A Path Less Taken

Disclaimer: A story repost since I had difficulties with the last time that I'd posted it. So... Here you go. A SeverusXHermione AU pairing ftw. It'll be different from my last time that I had posted, I can assure you of that. Note that the part of the first chapter was borrowed from the first film because it was the only way to get Hermione's desire to make her seemingly foolish wish to work. Otherwise, it'll be an AU from here on out.

"The key to change... is to let go of fear."

- Rosanne Cash

"Sometimes it's the smallest decisions that can change your life forever."

- Keri Russell

By: VampireQueenAkasha

"But me - I say there are spots that don't come off, Snape. Spots that never come off, d' you know what I mean?"

- 'Mad Eye' Moody.

Part One

1992

Hermione was certain that something had died in the shop.

She couldn't resist her curiosity to enter the strange building that advertized magical items. Of course, everything in Diagon Alley was magical from what the girl had just learned. Being new to the world of magic, Hermione wanted to explore every aspect of it and not miss a single thing. But even now that she entered the store alone, she could swear on her life that something was decaying in the shop. It was a bitter, sickly sweet smell that reminded her of rotten garbage.

She peered into the glass cabinets that were filled with skulls, black stones and much to her amusement - broken wands.

Just then, a heavyset man poked his head up from behind the counter. Hermione backed away slightly as he grinned at her, flashing a mouth full of rotten teeth. He obviously didn't take good care of himself given his poorly managed hair and messy colorful suit. One of his eyes also appeared to be moving in an entirely different direction as well. If it was the cause of magic or not, Hermione still felt a bit unsettled by the sight.

"Hello there!" he hissed, in a thick, Scottish accent, "See anything ya' like?"

Hermione smiled painfully and managed a perfect calm. "No sir," she replied, "I'm just looking."

"Well look no further, missy!" the man said, smiling and straightening his thick, black belt, "Here at my shop-all the folks 'round these parts call me Naberius - I got whatever you want and whatever your little heart needs!"

Hermione was beginning to feel uncomfortable with the general temperature here in the shop and she slowly started to back away toward the open door. "No thank you, sir," she told him, "I should get going."

Naberius smirked slyly and licked his disgusting, chapped lips. "You sure?" he asked, "Not even a for a..." He bent down and reached beneath the counter top and produced a large, baseball - sized stone in his hand. "...wishing stone?"

Hermione's nose curled slightly before she tilted her head. "That's ridiculous," she responded, "There's no such thing as a wishing stone."

"No such thing?" Naberius repeated, feigning false shock, "Now how would a young lass like yourself know of that anyway?"

Hermione frowned defensively. "I have read about such things and know for sure that they either don't exist or if they did, they were destroyed," she told him, "That has to be a fake."

Naberius laughed heartily. "Bright little thing, aren't you?" he sneered, "I bet you make your parents proud." Hermione made a displeased face and Naberius gestured for her to approach him. "Come on then. Take a feel of it. You can sense the magic within!"

Reluctantly, but unable to hide her curiosity, Hermione took a careful step closer toward the counter. She reached up with one hand, still watching the toothless man with suspicion as she touched the stone gently. Sure enough, he smirked as her features changed with confusion and finally, surprise. She pulled her hand away and frowned down at the black stone that slowly swirled with red and green colors from within.

"That's impossible!" the girl exclaimed.

Naberius smiled. "Not impossible, miss," he explained, "This stone comes from a very powerful source and it just so happens that I need to sell it."

Hermione squinted at him. The concept made her reconsider all together. "Why?"

"I can tell you're a lass who asked quite a lot of questions," Naberius chortled. He made his voice high, in an almost mocking falsetto. "'Mother, why is it raining? Mother, why does the rooster crow'?" He cleared his throat and looked serious now. "I can also see that you need something these pure blood arses flaunt around."

Hermione bristled where she stood. She remembered hearing terrible names about her "blood status" by other students at Hogwarts as well as adults. She didn't like the idea that this shop keeper knew about that, but she relaxed because it was a possibility that rumors or gossip spread further than anyone wanted or planned.

"I'll sell ya' the stone, Missy," he told her, "First come, first serve. This stone'll give ya' one wish. One wish of your choosing."

Hermione stared down at the stone before she furrowed her brow. "How much?" she asked.

"Whatever you got on you." Naberius told her, smiling.

Hermione reached into her robes and felt around for any money that she might have had on her. She pulled out a handful of Galleon's, a few Sickles and two Knuts that she had received from her parents before they transferred her Muggle money. There wasn't much there, but she offered the man her pieces either way. Naberius counted them in his hand for a few moments before smiling with satisfaction and handing her the stone.

"I reckon that this'll do me nicely!" he said, "The stone's all yours then!"

Hermione took the stone into her hands and studied it for a few times, intrigued with the idea of having anything that she had ever wanted in the palm of her hand. Naberius watched her fascinated smile with a smirk of his own. Then, it slowly disappeared. He suddenly felt the urge to warn her. She was a child, after all and Naberius wasn't that much of an arse to leave out the important details to someone so young, just because they were naive and easy to trick. He chuckled softly before he held up a warning finger to the girl and she immediately became alert.

"But there's only one catch; don't tell anybody about it and you only get ONE WISH," he told the girl, "Once you wish for it though, it's done. There ain't no turning back. So choose carefully, you got me girl?"

Hagrid was waiting for her in the streets and smiled when he saw her. "Got everything in order then?" he asked.

Hermione nodded, though glanced briefly back at the shop with a mild glimmer of uncertainty. She clutched the stone tight in her hands.

O

Hermione grunted as she struggled to squeeze passed several students through the halls of Hogwarts. "Excuse me!" she announced, "Pardon me, please." She grunted sharply and glared over at a student who had pushed at her a bit too hard. "No pushing."

Just then, a boy pushed into her again with great force and Hermione nearly fell over in the process. She gave a small squeal when something rubbery and wet bounced off of her leg and disappeared onto the floor. She glared down at the boy who stared up at her meekly. He was wearing messy black robes and had short black hair with a goofy-looking overbite. He appeared to regard her with an uncomfortable shyness and she almost felt bad for him. But that was Neville Longbottom for you; never one for grace or image.

"Sorry!" he said, "I didn't mean to bump into you. I just lost my toad and can't find him."

Hermione smiled slightly, feeling a little bad for the timid-looking boy. "Oh, well let's go and look for it then."

"Trevor's his name," the boy told her, shifting slightly on his feet.

Hermione rolled her eyes impatiently at the correction. "Sorry. Trevor."

The boy chuckled nervously as they peered into cabin after cabin to find his toad. "I'm sorry."

"You really need to keep better track of your pets, Neville." she responded, glaring at a sneering, blonde-haired boy in another hall. She sighed and turned to Neville with dismay. "Perhaps we should split up and backtrack where you last saw him. We'll have better luck then."

Neville nodded his head mutely before turning back the way that he had come, calling out "Trevor" over and over again. Hermione smiled and shook her head with pity before she resumed her search of the boy's missing pet. As she made her way down the halls, she ended up dodging two teachers in the middle of a conversation. The Potions Teacher, Professor Snape was discussing something with the Dark Arts teacher Professor Quirrell.

Hermione had to quickly look away when Snape looked in her direction with a cold frown on his face, almost if he was aware that he was being watched. She didn't want to get into any trouble so soon at the castle and quickly attempted to avoid him, but he caught sight of her.

"Granger, where are you off to?" he demanded.

Hermione paused and looked up at the teacher. "I was helping Neville Longbottom with the search for his pet, Professor Snape," she told him.

Snape curled his nose, which made it look bigger than usual. "Mister Longbottom is responsible for his own pets," he said, particularly unkindly, "Now off with you. Get to your class before I deduct points."

Hermione frowned. "For what, sir?"

Snape scowled now. "For simply questioning my authority, now go!"

She immediately rushed through the crowds of students and reluctantly hurried to the Potion's classroom. Ron and Harry were already there and the class was waiting for Snape to arrive. Some of them were throwing paper airplanes around and others were talking. Harry and Ron looked a little nervous because they had almost been late. Hermione was amused by their uncertainty because she had nearly been late helping Neville find his pet.

"Professor Snape certainly gave the evil eye to you boys yesterday," she told them.

Ron flinched and stared at her with surprise. "How do you know?" he asked.

"I saw him at the table," Hermione told him, "He looked at us like he knew we were talking about him."

Ron looked nervous now. "I wonder if he can read our minds!"

Harry put a finger to his lips when they sat down. Hermione took a spot beside the two boys and laughed at Ron's response. "Ron, you can't be afraid of everything you know," she told him, "He's just a teacher."

Ron glared at her defensively. "I am not!"

"Are too!"

Harry frowned back at them with irritation. "Don't fight right now!" he chided, "What if he comes in and-"

The door at their side slammed shut and the students immediately quieted down as Professor Snape immediately walked into the room. His cloak billowed behind him, making him appear to be like that of a living shadow. When he stepped to the front of the class, he surveyed the new students like a hawk studying prey. Harry kept his gaze to his notebook and Ron quickly attempted to look elsewhere while Snape began speaking.

"Class has begun, open your books to page thirteen," he ordered.

Immediately, everyone began doing as he said and discarded their paper toys. Snape watched them for a moment before his eyes fell on Harry as the boy was quickly attempting to gather his fallen quill. It had fallen off of his table and rolled at Snape's feet. The teacher ignored it and moved onto him like a serpent.

"Mister Potter," he sneered, "Our newest celebrity."

Harry wasn't thrilled with being put on the spot like this.

"Perhaps you should take it into consideration that your school work far exceeds your desire for fame," Snape continued with a nasty smirk to follow, "Maybe then you will remember to keep a much better hold on your supplies." He bent down and retrieved the fallen quill before holding it out to Harry. When the boy reached for it, he pulled back abruptly. "Five points from Gryffindor, for your classmate's disregard for classroom rules."

Harry scowled with frustration at the groans of protest around the room from his fellow Gryffindors. He took the quill back from Snape and buried his face in his notebook, clearly embarrassed. Hermione gave him a sympathetic look.

O

Hermione was exhausted that night and just wanted to climb into her bed and sink into the pillows. After everyone in her room had fallen asleep, Hermione couldn't resist the urge to take out the black stone and study it. The magic housed within felt strong and she could see gold and red swirling around. It was almost pretty to watch and felt somewhat soothing to the young girl. She didn't know what she could wish for. One wish and she could have anything.

"What do I choose?" she wondered to herself.

Entirely too tired to think about it right now, the young girl quickly tucked the stone away safely and snuggled into bed to sleep.

O

The following morning, Hermione had breakfast with Ron and Harry before they went to their Charms class with Professor Flitwick; he was a half-human goblin who seemed to take class less seriously than Professor Snape. Hermione wasn't complaining about it too much either. He was a much more kind teacher and didn't yell at everyone whenever he had the chance. They were going to practice levitating a feather in front of them. The only thing she was a little irritated with was Ron's constant swishing of his wand due to the fact that he was bored with the lesson and making an attempt to rush his abilities more than needed.

"No, no, no! Stop it before you take my eye out!" she snapped, snatching his wand from him, "Besides, you're saying it all wrong. It's Levi-o-sa, not Leviosar."

Ron glared at her and took his wand back from her. "You do it then if you're so clever! Go on and show us!"

Hermione smiled smugly with pride and picked up her wand, performing the swish and flick with uncanny grace. "Wingardium Leviosa."

Just then, the feather before her levitated upon command. The entire class looked turned to her with surprise and Flitwick grinned. "Oh my, look at that! Well done, Granger! See here everyone, Miss Granger's done it! Splendid work, Miss Granger!"

Ron sat in his chair, grumbling with disgust at the praise that Hermione was receiving. Later on after the class, he mocked her display with the rest of his friends and they couldn't help but laugh at how ridiculous it was.

"'It's Levi-o-sa not Leviosar'," he drawled. Then, he continued in his normal voice. "She's a nightmare to be around, honestly! It's no wonder she hasn't got any friends!"

Then, Hermione shoved her way passed them, her head low with a sniffle to follow. She had tried to stifle it, but they had heard. They stopped in their pace and watched her go; Harry feeling guilty for even laughing at Ron's joke.

"I think she heard you." he said.

Hermione raced passed several students and hurried into the girl's bathroom before her tears could be noticed, slamming the stall door shut, ignoring Parvati Patil's concerned inquiry among the crowd. Immediately, she sat on the toilet seat and started to cry. It wasn't fair that she was good and everyone teased her for it. It wasn't fair that she was looked down upon for being Muggle - Born. None of it was fair.

Parvati entered the bathroom. "Hermione?" she called, "Are you in here?"

Hermione tried to stifle her sniffles, but the other girl heard her. She walked over to Hermione's stall and knocked on it lightly.

"Go away..." Hermione mumbled.

Parvati sighed and shook her head. "Hermione, don't listen to that Weasley boy," she told her, "He's just being dumb."

"Please," Hermione begged, "Just leave me alone..."

Parvati sighed with pity. "Do you want me to tell McGonagall?" she asked.

"No," Hermione said, and her voice trembled a bit, "Just leave me alone, please."

Parvati nodded her head. "Okay, but you can't stay in here forever," she pointed out, "It only makes them laugh more."

Hermione listened as Parvati left the bathroom. She sniffled quietly and bit her lip, rubbing the tears from her eyes with the sleeve of her robe. She wished that she was stronger and bigger than every single one of them. Then they wouldn't laugh at her anymore. They'd take her seriously and wouldn't call her terrible names like, "Mud-Blood". If she was bigger and stronger, she would be the best that the school ever had.

She would be better. Hermione wanted that and she was going to work hard for it.

O

The sun was starting to set and Hermione felt a little better after crying. She stepped out of the stall and started to leave until she caught sight of something she wasn't entirely expecting to see standing there in the bathroom with her.

A troll.

The large creature towered over her, clutching a massive stone club object in his hands. Its green body was covered in mild sores and scratches and it was wearing a small red vest and tattered loincloth. Its mouth was open slightly and sticky strands of drool dripped down its chin.

Hermione screamed and backed away as the troll roared out and brought the stone club down upon her head. She quickly ducked underneath the sink as the troll advanced toward her, swinging the club angrily. She held herself and cried out when she noticed Ron and Harry rushing into the bathroom. Despite what happened earlier, she was just relieved to see them now.

"Help!" she shouted, "I can't get out!"

Ron glared up at the troll. "Hey you, pea brain!" he shouted.

The troll turned toward the shout and growled menacingly at the two new potential prey. Ron and Harry immediately ducked in separate directions as the troll swung its club at them. It missed and cracked several more sinks in the process. Towers of water shot into the air and sprayed all over the floor. The troll lunged for Ron and Harry took the chance to leap up the creature's back and cling forcefully to his head.

The troll bellowed out in fury and thrashed its body wildly, attempting to dislodge the boy from its head. Ron raised his wand and attempted to figure out a spell that would somehow stop the troll. While Harry was getting tossed around, he yelled down to the boy desperately, stabbing his wand into the troll's nose in the process.

"Do something!"

"What?" Ron cried.

"Anything! Just hurry before he crushes me!"

Ron thrust his wand out at the troll and attempted to try the spell he had learned on the troll's club, but nothing happened. He looked desperately at Hermione and she demonstrated what he was supposed to do.

"'Swish and Flick'!" she reminded him.

Ron nodded and pointed his wand at the troll's club. He performed the swish and flick exactly as he should have and announced the spell. "Wingardium Leviosa!" he shouted.

The club suddenly sprang to life in the troll's hands and lifted into the air. Ron watched in amazement as Harry was flung from the troll's head and the club quickly clobbered the creature directly where Harry used to be. The two boys backed away as the troll moaned and staggered forward, dizzy from the blow of its own weapon. When its large body slowly started to fall forward, the two boys immediately moved out of the way as it crashed to the floor.

The three children slowly and cautiously approached the unconscious troll. Hermione poked it with the tip of her foot.

"Is it dead?" she wondered.

Harry shook his head and bent down to retrieve his wand from the monster's nostril. "No it's just knocked out for now," he answered, "And it's a good thing too. We would have been dead for sure there." He managed to pull his wand free and grimaced at the strands of snot sticking to it.

"Troll snot. Gross." Ron muttered, sickened.

Just then, the teachers - McGonagall, Snape and Quirrell-raced into the bathroom. McGonagall stared down at the troll's immobile form with shock, uttering a quick, "Oh my goodness!" and looked at the three students, pointing a jabbing finger at the two boys. "Explain yourselves, both of you!"

Ron and Harry withered under her stare and attempted talking at once before Hermione spoke up.

"It's my fault Professor McGonagall." she told her.

Ron and Harry exchanged surprised looks and McGonagall and the other teachers looked stunned as well.

"Miss Granger?" McGonagall said.

"I went on my own to go looking for the troll," Hermione told her, "I've read about them in my books and I thought that I could handle it by myself, but I was wrong. If Harry and Ron hadn't come and found me...the troll would have killed me for certain."

McGonagall was still stunned by a complete out-of-character move by the seemingly well-behaved student. "Confidence or not, it was an extremely foolish thing for you to go off and face this creature all on your own. I would have expected a more rational act on your part and I am very disappointed in you Miss Granger. Five points will be taken from Gryffindor for your serious lack of good judgement."

Hermione lowered her head and nodded. That seemed more than fair.

McGonagall turned to the boys now and grimaced slightly. "As for you two gentlemen; I just hope you realize how fortunate you are to be alive. Not many first year students could take on a fully grown mountain troll and live to tell the tale." After gesturing briefly to the troll, she stared at them and then added seemingly sarcastically. "Five points will be awarded to each of you. For your act of sheer dumb luck."

The boy's eyes lit up with delight and Hermione smiled at them.

Maybe now things were going to be different.

Later that night, Hermione climbed into bed and while Parvati and Fay Dunbar prepared to sleep as well.

"You look better," Parvati said, smiling.

Lavender Brown walked into the dorm room and yawned before she climbed into bed. At the center of the room was a flaming stove that heated the entire dorm. Hermione was carefully studying the stone beneath her bed sheets and hid it when Parvati talked to her.

"Yeah, I'm fine," she told the girl, "Thanks for asking."

Parvati smiled and nodded her head before she climbed into bed. After everyone was asleep, Hermione had noticed that the stone was no longer glowing. In fact, it looked like a simple onyx pebble to her now. She began to wonder if she had been tricked by that Scottish wizard in the shop.

Hermione growled and shoved the stone into her suitcase before pulling the covers over her head. That was the last time that she would be scammed again.

The following morning, Hermione's scream pierced throughout the entire girl's Gryffindor dormitory.

O

Parvati ran bare - footed and in her night robes early that morning down the hallways toward McGonagall's room.

She was breathless and her face streaked with sweat. Once she arrived at the Head of Gryffindor's house, she beat on the door frantically with two hands, desperate to get the teacher's attention no matter what the outcome. After a moment of nothing but loud beating, the door opened and McGonagall stared down at her with an exhausted look on her face. She was wearing her black night robes as well and looked like she had just woken up.

"Miss Patil, what are you doing out of your room this early?" she demanded.

"Professor McGonagall, you have to come quickly!" Parvati gasped, her features filled with fear of an unknown kind, "It's Hermione! I think there might be something terribly wrong with her!"

McGonagall's face softened and now she looked concerned. Ignoring her state of attire for the moment, the Headmistress of the house quickly followed the student down the hallways, rushing back to the Gryffindor common room.

"What's wrong with Miss. Granger?" she asked.

"I don't know!" Parvati gasped, "She's locked herself in the girl's bathroom and she won't come out!"

That deeply troubled the teacher even more.

They quickly moved through the halls until they arrived at the portrait of the Fat Lady. "Password?" the portrait asked.

McGonagall glared at her with a stern, hard look that could chill the coldest stone. "Open this door at once!" she commanded, "I have a student in distress!"

The Fat Lady didn't argue with her that time and the portrait creaked open to allow her passage. The two immediately rushed into the Gryffindor common room where Parvati led McGonagall up the stairs toward the girl's dormitories. There were a group of students already crowding around the bathroom door, whispering with concern. McGonagall pushed them gently aside and she moved her way to the door.

"Hermione Granger, are you there?" she called.

No response.

"She's been in there for a while!" Lavender said, worried, "Someone heard her scream and before we knew it, she was gone and out of our room."

McGonagall beat on the bathroom door with one, hard fist. "Hermione Granger, open this door immediately!" she commanded, in her strictest teacher voice, "Granger, open it right now!"

Still no response.

McGonagall gestured for the students to back away from her and they quickly stepped aside to allow for her to open the door. She pulled out her wand from her night robes and pointed it to the door handle. "All of you, stay back!"

After a wordless spell was cast, the door lock clicked and the door itself creaked open. McGonagall stepped into the bathroom and looked back at the worried girls. "I want each and every one of you into your rooms," she ordered, "Get dressed and ready for class."

They immediately disappeared from the room and rushed back to their dormitories. McGonagall searched the small bathroom for Hermione, but didn't see her anywhere. The teacher began to grow even more concerned and she raised her wand to illuminate the darkened bathroom.

"Hermione?" she called, "Are you all right?"

A soft shuffling sound drew McGonagall's attention toward the back stall nearest the wall. She approached it and pushed the door open with one hand. Her eyes widened in horror and disbelief at what she saw sitting there naked on the toilet.

A woman.

There was a woman with long curly brown hair sitting curled up naked on the toilet seat clutching a wand tightly in one hand. The woman was very beautiful by the teacher's standards and quite tall than what most women were. She didn't seem to notice the teacher there and was staring straight ahead, her eyes wide and frightened. McGonagall reached out with one hand, but pulled away for fear of frightening the woman.

McGonagall furrowed her brow and advanced slowly. "Hello?" she said.

The woman gave a terrified cry and leveled her wand at her without realizing what she was doing. When her terrified eyes seemed to focus clearly on the teacher there, she lowered her wand slowly and whimpered. It was a pitiful, soleful sound that wrenched McGonagall's heart.

"P-Professor McGonagall?" she stammered.

McGonagall's eyes widened and she nearly felt her gray hair curling at the back of her neck. She recognized the voice immediately. Although it was aged and not as high as it had been, she knew who she was talking to.

"Hermione?" she whispered, haunted.

O

Hermione had no clothes that would fit any longer, so she had to resort to walking to Dumbledore's office with her bedsheets wrapped tightly around her body. She kept her eyes lowered to the floor as many students stared at her with confusion and hushed whispers. When she entered the office - passing a large, ugly gray gargoyle - Dumbledore, Filch, Parvati and Snape were there. Dumbledore looked up at the transformed Hermione with mild surprise on his aged features. Snape curled his lip with disgust and Filch barely reacted at all save for a gruff snort.

"So it's true after all..." Dumbledore said, softly, "This is our little Hermione."

"Hardly little at all, if I may say so, Headmaster," Snape growled, glaring daggers at the witch, "She must have done something in order for her to become this way. Perhaps she entered the Forbidden Floor the way we had told her not to!"

Hermione shook her head desperately. "I didn't!"

McGonagall immediately gave Snape a harsh, reprimanding look. "Accusations are not necessary at this time, Professor Snape," she said, "We haven't even heard Hermione's side of the story yet."

Snape snorted gruffly, but remained silent. McGonagall turned to Hermione and spoke gently. "Miss. Granger, it is imperative that we know everything you did before this happened. You have to tell us every little detail so that we can help you fix this."

Hermione looked at each face waiting for her response and she shivered, holding the bed sheet tightly closed before speaking. "I-I don't know how it happened!" she said, "I just woke up like this this morning, I swear!"

"Did you eat anything you shouldn't have?" Dumbledore asked.

"No!"

"Did you cast any spells you shouldn't have?" McGonagall asked.

"Never!"

Snape glared again. "Did you touch anything you shouldn't have?"

Hermione glared back at him fiercely. "No!"

Parvati looked up at McGonagall. "She went straight to bed last night, Professor," she told her, "I saw her with my own eyes."

Hermione withered under the harsh stare from Snape before she turned to Dumbledore. "Please sir, believe me, I didn't do anything wrong!" she told him, "I went straight to bed after the incident with the troll, I swear it!"

"Well SOMETHING caused this to happen..." McGonagall said.

Hermione was quiet for a long time, trying with all her might to collect every bit of memories she had done before this morning. The teachers watched her thoughtful expression and suddenly, something changed in her gaze. Her eyes slowly widened and her lips parted with a soft gasp.

"No...it can't be..." she whispered.

"What?" Snape demanded.

Hermione looked at Parvati. "Can you please get my trunk in the dorm room?" she asked.

Parvati nodded her head. "Sure."

The girl quickly took off out of the office. Hermione shook her head and gripped it with one hand, suddenly feeling the urge to sit down. McGonagall placed her hands on her shoulders and stared at her worriedly.

"Miss Granger, what is it?" she asked.

After a moment, Parvati returned to the office dragging Hermione's trunk behind her. She winced and took a few deep breaths before placing the heavy thing at Hermione's feet. Immediately, Hermione opened the trunk and dug through her clothes, books and other objects before she found what she was looking for; the black stone. When she held it up to the teachers, McGonagall leaned forward first to take a look.

"This is the cause of it!" Hermione told them, "It has to be!"

McGonagall scrutinized the object before reaching out to it with her wand. Immediately, she levitated it onto Dumbledore's desk and the teachers surveyed the thing for a brief moment, taking a time to try and understand what it was. After waiting for several long seemingly slow minutes of maddening silence, McGonagall's eyes widened and she gasped softly.

"Miss Granger, this object is of powerful dark magic!" she exclaimed, turning to her, "Wherever did you get it?"

Hermione trembled beneath their stares. "I-I bought it in Diagon Alley!" she said, "F-From a man named Naberius."

McGonagall nodded her head. "We will visit this Naberius and see what we can do about changing you back," she told her, "Professor Snape and I will find him and bring him to justice for what he has done."

Snape frowned at her. "With all due respect, she still purchased this object."

"Be that as it may, Severus," McGonagall chided, "She was deceived in the end. Naberius will have to face the Ministry for tricking an innocent child with such a dark object."

Snape nodded his head, a little more reasonable this time. "Of course."

McGonagall turned to Hermione now. "In the mean time, we must get you something to wear..."