Title: Growing Up is Hard to Do
Description: Inspired by the many "Snape and/or Harry suddenly de-aged as pointless plot device" stories. I was simply too embarrassed to admit I'd written one. Until now. Implied HG/SS. One-Shot, so please don't ask for more.
Disclaimer: These characters are the property of J.K. Rowling and her publishers. No infringement is intended and no profit is made.
All hail my beta, Countrymouse, who has finally gotten me to write more of Souvenir. (I got a MO quarter for you, too!) The next chapter should be up in a few days.
"But I don't want to go," insisted Severus Snape truculently, for perhaps the twentieth time that afternoon.
Hermione Granger took another stranglehold grip on the remains of her patience and summoned a smile. It wasn't very convincing; but then again nothing seemed to be working to convince the young man in front of her to accompany Ron Weasley and Harry Potter to the Burrow for the Easter hols. For young man, he was. Again. And not the least bit happy about the entire situation.
It was strange to look down at the Potions Master that had spent the last six years making life pure hell for the Gryffindors. Even after Neville's botched potion had reduced the viciously nasty middle-aged man into a six-month old baby, he'd continued to make Hermione's life difficult, if only by preferring her care to that of Ron or Harry's. Neville, the author of all, had caused unceasing howls of distress from the infant and had been banned from even looking at the new-made infant.
In the past months Hermione's research combined with what might possibly be the fading effects of Neville's potion had allowed the infant Snape to grow up. Not precisely overnight, but in fits and starts and almost always during a school night, leaving the three scrambling to find or transfigure a suitable pair of trousers to cover the additional two or three inches of bony shins that had suddenly appeared on their charge.
"I've told you, Sev," she responded. "My parents have plans for us all to go to my aunt's house for the holidays, and I'm going to be bunking in with my cousin as it is. I simply can't take you with me."
"I never said I wanted to go with you," he replied snottily. "I just don't want to go with them. Why can't I stay here? I'll remind you I've been teaching here since you were in nappies, Hermione Granger. I can take care of myself."
"No you can't," she told him bluntly, refraining from mentioning just who had been changing whose nappies lately. "You've just been allowed your wand back, but you're still restricted from using it until you're of age."
"I'm nearly forty bloody years old, woman!"
"You watch your language," Hermione warned him hotly. "As far as the Ministry is concerned, you're as old as you appear. Period. And until you can prove your magic is back to what it was before your accident, then you're stuck being a child and Dumbledore's ward."
He scowled theatrically, and no doubt thought it made him intimidating, but in truth his lower lip pouted out as well and it was simply adorable. Hermione felt her temper drain away, and she tried another tactic. "Besides, there's no telling what Voldemort might try. He's still mighty ticked off at you."
"I don't care. I don't want to go off to the Burrow with those two. It's humiliating."
A thought suddenly occurred to Hermione, and she leaned forward. "Did you know Fred and George Weasley still live at home?"
She smiled, not at all nicely. "Haven't you ever wanted to get back at them for all the things they pulled in your class?"
Snape's coal-black eyes began to glimmer with anticipation. "Now you're talking."
Hermione smiled back, but made a mental note to send a large bottle of Headache-Ease potion, wrapped with an apology, to Molly Weasley right away.
Three weeks later, Hermione stood on platform nine-and-three-quarters, casting about for two different sets of hair - redheads and black. She thought she saw Ron's taller form through the crowd of students milling about as they boarded the train back to school, but wasn't entirely sure.
Suddenly she caught sight of a shorter form, this one with red hair pulled into a loose ponytail. She was leaning against one of the posts, chatting with a tall boy. Hermione went to greet her friend, then stopped cold and looked again.
Ginny wasn't just chatting – she was flirting. Although not accomplished at the art herself, Hermione could well recognize the signs; the shy glances, the quick smiles, a coy tilt of the head. Whoever she was with was just as bad – the young man had one hand planted on the wall above Ginny's head, as though it were the only thing keeping him from falling bodily into the young woman. Ignoring the rest of the students around them, he leaned in to catch her words. His black hair obscured his features, but the hair color and height left Hermione with only one conclusion to make as to his identity.
Harry and Ginny, together. Finally! Hermione exulted.
That happy thought was brought down with a crash as Harry Potter and Ron Weasley appeared on either side of the young couple. Ron shoved the young man, who was as tall as he was, while Harry pulled Ginny away by the arm. Both partners took exception to this, Ginny by twisting her arm out of Harry's grasp and the young man by pushing Ron back, all the while sneering.
It was the sneer that told Hermione who it was – although not as pronounced as it had been, or would become.
"Sev?" she called questioningly.
The young man turned, somehow managing to be both graceful and slightly menacing. "Miss Granger. How nice to see you again."
With an inarticulate growl, Ron and Harry both swept Ginny towards the train. As they passed Hermione, Harry muttered, "He's all yours," in a vicious undertone.
"See you later," Ginny called merrily over her shoulder as her brother and his best friend all but dragged her onto the train.
"Cat got your tongue?" asked Severus, a superior smile twisting his lips as his dark eyes flickered to Crookshanks' carrier, clutched in Hermione's nerveless grip. His teeth, no longer the gap-toothed accumulation they were when he was approximately twelve, were now white and even, though the lower ones were a bit crowded in front.
Hermione stared up at him, shocked. "You – you've had another growth spurt," she stammered.
"My, you are observant," drawled Severus, looking down his aquiline nose. He now topped her by several inches, and his voice had deepened by at least two octaves. "You might put those powers of observation to use and notice that the train is about to leave. Don't be too much longer," he advised, strolling casually to the cars and boarding. With a start, Hermione joined the last straggling students and climbed aboard herself.
Making her way up the train, she found the compartment with her fellow Gryffindors and slid open the door. Ron and Harry sat on one seat, arms folded in identical postures of blatant disapproval. Just opposite, Ginny sat by the window while Severus sat at the far end of the same bench. Although a large gulf separated them, they continued to exchange small glances, sly smiles, and at least on Ginny's part, intermittent giggles.
Feeling oddly like the Great Wall of China, Hermione decided to sit between them. The train began to move, causing them all to lurch slightly. Ginny let out a squeak.
"All right there, Gin?" asked Severus.
"I'm fine, Severus. Thank you for asking."
"Oh, you're quite welcome. Anytime."
Ron glared at his sister, while Harry's green eyes shot daggers at the unperturbed Snape.
"So. Ron, Harry," began Hermione desperately. "How was your holiday? Have a good time?"
"Don't ask," the two responded in surly tones.
"I had a wonderful time," Severus volunteered. Ginny giggled again.
Hermione turned to inspect Ginny, who smiled widely at her friend and crinkled her nose mischievously. "I had a wonderful time, too," she pronounced.
Severus was the one who giggled this time, only with his deepened voice, it came out as an earthy, masculine chuckle.
Both Harry and Ron turned to glare at Severus.
Hermione looked at Severus with disbelief. Then at Ginny, who only grinned once more. Ron and Harry both refused to meet her eyes, and the beginnings of a headache began to throb in Hermione's temples. Abruptly, she decided on action.
"Come with me," she commanded, grabbing Severus by the wrist. She stood and pulled, but he was now big enough to pull back and remain where he was.
"Why?" he asked mildly. "I'm rather enjoying the company. Aren't you?"
"NOW," commanded Hermione, pulling again. Severus complied, but Hermione did not miss the wink he directed at Ginny, who fluttered a few fingers in return.
Once in the narrow passageway, Hermione dragged the reluctant Snape down to the end of the corridor and into the connection between the cars. She levered the door shut behind them and turned to confront Snape.
"What the blazes do you think you're doing?" she scolded. "Ginny Weasley is fifteen years old!"
Snape crossed his arms and looked down at her, an indulgent smile flitting across his lips. "I'm not doing anything she doesn't want to do," he responded.
"I can't believe you! I thought you were better than this! To think I actually liked you!" she seethed.
A dark expression crossed Snape's face. "Whatever you're thinking, you can just forget it. I'm not doing anything but what Ginny wanted – "
"She's fifteen! She doesn't know what she wants!"
Snape pulled Hermione around and pushed her against the rocking wall of the train car. "And I thought you might give me the benefit of the doubt, Miss Granger, but apparently I've misjudged you as well."
"Benefit?" gaped Hermione. "When you're- you're practically seducing Ginny right in front of her brother!"
"Give me some credit, Hermione. If I wanted to seduce the girl, I'd hardly do it in front of her brother. Or Potter. Although with that idiot, I'd need a bleeding brass band to get the point across."
Hermione frowned at him. "What?"
"Gryffindors," he sighed. "You lot haven't a subtle bone in your bodies, not a one of you." Looking remarkably tired for a newly-made sixteen-year-old, he leaned one shoulder against the wall beside Hermione. "All I'm doing is winding up those two. Ginny wants Harry, fool that she is, and I'm giving her a hand."
"You're helping Ginny get Harry's attention," Hermione repeated in disbelief.
"Not as such, but that's her problem. Torturing Fred and George was only fun for a few days. I had to find something else to occupy myself or I'd have run mad. When they started teasing the girl about her crush on Harry, I thought I'd give them something else to think about."
"Ginny knows you're not serious?" she asked.
"Of course. Actually, she was afraid I might take her serious." He snorted, but sounded remarkably pleased with himself. "I've been playing this game of hers to alleviate my boredom. It simply has the added benefit of giving Potter and the Weasley boys aneurysms all 'round."
"Couldn't you have just de-gnomed the garden?" Hermione asked him with some exasperation.
Severus chuckled. "Well, that only holds just so much charm. And as charming as Ginny Weasley may be, she is, as you pointed out, only fifteen years old. If she wants Potter, she's welcome to him."
Hermione inhaled deeply, and let it out in a sigh of relief. "I'm glad. I didn't really think you'd do anything to hurt her, but she is a friend of mine and I tend to worry about her."
"Miss Weasley is very much like you, Miss Granger. She's easy to talk to, and she has a good heart. She also has something of a temper, which will stand her in good stead if she does manage to capture Potter's attention. If he's anything like his father, it will take a firm blow to the head to get him to open his eyes."
Astonished at the maturity level of that comment, not to mention the implied compliment, Hermione looked up at Severus and noticedmore of the recent changes. His face had lost that soft, childish cast and had resumed the planes and angles of his adulthood, although without the careworn lines. His hair, black and sleek, now flopped over his collar and was in need of cutting.
"You've really grown up, haven't you," she told him softly. "You're almost back to normal." She was surprised to realize she'd miss the younger boy who'd been her charge for the last few months.
Severus groaned and thumped his head against the wooden panel near his arm. "What I am, Miss Granger," he admitted, "Is a thirty-nine year old wizard going through puberty for the second time. It's just as bad as I remembered, and I'd give anything to not be caught in this morass of hormones and urges. Miss Weasley may thank my self control for her continued virtue, because I will admit there were times I was sorely tempted to seduce her for real."
"Oh," Hermione managed, covering her mouth with her hand to stifle the laugh that she was sure he wouldn't appreciate. "Should I say sorry?" She wasn't entirely certain how to react to this person, who was at once her Potions Master, the small child she once cared for, and, she was beginning to realize, a rather attractive boy her own age.
"You should be sorry," he told her. "As much as I admire any female form at this point in my development, the fact that you were not present was quite torturous."
"Me?" she asked, her mouth going somewhat dry. "For what?"
"To talk to," he told her simply. "I didn't realize how much I enjoyed your company until I was denied it, Hermoine."
"Oh," she repeated, somewhat flustered. "You can always talk to the boys."
"Not like I talk to you." His dark eyes danced with merriment, and something else.
"Well, if you're going to keep aging, you'll soon be back among the other teachers. You'll have them to talk to."
"Perhaps," he allowed. "Though I never conversed much with them, either. I'm a Slytherin and a Death Eater. Not exactly the type to bring admirers flocking to me, nor was I the type to encourage their attendance."
"But at least you'll be able to reclaim your life. I was starting to worry that the aging potion had worn off and you'd be stuck growing up again."
"Yes, my maturing process is still underway, it seems. The jumps are further apart, but each one is adding more years. Eventually I should return to the man I once was."
"I hope not," Hermione said without thinking, and immediately blushed. "What I mean is, you were a baby, and you've grown up without any of the usual wear and tear. For instance, you used to limp when the weather was bad. Did you break your leg once?"
"Yes," he admitted. "Playing Quidditch at university. A particularly nasty blatching foul with the opposing team's Seeker. We ran right into the goal posts, broke both our broomsticks and fell about thirty feet."
Hermione was horror-struck. "I hope the referee called it!"
"Of course he did – and while I may have cost my team a penalty throw, it gave our Seeker time to catch the Snitch and win the game." Snape's unrepentant grin was dazzling, and Hermione could not help smiling back. What was it about bad boys that was so attractive?
"Perhaps," she ventured, returning to the previous subject of his aging, "we can talk to Professor Vector about coming up with an Arithmancy formula for your progress."
"A reasonable thought. Although I would guess Gryffindor will be stuck with a transplanted Slytherin until at least the end of this term."
Hermione was not at all dismayed at the thought of being stuck with a teenage Snape in the tower for the rest of term, although Lavender and Pavarti might require leashes. "Then I can help you and Ron both on your Charms work. Professor Flitwick thinks you can retrain some of your bad habits away."
"With your nagging, er, help," he amended, "I imagine many things are possible."
"That's the thing, you know," she found herself saying, without really thinking. "With magic, almost anything is possible."
"Is it?" he replied, looking down into her eyes, his own black pupils seeming to pull her towards him until the jostling movement of the train threw them off balance. His grip on the door handle kept him upright but opened under the extra pressure. The moment broken, he shrugged. "I certainly hope so."
Following him back towards their car, her eyes pinned to his lately broadened shoulders, Hermione whispered a last comment to herself.
"So do I."