“We are our own devils; we drive ourselves out of our Edens.” -Goethe
It was the last Monday before the Ball. Hermione went to her regular tea appointment with Rowena. She was wearing an old Gryffindor sweater that was stretched and worn so that it hung limply off her small frame.
“What a lady you have become, Hermione. Right before my eyes too...” Rowena remarked, smiling.
“I have your kind companionship to thank,” Hermione responded, forcing down a grin.
“What a diplomatic answer.”
“Although, I can see we still have to work on your attire,” Rowena chuckled.
“If I had the time to study and dress well, I would,” Hermione replied, straightening the jumper on her frame.
“What are you doing for the holiday?” Rowena inquired, holding out a tray of homemade shortbread.
“I’m staying here. My parents are taking a holiday in Italy.”
“Ah, Italy…I went there once. It’s such an enchanting country. It’s a shame you’re not going. I have a feeling you would fall in love with Italy… Aren’t you going to be bored stiff, in the castle, all alone?”
“I hadn’t thought about that.”
“Might I suggest that you come stay with me for the holidays instead? I have a country home in Northamtonshire, and I’d find your company most pleasant,” Rowena Snape offered.
Hermione graciously accepted the offer, suddenly excited for the upcoming holiday.
Snape drew out a chair for his sister, with a casual flick of his ebony wand, the morning before the Christmas Ball. They were in his office, preparing to sit at the old piece of firewood he had transfigured into a table. On it was a simple green cotton table cloth, with a hot comforting breakfast acquired from the house-elves.
“What a lovely breakfast, Severus. How did you persuade the house-elves? I was under the impression that they had a strong distrust of you,” Rowena remarked, sitting in the chair.
Severus laughed. He could not deny what his sister had said.
“I have my ways…” he chuckled, with feigned evil mirth.
She brushed off his comment, knowing that Severus would never harm a house-elf.
“Have you decided to go to the Ball yet?” she asked, helping herself to a steaming scotch egg and some toast.
“I’ve told you a million times, I have no intentions of going to that pointless event,” he said, with annoyance clearly written on his face.
“Well what do you propose you’ll do instead? Sulk in the darkness of your office as usual? That is not the way to celebrate your freedom. You are alive and well, and you should be thankful because you are one of the few who survived the war.”
“I thought I might take off a few days early, and settle in at your home in Northamtonshire. I’ve missed out on so much living in my life. I had been spying on the Dark Lord for so long that I could not relax for a single moment. That is how I plan to celebrate the fact that I’m alive, as you put it. I want a time to relax, Rowena. I want to unwind,” he said, looking worn and sad.
“Can’t you wait and go to Northamtonshire with me?”
Severus did not respond; instead he helped himself to some bacon and toast.
“Or better yet, loosen yourself up at the Ball,” Rowena suggested, nudging him with her elbow.
He chewing his food pointedly, taking his time before answering.
“I suppose I might attend, for you. You will need someone to dance with, after all. However, I will not guarantee that I will stay,” he conceded at last, downing a cup of coffee in a single gulp.
“How delightful!” she exclaimed, giving him a quick hug. “You simply cannot wear your usual robes, however.”
Severus refilled his coffee cup, as it took a moment for his sister’s comment to fully sink in.
“Whoa! What am I supposed to wear then? Are you proposing that I go naked?” he exclaimed, nearly knocking his coffee cup over.
“I’ll find you something suitable to wear,” she said mysteriously, rising from her seat. She winked slyly.
“Rowena! I will not be dressed as a dandy!” he shouted, as she left the room, chuckling.
The day of the second Ball arrived with a flurry of panic and commotion. Students were alive with mirth and fits of laughter. Poppy was busy all day treating victims of Weasley love potions, and personal Transfiguration gone horribly wrong. Headmistress McGonagall decreed that classes were to end at noon, much to the students’ delight and shock. Upon Rowena’s behest, Hermione went to her private rooms to prepare for the Ball. Hermione brought her meager beauty supplies; an old bedraggled brush, an unused tube of clear lip gloss and some pressed power that was too light for her skin, along with the stunningly mysterious purple gown.
Rowena Snape welcomed her in, evaluating her from head to toe with her inquisitive absinthe green eyes.
“Hmmm,” Rowena said. “Let’s start with your unruly mass of hair, then. There’s potential with it, but I can tell that it‘s going to take a little convincing . ”
Rowena summoned a small blue-green crystal bottle from the nightstand. She removed the tiny glass stopper, and emptied the vaporous aquamarine contents of the bottle onto Hermione’s hair. Then, using her wand, she smoothed each strand into long, smooth, luxurious loose curls. Taking pearl ended bobby pins, she secured the curls in cascading layers on the back of Hermione’s head. Finally, she swooped her wand over the creation, emitting a fine shining dust, which transformed Hermione’s hair to a more luxurious version of its usual chocolate brown.
Rowena summoned a delicate gold handled amethyst encrusted mirror from a mahogany side table on the opposite corner of the room. She handed it to Hermione, who was anxious to see her hair.
“Oh!” Hermione gasped in astonished appreciation. She ran her fingers through the curls.
“I take it you like the result?” Rowena asked, while applying her wand to her own midnight black hair, slicking it back in a graceful chignon, seemingly without effort.
“I didn’t know it could look so… so good. Thank you!”
Hermione embraced the dark-haired older witch.
“You’re most welcome. Now, let’s get to work on that makeup.”
Severus Snape opened the heavy mahogany door to his room, expecting to find Rowena, with her idea of a ‘suitable outfit’ in hand. Instead, he found his room empty and cold as ever. He examined the sparse décor, wondering if she had been there at all. He tossed his cloak over a worn green chair and went to light a fire in the grate, when he noticed a neat brown paper package on his bed. He moved closer, inspecting it. The package bore a simple note on white parchment, undeniably in his sister’s perfect embellished handwriting.
He opened the package anticipating heinous dress robes that would rival the one’s Ronald Weasley had worn to the Yule Ball. He gasped aloud, as he caught a glimpse of sophisticated black satin and shimmering emerald green silk, nearly dropping the package.
“That foolishly clever little sprite,” he laughed aloud to himself, cursing his sister’s impeccable taste.
“I’m going down to the Ball now, are you coming?” Rowena asked Hermione, who was surveying herself in a full-length mirror.
“I think I’m going to take a few minutes before going down. I still have to get used to the fact that I can look like this,” she replied, taking in the wondrous sight of Rowena in her golden gown.
“Alright. Come find me when you arrive,” she said, her gold gown swooshing as she left.