Fractured Shadows of the Soul
A captured moment in time: Hermione on rounds, a thunderstorm, and Snape watching from the shadows.
Disclaimer: Nothing here is mine, except the order of the words. JKR gets the credit for all characters and locations. Not HBP compliant.
Her footsteps echo down the lonely corridor, beating staccato notes in time with the sudden pounding of my heart. The first faint outline of her fragmented shadow approaches around the corner, fractured in the flickering light of multiple torches. Quietly, I slip deeper into the shadows created by several ancient suits of armor, regretting that I am forced to be more at home in the shadows than the light. She slowly approaches my small alcove, completely oblivious to my lurking presence.
As her shadow drifts past a tall stained glass window, a sudden burst of lightning throws her profile into stark but brilliant relief. Startled, she barely has time to turn toward the window before the blast of thunder rattles the very foundations of the castle. The storm I had watched in the distance is now upon us. Gently, she laughs at herself, obviously feeling silly for fearing the storm and the wildly jumping shadows created by the lightning and the torches. She believes that she is safe here, deep within the castle. It is obvious that she has no idea what real wickedness may be found prowling within the unfathomable shadows, still trusting that the Light will always prevail over the Darkness. I am not sure if I find her naivete charming or profoundly disheartening.
She has paused but a few feet in front of me, eagerly watching the storm raging against the windowpanes. With each new stab of lightning, her shadow further fractures, skittering across the stone floor like so many ephemeral mice. Her child-like fascination with the storm, however amusing, belies the maturity she has acquired through these past years. She has encountered pain and fear and prejudice while here in the castle, but she has always risen above such things. Her ability to still enjoy the simple pleasures of a thunderstorm is a reminder of her true resilience.
I ignore the sudden tugging at my heart as I recall the last Order meeting, several weeks ago. That boy and his sycophant friends were so thrilled when they finally were allowed to attend. As I had expected, most everyone seemed to dwell upon every word uttered by 'The Boy Who For The Moment Still Lives.' She, however, was a surprising exception. Anytime Potter and the young Weasley boy would make some ridiculous suggestion, she would be the first to point out the glaring holes in their logic, much to their chagrin.
She had always been bright in class, quite annoyingly so. I made the grievous error of assuming that it was all book learning, but this Order meeting served to prove me wrong. She was nothing short of brilliant. Her grasp of the true situation surpassed that of many long time Order members, her only hindrance being her lack of some of the relevant information. Her arguments were stunning and insightful. She was intimidated by no one, not Potter, not Moody, not Dumbledore... not even me. I found myself absolutely captivated.
I had always been aware of her; who could not be? From her first day in class, so eager and full of knowledge, with her wildly waving hand and wildly curling hair, how could anyone overlook her? I did my best, though, to ignore her; then, and for the next six years. She truly hates being passed over in class, especially when she knows she is the only one with the correct answer. I usually derive some small amount of pleasure by instead calling on Potter, whom I know will usually answer incorrectly. I find as of late, however, that the joy has left me for such sophomoric indulgences. Instead I now wish to allow her to shine, though I know I must not.
She, more so than any other student perhaps, seems to see through my caricature, my one dimensional 'sarcastic teacher' portrayal. I have even overhead her defending me to her friends, as both a teacher and as an Order member. At first I found this quite presumptive on her part, as I know that Iíve never been a nice person, but now I find it rather... comforting. So few people ever actually really trust me, that I now find such a confidence on her part to be quite heartening.
Her hair is free and loose tonight, glowing in the lightning flashes like some electrified halo surrounding the face of an angel. Although she seems lost in her quiet contemplation of the howling storm, her very presence still refuses to be ignored. My hand starts to drift toward that wild mass of hair, acting as if on its own accord. I stop myself before I give my position away. She need not know that I am here; she need not ever know that she is being watched. Such knowledge would serve to only complicate matters.
So innocent and young she looks, standing by the window, a small little smile playing upon her lips. Who would believe that she and her friends are preparing for war? A war, which could decide if those like her, born of Muggle parents, are still allowed to learn and practice the magic at which she has proven so adapt. A war which could very well leave her and her classmates injured or dead.
For this moment, though, she appears to be blissfully unaware of any looming fate, content to just enjoy the show nature is currently putting on outside the castle walls.
I envy her, and her apparent contentedness, her ability to find joy in the most unlikely of places. She displays an inner peace, a certainty of self. It is most amazing for one so young. At her age I knew only anger and despair. Watching her now, however, she reminds me what it means to be alive and revel in the simple pleasures of the moment.
Another blast of thunder and lightning strive to pull me out of my melancholy reverie. More flickering shadows chase themselves around the hall. She has now been standing at the window for at least ten minutes. This is most unlike her, the perfectly punctual prefect. She is definitely going to be behind on her rounds. As if hearing my thoughts, she suddenly turns away from the window. The lightning briefly lights up her face and I am surprised to see tears freely streaming down its length. It seems that she is not quite so happy after all... or perhaps she is simply feeling overcome by the power and majesty of the storm. I shall likely never know. Whatever the cause of her tears, they are now burning holes deep into my soul. I find myself longing to reach out and hold her, wipe away her tears and whisper words of comfort softly into her ears.
This is becoming intolerable! I am losing my dispassion, my objectivity, all over this little chit of a girl. This train of thought simply cannot be allowed to continue, or I shall surely drive myself further into madness. I refuse, absolutely refuse, to think of her as the talented young women that she has become. I refuse to allow my thoughts to linger on what could be, if only I were to talk to her, if only our circumstances were different.
The storm seems to be passing now, the lightening is lessening. She gives a slight sniff and reaches up to wipe the tears from her face. Her eyes are barely visible in the dim flickering torchlight, but I imagine they must be quite puffy. A soft chuckle confirms that her voice has become rather harsh. Does she really intend to continue her rounds with such blatant signs of her cry? Ah, obviously not, as she has now pulled out her wand and muttered a spell. It is rather advanced concealing spell at that. One I know has never been taught here in class. Again I find myself impressed with her academic and magical prowess. She has learned much during her years here at Hogwarts.
Thoughts of offering her a compliment on the just cast charm flit through my mind. Would she be receptive to such a gesture from me? Perhaps, were I to just speak with her, I could make her see past my dark countenance. Could she ever come to understand one such as myself? Perhaps, were I to just speak with her, we could unburden some of our troubles, our worries, to each other, offering some minimal comfort to one another.
Fool of a Snape! What am I allowing myself to think? She would never, could never, understand the reality of my life. I curse my fate, forced to linger hidden in these shadows. Dream I might of a pleasant future, but more the fool am I. The darkness has long since penetrated my soul, leaving me forever tainted. Any comfort I could ever offer her would certainly be misinterpreted, by both her and her friends. Her suspicion of me is well deserved after all. I have never offered her anything other than derision during all her years in my class. Surely any overtures of kindness now would simply be rejected out of hand. Besides, dream though I might of a pleasant future, most likely neither of us has much of a future at all. This damned war will make certain of that.
As she resumes her walk down the corridor, she suddenly stops and stares right at me. My heart (yes, I do indeed have one) skips a beat. Could I have inadvertently made some small sound and alerted her to my presence? No, I am still safely hidden in my alcove. She sees only the ancient armor reflecting the dancing torchlight. She smiles to herself and starts to move on.
If I am ever to approach her, speak with her, express my thoughts and hopes, now would be the time. But I hesitate instead, and thus the moment passes, forever lost. She walks off towards the brightly lit hall... and I remain deep within the shadows.
A/N: This is meant to be somewhat vague, you can interpret it as occurring in either sixth or seventh year. I had initially intended to expand this piece and add a second part with Hermioneís point of view, but since HBP has makes it somewhat AU, Iíll likely just leave it as is.
I once had a Literature instructor who hated anything written in the first-person present tense. So, being the perverse person that I am, I allowed my muse to insist that I write this piece in that style. Please let me know what you think.