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[personal profile] velvetfiction
Title: Perspective
Recipient: Rilla in the Summer 2006 [ profile] sshg_exchange
Author: [ profile] velvetmouse
Rating: PG
Warning(s): Fairly Angsty; spoilers for HBP, written before DH
Genre/Category: Angst, almost Gen
Summary: Decisions made under stress are not always the most rational; second changes given by the universe are often disguised in the most unlikely of ways. Hermione has convinced herself to live with the former, and might just miss the latter.
Author’s Note: Each section is written from a different perspective.


I. Tragedy

The first we heard of the attack was a report of an explosion at a home in an area of London I knew well. One of the occupational hazards of being an Auror is the sickening jolt you get every time a report comes in that might possibly involve someone you know.

I shoved that feeling aside quickly - 99 times out of 100 it has nothing to do with you, and even if it did, you still have a job to do. I joined my group and we Apparated away.

A large portion of the street was aflame, and other teams of Aurors were already magically dousing the fires. The sick feeling in my stomach came back to me redoubled when I realized exactly where we were. This was my unlucky 100th time, apparently.

Seeing a familiar figure on the edge of the catastrophe, I ran over to my long-time friend and pulled her away from the flames.

She struggled against me, as I knew she would. "Let me go, Ron, let me go!"

"You can’t go in there, you can’t." She continued to fight against me, but I held her tightly. It’s been a long time since she could best me in this kind of contest, and eventually she subsided.

We both jumped as a wall of the house fell away, and I tried to turn our bodies away, but the woman in my arms was frozen immobile. I could not say how long we stood there, with ash raining down on us, and watched her life burn to the ground. Hours, minutes, years, time ceased to flow normally, but eventually the chaos subsided. One of my fellow Aurors gave the all-clear and my friend struggled against me again. This time I did not stop her as she broke free of my arms and ran straight to the one thing I wished least to see.

There, in the broken wreckage of a home, I watched helplessly as Hermione Weasley, nee Granger, cradled the lifeless body of her husband, my older brother. I watched until I could not stand it any longer and with gentle hands, I pulled her away, and we wept together among the smoke and ruin.

II. Flight

I strained to watch a dark, cloaked figure move rapidly up the path from Hogsmede to the lone house on the hill. The figure was just barely within my sight, but the slight form showed it to be a young female. Looking furtively around, she opened the door with a quiet 'Alohomora' and entered the long abandoned Shrieking Shack.

She then moved to the trap door in the basement, which she opened with a muffled grunt. I faintly heard a brief prayer escape from her shadowed lips, expressing hope that the passageway would not be blocked, and then she slipped down the ladder.

Mere minutes later - though it must have seemed like hours to the one traversing the tunnel - the same cloaked figure could be seen making her way through the shadows of the lawn to a small door on the side of the great castle. I could see her more clearly now that she was fully in my domain. I am still bound to this castle, but the castle repays me with sight and knowledge, just as it did when I was alive. I now knew who she was.

She paused in the blackness of the portcullis to look at her watch. I could almost see her realizing that it was dinnertime. I was relieved for her, as there would be fewer students in the halls. I also knew that she did not want to be seen.

Keeping her hood up, the figure pushed open the door and practically ran through the halls of Hogwarts. I ghosted unseen behind her, as down she descended, to the damp chill of the dungeons. Once she reached territory familiar to any student - or ex-student, as the case might be - she paused, as if undecided. After a moment’s hesitation, she turned to a closed door on the right, and knocked twice. Upon hearing no response, she turned to the large door on the left. It was partially ajar, but she knocked anyway and waited for the barked "Enter!" from the person inside.

Entering the Potions Classroom, the figure closed the door securely and only then pushed back her hood as she turned towards the Potions Master at the front of the room. I floated in behind her, still unseen.

Severus Snape’s eyes narrowed. "Miss Granger," he sneered, "or, Mrs. Wealsey I suppose it is now, isn’t it? To what do I owe this pleasure?" His deceptively mild tone said that it was anything but.

"I need your help." Such a simple phrase, spoken so quietly. So shocking, too, for it was uttered in a defeated tone that I had rarely heard since the end of the war. I could see Severus rapidly reassessing the young women standing before him.

Hermione Granger - no, Weasley - was not the same person who last stood in his class room five years earlier. When she left, she had been a slender young thing, with bushy hair and a vibrant personality that made her hard to ignore. I had hoped to see her appointed Head Girl, and to watch her and Harry and young Mr. Weasley grow up; but alas, circumstances dictated otherwise.

The intervening years had added a woman’s curves to her body, but her hair was now tamed and confined into a severe, Minvera-like bun; her face was sallow with care and her eyes were sunken with grief. No, she was definitely not the same person she had been.

I watched as Severus took in all these changes. He then replied in his customary demeanor. "And just what do you need my. . . help. . . with?"

Hermione clasped her hands in front of her to keep from fidgeting. "I would like you to make a Binding Potion."

Severus’s eyebrows flew up to meet his hairline, and I nearly dissipated from the shock. "A Binding Potion? Do you really expect me to believe that Master van Drechter’s most recent apprentice is incapable of brewing one herself? Has the old man finally lost it entirely?"

Some spark of life came back into the young woman. "I assure you, sir," she bristled, "that I am perfectly capable of brewing it myself. However, as you are no doubt aware, sir, the one who makes the Binding Potion must also be the one to create the Unbinding Potion, should the need arise."

The life left her eyes as quickly as it came, and she retreated back into herself once again. Knowing Severus as I do, I saw that he felt with a twinge of loss at her retreat, although he would never admit it. I wished he would say something outrageous to elicit another reaction from our former student.

But alas, his control was as tight as ever, and he merely made an observation. "You mean to take the Binding Potion yourself, then?"

"Yes, sir," she whispered.

"And you are fully aware of the consequences of taking such a potion?"

"Yes, sir," she repeated, more firmly.

"So that’s it then? You would just throw away all the training your teachers have given you? Three years of a Master’s time?" Severus railed, shocked beyond belief at what she was proposing. I, too, was shocked by this. It was not a course of action I would have expected, least of all from her.

"Your friends mean so little to you?" Severus continued. "Your research? So much for the vaunted Gryffindor courage! Things take a slightly downward turn in your life and you run for cover, condemning yourself to a Muggle existence! Oh yes, such a Gryffindor."

She closed her eyes and let his torrent of words wash over and around her. The stones of the castle around me imparted the knowledge that it was nothing she hadn’t already said to herself. In the end, she could only give him the reasoning that she had given to herself.

"There is nothing left for me here, sir."

Because her eyes were closed, she did not see the brief flicker of hurt that crossed her former teacher’s face. Because her eyes were closed, she knew nothing except the wet trickle of tears down her cheeks.

I breathed an invisible sigh and let my awareness flow back into the portrait in the Headmistress’s office. Minerva would need to be told of this.

III. Acceptance

Ten years is a long time. Ten years is a long time even for one with the life expectancy of a witch. Ten years is an especially long time between the ages of 18 and 28.

Ten years ago if you had told me where I would be today, I would have snuck up behind you, hit you with a discrete ‘Stupefy,’ followed by a quick Body Bind, and sent you off to the good mediwizards at St. Mungo’s.

I would have believed you if you told me that in my last year of school, the battle was won once and for all, and that Voldemort was dead. I would have believed you when you said that Harry was the hero everyone always said he was, and the rest of us were honored along side him - even Professor Snape. I could accept that he was absolved of any wrong-doing, including the death of Dumbledore if you had told me that Minerva McGonagall had spoken for him - when Dumbledore’s confidant and successor vouches for you, no one argues.

I would have believed you, and been delighted at the news that I was awarded an apprenticeship with Potions Master Albert van Drechter. I probably even would have believed you if you told me that I got married at age 21, and that my last name was now Weasley - although I would have been a bit surprised that my husband’s name was Charlie, and not Ron.

But the rest of it? No, never. I might have believed that defeating Voldemort wasn’t the end of things, the way many thought it would be - it was only natural that there would be those remaining who believed in his ideas. But that those Death Eaters and sympathizers would stir up trouble again, barely a few years after their lord’s demise? That they would be the direct cause of my greatest pain and sorrow? Hardly. And that in response, I would voluntarily bind my magical powers, forsake the magical world, and live as a Muggle, working in a Chinese Apothecary? Impossible.

And yet here I am. Ten years is indeed a long time.

I live a normal existence, by most standards, even while I strive to forget that feathers can float, dragons exist, and paintings can talk. I have a normal flat in London, and take the Tube like a normal commuter to my job. My job might not be so normal, but neither is it particularly extraordinary. When I decided to go back to a Muggle existence, I really had two choices for what sort of career I would pursue. I briefly considered chemistry, but in the end I opted for the apothecary, and the familiarity of the natural ingredients.

I even have normal friends, mostly those here at work. Once again, Know-It-All Granger proved to be a source of amusement for those around me, although my colleagues were a bit surprised at just how fast I picked up the tricks of the trade. I laughed it off as having a natural aptitude for the work, and they all agreed. They even went so far as to get me a small "Mad Scientist" set, complete with beakers and colored water, and a plaque that says "Potions Mistress." I smiled along with them, and thanked them, even while I was crying inside - little did they know that they had merely given me my proper title. I still have the plaque on my desk.

Most of the time I couldn’t honestly say if I regretted my decision. Some days I ache to pick up my wand and perform the simplest magic, to defy gravity and make a feather float again. But as quickly as those thoughts come to me, others follow. Thoughts of the pain, the curses, the battles. Of Professor Dumbledore’s death, and the others. Of Harry, and the price he paid to defeat Voldemort. And most of all of Charlie. No one should be a widow at 23.

So I now spend my days making tinctures and pills, combining various herbs into soothing remedies. I enjoy knowing that my work is helping people, even while I try hard not to think about how much more I could do for my patients with just a touch of magic. It was not such a transition from potions making - really, the hardest part was learning the traditional Chinese names for things I have been working with since I was eleven. Sometimes I still have the properties of a certain herb being drilled through my head, in Professor Snape’s silken voice.

Snape. I’m sure there are those who wondered why I went to him for the Binding Potion. He was hardly my only choice - even Master van Drechter would have made one for me, had I asked. What I told Snape was true - I wanted to keep open the possibility of reversing the Binding. But I was also speaking truthfully when I said I had fully contemplated the consequences of such an action. I intended to live with my choice. With Snape as the one holding the key to my magic, I would have to be damn certain before I braved his wrath and his scorn and got down on my hands and knees - either metaphorically or literally - to beg him for the reversal.

I’m not sure any of my in-laws ever understood my choice. But then, they only knew one world. Harry might have understood, but I only saw him rarely. He was away often, traveling, speaking, and trying to rebuild his life. Then again, maybe he wouldn’t have understood - for him, the Muggle world represented all the bad things, and the Wizarding world was his refuge. I’m not sure it would ever occur to him to leave it.

But I did. I think my parents were secretly delighted when I told them what I would be doing. At last they had their baby girl back, they could support her and advise her and help her like proper parents should. They no longer had to feel helpless while I did things that made no sense to them, and fought demons they could only imagine. I was "normal" once again.

Until the last person I expected knocked on my door.

IV. Reprieve

Decades seem to come and go at an alarming rate these days. Ten years ago, I was cautiously making my way back into Wizarding Society. After all, the murderer of Albus Dumbledore could hardly throw a coming out party. Really, I had never expected to set foot in Hogwarts again. But for reasons I have never understood, Minerva vouched for me and then proceeded, with annoying Gryffindor tenacity, to reinstate me back in the Potions classroom at school. (Honestly, does that woman have a Hufflepuff streak in her?)

I reacquainted myself with the current dunderheads, kept tabs on a few of the former ones, and generally settled back into life at Hogwarts. For five years I had nothing more pressing to worry about than my classes - provided, of course, that I didn’t leave the relative safety of the school. And then Hermione Granger snuck back into my classroom and proceeded to shake up my world again.

Although I would never admit it to her, I had followed her professional work. It was understandable, after all, as she was apprenticed to my own Potions Master. Professionally, I suppose, we are siblings in that respect. Or perhaps uncle and niece, as I had no small part in her training as well. You would never catch me saying it aloud, but I was impressed with the work she did as an apprentice, and the research she was just starting at that time was nothing short of brilliant.

I knew little of her beyond her work, though I had, of course, heard about Charlie Weasley’s murder. So I was surprised when she walked into my classroom that night, and I was shocked by her request. Although in retrospect, I perhaps should not have been. Her altered appearance and tired demeanor were enough to tell me just what sort of state she was in. But it was her eyes that really hit me - I expected to see the bright, intelligent eyes that followed my every move in the classroom for seven years, the wide disbelieving eyes when I handed her Master van Drechter’s acceptance, the shining eyes of her wedding photo. Instead I saw a pale reflection of what they should have been. For years I have been haunted by those defeated, lifeless brown eyes.

I am not, by nature, a sentimental man; but I have to admit that the memory of her eyes influenced my later actions.

I made the Binding Potion for her. It was not illegal, after all, and she convinced me that she had thoroughly thought about her actions. I brewed the potion and watched her bravely (how else? Gryffindor that she is) swallow the whole thing down. I watched the terror in her eyes as she felt the magic within her quiet. I watched, and could not help but feel a slight pang of hurt and regret when the terror changed to relief. She had obviously found her peace at last.

Part of me was moved to speak out, to implore her to stay, to change her mind. But I am not given to whims, nor to relinquishing rational thought to emotions. I said nothing and let her go.

But that pang has never quite left me. I have felt it nearly every day for the last five years. It has been hard, knowing that I deprived this world of one of its most promising minds. Knowing that I alone hold the key to her magic. But I have borne difficult knowledge many times before.

And then a letter arrived to change everything. My Master - our Master van Drechter was dying. Cancer, he said. Cancer of the lungs, slowly eating him away from the inside. There was no wizardly cure, no charm or potion to banish the malignant tumors. And Muggle treatments were out of the question for a man his age.

The news threw me into a bleak despair that I had not felt for over a decade, since another one of my mentors died because of me. I might not be killing our Master with my own hand, but if I did nothing to try to heal him I knew I would feel the same guilt.

I had to try to do something to help Master van Drechter, and I knew of only one person who might be able to help me.

And so I found myself one evening knocking on the door of her flat.

She opened the door and we stood there staring at each other for a moment. She looked better than the last time I had seen her. Older, of course, and more at peace with the world. But she carried about her the distracted air of someone who is never quite all in the present, as if she is always looking over your shoulder at a time or place that only she can see.

To my embarrassment, she snapped out of the trance first.

"P-Professor Snape? What on earth are you doing here?"

"As you said to me five years ago, I need your help."

"You need my help? Forgive me, but I never knew you to joke before, Professor," she laughed, and it sounded almost like a wine glass shattering.

"Nor am I now, Ms. Granger. May I come in?"

Her eyes narrowed and she studied me for a long moment. Whatever she was looking for, she must have found, because she stood aside and gestured to the small, tidy living room. "Please, have a seat. Would you like something to drink?"

"I am hardly here for a social call, Ms. Granger. As I said before, I need your help."

She let that comment pass. "How did you find me?" she asked after a pause.

"I, ah, well, there aren’t that many Hermione Grangers in the London telephone directory," I replied, hoping to sound somewhat contrite. It wouldn’t do for her to think I was stalking her. "Or Hermione Weasleys," I added as an after thought.

She gave me a funny look for a moment and then broke out laughing - not the false, brittle laugh of before, but a true belly laugh that touched her eyes.

"I wasn’t sure which name you had chosen to use," I said somewhat defensively. I hate it when people laugh at me.

She shook her head. "It’s not that," she replied when she had calmed. "I was expecting to hear something much more, well, magical. Like a tracking charm, or some connection because you made the Binding Potion for me. I didn’t expect to hear something so. . . so prosaic from you." Her eyes narrowed. "But then, I suppose you understand something about living in both worlds, don’t you?"

I shrugged noncommittally. That she was aware of my half-blood status did not particularly surprise me, but neither was I going to make a larger issue of it.

"So you have trekked into Muggle London, looked me up in the ‘phone directory to say you need my help. Why?"

Ah yes. The 64,000 galleon question. Why had I come to her, to ask the help of a former student? Not for my own sake, certainly. Merely for a man who had influenced both our lives greatly. And so I told her.

She listened attentively, perhaps out of habit, but she kept her own feelings closely guarded. There was a brief pause when I had finished my short tale as she collected her thoughts.

"I am terribly sorry to hear this, and I am glad you have told me. But I still do not see why you require my help. I am no Healer, I can’t even perform the simplest magic any more. You know that. What could I possibly help you with?"

Exasperated, I tried to curb my temper. Surely she was not being this dense on purpose - the Hermione Granger I had known had as little use for stupidity as I did.

"Do you not recall," I asked through gritted teeth, "the research you were undertaking just after you completed your apprenticeship?"

Her eyes widened and at last I had her full attention. "Oh. That research."

"Yes, that research, Ms. Granger. That is why I need your help - I need you and your damnably capable mind to continue working on bridging the gap between Muggle and Wizarding medicine. Chemotherapy and radiation treatments might send the cancer into remission, but for a man his age the side effects would kill him as fast as the tumors. But surely those same principles can be applied safely with magic. The suspension liquid you were working on might be the key."

She looked at me sadly. "You seem to understand that research better than I do myself, Professor. I am five years removed from it, five years out of practice. I can hardly drop my life here and come back to work with you, even if I had my magic back." The last was said with such longing in her voice that I was nearly moved to reach out to her. I refrained.

I could sense her starting to waver, though, to at least entertain the idea. So I swallowed my pride - and the rest of my impatience along with it - and pulled out a small vial I had carried with me against just such an eventuality. Then I did something I never thought I could bring myself to do. I begged.

"Please, Ms. Granger. I am asking not for myself, but for the sake of a man who taught us both so much." I handed her the vial. "That is the Unbinding Potion. If you choose to take it, you know where to find me."

And so I left her, sitting in her living room, turning the vial of shimmering liquid over and over and over again in her hands.

V. Fate

I seem to be fated to watch. I watched my younger siblings growing up, I watched everyone around me at school. I watched for the snitch, as I flew high above the pitch. I watched dragons in Romania, and then I came back and watched a war ravage my world. I watched my little brother’s best friend grow from a little know-it-all into a beautiful woman who I would ask to be my wife. And then I watched a small bundle smash through the window of our flat and explode into a ball of flame that consumed everything in sight, including me.

And yet still I watch. I am not a ghost, exactly. More of an awareness. I am aware of the world around me, but I cannot influence it. I can communicate with other ghosts, but not with the living. I have become. . . a watcher. I watch dispassionately and unobtrusively. I watch my widow.

I watched as Hermione collapsed, crying, into Ron’s arms, as our building burned to the ground. I watched her pull her self together and try to continue on with her life, showing the world a strong exterior, even as she was breaking in side. I watched her fling every breakable object she could get her hands on against the wall and then crumple into a sobbing pile on the floor, leaving bloody handprints on the wall and her face.

I watched her steal into Hogwarts and ask Snape to bind her power. I watched him carefully - oh so carefully - make the potion and give it to her with such regret that I found myself wishing I could reach out and comfort him. I watched Hermione drink it down and I felt a pang of regret myself, believing that my watch over her was now at an end.

But the universe, it seemed, was not done with me yet. I continued to watch my lifetime love and marveled as she went about her Muggle existence. I watched as she never complained, never allowed herself to express one moment of regret, even in the darkness of her own bedroom. I watched, too, as a core of sadness took hold of her and slowly began growing.

I watched Hermione’s surprise when Snape found his way back into her life. I watched his news of their Potion Master’s illness latch onto that core of sadness and threaten to overwhelm her. I then watched as he handed her a second chance, bottled in a small vial.

I watched her cling to that shimmering vial like a lifeline, only to resolutely set it aside. I watched her repeat this daily, for almost a week, until her resolve finally crumpled. I watched her take her wand out of the box in which it had been so lovingly stored, and drink down the potion in one fluid motion.

I watched her body convulse and shudder, and the life come back into her eyes. The smile on her face as she carefully levitated a pillow was broader than anything I had seen since our wedding day. I watched her methodically work through seven years of schooling, meticulous in retraining herself. Only when she was satisfied with her accomplishments did she dare to Apparate.

I watched her sneak into Hogwarts for a second time, and swear Snape to absolute secrecy. None but he must know she was back, she said. She had come back for Master van Drechter’s sake alone, and had not decided what she was going to do in the long run.

Then I watched them dive headlong into their quest to save their Master’s life; dive headlong into it as only kindred spirits could. Oh there were certainly a number of fights and temper tantrums thrown - each is as stubborn as the other - but they never stayed mad for long. They were both far too aware of the invisible clock, ticking away at life. Hermione’s subdued personality and single-minded focus on the research endeared her to Snape; for his part, Snape curbed his tongue (mostly), and his obvious respect for her and care for their Master endeared him to Hermione. I watched my widow slowly fall in love with another man.

I watched them for nearly six months, as they worked night, weekends, every minute they could spare. I watched their research progress, through failures and breakthroughs and more failures. I watched and hoped with them until at last, at last! they seemed to have something that might work.

So of course, I watched as an owl chose that moment to deliver a short missive, tied with a black ribbon. I watched as Hermione read it, turned white and held it out with trembling hands. I watched Snape brush it aside and shatter an empty beaker against the wall in frustration.

Then I watched Hermione collapsed into a sobbing heap on the floor for the third time. This time it was Snape who scooped her up and held her in his lap as she cried and cried over the perfidy of fate. I watched but I did not feel any jealousy - merely a faint sense of wanting to comfort them both, of wanting to envelope them in warmth and protection.

I watched as they then picked themselves up and resolutely continued their work, in silence now. Words were no long necessary, and they both knew that the most fitting memorial they could give to their Master was to complete the work they had started on his behalf.

I watched them as they worked another six months, at a less frenetic pace but with no less intensity. The joy and urgency of their work was gone now, replaced by love and devotion, to each other and their departed Master. And then it was done. I watched as they labeled the last set of bottles being sent off to St. Mungo’s for clinical trials. I watched Hermione steadfastly refuse to claim any credit for their discovery.

And then I watched her turn her back on the Wizarding world for a second time. There was too much pain, she insisted. Too many people had died. She had only stayed around to finish their potion, as a tribute to Master van Drechter. She wanted another Binding Potion, please, and yes she knew the implications. I watched Snape look at her with despair in his eyes, but he merely asked if she was sure.

I watched him make the potion again, taking even more care than he had the first time. I watched him hand it to Hermione, and close his eyes. Because his eyes were closed, he did not see the anguish on his lover’s face. Because his eyes were closed, he knew nothing except the wet trickle of tears down his cheeks.

Then I watched Hermione, tears of her own dripping down her face, resolutely walk out the door and away from the two men she had ever loved.


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