"Richard, what do you think you're—ARRGH!"
"Hermione! Oh gods, oh—"
A bright flash. Swirling, undulating lights. Nausea. Pain.
Water. Water everywhere. Coughing, sputtering. Drowning?
Nausea, sand in every imaginable bodily orifice, and extreme fatigue do not make for a good afternoon. It was in this predicament that Hermione Granger now found herself: her body seemed intent on eviscerating all her internal organs, sand and salt were crusted all over her body and most notably in her eyes as water lapped at her legs, and she was much too fatigued to do anything about it. She hadn't any idea how she'd gotten to this insufferably bright and sunny shore in the first place, other than what the vague thoughts milling about in her mind told her. At least she was no longer in the water and drowning, in any case.
According to the vague abstractions floating about in her mind, she'd been minding her own business and working on her affairs in the Department of Mysteries before she suddenly found herself drowning in the middle of the ocean. Unfortunately, that was as far as her exhausted mind would take her, and any attempt to remember anything more was met by her mind threatening to render her unconscious, which really wouldn't do in this situation. But it seemed that her body simply hadn't the energy to sustain what little consciousness she had left, and when she felt a pair of hands pull her off the sand, her mind decided that everything was going to be fine and she promptly slipped into unconsciousness.
Hermione awoke slowly, her entire body feeling vaguely sore. Attempting to open her eyes resulted only in extreme discomfort, a groan of pain escaping from her throat as she clenched them shut again. After several more tries, her eyes finally adjusted and she found, to her immense surprise, that she was lying in a bright room with sunlight streaming through the wide-open windows. The scent of the ocean and the sounds of the water drifted in through the window, and for a moment Hermione thought she might have died and gone to some sort of afterlife filled with pleasant sounds and smells. And glancing to her side seemed to confirm this.
It was none other than Severus Snape.
She was greeted by the disconcerting sight of a man she knew to be dead sleeping in an armchair, his mouth hanging open in a manner that didn't seem appropriate for the image of him that Hermione harbored in her mind. She struggled for a moment to process the fact that he was also wearing a yellow T-shirt with a penguin on it, white board shorts, and flip flops, but it was much too much for her somewhat somnolent brain to handle, so she did the most logical thing she could in order to relieve the stress the situation was putting on her.
It was not an oh-dear-you-startled-me scream, nor was it a what-might-this-odd-thing-be scream. The one that escaped her throat was of the dear-god-what-the-bloody-fuck-is-happening-to-me variety and was enough to curdle the blood of anyone whose blood was still, in fact, pumping. When Snape, like any normal living creature would, awoke with a start, reflexes vehemently told Hermione to back the hell away from this man and so she did. Her reflexes, however, didn't account for the fact that she was backing away off of a bed, and she ended up toppling onto wooden floor. She screamed again when she felt a sharp pain in her arm, her eyes widening in horror when she found a hypodermic needle dangling in front of her face, still attached to its plastic tubing.
"Miss Granger, calm down!"
In what must have been a conditioned response from her school days, she immediately froze at the sound of his voice, her eyes fixed on him. They stared at each other for an awkward minute or so, before Hermione finally ventured, "Am I dead?" Snape continued to stare at her, looking unexpectedly bewildered, which wasn't something she was quite accustomed to and feared that it confirmed the answer to her question, before he did the unimaginable.
The man threw his head back and laughed.
It wasn't an amused chuckle or a derisive villainous cackle, either; no, this was a full-on laugh, as though what she had asked him was the most hilarious thing in the world. The tendons in his neck were taut in his mirth, and he was even laughing so hard that when he stopped, he doubled over to catch his breath with a goofy grin on his face. Hermione felt a bizarre disconnect with her body begin to creep through her, as though her consciousness was separating from her physical body from the sheer impossibility of what was happening. The disconnect kept growing until her stomach decided that the best way to rectify the situation was to empty its contents, but thankfully she was able to clamp her jaw down and swallow whatever threatened to spill out of her mouth.
"No, you are not dead," he finally said, once his mirth had died down. He held out a hand to her. "Come on, Miss Granger. You need to lie down again."
She stared at his hand for a moment, her mind racing with the different ways a man could kill someone with his bare hands, when she caught sight of a familiar object from the corner of her eye. She stared at Snape a moment longer before reaching out to snatch what she assumed was a wand on a bedside table. To her immense relief, it was indeed a wand, and she promptly pointed it at Snape, crying, "Petrificus totalus!"
His eyes widened in shock and he toppled to the floor, his body rigid—or at least, that's what Hermione had expected to happen. What she did not expect was to find herself screaming as her entire body was engulfed in so much pain that she dropped the wand before curling into a ball on the floor. The only thought that was making it through her mind as she writhed in pain on the floor was that this laughing bastard had used the Cruciatus Curse on her. Was he hiding a wand in that penguin shirt of his?
Hermione wrenched her eyes open and found, to her dismay, that she was lying on a bed again, covered in sheets with a cool cloth on her forehead. It seemed to be night now, with moonlight bathing the room in a faint, almost ghostly glow. Her body pulsed with pain every time she tried to move it, and it was much worse than the first time she had awoken. She glanced to her side again and was so surprised at the sight of Snape watching her that her entire body twitched in shock, strangled whimpers of pain escaping her mouth as her body throbbed in agony.
"Don't move, please, Miss Granger."
"G-get away from me—!"
"I assure you that I am not here to hurt you, Miss Granger. Don't move or you're going to rip the IV out of your arm again."
Hermione immediately froze and, though it was agonizing to do so, pulled her left arm out from underneath the sheets. "What are you doing to me?" she shrieked in horror at the sight of the intravenous drip lodged in her forearm. Her attempt to rip the medical tape off the drip was stalled when he pulled her free hand away and pinned her left arm down with his other hand.
"It's only morphine," he said calmly, his face incomprehensible in the darkness of the room. The shock on her face quickly turned to confusion.
"Why on earth did you put me on morphine?"
"I'll explain if you promise not to rip the IV out or try to hex me with the wand on the bedside table," he said, his fingers tightening around her arm and wrist as though worried that she might make a sudden move for the wand—which, admittedly, was exactly what she was thinking. She wordlessly nodded, and, satisfied, Snape immediately released her arms. When it was clear that she was not going to lunge of the wand and try to immobilize him like any sane person would, he relaxed and turned to flip a light switch on the wall before returning to his seat in the armchair. She groaned as her eyes throbbed from the sudden light, sending her best irate glare at him in the hopes that perhaps this bizarre, penguin-shirted version of Snape would be intimidated by it.
Clearly, from the smile on his face, this Snape was not intimidated in the least. In fact, he was cheeky enough to look amused.
"Miss Granger, when I found you washed up on the beach," he began, and the brief glare that he returned at her was enough for her to stop trying to glare back, "you were nearly dead, mostly delirious, and your body was rejecting anything magical I tried to do."
"What do you mean by 'rejecting'?" Hermione asked dubiously.
"Just trying to heal some of your bruises seemed to cause you significant pain. Even just trying to use magic to light the room had you screaming and thrashing. You…don't recall any of that?" He looked to her expectantly, to which she replied with a bewildered look.
"I see." He fell silent for a moment, as though gauging her emotional state, before continuing. "You did seem to be in considerable pain, and since giving you a potion would have probably killed you, it seemed pertinent to put you on morphine."
"Where did you learn…how to do this?" said Hermione, holding up her arm.
"I actually didn't do that. I have an acquaintance who happens to be a nurse," Snape replied, his lips spreading into a thin smirk. "I…persuaded her that it was the best option. Before you ask, she did determine that your body would be able to handle it." He let out a low chuckle, presumably at the horrified face she was making, and had the nerve to expand that smirk into a mischievous smile. He was doing all this specifically to tie her mind into knots—she was sure of it. Regardless, she had other more pressing questions to ask.
"Aren't you—I thought you were—" She wasn't quite able to complete her thought, as she was still incredibly confused as to what she was doing with a man that had died in front her eyes, and more importantly, what the bloody hell he was doing wearing a yellow penguin shirt.
"That I was dead?" he added helpfully. Hermione stared at him, her mouth open in alarm at how…civil his voice sounded.
"Well…yes," she said.
"I thought you were smarter than that, Miss Granger. Did you ever see my body afterwards?" said Snape lightly. Hermione was surprised that his voice held neither malice nor contempt; in fact, it was almost like a conversation between old friends—and this greatly disturbed her.
"No, now that you mention it," she murmured. She'd gone to a funeral held in Snape's name, but now that she looked back on it, the casket was never opened. Nobody had thought anything of it at the time—Harry had even rationalized it by concluding that Snape wouldn't want anyone gawking at his body anyway, which everyone had happily accepted since it really did make a lot of sense.
"Professor McGonagall found me," Snape continued. "She helped me, though reluctantly, to slip away without anyone noticing. It's worked rather well, I must say—if the world thinks I'm dead, nobody bothers me."
"But—how? Harry and I saw you…Nagini got you in the neck, and there was so much blood, and you weren't moving—"
"Again, I thought you were smarter than that," he interrupted, leaning against the arm of his armchair, looking disappointed and almost…bored. "Do you really think I would have gone to the Dark Lord without some sort of contingency plan? I'll admit that I truly wasn't expecting it to save me, but I suppose I got lucky." When Hermione remained silent and rather bewildered, he sighed. "I drank a potion shortly before you saw me meet with the Dark Lord. It was a combination of blood-replenishing and blood-coagulation potions…not that it would have helped in the least if he decided to kill me with the Killing Curse."
Hermione felt her curiosity piqued by that little tidbit. "But that potion would have killed you if you were wrong. Without a wound to clot, the potion would have made your blood clot in places it shouldn't," she said, frowning and then giving a shudder when Snape smiled at her.
"Indeed it would have. I, however, had an antidote in the off chance that he decided to not kill me after all," he continued. "But I wasn't quite that lucky. I am not exaggerating when I say that I was incredibly fortunate to have survived the bite that Nagini gave me."
There was an awkward silence as Snape stopped speaking to wait for a response from her. She didn't know what to say—she felt like crying, because she was both happy that he was alive and sad at the ordeal he had to endure, but she inexplicably wanted to yell at him for disappearing from the Wizarding world without letting everyone apologize for how they've been treating him. Then again, considering Snape's record, they wouldn't have simply accepted him back with open arms, even with Harry crusading to clear his name. It was no surprise, then, that Snape wished for some peace and quiet. It certainly seemed peaceful enough there, wherever "there" was.
"Here, have some water," Snape said finally, handing her a cold water bottle. As she twisted the cap off—with some difficulty, as it seemed her muscles weren't fully obeying her mind quite yet, he leaned back in his chair with his eyes fixed on her and asked, "Do you know where you are?"
"Haven't the slightest," she said, before lifting the bottle to her lips to take another gulp of water.
"Wh-what do you mean, 'Hawaii?'"
"Presumably, you mean 'what on Earth are you doing in Hawaii?' and not 'where on Earth is Hawaii?'" said Snape, arching an eyebrow. It took Hermione a few moments of sputtering to find her words—which had popped off for a few moments to recover from the shock of being in Hawaii.
"O-of course I know where Hawaii is!" she snapped irritably as she felt her face beginning to flush in embarrassment. "What on Earth are you doing here?"
"I should think that would be obvious to anybody," Snape drawled, his air of boredom growing more pronounced. "The climate is very agreeable, and nobody bothers me on this island. Also, it is mercifully far from Britain." Hermione nearly flung the water bottle at him in exasperation.
"No, I mean, why? Why would you pick Hawaii of all places?" she sputtered, just barely able to coax the jumble of thoughts in her mind into a coherent question. A thin smile spread across Snape's lips as the look of boredom slowly—and in a way that Hermione entirely disapproved of—morphed into that of amusement.
"Well, I tried living in Japan for a year, but found that I stood out like a sore thumb there. Not to mention," he added nonchalantly, "I was developing an unhealthy penchant for visiting maid cafés."
Hermione's mind did an aborted backflip.
Snape let out a laugh that suggested he was enjoying this entirely too much, and once more Hermione felt that unpleasant feeling of disconnect between her mind and her body beginning to spread through her. "I don't like to drink myself into unconsciousness because I tend to wake up with vomit everywhere, though if it helps your state of mind, I did do that for a good two weeks or so," he said, chuckling. "But I assume your distress is from the maid café bit."
"Just a little bit," said Hermione, her voice refusing to come out in anything but exasperated sarcasm. She'd read about maid cafés on the internet whenever she had access to it, and if they were anything at all like what she read, then she had half a mind to run outside and fling herself into the ocean.
"I hadn't even meant to go to it the first time," Snape mused as Hermione's mind floundered about in her skull. "It was next to an apothecary in Ueno, and I'd walked into it thinking it was an extension of the apothecary. Both had décor questionable to our Western sensibilities, I suppose, and I hadn't thought anything of it because of run-ins with similarly decorated shops. Imagine my surprise when a girl half my height in an owl dress says 'Okaerinasaimase, goshujin-sama!' to me." He paused a moment to enjoy the ever-increasing horror that was spreading on Hermione's face.
"I think I was so horrified that I didn't realize she'd led me to a table and sat me down, and since my Japanese skills at the time were on par with Longbottom's potion skills, I wasn't quite sure what was going on," he continued. "At the time, my mind was still teeming with dark, alcoholic thoughts, so I'm still mystified as to why my face hadn't scared her off."
Hermione stared at him, slack-jawed, as he simply stopped talking. "Well?" she snapped after a few tense moments passed.
"You can't just leave it at that! Why did you keep going back?"
The look of disappointment crept back onto his face. "I think I've talked enough, Miss Granger. How about we make this like old times? Five points from Gryffindor if you can tell me why I kept going back," he said, folding his arms over his chest.
She was just about to answer with her best theory when she paused. "Wait. Five points from Gryffindor?" Hermione said slowly, frowning at him.
"Like I said, just like old times."
Up until this point, Hermione's distress and horror over this man who was allegedly Snape had completely dominated her amusement at the whole situation—no question about it, no contest, a complete massacre. But after taking a few moments to process what he said, she couldn't contain it any longer and burst into laughter, loud, raucous, and incredibly painful laughter. Can it be? she thought, clutching at her stomach as she both quaked with laughter and clenched her eyes shut against the pain. Is this really Snape? Does he have—a sense of humor?
Snape patiently waited for her to stop laughing and catch her breath, the smile on his face suggesting that he enjoyed nothing more than to see her in pain from her own mirth. "You—you bastard," she wheezed as a few straggling laughs escaped her gut. "Wh-what have you done—with Severus Snape? Who—who are you really?"
"The old Severus Snape died in Japan, Miss Granger," he said quietly, looking uncomfortable for the first time since she awoke.
"Wh-what did you say?"
"Look, Miss Granger," he said, directing his gaze out the window, "I loathed myself during the Dark Lord's reign. Both times, in fact. I'm sure Mr. Potter would have divulged to you the details of the memories I gave him, so you shouldn't be surprised in the least. I loathed the old me and felt it was finally time to let go."
She stared at him in silence, unable to find her voice. Was it possible for people to change so drastically? Granted, it had been nearly ten years since the fall of Tom Riddle, but she'd never even dreamed that a person like Snape—for whom loathing and suffering had penetrated to his very core—could have changed in such a way. In fact, she'd just been discussing him with Harry and Ron over tea the other day; they'd been reminiscing about the friends they'd lost and had all agreed that the nefarious Severus Snape would have probably stayed bitter and full of regret for the rest of his life. And yet here he was in Hawaii, healthier than ever with a brand-spanking-new sense of humor—not to mention a new wardrobe that apparently included penguin shirts.
"You went to those cafés…to help forget, didn't you?" Hermione said quietly. He turned to look back at her with a small, almost regretful smile.
"That's the Granger I was expecting. Indeed, the waitresses play a role in those places. It's not real—it's all just a show, no matter how earnestly they follow their ganbatte mantra," said Snape, his eyes seeming to look right through her. "It was easy to become someone else once I had realized what was going on. And since there was no alcohol, there were, happily, no vomit or hangovers involved."
There was a rather pregnant silence—indeed, Hermione's mind was trying to give birth to a coherent sentence, but it just wasn't ready yet. Her face must have betrayed her mind's pregnancy, because Snape stood up from his chair and flipped the light switch, effectively indicating that their conversation was over and plunging the room into darkness.
"Go to sleep, Miss Granger. You need to rest after what you went through. And I've got to get up early—I was planning on going surfing tomorrow."
That bastard is just toying with me now.
A/N: So this was just something stupid I threw together a while back, so I thought I'd finish the chapter off. Hahaha. More will come eventually.