One Day Like This
All characters belong to J. K. Rowling.
'Mr. Newton, if I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times—you must take care with your measurements! This has bought you another D; if your next potion is as abysmal as this, points will be lost. Do you understand?'
The young Hufflepuff nodded minutely and scampered out of the room. Hermione, who'd been watching from the doorway, followed the boy's exit with a sympathetic gaze.
'Did you have to be so harsh? He's only little.' She placed down a pile of marked exam papers on the desk.
'Did you have to ask such a redundant question? When have I ever been concerned by such irrelevant trivialities as size?' He looked at her as one would a bothersome child.
Hermione shrugged ruefully.
'So, what are the marks like for those tests?' Snape nodded towards the pile of parchments.
Hermione picked up a few of the second-year papers. 'Not too bad, actually; a couple of students, Wilde and Blackburn, I believe, managed Trolls—'
'Yes, Gryffindors,' Hermione glared at him briefly. 'Otherwise, the majority achieved Acceptables, or higher.'
He took the pile off her and pulled his second-year register towards him. 'Capital. There's the next lot for you.'
Hermione gave a sidelong glance at the new stack of parchments and sighed. 'Capital.'
'Do I detect a note of dismay?'
'You do, Professor Snape; how very perspicacious of you.'
'Don't be facetious; now, take yourself off and do what you're paid for.'
'Yes, sir,' she muttered, with a resigned smile.
Hermione collected up the papers and left the classroom just as the first few students trickled in for the next lesson. She walked the short distance to Snape's office and let herself inside, dumping her next load of marking on the table. Taking a quill and inkwell off his desk, Hermione settled herself down and opened the first paper.
Tick; tick; tick; cross; tick... She didn't mind it so much, really. Granted, it was monotonous, but Merlin, some of the answers she'd read had made her laugh so completely that she couldn't help but enjoy it.
'How should you stir a Shrinking Solution?'
With a stirring rod.
'List the properties of a Flobberworm.'
They wriggle about.
Snape, she'd noticed, never took any amusement from such ignorance, which was why she was always careful to maintain a stoic countenance whenever she marked work in his presence. It was a lesson she'd learnt early on. Only a few weeks into her apprenticeship, when the whole experience was still awkward and new, she'd accidentally burst out laughing as she'd read one student's essay attempt.
'What, may I ask, is so funny about that piece of work?' Snape had immediately demanded.
He'd practically whipped the parchment out of her hands, almost without her realising.
'Oh, well, I just thought their distillation diagram was rather sweet...'
He sent her a look. 'Miss Granger, I don't care whether the student has bothered to include a pointless drawing, which, I might add, looks like it was completed by a Blast-Ended Skrewt—this exercise is not meant for elicit amusement; unless you take it seriously I'll give you cauldrons to scrub—I'd be interested to see whether you find that funny.'
Slapping the parchment back in front of her, he had marched back to his desk.
Hermione carried on reading until it was time to write the comments at the end. Obstinately, she wrote:
'I thought your diagram was lovely, Miss Bradshaw.'
She found that marking was quite relaxing, as well. Apart from the crackling of the fire, the room was silent. It had taken her some time to become comfortable in Snape's, dark, cavernous office, but several months down the line, she didn't even notice the pickled creatures anymore.
That had been an amusing conversation, though.
'Professor,' she'd ventured, after plucking up the courage for over half an hour, 'why do you have such a... wonderful collection of pickled bits and pieces?'
'Are they not to your liking, Miss Granger?'
'Well... no,' Hermione had admitted.
'And there is your answer.'
'So, their main purpose is to strike fear and discomfort into unsuspecting students?'
'Not just students, Minerva hasn't been down here in years.'
He was right; no one, apart from students, ever ventured down into the dungeons unless they could help it.
Hermione scratched out a big red O at the top of an exam paper. Besides, when she'd agreed to take on this position, she'd had no illusions that there wouldn't be any grunt-work involved. He hadn't actually made her scrub cauldrons, yet, so that was all right.
She worked steadily over the next hour and finished her task with several minutes to spare before the bell sounded, signalling the end of lessons and the start of the weekend. Her duties ended with that sound, as well, but she lingered over collecting up her things. She had nothing particularly to rush out for, after all.
She was placing the marked papers on Snape's desk when the door opened and the man himself entered.
'That's another week out of the way—only another four more to go until they bugger off home for Easter,' he muttered, throwing himself into his chair.
Hermione smiled briefly. 'I've finished the rest of the exams.'
She turned to go, but his voice recalled her attention.
'Actually, Miss Granger, I need to discuss something with you. Have a seat.'
Hermione obediently sat, eyebrows raised slightly in interest.
Snape wrenched open a drawer and rummaged around for several moments. He removed a folder that Hermione immediately recognised as her own.
'Severing my contract?' she asked wryly.
'Would that I could, Miss Granger, would that I could,' he responded long-sufferingly, but Hermione took no offence—she'd learnt to bear his repartee with good grace. 'Unfortunately, it is likely I would be lynched if I did such a thing.'
He opened the folder and pulled out a sheet of parchment. 'In fact, I have been informed that, despite the many demands already upon a teacher's time, in the spirit of ministerial bureaucracy and red tape, we have to have a discussion to evaluate and appraise your progress thus far.'
'My progress? It sounds like I'm on probation or something.'
He ignored her attempt at humour and dipped his quill into an inkpot. 'Well, let's see.' His voice sounded bored and flat. 'Right; what were your reasons for choosing to take up an apprenticeship in the first place?'
Hermione laughed shortly and a tad bitterly. 'I don't think you've got enough space there, Professor.'
Snape looked at her and his expression relaxed a fraction. 'No doubt you are correct.'
Her apprenticeship; now that was an interesting story and a long one at that. She'd rather fallen into it quite by accident, but, in hindsight, she was glad she had.
'The Ministry don't need to know the details...'
'No, I suppose not...' she agreed.
'I'll fill in the blanks, shall I?'
Hermione nodded her acquiescence.
Snape began scratching the quill across the parchment, speaking aloud as he did so. 'I could not, in all conscience, pass up the chance of a lifetime to study with Professor Severus Snape.'
Hermione snorted, not unkindly. 'If you say so.'
Inwardly, she was rather grateful they could play fast and loose with the truth.
He smirked. 'Now then, do you feel the programme of study is proving beneficial?'
'Um, hmm, beneficial, you say...' she tapped her knee thoughtfully.
'I need not point out that whatever you say will reflect upon me.'
Hermione smiled inwardly. 'Is that a warning?'
He shrugged. 'We'll call it a friendly one.'
'Fair enough.' she said with a quiet chuckle, 'All right, yes, it has... it is proving beneficial—I'm learning a great deal.'
'What, if anything, have you learnt about yourself? Oh, for Merlin's sake, this is a pointless waste of time!'
There was a grim look on his face as he scanned through the rest of the document.
'Now, sir, it is important that we reflect, from time to time—it is important for our personal development.'
Snape scowled. 'You've been reading my latest memorandum from the Ministry, haven't you? I thought I'd burnt it.'
Hermione ignored him and thought for a moment. 'I have learnt a lot about myself recently, of course I have, but with regard to my studies, I suppose I've learnt not to take myself too seriously.' She quirked the corner of her mouth self-consciously. 'What's the use of acquiring all this knowledge if you have no one to share it with?'
'Are you coveting my job, Miss Granger?'
'No, not quite, but I've been considering going into teaching, in some sort of capacity, anyway.'
'Well,' he began, 'if you ever need reasons why you should not go into teaching, you know where to find me. Now, then, I must fill in this next part by myself, and you must fill in this section, highlighting if there are any particular issues or concerns you wish to raise at this present time.'
He held the parchment out to her, but Hermione made no move to take it.
'It is fine.' She shook her head briefly. 'There aren't any issues or problems that I wish to address.'
He looked at her calculatingly. 'Very well, I shall complete the details and owl it off to the Ministry forthwith.'
'Thank you, sir. If that is all, I'll wish you a good weekend.' Hermione got up to leave.
'You too, Miss Granger,' he replied distantly, as he began writing once more.
She watched for a moment, deciding there wasn't much she wouldn't give to know what it was that he felt compelled to put down for the Ministry.
She closed the door behind her and walked slowly down the dim corridor. What would she do this weekend? The usual, no doubt; spend a few hours in the library, do some work on her research dissertation, possibly stroll down into Hogsmeade, and then, of course, her appointment in the Infirmary with Madam Pomfrey.
It was mostly the same pattern every weekend, but Hermione could not summon the energy to feel sorry for herself.
If not happy, she was content, and that, she resolved, was enough.
'How are you, my dear?'
Hermione sat down on a bed in the empty infirmary and smiled at the mediwitch.
'I feel quite well, actually, Poppy.'
Poppy Pomfrey produced her wand and began waving it over Hermione. 'Good, I'm glad to hear it. Let us see what the spell tells us.'
Hermione waited patiently as the older woman moved around her.
'That curse is definitely diminishing nicely. At this progress, I shouldn't wonder that it will dissipate for good in the near future.'
'I really hope so.'
'Now then, have you tried any magic lately?'
Removing her wand from her sleeve, Hermione looked at it contemplatively. 'No, I... I haven't really needed to... I hate feeling so wrung out after casting just a few ordinary spells.'
Poppy sat down opposite her. 'You should probably get back into the habit casting a few spells each day—just some simple spells, nothing too strenuous. Your magical strength is returning and it will help your body get used it again. '
'If you do that for the coming week, keeping account of how you feel from day to day, next time, we will discuss how it has gone.'
'I will do that.'
'Good girl—now, if you do feel significantly different during the course of the week, inform me immediately, all right? You'll be back to normal very soon, I'm sure of it.' Poppy patted her on the shoulder and got up.
Hermione left the Infirmary, grateful for the mediwitch's optimism. Once inside her rooms, she pulled out her wand and aimed it at the pile of books on her bedside table. She was always afraid that, despite whatever the level of her magical strength was at that current time, she would suddenly find it had disappeared altogether. She knew it was silly to think like that, but still...
The books levitated easily up into the air and hovered when she stilled her wand movements. After a moment, she lowered her wand and the books slammed onto the table with a thud. Sitting down, she stared at them ponderingly. She felt fine, but Wingardium Leviosa really was the simplest of spells. It was one of the first spells taught at Hogwarts.
The last time she'd tried magic at regular intervals, she'd wearied herself out for several days. Even then, it had only been a few basic Summoning and Banishing charms.
Hermione lay back and gazed up at the canopy of her bed. A soft thump surprised her, and she turned her head to find Crookshanks had leapt up beside her.
'All right, Crooks?' she crooned to the ginger cat, stroking his fur soothingly.
He purred and rubbed his head gratefully into her hand.
Six months she'd been without full use of her magic. Six months since she'd been, well, attacked was the only way to describe it. The work of an, admittedly, unbalanced relative of an imprisoned Death Eater seeking whatever vengeance they could. The attack hadn't been personal, as such—it was Hermione's misfortune that she'd been the one to cross paths with them first.
It had all happened so very quickly. One minute she had been walking through Diagon Alley, the next everything had gone black.
She often consoled herself with the knowledge that it could have been worse—much worse.
She had known nothing until she'd woken up in St. Mungo's, a few hours later.
Ginny was at her bedside. 'Hermione, thank Merlin!'
She blinked in confusion, feeling unaccountably drowsy. 'What the hell...?'
'You were attacked, Hermione; cursed by someone.'
'In the middle of Diagon Alley?'
'We're not sure, but it looks like it might be a... rogue Death Eater, or something, from the curse they used. Harry and Ron were here, but they've gone out to help search for whoever it was.'
Hermione stared at her friend in shock. 'Well, what did they curse me with?'
Ginny shook her head and raised her hands helplessly. 'We don't know exactly; well, the Healer's didn't, so they contacted Snape.' Her eyes were wide.
This time, Hermione froze. 'What?'
How bad was it that they had to get Snape in? Visions of Dumbledore's blackened hand swam in front of her eyes.
'He's here with Professor McGonagall. He did something with his wand earlier, but they're waiting for you to wake up.'
Hermione was about to tell Ginny to go and get them, when the door opened and in walked a Healer, Minerva McGonagall, and her former Potions master.
'What is wrong with me?' she demanded, a little querulously.
The Healer glanced at Snape, and the dark man stepped forward.
'Stand up,' he ordered, without preamble.
Hermione hauled herself into a sitting position. 'Stand up... why?'
'Miss Granger, just stand up.'
Hermione bit back a frustrated sigh and got to her feet. She looked at him expectantly.
'The only way for us to determine the curse you were hit with, is for you to demonstrate a spell for us.'
She frowned; what was he on about? Taking out her wand, still stowed up her sleeve, she opened her mouth.
'I'd choose something simple, if I were you,' Snape interrupted cryptically.
Hermione paused with uncertainty.
'Levitate that glass of water, there, on the table.'
She aimed her wand at the glass and silently cast Wingardium Leviosa.
Immediately, Hermione felt her cheeks flush crimson.
'Wingardium Leviosa,' she said, out loud this time. The glass rattled slightly, but it didn't lift into the air one inch.
'What is wrong with me?' she gasped, turning a distressed glance to Snape, who had been watching the glass carefully.
'Wingardium Leviosa!' Hermione all but shouted.
The glass shook harder, but she hardly had time to notice before a wave of nausea overtook her. Slumping onto the bed, Hermione breathed deeply and steadily. Ginny's hand was on her shoulder, guiding her to lay back and put her head on the pillows.
Hermione closed her eyes, trying to calm herself. When she opened them again, Snape was standing over her, his wand outstretched.
'It is as I suspected; the curse is one that attacks a person's magic—attaches itself to it in a most debilitating way.'
She stared up at him incredulously. 'Am I... am I going to die?'
'Not today, Miss Granger. The curse is not designed to rob you of your life—it means to rob you of your magical ability.'
'Oh, is that all?' she muttered, angered, somewhat, by his indifferent tone.
His eyes narrowed, and she looked away, wishing she hadn't said anything. She turned her attention to the others.
'So, what... Does this mean it's gone? I can't do magic anymore?'
Snape put his wand inside his robe, and shook his head minutely. 'No, though we were unsure what we were dealing with at the beginning, I nevertheless managed to halt its progress, and thus, its effect on your system. By containing it, I have been able to use a counter-curse that, if I surmise correctly, should allow the curse to dissipate with time. You will, therefore, suffer only temporary difficulties.'
'Surmise? You do not know for certain?'
'I do not.'
'How long could it take for the curse to dissipate?'
Snape shrugged. 'Could be weeks... could be months.'
The Healer began speaking. 'Miss Granger, it is advisable that you do not attempt any magic, especially in the next few weeks, until your system begins to recover. Even then, you will have to limit your usage; you will tire easily and possibly make yourself ill.'
Hermione closed her eyes, hardly believing this was happening to her. She was aware of a movement, and her eyes flicked open.
Snape was leaving.
'Sir! Thank you,' she called, feeling a rush of gratitude. She knew she would no longer be a witch, were it not for him.
He nodded briefly, and then disappeared.
'What the hell am I going to do for months without my magic?'
Ginny bit her lip.
'That's assuming it comes back!'
McGonagall stepped up to her bed. 'My dear, I think you can safely assume that it will. Severus' surmises are practically a guarantee—he's rarely wrong about this sort of thing.'
Hermione nodded, feeling herself calm slightly. 'Thank you, Professor. I appreciate you coming here, as well.'
'I'll be all right—I managed without magic till I was eleven; I can manage without it again.' The two women smiled at her encouragingly, but Hermione knew what they were thinking—her circumstances were significantly different from what they were when she had been eleven.
'Severus thinks it best to inform as few people as possible about your ailment, Miss Granger. I'm inclined to agree with him.'
Hermione suddenly felt terribly vulnerable. 'You don't think they'll try and...'
'They'll catch them, Hermione,' stated Ginny confidently.
'I just think it's best to be careful,' McGonagall placated gently. 'Now, if you ever need anything, you just send me an owl, all right?'
How prophetic those words would prove to be.
AN: Thanks to astopperindeath for beta reading this : )