She carved herself a quiet, pleasant life in Queerditch March. Free from school, free from war and free from friends, she worked as a librarian in the unkempt but not unloved stone monstrosity of Queerditch North Village Library. Most of her days were spent in the quiet fug of ink dust and old paper, and she was happy for the world of soft-slippered silence that she lived in.
In the afternoons, she ushered out the last lingering readers and nudged the heavy doors shut with her hip. Then she drew her wand and took a breath, pointing the pathetically thin twig of wood at the heart of the library and shouted ‘Shelve!’ at the top of her thin voice. The air filled with the mad flurry of books flapping and snapping their way back onto the shelves, and the air became thick and dusty. She sneezed once, and gently prodded along a book that had been enthusiastically loved by a group of small children.
Collecting her bag from the periodicals desk, she cast a final stern look at the books and wished them goodnight.
It might not be the life that was expected of her, but Hermione Granger was happy with what she had. She lived fifteen paces down the lane that smelt of honeysuckle, in a small house that combine the worst parts of several architectural styles. Against all odds, it had a turret bedroom, something most peculiar for a single-story stone cottage that was several hundred miles from any potential invaders. Someone, in a long-since forgotten fit of whimsy, had named the house ‘Maus’. She kept the name, and her owl mail was delivered to
Miss Hermione Granger,
The Topmost Room of the Highest Turret,
The Maus Haus in the Lane that Smells of Honeysuckle,
She didn’t receive much mail, and she was pleased with that.
Queerditch was a bustling wizarding town, home to everything that a cosmopolitan witch or wizard could possibly want for. Queerditch North, though, was small and quiet. It was the shabbier side of Queerditch, the houses smaller and the people happier. The locals accepted Hermione Granger with quiet good grace, and respected her unspoken wish for privacy. She had arrived in town when she was nineteen, one year out of Hogwarts. Some kind-hearted people had helped move her trunks and furniture into the house with the turret, but had come away disappointed when she deftly avoided all questions about that last battle.
No one from Hogwarts – anyone from that part of her life – made any attempt to contact her.
Occasionally someone from out of town would see through the slightly dusty façade and severely disciplined hair and recognise the big eyed, buck toothed little bush she had been. There was inevitably a fuss and a token offer to buy her lunch in return for hearing her first-hand account of the war to end all wars. Unless she was particularly sick of chutney sandwiches and desperate for a nice meal, she politely refused before finding a reason to escape back into her kingdom of paper.
There wasn’t much to tell, she reasoned. She hadn’t been anywhere near where the excitement was, instead cloistered in a hastily Fidelius-spelled garden shed. She had assisted Janice Vector with her arithmanic projections, frantically working her way through column after column of numbers and producing logical, if not finite, predictions about how the battle would ebb and flow. When Harry Potter turned from the proverbial Lost Child into the Golden Man by gouging out Lord Voldemort’s eyes and casting an Avada Kedavra that glowed from under those hollow and drooping eyelids, she was far removed from the battleground, unable to hear the cries of joy and howls of despair as they drifted on the wind.
It wasn’t a story worth telling. People died, people lived, and she sat on a bag of potting mix and furiously clicked the beads on an abacus.
Some people had stood with one foot on either side of the line until the very end. She heard that Snape, that foul tempered wretch, he attended a council of war and refused to say anything until both sides had spoken their piece. One of the attendees later said that he sat in the corner the whole time, his arms folded tightly across his chest and his shoulders hunched, beadily taking in every piece of information. Finally he had grunted once, stood up and crossed to the table. Rudolphus Lestrange had the gall to stand up and offer his hand, when Snape wrenched him forward and drove his wand into the struggling mans eye.
When questioned about it later, all Snape said was that he stood more chance of reward with the white hats. No one asked him about it again.
And there was nothing more to say, she thought as she opened the rusty gate and walked up the path to the Maus Haus, her heels making a gentle clicking sound as she stepped under the overhang and unlocked her door.
The smell of honeysuckles was overpowering.
It was a pleasant late spring day, and Hermione was preparing to close the library. She had gently flushed the kissing couples from the deepest stacks and shooed the small children from the colourful picture room. Now she was standing at the desk, shifting back and forth on her sore feet and checking out the last book. The rubber stamp made a satisfying heavy noise on the loans slip, and she passed the Constance Meriwether regency wizarding romance to the short dumpy housewitch.
She carefully collected the scattered quills and laid them back in their container, idly wondering what to make for dinner.
She cut the person off without looking up from the scuffed wood. “Queerditch North Village Library is open from ten to four-thirty, nine to three on Saturdays. Please come back tomorrow and I’ll be happy to assist you.”
There was an incredulous pause from the other speaker. “I was only going to ask if you could locate…”
Hermione huffed and looked up, fixing the stranger with an irritated glare. “We are closed, sir, if you would…”
She trailed off, finally recognising the tall man sporting an irritable expression. Surprise did not render her pretty.
Severus Snape sniffed and folded his arms. “Your manners are a credit to the public service. It’s still Miss Granger, isn’t it?”
Her jaw snapped shut and she pointed at the wizarding clock that hung on the wall. “The clock says we’re closed, therefore we’re closed. Professor.”
Her fixed her with a peevish look. “I need a copy of some records, Miss Granger.”
“Then you should come back…”
“Yes, I know. Tomorrow morning. I would, except that I need them by tomorrow morning for a Governors meeting. Or I should say, Minerva needs them by tomorrow morning.”
Hermione shook her head and he leaned forward, resting his elbows on the counter. “Please, Miss Granger. I’m not above begging. Between you and Minerva, I can safely say that her wrath is more fearsome than yours.”
“I wasn’t aware that you’re such a faithful manservant.”
“Hmmph. I don’t remember you having quite such an acid tongue, Miss Granger.”
Hermione pinched the bridge of her nose and closed her eyes, before pointing at the bright red door of the records room. “If it’ll get you away from my desk, fine. You have fifteen minutes. If you hear the books start to move, you may want to cover your extremities.”
She gave him ten minutes before casting the shelving charm, and she maliciously hoped that a particularly weighty periodical would hit him in the head.
Tapping her toe with barely concealed impatience, she stood by the front door and waiting for Severus Snape to pack his satchel. She remembered him being so precise and economical with his movements, and she suspected that he was shuffling and reshuffling those papers deliberately.
Her wristwatch read ten to five, and the sunlight was beginning turn rich and golden. She guessed that there was less than two hours till sunset, and she had no desire to spend any more daylight hours watching a grown man buckle and unbuckle a bag.
Snape brushed past her and strolled down the shallow steps, chuckling as he heard her sigh and shut the door with slightly more force than needed.
“What are your plans now, Miss Granger?”
She gave him an arch look and took the steps two at a time, barely acknowledging that he held the gate open for her. “I plan on going home.”
“You walk these vicious streets alone?”
Looking around the wide, sunlight-drenched road, it took her a moment to realise that he was teasing her. “Were you planning on walking me home, Professor?”
He shrugged, taking one step for every two of hers. “It wasn’t my intention. This is the way I came into town.”
Hermione bit back a smirk. “I hear only deviants and unsavoury people Apparate in and out of the western thicket.”
Snape looked as if he was going to say something in reply, but he bit his tongue and gave her an arch look.
There was a pause and she sighed, knowing exactly what he was going to ask. For someone who was supposedly such a gentleman spy, Severus Snape was surprisingly transparent.
“Miss Granger,” he started. “I’m sure you get asked this often, but we’ve often wondered what happened after…”
“I prefer the quiet life.”
“You didn’t say a word to anyone. Not even your little friends.”
“Those ‘little friends’, as you so nicely put it, I haven’t spoken to them for six years. I haven’t spoken to any of those people for six years, except you.” She paused, and gave a slightly mirthless laugh. “And I’m only chatting with you because you’re annoyingly persistent.”
“I’m not planning on taking your photo and bearing it back to Hogwarts as a holy relic, Miss Granger. Quite frankly, I couldn’t care less.”
“Then why are you asking?”
“I’m asking because there are people who, for some unfathomable reason, still worry about you. If they find out that you’re alive and happy, maybe they’ll stop having pathetic weepy reminiscing sessions in the staffroom every time exams roll around.”
She stopped at her gate and unlatched it, giving him a sceptical look. “Right when I think you’re acting suspiciously pleasant, you go and dump a bottle of vitriol on my lap.”
Snape leaned against her crumbling brick fence, and she had an unpleasant memory of watching him lean against the high desk in his classroom. “I promise you, Miss Granger, that despite whatever you might be thinking, I didn’t step into your ‘stomping ground’ with any ulterior motives. I needed residency records to match against the student roll and they happen to be kept in your pokey little library. Blame it on a hideous twist of serendipity.”
There was a long pause then, stretching thickly between them as Hermione carefully examined him from boot-covered foot to lank-haired head. Then she sniffed once and squared her shoulders, pushed open the gate and stepped aside. “I might as well invite you in for a drink, Professor. As you said, no ulterior motives.”
He gave an unattractive snort of laughter and picked his way up the uneven path, pausing only to complain about the overwhelming scent of honeysuckle that hung thickly in the air.