Under the Rain


Story Summary:
Post war, Hermione is dealing with the deaths of her friends. Severus Snape is dealing with his life. Two crumbling houses, an over-grown garden, and a meddling Minerva will bring the two battered characters together ? eventually.

Chapter 04 - Tea and Troubles


Disclaimer: Characters in this story belong to J.K. Rowling and her associates (with the exception of Abigail), as does anything else you recognize. No money is being made from this work.

Author's Note: This chapter signals the near-end of this story. I'm estimating (and outlining) two more chapters. This is also the longest chapter so far. This story has been through two beta readers, and I'm very grateful to Karin for her continued help.

After Minerva and Abigail left, Hermione sat very still in her chair, staring at the tea pot. She heard them walk down the hallway, the sound of the door opening and shutting quietly. Only when she was absolutely sure that they had gone did she allow herself to react honestly to the news that she was living near Snape.

"The bastard!" she half whispered, half shouted. The sound came back at her from all sides, bounding off the stillness of the house. She was cold all the sudden, shivering violently, and she was back in the small room in an undisclosed location.

She had written furiously until her hand, numb from the cold, had to be soaked in witch-hazel and thawed out. Cracks had formed along her fingers, cracks which slowly opened into sores, and had to be healed by the girl herself. It would compromise her location, she had been told, to have visitors. She had not bothered to ask for a mediwitch after that.

The one visitor she'd been allowed to have, other than Dumbledore, was Snape. He'd been the one who, after walking in on Hermione in the middle of the night, had demanded to be referred to as something other than Professor. She'd been bitter at this point, but a bit of her innocence had hung on.

She'd been thrilled to have the visitor, even if it was Snape. That was what she'd settled on calling him -- Mr. Snape had seemed a mockery of the classroom setting, and Severus had been much too personal.

He called her, depending on how involved the conversation, either Granger or, just a few times, Hermione.

Her given name had never been such a welcome sound as it had coming from the lips of even one of her most hated former Professors, for it had been nearing the four month mark of her confinement the first time he'd used it.

He never stayed for more than an hour on these visits, and always came at the juncture between night and day, just a few hours before dawn. Sometimes there were weeks, even a month or so in-between them.

He stopped coming quite suddenly, and Professor Dumbledore had appeared in her room one afternoon with the type of books Snape typically brought for her.

She remembered what he had told her, word for word, to this day. The words sometimes echoed through her mind.

"Miss Granger, I have grave news for you. Severus... is no longer with us, in this war. He's disappeared, most likely dead. There is, however, the possibility that he has switched sides. Please discover all you can about this through your studies."

Dumbledore had then done something most unusual, and simply left.

Snape was now living near her -- she couldn't help but wonder just how near her. The tea pot grew bleary as her eyes, stinging from tears, grew heavy. Sleep ... just a little of it, was what she needed. She'd just had a shock, and as she climbed the stairs to bed, she was convinced that Abigail wouldn't dare say anything to her, even if it was the middle of the day.

A nap was not a sign of depression -- she was sure of that.

* * *

Just after tea a sharp knock resounded off the moldering walls of a shabby house. The owner of the house rose out of his chair and went down the hall, waiting for another knock before flinging the door open.

"Minerva," the man said, moving slightly to the side, "I didn't know you were bringing a guest."

The guest in question had the audacity to smile at him. Minerva proved to be more sensible, and simply glared at him.

Severus led the two women through the house silently, gesturing to a small grouping of chairs gathered around a small round table. There was a moment of silence as they all took seats - Severus pulling his chair away just slightly, as if direct contact with either of them would be dangerous. Minerva made a few inane comments and asked the basic polite questions. He assured her that he was fine, the house was fine, the weather was horrid, and yes, he still drank coffee.

Through it all Abigail stared at him, her lips slightly pursed. Severus caught her eye and felt like he was being interrogated by an extremely polite execution squad.

"You'll be pleased to know that I've yet to find a suitable, long-term person to fill either the Defense Against the Dark Arts or Potions position, Severus," Minerva was now informing him. "Are you positive you won't come back, at least for a term?"

He shook his head. "I've told you - I'm done with teaching. While I may be considered a war hero, I doubt that the parents of your little brats truly want Severus Snape teaching at Hogwarts again."

"Severus..." she began.

"No, Minerva, you know my stand on this and I will not go over it again. I shall never return to Hogwarts," he stated firmly.

"Severus, do you remember Hermione Granger?" Abigail asked him quietly.

"Yes - how is she now? Reaping the fame of helping bring down the Dark Lord while trying to make some gigantic discovery that will change the world?" His voice was snide and strangely thick.

"The two of you have more in common than I would have ever expected when she was a student, Severus - no, she is not living up to her potential, but rather living in a dilapidated house with no company, no companionship, and almost no will to live. Do not be such a fool as to assume that you were the only one the war drove to solitude." Minerva looked at him over her glasses, obviously disapproving.

Abigail continued, in a more gentle tone than Minvera had used, "I suspect that the two of you have unfinished business, Severus, and I would encourage you to get in touch with her. If you'll allow me, I'll give you her address, and perhaps you could send her an owl, or invite her over."

Severus went pale at the suggestion. After a moment, he nodded. "Perhaps I shall," he replied, looking Abigail in the eye. A slip of parchment found its way to the table, and with quiet goodbyes the two women made their way out of his home.

The day wore on, as Severus picked up the parchment and ran his eyes over the words - once, twice - Hermione Granger was just around the corner, just through his garden.

He wondered if she knew.