Summary: AU, SSHG, As young dental students, they hadn't always had a steady income, so her parents got her a few things as a baby they had no idea would affect the remainder of her life.
Beta Love: No one found me yet!
I did! - Dragon
A/N: Dang bunnies.
Trigger Warning: Attempted sexual assault (unsuccessful)
Strange things blow in through my window on the wings of the night wind and I don't worry about my destiny.
Mrs Granger tucked her tiny bundle into a lovely blanket she had found in a thrift shop, happy that it was wonderfully thick and warm when so many blankets were rather lacking and cost far too many pounds they didn't have at the moment. Satisfied that her newborn baby was comfortable in her swaddle, she turned out the lights and went to study in the next room with her husband. Finals were coming all too quickly, and after that, well, they had even more classes before they had the boards to face.
They'd had to squeak by on so many things even before she'd realised she was pregnant, but they'd done their very best to adjust to the unexpected financial burden of pregnancy. It wasn't that they didn't want a child, but they hadn't quite planned on it happening so soon.
Thankfully, their little Hermione was a quiet child who rarely if ever cried or fussed, and they realised they'd won the lottery with regard to new baby behaviour when she went to bed without fussing, didn't seem to mind that her mum lacked enough milk to feed her without supplemental bottles, and reaching her milestones without much worry on their part.
They were lucky, they realised.
As the couple continued to study for their upcoming exams, Hermione began to fuss hungrily in the next room, fidgeting as certain other needs became clear.
The baby blanket that swaddled her unravelled, floating her over to the baby changing table and wiped her bottom with wipes and, tossed the dirty nappy into the bin, tucked another diaper around her nethers, pinned them, and then floated her back into the crib.
Hermione fussed a little, making smacking noises with her mouth, and the "blanket" wrapped around her once more in a swaddle. A small growth grew on the "tip" of the blanket, dripping a small white droplet of milk.
Hermione took it into her mouth eagerly, suckling contentedly until her small belly was full. As she fell back asleep, the Lethifold wrapped more securely around her and radiated the ideal sleeping temperature.
Dark wisps of magical energy swirled around the baby as the Lethifold kept her perfectly incubated, feeding her when she was hungry, changing her when she was soiled, and most of all keeping her company when her busy parents were occupied with all things academic. The Dark settled both around and within her like the anointing of the child Demophon by Demeter with ambrosia, only Mr or Mrs Granger did not burst upon the sight of their child nestled within the Lethifold with horror as the Queen Metanira did on the sight of seeing her son nestled in the coals of the fire.
They continued their studies, drawn to their child at the appointed set of the clock or whenever she cried— but Hermione never did. Her needs were always tended to by the Lethifold that had taken upon itself to nurse the child as its own.
Yet when the daytime came, the Lethifold acted like any other blanket, even tolerating being thrown into the wash if only to be reunited with its little charge upon the end of the spin cycle. Hermione always seemed to settle faster when her "favourite blankie" was there, and the two struggling parents could only be grateful for the reprieve.
As Hermione grew, sometimes all she would wear was a diaper and her blanket, often the latter and shedding the former, much to her parents' chagrin. There were times when she wore her dad's socks on her arms and her mum's bra as a head covering, and the two frustrated parents would tuck her into her favourite blanket with nothing but profound relief when she immediately went back to sleep.
They were so lucky, they said often.
Neither parent seemed to notice that certain tasks were always done, each assuming that the other had a hand in it. They never questioned that Hermione never demanded more feedings than she did, each thinking that she was simply much more forgiving on her feeding schedule than the books had told them. They never saw the Lethifold supporting the young girl to learn to walk or realised the little girl was performing her first magic. They never saw the little girl learning to float or suspected that she had learned telepathy long before her first verbal word, her bond with the attentive Lethifold having grown utterly unshakable.
No, the Grangers just believed they had the most perfect of daughters by the time they passed their boards and started their own practice together.
The crime in the poor section of town they lived in had even gone down remarkably, the suspects of various burglaries having seemingly disappeared off the face of the Earth. The living situation had improved so much that by the time Hermione had reached the age of five, the criminal element, at least in the physical sense, had all but disappeared. Housing improved. Their overall quality of life improved.
The Granger's little dental practice became the first but not the only business that flourished as a result.
Hermione easily charmed her teachers, but her peers rarely ever accepted her. Ostracising her for being a bit too strange or a bit too off, they couldn't always explain why they thought her freakish, but they spared no time in teasing and pushing her to furthest corners of the classroom.
Hermione, instead, made her best friends with books and the "vicious" stray dogs that would walk her home— dogs that would be seen at her side to keep the bullies at bay but disappear as soon as she reached the front gate of her home.
Some of the worst tormentors would report her family for owning dangerous dogs, but when the authorities came and found no evidence of dogs let alone stray dogs, Hermione's frustrated hecklers had to find other ways to get at her.
Her parents, worried that she wasn't getting enough enrichment with all of her love for books, decided to give her equestrian lessons in the hopes she'd make friends there.
But Hermione ended up making friends with the instructors and the horses rather than the other kids. The children there decided she wasn't to their liking and tried to spook her assigned horses.
Only to have the fire department responding to reports of "horses on fire" chasing "innocent kids."
Unsurprisingly, no "flaming horses" were ever found.
Certain parents were starting to think their children had severely overactive imaginations as all they saw was a shy little girl with massive curls that was always polite, even if she wore a cloak in the peak of summer, and that habit was hardly "strange" enough to warrant the wild stories they were hearing from their kids.
When the bullies started to get more physical in their attacks, however, they began to disappear.
Reports of missing children began to pop up all across the area, yet the parents of children who had been bullied seemed less than impressed.
Good riddance, some said.
Served them right, others said.
The neighbourhoods seemed less inclined to care, especially when the police investigated the missing children's homes only to find a vast collection of stolen items belonging to various known victims of bullying—
But where had all of the bullies gone?
No one knew.
All Mr and Mrs Granger knew was that their little girl was sleeping well at night and that they really were lucky to have such a wonderfully well-behaved child.
When the Sorting Hat simply refused to sort the curly-haired witch, the Great Hall was awash with gossip and whispers. If the stigma of that wasn't horrible enough to make the young girl wish to be anywhere but there, the sternest-looking wizard in the whole school took her on as his apprentice, whisking her off to sit with him at the Head Table and scowling with such a stern countenance that he could almost turn a student to stone simply by his umbral gaze being turned in their direction.
Hermione, of course, had read all about apprenticeships in Hogwarts: a History, and she was excited to be chosen. The wizard was definitely not one to smile much, but when he brought her to her new quarters that were adjoined to his, he showed her a much kinder, softer face as he explained what he expected and what she could and couldn't touch.
She was used to rules, so she didn't mind that at all.
She was horrified when he threw out a few of her books (into the fireplace!) until he told her they were rubbish and gave her a towering stack of "acceptable reading material." He didn't toss out her Hogwarts: a History book, though, much to her relief.
He would be handling her entire education, he said. It was his responsibility as her master, at least for those classes his personal expertise fell within. If she wanted to take other specialty courses in something such as healing, he said they would have to discuss that around her third year when the other students were deciding on their own electives.
So, while the other students were always hustling to and fro to different classes, she stayed with Professor Snape, who took her to her various lessons and assignments in between teaching his classes. He told her to stay close to him in public, too, and she did, obeying his every request with the same dutiful dedication she did with her parents.
They even bought their supplies together, and she didn't mind at all how he loomed over her while she picked out which supplies she liked best from the piles of merchandise. It was really comforting, a lot like her cloak.
While the other students seemed to shun her, always whispering around her until Snape's scowl caused them to practically swallow their own tongue, she didn't mind. She was used to not getting along with people her own age, after all. Slytherin at least treated her with begrudging respect since she was an apprentice, and there were some unspoken lines that even they wouldn't cross despite her being Muggleborn.
Her first year went surprisingly smoothly, and she settled into a comfortable existence with Professor Snape as her master. She learned to suppress her strong urge to prove herself when she realised that Snape judged her based on her actual results, not on her book answers. She branched out with a few lessons from the other teachers, namely Professor Flitwick for lessons in "excessive wand-waving rubbish" and McGonagall for the more subtle arts of transfiguration. At night, while Snape was off chasing students out of all the places they didn't belong, he would drop her off with Sinistra to study the sky.
Hermione decided she truly loved the night sky or perhaps the night in general, and Aurora seemed glad to tutor her on the fine art of stargazing. Professor Sinistra would sit with her after the other students left until Snape returned to bring her back to their quarters, and he'd often find her wrapped from head to toe in her warm cloak like some menacing (if decidedly miniature) spectre.
And when she wasn't studying and doing her homework, she would watch Snape brew, utterly fascinated by the economical movements of his hands and how easily he cast his spells without words or sound. She realised, just then, why he always claimed that most people's spellwork was fraught with "excessive and unnecessary rubbish."
She didn't interact much with the other students, but she did wonder why certain ones seemed more prone to giving her master a horrific migraine than the others. She learned quickly where the headache potion was in the storeroom, and she often fetched it before he'd even ask for it. The pulsing artery on his temple was his most easily recognised tell.
While there were those like Crabbe and Goyle that managed to repeatedly step on Snape's low tolerance for dunderheaded stupidity, there were others like Potter and Weasley that seemed to always be in the middle of some sort of controversy. Those like Finnigan and Longbottom blew things up more often than not, and Longbottom had literally murdered his own toad three times over due to not following directions.
He was already on poor Trevor the Fourth, and there were furtive whispers that said he should really just quit while he was ahead.
After Finnigan and Longbottom's teamwork blew up Millicent Bullstrode's cat, Severus banished the pair to the far side of the classroom surrounded by a specially devised ward. The headmaster had questioned this practice until he had silently arrived to observe the class and witnessed the perilous pair in action.
Potter and Weasley ended up missing class for an entire week after getting mauled by a huge dog that was guarding a certain room off the expressly forbidden third-floor corridor. Hermione wasn't sure quite what they'd done to piss the dog off, but every time she'd gone with Severus to check on the wards, the huge canine had only wanted to follow her home, much to Severus' clear dismay.
She had, however, discovered that the poor hound had a bad earwax problem, and Severus helped her clean out the dog's six ears.
Strangely, after that, Professor Quirrel showed up in the infirmary with severe dog bites and several chunks taken out of him and the remains of a harp shoved up his—
Well, it was impolite to talk of such things, so she didn't.
Aurors had swarmed down upon Hogwarts (the first time she'd ever seen them in their brown robes and stern faces) and taken Professor Quirrel out of the castle on a magically bound stretcher.
Rumour said he had two faces—
She wasn't sure if she actually believed it without seeing it for herself. She'd have believed having two heads considering she was friends with a three-headed dog, but two faces on the same head? That sounded a little too weird.
By the end of the winter term, whatever it was that the Headmaster was guarding apparently went somewhere else, as the big three-headed dog suddenly showed up in her bedroom, tail wagging and eager to play.
Snape sighed as he expanded their joint quarters to include space for a giant, devoted, "lovesick" dog, and the next morning they had to suffer through taking him to the Ministry to be fitted for a registration collar, given potions for his health, and other such red-tape with the Grecian government who wanted to know how they'd acquired a cerberus to begin with.
"Fluffy" had no desire to go "back home to Greece," so more paperwork and hand-wringing (on Hagrid's part) made it a two headache potion day for her master.
Hermione, much to her master's relief, renamed "Fluffy" to something more dignified: Bruce.
Naturally, that particular name change met with Professor McGonagall's full and ardent approval.
It wasn't uncommon for Snape to find Hermione curled up sound asleep against Bruce's huge body, her cloak wrapped snugly around her and the book she had been reading still resting in her lap. Resigned to the fact that "they now had a dog," he would just tuck her in, move the book somewhere it wouldn't get rolled over on, patted Bruce on all three heads, and quietly closed the door behind him.
While apprentices did not normally get to go "back home" like all the other students, Severus did arrange for a number of visits where she was able to return home and see her parents, update them on her life, and attempt to explain "her dog."
Her parents gave him the guest room, usually staying up almost the entire night asking him all sorts of questions about what a potions master was actually a master of, what potions were, why their daughter was an apprentice and not an ordinary student—
Hermione sneaked a phial of headache potion into his hand as she went by carrying her stack of homework, she was sound asleep long before her parents were even considering bed.
If anything, her parents seemed far less concerned about the three-headed dog than the assumption that their daughter was going to become a magical "chemist" rather than a dentist.
They didn't get to leave until Mr Granger had a nice and proper go at the woeful state of Snape's dental hygiene, much to her master's weary tolerance.
Upon leaving London, they stopped at Diagon Alley to gather additional supplies, and it was there that a certain "bad element" got their very first taste of why it was far better to leave Snape's young apprentice bloody well alone.
The man with the heavily scarred face pinned her harshly against a wall and sniffed her down. "Well, well, girlie. Out here all alone. Snape just leave you out here on your lonesome and tell you to be good while he was gone, eh?"
Hermione was silent, having been taught by her master that it was far better to say nothing than to say the wrong thing. He would come for her soon. He never, ever left her for long.
The man reeked of something she couldn't quite place. Something he'd eaten. What, she couldn't say for sure. But his touch was beyond disgusting, the very feel of his unclean skin on hers making her squirm with discomfort.
The man seemed to really enjoy her struggle, his vile tongue running across his lips as if to savour a fine steak. "They have a hefty bounty out for you, girlie," the man said with a sadistic smirk. "But, I think I'll just go and bite you myself. Fresh meat is always the best."
He pinned her to the wall, his hand torquing her jaw, twisting her head to look at him. His leg forced between hers and shoved them apart. "Maybe taste the goods first. See if you scream good and loud enough to keep."
Hermione's head jerked and she glared defiantly into the man's eyes, and a dark, malevolent purple trickled into her brown eyes causing them to glow.
Head number two of Bruce's trio crushed down onto the wizard's body, tearing into his flesh like swords. He shook him violently, his heads fighting over the body as he would a rawhide chew. He flung him against the opposite alley wall with a splat and crack.
Only his body did not fall.
Hermione's cloak shot out from her body, surrounding the man even as he tried to scream, wrapping and suffocating— devouring him while he was still writhing in a blanket of moving, shifting, grinding teeth.
Snape was suddenly there, wand out and ready but with an extremely confused expression on his face as if he had tried to do simple math and came up with the Collatz Conjecture instead. As Hermione ran into his body and promptly wrapped herself into his embrace, Severus stared at the black mound of twisting, devouring cloak where only one hand was exposed— a hand holding a wand.
That, too, quickly disappeared, and the cloak unfurled from the position of devouring with a soft belch before returning around Hermione's shoulders as the cloak she'd worn since he'd known her.
Nothing, not even a bit of bone, remained.
"We need to have a talk about your Lethifold," Snape said as he attempted to soothe his apprentice's hair.
"My what?" Hermione questioned, looking quite baffled.
Werewolf Criminal Fenrir Greyback Goes Missing
The notorious Fenrir Greyback has inexplicably disappeared! A month-long search for the werewolf that has terrorised families with children for decades had turned up nothing. The wizard's wand was found in the alley that connects Diagon Alley with Knockturn Alley, but the werewolf himself has not shown himself for over a month. His known allies have been rounded up and caught, and his network of werewolves was found in disarray, far too conditioned to follow only Fenrir's orders and not act on their own.
It is uncertain what this means, and many think he is just laying in wait for a better opportunity to infect more children, but after three full moons, no reports of his signature werewolf activity has been given.
Is Fenrir Greyback alive?
Is he dead?
No one seems to know for sure.
"But the books all say that Lethifolds live in the tropics," Hermione protested as she cuddled underneath the Lethifold in question.
The "cloak" warmed to her distress, and wisps of Darkness swirled around her. Hermione calmed almost immediately. "I know, not everything can be found in books."
"Hn," Severus said. "As Sir Arthur Conan Doyle said through his character, 'When you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth'."
Hermione hugged her Lethifold tightly. "They won't take him away, will they?"
The Lethifold bristled, forming thorns and a multitude of angry teeth.
"I'd like to see them try," Severus said dryly.
"No need for violence, Severus," the woman said as she finished speaking to the headmaster. "We will register the Lethifold as a proper familiar as soon as Miss Granger can give him a name to put on the paperwork."
"Amelia, please," the headmaster protested. "A Lethifold in a school?"
"She is free to come live with us in the Department of Mysteries where such creatures are hardly the most exotic thing to have around," Amelia said sternly. Her eyes narrowed. "Of course, the invitation is also extended to Severus as her master, as the two cannot and should not be parted at such a critical stage in the master and apprentice relationship. Severus' expertise is well-known and appreciated, and she will have access to an extensive network of masters that can fill in whatever fields she wishes to dabble in outside of potions."
Amelia Bones levelled her gaze at Severus. "We would offer you a position as a master brewer for the DoM with the freedom to create and patent whatever projects you wish outside of what is created specifically for our department's use. We have a rather beautiful benefits package that includes the dissolving of any previous obligations, geas, or Vows before signing on with us."
Severus' lips turned upward into a smug smile. "You really know how to sweet talk a wizard, madam. I think I'll—"
"NO!" Albus objected at once. "You are needed here, Severus. This is where you need to be." Albus stiffened as he mulled something over internally, his posture changing rapidly as he shifted his demeanour to appear somewhat more magnanimous. "We'll figure out something here."
Amelia narrowed her eyes as she noticed Snape's knuckles going very white as he visibly struggled against something. "Albus, I would like to hear what Severus was going to say."
"There is no need for that," Albus insisted. "Severus will be remaining here at Hogwarts. He knows he is needed here."
"Regardless of need, I really would like to hear what he has to say on the subject."
Severus' hands tightened into fists, his knuckles turning even whiter than before. There was a slight tremble in his arm. "I would love to take you up on your offer," he said through tightly clenched teeth.
"But he won't, Amelia," Albus said patronisingly as he levelled a non-twinkling gaze at Snape. He stared intently at him, his eyes narrowed nearly to slits. "Won't you, Severus?"
"Go to HELL, you selfish old man!" Hermione blurted out suddenly, her hands clapping over her mouth in horror as her brown eyes went very wide.
Albus's cold blue gaze snapped to hers, but almost the very moment that it did, the Lethifold snarled and launched itself at Dumbledore in a flash of movement even as Hermione clutched at her head with a pained screech.
Snape was towering over her a mere moment after, pulling a now crying Hermione into his body.
The enraged Lethifold was snarling viciously and battling with Dumbledore's phoenix, and Fawkes was shedding feathers all over the place as they spun and crashed into everything in Dumbledore's office, knocking random objects off of his desk and walls.
Dumbledore had pulled his wand, and he was aiming for the angry Lethifold. "Expecto Pa—"
"LEAVE WALTER ALONE!" Hermione shrieked suddenly, her magic flaring, a dark cloud of writhing energy forming around her and condensing into a bolt that zapped Dumbledore squarely on the hand, sending his wand flying into the globe and spearing it with a loud twanging sound. The sound startled the phoenix, and Fawkes went crashing headlong through the glass window, sending shrapnel from the window flying everywhere as he went.
Walter, the newly named Lethifold, then oozed back over to Hermione and surrounded her in a cloak of Darkness, seemingly seeping into her young body.
Hermione's hair started to calm down from the writhing Medusa spikes it had transformed into. The Dark cloud of magic eased, and she collapsed into Snape's chest. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. Sorry."
Snape glowered a black hole into a stunned Albus, who was lying akimbo on the floor where Hermione's magic had flung him, the globe on top of him, and his wand still speared into the globe.
"Consider this my resignation from Hogwarts, effective immediately," Snape seethed. "Sir."
End of Chapter One
A/N: I don't know why bunnies are so dang persistent!