A/N: Happy Holidays!
Severus found Hermione in their sitting room, a brooding expression on her face as she stared at the tapestry of Godric Gryffindor and Salazar Slytherin. He stood just inside the closed door, watching her.
"Am I doing the right thing? "she asked abruptly, surprising him because he hadn't thought she knew he was there.
"To which thing are you referring?"
As if he couldn't guess; the substance, if not the particulars. He'd already heard multiple times that Mondragon had been by to see her.
Hermione didn't shift, just continued to stare at the tapestry. "For every witch I save, I'm damning a muggle."
"You knew that, "Severus said bluntly.
It was much too late to be worrying about ethics in this situation.
"But it wasn't real then," she said flatly. "And this isn't what I planned. Not this many people, so fast. It was supposed to take another eighteen months. And we weren't supposed to trap muggles."
Severus just stared at her, wondering why she was worrying about that now. She had known about the muggles weeks before she and Potter sent their message. She caught the look on his face and interpreted it correctly.
"I thought I'd only be able to get enough copies of the field guide out to the Seventh Years. That was the plan. The Horcrux and the Seventh Year girls. The rest were supposed to take another year and a half. It was supposed to give us time to get organized on the island."
"So the Dowry Project was opportunistic?" he asked, wondering at the luck then of having the one book guaranteed to get Surya Yardley's attention.
"No, "Hermione admitted, "but I didn't expect it to take off so quickly. And it was always speculative. I didn't know if the Yardley family would trade. My real plan was always the Horcrux first, and then the Port Key in Snape's Guide to Mediwizardry. I didn't expect so much help from you."
"But you were quick enough to take advantage of it," he said dryly.
She looked uncertain for a moment and he found he didn't like it. Questioning one's actions was all fine and good, but he didn't want her questioning her use of him.
"My talents, such as they are, are always at your disposal. Do not waste your sympathy on me. "
She blinked rapidly enough to alarm him but she got herself under control to his immediate relief.
"Are you overwhelmed then, by the numbers? Will you have sufficient resources?"
She nodded her head. "We should, at least until the greenhouses are producing. I just…I didn't know about the muggles when this whole thing started. And now that I do…it's my choice that traps them here. "
"No, "Severus said flatly, "It's the Emergency Wizarding Counsel that traps them here."
He was trying to think of something else to say when the pile of books on the coffee-table caught his eye. He frowned when he recognized the cover on all of them. That damnable guide to Mediwizardry.
She saw where he was looking and her expression darkened. "There are seventeen of them," she all but spat.
Given that she had charmed the books to return if the owner failed to abide by the terms of the Fidelius, returning books were a regular sight lately. He wondered if he was supposed to be sympathetic.
She glanced up and took in the carefully blank expression on his face.
"They are all from the lot I sent to the forty-two boys turning nineteen this year. " she said bitterly. "I checked – none of them have apprenticeship offers on file with the Ministry. So that's seventeen boys who are actively choosing to Bind a witch against her will. "
"Not everybody wants to be saved," Severus said.
"No…but some are choosing to perpetuate the crime, "she said softly, "and if I can blame them, then I'm guilty as well."
"There is a big difference between responsibility and guilt, "Severus stated. "You are no more guilty than St. Mungo's when they have to decide which patient to treat first. "
"Except if I hadn't acted , there wouldn't be a choice in the first place."
He had no answer for that.
Add to that, the fact that - according to Ministry law - what they were doing would probably be considered illegal. It was unknown whether those who left would be able to return. They might be able to seek asylum in another country but that was not guaranteed.
In many ways, he was more surprised they were getting any refugees at all than otherwise.
He chose his next words carefully. "The EWC is not a government that can be swayed by protests or lobbying. It is a construct. Either we live with its rules or we leave. You have offered the boys a way out. It is not your responsibility if they choose not to take it."
"But the muggles…"
Severus growled low in his throat, exasperated. "Do you think this is the worst offense our society has committed against muggles? Do you know what a botched Obliviate does? Or even considered the fact that our government thinks it perfectly acceptable to tamper with someone's memory? We Confound them and we Obliviate them. All in the name of protecting our society. And now this damnable Marriage Law has us raping them mind, body, and soul. If you really want to save them Hermione, then change the attitude that makes it permissible to assault muggles in the name of saving our society."
Hermione stared at him, aghast. "How am I supposed to do that?"
Severus shrugged. "I have no idea."
Feeling sorry for herself was a pointless exercise.
Nor was it getting her any closer to getting things done. So her timetables had been reduced to so much scrap – that didn't stop time. She had less than a week to get organized for Moving Day. To that end, she decided to see if Professor McGonagall was willing to help her with the greenhouses.
Ginny had allowed the examiners from the Ministry onto the grounds and most of the teachers were helping to supervise the OWL and NEWT examinations. Hermione had originally scheduled Moving Day for the day after exams finished, but with the negotiations running long to allow the examiners into Hogwarts in the first place, now it fell smack dab in the middle.
As a result, Hermione was anticipating that Moving Day would mostly be individuals or families originating from the copies of Snape's Field Guide to Mediwizardry sold through Flourish and Blotts.
"I'm ready when you are, Ms. Granger."
They were outside the Anti-Apparition Barrier where no one could see them.
McGonagall didn't react when Hermione pulled out her Time Turner except to frown slightly and give Hermione's face a quick study. Truthfully, there was no need on Hermione's part to use the Time Turner – there was still most of a week to go – but it was the only way for Minerva to take four hours away from supervising exams.
Taking hold of Professor McGonagall's arm, Hermione pictured the abbey and apparated. The familiar squeeze barely had time to register when they were bounced off something solid. She landed on her hands and knees, skinning both on hard granite. Head reeling from the collision, she was checking to make sure all her parts were still attached when she heard a low groan. Blinking to clear her eyes, she saw the Headmistress sprawled a few feet from her.
Hermione got to her feet and leaned down to help McGonagall.
"Thank god you get an 'O' in determination, Ms. Granger," the older witch said shakily. "What did we hit?"
Hermione was about to say she didn't know when she turned around and looked up. Way up.
"Oh dear Merlin, what have you done?" McGonagall asked, horror in her voice.
The castle loomed against grey skies, filling the area where the abbey ruins had been and beyond. It flowed like liquid rock – its bones sunk deep into the earth as it stretched twisted fingers of stone toward the cloud-covered sun.
"What have you done? "Minerva managed again, this time her voice rising with panic.
Hermione just looked at her helplessly. "I don't…I didn't do this."
Professor McGonagall's eyes were wide with terror as she stared up at the castle. "Can't you feel it? Can't you feel what that is?"
Cautiously, Hermione let her magical senses reach toward the castle. For all its forbidding appearance, there was a feeling of welcome and strength emanating from the rock walls. Hermione relaxed. Now that the initial shock was over, she realized that the ruins of the abbey must have pulled the vision from her head, reading her desire for a safe place for the refugees. And perhaps, a bit, of her desire to create a place for adult learning and sanctuary.
"It's okay, "she said. "Welcome to Sanctuary."
"No, "McGonagall said grimly, grabbing Hermione's arm to hold her in place. "It is not fine. That building is self-aware."
Hermione frowned, trying to understand her concern. "It's like Hogwarts."
McGonagall stabbed one forefinger toward the castle. "That…thing…is a far cry from Hogwarts. Don't you understand? You never make them self-aware. Never."
"It was dying," Hermione protested. "Gone a bit mad from loneliness. I had to do something. All it wants to do is serve."
"And when you are dead, Ms. Granger? What then? Who will control it when you are gone?"
"Arrangements have been made," Hermione said, unwilling to say more.
Those arrangements were between her and Sanctuary.
Hermione started for the front gate and after a few moments, Professor McGonagall followed.
The closer she got, the larger she realized the castle to be. It was deceptively huge, the natural flow of the rock disguising it as part of the island. It was almost as large as Hogwarts, with multiple towers, levels, and main courtyard. There were also several flattened areas around the castle that could be used to create outbuildings as expansion demanded.
"This is amazing," Hermione said, admiring the way it all flowed together in a manner that was powerful as well as harmonious.
McGonagall just looked worried.
Even as Hermione watched, a stone wall was slowly extruding itself along the seaward side of the island – presumably to prevent accidents. The area between the castle and the seawall slowly flattened as rock was drawn from it into the wall, creating an area that would be perfect for a small orchard.
Or a tent city to start.
Reaching out with her magical senses, she felt a hum that was Sanctuary singing to itself as it worked. There was the sense of attention sharpening and a bright splash of delight as Sanctuary felt her approval of the castle. Hermione very carefully pictured a set of three greenhouses grown on one of the flattened areas near the castle on the leeward side, away from the wind off the sea.
Hermione felt her attention split as the castle shifted some of its resources to building the greenhouses on the flatten area closest to the castle. If this worked, Hermione rather thought they would be situated nicely to grow potion's ingredients. Others could be built later for food if they were successful with the first three. Multiple terraces with stairs cut into them would take nice advantage of the terrain.
Hermione led the way into the castle itself.
It was dark, with the only illumination from high narrow window openings not yet covered in glass. Hermione paused as she tried to sort out what she was – or wasn't – sensing. The castle had clearly been constructed by magic , she could sense the wisps of it that clung to the stone. She could also sense Sanctuary itself as it hummed quietly to itself. What was missing was the feeling of enchantment Hogwarts possessed.
Centuries layered the walls of Hogwarts with various charms that Sanctuary did not yet possess. Climate control charms, sewage charms, alarms, and even an enchanted ceiling were all still needed to turn this new castle into a home.
Between the two of them, Hermione and McGonagall were able to get one of the bathrooms outfitted with transfigured fixtures and plumbing. Hermione thought there had to be a better way than to simply dump the sewage in the surrounding sea, but it would have to do until she could hire a magical plumber.
Exactly four hours from the point at which they had arrived, counted to the second so they didn't overlap their earlier selves, they apparated back to Hogwarts.