There's this story by the phenomenal author Aurette called "Worth the Wait." It's brilliant, and everyone should read it. If you haven't read it, go and do so now.
There. She's a genius, am I right?
That opening was fantastic, wasn't it?
This story is a humble tribute to it, something that popped into my head after I read her piece. This first chapter here quotes the opening of her story, but changes things up a bit. From the second chapter on, it becomes entirely my own. (Or as much of "my own" as any fanfiction can be.) If you don't like it, I'm sorry you wasted your time here. Don't blame Aurette. She actually has talent (heaps of it!), whereas I just have... a computer. If you do like this tale, all credit goes to her (and Ms. Rowling) for inspiration. If you don't, it's because I'm pants at this writing business.
Oh, and if any of you are worried, you should know that Aurette herself knows this is here and told me that she doesn't mind being my source of inspiration - check the reviews for this first chapter for proof!
"Fourteen inches," snapped Imogen Swern, yanking out an empty chair at the library table. "Fourteen inches on the alternate uses for a Banishing Charm?"
"It's going to take hours," Nigel Brimble whinged as he thunked his book down beside her. "Not that it matters what we write, since she'll knock off half the points for commas anyhow."
Professor Hermione Granger stopped dead in her tracks when she overheard some of her best students discussing their latest assignment. Imogen routinely turned in well-written essays, Pip was always one of the first to master a new spell, and Nigel? He might not be able to punctuate his way out of a paper bag, but his tie was neatly tied and his shirt was usually tucked in. From where she was standing a few rows over in the Restricted Section, she was fairly confident they couldn't see her. Just to be safe, she cast a Disillusionment Charm on herself and held still, curiously listening to what they had to say.
"My cousin Celestia was a third year when she was a sixth year," sympathized Pip Ditton, "and she said Granger spent all her free hours in the library. Said she even skipped Hogsmeade weekends to revise."
"Can you blame her? Who in their right mind would take Granger out?" Brimble asked. "She doesn't know how to have any fun." He rolled up the sleeves of his robes in the same way she did during lessons and stood up an inch or two straighter. Then he changed his voice to mimic hers. "15 points from Hufflepuff for laughing out of turn! 20 points from Ravenclaw for attempting to snog a prefect!"
The others snickered.
"Ugh," Brimble grumbled. "I bet she expects us to live in here just like she did when she was a student."
"I bet she lays in bed at night and humps textbooks," Swern challenged him, giggling.
"Why not? It's not like she has a man in her bed."
"Never?" the girl asked. "Do you think she's ever had one?"
"Everybody talks about how she kissed Ronald Weasley at the Battle of Hogwarts," Brimble offered.
"Yeah, and he up and married someone else. Can you imagine anything more embarrassing? I would die. I would just roll over and die."
"Didn't Viktor Krum take her out?"
"To the Yule Ball? I bet he was forced to by his headmaster. You know, to be polite. That doesn't count."
"Nah, that probably makes it even worse," Ditton piped up. "A big Quidditch star takes you out once and your love life is over when you're fifteen."
"It's sad is what it is. She was a somebody for five minutes forever ago and now she's a nobody again."
"She didn't even really do anything. She followed Potter around and cooked for him while he saved the world. Big deal."
Did they really believe that? she wondered. Hermione knew that if she were to drop the charm and march around the corner, her rude little cretins would shut their traps and backpedal within an inch of their lives. She knew that students said horrible things about their professors all the time, but it was usually about one of the others—not about her. Even when they had grumbled about her, it was never this personal. She kept listening to their conversation, unable to pull herself away as though it were an accident on the motorway.
"My mum says he's going to be the next Minister for Magic, you know."
"His wife's fit," Ditton added. "I saw her playing last year. You should see her covered in sweat."
"You're a pig," Swern spat.
"I'm just saying," Ditton retorted, "Potter made the right choice. Granger's frigid, she is."
"Gah! Could you imagine it? Picking her over Ginny Potter? He's not blind, even if he is her friend."
"Granger's knickers are probably made of iron anyway. Made of iron and locked up tight, even for the great Harry Potter."
"Ewwwww! I don't want to think about Granger's knickers. Ever."
The laughter of the three Gryffindor students abruptly cut off as their Potions professor stepped around the shelf.
"Thirty points each and a week's detentions, the three of you. Report to Mr. Filch immediately."
"For what?" said Swern.
"For what? I heard your little conversation, young lady!"
"We have a right to our own opinions! We were just expressing ourselves in private."
Professor Snape narrowed his eyes and lowered his voice. "The library is hardly private, and it is against school rules to be openly disrespectful of a member of the staff, never mind your own Head of House. Now, get out of my sight, or I will personally oversee your detentions. I assure you, you do not want me to handle your punishment."
He stood there with his arms folded as the three bundled up their books and headed off, glaring at their backs as they headed out the door.
It was then that he noticed the object of their conversation twenty feet away, her Disillusionment Charm slipping and her face, pinched and pale. She had always been incredibly expressive, even when she didn't want to be, and her discomfort was palpable now as she fought back tears.
Out of all the other professors at Hogwarts, why did it have to be him here? He was finally treating her like an adult rather than the annoying student from his classroom. Why did he have to be the one to see her like this?
"Granger?" He looked her over from head to toe. "Snap out of it. Those little maggots say the same and worse about me on an hourly basis."
She turned her head to him slowly. Why was he still standing there?
She didn't trust herself to say anything without bursting into tears, so she snatched her satchel from the floor, turned on her heel, and bolted. She could feel him watching her until she was out of sight.
The strange thing was, she usually wasn't bothered by the juvenile comments her students made. She always told herself that she was strong, that nothing bothered her and that she was indestructible.
It had been a long time since she had felt so small.
I hope this was a passable beginning! Let me know what you think: good, bad, or ugly.