With practiced feet and ubiquitous scowl firmly in position, Professor Severus Snape turned off the streets of Hogsmeade and into his favorite apothecary. It was a small place, set up in the living room of an ordinary town house. The shop's dim lamps, dark walls and walnut shelving gave it a murky feel that he found comfortable. He had been restocking his potions supplies here for as long as he could remember.
And he would do so again today.
Severus made a quick, ritual stroll around the tiny room, absently collecting the same bottles and ingredients he collected every semester. He barely had to look at what he was picking up. He brought his purchases to the counter.
Seven Galleons, eight Sickles, and five Knuts. Severus knew. It was always the same.
The owner was a meticulous elderly wizard. As far as Severus was concerned, he was as much a part of the shop as the walls themselves, though the two had never really spoken. The man picked up the hellebore, turned it over carefully, found the price, rang it up, and carefully placed it into a bag. Then he turned to give the same treatment to the Wolfsbane. Next the spine of lionfish. Severus got out his Daily Prophet.
Hermione Granger had made the front page. He remembered that girl; he'd had her as a student a few years ago. Potter's friend, the annoying one who never stopped asking questions. The one with the hair. She had been good at potions, quite good, actually. Apparently she was even better than he remembered, because the article was about a new healing potion she had just invented that supposedly cured some Muggle disease. Muggle disease, Severus thought idly. What a decidedly Gryffindor thing to worry about.
He became engrossed in the article, and didn't pay any attention at all when the shop's door opened and another customer entered.
Potions Master Hermione Granger stepped into the small apothecary and looked around with a frown. The place was tiny and dank, with an almost forbidding air about it. There was one other customer, reading the paper with his back to her, and an old cashier slowly ringing up a cluster of purchases. Hermione had never been in this particular Hogsmeade shop before, and she hoped she could find what she needed and leave quickly.
She scanned the dusty shelves, skimming over each label for wormwood and mandrake. Wormwood and mandrake, wormwood and mandrake…. She breathed deeply while she scanned. Hermione had always loved the smell of apothecary, of all the different herbs and ingredients swirling together in a dance of scent. It always reminded her of her old Potions class. It always reminded her of Professor Snape. His class was, after all, where she'd first experienced the smell of apothecary. It was never a fun class, and he was never a fun man, but he'd introduced her to a trade she now loved.
She continued to scan for wormwood and mandrake, so lost in her scanning and smelling and musing that she didn't even notice when the other customer gathered his things and left.
Eventually she found her wormwood and mandrake on a bottom shelf. She waited impatiently for the old cashier to ring them up, handed over the money, and finally left the store.
Perhaps it was Fate who kept Hermione and Severus from meeting in that apothecary. Or perhaps it was Fate who brought them there, and they just didn't see what she had arranged for them. Or perhaps Fate was otherwise occupied that day, and didn't have anything to do with the almost-encounter at all.