Title: Still those little things remain
Summary: When Severus Snape comes to St Mungo's in a stretcher and under a coma, a healer thinks her only responsibility is to inform any friends and relatives of his inevitable death. Things get complicated, however, when the healer finds out that he'd previously been married a former student.
Warning: This is goopy goopy goopy and predictable. I have this handful of oneshots on my hard drive that once really resonated with me. They might not anymore, but I thought it couldn't hurt to post them.
/ \ / \ / \
They say a house-elf found him. It was days after anybody had seen or heard from him. The house-elf that Professor McGonagall—you know her, the present headmistress of Hogwarts—sent every week to clean, and basically to chivvy the man into eating, came in on Sunday morning and found the Professor unconscious on the floor of his lab. They think he slipped and fell, and hit his head. It's lucky she came when she did.
"If she'd come a few hours later, he'd have had no chance at all," the nurse says, handing me his chart. Professor Snape's healer had the misfortune of coming down with the 'flu and is still on sick leave, so that his care has fallen to me.
I'm not particularly happy about it. I have quite enough to do, thank you very much, without having to look after a man who probably hasn't any chance of surviving a coma. I've got three cases in the ward below who require much more urgent care. But apparently the Professor is a high-profile patient, sponsored by the Ministry and with a private room and everything, so I reluctantly hand over my three other cases and take over.
It's two days ago that he was brought in, and even though the trauma to his skull and the hemorrhage are all cleared up now, he still isn't waking up. Probably too much brain damage. I've been ordered to check up on him every few hours, and to get whatever information I can on his relatives. They'll likely have to be told to say their last good-byes.
I look at him. He looks much older than the pictures I saw of him in a few newspapers, back when I was living with my aunt in a warm suburb in the States. It was nice there—sunny and peaceful, and as far removed from the wizarding wars as my parents could have wished. I got pulled out of Hogwarts my second year when Harry Potter, two forms above mine, began the rumors (which eventually turned out to be horribly true) that Voldemort had returned. So I only had Professor Snape for a few terms. He doesn't look nearly as frightening now as he did then.
I suppose I'm lucky I was sorted into Ravenclaw. It would have been a nightmare to be a Gryffindor and to have Professor Snape breathing down your neck at Potions. Our classes with the Hufflepuffs were much more sedate (or so they said). It doesn't mean he wasn't still a terror. My clearest memory of him is of a day when, homesick for my family, I was miserably cutting kelpie ears without noticing I'd diced rather than sliced them. The telling he gave me!
"Miss Gordon, I find it difficult to believe that you passed first-year Potions without knowing how to follow the most elementary of instructions. Perhaps you would care to enlighten me?" And then—let's see if I remember what happened after—he asked me to stay after class, and—
"Lizzie. This came in the floo for you." Healer Entwhistle hands me the flat square, about the size of my palm, where Severus Snape's vital signs are printed and are updated every minute, courtesy of a handful of monitoring spells. I sigh. "His healer sent them. She also said you're to be reminded about those relatives. She did some digging around yesterday and she says there aren't any surviving ones."
"The last Snape, eh?" I look at him again. His chart says he's forty-eight years old, but he looks well beyond sixty. He doesn't look much like a war hero to me. He looks like an old, tired man who led a hard life. I feel a twinge of pity that he should be alone. Much as I didn't like him, my aunt said she knew somebody who'd been shuttled to safety by an anonymous, masked Death Eater, moments before their home was attacked. All those families he'd saved, she said. Is there really nobody that he did all those things for? Was it really all just for the greater good?
/ \ / \ / \
I bring it up over lunch. Healer Entwhistle—Fanny, to her friends, which would basically be me and her husband—studied in Hogwarts and was a year ahead of me, and she finished her seven years there. She doesn't really like to talk about her time at Hogwarts, particularly those latter years. So I ask it as a special favor that she tell me everything she knows about Professor Snape.
"His mum was Eileen Prince," she says over the hum of conversation in the Ministry cafeteria. "That was all in the papers, you know. After everything. His body was missing, and everyone thought he was dead, but months later Headmistress McGonagall came out with the news that he was alive and holed up somewhere in the South of France, and not to bother him please. By that point Harry Potter had made some kind of hero out of him."
"D'you mean Harry Potter was exaggerating?"
"No, of course not. It was all very brave, really, when everything was explained. But I understand why someone like him would want to hide away when his duty was done."
"Did the papers say anything about where he was hiding? Like if he was hiding with family?"
"No. His mum and dad were the last of them. He didn't have any siblings too. He was married once, though…"
I nearly choke on my sandwich.
Fanny looks at me oddly. "Didn't you know? That was years later, of course. He got forced out of hiding by that stupid law."
"Oh, God. I'd forgotten all about that. I'm sorry."
"You're lucky you were still in the States. The jurisdiction only applied to the UK. Snape wouldn't stand for it, of course. He was married off to a former student. I don't suppose you know he was the one who finally got it repealed? Lobbied for a year and everything, convinced every member of the Wizengamot. If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't have been able to marry Colin."
"Poor wife." I can't imagine being married to unpleasant, sarcastic, unattractive Professor Snape. Particularly if you'd once had to face him across his desk in the classroom as he graded your potion. "Married, huh? No sproglets?"
"Not that we know of. But then I'm not exactly sure what happened after the law got repealed. He had to have got the marriage annulled like everyone else, right? Else he wouldn't be living alone and you wouldn't be scrambling around looking for his relations."
This is a lead at least. I don't fancy running off and retracing Snape's family tree, but being on his case means overtime pay from the war veterans fund in the Ministry. I watch Fanny who, lost in thought, has made rivers of gravy with her mashed potatoes. All those lives, she'd said. I suppose, too, that it's the least I can do.
/ \ / \ / \
Fanny can't remember who the younger Mrs Snape was. I don't know that I ever read about her either. All Fanny knows is that she was in Harry Potter's form or thereabouts. I should make a pit stop at the Department of Records later today. But this afternoon I think I'll stop by his house. He probably really was living alone, but I'd like to know if there are any mementos around the house—correspondence, pictures, and so forth—that would suggest the existence of, if not blood relations, then at least friends who would like to see him before he dies, away from the prying eyes of the public and long before the news is released to the presses. I've already sent an owl to Professor McGonagall, and now I don't know who else to owl.
I'm almost certain this is illegal. I'm outside Professor Snape's house. Thankfully, the wards are still down. They had to be dismantled on the day of the accident so the mediwizards could come to immobilize and transport him. The house needs a new paint job, really. I wonder what the new owners, when they come, can possibly do to make the house more liveable. In some ways it is as ugly as the man who owned it.
It is as easy as Alohomora to open the back door and slip inside. I can't imagine that Professor Snape, if he were conscious, would be pleased to know that his house is virtually open for any wizard who might seek to come in. I tell myself it's for his own good. I can't stop a shiver, however, when I'm finally across the threshold and in the middle of a kitchen. Lizzie, my girl, you're much too old to be thinking of all those rumors about Professor Snape being a vampire…
The kitchen, though shabby, is clean as only a house-elf can make it. The walls used to be yellow, probably, and I can see marks on the walls where pictures were hung before. I wonder if the younger Mrs Snape ever lived here. I wonder if she ever tried to repaint the house or bring in flowers from the garden (which, like any Potions Master's garden, is blooming beautifully still). I wonder if she was so certain of the law being repealed that she looked on her life with Professor Snape as a mere transition, like a waiting room or the shed at the train station where one awaited what would come next.
I continue to look around the house. There are really no pictures on the walls apart from some prints of famous wizards in what I assume must have been the library. It is a small room, with a small fireplace and a box of Floo powder on the mantelpiece. The wallpaper is faded and shabby. Whatever the rest of the house lacks in wealth, though, is made up for by the obvious value of the books stacked on the shelves, which are covered with glass doors. I put my fingers on the glass and feel the familiar winking and tickling of wards, which the curse-breakers didn't have to tamper with while they were here, I suppose. The books are not what I'm looking for anyway.
There is a picture of Albus Dumbledore on one of the small tables. It has been turned to face the wall.
Other than that, nothing. No conveniently open diaries, no appointment book, no letters from acquaintances with details of sordid love affairs.
The bedroom next, I suppose.
The stairs creak as I ascend them. It is a frightening, gloomy house. I don't know that I can live here for any stretch of time, but Professor Snape seems to have managed, and anyway he lived in the dreary Hogwarts dungeons for a long time, so he's probably used to it.
A turn to the left, then a series of doors. The first opens to a guest room, or perhaps it might have been Snape's mother's room. The walls are papered in lavender. It is better cleaned and more cared for than any room in the house, and I feel like it's been suspended in time and the occupant has just left, and will likely return at any moment. The bed, dresser and chairs are made of the same white wood. It feels like a room different from the rest of the house. There is a hairbrush on the dresser and a collection of books on a low shelf. It's like Fanny's daughter's room, I think in surprise. Who would have thought that a room like this belonged to this house? Professor Snape was really an old, nostalgic softie, perhaps. The only thing missing is Eunice's stuffed unicorn.
The next door is Snape's; that is obvious. It looks now as it probably did when he last stepped foot there—the room tidy but for stacks and stacks of notes filled with the cramped, cruel handwriting that dotted the sides of my essays and reduced me to tears once or twice with its cutting commentary. It's bizarre that I should be in my old teacher's bedroom, looking for clues as to his identity, inasmuch as a person's identity is defined by those who cared for him. I'm beginning to think this is futile. Perhaps the only person who really cared was Professor McGonagall.
And suddenly—a ray of light. Literally. I might have missed it if I didn't happen to peer in between the slightly open doors of the wardrobe in the corner of the room. The light is faint and slightly bluish. I have my wand out before I even know what I'm doing. My blood is pounding in my ears and I'm suddenly struck with the thought that I am in the house of a former Death Eater, who knew more curses than there are bones in the body. (I also realize that I've been thinking of him in the past tense.) With the tip of my wand I push the door of the wardrobe open and, taking a deep breath and thinking of all the shield charms I know, peer in.
I've never seen a Pensieve before. This is probably what it looks like. At the bottom of the closet there is a basin, beautifully carved with symbols round the rim, and inside is a mass of floating silver things, like water but thicker, like a hundred different reflections of a hundred different things skipping over each other. Memories.
Exactly what I'm looking for.
Or are they? There are some lines that I hesitate to cross. I've always been the sort of person who does what she has to. Colin, Fanny's husband, says it makes me just a little scary and intimidating. It isn't that the end justifies the means, exactly—more like the means, however difficult or unappealing, shouldn't stop you from getting to the end. I don't know if I'm supposed to draw the line here. After all, if someone waded through my memories, I'd hex them all the way to Queerditch, and you can bet on it.
But what if there's someone. Anyone. Anyone who might have come to care for Professor Snape enough to wish him good-bye. Anyone who might want to see him for the last time. The clock is ticking. Someone whose brain was damaged that much might go quite soon. What if there's an estranged sibling, a concerned uncle, a lover (God forbid), all of them kept at arm's length by this porcupine of a man…
In for a penny, in for a pound.
/ \ / \ / \
I've never before been in another person's memory. Altogether it isn't unlike Muggle cinema, which overwhelms you with colors and sounds, but there's more—the floor is solid under your feet and even the smell of the grass and the warmth of the noontime sun are real. There is a point that things bleed into one another; if you stray very far, the lines of objects begin to blur and it's like walking about wearing the wrong pair of spectacles. But if you stick to where you've landed, you'll usually get an adequate view.
I don't know how to jump from memory to memory. So I wait most of them out, and it takes a long time, and I'm relieved that my afternoon is free. Thankfully there are few memories of Snape as a Death Eater; I suppose those memories are found deeper in the pensieve, where Snape would have to wade very far to remember them. I don't think the Death Eaters were a very happy crowd.
I watch Snape. His is not a very animated face. Most of the time it's disdainful, sometimes angry, sometimes bored.
Most of the memories are of the time after the war, if I'm not mistaken. There is a small cottage—it's probably in the south of France as Fanny said—where memory-Snape completes a potion. I watch him. Here he looks worn but a little younger, and he's sitting, leaning forward in concentration while a potion in the middle of a fire is slowly changing color.
Leave it to Snape to be happy about a potion. I suppose that's the only reason he could possibly have wanted to save the memory. I'm pleased for this memory-Snape—pleased that he was productive, pleased that he could find some satisfaction in his work where others, after the war, were too much damaged even to think of getting up in the morning to make a cuppa. Snape was… is… was probably as resilient as they come.
Then there is a memory of Snape getting a letter from the Ministry—the same letter, I suppose, that Fanny must have received—announcing the marriage law.
Then… everything gets a little blurry. Like a photograph handled so often that the sides crinkle and there are minute creases. Perhaps memories work like that too. Perhaps Professor Snape visited these memories often. What is clear is a meeting in an office, and an exchange of letters. And then Snape, pacing up and down in front of a small chapel, dressed in the regal (if in this case slightly ill-fitting) outfit of a wizard to be married… and then there is the bride.
She is small, so that she is almost two heads shorter than her groom. Knowing that she can neither see nor touch me, I come closer to her, looking at her face, which is oddly familiar. Her hair has been shorn close to her head so that it looks a little bit like a brown cloud. Her eyes are a warm brown. I think I recognize her. I scramble out of the way as she makes her way to her husband, standing at the door of the chapel.
Her expression is bland, and it doesn't match the intricacy of the dress she's to be married in. I think she might be trying to put on a brave face. It ends up looking quite a lot like reluctance. Behind her is a small group of people, among them…
…Among them Harry Potter. I look again at the bride, horrified as realization dawns and I spin, aghast, out of the memory and into the dim interior of Snape's wardrobe.
/ \ / \ / \
"You only said former student! Why didn't you say it was Hermione Granger?"
Fanny carefully puts down the teapot that I'd almost surprised her into dropping. "Okay," she says slowly, wiping her hands on a tea towel and looking at me with an expression halfway between bemused and alarmed. "Can you tell me why this is so important to you? You could have found out any time if you'd gone to Records."
I know she's right, and I almost don't want to tell her what I discovered and how I discovered it. I slump into the stool I've always thought of as my own, and tell her over her kitchen counter. Outside the day darkens into evening.
"I guess I shouldn't be surprised," she tells me when my narrative is over. "You always were one to get into stupid scrapes like this. Can you imagine what the authorities would do to you if they found out you'd snuck into his home? And with him being so high-profile!"
"Imagine what he'd do to me." I suppress a shudder. Fanny's teacups are delicate yellow things, a present from Colin, cared for and loved for years now. Not unlike… I pause. I stare into the bottom of my own teacup. I want to tell Fanny about this final thing, but something about it feels exquisitely private.
"What's wrong?" Fanny can always tell when there's something I'm reluctant to say.
"That's not all," I say softly. "I mean, that is all that is relevant, I suppose. I mean obviously I'm supposed to tell Hermione Granger about the coma. She's probably his last relation, if you can call her that. But I found something in the house that, well, hints at something else."
"Well then, for goodness' sake, get on with it."
"Okay, okay." I take a deep breath. "You know how Colin went to that business trip in Australia, and you took one of his nightshirts and dressed up one of your pillows with it, so you could sleep next to it. You remember how you put a scent-preserving charm on it so it would keep until he came back."
"Ye-es." Fanny is entirely still. "Go on."
"I found something like that at Snape's house. When I went upstairs I opened one of the doors, and it was a bedroom, and it was extremely pretty and feminine. I thought it was Snape's mother's room, but it doesn't really fit now that I think about it, because it's the only room that Hermione Snape could have slept in. Lavender walls and white furniture and everything, something between a little girl's bedroom and a woman's boudoir. It smelled like… well, I'm not very good at scents but I guess I'd say freesia, as though someone had just sprayed perfume on themselves and left the room. It's immaculately clean. I didn't investigate more closely at the time, but I think it was a preserving charm."
"Yes. And—there were memories in a Pensieve, too. I went back in, after I saw that he'd married Hermione Granger. And the memories say the same thing as that lavender room."
We're quiet for a moment. Fanny sits across me, finger sliding to and fro over the rim of her teacup, while I look out the window at the darkened world outside. I imagine flashes of streetlight stealing through the windows in Snape's room at St Mungo's, illuminating the man in the bed, and no one else. The chair beside his bed, I know, is still empty.
Suddenly, the barking of dogs: Colin is on the threshold. Fanny, however, doesn't rise to meet him, not yet. She fixes me with a look. "You've got to tell her, Lizzie. You have to."
"Are you sure?" I force a laugh. It kind of sounds like the sort of thing I'd do without thinking, just revealing other people's secrets without thought or consideration.
But Fanny's expression doesn't change. "I think he would have wanted her to know."
"Are you joking. If he has kept it a secret, he's done so for more than half a decade. Of course he didn't want her to know. And what difference would it make in the end, anyway?" The words sound hollow in my own ears. While I'm having this argument with Fanny, a man lies dying, and alone.
She takes my hand in hers. The dogs keep barking outside, announcing their master's presence, and the sound is the counterpoint to Fanny's prophetic words. "You know as well as I do," she says quietly, "that it could make all the difference in the world."
/ \ / \ / \
The ties that bound us
Are still around us
There's no escape that I can see.
And still those little things remain
That bring me happiness or pain.
The music catches me off-guard, and I pause in the middle of knocking on Hermione Granger's door. A sudden panic seizes me, because why on earth didn't I think of checking if she'd got married since her brief time as Mrs Snape? I don't know how to address her or how she'll receive the news, or if there will be somebody there to receive the news with her. I fidget and let my eyes take in the small garden and the rest of the quiet neighborhood by the light of the streetlamps.
The door opens in a pool of light, and the music becomes louder and fuller. The woman in the doorway is a grown-up version of the girl in Snape's memory, an oval face surrounded by a riot of curls—a face of no great beauty but certainly of a youthful prettiness. She's actually kind of lovely. I find myself suddenly shy. And slightly ashamed. I'm intruding in her life, and a part of me is convinced and terrified that she won't care about the information I've come to give her.
"Yes?" she looks at me oddly.
"I…" But before I can fumble my way through the rest of the sentence, she pulls me inside and shuts the door shut behind me.
"I'm sorry," she says, indicating my healer's robes, "but I live in a Muggle neighborhood. It's probably not a good idea to be seen with robes on my doorstep."
"Yes, I'm sorry. I wasn't thinking." I hold out my hand, conscious of the music and the dinner that I'm probably interrupting. "I'm Lizzie Gordon. I've come from St Mungo's, and there's something I need to tell you."
Her eyes are wide, and her hands begin to wring the kitchen towel she'd brought with her; I drop my own hand in the face of her surprise. "Oh, God. Is it Harry? Though I wonder why you'd come to tell me. Molly Weasley's his official guardian. So it's probably not him, and not Ron either, or Ginny. But then who—"
I can't allow myself to listen to the litany of people she thinks of before she thinks of Severus Snape. I put up a hand to stop her and she falls silent, obviously frightened by my awkward and hesitating manner.
"It's about Severus Snape."
Silence falls between us. She appears not to move or breathe for a few moments, until she forces herself to ask, "Is he alive?"
"Just barely." I suppose it never gets easier. Telling the relatives, I mean. I can't count the number of times I've had to give bad news to people waiting, hearts in their throats, for news about their loved ones. The familiar, poignant feeling of sharing-while completely and irrevocably being separated from-someone's else's grief seizes me, and I force myself to talk around it. "He's in a coma."
She sits down in a nearby chair and she's framed by the yellow walls—the same color as Snape's kitchen walls probably were, I think distractedly—and her warm, cozy furniture, but she looks cold and frightened.
"What's happened to him?" She catches herself and gestures to a chair opposite her, suddenly remembering her manners. "I'm sorry. Please sit down, Healer Gordon."
"Thank you. I… he was brought in two days ago. We think it was an accident in the Potions lab or something. He fell and hit his head, and because of the trauma and some internal bleeding he sustained some brain damage. Or maybe a lot of it. Because he hasn't woken up since he was brought in. And I… I got the case today. And I was asked to check if he had any relatives or friends that might want to know in case…" And I cannot force myself to finish the sentence. It hangs in the air, blending with the music that's still coming from another room.
She is trying to remain calm. That much is clear. Dilated pupils, increased breath rate per minute, a slight tremor in an otherwise controlled voice. "Did you inform anybody else? That is, was I the only one you visited?"
"I did owl Professor McGonagall at Hogwarts."
"Oh, yes. Of course. Of course she would want to know." She stands up and unnecessarily straightens an imaginary crease in her skirt. "Is there anything I can do?"
"You could visit him. If you wanted. He's… it's just he's all alone there, Miss."
"Oh." I'm afraid that she'll say she doesn't want to. But then her eyes brim with tears and she reaches, perhaps blindly, for her wand; with a flick of it she turns off the music coming, sweetly and sadly, from the next room. "Yes. Of course. Forgive me. I'm a little rattled. And I've left a chicken in the oven. I'll just… yes."
And she leaves me in the sudden quiet of the front room.
/ \ / \ / \
Fanny's face looks sick and anxious in the green light of the Floo.
"Did you tell her?"
A pause. "I couldn't."
"Why the hell not?"
"I…" I roll the words around on my tongue, wondering if they'll make any sort of sense. "I need… some sort of indication that the news won't be… unwelcome."
"I see." The silence stretches out between us, and I know Fanny understands; the quiet is filled with this sudden tender loyalty for our Professor, once a cruel authority figure and now simply a man who might die unloved. "Has she seen him?"
"No. Not yet. I'm flooing from the hospital and she's in the waiting area. He was being bathed when we got here."
"All right. Are you okay, Lizzie? You seem a bit more fagged."
"I feel like I've been pulled through the wringer. You know me. I tend to be a little… affected. When it comes to patients."
"You feel sorry for them, is what you mean."
I run a hand tiredly over my eyes.
"I feel sorry for Hermione Granger, too. You should've seen her, Fanny. She turned white as a sheet. I'm just not sure if that means what I want it to mean."
For the first time in the course of this conversation, Fanny smiles.
"Can you imagine if she feels the same way? It's a little bit…"
"—romantic," I finish for her. "Yes, I've thought of that, too. But I also think of the possibility that he might never wake up. And suddenly all thought of romance goes down the drain."
/ \ / \ / \
When, ten minutes later, I've found Hermione Granger in the waiting area, I begin to explain to her the tedious details that make up her former husband's condition: what his injuries can mean, what his tests indicate. Miss Granger is a very intelligent person, by all accounts, but I'm not sure if she's understood even half of what I'm saying. She looks frightened and somehow diminished, like a wilting flower against the white walls of the waiting area.
"When was the last time you had any contact with Professor Snape?" This is an unnecessary question, but I want so much to know the answer that I ask it anyway.
"I—we saw each other at some book stores a few times in the last two years." She's looking at the floor, hugging herself. "I glimpsed him and I think he might have seen me, but he never said hello. I always wondered why he was avoiding me."
"So you don't know anything at all about his recent living conditions? Friends he might have made, people who might want to visit him now?"
"I—I don't know." She raises her eyes to me. "I wrote to him. I tried to stay friends with him, but he never responded to any of my letters. I—I just didn't know. So I stopped writing." The words seem to spill out of her. I'm familiar with the way the tongue loosens when a person is faced with a medical professional and the prospect of grief. "I know I shouldn't have. He's always been such a prickly person. I should have persisted. But I couldn't handle…"
She stops suddenly, as though aware that she has said too much.
"I understand," I say softly. After a pause, I add, "I'll wait with you until we can see him. They'll send me a signal from his room."
As we settle in for a longer wait, I think of Professor Snape. Prickly, Miss Granger said. A prickly person. But I think… I can remember that time he'd held me back after class.
I'd chopped my kelpie ears wrong. I had been so distracted during class that I didn't even notice until my potion had simmered and it was time for bottling, and I ended up with a goopy mess of the wrong texture and color. "Miss Gordon," he'd said in that mocking voice of his, "I find it difficult to believe that you passed first-year Potions without knowing how to follow the most elementary of instructions."
He'd sat calmly behind his desk while I stood in front of him, knees shaking.
"Perhaps you would care to enlighten me?"
And I couldn't think of anything to say. I just stood there, waiting for his next words or some form of punishment. And then he sighed. And to my surprise, he fished in his waistcoat pocket and retrieved a handkerchief. He pushed it under my nose. And it was only then that I realized that I'd been crying.
"It happens to the best of us, Miss Gordon," he said suddenly. And I honestly didn't know what he meant. Gobsmacked, I looked at him through my tears.
"Sir?" I ventured.
"Homesickness." He motioned for me to sit and, too stunned to obey, I sat down. I have no idea, even now, how he knew that I was thinking of my family, on that first day of classes, and how everything was so overwhelming and how I'd wanted so much to be home. How I wished I'd had my cat, or a toad like some of the others had. I made good use of his handkerchief, I remember.
Things became a little bit blurry after that. He didn't give me a sweet, as Professor Flitwick had done when I later broached my homesickness with him. Professor Snape merely sat for ten minutes with me and let me talk about my mum and my cat, and why I'd chopped my kelpie ears wrong. I don't remember much of anything else. I don't know if I kept the handkerchief. I just know he never took any points, and I know he listened quietly.
I don't know how I could have forgotten. A prickly person.
Suddenly, almost without my deciding, I stand up. Miss Granger looks up at me, startled.
I don't know how to explain myself. "I—I need to show you something, Miss Granger," I hear myself say. "If you could please come with me."
"But—what about Severus?" Her expression is bewildered. "Aren't we going to see him?"
"It will only take a while," I hedge. "And it's very important. Please."
/ \ / \ / \
It's nighttime. I don't know how much time we have left, and for reasons I don't understand, I feel an unexpected sense of urgency.
I don't show her the lavender bedroom, fearing that she might not understand it somehow. I head straight for the Pensieve hidden in the closet. For her part, Miss Granger doesn't seem upset, only surprised, at the ease with which I break and enter into Professor Snape's house. She says nothing as I push the man's clothes aside and draw out the heavy Pensieve from the dark wardrobe; the memories' light causes the shadows on the ceiling to dance.
"Did you ever get married after the law was repealed?" I ask her. It suddenly seems most important.
"What? Why? What does that have to do with anything?"
I take her arm frantically. "Just—did you?" My voice gets louder. "Did you?"
"I—" Her eyes meet mine. "No. I couldn't."
And things seem to look up all of a sudden. I calm down and sit, cross-legged, on the floor behind the Pensieve.
"There are memories," I tell her, "that I think you have to see. And I don't know how much time we've got left. I don't know how to manipulate memories in a Pensieve. But if you can, Miss Granger, I think you should try to go to his memories of the time that you lived in this house, and when you finally left it."
"Why are you doing this?" she asks for the first time, kneeling next to me. In the darkness of Professor Snape's bedroom, her pale face is lit only by the light from the Pensieve.
"I'm not sure if this is the best thing to do," I confess. "I'm not sure if I'll regret this. I haven't the right to be prying into your lives, after all. I'm only a healer. But, even though it was a long time ago, Professor Snape was kind to me, once. And I'm not sure I can ever forgive myself if I didn't take this chance to do him a kindness in my turn."
Hermione Granger is silent. I'm not sure if she understands. But she does square her shoulders as she says, "All right."
/ \ / \ / \
I have to admit that I expect Miss Granger to come out of the Pensieve crying. I certainly wanted to cry, the first time I saw the memories. I'm not terribly good at putting pieces together—Fanny's always been brighter than me—but I know I saw memories of a man who felt so sorry for all of the choices that had been taken from his wife, that he'd taken up a cause to give them all back to her. He'd won, too; right enough, it took him merely a year to get that awful law repealed. I saw long stretches of memories, of entire days when the one thing the man looked forward to was that time, after dinner, when he spoke to her and played chess, and I saw him resolutely stay in his seat, despite his own sleepiness, to eke out just a few more minutes from those evenings.
I suppose it was only natural. She was pretty and very clever and he was—is—was the kind of man who might not notice the former trait, but who definitely appreciated the latter. And she seemed so kind.
There were so many more things—memories carefully preserved, memories that might look inconsequential but which held small points of brilliance if you were looking for them: a kind word, a smile, the tail end of a tinkling laugh. The way he'd read each of her letters but never respond, as though to free her from any tether that might still hold her to Spinner's End. I expect that these things will make Hermione Granger cry. I want them to, just so I can know for sure...
When she does emerge, she isn't crying, but her hands are shaking and she rubs a hand over her eyes. I wonder if this is all too much for her. A Healer comes out of nowhere and shows you first of all that your ex-husband is dying, and then drags you to a well of secrets to find out that he was pining for you this whole while.
We should go back to the hospital. The healers there are probably wondering where we are. I've always been one to get into these stupid scrapes, as Fanny says. I promise myself that this is the last time. I just need to bring Hermione Granger to see, to really see her husband—a man who never knew how to be nice, but who did try, in his peculiar and awkward way, to be kind sometimes. Into the silence I can only ask her one question.
"Why didn't you ever get married again, Miss Granger?"
I don't have words to describe my relief when, after a long pause, she answers me. "I couldn't."
"I couldn't marry anyone after that. I… always wondered if I'd find someone who could make me happy, in the way I was happy when I still lived here. Before the law was repealed and Severus made it seem like an annulment, and my departure, was our only option." She looked around her, at these remnants of Professor Snape's life. "I did try, you know. To find someone; to be happy. I can lie and say that once or twice I came close, but I didn't, not really. Never close; never that happy again. I could just never recapture that, um…" And, to my awkward horror, she does begin to cry, and I wish I were Professor Snape—I wish I had a handkerchief I could conveniently give her to stop the flow of tears.
So many wasted years.
Not a moment to waste, now.
"Let's go back," I tell her, and she nods.
/ \ / \ / \
Things are a bit of a blur after that. I know, now, that I slept on Fanny's couch that night, too overwrought to go back to my own flat, where everything seemed suddenly too quiet and lonely to be borne.
"You've done well," Fanny told me as I fall asleep, and I think I smiled at her. Or maybe I was too frightened to smile.
I know that, before going to Fanny's house, I left Hermione Granger in Professor Snape's room. The moment we were allowed inside, I thought she would storm in and try to wake him up with the sheer force of her character. But to my surprise, she stood in the waiting area as though rooted to the spot.
"What if he never wakes up?" she whispered to me, voicing my most dominant fear. Her small hand gripped my arm.
"He might still," I said. "But if he doesn't wake up—then he doesn't," I forced myself to add, talking around the lump that had found its way into my throat. "But it doesn't mean you can't be with him now. I don't know how much of him is still in there, but you can talk to him, and he might hear you."
And she went inside.
I don't want you to think that there was some sort of miracle after that. (Especially the sort of miracle that involves waking people from comas by talking to them. I don't hold with that. It isn't sound science, I've always said.) No miracles.
Only there is something of a miracle, isn't there, in the fact that two people, after years of missing out on each other, might come together in the end. I've seen it happen in families, among parents and children who haven't spoken to each other for decades, and who use those last moments to say goodbye.
The thing is, I don't want you to get your hopes up. Hermione Granger holding on to Professor Snape's hand, day in and day out—and her whispered stories to me, of having come to adore him and being hurt when he'd summarily dismissed her from his house and refused to return her letters—are beautiful things, but it doesn't mean that she could fix all of the problems between them, including Professor Snape's possibly terminal fear of unhappiness.
But when he woke up on the seventh day and saw her sitting there, I knew I'd helped them pack their clouds away, and quietly left them to plan out their own happy endings.
/ \ / \ / \
Medical notes: Hematoma in the brain can cause permanent neurologic deficits, coma, or death.
Note on the text: "Pack Clouds Away" is the title of the last chapter in Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South.
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