A Summer in York
A SS/HG fanfic by cabepfir
Chapter 1 – The Emily Brontë Library
A/N: This fic is set during Summer 2009, eleven years after the Battle of Hogwarts, and while it follows DH closely for most parts, it is not 100% DH compliant. Some chapters feature headers drawn by me that you can find on my lj. Thanks to Pink Raccoon who is brainstorming it with me.
I joined the brotherhood – my books were all to me
I scribed the words of God – and much of history
Many a year was I – perched out upon the sea
The waves would wash my tears; – the wind, my memory
Loreena McKennitt, Skellig
"So, these are the keys for the front door, these for the archive door, and these for the personnel toilet. Everything clear?"
"Yes, Madam," answered Hermione.
"I'll repeat it, anyway," Mrs. Peewit went on. " Jack will arrive here at nine and will leave at five p.m. Hester will help him from ten to four p.m., when we have the majority of visitors. You are expected to arrive here at three p.m. For two hours you will be working in the archives, following the instructions you agreed to. Then, from five p.m. to ten p.m. you will be at the main desk, helping visitors with their requests. At a quarter to ten, you will remind the remaining visitors that the library is going to close in fifteen minutes. At ten, you will make every visitor leave the library. After that, you will put the books back in their shelves, finish the tidying, and then you may leave, have my phone number: if you have any problem, you can call me at any hour. "
"Yes, Mrs. Peewit," said Hermione.
"Understood? Tomorrow you are supposed to be here at three o' clock sharp."
"Of course, Mrs. Peewit."
"Good." Finally Mrs. Peewit placed the keys in her hand and waved her goodbye, not without continuing to look at her with a frown.
So this is it, thought Hermione. This library will be mine for eight hours a day, for three months, and I will be beyond reproach. She clenched the keys in her fist.
And this is only the start. I want that post, I need that post, and it will be mine, in the end.
On the next day, Monday June 1st, 2009, Hermione allowed herself to wake up late, very late. If I'm going to work until 10pm, there's no need to be an early riser, she said to herself. Not that she had been much of an early riser lately, in any case. One of the side effects of long-time unemployment was that a person allowed herself too many waking nights in front of a book page or of a computer screen.
When she finally decided to leave the soft mattress of her newly rented bedchamber, she felt rather excited for her new job.
Well, it's not a job. It's only a stage.
It is more than you had in recent years, she conceded to herself.
You won't be paid. You will only be given a refund for the rent of this 3x3 metre room and for your meals.
That's still more than I got recently, she concluded. And I will cut off with my parents for a while, at least, and that's not a small gain.
The Emily Brontë Public Library in York wasn't of course the British Library, or the Bodleian, but it cannot be dismissed that easily, nevertheless. It contained some three thousand manuscripts and eight thousand printed volumes, plus a solid collection of journals, all collected in an elegant Tudor house. The silence that reigned in the building was interrupted only by the creaking of the wooden parquetry under the occasional footsteps. Given that the collection consisted mostly of ancient texts – mainly homilies of deacons of York Minster from the Middle Ages to the Reform – the library was attended almost only by (sparse) scholars, and those were people who used to arrive in the morning and to leave in the first hours of the afternoon. According to the county rules, public libraries ought to stay open until ten p.m. during summertime, and the Emily Brontë conformed to the regulations. However, very few people crossed the gates of the building after six p.m., and they were random visitors who wished for the most part to take advantage of the free wifi connection available. They didn't ask for precious volumes that had to be picked up climbing on squeaking ladders. Thus, only one librarian was sufficient to watch over the place during evenings.
Hermione would have preferred a wizarding library, naturally, but the Emily Brontë was the only one that had accepted her plea for a stage during the summer, and allotting her a refund, in addition. Moreover, for what she was aiming at, the Brontë library was perfect. She would have to handle the ancient volumes without the aid of magic, to restore some manuscripts with her own hands, and to welcome the visitors with kindness and efficiency. She suspected the last requirement would be the hardest. Kind. Smiling. Not to lose my patience when visitors act clumsily or foolishly. Sigh.
A sudden encounter on the street reminded her how much the last requirement could be hard for her to accomplish. She was intercepted by a young girl, a folder in her hand, who asked her if she liked to read. One of those insufferable sellers who wanted her to join some book club, and receive books at home in different editions from their supposed ones. Hermione couldn't bear those book club promoters. There's no use in a book outside its original edition. You cannot quote it as a reference unless you have the page count of the original. Hermione almost yelled the promoter to step away from her. Sigh. So much for patience and kindness. And she was even younger than me, too.
She arrived at the entrance door of the Brontë library at ten to three, and she stepped into the reading room to greet Jack, the daytime librarian, and Hester, his assistant. Jack, a fair-haired, middle- aged man with a broad moustache cut shortly before his lip, made her sign the staff's working time sheet and lead her toward the archives room. While crossing the silent reading room, Hermione looked at the visitors. There were only four readers, bent on their volumes, deciphering handwriting and writing notes on their laptops. They clearly were all people well used in consulting ancient texts, and who must know how to treat them properly. Probably she wouldn't lose her patience with such guests.
Jack opened her the door of the archive room and let her go in.
"Have a nice afternoon, Miss Granger," he said, and he left closing the door behind him.
A fantastic afternoon, that would be. Three thousand manuscripts and eight thousand printed volumes – minus the four held by the guests in the reading room – would be hers for the hours to come. And for the months to come, if I behave well, she thought.
Hermione inhaled the smell of ancient parchment. Mmh, how she had missed it. How many years have passed?, she wondered. Three or four. Even one would have been too much, yet she had endured more than three years away from the archives of a library, and that seemed like a whole lifetime.
She walked slowly along the archive's corridor, watching the shelves with a loving eye, and stroking the books' spines with an imperceptible finger. At the end of the corridor, there was the desk on which she was supposed to work every day from three to five. The desk was provided with a pair of gloves, scissors, glue, sellotape, nylon threads, needles, assorted kinds of paper sheets, and a stapler. On a trolley beside the desk were piled the volumes that she had to restore during the summer. They were the five tomes of The Twelve Patriarkes and the Twelves Prophetes Comparatened for the Benefice of the Youthnesse, by Brother Lucretius of Kirkham, a printed edition dated 1499. They didn't trust an unknown, newly-hired librarian with manuscripts, lamented Hermione. Not that restoring Brother Lucretius' work would have been much simpler, in any case. The bindings were untied – how many people could have opened that book in the last centuries? – and the pages had started to loose free. Hermione's work at that desk would be of pulling the pages together again and sewing them to the spine, so that a proper restoration, made by a team bindery and much more expensive, could have been postponed to a date to define.
She opened the first tome of The Twelve Patriarkes and smiled at the good, old-looking style of the front matter. How could have I ruined it all? she asked herself. The ancient paper looked so frail under her hands, yet it felt so reassuring. It felt like home, after all.
How could she have ruined it all? Four years before, in 2005, she had been working for a wizarding binding shop connected to Canterbury's Magical Library, and it would have been a paradise of a work if it wouldn't have been for her employer. An utterly incompetent fool, she still remembered in irritation. He was an eighty-something, blabbering old wizard, always complaining at his employees about their supposed faults, and always telling them they were too young to understand anything about ancient books. Hermione had swallowed her own bile for two years, until she couldn't bear anymore. She had shouted at Mr. Hullarder that she knew far better than him how to handle ancient books, and she had got immediately fired. Fine, she had thought. "Not that I wanted to work in your lurid shop anymore," she had added while leaving the bindery slamming the door. I will find a far better workplace in no time, Hermione had told to herself Disapparating away from Canterbury.
But that, much to her astonishment, wouldn't be the case. Mr. Hullarder made sure that no other magical bindery or library would offer her a job, at least until his resentment would calm down. Magical bindaries and libraries in England formed really a small circle, and they were all led by old dotards such as Mr. Hullarder. They were all friends. And since Hermione Granger already wasn't in the good graces of the wizarding world anymore, none of them showed a bit of difficulty in complying with Mr. Hullarder's retaliations.
She was left without a job, forced to go back to her parents' house, and stick there for years until a new opportunity came out.
This is a lifetime occasion, she repeated to herself. I want that post, I need that post, and it will be mine.
Time passed unnoticed when she was concentrated on something. The two hours she had to spend in the archives run out in the blink of an eye, and she had only started planning out the best method of repairing the loose sheets of Brother Lucretius's first tome when her alarm clock reminded her that she was expected at the help desk in a few minutes. Unwillingly, Hermione left the tome on the trolley and went back in the reading room.
There were only two people now, both with their backs at the help desk, and both buried into their books. Hermione smiled. It would be easy to keep her patience, there.
"You can order yourself some dinner by calling this number," said Jack handing her a small piece of paper with the number of a takeaway written upon. "I'll see you tomorrow at three. If you have any problem, you can contact me or Mrs. Peewit. Have a nice evening, Miss Granger," said Jack, and he left the reading room.
"Goodbye, Mr. Toole," she said, keeping her voice as low as he had kept his. They were not supposed to disturb the visitors with their conversations.
She was now the only staff member in the library. She opened a manual of librarianship and started underlining it with an orange pencil.
The remaining hours of her first day of work passed quietly. Only six new visitors entered in the library from 5 to 10pm, and four of them were passers-by who looked for the internet connection, as she had expected. Two visitors asked for recent issues of scholarly journals, and their requests were easily fulfilled.
Of the two guests that were already in the library when Jack had left, one had handed back his book at 7pm, asking Hermione to keep it in store for the next day. The other one was the very last guest to leave the reading room. He had spent the whole evening bent on his volume, calmly taking notes with a pencil on a notebook. At quarter to ten, when Hermione raised her voice to remind him that he was due to leave in fifteen minutes, he simply acknowledged it with a slight nod of his head. Two minutes before ten, the last guest pushed back his chair and stood up. As soon as she heard the squeaking of the chair, Hermione lowered her eyes and opened the drawer in which the visitors' files were kept. The only remaining file was under letter S. She pulled the visitor's file away from the plastic blue sleeve.
That was impossible.
She lifted up her head, and on the other side of the help desk, hovered Severus Snape in person, holding the book with both hands.
She gaped at him with her eyes open wide while she tried to stutter something through her dry throat.
"Miss Granger," said Snape. If he was taken aback, he could surely conceal it better than her.
This chapter was corrected by growley464 and WriterMerrin. Thank you. The Emily Brontë Library in York, as well as Brother Lucretius of Kirkham are inventions, of course.