Continuing Tales

Thirty-One Days

A Harry Potter Story
by keelhaulrose

Part 21 of 29

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Thirty-One Days

1 September, 1991

His eyes scanned the line of first-years as they nervously entered the Great Hall on their way to the front to be sorted. There were quite a few he recognized. The Malfoy boy led the pack; the spitting image of his father, and flanked by the Crabbe and Goyle boys. They looked as dull and troll-like as their parents. The Longbottom boy was tripping over his cloak. Another mop of bright red hair let him know there was yet another Weasley coming through, as though he hadn't had enough of them for one lifetime. He scowled as Harry Potter entered. He had known this was the year, he would have to have lived in a cave not to hear about the boy's return to the Wizarding world. And yet he wasn't prepared to see Lily's eyes again. So he let his eyes slide over the boy and to the girl walking in behind him, and here his stomach dropped as he saw another very familiar pair of eyes. Everything about the girl screamed Hermione, she had Puckle's hair, eyes, face, lips...

Anger surged in him, and his head whipped around to look at the Headmaster, just to find Dumbledore staring at him as though he was gauging his reaction. He knew. There was no doubt in his mind that the girl was Puckle's daughter. As close as they resembled each other, it was hard to see anyone else. These students were born around three years after he had last seen her. It hadn't taken her long to find someone else, and to bear his child. And instead of sending that child to her own school, as was customary, she sent the girl to Hogwarts. Every parent was sent a list of Professors, so they knew who to contact with questions. His name would have been prominent on that letter. As the Head of Slytherin House, he would have earned billing just under the Deputy Headmistress with Sprout and Flitwick. Did Puckle look at the list? Did she see his name on it? She must have, the girl had a bad habit of reading anything under her nose at least twice. She saw he was teaching, and she sent her daughter anyway. Perhaps she thought Severus would be kind to her daughter, and if that was the case, she didn't know him very well. Perhaps she just didn't care, or, perish the thought, had even forgotten about him. Most likely whoever she was with, didn't know about her fling with the known Death-Eater, and she couldn't show a reaction to his name other than to mutter she couldn't believe they'd employ his ilk. But who the hell was the father? She didn't look like anyone else, so he wouldn't be able to hazard a guess.

The girl came to stop just behind Potter, and the sight was pure torture. It was as though Dumbledore was orchestrating this, punishing him for every misdeed he had ever committed in the past by bringing up two of the most painful memories he had. Dumbledore could be crueler than the Dark Lord at times, though very few ever saw the dark side of the old man.

Not Slytherin, his mind chanted as McGonagall started calling names. Not Slytherin. Anywhere but Slytherin.

"Hermione Granger?" Minerva called, and his heart stopped. The room darkened, what little color he had drained from his face, his mind became numb, and his body started trembling as he could feel every hair he had stand on end. When his heart started again its beating was the only sound he could hear, pounding in his hears harder than any drum. Vaguely he could feel the small rivers of blood start flowing where the fingernails of one hand had cut into the skin of the other with the force of his clenched fists. He could only hope there was a horrible coincidence. That Hermione Granger wasn't...

His hopes were immediately dashed as she bounded forward, and everything fell into place. From her nervous smile to the way she bit her lip... There was no doubt in his mind that Hermione Puckle had never existed. She had lied about her last name, though probably kept the first to not confuse herself. But how the fuck...?

He turned back towards Dumbledore, who was studying him again, and his stomach lurched and threatened to empty its contents onto the plate in front of him. The Headmaster's expression betrayed it all. Severus' reaction didn't surprise him. Dumbledore was not known for getting his facts wrong. He may have only seen Puckle for the same month Severus did, but he knew just as Severus himself knew, that the girl in front of them was the same girl who had appeared at Hogwarts in 1976, but just a few years younger.

He turned away as Puckle, er, Granger, trotted happily off to Gryffindor, and Severus let off a soft groan. He had expected Ravenclaw, because that's where Puckle stayed, and Hogwarts students were always fiercely loyal to their house. Going to another house, even a friendly one, would be considered base treason. But Puckle was intelligent. She must have known his hatred of his rival house, and avoided it. But why was she even back there? What the fuck was going to happen in the next seven years that would make her go back to torture him?

As their time together played through his mind, he realized the answer was obvious. At some point in the next seven years he was going to die, or come damn close to it. Probably close to seven. And Hermione had all but spelled out how it was going to happen. Some venomous creature he was going to come into contact with. She was sure he was going to have enough contact with this creature before it attacked him that he would be able to make himself an antivenin. That had to be why she pushed him so hard to work with them during their time there. But why the hell would she have slept with him? Why would she insist she loved him? Why not just warn him? He might be stubborn, but he was not an idiot. She didn't need to hurt him to cement the message in his brain.

He found himself staring at her, sitting next to Potter, not noticing his gaze. It was only the shock of everything that was keeping him in his chair, he wanted nothing more than to run, to leave the damn castle and not return. How in the hell did Dumbledore expect him to teach the girl? It was bad enough the Headmaster was insisting he stay even though he knew Potter was arriving and all the torture that the boys arrival would bring. There was no way he'd be able to stay with the girl there as well.

The moment dinner was over and the students were filing out, Dumbledore left. Severus had no intention of letting the matter rest for even a single night. He was held up by Minerva, who handed him a list of the students who were joining his house, and by the time he got to the corridor, Dumbledore was gone. Growling, he hurried through some secret passages, coming to the Headmaster's office just as Dumbledore was saying the password.

"Albus!" he barked.

"I am not surprised to see you here, Severus, but can you wait to unleash your anger until we are upstairs and in private?"

Severus followed him up the stone steps and into the office, but he barely waited for the door to close before rounding on the Headmaster.

"I demand to be relieved of my post effective immediately," he snarled.

"Denied, Severus. You cannot ask me to replace my Potions Master and Head of Slytherin before classes start tomorrow," Dumbledore replied.

"Then I demand you start looking for a replacement, so I can leave as soon as possible."

"Why the rush, Severus?"

"Like you don't know, old man."

"You've known for years the Potter boy was coming. I thought you were preparing for the day it came."

"Potter I was prepared for. You didn't warn me about Puckle."

"There's no Puckle on the roll."

"Granger!" he shouted. "The girl's name is Granger. I'm shocked her name is really Hermione, it's such a stupid mistake to make when you're trying to conceal who you are..."

"Why do you think she wanted to conceal something from you?"

"She knew. This is what she was talking about whenever she talked about leaving, when she said she'd return and I would realize what a monster she was. I realize now, and I think she is."

"Do you?"

"She knew this was coming! She didn't even have the decency to warn me?"

"What would she tell you? Would you have believed the truth?"

Severus glared at him.

"I don't know what the girl said. We agreed early on that we would communicate as little as possible. But I'm sure that's not all she said about her return."

"You did this," Severus accused softly. "You gave her whatever it was that sent her back. Whatever you used to do it, destroy it. I don't want her to go through with it."

"She already has," he said softly.

"Only because you gave her the means to, and you haven't done that yet, so I'm telling you to destroy whatever means you gave her. I don't want to remember her as anything but a student," he growled the warning and swept from the room, vowing to never give Hermione Granger a reason to want to go back and spend a blasted moment with him.


September, 1991

He sunk into his chair after the first full week of classes and pressed his palm into his temple, attempting to alleviate the pain. By now he was used to being hated by his students, but Granger was much more eager to please than Puckle ever was. She seemed genuinely upset that he didn't like her, but he was determined not to give in to the pleading eyes that had captivated him so many years ago. Luckily, it seemed like she and Potter were not fond of each other, and they sat far enough away that he didn't have to deal with both sets of eyes looking up at him. Potter, for his part, was not only the physical image of his father, but the personality double of him as well. It was a lot easier to separate Potter from Lily when there was so much of James he had to deal with.

Granger, on the other hand... There was nothing to separate Granger from Puckle, but a few years and some womanly curves, and both those would be coming along. Since Granger started, he had been plagued with dreams of Puckle, and they were certainly not the benign, friendship type. More than once he woke up feeling sick to his stomach after having a dream of Puckle in his private room, knowing that he would have to face the eleven year old version of her in a few hours. The whole thing was fucking with his head, and he wondered how Hermione had managed to separate the young him from her Professor. How in the hell was he supposed to walk into the room with her when she was starting to get interested in men and not wonder if she wasn't harboring some sort of school-girl crush on him? It was awkward enough seeing her this young and feeling some sort of responsibility towards her. She must have hit her bloody head a dozen times to even think going back was a good idea.

Sighing, he pulled the stack of first-years papers towards him. Abysmal, as always. First years didn't know what to expect, they didn't know the ingredients, and they were well known for plagiarizing their textbooks for their answers. Unsurprisingly, the Weasley boy was a prime example of this. There were three different suggestions in Longbottom's paper that would seriously injure if not kill someone. The Malfoy boy put little effort, probably thinking Severus would go easy on him. There were two papers he was saving for the end, but too quickly he had to face them.

Potter's was first. Parts of his handwriting resembled Lily's, but if he focused on the answers, he was able to get around it only having to grit his teeth a couple of times. It was Granger's that nearly drove him to his liquor stash. Her handwriting hadn't changed much, if at all, between eleven and... he thought she was seventeen when she was there, but he realized with a stab of betrayal that he wasn't even sure that was right. He forced himself to read the paper through, each word clenching his guts a little more until he started gulping air the moment he was done, desperate for whatever was closing in around him to release. He realized that he hadn't taken a single word in, because he was so focused on making it through her assignment. Knowing he'd be unable to look at it again, he scribbled an E on the top and buried it under the rest of the assignments, knowing the next few years was going to be hell.


November, 1991

The door to his office slammed shut with a satisfying bang. He shed his cloak and pulled the hem up to eye level, muttering obscenities under his breath. Potter had been attacked, he knew it, and he was sure he knew who was doing it, but in the moment, he had been too busy saving Potter's life and being on fire to prove anything. Luckily, he had the presence of mind to knock Quirrell over in his haste to rid himself of the flames. To him, that was proof enough. Hopefully Albus would take it the same way, though Albus still had the annoying habit of thinking the best of people.

His fingers ran over the hem of the cloak, and the singed part disintegrated and floated lazily towards the floor. A conversation he had so many years before surfaced in his mind.

"You want personal information? How about this? I once set my professor's robes on fire, but I was too afraid to tell him I was sorry, because he was such a cantankerous prat. I was sure I'd be in detention for the rest of my life if he knew it was me."

"Really?" he smiled.

"Every damn word."

"Why would you set your professor on fire?"

"I thought he was trying to hurt my friend."

"And your instinct was to set him on fire?"

"My instinct was to try to get him to stop hurting Ha... my friend."

"But you said he was trying to hurt your friend."

"He knocked into the one who was actually hurting my friend."

"Remind me to never be suspicious around you. I don't want to wind up on fire."

She looked at him, forcing herself not to smile. "Somehow I think that might be difficult for you, Severus."

His first instinct was the to track her down and put her in detention for the rest of her life, but he had no idea how he would explain her "confession" to anyone. The longer he looked at the singed hole, remembered the coy smile on her face as she told him exactly what she was going to do to him, he felt his own lips upturn in a smile.

"Ten points to Gryffindor," he whispered, knowing the rubies in the hourglass would record his silent gift. "For nerve."


8 May, 1993

"Professor Snape!" a portrait snapped at him, looking out of breath and upset. "Come quickly. Third floor by the library. There's been another attack."

His stomach sank as he rushed through the halls. Surely this was going to be then end of Hogwarts, or at the very least all the Muggle-borns were going to be sent home. And while neither situation was ideal, both would ensure the safety of…

Granger. He came to a dead halt the moment he rounded the corner. He could distinguish, even from the distance, the bushy hair. There was another student with her, but he couldn't even look to see who it was. Granger was holding a mirror in her outstretched hand, a look of shock on her face, looking more a statue that had toppled over than a student. Her eyes were open, but there was no life behind them. His only relief was that she was in such a rigid state. Petrified bodies went rigid. Dead ones did not, at least not in the perfect mid-crouch stance she was in.

"Oh, my word!" he heard McGonagall gasp from the adjoining hallway. He rushed forward, kneeling next to the students. "Granger," the Transfiguration Professor whispered, shock evident in her voice.

"And Clearwater," Severus added, trying not to sound as though there were only one student who mattered.

"We have to get them to the hospital," she said, conjuring up two stretchers.

"I can get them to the hospital. You should go inform the Headmaster. The game is slated to start in twenty minutes, it might not be the best idea to be playing at the moment."

"You're right," she nodded. "Be careful with them. I'll send whoever I run across to assist you."

"No need. I'll already be there," he growled to her retreating back. He gently levitated Miss Clearwater's body onto the first stretcher, then reached out his arms to lift Hermione's form onto the second. She was so small, so light… it didn't take much for him to lay her gently on the second stretcher, then levitate both and maneuver them quickly and carefully through the hallways up to the hospital wing.

Madam Pomfrey was on her feet and directing him to two beds before she had even spoken two words. The line of petrified people, ghost, and cat was nearly stretching the length of one side of the wing, each sequestered by curtains. Soon Hermione would join them, as soon as the Healer could confirm she was only petrified. There was nothing else they could do for her until the Mandrakes were ready. He already had the potion stewing, it needed at least a month to mature before adding the Mandrakes, and it would be waiting the moment the things were ready to be cut up. Knowing Pomona's weak stomach, he would probably wind up doing that deed himself.

Hermione was set up in the last bed in the row, closest to the window. He set up the curtains around Hermione's bed and stood, looking at her as Poppy tended to Miss Clearwater.

"It's unfortunate, Severus," he flinched as he heard Albus' voice behind him.

"She'll pull through," he replied, trying to sound nonchalant.

"It is still hard to see a student in such a state."

He felt his back go straighter as Albus said the word 'student'.

"Minerva is sending the students back up from the pitch. We have to prepare to close the school. Unless you have found…"

"I assure you, none in my house are doing this, nor do they have any knowledge of who is doing it," he snapped. Dumbledore had been on his back more than the other Heads of House, and Severus knew it was because he suspected a Slytherin of being the one opening the chamber. For obvious reasons. Dumbledore was sure it was Riddle who opened it fifty years prior, and Riddle would not trust any outside his own house to do his work for him. But Severus had spoken to each of his students, and, while the idea disgusted him even after the fact, entered each of their minds in search of the culprit. He wanted the wrongdoer thrown out as much as anyone else, but no one in his house had any knowledge of the events other than the stories and schoolyard gossip surrounding them. It simply couldn't be a Slytherin, but Dumbledore didn't seem convinced of this fact and kept pressuring him to search again.

"Very well," Dumbledore did not sound convinced. "Inform your students that they need to pack. While there are no immediate plans to close the school, in the event of another attack we will shut it down within the hour, and they should be ready to leave."

"Understood," he replied shortly.

"I need you to keep an eye on your students, Severus. I will not be here much longer. Probably tonight."

He looked over his shoulder at the Headmaster.

"With the attacks going on there have been rumors that I am incompetent to prevent them, and therefore unfit to continue my role as Headmaster. I suspect Lucius Malfoy will have the signatures required for my ousting by tonight. You know better than most where Lucius' interests lie, and it is not with this school beyond Draco. But he trusts you, and will act through you. I implore you to keep the students' interest first."

"Have I ever not?"

Dumbledore gave a curt little nod. "Then off with you, Severus."

He gave one glance back at Hermione, then started the trek down to the dungeons to talk to the Slytherins. Dumbledore was right. It was that very night that he was removed as headmaster and Hagrid was taken to Azkaban as a suspect in the attacks. Almost before Dumbledore was off grounds Lucius left several 'suggestions' for the running of the school with Severus, to be discussed with McGonagall. Severus promised to do so, then burned the list as soon as Lucius was gone. Very late that night, after his patrols were over and when it seemed the monster was not going to make another appearance that day, he Disillusioned himself, snuck into the hospital wing, and positioned himself on the window ledge closest to Hermione's bed. He dozed off and on, waking with a start with every noise he heard. He vowed to return each night until the school was evacuated, the students un-petrified, or until the monster was confirmed dead. He justified this was protection of all the students, and refused to let his brain connect it to any one in particular.


October, 1993

"Come in!" Lupin's voice called through the door, and Severus slowly opened the door to the office he had so coveted. The last time he was in here, he was prodding Lockhart to teach the students something that didn't have any connection to the man's favorite subject of himself, but the dunderhead didn't have the brains to get anything but a direct message, and Severus even delivered that to no avail. So it was a relief to not see the same face dozens, if not hundreds of times, staring back at him with a smile that would make anyone want to knock out the owner's teeth. Be that as it were, there was only one smile in his direction, and he was still tempted to remove a few teeth by force.

"Severus, thank you," Lupin said as Severus placed the goblet he was carrying at the very edge of the desk as far as he could from his old nemesis. "To health," the werewolf toasted before downing the potion, cleaning the goblet with his wand, and handing it back to Severus.

"I'll be back tomorrow with another dose. You should be okay with that as your final dose this cycle."

"Indeed I should," Lupin nodded. "Have a seat, Severus. There is something I would like to discuss with you."

"I do not have the time for idle chit-chat," he snapped.

"I wish to talk," Remus started, ignoring his comment, "about Miss Granger."

Severus stiffened and scowled deeply.

"I can guess by your reaction you have come to the same conclusions as I?"

He didn't reply.

"I was unsure at first. I asked Minerva a bit about her, as Minerva was the one who had gone to tell her and her parents about Hogwarts and our world. Her mother's name is Jean, and they bear the type of resemblance you'd expect a parent to bear to their child. I found it most intriguing that Mrs. Granger's maiden name was Puckle."

"It is intriguing," he repeated, trying to sound blasé.

"Don't act ignorant, Severus, we both know you are not. Young Miss Granger and Miss Puckle seem to be one and the same. I'd guess that you came to that same realization within days of her arrival, perhaps even the day she came here."

"Once again the amazing powers of deduction possessed by our current Defense teacher shine through. If you'll excuse me," he said, opening the door.

"You were much happier then," Lupin called, and he froze. "It may have only been a few weeks, but I could see the difference in you. You were more relaxed. You took more care with your appearance. I even saw you smiling once or twice. When she left, you came back, nastier than ever. The world seemingly had wronged you, and after that, your temper was shorter than I had ever seen it. I'm sure I know why.

"I have heard stories of how you treat Miss Granger. Most blame it on her friendship with Potter, and you have shown obvious disdain for the boy. But I think I know why. She should be one of your favorite students. She completes the assignments, supplies answers in class, and does the work quickly, quietly, and skillfully. And yet you take points from her for these tasks and undeservedly insult her for her intelligence. I know what you are trying to do, Severus. You think if you're cruel to her she won't return. It obviously didn't work. If you truly want to accomplish your goal you are going about it the wrong way, and I suspect you know that. I suspect you know how to achieve what you think you want, and that would be kindness towards her. You've always been good at deceit, you could easily trick her into the thinking you are happy and not in need of her interference, though I suspect if you tried now, she would get suspicious. I shouldn't discourage you from your path, as I think she did you good and she had to have had her reasons for it. In fact, I strongly encourage you to just let things happen as they have. You know you will see her again one day the way you saw her sixteen years ago."

"I have no need for your sudden concern over my life, past or present," he snapped, and he swept from the room, slamming the door behind him. Lupin was convinced that his appearance of misery and distaste for life was the reason Hermione felt the need to go along with Dumbledore's plan to send her back, and deep down he suspected it might be. But, he reasoned, he had chosen the path of trying to dissuade her by causing her to hate him, and he could not make a change now. He had chosen wrong paths before, and if this one lead to Hermione embarking upon her mission, a very small voice in his head said it might not be such a bad thing.

Thirty-One Days

A Harry Potter Story
by keelhaulrose

Part 21 of 29

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