A/N: The title refers to Hermione, literally “Shield Lioness”. That will make more sense as the story unfolds. I make no claims to these characters, I’m just taking them out of the JKR box and playing with them (as if you didn’t know that by picking an HP link to read, but yeah, I have to write it) As far as I know, this will be canon, so let me explain:
a) I have a rather valid and explainable sub-plot as to why Snape, Lupin, and Tonks are alive, so bear with me.
b) ditto for the psych hospital. I have reasons for it not aligning with British health standards and government facility regulations, you just have to keep reading past ch.1 to find out ;) Again, bear with me.
c) the only deviation I plan on taking from canon is ignoring the epilogue.
So, without further ado, I present to you my version of what happens after:
The tiny metal shaped negative diamonds snagged his fingertips. He slid his fingernails across the grate and they caught on the rusty flecks of paint chipping off the muggle enclosure over the too-bright window with its pedestrian anti-shatter lamination which kept him from truly seeing the world outside. No trees. No sky. No grass. Didn’t they understand his need to see these things? Every day he stood at this window, his only window, staring, seeking, straining through the yellowed plastic on the other side of the iron grate that spat paint at him when he tried to pull it loose.
No wand, no magic, no mind. Just his tormented, tattered remains to circle the drain that was left of him after the snake bite.
And that was all he could remember, to his everlasting shame, frustration…anger. A snake, an evil, a battle on the edge of reason…a few passing memories of magic, twinkling eyes falling off a precipice that was somehow his doing…staring at him with forgiveness and sadness.
Green eyes with red hair that once held friendship, then loathing…
Green eyes with black hair that once held loathing, then friendship…
Brown eyes with bushy hair that fought for approval, fought betrayal, then stayed behind after the snake…but left…why?
Why were all these eyes…these specific eyes haunting him?
He rubbed his own and growled, gritted his teeth, banged his head against the iron grate in front of the poor excuse for a window in a soft tattoo that eventually brought a male nurse in to give him his medication.
He sneered. Pills, not potions. Somehow he knew the magical world had abandoned him to a muggle place. He was truly alone.
Why did this feel like the thousandth time he’d had this discussion with himself? He sighed and sat on his small, white-sheeted bed in his white standard-issue pyjamas, bracing his hands on the side with his bare feet on the floor, staring at his somewhat-kept toenails until the medication took effect. It would swim his vision, pluck his brain, and he’d lay down to forget again…but for a few more moments, he’d try to remember who he was, who they were, what had happened and how long it had been.
Before he could forget, he grabbed the crayon – a bloody child’s implement! – they let him write with and the journal on the nightstand and started writing what he could. He tried to draw the eyes—apparently again—but gave up when they just looked like blobby holes on the page. His talent lay elsewhere. He gave up and stared at the blank canvas of his left forearm instead, thinking there should be something there, something dark, something sinister.
He blinked as he felt the first dizzying twist of medication shift his brain. The feeling crawled into his sinuses and made his eyes feel…heavy…
The notebook and crayon dropped to the floor as he drifted backwards, drowning into unconsciousness for another forgotten day.
“Hermione! We found him!”
She snapped her head up from the pile of letters she’d been poring through, trying to decipher for perhaps the thousandth time Severus Snape’s correspondence in order to determine where he might have gone to hide, recover…die. She shuddered. The quick movement reminded her how long she’d been bent over the parchment sheaves in front of her—she rolled her neck in aching pain—too long. She sighed. “Ronald, not another wild goose hunt. Despite what you may think, a disappearing rodent population does not point to a ‘greasy git’ sighting.”
She glared at him and he at least had the decency to look abashed, reddening as deeply as his maroon sweater. Honestly, when would Molly stop making that horrid shade for him?
He stuffed his hands in his pockets and jutted his chin, “No geese, no rats. Harry says it’s him.”
Her eyebrows snapped together and she slowly stood, steepling her fingers on the desk in the upstairs office at Number 12, which had continued as the Order’s headquarters after the war in an effort to find all those who had been lost or damaged during battle so they could be brought home, hopefully returned to normal…or as normal as could be expected. For the most part, they’d been rather successful. Only a handful remained to be found after searching for two years: a few Ministry officials, two students that had suspiciously disappeared before the Battle of Hogwarts, and Severus Snape.
Hermione took his disappearance very personally as she was the last person to see him alive. Well, somewhat. Dammit, if only she’d stayed with him!
She blinked. Now was not the time for recriminations. “Where?” Was that her voice? So low, so shaky?
No wonder Ronald was looking at her strangely. “There’s a muggle psycho house down in Bath. Fella’s been there recovering from amnesia and a nasty snake bite to the neck for two years, nattering on about magic and wizards and such. No names, though. Records say he can’t remember a thing past being bitten. They say he was driven crazy by the bite.”
She held herself hard, still, rigid through the description, feeling pinpricks of rightness, of reality searing her skin and eating away at her sense. She wanted to Apparate there IMMEDIATELY. She asked him in a low voice instead, “Has anyone been sent to confirm?”
He shook his head. “We all know how you feel about this one. Harry and Remus and I thought you should go this time.”
Did her face show her panic? It finally hit her what Ronald had said. “He’s been in a LOONY BIN!”
His blue eyes grew exponentially bigger as she flew around the desk and advanced upon him. His hands warded between them, “‘Mione, now, you heard me say that before. What’s going on?”
He wouldn’t let her pass. She shifted left, he did the same. Right. “Ronald Weasley, you can let me out of this room so I can prepare to retrieve him this bloody instant!”
“Not until you tell me what got your knickers in a twist!”
His hands were on her shoulders, holding her still, keeping her from proceeding. “Let me go.”
“Tell me what the hell is wrong with you.”
No way around it, so she’d better spell it out perfectly: “Our esteemed professor has been at the mercy of a MUGGLE psychiatric ward for two years. That means medication the likes of which his body will have never had the chance to know before and will have a very, very difficult time to get rid of every time they dose him. This would be fine if he were a muggle, Ronald, but for a wizard, it’s like cutting off his hands. He’ll not have had his magic this entire time! Can you imagine the backlash that will happen when he does get his magic back?”
He looked scared, mortified…good. “Maybe we should leave him there, then.”
Her mouth dropped, then she felt intensity…exactly what, she knew not, but her face narrowed and she hissed, “Don’t you even bloody dare think about it! We’ve found him, he’s a fucking HERO, for God’s sake!”
He stepped back, releasing her, hands up in cessation. “Okay, okay, don’t get so bloody Scary-Mary! Shite!”
She drew herself up, chin out, took a deep breath and strode out the room, thinking furiously about what she’d need to take with her and the best method to get him released. Brass, Brains, or Breakout?
Maybe it would be best to just wait and assess when she got there.
Hermione fingered the worn parchment in her hand, running the pad of her right index finger over his signature. Could Ronald read just how involved she’d gotten in the search for Severus? As if perusing his personal effects weren’t revealing enough, his missives had driven her neatly round the bend. Somewhere near the four hundred and fifty-ninth time she had re-read a very poignant letter between him and Albus Dumbledore – the last one between them – she’d finally accepted she’d fallen in love with the shadow of a man. She knew the stupidity of such an act! She! Hermione Granger, who knew IT ALL! She knew the fallacy of falling in love with a letter, a pedestal, a picture.
She was terrified of meeting the reality of the broken man. He couldn’t possibly live up to her expectations…especially not now. Somewhere in the deceptively urbane building at the end of the drive the taxi just turned down was the man she’d been hunting for, but was it him? Was it truly him, or was it just his broken shell? Might it even be some cosmically impossible coincidence?
The taxi dropped her off under the bright green cloth canopy extending from an austere glass entry. The building was a nondescript yellow brick in the middle of a large property with nothing to recommend it but severely manicured lawns. She couldn’t even hear birds nearby. How depressing. No flowers, no fountains, no benches or paths or gardens…wasn’t this a place to soothe the mind? She’d never understand some people’s concept of mental clarity. She shook her head and tucked her hands into her peacoat pockets, reassuringly grasping her wand hidden there as she entered the building through the automatic sliding glass doors.
The tight-lipped woman sitting at the desk before her stared over her reading glasses for a moment before asking in a spitting tone, “Do you have an appointment?”
Hermione stared back, not sure what to say. Perhaps the truth, laced with whatever was necessary? “No, but I-“
“Then you can leave and come back when you do.”
“Now wait a minute. You have someone here I’ve been looking for.”
“Tell it to someone who hasn’t heard that before.”
Shite. Time to play the trump already. “My sources say my uncle showed up here about two years ago with a nasty snake bite on his neck. Won’t shut up about magic.”
That got her attention. She sat and stared stonily for a moment before picking up her phone, hitting one button and waiting. “Get Mr. Hestry. I’ve got someone up here claiming to be related to our Mr. Smith.”
Mr. Smith, eh? Hmm. Now, the hard part in this farce would be to get him out of here and find a way to pay them for two years of their care. The Order had a discretionary fund, but even it only ran so deep…she watched a nice looking man in his late thirties, with dark blond hair and watery blue eyes stride up to her in a wool suit and extend his hand with a smile. “You claim our Mr. Smith?”
She took his hand carefully. “I’m not sure. I’d like to meet him, first. I’ve been on a few goose chases over the past two years looking for him and I’d hate to be disappointed again.”
He nodded, “Understandable, perfectly. Well, sign in and follow me.”
Her eyes flared. This was working? She signed the ledger as Jean Granger and glanced at the receptionist, but she was back at her paperwork already. Hermione followed the taller man down the blindingly white corridor, past steel doors with steel sliding windows and barricaded entry points that he had to use keys and cards to get them through. Would ‘Alohomora’ work on a carded lock? Interesting thought. She brushed it off at the providence that she had been able to get this far with no problem. At last, they reached the last door in the last corridor in the darkest reaches of the hospital. She shivered. It was freezing, and she was wearing layers and a coat! What was Severus wearing?
Her guide, Mr. Hestry, hesitated before reaching to the sliding window at eye level on the door. “We had to drug him earlier today, so I’m afraid he’s asleep.”
He seemed to want some sort of acknowledgment from her. She blinked and nodded, then looked to the tiny window, willing it to open but daring not to use magic in such a place. He slid the bolt free and opened the small window lid. She glanced at him first, he angled his head at the opening and she stepped up to it, having to lift onto the toes of her trainers to see in. She gasped. “Severus!”
“It’s him? You’re sure?” God, he sounded positively greedy.
She felt her face scrunch up in pain as she took in the wasted form of the once-force-of-nature that lay on the bed in the cell on the other side of the door between them. She heaved a quiet sob, just barely keeping herself from breaking into tears. His hair was shorn and like Samson, it made him seem weak. The white hospital pyjamas they dressed him in made him look so anemic…he WAS anemic. There was so little left of the Potions Master, the War Hero, the Spy Inveterate that she once knew. Was he still there? “Why did you have to drug him?” she whispered.
“I can’t discuss that unless you can positively claim him. I must warn you that involves discussion of a financial obligation as well.”
She blinked back tears as much as she could, but it was a useless fight. It was actually decent of him to warn her of that before she claimed him. There were probably people in this world that would turn their backs on such a burden, unable to handle any of it. Tears of relief flowed unchecked down her face as she dropped flat to her feet and faced Mr. Hestry and nodded. “I claim him.”
He smiled and held out his hand back towards the way they came. “Excellent. Let’s go back to my office and we’ll discuss his situation.”
She nodded and followed him through the meandering warrens to the warm den of his office. It reminded her of her office back at Number 12, books and leather and wood. She sat gingerly on the edge of a piece of buttoned leather upholstery and waited for him to sit. “I want to take him home.”
He’d stopped before leaning all the way back in his seat to take in what she said and now took the opportunity to do so. “Ah.” He steepled his fingers before his face, elbows on the armrests of his chair as he looked her over. “He’s been here under our ministrations for quite some time. The County mandated it when he was deemed unsafe to the public, you see.”
She drew her shoulders back and pulled on what Ronald started calling her Scary-Mary act. “I am fully aware of my uncle’s need for protection and can give him such at home. Our separation was caused by an interfering individual who felt this world would be better off without him and so took it upon himself to attack my uncle. We have since relocated to a higher security location and dealt with that person to the highest order of the law and I want to take my uncle home.” There. That should do it. And if she had to call Severus her ‘uncle’ one more pervvy time, she was going to be sick.
Mr. Hestry seemed to be debating something within himself. “You asked why we had to medicate him. He’s been ranting about fantasy creatures, magic, then he talks about eyes staring at him. He tries to hurt himself after that, Miss…I’m sorry, I don’t even know your name!” He turned on the smile. She knew then the smile was phony, used to get his way when he was uncomfortable. Hmph. Two could play at that.
She turned on her dimples and tilted her head a bit, “Call me Jean. Please.” It wasn’t a lie. It just wasn’t what everyone else called her.
“Jean. Lovely. You must call me Stan.”
“Thank you, Stan.” Blink, blink, tilt forward.
He cleared his throat. Good. “We use medication to keep him from hurting himself, Jean.”
“Oh, of course, Stan. I’m sure you can refer me to a doctor in Edinburgh where I can get a prescription?” Slide her hand up and toy with the zipper of her hoodie…
He stared at her fingers and the zipper as it dropped an inch. “Delighted to.”
“Excellent! Now, about releasing him?”
He blinked and shifted in his seat as she slid her hand over her own thigh. “Th-there is the matter of financial obligation. He’s been a ward of the county for two years and as such, you claiming him makes you responsible for his treatment.”
“Ah. That is understandable, but how much are we discussing?”
He mentioned a large amount of pound notes that would mean she would not be going to University on the Order’s knut, that was certain. She sighed. It was worth it to have him back, though. Hestry watched her until she sadly nodded. “When do you need it by?”
“I can’t release him until the bill is paid.”
She nodded and stood. “Will you walk me out, Stan? I’ll see you tomorrow after I make the necessary arrangements.” No need to look suspicious. No muggle could arrange that amount of money this late in the day.
“Pleasure. Shall I call you a taxi?”
They chatted about the weather until the cab arrived and Hermione gave him directions to a pub with a hostel in the middle of town. She walked to the back alley, cast a Concealment Charm and Apparated back to Grimmauld Place, releasing the Charm as she watched Number 12 crawl into place before her eyes. She slipped in the front door and thought she’d make it to the stairs, but a voice stopped her as she passed the kitchen hallway.
“Hermione? Why are you alone? Wasn’t it him?”
She closed her eyes to numb herself against the onslaught of what she needed to ask, then bullied herself into getting it over with now instead of later. They probably wouldn’t object to paying for his release, anyway. She turned around to face Remus. “Hi, yes, it was him.” She swallowed. “I have to pay his institution fees. It was too late in the day for a muggle to acquire that kind of money-“
He sucked in his breath, “How much?”
She mumbled it quickly, hoping he’d hear it…or not…
Blasted werewolf hearing.
“Forty thousand pounds? Are you serious, Hermione?”
His outburst did something to her that she’d been protecting herself from all day. Something broke, just broke and she felt her chest heaving up and down, searching for air and her face going red and splotchy and she felt the water racing to her face into her tear ducts and nostrils and she just couldn’t hold it back anymore. “I know! I know! I’ll pay it back, I promise, but we have to do this, Remus! He’s sick and it’s horrible in there! I have to get him out and it’s not fair for us to break in and just take him when they’ve been taking care of him for two years and I’ll pay it back, promise, I promise, I pro-mi-se…” She slid down the newel post of the stair onto the bottom step and sobbed into her hands, rocking back and forth, feeling the hot tears smearing between her fingers and not caring that she must look absolutely horrid and that she was sent on a mission and it felt like she FAILED.
She had to get him back!
She jumped when she felt a hand brushing her shoulder blade. “Shh, shh, love, don’t cry, don’t cry, it’s just a big number, of course we have to get him back. We’ll pay it, there’s no question, dearest. Do you need me and Dora to go with you tomorrow?”
She thought about it as she calmed. It was really tempting, but for some reason, she felt she needed to do this alone. She shook her head in the negative and sniffled behind her hands, then rubbed her nose on her sleeve. Remus handed her a handkerchief. “Thank you.”
He slipped an arm around her shoulders and hugged her sideways. She dropped her head to his shoulder and sighed. “He looks awful.”
“We’ll fix him up.”
“They say he tries to hurt himself.”
“We’ll fix that, too.”
“Can magic fix a broken mind, Remus?”
He seemed to think about that. “We’ll see, won’t we?”
“Is it right?”
After a pause, he answered her, “Tell me this. Is it wrong to have the tools and the ability to fix him and let him languish broken? Is it truly better to leave him be?”
“Is it better for him or for us?”
“I say we ask him.”
“What if he can’t answer?”
“What if he can?”
“What if we fix him but he’s not the same?”
“We’re never the same, Hermione.”
She sighed and hiccupped against his arm.
“Let’s just get him home first, eh? Then we’ll go from there.”
He gave her a squeeze and sent her off to bed. It was where she wanted to go when she got there, but now that she’d achieved what she thought she wanted, it felt strange to be alone. The boys were apparently out searching for clues to one of the Ministry officials in France, so it was just Hermione, Remus, Tonks, and Kreacher. She stared at the four walls of her bedroom at Number 12, yearning for her old bedroom and her parents for the millionth time since she’d Obliviated them so long ago. Lord, but she missed them! She sniffled again and fell backwards across her bed, remembering with agonizing clarity that this was a very similar position to Severus’ at the hospital. She spent the rest of the night between crying into her pillow and waking from a nightmare involving Severus blaming her for his imprisonment as soon as he awakened from his drugged stupor.
She had to get him back. She just HAD to!