Chapter I: The Hunches
Disclaimer: I do not own anything except a theory, but all characters and settings and practically everything else belong to JK Rowling.
Sitting at her dark cherry mahogany desk, Hermione Granger stared pensively out the window of her room. She had two days left before she was to head back to the Burrow where her best mates and the rest of the Order members were currently situated. She was advised to stay with Harry and Ron for the entire summer, however she felt it prudent to see her parents for a short while before returning to the magical world. She had few friends left in the muggle world and she wanted to see them as well. There was no certain way of knowing if she was ever going to see them again, not with the eminent war now upon the other side.
She sighed heavily and pushed herself away from the desk, rolling a few feet backwards and proceeded to stare at the ceiling. A pack of unopened cigarettes lay at the corner of her desk and she was tempted to have one. She didn't try to make it a habit; it was simply something she did with her muggle friends in the very few visits she made. Her parents would probably kill her, even though they have admitted to doing it back in their younger days.
What ever happened to having fun as a teenager? What happened to dating? Mindless trips to the cinema? Walks in the park even? It couldn't hurt to be normal, and cigarettes were normal certainly. They were rebellious and everything of the sort, everything Hermione was not. In her mind, it helped her get far far away from what had slowly become her life.
Nothing was safe anymore, and Hermione couldn't afford stupid mistakes or carelessness. She had always thought her hard work would pay off later, but now it seems that it has only offered her more of the same.
Too many things had happened over the course of her sixth year. With Dumbledore gone, she wondered if Hogwarts was going to reopen for her final year. She doubted that parents were pleased that a member of the faculty had murdered the headmaster.
Since the day she first walked through the school's iron gates, she had glorious fantasies of graduating and receiving the highest honors and praises from her peers as well as her mentors. She imagined many owl posts from prestigious magical universities with fellowships to match. Such thoughts seemed petty and trivial to her now. How on Earth was she to concentrate on her NEWTS with everything else going on? It was nearly impossible to keep up her academic habits and have a social life as it was. Helping Harry achieve his goals and going on their little 'adventures' had always been an integral part of Hermione's schooling. Now, school just didn't have the same appeal it once had.
She certainly wouldn't have received any praise from Professor Snape, wanted by the Ministry or not. The dour man never praised anyone, let alone her. What's worse was the man was a skilled Occlumens, so Veritaserum wouldn't even force an ounce of praise. Something…just didn't sit right with her however.
"How is it possible?" she asked herself out loud, wondering about her Headmaster's demise. Her forefinger and thumb found its place on opposite sides of her chin as she pursued her lips. It just didn't fit right. Dumbledore had implicitly trusted Snape, without any consideration that he may be evil, yet the man turned out to be his murderer.
Since the day Harry told her and everyone else what he had witnessed, she made a vow to find out the entire truth about her former professor. She wanted to believe in his guilt, like everyone else had, but something in her, she was unsure what, persuaded her otherwise.
There had to be a reason why Dumbledore trusted him and if Dumbledore trusted him, it gave her sound reason to do so as well. Though Harry chalked it up to Dumbledore's age, Hermione wasn't quite satisfied with how Snape pulled a fast one on him. No one pulled a fast one on Dumbledore. It didn't matter how many plans had gone awry or how many unexpected setbacks there were, he had always found a way around everything. There was always an answer to everything, a purpose for everything. There are no coincidences…
So far in her quest for the truth, she had found absolutely nothing. Not being a witness to the crime was no help either. There was no evidence in even proving that Snape was a good man, no leads or anything.
"I must be going mad…I'm just grasping at straws," she thought while she focused her attention to the window again.
Hermione had known all along that the potions book belonged to Snape; there was no other person that was so knowledgeable in the craft. The underlying sarcasm in each of the text's comments should have been a dead giveaway. "Just shove a bezoar down their throats", Hermione chuckled to herself. The handwriting was undoubtedly the same as the spiky O's and E's, sometimes a "not completely awful" or "doable", she had received on her essays and homework assignments. How had the boys completely missed that? Especially since their essays had many scathing remarks from the man. Honestly, it wasn't her most brilliant of deductions.
Hermione sighed; it was not like they looked at their essays after they'd seen the grade anyway. Revision and improvement weren't exactly on their priority lists. However, it was visible proof and Hermione discovered it almost right away. Snape being a "half-blood prince" had set off alarms in her head. She could not simply rest until she figured out what that had meant. Surely he couldn't have been a half-blood, being Head of Slytherin, king of all prejudice.
In the end, she had presumed Harry was better off not knowing, so she led him in different directions as who the book could belong to. Through private researching, she discovered that Snape's mother carried the maiden name Prince; hence the self-proclaimed title Snape had given himself. Snape being a half-blood… now there was a bet she would have lost.
Secretly, Hermione wondered what it would have been like to go to school with the man, and was curious to see if his behavior as a teenager was any different. Perhaps if he wasn't such a pariah in his school years, he wouldn't have landed himself in the Death Eater's circle. But was being a pariah his social choice? Nevertheless, there was no way of knowing now. The Ministry had locked up all the time turners, and if they hadn't, it wasn't like she had any access or permission to use one. Professor McGonagall had taken hers away after her third year after discovering she had abused it, albeit for a good cause.
Professor Snape could be described as nothing short of a genius in Potions, but she couldn't help but wonder how well he had excelled at the Dark Arts. She couldn't fully experience his teaching expertise in that area. Walking into his new classroom for the first time exhilarated her, because she knew that for once, she was to have a real teacher in DADA for the first time. Professor Lupin was an adequate teacher, but he simply didn't have the fervor Snape did. In numerous ways, he could be viewed as a drama queen, but Hermione found it strangely attractive that he could be so passionate about teaching, though he loathed all of his students. She could remember everything he had said that class, memorizing the loving caress in his voice as he spoke about his subject and a shiver wound its way down her body as she thought about it again.
"The Dark Arts," he had said, "are many, varied, ever-changing, and eternal. Fighting them is like fighting a many-headed monster, which, each time a neck is severed, sprouts a head even fiercer and cleverer than before. You are fighting that which is unfixed, mutating, indestructible." By then, Hermione's eyes were fastened on her Professor, absorbing and feeling every word he that came out of his mouth. "Your defenses must therefore be as flexible and inventive as the arts you seek to undo."
Harry had resented Snape for as long as she could remember and with good reason. Hermione could not argue his reasons for his inextricable hatred for the man, nonetheless, she could not bring herself to feel the same, no matter how incriminating his actions had seemed. There were other things beyond seeing and hearing. The unspoken has the power outweigh words and natural logic. She knew that if Harry or Ron had caught wind of her beliefs, they would be convinced that she had gone mad or had turned traitor on them all. How could she prove to her friends that her sense of justice was what was driving her to verify Snape's innocence? Once she gathered enough data to confirm her hunches, then she would tell them all about it. If anyone could make them realize the truth, it was her. In turn, they could convince the rest of the Order and perhaps clear Snape's tarnished reputation.
Her hopes were then dashed by reality.
"Who in bloody hell am I kidding?" she said, defeated. It probably wouldn't matter how much evidence she had, they would never listen. Harry perhaps hated Snape more than he hated Voldemort. Although Voldemort had killed his parents, Snape had given up the prophecy to him and killed Harry's hero and the closest father figure he's ever had. Snape was blacklisted and she doubted that he would ever be removed from it. Thinking about it further, Hermione was slowly realizing how farfetched her ideas really were. No matter, she was going to attempt the impossible anyhow; she was never one to run away from a challenge. It was not like she was in love with the professor, she simply did not want to see an innocent man rot away in Azkaban or be killed over a misunderstanding. Fatigue began to overwhelm the young woman and she realized she had been sitting in her room merely thinking, for hours.
She yawned, "Good gracious, I need to go to sleep." She stretched her arms over her head and stood up, eyeing her bed and coverlet. Lazily, she sauntered over and plopped herself nicely into a comfortable position.
Two days later, Hermione had made a tearful goodbye to her parents and apparated to The Burrow with her most important belongings. She was still wiping tears away when Ron's mother came out of the door and ushered her inside hurriedly.
"Come child, quickly! You never know what kind of things could be lurking about. Even in the middle of the daylight, the Death Eaters have gotten bolder in their actions since the Headmaster's death," she explained. The door shut behind Hermione and she let her eyes wander around the familiar house. Everything was disheveled and noisy as usual.
"How many people are here?" she asked looking for any signs of Harry and Ron.
"Just about the whole lot probably. Harry and Ron are upstairs with Ginny and the twins, umm…" she tapped her index finger on her chin, "Oh, and Bill and Charlie are with Arthur at the Ministry, trying to figure out security measures for the house and regulations and all that nonsense. I believe Nymphadora and Remus are with Professor McGonagall debating whether or not school will continue for the next year." Hermione interrupted her.
"When will we find out if school is going to reopen?!" she asked rather loudly. Molly was taken back for a moment, not expecting the sudden change in Hermione's attitude and chortled softly.
"Hopefully today my dear, they've been working on it ever since you left to see your parents. It's been a dreadful argument, of course the boys wouldn't mind school being cancelled, but I'm sure it would just break your heart," she patronized and patted Hermione on the back. She grew more uncomfortable by the second as Mrs. Weasley looked as if she was going to burst into tears. Before she could say something, she was interrupted herself.
"Mione!" Ron had exclaimed and came barreling down the stairs to greet her.
"Hey Ron," she smiled. Well he certainly seemed happy to see her. He motioned for her to go up the stairs and ran back up there before she could nod in acquiescence. She looked over to Ron's mother.
"Go on, I'm sure everyone would like to see you now," she smiled tearfully and proceeded to clean some of the impossible mess that had possessed the house. She whispered a spell to minimize her luggage and floated it up the stairs. She reached the boys' room and found everyone surrounding Harry, who talked animatedly. He looked up for a moment, acknowledging Hermione's presence.
"Hey Harry," she said softly and said her hellos to the twins and Ginny.
"I'm glad you're here Mione, we're all talking about school next year," he said simply.
"Well, what about it? Ron's mother said it wasn't a certainty that it would be opening again."
"It doesn't really matter, Ron and I aren't going back anyhow," he said quickly, waiting for her reply.
"Ron? Why isn't he-…" it suddenly dawned on her, "I thought you were going alone Harry," she said quietly. Harry and Ron cast sideways glances towards each other, trying to figure out a way to word their plans without hurting her feelings.
"That was my original plan, but he's convinced me otherwise you see, that maybe…well...that I shouldn't do this alone, you know?" he said pleadingly.
"What about me? Can't I go with you?"
"It's best we do it this way Hermione, we have more mobility if there are less people involved," Ron tried to explain.
"So you're saying that I would be a drag then?" Hermione was quick to anger.
"No Hermione it's not like that!" exclaimed Harry, nudging Ron in the ribs with his elbow. "Look, I didn't want Ron to come with me in the first place. We've actually fought tooth and nail over it," it was then Hermione took a good look at the boys and realized what Harry was saying was the truth. There were small nicks and bruises on the boys' arms and a small bruise had formulated on Ron's left cheekbone.
"We told my mother that we fell off our brooms playing a little bit of Quittich, she can't find out I'm going with Harry, or she'll have a fit and I don't want to cause her any more grief, you know?"
"Don't you think she'll be even angrier with you if you just went off without telling her then?" she offered. Ron shrugged, not really knowing what else to say.
"Hermione…" Ginny spoke up for the first time, "Ron's never been that good in school, and you know as well as I that he wouldn't be into it this year. You're all about your subjects and that stuff, that's who you are. I think it's better this way myself, even though they both know I don't like the idea. At least you'll be with me." She gave a soft smile, trying to make light of the situation. Hermione sighed in defeat somewhat. She could technically beat the shit out of them in a debate and could weasel her way into their plans, but she just didn't have the heart to. They seemed so earnest.
"I guess so."
"Great!" Harry grinned, "Ron and I will be leaving shortly after Bill and Fleur's wedding." Blimey, Hermione forgot all about the sordid affair.
"Oh right," she replied. For the rest of the afternoon she learned everything that Harry witnessed in the Pensieves and every word that Dumbledore had relayed to him, leaving nothing out. At least Harry decided to share that with her, despite their protests in her joining them.
She had also learned that the wedding was to take place in two weeks time, at the Burrow. Although it was risky to have such an event out in the open, Bill had explained to his mother that he couldn't imagine it anywhere else except home. It wasn't going to be a large wedding, just a ministry official conducting it, family, close friends, and a usual, excellent Mrs. Weasley spread for the reception. Mrs. Weasley must've cried about that for days and the twins reassured Hermione that was exactly what she had done.
After a while, Hermione just sat back and listened to her friends go on and on about the wedding whilst slouching on the floor. She wondered what her friends would say if she mentioned her little plan.
"I'd better not even mention his name," she murmured.
"What was that Mione?" Harry asked. Hermione blinked and looked up, "Oh nothing, just thinking…"
"About what?" Ron chimed in. Hermione flushed, she was not about to tell them she was thinking of rescuing Snape.
"Just about everything y'know, it's a lot to take in, even for me," she answered. It was partly true.
"Everything will be all right Hermione, we'll all still be best mates after everything, I'll make sure of that. We've lost so many already, I'm not about to lose more people that are important to me," Harry said with a fierce determination. It secretly made Hermione feel safe that Harry would do everything in his power to protect those he cared about, not that she wouldn't return the favor. Somehow, he always made her feel better.
By the time evening fell, Mrs. Weasley announced that Professor McGonagall, Tonks, and Remus had arrived, so the gang had made their way down the stairs to hear whatever news there was to hear. Hermione noticed that Professor McGonagall looked older than she ever had, with perhaps a dozen more stress lines added to her face. After everyone had made their greetings, Minerva motioned for everyone to sit down.
"Hogwarts will be opening for another term-" this caused Hermione to whoop rather loudly, interrupting her. McGonagall held up her hand to regain silence, making Hermione blush from her rather passionate reaction.
"However, the Prime Minister of Britain has informed the Minister of Magic that no more muggleborn children will be allowed to attend Hogwarts. He claims to not want to endanger the "normal" population," she said tight-lipped. Hermione's vision suddenly clouded and she jumped out of her seat.
"That's absolutely ridiculous, what kind of ignorant man could say such a thing!?"
"Calm down Miss Granger, although I understand your anger, I had to concede. No "new" muggleborn students will be admitted this year, not until the war is over, however, students already enrolled have been given permission to come back," she explained. Hermione sat down and grumbled.
"Well, I still think it's ridiculous," she muttered under her breath as she folded her arms over herself.
"There will be other changes as well; for instance, this one directly affects you Miss Granger," she began, "You received the highest OWL in Potions, so I'm offering you the teaching position for it."
"What? But what about my own studies, I've no training, I'm too young, inexperienced and…" Hermione began to ramble on, completely flabbergasted by the offer. Minerva put a halt to it by holding her hand up to silence Hermione.
"I had a meeting with the staff and we've all come to the decision for you to take your NEWTS early. Provided a successful passing score in each subject you take, you will be eligible to teach at Hogwarts. Professor Slughorn has resigned and offers we have made were met with many refusals. Sixth and seventh year students have opted not to have Potions in their curriculum for the following term, so you would be teaching the first through fifth years. The staff and I have inextricable faith in you, Hermione, and we are all certain you will pass your NEWTS without a problem. We understand that this is going to be difficult for you; and yes you are much too young, however, we would not ask such a favor if it were not an emergency. We have no one else to turn to. We have Remus teaching Defense again this year, despite many protests from the pureblood communities. Hopefully your teaching Potions will draw attention away from him."
Hermione smiled at the Professor's little joke. It was reassuring that her teachers had such confidence in her abilities. It seemed that they desperately needed her help, what kind of witch would she be to turn them away.
"When would I take my NEWTS?"
"In two weeks time, we will provide all the necessary reading material you'll need to brush up on your subjects. The test will take place at the Ministry and if you pass, you will go through a week long intensive seminar in teaching since you have not yet graduated, and they are still somewhat skeptical of a student's ability to teach. I have no doubt that you will more than satisfy their requirements."
"Two weeks! How could I possibly be prepared in two weeks, and to think I was wasting all that time I was doing nothing at my parents' house! I had better get started soon then," Hermione said, growing more excited at every word. Her years at being a know-it-all have finally paid off.
"Yes, your books will be delivered by owl tomorrow morning, so I suggest you devote most of your time to them," Minerva smiled. Hermione could only nod enthusiastically; it wasn't like she was planning to do otherwise.
As Minerva went on, Hermione delved into her own thoughts. This was a giant step indeed. She wondered if she could handle such a thing. Could she handle the work load? Would the students even take her seriously? It was hard to teach, she remembered the headaches she got from simply tutoring those in her own House. Now she would be in charge of the majority of the student body. How would she go about the whole teaching thing? Was there a right way to teach? Perhaps she could take the Snape approach to teaching. The absurdness of the last thought caused her to giggle out loud, causing McGonagall as well as everyone else to look at her. Oh great…now she had gone and done it. The giggle ended almost as soon as it began.
"Miss Granger is there something wrong?" she lifted an eyebrow, clearly annoyed that she had been interrupted again. First the girl stopped paying attention and then giggles for no reason; Minerva hoped she wasn't going mad; this was the most inopportune time for that.
"No professor," she blushed, "I suppose I'm just tired, maybe I ought to go to sleep. It's just that there's so much to take in," she covered up quickly. Seemingly satisfied with Hermione's answer, Minerva's features softened. "I know child… and believe me, we all appreciate your helping us," she smiled somewhat. Hermione could only return the gesture. Minerva continued on with more Hogwarts prattle. New safety rules and curfews were to be instated as well as an Auror almost present outside each classroom, should anything amiss occur. Security was even tighter than the year before, which was saying a lot.
"That's all the news I have I'm afraid. I shall be back to collect Miss Granger for her NEWTS in two weeks, unless I have any more news for anyone," she concluded.
"Surely you would like to stay for tea? I'm sure you've had a busy day," Molly offered.
"No, I must be getting back, I have other dealings with the ministry to attend to, but I thank you for your generosity Molly," she smiled and motioned for Remus and Tonks to follow her out.
Everyone filed out of the dining room in a matter of minutes, so Hermione headed up the stairs to Ginny's room, where she would be sleeping for the remainder of the summer.