Disclaimer: I own and earn nothing. I merely entertain the joy of taking some of the characters out to play with my imagination for a time.
A.N.: This story came to me while thinking about how I could compose a story about my pen name.
An anomaly in time
Hermione Granger was more than ready. The young woman had been willing this day to arrive all year. Sitting, her legs curled under her. She was deep in thought while watching out the common room windows. Taking several deep breaths, she reflected, and waited for her friends to finish fussing about their appearances. The inactivity was doing nothing to quell the simultaneous sense of dread and excitement racing through her system, but she smiled secretly to the leaded glass panes, and contemplated what a complicated yet rewarding experience it had all been.
Like others who had missed their final year, or felt they had been denied the chance to complete their N.E.W.T.S. to their satisfaction. Hermione had accepted the Headmistress' invitation to come back the year following the rebuilding of Hogwarts. At the time it had seemed like a good idea, although the young woman had found many things unexpectedly confronting this year. She'd gained some good and possibly unexpected friends as well. The solidarity of their common experiences through the war and the still raw losses of some of their own bringing them all together, even the Gryffindors and Slytherins.
On returning to Hogwarts the Muggleborn witch, now almost twenty had quickly discovered that the school environment and its rules meant for children were oppressive and suffocating after her taste of freedom. The Headmistress to her credit had turned a blind eye more than once to the group of young adults who'd returned to complete their education.
To make matters more complicated, she'd also fallen in love, and to a man who seemed so unlikely. It might have been easier if he'd returned her affection, but even though everyone else had mellowed or even just let their guard slip a little since the war. He hadn't appeared to change a whisker. He didn't acknowledge her attempts at conversation, and more importantly no matter how much she tried she hadn't managed to impress on him her regard.
Then of course she wasn't the only one in love, and the fact she was living with two other young women who were yearning for the men they loved complicated things even further. At least their men were merely absent and actually returned their affection, she thought sadly. They're not pathetic like me. My heart's chosen someone totally inappropriate, she sighed, and it just won't see reason.
Harry's voice was distinctly irritated, he and Ron hadn't returned to school, but had come to escort their girlfriends to the Graduation Ball. "I don't know why you couldn't settle for any one of the six or seven guys who asked you 'Mione." This had been his line ever since Ginny had found out Hermione didn't have a date for the event, and insisted that Harry escort both of them into the hall.
Harry's tone only managed to annoy Hermione. After everything I've done for you, you bloody git. You're even begrudging me this small gesture. Well fat lot you'd know, I doubt either of you will ever work out how I think or what I feel, will you? Herheated thoughts reflected in her tight expression, neither of you have any idea, do you? You're come to go with the person you love. Her lips were pressed together irritatedly as she swiped her hand through his half offered arm. I'm not to have that option. She wanted to sulk and snit but they weren't worth it.
Hermione sniffed indignantly, "I'm not giving some guy the wrong idea. Statistically in the Wizarding world your date for the Graduation Ball turns out to be the person you marry," she lectured them haughtily. Well that's all I'm telling you anyway.
"Oh Won Won did you hear that?" Hermione almost laughed at the green tinge on Ronald's face at his over enthusiastic girl friend's comment.
Hermione continued her tirade internally once they started down the stairs, besides I have standards, her eyes narrowed as she surveyed the available young men, and plainly none of them stack up, and she couldn't have brought herself to do it anyway, it would have felt like betrayal. Mind you I am feeling a little wretched now that I haven't got a partner at all. Her thoughts were still circling in her head as she entered the great hall on Harry's reluctant arm.
The childish ribbing from Ron behind them not helping matters, probably trying to get his own back for Lavender's comment about them getting married, well that's not my problem. Really they're a perfect match, Hermione chuckled internally. The gormless git needs someone to dot all over him. She'll make a decent husband out of him even if it's by sheer will power.
Harry now annoyed with Hermione's attitude and the suggested innuendo, felt he'd done his duty as her best friend by escorting her into the room, and promptly dumped her without so much as a by your leave in front of the punch table. At first Hermione didn't even notice they'd left. Her eyes were consumed sweeping the hall searching for one particular person's response to her appearance. When she finally found the owner of the longed for opinion, he wasn't even looking in her direction.
Her would be paramour appeared to be deep in conversation with Minerva McGonagall with his back to her. The young woman wanted to scream at him, "Look at what I'm wearing. This is all for you, I spent weeks finding this red dress and even coordinating underwear, and the accompanying stiletto's, just because I wanted to impress you. Please Severus, it may be the last thing I ever ask of you," she swallowed her tears, "just look." It had been about three months ago, that the Potions Master had migrated from Sir or Professor Snape to Severus, at least in her head.
Hermione made it through dinner without eating so much as a bite of her meal, and she was certain that Severus still hadn't looked. The young woman was now even closer to tears.
Once the dancing started, she stood watching Harry sweeping Ginny gracefully around the floor, and Ron trying very hard to coordinate himself with Lavender, even Malfoy had Parkinson as his perennial backstop. Why did I bother? I'm so bored, no one cares that I'm standing here alone, languishing for a man who will never want me.
Oh I know it's my own fault, it's irrational, but I just can't help it, his beautiful. That decadent velvet voice just curdles me, and the long cuffs, his elegant hands. The sweeping black robes floating around him like mist in the mornings. I want him to draw me into his robes with those hands. I know I'd feel content there swathed in his sweet smelling robes with his arms wrapped around me. Even better still, her mind pondered, without robes, I bet he's skin is like porcelain and smooth as silk under them. She sighed.
Hermione's brow furrowed, how am I going to leave him here? I have no choice we all leave tomorrow. I'll never see him again. I don't want to be one of those stupid sad old spinsters who attend every function the Ministry holds, just in the hope of a glimpse of the man they pine after.
She was now so caught up in her own misery she missed the raven eyebrow ascending smoothly in the shadows on the other side of the room, for Merlin's sake, why is she standing in the corner alone, Severus wondered. She's by far the most beautiful creature here. You know you shouldn't be looking. The voice in his head reminded him. Oh sod off, he told it, for Merlin's sake it'll be the last time I see her. That thought made him just plain miserable, he sighed from his concealed corner. Don't tell me she really doesn't have an escort. She's so lovely, she's blossomed, the plain little caterpillar has transformed into the most exquisite butterfly with the body of a goddess.
Severus scolded himself for his thoughts, but alas a butterfly that will never be for the likes of me. Although it did no good, he still felt his trousers tighten as his eyes hungrily panned up and down her body, wishing with all his heart it was different. Merlin's balls I want her, I can't just let her leave.
While he was pondering this, his eyes were taking in every detail of her attire. The red satin dress Hermione had chosen for tonight clung to every curve to mid thigh then flared out towards the floor, "Perfect," he sighed quietly. Severus mulled over that for some reason looking at Hermione at this moment, reminded him of something he couldn't quite fathom. He felt it was something very important. Bitter sweet and very powerful though, he knew that, I wish I could remember what it is.
Severus' eyes continued up to her face. The usually unruly hair had been forced into submission, and sat sedately around her shoulders. She's a vision, but she looks so unhappy, I wish she'd smile. He was just turning away unable to keep looking at what he believed he'd never have, when something strange happened. The young woman seemed to shimmer then look decidedly confused before noiselessly disappearing.
Suddenly McGonagall was at his elbow again, "Come, Albus wants a word," he heard the Headmistress say.
"But Miss Granger," Severus was gesticulating wildly, not caring that people might see his unusually sedate and sardonic facade creak a little. "She's disappeared," Can't she see what's happened? Severus registered a hand on his elbow, she was surprisingly strong. The head of Slytherin almost snarled, where is the silly woman taking me? Miss Gr... Hermione needs help.
They entered the little room full of strange devices off the side of the hall. Severus hadn't been in here since that blasted Tri Wizard thing. . "Minerva," he warned with some urgency, "Miss Granger has disappeared." The raven haired Wizard's eyes narrowed in growing irritation. Then they met painted blue ones, the artist had caught his twinkling light perfectly. Severus tore his eyes away from the painted Dumbledore and back to his abductor, "Don't you care?" His voice registered his distress at the development.
Minerva graced him with a calm smile, "Of course I care Severus, that's why I've brought you in here," but Snape still felt the Headmistress was blissfully unaware of his rising panic.
"Settle Severus I need to tell you something." The voice of Albus Dumbledore was still commanding even as a painting, Severus scowled at him and the painting sighed, "We don't have much time before she will return, and she's likely to be very distressed,"
The old fool said that like he was pleased, "What the hell are you talking about old man?" The exasperation he felt becoming very pronounced in his voice. There were many questions warring in his mind along with his growing anger as he watched Minerva absently taking something down off a shelf. The very private man didn't want to give away the fact that he worshiped the ground Hermione Granger walked on, but he was becoming very worried.
However, he was just as quickly becoming concerned about both his elder's apparent lack of care for the young witch's predicament, could they too have been bewitched?
However, before Snape found the words to say what he was thinking Albus started speaking again, "It was almost twenty years ago to the day, when you literally begged me to relieve you of certain memories."
The Potions Master sniffed haughtily, "I do not recall doing such a thing." Begging him! The fumes from the paint have obviously fried his last eccentric brain cells. I don't beg! Now Severus was furious.
Albus had the audacity to laugh, "Of course you don't remember dear boy. I believe that's entirely the point really isn't it." His twinkle grew as Minerva approached.
His explanation was cut off by Snape's snort of disbelief as he watched Minerva retrieve an object from a small polished wooden box and enlarge it, "Hermione's missing and all you can do is worry about a damned red shoe." The raven haired wizard spun on his heel, "I'm not standing here a second longer."
The Headmaster had taken in Severus' concern and the use to the young woman's first name, and he knew nothing had changed. Even if the man standing so indignantly before him had no knowledge of the event that was occurring tonight, he had obviously grown to feel the same for the Gryffindor witch as he had in a mere hour twenty years ago.
Albus merely smiled and spoke to stop Snape leaving, "It's Founder's magic Severus," he watched the Potions Master freeze mid step, "A spell that is occasionally activated from the very fabric of the castle."
"Oh what utter tripe," Snape snapped irritatedly, suddenly realising he'd shown too much interest.
Albus ignored him, "Ah but Severus, don't you wish to know why Minerva has one red shoe?"
"No Albus, I bloody well don't," Snape hissed in reply.
"Take it, and you'll know why," Albus pitched his voice to be enticing. The Potions Master merely sniffed and glowered. "Please Severus. It will explain what you need to know, the memory I relieved you of is keyed to your touch of the shoe."
Scrutinizing the posture and expression of his companions, the very suspicious Slytherin could not detect any duplicity in either, but his head turned again to look back out into the hall obviously still searching for answers, "Please Severus," Albus repeated, "you need this piece of information before Miss Granger returns."
Severus looked at the stylish piece of foot wear. What possible harm could there be in touching a shoe? Giving a heavy sigh of resignation, Snape took a step forward hand outstretched. The closer his fingers got to the crimson satin covered stiletto, the stronger the thrum of magic surrounding it became. As soon as his longest digit contacted the now glowing object, his mind was assailed with a recollection that for some reason he'd always known was there, but he'd never managed to remember.
A sharp gasp left his lips as abject misery instantly enfolded him. "She's gone, like she never was," he muttered staggering backwards. The most perfect creature in the world had almost been his. He couldn't stand the pain tearing at him, "Albus," he cried, "what is this, what have you done to me?"
This was so much worse than Lily's betrayal. They had been together for so little a time. But it had been the first time since Lily that anyone had not judged him at first sight, had taken the time to talk to him, hold his hand, recognise his sarcasm for what it was, and find his conversation amusing and interesting, to find pleasure just simply walking with him.
The woman in the red dress hadn't seemed to have eyes for anyone else, only him. She had instantly ensnared his senses. They had only danced one dance together, and he knew he could never give her up. She'd even stood by him when the mutt and his side kick had tried to take her away from him, their charm falling on deaf ears. Then when Lily had made a bitchy comment, she'd rebuked her with an equally cutting one.
"Take me for a walk Severus," she'd whispered afterwards. He'd felt like a king with her on his arm as they headed slowly through the rose garden. Imagine me, Severus Snape on a romantic walk in the rose garden, he remembered thinking. Then just as he was giving in to the urge to claim her as his own she'd vanished again, obviously a cruel apparition after all.
The voice of the Headmaster cut through the recollections, "The founders developed a powerful matchmaking spell, which has a build in surety charm as a means of persuading particularly stubborn wizards and witches of their ardour for one another. Do you remember how quickly it all happened? You only had to look at her."
The expression of pain on the Potions Masters face was cruel, "If we were meant to be together, then why couldn't I have had her then?" He gasped loudly, "It may have changed many things."
"It appears that your souls are indeed destined, but when she went back tonight it was not her time to stay with you. Go to her now my boy. She'll arrive back where she left you."
"I can't, Albus," Severus was overwhelmed, "Too much has happened... surely she couldn't want me now." There were tears flowing freely down his face.
Minerva had remained silent, probably in shock that she'd never seen Severus like this, but now it was her voice Severus heard, "You're wrong Severus. I've watched her trying to get your attention all year. Why do you think she's alone tonight?" The Headmistress looked kindly at him dumbly shaking his head. The assault of all the details had him swaying with confusion.
"No less than seven young men asked her to accompany them this evening." She placed a consoling hand on Severus' arm, "Severus she rejected them all."
"That just proves she has taste," Severus snorted through his distress.
The Minerva patted her fellow Professor's arm, "No Severus it proves she wants you."
The Potions Master scoffed again, "How can you possible come to that conclusion. She came in on Potter's arm didn't she? I saw them enter, I couldn't watch," he shook his head.
"No Severus, Harry escorted her in this evening and she didn't even notice when he and Ginerva left her side. I watched her, she scanned the room searching, until her eyes settled on you, and they never left you the whole time you were speaking with me. They were silently pleading with you to look at her."
Snape's eyes opened wide and his mouth dropped open. He thought about the possibilities for a moment then looked down at the shoe. That had been all he'd had left, it had snagged on the garden seat as she'd been torn away from him, "One red shoe," he muttered.
Suddenly Severus was striding back through the hall. Not caring what people thought of his hast, his curtain of raven hair conveniently hiding his tear stained cheeks. The dancers parted automatically when they saw him bearing down on them. He'd never been so thankful for his bat of the dungeons persona. No one dared question why he was in such a rush or even the reason he was clutching a lady's shoe.
As he moved, scattered images overwhelmed his mind. He'd been at his own Graduation Ball, standing in the exact spot Hermione had been this evening. How could he have forgotten that? Then it hit him, the sadness he'd seen on her face tonight, it was loneliness.
When Horace Slughorn had raised the alarm that one of his house had not returned after the Ball, it had been Albus who'd found Severus in the rose garden lying on the grassy knoll next to the seat still clutching the shoe, heartbroken.
The last words of his painted mentor echoed in his ears as he'd rushed from the room. "I know you still feel the same way. Go to her my boy, make her yours. I'll guarantee you nothing has changed."
Confusion surrounded her. It was almost like she'd blinked out of existence for a moment. Suddenly someone bumped into her, or had she bumped into them. Hermione squeaked in astonishment.
The object of her collision turned to find himself gazing into a pair of unfocused amber flecked eyes. The cutting words he'd been about to utter died on his lips. The owner of the eyes searched his face with confusion, "Sir?" Her pretty voice asked. He'd never heard such melodious intonation. It had instantly captured his heart, "Oh, but you're... you're not you yet," she continued enigmatically, appearing very confused.
Snape watched as she gazed around the room. Taking in the scene, while mumbling about weird occurrences, he distinctly heard her mutter, "Must be dreaming," under her breath. Then she gasped audibly and her face seemed to settle. Turning back to his now perplexed countenance, she smiled like she'd come to some grand decision.
All of a sudden nothing mattered anymore as Severus decided then and there that he'd move heaven and earth to see that smile again. The young woman who would only be just out of school herself was someone he didn't recognise. He watched her straighten and say rather coyly, "Hello, I'm so sorry I ran into you."
Shy and more withdrawn since the final incident with Lily, Severus was shocked to hear himself reply, "I'll forgive you if you dance with me." He offered his arm, her face coloured with a pretty flush and she smiled. As soon as his arms were around her on the dance floor, he'd known she was perfect.
Present day Severus was now surging through the front doors of the castle, robes billowing in the evening breeze. His head aching acutely with remembrance as he moved in the twilight towards the rose garden.
Finally in the distance much to his simultaneous pain and joy he heard a sobbed cry, "NNnoooo!" This was followed with a distressed scream of, "Severus!" When he reached her, he found Hermione curled up on a grassy knoll next to a garden seat, sobbing and thumping the ground with fist, "I was dreaming," she was crying, "I knew it was too good to be true," and her cries became inconsolable howls.
Snape dropped to his knees beside her. All that mattered to him was that Hermione understand he hadn't left her. Pulling her possessively against him he managed to say, "Hush darling one don't cry. I'm sorry I didn't know," his voice was already hoarse with emotion. Still crying heartily it took her a while to become sensible that his voice was speaking to her, as soon as she did she clung to him and cried more robustly, "You're not dreaming Hermione. Don't spoil your night with tears, Princess."
Finally starting to wipe her eyes, she raised them to his face, "This is all very weird," she muttered, her glistening eyes very wide.
Severus reached across and stroked her cheek by the last rays of light as darkness finally enclosed them. Gazing at her while she sniffed and hiccupped trying to get her emotions under control once more, he chuckled softly, "Tell me about it." Then taking a shuddering breath trying to draw air into his lungs, and wishing he wasn't finding breathing in her presence so difficult, "Part of me wondered that night if you'd merely been a dream as well."
Hermione shivered even though it was warm, the shock of it all finally catching up with her. Severus released her a moment to unbutton his coat, taking it off he placed it around her shoulders. "Thank you," she whispered, her face searched his, "What happened to me tonight?"
Severus noted with pleasure that she wasn't questioning his presence, just the circumstances. "All I can say is I've only just been reunited with my memory of it, and Albus' portrait assures me it's the castle playing matchmaker."
Even in the darkness Snape could see her lovely dress getting ruined. They needed somewhere more comfortable, and the seat was looking good. "Are you able to stand?"
Hermione looked at him wide eyed, but nodded, "I think so." Her confused brain was still working overtime. Matchmaker, castle, what... wait a minute Severus Snape just hugged me. Holy crap, he called me darling one and Princess. She risked a glance at him, is this really the same man who's pushed me away all year?
Severus stood and started helping her to her feet. She stumbled, gasped and over balanced, "Are you injured?"
Her stomach flipped at the tone of his inquiry, but she managed to answer. Even if her heart was thumping loudly in her ears, "No, I seem to have lost a shoe though," she replied softly her voice shaky. "I didn't realise." Balancing precariously on her heeled foot, Hermione's hands had instinctively gone to Severus' forearms for support. She was surprised when his long fingers grasped her elbows to keep her upright.
Severus searched around the ground for the shoe he knew he'd been carrying when he'd arrived, "Oh," he gasped seeing it lying where he'd flung it. Using a summoning spell, he smiled, "Here it is," kneeling down, he instructed, "Hold my shoulders I'll put it on for you."
Hermione was almost dumbfounded as she gazed down at the usually stern man, hold your... oh, she thought. I love him like this. He was obviously taking great delight in putting her shoe back on. His hands were so gentle, just like she'd always thought they'd be. She couldn't help saying it, "I must say you're being very accepting of all this." His black eyes were warm as they rose to meet hers, and she murmured in a shallow breath, "This is indeed such a strange night."
Placing her foot carefully back on the ground, Severus rose fluidly. Hermione smiled, "Thank you, Sir. I mean Se…" she glanced down frustrated as she stood her hands still on his forearms. "There are so many things I don't know," her eyes nervously searched his face.
Typically he gave nothing away, merely issue more directions, "Come, let's sit here," he instructed in a soft voice, gesturing to the seat. However, his actions more than made up for his lack of expression. Sliding his hands down to clasp hers he guided her over. Once they were seated facing one another, his thumbs started softly caressing her knuckles, "Well what don't you know Hermione?"
Hermione almost had to bite the inside of her mouth as his stroking attentions continued. She took a very jittery breath, "I've been trying all year to get you to notice me... I didn't ever think I'd succeeded.
"Oh believe me I've noticed you," Severus said with a dry laugh, "You almost drove me insane. I just never thought..." he abruptly stopped talking and his hand rose to her cheek, "I don't want you to go ever again," Hermione heard a shuddering breath being inhaled, "Hermione the reason I had Albus take away my memories of you twenty years ago, was because after you were gone I couldn't function. I was starting my apprenticeship with Horace the day after the ball, and I melted three cauldrons my first morning and it just kept going like that for weeks. As genial as Horace is that found even his tolerance point," he laughed softly. "All I could do was day dream of the young woman I'd almost kissed in the rose garden the night of the Graduation Ball."
Hermione smiled, she turned her head and kissed the palm that rested on her cheek. She heard him gasp. "Oh Severus," she gushed, finally tasting his name on her lips and they both smiled. In true Gryffindor style Hermione asked, "I'm not your student anymore, and I'm certainly well and truly of age, so surely now there's no reason why we can't be seen in the Great hall as a couple?"
"I'll hex anyone who even opens their mouth in opposition," Severus gathered her more securely in his arms and smiled, "But first I believe we have some unfinished business my lady," he smoothed. Hermione was amazed how his sensual murmur and a wicked smile she'd never seen before could make her insides quiver.
Drawing a flustered breath, Hermione felt his breath caress her face then the lightest pressure of his lips, just sipping from her. Hearing him inhale through his nose, Hermione couldn't stop the little sigh that left her lips. Leaning into him a little more she was rewards with a deep chuckle that sent a shiver of pleasure straight to her core.
The pressure this time was delicious, the caressing feel of his mouth on hers made her head spin, but all too soon it finished. His obviously talented lips made a path to her ear, "Are you ready to go and face everybody?"
Her head safely nestled on his shoulder, she nodded, "Yes, oh yes," to tell the truth Hermione was surprised she could even speak right at this moment. Pulling back to look up at him, she smiled, "But I would like more kisses as well please."
"Patience dear heart, we have much to accomplish tonight." He gave her a quick peck on the end on the nose, and rising offered his arm. "First things first, you my lady didn't eat your dinner, so when we get to the hall, you're going to eat something."
"Of course I noticed," his tone was imperious yet mischievous, "I wasn't a spy for nothing you know. I know how to observe someone without being seen."
"Sneak," she replied in the same vein, "I tried all evening to get you to look at me."
"Hermione I've been watching you all evening. How could I not, you're the most beautiful witch in the room."
"Oh!" Now that sentence took me by surprise, wow.
"Yes," his eyebrow quirked, "Now when we will present ourselves to the hall," Severus grinned, "I hope Potter and Weasley make a comment. I shall enjoy hexing them very much."
"Severus!" Hermione tried to sound scandalised as she swatted his arm lightly, but eventually gave in and laughed as well.