"It's such a happiness when good people get together."
― Jane Austen, Emma
Dec. 3rd, 2010
She sighed in relief, she felt more relaxed than she had in weeks as she meandered up the aisle of books in the small muggle library of Cokeworth. It was apparently a newer addition to the town, having overheard a few people discussing it while she was at the grocer's. Having just moved here with her son Henry in November, she was just getting the chance to peruse it on the quiet December afternoon.
Grabbing a book at random and flipping it over, Hermione read the summary quickly before shaking her head slightly and putting it back into its place on the shelf. Turning around, she scanned the opposite side of the row, when a title suddenly caught her eye. It was a book she had not read since she was quite young. I'm not even sure I own this book, which is shocking in itself.
Her thoughts were suddenly reminiscent of her seemingly distant childhood. She had always felt beyond her years, but it was not until she had hit 30 last year that the years seemed to catch up with her. She had not changed much, her hair still mostly untamable, but she often resorted to pulling it back at the nape of her neck or into a plait. There was the slightest impression of smile lines on her face. The only other distinct change was her use of a pair of square reading glasses. Although she knew it was something easily remedied with her magic, she truly enjoyed wearing them.
She paused when reaching for the memorable text, having heard the rustle of pages being turned nearby. Shaking her head, she knew there was no reason to feel as though she was being watched, and her thoughts soothed her. No one from the wizarding world would possibly come here to find me. Besides Harry or Ginny maybe. Grabbing the text, she opened it and began to read it, walking back up the row without looking up.
Finding her way to a cushioned chair nearby, she looked around for her nine, nearly ten, year old son. Spotting him discussing something at length with a young girl around his age, she sat down where she would have a good view of them. As she became consumed with her book, she almost didn't notice the pair walking up to her once she was three chapters in.
Marking her place, she sat up, looking at her son's smart grin and curly head of dark hair. He hardly resembled his father, aside from being on the taller side for a nine-year-old and a spatter of freckles on his face.
"Mum, this is my new friend Katherine. I wanted to invite her over for dinner to show her my other books at home. Is it okay if she asks her dad?"
Hermione admired her son's friendliness, "It's wonderful to meet you, Katherine. I'd be delighted to have you over for dinner. If your father needs to speak with me first, just let me know."
The girl smiled, shook Hermione's hand, and nodded before walking away with Henry. Hermione returned to her book, considering the encounter. He's never invited any friends over before… I wonder why this one is different. He wants to show her his books. That must be it, she's a bibliophile like us. Marveling at her thoughts, she had hardly gone back to reading before she heard the young Katherine's voice somewhere behind her.
"She's right over here daddy, the pretty lady in the green jumper!"
Pretty lady, how sweet of the girl. As her son came into view from the corner of her eye, she marked her place again and turned, halfway standing, to introduce herself to the girl's father.
Everything around them seemed to go still, except the two kids who were fidgeting nearby.
Hermione finally felt able to draw herself up to her full height when the man standing across from her said, "Miss Granger?" in a bemused voice, but seemed slightly tense.
Oh dear. I'm really not imagining the man standing in front of me, am I. He has a daughter?
She gave him the smallest of smiles, looked down at her son and said with an encouraging tone, "Why don't you and Katherine go find me a couple books to take home, Henry?" Best to remove them from this situation to make it slightly less awkward. As the kids, who had been watching the encounter confusedly, slowly wandered away, Hermione held out her hand for him to shake.
I feel like an imbecile, reaching for Severus Snape's hand, I mean really.
"I'm not sure exactly how to address you now, I'd prefer not to call you sir or Professor, but Snape sounds a little unfriendly. Regardless though, you may call me Hermione."
Unlikely, but a polite offer I think.
The man shifted uncomfortably before taking her hand. "I apologize, I have not happened upon anyone from the wizarding world here before." Pausing, he let go of her hand. "Though, I am curious at what brings you here, if you were not expecting to see me either." He almost sounds suspicious. Her thoughts focused on his response as he continued, "Ministry employees tend to owl me before visiting, and they typically do not come to find me in a public place."
Hermione raised a brow, but sat back down in the cushioned chair, inviting him to do the same in the chair next to her. Might as well make myself comfortable for this superiorly awkward conversation. As he sat down slowly, she spoke.
"Well, my being here has nothing to do with you, I promise." I can't have him think of me as a stalker. "I confess I had no clue any magical people lived in this area, honestly." She eyed him as he seemed to digest her words. "Though, if it comforts you in knowing, I am no longer a ministry employee."
He seemed to take that with a slight shock but nodded slightly. "As to what actually brings me to Cokeworth, it is a little complicated but the short of it is, my grandmother left me a home in her will. She passed away a few months ago. Henry and I just moved in last month." More information than he probably needed, or likely even wanted, but it warranted a small explanation.
As he contemplated his response, Hermione looked at the man thoughtfully. He had practically disappeared following the end of the war. The ministry had only seen him a few times in the years following to testify against captured Death Eaters and other Voldemort sympathizers. He truly looked much younger than she remembered. His days as a spy finally behind him, his physique and overall complexion seemed to resemble a much healthier man. Though his hair was still long, it looked much cleaner and well-kept. His attire was not entirely unexpected, but she was still startled to see him in muggle clothing. Of course, it had to be black slacks and a black sweater.
"I'm sorry to hear of your loss," he began, sounding genuine, "and am I to assume you left your job at the ministry? I hate to think anyone there would willingly fire a member of the Golden Trio," he made an odd, twisted face at those words, but sounded much like his older, sarcastic self.
Well, that was more like the man she remembered.
"Thank you for your condolences," she smiled broadly, "And I think that may be a compliment if I'd ever heard one from you." She had to chuckle at his almost scandalized expression after that. I better not push him too much, though he seems a little more open to conversation than I remember.
"You're correct, I did quit. I'm essentially freelancing as an author for now. I've published a few books about this and that, mostly history research I've conducted between the wizarding world and muggle worlds. It supports me and Henry, which is all I need as of now."
He nodded in agreement. "I am in a similar way, I sell my privately made potions and it does well to support Katherine and me." That was interesting, I suppose it should be obvious he was working from home, otherwise, the wizarding world would have hounded him regularly. There was an extended pause between the two before he looked around, presumably to check if the kids were in earshot. "Has something happened to Mr. Weasley, I admit I rarely give attention to the Prophet in recent ti-." He trailed off as Hermione cut in.
"As you should, it's still rubbish, typically," she almost snapped in response. I can't believe he brought up Ron. She schooled her expression while keeping eye contact with the man. "He's doing fine, he and his wife just had their second child together actually." His brow raised ever so slightly. Feeling as though another question was coming, she clarified. "Ron and I divorced a little over six years ago."
He showed no emotion in his response, "I apologize for bringing it up." The old Professor I knew would have been extremely sarcastic in response to this, something definitely must have changed him... Ah. That's it. She noticed him looking pensively at the kids from afar, "Though it seems your son is faring well."
"Oh, he's doing amazing." She smiled as they both looked in the children's direction, where they were each contemplating separate books. "He still sees Ron every other weekend, if Ron isn't too busy with the shop. He has school during the week here, so he stays with me the most."
He looked at her, slightly surprised, "You have him enrolled in a muggle school." That wasn't a question.
She felt comfortable enough to laugh a little at this. "Don't patronise me, I was enrolled in a muggle school before I received my letter."
He shook his head, "No, I quite understand, I've been homeschooling Katherine in various muggle subjects. I would send her, but I had considered the possibility of her having her magic act up in front of muggles." Ah yes, I'd considered that too, but Henry seems to be mostly calm and not prone to outbursts of magic. "I was also enrolled in a muggle school before getting my letter, at my father's enforcing." After a moment's pause, he added hesitantly, "In fact, it was the local primary school."
"You grew up here?" What else am I going to learn about this man in this short encounter…
As he nodded, she continued, "I can understand homeschooling. I wanted Henry to make friends his own age, that weren't his cousins." She paused at this. "Though, he's never invited anyone for dinner before." As though sensing that she had a question coming, possibly because she sat up straighter or sat her book down on the table in front of them, he leaned forward slightly to listen to her closely. "Is it possible magical children can sense another's affinity for magic?"
It was as if a younger Hermione had taken over her general demeanor, she was sitting up as if in a classroom, having posed a question to the old Professor, and was waiting patiently for an answer. Some things never change I suppose.
He seemed to ponder her question for a moment before responding, "It's possible. As adults, we can often sense certain types of magic, so it is plausible that we can do so unknowingly as children," he smirked as he looked at the kids who seemed to be making their way back with a handful of books each. "However, I am inclined to think your son has never met someone that is on his level cognitively. If he is anything like his mother, his knowledge should be on par with Katherine's."
That was a completely unexpected response.
Laughing lightly at the underhanded compliment, she faced the kids expectantly. "Well, what have you two got for me?"
They laid out their choices on the table in front of her. As she read over each title, she saw Snape doing the same out of the corner of her eye.
"I told Katherine the kind of books you read, she said her dad liked the same kinds, so she grabbed some she knows he likes, and I grabbed a few more."
She chanced a look up at Snape at this, he was still looking at the books but there seemed to be a little more color in his face. Oh, poor man. She kept her grin to herself, she assumed he was embarrassed because a few of the books his daughter had chosen were romances she had heard of or read herself.
"Well, I'll narrow it down some for you, I've read these five already." She stacked the five to the side, which left four books. "I only want to check out two, so you can each pick one." Henry made his choice while Katherine grabbed two and looked at her father questioningly. He glanced over at Hermione, then down at the two books, and pushed the one on the left towards his daughter. Katherine picked it up smiling and handed it to Hermione. Henry handed her his choice and she began to read out the two titles.
"Remainder by Tom McCarthy and A Room with a View by E.M. Forster." She smiled at the two children, "These seem like good choices, you can put the rest of these back before we go, can't you Henry?"
Snape looked at his daughter, "Katherine, you should help him." The girl nodded, "Yes daddy, I will."
What a polite young girl. Her manners seem to surpass that of any of Henry's Weasley cousins. Though that must be because of the man who raised her, I suppose.
As they gathered the books, Hermione looked over at the man, he was sitting straight up in the cushioned chair. He somehow managed to find a way to make a comfy chair seem uncomfortable. Maybe they would both enjoy a social night. He would probably say no, but it was worth asking for Henry's sake, in case he would not allow his daughter over without his supervision. She steeled herself before allowing herself to speak again, "You know, you should both come over for dinner. You're both in luck for tonight, I may not be the best cook, but I am great at ordering in."
What on earth had possessed her to add that last bit? Gods Hermione.
He considered her offer for what seemed like a long moment before answering hesitantly, "I think that would be acceptable. I'm rather taken at Katherine making a friend as well, so I'd like to see where it goes from here."
Ah, he's in the same boat. He probably doesn't want to come at all, he just doesn't trust me alone with her, I'm sure.
Hermione laughed, "Well, I assure you Henry is quite the gentleman in comparison to his father, especially for a nine-year-old." She reached in the bag hanging off her chair and pulled out a pen and scrap of paper, scribbling something on it before handing it to him.
"My address. You can come around six if that is suitable for the both of you."
He read over the paper, "You actually aren't too far from Katherine and me, we're around the corner, about three blocks up I believe."
Neighbours with Professor Snape. What would Harry and Ron say?
She was amazed for a moment, "It's so interesting to think you grew up so near my father. Though he is quite a bit older than you, I would guess."
"It really is a small world," he conceded.
The kids returned, each holding onto the books they had selected for themselves. Snape stood as Katherine handed him her selections. "Well, I suppose we will see you both this evening, Henry, Hermione," he nodded at them both, before adding in an afterthought, "and you may both call me Severus."
That was the most unexpected thing she had heard come out of his mouth during this entire encounter. Severus. Calling him Severus? Now I really wonder what Harry and Ron would say…
As the two walked away, Henry sat next to his mother. "Did you already know him, mum?"
She gave her son a calculating expression before explaining, "Honey, that was Severus Snape. My potions professor from when I was in school and one of the main heroes of the war."
Henry gaped at her. I've given him a PG rundown of the war, of course he knows who Severus Snape is.
"B-but… he… so he's a… wait, Katherine's a witch?" Suddenly he looked extremely excited, "So I can talk to her about magic! This is great mum!"
Hermione was pleased with her son's quick processing of information. "She is, and I quite agree, I'm glad you've made a friend around here who is also magical." Smiling at him, "We better get home. I need to clean up some before getting dinner."
I can't believe he didn't have any other questions… yet.
They made their way to check out their books, while her thoughts ran wild with a multitude of questions regarding the encounter. Who was Katherine's mother, and why didn't Harry ever mention Sna-Severus having a daughter?
As he walked out of the library of Cokeworth with his daughter's hand in his own, he pondered the encounter. He had just been almost cordial with someone he once despised. Halting at the crosswalk, he cursed silently. I just accepted a dinner invitation from Granger. The thought taunted him, as though it was his fault. You've grown soft over the years, obviously.
Looking down at the dark, wavy hair of his daughter as they crossed the street, the slightly more optimistic side of his head cut in. Of course you've grown soft, and for good reason. With a half-smile at his daughter, they waited together patiently at the bus stop nearby, until Katherine shook him from his thoughts. She must have been waiting for him to say something to her about the encounter, otherwise, she might not have looked so frustrated when she asked her question.
"Are you going to tell me how you knew Hermione, daddy?"
He groaned to himself inwardly, of course she wants to know. His daughter's curiosity for the unknown matched his own. Considering his response carefully, he took on a more casual tone.
"She was a student of mine when I was a professor at Hogwarts. She did a great deal to help end the war as well."
"Was she a good student?"
He almost choked at this. Gods, what on earth would make her ask that sort of question.
"She was. Some would say one of the brightest that Hogwarts has turned out."
"Good. Henry is smart too, I figured his mum must be. Especially if she likes books like you like." His daughter paused for a moment before looking up at him excitedly. "Oh, daddy! Henry is a wizard, isn't he! He must be if Hermione is a witch!" She was nothing short of jumping up and down as the bus pulled up to them.
"Yes dear, he is. Keep your voice down." They found seats near the front, away from the majority. "I am glad you have been able to make a friend that is like you, I apologize it's taken so long for you to do so." He looked genuinely sorrowful at this before Katherine shook him out of his melancholy.
"Daddy it's okay, I've had you, Uncle Draco, Aunt Astoria, and little Scorpius." She smiled up at him in an admiring way, a way that he believed no other person would ever look at him.
He didn't respond but pat her hair and pulled her close to him as the bus got closer to the stop near their house.