By- TheGreyLady (

Chapter 1~  Hell Is Other People

            Hermione sat alone in her house.  Not alone in actuality but alone in essence.  She had a companion of sorts, if he could be called that.

            It was funny in a way.  Funny in a "just when you think everything's going to be okay, life pulls the rug out from under you" kind of way.  She lit a cigarette and tried to inhale.  She failed, coughing violently, and crushed the butt out after a few attempts.  Not much of a smoker.  It seemed like one of the many things she'd failed at recently.

            She had thought that nothing would ever compare to the gut-wrenching ache she experienced when her parents were murdered.  Now… now she wasn't so sure anymore.  Because he was there…  He lived with her now- a perpetual reminder that the world is not just, that corruption and lies are ill-concealed beneath positions of power.  That some problems never go away.  Some stay and mindlessly obey your every whim, unwillingly stalking you, and the empathy you experience builds up into a brilliant and exquisite roar.

            She could tell him to slit his wrists and he would do it, powerless to stop the bleeding.

            She looked at him, not even a shell of the man he had been.  The man who had so often struck terror in her now sat obediently on the couch.  Unable to speak, unable to eat, unable to even think unless she wished it, this man was wholly dependent on her.

            Severus Snape had been here for eight days.  It felt like a lifetime… if you could call it that. 

             He was supposed to be her reparation.  He was supposed to fill the void her parents had left when the Death Eaters struck last summer.  He was her slave.  The whole prospect made her sick to her stomach.  She would have thought that her campaign for the welfare of house-elves would have told the Ministry what she thought of Snape's position.  The man to whom she owed so much.  The man who saved her life was her slave because he couldn't save her parents as well.

            Dumbledore would have never let this happen.

            The Headmaster had been missing since Voldemort's defeat.  He had disappeared into infinity; no one even knew for sure if he was still alive.  Cornelius Fudge, the eternal opportunist, took the opening and slammed Snape with the same sentence the other Death Eaters had received.

            She didn't know how they did it.  She couldn't really bring herself to care.  She couldn't really bring herself to do much of anything. 

            "This is so wrong," she whispered to no one, "you helped us.  You helped me.  We would all be dead if it weren't for you.  And you're here and you're helpless.  You would be so angry with me if you knew how you were living.  God, should I just kill you and put you out of your misery?  And now," she laughed, "Now, I'm sitting here talking to you as if you've an iota of what I'm saying."

            She was met with silence, not even a glimmer of recognition in his vacant eyes, "Sleep, professor.  God knows, I wish I could."

            His eyes closed and his breathing deepened.  He was still sitting upright.  She coaxed him into a more comfortable position.  She was waiting for Harry and Ron.  They were the two people most capable of finding the magic that did this.  Their role in the war had brought them enough fame to be let into the inner workings of the Ministry.  She, however, was a Muggle-born.  Politics are politics.

            It was funny that Lucius Malfoy, the man who had been the bane of her existence, had garnered enough contempt against Muggle-borns to prevent her from learning what she needed to know.  It was even funnier that he, too, was mindlessly tending to some Muggle-born's needs. 

            Lots of things were funny.  The world was getting downright hilarious with all this rampant irony.

              God, I'm bitter, she thought.

            She flipped on the television, hoping to find some distraction while she waited.  She'd already tried to read but kept feeling as if someone was looking over her shoulder.  She knew what was bothering her so much.  She couldn't imagine feeling any different if Snape was, indeed, a corpse.  Except, she probably wouldn't feel as guilty, like she had done something wrong.  She turned off the television and waited, taking a gulp of the stiff drink in her hand. 

            She sputtered slightly as she forced the burning drink down her throat.  Hermione Granger wasn't much of a drinker, either.

            A knock sounded at the door.  She dropped her glass onto the floor, where it shattered.  The silence was really getting to her.  She was living in a house with a dead man who wasn't really dead.

            Opening the door, she was relieved to see Harry and Ron.  They entered the house as they would enter a funeral parlor, silent and reserved.  Respecting the dead.  It was mildly humorous, considering they had so little respect for him when he wasn't half dead.

            "Hermione," Ron spoke lowly as though Snape could be disturbed, "We've figured it out."

Author's Notes-  I know a lot of you may be wondering what's going on with Disturbances right now.  Well, I'm working on this story and Disturbances in tandem.  Stretching my wings and whatnot. 

            I can only say that if you are looking for light, funny humor… you're probably in the wrong place.  This is a response to the WIKTT "Hollow Man" challenge.  There's gonna be some pretty weird imagery in the next chapter, so I warn you now.

            A huge thanks to Moaning Myrtle, who graciously offered to beta this fic for me.