Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author.
This is a gift for WriterMerrin for being one of the sweetest, kindest people I know. I hope you enjoy your gift!
Thanks go out to lyn_f for beta-ing this chapter for me.
In science, we must be interested in things, not in persons – Marie Curie.
Wythenshawe, Manchester: 25th May, 2009
The potions workroom was stifling with the seven cauldrons bubbling away and making it difficult to breathe or even think.
A loud sizzling sound emitted from one of the cauldrons, much to the surprise of the room's only occupant. Potions master Hermione Granger crossed the room, taking in the sight before her. A simple miscalculation on her part, and the entire potion had turned into a brown mess of coagulating sludge. Sighing heavily, she snatched an old towel from the table and grabbed the handle of the cauldron, lifting it up and carrying it over to the bench beside the basins. She immediately knew what had gone wrong: too much powdered horn of a Bicorn. It was an unstable ingredient, and even so much as a quarter of a milligram more than was required would render a potion useless. Noting the effects that it had in her working journal, she went back to observe the rest of her projects.
The afternoon ticked by slowly as she stirred her experiments, making the flame hotter or lowering the temperature as needed, and sometimes even adding new ingredients if she thought they would make a significant improvement to the mix. It was a peaceful and almost relaxing environment, being in a potions workroom, when one was not desperately trying to correct the mistakes of a fumbling schoolmate in order to remain alive and intact. Nor did she have to contend with her moody former Potions master hovering around her and making her feel nervous.
A trickle of sweat ran down the back of her neck, and she used another towel to wipe it away. Deciding that enough was enough, Hermione went to the far side of the room and cracked open the lone little window there. While some people might have been content to work in the heat, she was not one of them. She needed fresh air, no matter how cold, and had no wish to contaminate any of her potions with her bodily fluids. In her own workroom it was nobody's fault but her own if something got in to pollute her hard work.
Her cooling charms on the walls were mild so as not to disturb her brews with any magical signatures. If she could have improved upon them and raised their power in a safe way, she would have done so long ago.
When night fell, she cast a stasis charm on each individual cauldron, noting their progress up to that point in separate journals that she kept for each potion that she worked on. Once satisfied that she had made as much headway as she could for the day, she retreated up the stairs that led out of the workroom and onto the ground floor landing of her house. Her basement had been converted into her laboratory, which had initially cost her a great deal of her meagre earnings as a Potions lecturer at the Aberdeen College of Magic.
But in the end, she reasoned that it was her laboratory and her own achievement, and nobody else could take credit for it.
Taking a deep breath, she noticed that the house was quite cold now that she was no longer working in a room filled with heat and cauldrons. She was also quite certain that one of the potions itself was generating a lot of heat, so she would have to research that the next day. Walking into the sitting room, she ignited the wood in the fireplace with a spell before stoking it with the iron rod that was kept nearby. Walking upstairs to her bedroom, she lit the fire in there so it would be warmed when it came time for bed.
Hermione returned to the kitchen and began preparing her dinner. As she was waiting for the water to boil in order to cook her pasta, her mind ticked over the things that she needed to work on the next day. She would need to go to the Apothecary to pick up some fresh ingredients for her potions: dittany, Jobberknoll feathers, nettles and star grass. Perhaps she could place an order for some Dragon's blood.
Sighing, she focused her attention back on the water that was beginning to bubble. Tossing in a little salt, she added the fettuccini and turned up the heat. Cooking, not unlike potion-making, was a favourite pastime of Hermione's. She liked the precision of timing how long it would take the water to heat to the correct temperature for boiling the pasta. How long until the pasta was cooked to al dente. Which herbs and what amount to use in the sauce. She topped it off with a little shaved parmesan and sat down to eat.
It was perfect.
Camden, London: 25th February, 1999
Hermione nibbled at her bottom lip as she listened idly to the lecturer at the front of the lecture hall.
Her professor had been droning for two hours, and she was beginning to grow weary. She was months ahead in her readings and had been attending various seminars. Her first six months at the London Institute of Magic had been thrilling. Lectures were less than interesting; Hermione had always found that there was more value in the practical application of Potions. Her major assignment for the year, for example, was almost in the brewing phase.
She just had to purchase the ingredients. However, it would take another two weeks of tutoring for her to be able to afford them. It was the story of her life. During the year that should have been her final one at Hogwarts, she, Harry and Ron had been camping out in forests and continually shifting from place to place. Hermione had secretly moved her parents to Australia, modifying their memories and setting them up with a Dental Surgery there. After the Final Battle and everything had calmed down, she had returned to find them, only to find that they had died in a vehicle collision.
She had been devastated, and because they were no longer alive and could not verify that they did indeed have a nineteen-year-old daughter, she was left without a leg to stand on: no money, no home and no family to speak of. Even her relationship with Ron Weasley had fizzled into nothingness.
The little money that she did earn was from tutoring students at the Institute to pay the rent on her flat and other basic living expenses. Harry had wanted to support her, but she could never have been able to accept his charity. Despite the struggle that it was, she worked hard and pushed forward, determined to achieve her goal of becoming a Potions master. After two years, she would need to work under a Master as an apprentice. Up until then, her most important task to focus on was her Master's thesis.
Refocusing on the class, she looked down to the front to find that a few of her classmates had gotten into a heated discussion with the professor.
Feeling disinterested, she packed up her belongings and made her way towards the back of the theatre, exiting through the fire escape door. She made her way to the library and picked one of the empty study carrels, spreading her notebooks over the table and claiming the space for her own for the afternoon.
If her major project for the year went well, she would be able to begin her thesis and complete it before the date that it was due.
'Hermione Granger?' said a vaguely familiar voice from nearby.
Spinning around on her chair, Hermione looked over her shoulder and saw her former schoolmate, Susan Bones, walking over to her from the book aisles. She looked back to her workbooks and frowned for a moment. She really needed to work on her project, but she didn't want to be rude.
'Hello, Susan,' she greeted, standing up and walking over to meet her.
'I didn't know that you were studying here!' she exclaimed. 'I've been here since the beginning of the semester, and I've never seen you around. I do Transfiguration.'
'I've been studying Potions since the beginning of the semester,' Hermione answered. 'I'll be accelerating my degree to finish in three semesters' time.'
'Wow, that's impressive,' Susan said with a big, false smile. 'Of course, nobody would expect anything less from you, Hermione.'
'Well, I would love to be able to catch up, but I'm afraid I have some rather pressing work to get onto,' Hermione explained, trying not to sound to sound too rude.
'It was nice seeing you,' the other witch replied and waved before walking away.
Hermione very much doubted her sincerity. She had recently become more shrewd when it came to people and sensing their feelings, and she could read Susan like a book. Her classmate was trying to be nosey, and she just didn't have the time for those sorts of distractions. Retreating to her desk, she was nose-down in her books for the remainder of the afternoon until the librarian came around to throw everyone out for the night.
She walked home from the Institute, living only two blocks away in a flat that she shared with another exchange student from France.
Newtown, Reading: 3rd June, 2009
The annual "Potions through Time" seminar was being held in London that year.
Hermione had already sent in her acceptance for her invitation and had prepared her brewing schedule around it. Two weeks was a remarkably short time away, and there was a lot she had to do before she would be ready to go. She was with the Potter, staying in their home to help Harry out with his two older children while he was busy working and visiting Ginny in St. Mungo's. Two days earlier she had given birth to their third child and only daughter, Lily Luna Potter.
Hermione was thrilled for her friends. Although she was too busy with her work life for dating and attempting to build a family of her own, she often wondered what it was about that life that brought people joy. She did find the two Potter boys to be rather amusing whenever she was around. She supposed growing up surrounded by adults all the time made it difficult to understand children.
While all of the other children in the neighbourhood had played in the park, Hermione had been at home reading science and dentistry periodicals. Her dad had been a loving and nurturing father, but he had always been more proud of her academic achievements than whether or not she was wearing the prettiest dresses. Her mother had indulged her father and allowed him to coddle her.
'Aunty 'Mione?' said a small voice from beside her.
Hermione blinked and closed the book she had open on her lap, looking over her shoulder and the arm of the chair to see a pair of green eyes peering up at her, covered by a messy shock of black hair. James, who was five, was a curious and lively boy, not unlike Harry himself. Reaching a hand over, she tousled his hair gently.
'What can I do for you, young man?' she asked with a smile.
'Can I please have a sandwich? I'm hungry,' he said with a big, toothy grin.
Placing her book on the coffee table, she got up from the armchair that she had claimed and held out a hand for James to take. Walking with him to the Potters' kitchen, she opened the fridge and pulled out the fillings for a sandwich and after summoning the bread, began to put one together for her young charge. Cutting the ham, cheese and chutney sandwich into four triangles, she plated it and passed it to him.
'Thank you!' he said enthusiastically, bouncing over to the kitchen table and sitting there to eat it.
Deciding that a sandwich was a very good idea, she made another two for herself and for Albus Severus, who was still sitting in his playpen in the sitting room. After finishing hers and clearing away both her plate and James's, she led him back to the other room and went over to the pen to give Albus some food. After he was fed, Hermione sat down with the two boys on her lap in the chair and read them the book that James had handed to her: iThe Tales of Beedle the Bard. /i
She was always confused as to why this happened to be James's favourite book. Harry had hated it every since discovering the reason why Hermione had been given it, but when the Potters had paid her a visit at her home one time, James had seen it and immediately fell in love with it. Regardless of her ill feelings about the book, she read.
Harry returned to his home at six that evening after being tossed out of St. Mungo's after the visiting hours were over. Hermione had served up a delicious meal of mushroom risotto and herbed bread that she had made herself the night before. After the two adults had cleaned the kitchen and put the two boys to bed, Hermione packed up her things and got ready to leave. Ginny would be returning home the next day, and she had a potion at her house that was calling to her.
'Thanks for all of your help here, Hermione,' Harry told her as he helped her to collect the last of her things together. 'I really appreciate it, and Gin does too.'
'It's not a problem at all, Harry,' she said with a smile. 'Your two boys were very sweet and well-behaved. It's been a pleasure having this time with them when I ordinarily only see them once every two months. I'll stop by to see the baby and my two favourite boys again soon,' she promised, accepting Harry's hug and giving him a kiss on the cheek. 'Bye, Harry.'
'Take care,' he told her.
She nodded and smiled before Apparating home.
Greenwich, Ipswich: 3rd June, 2009
His house was located on the very edge of town.
Very few people lived in that part, and even fewer visited. He preferred it that way. It was much less of an inconvenience to him. For nine years he had lived in the traditionally styled house, building a shed in the small back yard to use as his laboratory. No more would he keep his potentially volatile concoctions in his house where they could blow up and destroy it. The shed was sturdy and well insulated, built with one purpose only: to serve as the workroom for all of his potions. His only two places of solace and peace were with his potions or with the books in his study.
He spoke to no one, even when he was in town to buy groceries, or in London collecting ingredients from the Apothecary. Nobody really expected him to, and some were even under the impression that he was incapable of speech. A lot of people in the town had taken to calling him the Silent Scientist, although none of them really had any idea just what it was that he did. A few of the business owners became curious whenever he would purchase something unusual, but most knew well enough to leave him alone.
But he was not lonely. His potions work captivated him. It took up a great deal of his time but never left him wanting. Unlike the fickle nature of people, science had yet to fail him. Chopping with precision, weighing ingredients for exact measurements, and knowing how and when to adjust heat all came naturally to him. He was one of the finest Potions masters in all of Europe, after all.
But Severus Snape did not care a whit for celebrity.
It was why he lived where he did. It was a town that was surrounded by enough folk tales and urban myths that it was a safe enough place to live a magical life amongst Muggles. Most were already accustomed to, or had been told of the strange goings-on throughout the town's history.
That afternoon, his focus was on one cauldron in particular. It was a potion he was creating to counteract the effects of the Cruciatus curse. His intent was to reverse the severe nerve damage that was caused and to grow new nerves to replace those that had already been destroyed beyond restoration. His own nerves had suffered some damage, but it was mostly due to years of overexposure to a dangerous lifestyle. His new life suited him very well.
After a few hours, tiny bubbles began to form on the top of the pearlescent liquid in the glass cauldron. During his life as a Potions master, Snape had come to find that the slower the potion was brewed, the more receptive it was to the addition of new ingredients to the mix. Thus, adding Ashwinder eggs and various other usually volatile ingredients became far less of an explosion risk. At just the right temperature, he could even prevent the potion from boiling over.
It had taken the better part of twenty years to perfect his technique.
And in two weeks' time, when he attended the annual "Potions through Time" seminar, he would attend and make notes. Countless times had he been invited to speak as a special guest, but each time he would refuse. He would not speak about his research to the simpletons that attended. It would be a frivolous waste of all his life's precious work. No, he would write down what he believed could improve others' work and after it was over, ensure that the people who did speak, would know what he thought. His opinion was valued.
It was a nice change after spending the first half of his life despised and mistrusted.
To be continued.