A/N: The readers have spoken, and this was the overwhelming winner in my poll.
I'm going to try something new this time around. I will be putting song recommendations at the start of a chapter (if I have them). Just something that got the creative juices flowing. The first song is "Bother" by Stone Sour.
It is obviously Severus/Hermione, though it might take us a long time to get there. This is going to be a long ride, so I hope you're ready for it! This story is AU (in that Severus survived), and I'm ignoring the epilogue. M for language, and adult themes.
Obligatory disclaimer: I do not own HP. I could not hope to own HP. I just play around with the characters and try to return them in reasonable shape.
Here we go!
The water slapped hard on the rocks as Hermione landed not two feet from the churning sea; the only place she could Apparate on the tiny island. Her foot slipped on a damp, moss-covered rock, and the back of her trainer and the hem of her traveling cloak were dripping as she pulled them from the frothy water. A rough hand closed around her wrist, pulling her upright.
"Miss Granger?" the old guard asked.
"Yes," she said meekly, looking up the stone walls. The Dementors might be long gone, but that didn't mean the place had a welcoming air.
"This way," he said, pulling her towards a small gate. There were guards on either side, and she was run over with a secrecy sensor and a probity probe before they decided that she was who she said she was and they let her enter a the cramped front office.
"Wand," the man ordered, opening a thin drawer and turning towards a stack of papers.
She tightened her grip on the wand for a moment, then carefully placed it in the drawer. The man slammed it shut and locked it with a key. She hoped it was magic-proof; she hated parting with her wand, but had been warned she wouldn't be allowed to take it into the prison. Wands weren't allowed since they had gotten rid of the Dementors.
"Sign here," the man threw a water-logged old book onto the table, with a quill that had the top broken off. She touched as little of it as possible as she signed and wrote the date, time, and name of the prisoner she wanted to visit. The man looked at this last line and let off a snort.
"Good luck with that 'un, girlie," he sneered. "Hasn't said two words ta anyone since gettin' here."
"All the same, I'd like to try to speak to him," she said in what she hoped was a brave voice.
"Suit yerself," he shrugged, then he opened the door and barked, "Number 20984."
Outside another guard grabbed an unlabeled key off the wall, crossed the neglected courtyard, and disappeared through a heavy wooden door on the other side.
"Sally'll take care of ya," the man pushed her out of the door, where a thick-set woman was waiting for her. Without saying anything, the woman marched her to the left, through another heavy door, and into a miserable, dark hallway that smelled of stale urine and rotten food. They walked a short way down the hall, then Sally opened a door. The room was tiny, about the size of Harry's old bedroom, with a window leading to an even smaller room to one side. Inside was were a beaten wooden table and two chairs- one which had a cracked cushion that looked like it had been repaired and re-ripped several times,. The other was chair was bolted to the floor, and a set of shackles around the feet for the more unruly prisoners. She wondered vaguely if they would be used on him.
"You can stay up to an hour," Sally deadpanned, as she started reciting the rules. "No physical contract. No passing the prisoner anything. If you do wish to give him something, surrender it now and we'll check it out before we give it to him."
"I don't have anything," Hermione told her. "I just want to talk."
"Either you or the prisoner can terminate this meeting at any time. If you feel threatened, you need only stand, wave, and say 'assistance', and we will be in here in seconds. His guard and I will be watching through the glass over there," she pointed to the window. "But we will not be able to hear what you are saying, save for that word. When you are prepared to leave just place your hands flat on the table for five seconds, and I'll escort you out. He knows how to tell us that he is done talking with you. When either one of you signal the meeting is over there is no changing your mind. You will follow me out, retrieve your wand, and be off the island in two minutes. Any questions?"
"Good," she said, disappearing behind the window and picking up the latest copy of Witch Weekly. Hermione slowly lowered herself onto the cushioned chair and took a few deep breaths. She had seen him just two weeks before, the day he was released from St. Mungos, and she had protested herself hoarse as they took him away, but no amount of pull to her name had been able to keep him out. Now it was the eve of his hearing, and she had been working night and day getting witnesses together and doing everything she could. She hoped it was enough.
A couple minutes later the door on the other side of the room opened, and he preceded the guard into the room.
"Professor Snape," she said, standing up quickly. The guard pushed him into the chair, didn't shackle his feet but didn't unshackle his wrists. She looked him over in horror a couple of times. At least half the weight he put on in St. Mungos was gone. His eyes were sunken and had no light to them. His hair was as greasy as ever, but now looked tangled and unkempt. She could smell that he hadn't had a shower in days, possibly a week. His skin was starting to yellow. The bandages that still covered the neck wounds from Nagini had dark brown spots on them, and looked to be the same ones he had been wearing when he was taken away.
He waited until the guard was behind the glass and the doors were all closed before speaking. "No need for formalities, Miss Granger. The title of Professor holds no weight here," he managed in a hoarse voice, motioning for her to sit.
She hesitated, then sunk back into the chair. "Just calling you Snape is more of a Harry and Ron thing, sir."
"I do have a first name."
She blanched. "I... I don't know..."
"If you must call me Professor, you may, but I'd prefer you not. Just don't use a name if you're uncomfortable."
"Okay," she nodded.
"What brings you out to our charming little rock?"
"Well, your hearing is tomorrow, and I wanted to let you know where we are with this."
"I don't expect..."
"Please, if I may, sir," she cut in quickly, and paused as if waiting for him to hurl an insult at her. When none was forthcoming she continued, "Harry and I have made it our mission to get you out of here and keep you out of here."
"One might say that the two of you have a knack for picking hopeless missions."
"And yet Voldemort is dead, though we are trying to give you credit where credit is due, which brings me back to my original point, that we are working to keep you out of this place."
"It's hopeless, Miss Granger. Thanks to the Order, there are too few Death Eaters still alive for the Ministry to try and imprison, so people think that they are still somewhat in control of this fiasco. Anyone bearing the Dark Mark, save perhaps those with the last name of Malfoy, will never see freedom again; they have all but spelled that out in the Daily Prophet from what I've been told."
She bit her lip. It was true, that the Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot had vowed that they would show no mercy to anyone with ties to Voldemort, and made it seem like they should be grateful that the Dementors weren't around or they would be sentenced to receive the Kiss and the world could bid good riddance to the lot of them.
"Sir," she said, and he sighed in annoyance. "We have witnesses, lots of them, and Harry is escorting Dumbledore's portrait to the Ministry as we speak..."
"Do not get your hopes up, you foolish girl," he snarled. "Have you not considered that perhaps I have accepted my fate,? That I have come to peace with the fact that I will die inside these walls? It will happen soon, I am in no condition to spend years behind bars, especially since they seem to have a lackadaisical approach to medical care around here. I do not wish for you and your friends to go crying to the Ministry on my behalf so they might show enough mercy to give me the medicine I was prescribed and some fresh bandages so they can prolong my suffering and pat themselves on the back about how humane they are."
"Our goal is to keep you out of here to begin with- full stop."
"I have told you it is a foolish goal. You and Potter may be the two most well-known names in our world at the moment, but you are also young, naïve teenagers. They will promise you things, make it seem like they are being generous, and you will take them because it's better than nothing and it satisfies Potter's hero complex. But in the end, I'll still wind up back in here, dying."
"No, you won't," she replied forcefully. "You are the reason Harry and I were able to end the bloody war. You were the one who told Harry what needed to be done. You defied Voldemort to give us the sword."
"I also participated in the horrors that were going on at Hogwarts this past school year."
"Neville is one of our witnesses. He's going to testify that you were not as harsh as the Carrows expected you to be, and that you stopped them from killing him on several occasions. Ginny and Luna will bear witness as well."
"It's Their word versus hundreds of others, who will remind them that I used illegal methods to get information out of students."
"It was only to keep Voldemort happy and away from the school. You knew if he showed up to check on you he would bring several of his inner circle, and the blood traitors would be rounded up and given to Bellatrix for sport."
"Just because that's true doesn't mean the Wizengamot will see it that way."
"I'll just have to convince them, then," she said, sitting straighter and squaring her shoulders.
"You always were one for lost causes, Miss Granger," he sneered, then put both hands flat on the table and looked pointedly at his guard, who recognized the motion and came out of the booth. Snape stood up, giving one last look at Hermione. "I know I will die in here. I've accepted it. Please spend your energy saving someone who deserves it."
"I am," she shot back, standing as Sally emerged. "And I promise to keep you out of here."
"A lost cause, Miss Granger," he called over his shoulder before the door that led to the cells slammed shut. Without another word, Hermione followed Sally out of the room and back to the front office. She signed herself out, picked up her wand from the old guard, and carefully made her way back to the Apparation point. Even though she was tired and soaked from the constant mist around the prison, she didn't dare waste the time to go home. Instead she Apparated directly to the library of Grimmauld Place and started pulling down old law books before she even stripped off her traveling cloak. She allowed it to be taken from her when Kreacher hobbled into the room, and didn't turn down the cup of hot cocoa he was bearing. Once she had gotten all the books she thought might have something she could use, she sat at the table, lit a lamp, and started reading.
It was tedious work. Legal terms blurred together as the pages droned on. Outside, the sun had set long ago, and the moon was peeking through the window, but not offering enough light to aid her in her search. She lit another lamp and stood up, desperate for relief in her bum, which had gone numb from sitting so long. Kreacher had brought her a sandwich for dinner, which sat half-eaten and half-buried underneath leather bound books that had been hastily tossed aside when they proved useless.
When she looked up again, the sky was alight with the colors of sunrise, and she was beginning to lose hope of finding what she needed when she gave a sudden excited shriek. It was buried in the middle of a green-covered book with writing so tiny she had to pick it up and scan the page, hoping beyond hope that it was still there and not a hallucination brought on by exhaustion and desperation. And there she found it, buried in the same droll, faded font as the rest of the book, two small lines that had probably been skipped more than once while the laws were being read. And at the same time, two little lines that had probably kept dozens out of prison in it's time before falling out of fashion. Of course, it would require her to take a very drastic step, and it was only going to be if all else failed, but if it meant keeping Snape out of Azkaban, she had promised herself she'd do anything. She knew she would have to do some research, make sure the law was still current, and somehow she felt it was. She didn't even bother waking Harry with her news; she only had a couple hours before the hearing, and so much to do.