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A Choice of Roads by Imhilien [Reviews - 11]

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A/N - Thanks as always to my reviewers...

Part 7

Upon waking next morning, Hermione’s mind was immediately full of recollections of the detention last night. Professor Snape’s angry reaction to her thanks had also been a rejection of her, Hermione knew, but it hadn’t been in the way of a teacher politely but firmly rebuffing the attentions of a student.

No, it had seemed to be of a man furious at feeling any emotion towards her at all, any love in his heart being deliberately twisted to that of dislike… hatred, even.

It is not easy thing to realise that you would rather be loathed than loved, and so when Hermione came down to the common room the next morning, she was not quite able to hide all signs of pain from Harry.

When she left the tower Harry followed and stopped her outside in the corridor with a question.

“Hermione – are you all right?” he queried, concern in his green eyes.

“Yes Harry, I’m fine,” Hermione said with her usual impatience at such questions.

But when Harry asked in an off-hand way, “So, how did your detention with Snape go last night?” Hermione could not quite conceal a flinch.

“It was no worse than usual,” Hermione said quickly in a light tone, seeking to downplay the importance of her reaction, but her eyes did not quite meet that of Harry’s.

Perceiving that Hermione’s detention with the Greasy Git had been a nastier one than usual (and having known quite a few of those kind himself), Harry said feelingly, “I’ll be sad to leave Hogwarts soon, but I certainly won’t miss Snape or the way he always watches us so he can find a reason to take points away.”

Hermione had to nod in agreement at that, knowing inside that leaving Hogwarts and putting distance between her and Professor Snape would help ease the confused hurt that lay in her heart.

“I won’t be in a hurry to ask him to sign my yearbook,” she commented.

Harry burst out laughing. “Yeah, can you imagine what Snape would write in mine if he did? ‘May you get the low-paid employment you deserve’, or ‘The best part of my life starts now that you’re leaving,’ ” Harry said, having dropped his voice to that of a malicious whisper as a parody of Snape’s voice.

Hermione paled slightly at that last remark for she felt it had hit too closely to the bone.

In concern, Harry put his hand gently upon Hermione’s arm. She looked down at his hand – at one time she imagined it would have felt pleasant but at the moment she felt… nothing.

“Hermione, you know I like you, don’t you?” Harry said awkwardly.

“Yes,” Hermione said carefully.

“You’ve always been a good, reliable sport – always there when Ron or I have been stuck in our homework. I don’t know what I would have done without your brains at times…”

What a compliment, Hermione thought.

“We could have great times, you and I,” Harry said earnestly, fire in his eyes. “Now that Ron’s dad has taken over as the Minister of Magic and turfed out a lot of the old sticks there, it will be a great place for me to be an Auror – I could go a long way with your help!”

It was too easy for Hermione to imagine how far he would go in the Ministry, but despite the memory of her vision, she was finding herself caught up in his dreams of glory. Here was someone who was willingly drawn to her, whose character at the moment contained no pettiness or malice despite his upbringing. She could choose to go down this road with Harry, learn to love him the way he wanted and make doubly sure his ambitions never got the better of him…

She could soon learn to forget the loathing she had seen in Professor Snape’s eyes, and upon leaving Hogwarts put the professor away from her mind forever.

But she found herself remembering the Headmaster’s admonition about remembering the difference between being wanted and being loved. For Harry, remarks about her cleverness and what a ‘good, reliable sport’ she was came before remarks as to how he felt when he was with her. That he loved her for herself. Did he?

“I’m sure you will go far,” Hermione said quietly, moving her arm away from his hand. “But I won’t be the one helping you to get there.”

“What?” Harry said, taken aback. Shock, puzzlement and then hurt passed across his features. “But Hermione… I love you!”

Hermione bit her lip. “I like you Harry, but not that way,” she said softly. “You deserve someone that can, not me.”

“You’re saying that you like Ron better than me?” Harry said angrily, as if he hadn’t really heard her remarks.

“No, I don’t,” Hermione said wearily. “Look, I just… just feel that I need what time I can spare to myself right now.”

Harry looked at her as if she was a stranger. “I thought I knew you, Hermione,” he said bitterly. “I bet Ron thought he knew you too. Now I don’t know what type of person you are. Well, go and spend time with yourself then.”

With that he walked away, the line of his back set in a stiff line.

Hermione wearily rubbed her temples. Great, now she had just alienated her oldest friend here and chances were Harry would be filling the ears of Ron about her. All of a sudden she felt dizzy inside and she put her hand upon a wall to steady herself. She looked towards a nearby window so she could regain her perspective again by looking out at the sky and distant mountains. However, Hermione gasped when instead of the familiar diamond paned window there was nothing but a gaping hole in the wall. There were signs of crumbling around the hole and a breeze wailed softly through in an eerie way that made the skin of her neck crawl. The wall too looked old, and Hermione had the sudden impression that she was the only person in Hogwarts – that if she were to go downstairs she would see no one, that everyone had left long ago…

She stepped forward and then she blinked, for the window was intact again and looked perfectly innocent. In the distance she could hear the hum of students.

Everything was fine as usual.

Hermione felt a shiver go through her. What had that been? Had it been her imagination, or had it been a left over somehow from that salve of Sybil’s Lavender had shared with her – a glimpse of Hogwarts far into the future?

Hermione’s face was grim. Nothing had gone right for her since she had had those visions. At lunchtime she would go to the Pensieve Room and remove them from her mind, so that only a lesser memory of them would remain. Hopefully any strange side effects from the salve would go as well – after all, was it really good for the mind to see into the future like that?

After the war was over, there had been so many students and wizards left with traumatic memories they would rather not have, a room had been set up within Hogwarts where one could go in private to remove them. Once placed into the Pensieve there they would then be drained into special bottles available there that no one but the owner of the memories could open. At the end of the day the bottles would be taken away and placed into storage for the time when one day they could be faced.

When Hermione eventually went down to breakfast Harry and Ron were pointedly not looking at her, and conversation from the other Gryffindors nearby was stilted. Lavender was looking at Hermione with bewilderment; clearly she felt that Hermione had gone wrong somewhere.

Hermione had not felt this alone in a long time and she refused to look at the Head Table where Professor Snape would no doubt gloat at her for having ruined things between her and her friends.

Lavender was indeed bewildered at the actions of Hermione – after all, her friend had been so eager to see a future with Harry and Ron and surely she would have made up her mind afterwards. But clearly she had turned Harry down and Ron looked as if he wanted nothing to do with Hermione, romantically speaking. The thought of Professor Snape’s recent odd, jealous-like behaviour towards Hermione popped into Lavender’s head, but she discounted it when she glanced up at the High Table, for his face was as grim as ever. Grimmer, in fact.

Lavender tried to find the chance to speak to Hermione, but her friend avoided her eye and concentrated on her work, and at lunchtime hurried off alone. While she was eating lunch outside with the other Gryffindors, Harry and Ron whispering amongst themselves, suddenly Lavender felt dizzy. To her shock she suddenly saw she was in a room with her boyfriend David… he was old… she was sitting in a rocking chair with little children clustered around her…

“What?!” she cried out in alarm and then the world lurched and she was back in the present day, her friends staring at her with open mouths. Lavender put her hand to her forehead in horror. The salve… this had to be connected with the salve Sybil had given her yesterday, she was having a reaction to it. Some reaction, Lavender thought, shivering. There was something wrong with her to have triggered this – she would go and see Sybil before she started having out-of-time visions again. Or worse.

“I have to go – there’s someone I have to see,” she muttered as she made a hasty exit, running towards Professor Trelawney’s tower. The Divination teacher often preferred to eat her lunch there, saying that the staff room often contained Negative Vibes.

* * * *

“I cannot imagine how this has happened!” Professor Trelawney said in distress, her bangles jangling in discordant tones as she waved her arms in the air in agitation. “My Balm of Romantic Foretelling was made as the recipe precisely dictated!”

There seemed to be more incense in the room than usual, and Lavender was finding it hard not to cough. The other students from Lavender’s Divination class who had used the salve were there as well, having had experienced various brief ‘time jumps’ today such as one girl finding herself in a future where Voldemort had won and was living in Hogwarts…

“Teaching Divination is one thing, but this is clearly out of bounds!” Professor McGonagall said sternly to Professor Trelawney, her nostrils flaring irritably in response to the incense. She had come to the tower in response to a panicked Gryffindor visionary account of being in a ‘destroyed Hogwarts’.

“What if the students were unable to return to the real world?” the Head of Gryffindor demanded.

“That would not have happened!” Professor Trelawney said testily. “It has only happened to one person apparently, if the story could be believed. There was no harm to this, really.”

“I will be the judge of that!” Professor McGonagall sniffed and then she looked around at the students sternly.

“Now, you all have those lumps of obsidian in your pockets?”

The students, including Lavender, nodded and murmured their agreement.

“The stone will keep your energy grounded onto the physical plane – I have added an extra charm to enhance their properties. I would advise that you keep your stone close to you for a month at least until we can be sure there will be no more repetitions! Now, is this everyone accounted for?”

How could she have forgotten, Lavender thought in shock. Hermione…

* * * *

The Pensieve Room was silent, for its sole occupant at the moment was slumped over the table there beside the Pensieve that was full with silvery threads of memory, her hand having fallen into the gleaming mass in the bowl.

* * * *

Hermione found herself sitting up in the sumptuous four-poster bed she was sharing with an older Harry Potter, her face pale.

“Go to sleep, will you?” he muttered beside her.

This time there was no glow covering everything, only her in her unnaturally perfect body in a future that seemed to be very real this time.


A Choice of Roads by Imhilien [Reviews - 11]

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