(Highlight to View) Warning(s): None.
(Highlight to View) Prompt: A spell gone wrong in the library causes Severus and Hermione to take on some (all?) of the attributes of their favorite character from their favorite novel. Bonus points for unexpected favorites.
Note: Super big thanks to my beta for the quick turnaround. I wrestled with the magic in my head for days, so I hope you like what turned out.
Summary: Wish magic is an odd phenomenon to contemplate. It's downright annoying when one is trying to research it in order to stop a children's predicament.
"We've exhausted all possibilities at our end," said Bartholomew Hedgerow, head researcher of Saint Mungo's, as he sat in the chairs at Hogwarts. "This children's epidemic has us all baffled, and we could use your support in further investigating this dilemma."
Headmaster Severus Snape sat behind his office desk, glaring at the man in front of him. "So your esteemed researchers in the Maladies Ward has not a clue as to why our children have fallen prey to this mishap?"
Hedgerow shook his head with dismay and a hint of shame. "None."
"And you expect me to extend Hogwarts' resources to your fellows?" Snape asked, leaning forward and piercing the man with his stare.
Squirming, Hedgerow said, "Yes and no. We want to put one of our employees here, but we are also sending many of them away to other schools across the globe — Beauxbatons, Durmstrang, Salem, Alexandretta, ShinShen, Bruxpar, Hakkudo, to name a few. We are begging you to add a few of your own professors on this assignment. I'm sure they do not wish to see their own students suffering and would be willing to help. If we all work together, perhaps we can find a solution quickly."
Snape stared hard at him, while his mind played through the conversation. He didn't like outsiders invading Hogwarts, still being a very paranoid individual, but he did acknowledge that his charges were at risk to this calamity. As the headmaster, it would be unconscionable of him to ignore such a plea for help. "Fine. But only the one researcher and I want to approve of them first. The rest of my staff will be more than excited to help, I'm sure."
Hedgerow smiled in relief. "Oh, thank you. I will let you know who the person I wish to send is soon enough, along with all the details we currently have on the illness." With that, he took his leave, returning to Saint Mungo's.
Snape made plans to inform his staff later that day.
"Goodness," Hermione said as she stepped out of the floo into Headmaster Snape's office. It was late Friday afternoon, and she'd been out all day. "It's a nightmare tending to these poor children. Some of them have turned into the most obnoxious of teenagers, others are angsty, and still others see themselves as great adventurers."
Snape looked up from the reports on his desk and sneered at her. "And this is different from our usual brood of brats how?"
She huffed back at him. "Because they are not, in fact, teenagers, as well you know. These are primary-age kids, not ready for Hogwarts or any other wizarding school. Frankly, the easier ones to care for are the ones who've turned into animals ... well, except for the dragons."
"I shudder to imagine such a scene," he said, even though his mind was doing that very thing by picturing young children bursting into dragons in their parents' laps.
"Yes. Well, I did interview several parents and children whom this has affected and it seems that much of it has to do with children's fairy tales, but no one's locked down the cause yet nor the solution. Come on. Let's scour the Restricted Section." She turned, without waiting for a reply, and headed out of the office.
He pasted another sneer on his face, tossing down quill and rising from his desk chair. She had made him promise to search the library once she'd returned from Saint Mungo's with more detailed information than Hedgerow and his associates had given them. He knew this was important, but it still cut into his administrative duties. With stiff strides, he followed after her.
She gave a more thorough debriefing once they'd reached the library. "I found a definite corollary in all the cases, that the animal or person each child has turned into is a favorite of theirs. One became the major character from Babbity Rabbity. Another became the main character from Jonas Bigsbury's Wizarding Adventures in the Southern Isles. And the list goes on. The disease does appear to have started at a preschool in outer London and has spread to much of the city. Visiting relatives have also picked it up, and it's starting to spread to upper towns like Luton and Melbourn. They're not sure what's triggering it, nor how to stop it or reverse it. At least there have been no Muggle instances so far. It does appear to interact with the children's innate magic, so the researchers don't think Muggles can contract it. No Muggleborn children have been affected, as they are not yet around Wizard-kind. Let's hope it stays that way."
"So what are we tasked with looking for? Are we searching for a cure in herb or potion, or do you think this is more charm and spell damage?" he asked.
"Well, I get the feeling it's more spell damage and was hoping to research the idea of wish fulfillment in children's stories." She could see the irritation in Snape's visage as he contemplated this predicament. "It's not an angle that Saint Mungo's is looking into, being a bit too far-fetched for them, but from my own experiences with the Deathly Hallows, sometimes fairy tales can hide secret truths."
He sneered again. "Your little misadventure with Potter back in the day gave rise to this folly?" He was not at all happy to be reminded of Harry, though they had come to a truce after the war. Personally, he was glad to no longer be looking after the brat and, as far as he could tell, Potter was glad to no longer be under Snape's thumb.
Hermione narrowed her eyes at him. "That little misadventure led Harry to succeed where everyone else failed to even look. But this isn't about that; it's about children — possibly even the ones in this very castle — turning into fictional characters. Anything related to that should be investigated."
He stared her down for a minute but could find no rebuttal. They had promised to research this problem in the hopes of saving all the children. If a wild theory could help, then they were obligated to pursue it.
"Very well. Let's start with Transformations." He flicked his wand, lighting up the books with his designated search term. The books flew to their table, and the two of them began the arduous task of research.
Hermione slammed a book shut. "None of this is correct. It all talks about magical stones and genies and wishes upon a star. Yes, the children turn into something, but in the stories it's always something they never dared dream about. Our children are turning into their favorite things." She rested her face in her hands, rubbing at her tiredness and frustration.
"I've gathered all the tomes on wish fulfillment, but the only true cases are those that wish for physical items — a stuffed toy, a teacher's hair to turn green, or other such magical accidents that are easily reversible." He was feeling just as frustrated as she. "Perhaps we should research another avenue tomorrow. Hedgerow's peon will be back then."
"Sir, he has a name and he's quite competent in his own field. This is something far outside anyone's realm of experience." It annoyed her how much Snape could be intolerant of others.
His eyes bored into hers. "I still don't have to like him."
She snorted. "As far as I can tell, you've never liked anyone. Honestly, I don't think you even have a favorite person, much less a favorite fairy tale. Mine was Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, by the way."
He heard the challenge in her voice and was tired enough to let it get to him or else he would never have confessed. "Oh, but I do. A very sad tale called The Velveteen Rabbit. My mother used to —" But anything else he was about to say was lost as he was transformed into a tattered, brown, stuffed rabbit with long floppy ears.
Hermione blinked in shock. "That's certainly curious, I must say." She blinked again and looked down at herself. She was no longer wearing her teaching robes, but instead she had on a blue pinafore dress over a white-sleeved shirt. "Upon my word, this is strange. I do believe we've contracted the disease."
The stuffed rabbit before her didn't move or change facial expressions, but she could still sense an air of incredulity and irritation radiating from him.
"Don't just sit there in a huff, sir; we indubitably need to figure this out." She stared off into the upper right corner of the ceiling, away from his blistering gaze. "No other adults have followed in our footsteps, so why us? We were discussing our favourite books — no," her eyes widened, "... our favourite children's stories. Perhaps that's a clue." She got up and wandered to the children's section, only to find none. "Curiouser and curiouser. For being a library in a children's school, there are no fairy tales here. It's most irregular."
She walked back to the desk. "It's late, and I'm very tired. We will have to search on this later. I don't know the password to your chambers and I shan't leave you here all night. Who knows what Madam Pince would do with you in the morning? You'll just have to come back with me to my quarters."
Without waiting for a reply, not that any was forthcoming from a stuffed animal, she picked up the rabbit, skipped out of the library, up to her fifth floor apartment, all the while feeling his indignation and growing rage.
"Oh, do be calm," she said to him. "There's naught to be done until the morning. You might as well relax and get some sleep."
She set him down on the sofa and left to her own bedroom and nightly activities. He sat there staring at an empty fireplace, not sleeping, only wishing that he was real again.
When she woke up the next morning, she yawned and stretched before getting out of bed, feeling very refreshed. After casting a freshening charm, she went out to her sitting room and sat next to the stuffed rabbit still on her couch. "I hope you had a pleasant night, Headmaster. You don't look any worse for wear. Well, time for tea." She took out her wand and tapped the coffee table in front of them. She had a standing order with the house-elves for her morning tea: one cup of English Breakfast and one cranberry-orange scone. It popped into existence in front of them, except this time there were two cups of tea and two plates of scones.
"Oh!" she said surprised. "I am positive stuffed creatures such as yourself do not partake of tea and cakes. The house-elves must know you are here by your magical signature but must not understand your predicament." She then chuckled a little. "I thought for a second they might humor my condition with 'Drink This' and 'Eat That' signage."
She ate moderate bites of her scone and drank dainty sips of her tea, her eyes back in the upper right corner of her sight as she thought. "So, we have a self-transfiguration of possible accidental magic, or perhaps a curse or a hex, into favourite storybook characters. I'm convinced this is not a disease of the normal variety, and I think it's safe to eliminate potions as a means of a cure. We need to look at tales revolving around wish fulfillment or other transformations, like your rabbit or the Pinocchio story. And we need to see if discussing favourite stories holds any clue as to what initially happened, so I'll need to talk with those teachers again. To Saint Mungo's first, I think, then a magical bookstore."
She brushed crumbs off her pinafore, absently noting no need to change from her outfit yesterday. Picking up the stuffed rabbit version of Snape, she proceeded out her chamber door.
She knew she was getting strange looks from everyone by walking into the Maladies Ward wearing a girl's short blue dress, lacy white socks, and black Mary Jane shoes while carrying a tattered old rabbit. She didn't let it bother her. "I'm Professor Granger from Hogwarts. May I see Director Hedgerow please?"
The attendant flew a note, folded into a paper crane that was sent flapping through the air above their heads much like the paper planes at the Ministry, to the researcher and waited for a reply. It didn't take long for Hedgerow to come down and escort her to his office.
"Didn't expect to see you today," he said with uncertainty in his eyes. Hermione could tell he was trying to be polite in not asking about her attire but was wary of it nonetheless. "Did you find a breakthrough in the research? I know you talked to several people yesterday."
Being motioned into a chair, she took it and smoothed out her skirts. "Not a breakthrough as of yet, but I do believe we've hit upon something. This," and here she held up the stuffed rabbit, "is Headmaster Snape, and I'm parading as Alice in Wonderland. Most peculiar, isn't it? We were discussing the case and mentioned our favourite children's stories and pop! We became them."
Hedgerow gaped at her. "But that could lead to these kinds of incidents all over the country!"
"Alas, true, if that's what caused it in the first place. I need to interview those same people again and collect more facts. Then we'll be researching magical fairy tales and granted wishes."
He agreed and arranged for those interviews. She spent a couple of hours gathering the facts, and by lunchtime she was sure that the act of discussing the favourite stories made them come true, but she wasn't sure how it had started or how to stop it. Even the preschool teachers in the first incidents couldn't think of anything amiss the day of or in the days before, but they agreed to ask the parents if anything odd had gone on that week. She left her findings with Hedgerow, who told his assistants to send out a press release, and then wandered off to eat at a London cafe with one Velveteen Rabbit Snape still tucked under her arm, an air of loathing emanating from his being.
She picked a little French bakery and ate a tuna salad sandwich and crisps, all while chatting away at the stuffed animal sitting in the chair to her left. "It's amazing what magic is in the world. Growing up, I loved all those stories of fairies and trolls and witches. Getting my Hogwarts letter was like a dream come true! All the things I thought magic could do — could still do, in fact — and I was chosen to do them. It grabbed my curiosity from the beginning, you know. Of course, a lot of that changed when I came to Hogwarts. There were so many more strange things than I could have possibly imagined, moving staircases and the like, but many that were truly dangerous: the troll, the basilisk, the dark curses, Voldemort."
She looked out into space, the blue of the sky filling her whole vision, a few puffy clouds passing overhead. "There is still awe here, in magic, but it gets pushed aside sometimes by the normality of life. And then a thing like this happens and you find yourself falling down a rabbit hole and talking to a caterpillar. Curiouser and curiouser."
She looked over at Snape and grinned. He hadn't moved, as usual, but she could feel his impatience. "I sense you are late for a very important date." She grinned at her joke. She could tell he didn't find that remotely funny, but she continued to grin anyway. She picked him up and left to find a children's bookstore.
Several stops and hours later, she had picked up a few volumes of fairy tales and some recent publications on wish magic that hadn't yet made it into the Hogwarts library. Feeling exhausted, she apparated back to the gates and walked home. A few fellow professors stopped her on the way to ask if she'd seen the headmaster, and she told them no, not wanting to expose him to ridicule or incite a panic among the staff. They might already be panicked by his absence, but she didn't think so, based on her observations of their actions. It had only been twenty-four hours, after all. Give it a few days, though ….
She tossed off that worry and entered her quarters, placing Snape back down on the sofa where he'd been last night. She tapped the table for food and sat in silence to eat it, a new book open for her to read beside the food. She skimmed through the stories, looking for any passages that might help their case. With a frustrated sigh, she closed the first book and rubbed at her temples.
"This is all highly illogical." With that, she banished dinner and stood up, stretching the kinks out of her back. "I'm feeling so sleepy. Goodnight to you, sir, and pleasant dreams." Again, she went to her bedroom to sleep, leaving Snape to stare into the shadows.
Hermione woke the next morning and cast a quick cleaning spell over her dress. It was a good thing it was Sunday, which meant she had no classes to teach and plenty of time for research. She walked back into her sitting room, illuminating it with a simple wand flick, and sat down with Snape again.
"So what delicious thing should I eat this morning? Some yogurt and granola with berries might be nice." She tapped her wand on the table and food appeared. "I thought about a big fry up, but I don't want to offend your sensibilities if you can smell it but not taste it, although that would be completely absurd for a stuffed rabbit. Anyway, we've got a lot of reading to do today."
Once breakfast was over, she poured through the stories, occasionally reading out parts of them that could be promising to her stuffed companion. She let out a disappointed sigh as she closed the last volume. "Useless. Our situation is most irregular and not like any of the fairy tales." She shook her head and then stretched out her arms and bent her back, working out all the kinks from sitting in one position for hours. "We should go have lunch and make an appearance, then we'll come back here and start on the wish magic articles. Perhaps Hedgerow's man might have some insights for us. Come on, then." She picked Snape up and strolled to the Great Hall.
Heads turned and conversations stopped as she casually walked to her usual seat at the Head Table. Some were gawking with incredulity, some with lust. Hermione didn't notice any of it.
"Oh, my, what a lovely spread this is," she said to no one in particular as she sat down, looking around for another place to put Snape, as the headmaster's chair was conspicuous in the middle of the table, several seats away from hers. To her right sat Flitwick and Hooch, and to her left sat Vector and Hedgerow's man, Spurius Neddlewit. Not seeing an alternative and not wanting to put Snape on the table or the floor, she decided to set him in her lap on one side.
"Quite the interesting robes you have there," Filius greeted her, with a jovial twinkle in his eye and a friendly smile on his face.
"It's quite the only thing I could possibly wear today," she said in return, giving him a most earnest look.
"The rabbit, however, is much … unusual, I would say," Vector added to the conversation. She gave Hermione a disapproving look before turning back to her lunch.
"It's just that I've gotten busy, quite too busy, to change. There's so much research to go over while I can on the weekend." To this, she picked up a few sandwich slices and some fruit from the overloaded platters in front of them and began to eat.
Filius turned to her and said, "You offered to look into that children's case, did you not?"
She nodded her head in the affirmative, still chewing on a bite. She swallowed and turned to look past Vector to Hedgerow's man. "Mr. Neddlewit, I've discovered some amazing facts about the childrens' situation, but I haven't found a solution yet."
"What did you find out from the patients and their families that we didn't? We are top notch at finding symptoms and their root causes." Neddlewit was a competent researcher, from what Hermione had observed, but he was a bit defensive when talking to them about the investigation, as if they were personally encroaching on his territory.
In response, she tried to diffuse the situation. "Oh, it's nothing medical, or spell or charm or hex, that anyone could find. We still don't know what's causing it or how to fix it, but I did notice that in each instance the children were asked to talk about their favourite stories. It points to a bit of wish magic. I'm going to read up on the latest journals as soon as I finish here. We should have tea this afternoon and compare notes." She smiled big and bright for him in open invitation.
He didn't take it. "I'm sorry, but I'm involved in my own lines of research. If you would simply send me your notes, that will suffice." He nodded, already accepting her assistance, even though she hadn't given it.
Her eyes displayed her shock. "What a rude thing to say! Perhaps you don't need my help." She scraped the floor as she scooted her chair back and stood, holding the stuffed brown rabbit. "You, sir, should be more cordial." She grabbed the sandwiches off her plate and marched out of the room, her demeanor indignant.
Back in her own rooms, she plopped herself and Snape down on the sofa. "The nerve. Now I understand what you meant about not liking him." She nibbled on the sandwich slices in stony silence until they were gone. With a sigh, she let go of her aggression and turned her thoughts to the continuing research. "Let's read through these articles on wish fulfillment, shall we."
Much of it consisted of disproving old ideas about wish magic — what it could be, how it worked, what potions were involved, to which god or goddess it should be dedicated, what phase of the moon worked best, which sacrifices needed to be made, etc — but a few dealt with real instances of granted wishes.
"Here, this one says that a woman was so excited about her baby's birth that she wished the entire hospital's walls to yellow, her favourite colour, in order to celebrate. One medi-witch says her eyes glowed yellow for an instant. Hmmm. Another one claims that a teenage girl was exclaiming over a male Quidditch player and wished herself into his arms during a professional match, causing a foul and delay of the game. No mention of any physical changes, though." She wrote those down in her notes and continued looking. Those instances presented solid evidence of magical activity but not the causal relationships.
She skimmed through a few more journals before she found something substantial. "Listen to this: one young boy was observed wishing all the grass in an area to lie completely flat upon the ground. It says he was being harassed by another boy for not being able to kick a ball straight. Some witnesses say he grew angry, and others say he became happily excited. Both groups agree that he shouted, 'the course is too rough; I wish it were flat!' Then, his eyes glowed yellow, and the course became flat. It was later changed back, but they don't say how."
She read through a dozen more journals, jotting down notes as she came across new details. "All these talk about excitement in the wisher and many times the eyes glowed yellow. So something in their magic activated the wish. But none of these instances have spread to others, as far as the reports can tell. Two of them are here in Britain; we should talk to them tomorrow evening. Perhaps we should contact that first school teacher, too, and see if any of the students' eyes glowed. I'll owl them."
She wrote out the missives and walked with Snape up to the owlery. She gazed out into the twilight sky after the owls had left on their deliveries. "I wonder how the wishing spreads. We didn't wish to turn into our favourite characters, we just talked about what they were."
The cool evening breeze had no answer for her.
She made her way back to her quarters and ate a meal of steak and kidney pie with a side of garlic green beans. Her eyes shifted to Snape and she felt a little sorry for him that he couldn't eat any of it, but it didn't seem to be hurting him. She did still feel irritation coming from him, but it was mixed with resignation now as well.
After supper, she tidied up a bit and checked her lesson plans for the week. They usually had a quick staff meeting before breakfast on Monday mornings that she was sure was going to be worry-ridden. She had been hoping to stumble across a cure by then, but apparently that was not to be the case, meaning she would have to explain things to her colleagues. Hogwarts would have to run on the deputy's leadership for the moment.
She was yawning and stretching her legs out when one foot connected with an object on the floor on the other side of the table. She looked and saw one of the children's books lying on the floor. "Curious. I somehow missed that one." She picked it up and read the title, The Velveteen Rabbit. "Oh, yes, I remember picking this up, just because it was your favourite. Why don't we read some?"
Her fluffy companion didn't say anything, but he did seem a bit embarrassed. She picked him up, carried both to her bedroom, and set them down on her bed. She entered her en suite and performed her nightly ablutions while humming a merry tune. Then she climbed into bed, nestling the stuffed animal beside her, with the book on her lap. Ignoring the wave of mortification coming from him, she began to read the story out-loud.
"'HERE was once a velveteen rabbit, and in the beginning he was really splendid ....'"1
She continued onward for a while but soon became very sleepy. About halfway through the book, she closed it with a tired sigh. "That's all for tonight," she said and set the book on her nightstand. "Nox." The lights went out and she snuggled down into her bedcovers, the fluffy bunny cradled securely in her arms, and drifted off to sleep.
The following morning she was mystified to wake up so content, snuggling the rabbit to herself in comfort. She was happy, until she remembered who the stuffed rabbit really was, and then she felt horrified that she'd slept with him. Well, not that kind of slept with him, but still. At least she hadn't changed into her night dress, the wish magic keeping her in the Alice dress. "I'm dreadfully sorry, sir. I don't know what's come over me."
His own humiliation came through well enough, even without his normally sharp scathing retort to accompany it. She could just imagine the things he would be saying right now, none of them nice.
She freshened them both up and headed to the staff meeting. Everyone was in an uproar and Minerva looked frazzled. "The headmaster has gone missing! There are times when Severus goes off by himself, but he always leaves me a note. There's been no sign of him, and if he doesn't show up this by evening, we will have to call the Aurors. My goodness, girl, what are you wearing?"
Filius looked over at Hermione, who had just come into the room. "Wasn't that the same dress you were wearing at lunch yesterday?"
"Truthfully, it's a spell gone wrong," she said. "And the headmaster is not missing; he's right here." She lifted up the stuffed rabbit and showed it to a stunned audience.
"What in the world happened?" asked Minerva, who recovered first. "Shouldn't you have taken him to the infirmary? Why wasn't I informed?"
"We were researching the children's dilemma, and while doing so on Saturday, we … changed. I didn't think to go to the infirmary as there's no cure at the moment and I didn't want to infect anyone else. I had hoped to research a bit further and find a cure yesterday, but it didn't happen. I have a few avenues to pursue, but for the moment Headmaster Snape and I are like this." She gestured to herself and her fluffy companion.
They all sat shocked for a moment, not knowing what to say. Minerva broke the silence. "Well, at least that solves his disappearance. For the record we'll say he's on a research mission — not untrue. Do you wish to teach your classes or would you prefer the time off?"
Hermione's eyes sparkled with her smile. "Yes, that would be ever so helpful, if I could just focus on the epidemic. And it may keep the children here from being infected as well."
"All right then, we'll cover your classes for you. Just hand me your lesson plans. And no need to eat in the Great Hall either." Minerva had calmed considerably with knowledge and a decision made. She narrowed her eyes on the fluffy headmaster. "I guess we'll just have to leave Severus in your capable hands, Professor Granger." A twinkle entered her eyes. "Perhaps it might even give him a bit of relaxation, not having to deal with every matter that comes up." She nodded her head at her quick thinking.
Hermione summoned her lesson plans and handed them over, staying for the rest of the staff meeting in case they needed her input, though nothing much was scheduled for this week, thank goodness. She returned with Snape to her rooms to have breakfast. Two owls arrived, both with letters agreeing to meet with her, one from one of the wish fulfillment cases and the other from the preschool teacher, Joshua McFarley.
With Snape under her arm, she apparated to the location of the wisher, a small three-story home in the middle of Manchester on a short side street off a busy thoroughfare. She went up to the door and knocked. A petite woman with curly auburn hair and a timid smile opened the door.
"Yes? Can I help you?"
"Hello, I'm Professor Granger. I owled yesterday about a meeting with Susan Anthony." She put on her gentlest smile to help the other woman relax.
Which she did. Her face softened a touch and her smile widened. "Oh, yes. I'm Susan's mother, Gloria. Please, do come in." She opened the door wider and stood back.
Hermione nodded and entered. "Thank you ever so much for meeting with me. We've had the most dreadful rash of wish fulfillment in children, and I wanted to hear Susan's story involving crups."
"Oh!" the mother said, blushing a little, "it was all so exciting. Susan wanted a crup for her sixth birthday. She'd been telling everyone in the family, trying to get them to promise to buy her one. I had talked to my sister, Mavis, to get one for her, and Mavis … well, she's got certain ideas in her head about what's proper for young ladies. A crup is too rowdy, you see. So instead, she gave her a fairy without telling me first. Susan had the most awful breakdown at the party, madder than a goblin who's gold's been stolen. She demanded that it change to a crup, and behold, it did!"
"And the investigators claimed it was wish magic, not accidental magic? How did they determine that?"
"Because we couldn't change it back! We all thought it was accidental transformation, so we tried to reverse the damage. When we couldn't, we took it to a specialist here in town and they couldn't fix it either. They had us lodge a report in the Department of Magical Accidents and Catastrophes. They let us keep the crup. Susan was over the moon." She smiled in remembrance.
Hermione grinned, too. "Did it ever happen again?"
Her smile faded a little. "No, not as such, but she's had other instances where the reports have called her 'gifted' magically. She's going to be brilliant at Divination, they've told us!"
"So, no other wishes granted? None of her friends ever wished for crups or kneazles and got what they wanted?"
Gloria shook her head. "No."
"Tell me," Hermione pressed on, "did her eyes glow when she wished?"
The woman's gaze turned introspective. "Now that you mention it, they did glow, just for a second, an amber colour. I thought maybe it was a trick of the candlelight, but … no, it came from inside."
"Curiouser and curiouser," she muttered. "Thank you for your time; you've been most helpful."
"Anytime. Good luck with your dilemma." She showed her out the door and waved goodbye.
Hermione walked down the side street in thought. "So peculiar. High emotions and glowing eyes. But still no answers. It doesn't make sense!" She wanted to stomp her foot.
She took lunch at a pub that served good fish and chips, eating very daintily with her fingers again, her fluffy companion getting the odd stare as patrons came by her table to order at the bar. While there, the third owl showed up with another confirmation. "The boy with the flattened grass has agreed to meet with us, too. He's currently at home on holiday from school. We'll head there next, then the preschool."
They next apparated to Portsmouth, a bustling sea port along the English Channel where the boy, Clarence Higgs, lived. The house he lived in was stately among its neighbors, a circular row of Georgian homes around a small park lawn. Again, she approached the door and knocked.
A butler answered. "May I be of service?"
"Yes, I've been invited to speak with Clarence Higgs. I just received an owl saying he was home."
He looked over her odd dress and even odder companion, but only gave a moue of disgust. "And your name is?"
"Professor Hermione Granger from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry."
He raised one eyebrow in disbelief, but he said, "I'll announce you. One moment." He closed the door and Hermione stood there waiting for an answer. A few minutes later, he returned. "You are expected. Do come in." He opened the door wider and bowed to her.
"Thank you. It's most important." She gave him a quick smile and stepped inside.
The house was very pristine, with Rococo cabinet pieces and velvet chairs. She was led to a foyer just off the front. A young man of about sixteen greeted her. "Hullo, I'm Clarence! Nice to meet you, Professor." He held out his hand for her.
She took it in hers and they shook. "Thank you for meeting us. We're in a bit of a dilemma, and I'm conducting some research into wish fulfillment. According to the reports, you had flattened some grass to make a ball easier to kick, correct?"
He turned a bit sheepish. "Ah, yes, that's correct. Please, have a seat. What more would you like to know?"
She sat and placed Snape on the chair beside her, noticing the odd gaze Clarence gave it before his eyes came back to hers. "First off, it was a wish, not accidental magic, yes?"
"And how did they know that?"
"Because they couldn't reverse it. The school teachers and the authorities and even my parents tried; nothing worked."
Her brows drew together in concentration. "But the plot of grass was changed back. That's what the report says."
He looked down and smiled. "Yes, it changed back, but no one else could manage to do that. I wished it to go back to normal as my parents were spanking me."
Her eyes widened. "They spanked you? Whatever for?"
"Well, for causing such a fuss. They said I should never, ever do such a thing again, even though I didn't really know what I did in the first place. I was crying and my bottom was on fire and I wished the grass had never obeyed me, and it went back into place. Everyone was amazed, but they still finished off the punishment." He looked a little sad by that.
"So in both cases you were upset. Do you know if your eyes glowed?" She leant forward in anticipation of his answer.
His eyes met hers with a curious expression, and a small smirk appeared. "Why, yes, they did. The other kids told me my eyes had glowed yellow. And I know they've done that on a few other occasions as well."
"What other occasions? More wish fulfillment?"
"No, not like that, but I am a Seer. Whenever I get a vision, they glow amber." His eyes were intense upon her. "Is that important for your research?"
She cleared her throat as she broke his gaze. "It might be helpful. We seem to be dealing with children who have managed some sort of wish fulfillment, changing themselves into favourite story characters. There have been several wish cases in the past that all involved glowing yellow eyes. I'm beginning to think this might be similar. If it is a wish, perhaps they can wish it back as you did." She stood, straightening out her skirts, and picked up Snape. "Thank you very much for your time. Good luck with your studies."
He smiled and stood as well. "Same to you. I will walk you out."
She left the Georgian house with its rather stuffy atmosphere and apparated to the preschool where the current mess had started. She noticed the time; it was still early in the afternoon. Children were still in attendance, playing and laughing and enjoying each other's company. She waited with the front office staff, questioning them on the students that had been affected. Half of the school had been traumatized, and classes were quarantined in the hopes of keeping anymore of their charges from coming down with the disease, as they thought of it. Hermione gave them her own theory about the wish fulfillment that had them all raising their eyebrows in surprise.
Once the children were let out for the day, she was escorted to McFarley's classroom. "Hello again," she said as she walked over to where he was stowing his supplies from the day.
He looked up and over at her, face alighting in recognition. "Professor Granger, nice to see you again! Found out anything?"
She frowned a tad. "Some. I still have a few questions for you."
"The children were all talking of their favourite stories, correct?"
"Yes, most of them."
"Most?" she asked, surprised. "Who didn't join with their peers?"
"One said he didn't have a favourite and two others refused to answer. It happens like that sometimes at this age. The kids can get a bit shy or stubborn. You can't really force them to respond." He shrugged.
"Did any of those three change?" She wanted to confirm or disprove this part of the theory.
"No, not a one," he said.
"And you never discussed your own favourite, did you?"
"No, they were busy arguing over whose was better. I can tell you, though, if you're interested." He smiled. "It's —"
"No, don't tell me!" She raised her hand to stop him. "That could be part of the problem. You see, we were researching the phenomenon at Hogwarts when I mentioned my favourite book and now look at me." She motioned down her blue dress to her Mary Jane shoes. "I'm Alice in Wonderland!"
Joshua's whole face paled. "You mean it jumped to adults."
"But only, I think, if you mention your favourites, so please don't." She took a calming breath. "We've researched wish fulfillment and there are some very odd things. The biggest one is … did you notice any of those children having glowing yellow eyes at the time of the incident?"
"Oh." He stopped short and thought about it. "Yes, the very first one did, now that I think about it."
"That wasn't in the report," she said, putting her hands on her hips to show her annoyance at this oversight.
"I must have been too frazzled to remember that at the time." He scratched the back of his head. "Several children had started arguing about which fairy tale was best. Persephone then shrieked that Aladdin was the best and her favourite, because it had a genie and she wished to be a genie and make all their wishes come true. Her eyes flashed yellow for a second, and then she started changing into a genie as several other children shouted their favourites, and the next thing I knew, half my class had become various animals and imaginary people. What a headache that was and still is. And then it spread to other rooms the next day."
"And no one can revert the children back, am I right?"
"So there has been some wish fulfillment here. And Persephone is still a genie? Is she still granting wishes?" She was very curious about this, as she hadn't been in contact with a genie, and yet she and Snape had still come down with the condition.
"She is still a genie, but she hangs out in her bottle all day, not talking to anyone. Her parents are very distraught."
"Of course. How dreadful!"
"We don't know how to reverse it."
"One of the cases I read about had the boy himself reverse the spell by wishing a second time. If it were that easy …." She looked hopeful and yet not, knowing how far from the truth 'easy' could be. "Could you contact her, see if she could wish it all back to rights?"
He nodded his head. "I can. That would be more than we've tried before. Thank you. I'll make a special trip over to their house tonight and get back to you."
"Sounds splendid. Owl me when you find out."
"I will." He showed her out and they exchanged good lucks and good byes.
"This is marvelous! We're finally on the right path," she said in glee to the stuffed rabbit in her arms. She could almost feel his eye roll at her, such was the disgusted emotion she was getting from him, but she ignored it in her excitement. She disapparated with him back to Hogwarts.
She jotted down her notes in an orderly fashion. It seemed that one girl had triggered a wish to grant wishes, but only in so far as to grant them into their favourite stories. From there it spread to each new person who mentioned their favourite. She hoped this girl agreed to her treatment plan of wishing to stop wishes. It would be an awful conundrum if it didn't work.
She had dinner in her rooms and then went to bed again with her fluffy companion, ignoring how humiliating this situation must be to him. She lowered the lights and continued reading The Velveteen Rabbit, succumbing to sleep a page before the end.
The next day dawned just as humiliating as the day before. It was a relief that neither of them had to be seen in the Great Hall or in classes. Hermione dove back into research, seeing if any of those other cases were ever reversed, the answer to which was no. She used Poppy's floo to go to Saint Mungo's and look through their archives for reversals of wishes. Again, no luck.
Exhausted, she returned to Hogwarts. There was an owl waiting for her with an missive from McFarley. "I talked to Persephone's parents and they agreed to have me try. I then talked to Persephone, but she is being very stubborn. I will try to convince her."
Great. The possible solution was within her reach, but it relied on other people to implement. It made her want to grit her teeth. Instead, she got ready for bed and snuggled down again with Snape's stuffed self and read to him the final pages of the story.
As soon as she finished and said the final "The End," the raggedy rabbit shifted and transformed. It happened in the blink of an eye, as fast as the initial transformation had been, one second a fluffy bunny and the next a man, his expression both longing and happy.
There, in her bed, lay Severus Snape.
She jumped from her bed with a startled yelp as he jumped to the opposite side, masking the expression that had been on his face.
"Professor Granger, it is highly inappropriate for you to bring your superior into your bedroom," he sneered at her from across the bed, his black eyes flashing with rage, but humiliation staining his cheeks pink. "Furthermore, you should not have felt it necessary to parade me around in such an undignified fashion, showing me off in some parody of toddler show-and-tell."
She, too, flushed a bit pink in her own embarrassment, but anger soon followed. "Honestly, you are impossible, sir. If I hadn't taken you with me, you would now be accusing me of leaving you out of the investigation. Plus, if I hadn't shown you off, people would not have known the situation to be so dire. You can't have it both ways."
He grumbled and tried to stare her down, but Hermione had been a professor for too many years already. He no longer intimidated her.
"So let's think this through logically," she said to change the topic and redirect his ire. "You didn't wish to be a rabbit, but the girl's magic made you turn into one upon mentioning your favourite story. I was reading you that story, and when I came to the end, you changed back. So we somehow fulfilled the conditions of the wish."
"You have not changed back," he said, his mind engaged back to the original problem, trying to ignore their particular surroundings.
"Truly, for no one has read to me my favourite story." She waited for the ball to drop, and sure enough, he grimaced and looked away.
"Perhaps we should wait and interview Miss Persephone before we proceed."
"Or we could try it anyway," she countered. "It will probably take a few days to get through the book at the rate we've been going."
He nodded in reluctant acceptance. "It is late. Let us begin in the morning." Without waiting for a reply, he left her bedroom and went straight to the floo, escaping into the green flames to his own quarters.
Hermione stared after him, feeling oddly bereft and alone.
Snape made an appearance at breakfast in the Great Hall to reassure the staff. Hermione refused, seeing as she was still in her blue pinafore dress. While eating her own eggs and scones with jam in her rooms, she received an owl from McFarley. He was able to convince Persephone and her parents to meet with them, but it wouldn't be until this evening.
"There's nothing left to do but wait," she told the headmaster when he checked in on her. "It's so dreadfully boring. Would you read to me? We could test my theory."
He glanced away, disturbed by the tension between them, but there was no good reason to not follow through with the concept. It had worked for him the night before, after all. "Do you have the book?"
Her face lit up in a smile. "Of course. Accio Alice's Adventures in Wonderland." The book flew into her hand, and she handed it off to Snape. She sat on one end of her sofa, tucking her skirts in and looking up at him with an innocent, hopeful expression.
He sat on the other end and opened the book, his deep voice filling the air around them, lulling her into the magical world of her childhood, before she'd even known real magic existed. She sat absorbed in the tale, enjoying his presence beside her.
He read to her the entire day, the two of them taking meals together. They left for London after that, heading to the genie girl's home. It turned out to be a flat on the fourth floor of their building in a mixed Magical/Muggle complex.
Persephone's father answered the door. "You must be Headmaster Snape and Professor Granger. Please, come in." He led them past the living room to a girl's bedroom. "She's in there. It's a bit shocking — my daughter in a bottle." His face showed the strain of the last few weeks dealing with a transformed child.
"Thank you," Hermione told him gently. "We just have a few questions. Persephone?" she asked in the direction of the genie bottle she saw sitting on a desk. She walked further into the room. "We wanted to talk about your wishing; it's gotten quite out of hand."
Her dad grimaced. "Tell me about it. They say the wishing is spreading farther to the north and as far west as Bath, now. I'm not sure how she can stop it."
"Well, we do have one theory as to how to reverse the damage, but we need to confer with Persephone. Can you come out, dear?" She took one hand and rubbed it over the bottle.
Blue smoke began to pour out of the top and into the air around them. A girl's upper body solidified out of the smoke, her arms crossed over her chest. "I don't give out wishes to adults."
"I don't believe you," Hermione said primly, "for here I am, not having wished for anything at all, but still affected by your wish."
Persephone's eyes narrowed in suspicion. "What are you talking about?"
"We were discussing your case, the Headmaster here and I," she nodded over to Snape, "and we mentioned our favourite childhood books. I turned into Alice." She watched as the girl's eyes widened as she took in Hermione's outfit, losing some of her animosity in the process. "Do you mind going over exactly what you said that day in the classroom, as well as what you were thinking and feeling?"
The girl's face blanked out and her eyes lowered. She dropped her arms out of her defensive posture and instead started to rub her middle fingers, a nervous gesture. "Well, our teacher asked us to talk about our favourite books. I was upset at George, who said that The Littlest Mermaid was the best story out there, and I said no, he was wrong. Caroline said Peter and the Wolf was the best with the brave boy and then Maddie said we were all wrong and it was Cinderella and Her Transfigured Glass Slippers that was the best with all the spell magic. How could they be so wrong, when it's clear that the genie in Aladdin has the best magic of all? So I showed them."
"I think you might be right about the magic. How did you show them? What did you say?"
"I said, 'I wish I was a genie and then I could fulfill all our wishes.'"
"Which wishes, do you know?"
The girl shook her head no.
"Did you have a second wish?"
"Well, I guess I did want our teacher to read us Aladdin so they could all see the truth."
"Ah, so maybe that's everyone else's wishes, too? To be read to?"
She slowly nodded her head yes.
"Would you like for us to read you the story?"
The girl's face lit up and she brought her hands together over her chest. "Oh, would you? Please?"
"Of course I will. But first you need to wish an end to the wishes. I think enough of your classmates are experiencing your magic, don't you think? Most peculiar." She looked at her very sternly as only a teacher could.
The girl caved. "Okay." She placed her forearms on top of each other in front of her face. "I command all the wishing to stop." She jerked her head down and up in a formal nod, and blue magic flashed around her.
Hermione looked down at herself, but she hadn't changed. When she looked back up, Persephone was still a genie. "I don't believe it worked."
"Oh, it did. But we still have to have our initial wishes granted. So are you going to read to me now?" She lowered her arms to her hips in a cheeky, authoritative manner.
"Is it alright with your father?" she asked, looking over at the man still standing in the doorway.
"Yeah, let's see this," he said.
Hermione found the book on the shelf and opened it to the first page. She read the whole story of Aladdin to the little girl, making her voice deep when it was the Sultan and high when it was the Genie. After reading the last line, she closed the book and looked up.
"You haven't finished it yet," the girl said, still unchanged.
Hermione looked at her in confusion and then smiled as understanding dawned within her.
And with those last words, the spell was broken, and the girl transformed back.
"Yay, yay, yay! You did it!" she shouted and launched herself into Hermione's grasp. They hugged in excitement. Her father and mother rushed over to her as well and embraced.
"Thank you for saving our daughter!"
"You're very welcome. Perhaps you should read to her more?"
"Oh, yes, we will. Thank you!"
"We will inform her teacher about the solution. Hopefully, the other parents will read the stories to their children and the wishes can be cleared up by the weekend. Also, there are some indications that the glowing yellow eyes are indicative of seers and the like. Best to watch for when that happens."
The girl's parents agreed and seemed excited for their little super magic user. They thanked them both again for coming and saw them out the door.
Hermione and Snape apparated back to Hogwarts.
"I'll owl McFarley if you will talk to Hedgerow. We should spread the word as fast as we can."
He nodded to her. "Yes, that would be the best course of action. It would eliminate Neddlewit from our table as well."
She grinned at him. "Of course. A worthwhile endeavour, I'm sure." Her grin changed to uncertainty. "Will you still come and read to me?"
His dark eyes were unfathomable as he looked at her. "It would be ridiculous to leave you in such a get-up as this. Completely unprofessional."
She smiled big. "Indubitably. I'll see you tomorrow then."
He met with her again after breakfast, spending the whole day reading to her. She devoured every word, but more importantly, she devoured his company. At the end of the book, he said the final words, "The End," and she changed back to her normal self.
"Oh, that's better. Thank you."
He nodded. "You're deductive reasoning was sound, even though the solution was a bit of a stumble upon."
"I'm sure we would have hit upon it eventually." She wrung her hands. "Sir … Severus?"
His eyes pinned her with fierceness.
For a moment, she couldn't breathe. With courage she said, "Would you stay?"
He merely gazed upon her for a good long moment. "Perhaps not tonight."
Her face fell.
"But I could read to you again tomorrow or vice versa."
Her spirit lifted.
"Yes, I'd like that. Tomorrow then?"
He nodded and flooed back to his quarters.
Hermione and Severus kept their nightly routine the rest of the school year and beyond … into their lives together.
Williams, Margery. The Velveteen Rabbit. USA: Start Publishing LLC, 2012.