A/N: I don't know why I wrote this. It came to be while I was reading Memoirs of a Geshia, and inspired me to write this piece. This is not a one-shot. But it's something I wrote while I was stumped on how to continue The Five Winters. I'm not stuck, I promise you. I just needed a momentary break, which turned out to be this, and then I was able to continue writing. No worries. =) However, I would like some feedback on this. Should I continue it at a later date, once The Five Winters is done? Is it not worth reading? Is it good? Do you find it intruiging? Tell me. Because I've written the outline for this (I was doing it in class while extremely bored) and there's a big chance I will continue this- and not delete it- when I finish my current story and if enough people like this.

As always, I own nothing, and I place the blame for this entirely on the Plot Bunnies, my exploitable noggin, and Memoirs Of A Geisha.

PLEASE review!

...and if you could come up with a good title for this, that would be much appreciated, too. Have fun with that. =3


Hermione carefully set down a tea tray and then reached for the kettle, gracefully pouring her guest a cup. The long sleeves of her robes dangled threateningly just over the floor as though they might drag any moment, but Hermione had spent enough time pouring tea to know how to do it without ruining her sleeve, whether by the tea or the floor. Her hair, which had been put up in a bun that allowed coiled tresses to spill down her neck, was as unruly as ever but Hermione had discovered taming it required not copious amounts of gel but simply the right style to do it justice.

"Thank you." The man at the table spared her a nod and then turned back to his companion.

Hermione bowed her head in acknowledgement and retreated.

The war had been over for three years. During Hermione's seventh year, she, Harry, and Ron had all gone together to hunt down the Horcruxes. They'd gone through months of pain, loss, separation, and despair before they'd finally made it to the night of the Final Battle at Hogwarts. It had indeed been the Final Battle, and the Order had lost. Dumbledore had been dead for over a year and they had nothing but a portrait, a poor copy of him, for support. It seemed to Hermione, however, that it had ended prematurely. Most of the Order had survived, spared by Death Eaters on Snape's command.

The Order had lost, but neither had Voldemort won, for as he was intending to kill Snape in the Shrieking Shack, his right-hand man had just the same idea. With all but two of Voldemort's Horcruxes destroyed, Snape tricked them both by revealing Harry's place behind the crate, in the tunnel. Harry was forced to come out, followed by Ron, but Hermione held back on her friends' desperate orders that she not be seen.

What had happened next would remain forever burdened in Hermione's mind. Pleased with his servant's delivery of his greatest enemy, Voldemort had struck Harry with the Killing Curse and was thrown back into the wall, momentarily knocked to the ground. Snape had placed both Ron and the Dark Lord in a Body-Bind before turning to Nagini and administering the Killing Curse to her.

The giant snake with which Voldemort had planned his loyal servant's demise had fallen to the ground with a horrible, final thud, and Snape turned to Harry to check his vitals.

"Where is Granger?" he had demanded of Ron, who seemed hardly able to process what was going on. Hermione could hardly blame him—she herself had been so shocked at the sight of Snape turning on his master that she could barely breathe— but Ron's stuttering earned him nothing but a muttered word demeaning his intelligence before Snape moved his attention back to Harry, who was still lying on the floor. Why he had asked about her was quite obvious—Snape was clearly perplexed as to what the two boys were doing without their brain.

A moment to check Harry's vitals and then Snape stood up.

"Well," he said with a sneer, "it seems you will live after all."

And before Ron—or Harry, who was starting to come around—could get in another word, he had disappeared through the door of the Shrieking Shack.

What happened next was something no one could have predicted. Snape went to the Forbidden Forest where the rest of the Death Eaters had been commanded to wait for their master while he dealt with the expendable among them. When it was instead Snape who returned, there had been a cry of fear, outrage, and confusion. Their response led them to nearly self-massacre themselves in the chaos that ensued upon realizing that the Dark Lord was dead.

Hermione did not have details on what happened that night, but suffice to say, with the exception of a few Death Eaters—Bellatrix Lestrange, for one—who ended up as dead bodies on the forest floor, many of the Dark Lord's followers became very flexible very quickly and pledged their loyalty to Snape, knowing that to refuse would have them joining the corpses on the ground. This alone should have ended the war, for with a vow of servitude, Snape could have pawned them all off to the Ministry and earned a nice reward and an Order of Merlin for his efforts.

But fate changed direction quite abruptly that night.

The last moments of the Final Battle concluded not with Voldemort or the Order's victory, but Severus Snape's. He took over Hogwarts that same night, citing that the Dark Lord was dead and sending an two envoys—the first didn't make it back alive and the second returned covered in painful, blistering boils— to negotiate with Minerva McGonagall. No one but the Headmistress was privy to the terms, but Hogwarts surrendered to him, and Snape disposed of Pius Thicknesse. He replaced Voldemort as the Minister of Magic, and began a revolution of such magnitude that all of Wizarding England was thrown into turmoil before it finally righted itself again.

It was surprising that such a quiet, reserved man held such ambition, such drive. But the Death Eaters obeyed him, and the Ministry was still under their control. The only thing that had changed at all was that Voldemort was no longer at the helm.

Snape changed Wizarding Britain very rapidly. The Ministry was disposed of- or rather, many people were cleaned out of it, and Snape had the final say on any matter. It might have been considered dictatorial if it weren't for the fact that he rarely interferred, instead preferring to leave the people he had assigned to office to figure out the logistics of the legislation they were proposing. Surprisingly, none of them were Death Eaters, but neither were they Order members. They were ordinary people whom had caught Snape's attention with their intelligence, cunning, and great wit, and had been offered—or rather, ordered—to the position.

Harry, Ron, and the rest of the Order had been forced to flee to North America, fearing Snape's wrath as a result of Harry's rash actions in the Forbidden Forest. They might not have had to if Harry had not sought Snape out after the battle, venturing into the forest to confront him, and found himself surrounded by Death Eaters and a very irrate ex-professor. It might have gone down better if Harry had not lost his temper and started shouting at Snape, calling him a traitor for killing Dumbledore, for letting the Carrows run rampant through the school. He threatened, in no uncertain terms, to kill him. There was nothing to say about the Carrows—Snape had already disposed of them personally. For Harry's accusations, he could have easily waved them off.

Harry's threat to see him brought before the Wizengamot was the stroke that altered the course of history.

Snape had been planning to use his Death Eaters as bargaining chips to ensure his status in the Wizarding world was restored. All he wanted to return to was teaching in his home in the dungeons. It had all been quite mundane, really. But knowing how the world at large felt about anything Harry Potter had to say, this declaration changed his plans drastically.

Hermione still didn't know why Snape didn't just kill Harry right there on the spot. He'd had no trouble murdering the Headmaster or with disposing of his newly-acquired followers whom he considered a liability. Whatever had stayed his hand, she was grateful, but Harry and the remaining Order either had to flee Great Britain or hope to make a life as fugitives sought out by Death Eaters bent on receiving favor from their new lord.

It took all of a year and a half before Wizarding Britain and the surrounding countries were declared stable again—Voldemort's influence had spread far and wide throughout Europe— and by then Asia had stuck its nose in and struck a political deal with the new dictator of Great Britain. Wizarding Japan, especially, was eager to get in Snape's good graces, particularly as he had been well-known among apothecaries there and his temper was legendary. They wanted both his business and their safety.

This caused a surprising turn of cultural diffusion to occur. Many of Snape's appointed officers became very taken with Japan, especially admiring of geisha, particularly majogeisha who were witches rather than muggles. A trend of setting up teahouses in Britain settled and many witches who had lost their jobs, their homes, and their family as a result of the war were drawn to such places that promised good business.

Hermione had not gone with the Order, insisting that she could make a living there, spying for them, since Muggle-borns were no longer persecuted, and that an insider in the country would be the most useful thing they could have at this juncture in time. Hiding out in Ontario or Alaska would hardly do much good. However, she soon discovered that with all the changes made in the country, it was very difficult—near impossible, actually—to get a decent-paying job without having completed her NEWTs or taking on an apprenticeship. The former was impossible—there was no way she could return to Hogwarts under Snape's control. Though he was no longer Headmaster and had instated Minerva McGonagall there himself, he still had absolute control—much to McGonagall's bitterness— and could easily seek her out and tear her apart for information on the wherabouts of Harry and the others. The latter was also impossible; when a master took you on as an Apprentice for any branch of magic, whether it be Potions or Transfiguration, they had to register you as such. Hermione feared that Snape would see her attempt to apprentice under someone as a threat to him. She knew very well that he would not fail to underestimate her potential to usurp him despite how insignificant she seemed in comparison at this time.

She needed a job somewhere where she could gather information without seeming suspicious. She needed a job that didn't require she have her NEWTs or a note from a master with written note of recommendation. She needed a place to stay that would allow her to remain inconspicuous and off the radar.

Thus, Hermione found herself serving tea at one of the local teahouses in the upperclass extension of the London Underground. Though she was not a geisha, many women in her position had adopted many aspects of the job and she did the same. The ordinary black work robes she had once worn had been transformed to look and work more like a kimono, though it was less restrictive and very light, allowing her to move with ease and grace. The robes—they were often called tokuemon, in keeping with Japanese nomenclature— were much simpler than those worn by professional geisha, but often had simple, animated designs.

Hermione had met a real geisha only twice in her life—both times were since she had first taken a place as a 'teahouse geisha'—and came away with quite an impression. Beautiful in their complicated, elegant kimonos, they planned their every move, walked with deliberate steps, and seemed to grace everyone in their presence with their air of mystique, intended seduction, and an innocent, almost child-like laugh. Hermione knew that underneath the makeup and robes were ordinary women, but when they were dressed up, they put on a mask of such graceful rigor that it left her astounded. She considered herself lucky to have been present at one of their dances, where they used nothing by a fan as stage props for their song and story.

However, Hermione was not a geisha. Not by a long shot. She would never be mistaken for one even by the most drunken of men. She did not wear such encompassing makeup, nor did she wax her hair so or sleep her head elevated as to prevent her hair from being flattened in the night. She did not have the training needed to be one. But she did dress in tokumen —often favoring a cherry-blossom patterned one that contrasted gently with the color of her skin and the chocolate in her eyes—and she served tea and other requested refreshements. She could be paid for her company at parties, indulging in wit and conversation, her only job there to entertain and serve the guests. She could choose whether to accept the prostitution side of the deal or not, and for the past three years, had refused offers to sell her body. She lived well enough, sleeping in a room on the second floor of the teahouse she work in, and earning enough money to pay her boss for food, shelter, the air conditioning, and the little amount of make-up she used, and also still had her parents' money. She was very well off compared to many of the other women who made their rounds in the teahouses.

Had she feared soley for her safety, she probably would have taken a job at one of the lowerclass teahouses. As it was, she had no intention of hiding out. Snape would not see fit to deal with her unless she presented herself as a threat, and simply working in an upperclass teahouse that happened to be frequented regularly by men of high standing was hardly conspicuous. After all, the job paid better than the alternative. But it gave Hermione ample opportunity to spy, to pluck information from the lips of men who had drunk too much, to acquire things to send to the Order in the letters she wrote to them once and month.

She had not, however, given up her magical education. She had enlarged her solitary room with an Undetectable Extension Charm and made for herself a space in which she could do private research when she was alone. Many of the libraries, including the Hogwarts library, had been expertly restored—mostly with government funds that had been graciously given—and nothing was there to stop her from visiting the local library or bookstore to find something she needed. She practiced Potions, using her slurpus wages for ingredients. She did Transfiguration and Charms, which required nothing but knowledge and her wand. She grew a few magical plants on her windowsill, studying them in the hopes of finding something that had been erroneously overlooked by previous researchers. Arithmancy and Ancient Runes required nothing but her intellect. For the most part, she was well situated and well rounded in her studies, as she had always been.

There was the obvious problem that she only had so much time in her day to do things, but she managed to get three or four hours of concentrated study and free time in each day. She rose early and went to bed late; her body was accustomed to it now. All of her other energy went into serving at the aptly-named Magical Eye, as it was built in the ruins of what had been the Magical Menagerie and the two shops on either side of it. The shop had been burned down before the war had ended, and in front of the newly-erected building, was an animated picture of an electric-blue eyeball, swiveling and dilating as it watched customers come and go.

What had attracted Hermione to this particular teahouse was its prestiege, the frequency in which high-ranking government officials came to be entertained. Another fact was that the proprietress had been a long-time friend of Mad-Eye Moody—had known him well in school and been his friend throughout his days as an Auror—and had named the shop after him, in his honor, though the world at large thought it was called the Magical Eye in memory of the Magical Menagerie.

The deciding factor, however, was Crookshanks. Never one to let her down, the ginger half-kneazle had led Hermione here and made it very clear he wished to stay. He could be found guarding her room during the day when Hermione was working and roaming the halls late at night after most everyone had left.

Walking carefully back to the bar, she placed the tray down on the countertop and swiftly turned away to attend to another customer who was asking for a refill. For the past year, after moving from teahouse to teahouse for six months, Hermione had developed a comfortable routine. Wake up at five-thirty. Be dressed and presentable by seven. Open the doors to the teahouse and prepare to serve by seven-fifteen. At six at night, the important men would arrive, the men with bookings and reservations for private rooms or tables, and Hermione would be one of many other women in the teahouse who would come to entertain. The maids would take care of serving food and cleaning up after they were done. Hermione would switch out with another woman at eight who would take the night shift, often well until three in the morning, and she would study until midnight before going to bed. The cycle would repeat until Sunday, when she had the entire day off.

And on the third Sunday of every month, she would post a letter to her friends in America with the latest news. They alone knew her as Hermione. To the rest of the world, she had taken on a new name as many teahouse geisha had, in order to better fit in and become inconspicuious. Many of them took on Asian-sounding names though they were clearly British and it showed in their accent. Hermione, however, had changed both her names. She was no longer Hermione Granger, but a young woman named Christine masquerading as a British geisha named Sakura. It was a very common name in this line of work and had been given to Hermione as a pet name, given how often she wore the cherry-blossom tokuemon.

Everyone called her Sakura. Only her fellow teahouse geisha called her Christine, and always in private, thinking it her real name. She had no surname.

No one knew her as Hermione.

"Stop daydreaming, Sakura," Mitsuru chided her. Hermione blinked and looked up, realizing she had been staring aimlessly at the tea in her tray. The strawberry blond girl continued, "Mother will take you to task for it, you know, if she catches you. Daydream on your own time."

They all called the proprietress Mother. They didn't know her real name and more than likely Mother didn't know theirs. Neither side truly cared. As long as they did their work and got paid, nothing else mattered.

Mitsuru, formerly Mattie, was the daughter of the former Head of the Magical Games and Sports department, Ludo Bagman. She'd had a job in the Ministry as a secretary before the changes had taken place and she'd been forced to find another line of work. In Hermione's estimation, she wasn't all that bright.

Hermione merely blinked in response and turned away to finish serving the customers.

~o~O~o~

Hermione was nothing but a spy working as a teahouse geisha who searched for gossip and information to pass on to her contacts in America.

But her life was turned upside down one evening in early January when Mitsuki came rushing into her room during her break, not even bothering to knock, as was Hermione's demand that they adhere to. Mitsuki was two years younger than Hermione, inquisitive, very childlike in her demeanor, and had a nose for gossip. Hermione relied on her for information that she herself couldn't get.

"He's coming!"

"Who?" Hermione turned around from the runes she'd been deciphering, raising an eyebrow in query. If Mitsuki had barged into her room without knocking, it had better be for a good reason.

"Lord Snape!" Mitsuki squealed. "He's coming to the Magic Eye!"

The quill literally fell from Hermione's hand, dropping to the floor and silently splattering droplets of ink on the wood.

Never, in the three years since the war had ended, had Severus Snape—Lord Snape now, actually—ever come to this teahouse. If he had business with associates, he invited them to his office in the Ministry, which was well protected and well guarded. His home was off-limits to all but his closest friends, which was a very short list. Almost non-existent. He preferred to spend his time alone, working on private research. If he went out, he went out alone, without fanfare (reporters were hexed if caught following him), so convinced of his prowess and skills in remaining undetected was he. There were rumors that he had visted The Three Broomsticks a time or two in disguise, but nothing concrete.

He was a different man, certainly. Still reclusive, though he took better care of himself, and his teeth had been straightened, though still yellow. He still snapped and snarled at people, particularly when they were too slow or cumbersome for his liking, and seemed to have a need to make at least one secretary at the Ministry cry before lunch the way a normal man needs coffee. He ran the country from his private recluse much in the same way he had run Hogwarts during his final year there, and it ran surprisingly well, but there was still the fact that for many, justice had not been done. It particularly burned Hermione to see Antonin Dolohov alive and well, working as Head of Security Detail in the Ministry.

But to hear that he was coming to a teahouse… even a high class one such as this… it was completely unheard of!

Her ex-professor had kept himself as secluded as possible for three years, excepting those instances within the first year that he had been taking care of administrative duties or obliterating other countries who had taken offense at his rise to power. Why come out now?

Hermione's nose twitched at this. She knew something was up.

"Why?" she demanded.

Mitsuki took a seat on the tatami mat, crossing her legs and leaning back on her hands. She wore a childlike smile on her face and put a finger to her lips.

"It was Lucius Malfoy's secretary who made the call," she whispered conspiratorially. "She told Mother that they would be coming with Lord Snape a week from now and was telling them in advance so that they could arrange for there to be no customers that day." She grinned wickedly. "They want us all to themselves on that day."

"But what for?" Hermione was wracking her brain for an answer.

"Well," Mitsuki said slyly, "I think he's going to announce his engagement to a pretty woman."

"Don't be ridiculous," Hermione said, frowning, but Mitsuki could tell that she was faintly amused at her joke. "When are they coming in?"

"January ninth. And Mother said she wants you to come down—she's calling all of us for a meeting."

Hermione stood up. "Why didn't you say so earlier?"

Mitsuki was grinning widely now. "I forgot."

"You liar." But Hermione reached out a hand to help Mitsuki stand and pulled her up. "Let's go. It's best not to keep Mother waiting."

~o~O~o~

Mother distinctly reminded Hermione of Mad-Eye himself. Though less paranoid and less scarred, she was just as strict and unrelenting. She didn't rule her teahouse with an iron fist, but you quickly learned to obey her. Her hair was thin and grey with age, tucked up in a tight bun. She wore a tokuemon, though it was less fancy, less flashy, than the ones her geishas wore, preferring to give them every tool possible at their disposal to do their job rather than collecting beautiful things and keeping them for herself. She was not a selfish woman by any means, and at least two of the girls employed at her teahouse had been found starving and weak on the street, unable to fend for themselves despite the fact that they were no longer hunted for being Muggle-borns.

Her face was aged and creased with serious lines; her lips, which must have been lovely and full at one point in her life, were pale and thin. She had pale blue eyes that had begun to dull, and her eyesight was growing weak, but she was still incredibly sharp and alert. The left side of her face was scarred, perhaps by a curse or knife, though since Hermione knew almost nothing about Mother, she wouldn't know. They could have been easily hidden with a glamour, along with the crease lines and the turning-milky eyes, but unlike many women her age, it seemed that Mother aged with the same acceptance and wisdom of Albus Dumbledore.

Once all of the girls—all twenty-seven of them—were seated in the kitchen, along with the cook and the twelve maids, Mother pointed a gnarled finger at Mitsuki.

"Lord Snape is coming at the end of this week," she growled. She said Snape's name with the same hatred and disdain as the rest of the Order, though it could easily be masked as reverence if you heard it in the right context. Mother was skilled in that way. "He wishes this to be a private affair. None of you are to tell any of the customers about it."

Everyone nodded quickly.

Mother's hand came to rest limply by her side. "It will be a larger party than we are used to accomodating, and they have requested all of the geishas we have here. It will run late and there will be no one to take your night shift."

There were audible mutters of complaint at this. The girls barely got enough sleep as it was, Hermione especially, though she did not voice her disappointment at this.

"It will only be for one night!" Mother snapped. "And the day before it will be closed on holiday. You will spend the day sleeping while the maids set up the main room."

Some murmurs of appreciation accompanied this statement, and Mother relaxed slightly, and her voice took on the same business tone she took with them when preparing for a large party.

"Cook here will take care of the food." No one knew what Cook's name was, either. She couldn't tell them. The most Hermione had gotten out of her through much gesturing and gesticulation was that her tongue had been cut off by Walden Macnair. She didn't seem to want anyone to know who she was. "I will expect you all to be on your best behavior. We want no reason for Lord Snape to find complaint with our service. This means," she continued, staring at each girl directly, "that no matter how you feel about him, he is just like every other man to enter this establishment. We are professional."

There were nods and statements meant to reassure Mother that they all understood.

"You won't have to do much more than what you normally do," Mother continued. "They just want pretty girls sitting around, perhaps a story or two, witty conversation, or someone who will be willing to have their ear talked off. I have made it very clear to Mr. Malfoy that if any of you refuse to service his men sexually, you are well within your rights to do so."

Audible relief pulsed through the room. There were nods and smiles, and many of them relaxed.

Mother smiled thinly at them before she pointed a withered, claw-like finger at Hermione.

"And I am assigning you to be in charge."

Hermione's heart stopped.

To be in charge meant she would be responsible for the evening. She would be watching the girls to make sure they were both doing their job and able to do their job. If one of them got drunk drinking too much wine—which had a tendency to happen, given many of the men insisted their escorts drink with them— Hermione was to find an excuse to take them out of the for ten minutes to recuperate and a Sobering Potion. She would be responsible for making sure that the men behaved themselves, and if they didn't, then she would be the one to intervene in a situation before it got out of hand and before Mother had time to arrive.

A frog seemed to lodge its way into her throat, attempting to take control of her vocal cords.

"Why me?" she croaked.

"Because you're the only one here who can do wandless magic," Mother told her firmly.

Hermione swallowed, trying to dislodge the frog that was insistently playing drum solo on the walls of her throat.

When she could finally speak, she said; "Yes, Mother."

"Good."

With the finality that laced that word clearly said, the old woman turned and left the kitchen without a second glance.

.