Disclaimer: I still don't own anything.
AN: I'd like to thank all of you who reviewed and to say I'm sorry I didn't update for so long, but... it's a long story, concerning school, internet, an original novella and Why You Should Always Think Twice Before Promising Anything. And so on.
"Severus, I'd like you to meet Rowena," Albus introduced them.
They were in his very cozy office and Severus didn't like coziness much. Neither did he like the situation. At all. He scowled.
"Rowena?" he asked.
"Yep," she answered with a grin. "My parents were absolutely mad, I know. They wanted a flashy name, something... antique. So they chose a true Founder's Name. It's guaranteed to have been in the language since at least 961. That's something, isn't it?"
"Why didn't they just choose Mary? That one is in the Bible and it belongs to somebody famous enough." It was meant to be a sarcastic comment, but she didn't seem to notice. After all, somebody had decided that the definition of sarcasm is that thing which people keep not noticing.
"They were afraid I'd take after Magdalene," she replied with a grin. "Same with Eve. I'm still grateful they gave up on Moisa."
"They thought it'd make a splendid female version of Moses."
"How splendid to see the two of you agree already!" Dumbledore said, his usual twinkle in his eye, knitting his elegant fingers together in a figure of perfect innocence. "Severus, I'm sure you can show her around, then?"
The younger man glared at the Headmaster, expressing his desire to see the older man cremated before his very eyes.
"Of course," he replied.
"Well, then, I guess this is goodnight to both of you."
"Goodnight, Mr. Dumbledore," Rowena said, enthusiastically. "Hogwarts seems so exciting."
"Be careful not to let yourself be seen."
"At this time of night?... Of course not. But if I am, I can just pass myself off as his romantic interest, right?" she winked, then followed Snape who was halfway down the stairs out of the Headmaster's office already. She caught up with him quickly, then fell into step with him. Well, Dumbledore didn't suspect a thing. And she liked the idea of calling herself after herself. Just so she wouldn't forget her real name too soon. It would feel nice to be called Rowena, even if by only a few people.
Her roommates would never guess she was gone. After all, she'd taken care to hide her tracks through very careful non-first-year magic. Anyway, she liked her new look. She was medium-height, pale, with black, short hair and green eyes. She felt almost like herself again.
"He's so fucking exhausting," she said wearily to Snape, who threw her a look of surprise. "Or bloody exhausting, this is Britain, after all."
"Dumbledore," she answered with a shrug and a very normal tone of voice which she knew contrasted perfectly with what he'd seen in the headmaster's office.
"He didn't seem to bother you a few minutes ago."
"Yeah, well. I like to keep guarded around him. After all, if I was keeping a secret like you're keeping yours..."
He turned towards her, suddenly on his guard and growled, "what about my secrets, Rowena?..."
She threw him a half-smile to prove that she was not amused and not intimidated. "You're not hiding them well enough. A secret is only truly hidden when nobody suspects it's there. Otherwise, people like Dumbledore are very careful to try and worm it out of you. Whereas you are screaming out that you are a mysterious man with a strange past and a fucked up love life."
He almost took out his wand.
"I was just guessing," she shrugged. "Don't blame me if you're showing me stuff yourself. Come on, let's go. If I'm going to spend the night on the couch in your office, you'd better not attack me about everything I say."
He turned abruptly and started walking again.
"I think my boyfriend would be very proud of the way I handled Dumbledore up 'til now, at least," she said, still in a good mood, as they nearly ran down corridors. "And he will be proud, if he actually listens to what I say. I think he does. I hope he does."
"Bad love affair?" Snape commented, trying again for the sarcasm. He felt like rubbing something in. Usually, he'd have just let her talking to herself like that for a long time.
"Not really. It's great," she answered with a shrug. "Well, it was. While it lasted. He died three years ago. But maybe ghosts listen, eh?"
Snape's pace modified just a little with remorse.
"Oh. I'm sorry."
She shrugged again. "I'm moving on, I guess. Sort of. I stopped crying some time ago. But I keep him with me at all times."
"I do hope you're not referring to any piece of him."
"Gods, no! That would be disgusting. No, I just hang on to the memories and talk to him in my head and imagine his replies. That sort of thing. Hurts like a bitch. Even now. Sometimes I wonder whether I'm not creating just an image of him which has less and less to do with reality and more and more to do with my own fucked up brains, you know?... I have memories of us in a pensieve and yet... it's... oh, gods... Well. He's becoming an idea for me. I miss him, but I'm not sure I still remember him... So I try to live in the present. It's something to hang on to, the present. Don't you agree?"
"Fair enough," she shrugged. "We all have our own anchors."
Snape waited for her to ask which were his. But she didn't. She seemed to be much more... sensible... once removed from Albus. In his office, he'd have happily strangled her. And the Headmaster, too. Ah, how the old coot had called him to "offer accommodations to our newest member" as if he were a hotel. The image of a post hung above his rooms saying "The Snapz" came unbidden into his mind. He bid it go away. It did. A good control of your own mind can be a wonderful thing, he decided.
And then, of course, he'd seen her – she had been almost jumping about with excitement in a childish way and had evidently taken candy from the Headmaster, because she was still eating it when he'd come in. Had nobody told her not to take candy from strangers?... Apparently not.
Well, he assumed that Albus wasn't exactly a stranger, but still. You never knew what he put in them. Because, even though it wasn't common knowledge, the Headmaster made his own sweets. That was why the majority of the faculty avoided them. You just never knew what he came up with next.
But the woman turned out to be thankfully normal and didn't say much for the rest of the evening, except to ask if she could please magic some drapes into existence and transfigure his couch for comfort. He had accepted. And then they'd had a late-night meal in his office, which led him to observe the fact that she became oblivious to surroundings when she thought profoundly. He couldn't explain the knocking of the spoon against a front tooth thoughtfully except for that. No questions, no silliness. He was relieved.
By the time he woke up next morning, his couch was restored to its original shape and a note had been left on it, thanking him for the lodgings and the meal and his kindness, "see you soon and all that". He almost smiled to himself.
Unobtrusiveness was one of the major qualities a human being could have.
Hermione aka Rowena aka Rowena the person named after Rowena was tired. She hadn't slept enough on Snape's transfigured couch/bed and had to leave early enough to not bump into anybody in the Common Room and pretend she had been in the dorm after all. She knew it would only get more difficult as time went on, since older students tended to be more unruly and therefore were checked up on more often, but she would also have an excuse then – even if it happened to be boys.
She ignored Potter and Weasley at the table, although she noticed the eye-glassed boy receive a broomstick-shaped parcel (oh, goody, she thought, what could it be?... It's broomstick-shaped, and given to the son of a Quidditch star in Hogwarts and after the incident with Malfoy... why, it simply must be a gun to shoot his enemies with!). She threw a sneaky glance at the Head Table and saw something in Dumbledore's manner that made her realize that the old man had sent it. Well, it was nice, then, wasn't it?... Not that many people had given her gifts so readily. Ever. Ah, the brilliance of being famous.
She also noticed Snape scowling darkly. Oh, he knew who had sent it, too. And he didn't approve. No wonder there. Quidditch, Potters, gifts for being famous and Snape don't really mix well.
She noticed the boys running out of the Great Hall – more or less – and reluctantly decided to follow them. Who knew how much trouble they could get into in five minutes. She caught up with them up the stairs as they were enjoying their victory a bit too much and bragging about having won it because of Malfoy.
"So I suppose you think that's a reward for breaking rules?" she asked, hotly.
"I thought you weren't speaking to us?" Harry asked insolently.
"Yes, don't stop now, it's doing us so much good," Ron added, as proud as only an 11 year-old with a broomstick can be.
She didn't even reply to that, but stomped past them. Partly because her new persona demanded that, partly because she realized all of a sudden that she had forgotten her grown-up clothes on her bed and her roommates might scoop about (nasty curious buggers), so she had to make them scarce quickly.
Time passed. Then Halloween came. And wasn't that a mess?...
She acted her own bratty way in Charms and pissed off Ronald Weasley while also "showing off" a bit. But the truth was, she didn't feel up to her role at the moment, so she retreated from the first years' group and considered going to Snape as New Rowena and saying hello. Then she decided that it was a bad idea, given the day, so she wandered around the castle and finally decided that she could work on cultivating some special moss she'd discovered a few years' back. She went to her room, found the samples of it and decided that the best place to put the things was in a bathroom. So she chose one randomly – a convenient one – and put the thing in a hidden corner of a little-used stall, which she proceeded to spell in such a way as to be generally disregarded by students.
When she got out, she saw another girl in the bathroom, so she washed her hands and face for pseudo-hygienic purposes and left. On her way around the castle, she ran into Potter and Weasley, who were apparently commenting about her being horrible. So she pushed into Potter and stalked off. How impertinent of them! Then she wiped her face again, some of the water from the bathroom having been left on her face and – she realized – making her look as if she'd been crying. Ah, well.
During the Halloween feast, she returned to the bathroom to spell the moss location more carefully. After all, who could possibly run into her when they were in the Great Hall?... Of course, she lost track of time in between making spells perfect for both protection and secrecy. But, ah, well. Who cared?... It was just a feast.
And then. Well. Troll. In the bathroom.
She screamed. She screamed a high, piercing shriek that could probably be heard throughout the entire castle. Then she'd whipped out her wand again to fight him down. She hated trolls.
And then the boys came in. Potter and Weasley, running in through the door. She put her wand back in her pocket, cursing under her breath and wishing she was as good with wandless magic as always.
"Confuse it!" Potter cried.
That was a good idea. She hastily threw a mild Confusing charm on the troll, who looked around distracted as Weasley cried things at it. Then she decided to finish the job and started jinxing it under her breath. It required concentration to do so subtly and...
Potter was pulling her hand.
"Run! Run!" he was crying. But she was almost... Gah, it was so close to Weasley now!
Then Potter jumped at the troll, catching it from behind and in desperation of cause, her jinx broken, Hermione Rowena could only stare in disbelief as the boy's wand went up the creature's nose. She made a false step and crashed on her behind near the wall, cursing herself and then trying to jinx the thing again. She could do it. She could. But she cushioned the walls first, almost instantly, in case the troll decided to his his back to the wall.
And in that spare moment, Weasley used the levitation spell on the troll's club and took the thing out with its own weapon. Silence for a few moments as they all stared. 'I think I'm getting old,' Hermione thought. 'Too old for this.'
"Is it – dead?" she asked, incredulously.
"I don't think so," Potter answered. "I think it's just been knocked out."
Yes. That made more sense than being dead. But on the other hand, so did the two of them being saved by her, not the other way around, also made much more sense. She watched Potter wipe his wand on the troll's trousers. They probably had abso-fucking-lutely no idea in how much trouble they'd all just been. Neither did she, she figured. She should have thrown caution to the wind and Obliviated them later. Old, Rowena-Hermione, old, she told herself.
When McGonagall, livid with fury, Snape and Quirrell came in, she realized that they all had no business being there. Well, she figured. She could invent something. They'd come to save her, anyway. But how had they known about the troll being right there?... Ah. Those guilty looks on their faces. Their fault, then?... How unfortunate. Well, she had no idea why she was supposed to have been in the bathroom, but she quickly made up a story saying that she'd tried to bring down the troll on her own – which was true -, that she'd read all about them – true – and that Potter and Weasley had saved her in a most brilliant way. True again. Forget the moss. Nobody needed to know about the moss. The moss was her own until further notice.
On the way back, she was still trying to discover what the boys had thought she was doing in the bathroom, but they said nothing about it. It turned out, however, that it had been indeed them who had locked the troll in with her.
In the common room, they all said a thanks and then parted. But from then on, she treated them with a little more understanding. Sheer dumb luck in such proportions was usually, in her experience, a sign of greatness.
AN: Well, there's the chapter. Please review?... Thank you!