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Chapter 12 : xii.
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Hermione’s mouth went dry; her blood ran cold. She could not have possibly returned home now! Not when she had only just begun to penetrate the wall in which Severus so carefully guarded himself with. She wasn’t finished, her mission had not been completed. How could Dumbledore have wished to send her back already?
Hermione swallowed loudly. “Sir?” she whispered in a rough voice.
The panic started to settle in. Her breathing was becoming erratic and she had begun to sweat.
“My dear girl,” Dumbledore began softly, “please do not worry.”
Don’t worry? How could she not have? She failed. The floor started to look like it was spinning.
“Miss Granger,” he said a little more sternly. “Please listen to what I am saying. I only wish to discuss with you how we are sending you back to your time. I am not stating that it is happening at the present moment.”
Upon hearing him say that, just as quickly as it had come on, the anxiety she had felt a second before began to melt away. He had not intended to send her back. She still had time.
Hermione looked up at Dumbledore sheepishly, as she had started to feel foolish for allowing herself to start falling apart that way. “I’m sorry, sir. The thought of returning home, at this moment, was just a bit of a shock.”
Dumbledore’s eyes softened. “Miss Granger. I will not force you to return if you are not prepared. When the time arrives, come to me, and only then will I assist you with your journey home,” he promised.
When she first arrived to the year 1976, Hermione worried that she might not have been able to return to her original time. She feared that she may had been stuck in the past; forced to live out the rest of her life in a period of time in which she had not belonged. But, from what Dumbledore said, she then knew that she would go home. That was at least one giant weight lifted from her.
“Thank you, sir.”
Dumbledore nodded and smiled sadly. “The burden in which I have placed upon your young shoulders to bear,” he mused quietly as he twisted the golden chain of the Time-Turner between his fingers.
Hermione cocked an eyebrow. Professor Dumbledore had allowed Harry, Ron and herself to find their way into dangerous situations since she was eleven years old. Never once had she remembered him sounding remorseful about it. It struck her as sort of ironic that the Dumbledore of the past, the one who never witnessed children taking on such life risking tasks, was the one who seemed apologetic about it. Perhaps it was her traveling to the past, and taking on that responsibility, that changed his perspective on what young men and women could handle, and the reason he permitted her and her friends to take on much more than any youths should have been allowed.
“Now,” Dumbledore began, snapping Hermione out of her thoughts. “Why I have called for you this evening.”
Dumbledore gently placed the Time-Turner back on his desk and folded his hands. He began to speak as if they were discussing nothing more complicated than the weather, or what they might have eaten for supper.
“Fortunately, my future self has been gracious enough to leave instructions on how to potentially tweak the device which brought you here to us. From what I have surmised thus far, it appears this will be no easy task, Miss Granger, and will require much time and an abundance of complex spells,” he explained.
“So you will definitely be able to send me back?” Hermione hoped aloud.
Dumbledore sighed. “Definitely is a strong word, Miss Granger.”
Hermione felt her heart drop. “So it’s still not for certain that I will return home, sir?” she asked in a deflated voice.
He shook his head. “How does the saying go? In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes. Yes?” he asked lightly. Hermione felt a strong impulse to scream.
Had he not realized the seriousness of her position? How could he have sat there and make light of it? Dumbledore is brilliant, that is for sure, but at times he is downright infuriating, she thought sourly.
“Yes, sir. That is how the saying goes.” Acid coated her voice.
Dumbledore chuckled softly at her tone; Hermione could have hexed him.
“Now before you turn your wand on me, as it looks like you are itching to do,” he eyed her wand hand with humor in his eyes. “Rest assured that there is an almost definite possibility of you returning home. I have much confidence in my ability to follow the directions that I, myself, have so generously provided.”
Hermione’s head started to hurt. She didn’t like resting her faith on almost definite. However, if that was all that she had, she decided to trust Dumbledore.
“Thank you, sir.”
15th October 1976
The following day the entire school was abuzz with excitement, due to the first Quidditch match of the year being that weekend; Gryffindor versus Ravenclaw. Apparently it was a highly anticipated match, since the championship game last year were the same two teams. Much to her housemate’s disappointment, they had lost the cup by a mere twenty points and were determined to see the Gryffindors lose spectacularly.
Hermione really couldn’t have been bothered, but she put on a smile and pretended to be invested in tomorrow’s outcome. Only due to the fact that she had recently become friends with nearly half of the Ravenclaw team.
Breakfast was quite similar to what she remembered from her own time at Hogwarts. Members of Gryffindor attempted to poke fun at the Ravenclaws by doing an overly dramatic impression of Otto flailing his arms wildly when he apparently was hit in the head with a bludger, courtesy of Sirius Black, and fell off his broom. It was the play that cost them the game, Otto sadly recounted over a hardly touched plate of food.
“Don’t let them get to you, Otto,” Hermione said while glaring at Sirius, who was just hit in the head with a roll James had thrown at him, then proceeded to flap his arms like a bird and fell backwards onto the floor. The Gryffindors were in an uproar of laughter.
After breakfast, Hermione and Amelia packed up and walked out of The Great Hall together. Hermione was brought up short when she saw Severus leaned up against the wall looking straight at her. Amelia looked at Hermione wide-eyed then to Severus with the same expression. Severus didn’t spare a glance in her direction.
“Devereux,” he nodded. “I was wondering if you wanted to walk to class with me?”
Without intending to, a smile spread across Hermione’s face; she felt jittery, and a part of her knew that it had nothing to do with the coffee she just downed. She heard Amelia sigh beside her.
“I’ll see you in class, Hermione,” she whispered, giving her a look as she left, that told Hermione she would most certainly be questioning her later. The entire time, Severus had not taken his eyes from Hermione.
When Amelia was out of sight, Severus walked towards Hermione and gestured down the hall. “Shall we?”
It was a first. Recently they had only walked together briefly after classes they shared together, never had he greeted her in the morning. That time was usually spent with Amelia.
She found it strangely comfortable to be with him, however. She was nowhere near as intimidated by him as she was when she first arrived. She would even say they had ventured their way towards friendship.
“How was your meeting with Dumbledore last night?” he asked.
Truthfully it wasn’t as bad as she thought it would have been, but still, she would have been lying to herself if she said her discussion with Dumbledore had not left her on edge that morning. It only served to remind her that she was there for a reason. And that reason was looking at her with a neutral expression, waiting for a response.
“It was fine, thank you. He asked how term was going and if I’d made friends yet. If I was finding it difficult to fit in or not. You know, typical Uncle stuff,” she joked with a short laugh.
Severus nodded. “And are you adjusting alright?”
He sounded concerned, she noticed, even if his face tried to portray otherwise.
“I am,” she admitted and was shocked to realize she’d meant it.
Severus cracked a smile. “Good to hear.”
If someone would have told Hermione a month ago, that she would be walking to class with Severus, having a pleasant conversation with him, and actually would have made him smile, she would have told them they were bonkers. But recently, there had been a change in him. She couldn’t pinpoint the exact moment it happened, but it seemed that it began that night he snuck in to see her in the hospital wing. That night when he had tried to tell her something – warn her might have been a bit more accurate. She knew the warning was in regards to her attempting to become friends with him, but it seemed it wasn't something that worried him any longer. Not since they had begun studying together each night. The last week in particular, the two of them seemed to be falling easily into a routine. She quite liked the thought of it.
“Hey Devereux –“
She rolled her eyes. “Really, Severus. I think we’re past Devereux, don’t you? Aren't you ever going to call me, Hermione?”
He exhaled over dramatically. “As I was trying to say,” he went on loudly. Hermione pursed her lips. “Are you going to the Quidditch match tomorrow?”
That was an odd question, coming from him, she thought. She figured if anyone would have been less interested in Quidditch than she was, she assumed that would have been Severus. She really hadn’t planned on going, but then she wondered if she should. If he wanted to go with her, that was.
She didn't know how to answer. “Erm…”
The corner of his mouth lifted. “Because if you weren’t, I was going to suggest perhaps practicing non-verbal banishing spells. I…” he trailed off, but it sounded to Hermione that he had mumbled something along the lines of needing her help with them. She perked up immediately at the thought of spending the afternoon alone with him in the castle.
“Of course!” she agreed with genuine enthusiasm.
Severus cleared his throat and gave a stiff nod in response.
When they entered the classroom Hermione took her usual seat next to Amelia and Severus took his next to the Slytherin girl. Hermione tried to ignore the hole Amelia was staring through her, but after a few minutes she couldn't any longer.
“What?” Hermione hissed.
Amelia took a quick glance towards Severus, who was busy unpacking his things for class, then turned back to Hermione with a smirk on her face.
“You fancy him!” she whispered with her nose scrunched like she smelled something rotten.
Amelia couldn’t have been more wrong. Of course Hermione had not fancied him! What an absurd thing for her to have thought. Had she thought that Severus was interesting? Yes. Had she found him oddly attractive? Maybe a little. Had she recently noticed an annoying habit of developing butterflies in her stomach when she’d see him? Possibly. But fancied him? No. No that was just totally off the mark. She was with Ron – sort of. Hermione was not the type of girl who went off with another bloke as soon as the other one was out of sight. She only enjoyed Severus’ company, that’s all. Not to mention, she was trying to save his life.
Hermione snorted. “You could not be more wrong, Amelia,” she scoffed.
Amelia rolled her eyes. “Right. Whatever you say Hermione.”
For the rest of the class, Hermione went out of her way to ignore Amelia. Truthfully, she was irritated with her for coming to such a preposterous assumption. Couldn’t Hermione just have wanted to make a new friend? Would that have been so hard to believe?
Needless to say, she worked extra hard to keep her eyes from landing on Severus’ hunched figure for the entire hour.
During Hermione’s free period, she sat with some of her house mates outside of the castle. To her discomfort, some of the Gryffindors were out there as well. When James, Sirius, Peter and Remus walked by, she thought she heard James say, “But really, Padfoot, don’t you think we should? I mean, I reckon we could get in a lot of trouble if we don’t register and are caught.”
“Prongs,” Sirius whispered, “think about the trouble we'd get into when Dumbledore finds out what we were up to with Moony here each month.”
“I agree with Sirius,” Peter piped in.
“Of course you do,” James hissed.
Hermione turned her head and locked eyes with Remus, who turned bright red and immediately looked away.
“Let's drop it, alright? We’ll discuss this more later,” Remus said quickly.
Hermione had a sinking feeling, because she thought she knew exactly what they spoke of. James, Sirius and Peter were all unregistered Animagi, and she knew it must remain that way. If James was having second thoughts, perhaps it wouldn’t hurt to try to nudge him in the right direction.
“Hey, I wanted to ask you all something,” she began loudly, speaking to the small cluster of Ravenclaws, hoping the Gryffindors would listen in.
Her friends’ heads all turned in her direction. “What’s that, Hermione?” Edgar asked.
“Have any of you ever thought of trying to become an Animagus? Because I’ve been tossing the idea around for some time now.”
Her question had the desired effect. She took a glance to her right and noticed that the four boys all stopped dead in their tracks. Each of them tried to act like they were not listening, but not exactly doing the best job at hiding it. Remus threw a panicked look towards James and Sirius, almost like he thought Hermione had just heard them, and understood what they were talking about. James quickly shushed him, and they sat on the grass a few yards away.
Amelia tapped her quill against her lips, “It crossed my mind briefly after seeing Professor McGonagall transform. But it's a lot of work, and also, rather dangerous, isn't it? I don't know if it's something I want that badly to risk permanently damaging myself, should something go wrong.”
In addition to the Gryffindor boys eavesdropping on Hermione’s conversation, she noticed a certain blonde - who was wrapped around Lockhart so tightly, it was almost as if they were one person - future reporter’s attention suddenly turned her way.
Hermione mentally slapped herself. Of course it would be a subject matter of interest to Rita, as well! Rita Skeeter would also be another unregistered Animagus who must remain that way. Without Hermione blackmailing Rita at the end of her fourth year, Harry would never have been able to do that article for The Quibbler during her fifth year.
“If it's something you're seriously considering, Hermione, I'm sure McGonagall would be happy to help you out. Maybe give you some pointers and let you know how to register once you achieve it,” Sturgis suggested.
Hermione could have kissed him for mentioning registering. It was the perfect segue into what she wanted to say, without making it totally obvious.
“See, I don't think I would want to register,” she said with a quick glance towards the boys. She thought she caught a satisfied smirk on Sirius’ face aimed in James’ direction.
“But you'd have to, Hermione,” Amelia began in a serious tone; her forehead creased. “It's the law.”
Hermione hoped beyond hope that her words would resonate with the currently unregistered Animagi, pretending not to listen, all around her.
“But why?” she asked. “Think about it. How would the ministry ever know? And would you really feel comfortable with them keeping such close tabs on you? I don't think I would.”
Sturgis and Amelia looked appalled. “But if you were caught…” Sturgis trailed off.
Edgar smiled. “I agree with Hermione, actually. Just think of what you could get away with if you weren't registered. And how exciting it would be with nobody knowing what you could do.”
Amelia rolled her eyes. “What you could get away with? Tell me, dear brother, what kind of shenanigans do you think you could get into as an animal?”
“Well for starters, my lovely sister, I'd have an easier go of it sneaking into the girls’ lavatories,” he laughed with everyone, except Amelia, joining in.
Amelia closed her eyes and exhaled loudly. “Of course,” she sarcastically agreed.
The conversation died down soon after, then with a sneaky glance towards the Gryffindor boys, Hermione thought that James’ eyes looked glazed over, and she sincerely hoped that he was considering what she had just said.
16th October 1976
Saturday morning, as the students filed out of the school after breakfast, Hermione turned the opposite way, in the direction of the Charms classroom where she and Severus had agreed to meet. She hadn't told her friends that she wasn't going to the match, and she hoped that they either wouldn't notice her absence, or wouldn't be too upset with her if they did. A part of her was glad to have a reason not to go. She felt that seeing James play would have reminded her too much of Harry which would have caused her to become incredibly homesick. And she couldn’t afford to lose focus.
When she entered the classroom, she was surprised to see that Severus had not arrived yet. She expected that he would have been in there already, since she had not seen him at breakfast. While she waited for him, she pulled out her wand and summoned the fluffy, purple pillows which Professor Flitwick kept in the room for them to practice banishing and summoning spells, and stacked them neatly into two separate piles on the floor.
She took a look at her watch and decided that if he hadn’t shown in fifteen more minutes, she was going to assume he wasn’t coming and head off to the library to take advantage of its emptiness. With another swish of her wand, she removed one of the pillows, placed it in front of her and sat down cross-legged. To kill some time, she pulled her Defense book from her bag, opened it and began reading the chapter on Vampires she was required to read before next lesson.
After reading for only a few moments, she heard the low thud of a door closing, followed by soft footsteps and the clearing of someone's throat. Hermione closed her book and placed on the floor next to the pillow; Severus towered over her looking more uncomfortable than she had seen him thus far. He shuffled his feet and was playing with the cuff of his sleeve.
“Devereux,” he greeted her as she looked up.
She rolled her eyes and she decided she wasn't going to bother with correcting him again. Hermione hoped one day he would become comfortable enough to use her given name, but for the time being, she'd just let him address her by the false surname. No matter how unhappy it made her.
“Good morning, Severus,” she smiled. “Ready to get to work?”
As she shifted her weight and tried to stand up, she was shocked when she noticed Severus’ outstretched hand. She froze for a moment, completely taken off guard by the surprisingly kind gesture, then hesitantly reached forward and wrapped her hand in his. It was much warmer than she anticipated and once again that lurching feeling jolted in her stomach at his touch.
“Thank you,” she whispered. He nodded once in response and released her hand as soon as she was on her feet.
Severus looked passed Hermione at the pillows on the floor and cocked an eyebrow. “Planning on having a nap?” He asked.
Hermione shook her head. “Why are we here, Severus?” She asked as if speaking to a child. He had not looked amused by her tone. “They're for us to practice.”
“Come,” she ordered as she made her way next to one of the pillow piles, took out her wand and silently summoned the stray one to rest on top of the others.
Once each of them were stood next to their own stack, Hermione quite easily slipped into the tutoring mentality she was accustomed to from her days of helping Ron and Harry.
“Now,” she began. “As it states in Standard Book of Spells, page two-hundred seventy-“
Severus groaned. “Devereux, I don’t need to hear you regurgitate the textbook. As it happens, I own a copy and could just as easily read it myself.”
Hermione pursed her lips and felt like a bolt of anger flashed through her body. “I thought you needed my help, Severus.”
“I never said that,” he answered in a rush. It was the fastest she’d ever heard him speak.
She laughed out loud; his eyes narrowed. “Oh? So it must have been some other tall, overly cranky, cantankerous, dark-haired boy who mumbled yesterday, I, erm… may possibly need some help,” she challenged in a spot-on imitation of his voice.
At one point she would have been unsettled by his flaring nostrils accompanied by a hostile glare he was throwing her way, but not any longer. Now she stared right back into his black eyes wearing the smirk of a person who knew they had just won an argument.
“You’re insufferable, you know that, don’t you?” he snarled.
Hermione chuckled, “So I’ve been told.” By him, many, many times in the future. “Well come on then, let’s see what you’ve got. Since you clearly didn’t say you needed any help,” she further taunted.
Severus let out a loud sigh and grasped his wand so tightly, Hermione saw his knuckles turn white. She watched him flourish his wand, but the pillow on top of his pile remained firmly in place. With each wave of his wand, his face grew increasingly more red. After nearly ten minutes of nothing happening, he bared his teeth, and Hermione heard him actually growl. She knew better, however, and stifled the giggle that was threatening to explode from her lips. She bit the inside of her cheek to keep silent.
Hermione couldn’t stand watching him struggle any longer. “Severus?” she asked timidly. Just because she hadn’t been completely intimidated by him at that point, it hadn’t meant there were not still times that he made her nervous.
“What?” he growled through clenched teeth.
“A little advice?”
He dropped his arm to the side and rounded on her; sweat poured from his forehead. “If you must.”
She honestly expected him to tell her to bugger off. If you must was as good as, yes, Hermione, please show me your ways, in her eyes.
“You’re trying too hard. Try not to think of what you’re doing as much. Just sort of… do it,” she explained.
Severus let out a short, bitter laugh. “That’s helpful. Just sort of… do it,” he said in a squeaky impression of her voice.
“Do you want my help or not, Severus?” she snapped. Merlin he was infuriating at times, she thought.
He didn’t respond, but looked at her expectantly. Pretty much a yes in Hermione’s book.
“Alright then. Try not to shout the incantation in your head. Think more of how the spell feels when you cast it. Watch.”
Hermione raised her wand and pointed it at her stack of pillows. As she swished her wand, she wasn’t thinking of the name of the spell, more as she was picturing the pillow moving from point A. to point B. It was like her mind was connected to the wand in her hand, which was furthermore connected to the object she intended to move, all by an imaginary string.
After she was finished, she smiled upon seeing the impressed look Severus quickly tried to hide on his face.
“If I can do it, you can do it, Severus,” she encouraged him.
She thought she saw a small smile flash briefly across his lips as well as him standing a little straighter.
“Alright. I’ll give it another go,” he said.
As she watched him try and try again, Hermione studied his face closely. She tried as hard as she could to ignore the thought of, He’s really quite attractive, that popped into her head. Her attention was taken away from his black eyes when she saw the pillow shake in her peripheral vision.
“That’s it, Severus! You’re getting it!” she cheered on.
She wasn’t sure if it was because of her encouragement or not, but right after, the pillow lifted into the air and soared its way across the room, landing smoothly in front of the door.
“You’ve done it!” she exclaimed.
Severus full out smiled, then began to send the rest of his pile across the room, one pillow at a time.
They continued practicing together for an additional half hour, then decided that was enough for the day. The two of the each took a pillow, placed them on the floor and sat down across from one another. Severus reached for his bag.
“Hungry?” he asked while digging through it.
They had been in there for a few hours, but Hermione hadn’t realized she was hungry until he asked.
“Good,” he said as he pulled out some cucumber sandwiches and two bottles of butterbeer.
Hermione was downright stunned. How - how… thoughtful? She thought.
“I snuck into the kitchens,” he explained, answering the unspoken question that was clearly written on Hermione’s face. “That’s why I was late.”
“That was very considerate of you, Severus. Thank you,” she said as she reached for her sandwich.
The two of them ate in silence for a few moments, but when Hermione looked up, she saw that Severus was staring at her with the most peculiar expression. The way he looked at her, it was like he was trying to figure out a riddle, or trying to translate a particularly difficult Rune. It made Hermione feel uncomfortable and exposed.
“Yes?” she asked after swallowing a bite.
It seemed Severus hadn’t noticed he was staring at her. He casted his eyes down and took a large bite from his food and shook his head.
As she watched the young man in front of her continue with his lunch, she found it hard to believe that he was the same person who would, very soon, join up with Voldemort and the Death Eaters. He hadn’t seemed like the type of person who would buy into that nonsense and it made her wonder what happened that caused him to venture down that dark path. In that moment, he seemed like just a misunderstood boy who was a little awkward, super intelligent and very lonely. Maybe all he needed was a true friend? That was something she would be able to do. That was why she was there.
Soon they were finished eating and agreed it was time to part ways for the afternoon. Surely the match was over and her friends were probably worried, since she hadn’t been seen since breakfast.
After they packed up and left the classroom, before heading off in opposite directions, Severus stopped directly in front of her. He cleared his throat and avoided eye contact with her.
“What is it, Severus?” she asked.
He dawdled for a moment then looked directly into her eyes; Hermione’s heart pounded.
“I just wanted - I mean - erm…” he ran his hand through his hair, it was clear he was incredibly uncomfortable. “Thank you, Hermione,” he said with such weight, it seemed he was thanking her for more than just her help that day.
Hermione’s eyes softened and she mentally cursed those damn butterflies, which now seemed to transform into bats in her stomach. Never had her name sounded more beautiful to her.
A/N: “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Is a quote credited to Benjamin Franklin. As always, thank you so, so much Em for looking this over and all of your help and encouragement!! <33
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