Chapter 1 - In Low Spirits
The rain poured from the sky as if it would never cease, shadowing the land with great dark storm clouds with the general sense of gloom that accompanied it. It had been raining like this for nearly a week; and a wholly depressing week it had been. Not many people had tried to stray out of doors, choosing rather, to remain holed-up in their houses, sitting by the fires with little else to do but eat, sleep and talk. The local pubs were frequented more often during this time of the year, and were often quite full of men and women alike. It was acceptable for women to do such things in Wizarding society.
The town whores usually got a lot more business during these times too -- hanging around the pubs and looking for easy prey. Generally they were banned from lingering in front of Rosmerta's, but it was too wet for anyone to care. Sometimes the women would leave of their own accord, and loiter near the bridge instead. The bridge that night, however, held one solitary person with a bright red umbrella that stood out through the darkness. From a distance even, anyone could have guessed that it was a young woman, presumably looking to find a bed to warm.
Not so far away, a man beneath a black umbrella emerged from the local pub, shaking off the loose women that attempted to compromise him, and stalking off grumpily. It had been a very bad week. He went in for a pint, and ended up having a whiskey instead, and left as soon as he could, unable to stand the camaraderie in the establishment any longer. One would think those people didn't have a home to go to or a family to take care of, or something of that description. He snorted mentally. He certainly didn't, so what should he care?
Severus Snape hastily beat a solitary path through the rain and back towards his home – back to Hogwarts, where the silence and solace could be found in his books and privacy. He didn't know what had driven him out of there in the first place. He had plenty of whiskey in his room, what did he care for the excitement and clamor of a pub -- and not just any pub, but the Three Broomsticks at that.
He sighed and continued on, knowing that he would never quite figure out why he had done it; why he had left the castle. It was still the middle of a school term, and there were still students in the castle. He couldn't afford to just walk in intoxicated one day and run the risk of a student seeing him in that state. He would never live it down, and his control of the pupils would lessen significantly.
He was about to cross the bridge from the village to Hogwarts, when he saw a figure standing on the bridge with a red umbrella. She was simply standing there – nothing more. Severus could practically taste her mood – depression seeped from her pores. It was clearly a woman, and one that seemed relatively young. She was leaning right up against the railing, simply standing there and looking as though she would jump if anyone came along at the wrong moment. It was then that he realized what the woman was preparing to do.
'If you intend on killing yourself, might I inform you that the water in this part of the river is far too shallow,' he said over the noise of the rain. 'It would be much more efficient to just Avada yourself.'
The woman started and stepped back from the rail, not looking at him, but lowering her head fractionally. 'Oh, believe me sir, I wasn't intending to jump,' the woman said softly. 'I was just thinking - that's all, but thank you for the advice.'
Severus simply nodded unbelievingly. 'Why would you come out and stand in the rain on such a dreadful night? You'll catch your death of cold,' he said.
'Oh, you must think me terribly strange. I must look terribly sad for you to think that I might kill myself,' she said almost too quietly for him to hear. 'I like the sound of the rain here, and the smell of the fresh water.'
Severus debated with himself for a moment, but curiosity won out, and he stepped closer, trying to make out who it was standing there looking so forlorn. What he saw surprised him greatly. It was Hermione Granger – well really she was Hermione Krum now. She was similar to the girl he had once taught, except that her hair was more manageable and fell in soft curls, and her face was thinner, and she had dark circles under her eyes. She was, in a word, thin.
'Mrs. Krum, what a surprise to see you here,' he said softly, although he had no idea why he was being nice to her. It just seemed right.
'Professor Snape,' she said with a slight inclination of her head.
He simply stood next to her for a while, staring out at the rain falling into the river as she had been for too long that evening. Severus wondered for a moment, why he was still standing there with this young woman, who was married to a man that he would not have picked for her. And then it dawned on him – he did not want her to jump. Her death would have resulted in a waste of her intelligence, because she truly had been the most gifted student to ever pass through the halls of Hogwarts while he had been in tenure there.
'What brings you to the dreary Highlands this night?' he asked carefully.
'I really don't know. I suppose this has always been one of my favourite places, and I really just wanted to come back here. I don't suppose I'll ever come back here again though,' she replied almost sadly.
'Why would you not return if you claim to love it here so much?' he pressed.
'Oh, well I really won't be here in Europe much longer. Victor is moving to the America's and I am going with him. He wants nothing more to do with Europe, so there is no way I shall be able to return,' she answered. 'So I suppose this is it, Professor. I am glad I've been able to see you one last time before I leave. Please know that I really appreciated everything you have done for me.'
And with those parting words, she walked past him towards Hogsmeade, and, if what she had just told him was true, out of his life forever. Severus couldn't bring himself to say a word. No matter how much he wanted to, the words just wouldn't come. She was leaving her friends and family, and her work? She was just going to leave with that bull-headed husband of hers, without considering any other options?
He looked up and saw her form and the red umbrella shrinking into the distance. Perhaps he would see her again one time? She wasn't so bad, and had been his favourite student to teach, despite his initial annoyance at her when she had first arrived. She had become tolerable towards the end of her education. Maybe she would write to her friends, and he would be able to hear how she was faring there? Maybe she would remain in contact with Minerva, and he would hear of her exploits that way.
With a heavy sigh, he turned to the direction that Hogwarts was, and began walking slowly back to his peace and quiet. But now it would not be the same – not after hearing the spot of back luck that Hermione Granger-Krum had now to face. She was trapped in a marriage where she had to do everything that her husband desired, even if what she did made her miserable. He thought she deserved better than that. Even Ronald Weasley or The-Boy-Who-Insisted-On-Living would have been a better choice than that self-important blockhead, Victor Krum.
He arrived at the castle and charmed the umbrella dry, before heading down to the dungeons, slipping into his office. He went to the portrait of Salazar Slytherin that guarded that entry to his chambers, and murmured his password, Belladonna, and passed through the portrait hole. The first thing that he noticed was that there was a fire roaring in his sitting room fireplace, and then he sensed another presence in the room – another person.
'Ah, Severus, back I see,' said a familiar old voice from the armchair facing the fire. 'How is Hogsmeade this dreary night?'
'It was just fine, Headmaster,' he said, shrugging out of his long black coat and hanging it and the umbrella up on the stand beside the entrance.
He walked across the room and sat in an unoccupied armchair, not bothering to look at Albus and simply staring into the fire, pondering the last half hour of his life. It had all gone rather quickly, he was amazed that it had even happened. Albus looked over at the pensive young man warily, wondering what the boy was thinking. He could usually tell, but this time it was a distress that he was unfamiliar with concerning Severus Snape.
'What ails you this night, my friend?' he asked carefully.
'It is hardly any of my business to be ailed by it, Albus,' he replied. 'I really have no idea why it bothers me so, but it has come to my attention that Hermione Granger-Krum is leaving the country.'
'Ah, that unpleasant bit of business,' Albus said insightfully. 'I will admit that it has been on both Minerva's and my own mind for the past few days, and it is within the rights of people to be concerned no matter who they are. Hermione is a clever witch, and to loose her is a terrible thing.'
'It is that bull-headed and unpleasant Krum, Albus. I can't help but to be frustrated that she would simply cow to his wishes,' Severus said shortly.
'She is a Gryffindor, Severus. She has a deep sense of duty, and because she is married to him, she would never go against him,' Albus said sadly. 'It is a shame that Mr. Krum would seek to separate her from her loved ones.'
'Shame indeed. That buffoon would be better off playing Quidditch again. His vampire chasing exploits have been hard on that girl, and now he seeks to remove her from everything she has ever known in order to satisfy his pursuits,' Severus spat, as if the knowledge had an unpleasant taste. 'He is selfish and cruel beyond reason to commit such a crime.'
Albus nodded. 'I only wish I had been able to stop Hermione from marrying that man out of duty. She never truly loved him – she only married for the sake of her parents' admiration of the boy. I can't imagine that they will think too highly of him now, however.'
Severus stared at Albus for a while, and then looked back at the fire. It was ridiculous that he would be in this state of mind, but he did not want Granger – no, Hermione, to do this. He would think of her as Hermione now, and call her that. She was no longer his student, and seeing her as an adult would help him to think straighter. She had a lot of potential, and could have put it to use here, but now even that was being ripped away from her.
'I shall see myself out now, my boy,' Albus said, standing and clapping Severus over the shoulder. 'Fear not, Severus. We will be in contact with her.'
Severus nodded mutely, and watched as his old friend and employer took some Floo powder, tossed it into the flames, and was swallowed up by the green flare, before the fire returned to the normal red-orange glow. He summoned a bottle of whiskey to him and poured a glass for himself, indulging for the second time that evening. The only difference was that now he felt like he needed it more.
Not only had he discovered Hermione Granger, the most sensible girl of her age group, trying to kill herself that night, but he had realized that he didn't want her to die. He wanted to save her from a terrible fate. He swallowed a generous amount of the amber liquid in the glass, and closed his eyes, savoring the burning sensation it caused as it went down his throat.
He would just have to wait for news, to see if her situation was as bad as he believed it would be.