The International Journal of Transmutations and Transmogrifications
The Alchemy of the Soul and Other Transformational Magics
The foundational underpinnings of transformative magics have been a source of fascination since witches and wizards first discovered the functional differences between the incantations for Reducio and Reducto. (Merlin, 512). The establishment of formal schools of Witchcraft and Wizardry, however, introduced many such spells into the daily lexicon of young witches and wizards whose fundamental concern was, necessarily, mastery of incantations and magical techniques and preparation for quantifiable testing of their skills in a variety of core disciplines (Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw & Slytherin, 1010).
Although some theoreticians continued to delve into the subtleties of the magical ether, the majority of researchers shifted their focus to avenues by which they could most effectively and profitably corral the forces of magic for industry, domestic use, and entertainment (Bragge, 1250; Wright, 1410).
The result of this significant shift in priority and focus has been the education of generations of magical children in only one aspect of the functional properties of the magic's they wielded to the detriment of their theoretical implications.
The first time she'd tried the transformation, she didn't honestly expect to succeed. Everybody said that it took months, or more likely, years, to accomplish. Even so, being Hermione Granger, she couldn't help but be vaguely disappointed not to be the exception that proves the rule.
It had appealed to her as an academic exercise, tackling advanced magic on her own. She needed something to distract her from the hollow ache left by too many losses and the ragged edges of threads unravelled by her own hand. There were so many loose ends dangling: schooling unfinished despite sitting for NEWTs, the end of a barely-begun relationship with Ron, and a strained, distant relationship with her parents weighed down by years of absences and half-truths and sunk by one fateful memory spell.
The early months after the war seemed surreal; the future spread out before her like a buffet of the choicest Hogwarts delicacies. For Hermione, though she'd never admit it out loud, being free to choose her path was nothing less than miraculous after the horrors they had all escaped. But when the passing months left her more muddled than focused, she told herself that she was just tired. But no matter what she tried, nothing held her attention, her restlessness only compounded by the implicit pressure to just get on with it. How does one get on with it after what they'd all been through, she wondered. And besides, after months of running for their lives, how could something as mundane as a job compare?
Coasting for months in the aftermath of chaos, the odd project for Weasley's Wizard Wheezes keeping her busy and paying the rent, had given her a cocoon, a place to rest. Or, if resting wasn't quite it considering that her irritability didn't ease even as the chaos around her did, at least she'd found a familiar place to perch. Now, faced with an uncertain future and nothing to focus on, being Hermione Granger was, frankly, no fun.
For the first time in her life, she longed to be somebody, anybody, other than herself.
And in the restless months after breaking up with Ron, drifting between the life that was and the one not yet found, Hermione wanted nothing more than the option just once in a while, when things were especially difficult or lonely to shed human form altogether. How could it be that she could transform a snuffbox into a hamster and a drinking goblet into a raven, but she couldn't turn herself into what was, supposedly, the animal essence of herself?
If the magical theory was correct, by now she should be able to easily eliminate those wretched hands and feet and exchange them for paws.
And add a snout.
And shift effortlessly into a sleek body that could cut through the water without a care in the world.
Oh, for the oblivion, the mindless joy that would bring.
She could really use it.
It had never occurred to him that there was anyone with a greater grasp on the pulse of the wizarding world than Albus Dumbledore. And given Dumbledore's propensity for half-truths, evasions, and manipulation, he'd long ago become inured to dodging the shrapnel of randomly thrown bombshells each time his own world had begun to make a sort of malevolent sense in its own right.
In retrospect, he supposed that Dumbledore wouldn't have considered it in his own best interest or that of the "greater good" to clue Snape in on what Unspeakables actually do. Or what they know. Purveyors of knowledge and skill beyond his scope of control rarely appealed to the man who had played the wizarding world like a game of chess.
The end of the war had come at a clip reserved for what he privately referred to as "That which Severus Dreads Most". No more so than on that last night, standing before the Dark Lord, his blood running cold. He'd spent hours slipping beneath the shadows, precariously balanced on a razor's edge between the worlds he traversed; certain that the next encounter would expose his duplicity. Never in his harshest nightmares would he have predicted that the Dark Lord would dispose of him with barely the blink of a red-tinged eye, not to mention for the wrong reasons. How anticlimactic, he thought, to be deprived of his own unmasking, even in death.
His memory of that night, the maw of the great snake coming at him, lifeblood drenching the parched wooden floor and depleted earth below ran like a blurry scene from someone else's life. Even the urgency of his mission, finding Potter, telling Potter what he must do, had since faded like an old wizarding photograph whose colour and motion had grown grey and patchy with time.
He'd spent long nights obsessing that he'd find the boy only to have his integrity and his message dismissed. Vivid dreams in those bleak nights before the end led him to consider whether, if given the option, Potter might at least have the sense to look even if he wouldn't listen. Memory, after all, was the purest of vessels, and one of the few bits left of him still untainted.
What would it be like, Snape wondered as he walked the hushed corridors of Hogwarts just as Dumbledore had meant him to do, to be seen as he actually was, rather than as the shrouded man whose bitterness had become so ingrained that he feared it had become cardinal truth? An ironic end for a spy, he'd thought distantly, as memory spilled from him like silver water. To end a life of hiding turned inside out.
By the time they'd found him, strangers whose urgent voices pierced the haze and whose capable hands lifted him from the dusty floor, he'd been as depleted as a vessel whose form was useless without its contents. For an interminable moment, with the chilling sensation of being moved below ground, he was convinced that the unfamiliar hands were carrying him to Hell.
He was pretty sure he belonged there.
If this was Hades, it was an odd sort. Burning pain was there, certainly. And a muffled confusion that reminded him of the deepest wells of grief. But the hands that touched him were too gentle to belong to tormenters, and the periods of agony grew shorter. The bustling that he sensed during the twilight moments between sleep and waking reminded him of lonely nights in Hogwarts hospital wing, as did the pungent smell of medicinal potions.
His first thought after opening his eyes, the light just bright enough to illuminate his cotton-swathed body, was that he must not have passed through the Veil after all. Reluctant experience with the sting of bait-and-switch meant reserving judgment; one never knew what fresh hell the gods had in store.
He watched them from behind hooded eyes, wondering what use they had for him. They chattered a lot but said little, and he slowly understood that his body was healing and his voice would soon return. That they were Healers had penetrated the pain and fear weeks before. That they were also Unspeakables came to him in a rush when the Healer whose confident voice had led the rescue and supervised his care invited him to sit, in a chair, no less, and ask the questions that pain and fatigue had muted. Looking around the small room at the witches and wizards whose voices had held him through his convalescence as surely as their hands, he was overcome with gratitude and a gut wrenching wish that he could have found this place, whole, healthy and ready to learn, twenty years earlier.
But of all the questions he could possibly ask, only one rose to his lips that afternoon. A whisper.
His words exploded into the hushed room of Healers who had swept him from the cold, filthy floor of the Shrieking Shack, nursed him day and night, who had brought every ounce of their skill and compassion to bear, seeing to his survival. The effort of speaking left him shaking, worn out as he was from fear and uncertainty, terrified that he might learn he'd been saved from one inferno only to be used as kindling for another.
The mournful expressions of the witches and wizards he'd come to know, if mainly by voice and quality of touch, confused him nearly as much as their stunned silence as it wrapped around him like the shroud that he still sometimes thought he deserved.
The International Journal of Transmutations and Transmogrifications
Prior to the battle referred to alternately as "The Final Confrontation" and "The Battle of Hogwarts", few witches or wizards knew that the overlord of the group known as Death Eaters, Lord Voldemort (formerly known as Tom Riddle), had attempted to avoid death through the creation of Horcruxes: intentionally splitting a mortal soul into fragments and magically secreting each fragment in an object then hidden for safekeeping. This method ensured that when his corporeal body was killed, the tatters of his soul remained tethered to the Earthly realm, thus allowing him time to reconstitute a humanoid form more than thirteen years after the wizarding world believed him to have been eliminated (Dumbledore, 1990).
While those on the front lines of the war necessarily invested their energies toward eliminating all known Horcruxes, they had no reason to believe that there might be global ramifications to this soul splitting (McGonagall, 2004). Despite successfully vanquishing the destructive wizard who had terrorised the wizarding world for decades, his creation of seven Horcruxes (see Appendix B for details on intentional vs. inadvertently created Horcruxes) thrust a blade through the fabric of magic, setting off a chain reaction of extensive and exponential devastation far beyond the destruction of Hocruxes and wizard alike (Shacklebolt, 2005).
The neglect of foundational academics in transformational magic left the wizarding world without scholars capable of addressing the complex and, ultimately, devastating consequences secondary to the intentional fragmentation of a magical human soul.
Hermione didn't make the connection, not at first. Reflexes honed by nearly a year on the run had softened, and so the distant reports of natural disasters and violence erupting around the world didn't initially pierce her post-war haze. But as the months passed and reports of unusually violent hurricanes, earthquakes, and human-made disasters, magical and Muggle alike, flooded the news, the knot in her stomach and the dread that rose to press against her throat each morning as she scanned the paper made the harsh reality impossible to ignore.
Despite the destruction of the most evil wizard to terrorise the magical world in a generation, something had gone dreadfully wrong.
Newspapers noted the continual trail of natural disasters and violent attacks with vague indifference couched in sorrowful words. Such awful tragedies, hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis—how helpless we are in the face of nature's wrath... We grieve the terrible loss of life. With the spectre of terrorist activity hanging over us all, what is the world coming to? They commented with distant abstraction on the rising numbers of fervently ritualistic groups whose attempts either to stave off the next catastrophe or infer causes with the fiery language of fire, brimstone, sin and retribution led to even larger waves of violence but had no apparent impact on the natural disasters continually peppering the globe. It was all so very interesting but had nothing whatsoever to do with them.
Hermione's discomfort grew day by day, but every effort to get her friends or even Ministry officials to take notice fell disappointingly flat. Friends and family were busy with work, studies, and rebuilding lives stolen by war. Ministry officers humoured her at first, but then stopped returning her owls. Nobody wanted to hear that there might be something more than a little odd about the apparently random disasters saturating the news. In the early hours of morning, when she lay awake in bed, worrying, she could admit that she understood their denial. Who could bear to think that Harry Potter's defeat of Lord Voldemort actually heralded the End of Days?
So, Hermione went to the only place she knew where data and research were treated with their proper respect. Three weeks in the Hogwarts library, indulgent dispensation given by her former Head of House, and five overflowing notebooks later, she was both more frightened and more determined than before. There was only one thing to do, she thought, only one place where her concerns might be treated seriously—one place that could address them without fear or obfuscation.
She hadn't been back to the lower levels of the Ministry for Magic since the night Sirius Black fell through the Veil, but the path to the sleek black door that marked the entry to the Department of Mysteries had the familiarity of a place oft visited, if only in memory and was gravely wrong, something unspeakable.
Someone had to say something.
The International Journal of Transmutations and Transmogrifications
It should be noted that historians have thoroughly documented the chaos that followed VWII, and this paper will not review that dark time in detail (see appendix A for a bibliography of suggested titles). Divisions in wizarding society that had been the norm grew wider and more
virulent than even during Voldemort's malevolent rule. Relationships between purebloods and half-bloods, between Muggle and non-Muggle-born continued to be contentious even subsequent to a war whose victory was, ostensibly, about mending those rifts. The continued failure of the wizarding community to integrate its population and rebuild was baffling to those who fought on the front lines of VWI and VWII (Shacklebolt &McGonagall, 2006).
The consequence of the damage to the fabric of magical space and time was multifaceted and affected the magical community on both individual and societal levels. It interfered with the inborn capacity of witches and wizards to exercise critical and reflective reasoning; to demonstrate flexible problem-solving; and to recognise the unique qualities of each witch or wizard and to value the differences between them (Shalva, 2004). One consequence of this, a rapid increase in the number of devastating magical accidents—especially uncontrolled magic erupting during an altercation—led to the highest rates of explosive magic ever documented in a wizarding population (Fudge, 2002).
The worst behaviour exhibited during the darkest days of war continued unabated despite the removal of Voldemort. Pain, isolation, confusion, and conflict spread throughout the community of witches and wizards and proliferated. That this anomaly took months to uncover can be attributed to both the insularity of wizarding culture and the government's pathological refusal to acknowledge the validity of even the most unmistakable evidence.
If he'd had the time, he might have felt guilty for enjoying himself so much. As it was, he was far too busy to care.
Unspeakable training was rigorous, more so than even his Potions mastery. He revelled in it, absorbing new disciplines with an eagerness he'd not felt since, well, ever. What a pleasure it was, he thought, to be free to learn without fear; for his achievements to serve no nefarious purpose, and to be given leave to leap into his studies with abandon. It took months for the reflexive flinch and glance over his shoulder to fade whenever a supervisor or colleague entered the room. Decades of vigilance softened ever so slightly as Severus settled into the first unequivocally scholarly setting he'd ever experienced.
His fellow Unspeakables were a varied lot: deeply involved in work that crossed disciplines, theoretical and practical; seeking out one another for scholarly discourse or assistance and the occasional shared meal. He knew some of them from his own schooling; others he'd taught. His reputation and natural reserve set him apart, as did the inescapable reality that some of them had pulled him from his old life and near-death.
He understood now, from his vantage point inside the department, that they had watched him for years, tracking the convoluted steps of his journey with instruments designed to monitor the ebb and flow of the hearts that held the soul of the wizarding world in their hands.
For now, his only task was to steep himself in the mystery that was magic and to wait for the project that would be his to find him. He wasn't in any hurry at all.
Accustomed as she was to having to fight her way through the forests of indifference and ignorance, Hermione was astonished to not only be invited in when she knocked on the door to the Department of Mysteries, but also to be asked to pull up a chair and stay for tea. If she hadn't known better, she would have said they'd been waiting for her.
Notwithstanding the stonewalling she'd received from department heads at the Ministry, she was, apparently, not alone in her worry about the sudden increase in disasters around the globe. But the war had wrought little change on the monolithic bureaucracy that had long specialised in denying even perhaps, especially what was standing right before its eyes.
Happily, the Department of Mysteries had a wholly different approach to crises and dilemmas, even those of the international variety. Any witch or wizard skilled and persistent enough to uncover a problem of such magnitude and who also managed to find the hidden door to the Department without the aid of the specialised Portkey used to ferry their infrequent visitors was someone they most assuredly wanted to enlist.
Hermione, delighted to be recruited, considered the matter closed once she'd had a look at their library. Without a second thought, she gave up the keys to the lonely flat she'd been renting in London and moved into chambers provided for trainees and those working on Special Projects.
Here, she thought, was a stellar example of on-the-job training. She was used to this. She'd made her way through Hogwarts with the same mix of regular class work and covert, vital research. It was an unanticipated pleasure to have her observations taken seriously and to no longer be alone in asking questions until the answers made some sense.
It wasn't that she was surrounded by other Unspeakables or trainees, she thought. In point of fact, she'd met hardly anyone apart from her instructors and staff who would wander through her training area now and again, looking for a book or muttering about choppy magical flux and flow. It was an unusually designed space for an unusual department. Laid out in embedded rings, peppered with nooks and crannies for teams to set up dedicated research space in proximity to whichever room or instruments they needed, it provided a delicate balance of solitude and support.
Reassured that the Department was already aware of what had come to be referred to simply as the anomalies, she threw herself into her training, delighting in the pleasures of unobstructed research and intensive lessons about the underpinnings of the wizarding world. And if she thought her introduction to Diagon Alley and Hogwarts had been filled with surprises, it was nothing to the briefings on wizarding history, culture, and magical management that made Hermione wonder if the decision to keep Professor Binns teaching was rather more than simply expedient.
By the time Hermione walked into the cavernous meeting hall, surrounded for the first time by the entire staff of the Department of Mysteries, she had encountered enough shocking revelations and unsettling bombshells buried in the bedrock of the wizarding world that the sight of the black hair and sharp features of Severus Snape bent over a book, oblivious to the noisy milling-about of his co-workers, caused her virtually no surprise at all.
The International Journal of Transmutations and Transmogrifications
Were the troubles limited to relationships between wizards, the magical community might have continued to interpret the conflicts that regularly erupted, as an unfortunate component of human nature and the source of the disruption might not have been sought. However, when nature itself appeared to turn on its inhabitants, the damage reached untenable proportions. Erratic displays of disruptions devastating in their scope and volume overwhelmed both the government's management and investigative abilities.
Along with the stepped-up efforts of law-enforcement, the Ministries of Magic around the world turned to their Departments of Mystery, tasking them with finding a viable model to explain and posit a solution for the rapidly escalating disequilibrium in both natural and interpersonal milieus (Shacklebolt, 2004).
Scholars now believe that, while the disruption had hitherto been continuous and gradual—albeit undetected—destruction of the final Horcruxes and of Tom Riddle severed the already fraying alchemical threads that held the world's elements together (Wu, 2006).
Indeed, when Riddle sought to tear his soul, he unwittingly shredded the soul of the wizarding world along with it.
He sat in the meeting room long past the time the others had gone. The thick sheaf of parchment dangled from his hand, unopened. What was the point, he thought. All the manoeuvring, years risking his life, his sanity; risking everything to try to save them all. And for what?
"Professor Snape?" The tentative voice broke through his rumination. Here it comes, he thought. First would be the inevitable questions about his survival, and then a pathetic attempt at half-baked thanks. Or, if he were really lucky, he'd be treated to a snide remark and not-so-thinly-veiled contempt for what others, insane others, thought of as his safety under the Dark Lord's protection—had they not heard the accounts of what was obviously his near death—while they and their families were in mortal danger.
Whoever it was, maybe she'd just leave if he refused to look up.
The movement he spotted out of the corner of his eye didn't bode well. She was moving closer.
"Yes," he growled. "I was at one time, for a gruesomely long time, Professor Snape." He was gratified by her gasp, and wondered if he could force the cracked stone beneath his feet to crumble if he glared at it hard enough.
"Yes, well, class time was gruesome all around, as I recall," her voice, sharper now, replied. "I'm sure it was all just awful for you, it certainly looked that way. I was there for most of it, remember? And I wasn't having all that much fun, myself." The sharp voice had devolved into a bit of a huff.
Class time... just awful? There for most— He lifted his head abruptly.
"Oh, hell," he muttered.
"Not yet," she said grimly.
"Perhaps not," he grunted. "But we are, it seems, well on our way." Everything about his bearing, his shuttered expression, his crossed arms, all of it, he thought, ought to make it clear as day that she should go now. How much more blunt must he be for her to leave him to his desolation?
"So what, you're just going to give up?"
It was as if she had slapped him. Who did she think she was—this child whose exploits at Hogwarts had given him nothing more than another moving target to try to protect during some of the most tumultuous years of his life?
"How dare you?" he hissed. He stood and looked her in the eye. She was startled, and he hardly noticed her eyes brimming with tears. "You were there for most of it, were you?" he mocked. "Such an arrogant little girl, you are. You were there for the blink of an eye, Miss Granger." His heart was hammering and he struggled to regain his composure. "I have been laying my life on the line attempting to salvage something, anything from the darkest hell you can imagine since the time you were a toddler trying to master the art of standing without wobbling."
Her gasp punctuated his tirade, and her tear-stained face stopped it cold. As irritated as he was by her presumption and her expectation, his days of intentionally provoking Gryffindors to the point of tears were long over. He turned away again, sitting silently on the hard wooden chair. She could stamp off to lick her wounds and, if there was any mercy in the world, leave him to the torture of his own.
Lost in thought, her soft voice startled him.
"Don't you want to know what's in that packet you're ignoring?" she asked.
He closed his eyes wearily. It was, of course, too much to hope that there would be some mercy in the world—how quickly he'd forgotten. Years under Dumbledore's thumb, decades managing one pushy, insensitive Gryffindor only to be saddled with another.
"I know what's in the packet, Granger," he muttered. "It contains what is probably a nonsensical and entirely useless report submitted by some flunky in one of the roughly three-hundred Departments of Mystery abroad. It is my assignment for the indeterminate future—a future whose outlook is, apparently, deteriorating by the day, and it names the unfortunate partner with whom I am expected to collaborate on this obviously doomed project."
"It's me, Snape. You're supposed to collaborate with me." She was waving her packet in front of him, as if he might miss it otherwise. "We've been assigned to investigate the findings of Master Wu from China. So, if you think I m prepared to let you sit here and sulk while I do all the work, you're sadly mistaken. Even if you are a war hero and I did think you were dead... for years," she added, almost to herself.
"I see that your level of respect for your former Professor hasn't changed a whit, Miss Granger. Such appalling disregard for a man you thought you saw die heroically in the war. Tut, tut." He wasn't sure why he was goading her, but he felt reckless at the sight of the young woman who he remembered with both grinding irritation and bottomless envy. And if that weren't enough, the last time she had seen him, he'd been in a particularly compromising position. That sort of thing did tend to make him tetchy.
"Respect? I gave you nothing but respect, Professor," she said. " Even after—" Her voice caught. "Look, I'm sorry about what I said earlier. You're right, of course. The time I've spent fighting in this war has been nothing compared to yours. It's just... I knew that things were more complicated than they seemed even then... you know, when you left Hogwarts. There always seems to be more to the story, Professor, as there obviously is now."
"Yes, there's more to the story, Granger," he rasped. " Everything we did, every moment of horror we lived through, none of it matters. Potter killed the Dark Lord, but that malevolent bastard had already killed us all." He stood, agitated.
"No, don't say that," she insisted. "It's not over yet. At least we have something to work on. Everyone on the outside is just sitting there, waiting for the disaster that's going to knock down their house or blow up their families."
He stopped and turned to look at her, at her defiant, determined face, hauntingly familiar, but no longer the girl whose voice and hair and certainty had filled his classroom. Hermione Granger had grown up. The silence that cloaked the room proved just how much. He cleared his throat, the tutor in him unwilling to simply walk away.
"I'd only just begun to consider that it might not be folly to hope for a somewhat benign future, Miss Granger." He swallowed thickly. "I expect that this should be a lesson to trust my first assessment."
"If that's the case, Professor," she whispered, "what do you have to lose?"
Pushing, pushing, and relentlessly wanting more. They never understood. The knowledge bore down on him, crushing in its weight, his truth slipping nearly silently into the space between them.
"Until you permit yourself to want something with every cell of your body, Miss Granger, you have nothing to lose. What is loss or fear to one who has no hope?"
Her sharp gasp was less gratifying than he'd expected. He met her eyes, tear-reddened but determined. He recognised the tenacity of youth in her expression and a fierce hopefulness that he remembered from his own days spent scheming to overturn evil from within. What could she possibly know about hope and loss?
But he remained there, standing with her, only the soft sounds of their breathing filling the cavernous space. Her tears fell quietly, as if intuiting how easily he could plummet into the abyss of despair that lay just beyond. He wouldn't look at her. He didn't want to know her, nor what pained her so deeply.
At last, with only the slightest pursing of his lips to indicate that he'd made a decision, he broke the thick wax seal, unfurling pages of parchment inscribed with fear, uncertainty and the barest blush of possibility.
The Department of Mysteries unfurls its labyrinthine coils far beneath the city streets. Chambers tumble over one another, indifferent to the laws of Muggle physics and geometry. Even the Unspeakables who work and even, sometimes, live there don't know all their secrets, though certain rooms are inexplicably imbued with legendary status.
One such chamber gained its reputation by virtue of its unwavering inaccessibility. Its door remains firmly locked and has for decades been the subject of perpetual speculation. Like a parlour game for bored Unspeakables, they guess what lies beyond the sleek black door. Did it contain baby Dementors? Perhaps it held creatures so dark that they could not be released into the open air? Albus Dumbledore liked to hint, in his typically enigmatic way, that the room contained nothing more terrible than Love.
But, they argue, if that were so, whyever would he have insisted that it remain perpetually locked?
Endless gratitude to my beta readers: AnnieTalbot, Juniperus, and Somigliana. There would be no story without you, ladies.
A/N: This story was originally posted for the SSHG Exchange and contains numerous graphic journal page illustrations. If you would like to see the story in its original format, go to The Online Wizarding library .?psid=8972
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Disclaimer: Not mine, just here to play.