AN: Dear Drinkingcocoa, It was a simple prompt. Really it was. 'Give Snape a tender, yet hot, first time in the rose bushes to make up for the way he'd been taunted into thinking he was undesirable.' Easy peasy. It could have even been a one-shot. But my muse wasn't satisfied with a one-shot, no. Instead, you get this. Nearly six months late, but hopefully all the better for the delay.
I present, Aurette's version of a time-turner fic. Except, it turns out I can't even get time turners right…
Not Mine. No Money. Still Fifty Shades of Broke.
Hermione watched the celebration from a quiet corner. The gaiety and joie de vivre around her seemed forced and necessary and grating. It wasn't that she minded their abandon; it was just that she couldn't feel it on the inside, only stand on the outside and remember what it had been like to be happy. Taking another sip of her champagne, she looked around at what they were celebrating.
The rebuilding of Hogwarts had been long and arduous, but once again, the ceiling of the great hall reflected the beauty of a long Scottish evening. The ball made it look festive and wondrous, with decorations hiding the scars and mismatched stones where repairs were obvious. New plaques on the walls recorded the names of the fallen from each race that had participated in the final battle. As she watched, an occasional person would stoop to read them, usually reaching out and touching a particular name before returning to the music and laughter with fierce determination.
No one came over to look at the memorial she was seated next to. The black marble bust sat on a crude plinth made from one of the original stones of the school. Battered and worn, she thought the plinth was the perfect symbol to represent the man. The sculpture did him justice as well. There was no name, no explanation for who it was, but no one would ever mistake him for anyone else. She glanced at his finely chiseled forehead with its groove of strain between the brows; his over-sized nose, faithfully carved but unflattering nonetheless; and the delicately rendered mouth. Had he always had such a cupid's bow of a mouth? It looked different when not pressed flat in anger.
She sighed. Such a loss to the Wizarding World…
One of far too many losses.
Flitwick started his musicians into a lively waltz and there was a ripple of pleasure before couples started out onto the floor with dazzling, slightly manic smiles. She saw Harry whirl Ginny around, pausing to exchange a laugh with Arthur and Molly. Minerva danced with Kingsley, talking a mile a minute, most likely about the changes to be made when the school opened again in two months. Pomona danced with Hootch, the two of them laughing gaily as they fought for the lead, and Ron…
He looked handsome and elegant in his formal black dress robes. She watched as he twirled Padma in a circle before spinning her off out of sight. He was happy. That was important, wasn't it? She was above thinking he should be miserable just because she still was. She was the one that had broken things off after all. She just wished that their split hadn't taken away everyone she could have counted on to replace her lost family. Molly and Arthur were polite but distant now. Ginny and Harry were the same—warm and sincere, and yet unable to bridge the gulf. It had been Harry's idea to set up Ron with Padma again, and this time it seemed to have been a good match. They'd been inseparable all night. In fact, Padma was staring at him with just a tad too much adoration to be seemly to Hermione's mind.
She drained her glass and set it on the table. This, she couldn't watch.
"If you'll excuse me, Professor," she said to the statue next to her. "I need some air."
She slipped over to the door and out into the rose garden. The garden, as well as the exit leading out to it, had always been a temporary feature, charmed into existence for a special occasion. However, a strategically-placed breach in the wall had lent itself to making it into a permanent exit, and the idea of a memorial garden had naturally followed.
The music swirled out the door with her as she took a deep, cleansing breath.
"Hello, Hermione." She looked over to see Professor Sinistra sitting on a bench. Hermione and her former Astronomy teacher had become friends over the last year. Although hundreds of people helped out on the rebuilding, few had elected to move in and work full time. Those that had, had formed a small, companionable group.
"You look as overwhelmed as I am," she said. "Come, join me. Tell old Aurora all about it, dear."
Smiling her acknowledgement, Hermione walked over and sat down, taking care not to snag her dress robes on the bushes. She sighed and looked up at the stars, only just beginning to make an appearance. "I guess I'm not as desperate to forget as they are," she said. "It's only been a little over a year. There's too many people missing." She shook her head. "Too many dead."
Aurora nodded. "I know. Life goes on, yes, but this feels almost like we're being told to get over it, doesn't it?"
"Yes. Exactly that." Hermione found herself nodding ferociously to illustrate a more intangible level of agreement.
They sat in silence for a moment, listening to the music and watching the shadows of dancing couples that spilled out the door.
"Who do you miss the most?" the Astronomy teacher asked.
The answer came faster than thought. "My parents."
The other woman turned toward her and placed a hand on Hermione's arm. "I'm so sorry, dear. You never told me you'd lost them."
She grimaced. "'Lost' is an apt term. They're alive, but I Obliviated them and sent them to Australia before I went on the run. I went back to reclaim them, but it couldn't be done." She shook her head. "It was awful. They knew on some level they were missing me. Mum was undergoing hormone therapy to try and get pregnant, and they were talking about looking into surrogacy if that didn't work. It was horrible to watch. They didn't want a full-grown daughter to spring back into their lives. They wanted all the memories that went with it. In the end, I left them to it. I did give my mum a fertility potion though."
Sinistra squeezed her arm. "That's a bitter thing. I'm so sorry."
Hermione nodded swiping at the tears as they formed. She sniffed and asked, "Who do you miss the most?"
Sinistra smiled sadly. "Colin Creevey." She nodded at Hermione's look of surprise. "He was such a love, wasn't he? And one of my best students—when you could keep his attention for longer than a minute. He's become a symbol to me. The price innocence paid for our freedom." Sinistra rose to her feet with easy grace. "Come. Let's walk."
They strolled through the gardens, arm in arm together. The scent of roses was a soothing balm, and the ghostly white flowers were a surprisingly fitting touch.
"I wonder if he would have blasted these too?" Aurora said in a quiet voice.
"Who? Professor Snape?"
The teacher nodded. "He's another one I miss. Heavens, but wasn't I the subversive his last year, working quietly to make his life hell, just like the rest of the staff. And all along, he was doing what he could. I wish I could have told him I was sorry."
Hermione sighed. "I know the feeling. How awful to have lived your entire life completely misunderstood."
Sinistra waved a hand in an empty gesture. "He wanted it that way, or at least, that's what I read in the papers after the inquest. He'd ordered Dumbledore to never let anyone know."
"I know. It doesn't make it any less awful, does it?" Hermione asked.
Sinistra shook her head. "No. It doesn't."
They took a turn on the path and heard muffled giggling and a rustle of fabric. Sharing an amused look, they turned and headed in another direction.
"That's why he hated the roses, so much, you know," Aurora said.
Hermione snorted. "I remember hearing stories of him destroying all the little hidey holes in the garden after the Yule Ball the year of the Triwizard tournament."
"Not just that year. He always did."
"Did he have a particular dislike of roses? Or just snogging teenagers?"
"Teenagers snogging in the rose bushes were a particular peeve. I think it was because he never got the chance to. It was also a painful reminder of what he'd lost. Imagine spending your whole life in love with just one person… and to never be loved in return. It's awful to contemplate. I think it's enough to make me begin to hate roses as well."
"I'm not sure I follow…"
Sinistra shook her head, sadly. "This is where he first found Lily Evans and James Potter together. I believe they were all sixth-years at the time, perhaps older. It does tend to blur. I was the one that stopped the ensuing duel and assigned detention. Again. I was forever assigning those two detentions, but that night was particularly memorable. I felt awful for him. We'd all seen the way he'd mooned after her, and we'd all seen how the wind was blowing. I think that was the moment his poor heart finally broke. It's hard to keep lying to yourself when you catch your paragon of virtue with her heels in the air."
Hermione winced for poor Professor Snape. "The more I hear, and Minerva has told me a bit as well, the less I understand how he could have been so devoted. She really didn't treat him very well. Imagine how different the world would have been had he actually got his girl and found out she was a judgmental cow."
Sinistra laughed. "That certainly seems like how it would have played out." She shook her head. "Although, I think if there had been just one other girl to catch his eye, he might have found that out with less pain."
"What do you mean?"
"Oh, you must have seen this play out with your peers. It's such a common foible. 'I don't want you but no one else is allowed to have you either.' Evans strung him along terribly. She liked being worshipped. Lots of young blokes get treated that way in school, but they eventually find someone else and move on. Snape never did. When she died, I think it cemented his heart shut and sealed him into his fate. Had there even been a hint of another girl before that moment, things would have been different. Severus was blind where she was concerned, but he was never stupid. She would have been furious, and he would've seen the truth quickly enough."
Aurora reached out and plucked a rose. "But there never was anyone else. Poor man. He was so homely that no one wanted him."
Hermione waved a hand back at the Great Hall. "Actually, I was looking at his bust earlier and thinking it wasn't really that bad. I mean, he was no heartthrob, to be sure, but he did have his qualities."
"Oh, he had a unique charm. When he smiled his entire face changed, and he could look quite handsome. But more often than not, the inside is reflected on the outside. He was miserable, so he looked miserable. He was off-putting, so he looked off-putting, you see? His bitterness and manner ruined any attractive quality and almost invariably blotted out any fondness one developed towards him."
"True. He was a bit brusque."
"Brusque?" The older woman broke into a peal of laughter. "That's one way of saying it. He could be a judgmental, intolerant, rude, little shit—although he was a love when he'd been drinking. Puppyish in a way."
Aurora laughed. "Hard to imagine, I know, but yes. Vector used to say she'd never met a man she'd wished would become a sot before she met Snape. We used to try and get him drunk at end of term parties just so we could see that other side of him. He really had a wonderful smile…" She shook her head and threw the rose she held into the shadows. "Not in those last years, however. It occurred to me after he'd died that I hadn't seen him smile in years."
They'd reached the end of their circuit and found themselves back at their bench by the door.
"But enough about him, tell me, Hermione, what are your plans now? You can't hide in the castle anymore, the repairs are done. Are you going to finally join your friends in the MLE?"
Hermione grimaced. "Hardly. I don't want to be an Auror almost as much as they don't want me to be one either. I'm apparently too depressing for them these days. And don't forget I broke up with Ron, so that made a hash of everything. I don't know what I'll do with the rest of my life to be honest. I do know that for now I've decided to leave the country. Take off for parts unknown. I have my war pension, and if I'm frugal, that should last a good while. There's nothing holding me here anymore."
Sinistra reached out and squeezed her shoulder. "You will be missed, for sure, but I can see the logic in searching out a place for yourself."
Hermione smiled. "Thank you."
"When would you leave?"
"Actually, tonight. Now, in fact. I just have to change and grab my things. I've a Portkey to Amsterdam. I thought I would start there. I've reservations at the Witch Hostel for a week and no ideas as to what happens after that."
"That sounds like a nice adventure. I almost wish I could run off with you. Tell me, did you ever fix those last problems with the Room of Requirement? Is it still chasing you around the castle?"
"It is, but remember, it was originally called the Come and Go Room. I don't think they were problems. I think that was the original design. Something that was broken long before the room was nearly destroyed. I think popping up whenever and wherever it feels like is just its nature."
"You make it sound as if it's doing it intentionally."
Hermione laughed. "I swear it is." Seeing the woman's expression she shook her head. "Oh, I know, it's not. I researched all the charms myself, so I know it couldn't be. But still, there are days where I swear it has an agenda. Either that, or it's been possessed by the ghost of a big, sloppy puppy. I swear some days it's just galumphing around wanting me to toss it a ball." The two women laughed and then Hermione waved her hand. "The only mystery left is how it occasionally seems to appear in two places at once, but that's Filius' issue to work out. I'm done. In fact, I think I'm done as of now."
Sinistra smiled her understanding. "Then I'll leave you to say your goodbyes."
Hermione shook her head. "No, I think I'll just let them enjoy their night. I sent them all owls earlier. They can read my farewells in the morning post."
The older woman pulled her into a hug. "Then let me say mine. It's been an honor to have you as a student, to have you save my world, and to have worked alongside you this last year, especially. Good luck to you, Hermione. And please, do keep in touch."
"I will," she said, hugging her back. "I promise. And thank you. For everything."
The two women parted and with a last wave, Hermione slipped back into the Great Hall. Stopping before the bust of Severus Snape, she ran a fingertip down the deep crease between his eyes and whispered, "Goodbye, Professor. Thank you."
With a last look at the life she was leaving behind, she slipped out of the hall.
Up in her room, she made short work of changing out of her gown, stuffing it into her beaded bag along with her shoes and the combs she'd worn in her hair. Changing into the jeans, t-shirt, and trainers she'd left out for herself, she took one last look at the room that had been her home since she'd joined the renovation team. With a sad smile, she picked up the chipped flowerpot—a cheap, red-plastic Muggle thing—that was her Portkey. Looking at the room one last time, she sighed and left.
Out in the corridor, a door appeared directly across from hers, and she giggled. "I wouldn't have left without saying goodbye," she said to the door. She walked over and pushed it open, wondering what it had changed into this time. She smiled when she saw the public room of The Hogs Head. It was empty, but the sounds of laughter and the clink of mugs and glasses filled the air.
She smiled. "Having a private party of your own?" she asked.
In reply, a butterbeer appeared in the bar. She smiled and walked over, dropping her beaded bag and the red flowerpot on the stool next to her. "Why, thank you." She took a sip, licking the foam off her lip, and perused the pub through the mirror along the back wall. Repairing this broken room had been a labor of love and one of the most satisfying things she'd ever done. She was both gratified at her success, and sad for it to be over. Working here had been the only thing that had kept the crushing weight of grief at bay. Now she had to figure out what to do with her broken life.
She finished her drink and set the glass down on the bar. "Thanks again," she said. "You know? I think I shall miss you the most." She stood up and grabbed her beaded bag. "Wish me luck. I'm off to see if I can fix myself the way I fixed you." Picking up the green plastic flowerpot, she added, "Try not to give Filius fits, alright?"
Patting the bar, she headed out of the room and out of the castle.
She headed down toward Hogsmeade at a leisurely pace, reminiscing about all the walks into the Village as a student. It was worth one last look at that as well. She truly had no plans to ever come back, although she wasn't sure if she had any definitive plans to stay away, either. Strolling through the quiet streets, she mentally said goodbye to the shops and all the memories as well.
Stopping outside The Hogs Head, she raised her Portkey and tapped it, whispering, "Portus."
Her last thought before she felt her reality rip sideways was, 'Wasn't this red before?'
Hermione felt as if she'd been thrown into her parents' washing machine, first spinning this way, then spinning that, jerking backwards, and then snapping forward. She was close to vomiting up her champagne and butterbeer when she suddenly dropped straight down.
She almost caught herself. She stumbled several steps forward before gravity won, and she landed face down in a mud puddle.
"Watch it!" a voice hissed. "You've spattered mud on my best robes!"
Hermione looked up, unsuccessfully shoving a muddy hank of hair out her eyes. She stared at the woman scowling down at her. Trelawney? What was she doing in Amsterdam? Hermione had seen her laughing with Lavender Brown not that long ago. And those robes… Surely the party was still going on, why would she have changed into this horrid, paisley skirt?
"I'm so sorry! Please let me," she said as Trelawney fumbled her wand out of her sleeve. Flicking hers, Hermione tried to clean off the mess she'd made. Her magic seemed to balk and sputter, but then surged down her arm and out of her wand, erasing the mud, if not the horror.
"There you go," she said, staring at her wand and wondering what had happened there. "Again, I'm terribly sorry."
"You should be, my dear," Trelawney said in an uppity tone Hermione hadn't heard before. "You should be. You're interfering with an auspicious event. Destiny awaits. I have an appointment, and lives will change because if it. I have seen it! I mustn't be late."
Blinking several times, Hermione watched Trelawney shove open the door to The Hogs Head and disappear inside. Confused, she shook her head. Obviously, she'd not left Hogsmeade. "What the hell? What am I doing here?"
"Blocking the road would be my guess," a voice replied in a snide tone.
Hermione looked over her shoulder to see all of her worldly possessions scattered along the road behind her. "My bag! My things! My books!" She sat up, looking around for the owner of the voice. When she saw who was standing there, she let out a gasped, "My god!"
Severus Snape stared down at her in increasing alarm as she gaped at him.
And we're off!
Thanks to my buddy, HebeGB for BritPick duties!