Disclaimer: This is an unauthorised tribute to the works of JK Rowling who, with her publishers and licensees, owns the characters and situations elaborated herein.
This fic owes something to the first few chapters of Kiristeen's "Mothers, Witches and Bargains Made". I began writing it shortly after OotP and have not altered it to be HBP-compatible, so it reflects my then-interpretations of canon although it moves in a quite AU direction. Post-OotP was a more innocent time for Snape-fans and that's reflected in the story.
Warning: This is an SSHG fic that begins when Hermione is still a student, though of age in the Wizarding World. The ethical issue will be raised but ultimately overstepped.
Hermione Granger sat on the top step of the hall-stairs at 12 Grimmauld Place, secret headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix and her home for the third consecutive summer. Home! It was a horrid, horrid, old place, but at least it was safe from outside attack and hopefully from inside attack too, since they'd cleared out all the dangerous, cursed objects their first summer there. And she'd be back at school in a week. Usually that would have been a cheering thought.
Not this time. Her head rested against the bannisters, her bushy, brown hair falling unheeded over her face. A book lay open on her lap, but she was not reading. She was waiting. Soon, the latest Order meeting would be over and she'd have to race down to catch a certain someone before he left. Her Potions master at Hogwarts, Professor Snape.
She sighed and rubbed her forehead. She didn't want to talk to him. Who would? He was as prickly as a thorn-bush and as sharp-tongued as a chainsaw. In six years of lessons, he'd never once praised her, despite her top marks. Instead he alternated between devastating insults, when he could find something to criticise, mostly for knowing the answers or helping Neville, and treating her as invisible, when he couldn't.
Biased, bullying, bad-tempered man! (Not that she'd ever say such a thing aloud. Teachers were knowledge-givers and deserved every outward sign of respect, as long as they did their job – which neatly let out Trelawney and Umbridge, she was pleased to say. But inwardly, she could admit that true was true and Snape was Snape.) He handed out praise to his Slytherins with the same lavish hand with which he deducted points from everyone else, especially Gryffindors. If there was anything he hated more than Gryffindor House, it was certain students belonging to it, namely her and her friends: her best friend, Ron, his sister, Ginny, poor old Neville, and, most of all, her other best friend, Harry. In the professor's eyes, Harry was guilty equally of being the famous Boy-Who-Lived and the infamous-Son-of-Potter (James). She snorted. Being Sirius Black's godson hadn't helped either.
She'd never heard the full story, but apparently, the professor had traded hate and hexes with James and Sirius all through their student days and, since they were half of a group of four pranksters, while he was a loner, she was sure she could guess who must have usually come off worst. And there'd also been some brainless prank or other involving their werewolf friend, Remus Lupin, that the professor insisted on calling attempted murder. She pursed her lips. It wasn't fair to blame Harry for what had happened before he was born, but then, no one had ever accused Professor Snape of being fair.
She gulped and clenched her teeth. How was she ever going to find the words to tell him his only chance of living through the next three months was – Oh, forget it! No one could be brave enough to tell him that!
She moved to stand up, then hastily grabbed her forgotten book as it began to slide off her lap. No sense letting it thud down the stairs and wake up the family portraits to start screaming insults again, especially old Mrs Black who screamed loudest of all. She folded the book closed and placed it beside her as she slowly sat back down. No sense either in pretending silence was an option. Not after Voldemort's return two years ago. Killings and kidnappings had begun again, with Muggle-borns and their non-magical parents as prime targets. As the Ministry of Magic was worse than useless, not only inert but infiltrated by Death Eaters and other Voldemort supporters, that left the Order and its three essential linchpins, Harry, figurehead and final weapon, Professor Dumbledore, Head of the Order and Headmaster at Hogwarts, and Professor Snape, Death Eater-turned-spy. His information was vital, his life irreplaceable.
Besides, that dream was driving her insane. Every night the same thing; every night a little worse. Or a lot. She couldn't take one more repetition, she couldn't!
If only she could still disbelieve in Divination, she could ignore it, but she'd learnt since third year that there were real prophecies. They'd had to fight Death Eaters at the Ministry a year ago to prevent the one about Harry from falling into Voldemort's hands and she knew instinctively that her recurrent dream of the last three weeks spoke just as real a prophecy. Or if only she hadn't walked out on the lessons before third year was up, she'd have been more sure of her ground. She couldn't help feeling she was forgetting something important, but her copy of Unfogging the Future was at her parents' home. She hadn't expected ever to need it again.
Downstairs, a soft click broke the silence. She jumped up and raced down the steps to slide to a halt in front of her target. As usual, he was the first one out the door. She put out a hand to steady herself. One more step and she'd have crashed into him. He glared down his large, hooked nose at her as she gulped down lungfuls of air.
"Out of my way, Miss Granger." He hissed.
She looked up into his thin, sallow face framed by lank, black hair and swallowed hard.
"Professor, I need to speak to you in private."
Upstairs, two red heads and one black popped suddenly around a bedroom door. Hermione knew without looking that Ginny, Ron and Harry were listening. She'd escaped from them on the pretext of wanting to be alone, a perfectly acceptable excuse given the overcrowding, but they'd know better now and be waiting for her explanation. She'd already prepared a lie.
Her teacher drew himself up, scowling. Behind him, the other Order members were backed up in the doorway, looking surprised and disapproving.
"Indeed? Have you so wearied your – friends," (the word rolled out with silky malice) "with your annoying presence that you need to seek new victims to inflict yourself on?"
Hermione's hands clenched on her robes. She took a deep breath.
"I'd be happy to explain in a less public place, Professor."
He stepped aside from the door but she matched his movement, still pinning him in place. The others streamed out and pooled around, obviously listening. His eyes raked her up and down with casual contempt.
"I must suppose your overstuffed brain has lost the ability to distinguish between teacher and confidant. I am entirely uninterested in your petty problems."
There was a subdued hiss of indignation from upstairs. Hermione spoke through gritted teeth.
Thin lips curled and his voice lowered to a menacing whisper.
"No doubt it can wait till term begins, when I may deal with you as you deserve for this impertinence."
She chewed on her bottom lip as she turned from his angry, black glare to the twinkling, blue eyes and genial smile of the silver-haired headmaster. Luckily, she had a back-up plan.
"Professor Dumbledore?" she entreated.
"I'm most curious to hear you, Miss Granger." He waved a deprecating hand. "Severus, will you join us?"
The darker man's brows snapped together and his lips thinned almost to invisibility. He knew the difference between a request and an order.
"As you wish, Headmaster." He followed the other two into a smaller side-room that he immediately warded against eavesdroppers with an Imperturbable.
Professor Dumbledore settled himself into a chair and pulled out a bag of Caramel Cremes, which he offered around. They both waved it aside.
"Well?" Snape's face now seemed to be composed entirely of hooknose and snarl.
Hermione gulped. The hours she'd spent rehearsing this scene were wasted. She couldn't remember a word.
"Nothing to say?" he asked. "We'll discuss this waste of professorial time next week, Miss Granger."
With an effort, she tore her eyes away to scan the room for inspiration and met the headmaster's twinkle. It would be easier to talk to him.
"Professor Snape," she whispered, "Professor Snape is in mortal danger."
Her subject snorted.
"Even your pointless chatter isn't capable of boring me to death. Or have you suddenly discovered that spying is dangerous?"
Stung, she wheeled to face him.
"Neither! But I've been dreaming your death every night for three weeks. It seems to be a prophecy dream. If it's true, you'll be dead by the end of term unless –"
He had half-turned so his face was in shadow. All she could see was a tall, brooding shape with hair as black as his robes. The headmaster was also staring, his half-unwrapped caramel dropping unheeded from one nerveless hand into the bag that his other curled around in a crushing spasm.
"Unless?" the older man prompted her urgently.
"Unless he marries – a student. Immediately."
There was a moment's silence.
"Crushing on a teacher, Miss Granger?" Snape asked. "Should I be flattered?"
The girl's shoulders slumped and she studied the floor. There was a faded red, black and cream carpet overlaying the wood. It must have been magnificent once. She wanted to crawl underneath and hide for a decade.
"The same dream every night for three weeks?" The headmaster's voice was sharp.
She licked her lips nervously.
"Not exactly. It always ends at the same point, I'm watching the dirt being shovelled over his coffin, but it keeps getting longer because – because – it feels like every night I step in a bit earlier and see a bit more."
She glanced at the still, dark figure in the corner. He seemed to have run out of insults. That was strange. Strange and a bit creepy.
"Last night, I watched boots kicking – kicking the body over." She sniffed and dashed her hand across her eyes. "And I always hear his voice telling me I could have saved him." She sniffed again. "I did think it might be a Destiny-Link."
Dumbledore stroked his long silver beard. His wrinkles were deeper and more drooping than Hermione had ever seen them as he too watched that motionless, waiting shadow.
"It does sound very like it," he agreed, "but then Professor Snape would have been dreaming it too."
Hermione caught her breath. That was it, of course; the important thing she'd forgotten. It was so obvious now.
"Severus?" the headmaster added. "Perhaps you have something to tell me?"
There was a long silence. Finally, Professor Snape inclined his head.
A/N Dumbledore prefers lemon drops in canon, but he is at the least aware of Muggle sweets so I decided to write him a different snack.
Unfogging the Future, by Cassandra Vablatsky, was their third year Divination text. Destiny-Link dreams are not canon.