The Circle

DISCLAIMER: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

Author Note: Many thanks to Shiv5468 and Ann_MCN for betaing this story for me. My brief for the SSHG_Exchange (Summer 2006) was to write a story involving either a Time-Turner or a young Snape. I'd like to think I've accomplished both! :)

Part I – Reparations

Payback is such an interesting concept. It can mean so many different things and at its most innocuous, it is nothing more than a promise. At its worst, it can mean a promise of sorts, but revenge and payback in this instance are quite rightly labelled together. I knew what I was doing, but Merlin knows I should have stopped myself from enjoying it so much, but enjoy it I did. I paid back every slight, every nuance of speech and every wrong I felt slighted by after all those long years watching a master at work. I suppose you could say that I created a monster without ever realising it. I think I was a major causal agent; a catalyst if you will, for the foul behaviour returned to me in my time.

That all sounds so vague, but bear with me for an explanation of sorts. I shall attempt to explain so that I can assuage my own guilt and remorse for that which I couldn't see at the time. It's rather more obvious now, but still galling to think that I succumbed so easily to the power laid in front of me. I enjoyed putting right the wrongs I myself had been forced to suffer under the most unique of teachers.

It was the stupidity of youth, of course. It doesn't excuse my actions, nor does it diminish their effect. Guilt is an emotion I've spent a long time coming to terms with. It's taken me the best part of three years to come to argue with my conscience and devise a plan to unravel the mess I started.

It all started when I arrived home from work one cold autumn evening to an odd parchment snuggled next to my Floo pot, with no obvious owl awaiting a few treats to explain its presence. It all makes sense now, for I've always thought it all a rather twisted dream, an odd hope to return some semblance of the ridicule I suffered as a student. My thoughts are getting jumbled again and it's taking so long to straighten them out. That too was a product of the past, another time lost with no solution in sight. Alas, it was not a dream, but now that I can think clearly – it was a horrifying nightmare. When I choose to think about my own actions, I wish I'd managed to approach the whole episode with more maturity, but like a new puzzle to solve, I set about doing my upmost to ensure that I was the most loathed teacher at Hogwarts. In a way, I deserved the payback meted out to me, but it's not an event I would willingly choose to repeat, should the opportunity ever present itself again. Well, at least I hope I wouldn't, but time and hindsight are wonderful tools for no other reason than they exist on a i'what if'/i plane of understanding.

I can't remember using the Time-Turner to pervert the past, but there it is sitting in front of me, tempting me rewind the clock as it were. I won't though – it's not my turn. My reparations are just beginning to coalesce into a concrete idea, and it's time to apologise to the person I slighted all those years ago. Oh, I've tried at odd times to send an owl, but at each juncture, I've baulked and realised that penance for a wrong is only applicable if you're actually sorry for the slight. And I never was...sorry that is, not until I re-discovered the Headmaster's package. Only Professor Dumbledore could neatly hone in on the problem to hand and leave me feeling all the more guilty for my actions.

That's how I ended up here, with scraps of parchment scattered all over my desk and a vicious headache threatening to pound through my skull. It's time for me to make reparation to my victim and I haven't the first clue how to go about it. I keep thinking about everything that's happened all over again, and each time I find myself reflecting on the person I so easily became. I'm finding it hard to reconcile my actions as the one responsible for so many slights. To be the cause of so much strife and now be faced with the Headmaster's solution is all the more vexing for any number of reasons that will soon become all too apparent...


"Just what do you think you're doing, you stupid boy? This is a Potions' classroom, not a research facility for you to waste precious ingredients."

The snickering from the Gryffindor corner of the room was unmistakable and though I could have stopped it, I didn't. Instead, I fed the beast that sees children mete out their own vicious intentions quite plainly.

"My apologies, Professor. I'll be finished in a moment."

He'd sounded contrite, caught out and so unlike his i'other'/i persona that I nearly forgave him just to find out what he was doing; it did look interesting.

"You will finish with it immediately, Mr Snape, and see me after class to discuss your detention."

I'd finished it off with a snarl to let him know just who was in charge. He stopped then and looked me straight in the eye, all the while trying to peel back the edge of the desk with his hands. We had a staring contest that first day, and each day thereafter, but it never seemed to stop him from pushing me to the limits of my endurance. I think he enjoyed it in a roundabout sort of way.

"Yes, Professor."

Good grief, he had even sounded just like me, with that same exhaled breath half posed in defeat, and half in annoyance.

James and Sirius had joined in mimicking him then and I allowed it to progress until a classroom duel seemed likely. They settled back into their corner; the corner where Harry and Ron always used to sit, and looked rather smug about the whole thing.

"Oh, and fifteen points will be deducted from Slytherin for your attitude and inability to follow my directions, Mr Snape."

I enjoyed taking that first set of points...the first of many in that exceptionally long term. I wanted it to be a whole year, firm in the knowledge that I had so many resources open to me to taunt and subjugate him. I enjoyed the sensation of bullying him as he had harried me. He did nothing to garner the loss of more points, just bowed his head and stayed out of my line of sight for the remaining fifteen minutes of the class time.

I can still remember watching methodically as he packed away his Potions kit, wiping clean his equipment with a level of care that none of the other students thought to copy. No wonder he had always been so fastidious about the cleanliness of his supplies.

"Mr Snape, I haven't got all day for you to play with your kit. I would like to get some lunch before I have to teach more dunderheads like you this afternoon."

He'd looked up like a startled rabbit then and had then immediately gone back to the task of packing his bag at the same delicate pace as I stood in front of the bench and fumed. I was annoyed with myself more than anything for dropping such a weighted entendre right at his feet.


"I don't like your attitude Mr Snape. You are very close to losing more points for Slytherin and finding yourself in another detention, one that you will not enjoy in the slightest."

He'd jumped when I slammed my open palms on the bench in front of him. I could see the fear in his eyes and I could have stopped it them...if I'd wanted to do so. I couldn't make my robes swirl around me, but I realised in that instant that I could be just as menacing if I chose to be. I just wish I'd put a Cushioning Charm on my hands before my rash display.

I can still remember seeing him nodding his head as if in defeat, only to raise himself up after a moment and look at me directly with an air of defiance written all over his features.

"Do you have something to say to me, you stupid boy?"

"No, Professor."

I can still see his hackles rising at the barb of stupidity. He hated it as much as I had hated it, and his defiance fed my maliciousness.

"I suggest, Mr Snape that you listen very closely to me. I do not like you nor your blatantly defiant attitude, but there is little I can do about it. I am only substituting whilst Professor Slughorn recuperates from his latest...adventure, but I will not tolerate your wilful behaviour whilst I am in charge. Do I make my self clear?"

"Yes. Perfectly clear."

"Yes, what?"

"Yes, Professor, you've made yourself perfectly clear. May I go now?"

I'd nodded my head then and waved my hand idly towards the door. It let him know that I just wanted to be shot of him for the rest of the day. I even forgot to request a time for him to show up to detention, but I needn't have bothered. He'd shown up again at precisely seven o'clock, more than likely realising that I would have taken points for tardiness.

After that first day it was easy to keep him off balance and wary. He arrived at classes early, left late and proved adept at Potions like no other student. He'd been surprised the first time I asked him about his experiments, and thinking himself in trouble, he'd prevaricated and annoyed me with his evasiveness. As it was his fifth year and full of the spectre of the O.W.L's hanging over him, I more than once dropped the suggestion that annoying me would see him fail quite comprehensively, if his defiance and attitude did not become more...elastic.

It did little to temper his defiance, but whilst he wasn't actually unctuous, he did go out of his way to always prepare the most complete experiments and class exercises I had seen. Well, that I'd seen since I was his student in any case. He even had the temerity to add copious footnotes and additional references, knowing full well that I would have to look them all up individually.

I put paid to that little exercise by registering a near failing mark on one of his assignments, with a note stating plainly that 'know-it-alls' were unwelcome in my classroom. He didn't say anything about it, nor to my knowledge did he ever talk to Professor Dumbledore about my unusual teaching methods. Had he done so, I might have realised sooner just how arbitrary I was and sought to distance myself from repeating all of his misdemeanours back to him.

I never ever realised, even then, just how intoxicating power was...or indeed is. I've often wondered just where the lines blurred beyond recognition and I became the monster instead of the teacher. It's a fine line that one, but unless I make my reparations for those appalling slights, it's one that I can never hope to answer.

After the incident with the Whomping Willow, I could have retreated and behaved in a sullen manner, letting most of my mood pass unnoticed, but I'd been drawn into the weave of it all by then. After Snape had been released from the Infirmary, I went out of my way to goad him into some sort of action, never quite realising just how much I was adding to his loathing of everything associated with Gryffindor.

I'm to blame for it all, every last skerrick of hurt and revulsion he ladled out later was as a result of my instigation. I just didn't realise it at the time. That he focused most of his ire to Harry rather than to me is something I haven't quite figured out yet. I sided with other students, didn't listen to his ideas and went out of my way to demoralise him, all under the guise of a teacher. I was barbarous and though only in charge of the class for a single term, I managed to stamp my authority all over him...and he in turn reversed the trend later. Oh, I'm sure there were other catalysts for his foul moods, but I tend to think if I had not started the whole baiting exercise, he might have been a bit fairer.

And then it all started to unravel like a fragment of silk torn from a skein...


It wasn't until I started to have the oddest dreams all through my fifth year, just before my O.W.L's started. Each dream was more disturbing than the next, and each one wafted into my mind after every trying Potions lesson. Every time Snape put me down, or refused to acknowledge my presence in his classroom, I dreamt that I was the one in charge and no longer the impotent student heckled by authority. I didn't ever notice the dreams as memories rather than the product of my over active imagination. I pulled all the aspects apart time and again hoping to find the one anchoring point that I needed to understand my imaginary actions. They were dreams after all. There was never any possibility that they might have had a more sinister overtone until Professor Dumbledore's executor sent me a funny little parcel with a covering letter. The package was dated three years ago today.

The dreams stopped for a while after the events in the Astronomy Tower at the end of my sixth and final year at Hogwarts. After that, it didn't seem so important to dream of how I could demoralise another human being. I was so shell shocked by it all. To understand how someone could willingly take the life of another left me little time to dream. I was left to help Ron bolster Harry as he succumbed to his own nightmares. Truthfully, I was more than a little guilty about it all, as though if by dreaming I had sealed Snape's fate and infused my distaste for his antics on myself.

Oh, how wrong was I.

Professor Dumbledore's parchment is still lying open in front of me, taunting me and highlighting my part in the whole debacle. I don't ever remember reading it before, but then I assume that last time I was so eager to get my hands back on the Time-Turner, that I eschewed everything else that might have carried some explanation of...everything.

It's five years now since Voldemort was defeated and I've been busy in that time. I helped Harry and Ron, as I'd always known I would. I railed against Snape when I had him at wand point during the fighting, but inexplicably he just stood there and let me rage at him. He did nothing to defend himself and even lowered his wand at one point. It was so out of character; the character that I thought him to be, that he put me off my stride and it allowed one of his compatriots to hex me close to the point of death.

I survived...just, but any dreams of making a name for myself as the i'best and brightest'/i disappeared at the end of that curse. I have problems with my memory now. It weaves in and out at odd intervals, but I can't seem to concentrate on anything important for any length of time. It's taken me ages to write this down for exactly that reason. Am I remembering the past, or am I having a waking dream full of nightmares and past regrets? I have been avoiding this whole issue for far too long, I know I have. I blame Snape for that too, but then I've also read Professor Dumbledore's note carefully several times since I re-discovered it, and it's only just starting to sink in as to just what my part in his character development actually entailed.

I don't remember using the Time-Turner to pervert the past, but I must have done so, for the proof is all laid neatly in front of me in the Headmaster's own handwriting. Perhaps it was a different timeline, a timeline where I retained some semblance of my former goals and ideals? I know it isn't where I am now, but it would have been nice if I could have used the pendant in front of me to undo my own mistakes. Professor Dumbledore added a caveat for that thought as well. He said, i'leave well enough alone, Hermione,'/i whatever that actually means. I would love to erase what little of my memory remains to forget this whole sorry episode, but I can't.

When Professor Dumbledore bequeathed me the Time-Turner I'd used during my third year at Hogwarts, I set it aside...I think. Anyway, I took the warning to, i'use it wisely,'/i in a way that I daresay Professor Dumbledore did not ever envisage, nor enjoy. I can sense his disappointment wrapped around his words even now. He outlined it all succinctly on two sheets of parchment. Every dig, slight and mean spirited thing that I did to Snape was laid bare in front of me. I want to burn his words, as though in doing so I can expunge my past quite neatly. Dumbledore has to bear some of the blame though. He let me teach, even though I was patently unqualified to do so and my bona fides were scant to say the least. I really don't know what he expected, but having found myself in a position of authority over Snape, the opportunity for a little payback was just too tempting to ignore. See, I don't think I'm wholly remorseful even now.

I have to find a way to make reparations for a terrible wrong and I haven't the slightest idea of how to start. I really don't want to think about it ever again, but I have to apologise to him, even if he throws it back in my face...


"Come to dance over my grave, have you, Miss Granger? You're a little late...or early depending on your perspective."

"How so, Professor?"

"Well, if you stay for a few hours more you'll no doubt enjoy watching me as I'm being reduced to a quivering lump of flesh. You see, I'm due to be Kissed today."

"Oh, I had no idea, really I didn't."

"Of course not. I take you decided that Azkaban was the perfect place for a picnic. Well, now that you've seen me, you can go. I really do not need any more of an audience than is my due right now."


"Oh, yes, all those Ministry officials grappling for tickets to see me Kissed. It's really quite pathetic actually. Most of them are my old students, so if you run along, you might just find someone willing to part with a ticket to the show."

"I...that is, how could they watch something so horrible?"

"It's not horrible in their eyes, Miss Granger. It's just payment for murdering Albus Dumbledore and choosing the wrong side in an insidious little war. Now, please stop asking me questions. Have you learnt nothing under my tutelage, because I despise stupid little girls asking me endlessly convoluted questions?"

"Was I really that bad, Professor?"

"No, of course you weren't. I thoroughly enjoy using my last few hours alive to debate the finer points of etiquette with you. I should have hexed you when I had the chance. Go away and leave me in peace! Have you no propriety to understand just how much I want you gone from my sight?"

I turned away then, as if in defeat, but before I went, I turned back to him and watched him as he ran his hands through his hair and paced around his cell like a caged animal.

"I apologise, Professor...for everything I've ever done to you."

"What you've done to me? What on earth are you on about, you gibbering little idiot?"

"I am not an idiot, Snape! I wasn't an idiot in your class and you know it."

"Perhaps you were less of a dunderhead than the rest of them, but what of it? What does that have to do with you apologising to me?"

"Do you ever dream, Professor? You know, dream about the past as though it were more than something made up on a whim."

"You're playing with me, Miss Granger. What could you possibly know of what I might dream?"

"More than you think, Professor...more than you think."

"More cryptic nonsense! Be plain, girl. I've little enough time left as it is. I really do not need this drivel just now."

I pushed my parchment from Professor Dumbledore through the bars towards him then. The guards had thought it something official and seemed reluctant to take something from me written in Albus Dumbledore's own hand.

"Where did you steal that from?"

"I didn't steal it, Snape. It was sent to me."

He turned his back on me then, clutching the parchment to him as I watched his chest heave. Then I watched him turn, not quite side on and gently smooth out the creases as he began to read its contents. He stopped more than once to look at me oddly, and then went back to his task silently. It was hard to watch him devour the words and I just stood and waited patiently for him to rage at me.

It didn't happen, and that was the most surprising thing of all.

"You do realise that this changes nothing. The past is the past and my present is as you see it. Take your letter and go away, Miss Granger. Give me some peace please."

"I'm sorry, Professor. I never realised what could happen, otherwise I wouldn't have done it in the first place."

"I am not your Professor! Just...just go. Leave me to my dreams, my nightmares."

"I have something for you, Pr...before I go."

"If it's anything less than a pardon or a pass to leave this place, I don't want it."

"Well, I suppose it a way."

I opened my hand then, having pushed it through the if to slap him, when I stopped abruptly and turned my hand over to face the floor. Dangling from my thumb hung a delicate gold chain with a small hourglass attached to it.

"Are you insane?"

"Not particularly, Snape, but I thought you might be able to find a use for this. I've lost the urge to dabble with the past...or the future for that matter."

"This doesn't mean I forgive you, you do realise that?"

"I expect nothing, Professor. I am merely making reparations for the past. Go on, take it."

"And what exactly am I supposed to do with this...trinket?"

"Whatever you like. Professor Dumbledore once told me to, 'use it wisely.' I expect you might have a few things in mind."

"A noble idea typical of a Gryffindor, but it still doesn't get me away from here."

"Doesn't it?"

"I'm in a secure location, with anti-Apparition, Portkey and wand protections in place to prevent escape. This is, if I am not mistaken, a magical object, and so it won't work here."

"Won't it? How silly of me not to declare it on my way past the guards. There is a precedent, Snape. It's not like you'll be the first prisoner to ever escape Azkaban."


"Yes, Sirius managed it quite nicely. I'd wager that anything he could do, you can do almost as well."

"And you want me to use this to change the past, to remove your guilt in all of this?"

"No, Professor, I want your past to reflect what might have been if I hadn't buggered it up in the first place. If you end up back here through your own means, that's none of my concern."

"Thank you...I think."

He took it off me then, with his hand shaking. As I started to leave, he hoarsely murmured something that I didn't quite catch. As I started to walk away, I replied as though I had heard him.

"Use it wisely, Snape. Use it wisely."