by Flye Autumne
CHAPTER TWENTY: AFTERMATH
"They're ready for you."
Hermione's heart dropped.
This was it.
Hermione started slightly. "I - "
"As I told you earlier, Miss Granger, don't be nervous."
Hermione nodded hesitantly, then stood. "That's easier said than done, sir."
Professor Snape inclined his head. "Indeed."
Hermione took a deep breath. "I suppose I'm ready, then."
The secretary escorted them back to the meeting room. With each step she took, the tiny ball of worry sitting in Hermione's stomach grew. What if I'm placed with someone I don't know? Or someone completely horrible? What if they're worse than. . .
A hand dropped lightly onto her shoulder. "Cease your worrying, Miss Granger."
"I - I'm trying."
"Do, Miss Granger. There is no try."
Hermione swallowed hard. "Okay," she said quietly.
The door swung open, and the knot in her stomach tightened. There were too many possibilities, too many permutations. Murphy's Law, she thought desperately, trying to hold onto something. Whatever can go wrong will go wrong. Oh, Merlin. . .
"Professor Snape," Madam Bones was saying. "Miss Granger. Please take a seat."
Hermione sat down shakily. This was it. The moment. The split second in time where her world could crumble at her feet.
"After a long discussion, we have finally reached a decision," Madam Bones said, steepling her fingers.
Hermione scanned the table. Auror Moody was impossible to read while Ms. Marchbanks and Ms. Runcorn were subtly glaring at each other. Auror Tonks' brow was slightly furrowed, but Hermione couldn't tell if she was annoyed at the other women or upset with what was said.
"We went through many deliberations, including familial history, personal interactions, and guardianship ability. We carefully considered each factor and are confident we made the best possible decision," Madam Bones continued, "If you would, Miss Granger." She pushed a thick parchment envelope across the table.
"Do I just - " Hermione asked, gesturing uselessly at the envelope.
"Go ahead, open it."
Hermione slid trembling fingers through the thick parchment, carefully prying the envelope open. There was a single sheet inside, and Hermione took it out, heart beating sharply inside her chest.
Hermione read the short paragraph, eyes growing wide. She re-read it, making sure she hadn't made a mistake, hadn't read something incorrectly. It was too perfect. There was no way -
Effective 20 December, 1991.
From this date forward, Hermione Jean Granger will be the ward of Severus Tobias Snape. Master Snape will be the guardian of Miss Granger for affairs both legal and mundane, and be responsible for her welfare until she reaches seventeen (17) years of age.
More paragraphs detailed Professor Snape's exact duties, but Hermione didn't bother reading those. Her heart beat wildly in her chest, but this time it was a happy tap dance against her ribs. She was going to have a home, and it was going to be absolutely wonderful.
"Miss Granger," Professor Snape remarked. "You appear shocked. Please, enlighten us."
Hermione raised her eyes to meet his, and opened her mouth to respond, but she couldn't quite get her feelings into words. She pushed the parchment towards him.
Severus' stomach dropped to the floor. He couldn't possibly have read correctly. There was no way they had chosen him, a former Death Eater with no true prospects. By Merlin, he wanted to raise Hermione, to give her the supportive childhood he'd never had. He'd never thought it was possible. . .
"Me?" he asked wonderingly.
Hermione turned the parchment back around. "Yes, it says it right here - 'From this date forward, Hermione Jean Granger will be the ward of Severus Tobias Snape.'"
For the first time in recent memory, Severus' jaw dropped. He shot a look of askance at Moody. What had he, Severus, done to get this chance?
Moody offered him nothing by way of explanation, only giving him a slight nod.
"You do want me, right?" Hermione was asking, looking nervous.
Severus wanted to smack himself for his own stupidity. Of course the girl would assume the worst!
"Of course I do, Hermione!"
There was a flurry of movement, and Severus suddenly had a face full of bushy hair and an arm full of girl. Tentatively, he put his arms around her and hugged her close. "I'm glad too," he murmured.
Some minutes later, Hermione decided she'd hugged him enough for the moment and sat back in her own chair.
Marchbanks brandished a sheaf of parchment. "These are your official duties, Mr. Snape. Everything is spelled out very clearly. If you have any questions, send an owl immediately to Wizarding Children's Services."
"There will be monthly inspections, during the summer months," Runcorn added, "To ensure the home is suitable for a child to live and that the placement is a good fit. For the remainder of the scholastic year, we will send owls to both you and to Miss Granger. Direct any questions to the Welfare Department."
"Do you have any questions now?" Marchbanks asked.
"No, I do not," Severus said. "Hermione?"
The girl shook her head. "I'm all set."
"If everyone is clear on everything, we can adjourn this meeting," said Bones. "Anyone? No? Very well. Meeting adjourned."
Chairs scraped against the floor.
Severus stood up. "Are you ready to back to Hogwarts, Hermione?"
The girl grinned at his use of her first name. "Yes! Do we have to Apparate?"
"I'm afraid so."
Hermione frowned. "Darn." There was a pause. "Does it get better when you Apparate yourself?"
Severus shrugged. "Not really."
"When will I learn to Apparate?"
"When you turn seventeen."
"Snape," Moody growled as they headed out of the room.
Severus turned around. "What do you want?" he asked cagily. He was on infinitely better terms with the grizzled auror, but they weren't friends by even the most ludicrous stretch of imagination.
"I need to talk to you about something. Send the girl ahead with Tonks."
Hermione sent him a questioning look, but followed the pink haired woman without a word.
"The Dumbledore situation," Moody began once Hermione was out of earshot.
Severus tensed imperceptibly.
"It's not going to fly."
"There's not enough proof. You can't prove anything against him."
Severus' mind spluttered. What? How? "How can you possibly say that? He acted negligently, and - "
"There's no hard evidence. Any case that goes against him will be shot down immediately."
"But - "
"Sorry, Snape. It's just not going to cut it this time."
Severus took a deep breath in a vain effort to calm himself . "It's bloody fucking awful. He just keeps getting away with - "
"Calm down, Snape. It is kind of a shite situation, but there's nothing you can do about it. Go live your life. Raise the kid."
Severus sighed, anger simmering just below the surface. He would hold his tongue now, but by Merlin, he was going to do it. He would collect evidence, take notes, and eventually, some day, delicious cold revenge would be served.
Moody sighed, looking Severus directly in the eye. "Look, Snape. . . damn, I've never been any good at this…That girl thinks the world of you. This is the one chance I'm giving you. Show you're a decent enough bloke. Don't toss it for somethin' petty. I think…. I think she would have approved." Moody grimaced - perhaps he was smiling - clapped Severus roughly on the shoulder, and clunked away.
Severus swallowed hard, and watched as Hermione explained something to Tonks. The auror nodded patiently at her enthusiastic gestures. Severus hadn't seen Hermione that happy since. . . well, since he'd known her. It seemed there was already a huge weight off her shoulders.
It might not be perfect, Severus realized. It might not even be really good, but whatever he did would certainly be better.
A/N: With that, my first fanfiction is complete! A special thanks goes out to both of my betas, Scintilla of Myself and Delos-Solon. They've helped make this story better!
Another huge thanks goes out to all of you readers. Your reviews and your follow/favorite alerts make me smile. For those of you who have been here since day one, thanks so much for your continued support :)
A couple of people have asked me questions, and I'm answering them here:
Q: Is there going to be more chapters?
A: No, this is the last chapter of Mudsnake. This was a really fun project, but I have other stories I want to work on.
Q: Are you going to write a sequel?
A: As of now, I am not planning on a sequel. I might post an epilogue later. If there are any future installments, I will update this fic with a temporary author's note as a chapter.
If you liked this fic, please leave me a review! Also, if you like Slytherin!Hermione, check out my latest fic, Chessmaster: Black Pawn.
Chessmaster Volume I. Harry Potter discovered that the local public library, not the local play park, was the perfect place to hide from Dudley. Clever and resourceful, Harry unwittingly breaks a centuries long trend, causing plans to whirl into motion.. Rumors of a stone, a mirror, and a mysterious door float through the halls of Hogwarts. Meanwhile, two men fight a shadow war in a vain effort to control the Wizengamot...
Thanks again and happy reading!