A/N: This is a series of chapters spanning over the years from 1988 to that, ahem, epilogue of 2017. Each chapter adds a slight twist on the actual events in the books. Each chapter is a standalone and can be read on its own. However, I will attempt to keep a common theme throughout the series. Of Lily's eyes, of Snape's love, and of Hermione's entrance. Hopefully, I will be able to show a progression of Snape's feelings.
Spoilers for Deathly Hallows included. All Harry Potter characters created, and some killed, by J K Rowling.
15 November 2007:
Thank you for all the reviews. Much appreciated. The second chapter will be posted tomorrow, 16 November, after editing. But, first, some clarifications.
To excessivelyperky: Yes, you're right. This is AU and so will the other chapters. I'm trying to have this series follow through the events in the books, but with a plausible twist in them.
To Rock Royalty: I'm sorry for not being clear above. As you see at the end of this chapter, Snape never saw Hermione again in this version of events. I'm sorry to disappoint you because the next chapter won't be on about Hermione entering Hogwarts. Shame. But! Hopefully, you will still like it, and there will be more interaction between Snape and Hermione as the series progresses. If I can stop Snape from being too sarcastic and impervious. Let me just call them... "Oy, no more mean remarks at Hermione, Severus! What, Hermione? Oh, you can handle him? Er. Good."
To duj: Because he is too remarkable to be a mere Smith. ;-)
To Laurenke1: Yup, you are the first reviewer. Thank you.
To velvetglove: Work happened.
To shetlandlace: Glad you found 9-year-old Hermione perfect. If Snape's any nicer, he'll hex me.
London, Snape concluded bitterly, was nothing but a web of confusion and litter and, above all, noise. The traffic on the roads and the sheer volume of pedestrians grated on his nerves. He had been to London on several occasions, and never enjoyed his time there. However, that owed more to the fact that his duties to the Order took him to the busy spots of London. Snape wondered if he had Dumbledore's twisted humour to thank. For an anti-social person such as he was, Snape was prepared to hex anyone who knocked into him.
His family home, which was in the more unsavory parts of Muggle society and which he still returned to every summer although he had every reason not to, had not helped improve his opinion of Muggles.
Hence, it was an unexpected and pleasant change for Snape when he found himself in Regent's Park. Arthur Weasley had arranged to meet him here and, certainly, his recommendation of a meeting place was much better than Dumbledore's. Although there were quite a lot of people in the park as well, the landscape was pleasing and it was not as chaotic as it was in the streets.
Noting that he was early and that Weasley would likely be late due to distractions concerning Muggle contraptions, Snape settled himself comfortably on a bench, only to realise there was a book on it too. Holding it up, he read the title: "Psmith in the City" by P.G. Wodehouse. Turning to the back of the book, Snape read the synopsis, and found it interesting. Wondering whom the book belonged to, he looked around but saw no one nearby.
Well, why not? he thought. He had nothing better to do and Muggle books were the exception to his general dislike for all things Muggle. Oddly, witches and wizards never had a knack for writing fiction, and were not particularly talented in other fields of art either. That did not stop Dumbledore from appreciating chamber music, or Muggleborns from introducing plays into Hogwarts. As Snape read the book, he became oblivious to his surroundings, until a voice close to him spoke up.
"Please, sir, I believe that's my book you're reading."
Snape looked up to see a pair of brown eyes staring back at him. This Muggle appeared brighter than most Muggles. What was worse, she was only a child. Her exceptionally bushy hair only served to dwarf her petite face. Under normal circumstances, Snape would give a little growl to worry the child, return her book and they would have parted ways. But this one made him uneasy. He realised that the cause of his uneasiness was the passive expression on her face. Without his reputation preceding him as it did in the wizarding world, the girl showed none of the emotions which Snape normally instilled in people. There was no fear, no sympathy, no condemnation, no loathing, no hate, no cruelty, no scorn, no pity, no resentment… There was nothing. Even Lily, with her brilliant, green eyes, had never looked at him with such a non-judgmental look before.
Snape suppressed the pain which nearly overwhelmed him.
Focussing his attention on the girl, Snape could not find any excuse to be brusque.
"Er," he said intelligently.
"There's a bookmark inside the book, sir," the girl said helpfully. "It has a picture of a tabby cat on it."
Snape flipped through the pages and saw that there was indeed a bookmark. On it, someone had written neatly, "Hermione Granger." He looked at the child again.
"Hermione Granger," he practised saying the name out loud. "That is your name, I take it?"
The girl nodded gratefully, "Yes, sir. Not many people pronounce it correctly the first time."
"Far be it for me to criticise them. It is an unusual name." An unusual name for an unusual child, Snape thought, and continued, "Well, Miss Granger, I confess. I found this book here without its owner. And you convince me that it is yours. But I do not think a child like you can read something like this."
She tilted her head to a side and said reflectively, "My mother always says that I'm a bit like Matilda."
"And who is Matilda?" Snape was not only surprised that he was enjoying his conversation with Hermione, but was also uncharacteristically patient with her.
"She's a fictional character, written by Mr. Ronald Dahl, and she knows how to read at the age of four. I'm not so clever. I only learnt how to read properly at six."
He could tell that she liked rattling off whatever knowledge she had. She had been nervous at first, but when he asked her about Matilda, she brightened and answered confidently.
"How old are you, Miss Granger?"
"I'm turning nine this week…" Hermione hesitated, and said solemnly, "I don't know your name, sir."
Snape smirked, "You may address me as Professor Snape."
He watched as Hermione pondered over this new information, "Do you teach in London, Professor Snape?"
"Thank Merlin, no. I teach in Scotland." Snape laughed, and stopped abruptly. It was hardly a feat for someone to make him smirk, or sneer, or even smile in sadistic glee. They were signs that someone was about to be in deep trouble. But to make him laugh for a moment without a care in the world… This child was not to be underestimated.
Hermione distracted him again, "What do you teach in Scotland?"
Snape immediately became guarded. Despite being an expert liar, he was reluctant to lie to her. "It is a subject that requires great precision, care and skill."
He was amused to see her frown in concentration. When she asked if it was dentistry, Snape burst out laughing for the second time of the day.
"Dentistry!" Snape shook his head, "What a dreary subject it is compared to mine!"
Hermione frowned harder and remonstrated, "My parents are dentists, Professor Snape. And dentistry is not dreary at all."
"Ah, that explains it." Snape composed himself, "My apologies Miss Granger. I didn't mean to be rude."
"I'm sorry, mister. Is my daughter bothering you?"
Snape turned his head to find a not unattractive woman walking in their direction. He could see the resemblance between mother and daughter.
In reply to Mrs. Granger's question, Snape said, "No, madam. I daresay it's the other way around. For I have her book and have not yet returned it to her after keeping her here for so long. Not to mention that I've unconsciously offended her."
He smiled, and handed the book to Hermione, who took it without comment but kept looking at him with those brown eyes. He liked the warmth and the inquisitiveness in them.
"Well, good-bye Miss Granger."
As both mother and daughter walked away, Snape noticed Hermione turn her head back at him. He raised his eyebrows quizzically when Hermione stopped her mother and exchanged a few hurried words with her. He leaned forward when the girl ran back to him.
"Professor Snape. Did you like the book?"
Snape blinked. He had been preoccupied with their conversation that he had forgotten about the book which was responsible for their meeting. Now that she asked, he did like it. Its light humour and sly wit suited him. "Yes, rather."
"Then you can have it," Hermione said and placed it in his hands.
Snape, startled, had not much time to think. "This is very generous of you, Miss Granger. Thank you. But I've nothing to give in return." He could surreptitiously conjure something up or transfigure something into something else but such items were not permanent. What would Hermione say if she saw the gift disappear or turn back into a pebble in front of her eyes?
"That's all right, professor. I'm glad you like the book." For the first time, Hermione smiled back at him, and was about to walk away to join her mother.
"No, wait," Snape said. Inspired, he took out his quill and scribbled on the bookmark, "From a grateful reader who had no right to laugh at dentists, Severus Snape". He handed the bookmark back to her, and when he saw her staring at his black quill, he said sardonically, "You use pens, don't you?" He handed his quill to her, "I suppose this is an acceptable exchange?"
Hermione took both bookmark and quill, and smiled, "Thank you. It is very pretty."
Soon, Snape lost sight of Hermione and her mother as they rounded a corner.
"Severus! Severus. So sorry to have kept you waiting." Arthur Weasley greeted jovially after a while and sat down beside Snape.
"That's all right. I expected you to be later," Snape replied.
"It's quite a lovely spot, isn't it? There's an Open Air Theatre here, we should take a look at it. I hear there's a rehearsal going on."
"How do you know so much about this place?" Snape asked. After all, whatever enthusiasm Weasley had for all things Muggle, it did not translate into actual knowledge. The older wizard always lamented about the inadequacy of Muggle Studies in his schooldays.
"Dumbledore does and he said that this is a good place to relax."
Ah, Dumbledore strikes again. Then again, Snape mused, but for Dumbledore's suggestion, he would not have met Hermione Granger.
He never saw her again, but the book on his table served as a souvenir of his encounter with the remarkable Muggle child. Years later, with the second rising of Voldemort, when the war became too dark and cold, and when even the reason to protect Lily's son seemed hollow, he would remember his book, and he would remember her and what the fight was for.