Continuing Tales

Past Imperfect

A Harry Potter Story
by Vitellia

Part 16 of 27

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Hermione is picking at her eggs and toast when Severus stalks into the Great Hall. Ignoring her, he takes the seat at the far end of the high table and stares balefully into his coffee cup. The students are all aflutter over the Yule Ball, which is on Friday. Hermione assumes her younger self is going with Viktor, but when you mess with timelines you never know. She glances at Snape, who has his formidable nose buried in book. Naturally, it's the one with the Horcrux potion in it. She has got to tell him before he finds that footnote himself. It will take him some time to get through all the references and cross-references in four ancient languages, but he will eventually.

She's angry at herself for being so ridiculous about this. It's not as though she's asking him to be in a relationship (she can hear him sneering as he says the word), just to harvest a necessary potions ingredient. It isn't a big deal. Not at all. She should just tell him, casual and unemotional, and then once they've brewed the potion and given it to Harry, she'll go back to her time and….and what?

If she's going to be honest with herself (Why start now? her inner voice snipes) she's terrified of going back to her time – far more than she was at the idea of coming back to the past. She knew what she'd find when she got to this time, but has no idea what the world – and she – will be like seven years from now.

She looks at her younger self at the Gryffindor table, buck toothed as ever since Malfoy apparently doesn't hate her enough to hex her teeth this time around. Snape has them brewing together in Potions, working on more advanced brews than the rest of the class, and in Defence they often partner when she leaves the pairings up to students. There are other inter-House pairings, too. The lions aren't all lying down with the lambs – or the snakes – but it happens often enough. Ron and Theo Nott don't always partner but they do sometimes, and the strangest one of all is Neville and the odious Parkinson, who appear to be as thick as thieves in both Defence and Potions, according to Snape. For the first time, Hermione wonders whether Parkinson's reasons for marrying Neville in her time may not have been entirely calculating.

She'll tell him tonight. They're supposed to meet to brew the base for the potion, which needs to rest for at least 24 hours before they add the final ingredient. She'll tell him tonight. She will.

He's been moody since their trip to Gringotts. She's not sure why, but knows she's not imagining it. He's sitting at the far end of the table by himself, glowering. She misses her Severus, who would joke and flirt with her. Of course, her Severus was dead, wasn't he? And a living man, flesh and blood rather than oil on canvas, was a whole other kettle of fish. Is there something wrong with her that she can have that kind of relationship with the portrait of a dead man but not with his living subject?

From the far end of the table, Severus is aware of Granger's furtive glances his way. What does the infernal woman want? He throws his napkin down on the table and strides to the door, robes billowing. He has fourth year Slytherin and Gryffindor first thing, so he can't escape bloody Granger even in class.

He watches her brewing with Malfoy. Both of them were excellent even when saddled with inferior partners but now, together, they remind him of himself and Lily. He's been giving them different assignments to brew once they finish what the rest of the class is working on.

After a prowl around the room, he opens the book with the Horcrux potion. He's worked his way through most of the obscure and often cryptic cross-references in the notes on the potion, but the translation spells don't always produce something that makes sense, so he keeps tinkering. Granger says his future self had it all figured out and they're ready to brew, but he's never been one to trust someone else's word without double checking.

He makes another pass around the room. Malfoy and Granger have finished and bottled the day's potion – perfectly, of course – and are chopping ingredients for the extra one he assigned them. Nott and Zabini, spurred to new heights of competence by competitiveness with Granger and Malfoy, have also finished so he puts the instructions for the extra potion on their desk as well. Crabbe and Goyle have produced something orange, contrasting with the varying shades of blue in most of the other cauldrons.

"Chudley Cannons fans?" he sneers.

"Sir?" Goyle frowns.

Severus sighs. "How much powdered dragon horn did you add?"

"About this much," Crabbe says, scooping some from the jar.

"What will compensate for an excess of dragon horn?" he asks the class and looks around. Granger and Malfoy both know, but keep quiet. Zabini doesn't raise his hand, but catches Snape's eye. "Mr. Zabini?"

"Gurdyroot, sir."

"Five points to Slytherin." Crabbe and Goyle just sit there. "Well, what are you waiting for? Go get the gurdyroot."

Goyle hauls himself out of his chair and lumbers toward the supply cabinet.

"Anything else that might work, if you couldn't get gurdyroot?" Severus asks, and looks around. Nott knows. He doesn't even bother looking at Granger and Malfoy. Astonishingly, Longbottom's hand is twitching, as though he wants to raise it but is too terrified. "Mr. Longbottom?" he sneers.

The boy swallows and his Adam's apple bobs. "Rose thorn?" he offers hesitantly.

"Are you asking me or telling me?"

There goes the Adam's apple again. "Telling, sir."

Severus looks at Longbottom long enough to make the boy start fidgeting, then says, "Indeed. Five points to Gryffindor."

The whole class gapes at him. Did Snape just award points to Gryffindor? And not just to Gryffindor, but to Longbottom?

"Close your mouth, Weasley. Five points from Gryffindor for almost ruining your potion by drooling in it." There, Severus smirks to himself. Now all is right with the world again.

Crabbe and Goyle's potion is almost back to the proper color, so he picks up the book again, and there it is, a note within a note, scribbled in crabbed writing in execrable Latin: freshly harvested. The note says a stasis charm won't do here, and yet bloody Granger has been here for weeks letting it sit there – and for who knows how many years since she let some Gryffindor twit deflower her. Can she not read? She's not a dunderhead. And his future self certainly isn't. He wouldn't have…

And then it hits him. He didn'tShe didn't. She said she brought it, but she never said it had been harvested. Now it all makes sense, the way she avoided the subject, put him off, intent on dealing with all the other Horcruxes first. Noble little Gryffindor, determined to sacrifice herself to save the world, but wanting to put off the odious deed at long as possible. Well, she can put it off forever. There are other virgins in the world.

Crabbe and Goyle's potion is pink where it should be gray. How could they bollocks it up again so quickly? He vanishes it. "Mr. Crabbe, go to the Defense classroom and tell Professor Greene I need to see her at once." He glowers at young Granger because her older self isn't to hand. She looks at him, confused, then returns her eyes to her cauldron.

Crabbe comes back.

"Where. Is. Professor. Greene?"

"She said she's teaching but she has a free period before lunch and will come then, sir."

He vanishes every potion in every cauldron. Shocked faces share back at him, including Granger's.

"Twenty points from Gryffindor, Miss Granger." What for? her hurt eyes ask. "For disrespect," he snaps and stalks to the door, book in his hand. "Class dismissed," he says as he sweeps from the room.

"Class dismissed," he says again, bursting into the Defence classroom.

"Class is not dismissed," Hermione tells her students.

"Oh, yes it is, Professor Greene. Out," he says to the students, his voice low and menacing. Now."

The students look nervously between them. Hermione looks at the book in his hand. Oh. "Class dismissed," she says. "Two feet on the Patronus charm by next class."

"It has to be harvested fresh," he says when they're alone in the classroom. "A stasis charm won't work."

"I know. I should have told you before. I wanted to, but –"

"But you wanted to put off the horrible deed as long as possible. So noble, sacrificing yourself for Harry Potter. Offering up your maidenhead for the Greater Good."


"No? Then why did you keep putting me off whenever I asked about the potion?"

"Because I was embarrassed. You hated me. Your portrait didn't, but that was after he'd gotten to know me. I thought if we had some time, maybe you'd grow not to hate me, too."


"What would convince you?"

His fingers twitch on his wand.

"No," she says. "I don't give consent."

"I need to know."

"Not like that." Her voice is emphatic, but she doesn't close her eyes and look away, holds his gaze.

"Legilimens," he snarls.

Past Imperfect

A Harry Potter Story
by Vitellia

Part 16 of 27

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