Author: little beloved PM
Hermione Granger is charged with the task of preparing Severus Snape's memories for trial.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Romance/Humor - Severus S. & Hermione G. - Chapters: 6 - Words: 12,456 - Reviews: 61 - Favs: 60 - Follows: 39 - Updated: 02-21-13 - Published: 02-04-13 - Status: Complete - id: 8978677
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Hermione regarded her reflection critically in the mirror. She'd taken an unusual amount of care with her appearance, and she'd dressed in her favourite burgundy robes. An hour with a bottle of Sleekeazy's had done wonders for her curls, and she pressed a trembling hand to her butterfly-filled stomach, as if it would somehow quell the rising tide of fear she could feel as though it were a physical entity. The day she'd dreaded for many weeks had come at last.
Tomorrow, Severus Snape would stand trial for the murder of Albus Dumbledore, and after tonight, she would no longer be in possession of a permit to allow her access to him.
She'd behaved despicably, irresponsibly, and she knew she could lose her job for having acted in such an unprofessional manner. She'd allowed her very first client to become so much more than a subject of scrutiny, and she knew it was very wrong to have formed an emotional attachment to her ex-teacher. But she couldn't help it. He was incredibly intelligent; he was amusing in his own dark, sarcastic way; he made funny things happen to her insides when he fixed those black eyes on her; and that voice was like velvet. He'd become her focus, her raison d'être, and she had no idea how she would fill her days without him.
With one last look at her own troubled face, she turned and walked from her bedroom, picking up the small folded piece of parchment she'd prepared from her dressing table. She left her apartment and walked to a secluded spot further down the street. The sun was beginning to set, and the birds were singing gaily in the trees, making the setting feel far too cheerful for her perturbed state of mind.
Turning on the spot, she Apparated to the gates of Azkaban. She remembered feeling as though a cloud of unhappiness had hung over the prison on the first occasion she'd visited Severus, but over the weeks, that impression had vanished as her enjoyment of his company had increased. This evening, however, that foreboding sense of doom had returned as if reflecting the inner turmoil she felt.
When she reached Albert's desk, she gave him a small, sad smile.
"Hello, young miss," he replied quietly. He glanced towards the door of Severus's cell. "Might I have a quick word?"
She nodded, surprised, as he rose from his seat and motioned for her to follow him down the corridor.
"I'm worried about Severus," Albert whispered. "What do you think his chances are at this trial?"
"I've no idea, Albert. You know I was Muggle-raised; I've never really understood the workings of the Wizengamot. But the evidence that he's innocent is irrefutable ... I think even if they do give him a sentence, it won't be a long one."
Albert sighed. "I think I'm more worried about him going free, to be honest, miss. I can look after him if he's in here, but I can't look after him if he's on the outside. I just wanted to ask: would you check on him now and again, if they let him go?"
Hermione fumbled for something to say. "I ... I don't know if he'd want that, Albert. I'm not sure he likes me ... I think I drove him nuts at school."
Albert shook his head. "He's a hard man to read, I'll grant you that, but I know him well by now. He paces that bloody cell for hours before you arrive, and last week, when I was on night duty, I heard him calling out your name in his sleep."
She could hear her own heart thumping in her chest. Could it be true? "I'll do my best, Albert. If he lets me, I'll help him in any way I can."
Albert patted her arm and smiled. "Good girl. I think you're just what he needs."
She followed him to the door of the cell, her hands starting to tremble once more in anticipation of seeing Severus Snape for what might be the last time.
When she stepped through the door, he was standing on the opposite side of the room, facing her, his hands clasped behind his back. He often greeted her with a scowl of annoyance or a deep frown of irritation, but tonight, although she couldn't read the expression in his dark eyes, his face was impassive. She thought he seemed almost sad.
"Good evening, Miss Granger," he said quietly, his eyes never leaving her face.
"Hello, Professor Snape," she replied, swallowing rapidly. She heard the clunk of the door behind her as Albert locked them in.
"I wasn't sure if you'd come tonight. I'm certain we have exhausted every question and every memory."
"I think we exhausted every question and memory quite some time ago, and I certainly wasn't going to leave you all by yourself tonight above all nights." She continued to hold his gaze, trying to tell if there was something there, if anything she felt was reciprocated.
The sun had sunk below the horizon, and suddenly the candles on the walls blazed into life, casting a golden glow around the grey room. She watched, her mouth dry, as he lowered his eyes to the robes she'd so carefully selected.
"Shall we sit?" he asked, indicating the pair of chairs at the table.
"Yes, thank you," she muttered, taking her usual seat. "Have you spoken with your legal counsel today?"
"I have," he replied, sitting opposite her, placing his clasped hands on the table.
"Did they seem optimistic?"
He shrugged. "They appeared noncommittal. They don't think I can formally be found guilty of murder, given the circumstances, but they agree that a sentence for manslaughter is likely."
She couldn't help it, her face fell. "Oh, I see."
"Might we talk about something else?" he asked gently.
"Yes, of course," she replied, lacing her fingers together in her lap.
They talked for hours, covering all kinds of topics from potions to politics. Gone were the puzzles and the quills, and with nothing else to draw their gaze, their eyes rested on one another more than they had ever done before. Hermione hungrily examined every detail of his harsh face, every plane and angle of his features, committing them all to memory lest it was the final time she should see him like this.
"I know you don't want to talk about tomorrow," she said eventually, "but I've wondered if you've changed your mind about freedom. Would you really still prefer to continue living here?"
He looked at her, considering his answer. "I'm still unsure: I've no idea what to expect from life outside."
"If they let you go, Professor, if you walk away at the end of next week a free man, what will you do? Where will you go?"
"I own a small house in the East End in London ... in Spinner's End. Not the most desirable of addresses, but I'm sure the house is worth something. If ... when, eventually, I'm released, I'll sell it and use the money to start a business as a Potion brewer. I have the ability to concoct potions that others cannot; I'm sure my draughts would be very much in demand."
Hermione grinned. "Conceited as always, oh Half-Blood Prince."
He smirked. "I simply speak the truth."
She laughed. "Where will you live?"
"I've no idea."
"Would you continue to live in Britain?"
He shrugged. "I don't know. Do you care?"
She looked at him, her expression serious, her heart beginning to pound again. "Yes, actually, I do care."
"I believe I would continue to live in Britain, yes," he said after a heavy pause.
"What will you do if you're sent back here to Azkaban?"
"Perhaps I'll spend my days as captive authoring a bumper volume of Sudoku puzzles, make a small fortune once they're published, and hope fervently that The Times will pronounce them 'better than sex.'"
She giggled. "A worthy occupation."
"Indeed," he drawled. "Although what I'll do without your daily interrogations is beyond me."
She shot him a piercing glance, trying to tell whether he was serious or whether he was just teasing her, but his expression was, as ever, unreadable, and she silently cursed his ability to hide his emotions so very well. "But you're allowed visitors for an hour each Saturday," she said, endeavouring to keep her tone playful. "Perhaps I'll pop along and interrogate you then."
Severus gave her an amused half-smile. "And if I'm set free?"
She gulped, summoning her Gryffindor courage. "Maybe I'll hunt you down: I happen to be particularly gifted at Tracing Spells."
He regarded her for a long moment, but just as he opened his mouth to speak, there was a knock at the door and a rattle of keys.
Albert's head appeared around the door. "Sorry to interrupt, but you've had over three hours now, and I'm afraid it's time for the young lady to leave. It's almost time for lights out, and you've a long day ahead of ye tomorrow."
They looked at one another, and Severus stood.
"It would seem it's time to say goodbye," he murmured.
She nodded and rose shakily from her seat. "I'll be there ... tomorrow ... at your trial. I'll be there every day until it's over." She reached inside her robes and extracted the piece of folded parchment. "And I wanted you to have this." She held it towards him, her hand visibly quivering.
He took it and unfolded it. "Your address," he said, surprised.
"Yes," she said, her cheeks colouring. "I thought, maybe, if they send you back here, you could write, if you want. But don't feel like you have to, or anything ... Perhaps I'm just being silly. Or if they free you ... You'll know where I live, just in case ..."
"In case I need help with a crossword," he finished.
She gave him a nervous smile. "Precisely." She glanced towards the open door where Albert waited patiently. "Well, goodbye, Professor Snape. I wish you the very best of luck. I know you don't really know if you want to be free, but I hope you soon will be." She extended her hand, and, to her delight, he grasped it in both of his.
"Thank you, Miss Granger. For everything you've done these past months. I'm most grateful."
Her eyes filled with tears. "You're welcome. It's been a pleasure."
Their hands lingered a little too long, and then she turned and walked away from him, towards the open door. But before she could step over the threshold, he stopped her.
"No! Wait!" he cried, striding across the room and grasping her by the arm. He glanced at Albert and then lowered his gaze to hers.
"Hermione," he whispered. "I need to know: Do I have something worth being free for?"
He searched her face frantically, and she could read the look in his eyes for the very first time. It was one of desperate longing.
"Yes, Severus," she said. She pressed her hand to his chest. "You do. You know you do."
They stayed like that for seconds, staring into one another's eyes, until Albert gave a loud cough.
Feeling as though her heart were breaking, she dropped her hand from where it was pressed against the grey material of his robes and turned to leave. With one final glance at his forlorn expression, she fled along the corridor, tears streaming down her cheeks.