Summary: A time travel story. When fifth-year Severus Snape tries to create a forward time-travelling philter to prove his worthiness to Lord Voldemort, he is disappointed to find that his creation is worthless. Or is it?
Disclaimer: All recognizable characters and fictional places do not belong to me; I am merely borrowing them for playtime before (respectfully) putting them back. Thank you, JKR, for allowing such things to happen.
Pairings/Main Characters Hermione Granger and Severus Snape, the other Severus Snape. A cast of other canon characters and couple of OFCs as well.
Warnings: This story is rated NC-17/MA, and it is not suitable for children under age 18. It is Alternate Universe, and includes strong language, lemons (graphic sex), violence and mention of violence/torture, unresolved sexual tension, and major character death.
Thank You: To the village that has raised this baby over the course of several chapters: Roo, Tom Without, Allee, Lauren, Nathaniel Cardeau and ThornedHuntress. Additional thanks to my current amazing "Team Tyche," who have listened to me bounce ideas and have cleaned up my writing, making this story so, so much more than it would have been otherwise: Dragoon811, BSC_AG, AdelaideArcher and Stgulik.
A thousand further thank yous to the extremely talented SusanMarieR, who created the official banner and cover art for this piece.
Chapter Fifteen: (in which Hermione goes shopping in Diagon Alley with the Weasleys)
The Burrow, Ottery St. Catchpole, Devon, 23 August 1996, 8:32 AM
Hermione was far more excited to embark upon the annual shopping trip in Diagon Alley than she had ever been in the past; she was literally bouncing on her toes a bit in impatient anticipation. She couldn't seem to help it; the month of August had been quite possibly the longest month of her life.
She had been moody, embarrassingly so, and reticent, unable to motivate herself into the same amount of exuberance as Harry and the Weasley siblings over the last month of summer. She knew she was being a bit of a prat, but couldn't seem to help or stop herself. She kept thinking about him. They had exchanged two letters apiece in the three weeks since she had left Number Twelve, and it simply wasn't enough. She missed him and his slow smile and witty conversation and his dry sense of humour. She found herself rapidly changing moods throughout the day as she flipped between pining for his company and day dreaming about his lean body and druggingly lovely kisses.
It was utterly ridiculous. No matter how many times she told herself she was being a silly and hormonal teenager, or reminded herself that it was only for a few weeks, she couldn't seem to stop herself swinging wildly from euphoria to pouting. He was the first boy she had ever really, truly fancied who liked her back—Ronald had never returned her fledgling affections and Viktor had always been more a social experimentation than a true relationship.
Atreus, though… Atreus made her feel giddy and attractive and a bit powerful, and now, finally, after three interminable weeks, the Weasley family was going shopping in Diagon Alley and taking Harry and her along. Atreus had sworn in his last letter that he would be there as well, accompanied by Madam Pomfrey, and they had made plans to meet up at Flourish and Blotts.
She didn't even realise that she was humming until Ron gave her a look and said sourly, "What are you so pleased about? I didn't think you liked shopping especially. It's one of your redeeming qualities as a girl."
Hermione's acidic retort was cut short by Harry chiming in, "Oi, but you forgot, Ron. This is shopping for school. When have you ever known school not to cheer Hermione up?"
"You're both wrong, morons." The two boys turned to gape at Ginny, who gave Hermione an arch look. Heat stole its way to her cheeks as it became apparent from her smug, knowing expression that Ginny knew. Hermione hadn't been quite careful enough, and the younger girl had added up that she was mooning like a silly twit over a boy. Not only that, Hermione realised, but Ginny had likely also figured out who the boy in question was, and knew that he was Severus Snape, albeit a younger version. How utterly mortifying.
Hermione gave her friend a beseeching look as a clueless Ron inquired, "Is that so? What's your theory, then?"
Ginny lifted a brow at her silent plea, stuck out her tongue at her brother, and responded cheerily, "That's for me to know, and you to discover!"
Hermione let out her breath in a soft sigh of relief. She hadn't yet figured out how to precisely tell the boys that she had started a relationship over the summer. She did know, however, that it would be better coming from her than someone else, and that she would have to do it in the next hour or so. There would be no hiding it when she asked to meet up with Atreus in Diagon Alley, and they would be far more likely to behave at least marginally well if they were prepared ahead of time for it. Yet…yet Hermione couldn't help but feel apprehensive at the prospect.
Hermione chewed on her lip, trying to figure out the best way to explain that she had a boyfriend, and she would very much appreciate them not acting like complete arses to him. Molly Weasley interrupted her thoughts, bustling into the living room and waving her wand a bit like a conducting baton.
"Come, come, you four, time to go! We have a busy day ahead of us, and Diagon Alley is bound to be packed, this close to the start of school. We'll have to arrive earlier than usual if we're to spend any time with your brothers at all and Daisy Brown is to meet us with her daughter at Pelwyn's Tea House for lunch. She's in your year, isn't she? Lavender? Such a nice girl. I'm not sure why we've never had her over to spend time with you girls." Ginny grimaced behind her mother's back and Hermione laughed silently in response.
Molly caught Hermione's smile, and smiled back happily, misunderstanding the expression to be one of pleasure at the prospect of Lavender Brown's company. To Hermione's horror, the Weasley matron winked, and continued blithely, "Perhaps she will be able to worm the details out of our Hermione about her new young man."
The boys gaped, and Ginny winced in sympathy. Everyone was silent for a long moment, until an apologetic look stole across Mrs. Weasley's face. "I'm so sorry dear, you three are so close, I thought they would have already known by now. I heard it from Tonks at the last Order meeting how you seemed to be getting along exceptionally well with him."
At this affirmation, and Hermione's lack of denial, Harry opened and closed his mouth several times and Ron finally burst out, "There's a bloke?"
The frank incredulity in his tone and on his face made Hermione's irritation rise. "Honestly, Ronald," she snapped, "it isn't as if I'm completely unattractive, or without feelings. Just because you're not interested doesn't mean no one else is, and I like him."
"I never said…" Ron mumbled, and then shot her a wounded, betrayed look.
"How did you meet him?" Harry asked suddenly, his green eyes sharp.
Hermione tried not to squirm. "We thought it best if my parents went into hiding, considering the situation, so I've stayed for a little bit at Number Twelve. He's been staying there too, until school starts. He's coming to Hogwarts." Her attention turned to Mrs. Weasley. "I didn't want to presume…"
The woman smiled at her reassuringly. "That's very polite of you dear, but of course you would have been welcome here, I would hope you know that."
Hermione ducked her head, not wanting to explain that she hadn't wanted to spend nearly the entirety of her summer at the Burrow. Tactfully, she inquired instead, "We were planning to meet up at Flourish and Blotts—do you mind horribly?"
"No, dear, of course not." She patted Hermione's shoulder and reached for the Floo pot, handing out small handfuls to each of them. "We can invite him and whomever is accompanying him along for lunch with the Browns! Won't that be lovely!"
As she watched the woman spin through the Floo to Diagon Alley, Hermione felt her stomach sink. Lunch with Harry, Ron, Ginny, Atreus, Lavender and three adult ladies sounded rather like an unmitigated disaster to her. Her day was rapidly crumbling from the excitement of seeing Atreus again to horror.
Feeling slightly desperate, she pleaded to her friends, "Please try to get along with him; I really like him."
Ginny answered immediately, "Of course we will, Hermione." She gave her brother a pointed look. "Won't we, Ron, Harry? Anyone you like is bound to be brilliant, and you were completely supportive of Harry when he botched things with Cho. Right, Ron?"
Ron gave Hermione a sullen look and pushed passed his sister to follow his mother into the Floo, disappearing after a small mutter. Hermione's heart sank further.
Harry looked uncomfortable, smiled weakly, and responded unconvincingly. "Yeah…yeah, sure, of course." He followed Ron through the Floo a moment later, leaving Hermione feeling slightly nauseous.
Ginny rounded on her. "Have you kissed him? Wait, don't answer that, I'm not sure if I want to think about you kissing, you know, Professor Snape." She chewed on her lip indecisively, and then just as suddenly said, "Yes, I do—He's got an incredible voice; I could listen to him read the dictionary. Have you kissed him? Is he any good? Does he concentrate as much doing that as he does with his potions stuff? I bet he's bloody good at snogging if he does."
"He's the professor's nephew, and his name is Atreus, Ginny! And the two of you have never met, remember?" Hermione said fiercely, feeling her cheeks heat.
"Oh-ho! He is." The younger girl's eyes danced. "We'll have to compare notes on him and Michael tonight, after we're alone again. Not that we're still together—he was a complete arse—but he was very good at kissing!" She grinned widely, and practically skipped into the Floo, completely missing the almost inaudible whimper Hermione was unable to hold in at her suggestion.
Diagon Alley, London, 23 August 1996, 11:45 AM
Ron spent the morning surly and sullen, actively ignoring Hermione but for the occasional glare and forcibly attempting to monopolise Harry's attention. Harry, for his part, kept shooting her awkward and apologetic glances. He looked like he wanted to ask questions but was afraid of setting Ron off.
After visiting their respective vaults in Gringotts, their small group headed toward Madam Malkin's. Harry finally cleared his throat, and transparently attempting to thaw the increasingly frosty atmosphere, ventured, "So…this bloke of yours, does he play Quidditch?"
Hermione smiled brilliantly at him, grateful that he was at least trying, and opened her mouth to respond. She was left with her mouth hanging open when she realised she didn't actually know the answer. Furiously she thought back; he had never really expressed an interest in Quidditch in particular, but the Professor had refereed a game in their first year, so clearly he could play and was interested enough to know all the rules.
"We haven't actually discussed it, much." Hermione admitted, "You know I'm not the biggest fan, so it never really came up." She darted a look at Ron, and continued, "He plays chess, though—he's really good at it."
Ron sneered in return, and Harry smiled weakly. After a moment, he tried valiantly again, "So where is he from? I mean, where did he go to school before?"
Hermione felt herself brighten again, relieved, and launched into the background she and Atreus had come up with together. "Beauxbatons. His parents…uh, they died in May, and now his uncle has custody, so he's going to be coming to Hogwarts." It had seemed the best choice, considering that Atreus already spoke French, if not quite as well as the story implied.
Ron finally interjected. "He's French? What is it with you and foreign guys? Are we not good enough for you, Hermione?" His lip curled and his arms folded.
Hermione glared and shook her head. "Stop being so defensive, Ron! I might have expressed an interest in someone that goes to Hogwarts if anyone had bothered to express an interest in me," she retorted. "And for your information, Atreus' father was British; he was born and raised here. His mum is French, so he went to school there."
Ron let out a disgruntled snort in reply, just as they entered Madam Malkin's, but then conversation was no longer possible. The next few hours or so were taken up in a flurry of noise and fabric—the shop was busy, and it was discovered that both the boys had shot up over the summer by an inch or two.
By the time they had finished outfitting their group with what they needed for the upcoming school year, they only had a couple of hours or so left before lunch. As they left the shop, they nearly ran into Draco Malfoy and his mother entering. The woman's nose lifted in distaste, and Draco commented rudely on the smell of Mudbloods, directing a supercilious look at Hermione. Only Mrs. Weasley's firm grip on her son's collar and daughter's arm kept them moving smoothly out the door.
"The nerve," Ron seethed, temporarily forgetting his ire towards Hermione when confronted with a common enemy. "How dare he say things like that? You should have let me say something," he groused at his mother.
"We cannot control other people's poor behaviour, but we can control our own. I'll not have my children starting public arguments, especially not while the situation is so precarious." Mrs. Weasley gave her son a stern look, "Can you not see how many shops are closed, how frightened people are? Causing a scene could very well be the bad stir that sets off the cauldron explosion. Worse, it brings attention to us from the sort of people that we could just as well do without, Ronald Weasley."
The redhead muttered under his breath uncharitably, but finally nodded assent. Her point made, Mrs. Weasley glanced between Slug and Jiggers and Wiseacre's, clearly debating if they had time to get in and out of both before lunch. Hermione ventured, "Ginny and I are the only ones who need things from Slug and Jiggers, since the boys aren't taking Potions this year; why don't you send us in with the list while you three go to Wiseacres, and we'll all meet up at Flourish and Blotts before lunch?
Mrs. Weasley hesitated a bit further, eyeing a few of the shabby stalls and boarded up storefronts that had appeared over the summer. Her reluctance to leave any of them alone was palpable.
"Look," said Ginny, "isn't that Professor Vector in Slug and Jiggers? We'll be fine, mum. We'll meet you at Flourish and Blotts, we won't be more than half an hour."
Mrs. Weasley eyed the window of the shop again, and then finally nodded, briskly motioning for the boys to follow her down the street towards the all-purpose supply store. Ginny grinned at Hermione, pleased that they had been left on their own in Diagon Alley, and tugged her towards the shop.
Professor Vector was indeed inside, and she seemed to be on her own. It was, Hermione realised, the perfect opportunity for her to ask her about Unspeakable Damian Vector, and what she might know of him, provided Ginny didn't stick to her side. The professor would speak with her, she was sure of it. Arithmancy was her favourite class, and the strict professor often shared friendly conversations with Hermione outside of class.
A bell jingled over the door as the two girls entered, and Ginny surprised her by saying first, "You grab what you need and I'll get mine. Meet you at the till, alright?" She barely waited for Hermione's nod before wandering off toward the back of the narrow, but deep shop.
Shrugging a little at her good fortune, Hermione approached her professor. "Professor Vector!" she exclaimed. "Hi!"
The woman turned, surprised, and then smiled as she saw her top student approach. "Hello, Hermione. Shopping for school, today?"
Hermione nodded. "Yes, you?"
"I'm picking up a few things, yes. My N.E.W.T. classes will be studying the practical applications of Arithmancy to potions work. You will be taking my class again this year, I hope?"
"Oh, absolutely!" Hermione enthused. "It's my favourite subject. I wanted to ask you—I was introduced to a Damian Vector over the summer; is he a relative of yours?"
Her instructor looked taken aback. "Ah, yes. Yes, he's a cousin of sorts. I'm surprised, however that he would…" Professor Vector's voice trailed off and she shook herself. Her dark blue eyes focused on Hermione with laser-sharp precision, before asking probingly, "You met at the British Museum, I imagine?"
Suddenly getting the feeling that the answer to this particular question was more important than she knew, Hermione jerked her head in a nod, and affirmed, "Y-yes. Yes, of course. He's very interesting." The British Museum? What would Unspeakable Damian Vector have to do with the British Museum?
Nonetheless, Hermione's professor seemed to relax slightly. Her expression was still a bit troubled, however and she said reluctantly, "These are dangerous times, Hermione, and unfortunately, we can't always be certain whom we can trust and those whom we cannot. My cousin has always been brilliant and charismatic, but also a bit unpredictable and wild. I do not think he would be appropriate company for a witch like yourself."
Hermione nodded, her mind whirling. "Of course, Professor. It was a one-time occurrence; I doubt we'll run into each other again." Until I manage to go to the British Museum, at any rate. Aloud, she said, "It was lovely to see you; I'll see you in class, Professor!"
She quickly gathered what things she needed, lingering indecisively by the contraceptive potions, embarrassed. Should she grab a couple? She wasn't quite ready for that yet, no matter how nice kissing Atreus was, but it was better to be prepared than not, wasn't it? Hermione turned away from the shelves. Surely one of them could brew one when the time came.
Hermione stopped in her tracks as a sudden thought hit her. If they didn't have access to the right components, she wouldn't have this chance to buy one without adult supervision again. Hermione dithered. She had been told that Madame Pomfrey kept a stock, but how embarrassing would it be to ask, especially for Atreus, since she was something of a surrogate parent figure to him?
Hermione was still shifting her weight back and forth between leaving the aisle and grabbing a couple of bottles before she left, when Ginny found her. "I'm so glad we talked mum into going with the boys. I would never have gotten the chance to get these." The younger girl's eyes rolled, and she dumped several doses into her shopping basket. "Can you imagine her face?"
Hermione felt her mouth drop. "Ginny, are you—? I didn't know you were—!"
"Oh, I'm not, I mean, not all the way, you know? But it doesn't hurt to not be stupid, you know? You should get one or two, as well."
Hermione flushed, but felt a little less self-conscious adding them. The two girls made their way to the counter and paid for their purchases. Hermione thought her face might explode into flame, but the spotty-faced clerk behind the register didn't change expression at all. How many teenagers must he ring up contraceptives for that it didn't faze him at all? Were all the older students at Hogwarts having sex?
Ginny giggled as they left Slug and Jiggers and headed towards Flourish and Blotts. "Hermione, stop looking so guilty. Mum will know for sure."
"He didn't seem to care at all, though. The clerk, I mean."
"Well, of course not. He's barely out of Hogwarts himself, I wager, and a bloke. He wouldn't want girls to think he wasn't cool about it, or something. Besides, he does work in an apothecary, and it is a popular potion. He probably isn't embarrassed by it."
"Even though we were clearly school shopping? Do you think everyone is really, you know, having sex?" Hermione said it on a whisper, slightly nervous that despite all logic, Molly Weasley would somehow hear the conversation.
Ginny actually rolled her eyes. "I doubt it. It's one of those things, I think, you know? Where everyone in school thinks everyone else is, and everyone buys the potion thinking maybe, but it probably actually doesn't really happen that much at all. I mean, really, we've all known each other since we were eleven. It makes even the larger classes seem small."
Hermione nodded, thoughtfully. "We're all in each other's business; it'd be a hard thing to keep totally quiet about, especially for the blokes."
"Exactly." Ginny gave a wicked smile. "Doesn't stop them from hoping though, or the girls from buying 'just in case.'"
Hermione grinned back, and the two pushed their way into the busy Flourish and Blotts. The store was busy, though not quite as bad as it had been in years past. Hermione pulled her book list from her bag and studied it, idly winding her way through the store to the textbook section. Ginny followed, fussing with her bag a bit, chattering in general about school and summer gossip she had gleaned.
They found the boys at the end of an aisle, tensely staring beyond the end cap at something out of sight. Ron's expression was menacing, and Harry actually had his wand out, pointed tensely. Eyes wide, her own hand flying to the handle of her wand, Hermione shifted to the left behind the boys for a better view, only to find that on the business end of Harry's wand, his own wand out threateningly, was Atreus.
A/N: So many things to report! First of all, I would like to give a special thanks to the amazing people who have been so patient during the last couple months while my attention was stolen away by the SSHG prompt exchange. Keep an eye out-there are some amazing fics and art being posted-see if you can figure out what's mine by the end of the month!
I would particularly like to send heartfelt thanks to ThornedHuntress and Nathaniel Cardeu (my insanity handlers), and the amazing folks who reviewed-THANK YOU so much.
Secondly: I was informed this morning that I won first place at the HPFanFicFanPollAwards on live journal for "Best Romance Story" in their Harmony category for"Hermione's Favourite Gift." Thank you to my mysterious nominator and those who voted for me; you blew me away and humbled me!
Thirdly, speaking of "Hermione's Favourite Gift," it was also chosen to be podcast on this round of the HP Pod Fics along with my story "Of Felines and Family," read by my dear friend and banner artist, SusanMarieR and Finalbos!
Lastly: I received some new and fantastic fan art from Ekr, who's talent had my jaw on the floor! Please stop by Ekr's Deviant Art page and mention how awesome it is (link is on my profile)!