Turning, Snape quickly headed to the library. He didn't have much time and there was something he had to attend to before he was unable.
Sitting down at his desk, he pulled parchment, silver ink pot and quill to him and began writing. At the top of the page he wrote: Last Will and Testament of Severus Snape. Then, at the bottom, he signed the parchment. He wanted that done in case he couldn't finish all the details he needed to include in this document. Cramped, spiky writing began filling the space between the title and his signature.
I, Severus Snape, leave all my earthly possessions to one Hermione Jean Granger. This includes, but is not limited to the following:
My apothecary, including all equipment, inventory, plants, furniture and premises.
With the work that they had done this past month, Hermione would be set for life. The Remembering Potion alone would bring in all the galleons she would ever need. And he had no doubt that she would find a way to use the Silver Wolfsbane to make a permanent cure for Lycanthropy.
A small home, including any and all contents, located at 313 Spinner's End
This wasn't much, but she could sell it if she wanted to. He had moved all his books to the apothecary, using an extensible charm to make a library within. He was pleased that his precious books would be going to someone who would genuinely appreciate them.
All property bequeathed to me by Albus Percival Brian Dumbledore; primarily 1) any and all books formerly belonging to bequeather, 2) all items formerly belonging to bequeather that are stored at Hogwarts, 3) a home located in Godric's Hollow, formerly belonging to bequeather; 4) all contents, and including the premises, of the Dumbledore Research Laboratory located in the Department of Mysteries, Ministry of Magic.
Again, he was glad that these items were going to Hermione. She would be able to appreciate the gift far more than any witch or wizard he knew. And she was intelligent enough that she might be able to figure out what the hell was in that idiotic book Dumbledore left sitting alone in the middle of the table.
My house elf, Winky.
Snape knew Winky would be safe with Hermione. She would eventually understand the house elf better - she just needed more time working with Winky to fully learn how to handle her.
Because Miss Granger was not related to him by blood or, unfortunately, by marriage, Snape feared that his will might be disputed, so he added one last instruction, just above his signature. He suspected there may be a few wizards that might want some of Dumbledore's rarer possessions.
As my legal apprentice - our contract is on file with the Ministry of Magic - Miss Granger is my lawful heir and therefore this will cannot be contested.
And with that, he was done. He picked one sheet of parchment from off the stack, snagged the silver ink pot and quill and headed for his bedroom. Removing and hanging his robes in the wardrobe, he took his writing supplies and lay down on his bed. With the ink pot on his night stand he dipped the quill and wrote one sentence on the parchment.
I still love Hermione Granger.
Winky Apparated Hermione to a narrow alley behind a neat row of houses. It was evening here and the sun was squatting, fat and yellow, on the horizon. They had about thirty minutes of light left and she hoped to be inside her parents' home before night fell. How to do that? She didn't know yet. She needed to get her mother and father to ingest the Remembering potion. The sooner the better.
She decided it would be best if she approached the front door instead of sneaking through their backyard and started down the alley. And it would be best if she didn't have to explain the shriveled little house elf at her side.
"Winky? Are you able to cast a Disillusionment spell on yourself?" Hermione asked her companion. But she was speaking to empty space.
"Yes, Miss," said Winky's disembodied voice next to her.
"Thank you, Winky," Hermione said.
Hermione continued down the alley and turned down the walk at the end. Making her way along the street in front of the houses she headed toward the one her parents owned. A few years before the, uh, move - to Australia her mother had developed an interest in genealogy. There was a good chance that she had unknowingly maintained that interest.
She nervously paused on their front stoop, fingering the phial of potion in her pocket. This shouldn't be too terribly difficult, she assured herself and knocked on the door. Her mother, a sight for sore eyes, opened it.
"Dr. Wilkins?" Hermione queried - hopefully she wouldn't need to keep this facade in place for much longer.
The brunette woman nodded. "Yes?"
"You don't know me but I've been doing some research on my family history and I think we might be related." That was an understatement. Her mother's face lit up.
"Really? I've just started doing genealogy and haven't had much luck with it," she said and didn't even hesitate, opening the door all the way and ushering Hermione across the threshold. Crossing her fingers, she hoped her mother would . . .
"Can I offer you some tea? We could sit down and chat over a cup of Earl Grey."
"That would be lovely, yes, thank you." Hermione followed her into the kitchen and smiled. It was decorated nearly identically to the one that she had grown up in. Perhaps this was a good sign? When her mother indicated the little table in the corner, she took a seat and felt like she had come home. A teapot was already on the stove.
"Wendell?" Her mother called out and Hermione's heart skipped a beat. Her father was here as well. Her mission might be completed within minutes. Tears threatened to well up in her eyes and she hurriedly swiped at them so her father wouldn't see.
"This is . . ." her mother said as Wendell Wilkins entered the kitchen and then she looked at Hermione, apparently realizing she hadn't asked for a name.
"Hermione Granger," Hermione filled in.
"You know, that name does sound familiar," her mother said, studying Hermione's features. The teapot emitted a thin whistle and in a few moments they were all seated at the table with cups of steaming tea. It was such a familiar family vignette, Hermione almost slipped up.
"Mum . . . uh . . . Monica? That's your first name, correct?"
"Yes, Monica Whittaker was my maiden name. How are we related?"
"Um . . . I think your grandfather was also my great grandfather." Well, Hermione knew that was true.
"Monica, I think she might be right," her father said, smiling at her. "There is a definite family resemblance."
Hermione kept up the chit-chat as she pulled her wand from the sleeve of her Muggle sweater. Under the table she cast a spell to deflect her parents' attention from what she was about to do next. Scooping the phial of Remembering potion from her pocket, she quickly added a couple of drops in each parent's cup and watched them carefully as they casually sipped their spiked beverage.
It took a few moments. Her father was first.
"You know, you seem more familiar than just a distant relation." He frowned heavily, deep in thought. A look of surprise spread over his face and then confusion.
"Hermione?" he said hesitantly and then his confusion morphed into recognition. "Hermione!"
Her mother stared at her for a moment and then jumped up from her seat. As she bolted around the table, Hermione stood and, falling into her mother's arms, tried to swallow the sob at the back of her throat. She wrapped her arms around the woman in front of her and let loose.
"Mum," she cried and the tears streamed down. "I missed you so much."
"Hermione! My sweet baby!"
Her father was there a split second later, engulfing both women in his arms.
"That means it must be over," he said holding her tight.
"Then you remember why I had to alter your memories?"
"I remember - wait . . . how is it possible you could alter our memories?" The look of confusion returned to his face.
"Um," she stalled. Apparently their memories were not completely restored. "Let's finish our tea." At their bewildered expressions, she added, "Honest, it will help."
"I altered your memories using . . ."
"Magic!" Her mother exclaimed. "Yes! When you were eleven we found out you were a witch!" She turned toward her husband. "Wendell . . ." She stopped short. "Not Wendell. Stephen. Stephen . . . Granger." The brown eyes that looked so much like Hermione's own, now fixed on her and her mother squeezed her hand. "Hermione Granger. And I'm . . . I'm Karen. Karen Granger. And we're still dentists!"
Hermione smiled at her mother's enthusiasm. Dentistry was something she just couldn't have taken away from her parents when they immigrated to Australia. Just then a loud crack sounded off to one side and her mother stifled a startled screech. Hermione smiled weakly. Her parents had never seen such a creature before.
"Mum, Dad, this is Winky. She's a house elf." When their startled looks did not resolve themselves, she offered the only explanation she had. "Yes, elves exist, though obviously not quite as fairy tales would have us believe. But they have magical powers of their own."
"Excuse Winky, Miss," the house elf said as she tugged at Hermione's sleeve and glanced nervously at first her mother and then her father. "Miss' parents are better. Miss must go home. Master needs Miss."
"What's the little creature going on about, Hermione?" her father inquired. His eyes narrowed. "And who is this 'Master' that needs you?"
"I think Winky is nervous being away from familiar surroundings," Hermione said, then sighed. "We have so much to catch up on and to plan. Understanding the intricacies of house elf culture won't be on the list for quite some time. She'll be okay." Addressing the elf, Hermione looked into those large mournful eyes and said, "Master Snape will be fine until we get back, Winky. Remember that he specifically . . . asked . . . you to help me while I get my parents sorted out."
"Yes, Miss," Winky said and rubbed her eyes. Hermione could have sworn that she saw the elf wipe away a tear. Winky certainly adored her master. She blushed slightly, realizing that she adored Severus Snape too. Still. Sans the influence of Amortentia. But it hadn't even been an hour yet.
"Speaking of sorting us out," her father said, taking another sip of tea. "What happened with your war? That's why you altered our memories. Restoring them must mean the war is over?"
"Yes, Dad. We defeated Voldemort. It's a long and adventuresome story. I'm sure you must be eager to hear what I've been up to this past year and a half. There will be time for that too. But first, I think we have some decisions to make."
"Decisions?" her mother asked.
"Do you want to stay here as Monica and Wendell Wilkins or move back home and resume your lives as Karen and Stephen Granger?"
Her parents looked at each other and didn't say anything at all. Her mother reached over and took hold of her father's hand. Hermione had thought they both would have jumped at the chance to return to Britain, but that didn't seem to be the case. This didn't come as a complete surprise to her. They had always been an intrepid pair. If Hermione didn't have a magical method of travel available to her, she would have been upset. As it was, she could visit as often as she desired, by Portkey or by Winky.
"Do we have to decide right now?" her father asked.
"Not at all. I would like to spend a few days with you and catch you up on everything that has happened since your move to Australia," Hermione explained. And to give me time to prove to Severus that I still love him. "Also - the potion that I gave you to restore your memories is experimental and I would like to observe its effects. And I would like to have Winky take us all back to London so that you can be checked out at our Wizarding hospital . . ."
"Mango's?" her mother blurted out.
"St. Mungo's, yes," Hermione smiled. "Just a precaution."
"Miss should go to St. Mungo's right now," Winky piped up. When Hermione glanced down at her, the elf began trembling uncontrollably. "Excuse Winky, Miss." When the little creature's eyes began apprehensively scanning the room, Hermione knew she had to head the upcoming self-punishment off at the pass.
"House elves like to build nests in a confined space," Hermione looked back to her parents. "Winky has a cabinet under the counter in the kitchen back at the shop, where I live now. Do you have any place where she could do that? I think it would comfort her."
"We just purchased a new computer - would the box from that work?" Her father asked.
"I think that would be ideal, thank you. And I could sleep on the couch while I'm here."
"Nonsense!" her mother said, standing. "We have a guest room that has never been used - it's yours now. I'll just take a few minutes to freshen it up first." She eyed the little elf, who cowered closer to Hermione. "And we can put Winky's box in the corner of your room."
"Thanks, Mum," Hermione said and gently laid her hand on the elf's shoulder. "You can go with my mother and set up your nest, Winky." The elf turned her large, moist eyes to her surrogate mistress and nodded. Hermione watched as Winky reluctantly followed her mother out of the kitchen. Keeping her busy should effectively interrupt the elf's attempt at self-punishment.
She glanced out the window. When they had left London, barely an hour ago, it was morning. Here, now, it was night. She expected her parents would be retiring shortly, despite the excitement generated by getting their memories back. Since she had been up during the wee hours of the morning preparing the potion for Minerva and Kingsley, turning in early was a very attractive prospect.
Hermione wondered what Severus was up to right now. Probably in the library researching. Perhaps puttering around with a potion formulation in the lab. How long would it take for them to be clear from the effects of the potion? She sincerely doubted if the potion was responsible for their feelings. From the very first day that she had set eyes on him, back when she was eleven years old and had just been sorted, she had developed the utmost respect for her black-robed professor. Wasn't that what a relationship was supposed to be based on? Respect?
And how did Severus feel? Did he really believe that they were affected by the modified Amortentia, or was there another reason that he was backing away from her? She had to face the so-called elephant in the room: was he still in love with Lily Potter?
Hermione fretted. There was no way she could compete with the ghost of a woman that he had loved as a child. She felt certain that his imagination had probably, over the lonely, difficult years during which he had plotted against Voldemort, conferred near sainthood upon the object of his affection. Any fault that Lily Potter might have possessed would have been stripped away in his mind's eye as his heart pined for her. If he was still in love with Harry's mother, Hermione wouldn't stand a chance. Was it possible that he was having second thoughts and had concocted a way to put her off? He was a hard man to read, but he had genuinely seemed distraught when she had left. Of course, his ability to lie had been elevated to a high art during the war. She had been completely fooled during his operation to capture renegade Death Eaters. Now, as she mulled over his behavior, her situation clarified.
"Hermione?" her father's calm voice broke through her reverie. As she turned to look at him, the thought that Severus was still in love with Lily seemed assured and her eyes misted. He stood. "Let's go," he said, nodding toward the living room. She followed and plopped down next to him when he sat down on the couch. He put an arm around her and pulled her close. She laid her head on his shoulder and the tears came in earnest. Her father was completely and truly returned to her.
"Oh, sweetie," he murmured and laid his cheek against her head. "Is this about Ron Weasley?"
Stunned, Hermione looked up at her father. "You knew about Ron Weasley?"
"I had an inkling," he said. "There'll be someone else, Hermione. I know he's your very first love, but I promise there will be others." He squeezed her shoulder. "You're too good of a catch."
She smiled at him. Same old Dad. She was ecstatic that they were together again.
"There is someone else already," she told him. "But it's much more complicated than Ron Weasley could ever have been. And before this relationship will make any sense to you, I'll have to explain everything that has happened since you moved to Australia."
"I think that would be best," she said, nodding. Her mother returned just then and smiled when she saw them on the couch.
"We missed you, honey," her mother said, but then frowned. "I think."
"Well, I certainly missed the both of you, Mum, and I'm sure of that," Hermione said and her parents laughed.
"Come on, I'll show you your room. Your elf is already in her box."
The next three days disappeared faster than food at a Weasley family dinner. Her parents had decided to stay in Australia, but wanted to make a quick trip back to their homeland for a few days to visit friends and extended family. In order to do that, they had to take several days to rearrange their scheduled appointments. They had recently taken on a young dentist to help with patients and to eventually take over the business in a few years when they retired. He didn't have a full contingent of patients to attend to and so was able to take some of their appointments and the remainder the office manager rescheduled for when they got back.
It didn't matter to Hermione where her parents chose to live since visiting either destination was only a matter of a scant few seconds Apparating by herself to their old house outside London or getting Winky to Apparate her to the cozy little cottage her parents now called home. She was glad they decided to come back with her because she wanted Healer Pye to examine them to ensure they had not incurred any ill effects from the potion.
Although in the northern hemisphere the year was sloughing softly into fall, it was spring in Australia and Hermione took advantage of the warming days and her new surroundings. She spent the mornings, lunch hour and evenings with her parents and, while they worked, she and Winky Apparated here and there throughout the continent, tourists of a sort.
After their first night, Winky seemed much more relaxed and she almost marveled at the change in the elf's demeanor. The next afternoon, at the Taronga Zoo in Sydney and standing in front of the lion enclosure, Hermione suddenly remembered Crookshanks.
"Winky!" she whispered as loudly as she dared, glancing about for the nearest Muggle. During their outings Winky remained Disillusioned, but always at Hermione's side.
"Yes, Miss," the soft, elfish voice responded in the general direction of her elbow.
"Are you still feeding Crookshanks while we're here?"
She was tempted to ask about Severus, but feared it would upset Winky, so she refrained.
It seemed that nearly every other minute she thought of Severus. And just as often she checked her heart - how did she feel about him? Did she still love him? Her answer was always yes. As time passed she knew that her feelings hadn't been generated by their modified potion. But what of Severus's feelings? And his love for Lily Potter? She didn't want to face that hurdle at the moment. Perhaps they should visit the Sydney Opera House.
The time with her parents, as much as she enjoyed it, was draining. They wanted to know everything that happened since they had been gone and extracted each event in exquisite detail. Needless to say, now that Voldemort had finally been defeated, Hermione held nothing back. Previously, she had obfuscated much of what occurred each year at Hogwarts and now she found she had to - confess - about what really had been going on. Her parents were stunned to silence to find out how dangerous her life had really been.
"But Voldemort has been truly defeated once and for all," she said, wrapping up the narrative of the downfall of the most evil wizard known to magical kind. Her parents traded looks.
"And that was this past May?" her father asked. "Why did it take so long for you to come and get us?"
Hermione sipped her tea. The end of the story had come on the third day during lunch at a small café down the street from the dental clinic. When she looked up, she noted the concern on each of their faces.
"That is another tale," she said. "And one that I will tell you about tonight."
"And this has something to do with your current fellow?" her father asked, and her mother's head jerked toward him.
"Fellow?" she asked.
"Perhaps," Hermione answered, noting the odd glance from her mother. "You'll understand after I explain."
Later that evening, after a long dinner and detailed account about her inability to restore their memories and everything that happened at the apothecary, her parents sat watching her. She was glad that they remembered that she would never be amenable to change her mind once it was made up.
"Then the age difference doesn't bother you." It was a statement rather than a question and one her mother made with all the insight that Hermione had learned to expect from her. "You will live longer than us, um, Muggles."
"Yes. The longer my life the less relevant the age difference becomes."
"And you don't think the potion has anything to do with his feelings?"
"It hasn't affected mine. I don't think it will affect his," she said, feigning a confidence she didn't quite feel.
"And Harry's mother - are you sure he is over her?"
"I think so," she said. "I hope so."
"When do we get to meet him?"
"I'd like to have you checked out at St. Mungo's before we go to the apothecary," Hermione said, looking at her watch, still set on London time. "If you pack a few things, we can leave as soon as you're done. I'll clean up."
By the time her parents returned, bags in hand, Hermione was ready too.
Winky Apparated at her side. Hermione noted that her mother no longer startled when the elf popped in and out of their presence and this pleased her.
"Please take me directly to the hall outside of Healer Pye's office and then come back and get my parents."
The little creature nodded, stepped up and gripped Hermione's hand with her thin, bony fingers. Before she could take another breath, a loud crack barely had time to echo through the room and they were gone.
Hermione knocked on the Healer's door and could hear him walking across the room to open it. Before he could do so, her parents were standing beside her.
"Miss Granger!" Healer Pye said as the door swung open. He eyed the two people standing behind her before addressing her again. "To what do I owe this pleasure?" He stepped back holding open the door and indicated that they should enter.
"Healer Pye, these are my parents, Karen and Stephen Granger. As you are aware, last year I used a very strong Memory Charm on them and moved them to Australia to protect them from Voldemort. We have found a way to reverse that condition but since I used a newly invented potion, I would appreciate it if you would examine them for any adverse side effects."
"A new potion?" Healer Pye said, a puzzled look on his face.
"Yes," Hermione answered, baffled that Severus hadn't yet told him about it. "We developed it from the research that led to an antidote for Voldemort's last curse."
The look on Healer Pye's face revealed his pure astonishment.
"You cured Kingsley and Minerva?"
Suddenly Hermione was very concerned.
"Severus didn't tell you?"
"No, Miss Granger, he did not."
"We administered the potion Sunday morning. Shortly after that, we developed a potion to negate the effects of the Memory Charm which I used on my parents."
"Miss Granger, are you telling me that you have been away from the apothecary since Sunday morning?"
She looked worriedly at, first, her mother and then her father.
"Yes, I've been in Australia the last three days," she said.
Healer Pye's face was grim.
"Where is Severus?"