We Have an Understanding
It had been roughly a week since my conversation with Minerva. Winter break would be over soon. I was standing out on the grounds of Hogwarts, watching the mists roll on the sunlight. Sitting would have been better, but I had sat so much this past week; in meetings, writing papers, that I felt it was about time I just stood somewhere.
The sun had risen not long ago. Soft golden lights were filling the sky in the east, while the dark curtain overhead was slowly lightening to the soft blue I knew as day. I was wearing warm black velvet robes with a hood up over my head; a rare concession of being mortal. A lot of what the Headmasters had spoken with me about had been working its way around in my head. The result was that I felt slightly more human. It helped that my Dark Mark was fading, something that I kept with myself so if it ever disappeared I could surprise everyone by wearing a short-sleeved shirt. I laughed aloud thinking that; the thought of ever wearing anything besides my normal attire was hilarious.
I stopped laughing, but kept smiling. The ability to stand in one place, surveying the new dawn and letting my mind wander over things of little grand importance to the world was wonderful. It was good to be standing here, peaceful. How much had I had that in my previous time?
Off a ways, I heard the doors of the castle open. A few minutes later and a hooded and cloaked Minerva was walking up to me, moving quickly despite the snow. She stopped when she was nearly a foot from me.
"Not busy are you this morning, Severus?" I sighed. "The students will be arriving tonight, but it seems Miss Granger is going to be ariving this morning, and staying in the castle until we're in session."
I raised an eyebrow. "Special treatment for the special girl?"
She pursed her lips. "Not exactly, Professor." The use of title was not lost on me. "You'll find out the detail soon enough, especially since you'll be meeting her."
I didn't let myself feel anything besides resignation. "Very well, Minerva."
She turned her head from me and looked out into the sunrise, being quiet for a few moments. I, too, passed my attention back to the golden orb moving over the snow and horizon. It was so quiet, that when Minerva started talking again, I nearly jumped.
"You know Severus, it's odd in it's own way, standing with you here. Especially seeing you young again. Its almost like the terror and fear of before was a dream, and we're all waking from it. I feel as though we could forget it and slip into happiness and calm, now that the last great evil has been vanquished. I worry, though, that we won't be allowed to, and people will try and profit from the pain that we have all suffered through." We looked at each other in almost the same moment, and an understanding passed between us. She held her hand out to me, and I shook it.
"You should get going now, Severus. I don't think Granger should be kept waiting for too long."
I nodded, looking her in the eyes once more. She looked so old, but so strong. I had to say something. "We'll be ready if anything does happen, Minerva."
Her face barely cracked a smile. "I know that."
I nodded once more, then took off down to the gates, where I Apparated to Hogsmeade. Upon arriving, I noticed there was an odd amount of people gathered around the station. I also noticed with slight relief a carriage with the Hogwarts emblem was parked nearby, driver ready to go. He seemed to recognize me, but kept quiet about it. I nodded to him once, then turned my attention back to the platform. A couple of men standing nearby were talking. I tried to ignore them, focusing instead on the streets and the tracks.
"You're sure she'll be here soon?"
"I thought she was coming tonight?"
"No, she wanted to return early."
"Is anyone coming with her?" someone new, a woman, had walked up and asked this question.
"No, she's coming alone. The other two don't want to return, and the rest of the students will be showing up much later."
I was a master at not showing my emotions, but I couldn't resist a quick sideways glace at the group. No particular age or quality united them. Yet I knew... Why were they talking about Hermione?
A small car pulled up. Suspiciously, everyone started to pretend they didn't know each other. I stood off to the side, hoping to not be recognized, glad for my hood which helped keep me from notice. I was suddenly very grateful for my change of looks. Movement from inside the car, and the figures of Hermione and a few well-disguised Ministry Officials got out. As she said her fare-wells to her parents the boot opened, and Granger grabbed her trunk and cat, and set them down. Crookshanks eyed the crowd suspiciously, then his eyes rested on me. I had the crazed impression the cat knew who I was.
The Officials tipped their hats to the young woman and got back into the vehicle, which started again and drove off. For a brief space in time, Hermione was standing there, in a very wooly sweater and long dark pants, her breath fogging as she looked after the way her parents had gone. Then everyone moved.
I reached to pull out my wand and froze. Whatever I'd been expecting, this was not it. Half the crowd immediately ran to her trunk and bags, each one trying to fight the others off and hoist her things for her. The other half starting swarming around her, offering her one thing or another. And everyone was screaming at once.
"Miss Granger ma'am! Miss Granger! May I help escort you to the castle?"
"No ma'am, he's a nutter. Let me be the one to help you!"
"Miss, Miss! Your classes don't start until tomorrow! Name a place to eat and I'll take you there, anything you like on me!"
"What's dinner? Surely you've always wanted to see the world! I'll take you anywhere you want to go, no strings attached, not a date or anything! Just let me do something for you, Miss Granger!"
Hermione looked terrified. They were getting closer, and I didn't think she could reach her wand, or she would have done something. I finished pulling mine out and went for the first non-lethal freeze spell I could think of.
I rushed forward and whisked through the crowd, grabbing Hermione's arm. "Wingardium leviosa!" I pointed at her trunk, and the cage holding Crookshanks. I then took off, half dragging her toward the carriage. Halfway there the spell started to wear off; rather than cast it again I just ran faster.
By the time we had slammed the doors behind us, they were completely mobile and pressing against the rear of the wheels. I pointed my wand outside the window and fired off a caterwauling charm. After the first few people reached the invisible wall of the spell and emitted a loud screech, the spectators broke up and stopped trying to chase. We slowed down, and I looked at Granger.
She was leaning back in the chair with her eyes closed, silently mouthing something.
I noticed her hands were clenched, and that she was counting slowly to ten... in French. When she opened her eyes, it wasn't all the way, and she wrapped her arms around herself, looking lost.
"Sorry about that, Professor Snape."
"You don't have to apologize, Granger. Apparently Professor McGonagall expected something like that, which is why I was sent to retrieve you." I turned fully toward her "What exactly was all that?"
She ran her hand through her hair, the first time I'd seen her do something like that in years. "I suppose a different person would feel happy about it, but honestly I'm sick with it." I didn't ask; I knew she'd explain. "You know how it is, to be hated when people think you're the bad guy?" I nodded, keeping my mind blank. "The past year, we were on the run. The whole of the wizarding world thinking Harry was enemy number one and I was his mudblood sidekick or something." She spat the words, and for a moment I was reminded of myself. "Now all of a sudden it's completely obvious the Ministry was controlled by Voldemort, Harry has never been nor will ever be crazy, and everyone who was trying to kill me and/or turn me over to people who would kill me are falling over themselves to do things for me. And it's just me! Ron is handling it well; they live out in the middle of no where. Harry's always dealt with stuff like this. I just... I just want to be left alone, to reconnect to my parents, finish school, maybe do something to get this world I seem to have helped save back on track."
I was amazed at how much she sounded like she understood how I was feeling. She was just a student, but her bubble had been popped, and she knew too much for a girl to know. "While I understand how you feel Miss Granger, and believe me, I do understand this, there's not a lot I can do to help you." I shifted slightly sitting, trying to think. What would Albus have done? What would Minerva do? I looked at my feet to find Crookshanks sitting there, looking up at me. When he noticed my gaze he blinked and started to purr. I reached and picked him up. "A handsome ginger cat." He looked smug. I liked this one. "Take care of your mistress for us, hmmm?" I spoke softer and patted him gently, then handed him to Hermione.
Her voice was muffled by the large amounts of fur, but I thought I heard a "Thank you, Professor." I nodded and looked back forward; we were pulling up to the castle. "And thank you for not saying my name like it was awful, or holy. I'm just so tired."
I know how that feels, Granger. "You're welcome."