This is a short story, three chapters, and an epilogue. Not one of my usual happy stories, but I want to stretch my repertoire a bit, and this is the first story of that stretch. I hope you like it.
JK Rowling owns the Harry Potter Universe. I do not.
The sound frightened Harry beyond anything he had experienced all evening. For the first time, Dumbledore was pleading.
Snape said nothing, but walked forwards and pushed Malfoy roughly out of the way. The three death eaters fell back without a word. Even the werewolf seemed cowed.
Snape gazed for a moment at Dumbledore, and there was revulsion and hatred in the harsh lines of his face.
Snape raised his wand and pointed it directly at Dumbledore.
Severus Snape stood on the banks of the canal that lay behind his home, Spinner's End. The canal smelled like garbage and did nothing to lift his dark mood. The October sunshine reflected off the slowly moving water, giving it an oil slick appearance, although there probably was oil in the water. In this abandoned part of North Manchester, residents used the canal as a convenient place to get rid of what the dustmen wouldn't take. The water, however slow to move, was surprisingly deep, about two and a half metres or so. Severus wondered how long it would take the water to choke the life out of a weakened man.
He came here every day since his release from St. Mungo's. He would spend hours just looking at the water, thinking or not thinking, as the hours passed. He stood in the same position; shoulders slumped, hands shoved into his pockets.
The wind blew dust into his eyes, and he winced, dragging in a ragged breath of defeat. The bandage around his neck itched in the heat of the afternoon sun. Life held no more worth for him. Although he had been acquitted of killing the only man who cared in the slightest for the hooked nosed, ugly creature he had become, he was not welcomed as a hero of the war.
That was left for Potter, his brain spat the word out. Potter, the red headed moron, and Granger.
Granger. Hermione Granger. Miss Hermione Granger. The Princess of Gryffindor.
He had been to Diagon Alley to pick up some items a few weeks ago when he had seen her for the first time since the war. He watched her from deep within the hood of his traveling cloak as she wandered into a few shops. She had turned into quite a lovely young woman. From the snippets he read in The Daily Prophet, he knew she was attending Hogwarts to complete her missing final year after a rather nasty public break up with Ronald Weasley. She would lead a charmed life, he was sure; universities would trip over themselves to enroll the proclaimed 'brightest witch of the age'. Employers would fall at her feet to offer her the best of jobs. He wasn't sure if he was glad enough to admit he wouldn't be there to witness it.
Severus had hoped to teach again at Hogwarts, at least for a little while, but Hogwarts seemed to have no room on its staff for him. No matter. He was a Wizard, after all; he would manage.
But he didn't. As each week passed, the hope that he would find a job lessened, and the money he had saved over the years needed to be managed more carefully. It would do no good to sell the house; no one would live near the old defunct spinning mill.
He sighed and stood there, just staring as the afternoon sun beat down on his head. He wondered again how long it would take the water to drown a weakened man.
Severus didn't know that Miss Granger had seen him that day while in Diagon Alley. He didn't know that she had disillusioned herself and followed him as he stopped in a few shops to complete his errands. She saw that he was thinner than before, and when he removed the hood of his cloak briefly in the apothecary, the bandage around his neck looked liked it hadn't been changed in a while. His lank, greasy hair was longer than ever.
Hermione walked slowly back to school thinking about what she had seen. She wondered how he got by. He was no longer at Hogwarts, and she had not heard that he was employed elsewhere. She knew many did not trust his motivation, or that his allegiance to the Light was as true as he claimed. Something in the way he carried himself made her sad.
She knew what he had been through; Harry had allowed her to see his memories after the battle. There was something sadly romantic about a man who devoted his life to a woman's memory. Who selflessly, and foolishly, gave his life to two masters who cruelly used him as puppet to further their own agendas.
What did she think about Severus Snape?
When she was a sixteen-year-old girl just discovering her burgeoning sexuality, confusing raw need with a misguided sense of romanticism, he was her epitome of 'man as a sexual being'. She also knew that he was smart, witty, driven, and she fell deeply in love with what that represented. That died viciously the night he apparently killed Dumbledore. It was sparked again when she had seen the memories, but it was tempered with the experience of having participated in war, and actually having had a sexual experience (lackluster at best; she hoped it would get better). She laughed to herself; honestly, a twenty-year age gap, and his less then pleasant attitude toward her made her realize that this was a crush that must be set aside in the face of adulthood.
Once back at the castle, she approached Minerva and asked to see her in her office. The women walked along the hallways together, commenting on the restoration before arriving at the gargoyle. As they settled in Minerva's office with tea and biscuits, Minerva asked, "What did you want to talk about, Hermione? Are you having trouble with classes?"
Hermione placed her cup onto the saucer. "No, no; nothing like that. I was in Diagon Alley today doing a bit of shopping. Thank you for allowing me to go, by the way." The Headmistress nodded in acknowledgment. "I wanted to ask you what you knew about Professor Snape? How is he doing? Is he employed anywhere?"
Minerva hissed prior to responding, "Severus Snape is getting what he deserved," she said succinctly.
Hermione gasped at her headmistress, "What do you mean? He gave up so much for the-"
"He gave up nothing, Hermione, and you would do well to remember that!" the headmistress snarled in reply. "I had to sit back and watch while he ruled from this very desk." Her hand slammed down onto the surface, parchments fluttering in the air she displaced. "He handed out cruel and vicious punishments to your friends, hospitalising some of them. Some had to go to St. Mungo's for Merlin's sake! I tried to talk to him about it, and he would never answer. I begged him to tell me why he killed Albus, and he wouldn't say. It was with joy that I saw the coward flee the school!" she stopped her rant, breathing heavily.
"But, we know why now; how can you still feel that way?" Hermione asked, wide-eyed.
"Severus Snape took more from me than you will ever know. My daughter, through his actions, was killed by Death Eaters during the first war."
"How can you know that for certain? Are you sure you're thinking clearly, Minerva?"
"Although he may not have cast the spell, by virtue of the fact he was a Death Eater, he killed my daughter. I've nothing else to say on the matter."
Hermione was stunned. She could hardly believe the woman she looked up to felt this way. Minerva, who could so easily forgive the foibles of others, would not forgive this. Hermione wondered if she could continue in school knowing this.
She only came back because it was expected of her. School held no joy for her now. NEWTs? She didn't need them to get a job. Her presence at Hogwarts was simply to bring it prestige; 'a member of the Golden Trio, the Heroes of the Final Battle, goes to school here' was all her presence meant. With a sudden clarity, she made a decision.
"Headmistress, I believe I shall withdraw from Hogwarts. I don't think I can, with a clear conscience, continue my education under a leader who is not able to objectively judge each situation she comes to. I do not wish to be here only to bring the school prestige. I only came back in the first place because it was expected of me. I find I no longer want to live up to everyone's expectations. I only want to live up to my own."
"Miss Granger, please think about what you are saying. Your NEWTs will help you go onto further education."
"I receive letters everyday from Wizarding universities around the world. They all want 'the brightest witch of the age' among their walls and are willing to waive my NEWTs. No, I think I have a new path laid before me. I will pack and leave this evening. Thank you, Headmistress."
Hermione stood up, placed the cup and saucer on the desk and left the room. She felt alive again; for the first time since the end of the battle, she felt free and alive. She would pack and return home to her parents. Once she settled in, she had a certain former headmaster she needed to find.
*excerpt from Chapter 27, The Half-Blood Prince, by J. K. Rowling
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