The next morning found Harry hurriedly cooking breakfast for the Dursleys before rushing to the Leaky Cauldron. No one had told him when to come in each morning, and so he decided it would be better to be early than late. It was 7:14 when he stumbled into the lobby, and Penelope looked up with a smile to wave him in.
"Miss Granger's in make-up right now," Penelope told Harry cheerily. "She's got to shoot a few scenes today, and the only light suitable is before lunch; maybe a few hours into the afternoon as well, but probably not. The make-up studio is right new to Miss Granger's room; the door should be open."
"Thank you," Harry said, slightly shy. He didn't often talk with older, beautiful girls – he never knew what to say or how. He headed down the hall at a fast pace.
Harry could hear Hermione before the open door came into view. She was primly saying, "I'll do my own eyes make up, thank you. You pile the liner on so thickly – not to mention the eye shadow. It's tasteless and whorish."
"If the shoe fits-" a deep, sonorous, male voice replied.
"No one ASKED you, Snape," Hermione snapped.
Harry approached the open door warily. He disliked coming into conflicts uninformed, if at all. He resolved to wait a few seconds more, just to get a true feeling of how the wind blew in that room.
"I assume you've memorized your lines, or is that too much to ask of our young ingénue?"
"Oh, I've memorized them all right. And I'll act them too, which is more than I can say for SOME people, who stand like a wooden doll during delivery, with the
only expression in their voice."
"I'm not unaccustomed to being surrounded by those so unsophisticated that they do not recognized the subtleties of my art," the man – Snape, Harry surmised – replied silkily. "Unlike SOME people, I do not overact."
Hermione snorted. "Take the word 'over' out of that last sentence and it'll be the only time you haven't been talking out of your-"
"Good morning!" Harry finally entered the room, fearing the tension would escalate until it came to blows between Hermione and this man.
All five of the room's occupants turned to face Harry with surprise – Hermione and an older man in his late thirties were sitting on high stools, facing a row of mirrors, while three stylists hovered over them.
Hermione grinned when she saw Harry. "Weasley! Good morning." She glanced slyly over at the man, who had jet black hair, a beak-like nose, and black eyes. "Snape, this is Weasley, my gofer."
Snape glanced coolly at Harry and Harry almost shivered. "I suppose for one as unmotivated as yourself, a gofer would be a necessity." He suddenly stiffened and his eyes narrowed, looking Harry over thoroughly. "What did you say your name was, boy?"
"Er – George, sir. George Weasley."
"Hmm…" Snape tapped one long, spindly finger to his lips, then abruptly dismissed Harry from his thoughts and barked at the woman pulling at his hair to "Get on with it!"
Hermione rolled her eyes at Harry, conveying her exasperation with her coworker. She then leaned forward with a pencil of some kind to draw around her eye. She said, "Grab me a fruit bowl and a cup of tea, please. And something for lunch too – we won't be able to come back before we're through, and I don't want to be hungry."
Harry nodded in acquiescence. He was starting to get used to trips to the kitchen. The chef there, a small man who told Harry to just call him Dobby, was always ridiculously happy when Harry came by and tried to give him more food than Hermione had asked for.
Harry dodged various offerings of food from Dobby and returned to the make-up studio with no more than had been requested. He had Hermione's lunch – a wrap, like the one's she'd eaten the day before, plus some grapes and a water bottle – put in a paper bag.
His own stomach grumbled idly, reminding him that he hadn't eaten yet that morning; hadn't, in fact, eaten anything since the pancakes from Mrs. Weasley the day before. Harry shoved his hunger away and handed the fruit bowl to Hermione then warned her the tea was still too hot to drink. She murmured, "Thank you," absentmindedly, still messing around with her eyes while another man messed with her hair.
Harry took a seat nearby, and waited patiently until they were through. It took another twenty minutes before the stylists stepped away from the two actors with satisfied smiles on their faces, as well as looks of relief. Harry could sympathise; he'd been around Hermione long enough to know that her attitude was more than slightly abrasive – and Snape seemed no better.
When they were finally done, Hermione motioned for Harry to follow her. "We've got park scenes today," she explained. "We're trying to do all the scenes that require Snape and I alone in one fell swoop, because most of the other actors aren't here yet – especially not our leading actor. They're all supposed to be here by the end of the week, though."
"Which park are you going to?"
"Apple Grove," Hermione named: it was the same park Harry had met Ron in so many years ago. "The crew should be there already."
And so they were – Harry could pick out Ron's blazing red hair as soon as he stepped out of the car.
He followed Hermione as she was bustled off to a path that led to a small creek trickling across the park's length, and was told her cues by a camera man. Hermione nodded in understanding concerning the man's words, which was more than Harry could pull off.
A few moments later, a spry old man with snowy hair and twinkling eyes came down to them. "Excuse us, Mr. Weasley," the man said to Harry, and pulled Hermione aside. Harry couldn't hear what the old man was saying, but Hermione was nodding intently and asking questions, so it must have been important.
Ron's hand on his shoulder shocked Harry out of his concentration. "Morning, Harry," Ron said, and held out a sandwich. "Mum packed you a lunch, but I reckon you haven't had breakfast yet, so here."
Harry took the sandwich and tore into it gratefully. "Fanks," he said around a full mouth. He nodded towards the old man as he swallowed. "You know who that is?"
Ron chuckled. "Yeah, I'm working for him. That's Albus Dumbledore, the director."
Harry watched with renewed interest as Dumbledore and Hermione disengaged from their conference and Hermione picked up a handful of stones from the tiny bank the creek had on it sides. From this distance she seemed to be muttering to herself.
Dumbledore called out, "Action!"
Hermione threw a stone into the creek, watching the ripples grow steadily outward from the point of impact. She cast another stone.
Snape walked quietly up behind her and placed a hand on her shoulder. "I thought you'd end up here, Meg."
Hermione shrugged his hand off. "I want to be alone."
Harry started in surprise – Hermione's English accent was erased, completely gone, replaced by an American one. It made her voice seem harsher.
"You can't run away from this. You'll end up hating yourself."
"Maybe I already do. And didn't I already tell you to go away!" Hermione turned a little to face Snape. Her expression was twisted and anguished, angry. "It's not fair!" Her voice rose up in an ugly, despairing wail. "Why is he here now? Why not when I was six or ten or thirteen – all those time I NEEDED him! Why not then?"
Snape's face contorted into a pained grimace, but his voice was as kind as if he were taming a wild thing when he spoke: "Because life is ironic and stupid and unpredictable, and the only way to get through it is with a lot of pain. And I'm sorry, I really am, that you couldn't have your father for the first sixteen years of your life. But you can have him for the rest of it – all those other years. Don't give that up for a temper tantrum."
Hermione looked up at Snape, a tear trailing down her cheek. "Oh Syd," she said breathily. "I don't know if I can do this."
Snape gripped her shoulders solidly. They looked one another in the eye. "You can."
There was a long moment of silence;- then Dumbledore yelled, "Cut!"
Snape pulled his hands away as if Hermione were on fire and she rolled her eyes. "Could these lines be any more cliché!"
It was 2:30 in the afternoon and Harry and Hermione were sharing a bowl of popcorn as they watched an old movie on her telly. It was one of Hermione's tapes, and her best-loved film, which she'd said Harry HAD to watch, at least once.
"That's my favourite actress," Hermione pointed at the screen as a brunette beauty sauntered onto it. "Clementine Bowers. She was really big for five years before she faded into obscurity fifteen years or so ago."
Harry squinted. "She looks familiar," he offered. "Maybe I've seen a film of hers."
Hermione nodded. "You should have." She sighed in adoration. "She was so talented. It's a shame she gave it up – she was a rising starlet then, already well-established. If she had kept with it, she could have been one of the silver screen greats."
Harry shrugged. "Sometimes priorities change." He grabbed a handful of popcorn, and they watched the rest of the film in silence.
Afterwards, Hermione popped the movie out of the VCR and waved it in the general direction of her bedroom door. "Would you mind getting my book off of the side table in there? I'm going to find another film."
Harry nodded and opened her door. The bedroom was as richly appointed as the rest of her suite. He couldn't see much in the dim light, for the curtains of her windows were drawn, but he could make out her small bedside table with two noticeable lumps on it. He walked over to it, surprised when the lump that was not a book was, in fact, a knife.
Or rather a dagger, gleaming blade reflecting what little light the room held, handle ornate and silver. A dark stain coated the edge of the blade and Harry peered closely at it. Could it be-? Was it… blood?
Why would Hermione Granger, sixteen year old girl and actress, bibliophile to the extreme, have a bloodied knife next to her bed? Was she unhinged, as some child actors were said to be? Harry swallowed nervously. Had she… murdered someone? Here, in this room?
The lights flicked on above him, and he jumped in fright and startlement.
"Weasley, what's taking you?"
Harry stood rigidly as Hermione came closer to him. He didn't dare speak for fear that his voice would shake and betray his thoughts. He desperately tried to think of something innocuous to say; maybe pretend he hadn't noticed the dagger at all.
It was too late.
Hermione had come to stand beside him, laying a delicate (dangerous, Harry's mind insisted) hand on his elbow. "What are you looking at?"
"Uh… why do you have… that?" Harry pointed, and Hermione's gaze followed his finger. He could feel the whuff of her exhaled breath on the back of his neck as she sighed.
"Oh for goodness' sake, Weasley! It's just my athame!" She reached around Harry and grabbed the dagger off the table. Harry spun from her in alarm.
Hermione held the knife pointed down. She looked into Harry's wary face with exasperated cinnamon eyes, but the quirk of her upper lip told him she was almost about to laugh – Harry had a brief, but intense, flashback to all the horror movies Dudley had ever forced him to watch as a child, and how the insane psycho murderers always had a hysterical, trilling laugh.
"Athame," Hermione said. "I'm a witch, Weasley."