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A Choice of Roads by Imhilien [Reviews - 9]

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A/N - Thanks to my reviewers.


Part 10

Hermione felt herself being drawn back into her body in the Pensieve Room with what seemed to be a soundless ‘pop’ and she opened her eyes, only to find herself slumped over the table. When she lifted her head she promptly regretted this action, as she felt slightly dizzy.

She was conscious of Professor Snape there in the room standing right beside her. Watching over her… perhaps like he had watched over her in the hospital wing after she had had the accident in Potions.

But then, remembering his recent words to her she knew he would be here.

“I found you, of course. Or rather, have found you. I was quite worried...”

Now there was something in her hand that felt both smoothly cool and jagged – distracted, she looked down and saw she was holding a piece of obsidian. Despite its small size it seemed to be heavy in a strange way – was this how she had been brought back?

“Miss Granger?” Professor Snape said harshly. “Are you well?” he added.

“… you must keep your distance and your feelings hidden from me while you continue to be at Hogwarts. No matter what…”

Hermione swallowed, feeling a sense of loss that had been similar to what she had felt the first time she had seen his ‘future’ self.

“I’m all right,” she said in a voice that had a cool edge but which silently cost her. “I had an… accident, that was all, Professor.”

She held out her hand that contained the obsidian. “Did you give this to me?” she queried. It was tempting of her to acknowledge his help in a kinder way, to reach out to him… but the warning she had received still rang in her mind. She had to view him objectively as her Potions master, the Head of Slytherin – someone she would never deign to have a relationship with, let alone a friendship.

Hermione’s gaze rested briefly on his chest and she thought with sudden sorrow of the scars that were under his black, many-buttoned robes. She had not thought to ask him ‘before’ if they caused him pain or discomfort after all these years…

For a moment there was pity in her eyes and when Severus saw it, anger was swift to flare up inside of him, his mind always quick to react to perceived slights. Anger was empowering too… sweeping away vulnerability brought on by silly sentiment. How dare she pity him – why she did so he did not know, and he had no wish to find out. He was used to looks of fear and loathing from people, but pity… and especially from her…

Although it was the height of bad manners to look at someone else’s Pensieve that was full of memories, he had seen glimpses – only the briefest - of an older Hermione with Potter and Weasley in her Pensieve. He had not gone as far as having a ‘proper’ look, as the thought of seeing her in detail with them… would be intolerable, but a small hope had blossomed inside of him. If they were pleasant ‘memories’ then why had Hermione sought to place them in storage via the Pensieve Room? If they were indeed unpleasant, then it was possible, surely, that she would look in a direction one day for a partner that was not amongst her friends…

But now in his anger he ruthlessly quashed that hope – he would rather be hated than pitied.

“Once again I have been obliged to save you from your own foolishness, Miss Granger,” he said coldly as he loomed over her. “You are still a silly girl at heart, playing with that which you do not understand. I hope you have learned your lesson from… whenever you have been. Also, you will be keeping that obsidian with you at all times as a result of what you tampered with.”

Hermione tensed in the face of his icy fury as she pocketed the obsidian, but found sudden comfort in the memory of where she had been in his arms, his black eyes kind, and she suddenly felt a calm that went down deep inside her where she couldn’t be hurt.

Professor Snape hissed an odd sounding word and in the next instant a house-elf was there in the room, dressed in what looked to be several grimy handkerchiefs pinned together. An anxious look was on its face as it peered at Hermione and then at Professor Snape, clearly deciding it was wisest to assume the professor had been behind the summoning.

“Tiddy is anxious to serve, yes he is!” he squeaked, bowing low to the ground.

Hermione silently winced. She had been forced to abandon her scheme to free the house-elves a while ago, but it still made her cringe inside when she saw them at the beck and call of others.

“Silence!” Professor Snape said impatiently, brushing a strand of black hair out his face. “You will go to the library and find Miss Lavender Brown, who is searching for Miss Granger here.” At this point Professor Snape fixed Hermione with a cold stare, as if to say ‘look at the trouble you have put everyone to’.

Professor Snape continued. “You will tell her to come here and see to Miss Granger.”

Tiddy bowed again, almost touching the ground with his nose. “Yes, Master! Tiddy is eager to obey the Master!” In the next moment the house-elf straightened and then vanished.

Hermione was touched that Lavender had been looking for her, and found herself wondering if her friend had had any strange side effects of her own…

“Thank you, Professor Snape – though it’s not really necessary to bring Lavender here,” Hermione nevertheless said stiffly.

Professor Snape’s mouth curled slightly. “I did not do it out of the kindness of my heart, I assure you… I have wasted enough time here. Remember too, that others may wish to use this room, not just Know-It-Alls,” he said contemptuously.

“But because I have come to your aid again, you owe me, Miss Granger. One day I will be sure to collect from you,” he added softly in a way that caused the hair to stand up on Hermione’s neck despite herself. There must have been a slight look of discomfort on her face because Professor Snape gave her a small, self-satisfied smile before he swept from the room.

What exactly did he have in mind to ‘collect’ from her? Hermione seethed to herself but her hands were shaking slightly when she carefully got up and fetched a funnel as well as an empty blue bottle from a nearby shelf, taking its stopper out. She was feeling slightly shaky on her feet but didn’t really feel the need to see Madame Pomfrey.

The bottle was small and squat, and did not seem at first glance to be able to contain the memories she had placed into the Pensieve. But after placing the end of funnel into the mouth of the bottle and lifting the Pensieve, carefully pouring its contents into the bottle, its true capacity was clearly more than what appeared.

For a moment Hermione wondered if Professor Snape had ‘looked’ at her Pensieve, then dismissed the thought. Surely one such as he who had been in a towering rage when he had found Harry looking into his Pensieve a few years ago (Harry had blurted out the incident to her and Ron after a few too many drinks at Hogsmeade one night) would not stoop to looking at others.

After Hermione had finished she put the Pensieve down on the table, took the funnel out of the bottle and placed the stopper into the bottle. There was an odd ‘clang’ noise when she did this, indicating that only she could open the bottle, and the formerly blank label now had her initials and today’s date in discreet writing. Although the bottle was of a dark blue colour rather than the transparent kind, Hermione could faintly see the memories she had drawn from her mind inside the bottle as slowly writhing, snake-like strands.

There was a vague memory of what she had seen in the visions of future Harry and Ron, enough to remind her of what she had seen but not enough to remember them in vivid detail. She had originally planned to put her vision of Professor Snape in the Pensieve as well, but after what had happened she would keep it in the corner of her mind with the other vision of him, guarded and cherished by her…

This didn’t mean that she wouldn’t be keeping a careful eye on Professor Snape – after all, the tomorrow she had seen was still some time away, it seemed.

Hermione couldn’t help wondering what it was she would have to do to ensure she would well, be with him one day. It wouldn’t be long until she graduated from Hogwarts, but once she left she couldn’t think of an acceptable reason for ever coming back to see him. There was the possibility that she would see him one day in the wider wizarding community, but it seemed very slim. Certainly she couldn’t imagine him welcoming her back with open arms… suspicion and flat-out rejection would be more likely.

“…take better care of yourself, my silly girl. Do that, and the future will take care of itself. Trust me…”

No, it was obvious that she had to do what was right for her… certainly, having a good long rest away from studying after graduation was on her list of ways to take better care of herself! The thought of taking a holiday job at St. Morgana’s Forest Retreat sounded better all the time.

As she was putting the bottle onto the shelf marked for collection later that day, the door burst open and Lavender was there.

“Are you all right?” she puffed, staring at Hermione.

“Yes, yes, I’m fine,” Hermione said swiftly but she smiled anyway as she approached her friend.

Lavender shook her head. “When that house-elf popped out of nowhere, making me jump as they usually do, I didn’t know what to think after he told me to come here straight away… erm, where’s Professor Snape?”

Lavender glanced around the Pensieve Room as if she half-expected the professor to advance from a corner of the room, black eyes flashing with spite.

Hermione put a vexed look upon her face. “He left just before – after giving a lecture on how ‘foolish’ I was to mess with things I obviously didn’t understand.”

Lavender looked distressed. “I hope nothing bad happened to you but, look, it wasn’t really Sybil’s fault! A lot of us who used the balm had random visions as a result but it wasn’t brought about purposely by her.”

Hermione smiled reassuringly at her friend. “Look, I’m all right – I ah, passed out for a while when I was using the Pensieve, but I’m fine now. Really. Besides,” she added pragmatically, “I’ve been through worse.”

“But are you all right?” Hermione questioned her friend swiftly.

Lavender looked unsettled for a moment. “Yes, I am… I didn’t expect to have another vision, but I’m fine now. Really.”

Hermione glanced down at the piece of obsidian in her hand with a faint frown. “Professor Snape said I was to keep this with me always because of what had happened – I suppose I could string it on a chain. Did you get one too?”

Lavender blinked and looked indignant. “Just like a Slytherin to lie, even if he is a professor! No, Professor McGonagall handed them out and said to keep them on us for a month or so as they would help ‘anchor’ us to the here and now.”

Obviously spite had got the better of the professor before, Hermione thought. As usual, it seemed. She hoped that Lavender wouldn’t question her too closely as to why she had come to the Pensieve Room, but that hope was dashed when her friend suddenly looked at her seriously, biting her lip for a moment as if she was suddenly nervous.

“Look, Hermione,” Lavender said guardedly, glancing at the empty Pensieve for a moment, “what I want to ask you is… what were those visions you had of Harry and Ron really like? I don’t think they were happy ones, because if they were, then surely you would be well, dating one of them right now. And they both wouldn’t be angry at you.”

Hermione winced and then hesitated, unwilling to say anything for a moment. The memories of what she had seen of Harry and Ron were vague in her mind now, but recall of how she had felt afterwards, especially the feeling of disillusionment, came quickly back.

“The visions weren’t… what I was expecting them to be,” she said quietly in the end. “I didn’t feel afterwards that they had well, aged for the better, or that I had recognised myself either. I came here to remove them,” Hermione said as she nodded towards the Pensieve, “because the memories were upsetting me – at this time of the year I really don’t need any distractions.”

“I’m sorry,” Lavender said miserably, and to Hermione’s surprise, came up and gave her a hug. “This is all my fault – I just thought it would be fun for you, that’s all. You’re always so busy studying and you don’t have a boyfriend – I thought I could help you out.”

Hermione awkwardly gave Lavender a quick hug in return. “It’s not your fault; you weren’t to know. But,” she said as she drew back and gave Lavender a stern look, “just be careful the next time Professor Trelawney gives out something that looks too good to be true, all right?”

Lavender smiled at her sheepishly. “All right, I suppose.”

Then there was a determined look on Lavender’s face. “After what you’ve been through, I’m taking you to see Madame Pomfrey.”

“No, you’re not!” Hermione said firmly. “I’m fine.”

“You said you had passed out for a while,” Lavender was quick to point out, her tone of voice self-righteous. “At the very least you need to be checked out, just in case.”

In this case Hermione was unable to dissuade Lavender from her course of action and ended up going to the hospital wing, where a no-nonsense Madame Pomfrey ordered her to stay there until the next morning. It turned out that a few other students who had had a few unwanted ‘visions’ from Professor Trelawney’s class were there resting as well, having felt unwell afterwards.

Professor McGonagall was there as well as she came sailing over to Hermione and Lavender, fixing Hermione with a stern look.

“I cannot say I am happy to see you here under the circumstances, Miss Granger,” she scolded her. “I thought you would have had better judgment… and curiosity killed the cat, as they say.”

“Professor McGonagall, it was really my fault for saying she should try the balm of Professor Trelawney’s,” Lavender spoke up meekly.

Professor McGonagall looked at Lavender sternly then sighed. “Well, we all do foolish things when we are young… but let this be a lesson to you both. Miss Granger, I will write notes for your teachers to excuse you from classes this afternoon.”

“Thank you, Professor McGonagall,” Hermione said dutifully, though she was gloomy at having to miss out on lessons.

“Don’t worry Hermione, I’ll make sure you get the homework,” Lavender said bracingly.

“Thanks, Lavender,” Hermione said in relief.

There was a twitch on Professor McGonagall’s face that might have been a smile, then she briskly said to Lavender, “It’s time you went to your classes, now run along. You can see your friend later.”

After Lavender and Professor McGonagall left the infirmary, Hermione was obliged to lie down on a bed (and occasionally sit up for various foul-tasting medicine that she was assured would help her).

Hermione suspected that Lavender may have exaggerated events to Harry and Ron, for later that day after classes had ended they turned up at the hospital wing looking anxious and somewhat uncomfortable.

“Are you all right, Hermione?” Harry said awkwardly as he stood at the foot of her bed with Ron. “I heard from Lavender you were sick and passed out because you had used that stuff Professor Trelawney had made.”

Ron rolled his eyes. “Honestly, that teacher’s a menace! Bloody stupid too, if you ask me!” he said roundly. “Although it would have been brilliant if I had had a vision… Ron Weasley, Quidditch Champion of the World!” he said confidently.

Ron looked at Hermione hopefully, clearly eager to be in her good books again. “What was it like in the future, Hermione? Was it good? Were we all rich?”

“Ron!” Harry scolded him.

Hermione was glad that Lavender hadn’t told them what her visions had been. She hesitated and then said, “I had a vision where I was in Hogwarts in the future – everything was starting to crumble and I think it was abandoned,” she said truthfully, a slight shiver passing through her at the memory.

Harry and Ron blinked and looked somewhat unsettled, Ron’s eyes round as saucers for a moment. “Brrr…,” Ron said.

Then Harry smiled awkwardly at Hermione. “I’m um, sorry about before… so, are we still friends? Even if it’s only, well, friends?”

Harry, even Ron too, looked so anxious that Hermione couldn’t help but smile at them. Even if she was determined not to be the partner of either of them, her life wouldn’t be the same without their friendship. Perhaps, too, there was a way of gently steering them into the type of people they should be – kind, brave, probably foolish at times no matter what she did but with good intentions all the same.

“I’m still your friend,” Hermione said generously, smiling at them. “To both of you.”

Relieved, they laughed and then came and sat on the side of her bed, telling her about the day.

“Just as well you missed Potions, Hermione,” Ron informed her at one point, grimacing at his memories. “None of us could do a thing right – well, most of the time we can’t do a thing right, but today the Greasy Git was in a right nasty mood.”

Harry nodded. “If I never see him again after graduation, it will be too soon,” he agreed.

“He’s not a happy person,” Hermione found herself saying softly.

The boys stared at her as if she was nuts.

“You’re always sticking up for him, Hermione,” Ron grumbled. “I’ve never understood it – you know what he’s like.”

Harry snorted. “He’s happy though when I’m in trouble, that’s for sure.”

The conversation quickly turned into a discussion of the nasty things the professor had done to them over the years and Hermione silently cursed herself for her slip. No one could know what she felt for Professor Snape, not her friends, certainly not him right now…

TBC


A Choice of Roads by Imhilien [Reviews - 9]

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