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For the rest of the day, Hermione’s thoughts lingered on her encounter with Snape. Her classes and duties as Head Girl kept her busy, but not busy enough to keep her mind from wandering back to Snape. So, Hermione tried to force her thoughts to the Hogsmeade trip scheduled for the coming weekend. She had been looking forward to a relaxing day away from the castle for weeks, and she hoped she could stop her wandering mind long enough to enjoy the day.
Everyone was awake early the day of the Hogsmeade trip, eager to get to the village. In addition to a respite from thoughts of Snape, Hermione was hoping the trip would help her escape the everyday reminders of the war; each passing day she, and all the students of Hogwarts, faced more disappearances. Many of the missing people were prominent witches and wizards. Although the stress was starting to take its toll on her, she tried to remain strong for the younger students, and for Harry and Ron, but it was often hard to stay positive.
Hermione set out with Harry and Ron to the village on Saturday morning. As they strolled along the dirt path to Hogsmeade, the boys tried to keep the conversation light with discussions about sweets and jokes, but Hermione knew their thoughts were far from those childhood pleasures. As hard as she tried to focus on the superficial conversation, she couldn’t; her thoughts continued to wander. But while Harry’s thoughts lingered on Voldemort and the war, Hermione couldn't tear hers away from Snape. As hard as she tried to force her mind onto other topics she considered to be substantially more important, her head somehow always seemed to return to Snape.
Why can’t I stop thinking about him, and why do I feel sorry for him? Hermione thought as she walked alongside Harry and Ron. She stared at the ground, dragging her feet and watching the gold-coloured dust swirl around her ankles. Ron and Harry attempted to talk, laugh, and plan their day in the village during the short walk, but Hermione was deep in thought. I wish I could just pretend everything was right with the world, just for today and not think about him or the war, she thought. With no luck at getting him or the war out of her mind, Hermione trudged along the path, contemplating her mysterious Potions master.
"What do you think, Hermione?" Ron asked.
"Huh, what?" replied Hermione, shaking herself out of her thoughts. Ron and Harry both gave her a puzzled look.
"Honeydukes first, then Zonko's, before making our way to the Three Broomsticks?" Ron repeated.
"Yeah, sure," replied Hermione, putting her head back down and returning to her contemplations.
The three walked the rest of the way to Hogsmeade in silence. Hermione continued her internal fight to keep her thoughts from wandering back to the events with Snape and cursed herself when she couldn't stop them. She was relieved when they arrived at Honeydukes.
Hermione wandered around Honeydukes and made a few purchases before following the boys to Zonko’s. She spent ten minutes there, watching all the customers act immaturely, before she couldn't take it any longer and headed outside to munch on her sweets and wait for Harry and Ron.
As Hermione stood outside Zonko’s, something dark and familiar caught her eye. She watched the silhouette duck into Dervish and Banges, a few stores down on High Street. She was sure it was Snape. She didn’t stop to think; she just reacted to the sight of him. Hermione quickly scooted up the street and quietly ducked into Dervish and Banges, behind Snape.
There were enough people browsing that she remained unnoticed. Hermione watched Snape briefly scan the shelves, select a high-end Secrecy Sensor and head to the counter. As witches and wizards noticed that it was Snape behind the dark hood and robe, they moved away and whispered frantically behind his back. Snape approached the counter and placed the Secrecy Sensor down. The witch behind the counter glared at him and didn't move. Snape was reaching for his money to pay the bill when the witch spoke.
"You aren’t welcome here, Severus," the witch growled.
"My money is as good as any other wizard’s," Snape retorted.
The witch grabbed the Secrecy Sensor off the counter and said, "Get out, Severus."
Snape did not move. The patrons of the store had now turned to watch the scene at the counter. "You are not welcome here, Death Eater. We don't want your money. Now get out!" the witch snarled, losing her patience.
Hermione quickly ducked behind a large shelf as Snape turned and stormed out of the store. He appeared angry and outraged, but Hermione could see something else. One look at Snape's eyes, as he left the store, showed her a lost and broken man, one in considerable pain. Pity once again washed over Hermione for a man she was supposed to intensely hate.
Once the door had slammed behind Snape, Hermione grabbed one of the Secrecy Sensors Snape had been looking at and headed toward the counter. She handed over fifty gold galleons and nervously waited while the witch wrapped her purchase. The whole time the witch was packaging the Sensor, she gave Hermione suspicious looks. Please don’t say anything; please don’t say anything, Hermione thought over and over.
To Hermione’s relief, the witch didn’t make any comments. Once the parcel was wrapped, Hermione grabbed it, stuffed it in her robes, and got out of the store as quickly as she could.
Once outside, she slipped around the side of the building and leaned up against it, letting out a sigh of relief. Thank Merlin that witch didn’t question my purchase, thought Hermione. I don’t know how I would have explained that one. Oh, God! I just spent a fifty gold galleons on that greasy git! What was I thinking? I guess it would look even stranger if I were to return it right now. Hermione’s mind reeled. She put her head back against the dark brown wooden shingles of the building, closed her eyes, and took a deep breath. But she couldn’t stop her thoughts.
I can’t believe that witch’s reaction toward Snape. I didn’t realize people loathed him that much. Hermione had heard rumblings from the students that their parents did not trust Snape and thought he should be in Azkaban, but Hermione hadn’t realized how widespread it was.
The night of Dumbledore’s death, Harry had been outraged and said he would tell his story that Snape had killed Dumbledore to anyone who would listen, but really, it had been only professors and members of the Order who had heard it. Within the hour, most of the Order had known the story; Hermione and Ron had been among them. But shortly after Dumbledore’s funeral, all the talk of Snape had stopped. Harry had spent hours in a meeting with the leaders of the Order. When the door to the meeting room had finally opened, Hermione and Ron had been called in. They had been told the real story of what had happened on the Astronomy tower was to not go beyond that room.
The Daily Prophet had printed rumours about Snape being involved with Dumbledore’s death above all other possible suspects. Hermione was still unsure why the Prophet targeted Snape so harshly; she knew Harry had not spoken to any reporters. Although, there were still the outlandish rumours that ranged from Dumbledore committing suicide by jumping from the tower, to a flying accident, to Dumbledore being alive and living on a tropical island. But, the rumour that appeared most was that Snape had killed Dumbledore on the Dark Lord’s orders. Whatever was written, it seemed everyone wanted to believe that Snape was evil.
Hermione and Ron had never been given a reason as to why they were not supposed to reveal the story Harry had told them. However, it had been pretty clear to Hermione that a reason had been given to Harry as to why the story must not be revealed. A good reason would have been the only way Harry would have kept his mouth shut about Snape. But, whatever the reason was, he had never shared it with Hermione or Ron.
Now, Hermione found herself leaning outside against Dervish and Banges, thinking back to the events at the end of last term. She again began wondering what Harry had been told that made him keep his mouth shut about Snape. And why did everyone inside the store seem to hate Snape so much? Could it really be as simple as most witches and wizards believing what had been written about Snape? She hoped people would think for themselves instead of blindly following, but somehow, she doubted they would.
Snape was as satisfied as could be expected with the results of his confrontation with Hermione that afternoon. Although he was still angry that she had seen him in a vulnerable position, the outcome had dispelled his anger enough to allow him to forget all about the encounter by the end of the day.
Snape’s thoughts then turned to protecting himself. As a spy, he could never tell friends from enemies, honest men from liars. Therefore, he had decided to get a Secrecy Sensor. One particular high-end one had caught his attention. He figured he couldn’t be too careful, especially with his double life. The model he had been looking at was pocket-sized; he would be able to use it without anyone knowing. It was expensive, but well worth the price.
The problem was, between Death Eater meetings and teaching classes, Snape never had any free time. The only time he would have to stop in Dervish and Banges was this Hogsmeade weekend. Although he hated to go to the village with all the students there, he didn’t have much of a choice.
On Saturday morning, Snape left the castle early and headed to the village. He didn’t run into any students, as it was a little early for them to have set out. He concealed himself in a dark robe and made sure the hood was pulled up over his head. He knew what his reputation was and couldn’t be certain how people would react to his presence. In fact, since the incident in the Astronomy tower, he had hardly been out in public.
He reached Dervish and Banges after a quick stop at Ollivanders. Thankfully, the eccentric wand maker didn’t discriminate against anyone. He sold Snape a new wand. Snape then ducked inside Dervish and Banges, quickly found the Secrecy Sensor he wanted and headed toward the counter. That was where his troubles began. As soon as he approached the witch at the counter, he knew things were going to go poorly. She refused to serve him and told him to leave. Snape attempted to protest, but he knew it wouldn’t do any good.
His greatest fears were realized. All the respect he had gained because of his potions abilities were lost. No one cared that he was the best Potions master around; all they saw was a Death Eater. Although Snape had never had a lot of friends, his reputation as a Potions maker, and the power that came with it, resulted in witches and wizards treating him with friendly respect. All of that was gone now. Judging by the patrons’ looks as Snape stormed out, the shopkeeper wasn’t the only one who hated him. He had lost the respect he had worked so hard for, but he had known it would happen.
It doesn’t matter, none of them are worth my time, he told himself as he walked back to the castle. Who was he kidding? It did matter; he loved being respected because with respect came power. Power had always been a constant companion for him.
He had never been particularly social therefore he had never accumulated a group of close friends. He had never really seen the need for friends, with the exception of Dumbledore, who had been the only one who understood him. All he ever had was his potions ability. The ability to command respect and gain power from that ability was the only important thing. After all, if he no longer had the Dark Arts, he needed something else to keep his mind sharp.
Snape couldn’t lie to himself. The reaction the wizarding public had toward him hurt, and he didn’t like it. He always used to have Albus as a friend and someone to talk to. He hadn’t needed anything else. Snape had leaned on Albus more than he ever knew, until now. With Albus gone, he felt more alone than ever before.