A/N: Whew! Uploading fifty chapters is going to be a pain!
Anti-Litigation Charm: I do not own.
The rest of the week progressed much better than the first two days had. By Friday, Hermione had become a part of the Marauders' routine, and they waited for her at the bottom of the girls' staircase every morning, where the four of them would then walk down to breakfast. Mary would sometimes be ready in time to join Hermione, and the six of them would trudge down to the Great Hall. Hermione would sit between Mary and Remus, and somehow, some way, James would find a way to cajole Lily into sitting beside him.
Classes went well; it was only when Hermione had taken her seat in Arithmancy that afternoon after lunch that trouble arose once again.
It had to be a cruel joke of Fate, Hermione thought wildly, as she realized that the boy sitting next to her was the same one who she would be serving detention with that night. It wasn't her fault; Hermione had been forced to find a seat near the front that wasn't taken, and this was the closest she could find. She hadn't realized that the empty chair next to it, the last on its row, was already occupied. There was simply no way she could have known. But when Snape had finished explaining his previous absence to the teacher—Professor Vector merely nodded and waved him to his seat—he shot her a glare before he slumped into the seat next to her.
"What are you doing here?" he hissed out of the corner of his mouth as he reached into his bag to pull out some parchment and quills, his eyes locked on Professor Vector as she began writing a complex Arithmantic equation on the board.
Hermione gritted her teeth. "I'm not here for the express purpose of being a thorn in your side. I assure you, I had no idea you were in this class or I might have possibly reconsidered signing up for it."
He slammed his quill onto the desk, shot her a final glare, and began copying down the notes Professor Vector was now explaining on the blackboard. "Just don't bother me," he hissed, and then proceeded to ignore her entirely.
That suited Hermione just fine. Once Professor Vector had finished her explanation, she moved to the other side of the blackboard and began the fifth-year lesson while the sixth-years in the room began copying down the problems she'd written underneath the equation she'd written down at the start of class. Hermione couldn't help noting that Snape was working on the sixth-year problems—which meant that, conclusively, Snape was only one year ahead of her in this timeline.
It was a bizarre revelation.
Hermione did not speak to him throughout class, and she did not bother him. He, in turn, studiously acted as though she did not exist. As soon as Vector had finished the fifth-year lecture and assigned the problems, she bent her head down to work, and didn't stop until the bell rang to signal the end of class.
"See you in detention," she told him as she hoisted her bag over her shoulder.
He snarled something at her under his breath that she pretended not to hear, and left.
The common room was rather boistrous that evening. Alice—one of Hermione's new dormmates— managed to convince Hermione and Mary to join her for a game of Gobstones, while the Marauders enjoyed a game of Exploding Snap. Several other students were lounging around, laughing and talking, and Hermione might have felt it was a normal day if it were not for the fact that she knew less than half these people.
And there was a distinct lack of fireworks and Canary Creams. They had become quite commonplace in Hogwarts as of late, as far as Hermione's timeline was concerned. The Weasley twins had seen to that.
Hermione was in the middle of her third game of gobstones when she checked her watch, and apologized to her friends, explaining she had a detention to keep.
"Detention?" Alice asked, bewildered. "Whatever for?"
Hermione winced. "Mary and I were ambushed in the dungeons by a couple of Slytherins, and we all wound up in detention."
"Shoot. Go on, then. I'll get Frank to take your stones." Alice leaned back in the direction of a boy with short, curly brown hair was sitting on the couch and called, "Frank!" The boy's head whipped around in her direction. "You're up!"
Frank Longbottom immediately threw the book he'd been reading to the ground and was in Hermione's seat in an instant, flashing her an apologetic grin as she stood up to leave.
Hermione grabbed her bag and departed.
She arrived at the Potions classroom and was bid to enter by Professor Slughorn, who happily invited her in.
"Good evening, Miss Granger," he said genially, bustling over to one of the tables where he had set an array of ingredients out. "You'll be brewing some potions for Madam Pomfrey this evening. Severus should be here any moment now—ah, speak of the devil!" Slughorn said, laughing and wagging his finger as the hook-nosed sixth-year slipped inside, shutting the door behind him. He clapped his hands together as Snape slipped into one of the seats at the table, and Hermione had no choice but to take the one next to him, though she scooted it away from him as far as possible without it being blatantly obvious. "Now that you're both here, we can get right down to work. Which one of you has ever successfully brewed a draught of Dreamless Sleep?"
Snape sighed and half-heartedly raised a hand. Hermione did the same.
"Excellent! That is what you will be doing tonight." Slughorn gestured at the ingredients laid out. "I've set up everything you will need. I just need a set of talented hands and watchful eyes to do the job. I trust you two will work together just fine?" Hermione and Snape gave him identical looks of disbelief which Slughorn mistakenly interpreted for acquiscence, for he clapped his hands together and exclaimed, "Splendid! Well then, I shall be in my office if you need anything."
As soon as the door shut behind him, Hermione glanced down at the table, and then at Snape.
"He doesn't supervise detentions personally?" She had to ask. She was just about ready to explode with curiosity. She had never met a teacher who left the students to their own devices in such a manner.
"If he doesn't think they'll destroy the classroom," Snape replied shortly, standing up and reaching for the silver knife at his end of the table. He summoned his copy of Advanced Potion-Making in one hand and began chopping up dandelion roots with the other in precise, quick strokes.
Hermione hesitated, watching him work, and then asked timidly, "Do you mind sharing your book while we work? I haven't got a copy of the instructions in front of me."
Snape turned to glare at her. "Why not?"
"Because even though I've made Dreamless Sleep before, I don't have the instructions in front of me, and I don't have it memorized," Hermione responded, just a bit testily.
Snape shoved the book in her direction, and Hermione skimmed the first sentence over quickly before she pulled out her wand. She filled her cauldron with water and lit a fire underneath it and then set to work chopping dandelion roots in silence. She poured them in, and then returned to the instructions, only to find that they were barely legible; the margins were almost completely filled with ink. It was her turn to glare at him.
"What's this stuff you've written in here?" she said, trying to make out the printed text amidst the spiky black scrawl doing it's damndest to obscure it. "I can't even read it."
"If you don't want it, give it back," Snape said nastily.
"Why are you so difficult?" Hermione snapped back, slamming her hand down on the table. "I haven't done a single thing to you, and the first time I laid my eyes on you, you had your wand drawn on me. You're so bloody damn difficult—hell, even your bloody potions book is damned difficult! I can't even read it!"
She must have looked on the verge of emotional breakdown, for Snape seemed to take enough pity on her to answer.
"Seven drops of foxglove extract," Snape said tersely, his eyes focused solely on his cauldron. He didn't look at her. "Stir until the potion turns milk-white, and then add crushed aconite petals."
Hermione eyed him suspiciously, but vaguely remembered the instructions he had just rattled off, and moved to do as he had said. She highly doubted he would trick her into exploding or ruining her potion; he was right next to her, which meant any explosion would likely reach him, and any retaliation could be done the instant the manipulation was realized. She added the crushed aconite petals, and then threw him a dirty look before she squinted at the instructions in the book, trying to make sense of them.
Snape sighed; it was one of long-suffering, and it irritated Hermione to no end. "You add the fluxweed next, and then bank the fire to let it cool—stir counter-clockwise while you wait for it to stop simmering."
"That's not what's written here," Hermione said slowly.
Snape grunted. "If you have a problem with the way I do things, you can try to follow the instructions of that grossly-outdated textbook and see where that gets you."
He sounded so much like Professor Snape, it was alarming. The dictatorial tone was unmistakable. Nevertheless, Hermione's gut feeling told her to listen to him, and she did as he instructed.
It continued on that vein for quite some time; Snape would recite the instructions for her, and Hermione would follow them to the letter. Little else passed between them. Hermione was not inclined to poke a sleeping dragon more than was strictly necessary while she was fussed with something else. It was only when she finally took a step back to let her potion cool down before being decanted that she found an opportunity for actual conversation.
She could have said any number of things. She could have made a crack about his nose, commented on his greasy hair, or an unwelcome observation about his personality.
Instead, in an attempt to extend an olive branch to him, she said, "You're really good at potions."
He gave her a disdainful sneer. "I'm not going to do your homework for you."
There was little else he could have said that would have had Hermione so outraged. She gaped at him for a moment, before her hands fisted themselves at her sides, clenching so tightly that her knuckles had turned white. "That's something I would never ask," she gritted.
He looked at her through narrowed eyes. "Everyone wants something, Granger."
"I would never allow anyone else to do my work for me!" Hermione cried, slamming her hands on the desk. "Everything I do is solely by my own effort!"
"Doubtful," Snape said, twirling his wand between his fingers. "As I said, everyone wants something— power, prestige, or adulation. You are no exception."
Hermione's hands gripped the jar of leeches sitting on the table.
"For Merlin's sake!" Hermione was ready to explode. This was just too much to take. "All I did was compliment you! I told you that you were good at potions, because it's true! Not because I wanted you to start doing my Potions homework for me!"
"Naturally, you'd say that—"
Hermione at once considered chucking the jar of leeches at him, irritated beyond measure by the sneering drawl in his voice, but before she could convince herself to rethink such thoughts, her hand had left the jar and in a moment of anger and impulse, she hit him.
There was a moment of stunned silence; Snape brought a hand up to feel his cheek, which had been left with a reddened imprint of Hermione's hand, and then his gaze turned murderous. He opened his mouth to speak, possibly even to retaliate in kind, but Hermione beat him to it.
"You are an utter git." Hermione pulled her bag onto her shoulder, not even bothering to decant her potion first. "An utter, slimy git, and I wonder why I even tried."
She was out the door before he could issue a response. Which was probably a good thing; as soon as the door shut behind her, the jar of leeches hurtled through the air and shattered; the remains of pickled leeches dribbled down the wood, and was summarily scourgified before it reached the floor.
Hermione commiserated over the results of her detention with Remus the next day, who was rather sympathetic. His detention, which involved the boring and unproductive task of writing lines, was much more uneventful, and he was much more interested in listening to Hermione's complaints about her detention. James and Sirius were sniggering over breakfast about the auto-writing charms they had applied to their chalk so that they could sneak notes to each other through the Floo, and Hermione could only wonder how long it would take for the teachers to figure out this bit of mischief and they would be forced to come up with another.
She privately wondered just how badly she was going to pay for hitting Snape. Was he going to have his revenge now, possibly even enlist the help of his housemates, or was he going to enact his revenge when her eleven-year-old self showed up in his classroom for the first time? She actually felt guilty for doing it, but at the same time, it had been oddly satisfying. But now there was the real possibility that she might have just painted a red target on herself.
Harry and Ron would have been proud, she was sorry to say.
The next Monday, teachers finally began to assign review work, and Hermione could be found in the library at a table with her notes and several books spread out. A table for four was completely taken up by the sheer mass of papers Hermione was trying to study at once. Neither the Marauders nor any of her newfound friends were capable of dislodging her, and Sirius snuck food into the library for her. She took bites of ham sandwich when Madam Pince wasn't lurking about, and cleaned up the crumbs before she left.
She had Arithmancy again that evening, and it was with an air of resignation that she took her seat and pulled out parchment for note-taking. Snape passed by her without a word, and Hermione might have thought he was planning on ignoring her entirely if it weren't for the odd looks he sent her way when he thought she wasn't paying attention.
Hermione found his behavior entirely unnerving. She'd been expecting to be hit in the back with a jinx over the weekend, or to be called in by one of the professors for striking another student, and neither had happened. When class was over and she began packing up her bags, she wondered if Snape was planning on ambushing her. They were usually the last ones out, and there would be nothing to stop him from hexing her on the way to dinner.
She waited for him to leave first, and then followed him. She made the trip down to the Great Hall rather uneventfully, and once again took her seat between Mary and Remus. She was halfway through dinner when Sirius, sitting across from Hermione, set down his forkfull of shepherd pie to glare at the space above her shoulder.
"Greasy git," he said, before stuffing the food into his mouth. Hermione was distinctly reminded of Ron as he spoke without swallowing first. "What's Snivellus staring at you for, Hermione?"
James, Remus, and Peter all lifted their heads to look up at her.
Hermione slowly turned around and scanned the Slytherin table. It took a moment for her to identify Snape among the crowd of green and black-clad students, but sure enough, when her eyes landed on him, it was clear he was watching her. When their eyes locked, though, he glared at her just a moment longer and then quickly looked away.
"Detention went badly," she replied honestly. "He was being a git. Don't worry about it."
Sirius was pointing his fork at the Slytherin table. "Want us to hex him for you?"
"Please don't," Hermione said, turning back to her food. "I'd rather you didn't. It won't help anything, and it was partly my fault to begin with."
"I can get him tomorrow, we have Potions together and I can hex him while his back is turned—"
"You are no fun," Sirius said, giving her a dirty look that Hermione knew was only in jest. He elbowed James and pointed at Remus. "Look at the goody-two shoes here. See what happens when you leave them alone for too long? They multiply like rabbit slippers left under the bed."
James nearly choked on his pumpkin juice.
Hermione and Remus rolled their eyes, exchanged glances of amusement and mild annoyance, and resumed eating. As soon as Hermione was done, she excused herself, begging off to the library for more review.
"Don't stay there for too long," Sirius called to her retreating back. "You'll rot your brains."
The table errupted with laughter, and finding something oddly funny about Sirius's remark—perhaps because it was something that sounded so very much like Ron, which seemed to ease the pain in her chest—Hermione left the Great Hall smiling.
For the rest of the week, she could be found studying herself into a stupor in the library after dinner. There would be a trip to Hogsmeade that weekend, which Hermione had manage to procure permission to visit on the basis that she was an orphan and therefore had no guardians to speak of to sign a permision slip—followed by the argument that she had already been given permission in her own timeline. McGonagall relented, signing the permission slip herself, and Hermione now had plans to join the Marauders on the trip to Hogsmeade. It was possibly the only time in living memory that Professor McGonagall would have bent the rules for a student.
Until then, she was hunched over the notes she had borrowed, studying in the library until Madam Pince informed her that it was time to leave.
By now, Hermione was started to get irritated with fate. Fate had been playing quite a few cruel jokes on her over the last two weeks, and by the end of her second Friday in this new timeline, she was getting quite fed up with it. She was not the only student who used the library, by far. She was not even the only student who sat in this area of the library to do work. And she was not the only student who made use of the library after dinner.
Why, then, was Snape always sitting in one of the chairs in her line of sight? He appeared to be studying, and perhaps he was, but Hermione felt like a mouse waiting to be swooped upon by a hawk. She was still waiting for him to enact some form of revenge, and as none had come her way quite yet, she was on her guard. He had not said a single word to her all week. Not even in Arithmancy; though Hermione had done her best to appear as though she were ignoring him, it was impossible not to pay attention to someone you were expecting payback from. It followed then that it was also impossible to not notice the covert, sullen looks in your direction.
Bending her head back down over her book, she didn't look up again until a shadow cast itself over her book, and she turned around and looked up. Snape was towering over her, something that Hermione found both intimidating and annoying, and they stared at each other for a single long moment before Snape broke the silence.
"Are you ever going to return any of those books before exams start?" he asked stiffly, gesturing at the library books Hermione had stacked at one corner of the table.
Hermione opened her mouth, and then shut it, unsure of what to say. She had been on edge all week, thinking he was waiting for an opportunity for an ambush, and all he wanted were her books?
She found her voice a moment later.
"I don't plan to," she replied honestly. "Which one do you need?"
"Advanced Transfiguration of Transition Metals," he said, glancing over at the book in question. "I haven't a clue why you'd have it out to begin with; you're not in the class for that."
"It's much more thorough about the theories behind why certain objects are comparatively more easily transfigured than any year-assigned alternatives I can find," Hermione replied, pulling the book in question out of the stack and thumbing through it. She stopped flipping the pages, and looked up at him, her expression wary. "I need it."
It was odd how little difference there seemed to be between Snape as a teenager and a Snape as an adult, despite a roughly twenty-year age difference. His nostrils flared at this, a sure sign of brewing anger, and Hermione recognized the curling of his lip as an additional omen of ill-ease.
"Why do you need it?" Hermione pressed, setting the book back down. "McGonagall tells you everything you need in class. Why don't you have your notes?"
Snape visible stiffened, and he gave her a glare that Hermione felt was rather undeserved, and she told him so. "Don't look at me like that! I haven't done anything!"
"Your friend," Snape sneered, "saw fit to steal my Transfiguration notes last week. I haven't found anyone willing to let me copy their notes for free."
"Sirius?" Hermione asked, a sinking feeling in her stomach as she realized she might have an idea of exactly what had happened to Snape's Transfiguration notes. A trip into the common room fire on a moody Tuesday night was her best guess.
"Right in one."
Hermione glanced down at the book in her hands. "Give me until tomorrow to see if I can dig up the notes you need. Otherwise, we'll have to share it."
"Where do you expect to find a complete set of last week's advanced Transfiguration notes?"
"I'll ask one of my housemates," Hermione said, instantly thinking of Lily. "They might be willing to give me a copy."
"Fine." It was a sullen concession. "Until then, let me borrow it so that I can actually get my homework done."
"You'll give it back to me by tomorrow?" Hermione pressed, standing up with the book held closely to her chest.
He glared at her, and then looked away and sighed. "Yes."
"Here." Hermione thrust the book at him. He looked at her in surprise and took it. "And next time you need to borrow a book, don't spend a week stalking me to see if I return it on my own. Chances are I probably won't."
He gave her an odd look, glanced down at the mess of notes taking over her table, and then silently left with his prize.
When Hermione sat back down in her seat, it was accompanied with a sigh of relief.
"Advanced Transfiguration notes from last week?" Lily repeated, looking surprised. "Whatever do you need them for?"
"A friend of mine lost his," Hermione replied vaguely, trying to scourgify the ink off her fingers. She looked up at the Head Girl, trying to ignore the fact that her eyes were green—the exact same shade of green as Harry's. "Please, Lily. I just need a copy."
To her surprise, Lily laughed and simply pulled out her Transfiguration notes from her bag. "Alright, Hermione. If you insist." A tap of her wand, and a double was made. She held them out to Hermione, who took them, flashing her a thankful smile before sticking them into her bag.
"By the way," Lily said, stopping Hermione before she could leave. "I notice you've been hanging out quite a bit with James and his friends."
Hermione paused. Was Lily jealous? James hardly ever paid any attention to her; he only ever had eyes for Lily. Even a blind fool could see that.
But Lily was smiling. "I know I'm not around often enough, but does James ever talk about me?"
Hermione almost burst into laughter. "Lily, you're all James ever talks about." Seeing the gratified look on Lily's face, she elaborated, "When it's not Quidditch, it's you, and you're the subject of conversation more often than not. He is utterly besotted with you."
Lily was practically preening. "Thank you, Hermione." Hermione was about to leave, when she heard Lily sigh. "You know," she mused, setting down her quill. "I could take him up on his offer if he would just stop hexing people at random in the corridors. He's a handsome boy, but he is such an arrogant toerag! I can't understand it." She glanced sideways at Hermione. "I know he's your friend, but honestly, you wouldn't believe just how trigger-happy he is with that wand."
"Oh, I know," Hermione agreed with a nod, recalling just how quick James and Sirius had been at pulling their wands out in the dungeon, when Hermione and Mary had been ambushed. "Self-defense is one thing, but just hexing people for the fun of it…"
Hermione left, feeling much lighter on her feet. It was only once she had left the common room that she realized she had absolutely no idea where Snape was. She checked the library first, and then trudged down to the Great Hall to see if he was still at lunch. Finding him absent still, she let out a sigh and grugingly began making her way down to the dungeons.
She passed the Potions classroom, poking her head in for just a moment to see if he was perhaps using the classroom, and then wavered for a moment, torn between going down to the dungeons to knock on the Slytherin common room door or find the Head of House, before making the decision to tread safely and knocked on Slughorn's office door.
There was a moment of silence, and then Slughorn called, "Come in!"
Hermione stepped in and closed the door behind her. She took a moment to take Slughorn's office in; this was the same office Snape himself would preside over one day, but it was much more colorful than she remembered. It was almost cozy, with the touches Slughorn had put in. It was clear to Hermione that the wizard enjoyed luxury, for the walls were covered in purple and silver hangings, and he had fashioned a rug to the floor that Hermione suspected he either took with him when he retired or Snape later removed. On the shelf that Hermione had last seen stacked with bottles of preserved and pickled creatures, it was instead decorated with picture frames. On the corner of one self, she saw several boxes of crystalized pineapple.
"Good afternoon, Professor," she said, setting her bag down on his desk. "I was wondering if I could ask a favor?"
"Of course, of course…" Slughorn set aside the grading he'd been doing to give her his full attention. "How can I help you, Miss Granger?"
"I have some notes for Severus Snape," Hermione explained, pulling out the notes Lily had copied for her. She set it down on Slughorn's desk. "I haven't been able to find him, and until I could get him the notes, he was borrowing one of my library books. Could you give this to him the next time you see him and tell him I want my book back?"
"Of course," Slughorn beamed, taking a look at the notes. He scanned them. "Ah, this is Miss Evans' handwriting, if I'm not mistaken. Severus told me Sirius Black had stolen his notes, but alas, as I could not prove it, there was nothing to be done for it. Miss Evans takes excellent notes. I'm sure Severus will be quite pleased to return your book."
Hermione considered confessing to him that she had seen what had happened to the notes, but decided against it. Snape had the notes he needed, and putting Sirius in detention, while he would most certainly deserve it, would probably just antagonize him into having another go at the Slytherin. Not to mention that she was not all that sympathetic toward Snape to begin with; he was a complete and utter git, in her opinion, and she had no intention of risking her friendship with the Marauders for him any more than she would have risked her friendship with Harry and Ron for Draco Malfoy.
"Thank you, sir," she replied graciously.
"On another note, Miss Granger," Slughorn said genially, "I have been meaning to ask you if you are free this evening. I hold little informal suppers for my star students every now and then, and we're having another tonight at six o'clock. It would please me very much if you were to attend."
Hermione blinked in surprise at this, but smiled nonetheless. An opportunity to meet Slughorn's best students was a good one to make friends with people who shared common academic interests with her. She actually thought it was quite a brilliant idea, really.
She had discovered quickly enough that Slughorn was a teacher she could genuinely grow to like. He was the Head of Slytherin, that was true, but Hermione suspected he was in Slytherin because he was ambitious and had a burning desire to be well-connected, rather than because he was a power-hungry toerag. He was the kind of person Hermione thought could organize an entire community into action without having to do the manual labor himself. She had pegged him as the kind of person who liked to give others leg-ups in life and then reap small rewards in return.
The boxes of crystalized pineapple on his shelf suggested this rather strongly.
"I'd love to, sir."
"Excellent!" Slughorn beamed. "In that case, Miss Granger, I look forward to seeing you next Saturday." He patted the notes Hermione had given him. "And I'll be sure to give these to Severus with special note of your book."
"Thank you, Professor," Hermione said, smiling happily now as she picked up her bag to leave.
Hermione walked down to Hogsmeade with Mary and the Marauders, determined to get some new clothes and supplies. She had asked James if he would be willing to loan her some money, intending to pay him back by getting a summer job, only to have him wave it off and tell her to keep it.
"Look, you need some new robes," he said, glancing at Hermione's, which she had been forced to clean every other day because she didn't have a spare set. She looked rather shabby, not unlike the way Remus had as a professor in her third year. "And some new school stuff. Weren't you telling Moony earlier that you were almost out of quills?"
"Then what are friends for?" he asked, giving Hermione a look that reminded her so much of Harry. He held out a bag of galleons that he had previously kept stashed under his bed. "Take it."
Peter and Mary begged off from the group to go to Madam Puddifoots, and James and Sirius made an immediate beeline to Zonko's, waving at Remus and Hermione to catch up with them at the Three Broomsticks later. Remus offered to accompany her, and the two set off down the street, chattering amiably.
Hermione stopped by Madam Malkin's, and Remus helped her pick out two new sets of robes for school. He laughed as Hermione twirled about in one of them, relishing in the comfort the new robes afforded, and Hermione also bought a pair of jeans and a red jumper that she could wear on the weekeneds while her robes were being cleaned. It was a rather Mugglish thing to do, since most of the students in this time period preferred to simply wear an extra set of robes, but Hermione wanted to go with what was familiar. She was actually quite lucky that the clothing store in Hogsmeade even catered to Muggle-borns. She was used to wearing Muggle clothes on the weekend, and old habits died hard. She bought an extra pair of undergarments to go along with it, stuffing them at the bottom of her bag, and the two stopped by Scrivenshafts for additional parchment, ink, and quills before heading off to the Three Broomsticks.
Hermione felt radiant and lighthearted. The fresh air and a few hours outside of the castle was doing her a world of good. She was surrounded by people who included her in a circle of close friends, and school would soon be over for the summer, giving Hermione time to scratch out a position in this new world that she could fit in.
Her joyous excitement seemed to be contagious; Remus looked carefree and had a new spring in his step. When she asked about what was making him so happy, he pointedly replied, "You." Seeing the look on her face—caught unawares and unsure of what to say—he elaborated quickly, and with sincerity, "You were so unhappy when you first arrived, and it's nice to see that you know how to smile."
Hermione flashed a brilliant smile at him, as she inwardly agreed with his sentiments. It was difficult to forget her breakdown, and she now felt rather distantly removed from the conditions that had caused it. She was still stuck in this timeline—and truth to be told, she probably would be for a good, long while. But she no longer felt completely lost; she had a better understanding of this strange new world she was in now, and seeing people from her future no longer caused her to feel hopelessly confunded. There was still that place in her heart that made her nauseaus with homesickness, but the pain was beginning to fade.
Hermione and Remus joined everyone else at The Three Broomsticks, where she discovered that while Madam Rosmerta had been quite pretty in Hermione's time, she was a dashingly beautiful barmaid in the Marauders'; young and with intelligent eyes on a handsome face. Judging her to be in her mid-twenties, Hermione nevertheless placed an order of butterbeer with the rest and sat back to listen to the chatter.
"I saw Snivellus in the corridors earlier today," Sirius said in between sips of his firewhiskey. "I tried to hex him while his back was turn, but the git must have known I was there—"
Hermione couldn't take it any longer. She slammed her butterbeer down on the table.
"For gods' sake, Sirius!" she exclaimed. "Can't you go one day without trying to hex someone?"
"No," Sirius said, utterly unapologetic.
"Snivellus's a special case," James said with a sagely nod, taking another sip of his drink.
"About that," Hermione said with a frown, "I have reason to believe one of you stole his Transfiguration notes."
Remus, who had been listening quietly, turned to give his two best friends a pointed stare. James and Sirius both instantly looked guilty, and the fact that they tried not to show it only made it more blatantly obvious. Sirius rallied first.
"Are you going to turn us in to McGonagall?"
"No," Hermione said, swirling her butterbeer around in her cup. Truth to be told, she didn't want either of them to end up in detention because of her. They both had so little time left that the thought of forcing them to waste precious hours in a classroom writing lines seemed horribly cruel to her. In twenty years, James and his wife would be long dead, their son an unwanted orphan, and Sirius would be stuck in a moldering old house, left to rot until the Ministry saw fit to exonerate him. "But I had to ask Lily for a copy of the notes you destroyed."
"Why'd you do that?" James demanded. "After we went through the trouble—"
"Because you shouldn't ruin others' academic futures with stupid pranks?" Hermione responded testily. "Possibly because if he didn't have those notes, I'd have to give him some of my library books."
"He could have gotten them somewhere else," Sirius said disgustedly.
"Not Advanced Transfiguration of Transition Metals," Hermione told him dryly. "There's only one copy in the Hogwarts Library, and up until yesterday, it was checked out in my name."
James and Sirius both looked mildly ashamed of themselves.
"I'd appreciate it if you'd stop antagonizing him so that he doesn't take it out on me, given that he knows you're my friends," Hermione said, taking a sip of her butterbeer. "But at the very least, please stop destroying his school things."
"Wait," James said, setting his butterbeer down. "Where did you say you got a copy of last week's NEWT Transfiguration notes?"
Hermione gave him a pointed look. "From Lily."
James' jaw dropped in horror. "No!"
"And that," Hermione said, leaning back in her chair, "is why it's to your advantage not to destroy his notes."
"No, no," James said, pulling his glasses off and rubbing his eyes with the heel of his palm. "You don't understand."
Sirius's face twisted into one of deep-seated disgust. "Snivellus and Lily were friends even before the got on the train, and they were best friends until last year, when she finally realized what an arse he was."
Hermione paused mid-way through her drink. Something about the information Sirius was telling her wasn't making sense. Professor Snape had been Lily Evan's best friend? The idea was grossly absurd. She tried to imagine what that would be like, and went further to try and imagine what Harry would say if someone told him that. The images her mind conjured were so ridiculous, she snorted, and sloshed her drink on herself. Coughing, she pulled out her wand to rid herself of the mess, and pushed her butterbeer aside.
"I wish I were," James said, glaring down at his butterbeer as though it were somehow responsible for this mess. "I also happen to know he liked her."
"Still likes her, mate," Sirius told him. "He's heads over heels for her. Slimy git," he added.
Hermione was staring at the both of them, gaping. In a way, this completely explained it. No wonder Harry's father and godfather hated Snape so much; if he had been close to Lily, who was admittedly a very beautiful and vivacious girl, there was no question about how jealous a boy like James would have gotten. And Sirius would have jumped right in. And given what she knew of James Potter—that other than the fact that he was good to people he considered friends, he was nothing but a bully—it would have explained why Snape hated them—and by extension, Harry—so much. And yet, the whole notion was completely absurd. She could not imagine Lily, gentle, strong, considerate Lily, putting up with someone as snarky and ill-tempered as Snape. It all sounded completely absurd.
Goodness gracious, Hermione thought, still trying to wrap her mind around what her friends had just said. What on earth have I run into?
If what they were telling her was true, it rather did give Hermione a much better perspective on Snape. It also made Hermione feel just a twinge of compassion and pity for him. If she was right, if James had not been the least bit interested in Lily, he might have gone through his school years with only the occasional hexing from the Marauders rather than dealing with their almost compulsive need to make him suffer.
It also made her understand James' motives, even though it only made her angrier at him than she already was. She was more grateful to James and Sirius than she would ever be able to express, given how kind and welcoming they had been to her, but it didn't stop her from thinking that at the age of seventeen, they were both a pair of pillocks.
She took a deep breath. Losing her temper here would do very little good. But she needed them to see things as they were.
"James, if Lily isn't Snape's friend anymore, then why do you care?" Hermione pressed, taking a tiny sip of what was left of her drink. "It's not like he's any threat to you if she doesn't like him."
"It doesn't matter," James said fiercely. "You can see it in his eyes—he still likes her. I hate the idea that he thinks of her that way, that he even—that he even—" he seemed almost at loss for words.
"James, if I went around hexing anyone and everyone every time I thought they were staring at my chest, I'm pretty sure you'd tell me to lay off," Hermione told him dryly. "You can't keep hexing someone just because they like Lily. Even if it's Snape."
James sat up straight. "If it was me, I could handle it. But Lily—"
"Lily is a wicked smart, talented, and sensible girl," Hermione reminded him, "who isn't interested in Snape. She likes you, James. But if you keep hexing people in the corridors, she's going to keep turning you down."
"How do you know?" Sirius demanded.
Hermione turned to look at him, but her answer was directed at James. "She told me," she said simply.
James sighed and ruffled his hair, looking rather put out, but Hermione could see the spark of hope in his eyes. "D'you think she'd go out with me if I promised her I'd stop hexing people for the fun of it?"
"I don't know," Hermione said honestly, draining the last of her butterbeer, "but all I can say is that actions speak louder than words."