about having fun while she spent her time studying in the library…
A delicious scent wafted towards her nostrils as dinner was replaced by dessert. She glanced up at the spread and let her eyes wander over the choices. So many, and so little room was left in her stomach. She turned back to her book while she made up her mind, making a few notes in the margin.
"Studying at the Welcome Feast, my dear? You are much too tense. May I recommend the pie? It's quite delectable."
Hermione turned her head to see Professor Trelawney smiling behind her. She raised an eyebrow. Strange, but at least she wasn't spouting prophesy. "Thank you. I'll keep that in mind." The woman patted her shoulder in passing and then made her way back up to the staff table. Hermione sighed and, to be polite, took a slice of pie and set it on her plate, maneuvering a mouthful with a careful fork as she continued reading. It really was quite good. Light crust, moist interior, sweet cream…
Cinnamon pie, with strawberries on top. Hermione looked down at the dessert on her plate in mid-chew, fork dropping to the plate with a clatter. She swallowed reflexively and felt a sickly warmth worm its way into her stomach. Her eyes shot to the teacher's table, catching Trelawney's smiling eyes for a moment before the spindly, bespectacled Divination Professor turned to chat to an unresponsive Potions Master. Hermione glared at the woman, but then realized how silly and superstitious she was being. How could Trelawney have known about her dream? Chances were she remembered the pie being served the year before and that was why two of the ingredients had shown up in her dream. Perfectly logical.
But it didn't explain why she had found the potion in her textbook.
And it didn't explain why That Trelawney Woman was speaking so furtively to the man that Hermione had called Severus.
And there's the first chapter! Please let me know if you loved it, hated it, want me to, for the sake of all that is good and holy, stop writing and take up a paintbrush instead…you know the drill. I have at least one more chapter written, probably closer to one and a half, but I'd like to know if this is worth continuing, so once I get a little feedback I'll update…or not, depending. My gosh, I just put in a review plug. You may shoot me now. Or just review. (Damn, I did it again, didn't I?)
Only Eggplant and Caviar for my readers.