Fugue State- Part Thirteen -----

Hermione just knew she should be doing something else. Actually she should be doing a specific thing. She should be doing her Charms prep. Master Juglenot had most definitely not been pleased with her performance of late. It wasn't as though it were sub par, but Hermione was usually so far ahead of the class that anything less just smacked of her doing shoddy work. Unfortunately, she just couldn't seem to focus on anything other than Snape. Or rather the lack of Snape, the last disastrous visit to Azkaban had meant that three weeks had passed since she last laid eyes on the man. Her frustration mounted daily as her backlogged Charms work meant that visits to the prison were out of the question.

She had a future to prepare for. All this focus on the past and the stagnant life of one former Potions Professor had gotten her absolutely nowhere other than to put her own future in doubt. Is this really where she wanted to go? Risk her career to get information out of a man that grew stranger by the minute? Not to mention the fact that she was starting to lose sight of the goal, which was what exactly? Find out why Severus Snape seemed to only exist in a potions lab? The delusional presence he now showed was nothing like the focused, if often irrational man that graced the corridors of her childhood. She seemed to be the only one who cared about the answers at all. Everything and everyone focused on the present and future wanting to put the awful years of conflict behind them. Why couldn't she get on with it? Get on with her life? Snape might be trapped in Azkaban, but she was trapped in a maze of bizarre statements and machinations that she barely understood. Which was the reason she acknowledged she had to find out the truth. If there was one thing Hermione hated, it was the unknown. Every problem had a solution, sometimes one just had to dig for it.

Right, Hermione thought. Time to make a list.

The next morning she stopped by the Owl Post to send a few owls here and there. First to Azkaban, then to Percy and finally to the Headmaster, all the owls contained the same note, a request to be allowed regular and uninterrupted access to one Severus Snape. She simply wouldn't get anywhere if Snape remained in his cell whenever she showed up. This way everything would be on a schedule. It would be orderly, it would be controlled and finally it would give her the final say in this untenable situation. It wasn't a moment too soon. Just this morning she'd awoken to the sound of an owl tapping on her window. It contained the apologies of the Minister, but informed her that Snape would be in isolation for the next month. Apparently the man had acted up and was now on restriction. Honestly, Hermione thought, couldn't the idiot contain himself for an instant? Surely he must realize that it did him no good to behave badly, after all, her visits got him out of his cell. Who wouldn't want that? Hermione attached a proposed calendar of visits and sent the owls on their merry little way. Then she hurried home, she had six feet of parchment overdue to Master Juglenot and he had been making threats to put her on probationary status if her work continued to be unacceptable.

As things were wont to do in a bureaucracy, everything must be filed. Thus it was a full two weeks before Percy even noticed that there seemed to be an abundance of posts from Hermione. The girl must have lost her mind. Not only was there a very impertinent demand to be given regular access to Snape, she'd even had the gall to draw up a schedule! As if he, Percy Weasley needed anyone to tell him how to organize things. He was of the right mind to just deny the Hermione's request outright before he remembered that this was something Headmaster Dumbledore personally asked for. Hermione would be given access, but on Percy's schedule. He sat at his desk and with Hermione's request and calendar in front of him, set about devising his own visitation schedule. After all, things should be done on his terms and no others. He was the Governor of Azkaban and let no one forget, even if the girl was a personal friend of the Man-That-Killed-That- Very-Bad-Wizard. Harry Potter was off playing Quidditch, what did he know? He'd turned his back on the politics of society and just wanted to ride around on a little stick chasing a Golden Snitch. He, Percy Weasley, was going places and he would be the one to sort out who should visit and when. Percy paused mid-word to realize something. It had been ages since he'd last inspected Azkaban. He should do an inspection tour. He'd invite Miss Granger. It would do the girl some good to realize that many exceptions had been made for her visits to Snape. She'd do well to appreciate the accommodations that had been made, and would continue to be made for her. It was what the Headmaster requested. Percy would do his level best to see that everything was carried out to the letter of the law.

Two weeks later Hermione once again faced the shores of Azkaban. It had taken all her strength, and a few choice words from Professor McGonagall, not to send out an immediate owl to Professor Dumbledore when she had received Percy's owl. Not only had the man changed her schedule, he had included a note stating that she could not see Snape again until she accompanied him on an official tour of Azkaban. Hermione had no choice but to accompany Percy on this ridiculous tour, and she seethed because of it. Percy, while well within his rights was being what Ron would call, "A Right Prick." Hermione sighed and bowed to the inevitable, it couldn't be all that terrible.

She was wrong. It was worse. Four hours of Percy taking her from one side of the island to the other. And the man never stopped talking about this improvement, and that modification and well, just look at the new paint on the walls. It was all she could do not to slap the man. Although the Dementors were contained, she still felt their presence. What must it be like to have them floating by on a regular basis? She also couldn't help but wonder at the doors they hadn't gone in. Percy told her that the Dementors were locked behind those doors. Severus Snape was in one of these cells, locked away for life. But she was as determined as ever to keep up her visits, she needed to know now more than ever why the Professor had been sentenced here. There were some fates that were worse than death, and Hermione would bet every last sickle that to be entombed in Azkaban was at the top of the list.

Throughout all of this, unaware of what passed above him, lay the object of Hermione's quest. He had managed to lose track of time. Frankly he'd lost a great deal, but it was this loss that affected him the most. He couldn't remember the last time he'd been outside his cell. His one way to track the weeks passing, his once weekly shower had gone. For whatever petty reason, his shower had been taken away. Now even he could smell the odor of his body. Not to mention, that of his mind. It was all he could do to keep a stranglehold on sanity and that was slowly slipping away from him. It must have been months since the last time he had seen Miss Granger, months since he could remember a Potions formula. Everything that he was, everything that he had been was slipping away into the ooze of the walls. He could feel the need of his body and mind to disappear and perhaps that was for the best. He'd done it before, he'd do it again. He'd do anything not to be aware of the descent into madness he was undergoing. But every time he felt himself at the breech, a Dementor would slide by, some slop would be thrown in, and he'd be brought to some semblance of awareness. It was torture knowing that he was being kept from slipping into the oblivion he so craved. He was in hell, as he so rightly deserved. Who was he to demand some peace? He was no one. He was nothing. He was well aware of the fact. His usefulness was at an end and perhaps against all odds he could find some peace. It was all he could hope for, but at the same time he knew that hope was futile in Azkaban.

Albus Dumbledore looked at Fawkes in relief. The phoenix had finally grown into his new plumage and was looking as spiffy as ever. His new shipment of robes had come in and to cap off the absolutely splendid month he had been having, Miss Granger would be resuming her visits to Severus tomorrow. For all the boy had gone through, he had no desire to lose that fine mind. It just wouldn't do to have Severus Snape on the loose. He had betrayed him after all, and that deserved to be punished. But he had done all he could to protect him. But in the final review, Severus had done the unthinkable and that in and of itself was unforgivable. Perhaps it was cruel to keep him alive, but after all that Severus had done for the Order, Albus just couldn't bring himself to allow the Dementor's Kiss for Severus. Someday all would be forgiven. Even for a traitor such as Severus.

Hermione once again returned to the Isle of Azkaban. Her confidence restored in the power of bureaucracy. She'd received and signed forms in quadruplicate that allowed her unrestricted access to Snape two times a week and once a month on weekends. Hermione felt she was prepared for the man this time. She'd gone over the previous conversations with Snape with a fine-toothed comb. She had a list of very probing questions and most of all; she had a schedule that would bring some order into this entire mess. It was like a formula, once one item was stirred in, the rest would follow in a regular progression. This wouldn't take long at all. She'd had over a month to prepare.

How wrong she was. The man that entered the interview room was even more of a shell than to the one she'd previously seen. Snape must have dropped more than a stone in about a month. He looked like a walking skeleton. He smelt like a rotting corpse and worst of all, he seemed semi-comatose. His movements were robotic and he didn't respond to the change in his surroundings. Snape didn't even to be aware of the fact that he was in the room with her. He was an automation.

"Look at me." Hermione commanded, and then waited to see what would happen

It took over an hour before those simple words penetrated Snape's fogged mind. He looked up at her, with unfocused eyes and stared blankly at her face.

"Do you know who I am Professor?"

Snape stared at her without response. The silence overpowered the room and before she knew it, visiting hours were up and Snape was being led out of the room. Hermione shook her head in disgust. There was obviously a great deal of lost ground to make up.

Legions below, in the bowels of Azkaban, Severus Snape was becoming aware. Obviously decades had not passed, that woman... Granger was still alive. He was still alive. Perhaps he was not as far gone as he previously thought. He needed to bring his mind to bear. He needed to regain his faculties. Slowly, painstakingly, and with the skills of a child, he began to recite the potions ingredients he remembered. Hour after hour they became clearer. The next day, he remembered the formula for Wolfsbane. The day after that, Hermione came back. For that, he would hate her for all eternity. She alone kept him from slipping away. The only thing worse than being mad in Azkaban was keeping one's sanity. Now he knew what he had lost and he would make them all pay. They would pay for his sins and for theirs. Revenge was at hand and even in Azkaban it smelt like sweet dew on a summer morning. He could almost taste it. -----

Hermione was amazed at the difference in Snape upon the second visit. He was still cadaverous, looked like walking death and continued to smell, but the man seemed to have regained a sense of equilibrium. He actually focused on her as he was brought into the room. Paid attention to her as he was manacled to the chair and waited expectantly for her to start. She suddenly felt a little nervous. Hermione had the distinct impression that although only a few days had passed since she'd last seen Snape, he'd somehow taken control of the situation. It felt like she had to prove herself to him once more. And as always, he'd find her lacking.

"So, umm, shall we begin Professor?" Hermione asked, cursing herself at the stammer.

Snape's lip curled upwards, "I thought we'd covered this before Miss Granger, I am no longer a Professor, in fact I am no longer much of anything. I fail to see why you want information out of me. After all is said and done, the side of Light won. The world is free from Voldemort's tyranny and all is as it should be."

"Yes. I mean no. It isn't all right. You are locked in here for treason. Your trial was in secret and you couldn't even defend yourself. Not to mention the fact that in twenty years no one will even think about you. There's no record of you anywhere."

"As it should be."

"No. It shouldn't. Something about this all seems very wrong."

"And you are so concerned with righteousness are you Miss Granger? Who appointed you the purveyor of all that is true? You are nothing but a Muggle-born witch with delusions of grandeur that seem to stem from being part of Harry Potter's inner circle. Tell me, why isn't the vaunted Mr. Potter here with you now? Where is the savoir these days."

"Harry, if you must know, is playing Quidditch. He's out enjoying life."

"And yourself? What lessons did you take from the battlefield? How are you enjoying your victory?"

"I'm studying Charms with Master Juglenot, one of the foremost practitioners of the art."

"So if I understand things properly, Potter is off riding a broomstick and you are ensconced in a pile of books. Did you learn nothing from the War? You are doing nothing with your life that wasn't previously ordained. How droll."

"You're one to talk. You committed treason. You're locked up here. You're nothing but a convict."

"And yet you are here Miss Granger. As opposed to following your studies, and you have yet to seem to want anything but vague answers. What are you looking for?"

"I want... I want to know why." Hermione finally managed to get the words out.

"Why? What an uninspired choice. Somehow I expected more from the 'brightest Witch of a generation' you have become so dull Miss Granger. Not that this is much an improvement from when you were a student. You were a robot with hand thrusting automatically in the air at the slightest hint of a question. Your only place to shine was the classroom and I fear you are incapable of any original thought. You follow Miss Granger. You follow the leads of others to the detriment of self. I truly thought this might be a challenge. You did seem so much more involved in the courtroom."

"You knew I was there?"

"You were the only one that looked upset at the outcome. Which was of course all that could have happened."

"You could have been given the Dementor's Kiss."

"Miss Granger, if you really believed that might happen, despite all your hatred towards me, I do believe you might have actually fought for me. No, for all your bravado, you sat idly aside and watched them sentence me. Although I should give you some credit, at least you had the tenacity to face me. Unlike Potter."

Hermione rose to her feet at Snape's words and furiously shouted at him. "You have no right to criticize Harry. He's earned the right to do what he wants. He spent his life battling Voldemort and..."

"Yes Miss Granger. Harry Potter was the only individual in the entire Wizarding World who battled Voldemort."

"That's... " Hermione fought for words.

"Surely you realize that nothing you say to me is sacrosanct. Nor is it private. If you want a window into my soul Miss Granger you're going to have to look elsewhere. If you want me to absolve you of your sins then by everything that I possess, you are forgiven." Despite Snape being immobilized Hermione knew that he was bowing his head to her.

"You should be on your knees begging for my forgiveness you traitor."

"Unfortunately I find myself unable to do anything of the sort. I'm rather tied to the chair at the moment. Perhaps you'd like to request my release from the restraints?"

Hermione reached for wand, forgetting until her hand came up empty that it was in the hands of the jailers. Snape laughed and looked at her. The bastard never lost his cool.

Snape continued. "Perhaps Miss Granger your answers lie elsewhere. In memory I suppose. The answers you seek are around you. You just have to look."

"Where?" Hermione cried in near frustration. "Everything is sealed."

Snape only smiled. For the first time it was he who signaled the guards to take him back to the cell. Hermione collected her belongings and made her way back to London. When she arrived there was another invitation from Harry to join him at a Quidditch match and after-party this weekend. She sent her response. This one she wouldn't forget. Harry was one of only three witnesses against Snape. It might be time to get her answers directly from the mouth of her friend.


End thirteen

A/N: Thanks to everyone that's written me in the break between chapters. I'll not make any vacant promises, but I can state that I'm writing again... manic