A Rose by Any Other Name
Healer Pye studied the luminous diagnostic numbers that floated before him and then eyed his patient carefully.
"Not more than a year, I would think."
"Arthur Weasley was healed. How did you cure him?"
"I can't say precisely," Pye began, but then hesitated. "This is just a theory, but I think there was a connection between the support of his family and his recovery. I don't know if you ever discussed with . . . uh . . . Dumbledore . . . his theories on the magical power of love?" The look on his patient's face seemed to indicate that he hadn't put much stock in those discussions. "He did quite a bit of research on the subject, back in the day, down in the Department of Mysteries. You may want to look some of that up yourself. I'm sure the Ministry would give you access to those files. They belonged to Dumbledore which means, from what I understand, they now belong to you. I would like to see those records myself, if you're up to it one of these days."
"Sooner rather than later, I suppose?" The man's sarcasm was legendary.
"The sooner the better, obviously. Though I have no conclusive proof of what cured Mr. Weasley, I suspect there was a strong correlation between his healing and the love that his family had for him."
"That is definitely one remedy not available to me, Healer," said Severus Snape. The man's stoicism was just as fabled. "And I have precious little time with the research I already have to complete. As you know, time is running out for the other two victims of that curse."
"It is, but your efforts on that front made Horace Slughorn's final days much more bearable," replied Pye. His patient wearily pinched the bridge of his considerable nose. He stood.
"I will continue seeking a solution for them as long as I am able," he stated, then turned and swept from the room. Healer Pye watched him depart in a flourish of black robes.
Hermione Granger tightened her cloak against the late November cold and nervously walked past the apothecary for the fifth time. Although it was broad daylight, she always felt uneasy in this part of magical London. It was bad enough that the shop was located in the most dangerous part of Knockturn Alley, but even worse was the man she had to face within. The man from whom she had come to beg a favor.
There was no reason for him to grant her this request, none at all. He owed her nothing and after the life that fate had handed him, she doubted he would be in the frame of mind to even consider her petition. But she was desperate. With Dumbledore's death, Severus Snape was now the most knowledgeable and powerful wizard in the magical world. He was her last resort. She took a deep breath, screwed up her courage . . . and walked by for the sixth time.
She was beginning to attract attention. The grizzled wizard in tattered robes loitering near the alley entrance several shops down was starting to watch her a bit too closely and a pair of eyes in the second-hand clothing store across the street no longer averted when she glanced their way. Finally, deciding she would probably be safer inside the apothecary than out, she darted to the door, turned the knob and, attempting to at least feign confidence, strode into the shop.
It was empty. Feeling both relieved and disappointed simultaneously, she looked around. It was barely warmer inside. The interior was not unlike his dungeon office at Hogwarts with jars of cramped, pickled things lining the walls on shelves from ceiling to floor. The only natural light came by way of two large display windows at the front of the building, flanking the glass-paned entrance door. Weak illumination from sconces at the back barely made it to where the light from the windows had left off, leaving the place overwhelmingly dim. A huge counter, which apparently doubled as a workbench since there was a cauldron at one end releasing gentle tendrils of steam, ran nearly the entire width of the store. Between the entrance and the counter were old creaking shelves, shoulder height so the proprietor could see any customer coming in, crammed with jars, crocks and baskets of potion ingredients. She approached the counter and noted more shelves underneath and picked up one of the many jars there, the ingredients scrawled across the label in Professor Snape's cramped handwriting.
"Miss Granger," a soft voice said, almost in her ear. She squeaked, whirled around and dropped the jar. With a quick wave of his hand, Professor Snape levitated the falling container up and onto the counter.
"Here to steal from my stores again?" he said, peering at the label and then down at Hermione. "Even the same ingredient as last time. Boomslang skin."
"Y-You found out about that?" She tried not to stammer, but the conditioning she had experienced over five years of life in potions class with this man made it difficult to respond in any other way.
"It was rather obvious after you showed up in the hospital wing as a Polyjuiced cat." The smirk on the man's face indicated that he had taken great pleasure in the knowledge. "Who do you think Madam Pomfrey called when that happened?" Of course the school's potion master would have been the first person to be summoned for a Polyjuice potion gone wrong.
"You never mentioned it before."
"The memory is one that I have cherished over the last five and a half years and has produced sufficient enjoyment to negate demanding that you replace a rather expensive ingredient, so we're even" he said. "Now, what is it you want?"
Hermione's courage was flagging. "This is an apothecary." Well, duh, that was obvious. Nerves were pushing words out of her mouth. "I've come for, um, Horklump juice."
"Really." He looked completely unconvinced. "You came to the most dangerous part of Knockturn Alley for Horklump juice?"
She nodded, fidgeting, not daring to look up into those eyes. What on earth possessed her to attempt to lie to a Legilimens?
"What are you brewing?" he demanded.
In a panic, she blurted out the first thing that came to mind. "Herbicide." Herbicide, you idiot? she thought. This wasn't going to work.
"Miss Granger, you live in a flat in Muggle London. Why would you need Herbicide?" he said, smoothly, his smirk a very clear indication that he knew she was lying and he was relishing the chance to toy with her.
"I . . . I want to make some for . . . for Mrs. Weasley. Yes. She's fresh out and I said I would brew her a batch right away."
"That would be for all the weeds coming up during the winter, would it?" He wasn't quite sneering, but it was close. She said nothing, taking a sudden interest in a long scratch on the worn counter. He leaned down and selected a bottle from off a shelf. "Here you go. It's on the house. Good day, Miss Granger." In a swirl of black he walked around the counter and attended to the bubbling cauldron.
Now he faced the front of the shop and the anemic light from the windows gave a bit more illumination to Professor Snape's countenance. Although there was no denying who it was, Hermione was nearly shocked at his appearance. His face was drawn and his eyes seemed almost hollowed out. He had always been a thin man, but now he was downright gaunt. With his high collar and usual cravat, she was denied a glimpse at the scars that must have been left behind after the ravaging he endured from that evil snake. While his voice was as smooth and hypnotizing as it had always been, his breathing seem more labored somehow.
She looked down at the bottle he had pressed into her hands and almost felt like crying. She was sure that would only make matters worse. It was time to come clean and venture telling him the real reason for her visit. The worst he could do was throw her out. With that decision made, and remembering her parents, a calm washed over her.
"I have been lying to you, Professor," she confessed and rubbed at the label on the bottle.
"Yes, Miss Granger, you have," he said, quite calmly. "Customers just wanting to purchase Horklump juice do not pace back and forth outside my shop for half an hour before coming in." His eyes narrowed as he studied her. "So out with it. There is no longer any need for lies between us."
"You are my last resort, Professor. I need your help." She set the bottle down on the counter, emphasizing her point. He raised a quizzical eyebrow.
"Last year, before we - Ron and Harry and I - went searching for Voldemort's Horcruxes, I modified my parents' memories. I erased their memory of me, gave them new names and a life's ambition to move to Australia. All to protect them and in case something happened to me. Now I want to restore their memories and I find that . . . " she faltered, her throat growing tight, but forcing herself to push on, " . . . that I am unable to reverse the effects."
"And you want me to fix your mistake?"
He would put it that way. She was dealing with Severus Snape after all.
"Yes, sir. I've tried everything and everyone else. No one can help me. Since . . ." since you killed Dumbledore, she thought. No, that wouldn't be appropriate. "Since Dumbledore passed away, you are the most knowledgeable and powerful wizard left. You are the only one that would have any chance of correcting my . . . mistake."
"And what will you give me in return, Miss Granger?"
She suspected this might be required. Professor Snape had never struck her as being a particularly generous man. It was unfortunate that she had very little to offer.
"I don't have much, sir. But I've 2,000 galleons in my vault at Gringott's and they are yours if you will help me."
"I'm not interested in money," he said, his dark gaze making her nervous again.
"I need your help," she said in a soft voice, imploring. "Or I lose my parents forever."
He folded his arms, staring at her. Bringing his thumb up, he rubbed it along his lower lip. "I could use some help around this place," he said, finally.
"Well, I don't have a job just yet. I've been studying to catch up on what would have been my seventh year so I could take my N.E.W.T.s. And . . ." she paused. ". . . trying to recover my parents. I could certainly pitch in and help out." Hermione had an uneasy feeling in the pit of her stomach. He couldn't possibly think that was enough if he had rejected her galleons. She shifted her weight nervously.
"Pitch in?" He raised both eyebrows this time. "No, Miss Granger. I think this might require a bit more effort than 'pitching in,' as you say."
Was it just the light or the distance? The lines in his face seemed a bit softer and the hollows under his eyes not as dark, his breathing less labored. Odd. But then he continued.
"In fact, I think I know just the thing." He flicked his wand behind him toward the door at the back of the shop. It opened halfway and a moment later a book flew through the opening and right into his hand. He laid the ancient, fragile-looking tome on the counter. Hermione couldn't resist the allure. As he reverently, it seemed to her, thumbed through the pages, the gentle fragrance of very old parchment wafted across the intervening space and she leaned slightly forward inhaling deeply. It was almost intoxicating.
He ran his finger down a page, turned it and continued on the next. Hermione watched his face as he concentrated on his search and she could tell by his expression when he found what he was looking for; the crease between his eyes smoothed out and the smirk returned.
"Ah. This should do," he said, conjuring a scroll of parchment. He tapped the page he had found in the old book and transferred the text to the parchment as it rolled out in front of her. "I think the standard length of such a contract is . . ." he referred to the ancient tome again, " . . . yes - seven years."
"I think that adequate to cover your request," he said, conjuring a quill and inkpot. He set it down next to the contract. She stared at it, numb. Seven years. Her dreams of finishing her N.E.W.T.'s and finding a career where she could really make a difference in the wizarding world were dashed. And finding the love of her life and having a few children? All of that would have to be put on hold until she could complete this obligation. She felt her throat tighten.
But then she thought of her parents: her mother's smile and how she could understand what Hermione was feeling just with a glance; her father's hugs and the way the two of them would spend hours in the library reading together. The sacrifice would be worth it. She picked up the quill.
"You may want to read the entire contract before signing, Miss Granger," he said quietly. She shook her head.
"I've no choice. I would give anything to get my parents back and you are my last resort." She scratched her signature across the bottom of the parchment and handed the quill to him. He did likewise, in his familiar, cramped hand. And, as soon as he did so, the parchment curled back into a scroll and disappeared, no doubt filing itself with the Ministry of Magic.
"So what are my hours?" she asked, expecting that to be as onerous as the chores he would assign her. She had no doubt that he would treat her little better than a house elf. "What time do you want me to show up in the morning?"
"In the morning? Oh no, Miss Granger, you will be living on the premises," he said slyly. "I will allow you until 5pm this evening to pack up your apartment and give notice to your landlord. Come. I will show you your quarters."
Seven years. Of this. She sighed and followed Professor Snape through the door at the back of the shop.
The doorway opened into a long hall and Hermione immediately suspected that rather complicated Extension charms had been used to make the building much larger. They passed several doors on either side until they came to the last one on the left. The room beyond was nothing more than a broom closet. It was barely wide enough to touch both walls without extending her arms and not even twice as deep. At the far end, on the floor, lay a tiny, tatty mattress. So. She would be treated exactly like a house elf.
"Do you have any spare pillowcases?" she muttered.
"I am no longer your teacher, Miss Granger. Technically, according to our contract, you should now address me as . . . "
"Although . . ." Hermione interrupted, suspecting what he was going to say, ". . . I would have signed that contract no matter the stipulations, I think maybe I should have a look at it now."
"Certainly," he said, eyeing her, unruffled. "As soon as you carry out my first orders we will discuss the matter of your free time, which will not be substantial I assure you. You may read whatever you like when you're done with your duties for the day."
Hermione turned abruptly on her heel and headed for the door. No way in hell am I ever going to call that man 'Master,' she thought furiously.
However, as she exited the shop and headed for the nearest Disappartion point, there was only one question on her mind: How did Professor Snape know where she lived?