Severus Snape scowled as he casually flicked his wand, causing tapestries to fly open and statues to step momentarily out of place as he patrolled the halls at Hogwarts. Despite it being the early hours of the morning, he knew without a doubt that he could not sleep a wink, so he had chosen to spend his valuable time enforcing the curfew that overly hormonal teenagers tended to break more often at the beginning of each new school year. Though he had already sent three pairs of rowdy students to bed with the promise of harsh detentions, it did nothing to ease his mind or distract him. In only a few hours Hermione Granger would be arriving, fresh from Azkaban prison, to commence her year-long incarceration under his and McGonagall’s supervision.
For two months he had distracted himself with preparations for the new term as well as preparing his personal lab for his own work. He cleaned his classroom and his lab from top to bottom. Stocked every conceivable shelf and drawer. Tested each and every cauldron, stirring rod, scale, and beaker. Still, when all was said and done, he thought of the year to come and the young witch who nigh haunted his every thought. Hermione Granger had saved his life, and in return he had helped her avoid fifteen years in Azkaban. Granted, that didn’t quite equal her service to him, although he had hoped the act of shortening her sentence would clear his own conscience over the whole situation. But instead he thought about it constantly. He thought of the pain he had felt as he was dying and the relief that soon followed when he felt the antidote go to work and spare his life. He thought of the scared but determined young woman who had given him a second chance. Frowning in frustration, he shook his head and continued pacing the halls of Hogwarts—determined to distract himself from any thoughts of Hermione Granger.
Hermione Granger opened her eyes the moment she heard the door unlock and the man walk in. Sitting up in a daze, she looked to at the wizard who swept into the room while another stood out in the hall looking around. The one who had walked in had a cloak over his arm that he held out to her. “Miss Granger, put this on and be sure the hood covers your face well. We need to ensure that no one sees you as you exit and when we arrive at Hogwarts. Please do not speak while we are traveling. Everything that needs to be said can wait until we have you secreted safely in Hogwarts.”
Hermione rose from the cot on unsteady feet and put on the cloak, making sure to pull the hood over her head and keep her eyes on the floor to help hide her identity. She gladly accepted this since she, too, did not want anyone to see her being escorted from Azkaban. The wizard motioned her forward and followed right after her. Both wizards walked quickly down the hall and through the door that housed the steep stairs, with Hermione struggling to keep up. She remembered arriving and how rushed they’d been then, but after two months of gruel and no exercise—except for a few times when she had run in place—she was weak and not up to the task that the stairs presented. She stumbled repeatedly and was held up and pushed forward each time. When she thought they might have to carry her the rest of the way, as her lungs begged for air, she finally reached the bottom of the stairs and walked out into the rainy morning, following the two wizards into a small boat that would carry her away from one prison and deliver her to another.
Minerva McGonagall paced the large office as she waited for the flames to turn green and Hermione to arrive. Her escorts had kindly owled to inform the Headmistress that Hermione would be delivered into her hands promptly at nine this morning and that she would need to have the Floo connection to her private office open. The letter had also stated that she was to meet with the escorts as soon as they arrived about Hermione’s incarceration and the conditions that were to be met in order for her to stay out of prison. So with nothing better to do, Minerva had spent the last three hours getting ready for this meeting. She ensured that she had an enchanted quill that would copy down every instruction the Unspeakable gave her. She also cast a slew of secretive spells on the parchment that sat at the ready on her desk, insuring that no one save Hermione and Severus Snape would be able to read those instructions, which would help them keep all of this as quiet as possible.
After instructing the other teachers and house-elves that she was not to be disturbed until dinner, she paid a short visit to Madam Pomfrey. Under the guise of following the Unspeakable’s previous instructions, she had asked Poppy for an array of healing potions and instructions, stating that she had been asked to treat someone in confidence. Though Poppy had frowned and tried to niggle the truth out of her in hopes of “properly treating the patient”, she had eventually given in and provided the Headmistress with everything she thought might be needed and then some. Minerva had thanked her and, with a promise to update the anxious mediwitch on the mystery person’s condition the next day, had Levitated the box containing the potions and such. She was looking through the box and its contents, for the want of something useful to do with her hands, when the flames turned green and three figures stepped out into the room.
Hermione stumbled as her feet found the floor and grunted in pain as her arms were held tightly and she was none-too-gently shoved into a chair. Though the action hurt, she was grateful to be able to sit down since her head was still reeling from the trip through the Floos and her stomach threatened to protest in the worst possible way. As her head stopped spinning she lifted her head to take in the tartan furnishing and the anxious-looking face across from her. “Professor, it’s so nice to see you,” she said weakly, forcing a smile.
“What is the meaning of this? I know that conditions in prison are intended to punish, but is it the Ministry’s intention to starve the prisoners to death? She is skin and bones!” Minerva exclaimed heatedly. She rushed to the box and started to pull out potions, only to be stopped by the Unspeakable who was standing next to Hermione.
“Please refrain from treating her with your potions just yet, Headmistress. We have some business to tend to, and then we will leave her to you. First I need you to tell me what story you have in place to help conceal the fact of her incarceration within these walls. I understand that her friends and family were told about a spur-of-the-moment job at the Department of Mysteries, so how do you plan to keep her whereabouts secret while she is here?”
Minerva frowned at the man as she took a seat, wishing to get the meeting over with—all the sooner to get rid of the two horrid Unspeakables. “Yes, they were told that story and I believe that it would still fit her…situation here. If anyone happened to visit and see her or hear word of her whereabouts here, then I will tell them she is under your Department’s orders to remain here at Hogwarts for a time on assignment; that she will be doing sensitive work within the area of Hogwarts history and is not allowed to visit with others or leave during that time. I have placed strict conditions on visitors this year, and I’ve also worked out a schedule with Professor Snape that will ensure Hermione is not within sight of the students or the other professors whilst she is incarcerated,” Minerva said. She reached into her drawer and pulled out the schedule and maps she was referring to. She handed them over to the men and looked at Hermione as she waited for them to approve her plans.
Hermione smiled slightly as she fought to stay awake; the journey had exhausted her physically and mentally. Though it took great effort to force her facial muscles upward, she had to try since she could not convey how happy she was to be back at Hogwarts any other way. After a brief moment the two wizards stood. The quieter one pulled out a piece of parchment of his own and proceeded to state their official edicts for Hermione’s year-long incarceration at Hogwarts. Minerva nodded in agreement as the quill on her desk flew across the parchment, recording every word. When he was done, the Unspeakable rolled the parchment up and placed it back inside his cloak pocket. With a nod at the Headmistress and a snap of his fingers, which wrenched the borrowed cloak off of Hermione, they two wizards left in a swirl of green fire, leaving a very incensed Headmistress and her former pupil alone.
Severus scowled at the straggling students who jumped out of his way as he hurried through the busy halls. His classes for the day were canceled, though he hadn’t left his students free from work. Every class had been given potions research to do; the amount varied by their year. Most days he would say or do anything to give him peace, away from the grind of teaching the “dreadful little flobberworms”, as he often thought of them; but today he could honestly say he would rather be in the classroom than on his way to take over as warden to Hermione Granger. Though McGonagall was the main person in charge of her, Severus was the one who would be doing all the dirty work, since as Headmistress Minerva could not afford to disappear at all hours of the day to tend to Hermione’s incarceration. Severus very nearly growled the password that opened the rising spiral stairs up to McGonagall’s office. With a flick of his wand he locked the door behind him, ignoring the curious stares of the previous headmasters’ portraits as he made his way to the door at the top of another small set of stairs that led to the Headmistress’ private office. With a prayer that Merlin would help time go by as quickly as possible, he opened the door and entered the office.
Severus spotted Hermione immediately as he closed and locked the private office door; though it was not hard to miss the prone body of the young witch lying across Minerva’s desk, apparently unconscious. “What is the meaning of this? What is wrong with her, Minerva?” he snapped as he approached Hermione and tried to absorb the scene before him. Hermione’s hair, which was known to be quite bushy, was slicked with oil where it was not in masses of knots. Her skin was the color of death and there were dark circles under her exhausted-looking eyes, which only enhanced her gaunt look. Her clothes were filthy and worn. She looked utterly dreadful and very nearly dead, since her chest barely rose a centimeter as she struggled to breathe.
“She was just released from Azkaban, Severus, what do you expect? You know they only care for them just enough to keep them alive. Though I had wished they would make a bit of an exception since Hermione was in isolation during her stint there. I’ve given her several potions to combat the malnourishment and vitamin deficiency. She passed out moments after the Unspeakables left and I wanted her to lie down, but I knew I’d need your help secreting her up to the third floor rooms,” Minerva replied sadly as she sat looking at the sickly countenance of her former student.
“How bad off is she?” Severus asked. He pointed his wand at the chair next to him and Transfigured a stretcher that would carry Hermione.
“Nothing that food, water, and time won’t heal. It looks worse than it is, but I still want to be cautious and make sure she doesn’t overdo things while she recovers. That means you will not be putting her to work on grading papers or anything else for several weeks,” Minerva replied stiffly as she raised her own wand and carefully Levitated Hermione onto the stretcher.
“Minerva, I realize my attitude towards Miss Granger has not been pleasant since she saved my life last spring, but please do not assume that I would harm her further than she has harmed herself by her act of stupidity. Now, please, help me get her under Potter’s cloak so we can get her into an actual bed. Filch has been made aware of the route we need cleared, so we shouldn’t be seen; but I would rather we hurried and got this over with,” Severus replied stiffly. They floated Hermione, safely hidden under the Invisibility Cloak, out of the inner office.
A/N: Soooo sorry for the lack of updates but life as usual is crazy and plot bunnies can be tricky little blighters! More soon! Please remember to review! *HUGS*