Another two evenings of waiting for something to happen to Professor Snape passed relatively peacefully. They even spoke occasionally, after Hermione decided that potential contempt from his side was preferable to another evening of boredom.
He must have agreed with her, because he deigned to reply, even expanding into a discussion on how to bind spells to books by using Potions ingredients in the ink.
The third night, Professor Snape was clearly in a mood – he may as well have hung a placard around his neck to broadcast he was Not Amused. He did not interrupt his sulk to inform Hermione what had occurred, so it was fortunate she was able to contain her curiosity.
Sharing a library aisle with a Snape in a huff was not unlike trying to fit into a lift with an angry Erumpent – there was little room, literally or metaphorically.
After banging into his preternaturally sharp elbows one time too many, Hermione decided to cut her losses.
She retreated as far as she could while still keeping him in sight. It was only when she leant against the bookshelf behind that she noticed it smelled strange. Upon closer inspection, the books were far too shiny to be Hogwarts property – the colourful plastic covers were a bit of a giveaway.
As was the fact they were all in Japanese.
“Professor Snape!” she hissed.
“What?” he barked, swirling around in a show of displeasure. Unfortunately, the books on the lowest shelf that he had been inspecting had been pulled out a bit, and the hem of his robes swept them down on the floor. They landed with a bang.
“Now look what you've – “ he began, before Hermione wordlessly pointed down the aisle behind him.
One of the books had taken flight, running away surprisingly quickly on stubby legs. It turned a corner, disappearing from view, just as Hermione regained her voice.
“We must catch it – we're gone into L-space again!”
Snape did not waste any time: he set off running, his robes flapping behind him. Hermione took a little longer to get started, and when she caught up he had already come to a stop.
“Which way did it go?” she asked breathlessly. This place was much bigger than the Hogwarts library – the aisles stretching out before them went on for hundreds of yards.
“Would I still be standing here if I knew that?” Every little crag in Snape's face was brought into sharp relief from the fluorescent lights above them. Had Hermione been a little shorter, her vision would have been entirely obscured by the shadow cast by his nose.
Looking wildly around her, Hermione considered a quick Accio – could it really be worse than the alternative?
Meanwhile, Snape had gone down on all fours, peering beneath the shelves. His arse was surprisingly bony for someone who spent most of his life at a desk. “At one o'clock!”
Hermione didn't bend down to confirm – she tiptoed around the shelf instead, to the next aisle.
It was empty.
Hoping Snape would alert her if the book ran away again, she continued to the next one – only to bump straight into a teenager reading something colourful and animated. He broke into apologies, presumably in Japanese, but Hermione pushed him aside.
Now was not the time for niceties: she had spotted the dratted book, tripping down the aisle like it had every right to be there.
“GOT you!” Hermione threw herself forward and caught it just as it gathered speed – the little legs were waving in the air as she hoisted it in her arms, climbing back to her feet. Carefully obscuring the teenager's view of the renegade book, she looked around for Snape.
“Another daring rescue by Miss Granger. Whatever Gringotts are paying you, they should double it.” If sarcasm was present, Professor Snape was not far behind.
“Very funny.” Hermione wrapped the book in her green Weasley jumper, so tight it only could struggle feebly to get loose. “Let's get back – if we can.”
Professor Snape scowled, the way she imagined he would if he were completely lost but did not want to admit it.
“I'm not so useless now, am I? Follow me,” she said.
Hermione smiled apologetically as she walked past the teenager on the way back, but he was too absorbed in his reading to notice.
Both of them kept their hand on the wands, checking each aisle for Muggles. Most of them were browsing the books, but a few looked up as they walked past. It was too late to Transfigure their robes, so Hermione settled for looking as innocuous as she could manage.
Her marker was still there. The Hogwarts bookshelf was not – all Hermione could see was shiny white linoleum shelves stretching into the distance, gleaming in the bright lights.
“How is your Japanese?” she asked tentatively.
“The majority of the volumes in this – this establishment appear to be in Korean, so I hardly think it matters.” Snape swept his robes around him, like he wanted to minimise contact with the Muggle environment. “Am I to infer that we are stuck here?”
“That seems to be the case,” Hermione admitted. “We have two options: either stay here and hope L-space will reconnect us to home, or – “
“Do go on,” Snape mumbled as a Muggle girl squeezed past them, bending her whole body in apology. Wherever they were, she had better do the talking – Snape's brand of politeness was unlikely to go down well.
Admittedly, that was true for most of the known universe.
“Or we march up to the British embassy and admit that we're lost.”
Snape took it comparatively well. “How do you propose we get there? What's the sign language for 'I'm a wizard, get me out of here?'”
Hermione stifled her giggle – either he was trying to wind her up, which suggested a hitherto unknown flair for humour, or he was genuinely clueless as to the Muggle reference, and would think she was laughing at him. “I imagine 'Do you speak English' will work quite as well – we're in a library, after all. Surely someone will be able to communicate with us?”
“You don't think they might find it strange we have no idea where we are? Not to mention we're dressed a bit oddly?”
Hermione shrugged off her robes, the runaway book securely bundled up in the middle – it was quite hot in the centrally heated library, unlike its Hogwarts equivalent. “We'll just play the confused tourist card. You can pretend you're annoyed with me for getting us lost, that will explain the glower.”
“Pretend?” He followed suit, the long rows of buttons opening so fast they must be secured by magic, before revealing a crisp white shirt and an unremarkable pair of black trousers. Regarded in isolation, the long hair looked out of place, as if he were a banker trying to cling on to his lost youth.
The change of attire made no difference whatsoever – every bit of dramatic flair supplied by his robes was still there in the flicks of his hair as Snape inspected the aisle in front of them and evidently found it wanting. “Do tell me you have that infernal book under control. Right or left?”
“Left,” Hermione said, on the basis that there had been no sign of an exit during their brief excursion to retrieve the book. “You never told me if you actually speak Korean,” she reminded him. “It would be helpful to know.”
The library turned out to be located in an underground shopping centre, which did not seem right to Hermione. She acknowledged she was probably being unreasonable – who wouldn't want to break up their shopping trip with a trip to a library? Snape did not appear to be too impressed, either, but that was his default attitude.
A short conversation with the front desk librarian revealed they were in a city with a British embassy, and they were also provided with a map covered in scribbled directions for how to get there without generating more than mild curiosity.
“You look surprisingly relieved,” Snape observed as soon as they were swallowed by the stream of people outside the library, sweeping them up like they were meant to be there rather than casualties to the vagaries of L-space.
“We could have been somewhere outside the reach of British diplomacy. This makes things much easier.”
Snape looked dubiously at the map thrust into his hand. “You seem to place a lot of faith in the competency of British Muggle officialdom. I only hope it is not misplaced.”
“Not them.” Hermione knew very well they stuck out like a sore thumb – she wasn't going to make it worse by speaking about magic in public. “Our lot. As long as there's an embassy, there will be a way to contact local – you-know-whats.”
Snape's upper lip curled. “Perhaps not the most propitious choice of words, but I understand what you mean.”
A very long walk, a secret knock, several hours of waiting and one International Portkey later, they stumbled into the headmistress' office.
“Severus and Hermione! I had almost given up on you for the night, but Ms Gibbs at the Portkey Office was most insistent. What on earth happened to you?”
“I think we know what has happened to Madam Pince, at least,” Hermione said, brushing the travel dust off her robes. Seoul had been rather dirty, or at least the hotchpotch of walkways and alleys they had navigated to get to the embassy had.
They had spent most of the walk arguing about the difference between Animagi and Patroni forms, so at least it had not been completely wasted.
“What?” Snape said sharply, at the same time as Minerva.
“She's pure-blood, isn't she?” Hermione didn't know how she knew that, but she did. It would have been thoroughly depressing, if it hadn't helped her solve the riddle of Madam Pince's whereabouts.
“She is,” Minerva said, frowning. “Why does that matter?”
“Because she is likely marooned somewhere with no idea how to get back without attracting unwanted attention,” her deputy said, mind presumably sharpened by having faced the same predicament himself. “Either that, or she is trying to Apparate in stages.”
“Or she might be in a different dimension, in which case there's nothing we can do to help.” Hermione had no idea how many worlds L-Space opened up to and she had no desire to speculate right now.
All she wanted was her bed.
Wordlessly, Minerva reached for a piece of parchment and sent a message off with the owl that appeared as soon as she opened the window. “Let's hope she receives this. I will contact the Department of International Magical Cooperation immediately. The two of you had better go to bed – you look like you've been battered by a Hippogriff.”
Hermione wasn't about to argue, and for once neither was Snape. They shuffled off to bed like first-years out past eleven, parting in silence.