AN: Dear MollysSister. I must apologize for being so terrible at sticking to a prompt. I have decided it must be my eyesight. Here. Let me show you what I mean…
The Original Prompt: Write a Regency! Sense and Sensibility, the Potter Version, with Hermione of course as Miss Elinor Dashwood and Severus as Mr. Edward Farras. Or perhaps even more fun have Hermione be Miss Marianne Dashwood and Severus be Col. Brandon?
All I Could See: Write a Regency! blurbleblurbleblurbleblurble Potter Version blurb Hermione blurble blurbleblurbleblurble and Severus blurbleblurbleblurble… See? It's a terrible flaw.
And so I give you 35+ chapters of tea and manners, Empire waists and Superfine coats, obstinate men and stubborn women, Intrigue, Drama, Angst, Romance, and eventually—clutch the pearls—smut.
This story is an amalgamation of Jane Austen, Anne Brontë, Charles Dickens, and Elizabeth Gaskell, with a smidgen of Wm. M. Thackeray, and a very healthy dose of J.K. Rowling. It is AU in the truest sense of the term. I do stick to the Potter storyline in the background, but trust me, even that is alternative. You will understand as you read.
It has been alpha-ed by Dressagegrrrl, beta-ed by astopperindeath, and britpicked by HebeGB, who did double duty as Regency checker and did her level best to fend off my worst interpretations of British Society in the 19th Century. I drove myself demented researching facts, so please be kind when you spot an anachronism or a flaw, I truly did my best. If you find a lumpy bit, just squint your eyes until you are past it. Do not feel obligated to point it out, at this point, you will just make me cry.
I own nothing but my fried brain cells.
Hermione watched as more trunks were loaded onto the cart outside her window. The rains had stopped, and Stephen and Thomas were scrambling to get the cart filled and covered with an oilcloth before it started again. Hester and old Mrs. Crabtree were flitting about shouting encouragement and dire threats in that order. Thomas dropped a trunk, and it splashed water on Mrs. Crabtree's apron. Hermione winced and turned away from the window, hoping not to hear the ensuing shouts. She was unsuccessful.
"But why are we moving, mum? I like it ever so much here. I don't want to move. It's so sudden!"
"Hermione, we've been over this before. It is an excellent opportunity for your father. His last paper on Modern Dentistry was highly received, and Sir Dalyrimple told him to come straight away. He needs to strike while the iron is hot, as they say, to help set his reputation in the field. This is an excellent opportunity, child. He has been recognized by the scientific community for his work in proving microscopic animals have an effect on tooth decay. If we move to London, not only will he be able to expand his practice, but he will be able to take on an apprentice and lecture."
"But what about you? You wrote half of that paper yourself. Would it not be possible for you to lecture as well?"
Mrs. Granger snatched the sprigged muslin dress Hermione had been folding into a lump out of her daughter's hand and shook it back out. She took several deep breaths before she gave her daughter an over-bright smile.
"You must treat your things with respect, dear. If you wad them up like that, they will look dreadful when you pull them back out of the trunk. The servants do not need the extra work, and besides, we will have far fewer of them once we get to London, at least for the foreseeable future."
Mrs. Granger carefully folded the dress and placed it in the trunk and followed it with Hermione's matching Spencer.
"As for that paper, I would thank you not to repeat that to anyone. No one but your father knows that I helped to write it. If the world found out his wife was his partner, he would be a laughingstock. I will no longer be helping in your father's surgery."
"But why? You are just as capable as he is, he says as much himself."
"It is not actually fitting for a woman in my position, dear. He has been wonderful in his indulgence of me, but the time has come to put an end to it."
Hermione fell into speechless sputtering before she let out an indignant snort. Her mother shook her head sadly.
"I worry for you, child. As much as I am extremely pleased with your intelligence, I must say that I fear for your common sense. You are eleven years old; surely you know by now that our sex is dependent on the generosity of our husbands' minds. Men like your father are few and far between. It would be best if you took these notions of equality you have and tossed them into the sweepings along with those books on fairy tales you burned when you were seven."
Hermione flopped back onto her bed and stared up at the ceiling.
"Mother, I got rid of those books because they were patently foolish. Once I was old enough to understand magic wasn't real, I was incensed. How thoughtless it was to make me believe in such things as a child, only to tear it away with a laugh once I grew older. Now you are trying to get me to believe that women are innately inferior to men after I have spent all my life watching you and father treating each other as equals. It leaves a child hardly able to trust in anything. Is up really up? Is down really down? Are we really moving to London? Is my name really Hermione?" She shoved herself up on her elbows. "And what do you mean less servants? Who are we letting go? How will they get along without us? Have you found them proper employment elsewhere?"
Mrs. Granger sighed and leaned against the trunk.
"Hermione, this is a great opportunity for your father, but I will tell you truthfully that things are going to be a bit desperate for a while. Until he gets his practice up and running, we will be living on a much stricter budget. The cost of living in London is much higher. We have rented a nice house, not as large as this one, but we cannot afford to keep all of the staff. We will only be taking Cook and Mrs. Crabtree – and, yes, I have found placement for everyone else. Of course I did. It is not their fault that we are up and leaving on a few days notice–"
"But wait, what about Stephens? Who's going to look after our horses?"
Her mother let out a shuddering sigh full of pain. "My mare and your pony have been sold to the family that will be taking up this house after us, along with most of the furniture."
"Enough, Hermione," she said in a harsh, clipped tone. "It is for the greater good. Put your tears away, there is no more room for them. You will be brave for your father. You will hurt him terribly if he sees your tears."
Hermione fell silent immediately, choking back her bitter disappointment. Her mother indulged her endless questions on most occasions but never after her voice reached that tone. Hermione swallowed clumsily around the lump of tears in her throat and finished helping her mother pack in silence. The sudden knot of pain in her belly tightened its grip with each thing her mother told her would have to stay behind.
Dinner was a miserable affair, with Hermione and her mother both pretending they were happy about the changes, Mr. John Granger pretending he didn't see the sadness in their eyes, and sniffling Gretchen serving the meal as if it wasn't their last as her employer. The pain in her belly spread up her spine to her head, and after a few bites, she excused herself to retire early.
Once in her room, she changed into her best cotton nightgown, wrapped herself in her nicest shawl, and flopped onto the embroidered seat before her mirror. The reflection of her room looked barren and empty. The crackle of the fire echoed too loudly, and the lone candle on her table seemed too pitiful for the job of illuminating all the empty spaces. Only the furniture that had been sold was left. Her wardrobe, her chest, and her reading chair by the window were gone. She bit her lip against the tears that threatened and unpinned her hair, pulling apart the plaits, hoping the sharp pain in her skull would settle. She closed her eyes and tried to be as resolute and determined as her mother about her fate and dragged her brush slowly through her thick curls.
It was at times like these that she missed Rebecca the most. Her childhood governess had always come in before bed and made a ritual of brushing Hermione's hair out. Her nimble fingers had always made short work of her night plait, and they would often talk about what life would be like when Hermione was grown. Rebecca had never laughed whenever Hermione had said she wanted to study medicine. She'd always told her that she was intelligent enough to do just that.
What a terribly cruel thing to tell a child when it was just a lie. And how terrible and cruel was it that Hermione should still resent that Mr. Landownes had taken her Rebecca away and married her last autumn? Rebecca had been her only friend. The other girls in the village were flighty, stupid beings, and as an only child, Hermione had grown used to being alone. But when Rebecca had come into her life three years before, it had been like the answer to a prayer. And then, like a blown out candle, she was gone again.
Rebecca was very happy now. Hermione had the sudden feeling that it would be a long time before she was happy again.
She didn't want to be petty. It wasn't in her nature. But it was a hard thing to lose one's only friend, and then so quickly after that to lose her home and her pony. At least she was allowed to keep her books.
She looked out the window at the south pasture, recently dug up for seeding. The moon glistened in the muddy puddles that she would never get to inspect for interesting insects again.
The pain in her head increased as her need to cry grew. It was nearly blinding now.
She finished tying off her plait and pulled a cap over her head before staring at her reflection in the mirror. She would not cry. She tilted her chin up and clenched her jaw against the pain. She would not cry. An image of some other little girl riding her beautiful pony flashed before her eyes, and she curled her hands into fists. She would not cry. The knowledge that she would never be allowed to study medicine, scraped down her body like broken glass, and a jagged sob escaped her.
"Oh, please…" she moaned, pleading to the Almighty for strength as her lip started to quiver. She bit it. She was losing her fight. A single tear spilled down her cheek, and when she saw its reflection sparkle in the candlelight, she was overcome with irrational fury. "No!"
Hermione groaned as her shout instigated an explosion of pain in her head that instantly dissipated to nothing, taking all the other pains with it. At first she thought that she had gone blind, but then the moonlight filtered back into the room and she turned her head. All light had vanished. Not only had her candle been snuffed out, but the fire in the small grate was out. Blue smoke curled up the flue, where a moment before there had been a warm crackle.
Hermione blinked several times and then a chilled claw seemed to scuttle along her scalp. She instinctively knew that the fire hadn't just gone out. She'd made it happen. The pain in her head had made it happen. She was terrified. She was caught between running for her mother and hiding under the bed.
She took several deep breaths and then pulled her shawl tighter around her shoulders. She couldn't ask for the fire to be relit. She would have to explain.
She couldn't have explained if her life had depended on it. The only thing she understood was that she had done something very, very wrong. Unnatural, old Mrs. Crabtree would call it.
She slowly stood up and made her way into bed. She wrapped herself tightly in her quilts and then resolutely closed her eyes.
It was a long time before she fell asleep.
The house in London was always full of sounds and smells. Outside, the constant clip-clopping of the carriage horses played on endlessly, while the intermittent sounds of screaming bubbled up from downstairs. Even the stink of blood seemed to seep through the floor and fill her nostrils, just as the smell of rot and decay and horse manure snuck in from the streets.
London was an eleven-year-old girl's perfect idea of hell.
Hermione had given it her best try, she really had, but she hated the city. She hated this house, with its 'convenient' shop-front downstairs. All day long, she couldn't escape the sounds of people in pain as her father tended to an abscessed tooth or cut away rotted gums. She had been isolated from the reality of what her parents' living entailed before. Sure, she had heard cries, but they had been muffled by several layers of stone, not these thin wooden floors, with their threadbare carpets, that made one feel like their feet were going to fall through and land on top of some poor unfortunate patient.
She especially hated the smell of the city, particularly in the summer, or on those days when the wind blew in from the Thames. The unending stench was unbearable. Last week, an old dog had died and had been left on the street to rot for days.
The only day she lived for was Sunday. On Sundays, the city quieted down, and her father's practice was closed. Sundays, they would dress in their best clothes and perhaps walk to the park after church, or go and visit with her father's mother. Her grandmother, Lady Granger, was a disapproving, dried-up stick of a woman, but the stroll to her house was pleasant and the meals were always fine, even if Grandmother didn't allow her to eat at table with the adults. It smelled better in that part of London, as well.
Today was not Sunday. Today was Thursday, and The Hon. Thaddeus Carlisle needed eight teeth pulled. The screaming was horrible.
Hermione retreated to her bedroom, closed the door, climbed under the covers, and stuffed her pillow over her head, but the spine-chilling shrieks and the pitiful begging still bled through.
She started to cry. She was long past trying not to cry anymore. It wasn't a matter of being brave anymore; it was a matter of simply not having the strength to pretend. She could deal with the lowering of her expectations and dreams, but she couldn't pretend she wasn't horrified by what her parents did for a living, even if she knew in her mind that they were potentially saving lives.
Another round of screams rang out through the house, and Hermione added her own.
"Silence!" she shouted into her mattress.
The sudden loss of all sound left her feeling like her ears were going to pop. She pulled the pillow off her head and sat up. There was no sound at all.
She turned her head to the window and saw the carriages, both the fine ones pulled by splendid teams of horses, and the hackneys, pulled by weary old nags. They made no noise.
Hermione felt her blood grow cold as she scrambled off the bed and over to the window. She snapped her fingers in front of her face, but they made no sound. She tapped on the window. Nothing. She threw up the sash and was greeted by a cacophony. She slammed the window shut and the silence returned.
Her hair crawled around on her scalp as she made her way across her tiny bedchamber and over to the door. As soon as she opened it, she heard the screaming. She closed it quickly.
She backed away, shaking.
"Oh, Hermione Jean. What have you done now?"
A man stepped out onto the street of a busy industrial town in the north with a black cape draped over his arm and a valise clutched in his hand. He closed the door behind him firmly and reached up and placed his fingertips against the door for a moment. If the gesture was beseeching, or some form of benediction, it couldn't be told by his expression. That was hard and angry. He spun away from the door and headed off.
He cut a rather imposing figure, as he dodged the cluster of woman plucking poultry in the middle of the street without a spare glance. He had features that could best be described as 'strong,' and worst, could be described with whole paragraphs that dwelt on his nose alone. He was tall and thin, and sported long, black hair, topped with an elegant black John Bull hat. His gaunt frame was draped in a severe black coat, waistcoat, pantaloons and high boots.
Those that saw him for the first time were never sure if he was a cleric or an undertaker.
His face discouraged inquiries.
He headed down the street toward the corner, amidst the clamor of street peddlers, and the bellowing of draymen and their teams, and the ever-present sound of the mills spinning away all over the city.
A young boy, maybe nine years of age, face covered with soot and dirt, hurried up with a broom and swept some horse droppings out of his path.
"There you are, Mr. Snape," the boy said with a gap-toothed smile. The man pulled a coin from his pocket and flicked it. The boy smiled and tugged on his forelock when he'd caught it and fell into step next to the man. "Thank you kindly, Mr. Snape. Is you off to your school again?"
"Indeed," the man replied.
"Then I'll be seeing you at Christmas. You have a good year, Mr. Snape."
"Keep yourself out of trouble, Simon," the man growled, before he headed into the alley towards the canal.
"I will, sir! No more trouble for me, you can count on it!" shouted the boy as he scampered after another potential customer.
The man gave every appearance of being unaware of his surroundings as he left the gloom of the alley, so deep were the thoughts on his face. This was untrue. He was acutely aware of every man, woman, child, dog and rat within a hundred-foot radius of him as he made his way along the towpath. That was why, when he spun into a turn under the bridge and disappeared with the softest pop, he knew no one had seen him.
The door to the Headmaster's office swung open and the austere-looking man entered. The ancient-looking man behind the desk looked up and smiled with genuine affection.
"Severus! Welcome back. I trust you had a good summer? All is well with your family?"
"My mother is as sour as ever; however, my father's health is failing and he refuses my help. My summer was a mélange of miseries best not spoken of. What about you, Dumbledore? How was your excursion to the Isle of Wight?"
"I always find the fresh sea air delightful. I had a wonderful time, thank you. Would you like some tea?"
"No, thank you, Headmaster. Now that we have dispensed with the civilities, I would prefer if you explained why you needed to see me right away. I have things to do before the new students arrive tomorrow."
"Of course. It's actually about a new student. Minerva has been in charge of gathering the Muggle students for the new term, but she took ill."
"Is she alright?"
"Perfectly; she's upstairs in the infirmary recuperating as we speak. However, it wasn't until she awoke from her fever this morning that we came to understand that there were a handful of students still on her list that she didn't have time to attend to."
"And you need me to gather a lost lamb?"
"Fine. Give me his direction, and I will go a'gathering."
"I think your hearing is up to snuff, as they say."
"But surely Muggle girls deal better with a woman's touch? And who would we use as a chaperone? Perhaps it would be better to send Pomona."
"I agree, but Pomona is already scurrying after another lost lamb, as is Septima, and Irma won't be here until tomorrow at the earliest. It was you, or Filius. As you know, Hagrid is busy looking after the most important of our incoming charges, and, well, Professor Quirrell might get himself lost."
"And yet you trust him to teach defense."
"I have my reasons, Severus."
"Which you refuse to share, as always."
"I think it best to play my cards close to the vest in this. I have a feeling more is in the wind than just the return of young Mister Potter to the Wizarding world."
"Very well, but if these Muggles decide not to send their precious daughter off to school with me, it will not be my fault."
"Do make every effort, Severus. This child came very late to her magic. She only stabilized in the book in early spring of this year, and I suspect she might be in quite a state. If the lack of a proper chaperone is their only quibble, then you have my permission to be a tiny bit persuasive. I expect you to do everything within reason to ensure the child arrives safely tomorrow."
The Headmaster handed over a slip of parchment. A quick look out the window showed that the sun had nearly set. "You'd best be off. Try to blend in a bit." He waved at Snape's attire, with a laugh. "Even when you dress as a Muggle, you scare them."
The gaunt man gave his employer a long-suffering look and then nodded. "I will see what I can do, Headmaster."
Oh, this is going to be a fun ride…