(Highlight to View) Warning(s): Canon character death.
(Highlight to View) Prompt: 85. Two correspondents in different time-space, did not know each other's identity. Hermione was after the war and Severus was in before. Would they be able to get together? (SS/HG.)
Note: Many, many thanks to my beta who helped whip this into shape.
Summary: Sometimes sending a letter can cause history to re-write itself.
Hermione frowned as she looked over that day's mail, perturbed at receiving the mail of a Tobin Spence for the third time this week. She had already let the post master know about the mix-up the previous two times, but she had been waved off . Deciding to take matters into her own hands, Hermione walked over to her desk, took out some parchment and a quill and began to write.
Dear Mister Spence...
September was always a better month than August in Severus' opinion. A month into the school year and routines were established, as was his reputation amongst the lower classes. He would have smiled to himself at the memory of overhearing a small group of fourth years whispering about him, but to do so in public would cause a stir he didn't want certain Slytherins to write home about.
He was about to tuck into his breakfast when the post arrived. He went through the small stack and was taken aback to receive a parcel addressed to an alias he and Dumbledore had set up during the first war. He quickly checked for hexes then hastily tore open the attached letter and read the contents.
Dear Mister Spence,
For the past few days I have been receiving your mail with mine. Enclosed is the post I received today as well as the previous times. Since the post master seems not to care if you actually get your mail, I will do you the favour of passing along any mail of yours I happen to come across.
After reading through the brief missive a second time, Severus looked at the mail and snorted. While a few things were somewhat important, this Jean character had also sent along all the adverts as well. Also included was a Potions Quarterly dated for October of 2000. He tucked into his breakfast, mentally writing the missive he was going to send later.
The first thing Hermione spotted sitting on the table just inside the door when she returned home from her consulting appointment was the mail. Noticing how messy the pile was, Hermione sighed to herself, and went into the living room where she knew Ron would be hiding out from Lavender again.
"You know, you can't come over here every time you two have a little tiff." Placing her hands on her hips, Hermione gave Ron's booted feet a pointed glare. "And get your boots off my table," she said, holding back a laugh.
Not seeming to notice her playful tone, Ron set his feet down and mumbled, "Sorry, but Harry and Ginny weren't home and I didn't know where else to go."
Hermione sat down beside him. "I'm pretty sure we've already had this conversation."
And they had, when they broke up. Ron had tried telling Hermione what to do with her life and she told him where he could stuff it. After a few days they had both calmed down enough to realise that they would never work as a couple and decided to go their separate ways, beginning with Hermione asserting her independence by kicking Ron out of her flat. It had taken some time for them to be on speaking terms again, but now that they were, there were days Ron preyed on her good hospitality.
"I know, but I really needed someone to talk to and since you're my other best mate, I thought maybe I could talk to you about it."
She put her arm around him and said, "Okay, best friend hat on. What's the problem?"
Hermione put her other arm around him and gave him a hug. "And how do you feel about it?"
"Nervous and excited all at once. It's not something we planned, it just happened. And now that it has, I'm not sure what to do."
"Have you thought about talking with her about it? After all, you're going to be parents together."
Ron ran a hand through his hair. The tips of his ears began to turn red as he blushed. He mumbled, "I might have panicked a little--and ran out when she told me."
Hermione pulled away. "Ronald Weasley! I know you can behave better than that!"
"Hello, Mum, how did you manage to speak out of Hermione's mouth?" Ron regretted his statement when Hermione smacked him in the arm the moment it left his mouth. Rubbing where she'd struck him, he said, "I just needed someone to tell me it'll be okay."
"Everything will be fine." She pulled him of her couch and pushed him toward the door. "Now, go apologize to Lavender by taking her some flowers and telling her you were an arse."
It wasn't until later, after she had eaten supper and changed her clothes, that she finally had a chance to read her mail. Among the usual bills and letters was one from Mister Spence. She put aside her other correspondence and broke the seal. Settling back to read, she was a little surprised by the reply.
Miss Smith (a pseudonym if I have ever heard one)
It was unnecessary to forward the adverts.
I am returning your Potions Quarterly. The gag is unappreciated since it is September of 1995 not 2000.
Fuming, Hermione scratched out a quick letter and sent it on before she could think better of it. She spent the rest of the night nursing a glass of wine and reading a good book.
Severus frowned upon receiving another letter from Miss Smith. The day had been bad enough with the Umbridge woman watching his class and now he had to deal with a prankster. He ripped it open and scanned the contents. Resisting the urge just to chuck it to the fire, he sat and read it again.
Mister (and I use that loosely) Spence,
Your request has been duly noted. I will no longer forward the adverts with your name clearly printed on them to you. Perhaps it escaped your notice that the Potions Quarterly had your name printed on the cover. I will be sending it back to you when I have collected enough of your post to forward.
As for your pseudonym comment — to answer your unspoken question, yes it is. I find it necessary to use one from time to time since my name is famous and unique enough for anyone to notice.
And the date today is September 2000.
He left the letter alone for almost a week. It sat on his desk and mocked him when he had time to be alone in his quarters. Some part of him hoped that the world had managed to survive Voldemort's reign of terror; the other part called him a wanker and told him to piss off. While he waited to reply, Potter had managed to earn detention with the toad woman and he heard about it over and over again.
Curious as to how she would answer, he turned his thoughts to paper and wrote a letter to the Miss Smith, feeling better once he had an outlet for his uncertainties. Smirking to himself, he sent off the letter, wondering what the look on her face would be as she read it. After he thought about it, he immediately wished he could take it back and began berating himself for being so naive.
The last thing Hermione had been expecting was to receive another letter from the mysterious and acerbic Mister Spence. She felt herself colouring as she remembered the tone she used and sincerely hoped the letter wasn't taking her to task.
She entered her flat and set aside her post, opting to make some tea before she read the letter. If she was going to be told off for her behaviour, she might as well be drinking something. As she prepared her tea, she thought about the problem she was having with her latest commission, her mind on the problem of how to charm a personality into a portrait without compromising the painting. She was brought out of her reverie by her growling stomach. Glad no one was around to hear, she reached for the biscuit tin, pushing the problem out of her head for now.
She ate her biscuit and sipped from her mug as she read her mail, leaving her letter from Mister Spence for last. She took the time to study the handwriting on the outside before she broke the seal. She took a deep breath and read the letter.
Jean (I decided to skip formalities today),
Your letter was rude and bespoke a familiar attitude I come across when I correspond with someone. I realised the fault for that lay at my feet. You have been gracious enough to send along the other mail and various sundries you have received with out even a thank you.
(There won't be one just yet. I'm still unsure if this is an elaborate prank or someone actually doing the right thing.)
My brisk attitude came about because of the stress where I am. If you are from the year you say you are, then you can understand what is happening. Things are not easy where I am.
Please answer me this. Is the war over and did Voldemort lose?
If it would change the future, don't tell me. After the day I've had today I could use some good news.
The war is indeed over, but since I don't know which way your loyalties lie, I'm unable to answer the second half of your question. I can sympathize with your plight, however. 1995 was a tough year for me as well. I won't go into details, but maybe one day we could talk about it. I wouldn't mind being someone you could talk to.
I think it's terribly fascinating that we are able to communicate at all over the span of five years. And if you point out the obvious, I would be very cross.
I am a freelance Charms Mistress and am able to work by my own schedule. The things I come across never cease to amaze me. For example, our communication came about because of a previous job. I was able to fix the anti-tampering charms at the Hogsmeade post office and in return, they gave me a box, although I began receiving your mail!
Sorry for the enthusiasm. I've been told I can be off-putting when I get enthusiastic about something. Do you have something you just have an absolute passion for?I must admit I peeked at some of your periodicals, and was fascinated by how well read you seem to be.
Sorry to end so abruptly, but I just had an idea about how to solve this problem I've been commissioned for.
Why do I get the impression that if you set your mind to it, you could be an absolute chatterbox? Your latest parcels are still unopened due to my limited free time.
As a matter of fact, I do happen to have a passion: reading. I'm happiest when I'm able to get my hands on a first edition anything and you can just smell the age as you turn the pages. Unfortunately, these days I'm unable to indulge much.
Since there is no-one else I can talk to, I would like to take you up on your offer to vent. I'm sure you won't understand some of this, but you are my only viable option. One of my co-workers is on a witch hunt (not literally, or at least I don't think so) and I have seemed to evade her for the moment. I don't trust her as far as I could throw her, but my employer is telling me to play nice.
While I appreciate the trust you seemed to have placed in me, I'm unable to do the same. Revealing my profession would make me easily identifiable.
It had been nearly a month since he had heard from Jean, and Severus found himself feeling restless. He haunted the halls at night, trying to rid himself of the morose feeling he had. All the students suffered his ill humour, especially the Gryffindors. After the second week had passed with no letter, even Hermione Granger couldn't escape his wrath and spent an evening scrubbing cauldrons and dissecting slugs.
He had to fight with himself to keep from volunteering to run errands to Hogsmeade. Dumbledore hadn't made it any easier. The old man bring up various tasks he needed done and would pointedly look at Severus with a twinkle in his eye. After the fifth such morning, Severus snapped.
"If you need something from Hogsmeade that badly, why don't you go yourself?!"
Quiet descended over the staff room and Dumbledore fixed a steely gaze on his spy. "Severus, I believe you need to go for a walk."
Severus swallowed against the lump in his throat. "I'm fairly certain—"
"Let me make this clear," Dumbledore said as he watched Severus squirm under his gaze, "I'm not giving you a choice. You are going to walk to Hogsmeade. You are going to collect the book I need and complete your errands." He smiled. "Don't be back before lunch."
Seeing as he was dismissed, Severus left the room at a somewhat leisurely pace, waiting until he had left the grounds before he broke into a brisk walk. He reached the village in no time and fetched the book Dumbledore wanted before making his way to the Post Office, but no letter waited for him. He spent the rest of the morning sitting in the Hog's Head nursing a glass of Firewhiskey.
He apologized to Dumbledore when he returned, and resumed waiting for another letter from Jean. It arrived just when he was beginning to give up hope.
Sorry for the sudden lack of communication, but I found myself leaving the country in a hurry, without any means of reliable communication. I spent the last month and a half in Australia implementing a charm that reverses an Obliviate! I've spent quite a long time perfecting it and was excited to see it succeed.
There I go again, nattering about work.
How have things been going for you? I hope everything is going well.
Going to keep this short. Write when you can.
I was starting to think you may have been a figment of my imagination. I was thumbing through the Potions Quarterly you sent and wanted to know your thoughts about...
Sorry for the abrupt ending. A...colleague of mine was gravely injured. I've been up for nearly 48 hours keeping watch. He seems to have finally pulled through. The next few hours should let us know.
I had forgotten about that Christmas. If your colleague is who I think it might be, allow me to ease your mind. Arthur survived. In fact, this last Christmas found Arthur with two grandchildren on his lap with a third on the way. He played Farther Christmas and was well, I promise.
As for your question about the Potions Quarterly, send them my way. I don't often get a chance to chat academics with anyone. My friends aren't as academically inclined as I am and they're busy starting families and such. Be sure to send your questions any time.
Severus frowned as he looked over his latest letter again. He had finally caught up on sleep he had lost after working to create a potion to counteract the venom that had flowed through the other man's veins only a short time ago. He was unsure of how his pen pal would have felt if she had realised she had inadvertently let him know which side won the war.
If Voldemort had won, Arthur Weasley would likely not have spent Christmas with his family in 2000. Most likely, the man would be either dead or fighting.
Jean's letter filled him with hope for the future. A future he wanted to be a part of. He fixed himself a drink and began writing his next letter.
I was happy to receive your letter. The question I have is this: what is that idiot Norton nattering about moonshine for? Has distilled spirits become...
Hermione smiled as she re-read her latest letter from Tobin. They had slowly been getting to know one another through their letters. She told Tobin all about her work and how challenging it could be, as well as how fulfilling it was. He, in return, told her about his passion for reading as well as some projects he had been working on.
She reached for a biscuit sitting just out of her reach when a knock came at her door. Frowning, she straightened and set down her letter before going to answer the door. She found Harry standing on the other side, recklessly running a hand through his hair. "It's something wrong?"
"Can I come in?"
Noticing his gaze stubbornly sticking to the floor, Hermione immediately thought the worst. "Did something happen between you and Ginny? Don't tell me you two had a fight. It's bad enough when Ron shows up expecting help."
He brushed past her and sat on her couch, his eyes gazing at her letter before he turned his gaze forward her. "I received the oddest letter from Minerva. She wrote me to let me know Snape's portrait began talking today."
That was odd. As far as she knew, the man in the portrait had stubbornly insisted on staying silent after he had been placed on the wall, even going as far as to refuse to interact with the other portraits. She sat down next to him and placed a hand on his knee. "Did she say what he was talking about?"
A wry smile crossed his face. "Yeah, he asked for you."
I had the most interesting conversation today. A portrait of a former professor of mine began asking for me. We had an almost cordial conversation. He praised me for once.
Something he said struck me as odd and reminded me of you. We were chatting about potions when he brought up the varying properties of alcohol in potions. I feel like he was trying to impress something upon me, but I'm not entirely sure what it was. I'm sure I'll figure it out eventually.
I've been meaning to ask you, but was always afraid of the answer. Not to sound too bold, or too impertinent, but is there someone in your life? Someone special you're planning on spending the holiday with? I don't. I plan on spending Valentine's day doing what I normally do: drink some wine and watch a sappy movie on the telly.
Thinking of you,
Severus smiled as he read Jean's letter. If he was honest with himself, he had wondered whether his friend had someone special in her life or if she was lonely like him. A part of him wondered if she had managed to track him down in her time and demand to give her all the details he withheld in their letters, or if she left him alone.
He took a sip of the wine in his glass and began to wonder what it was that had caused their connection. It had to have been something beyond a simple charm mishap. He knew she was good at her work, but a larger power seemed to be at play. One that seemed to--for once --be operating in his favour.
As he sat in front of the fire in his quarters, he looked over his small pile of accumulated letters and felt a smile cross his lips. Whoever Jean Smith was, she had managed to become someone he could talk to.
He reached for a quill to begin writing a response when his Dark Mark began to burn on his forearm. Letting out a hiss of pain, Severus hastily put away his letters in case he needed help after his meeting with Voldemort before donning his mask and venturing out into the night.
Hermione was beginning to worry about Tobin. She hadn't received a letter from him in three weeks. Since he was in 1996, she couldn't be sure if he was safe. After all, 1996 was when witches and wizards had begun disappearing.
She had sent him a short missive imploring him to let her know he had received the letter. When another day passed by without receiving one, she finally decided to go to the source for an answer.
She stepped up to the Headmistress' office and rode the spiral staircase to the top. Ever since Snape began talking to her, Minerva had extended an open invitation to stop by whenever she pleased. Upon entering the room she strode up to the surly man's portrait and waited for him to acknowledge her presence.
Snape sneered down at her and asked, "To what do I owe the pleasure of your presence, Miss Granger?"
Hermione leaned casually against Minerva's desk in an attempt to not show how worried she was. She knew what she was getting herself into, but fear for her friend overruled anything else at the moment. "Do you remember a man named Tobin Spence?"
"What of him?" A quick quirk of the lips into an almost half-smile followed the question.
"He's someone I've been keeping correspondence with and hasn't written to me in a few weeks." Hermione explained the work she had done for the post office and what it had resulted in. "So you see, I haven't been able to contact him and I wanted to know if you knew whether he was one of the early casualties of the war or not."
The nearly half-smile made another appearance on the painted man's face. "One wonders what the man has done to inspire such devotion."
Thinking of her friend, Hermione smiled as she answered. "He listened."
A thoughtful look crossed his face as he pondered her answer. "If I'm remembering correctly, Tobin was busy at that time. I wouldn't begin to worry unless he hasn't written for another week or two."
Hermione let out a sigh of relief. She bowed her head in thanks as she said, "You have no idea what a relief it is to hear that he's only busy. Thank you, Professor."
He inclined his head. "You're welcome, Miss Granger."
You can't get rid of me that easily.
Your missive was a sight for sore eyes. When you didn't write back, I became concerned.
Please don't do that again if you can help it.
...forgot why drinking with her is a bad idea. Nosy bint. Kept asking questions about Tobin. Told her to mind her own business. She asked if I had kissed him. Told her she was ridiculous, couldn't kiss someone you've only written to. She made me promise this want a repeat of the 'Diary Incident'.
I dream of him. Vague shapes and sounds, but his hands seem clear to me. Strong, slightly callused, and surprisingly gentle...
Severus felt a slight blush come to his cheeks. Jean's letter continued on describing his hands and what she dreamed he did to her. It was...interesting to say the least. As he finished reading it for the second time a second letter landed on his desk. He smiled as he took in the slightly panicked slant to his name on the outside. He broke the seal and read Jean's hastily scribbled note to disregard anything in the previous note. Apparently, she had been out drinking and thought she had been writing in a journal instead of in a letter to him.
...please forget everything I said, unless what I wrote intrigued you.
He let out a shaky laugh as he shook his head in disbelief. He had to admit to himself that their past few months of correspondence had become something of a beacon of hope on his bleak days. And he needed it now more than ever, for the darkest days were yet to come.
One year later...
Hermione let out a laugh as she bounced her godchild on her knee. Little Rose Weasley was an absolute dear and the time she was able to spend with the child kept her mind off of what might be happening to Tobin.
In the past year, the frequency of letters waxed and waned depending on both of their schedules, causing Hermione to spend a lot of time waiting to hear from him. When too much time passed between letters, Hermione would find herself travelling to Hogwarts to speak to Snape's portrait. More often than not, the dour man would say something that would give her some shred of hope to hold on just a bit longer until she could hear from him again.
She knew she was acting like a lovesick teenager, but couldn't be bothered to care. Ginny would every once and a while mention something in passing ('Has your mystery writer fallen off the face of the earth again?' 'Good god, are you writing steamy letters again?') but would let her be.
She absently looked at the date and recalled what made today so important.
It was the anniversary of the first battle at Hogwarts, as well as Dumbledore's death. She pressed her nose into Rose's hair and sent a silent prayer that Tobin wasn't present for that awful day.
Severus pulled off his cloak and hurled it into the furthest corner of the room. His cover had been hopelessly compromised with the demise of his former friend. He wanted to tear his hair out and scream to the heavens. He settled for downing a finger of cheap whiskey and writing a letter to Jean.
Why didn't you warn me. The war might as well be over now.
My dear man,
By this time next year, everything will be over. I know I didn't tell you before, but I think you need this little ray of hope more than my need for secrecy. There was a time when I was worried about meddling to much with time, but I can't find myself giving a damn. I was there the day Dumbledore died and I was lucky in that I didn't die when I could have.
For a long time I was angry at one of my professors. He deliberately mislead me by sending me away from where the heavy fighting was taking place. Now, I would give anything to thank him for doing me that small kindness.
I sincerely hope you stay safe. Please keep in touch. I don't know what I would do if I lost you.
Severus starred blankly at the wall in front of him, the latest letter from Jean crumpled in his hand.
He was now certain he had been corresponding with Hermione Granger for the past two years. Sharing his deepest desires, fears, and hopes with one of his students...It almost made him ill. His eyes strayed to where he kept her letters and was nearly seized by the idea of throwing the lot into the fire. Instead, he folded the letter in his hand and set it inside the box where the other letters lay. He closed the lid and ran his fingers over the carved surface.
He had chosen the box with care then charmed it according to Jean's—or rather, Hermione's—instructions. Charms to protect it from prying eyes and from those who would try to open it. There even was a charm that changed its outside appearance so it matched the rest of the décor.
Moving away from the fireplace, he sat down on his sofa and stared into the flames. He let out a weary chuckle and shook his head as he thought of the more descriptive letters they had written back and forth to one another. He should have seen it earlier. Very few individuals he had ever met had ever been able to keep up with him mentally.
The tone of their letters changed from getting to know one another to helping Severus survive the next few months of the war.
Those in Severus' time remarked upon his calm demeanour in the face of the ever growing terror.
Those in Hermione's time remarked upon her sudden frenzy to recall even the smallest details about what happened during the war.
Letters passed between them at a rapid pace. Hermione passed on all those little details, while Severus responded in kind about the things that were happening to him. And in those letters, Severus let little details about himself slip.
...I don't know how Dumbledore did it. Those little rotters are going to be the death of me...
...When we finally meet again, try not to judge me too harshly...
...Oh, my dear darling girl, how I wish I was there to show you how wrong you are about that damn liquor...
Hermione found herself standing in front of Snape's portrait, hands crossed over her chest and tapping her toes. She looked up at the man's painted visage and asked, "What was so important that you had to pester Minerva until I arrived?"
Snape looked down his nose at her and said, "You're supposed to be the smart one, Miss Granger, but I have a feeling if you showed your last few letters from Tobin to someone else—anyone else—they would figure out what Tobin has been trying to tell you."
Hermione bristled at his tone. "What would you know about it? As far as I know, Tobin hasn't told anyone about our letters!"
Stunned, Hermione realised what Snape was trying to tell her. A horrified giggle caught in her throat and she placed her hand over her mouth to keep it from escaping. Tears welled in her eyes as she looked up at him and asked, "Tobin?"
The man in the gilded frame nodded and watched the young woman break down. "I know I'm not who you expected—"
"You idiot!" Hermione interrupted him. "I'm not mad that it's you; I'm mad that I didn't save you!"
Snape stayed silent as the young woman cried. When she finally calmed down, he asked, "What do you plan to do now?"
Wiping tears away, Hermione ripped her gaze from his painted face and located a scrap piece of parchment on Minerva's desk. Taking a deep breath to calm herself, Hermione then asked, "Do you remember what the potion was that saved Arthur Weasley's life?"
"Of course." Then he cautiously asked, "Why?"
She turned back to him, a smile blooming across her face. "Because I'm about to save your life, Severus Snape."
Severus reread Hermione's latest letter once more before he geared up to face his doom.
I know who you are. At times it seems like I know you better than I know myself.
I've been speaking to your portrait. So when you read these instructions, know that it will save your life if you prepare the enclosed potion.
Notice the moonshine? Apparently, when combined with the potion you used to save Arthur Weasley, it turns into something that can be used as a preventative against Nagini's venom. You will haemorrhage for a little before it kicks in, but it should save your life.
Now, I have something to ask you. Please stay away until the fifth year anniversary of the battle. I don't want you to stay away, but if you don't it might damage the timeline in ways that cause us to never have the chance to fall for one another.
Oh, Severus, I do love you so.
Hermione Jean Granger
He neatly folded up the letter and returned it to the box that held her other letters. If all went well, he would return for the box once he had recovered.
He unstopped the potion and drank down the contents. By his calculations, he should have six hours worth of protection. Hopefully it would be enough.
As sounds of a commotion began emanating from the hall, Severus fingered another vial hidden in the depths of his robes. Once he was assured that it was safe in his pocket, he headed out to meet his destiny.
Hermione stood nervously outside the Shrieking Shack. Severus had told her he would meet her here if he had managed to survive. She slowly drew in a breath and looked at her surroundings. The shack itself had been cleaned and turned into a memorial of sorts for the Battle. It was far more appropriate for tourists to come here than Hogwarts. Luna and Neville had insisted on planting greenery to help spruce the outside up and make it more presentable.
She leaned down to smell one of the flowers when she saw the shadow of a figure come up behind her. She turned and felt her breath catch in her throat. She reached for the hand outstretched toward her. She smiled at the owner. "Just like I imagined: strong, slightly callused, and surprisingly gentle."
The other hand came up and stroked her cheek. His eyes crinkled in the corners as he smiled at her happy expression. He leaned in and kissed her, revelling in the fact their timelines had finally managed to sync. He said as he pulled away, "I've been waiting to do that for years." He pulled her into an embrace and looked into her eyes. Upon seeing the sheen of unshed tears, he asked, "Is it too much to hope those are happy tears?"
Swallowing past the lump in her throat, she answered, "Very happy tears."
After their meeting at the Shrieking Shack, Hermione helped Severus enter back into Wizarding Society. Purely by Hermione's stubbornness, Severus and the boys were on speaking terms; although they would eye each other warily when she was out of sight.
Severus and Hermione settled in a house on the outskirts of Hogsmeade, both choosing to do freelance work in their prospective fields in order to spend more time together. Severus would tend their little garden as long as Hermione tended the house. They spent their days debating various subjects and their nights making up for the years spent apart.
And featured in a prominent spot on their mantle was the box Severus bought all those years ago, filled to the brim with all the letters written between them.