Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Author's Note: This was written for Harry Holidays 2010 as a gift to the community, since the original recipient dropped out. One of the original recipient's requests was "based on a film", so the plot is drawn from the 2005 movie "Just Like Heaven" with Reese Witherspoon and Mark Ruffalo. Also, I put together a soundtrack for this fic, but as won't allow links, I will just put the name of the song and the artist in each chapter.
Title song: Hurts, "It's a Wonderful Life"
Chapter 1 song: Caleigh Peters, "I Can Do Anything"
"Oh, Hermione, dear, come in. I'm so glad you're here." Professor McGonagall waved Hermione into her office from behind the massive stacks of parchment and boxes on her desk. "The Board of Governors doesn't seem to realize that we need to have things up and running in two weeks, not two years! They're balking now at some of the expenditures, even though Madam Terwilliger assured me just last week there would be no problem pushing them through. Ach!" She tossed a sheaf of papers up into the air, sending them flying neatly to the top of a pile that had already reached precarious dimensions. "Never mind, 'tis none of your concern," she told Hermione apologetically. "Come in, have a seat!"
The elderly witch made her way through the bricks, buckets, ladders, bundles of fabric, and other various items heaped up around the room. A space had been cleared by the fire to make a cozy corner, and a settee and a couple of comfortable chairs were angled to make the most of the spectacular view of Hogwarts' grounds and the distant mountains. It was a pleasantly warm, late summer afternoon, and the landscape stretched out below them, peaceful and golden. It was hard to imagine this had been the site of such terrible carnage a few brief weeks earlier.
Hermione smiled and closed the door behind her. "I'm so excited about this opportunity, Professor. I can't tell you how much it means to me to have you entrust me with a teaching position, especially considering I never formally completed my schooling."
"Piddle-posh, Hermione, and didn't I tell you to call me Minerva?" She sat down in one of the chairs, gesturing for Hermione to do the same. "Your NEWT scores were exemplary, as I expected. And not even Lucius Malfoy could deny that no one is better qualified to teach our young wizards and witches about the Muggle world. May I offer you a cup of tea? I could do with a break myself."
"Thank you, that would be lovely," Hermione said as she sank down onto the other chair. "I shall certainly do my best. There are so many misconceptions, even among Muggle enthusiasts like Mr. Weasley. And I can only imagine what sort of horrible lies were spread by the Carrows last year."
"Indeed." McGonagall nodded sharply as she twirled her wand around to Conjure the tea things. "Of course, most of the students realized it was all a bunch of hogwash, but there is a certain, shall we say, impressionable element, whose beliefs you may have to work hard to retrench. You will have my full support, of course, as well as that of the entire staff."
"I appreciate it. Thank you," Hermione said, accepting a cup from the Headmistress. "How is the rebuilding coming along?" She politely refrained from saying that it didn't look like much progress, if any, had been made since she'd last been there. There were still gaping holes in the outer walls, and on her way up through the castle, she'd had to skirt several piles of rubble and even double back at one point where the staircases were completely missing, and seek an alternate route.
McGonagall grimaced as she confirmed Hermione's suspicions. "Slowly. There aren't many witches or wizards in Britain with the knowledge of how to work the kinds of charms Hogwarts needs. Even Filius says it's beyond him. I've got a line on a master stonecharmer in Italy, but the cost..." The Headmistress sighed. "That's just one of the items the Board is giving me a hard time over." She blew across the top of her tea and took a sip.
"Maybe I can help," Hermione offered. "I'd need someone to teach me, of course, but I've always been quick at picking up new magic."
McGonagall smiled at her over the edge of her cup. "That's very sweet of you, Hermione, and it may be that there ends up being something you can do, but for the time being, I need you to concentrate on getting ready for the term. These two weeks will fly by, believe me!"
"Of course, you're right. Still, if there's anything I can do..."
"You'll be at the top of my list, never fear," McGonagall assured her. "However, this talk of rebuilding brings up a most pertinent point. Unfortunately, as I'm sure you saw on your way up here, there are still large parts of the castle that are unusable. Our first priority has to be to provide a basic infrastructure for teaching and accommodations. As such, some adjustments will have to be made. The entire west wing of the third floor, for example, is exposed to the elements due to a breach in the wall. And as you may recall-"
"That's where the Muggle Studies classroom is," Hermione completed the thought.
"Yes. There are other classes similarly affected; the roof of the Divination classroom fell victim to a giant's fist. The only solution that I have come up with is to double up in several of the remaining functional classrooms. It will mean longer days; classes will go right up until dinner time. But I feel confident the staff and student body of Hogwarts will pull together."
"Again, you can count on me," Hermione said stoutly.
"Excellent. There remains then only the matter of your personal accommodations." Professor McGonagall looked hesitant, as if she wasn't sure how to proceed with a most delicate subject.
"I'd be happy to share a room with another professor," Hermione said, assuming that was what the Headmistress was getting at.
"No, no, I don't believe it will come to that," McGonagall assured her. "However, it is true that poor Charity's rooms are among those currently unfit for habitation. As such, I have had to find other quarters for you."
"Don't tell me I'll be moving in with Mr. Filch's mops," Hermione joked.
"No, these are well-furnished, comfortable living quarters. Now, Hermione, if you think this will be a problem in any way, I want you to let me know. We can find another arrangement, I'm sure. This just seemed like the simplest solution at the moment, as they are currently the only quarters not being used."
It only took Hermione a moment to sort through the possibilities: the only staff quarters that could be free were Professor Dumbledore's and Professor Snape's, as the rest of the teachers would be returning. And it wasn't likely that Professor McGonagall would be giving her the former Headmaster's rooms.
"Dawlish will be the new Head of Gryffindor house, and is therefore taking over my old rooms in Gryffindor Tower. I have moved up here," McGonagall confirmed Hermione's line of thinking. Diarmuid Dawlish would also be teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts. It remained to be seen whether Voldemort's curse on the position had died with him.
"...and that leaves Professor Snape's old rooms down in the lower levels," Hermione concluded.
"The dungeons were completely spared of any damage during the battle," Professor McGonagall said.
Of course, Hermione thought, there were only Slytherins down there, and the Death Eaters wouldn't have been after attacking any of them.
Professor McGonagall continued, "I think you'll find that, as Head of Slytherin House, Professor Snape appropriated the best rooms for himself. In addition to the bedroom, living room, and bath, there is an additional chamber that he had set up as a personal potions laboratory. I dare say you'd have more personal space at your disposal than any other member of staff."
"It sounds quite generous, thank you," Hermione said with grace, although she did feel more than a bit odd about taking over Professor Snape's old rooms.
"I've had a quick look around down there myself, and it all looks very much in order. I'm afraid there's no budget for extensive redecoration, but if you do find that any of the basic furnishings are damaged or unusable, let me know and we can have them replaced. You may also feel free to remove any items you find unnecessary or inconvenient. We will either find another use for them elsewhere in the castle, or... dispose of them in an appropriate manner."
Hermione understood what Professor McGonagall was trying to say: She had checked the rooms for Death Eater paraphernalia or anything that might be connected to Lord Voldemort, but it might be that she had missed something, and she was warning Hermione against any unpleasant surprises.
"I understand," Hermione told her, steeling herself for just such an eventuality. "I'm sure it will be fine."
Professor McGonagall and Hermione chatted for another quarter of an hour, Hermione outlining her syllabus, and McGonagall filling Hermione in on her administrative duties. When they were interrupted by an owl pecking insistently at the window, Hermione excused herself to allow the Headmistress to get back to work.
On her way down to the dungeon level, Hermione took a quick detour to peek into the Great Hall. As the venue of the final show-down between Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort, as well as the place where several people had died, on both sides, it would no longer be used to take regular meals. Instead, it was being dedicated as a memorial site. Meals would be served in another large space near the kitchens that had previously been used for storage.
Empty of furniture, the hall now appeared cavernous. The lack of light further contributed to the dreary atmosphere. The enchanted ceiling was dark, its magic broken by the hits it had taken from wild curses during the Battle of Hogwarts. Hermione shivered and closed the door again. It would be a long time before she set foot in there again.
As she went back across the entry hall, heading for the stairs leading to the lower levels, she ran into Professor Flitwick and Professor Sinistra, both of whom congratulated her and welcomed her to the staff. Flitwick also invited Hermione to call him by his first name, but the tall, aloof Astronomy professor merely twitched her nose and said she was sorry about what had happened to Professor Burbage, and was certain Hermione would be a worthy successor.
When she finally found herself facing the heavy, iron-studded door leading into Professor Snape's rooms - her rooms now, she corrected herself- she paused to gather her wits. This might be the former lodging of a Death Eater (although she knew Snape had been loyal to Dumbledore in the end, he had still been a card-carrying member of Voldemort's organization, and done some pretty horrible things himself to boot), but the space itself was neutral. She was the one who would imbue the rooms with their aura, and she wanted to start off on the right foot.
Swinging the door open with a confidence she didn't necessarily feel, she took a deep breath and entered.
The room was ... somewhat of a let-down. There was a standard assortment of furniture - sofa, desk, chairs, bookshelves, side tables. The cold stone floor was covered by a sturdy brown rug. The house-elves must have known she was on her way, for a hearty fire burned in the grate: despite the fact that it was the middle of August, the dungeons never lost their chilly edge. She half-expected to see a silver mask peeking out from under the sofa, sinister black robes draped over the back of a chair, or a faded blood stain not quite scrubbed out of the rug. But there was none of that. At first, she was excited to discover books on the shelves, and ran over, eager to investigate Snape's reading material, until she realized they were her own books, already unpacked and organized by the house-elves. There was nothing of Snape's left. Minerva had done a thorough job. The first word that sprang to mind when she looked around was "sanitized".
Hermione closed the door and began exploring the suite more thoroughly. The walls were bare, except for a single, long landscape painting opposite the sofa. It depicted a beautiful sunset, and Hermione was already spinning yarns in her head regarding Snape's sensitive side, when she realized it was a window-picture showing a view across Hogwarts' grounds. As she stood there, she was able to see the sky subtly darken on its way toward night. Minerva had probably had it hung there for her. Or maybe all of the living quarters below ground had a similar picture, to brighten the gloomy atmosphere and provide a bit of daylight. She felt vaguely disappointed, as she had about the books.
As Minerva had said, there were three rooms and a private bath. The smallish annex off the main room with worktop, shelves, and built-in cupboards - now all empty - Hermione took to be the former private potions laboratory. She thought she might turn it into a study or library, leaving the main room for more leisurely activities.
The other door led to the bedroom. Hermione felt a squirm of discomfort as she opened it, thinking about sleeping in the same bed Snape had slept in - possibly even using the same sheets! (Although of course everything would have been thoroughly cleaned and freshened up by the ever-dutiful house-elves.) Again, though, the bedroom resembled nothing more than a nondescript middle-class hotel. There was absolutely nothing to give any hint of the room's former occupant. The bed was a generously sized single four-poster with no curtains. The fluffy duvet and pillow had matching brown covers (not green, she noted cynically) and the sheets were crisp and white. There was a tall, wooden wardrobe, and when Hermione opened it, she found it already filled with her own things, again courtesy of the house-elves.
"Thanks, Dobby; fellas!" Hermione called out as she closed the closet.
The adjacent en-suite bath was large enough, and had a lovely claw-footed tub, but no shower. That might explain why Snape had not necessarily washed his hair every day. Hermione made a note to ask Minerva if she might not have one installed. She certainly didn't fancy having to wash her mass of chestnut hair under the tap every morning!
Wandering back out into the living room, she felt slightly deflated. There really wasn't much left for her to do. She didn't feel like going out and wandering about the castle, especially with so few residents present at the moment. She might have gone out onto the grounds to see Hagrid, but he had set up house in a marquee-sized tent while his own hut was being rebuilt, and she'd had quite enough of tents for the time being.
Plus, for some reason, she was feeling a bit melancholy. It was probably being here again, in the castle, with the events of two months ago still fresh, both in her mind and in the physical scars left in the building. Or maybe these rooms were really having an effect on her. Not the way Minerva had feared; but the fact of their sparseness, their lack of personality, brought home to her once again that people had died, their lives ended, all that they had worked for and been - eradicated in the blink of an eye.
It hadn't really hit her like this with Fred; there were so many Weasleys left, although Fred's absence was felt, it was as if part of him were still there. Especially as one needed look no further than George's face to be reminded of his missing twin. With Remus and Tonks, well, Hermione had never really been that close to either of them. She did feel sad that little Teddy would grow up without his mother and father, but again, he was there as their legacy. His colorful tufts of hair were a constant reminder of Tonks, and everyone said he had his toothy grin from his father. Andromeda had already plastered his room with pictures of his parents, so much that Harry joked the boy was going to think he was the offspring of television personalities who were simply too busy to come home, but waved good-night to him every night from their screens.
But Snape? There was nothing left of him. No relatives, no pictures, no publications, no one to keep his memory alive. Although he had been officially rehabilitated and pardoned by the Ministry as a result of the memories he had left Harry, his legacy was still a touchy matter that most people would rather not be associated with. He must have had personal possessions, though, things that weren't connected to Voldemort. Books, papers, perhaps correspondence and pictures; he'd had a family, too, or at least parents, even if they were all dead, although Hermione wasn't even sure of that. Hermione wondered what Minerva had done with everything. Maybe she would ask her ... if she could come up with a good reason for it, beyond idle curiosity. It just felt wrong that Snape's life should be so thoroughly expunged from the face of the planet. Perhaps, in a way, in inheriting his rooms, she had inherited a responsibility to see to it that he wasn't forgotten. Perhaps. Or maybe she should just concentrate on moving on. Preparing for her classes. Yes, that's what she needed to do. As she'd already decided, there were enough ghosts about the castle without her adding to them.