pur·pose: the reason for which something exists.
The Granger girl was still there.
Severus had seen her a handful of times wandering the halls, her robes draped over her like a shroud. Her eyes sallow and her face devoid of any joy one would think would be present on her face after the war. He's never seen her in the presence of anyone else, seeming to keep to herself.
He himself has been doing the same. Never thinking he'd make it very long in the war, never planning on coming out alive, makes it hard to actually live once the fear and danger was gone. Severus feels like he's been living off the adrenaline caused by fear for so long that now it's gone...he's left adrift. It's too calm now.
He tires not to leave his quarters in the lower part of Hogwarts any more than he truly needs too, aside from repairing damaged parts of the castle as was his job, but his curiosity had been piqued. He's be reluctant to admit it, but she's caught his attention now that he's seen the dead look in her eyes. Something he's intimately familiar with. What's happened to the girl? he wonders.
Severus saw her one night, as he was stalking the halls, not able to sleep and needing to get up and move, just to do something. She looked like she was caught in a spell, so still and quiet. He wondered at one point if she was even breathing. He stayed close to the wall and walked towards her with silent steps. Which might have been unnecessary, he didn't think she was really hearing much of anything to begin with.
He stood watching her to see what she'd do but she never moved. Too much time has passed for her to still be standing there. He took a few steps forward, slightly to her right, well within her peripheral. Still, nothing.
Severus was standing next to her now and looking at her profile and a chill went through him. He felt as if he were looking at a statue and not a real, living breathing, young woman. He turned to face the window to see what she was seeing, but there was nothing there save the blackness of night out on the grounds of Hogwarts.
Something was wrong with her. He didn't detect any spells; this was something else entirely. He could almost feel the heaviness of the air around her, and he thought back to her behavior. This was brought on by despair, he knew it well, so deep that it could leave a person listless and unresponsive. She seems to have gone past that point.
"Miss Granger," he said at last, quiet as to not startle her too much. All she did was blink. "Granger. It's time for you to return to your rooms now. It's well past three and freezing besides." He had noticed as he was standing there next to her that the blasted woman had no shoes on. Bare feet on the cold stone. They'd be blocks of ice. Still, it was as if she couldn't even hear him.
Severus's level of frustration was growing and he wanted nothing more than to return to his own room and pace in front of his fire instead. Yet, he couldn't just leave her here. The thought of casting a warming charm around her and leaving her there left a sick feeling in his stomach and he didn't quite know why. The war may be over but the feeling of never being safe would stay with him it seems. What would happen to her if I left her here alone? he couldn't stop himself from questioning. He didn't even know where her rooms were. Was she still in Gryffindor, with nostalgia towards her old House? He hadn't a clue.
A creeping sense of panic was rising in Severus; not knowing what to do with her, where to take her. Somewhere safe that wasn't standing in the bloody corridor at 3 in the morning.
He looked behind them, down one length of corridor then down in the other direction. It didn't bring him any comfort not to see anyone else there, like it normally would. The dark, quietness of the hall just made things worse. Granger did not need to be wandering around at odd hours in the dark, lost in her own mind.
He didn't stop to question himself on what he was doing as he reached forward and rested his hand very lightly on her arm. She didn't react as he guided her body to turn away from the window. "You can't be here," he said, even when he knew that she wasn't listening. He moved his arm around to her back across her shoulders and put slight pressure there to move her forward. That was all it took to get her to walk, if a bit slowly. He left his arm there, hovering a bit behind her to guide her along the way.
A sense of purpose hit him, satisfying something deep. He's been so aimless since the dust settled, for once so unsure of what he was to do.
The thought came and he pushed it away.
Along they went down the corridors and down a few flights of stairs in silence. Not once did Granger speak or make a sound of question or protest which further solidified that she should not be out alone. It wasn't safe.
Severus finally stopped her when they reached the entrance to his own living quarters. He paused for only a moment and continued on to lower the wards on his door and usher her inside. She had picked up the movement around her it seemed, as she stopped when he stopped and moved when he moved. Showing at least that she was somewhat aware of what was happening around her. Severus placed his hand at her back and moved her over to the sofa in his sitting room and pressed lightly down on her shoulder, and she sat.
Now what do I do?
He took a step back and looked at her. Granger's head was tilted just barely to one side and down, and it appeared she was staring at the floor. He sighed and went to sit in the armchair next to the sofa. He had wanted earlier to pace here in front of the fire but now all he could do was sit, and wait. He couldn't help wondering what had happened to this young woman to make her so unlike the girl he remembered in his classes. Overachieving and constantly making her presence known with her tiresome hand raising. She never seemed afraid of anything and never held back her opinion in any given situation. This was not that girl. He couldn't quite remember when he last saw her, come to think of it. Looking back, the few times he had spotted her since the war had all been the same; face blank and too quiet.
It wasn't long before her eyes started to droop and it seemed she would fall asleep, sitting there slowly tilting to the side. Severus got up and went to get the throw blanket he usually kept at the foot of his bed. He wasn't as concerned with handling her now, so he laid her down on the sofa with her head on a small pillow that he kept there and reached down to raise her feet up onto the cushion. One touch and his thought was confirmed. Her feet were ice. Without thought, he placed a warming charm on her feet, shook out the blanket and laid it on her, being sure to tuck it around her feet. Her eyes were already closed and she was fast asleep.
He wasn't sure what the best course of action was now. Should he stay here and doze off in his chair or would it be safe to retreat to his own room and bed? What would happen if she woke and panicked at being in an unfamiliar room and alone? It's best if I stay here, he thought. I'd rather not have to deal with an accusing Minerva when Granger runs to her saying she was kidnapped.
Severus moved back to his chair by the fire after removing his outer robes and shoes. Might as well be as comfortable as possible. He leaned his head back and looked at the woman on his sofa through half drawn lids. Never would he have imagined this would be his life after the war. Considering he hadn't pictured anything after the war...It had been so long since he had taken care of someone else. Worried about someone else.
He pushed the thought away once more.
Making sure she was still resting there in relative peace he finally closed his eyes and tried to do the same. It was going to be an interesting morning that was for sure.
He was staring at the flames of the fire when he saw her move out of the corner of his eye. Severus had drifted awake not 20 minutes ago after sleeping in the chair for a few hours. She was just as he had left her only turned more onto her stomach. He turned his head in her direction to watch her wake up and see how she would respond to the new environment. Her movements were slow as she took in what was in front of her. He could see her eyes moving from the fireplace to the mantle to the book shelves lining the walls on either side. She turned her eyes his way and saw him sitting there. Her brow was furrowed in confusion but she didn't speak.
Severus kept his voice low as he explained, "You were unresponsive in the hall two floors up. I'm unaware of where your rooms are...so I brought you here."
Granger looked back to the fire after he spoke, she didn't look surprised at his explanation and he feared this was not the first time she had wandered around lost. "I'm sorry," she said, her voice rough. She sat up with stiff movements placing her feet on the floor once she was upright, keeping the blanket in her lap. Granger looked behind her, taking in the rest of the room and most likely looking for the way out. He'd like a little more information before that though, so he didn't bother pointing out the door for her.
"Would you care to tell me exactly why I happen to find you staring out the window in a seemingly random hallway at three in the morning? Not really looking at anything, I might add." Severus cut to the chase, since he got the feeling she knew precisely what he was referring to.
Granger was looking at her hands in her lap and running her finders over the blankets surface, smoothing out the wrinkles over her legs. Her voice was quiet and subdued, "Sometimes I can't sleep, that's all."
"Bull," he shot back quickly.
She raised her eyes to look at him properly for the first time that morning. "It's not. It's true, I can't always sleep...so I go for walks. I just-lose track of things sometimes." She looked back down at her hands by the end.
"And by 'things' I'm to assume you mean any sense of time or the environment around you. You were barefoot when I found you with your toes half frozen. Alone and unaware of anything, do you have any idea what could have happened to you? The castle is no longer protected like it once was, anyone could have came walking through and done what they pleased with you." He was starting to get upset again, the same anxiousness from the night before rising in his chest.
"What kind of person do you think would take a stroll through Hogwarts? I can't imagine it being that unsafe." She had a look of disbelief and confusion.
"Just because Voldemort is banished from this earth you think all the evil in the world went with him?" Severus was leaning forward in his chair now, "His followers are still out there, and the ones who weren't so bold as to take his mark, but kept their beliefs hidden and secret, those are the ones I'd be worried about. They are the ones who had their hopes for a new world shot all to hell and who, I can guarantee, are not at all pleased about it. That kind of anger and resentment has terrible power over a persons judgement. You would be a prime target for all that hate, being a key figure in their Lords demise." He knew he was getting worked up, but how can she not see the danger? How can she be so flippant?
Granger was still sitting there with a curious look about her, like she was just now seeing him for the first time and puzzling through what he was telling her.
"The war is over," she whispered.
"It will never be over," he didn't even need to think on his reply, it was so plain to him. "You should never let your guard down like you did last night, and what I fear you have done before."
She was getting a bit flustered now and with an edge of frustration, "Thank you for your concern, but I am just fine. Everyone has moments where they get lost in thought and zone out for a time. There's nothing wrong with that and I shouldn't have to be so on guard."
"Oh, yes, my apologies. It's quite normal for someone to 'zone out' for hours and let themselves be led around without a single protest or question." And now he was angry. He didn't understand why this was getting to him so much but he did not like how she was playing this off and making light of the dangers of being so blank to the world around her that she let herself be so vulnerable.
Granger let out a great huff and threw the blanket off her lap and went to stand, taking a moment to get her bearings. "I don't feel like I need to explain myself. Thank you again for your...concern, professor. If you could kindly show me to the door." Her face had taken on a blank look, like she had removed herself from the conversation.
The nerve of this girl stunned Severus. Yes, he would lead her to the door thinking she had ended their argument but he was far from over it.
He stood up slowly from his chair and casually walked around to the back of the sofa, in no hurry what-so-ever, to where she was standing with his eyes never leaving hers. He swept his arm out to the side in a mocking gesture of gentlemanly behavior, "This way, Miss Granger."
She narrowed her eyes but said nothing as she walked to the door he indicated. Granger wrapped her cloak tightly about her middle and went to the door with one last backward glance at Severus before shutting the door behind her.
With his last view of her, Severus couldn't stop himself from thinking that she looked fragile standing there with her bare feet, and that she was never made to be fragile.
He had to stop this before she broke irrecoverably to pieces.
As Hermione found her way back to her rooms, she had time to calm down from her strange encounter with Snape. After her unexpected anger and defensiveness that morning she was able to really think about what had happened. She hadn't gotten so worked up in such a long time. It's been so long since she's felt much of anything and she was left reeling a bit.
Unfortunately, she was too familiar with waking up in strange places at this point to be too bothered by finding herself in Snape's rooms.
He was so odd to her. Odd and quite sad. It was done, the war was over now yet he was still geared up and ready to fight any attack that would come his way, as if he expected more opposition and wasn't able to believe that he could step back and take a breath of victory for once. Was he so in denial that he couldn't understand that they had won? Truly won this time? Or was it something worse than that. Was it because being on the defensive for so many years has become a way of life for him, always life or death with him, that he no longer knows how to live without that fear and sense of dread. What kind of life would that be? How exhausting. She can't imagine being always prepared to fight. She can barely get out of bed most mornings let alone always waking up wondering what struggles would face you that day.
Hermione entered her temporary rooms and sat on the rug before the fire and placed her feet and toes as close to the meager flames that were left there. Her toes were frozen from the walk on the stone floors. She sighed and rubbed at her eyes with the palms of her hands. She had hoped that no one would notice the changes in her. But, seeing as it was only getting worse she really should have figured it would only be a matter of time before someone did. She certainly didn't imagine it would have been Snape. Or that he would have cared as much as he did. She wasn't even sure 'care' was the right word for it, he was more angry than anything. She added more wood to the fire and settled back down.
Hermione knew that there was something wrong with her but she just...didn't care enough. She deserved what was coming to her, she would willingly accept it.
What she did to her parents, and the people she didn't save. Her friends. Her family. The guilt and pain from all that loss had settled on top of her like a snowy avalanche. Buried as she was, she could see the faint light of the sun but the freezing cold numbed her fingers and limbs so much that all she wanted was to close her eyes and let it kill her.
Sorrow affected wizards differently, she had come to know. Slowly, since the wars end, Hermione had been using magic less and less as the days passed till she stopped all together. How could she possibly use something that has caused so much pain?
It took away her parents.
She had thought that she was doing the right thing, that it would protect them. But now in the aftermath they were gone from her, for good. She didn't even know if they were alive. What had been the point of taking their memories when she wasn't even capable of making sure that they had survived? It was her fault that she no longer had them.
She missed them. Desperately.
Her magic was suffering in the face of her loss. It could sense the helplessness, the need to hide from her failures and had put her in a intermittent catatonic state for the past month. She knew it was her magic protecting itself and her as a result. How could she harm herself if she was unable to function enough to do it?
She had fled to Hogwarts. It was the only home she had left.
Hermione knew what would eventually become of her. She was smart and her need to learn had't died yet. She had found that this kind of depression in wizards could eventually kill them. The energy needed to do magic weakens to the point where the magic in their body begins to die out with disuse leaving the body unable to wake, in it's final effort to preserve itself. It was rare, but all together possible.
She had stopped being afraid of death a long time ago and a coma seemed so mild in comparison.
The flames in the hearth had warmed her feet and could easily put her to sleep but her mind was awake enough that she could fight it. The curiousness of Snape kept her from closing her eyes. She wondered if he would bother her again about what he'd witnessed from her.
Hermione lay back on the rug with her knees still bent with her toes pointing towards the fire. He was so angry. Vividly she could still see the flash of his eyes as he had called her out.
The indignation she had felt at him mocking her—it was the most alive she had felt since the war.