Complete Story Summary: Seven years after the Final Battle, Severus Snape has been declared dead, and his property has reverted to the Ministry. Desperate to get away from her deadbeat job, Hermione purchases the Prince manor with the intention of renovating it, inheriting with it a rather forlorn house-elf, empty stables, and a well-stocked library. And, to her surprise, the ghost of one of Snape's ancestors. Or is it?
Disclaimer: Anything you recognize belongs to JKR. She graciously lets us play with her toys, and I promise to put them back when I'm finished.
Author's Note: This is written for Ariadne, who asked for a rakish Snape and wistful Hermione by a seacoast village with a manor and a few other details you'll learn about along the way. Many thanks to the wonderful team behind this chapter: sshg316 for the countless hours spent helping me work up this story, tonksinger for her encouragement and keen eye, richardgloucester for cleaning up my overt Americanisms, and Machshefa for offering a deft psychological touch that sharpens prose of every kind. Any mistakes here are mine.
The title is shamelessly nicked from Anne Bronte's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, which I am currently reading but which bears no resemblance to the story that will unfold here.
It all started with an obituary… er, of sorts. The sort of notice in a newspaper that makes one sit up and ask, what the fuck have I been doing with my life?
SNAPE DECLARED DEAD
Severus Snape, former professor and headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, was declared dead this morning, May 9, 2005 at 7 a.m. in accordance with Wizarding Decree #27 that a missing witch or wizard may be declared legally dead on the seventh hour of the seventh day of the seventh year after their disappearance. In the absence of "next of kin," the Ministry of Magic will repossess Snape's properties, including a house in Manchester and Lyonesse Hall in Cornwall.
An anonymous Ministry official's speculation that the properties will be searched for evidence of dark magic prompted Harry Potter to publicly express outrage in a hallway at St. Mungo's (Mrs. Ginny Potter is pregnant with their second child – turn to page 6 for Rita Skeeter's article on hermaphroditic tendencies in the Potter line). Mr. Potter loudly reminded those present that Snape was cleared of all charges less than a year after the war's end. Snape was personally defended by Kingsley Shacklebolt, Minister of Magic, who suspended his authority for the duration of the trial in order to devote himself to the case. Numerous witches and wizards stepped forward to assist in the defense of Severus Snape, among them Minerva McGonagall, Filius Flitwick, Arthur Weasley, Narcissa Malfoy, Hermione Granger, Neville Longbottom, and, of course, Harry Potter. Snape's failure to reappear after his trial solidified public opinion that, in spite of his missing body, he had indeed been murdered by V— on May 2, 1998 mere hours before the conclusion of the Final Battle.
Hermione Granger laid the Prophet down on the table. Seven years. Had it been that long?
The sunshine that splayed across the table stood in stark contrast to where her mind dwelt. She and Harry had been the last to see him. To see him alive. She had been wracked with guilt, had even—
The man was dead, and his property was for sale. The matter was settled.
Shaking her head, she adjusted her sunglasses and checked her watch. Blaise was seven minutes late. She sighed. Just as they had made a tradition of having a Wednesday Happy Hour at Fortescue's, Blaise had made a tradition of being late.
She took a spoonful of her ice cream—vanilla with a splash of Irish cream—and closed her eyes, relishing the sweet flavor and the warmth of the sun on her face, when she heard him approach.
"Started without me, eh, girl?"
She opened her eyes and saw Blaise leaning against a chair, arms folded over his chest. "I always start without you." She pushed his ice cream across the table as he sat down, and he slid four sickles over in return. "Now shut up and let me enjoy this."
Blaise grinned and took a mouthful of his double-scoop chocolate sundae. "What would I do without you?"
"Don't talk with your mouth full," Hermione said, drumming her fingernails on the table, and Blaise snorted.
"Yes, Mum," he said as he swallowed. "So," he continued, not giving her time to respond, "did you see the article in the Prophet?"
"About Snape?" Hermione asked.
"Yeah. What did you think?"
She paused. "There's not much to say."
"I just…" Blaise started. "I don't want to pry, but you…"
"I was the last person to see him alive, I helped Kingsley organize his defense, I cried on the stand during my testimony?" Hermione stared at the table. "Like I said, there's not much to say."
"They're selling the properties, you know," Blaise said, arching an eyebrow.
"What are you suggesting?"
He took a spoonful of ice cream.
He made a show of swallowing, attracting the attention of several female passersby.
Hermione arched an eyebrow. "That's disgusting."
"Imagine how bad it would be if we'd slept together."
"Thank Merlin I turned you down, then," Hermione said, grinning for the first time.
He winked. "The offer stands."
"I think there comes a point in a friendship where it's too late to sleep together," Hermione said.
He waved a hand. "I would know if such a rule existed. It doesn't."
Hermione rolled her eyes. "Are you suggesting that I buy one of Snape's properties?"
"I thought I'd distracted you," he said.
She smiled. "That's hard to do."
His expression sobered. "That is precisely what I'm suggesting. Lyonesse Hall is in shambles and needs… proper restoration."
"What on earth makes you think that I could restore a wizarding manor? Or even be interested in doing so?"
"Why, your connection to the previous owner, of course."
Hermione looked away. "Don't bring up memories I'd rather forget."
"I think a project would do you good," Blaise said, running a hand through his
"When would I have time to renovate this manor?" Hermione asked. "In case you haven't noticed, I work overtime all the time."
"I've noticed," Blaise said quietly. "You work twice as hard as everyone else for little pay and virtually no appreciation." He paused. "They take you for granted."
Hermione waved a hand. "I just have to prove myself is all."
"You've spent six years being shunted from department to department. You have 'proved' yourself ten times over. Petty jealousy and too much red tape have effectively halted your progress. You know it and I know it. Your talents would be better used elsewhere."
"Like, in renovating the manor of my dead potions professor?" Hermione took a mouthful of ice cream. "No thanks."
"You said that with your mouth full."
"Why do you want to work for the Ministry, Hermione?" Blaise asked, licking his ice cream off the spoon.
"I want to make a difference."
"And are you making one? Are you happy?"
"Happiness has nothing to do with it," she said.
"Do you care about your job?"
She sighed. "I want to care."
"See," he said, twirling his spoon in the sundae as he looked her straight in the eye. "That—there should be a spark in your eye, a humorous tone, anything. They're sucking you dry while you wait for them to pat you on the back and move you forward."
"I tried not waiting. It didn't work."
Blaise nodded. "Which is why you need to leave."
"And renovate one of Snape's homes."
"If you see fit."
Hermione slumped in her seat. "Can we talk about something else? Please?"
"You hate your work."
"Tell me the last supervisor who actually appreciated your work."
She thought a moment. "Brenda Cole."
"And how long ago did you work for her?" Blaise asked.
"Three years ago," Hermione said, taking an extra-large scoop of ice cream in her spoon.
"You need a project. You need something to do. You need to get active again." Blaise paused. "You need to care."
"Since when are you my therapist, Blaise? You have watched this happen for years, and you haven't said a word," Hermione interjected, eyes blazing. "If you care so much about me, why stay silent?"
"Something about today," Blaise said. "I could remind you of how I've tried to bring the subject up, but you shot me down. But there's something about today. Something about you today."
Hermione shook her head. "There is nothing different about today."
"If you say so," Blaise said, and he let the subject drop.
Hermione was seething. Another meeting with another insipid colleague. Honestly, where did the Ministry find these people? She knew that after Voldemort's coup d'etat at the Ministry, people had been reluctant to come back to work, but really—it'd been seven years. Couldn't her supervisors try to find competent people to fill these positions?
She was running on empty these days, and the conversation with Blaise yesterday had done nothing to quell her impatience. You've spent six years being shunted from department to department. He was right, and that stung. She'd developed a reputation as a troublemaker, which was apparently code for "effective at her job." Well, someone had to get things done, and the berks she worked for made it obvious that the bureaucratic chain of command and all other things invented to feed their egos superseded any attempt at constructive reform. Yes, Kingsley had run a tight ship immediately after the war. But he'd begun to let the reins out years ago… would that her supervisors would do the same.
She shook her head. She was late to a meeting with her present supervisor, the rotund and thoroughly ridiculous Mr. Brown. Hermione nodded to his secretary as she was waved through the receiving area and into his office.
"Ah, Miss Granger," Mr. Brown said. "Do take a seat."
Hermione sat in one of the spare chairs opposite his desk. She folded her hands, schooled her expression, and tried to ignore the feeling that she had done something to upset him. Again.
Mr. Brown took a few moments to sort the papers around him, leaving her a bit unsettled. When he pursed his lips, she girded herself for the inevitable.
"I have a report on my desk informing me that the Castiglioni case has been referred."
"The Italian Ministry has jurisdiction, sir," Hermione said, carefully controlling her tone while her insides burned. This was not happening. Not again.
"The Italian Ministry may have jurisdiction, but there were two other people who
had to sign off on this order—"
"Only one signature is necessary for the referral, and those two others you mention are currently on their honeymoon in a Fidelius'd location."
At this, Mr. Brown's face became splotchy with red. Hermione wondered whether she'd pushed him too far, but it was the truth—Mr. Brown's daughter had been itching to get out from under her father's thumb, and everyone knew that the honeymoon location had been placed under the Fidelius Charm in order to prevent Mr. Brown from checking up on her. Everyone except Mr. Brown, or so it seemed.
"There is a chain of command, Miss Granger," he said in a saccharine tone. "One that your… your war hero status does not allow you to ignore."
If she had a galleon for every time a supervisor said that, she would be a very rich woman. Well, richer than she already was.
"Sir," Hermione started, rubbing her forehead, "I am perfectly competent at my job—no, I excel at my job," she finished, remembering Blaise's words. "I am the smartest witch on your staff with the most successful track record, the highest N.E.W.T. scores—"
"And the most troublesome record, which leads me to question every accomplishment on your resume. I know your reputation, Miss Granger," he said, standing.
"Sir, given that only one signature is necessary for the referral, I broke no rules here."
He pointed a finger at her. "You wreak havoc—"
"I solve problems, you mean?"
"You act without permission—"
"I do not need you to sign off on everything I do—"
"Out of my office, Granger! You're on desk duty for the rest of the week, and don't even think about fighting it!"
Hermione closed her eyes.
She rose. "I will be tendering my resignation to you by the end of the day, Mr. Brown."
He looked as if he had been struck dumb.
"Now, Miss Granger, see reason here…" he said as he followed her out of his office and into the general bullpen.
"No!" she exclaimed, turning on her heel, pointing her finger at him, ignoring how the entire office had gone quiet. "I am sick of being berated for actually getting things done! I am sick of being called a troublemaker when I excel at what I do! I am sick of being told that I am here only because I fought in the war! I am sick of having people assume that I am here because of Harry, and I am sick to death of being held back from advancement when you damn well know I deserve it! And most of all—" she took a deep breath "—I am sick of my supervisors ignoring Shacklebolt's example. We are no longer in an immediate post-war state, and it won't kill anyone to use a little creativity to get the job done. What do you care more about, Mr. Brown—serving the magical community or fueling your own ego?"
The room was silent, save the staplers, which had kept on stapling. Refusing to look at anyone, Hermione marched into her office, packed her things in seconds, and walked out without a second thought.
A few hours later, Blaise sent her a bouquet of flowers and a Muggle greeting card with a half-naked man on the front.
Fantastic exit, darling. Wish I could have seen it—I've asked Judy to Pensieve it for me. Rumor has it Mr. Brown collapsed after you left. Sweet Merlin, you're delightful.
Hermione sat on her sofa drinking a cup of tea. She had opened her liquor cabinet but decided against it; she needed to think properly.
She had quit her job.
She had quit her job.
Merlin, what was wrong with her?
The problem was that nothing Iwas/I wrong and that perhaps something about all this was in fact quite right. It was indicative of her state of mind that she was not worried. Truth be told, she was a bit numb, and she felt a modicum of relief. A modicum.
Bloody hell. She shook her head. Blaise was right. She wasn't reacting like—like herself—at all. She didn't need to worry, per se, as she had enough galleons in the bank to live a life of leisure for at least a century, but she should have been riled up and upset at it, at the injustice of it all.
She was tired. So tired.
She looked around the flat, well furnished but sparely decorated. At the moment, the only décor of note was the bouquet of flowers from Blaise. It'd taken her forever to find a vase. She inched her foot towards the bouquet, and flicked her toe against a flower. Daisies. She had developed a strong distaste for daisies recently—well, in the last hour. They were so bloody happy.
The daisies looked positively vulgar set against the neutral walls, all unfriendly, cool tones that she hadn't bothered to fix in the last six years. In fact, she hadn't done anything to the flat itself. The few items she cared about were in her bedroom, within summoning distance at all times, which probably suggested things she'd rather not think about.
She'd quit her job, but this was not home. This was not where she wanted to spend her days. But then, there wasn't really anywhere in wizarding London where she'd want to spend time. Blaise had a constant stream of visitors, Ron was traveling with the Cannons and when he wasn't, well, there were visitors, and Harry and Ginny were pregnant—again. James was a dear, but goodness, he was a toddler, and that aside, there was no room for privacy in that house. And the problem was, even though those options seemed so unsuitable, they also seemed like the closest to "home" she'd ever get.
The only solution she could think of would be to go away. Only for a little while… just long enough to get herself sorted out…
Hand trembling, she leaned forward and drew a file from her bag. In a moment of weakness, she'd asked a friend to get a copy of the advertisement of Lyonesse Hall.
She looked at the picture and read the description:
Lyonesse Hall was built in 1573 by Severin Prince. uAlthough conforming to the typical E-shaped plan of the Elizabethan era, the external appearance of Lyonesse has a marked Dutch influence, undoubtedly the legacy of Prince's wife, Annalien. Behind the Dutch-style gabled facade are ornate fireplaces, elaborate plaster ceilings, and a collection of English furniture of the highest quality. It possesses a renowned Portrait Hall, and the library once housed some of the finest collections in wizarding Britain. Of note is the magnificent Great Chamber with its splendid barrel ceiling and the bay to the left of the entrance, which is occupied by a two-storey window that lights the Great Hall (many of the 576 panes are still the original 16th century glass).
While the front lawn is manicured but spare, the Elizabethan-style gardens behind the home are unusual in content and layout, and there is an orchard planted with old varieties of fruit. The gardens and orchard sprawl across the back lawn, jutting up against the rocky crags that border the Atlantic Ocean.
Lyonesse Hall is a modest manor, but its lifeblood has always been the myth of Lyonesse, a country said to exist mere miles off the coast of Land's End, Cornwall. The manor's proximity to Land's End has aided the Prince family's claim to be descended from King Mark of Cornwall, the uncle of Tristan. Given that no proof of ancestry ever surfaced, and that the last living member of the Prince family died without an heir, any connection the Prince family may have had to Lyonesse has been lost.
If interested, contact the Department of Magical Properties & Estates.
She had a note half-written before she realized what she was doing.
Did she really want to do this?
The next afternoon, Hermione was packing—even if she wasn't buying a manor, she had to go somewhere—when she received an owl from Kingsley.
The Leaky Cauldron, 7 o'clock. I'll be brief.
She crinkled her brow. Was this about the hall or her… scene… with Mr. Brown? She hadn't kept up with Kingsley much over the last few years, and given his investment in Snape's affairs, it was more likely to be about the hall, but… She checked her watch. A few hours more. She'd keep packing.
Hermione walked into the Leaky Cauldron at 7 on the nose and saw Kingsley at the bar, chatting with Tom.
"Minister," she said, smiling at the reproachful look he gave her. "It's been too long."
"Hermione," Kingsley said, patting the barstool next to him. "I heard you put in a bid for Lyonesse Hall."
"Right down to business, then," she said, feeling somewhat relieved.
He nodded and signaled Tom for drinks. "Is this something you've been thinking about, or—"
"More of a whim, really," she said.
He raised his eyebrows. "I cannot recall the last time I heard you do something on a whim. Well, until this week."
A smile touched her lips. "It's time."
Kingsley's look was kind but serious. "Do you know what you'll do with the house? It needs a lot of work."
"I have nothing but time," she said. "And I have the money, so you needn't worry."
"Will anyone be assisting you with the renovation?"
"Y'know, I'm inclined to do this by myself—take off for a while, just… be by myself, for a while." She stared at the dark sheen of the bar and ran her hand along the surface.
"You know there's a house-elf that comes with the property."
She winced. "Must you say it like that?"
"So long as you are a tenant, it is not within your legal purview to free him."
"What's his name?" Hermione asked, and Kingsley smirked at her, as if sensing her intent.
"Pip," he replied. "I sent someone from the department to speak with him and inspect the property this afternoon. He's rather—off—this elf. Considers himself an orphan, and I suppose that in a way, he is. A house elf in a home without Master—or Mistress."
Hermione nodded. "I understand."
Kingsley looked her straight in the eye. "You may have difficulty negotiating a contract with Mr. Goetz tomorrow. It's why I wanted to see you. To give you fair warning."
Hermione crinkled her brow. "What sort of difficulty?"
"I can't quite put my finger on it," Kingsley said in a low tone. "At first I thought he coveted the property for himself but couldn't match your bid, but… his interest in the house is almost unnatural. Wizarding manors," he said, shaking his head, "they can incite dangerous fervor in people."
"Not you?" Hermione asked, grinning.
"Wizarding manors all claim some connection to grandeur, to myth or legend—I've no idea why people put stock in the claims. Honestly, your interest surprised me."
"You didn't seem the type," Kingsley said. "Hermione, what do you intend to do with the manor?"
"Renovate it. Beyond that, I don't know," she said softly.
"You haven't given it much thought, or…" he trailed off.
"I honestly don't know," she said.
Kingsley's shoulders slumped in what looked like relief. "Not to be indiscreet, but someone suggested that given your interest in… justice… that you might use the manor as a museum or a memorial for Snape."
"He'd hate that," Hermione said flatly.
Kingsley's expression softened. "Yes, he would."
"To Snape," Hermione said, lifting her shot of Firewhisky.
"Severus," Kingsley said quietly, and they threw back their drinks.
Hermione was late to her meeting with the Head of Magical Properties & Estates, in no small part due to being told the wrong meeting time twice. Seeing as how Mr. Goetz's secretary was Mr. Brown's mistress, she should have seen it coming.
She entered Mr. Goetz's positively gaudy office with some trepidation. Her meeting with Kingsley had put her off her appetite.
"Do sit, Miss Granger," he said, gesturing toward one of the plush Victorian chairs in front of his desk.
She sat, crossed her legs, and said nothing.
"Your interest in Lyonesse Hall is… surprising," Mr. Goetz said, adjusting the gold spectacles on his nose.
"What interest does the Ministry have in my interest?" Hermione asked, trying to keep her tone measured.
"None—" he started.
"Mr. Goetz," she interrupted. "I have the money, or do you believe that the goblins of Gringotts have deliberately misled you as to my ability to pay for the property?" She arched an eyebrow.
"Then I see no reason for this meeting," she said, standing. "I have the money. Do send the contract when it is ready."
The man looked desperate, searching, struggling, and when his eyes lit up, Hermione inwardly cringed, knowing he'd invented some reason or other to keep her there.
"We've reason to believe that this house may react badly."
"React badly?" she asked, surprised in spite of herself.
"Do you know anything of the Prince family?" Mr. Goetz started, rounding his desk with a supercilious grin. "They were one of the grandest, proudest, most vehemently anti-Muggle families in England." He paused. "We will let it to you for three months, after which we will conduct an assessment of the house in order to determine whether it is willing to accept your presence."
Hermione blanched. "Are you suggesting that the house is sentient?"
"You are not overly familiar with wizarding manors, are you, Miss Granger?" Mr. Goetz asked in a syrupy tone, and it took everything in Hermione's willpower to stay silent. "Magical manors are not sentient, but they are certainly sensitive to their owners, yes. What's more, they are capable of discerning the owner's magical signature, including blood origin. Which is why Lyonesse Hall will remain in Ministry hands—for now," he finished, as if that was some sort of consolation.
She stayed silent for a moment, thinking as to how she could best combat such a ridiculous invention. "Here are my terms," she started slowly. "The contract will be approved by Minister Shacklebolt. I am sure you are familiar with his… personal interest in the last member of the Prince family," she added, berating herself for her lack of subtlety, but delighting in how Mr. Goetz slowly sat in his chair. "At the end of this three month term, I will determine whether the house is suitable for my needs. I will agree to this three-month probationary period, obviously offered out of such deep concern for my well-being," she added, noting his panicked expression. "For which I thank you, Mr. Goetz. I will inform Minister Shacklebolt of the terms of the lease and of how ownership will transfer to me immediately upon the conclusion of the three-month trial—we wouldn't want the Ministry to control who can own what real estate, would we? Rather reminiscent of the war…" She trailed off, drumming her fingers against the desk, and then rose from her chair, watching as Mr. Goetz shrank into his. "I'll be in touch." She stuck out her hand and met his eyes, daring him to not take it.
Mr. Goetz's lips were drawn in a thin line. "As long as you are a tenant, any items of value will revert to the Ministry," he stated. "That is the last of my terms."
The truth outs.
She grinned. "Absolutely." And she grasped his hand and shook it without a second thought.
It wasn't until she stood at the gates of Lyonesse Hall and felt the wards drop that she began to have second thoughts. Suitcase in one hand, wand in the other, she walked up the front lawn slowly, suddenly intimidated and a bit worried that perhaps she had made a terrible mistake.
Buying an old wizarding manor to fix up when she had no interest in renovation, architecture, or the relics of pure-blood families—save their legacy of prejudice—seemed a rather preposterous idea, all things told. But by God, it was different, and oh, did she need different. It was also removed from the greater populace of wizarding Britain, offering seclusion from all but the most persistent visitors.
She was a bit startled as she passed the lion statues that framed the path as it wound down the lawn, surprised to find—well, lions, of all things—at the home of a family so well known for their fealty to Slytherin.
She hadn't visited the property in advance—she'd looked at pictures, but was essentially letting it sight unseen. She couldn't quite explain that, but nothing about this decision made sense.
An examination of her motives had proved futile. Impulse, desire, boredom, longing. They all ran together, hinting at something else. She didn't know what she was longing for, but she didn't think it was something grand like love or purpose. It was the tangible it that gave every day a structure, a hum, some thread that led her through each hour, a thread that promised some sort of peaceful benediction at day's end. Hermione wasn't hoping to find a pot of gold at the other end; right now, the rainbow—thread—path—whatever—would suffice.
And the manor, with its many projects and opportunities for discovery, would suffice quite nicely. At the very least, it offered sanctuary from the hassles at the Ministry, reprieve from questions.
She'd visited Harry the other day to let him know she was moving away for some time. His one question had been "Why?"
She found that she didn't have an answer. Because she was sick of trying to right wrongs, of having doors slammed in her face. Because wizarding London didn't feel like home anymore. Because London itself didn't feel like home. Because, truth be told, she was feeling rather homeless. As if somewhere along the way, she had lost her anchor. Or perhaps her anchor had lost her, and she was just now waking up to the realization that what had sufficed in the past left her painfully bereft in the present.
But Hermione hadn't known how to say all that to Harry, so she had simply said, "Because." And perhaps it was that lack of eloquence—for once—that had prompted Harry to say, "All right. Now get out of here and do something."
Sometimes best friends knew exactly what to say.
She neared the end of the path, stopping to admire the beautiful bay window and the glassy panels that shone in the sunlight. Smiling, she opened the surprisingly small door and stepped inside.
Hermione scarcely had time to register details of what she was seeing—the portraits framing both sides of the entrance hall, surprise at how small the hall was, and the presence of some indescribable scent that hinted of vanilla and musk—before the telltale crack of Apparition drew her attention to the shadows at the end of the hall.
A small figure walked toward her, and she gulped, knowing full well who it was. In short order, the house-elf of Lyonesse Hall stood before her, clothed in a pillowcase, hands on his hips, nearly-invisible lips drawn in a thin line.
"You is being the Miss who is letting Lyonesse Hall?" The voice was high, but the tone was almost gruff.
"Yes, I am Hermione. A pleasure to meet you, Pip," Hermione said, extending her hand. She wasn't surprised when he didn't take it, but that didn't stop sadness from settling in the pit of her stomach.
"Why is Miss letting Lyonesse Hall?" Pip asked, arms folded across his chest.
Her eyes widened. "I wanted—" How best to describe it? "—I wanted a change, Pip. I… I left my job at the Ministry of Magic, in London. I wanted to… get away… for a while. And the former master of this house—"
At this, Pip let out a strangled noise.
"Pip? Are you all right?"
Pip looked up at her with a look that could only be called righteous indignation. "Mister Severus is leaving us with no reason. Mister Severus is not wanting us. Mister Severus is leaving Pip an orphan!"
"Pip," Hermione started, tears springing to her eyes in spite of herself, "Professor Snape—he was my professor, see—he is dead."
Pip put his head in his hands and wailed.
"Pip—Pip, please don't cry," Hermione said, kneeling down on the ground so she was face-level with him. She dared not try to touch him. "I'm here, see, and I want to buy the hall."
At that, Pip looked at her strangely. "But the Ministry wizard is saying Miss is only letting the hall."
Hermione nodded. "I wanted to buy it, but the Ministry is… forcing… me to let it for three months. They seem to think that the house will react badly to me seeing as how my parents are Muggles." Better to be honest sooner rather than later.
Pip laughed, a squeal that rang throughout the hall, standing in sharp contrast to the harsh sound of his tears. "The house is only treating Muggle-borns badly if the master or mistress is wanting the house to act badly. If Miss is the only person being in charge of the house…" Pip held up his hands.
"You mean, the house will not react adversely to my presence?" Hermione asked.
Pip shook his head. "No. But—" he started, a gleam coming into his eye. "Why is Miss wanting to let the house?"
Hermione was confused. "I… I want to let the house. It's something different… it's a project… it's…" She stumbled, trying to figure out how to express what had clearly failed to be expressed before.
"Is Miss wanting the ledgers? Because Pip is not knowing where the ledgers is."
"What ledgers?" Hermione asked, dumbfounded.
Suddenly, Pip's eyes looked hopeful. "Is Miss not knowing about the ledgers?"
"Pip, I've no idea what you're talking about. What are—"
Pip jumped up and down and reached for her hand, taking it and abruptly jerking her forward so that she almost fell to the floor. "Please, let me stand up," she said, chuckling as she got to her feet.
"Pip is taking Miss Hermione on a tour of the house. We is going now," he said. "Pip is being so lonely, Pip is excited to tell Miss about the house!"
Hermione could scarcely contain her grin.
By the time Hermione sat down to dinner, which Pip had insisted on preparing, seeing as how it was her first night, she had seen the whole house, and was positively in awe. It was a modest manor, all things considered, but even in shambles, it was stunning. Clearly, Severin and Annalien Prince—and their descendents—had believed that the devil was in the details. The plaster ceilings with scenes straight out of a History of Magic textbook, the barrel ceiling which was ornate without being ostentatious (which would also need to be restored), the stunning bay of windows in the Great Hall, the library—oh, the library… they hadn't spent nearly enough time perusing it, but suffice it to say, the room was charmed to extend an extra storey, and there had been four fireplaces in that room alone…
Pip had prepared the kitchen and master bedroom for her arrival, but had awaited her instruction for the other rooms. They hadn't yet toured the grounds, as night had fallen by the time the tour was finished, but Pip assured her that she could explore the grounds easily. There were only gardens, he said, and an orchard, and empty stables. It was very difficult to be alone without a master or mistress to serve, he said. He'd relied upon the portraits to keep him company. Hermione had walked down the Portrait Hall, which was home to a dozen of the largest portraits she had ever seen, but they had been asleep, or feigning sleep. No matter. She would have time to become acquainted with them later.
Pip had chattered on about the history of the home, sprinkling in tidbits about previous owners, but had remained tightlipped on the subject of IMister/I Severus, his mother, and his grandfather, from whom he had inherited the house. She'd been able to suss out that much.
It surprised her, how being in the hall made her think of him, more than she ever had in the last few years. She had thought of him almost to the point of obsession in the first few years after the war, particularly when she had prepared his defense with Kingsley. But for a long time, her thoughts on the subject of Severus Snape had lain dormant.
Perhaps it was because it was so difficult to imagine him here that she… well, imagined him here. Pictured him walking through a doorway, imagined his robes billowing around a corner. His voice, even in its lowest tones, would have reverberated through the two-storey high Great Hall, and the thought of it was enough to send a shudder down her spine.
She shook him from her thoughts during dinner, and she proceeded to do so for the rest of the evening, even as she climbed into bed, though she paused for a moment to reflect that the master bedroom was in dire need of new sheets.
She was here for herself, not out of a sense of guilt or obligation. She supposed that her thoughts about Snape would subside over the next few days, that she was thinking of him to avoid the overwhelming fear and anxiety and anticipation and excitement that had dueled for prominence in her throughout the course of the day.
She tucked the sheets up about her neck and turned onto her side, quickly falling into the deepest sleep she'd had in years.
Her first morning in her new home. She stretched her arms above her head, and as she did so, she turned to see a cup of coffee appear on her bedside table. Pip, she thought, shaking her head. She'd told him she preferred to brew her own pot in the morning. But she sat up and took the cup in her hands, accepting it for the gesture it was. The heat permeated the ceramic and warmed her hands, and she took a small sip, silently summoning her slippers and robe. The floor was cold and she'd awoken in the middle of the night several times to cover herself; the house was drafty and the weather charms obviously needed to be reinforced. That was one of the first things she would do this morning.
She shrugged her arms into the silky white robe and slipped her feet into the warm slippers. Coffee in hand, she set out of the room, determined to investigate how the grounds looked at sunrise. She practically skipped down the stairs before turning down the hall to find the entrance to the back lawn.
The house cast its dark shadow over this west end of the house. The grounds were still wet with dew, the glimmer on the grass the only sign of life. The back gardens had been beautiful once, elaborate—even pompous—in their grandeur. But what once had been lush was now overrun and dead, dry and brittle leaves snapping under Hermione's charmed slippers as she examined the state of things. The sides of the garden were terraced; it would look lovely once she was finished. But she was determined to ignore the garden as she walked toward the rocky crags. It was beautiful, how the trees bent over the crags, as if peering to see the Atlantic slapping up against the rocks below. Hermione climbed the steps to the wall that bordered the crags, and she stood, overlooking the Atlantic, looking up to the sky above and admiring how the ribbons of sunrise spiraled, almost touching the edge of the sea.
Suddenly desirous of seeing sunrise in its full splendor from the front lawn, Hermione quickly climbed down the wall and, not bothering with the windy paths, tramped across the remnants of the Elizabethan-style square flowerbeds, careful not to spill her coffee as she walked into the manor, back down the hall, and to the front entrance, shoving the doors open to see the sunrise greeting her. The front lawn was practically naked compared to the back; there was nary a flower to distract from the heady colors, save the lion statues on either side of the front gate nearly half a kilometer down the lawn.
She walked down the slim path that extended from entrance to gate, the oranges and reds and pinks and purples bursting forth across the horizon, their colors vibrant even in the heavy morning mist. She sipped her coffee for a glorious second before choking on her second sip, sputtering the coffee all the way down the front of her white robe. She felt it drip down into her cleavage, but her eyes were fixed on the sight before her. Shrouded in the mist, there stood a ghost riding an ethereally white horse.
The ghost looked like Snape.
Author's Note: Lyonesse Hall is, in fact, Trerice, a manor in Cornwall. Portions of the manor's description were lifted from sites about Trerice; those sites are linked on The Petulant Poetess and OWL. Architecture buffs will forgive me if I take liberties with the manor and grounds to suit my own purposes. ~grin~