Plot, new characters, new magical terms and abilities etc. are my intellectual property. If you want to borrow then please kindly ask. JK Rowling's characters and Wizarding Universe are all uniquely hers.
Summary: It's 6 years Post Book 7 & most of our favourites live on.
Hermione's determination to create spells lands her and Snape in an alternate universe, one unknown by the Ministry of Magic & Muggles alike. How will they get back to all that they know? – SS/OC pairing!
Alternate Universe (literally), Fantasy, Drama, Angst. This is a story I've had in mind for years. It was inspired by the "Dead Realm" and "Haunted" Series of Photomanipulations by J-Master on deviantArt.
Chapter 1: Ghosts in the Machine
Severus Snape lay in his bed at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry wide awake and staring at his bed curtains as he tried to shake off the night terrors that paralyzed him. It had been 6 years since the Second War of Voldemort had finally rid him & everyone else of the metaphysical terrorist that had been Lord Voldemort. But still the Dark Lord held sway over him in death as much as he had in life and an in-between existence. The infamous Dark Wizard who had been Tom Riddle before transforming himself into a deformed monster invaded Snape's dreams for the precious few hours he slept, just as he'd done every night since his vanquishing during the Battle at Hogwarts.
The latest in a long line of Hogwarts Headmasters let out a ragged breath and forced himself to get up.
It would do no good to dwell on bad dreams.
'How many times must I tell you, Miss Granger, that unless you adhere to the official Ministry Guidelines for admission into the Master's Certification Programme, you will be rejected and face being ruled ineligible for further consideration!' Snape hissed later that day as he flung Hermione Granger's latest proposal across his desk, causing it to fly off of the edge and skid across the golden marble floor of his office at the Ministry of Magic. 'You are meant to examine a fundamental problem in Functional Magic. Given your myriad of adventures as a Hogwarts student aided and abetted by Late Headmaster Dumbledore and the Deputy Headmistress, coming up with a few workable theses should be easy work for you. You only need to submit one and for the first time in all the years I have been tortured by your presence you are incapable of making the simplest directive work in your favour. The only thing you've demonstrated so far is ego, not genuine interest or commitment!'
'Since when do you care about sticking to the rules?' the ex-Hogwarts student snapped, quite forgetting herself. She and her former Potions Master had been at loggerheads for weeks. As a result she was losing precious time when the other students in the program were well ahead with their projects.
'I should not have to remind you that it is not your reputation on the line here once again, it is mine. As such – there will be no deviations from the accepted standard research subjects, however dull and ridiculous they may be.'
'So you admit that they're a complete waste of time...'
Snape counted backwards from 5 in his head. He had enough dunderheaded Hogwarts students to be concerned with besides the latest batch of Ministry Master Candidates.
'Spell Creation Studies are not acceptable as you well know and I am not having this conversation again, Miss Granger.'
'But you could…'
'NO "BUTS"! After everything I had to endure to clear my name and get reinstated to my rightful position here why on earth should I put myself at risk… For. You!'
Hermione took a step as though she'd been slapped. She had been, figuratively speaking, by her old Potions Professor putting her soundly in her place yet again.
She'd even tried to convince Hogwarts's Deputy Headmistress and Head of Transfiguration Minerva McGonagall to talk to him but to no avail. It wasn't any of her business, Professor McGonagall had said, but for the record she was in agreement that if Hermione expected to actually be awarded her Master's Certification in Functional Magic, then she would have to do it to the standard set by the Ministry. Headmaster Snape was the only Wizard in the British Isles with a First Achievement in all relevant branches of magical studies and was him that the Ministry was relying on leading the certification process. It was a huge honour for Snape to have awarded the post – and a mark of respect and trust for the man the entire Wizarding World owed a tremendous debt to. McGonagall had peered over her glasses at Hermione with her mouth set in a grim line that suggested she was very disappointed that young woman who had once been lauded as "The Cleverest Witch of Her Age" as a 14 year-old wasn't at present exhibiting the high intelligence and uncommonly good sense she was reputed to have. That look had stung as much as The Potion's Master's typically barbed retort.
'I will give you one last opportunity to present me with an admissions proposal,' Snape said menacingly. 'You have three days in which to come up with something far more acceptable than the six you have presented to me so far… and without consulting the Deputy Headmistress to plead your case. I'm nobody's fool, Miss Granger; don't try to use other people to get to me ever again or you will find yourself pursuing your aspirations somewhere else! Now if you don't mind, I have projects from your comperes to review!'
There was a decidedly meek 'Yes, Sir,' mumbled before Hermione retreated from Snape's office, picking up her discarded proposal as she left.
'I can't believe him – the absolute nerve!' Hermione griped as she sat with her old school friend Ginny Weasley in the kitchen of The Burrow, the Weasley family homestead in rural Devon the following afternoon. 'There's no way that he mastered everything he did by sticking to the rules! The man was a Death Eater for goodness sake! He learned how to fly without needing a broom or carpet and he learned how from Vold…You-Know-Who! And let's not forget that old Potions textbook of his Harry found in our 6th Year… "The Half-Blood Prince" my arse!" … Oh sorry, Mrs Weasley.'
Hermione had been on yet another rant about Snape's hypocrisy for the past 15 minutes without pausing for a deep breath. Ginny glanced up at her mother as Molly Weasley prepared dinner and was rewarded with a familiar pointed look. Let the Know-It-All get it out of her system that look said, before telling her the cold hard truth.
The would-be Master stopped her diatribe against the Headmaster's injustice and sat sullenly. Molly Weasley carried on preparing dinner without so much as a look in her direction while her only daughter prepared another cup of tea in silence.
'Well aren't you going to say anything?' Hermione sniffed.
'If all you want is for me to agree with you and badmouth Snape then no, I'm not,' Ginny said evenly.
'You heard me. You should have done the programme as soon as you finished your last year at Hogwarts after the War but no, you wanted to faff around with Ron and Harry travelling for a couple of years instead of taking the usual Gap Year and doing something practical. Then you got side-tracked with Viktor in Bulgaria despite all the talk about wanting to do the full Master certification programme once you made your mind up. As soon as Snape was cleared and Dad told us about the rumours that the Ministry was set to give Snape high-profile appointments to make up for all the rubbish that he'd been put through during the Inquest you should have come back and start trying to make amends with him the way you kept telling Harry to do so before he got started with his Auror training. If you're that bothered by Snape then go study somewhere else; it's not like you don't have options. You said so yourself.'
'I shouldn't have to! Whose side are you on?!'
'Oh come on Hermione, you want whatever advantage you can get – just admit it! That's what this is about. You can't even get through the admissions process without running to McGonagall and she's not even involved with the programme. If you go somewhere else you'll have to start over and might not be the cleverest one in the room. You'd have to work really hard to legitimately be the best while dealing people who probably won't be intimidated by you the way many are here. You wouldn't have the ear of powerful people that you could run to about unfair grading. You won't have everybody else's work graded on a curve set by you. You always had an unfair advantage over everyone else in your year, and you know it. Snape is the only Professor who never pandered to your need to be the best at academics the way the rest did. But now he's running things instead of being the one who has to acquiesce to Hogwarts Higher-Ups playing favourites with Gryffindors, and he's not having your crap. He's not bowled over by you any more than he was the rest of us. You already knew that so there's no point in moaning about it. You're solidly in the ranks of us lesser mortals so just deal with it. There's no good reason why you can't make this work for you like you have everything else.'
'I knew I was wasting my time expecting you to understand,' Hermione replied in a shaky voice as she stood up.
'If you knew that then why bother to come all the way down here and have a go at me about it? I don't like Snape by any stretch of the imagination, but facts are facts – and we all know how much we got wrong about him in the War even if he's still a greasy git asshole.'
'Forgive me for interrupting,' Mrs Weasley sighed exasperatedly. 'But if your real interest is Spell Creation, Hermione, then why not focus your research on an existing Ministry-Approved Spell known for its shortcomings in Functional Magic…one of the more interesting ones? Goodness knows there's more than enough to choose from that none of us ever got to study as a Hogwarts student. To make it more interesting you could choose something that covers more than one branch of magic...examine a component or practice integral to Spellcasting, rather than an actual spell...something with wider implications.'
'…which is exactly what I already suggested,' Ginny commented drily. 'You'd end up creating a new spell or maybe even a few in the process and no one could fault you for something that's a "happy accident". Seems pretty obvious to me and to Mum but what do we know?'
'It's pretty obvious to Severus from the sound of things. He's had to do too much thinking for people who should know better over the years – and with all of the responsibility he has now he has to be fair; he can't interfere with the admissions or grading process even if he wanted to. The man is just doing his job and you can believe there are some who are hoping he will fail in spite of his redemption,' said Molly. 'Hogwarts is a much different place now with You-Know-Who and his underlings out of the way – even Minerva admits that. Severus has given the Professors scope to expand the curriculum in a way that doesn't threaten the Ministry but puts us on par with elite magical institutions on the Continent. I actually envy this generation and that's saying something. I don't think he's going out of his way to be difficult – he seems to be trying to get you to think deeper about the obvious.'
'I know Harry's still struggling to come to terms with the Headmaster not being quite the black-hearted villain he was convinced he was while we were at school,' Hermione conceded as she sat back down. 'But I haven't given much thought to what Hogwarts is like now with Snape running it and without everything else he was fighting against to be honest. One of his biggest criticisms of everyone else was that we never thought enough about things as we ought – which is why we were caught out so many time…like Professor Dumbledore was with that cursed ring.'
'And Snape was right every time though, wasn't he? I never thought I'd say this but I actually feel a bit sorry for him. Imagine having every aspect of your life picked over and people still finding you unworthy of appreciation after everything he's been through,' Ginny sighed. 'Harry will always be the Hero and rewarded for it – no matter who else did the work beside him or behind-the-scenes. He's never had to make the sacrifices that Snape has.'
'None of us has,' Molly said sharply.
'No…we haven't,' Hermione admitted quietly as she stood up again.
'Not staying for dinner?' Ginny asked innocently. 'Roast Beef, Butter Mash with Onion Gravy and Yorkshire Puddings – your favourite...'
'…And Apple Crumble with Hot Vanilla Custard for dessert,' Mrs Weasley added. '…also your favourite.'
'No – I need to get going on this proposal. I've lost so much time I'll never get back messing around with...wait…time. TIME! That's it!'
'What's it?' asked Mrs Weasley.
'I just realised what my final proposal should be – and no way can Snape turn this one down! He could get another Order of Merlin, First Class Honour out of this!'
'It must be a doozey since you just put your raincoat on inside out,' Ginny replied with a grin. 'You don't really need it, but good luck…'
'"Unexplored Implications of the Misuse of Time in Functional Magic",' Snape read aloud from the cover of Hermione's final Master's Proposal as she stood in front of his desk.
He turned around in his seat and flicked through the pages several times for almost an hour.
Hermione was ready to drop from exhaustion by the time he turned back around acknowledged her presence again.
There was no comment as Snape tapped her proposal creating a duplicate and stamped both copies with a Ministry Seal.
'Report to Stebbings in the Master's Laboratories – Level 11. He's the Administrative Associate," Snape ordered as he pushed the duplicate across his desk.
Hermione's mouth opened slightly, but nothing came out.
'You are dismissed, Miss Granger,' Snape said with a slight jerk of his head towards his office door.
There was no reply as Hermione retrieved the stamped copy of her approved proposal. She had barely shut his door when Snape heard an unmistakable delighted shriek of "Yes, yes YES" – and smiled.