Disclaimer: Anything you recognize belongs to the goddess, JKR. This is an idea I have had kicking around for a while but wasn't sure how to go about writing. I intend to have a lot of fun with this story but that is not to say that I won't try to put forward a plausible plot and some good characterization…let's just say that I want to play with my two favourite characters in a way I know JKR never will.
Chapter One: A Literary Journey
Hermione Granger sat at a table in the Leaky Cauldron studiously looking over her lesson plans for the upcoming school year. As she slowly sipped her glass of butterbeer, she revised and changed several topics for essays and assignments, particularly one involving a joint-assignment between her class, Defense Against the Dark Arts, and Potions. Smirking somewhat, she paused to think of what the Potions Master's reaction might have been when the Headmaster had put forward her request for such a task for the seventh year students. It could not have been pleasant.
She looked at the half full glass of butterbeer and sighed. It was really rather childish of her to think this way of a man who had fought as bravely as all the others, even if the others had always considered him an overgrown bat of the slimiest variety. He had certainly been honoured with the Order of Merlin that had eluded him so many years earlier but she doubted whether it meant anything to him now. His only satisfaction had been witnessing the Dementor's Kiss being administered to Lucius Malfoy and Peter Pettigrew, even if it meant acknowledging that Sirius Black had been innocent all along.
And now he was working diligently on a cure for lycanthropy even though countless wizards and witches, experts in the field, had told him time and time again that such a thing was impossible. It was sheer folly to think that he could succeed where so many others failed. Arrogant. Presumptuous. Naïve. She had heard the words being tossed around when discussing Severus Snape's newest goal in life. But Hermione did not share in these sentiments.
He had been a spy for so long and had never been accorded the respect and the reputation that he truly deserved. His one wish was to see the Dark Lord defeated and that had come to pass. Without another seemingly impossible task to utilize the vast expanses of his experience and intellect, he would most certainly have ended up at St. Mungo's. The new experiments were vital to him…a way of passing the time in a world where Voldemort was not lurking behind every rock or hiding to strike with a Killing Curse.
She understood because she had felt the same way. After years of working together with Harry and Ron…
The tears began to blur her vision and she wiped them away angrily. Ron would not have wanted her to cry like this. He would have told her to keep her chin up and, if all else failed, retreat to the library. Hermione almost chuckled as she imagined Ron's whiny voice telling her that not all the answers to life's many mysteries could be found in a book.
For example, it could never explain why he had to die and she had to live.
She sighed once again and traced a finger along the rim of the glass slowly…making it sing a low mournful note.
"I miss you, Ron," she thought to herself, wishing for the umpteenth time that the feisty redhead was still around.
But life went on and she found that she could look back now and smile. She had many wonderful memories and she still had Harry.
"Speaking of which, he is running late yet again," Hermione glanced at the special hourglass on the counter that told the time and shook her head. It was very early and there were no other customers in sight.
A pair of hands suddenly covered her eyes and she smiled despite the initial sense of fright.
A loud snort of disgust. "I hardly think so, Granger."
Hermione froze and tore the hands away from her face, turning to face a decidedly drunk Draco Malfoy, his silver-blonde hair mussed up and his breath smelling horribly like something decaying in the depths of Gringotts.
"What on earth do you think you're doing, Malfoy?" Hermione hissed at her former nemesis.
Draco sneered. "Oh, I don't know. Don't have much to do since you had my family destroyed, Granger."
"Your father murdered your mother and murdered my parents along with many other people I cared about," she glared at him in rage…trying hard to restrain the impulse to blast him into oblivion.
"My father did what he thought was right."
"And do you think he was right."
"As if I would tell you…you would throw me into Azkaban immediately."
"After what you did to Ron…"
"I didn't touch him…they tested my wand and I was questioned under Veritaserum…innocent, Granger. Completely innocent."
"An innocent Malfoy sounds suspiciously like an oxymoron," Hermione snapped.
"Do you know the meaning of such long words?" Draco drawled.
"Perhaps I should get you a dictionary?" Hermione countered, eyes blazing.
Draco scowled and took another long sip of his drink…something that smelled potent. He had obviously had had more than a few.
"Stupid Mudblood," he whispered. "I should have had you when I had the chance but Father would not have wanted to share his favourite…plaything."
Hermione paled when she remembered being captured by Lucius Malfoy and trapped in the dungeons of Malfoy Manor. Chained to a wall by a collar around her neck as if she were a dog. And Lucius…leering at her…taunting her…telling her that he killed her parents and laughing as she cried.
And that was not the worst of it.
"You piece of filth," she whispered in an icy voice.
He smiled at her and touched her hair, laughing cruelly when she pulled away in disgust. He came closer to her and the smell of him nearly made her eyes water.
"I loved to watch, Mudblood. Did you know that? I laughed while you screamed and begged to be killed. He would have done it, you know but I convinced him otherwise. Wouldn't have wanted the show to end."
Hermione stood up and slapped him soundly across the face with the back of her hand; her mother's ring leaving a nasty looking cut on his cheek. He nearly fell backwards from the force of the blow.
"Why you meddlesome…" he lunged at her and grabbed her wrists. She screamed in pain and tried to break free…to get to her wand…to get him off of her…
Draco was sent flying by the force of the spell and smashed into the wall before collapsing in an inebriated and thoroughly undignified heap. Hermione fell to the ground as well and scrambled to get up. A hand presented itself to her field of vision. She looked up in amazement.
"Might I be of some assistance, Miss Granger?"
Professor Severus Snape stood looking down upon her in concern. She took his hand and stood up. He immediately walked over to where Draco was slumped and said many things to him in a harsh voice. Draco looked up, scowled and, at one point, looked absolutely terrified before nodding reluctantly and sitting down at a faraway table. The older man walked over to Tom and presented him with a handful of coins.
"Thank goodness it's too early for customers to be coming in," Tom wiped his brow. "Miss Granger is here most mornings just after I arrive but I don't normally get anyone else in until much later. I don't want no trouble with my regular customers, Professor Snape."
"Of course not, Tom. Mister Malfoy will be leaving shortly and, if he turns up here again, you will certainly let me know," Severus glanced at Draco who pointedly stared at a stain on the tabletop where he was sitting.
"Thank you, Professor. Is Miss Granger all right? You move faster than a cat…I was in the back making my famous shepherd's pie and preparing some sausages when I heard the commotion."
"I think something a little stronger than butterbeer might be in order," Severus glanced at Hermione who was shaking slightly but looked, on the whole, all right.
"A good shot of Ogden's Old Firewhiskey will do her good. She's a tough old girl…this will put the fighting spirit back into her."
Tom poured a small quantity of the amber coloured liquid into a tumbler and gave it to Severus.
"No charge, Professor. Compliments of the house. Poor thing…after what she's been through…least I can do…"
"Thank you, Tom. You are a beacon among innkeepers," Severus said sincerely as he walked back to where Hermione waited.
"This will help," Severus said simply as he gave her the glass.
She sipped it tentatively; coughing slightly as the strong liquid made its way down her throat.
"I wish he were with his father," she muttered angrily.
"I share your sentiments but he somehow managed to avoid persecution for his crimes. Personally, I think he paid Fudge an inordinate quantity of Galleons to secure his release in return for testifying against his father who was, in actual fact, the greater prize for the Ministry to catch and convict."
Hermione took another sip, not coughing this time.
"What did he say to you?" Severus asked.
"I cannot tell you that," she muttered, a look of shame and disgust on her face.
Severus nodded in understanding. "You have been through a terrible ordeal…but you are here and you have a future ahead of you. Perhaps you have lost your innocent belief in happy endings but this is certainly a happier end than might have been expected."
"I still feel so…unclean…I wonder if it will ever go away," Hermione blushed suddenly. She had not meant to say that out loud but, judging from the sympathetic expression on the older man's face, she had.
"You will feel that way as long as you feel that he had the power to make you feel that way. You are not any less of a person for what happened to you. You did not have any choice," Severus pointed out.
Hermione smiled weakly.
"I suppose that is true but, for the moment, it is small comfort."
"A small comfort is a comfort nonetheless."
Draco Malfoy watched in increasing anger as his Head of House chatted with the Mudblood, Granger. He could not hear the words being said and, quite frankly, did not want to. He did not want to hear anything…least of all the voice of the know-it-all who had destroyed his family.
He wanted revenge and he knew how he was going to go about it. A little something his father had taught him.
"She won't suspect a thing…trap her in the thing she loves most and then destroy it. Brilliance. Sheer brilliance," he thought to himself, an insane smile tracing across his face as he got up and made a dramatic show of stomping out of the Leaky Cauldron angrily. Once outside, he paused outside a small window and aimed his wand at the bookbag near Hermione's feet and cast a Dark Spell. The bookbag shimmered slightly and then returned to normal. Neither Hermione nor Severus noticed and Draco chuckled as he kept an eye on the two people.
"Soon, Mudblood. I will destroy you," he thought as he licked his lips in anticipation.
"I think I would like one more glass of this Firewhiskey, Professor," Hermione held up the empty glass.
"Severus, Hermione. You may call me by my first name if you like. After all, you will be a Professor at Hogwarts in September and, as such, my equal."
Hermione smiled. "I don't know if I can do that yet, Professor…but I will try."
Severus called Tom over for a pair of glasses of Ogden's Old Firewhiskey. Hermione pulled some money out of her money bag and handed it to the innkeeper. Severus was about to protest.
"No," she said firmly. "Chivalry is a wonderful thing but I will not take advantage of it, especially when I am already in your debt."
"I have said it before, Hermione. You are a strong woman to have been through so much and not to have broken."
"That is high praise coming from you."
"It is not praise, merely a statement in fact."
Hermione sipped the drink, savouring the warmth that reached the very tips of her toes. "You have never told me what you thought of my idea of a joint assignment between our respective subjects. Do you have any concerns?"
Severus put down his drink and steepled his fingers as he thought about it for a moment.
"I believe," he finally answered, "that it is an idea that has sound principles and will generate some new and innovative ideas in how to use Potions to defend and protect rather than to harm, to heal or to kill."
"So, you did not launch a series of protests when the Headmaster relayed the idea to you?"
A wry glance from the Potions Master dismissed any concerns she might have had about his reluctance to participate in such an enterprise.
"As I said, Hermione," he continued as if he had not been interrupted, "the idea has sound principles and I will be most interested in the results."
Hermione felt much calmer now and hoped to head back to Hogwarts shortly where she had yet to organize her books and her personal effects.
"I think I would like to return to Hogwarts now, Professor," she said, standing up and picking up her bookbag. "Will you accompany me? I'd appreciate the company…if only to talk about Slytherin's slim chances at securing the House Cup this year."
Severus looked at her in some surprise. "Typical Gryffindor presumptuousness," he scoffed. "I think our chances are much better than yours."
Hermione led the way outside and blinked momentarily as the sunlight hit her eyes with its morning intensity. Stopping suddenly, she was jostled by Severus bumping into her, knocking the bookbag onto the pavement. One seam broke and a number of books fell out, littering the ground with covers of various colours.
"Oh dear," Hermione moaned as she stooped to start picking them up.
"Let me help you…you seem to have an awful lot of reading material packed into this one bookbag," Severus remarked. "You do realize that they have limitations?"
"Yes, unfortunately," Hermione sighed as she tried to pick up her notes and her quills.
Severus and Hermione were both crouched on the ground; absorbed in their task of picking up all the dropped articles when they both reached out to pick up one small volume. Their hands touched the small book at the same time.
And, in the blink of an eye…they both vanished.
Draco Malfoy, cackling gleefully, walked towards the abandoned bookbag and the lone book still lying on the pavement.
"Now, I will cast this volume onto a nice bonfire and enjoy the thought of having destroyed the two people I despise the most," he thought to himself as he approached.
But, just as he was about to reach out for the book, another hand picked it up.
"Potter?!" Draco cried in disbelief. Harry nearly jumped as he took in Draco's disheveled appearance.
"Get out of my sight, Malfoy!" Harry yelled as he looked in the book and saw 'H. Granger' in neat script on the inside of the cover. He picked up the bookbag quickly and looked around for a moment. He disapparated.
No! He had been so close! It was so miserably unfair! It was the last straw and Draco Malfoy screamed incoherently as his last grasp of sanity slowly slipped….
Hermione felt a tingle running along her arm and tried to pull back as she felt the unmistakable cold of a Dark Spell but could not. She watched in some fear as the street vanished into a silvery blur that seemed to rush by her with an ominous wooshing sound. Closing her eyes in an effort to hold the rising bile at bay, she was aware that she was not alone…Professor Snape was with her…
"What is happening to us?" She wondered in a panic.
It felt as if she were standing on a field and the wind was whipping past her at a furious pace. Her hair was ripped out of the neat bun she had arranged earlier in the morning and was now flapping freely. She opened her mouth to speak but could not…the rushing wind would not allow her the opportunity to make a sound.
"Where are we going?"
And then she felt as if she were falling…ever falling…deeper and deeper. She opened her eyes and again, could only make out a silvery blur. Only this time, she could see a dark shadow next to her. Wherever she was going, it appeared that Severus Snape would be accompanying her. She closed her eyes again before her stomach protested too violently.
Falling…falling…and then a soft thud, which knocked her onto her back. She lay there, stunned for several moments; afraid to open her eyes and discover what hell she had fallen into.
"Hermione…I think you should see this," Severus' voice seemed anxious but not fearful and Hermione took hope in that. She slowly opened her eyes and stood up in surprise.
Whatever it was that she was expecting, it was certainly not this.
They appeared to be in the English countryside, a church was off in the distance and a village could be seen. They, however, were outside a set of gates, beyond which wound a drive towards a great house.
"We seem to have changed somewhat," Severus' voice turned her around to where yet another surprise awaited her.
He had changed. Specifically, his clothes had changed to…something very Muggle but very old.
"You look like a country gentleman from the 1800's," she said in shock.
"Look at yourself," he replied in a surly tone, looking at himself and scowling.
Hermione looked and saw that she was wearing a plain dress of some nondescript grey material, a mantle and a muff. It was then she realized that it was quite cold…winter, in fact.
A horse made its presence known and Severus took a step towards it and grunted in pain.
"What is it?" Hermione asked, rushing towards him and nearly stumbling over the hems of her rather voluminous skirts.
"I think I have sprained my ankle," he muttered, wincing as he felt the affected part.
Hermione pulled out her wand. "At least we have not lost these." She quickly performed a basic spell for relieving pain and swelling.
"Much better, thank you," Severus walked around a bit.
"Where do you think we are?" Hermione asked, shivering slightly from the cold.
"I have no idea. I suggest we walk over to the great house over there and ask someone how to return to London," Severus walked up to the gate and opened it. He then walked back to the horse and mounted it with the air of one who had done that sort of thing many times before. He held out a hand to Hermione and helped her up in front of him. They trotted through the gate and down the drive.
When they reached the house, they dismounted and walked towards a side door. Hermione knocked.
Within moments, a prim and proper older woman appeared. She was dressed in a black silk gown over which was spread a lovely white muslin apron. On her head, a black widow's cap. Her expression brightened when she saw them.
"Thank goodness you have returned…I was getting so worried about you. Now come in and warm yourselves. I warrant a little brandy might be in order to drive out the chill," the woman hurried them in and directed them to a lovely, if rather masculine, parlour.
"Do you know us, Madame?" Severus asked as a dog began to jump up on him in delighted frenzy.
"Know you? Why Mr. Rochester, I think the cold has touched your mind a wee bit. Not know you and Miss Eyre? Merciful heavens what a thought. I'll be back in an instant with a brandy for both of you."
And with that, the venerable woman left them in a state of complete disbelief.
"What is she talking about?" Severus stormed around the room. Hermione's eyes widened as she realized what had happened to them.
"Malfoy! It had to be him! I don't believe it!" She shouted.
"What are you talking about?"
"My book…we have somehow fallen into my book." Hermione sank into a chair and began breathing heavily.
"Which book have we fallen into?" Severus asked worriedly.
A/N: Yes, anything else you recognize belongs to yet another goddess, Charlotte Bronte