AN: Now that I have found a beta – this first chapter has been re-worked.
Many Thanks to Anachronistic Anglophile.
Chapter 1 'Hadrian'
December 12, 2004
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
Athena Snape was not impressed. Ever since Mummy and Daddy had brought home baby Hadrian, the level of the attention she received had been quite simply unacceptable. Quality, not quantity, was the issue. Everyone who had visited the Snape household over the last few days had made a point of informing her that she must be so excited to have a little brother, never mind that no one had actually bothered consulting her on the matter. Even at the tender age of four, there were only so many misguided assumptions a precocious child like Athena could tolerate before something drastic had to be done.
The issue at hand was ridiculously straightforward. Having inherited a marked tendency to stew over perceived wrongs from her father, she combined this with her considerable intellect to quickly enumerate the offences against her before deciding on an appropriate course of action
There was no doubt in the young girl's mind that the worst offender was Mummy.
Mummy had always been the happiest about the baby. Daddy never showed much emotion, so even though Athena knew he was happy too, his quiet joy did not bother her nearly as much as Mummy's bouncy enthusiasm and broad smiles. Since the baby had come home, Mummy had not baked Athena a cake like she promised, and no one had asked her what she wanted to play. Everyone just looked at the baby in Mummy's arms and made silly noises.
The worst crime of all, however, was Mummy's audacity in punishing Athena, when all she had done was pinch Hadrian in front of Uncle Harry and Aunt Ginny. It was not her fault that he started crying. From what she had witnessed, Hadrian cried all the time anyway, so Mummy's reaction was clearly uncalled for. She had narrowed her eyes, and even told Athena in a scary voice to 'go to your room immediately young lady!'. In the midst of contemplating Mummy's mistakes, Athena seemed briefly considered that Daddy had frowned at her too. She supposed that even though it had been a very big frown, Daddy did that all the time even to Mummy, so he must not really be angry.
Having satisfied herself as to the totality of her parents' guilt, Athena's tenacious little mind began to settle on a plan. Contemplating the consequences of any potential act, she decided to do something that would sit particularly badly with Mummy, but would not likely attract Daddy's ire. In all honesty, Athena was not too worried about Daddy's reaction. Ever since she had found Daddy's new hiding spot for Firewhisky and cigars, they had come to an understanding. No one wanted to listen to Mummy screech about 'irresponsible fathers' and 'disgusting habits' again. It was much better, for the most part, just to keep each others' secrets.
Deciding with childish caprice that Mummy was the sole perpetrator of the recent spate of inexcusable crime, Athena hatched a more specific plan of action. One of Mummy's weaknesses was her tendency to try to explain everything to everyone. She could not stop herself from giving the most long-winded lectures whenever anyone had the lack of foresight to ask a question about her mother's work at the Department of Mysteries. To add to this, Mummy sometimes got so caught up in the world of research and invention that could not refrain from bringing her work home.
Athena knew Mummy's second-to-latest obsession (the new first was obviously stupid baby Hadrian) was currently residing in the drawer of the desk in the study. Taking it would even be doing a good deed for Daddy. Daddy never liked Mummy's projects. He always complained that she took up too much of his desk space when she was working on something. To this, Mummy unfailingly replied that he already had an office, a private potions lab and a classroom so she would 'damn well make use of the private study he rarely used anyway'. Athena thought Daddy might even thank her for removing this troublesome object.
Of course, Mummy was never so irresponsible as to leave any indication to her daughter as to where she kept this important object, but her caution was for naught. A few days ago, Athena had seen Daddy take the thing out of the drawer and look at it for a long time, before carefully placing it back. Daddy had pulled a funny face while he was looking at the ugly necklace. He probably thought it was sad to have it in the house too.
After waiting a reasonable amount of time in her room, Athena began to implement her vengeful plot. Tiptoeing into the study, she glanced around and decided the coast was clear. Mummy was too trusting. To Athena's benefit; she neither locked Athena's bedroom door nor did she ward the desk drawer. As a result, it was supremely easy to opened the drawer and take out the object. It was strange, comprising of a small hourglass filled with glitter-dust, suspended between two thin golden hoops, and hanging on a fine chain. Mummy had officially shown it to Athena before, warning her daughter not to touch the golden hoops, or else. Of course, being single-mindedly focused on upsetting her mother, Athena flicked the rings maliciously. All of a sudden, her vision went dark, and the little girl screamed in panic.
Leaving Severus to see the Potters to the Entrance Hall, Hermione spent several minutes calming baby Hadrian and putting him to sleep in his crib before checking on her daughter. She now felt slightly guilty about sending Athena to her room. After all, Hermione thought with all the goodwill and blind optimism of a loving parent, the girl had not actually meant to harm her brother. Athena was a bright but stubborn child, and Hadrian was a change she would eventually accept, though Hermione knew it would take some time. However, before Hermione could reflect on her daughter's mindset any further, she heard a muffled squeak from the direction of the study.
On reaching the relevant doorway, Hermione was not really surprised to see that her husband had reached the study before her. Even after all these years, Severus was always keen to see the Potters to the door with undue haste, and after all, the study was closer to the living room than the nursery. She smiled fondly at the thought of her husband's stubborn nature. At times, Severus still pretended to need 'quiet time' to regain his equilibrium after any interaction with Harry Potter. Ever the dramatist, this involved nothing but sitting and staring into space.
However, now was not the time for sentimental musing. One glance at her husband's posture was enough to tell Hermione that he was in considerable distress over what they both knew must have occurred.
He standing up ramrod-straight and eyeing the open, empty drawer with a frown. His black eyes were completely shuttered and lips pursed into a thin line. Walking into the study fully, Hermione gave him a bright smile and gently wrapped her arms around him, leaning her head against his chest. Though his body relaxed almost immediately when he returned her embrace, he was clearly still upset. It seemed no amount of mental preparation could entirely quash his feelings on the matter.
'I do hope you haven't made any mistakes with that Time Turner, witch,' he said, with a noticeable bite in his tone. 'I must reiterate the difficulty I have in attempting to reconcile how the thing can have the "potential to cause temporal dislocation" and yet be as "child-safe" as you claim.' After seven years as her teacher and almost the same amount of time as her husband, Severus had made an art form of mimicking his wife's worst know-it-all tone of voice.
Being well acquainted with her husband's methods of deflecting attention from his true emotions, Hermione deliberately refused to rise to his bait, taking comfort in the fact that she was certain all the calculations had been done correctly. She and her fellow Unspeakables had perfected the art of sending someone back a few years rather than mere hours in time with some modifications to ordinary time dust, but so far they had been entirely unsuccessful in managing to keep people there. All test subjects had returned within a few days to their own time, having spent between a few hours to a fortnight in the past. This case had even less variables than many of the other experiments, as it was not really an experiment at all. She therefore felt no guilt at all in grinning somewhat mischievously at her irritable husband as she answered.
'At least we know she'll be well looked after.'
If Severus' snort was any indication, he heartily begged to differ.