Disclaimer: Not mine.
Severus held his cane tightly as he made his way down the corridors to the potions classroom. He was thankful now that Minerva had insisted he use the room closer to his chamber and refigured the castle to accommodate him. He stopped and leaned his free hand against the wall, panting in exhaustion, and looked up to see the door still a good thirty meters away.
Fuck, he thought, Longbottom's grandmother does better.
"Professor?" He recognized the voice at once and sighed. He had hoped to make it into the classroom and be sitting before she arrived.
"Miss Granger." He greeted her in as steady a voice as he could. "I had heard you were returning to re-do your Seventh Year. Most commendable, albeit highly unnecessary."
"I found I had nothing else to do," she said, laughing lightly. "My parents are gone, for all intents, and there are no jobs to be had until the post war rebuilding can be done, so I was at a loss. This seemed the only option."
"I am sure you can still break my wards. If you care to go in I shall be there shortly."
"Thank you, Professor."
He looked up, and watched as she hurried to the classroom and with a couple of passes of her wand pushed the door open, and disappeared from sight. He was surprised and thankful she had not insisted on helping him. She appeared to have aged more then only the one year since he had last seen her. Running his hand through his hair, he smirked. He was sure he had more grey then last year and looked worse for wear as well. The war seemed to have taken its toll in more ways then one.
He took a deep breath and pushed off the wall to resume his slow three-legged walk down the hall. By the time he had reached the door his arm was shaking from holding onto the cane so tightly and he was again gasping for air. He paused to see where she was sitting before beginning his slow climb down the stairs, making sure he did not pass too close to her.
She waited until he had sat and his breathing evened out. "Professor, if I may? I could have the custodian change the middle walk to a ramp. It would make it easier."
"I am in no need of your suggestions, Miss Granger." He looked around the room and wordlessly turned off all but one candle.
"It is not just you. There is a sixth year missing a leg, and two more, I don't know the years, one had her foot crushed and the other is still recovering from a broken pelvis." Hermione looked at him evenly. "Sir? The lights, sir."
"Harold, Harold Johnson. He lost his leg when the south wall fell. Not all Slytherins ran from the final battle, Miss Granger. It is Brenda McMaster with the crushed foot, also of my house." Severus sighed deeply and looked at her. "The other is a Ravenclaw. He broke his pelvis on a motor cycle. He wanted to see how fast he could go. I have always thought he was wrongly sorted."
Hermione smiled thinly at him. "It does sound more like something a Gryffindor would do, now that you mention it."
He saw her uneasy smile and nodded. "Filch is still with us. You may contact him after class if you think they would benefit."
"You also should use a different type of walking stick … there are easier ones to hold."
"Miss Granger, I am sure you know so much more than the medical staff…"
"Don't start with me again, Professor," she said flatly. "I lost my patience a few months back and have not even bothered to look for it."
"Then don't start with me, Miss Granger. Why are you here? You received your certificate of completion. You were also offered no less than three jobs. I myself supplied the recommendations. So, Miss Granger, do not sit there and pretend different and lie to me."
"Fine." She stood and began cramming her books back in her knapsack. "I don't need potions. I don't need your class or your caustic, sarcastic, black hearted attitude."
Severus raised his hand and wandlessly closed and warded the door. "I asked you a question, Miss Granger, I expect an answer."
Hermione snapped her head up and watched as the door locked and then turned to Severus seething. "How dare you?"
"Very easily thank you. Now, answer the question. Why are you here?"
"I told you," she said looking back at the door.
"Open the door. Snape," she hissed at him. "Open it now."
"A little door Miss Granger? I am sure you could open it yourself. You have once already."
"I hate you, everyone hates you." She glared at him as tears began to fill her eyes.
"Good, they will not stay after class to ask foolish questions. Answer me, Miss Granger."
"It is not your…"
"Oh but it is. As your teacher, I find it most useful to know what motivates students. Tell me, Hermione, what is it that motivates you to return this year?"
She turned to the door and lifted her wand in her trembling hand. Unable to hold the wand still enough to cast the spell she let her arm drop to her side.
Severus stood to walk over to her, took one step and returned to his seat unable to make the short walk. "Miss Granger, I am too old for this, and too sore to carry on this farce. Tell me why you are here or this is where you will take your lunch and perhaps your dinner. Bloody hell, girl, I personally don't care if you spend the night here."
"Headmistress said I could return this year." She lifted her chin and glowered at him.
She stood and watched him, flicking her eyes to the door as she felt her lungs begin to suck in shorter and shorter breaths. She turned away from the door fully and folded her arms determined not to look again before he raised the wards. She saw him pick up his newspaper and begin to read.
Lesson would start in a few minutes she thought smugly, in just a few minutes, the door would open and the students would begin to file in for the double potions lesson. She kept that thought in the front of her mind as she closed her eyes and let it become her mantra. A few minutes, a few minutes, a few minutes, she chanted until she felt her knees hit the floor and her head lower to her chest. She stayed as she was unmoving, as he called to her repeatedly. Finishing his paper, he stood and called her again.
"Please let me go sir, please."
"Miss Granger." He painfully squatted down in front of her and grabbed her chin yanking her head up. "I can do nothing for you unless you say it out loud. Now, why are you here?"
"So he won't get me again. Please sir, don't let him at me." He felt chilled at the terror behind the words that he saw in her face and the effect they had on her. Her eyes were large and tearful and the way she looked at him was as if she were drowning.
"Say it Miss Granger. Why are you…?"
"He said it was my fault. He said he would make sure I paid," she whispered, leaning into his ear and fisting his robe to bring him close. "He said next time he would kill me and then find my parents. He said…"
"His name, Miss Granger, you have to say his name."
"For two days he kept the doors locked. I couldn't get out. For two days he…"
"I know Miss Granger, but it has to be you that presses the charges. You have to say it."
"Lucius, Lucius Malfoy," she screamed the name as she fell forward into his lap sobbing.
He raised his hand and unlocked the door allowing Minerva to sweep in with a billow of green flowing robes. She hurried to the sobbing girl pulling her off Severus and onto her own shoulder.
"My Merlin, Severus, I thought she would never give up. You have been in here almost three hours with her."
"Make sure it is Kingsley she talks to. I still do not trust the rest." Severus tried to stand only to sink back down on the floor. "I am afraid I require assistance."
"Poppy is on her way. I sent her for more of your potion when it was taking so long." Minerva stroked the still sobbing girl. "She is bringing Hermione a calming potion as well."
"No, you will give her nothing. That is her problem. She has never dealt with the war or Malfoy's treatment of her this past summer. She needs to accept it and deal with it without the potion's help. She must grieve and be over it. Now help me up woman."
"Allow me," Kingsley Shacklebolt said from the doorway. "It is not everyday that I am in the position to see Severus Snape on the floor."
He strode up to Severus and reached out his hand grinning at the Potions Master.
"If I had enough strength to pull myself up I could use the chair," he hissed.
Kingsley looked at Minerva with a raised eyebrow. Seeing her look away, he held his tongue, stood behind Severus, bent over, hooked his arms under Severus' arms, and hoisted him up.
Severus smoothed his robes down and lifted his chin in a feeble attempt to hold onto what little dignity he had left.
"If you will excuse me," he said, reaching for his cane. "I will return to my chambers."
"No Minerva," he said, looking down at Hermione. "I have done what you asked. I am done."
"I will come to you later for your memories." Kingsley scowled at him.
"Fine, just make sure you understand when I do not answer the door or your questions."
Severus slowly began to make his way to his chambers when he heard Poppy's shoes clacking against the stones as she hurried to him.
"Severus, you should have waited." She chided him as she grabbed his arm and slid it around her shoulders. "I told Minerva you were not up to this."
She slowly stepped forward as he slid his right leg slowly, no longer able to lift it. Scowling, she leaned him against the wall as she dug in her pockets for his potion and held it to his mouth until he drank. Taking up his arm again, she helped him into his chambers and to his chair in front of the fireplace.
"Shall I floo for tea?"
"No," he said, raising his arm and calling to the fire whiskey that sat on the mantel.
"Oh no," she said and caught it midway. "Not on top of the potion. If you would only go to St. Mungo's and see a Healer boy, they may be able to help."
"For years they would not help me, now you want me to give them a chance to tout me out in front of the press as a staunch supporter of theirs? I think not."
"Have it your way." She walked over and ran her wand over his body checking his vital signs. "Well, seems like you did no damage. You need to rest. I told you it would take a few more months before you had your strength back."
"We needed to do this. He is getting worse." He sighed and rested his head back on the chair. "Narcissa has left him. She was the only thing that kept him in check, now… I fear if something is not done he will try to start it all over."
"He will not have supporters." Poppy patted his head and reached for another potion, handing it to him and then pulling over a footrest.
"A promise of power and he will have all the supporters he wants." Severus laughed. "Take a walk down to Knockdown, pick a few of the newly homeless due to the war, tell them it is someone else's fault and promise them power and enough food to eat. That is your new army Poppy. Then offer them a few pretty, unspoiled witches or Muggles and you have loyalty."
"Do you really think that is what he wants Hermione for?" She looked at him in shock.
"No, I believe that is what he wanted her for." Severus closed his eyes and began to drift on top of a sea of potions. "The only thing that surprises me is that she survived it intact enough to come back here. She is stronger than I gave her credit of."
Poppy picked up his blanket from the floor and covered him up. Then taking the fire whiskey with her she left him sleeping and went to check again on Hermione.