Sweet Surrender by witch
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Chapter 15: Eternal Ponderings



Severus Snape couldn\'t help but feel relief as the door closed after the last student of the day. Today had stretched uncharacteristically long and the stupidity of the teenage morons he taught did not help to ease that burden in the slightest.

The only thing he sought now was to find himself as soon as possible in front of his fireplace with a bottle of Ogden\'s Old Firewhiskey in his hand.

However, it seemed that he had long lost whatever control he had of his life, for the next second came a deafening banging upon the classroom door.

“Enter!” growled Snape.

Whoever he might have expected to appear on his doorstep, Rubeus Hagrid was definitely not one of them.

Nevertheless, the half-giant stood there at the entrance of his classroom, filling the doorway almost to the ceiling. From what little Snape could see of his expression through the beard, he judged it to be far from a friendly one.

“What do you want?” snarled Snape, starting to briskly collect the scattered parchments on his desk.

“What did yeh do to him?!”

The bellowed words stopped Snape in mid-action.

“By Merlin, what are you blabbering about?” he enquired with annoyance.

“I am talkin’ abou’ Harry, that’s what!”

Hearing Potter’s name brought an instinctive grimace to his face. However, the hatred towards the boy did not manage to diminish a growing feeling of anxiety that Voldemort had somehow gotten to him or harmed him in any way. He might not have liked Potter, but he would have been a fool to not realise that if the boy was killed, the Light was doomed. And in turn securing the outcome of Snape’s own fate.

“And what has put the notion in your head that I have done something to your precious member of the dream team?” he asked, crossing his arms across his chest.

At those words, Hagrid’s beetle-like eyes started to bore into him with so much contempt that Snape was momentarily shocked.

“Harry is lyin’ unconscious in the Infirm’ry and Poppy won’t tell me anythin’ abou’ what happened. But maybe yeh have summat to say abou’ that!”

“I am asking again; what makes you think that I so much as touched Potter with my fingertip?” repeated Snape angrily.

“If nothin’ stopped yeh from killin’ Dumbledore, whatever will stop yeh from doin’ the same ter Harry?”

Snape had to literally close his eyes for a few moments, in fear that in his anger he will blast the elephant man into trillions of pieces. His temper was very quickly wearing thin for the day.

When he at last opened his eyes, Hagrid was still standing in front of him.

“Listen to me carefully, Hagrid. VERY carefully,” started Snape in a suppressed voice. “I will tell you this only once; I did not kill Albus and neither did I betray the Order. Remember this as well; the last thing I want is to kill Potter. Satisfied now?”

Whether Hagrid did not detect or decided to ignore the sarcasm in his last comment, Snape did not know.

“No,” replied the half-giant forcefully, “I am not satisfied. I have no idea how yeh managed ter trick the Ministry inter believin’ yeh but I will never do that again until yeh tell me what really happened.”

“This is no business of the likes of you!” cried out Snape.

For a moment, it looked as if Hagrid would pounce upon the professor; his body tensed so much. Feeling his body stiffening in turn, Snape waited for the attack. As discretely as possible, his right hand fingered the wand hidden in the blackness of his sleeve. One wrong movement from the half-breed would be the last thing he did in this life.

The two of them stood immobile in front of each other for some time before Hagrid uttered something resembling a growling snort. But instead of lunging towards Snape, he turned as briskly as his bulk would allow and marched to the door.

Opening the door so forcibly that it collided with the stone wall, Hagrid momentarily paused. Turning back towards Snape, his face wore an expression that Snape had never seen on him before. It was a look of a man who was ready to do anything to keep what he cherished, including killing. At that moment, Snape realised for the first time how dangerous the man really was if he wanted to be.

The following words that were spoken into the silence of the classroom, therefore, froze all of Snape’s insides in return.

“If yeh will harm Hermione in any way before the two o’ yeh divorce, yeh may well start countin’ the last minutes o’ yer life.”

The tables shook as the wooden door banged shut at last.

Snape stared unseeingly in front of him for a long time. Whether or not the half-giant knew that the marriage was supposed to be a facade from the start, he had no doubt that sooner or later Hermione will be able to detach herself from the wedlock.

But, of course, he did not know yet that it was no longer possible.

Without paying much attention to what he was doing, Snape found himself half-sitting on top of one of the student’s desks with his head in his hands.

Nothing was starting to matter to him anymore. He knew that Hagrid was not the only one feeling the same distrust and disdain towards him. Even the redemption in the eyes of the Ministry of Magic did not dispel the name of Albus Dumbledore’s murderer from him. And perhaps it never would.

He was doomed to suffer the hatred of his wife as well.

During all the years as a spy, Snape prized himself for keeping his life in spite of the various situations and circumstances he encountered. Hagrid’s last comment, however, involuntary brought a realisation that no matter what would be the outcome of the upcoming war, nothing will change for him. One way or the other, he will be forever hunted by either the Light for the sins he did not commit or the Dark whose midst he abandoned to vainly search for redemption in the Light. How ironic.

And it was not in the midst of a battlefield that Snape began to feel the last threads of hope deserting him. It was here, in the place he not so long ago began to count as his true home and sanctuary. The first time in thirty seven years, Snape at last felt the first trickle of struggle leaving his body and mind, leaving only one clear realisation in its wake.

Perhaps death was indeed the final solution to this pointless existence.



*



Gryffindor Common Room turned silent the moment Colin Creevey departed to bed, leaving Ron and Hermione alone. Now the only sound penetrating the silence was a random crackling of logs in the fireplace as the two friends remained mute.

Ron sat in one of the armchairs while Hermione walked from one end of the fireplace to the other with a constant rhythm.

“’Mione? Could you please do me and the house elves a favour and sit down before you wear holes in the carpet?” he said suddenly.

Without looking in Ron’s direction, the young witch meekly sat down into the other armchair in front of the fire. After a minute of silence she at last spoke up:

“You don’t think it’s something serious, do you?”

The redhead passed a hand across his closed eyes with a tired sigh.

“I don’t know. With the war getting closer every day, none of us knows when Lord Thingy will probably strike. Harry might or might not have been attacked today.”

His words were followed by yet another short silence until Hermione in her nervousness opened her mouth again. Lately she was rather more fidgety than normal and any minor situation brought an array of rolling emotions into her. The news of Harry’s unexplained appearance in the Infirmary was enough to nearly bring her to tears.

“And do you think that --”

“I am not a bloody Seer, OK?!” interrupted Ron.

The angry retort at last caused her eyes to cloud with unshed tears. Fortunately, she was saved from her humiliation for the moment the first tear spilled down her cheek, the portrait hole opened to let in a frowning Ginny Weasley.

Discreetly wiping away the offending proof of her weakness of mind, Hermione focused all of her attention on the approaching girl instead. About half an hour ago, all three of them had decided that only one of them should go and discreetly check on Harry’s state to keep from attracting too much attention. The role went to Ginny, so Ron and Hermione had nothing else to do but wait for her return.

Now, Hermione was not sure whether the somewhat quizzical expression on Ginny’s freckled face was a good or a bad sign.

Instead of taking a seat, Ginny stayed standing in front of the two of them, intently looking from one face to another in silence.

“Well?” finally enquired Ron, his patience visibly wearing thin.

“I am just wondering if what I am about to tell you will be taken as some kind of joke,” replied his sister, now with a deadpan face.

“I personally don’t find anything funny about my best friend ending up in Infirmary. The only thing I need to know now is WHY he ended up there!” cried out Ron.

Hermione, too overwhelmed by emotions, just nodded in agreement.

“Fine. Harry is in Infirmary because he fell and now has a bump on his head!”

Ginny’s words were met with a confused looking Hermione and Ron’s blank stare.

“Is this some kind of joke?” he finally asked.

Ginny’s scream of annoyance pierced through the air like a sword.

“Fred is right, you ARE ‘dung brains’, Ronald Weasley!” she screamed.

“Don’t call me that!” The colouring of Ron’s face was mounting at a considerable pace.

As she watched the start of one of Ron and Ginny’s infamous arguments, Hermione found a renewed sense of irritation mounting in her. Vigorously happy that the unexplained depression fled, she thoughtlessly opened her mouth and spoke the first thing that came into her mind. As a result, her rather loud comment contained the biggest amount of sarcasm she had ever used in her life.

“Be quiet! It’s past curfew if you haven’t noticed and unlike SOME people, ones with at least some common sense, you should have figured out the meaning of the word WHISPER!”

Her reprimand had the desired effect as the siblings shut up as one.

The reason for their reaction, however, as she found out soon enough, was quiet different from what she thought it to be.

“Bloody hell...” muttered Ron.

“...She sounds just like Snape.” Ginny’s eyes looked as if they went wider than was physically possible.

Hermione, on the other hand, squinted her eyes in annoyance.

“What the hell are you talking about?”

Her response only provoked another suppressed gasp from the youngest Weasley.

“Merlin! She even managed to snap like him!” she exclaimed, sharing a bewildered look with Ron.

The day was growing short and Hermione’s patience as well. Presently she was more worried about Harry’s true condition than the peculiarity that Ron and Ginny were displaying right now. She did not feel like discussing the fragile topic yet and did not have any plans on doing so for some time in the near future.

“I don’t know about you, but I’m going to go check on Harry now. It will be better if the two of you stay here and finish whatever argument you started before my unfortunate interruption. Good night!”

With that she jumped up from the armchair and made her way from the Common Room. She did not need to look back for she knew that both of them knew better than to accompany her while she was in such mood. The way things were going, Hermione was not sure herself whether she wouldn’t bite her friends’ heads off.




*



While the entrance of the Hospital Wing was dark, Hermione was surprised to find that the main room, where the patience lay, was bathed in light. It seemed that the occurrence if unfortunate accidents had subsided considerably as of late, for all but one of the numerous cots were vacant.

Tiptoeing as silently as she could, Hermione came to stand beside the bed in which lain Harry. As far as she could see, he was either soundly asleep or unconscious. Noting that he did not wear his glasses, she found them lying on a table beside his bed. Something must have happened to them because one of the lenses had a crack in the middle while the other was completely spider-webbed with them. Reflexively, Hermione took out her wand and with a swish of her hand swiftly repaired them. The resurfacing memory of that long ago first ride to Hogwarts brought the first smile of the evening to her face.

Gingerly, as not to disturb him, Hermione sat on the edge of his bed. Not possessing any willingness to go to her bedroom in the dungeons, she was content to look at Harry for the time being.

Only now, in this moment of peace, did he look unworried. The last few months brought more troubles and responsibility to him than most probably that of all the students in school put together. Hermione felt a sadness in the knowledge that it had been so since he was barely a cuddling and most probably would continue until the end of his life.

The only question was: how soon will this end arrive?

“Mrs. Snape, what are you doing here?”

At the sound of Madame Pomfrey\'s voice, a startled Hermione narrowly kept from falling off the bed. Instead, she jumped awkwardly to her feet while the still clutched wand suddenly fell onto the floor and rattled unseen to the other side of the room. Annoyed at being taken by surprise, Hermione whirled to face the fuming school nurse.

If the plump woman was expecting an apology from Hermione, she was in for a surprise.

“I would greatly appreciate if you would address me as Miss Granger, Madame. It is a name that I was born with and under which I plan to die.”

The poor witch was visibly taken aback at such a reprimand but successfully retained a frown a few seconds later.

“Fair enough, Miss Granger. But this doesn’t explain why a student is not in her Common Room past curfew but lounging in Infirmary in the middle of the night!” scolded Pomfrey.

“For your information, I am not LOUNGING but visiting my best friend!” fired back Hermione.

The nurse managed to frown and look astounded at the same time.

“My, my! You are snappish today, Miss Granger, aren’t you?”

This was the second time that evening that Hermione found herself accused of “snapping” and she was not particularly happy about it. Crossing her hands at her chest in a movement that betrayed her irritation, Hermione stubbornly stared back into the other witch’s eyes.

“Tell me what is really wrong with Harry and I will leave the Infirmary,” she said.

“I have told this to Miss Weasley already; there is nothing drastically wrong with Mr. Potter. The only injury he has is a bump on his head. I decided to keep him here overnight for observation, so that I can ensure there is no damage to his skull. However, I very much doubt that this will be the case, Miss Granger.”

Hermione absently nodded in understanding but did not cease frowning.

“Do you know how Harry managed to hit his head?” she enquired, only now noticing an impressive bulge half-hid by his hair, high upon his forehead.

“The only thing I was told by the Headmistress is that Mr. Potter tripped and managed to collide with a wooden door,” replied madam Pomfrey casually.

The comment forced a second smile out of Hermione that evening.

“Yeah, that sounds like Harry...Anyway, thank you very much for your help, Madame Pomfrey and sorry for the disturbance. You just have to understand how worried we all are about Harry’s...welfare and health,” said Hermione, almost making a mistake by pronouncing “life” instead.

“No worries, my dear. Now get yourself going before anyone else sees you out past curfew!”

“Good night!” exclaimed Hermione and turned around to exit the room.

However, before she was able to reach the doorway, her foot stepped on something. The unfortunate position of her foot immediately unbalanced her body. A part of her mind recognised her wand that she was careless enough to drop a few minutes earlier but it was too late to save the situation.

With a startled exclamation Hermione felt herself tripping backwards. At the last second she desperately shut her eyes and waited for her head to connect with the stone floor.

The fall, however, never came.

Instead, Hermione felt herself abruptly stopping in mid action. Unable to comprehend within her shocked state what was happening, she cracked her eyes open and looked around herself.

She was literary suspended in air. Nevertheless, a slight movement told her that she was free to move around. Very gingerly, Hermione managed to put herself into a standing position. The air around her body felt like an invisible, adjustable pillow. Even so, the moment when both of her feet safely connected with the ground, the pillow sense departed as quickly as it appeared.

Hermione stayed immobile for a couple of minutes blinking in confusion before she turned to Madame Pomfrey. Judging by the expression on the nurse’s face, Hermione was not completely sure which witch was more shocked by what had just happened.

“You...I mean...thank you,” muttered Hermione.

“Thank you for what?”

“For performing the levitating spell upon me in time?” Instead of making a statement, the young witch put a questioning tint to her voice.

The older witch shook her head.

“You are mistaken. I did not perform any spell at all. I thought YOU had managed to display an exceptional example of a Wandless Spell!”

Now it was Hermione’s turn to shake her head with eyes wide.

“No, no. What just happened was not a Wandless Spell from me. I would have felt it otherwise.”

The two witches continued to look at each other in confusion before Madame Pomfrey’s expression slowly started to change. It was like watching the sun protruding from the clouds, but instead of making her round face look happier, it transformed it into a startled realisation.

“If it is not a Wandless Spell...then...unless...” Hermione watched with something akin to interest as the nurse’s right eye suddenly began to twitch with some suppressed emotion.

“Sit,” she commanded and without any further ceremony put Hermione into the nearest chair.

“What...” but before Hermione could finish her thought; Madam Pomfrey’s wand whipped up and pointed towards her. With muttered words that Hermione did not manage to detect, blue light shot from the wand and surrounded her body.

Whatever the older witch saw, Hermione did not notice anything in the blue haze in which she found herself cocooned. But it seemed that the nurse saw or understood more than Hermione did for in about five seconds the light slowly extinguished itself into thin air.

The young witch sat unmoving in her seat for a few more seconds, giving a chance for her eyes to start seeing properly again.

“What was that all about?” she muttered at last, random blue dots still dancing in front of her eyes.

As no response came, Hermione succeeded to focus her eyes upon Madame Pomfrey’s face. The older witch did not have any expression at all, as she watched her with carefully neutral eyes. Only the remnants of the slight twitching of her eyes betrayed her turmoil of emotions.

“Well? Tell me what’s wrong!” cried out Hermione.

The nurse at last took a deep breath and for a few moments stared at the floor. When she at last lifted her eyes, they were filled with something dangerously close to compassion and...pity? But Hermione got the answer to her question.

“You are pregnant.”