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 Eighteen: (In which Hermione as an awful day, followed by a frustrating Defence lesson.)
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, 03 September, 1996, 10:00 AM
Hermione spent her first night as a sixth year crying into her pillow. The upper-level students were allowed to use silencing and temperature charms or wards on their beds, and Hermione gratefully did so. The very last thing Hermione wanted to deal with was Parvati or Lavender asking her what was wrong and attempting to comfort her. Neither of her female year-mates might like her that much, and they could often be downright catty, but they would not ignore her if they realised she was weeping.
Hermione honestly couldn't handle that at all right now, especially from Lavender. The day had just been so awful. Boarding the Hogwarts Express with the Weasleys had, suddenly and painfully, driven home that her parents were not there to see her off, and never ever would be again. She had felt unbearably lonely and abandoned—which was entirely irrational since she had been the one who sent them away. Regardless, the feeling was there and it had taken all of her willpower to keep from blubbing like a first year on the train as it pulled away.
The train ride had only got worse. She had been looking forward to finding Severus and sorting out the disaster that had been the Diagon Alley excursion. During their lunch that day, she had been so focused on how upset she was with Ron and trying not to strangle Lavender for all her little digs, that she had behaved rather badly towards him. Severus had looked much worse than when she'd seen him last, as well, and to her chagrin she had not been certain of the best way to ask him about it without embarrassing him. She had been rather counting on using the train ride to make up and ask him privately.
Unfortunately, several searches of the train had revealed that Severus wasn't aboard at all, so she hadn't been able to make things right, and had spent a good portion of the eleven-hour train ride worrying about him.
After a brief prefect meeting with Professors Vector and Saxina, Hermione had then been forced to listen as Harry and Ron had emphatically accused Draco Malfoy of being a Death Eater, of all things. Their proof had been that Malfoy had shopped in Knockturn Alley and behaved suspiciously. Of course, they knew of Malfoy's activities because they had followed him about whilst under an Invisibility cloak. The irony of that didn't even seem to register with the idiots.
Around lunchtime, Harry and Neville had left, apparently as they were invited to some sort of gathering with the new Potions professor, Horace Slughorn. Lavender had then invited herself in, cosied up to Ron, and Hermione was left with only Luna as for company for almost the rest of the train ride as Ron and Lavender cooed and snogged. It had been both awkward and revolting.
She had never quite been so relieved to get to Hogwarts in any of the previous five years. Yet somehow, her evening had still managed to get worse. Harry had been late to the feast after leaving to spy on Malfoy again, causing her no small amount of worry, and then had made that awful comment about hoping Professor Snape would die.
Severus' sorting had seemed to go smoothly, for the most part, though he didn't look too pleased in general. Her relief at seeing him looking markedly healthier, and the hope that she would be able to work things out with him, had leeched away through supper. He had refused to so much as meet her eyes. She had been forced to follow him when he rose to go to the loo. Not that anything good had come from that.
Why couldn't Severus understand her loyalty to her friends? Especially after the last year: Harry had been so angry and alone; he had been left in the dark, patronised or ignored by all of his adult mentors and had been made a laughing stock by the rest of the Wizarding world. Hermione knew it had worked at his deep-seated insecurities. She had seen the havoc and consequences the year had wreaked. Severus had expected her to look into the haunted, grieving eyes of her best friend in Diagon Alley and pretend not to believe him,— after the lies and similar disbelief of the previous year had nearly driven him mad.
Then Lavender had kept making little digs, trying to assert her claim on Ronald-Bloody-Weasley, and really Hermione couldn't be arsed except that it was so humiliating. When she had tried to demonstrate to Lavender that she really wasn't a threat, Severus had been stiff and stand-offish, and Ronald hadn't even tried to call Lavender off.
Then Severus had just delivered his ultimatum: Harry or him. And when Hermione couldn't bring herself to abandon her oldest friend, Severus had just dumped her. Flat. In the middle of dinner. It really was a most horrid ending on top of a truly awful day. Crying into her pillow for several hours hadn't given her any feelings of relief, either, just a rather horrid headache and a bad case of hiccoughs.
Today wasn't looking any better at all. Her eyes were still a bit puffy and red from the previous night; it was clear she'd had herself a good cry. She stole a glance across the classroom at Severus, who appeared to be absolutely indifferent to her. He was sitting with Padma Patil, who was by far more level-headed and intelligent than her sister Parvati, but equally as pretty. Far prettier than Hermione, with her long, glossy dark hair that never frizzed no matter how awful the humidity got.
Hermione closed her eyes briefly and attempted to calm her breathing and clear her mind. Going into her Tuesday morning Defence class taught by Professor Snape with her emotions rioting would be nothing but a disaster. Honestly, she really should have tried to do this during that awful lunch in Diagon Alley, but she still found it horribly difficult to clear her thoughts once she was already riled up.
The Professor blew into the Defence classroom much as he did the Potions classroom, all billowing robes and arrogant dramatics. The murmuring students fell silent as he swivelled to face them and began the lesson.
"The Dark Arts are many, varied, ever-changing and eternal…"
The low, caressing cadence in his voice was exactly the same pitch and tone Severus had used on the roof of Number Twelve. She could almost feel his warm breath on her throat, in her ear; and a shiver slid down her spine and went straight to her nipples. Her lips parted slightly, and she shot a glance at Severus. He still wouldn't look at her, and was watching the professor with interest.
"…You are fighting that which is unfixed, mutating, and indestructible."
Hermione had to keep herself from making any noise; she was actually turned on by her professor's loving speech about the Dark Arts. She trusted him—how could she not when he had protected her friends and her so many times, helped her alter her parents' memories, and kept her secrets? Still, getting her knickers wet because of her professor's voice—especially whilst he was talking about black magic—was highly inappropriate.
It's only because of Severus. Hermione reassured herself. It's Severus I like, and they sound the same. It's not like I can help it if his voice makes me want to—NO. Hermione caught her thoughts just as the professor's gaze settled on her. It was unlikely that he was peeking in her mind, but it would be especially stupid of her to mentally dwell about on her arousal and assume he'd ignore it. He asked a question and she shot her hand in the air to get her mind out of the danger zone, and hopefully remind the professor how boring and annoying her thoughts probably were to him.
It appeared to work, and the class was told to divide into pairs to practice non-verbal magic. She looked to Severus again, but he was already squaring off with Padma. Hermione felt her heart sink, and glanced around to see who might be available. Harry was already with Ron, predictably, and Seamus had paired up with Dean. Neville, with whom she usually ended up partnered with in these sort of class exercises, had even managed to find someone else—Hannah Abbott. In fact, her only choices left were Blaise Zabini and Anthony Goldstein.
She had just started moving towards the Ravenclaw prefect when Zabini loudly called for Goldstein's attention and wriggled his wand in clear invitation. Anthony Goldstein, who had not noticed her small movement, gamely raised his wand and furrowed his brows in concentration. A glance around confirmed that she had, indeed, been correct the first time: no one was left. The class had an uneven number of students.
"Five points, Miss Granger, for not following directions and finding a partner." The professor's silky voice came sneering over her shoulder, and Hermione winced. It wasn't something she could help, but of course he would take points. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Severus' head twitch in her direction minutely.
"Sir," she began cautiously, "it appears that I shall have to wait my turn for another classmate to be free."
The professor's expression was reminiscent of finding something nasty on his shoe. "I'm afraid, Miss Granger, that we don't have time to wait for you join the rest of the class. You will just have to practice against me." His lips twisted unpleasantly. "Prepare to defend yourself. Non verbally."
"Blimey, I wouldn't want to be her." The whisper came from behind her, and Hermione grimaced to herself as the professor snapped out a point loss against the offender. She didn't feel much like being her, either.
The professor's wand flicked, and pain zinged across her arm as the feeling of nettles brushing across it suddenly exploded. Hermione dropped her wand with a surprised whimper, and flushed as Malfoy's distinctive snicker could be heard behind her. It wasn't a deadly or even seriously debilitating hex, but stinging hexes did hurt. Hermione flexed her fingers reflexively as it the sting faded, and then bent to retrieve her wand.
"Again." The professor's voice was quiet, bored.
Hermione had barely lifted her wand when the feeling of the invisible nettles came back, this time blossoming in her left shoulder. She resisted the urge to try to shake the feeling out and instead gripped her wand tighter, concentrating on a shielding spell.
"Again." Her knee. "Again." Her right shoulder this time. "Again." The hex struck her in the abdomen this time, right in the still tender place where Dolohov's curse had ripped through her almost three months earlier. Hermione couldn't stop her cry of pain this time, and she doubled over.
"Concentrate, Miss Granger!" The professor nearly shouted it, and Hermione desperately tried to focus, even as her vision blurred with tears. His wand flicked and Harry shouted, echoing a quieter voice; suddenly, a thick, layered shield was between her and the professor. The force of it actually made him take several staggering steps into a desk.
He angrily spun away from her, snarling, "Ten points from Gryffindor and Ravenclaw for interfering with another student's lesson, and another fifteen from Gryffindor for shouting. I did say non-verbal spells, did I not, Potter?"
Hermione glanced up, almost pathetically grateful that Severus at least didn't seem to hate her enough that he had left her entirely to the mercy of the professor. Severus ignored her glance, and pursed his lips tightly before he curtly nodded and turned back to Padma.
Harry, on the other hand, ignored nothing, and glared petulantly. "Yes."
"Yes, Sir." Professor Snape's voice was dangerously quiet.
"There's no need to call me 'sir,' Professor."
Hermione felt a gasp rip from her throat along with several others. Had Harry gone mad?
"Detention, Potter. Saturday night, my office. I not take cheek from anyone, Potter… not even 'the Chosen One.'"
He then turned and looked snarled at his teenaged self. with a snarled, "As for you, Prince. You will pay attention to your own classwork—as you all should." The professor's voice was icy as he addressed the class at large. "Are any of you foolish enough to think that if you are in a duel, your opponent will politely wait after each hex until you feel better before incapacitating you? If Miss Granger does not feel that she can learn to defend herself against the dark arts non-verbally, perhaps she should drop this class." His attention returned to Hermione. "Is that the case, Miss Granger?"
Hermione swallowed and stood, her face burning. "No, sir." She lifted her wand and focused on it. Magic was a matter of will, words were but a helpful way to keep oneself focused on it. Most adults could do at least some non-verbal magic. Some of the more powerful witches and wizards, she had heard, didn't even need the wand implement. All she had to do was focus.
His wand twitched in her direction, and the hex landed on her wand arm again. Grimly she tightened her hold on her wand, and concentrated, not even hearing his "Again." This time, like the tumblers of a lock clicking into place, her mind suddenly latched onto how it worked. A non-verbal shield blossomed between them, and Hermione couldn't help but grin at it, and then at her instructor.
Professor Snape appeared to be indifferent, and this time gave no warning as his wand flicked in her direction. She raised her shield again, blocking his attack neatly, and he gave one short nod. "You will practice against Abbott, now." He informed her, and then turned on his boot heel to face Neville with his trademark sneer. "Longbottom, defend yourself!"
Neville, quite predictably, went pale and looked like he might be sick, but dutifully raised his wand into a defensive stance.
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, 03 September 1996, 12:06 PM
Hermione left class feeling mentally exhausted. Non-verbal spells were a lot more difficult than she had expected. It was draining to continue casting non-verbally, over and over, even after she had understood how to do it.
An hour into their lesson the Professor told everyone to switch positions between attacking and defending, and find a new partner again.
Hermione ended up attacking whilst Harry defended, and by the end of the lesson she couldn't help but feel awful as Harry's countenance grew darker and darker as every jinx she threw his way landed.
By the time class had ended he still hadn't gotten it down, and Hermione had only failed twice after her initial success. Of course, every time her jinxes had landed, Draco and his friends had snickered, and Harry had only grown more frustrated.
He stomped from the room at the end of class, his right fist tight around his wand handle. Ron gave her a scathing look as he too, passed, and hissed at her, "Oi, you couldn't have eased up a bit, Hermione?"
Hermione answered, "I have to practice, too, and Harry won't learn if no one forces him to try."
He just shook his head and left, leaving Hermione standing behind him. Clearly she wouldn't be welcome with them at lunch, next. Miserable, she walked slowly back to where she had stowed her bag as the other students filed out of the classroom.
Picking it up, she glanced at the professor, who was now at his own desk, writing something. "Thank you, sir," she said quietly. He didn't look up, but his writing paused briefly as she left the room.
She had only barely cleared the door frame when a voice came from beside her, from beside the door frame.
"You weren't easy on Potter."
Hermione turned to face Severus, uncertain if she was able to summon the energy to continue their fight. "No," she replied. "He wouldn't learn anything that way, and I certainly wouldn't get any better at non-verbal spells. I wasn't doing anything that would hurt him."
"He was a disrespectful arse to the professor, just like his father."
Hermione sighed. "Yes. He was. I know you won't believe me, but honestly, he isn't usually that bad."
Severus proved her right by snorting in disbelief, and turned to leave.
"Atreus!" Hermione called after him. Like the professor in the classroom, he didn't look at her, but he did pause. Unable to stop herself, Hermione asked, "Why did you shield me in there?"
Severus' shoulders hunched briefly, as if embarrassed that she had noticed. "I—I don't know," He he stammered. "I really just… I shouldn't have." He started walking away down the hallway.
"Thank you, anyway. Even if you shouldn't have." Hermione said, uncertain if he could hear her.
He froze again, and then furiously turned around and stomped back to her. "Why are you even talking to me, anyway? Aren't you supposed to hate me or something now?"
"You're in Gryffindor, and friends with Potter, on top of which, I broke up with you yesterday. So why aren't you trying to hex me in the hall?"
"Atreus…" Hermione sighed again in tired frustration. "That isn't something I really do. Even if you don't want to be with me anymore, I'd still like to try to be your friend. We have a lot in common, remember? Is it really necessary to write the whole summer off because we had a bad day?"
"Friends." He shook his head as if in disbelief, but his cheeks had heated slightly. "Why are you friends with Potter, anyway? He's an arse."
"Because… because before I came to Hogwarts, I didn't really have any friends. I was weird, bossy, nerdy, and plain-looking, and strange things kept happening around me. When I got to Hogwarts, I thought everything would change. I thought this place would be full of people like me, and I'd fit in and have lots of friends.
"Only I didn't. Nothing changed at all. No one liked me at Hogwarts, either." Hermione shrugged self-consciously. "I was just as weird and lonely and singled out here. Then… then there was this thing with a mountain troll, and afterwards, Harry and Ron were my friends. Not just so they could copy my homework, but really my friends, and Harry was—is—one of the most popular boys in the school. But he chose to be my friend. I'm not sure I'm explaining this terribly well, or if you can really even relate to what I'm talking about."
Hermione waved a frustrated hand, and started talking faster, rushing to get her words out before he decided to leave. "The thing is, they were the only two willing to be friends with me, and we have been through hell together. Last year, Harry tried to tell the world that You-Know-Who was back, but no one believed him. They turned him into a laughingstock and the entire Wizarding world thought he was delusional and crazy, even after a boy had been killed. He was so angry all the time some people were wondering if he really was going mad.
"Then… then you wanted me, one of the few people he still trusts completely, to tell him I didn't believe him. You wanted me to call him a liar when I knew he was telling the truth. Only I knew I couldn't actually tell him the truth, and Ron was being such a prat, and… haven't you ever got mad and said or behaved in a way you wish you hadn't? I'm sorry." Hermione sucked in a deep breath, not certain what else she could say.
Severus didn't answer her. He merely looked at her, white-faced, his posture stiff. "I… I have to go. It's lunchtime."
Hermione felt herself deflate a little. "Yeah… yeah, okay. I'll see you around."
A/N: Once again I find myself absolutely humbled and thankful for all of you-it continues to astound me how kind everyone has been and how many people have taken the time to comment (good or bad). You guys are really the best. Really. I do apologise that I have not manage to respond to some of you, yet-it has been very busy! I can't tell you enough how wonderful and uplifting it is to receive your reviews, however, and I promise that I will get back to you shortly! In the meantime, please accept a shiny new chapter as a peace offering. :-)
I would also like to take a moment to shower love and gratitude on Shinigamioni and Stgulik, who both stepped up on relatively short notice to take on the monumental task of alpha and betaing this chapter, as well as to BSC_AG, who has been with me on this adventure since before chapter one was started. I make a lot of mistakes, and I am extremely blessed to have people willing to red ink my work before people see it.