For a while, Cornwall is home. After initially saying he doesn't want that arsehole staying in his holiday home, John Granger grudgingly acquiesces to Hermione's insistence that the whole thing was a misunderstanding and Severus is not actually a bigger villain than the Dark Lord. Hermione makes a convincing case that holidays are going to be damned awkward if her father doesn't come round eventually, so come round he does—not because of the merit of her case, but because he can never deny his darling girl anything for long. And so Hermione and Severus stay in Cornwall until the planned date of the wedding they ruined has come and gone.
Severus has a brewing station set up in the garden shed and can make a living here as well as anyplace else. Hermione walks on the beach without crying, tries to make it up to Peeves for all the waterworks the poor beast endured earlier, and annotates her now well-worn favorite book. The only notation on page 387 is a spiky Some fucking Gryffindor you are and Nice try, Number Three in a more rounded script below it.
They have about two more weeks to figure out what's next, because that's when Helen Granger says she wants her damn holiday home back, thank you very much, so they're out on their arses.
Hermione supposes she'll go back to the Department of Mysteries. She did like the work, but not as much as she enjoyed teaching DADA at Hogwarts. With Remus barely into his forties, he'll probably be there for decades, so it's either the DoM or look into teaching in America or Australia. She doesn't think her French is quite up Beauxbatons. Then again, would anyone even think she was qualified to teach Defence? After all, she can't put her experience at Hogwarts on her CV when it happened in another timeline.
At the moment, she's standing at the kitchen window, dithering over whether to owl Arthur today or continue hiding from Rita Skeeter's scurrilous stories about her leaving the wizarding world's most eligible bachelor at the altar. A knock at the front door allows her to put the decision off for at least a few more minutes, and she heads to the sitting room.
When she opens the door, she is astonished to Lucius Malfoy standing there, dressed casually for him, but still a bit on the posh side for the beach.
"May I come in?" he asks.
"Of course." Hermione steps back to let the man who was to have been her father-in-law enter. "Would you like tea?"
"That would be lovely, thank you, my dear."
She's still my dear? That's even more unexpected than him showing up at her parents' holiday home in the first place. "Won't you sit down?" she says, and he does. She goes into the kitchen, starts the water boiling, then heads out to the makeshift lab. Severus is just extinguishing the flame under his cauldron. "Lucius Malfoy is here."
"He's in the sitting room. I'm making tea."
Severus starts back toward the kitchen door, looking rather the way Ron used to when he had to tell Molly about something the three of them had got up to. He waits with her in the kitchen while she makes the tea and puts chocolate biscuits on a plate, then holds the door open for her when she picks up the tray.
"Hello, Severus," Lucius says, as pleasant as you please.
Severus nods. "Lucius."
"How did you find us?" Hermione asks.
"Your mother gave me the address," Lucius says and bites into a biscuit.
Of course she did. Mum loves all three Malfoys but especially Lucius, who takes mischievous pleasure in making the mature, professional, feminist Helen Granger blush like a schoolgirl with his flirting. After what Lucius told her the evening she broke her engagement, Hermione suspects that the whole ladies' man persona is just his shtick and Lucius has quite likely been faithful to Cissy all these years. Since any unavoidable debauchery at Death Eater revels pre-1981, anyway. Severus won't say much about that, just smirks. Hermione suspects he may just be taking the piss, and there actually wasn't as much depravity at those things as people assume.
"The biscuits are very nice," Lucius says.
"Thank you," Hermione replies. "Erm, how are Cissy and Draco?" She gives Severus an irritated glance, hoping he isn't going to make her do all the heavy lifting in this exceedingly awkward little tea party.
"They're fine, my dear. Draco is dating a lovely young lady. A Miss Greengrass. You may have known her at Hogwarts?"
"Her younger sister, Astoria. And speaking of Hogwarts, that's the official reason for my visit." When Hermione and Severus exchange a puzzled glance, Lucius continues, "Apparently there's a would-be Dark Lord on the rise in America, and the Yanks are aggressively recruiting Aurors. Both Lupins, Remus and Nymphadora, have signed on, and Minerva needs a new Defence professor."
"I have no desire to teach again," Severus says.
"The offer wasn't meant for you, actually," Lucius says, and gives Hermione the smile that turns her mother to jelly. "It's for Professor Greene."
Hermione gapes. "You knew! That night at dinner, you knew," she says. "That's why you brought her up."
"I did," Lucius acknowledges. "I noticed a resemblance between the two of you at our New Year's ball that year, and over the years, as you grew older, I became certain. I didn't know when your older self would return from the past, just that you'd be somewhere in your early twenties, judging by appearances. When you had your accident and Draco told me how you were behaving, I thought it might have happened, and when you came to dinner I was certain."
"Because of the way I looked at Draco. Or rather, didn't look at him."
"And the way Professor Greene looked at Severus at that New Year's ball."
"That's why you weren't angry with me."
"Of course. How could I be, really? The whole thing is so beautifully tragic."
Not so beautiful when you're at the apex of the love triangle, Hermione thinks. "I really do feel terrible about what I did to Draco," she tells Lucius.
"I know you do. But Draco will get over it," Lucius says. "In truth, it might even be good for him. You're the first thing he's ever wanted and not been able to have. A little adversity builds character."
Hermione doesn't tell Lucius he should have thought of that a couple of decades ago. She sighs regretfully. "It's a pity you'll have to be Obliviated and won't remember I'm qualified to teach DADA."
"Obliviated? My dear, what are you on about?"
"I'm an Unspeakable. That's why I couldn't tell Draco about any of this, why I had to let him hate me and think I was just fickle and awful."
"But you didn't tell him—or me—anything," Lucius objects.
"Yes, but that's just a technicality. It may satisfy the letter of the law, but not the spirit."
Lucius laughs and looks at Severus. "Is she always like this?"
"Always," Severus confirms. "You haven't spent as much time around members of her House as I have. They're pretty much all like this."
"I've told Draco and Cissy everything," Lucius says, "and neither of them is upset with you in the least. Well, Cissy isn't. Draco is coming round, with a little help from Miss Greengrass."
"You can't just—"
"I already have, my dear. There's nothing you can do about it. You can't Obliviate my entire family, you know. And you don't really want to, do you?"
"No, but my boss at DoM will, when I tell him," Hermione says.
Lucius looks at her as though she were insane. "Why on earth would you tell him?"
"Because I have to. I'm an Unspeakable."
Lucius looks at Severus, who rolls his eyes. "Not if you owl him your letter of resignation and accept my offer to teach at Hogwarts," Lucius says.
"Oh," Hermione says, considering this. It's a technicality, and entirely too sneaky for her liking. She suspects she's at the top of a slippery slope to Slytherin-style sneakiness, but is desperately tempted all the same. Possibly having Malfoy as a friend again, and the library, and the cakes.
It's all too tempting, really.
Hermione loves the Gryffindor and Slytherin fourth years. Not only because both of her godsons are in this fourth year class, but because she's discovered a particular affinity for dealing with teenagers at this awkward, difficult stage.
"Pair up and practice simultaneous attacking and shielding. Mr. Potter, Mr. Malfoy, what have I told you? You won't improve your technique if you always duel with the same partner."
"Yes, Professor," James and Scorpius say, and go in search of other partners. It took her godsons a good part of their first year to get used to calling her Professor Snape instead of Aunt Hermione in class. Her son, who is a firstie now, made the transition far more easily, and hasn't slipped and called her Mum once. Swotty little Ravenclaw that he is, her Lucius has to be perfect in everything.
Hermione walks among the dueling pairs, offering praise or correcting form where necessary. She stifles a laugh and pretends not to hear James's muffled obscenity as Fred's daughter kicks his arse in their duel.
When the students are panting and sweaty, she stops them and has them write two feet on what went right and wrong in their duels and what they'd do differently next time. At the end of class she offers them the treat they like best – taking turns attacking her four against one. She's panting and sweaty herself when she dismisses class and heads to her quarters.
Severus and their daughter are just getting back from their shopping expedition, Becky's reward for learning to read all by herself.
"Mummy!" Becky cries, hurling herself into Hermione's arms. "Look what Daddy bought me." Becky holds up a stuffed Eeyore.
Eeyore? Hermnione looks at Severus, who busies himself pulling shrunken books out of his pockets. "I thought you were shopping for books," she says.
"We did that, too. Daddy bought me all the Pooh books." Becky points to the stack of books Severus has just returned to full size. "All of them! With the most beautifulest pictures!"
"Most beautiful," Hermione corrects.
"They really are," Becky says. "But the bookstore had toys, too."
"A wizarding bookstore would not sell plushies," Severus sneers.
"A wizarding bookstore also wouldn't sell the collected stories of A. A. Milne," Hermione points out as Becky climbs onto her lap. She kisses her daughter's cheek and asks, "Why did you choose Eeyore, love?"
"I endeavored to persuade her to Pooh or Piglet or even the odious Tigger," Severus says.
"I had to have Eeyore," Becky tells her mother, "because he's sad and he needs me to love him so he won't be sad anymore."
"She's going to be sorted into Hufflepuff, you know," Severus mutters.
"No, he won't be sad anymore," Hermione tells Becky. She rests her chin on the girl's jet curls and looks at Severus. "He won't be sad because he knows you love him."
Thank you so much for reading Past Imperfect. I had a wonderful time writing it, and I've enjoyed reading your comments on the story more than I can tell you. Writing is a solitary pastime, and one of the things that makes writing fan fiction more fun than writing original fiction (aside from having the world all built and characters created for you) is that it's not just you and your Inner Critic tell you that your novel sucks. With fan fiction, you have lovely readers telling you quite the opposite, and it makes all the difference. Many thanks to turtlewexler, who beta read the story and encouraged me tremendously as I was writing it.
Update 3/25/21: Two sequels, Present Imperfect and Future Imperfect, have now been published. To the many readers who asked pleeeeease could I give Draco and Hermione a HEA...at long last, I am going to! My newest story, Parents Behaving Badly, starts posting daily 3/27/21, and it is a Lumione en route to an eventual Dramione HEA.