Of Loneliness and Nature

Summary: This is not a tale of a time-traveling girl who saved a man from himself, though that may have indeed happened. This is, instead, the tale of a researcher and of a master, of wand cores and of potions, and the discovery that what has truly been missing all along is oneself.

Chapter One - Gardenias

Hermione Jean Granger knew many things. She didn't need someone to introduce her at speeches because the people already knew her, already knew how smart she was, how much she had accomplished.

But Hermione Jean Granger also knew that she hated the attention more than she liked it. So, to her, it was no surprise that she would accept a position with the Department of Mysteries.

A career cloaked in secrecy? Perfect.

But there were cons to every decision, and losing Ron was one of those. She knew this, and by the time she was ready to tell him about her choice, so did he.

Perhaps he had always known. She was meant for something different.

It was no surprise to Hermione Jean Granger that Ron began to date other people, but it still hurt.

After all, he had always been her dream.

By the time her twenty-first birthday came along, Hermione had been living on her own for just over a year. It had been just shy of her twentieth birthday when she'd become an Unspeakable, only a scarce few months after the Final Battle.

Time had flown by. Experiments, Arithmancy tests, failed potions, and Charms successes.

She was lucky.

But as lucky as she was for finding a career she could be happy in, it left little room for other people.

She was as lucky as she was lonely.

When her turn came for her to take a trip in the past for research, she jumped at it. It was new, different, and she needed a change from the life she wasn't really living at all.

And so, Hermione Granger went to sleep one night in the Time Room of the Department of Mysteries in 2001 and woke up the next morning in 1985.

Her life, her career, and her heart would never be the same.

July 16th, 1985

"Oh!" a soft voice squeaked in Hermione's ears. She blinked awake. "Are you researching, Madame?" the soft and distinctively French voice asked.

Hermione rubbed at her eyes as she struggled to sit up. "Domina Room?" she asked quietly, looking up at the woman.

A sheath of black hair floated around the woman's pale face and set off her turquoise eyes.

"Ah. Hermione Granger. Welcome back," the woman spoke to her, an all-knowing smile on her face.

"When have I been taken?" Hermione asked her, standing up slowly.

The woman smiled. "It is 1985, my dear Maecenas Tempus. Your task will be completed by the first of September. A mere six weeks," the Mistress of the Room told her, guiding the time-displaced woman to the door.

"How am I to know what to do, Domina?"

The woman smiled at Hermione again. "Time always knows, dear Maecenas."

On their first research trip, Unspeakables were neither given a time, a task, nor an idea of what they were to do. It was the Mistress of the Room who told them all they needed to know.

Sometimes they were told very little about their tasks. Hermione was no different.

It was time that chose the task, not the plans of others.

Unlike most of the new researchers, Hermione had the forethought to stuff Galleons in her pockets. She didn't know if they'd travel with her—she hadn't even been sure her clothes would—but she had to try.

She was lucky.

Though Diagon Alley had changed much in her own time, in this time it looked like it had that first time she had been there.

Her first stop was Madam Malkin's, where she bought new robes and redressed herself. The second was Ollivander's.

Her wand had not been as lucky.

Hermione walked into the familiar and dusty shop, looking around like it was the first time seeing it. In a way, it was.

"Ah. Miss Granger." Ollivander looked decades younger than he had the last time she had seen him—then again, he was.

"Sir," she said, nodding to him. He walked into his backroom, pulling out a long and yellowed box.

"Birch wood, sixteen inches. Very firm. The core is the feather of a barn swallow."

Hermione blinked in surprise. Barn swallow? They weren't magical at all!

"But—" Hermione started. Ollivander hushed her and placed the wand in her hand.

It warmed her, fingers first, traveling up her arm and then to the furthest parts of her body.

"Barn swallows are just birds. I don't understand, Mr. Ollivander," she admitted, feeling the magic flow throughout her body.

"Ah, Miss Granger. That is where your knowledge needs supplementation. Perhaps you should discover that for yourself. After all, it is not my knowledge that told me to make this wand in your name."

Hermione left the wand shop more confused now than ever before. Was she supposed to discover something about the wands? Was it all a cosmic coincidence?

Not for the first time, she wished she had someone with her. Someone she could trust, someone who would be able to help her. Maybe just someone to talk to.

The Leaky Cauldron was busier than it had been when she had gone through the first time. She pushed through the crowds and groups of children headed to the Alley with their families. It took a few moments, but she was soon talking to Tom about a room.

The night passed like they always had—in silence, all alone.

She awoke early from a fitful sleep. Her nervousness about being in the past was intensified when she realised just how alone she was here. She couldn't Floo Harry with an unnecessary question about anything so that, for just a moment, she would feel less couldn't write her father, call her mother, or meet Ginny for fashion advice she didn't really want. She had been relying on other people for moments that would keep her happy for days.

How would she make it through six weeks alone, researching, without anyone familiar? Without the knowledge that most people had of how to make new friends, she wasn't sure if she would know what to do.

What could she do?

A few hours later, she stared up at the ceiling of her room at the Leaky Cauldron and daydreamed.

She loved being an Unspeakable, First Class. She was a researcher and a scientist—at least, that was the easiest way to put it.

Given her class, she was often alone. If her projects required the help of another, she was rarely assigned the same person twice.

She knew she intimidated most of her colleagues. Those who had spent years as Unspeakables knew that she was one of the brightest among them.

She was the youngest Unspeakable by nearly fifteen years, despite that people had been brought in after her.

The ones she didn't intimidate tended to be above her level in many ways. They rarely got paired with her as a result.

Even in her work, she was alone. Famous. Alone.

Hermione had to get out of her room. She had no idea what her task was, but the room was stifling.

By the time she left the Leaky Cauldron, it was nearly nightfall. Many of the shops were closed, but Flourish and Blotts was still open, and what Ollivander had said had stayed with her.

That is where your knowledge needs supplementation. Perhaps you should discover that for yourself. After all, it is not my knowledge that told me to make this wand in your name.

What did it mean? Was she to be researching wand cores from non-magical animals?

Then she found herself staring at a man barely older than herself standing a few feet away , a book on Muggle plants in his hands.

A dead man. A dead man she admired.

"Professor Snape?" She heard the words cut the silence of the nearly empty shop and tried to hide her face.

But she had already spoken aloud; there was nothing she could do.

He turned to face her, standing tall and giving an air of disinterest. Once he scanned her over with his piercing black eyes, those same eyes narrowed.

He didn't recognise her. She did not know why she was surprised. In this time, she was five years old and living with her parents in a flat above their dentistry.

"And you are?" There was a bite in his voice that she recognised all too well.

"Hermione Granger, sir. I need that book." She wasn't sure why she was saying it. She didn't know for sure. But were Muggle plants really that far away from animals?

"I do not recognise that name, witch. So tell me, why should I hand over a book I am about to purchase?" There was a venom in his voice now.

"You will, uh, recognise my name one day, Professor. And you'll remember this day and wonder." She was making it up as she went along.

But if she were honest, she craved his presence. He was more familiar than anyone else.

And he would one day die.

Was it so wrong to want him to spend these weeks with her?

She left the bookshop half an hour later, the smallest of smiles on her face.

He wouldn't give her the book.

But he had asked if she was researching the same thing.

She knew with a little work, he would wear down and agree to research with her.

Hermione Jean Granger was making a plan.

And for once in her life, she was ignoring the risk.

A/N: Written for Pennfana in the 2011 SSHG Exchange on LiveJournal.

Prompt will be included at the end.