Sense and Insensibility *Complete*

BY : Desert_Sea
Category: Harry Potter > Het - Male/Female > Snape/Hermione
Dragon prints: 25664
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter or any other characters/things/places created by J.K. Rowling. I make no money from my fan-fiction.

A/N: So I was half way through ‘Vati’s reward’ when this came out of the blue so I had to make a start. Things have been a bit tough lately so this is my therapeutic corner. Please bear with me. DSx

 

Burning. The sunlight burns her eyes. She can feel it—dry heat scorching her corneas despite her dark glasses, despite being huddled in the recesses of an absurdly voluminous umbrella. She tugs the hunched beast lower until she can barely see at all.  

Crunch. Scrunch. The gravel jitters and grinds under the soles of her boots. She grimaces. Nails down a chalkboard. Every scrape of stone against stone sets her teeth on edge, jaw locked, nerves jangling.

“Squawk!” A bird call stops her in her tracks. She raises a hand to cover one ear only. The other strangles the umbrella. Lifting her head slightly, she squints at the castle. Not far.

She resumes walking, her boots rubbing uncomfortably despite being her most worn pair. The silken stockings are doing little to protect her sensitive skin against the friction of each step.

A breeze, gentle by most standards, stops her once again. She holds her breath. The way it whips her skin is unpleasant enough but the stench that it carries, rotting weeds from the banks of the Black Lake make her insides twist. She’d never noticed it before. Either it is new or she is different. She is under no illusions as to the answer.

Reluctantly releasing a shuddering breath, knowing that the olfactory assault is set to continue, she struggles forward. A lone figure appears on the road before her. Breeze tugging at her dark robes, Professor McGonagall approaches, she reaches out a hand before remembering and withdrawing it.

“Good to see you, Hermione.” The welcome is laced with pity, as is her withered expression.   

“Yes . . . it’s a relief to finally be here.” Hermione responds quietly, stretching the fingers that have cramped around her umbrella.

“Have you eaten?” Professor McGonagall’s brow furrows, creating further seams of concern that rumple her features.

“Yes.” Hermione lies. She knows she looks gaunt, sickly. But eating is not something she is willing to attempt. Not now.

“Then perhaps you are up to attending the meeting this afternoon? I intend to use it inform the rest of the staff of your position here.”

“Of course.” Hermione manages a small smile.

Minerva tentatively reaches forward and touches her very lightly on her small, tight fist. “I’m pleased that we were able to help you, Hermione. Merlin knows you deserve it. If any of the staff make you feel unwelcome, I insist that you inform me immediately. No one has a clue as to what you have been through. You really do deserve this role as much as anyone.”

Hermione nods, trying not to flinch at the old woman’s touch, smooth and dry like onion skin.

“And you deserve to feel safe here.” As Minerva’s clear green gaze reaches behind her glasses, Hermione is grateful that her own tears remain hidden. There have been too many. For far too long. All she wants is for it to stop. All of it.

***

Severus Snape glides soundlessly along the dungeon corridors, his shadow twisting like a phantom about his legs as he swiftly navigates corners, leaving torches guttering in his wake. Rapidly ascending the stone stairs, his body seems to occupy a realm of illusory magic, his smooth grace giving him the appearance of floating, layered robes adding to the impression as they are lifted on the unforgiving drafts that scuttle by like Peeves’ mischievous progeny through the dank passages. 

Rounding a corner, he halts. Black eyes partially obscured by the overhang of heavily knitted brows, he quickly surveys the meandering mob of students, determining the most rapid route to negotiate the group, and taking it.

The gasps at his elbows as he nudges rapidly through the throng are, no doubt, expressions of relief at him passing by without so much as a withering gaze. After all, his presence to many is as ominous as that of a marauding Dementor. Some call him the ‘Black Ghost.’ Others are less flattering.

Long, efficient strides have him at the staffroom door a few short minutes later, levering his lapels around his neck and dragging long breaths through flaring nostrils. He has mastered the art of moving expeditiously without appearing rushed. The illusion throughout his life mattered. In his existence as a spy, it mattered. Now it is simply a hangover from that time—a habit that will never leave him, along with many others, equally useless but impossible to dislodge.

He flexes his broad shoulders and lifts his chin. The mundanity of a staff meeting just prior to dinner is most unwelcome, and his tardiness will, no doubt, be noted as a petty act of defiance to that effect.

“Professor Snape.” Minerva McGonagall’s soft brogue is upon him before his boot has even breached the threshold.

“Headmistress.” He inclines his head as he continues to forge into the stuffy room, filled with bodies and the tetchy tension of a meeting perilously close to dinner time.

“As I was explaining,” Minerva continues, her displeased gaze fixed upon him, lips puckered at their perfect lemon-sucking best. “We are fortunate to have found an appropriate candidate to fill the Muggle Studies position so close to the start of term. This person has only recently completed her teacher training but she is extremely well suited to the role and will, no doubt, approach the position with the same diligence and focus as she did her studies here as a student of Hogwarts.”

Snape casts his gaze over the faces of those around him; most appear puzzled. He catches snippets of conversation. “Past student . . . ?”

“So I will now ask our newest Hogwarts staff member to say a few words. Please make her welcome . . . Hermione Granger.”

Frowns deepen. Even a few mouths drop open.

And the room descends into silence as, from a corner, emerges a figure Snape hasn’t noticed upon entry. He stiffens in shock.

Despite the dark glasses which hide much of her face, it is clear from the parts that are visible that she is severely emaciated, her cheeks gaunt and hollowed. Never an entirely robust figure, she now appears so thin and pale that he wonders if she has a terminal disease of some sort and, if so, why she would be offered a teaching position at Hogwarts.

She clears her throat to speak and he is somewhat surprised to hear her strong, clear voice carry across the room. It is difficult to reconcile the visuals and the vocals which are absolutely dissonant. This is not the woman who left . . . and yet it is whom she confidently claims to be.

“I am extremely grateful to have been offered the position of Professor of Muggle Studies here at Hogwarts, which I considered my home for what were truthfully the best years of my life.” A faint smile curls the corners of her pale lips. “I very much look forward to working with all of you to ensure that I deliver the best possible educational experience to our students. There is so much I wish to learn from you and I sincerely hope to be able to support you in return. Thank you.”

As she delivers a single tentative nod, a stilted round of applause breaks out. Most of the staff turn to regard one another in wonder but Snape notices her wince as her hands surge up toward her ears before, with obvious effort, she returns them to her sides. What in Merlin’s name has happened to her?

But before the diminutive elephant in the room is addressed, Minerva quickly ushers her to the door, allowing her to pass through before delivering a stern gaze to the rest of them as though they had somehow engaged in something improper. Then she is gone.

“What just happened?” Flitwick cranes his neck to look up at him.

“No idea.”

***

“Headmistress, what on earth is going on?” Snape strides into Professor McGonagall’s office without waiting for his sharp knock to be answered.

“I would have thought that had been made quite clear at the meeting,” Minerva responds calmly, peering at him over her spectacles.

“It was as clear as mud as you would be well aware.” Snape crosses his arms expectantly, his imposing frame looming over her desk.

Minerva regards his posturing with disdain. “As I explained earlier, Severus, Miss Granger has accepted the Muggle Studies position and will be starting in the role at the beginning of term.”

“Miss Granger?” he hisses, a sardonic sneer curling his lips.

“Yes.”

“And you really think that emaciated creature is up to it?”

Minerva sighs and replaces her quill back in its holder before standing to address him.

“I have the utmost confidence in her ability to undertake the role as required. I have further confidence that she will receive the full support of the Hogwarts staff and students to assist her in that role.”

“She . . . is . . . ill,” he grinds out. “Is that not patently obvious to you?”

Minerva inclines her head in acknowledgement. “She is unwell. However, I believe that we can assist her to improve.”

“We?”

“Yes. All of us.”

Snape shakes his head, an incredulous frown creasing his brown. “St Mungos can assist her to improve. We do not have a specialist facility for whatever ails her. It is most improper to expect a school to accommodate an individual in that state.”

Minerva steps out from behind her desk and approaches him, keeping her clear gaze upon his until she is only a pace or two away.

“She needs our help, Severus. Mine. Yours. All of us. And she deserves it. You of all people should understand that.”

“And if she deserves help. She should receive it. From those qualified to deliver it,” he replies tersely. “We are not in the business of rescuing people.”

“Are we not?” Minerva’s eyes widen as she regards him meaningfully.  

Snape huffs and turns away, taking a few steps before rounding on her. “And what if it were someone else? Draco Malfoy, for example? Turning up in a similar condition, requesting a Professorial role? Would he be similarly accommodated?”

He watches as her lips clamp together, her hands folding into a knot before her.

He sneers.

“I thought not."

“This isn’t personal no matter what you would choose to believe,” she responds levelly.

“Bollocks.”

The low mutter isn't lost on her. “You may, in fact, be the person best positioned to assist her."

“And how did you come to such a ridiculous conclusion?” he growls angrily.

“She requires specialised treatment, as you indicate. However, such a treatment does not currently exist. It will need to be developed.”

Snape’s frown deepens and his lips fall apart slightly as her meaning coalesces. “And what would possess me to waste time that I do not have on such an endeavour?”

“Your kindness, Severus,” she states simply.

Snape delivers a contemptuous glare before turning from her.

“And you will be located in close proximity to one another.”

“What?!” He whirls around.

“We have transformed the large dungeon storeroom into living quarters for her.”

“Living quarters? It is barely suitable to house ingredients, let alone a human being. There isn’t even a window.”

“It is what she wanted.”

“What she wanted?” His cheeks flush with fury. “And I suppose that what everyone else wants is of no consequence whatsoever?”

“Severus . . . Please.” Minerva’s shoulders drop resignedly.

“This is a mistake. For the staff. For the school. And for Miss Granger, herself.” He gesticulates widely before allowing his hand to drop with a sigh. “Albus would have consulted.”

“Well, you killed him so unfortunately that is no longer an option.”

Snape’s black eyes burn, hurt melting into anger, before he turns one last time and disappears, robes flapping fiercely behind him.

 

 



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