The Hollow Man

Chapter Two – Theory versus Reality

"You what?" Harry almost shrieked, his mouth agape. "Hermione, how could you? Can't you see what they're turning you into? You think you'll be any better than a Death Eater if you just start torturing them around? Don't even try to interrupt me, I know it says 'House Help' in the letter, but we both know that's not going to happen, don't we? You wouldn't even take a house-elf, but you'll take a Death Eater? What has this war done to you, Hermione? Don't you know it won't bring your parents back?"

He paused for breath and Hermione was finally able to speak.

"It's not like that, Harry. I asked for Snape."

Harry looked at her for a minute longer and then understanding settled on his features. His voice was softer, sadder when he spoke to her again."

"So that's what it is, eh? First Crookshanks, then house-elfs, Lucky, and now Snape. You can't save everybody, Hermione. Snape isn't a pet or an oppressed creature, he's... he's no one at this point. Nothing lives in there. Do you really think your sacrifice will make any difference? He's not there to appreciate it, Hermione. Even if he were, I don't think he would even thank you."

"It doesn't matter that he isn't aware of it. I am aware of it, and I don't think I could live with myself if I let someone else take him, someone who'd hurt him. Because you're right, Harry, it doesn't matter what they're going to classify it as, torture it will be."

"Do you think he'd return the favour? That he would sacrifice his comfort and peace of mind to keep your hollow shell from being mistreated?"

"I don't know. Probably not. He would call it foolish to attempt to save a Hollow One, Gryffindor stupidity. But he did many other things, Harry, he saved us in many other ways, too many times, with nothing so much as a 'thank you'. If this is all I can do, than this is what I'll do."

"There's no talking you out of anything, is there?" he asked with a sigh. "OK, then, Ron and I will help you, you know that, don't you? Just don't ask me to change his diapers if he can't control his bladder."

That last comment had the desired effect and Hermione burst out laughing at the sheer absurdity of it all. They eased into conversation after that and, a short 30 minutes later, were apparating to the Burrow for a late-night snack with Ron.

---

The day had dawned grey, as if foretelling her dreadful task. Hermione turned and opened her eyes to find herself in unfamiliar surroundings. Oh, of course. Ginny's bedroom. They had ended up staying at the Burrow the previous night.

She took a quick shower and got ready for the day, having just only kissed Molly Weasley goodbye when Harry caught up with her. Ron had already left for practice.

"Hermione, wait. Are you going to pick him up now?"

"Yes, I scheduled it for 9h30."

"I'll apparate with you. I have to start arriving on time now that I've been promoted, you know, let them know that I'm not just some lazy bum who got there on account of fame alone."

Harry was an Auror now, and Fudge had made a grand show of promoting him to Head of Ministry Security only eight months after he had started working there. There were, of course, plenty of Aurors with more field experience than Harry, Aurors who had not been pleased to see a mere boy take over such a coveted position, and Harry was determined to prove to them that he was right for the job. Hermione privately thought that having a responsibility that did not involved killing another or being killed, as had been the case with Voldemort, could only be good for him.

Together they apparated.

---

"Name?"

"Hermione Jane Granger."

"Wand, please."

Hermione extended the proffered want and followed the man underground, to the one apparition point in Britain that allowed one to get to Azkaban.

The damp, stale smell of despair assaulted her the minute she arrived. She could only fathom it was because a good percentage of the prisoners knew they were being scheduled for the Hollowing.

"You are here for one former Severus Snape, is that correct?"

Hermione schooled her features to neutrality before answering "yes".

"If you would wait here, Miss, it will be brought to you shortly."

She had to suppress a shudder at the man's choice of wording. It. It would be brought to her. As if Snape were no longer even a man. Which, she surmised with some fairness, was probably true. How could one deem person a creature without a soul? The sound of approaching footsteps shook her from her reverie. She felt grateful for the darkened halls that would hide a reaction she was certain she would not be able to refrain. Still, nothing could have prepared her for the sight that greeted her.

The former Potions Mater was impossibly thinner, almost skeletal. His once yellowish complexion was now ashen, making the blue bruise on the left side of his face stand out even more. And his eyes... she had never seen emptier eyes, not even in one under the influence of either Veritaserum or Imperio. She could remember Severus Snape's eyes as ice cold on a number of occasions, yes, but never expressionless. Never dead, without any glimmer of emotion, be it anger or malice, it didn't matter.

The eyes truly were the windows of the soul. And his was dead.

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Apologies for the short chapter, I have more already written (though not typed) but this was the place to stop.