disclaimer: jk rowling owns pretty much everything at this point, doesn't she? and rightly so.
Hermione Granger graduated from Hogwarts on a warm day in June and slept one night in her childhood bedroom before apparating to America to spend the next five years as a charms apprentice. It was a coveted position and she had worked hard to clinch it for herself – Professor Banks only accepted the best and he chose from every wizarding school in the known world. For Hermione to be chosen… well, she didn't have time to be scared and she didn't have time to think twice about accepting.
And when the five years were up, she came back with a Masters in charm work to England and to her childhood home. She was highly educated but jobless as of yet and with the apprenticeship, she had made only enough to get by in the small Northern Californian town. Professor Banks had taught at The New School for Witches and Wizards, a modern looking building hidden in the hills of Sonoma County. As his apprentice, Hermione had lived at the school and had helped teach his classes. She ate the meals provided for her and got a small stipend, but it was certainly not enough to come home to England and move into her own place.
She'd only come home a few times over the years now her parents were happy to see her.
"What will you do?" they asked immediately.
"Get a job, I suppose," she said. There were a great number of companies that would be happy to have a Charms Mistress, albeit a first year one, but her degree had an emphasis in teaching and it was what she wanted to do the most. She sent out her resume to the ministry, to some elementary wizarding schools (for magical children not yet old enough for wand work) and, with not so much a hope in her heart, Hogwarts.
She wrote Harry and she wrote the Burrow to inform her friends of her return to the country. One of the times she'd returned home had been to attend Harry and Ginny's wedding. Even though Harry owned 12 Grimmauld Place still, he and Ginny held a flat in London and it wasn't long before she received an invitation for lunch.
She showered, dressed, and tossed some floo powder into her parent's fireplace – she'd had them hooked up to the network years ago. She called out the address and stepped through.
Ginny shrieked with glee and threw her arms around Hermione.
"You're so tan!" Ginny said.
"You're so pregnant," Hermione cried, gaping at Ginny's (little Ginny!) rounded belly.
"Nearly seven months now, can you believe it?" she said, resting her hand on her protruding stomach. Hermione had known, of course, for Ginny and Harry had both written with the news, but she had not seen Ginny and now she looked amazing. She glowed; she looked older and maternal and happy.
"Where's Harry?" Hermione asked, shedding her light sweater. London was sticky this summer.
"He just went to pick up some milk," she said, "He'll be right back."
"I owled Ron, he didn't respond," Hermione said, lowering her voice as though someone might hear her.
"I know, he called last night. He's still sore I suppose. You left so suddenly," Ginny said. "I told him it was years ago now, to move on, but Ron is Ron."
"I can't try any harder," Hermione said. "I really can't."
"It's Ron, it isn't you," Ginny said. "There's Harry." The front door opened and Harry came in with a brown paper sack in his arm.
"Hullo, Harry," Hermione said, smiling. His hair was still messy but he'd lost all trace of boyishness in his face and body. His movements were confident, not sullen as they had been for so long after the fall of Voldemort. The loss of Neville in his place had pushed Harry into a deep depression that only Ginny had been able to pull him out of.
"Hermione!" he said, and hugged her. "A sight for sore eyes." She grinned, glad to be home.
America had been academically satisfying but socially lonely. There had been few people her age and she'd had nearly no free time. Most Masters work took seven years but Professor Banks was known for his accelerated program. She'd always been working, publishing, half the time she didn't go home for Christmas. Now she felt rusty and awkward around her friends.
It took several days for any replies to come in regards to jobs. The ministry gave her several departments currently hiring and their contact information. The elementary schools politely declined her offers stating she was over qualified. From a drab brown barn owl, she received a familiar looking envelope with the Hogwarts Crest in wax on the back. She ran her fingers over it, just barely able to make out the lettering, though she knew what it said. Draco Dormiens Nunquam Titillandus.
"Never tickle a sleeping dragon," she murmured.
"What was that, dear?" her mother asked.
"Nothing," she said and moved from the kitchen to upstairs. In the privacy of her bedroom, she loosened the wax seal and carefully removed the parchment from within.
Please come to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry at 11 o'clock Tuesday morning for an interview.
Deputy Headmaster Severus Snape"
Hermione dropped the letter. Minerva McGonagall was the current Headmistress and Hermione had been whole-heartedly expecting a gentle rejection from her former head of house, not terse acceptance from a man who loathed her. She was only five years out of the school, which meant the sixth and seventh years of the upcoming term would have been first and second years when she graduated as Head Girl.
And yet, Severus Snape rarely said things he did not mean. She bent over to retrieve the letter and read what little there was again. He'd given her only two days – it was Sunday night and she didn't know if she wanted more time to prepare or if a full day would be just enough to terrify her.
Had she the money, she would have gone to Diagon Alley to get a new, perhaps professional, set of robes. All she really had were her heavy travel robes, androgynous and inappropriate for summer and her California robes that marked her as an apprentice – which she no longer was. Travel robes, it was. She would use a cooling charm.
That morning, she could hardly eat. She nibbled some toast in the empty house; her parents had long since left for work. She burned her tongue on tea and dumped the cup into the sink, frustrated. Finally she apparated to the gates of the castle. It wasn't a long walk, but it was rocky and she had to lift the hems of her robes so she could watch her feet.
The doors opened for her and she took a deep breath in before she could enter the foyer, her thick heels echoing on the stone floor of the empty room.
The hourglasses that tallied house points were still and dark. She unfastened her cloak and draped it over her arm. Five years felt like an eternity and just a moment. She was 11-years-old again, dwarfed by the magic of the place.
"Miss Granger," Snape's voice startled her and she flinched. She turned to look at him standing at the top of the first flight of stairs.
"Professor," she greeted.
"Follow me," he said, and so she climbed the stairs and tried to keep up with his long legs. He wore only his black slacks and buttoned vest – his teaching robes that billowed so ominously had been abandoned for the summer. He was taller without them, she mused.
He led her to the gargoyle, which was open and waiting. Snape stepped aside to let her climb the spiral staircase first. He seated himself behind what was once Dumbledore's desk and which she now suspected was McGonagall's but suited his purpose. He extended his hand to the chair across from him and she took a seat.
"I was surprised to receive your inquiry," he stated. "I heard that you went abroad."
"I did, sir, but I'm back now," she said, and he raised his eyebrow as if to say, 'obviously.'
"I apprenticed with Professor Tobias Banks for the last five years," she amended.
"Admirable," he said, with a nod. "I do not doubt you are qualified. Tell me, why do you want to teach and why specifically at Hogwarts?"
She squared her shoulders, prepared for the questions.
"I love learning, whether I am gaining or imparting the knowledge. My degree is in teaching Charms specifically and Hogwarts is a wonderful school not only in reputation but in practice as well," she paused. "I know, sir, that I am young but you also know I am a hard worker and someone who cares about Hogwarts."
"That's fine," he said, holding up his hand. She nodded and closed her mouth. He pulled out a clean roll of parchment and dipped a quill into an open inkwell. "I am writing you a tentative schedule though anything final will have to be approved by Minerva," he said.
"Wait… am I hired?" she asked, aghast.
"Surely you've heard Filius intents to retire soon?" he asked. She shook her head. "Then why ever did you apply?"
"I just was hopeful," she said, shrugging. He rolled his eyes.
"Nevertheless, Filius will teach the upper classes, years five through seven and you will take up through the fourth years. It is against the bylaws for a Professor to teach students who were once her peers." He handed her the timetable. "Over the next few terms, Filius will teach you to take over, and by the time you are old enough to be the full time Charms mistress, he will be ready to retire."
"Of course," she said, still a little shocked.
"I assume you intend to live in the castle?" he asked.
"I have a choice?" she asked.
"For a while – Part-time faculty are not required to reside on school grounds," he explained.
"No, I'll live here," she said. "Thank you, really, sir, I'm speechless."
"Well," he said. "I'll bask in the rarity." But she didn't mind his sarcasm right then. "You are to arrive at least three days before the start of term. A list of necessities will be owled to you in a few weeks." He stood and she followed suit. "Welcome to Hogwarts, Professor Granger," he said it with a mild sneer but she just smiled.
Hermione shifted until the telephone was cradled between her ear and her shoulder.
"I'm terrified, actually," she told Ginny. Harry had taught his young wife to use the telephone when they'd moved to Muggle London and now he regretted it often but it was much more convenient for Hermione. "I was excited initially, but now…"
"Oh, don't worry!" Ginny said and Hermione winced at the volume. Ginny still felt she had to yell, no matter how often Harry assured her otherwise. "You were the reason half of Gryffindor graduated; you're a fine teacher."
"Thanks, Gin," she said. "It was rather thrilling for Snape to call me 'professor.'"
"Was he as greasy as he remains in my memory?" Ginny asked, snidely.
"No," Hermione said, thoughtfully. "He wasn't exactly pleasant, but he was far from rude. He seemed almost relieved to hire me, actually. The interview was fast."
"Maybe professor Flitwick is ill or something," Ginny said, her voice falling. "Maybe he really was relieved to find someone."
"I guess I'll find out," she said.
"Well, anyway, you're qualified and that's what matters," Ginny said. "Harry says to ask you to dinner." Hermione could hear her best friend in the background.
"I'm knackered, maybe tomorrow," Hermione declined. "Thanks anyway."
"All right, bye," Ginny said.
"Bye," Hermione said, and replaced the phone into the cradle. She knew that Ginny was bored being unable to travel easily so late in her pregnancy and Harry was at work as an Auror most of the day and sometimes half the night.
Hermione's parents were proud that she found a job so quickly and one that she seemed to be happy about but her father muttered something about Hogwarts always taking his daughter away. Before long, she received her midsummer instructions. Mostly it contained ordering forms – if she needed supplies over the year, she would need to order it all early. She and professor Flitwick had yet to correspond, so she wrote him a quick note asking him a few questions about what she might need. Also included was the Hogwarts handbook – the rules and bylaws of the school for students and faculty alike as well as a quick note from Headmistress McGonagall, welcoming her to the staff. She felt a jolt of excitement. It was beginning to feel real and she knew she had to start preparing. Mentally, at least, for she couldn't afford much. She needed a good set of teaching robes but that would come later. For now, she would try to transfigure what she could.
Over the next several weeks, she and Professor Flitwick corresponded until one day his note asked if she would consider coming to the castle in the morning for their order had come and it was getting on time to unpack and set up the classroom. Hermione agreed to this and promptly went upstairs to pack her trunk.
She left early, kissing her parents goodbye with her things made small to fit in her pocket. This time she wasn't in awe of the foyer of the castle. She knew where professor Flitwick's office was (would she get her own office?) and went right to it.
The door was open and he was buried in a cupboard.
"Professor?" she called, not wanting to startle him.
"Oh! Mistress Granger, you're here!" he said, emerging and flailing his small body about in excitement. "And just in time for breakfast."
"Please, call me Hermione. Am I too early?"
"Of course not," he said. "Leave your things, we can get started after the meal."
"All right," she said, removing her cloak and laying it over the back of a chair. "I'm so pleased to be here."
"Everyone is excited to have you join the staff," he assured her. She looked down at her t-shirt, jeans, and trainers.
"I didn't know I'd be meeting everyone today, I hope this is all right," she said, grimacing at her casual clothing. Casual and Muggle.
"Stop worrying!" he said. "Let's go." She had to consciously slow down so she didn't out pace him while walking, but they made it to the great hall in only minutes. The four house tables were covered with heavy white cloth for the summer but about half the staff was milling around the high table. It was one week until the students came and there were a few faces Hermione didn't recognize. Snape had gone back to teaching potions after his name had been cleared and Slughorn had returned to retirement so she presumed one of the strangers taught Defense Against the Dark Arts. McGonagall spotted her and smiled.
"Hermione, you've arrived!" she said, waving her over. She approached the table and let her former head of house give her a rigid hug.
"Only just," she said.
"Good timing on your part, then," McGonagall said. "Have a seat!" Hermione stood awkwardly, waiting for Flitwick to sit so she would know where to go, but McGonagall pressed her into a seat and when everyone was still, Flitwick was six seats away and Snape had ended up on her left with McGonagall on her right.
"Good morning, Miss Granger," he murmured, spreading apricot jam over a piece of toast.
"Good morning," she said and shyly salted her eggs. And that was all they said.
She worked all day with Flitwick, moving crates and cataloging inventory. They took lunch in the classroom while writing lesson plans and until sunset. Finally, Hermione had to ask.
"Do you have any idea where I am to sleep tonight?"
"Oh! You aren't moved in yet, my goodness," Flitwick said. "You'll need to talk to Severus about that, I imagine."
"Does he still hold his office in the dungeons?" she asked, picking up her cloak that still held her shrunken trunks inside.
"Yes, yes," Flitwick said. "We can pick up again tomorrow." She bid him goodnight and went down several stories where she reached the damp, dark dungeons. The walls were at least mostly dry in the summer, she noted.
She knocked on the door to his office, hoping he was in. She was tired and wanted to get settled in her new home. She heard him through the thick door calling for entrance and she stuck her head in.
"I'm sorry to bother you, sir," she said. She was always overly polite with him for it had always taken so little to upset him. "I was told you would know where my chambers are to be?"
"Oh, yes," he said. "Of course." He stood and took his cloak off a hook on the wall. At night the castle was chilled, no matter the season. "You have a choice. The staff quarters are all over the castle as opposed to all in one place so one of us can always be somewhere quickly."
"Makes sense," she agreed.
"There is a vacant room near the kitchens – close to the Hufflepuffs, a vacant space on the fourth floor, and one in the dungeons."
"Here?" she asked. "Near the Slytherins?"
"Yes, they used to be mine but as deputy headmaster I was required to relocate," he explained. "They are… lacking in natural light but are quiet. You'll not be disturbed."
"I think, I mean, I believe I'd prefer the fourth floor," she said. She wasn't sure that she could be comfortable living in Snape's old quarters, plus—
"Nearest to the Library?" Snape asked.
"Well," she said, blushing, "I see you haven't forgotten me completely."
"No," he said. "I have not."
The room contained a bedroom, a bathroom, and a sitting room.
"Lovely," she said. Snape did not stay and so she reset the password. In the handbook, there was a rule that all Professors must inform the headmaster or mistress of their passwords in case of emergency and she made a mental note to do so in the morning. She finally righted her trunk and suitcase. All her clothes were wrinkled and she spent a while steaming them with the tip of her wand and hanging them. She didn't bring much – books mostly and a few waving pictures: Harry and Ginny's wedding portrait and Harry, Ron and herself as fourth years. Harry waved and Hermione smirked but Ron turned his back on her. He was still mad. She had one still photo of her parents.
Feeling accomplished, she took a shower and went to bed happy that Hogwarts was once more her home.
The week went quickly and each passing day, Hermione became more nervous. She knew she wasn't unqualified, but she also knew that Hogwarts was full time even for a part-time professor and if her years here meant anything, these children would be a handful. She decided to wear her apprentice robes – transfigured for the day to be black and lengthened to be floor length. But they were worn and she knew it. She wore them to breakfast.
"I'm going into town," McGonagall said to her. "I remember my first job, how badly I needed it. Why don't you come along and we'll get you some proper teaching robes and write it off as a school expense," she said. She kept her voice low as not to embarrass Hermione.
"I'm sorry, I just didn't have the money," she said, blushing. "Thank you."
Gladrags was empty in the early afternoon and McGonagall dropped her off to find something with permission to charge it to Hogwarts' account. The witch behind the counter was glad to help her – she wanted to take measurements but Hermione was adamant about just taking something basic off the rack. Teaching robes traditionally were very conservative and Hermione found a set with long sleeves and a high, buttoned neck in deep purple. They were on sale and she took them.
The sun sunk slowly into the horizon and Hermione went up to the astronomy tower to wait. She wasn't sure how she would be greeted. She was, technically in the eyes of a ministry, a war hero but she didn't want to be remembered like that. So many people had died.
She saw the plume of steam from the Hogwarts Express over the trees and knew it wouldn't be much longer until the castle was filled and alive. She wondered if she would still be teaching when Ginny and Harry's baby came to Hogwarts.
"It's nearly time, Miss Granger." The deep voice came from behind her.
"Oh, I know," she said, turning around to look at Professor Snape. "I'm just mentally preparing." He nodded. "How did you know to find me up here?"
"The portrait of Albus – he said you used to come up here often during your studies." She smiled a sad smile and followed him down the stairs.
Everything was almost the same. The hat sang and the children were sorted. The table groaned under the weight of the feast. The new prefects showed off their shiny badges and the Slytherins sneered and the Gryffindors groaned. Still, the absence of Dumbledore was upsetting and watching Snape run the sorting was surreal. Professor Flitwick patted her hand reassuringly.
"We have a new addition to our faculty," McGonagall announced, her fork hitting her water goblet. "I'd like to welcome Professor Granger. She will be co-teaching charms with Professor Flitwick." The Gryffindors who remembered her as Head Girl clapped the hardest. Hermione dipped her head gratefully.
She watched the prefects lead their houses away and watched the dishes start to disappear from the table.
"Not so terrible," Flitwick said, hopping off his chair. She smirked and also left the great hall for her chambers. She wanted to be refreshed for her first day of classes. She only taught four classes a day – one class for each year. Ravenclaws and Gryffindors alternated days with Hufflepuffs and Slytherins. She had no classes on Fridays and only taught in the mornings. It was a decent schedule.
She did get her own office, incidentally, tiny as it was. It fit a desk and a bookshelf and little else. Still, it was her own.
In the morning, she barely ate breakfast. She didn't notice Snape sit down next to her.
"You'll wish you at least had a nip of tea and some toast," he said.
"Good morning," she murmured only a little startled.
"You look nervous. You should try looking fierce," he said.
"Are you giving me advice?" she asked.
"You're very qualified, I'd hate to see the first years chew you up and spit you out on the first day," he said. This steeled her.
"Hardly," she snapped. She took a hearty bite of eggs. Snape smirked.
Her first years stared at her with round eyes. This was, after all, their first class as well.
"I'm Professor Granger," she said. "I will eventually learn your names but not by today, so everyone stand up. When I call your name, sit." She pointed to the front desk. "Gemma Alcott," she called. The class groaned – no one wanted to be sat alphabetically. "Quiet," she snapped and was pleased when they obeyed.
They started with principle and theory. No wands for the first week – pages of lecture and notes. By the end of the day, after dinner in the staff room, McGonagall walked up to her and shook her hand.
"Congratulations, Professor," she said. "You are a hard ass." Everyone erupted into laughter and she blushed at hearing such language come out of her former head of house's mouth. "Don't tell Severus, though, he'll not want to be ousted."
"I imagine not," she said. "I would never dream of being that cruel."
"I wasn't so bad, in your last year," he said, standing in the doorway where she hadn't seen him. He wasn't lying. After his name had been cleared and his double life laid out for all to see on the front pages of the Daily Prophet, his blatant favoritism had gone away. He was still as strict and demanding as ever, it just included the Slytherins.
"Severus likes to linger outside of rooms," Professor Sinestra informed her.
"No, you were extremely helpful in studying for my NEWTs," Hermione acknowledged. The room fell quiet as the Professors listened to Hermione and Severus converse quietly.
"Well," said McGonagall loudly with a clap. "Who wants Sherry?"
Severus and Minerva sat in the round office protected by the large, stone gargoyle. It was early, forty-five minutes before breakfast yet.
"I was surprised you hired Miss Granger," Minerva said, breaking the silence with something other than the turning of a page of newspaper.
"I thought you would be pleased," he said, stirring sugar into his teacup.
"I am," she said.
"You told me Filius was looking to retire and asked me to hire an associate to help him," Severus said.
"I did," she agreed.
"She was the most qualified," he raised his voice.
"I don't doubt it," she said.
"Then why even mention it?" he snapped.
"I was just surprised," she said. "Don't be cross."
"I'm not cross!" he growled. The portrait of Dumbledore chuckled. When the two occupants of the office glanced at the frame, the old wizard pretended to be sleeping. Severus rolled his eyes. "I'll see you at breakfast." He stood and stomped from the office.
"What do you think?" Minerva asked the portrait of Dumbledore.
"Wait and see," Dumbledore said, his blue eyes opening. "You can't hurry these kinds of things." Minerva sipped her tea.