Accountable By Dyce
Author's Note: All characters named herein are property of J. K. Rowling, unless they are not in which case they are mine, and either way I do not profit by their use. I heartily encourage anyone who enjoys fanfiction to purchase and read/view/listen to/imbibe/eat the source material, as applicable.
Accountable is finished and complete, although the later chapters are still undergoing second-round beta-checking for misplaced commas and so forth. Accountable is thirty chapters long, plus epilogue, and will be posting twice weekly, on or about Saturday and Tuesday mornings Autralian time or Monday and Friday evenings by US time. I am bad at replying to feedback but nonetheless adore it and appreciate it and will name the best providers in the thanks section of the sequel, should there be one.
EDIT: It has been pointed out to me that I have forgotten to thank my betas here. I apologize sincerely for this, and would like to thank harmonybites and Bambu for all their work on correcting my punctuation and saidisms, their story suggestions, and their patience. I would also like to thank whitehound for checking my britishisms and pointing out the things I'd forgotten. Thank you, ladies - Accountable never would have been finished without you.
Chapter 1: Confession
It wasn't actually that difficult to get to Hogwarts out of term-time. The Granger household's fireplace was now connected to the Floo network - a word, a handful of powder and a determined effort not to be sick would get you to the post-office in Hogsmeade, and then it was just a nice brisk walk up to the gates and there you were. The gates were no longer kept locked and barred, and she made it inside the castle without being spotted by Hagrid.
Filch caught her almost as soon as she reached the Entrance Hall. "And what are you doing here, missy?" he asked, giving her a filthy look as he shuffled out of the shadows, Mrs Norris twisting around his ankles. "You're not supposed to be here during the summer holidays. No students are supposed to be here during the summer holidays."
Hermione nodded, straightening her spine and trying to look confident. "I need to see Professor McGonagall," she said coolly. "Something has... come up. A... family issue." Literally. Hysterical laughter bad now, though...
Filch made disbelieving noises. "And you just thought you'd drop by, is that it?"
"I have an appointment," Hermione said coolly, holding out the small scroll Professor McGonagall had sent in response to her plea for an immediate interview. "She is expecting me at eleven."
Filch glanced up at the large clock, scowling. It was precisely five minutes to eleven. "Very well then, very well, come along," he muttered, turning to lead the way.
In what felt like seconds, Hermione was standing before the familiar gargoyle. "Carpe Diem," she told it, and it swung obediently aside. "Thank you, Mr Filch," she said with automatic politeness, and then she started up the spiral stairs. This wasn't going to be an enjoyable interview, and time seemed to be speeding up the closer she got to it.
Professor McGonagall was waiting at the door of what had once been Professor Dumbledore's office. For once, she was glad he was no longer Headmaster - having this conversation with Professor McGonagall would be hard enough. "Come in, Miss Granger, come in," she said briskly, waving Hermione into the office. "Tell me what is so urgent that you had to come all the way here to talk to me about it."
Hermione walked into the room, and then stopped dead, looking around. Oh, God, she'd forgotten. "Er... Professor?" she said, her voice a little too high-pitched. "Could we talk privately, please?"
"What do you..." Professor McGonagall looked around at all the portraits. There really were quite a lot. "Oh. I see. Of course, Miss Granger, follow me."
Hermione followed her former Head of House through a small door hidden behind a tapestry and up a narrow flight of stairs set into the wall itself, into a room above the Headmaster's office that had to be her private study. It was a small room, quite cosy, with a couple of bookshelves, a tiny fireplace, and a lot of tartan. "Thank you, Professor," she said gratefully. "This is... a discussion in confidence, as far as that is going to be possible."
"Of course," Professor McGonagall said again, eyeing her with some concern. "Please sit down, Miss Granger, and tell me what the problem is, and how I can help."
Hermione sat down, fishing her hanky out of her pocket so she'd have something to fiddle with. "It's... it's a personal problem," she said quietly. "It might... I want to stay at Hogwarts and do my N.E.W.T.s, I really do, and I hope you'll let me, but..."
Professor McGonagall blinked, sitting down in the chair opposite. "Good heavens, girl, why ever wouldn't I? You're one of the most promising witches of your generation, and I would be most disappointed in you if you gave up your schooling now!"
Hermione looked down at the hanky. "It's just..." She swallowed hard and made herself look up at Professor McGonagall. "I'm going to have a baby," she said quietly. "I've just found out."
Professor McGonagall stared at her for a long moment, her mouth actually falling very slightly open. "Oh my," she said quietly. "That is... oh dear. How did this happen?" She actually went slightly pink when she realized what she'd said. "I mean, under what circumstances?"
Hermione fiddled with the hanky, folding it absently into tiny pleats. "It was the victory celebrations," she confessed quietly. "I'd... well, I don't usually drink, but I had then, and... apparently my hand was a bit too unsteady to perform the Contraceptive Charm properly."
"Oh," Professor McGonagall said, with a rather rueful smile. "What with all the celebrating, I imagine you probably aren't the only one to find herself in this... situation. Have you informed your parents?"
"Of course. I mean, it's not as if it's something I could hide from them - not for long, anyway." Hermione managed an equally rueful smile. "They're... well, they're not thrilled, but they're still so glad that I survived that nothing is upsetting them too badly just now."
"I'm not surprised - they were very worried for a while, I know that." Professor McGonagall leaned back in her chair, frowning thoughtfully. "I'm not sure of the Muggle stance on the subject, but I trust you are aware that there are ways of... well, now certainly isn't a good time for you to have a child, and should you decide that you aren't ready for the responsibility..."
"Terminating the pregnancy, you mean?" Hermione shook her head. "I know about the potions, Professor - I could make one myself without any difficulty - but I couldn't." She looked into the fire, biting her lip. "I'm all in favour of the idea in theory, but it isn't... right for me, not under these circumstances. I'll just have to manage."
"Well, if you're sure - you have another month or two before the decision becomes pressing," Professor McGonagall said a little doubtfully. "There is adoption, of course, or perhaps your parents would care for the child?"
Hermione shook her head. "No. I've given this a lot of thought, Professor McGonagall, and this is... I want to take my N.E.W.T.S, and I know that pregnant students usually leave school, but as far as I've been able to determine, that's just a tradition; there's no actual rule about it..."
"Of course you may stay," Professor McGonagall said, very firm and brisk, the way she always was when touched or upset. "You'll be assigned private quarters once you reach your third trimester, and you'll be assigned a house-elf to assist you with caring for the baby when he or she arrives. I certainly won't have you losing your chance at the N.E.W.T.s... although you do realize that having a new baby is going to make things very difficult."
"Yes, Professor," Hermione said, feeling her chin set stubbornly, "but I'll manage. If I can keep Harry from getting us all killed while getting almost all O's in my O.W.L.s, then I can handle the N.E.W.T.s with a baby. At least the baby won't be able to run away as soon as my back is turned."
That got a startled chuckle. "Yes, well, an excellent point, Miss Granger," Professor McGonagall said more cheerfully. "You will, of course, have to adjust your timetable slightly..."
Hermione nodded. "Herbology and Defence are both... problematic," she said regretfully. "And I know I'll have to give up Potions. I hate to lose it, but given how volatile some of the substances we deal with are, in seventh year..."
"There are certain risks to all three subjects, especially Potions," Professor McGonagal agreed. "I will talk to your teachers, however, and I believe Professor Sprout and Professor Lupin will be willing to adjust your coursework slightly to allow you to continue with those subjects. As for Potions... if you want to take the N.E.W.T., Professor Snape might be willing to let you keep up with the written work, and do your best to catch up on the practical after you are delivered."
Hermione was sure she felt some of the stitching give as her hands tightened on the handkerchief. "Professor Snape is going back to teaching Potions, then?" she asked, amazed at how casual her voice sounded. "Professor Lupin told us he was taking on Defence for one more year, but I didn't know what Professor Snape's plans were."
"Yes, he has agreed to resume his old position, now that Horace has gone back into retirement," Professor McGonagall said rather primly. "We are very fortunate... Potions is not a popular subject among teachers, and finding a replacement would have been extremely difficult."
"Very fortunate." Hermione hoped that sounded more sincere than it was. "Thank you, Professor. Aside from not actually handling dangerous substances, or getting directly hexed, I'll keep up with the class, I promise you."
"I'm sure you will. You've certainly managed so far, often under very trying conditions." Professor McGonagall nodded, giving her a thoughtful look. "Forgive me for prying, Miss Granger, but I must ask... to what extent will the baby's father be involved? I understand that these days there is no necessity for you to have a wandpoint-wedding, but..."
"I haven't told him yet," Hermione said in a small voice, starting to smooth out the pleated and crumpled hanky. "I doubt he'll want to be... involved. At all. Ever."
Professor McGonagall's dark eyebrows rose sharply. "I trust that, whoever he is, he will behave appropriately," she said sharply. "Unplanned the child may be, but even so, he has certain responsibilities. Who is it?"
"I can't tell you," Hermione said, surprised that her voice sounded so firm. "Unless he wants to be involved, I don't intend to tell anyone."
The eyebrows rose slightly higher. "You intend to have and raise a child completely unassisted? Miss Granger... Hermione... that is a difficult task at the very best of times, but to be without support with a new baby in your N.E.W.T. year..."
"I'll have support. I'm sure I can count on my friends, and my mum and dad are going to be there for me." Hermione straightened up a little defiantly. "He isn't in any way to blame for this, and I have no intention of making any demands on him."
Professor McGonagall gave her what could only be described as a Very Old-Fashioned Look. "The last time I checked, Miss Granger, and admittedly that was quite some time ago, it did still take two to tango," she said sharply. "I trust you have not been so utterly foolish as to involve yourself with a married man."
"No, of course not!" Hermione said indignantly. "I would never get involved with someone who was attached, married or not!"
"Well... good. Then I do not see the difficulty - this is his child, and he at the very least owes you and the baby some form of official acknowledgement." Icicles practically formed on the words.
"It's not... like that," Hermione said quietly, looking down at her hands. "Professor McGonagall, this is my fault, and nobody else's. I made... a mistake is just too mild a word for it. I did something I'm horribly ashamed of."
"What could - "
"Please, let me just say it all at once." Hermione lifted her head, focusing on a small landscape hanging on the wall. "I... at the party, I encountered someone who I liked, someone I was attracted to - no Secret Love or anything, I don't know him that well, but I liked him. I knew it wasn't mutual - I doubt he'd even noticed that I'm female. But I'd been drinking, and I... made a pass at him." Her face was burning with shame, and she bit her lip. "He took me up on it. And I knew right then that he must be much more seriously inebriated than I was, because if he was drunk enough to accept an offer from me, he was probably one drink away from accepting a proposition from Professor Trelawney. I knew he wouldn't have, if he'd been anywhere within shouting distance of sober. I knew he'd probably be appalled at the notion of... of sleeping with me. But I went ahead with it anyway, because it was what I wanted." Her eyes were burning, and her vision was blurring a little at the edges. "And I knew I shouldn't, and I've felt horribly guilty ever since. I could hardly believe I could do something so unethical."
There was a long pause. "I... see," Minerva McGonagall said slowly. "I must admit, I don't quite know what to say. You know that what you did was very wrong."
"Yes. I know that," Hermione said, the tears starting to trickle down her cheeks. "And I am so sorry for it. I don't think he even knows... I'm fairly sure he doesn't remember much about that night. If he did, I'm absolutely certain I'd have heard about it by now. And now I have to tell him."
"Oh, dear." Professor McGonagall seemed to realize how inadequate the words were, making an annoyed face. "Well, you do have to tell him. You do realize that he probably won't be pleased with the news, of course."
"If I was him, I'd be furious." Hermione nodded, wiping her eyes with the abused hanky. "I don't blame him at all. But I won't involve him at all unless he decides he wants to be involved. I owe him that, at the very least."
"Yes, I see that," Professor McGonagall said, and she reached over to pat Hermione gently on the hand. "It won't be easy for you, having a baby with an unnamed father, but I do agree it's the right thing to do."
Hermione nodded, wiping her eyes again. "I have to tell him today," she said. "Today is my day for telling people - you this morning, then him, then I have to go see Harry and the others. Would you... er... would you mind being the one to tell the other teachers?"
"Of course not. That will all be taken care of by September first," Professor McGonagall said bracingly. "And if you need any help, Miss Granger, at any time, please do not hesitate to call on me. I may no longer be your Head of House, but I will always be here if you wish to talk."
"Thank you, Professor." Hermione gave her a watery smile. "And if at all possible, please keep the... details... a secret?"
Professor McGonagall nodded. "You conceived during the victory celebrations, and although you know who the father is, you choose not to name him. That is all your teachers need to know." She smiled a little. "While you did do wrong, Miss Granger, I see no reason to advertise a lapse in judgement of which you are sincerely penitent and for which I'm sure you will attempt to make up, insofar as that is possible."
"I will." Hermione nodded. "Er... Professor, would it be all right if I didn't leave right away? I'd like to see if there are any useful books in the library - Madam Pince will put them aside for me, I'm sure. And I should talk to Madam Pomfrey as well." She shrugged and smiled ruefully. "I need to work up my nerve before I see him, and being here is sort of reassuring."
"Of course," the Headmistress said, going very brisk again as her voice caught slightly. "You are always welcome, Miss Granger. Do take care of yourself."
"Are you sure you want to go through with this?" Madam Pomfrey asked anxiously. "There are several very safe potions that could - "
"I know, Madam Pomfrey," Hermione said, as patiently as she could manage. "I even know how to brew them. But that just... doesn't feel right, for me. I'm all in favour of the option being available, but that doesn't mean I want to take advantage of it myself."
"But you're so young. And your N.E.W.T. year... you're going to be a wreck by the end of it all."
"I know." Hermione sighed. "And absolutely everyone I've told has made sure to tell me that it's my decision and that I have options and that I shouldn't feel like I have to go through with this. And I've made my decision after considering my options, and I'm going to go ahead and have the baby. I always wanted to have children; this is just a bit sooner than I'd scheduled."
"Well, if you're sure." Madam Pomfrey nodded and put on her best Encouraging Smile. "Now, you've seen a Healer, haven't you?"
"Yes, Mum and I went to St Mungo's yesterday. I'm fifty-five days along, chances of minor complications 0.8 percent, chances of miscarriage or other serious complications currently 0.002 percent." She smiled. "You know, Muggle doctors can't tell nearly so much, especially not this early."
"Well, of course they can't, dear, they don't use magic," Madam Pomfrey said cheerfully. "Are you planning to go to St Mungo's to have the baby?"
Hermione blinked. "Do I have another choice?"
"Of course, dear... you can arrange for a midwife to attend you right here at the school, if you like. I don't know about Muggles, but plenty of witches prefer to have their babies in the comfort of their own homes." Madam Pomfrey patted her shoulder. "I'd offer to help out myself, but I haven't delivered a baby since well before you were born. It's probably best for both your nerves and mine if I just assist when the time comes."
"Oh..." Hermione felt the ever-present tears welling up again. "I'd like that, very much. Thank you, Madam Pomfrey."
"Call me Poppy, dear," she said, giving Hermione a quick, bracing hug. "We're going to be seeing quite a bit of each other for a while, so you might as well."
Hermione had been staring at the door for nearly five full minutes.
She had to knock. Knocking was inevitable. This conversation was unavoidable. She was going to just knock on the door and get it over with.
Any time now.
"Augh!" She let out an embarrassing shriek as she jumped the proverbial foot in the air. "I... ah... Professor Snape, I was just about to knock. I thought you'd be in your office..."
"So I assumed, since you were looking at the door as if it was about to bite you," Snape said coolly. "What are you doing here? I had anticipated another eight days blissfully free of students before the beginning of term."
"I need to talk to you," she said, twisting her fingers together nervously. "Please. In private. It's... well, it's important."
He raised an eyebrow. "I find it difficult to believe that there could be anything sufficiently important for you to come barging into the school over a week ahead of schedule and demand a private audience with me, of all people," he said icily. "I am in no mood for idle - "
"Professor," Hermione said desperately, "do you remember what you did the night of the Order's victory party? After Hagrid brought out the second cask of brandy?"
He blinked, and his face hardened. "Very well," he said grimly. "You may have five minutes, Miss Granger. I suggest you make them count." He opened the door to his office, propelling her inside with a firm hand between her shoulder blades.
Hermione waited until he'd slammed the door to face him. Oh, this was going badly already. "Professor - "
"I do not particularly care what it is that you think is so important," he snapped, folding his arms and glaring down at her. "And I do not appreciate blackmail, implied or otherwise. No matter what I may or may not have done in an excess of relief - "
"Professor Snape, please, I'm sorry for intruding, and I didn't mean to... to imply that I would blackmail you. The party is what I wanted to talk about."
"Really." That sardonic eyebrow elevated again. "What, precisely, did I do at the party that is of such vital importance?"
Hermione blushed, looking down at her fingers as they knotted together nervously. "Me," she said in a tiny voice. "Er... that is, you and I, uh... I was sure you didn't remember, but..."
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw him freeze, going so absolutely still that he looked like an ivory statue swathed in black. "Miss Granger, that is not remotely amusing."
"Believe me, I know that," she whispered. "And I'm sorry. But... it happened. I wasn't going to tell you; I thought you'd be happier not remembering, but I'm... uhm... there's an unforeseen long-term consequence..."
The statue did not move. "Miss Granger, if this is some sort of joke..." he hissed, tone sharpened by malice. "I consider it unlikely to the point of impossibility that there is any circumstance in which you and I might indulge in that particular activity, and let me assure you, I have no intention of taking the blame for your lack of foresight."
Hermione swallowed hard. "I wouldn't ask you to," she said quietly, praying that her voice would stay level. "Please understand, Professor, I was most decidedly the one in the wrong, here. I have no intention of asking you for anything, or of... of making this public, if you don't want it to be. But I thought you were entitled to know what happened."
Her assumed calm seemed to unsettle him slightly - he lost his frozen immobility, frowning as he drifted over to the desk. "I am still unconvinced, Miss Granger," he said coldly. "But you may tell your story, if you wish."
She nodded. "We'd both been drinking, you more than me... at least, I think so," she said quietly, unable to look him in the eye. Instead, she fixed her eyes on his thin hands, very white against the black of his robes as he tapped the fingers together thoughtfully. "It was my fault... I was the one who made the first move, and I knew you wouldn't have accepted if you were anywhere within shouting distance of sobriety. But you weren't, and I took advantage of it. I'm sorry."
Tap... tap... tap went his fingers. "You're sorry," he said, voice heavy with irony. "You take advantage of someone you know is heavily intoxicated, who you know would never under any circumstances have consented while in his right mind, you then compound your appalling moral shortcoming with the added stupidity of failing to perform a Contraception Charm... and you're sorry. Well. That makes everything quite all right."
"I know it doesn't, sir," she whispered, eyes prickling. "But-"
"You're damned right it doesn't!" he roared, taking two furious steps towards her as she jumped back. "Were our positions reversed, had I been the one to take advantage of your inability to give informed consent, I would be facing public disgrace and perhaps even a trial! And you are sorry?"
"What else can I say?" she said miserably, making herself look him in the face. "Professor, I am sorry, I know what I did was terrible... and if you want to disgrace me in public, I have no right to object. My behaviour was indefensible, and I know there's no way I can make up for it."
He frowned a little, her agreement seeming to put him somewhat off his stride. Given the feud with Harry, Professor Snape was probably more accustomed to angry defiance than to meek apology. "And if I did, you and I both know that the blame would still be attributed to me, by your little friends and anyone inclined to take Harry Potter's word for the truth," he said bitingly. "Because I, of course, must have taken advantage of you, despite being so bloody drunk that it's a miracle I was capable of performing at all... something I'm not entirely convinced of."
"You were," Hermione said quietly, lifting her chin stubbornly. "I'll be happy to submit to any Truth Spell you choose... or Veritaserum, if you would prefer. Or you can wait until the baby is born and perform a Verity Charm yourself."
His head came up and he gave her a startled look. "I can wait until what? Miss Granger, you cannot possibly intend to go through with this. If you are incapable of brewing or procuring the requisite potion, I will provide it, if only to ensure that this... incident... is dealt with once and for all."
Hermione gritted her teeth. "For what I devoutly hope is the last time today, I am not going to terminate this pregnancy," she snapped. "I will ask nothing of you; I will take the secret of his parentage to my grave if necessary; and I will do my utmost to never force my company on you again, but I will not get rid of my child!"
Defiance seemed to trigger defiance... he drew himself up, glaring at her. "Very well," he growled. "Since you are so determined to keep the child, you may do so. But if my name is ever associated with it, if you breathe so much as a word implicating me in your stupidity - "
"I won't," Hermione said, her eyes filling with tears at the look of loathing on his face. "And I'm still more sorry than I can say. I know I shouldn't have done what I did and... I'm sorry."
He glared at her. "Get out of my office!"