Author: Ramos PM
Hogwarts is overrun by Death Eaters during the trio's seventh year. Hermione is 'captured' and given to Snape for safekeeping. Separated from her friends, she must decide how much to trust the man.Rated: Fiction M - English - Drama - Hermione G. & Severus S. - Chapters: 10 - Words: 46,651 - Reviews: 675 - Favs: 422 - Follows: 487 - Updated: 01-27-08 - Published: 08-03-03 - id: 1459318
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
1 July, 1998
Moving the next morning took more effort than Hermione really felt like putting into the job. The muscles in her back protested every change of angle, and her head was gripped with a dim ache that seemed to turn all the colors to a gray-toned offense to the sight. A glimpse of her face did little to improve her mood; the scratches on her face were red and angry.
The need for the loo forced her out of bed, and once she got moving it was easier to keep going. Getting dressed, brushing her hair and teeth, and bending over to get her shoes on loosened the muscles up enough to get her body re-accustomed to moving, and by the time she was ready to leave her room she was no longer resenting the basic concept of civilization as a whole.
Walking gingerly down the stairs, she noted that it was later than usual. In the breakfast room, an empty cup and a plate with crumbs beside the morning's paper was evidence that Snape had already come and gone. Tea and toast, despite the lack of a generous slather of Nutella, improved Hermione's outlook on life to the point that she thought she would eventually get over feeling so very sore, so she enjoyed a second cup while she read the paper.
The doors to the patio and the garden beyond were wide open, letting in the sunlight and the fresh breeze, but Hermione had no ambition to tackle the garden for the next day or so. It would survive her efforts for meanwhile, and she had other things to think about. Such as her wand.
Taking her tea with her, she meandered through the kitchen and checked on the rest of the soap that she'd left to cure on a rack in an out of the way corner. Bitta ignored her and Hermione returned the favor. Silently, she made her way into the parlor, looking at the faded but rich furnishings. Her fingers idly wandered up the keys of the pianoforte that had been consigned to a corner. Only one note still had enough tension in the wire to create a flat, muffled note. The sound thrummed through the otherwise silent room.
From nowhere, a voice spoke. "Did he do that to you?"
Spinning about, Hermione saw no-one in the room. She glanced about until she realized the woman in the portrait was looking at her.
"Good morning," she told the impressive woman. The portrait frowned at her impatiently.
"Good morning, then. Now answer the question. Did my grandson do that to you?" The woman's voice was cultured, with perfect diction, and had the faintest burr of a Russian accent.
"I fell, in the garden."
An elegant snort of disbelief came from the gilt frame. "Don't lie to yourself, girl. It's an insult to you and to every other woman who's had to suffer under a monster like Severus."
Hermione blinked in surprise. "That's rather harsh way to refer to your grandson."
"You don't know the boy the way I do. That man is a Death Eater and a monster, just like his father before him."
The woman's venom was astonishing. Hermione had expected something more like Sirius Black's mother, who ranted and raved from her full sized portrait at everyone who did not meet her standard of proper Pureblood mania for the Dark Lord.
"I think perhaps you do not know him as I do," she returned cautiously.
The portrait gave an irritated 'hrmff.' "What is your name, girl?"
"Hermione Granger. I was Professor Snape's student until a few weeks ago. I suppose I'm his apprentice, now. He had me sign a contract last night."
"Professor Snape," the woman mocked. "Well, girl, my name is Charlotte Elena Fyodorovna. Snape," she added as an afterthought.
"Pleased to make your acquaintance," Hermione replied. Because the situation seemed to call for it, she managed a short bob of a curtsey. The old woman nodded, as if it were her due, and to an older Pureblood woman it probably was.
"Sit down, girl. Now, tell me the truth. He beat you, didn't he?"
Pulling a squashy ottoman forward, Hermione settled on it and addressed the portrait of Charlotte Snape. "Honestly, no. I did this myself, climbing the wall in the back garden."
"Were you trying to escape from my grandson?"
Hermione gave her a look. "Mrs. Snape, you seem determined to paint Professor Snape as a villain, if you'll forgive the pun."
The woman raised one eyebrow, and eerie echo of the man they were discussing. "Don't play coy with me, Miss Granger. I ask you again. Did he beat you when you tried to escape?"
"No, I really did fall. And I wasn't trying to escape. I was just... testing my boundaries, so to speak." She took a deep breath, wondering how much she should tell her.
"Recently I've started to realize that other people are setting limits for me, and I've just been going along with it. But I think it's time I found out for myself what is really a limit, and what's just a line in the sand. Does that make any sense at all?"
"I see," the woman replied archly, but a sly, delighted smile spread over her aristocratic features. "You're a clever one, aren't you? It took me quite a few years to learn that."
"Thank you, ma'am."
"Call me Charlotte, if you would. If nothing else it will give my grandson apoplexy to hear you say it. So tell me, then. He doesn't beat you, but you're still locked up here like the others. Why are you here?"
"I'm not entirely sure, actually. You know that Professor Snape is a Death Eater?"
"Yes, child. That, I'm well aware of."
Hermione related the story of her last day at Hogwarts and how Snape had claimed her in front of the others.
"So you're his whore?" Charlotte asked baldly.
"No! He hasn't touched me like that. He seems embarrassed every time the subject comes up."
"If he doesn't like girls, why did he claim you then?"
Hermione hadn't really considered her professor's sexual orientation before, but it did not seem to be in question. "No, I'm pretty sure he likes girls. He was simply going along with the role."
Instantly she regretted even saying anything, but Charlotte guessed her reluctance.
"Don't worry, child. You needn't worry about opening your budget to me – I've no other copies anywhere in the world, and there are no other portraits in this house save mine. I've refused to speak to anyone in my family for decades, so you need not think I shall go bearing tales to anyone else."
That was a legitimate concern for Hermione – she was far too aware that many portrait subjects retained their loyalties even into their painted afterlife. However, the comment Snape had made a few days ago came back to her – that his grandmother's portrait hadn't spoken to anyone in twenty-odd years, and he'd like to keep it that way. And more than anything, it was astonishing how overwhelming the need was to talk about some of the things she'd been mulling over lately in this silent house.
"Professor Snape is a spy," she whispered.
Charlotte did not seem surprised, but she looked to be the kind of woman who could handle almost anything life threw at her. Hermione was momentarily struck with regret that she was no longer alive – she would have been a formidable ally in this house.
"A spy, or a double agent? Does he play both sides against each other?"
"I'm not a hundred percent sure," she confessed. "I think he's totally committed to our side, but…"
"No, you can never be sure a man like that," Charlotte told her. "Trust me, I know all too well."
When pressed, Charlotte Snape told Hermione a bit about herself. Then a bit more, and before she knew it, they had been chatting nearly all morning.
Charlotte Elena Fyodorovna had been born in Moscow in 1901. When the Bolsheviks had taken over in 1917, her father had sent her out of Russia with a large chunk of the family fortune and one young house elf named Bitta. His choice of refuge for his only child had been with an old friend and long time business partner named Sulpicianus Snape.
The Englishman wasn't fabulously wealthy but lived comfortably in a large family manor inherited, as a second son, from a more prominent branch of the family. At the time Charlotte came to live with him, he had two sons. Severus was the elder by several years, and was everything his proud father could want in a son. (The name confused Hermione for a moment, until she realized that Professor Snape must have been the namesake of this Severus, two generations earlier.) Charlotte thought the elder Snape son was a stuffy, cold-blooded English bastard. The second son Marcus, however, was much closer to Charlotte's age, charming and sincere, and apparently much better looking that his elder brother.
Hermione guessed the story even as Charlotte related it, from the clues she'd read in the Prophet. Charlotte had fallen in love with the younger son, and he with her. The problem, however, was the elder son. Severus Snape claimed primogeniture rights to the family dependent.
Unwilling to simply give up, Marcus challenged his older brother to a formal duel. Being only eighteen at the time, his twenty-five year old brother had prevailed, and claimed his reluctant bride. Marcus had left the family home almost immediately.
"If I'd had an iota of sense, I would have gone with him," Charlotte told Hermione tartly, "but no, I did what any well-bred, brainless Pureblood girl does."
"Closed your eyes and thought of England?" Hermione quipped, trying not to sniffle at the sad tale.
"Exactly. Severus was a horrid man, and I hated him thoroughly. He was boring, and lazy, and dreadful in the boudoir," she stated bluntly. "I bore Severus one son in 1925, and rather than naming him after his own father, the fool insisted on calling him Auberon."
"As in the elves?"
"And Auberon could have been an elf changling," Charlotte mused. "He was beautiful, perfectly made, with blond hair and sunny smile. My husband had little fathering instinct, and assumed that his son was as perfect inside as he was outside." She snorted again. "In actuality, the little monster was a nasty piece of work and should have been beaten regularly."
Auberon was not to be restricted in any way, his father declared. Charlotte was not allowed to discipline him. In fact, his father discouraged the boy from having anything to do with his mother.
"When he was seven, I caught him torturing one of his pets, and I gave him a walloping he would never forget. Severus was furious with me, and forbade me to touch him ever again. We fought furiously over that – it soon became the only time we ever spoke to each other.
"I waited, and I watched that boy. It pains me to admit I hated my own son, but I did. He was a vicious little beast, and he only got worse as he got older. Finally, in desperation, I wrote to Marcus. He was living in Brazil at that time, but I told him the honor and future of his family was at stake. I was a traditionally raised Pureblood witch, and I did what was expected to safeguard the family I had married into.
"Marcus returned when Auberon was about nine, I think. Severus welcomed him, as if all things were forgiven. He'd won the duel, after all. It didn't take Marcus long to realize what a hash his brother had made of being a father. Of course, the moment he said a word, Severus turned on him as well.
"With his brother criticizing how he raised his son, Severus was completely enraged. The fighting got worse every day. Severus accused Marcus of returning to steal his wife. It wasn't true. Marcus denied it of course, but Severus would not listen. I tried my best to convince my husband that my honor was true and that I had been faithful to him. But I agreed that Auberon was out of control, and if he didn't do something, the brat would turn out to be even less of a man than he was.
"He beat me," Charlotte confessed. "It wasn't unusual for him to be physical, to push me about or give the occasional slap. But this was the first time he showed me exactly how he felt about me and our marriage.
"That was, let's see, 1934. Grindelwald" and she pronounced the German word with the same rolled 'r' and 'vald' at the end the way Victor Krum had done "was on the rise, and my idiot husband was enthusiastic in his support." Charlotte paused in recollection.
"So then what happened?" Hermione urged, completely spellbound by the woman's tale.
The old lady's expression turned smug. "I told Severus that he was a pig's arse and his son was worse. I went to Gringotts and withdrew my entire dowry, before he could send it off to support that madman. Marcus and I became lovers. And I was never happier than when I left this house. We eloped and left England entirely."
Hermione laughed in amazement. Snape's grandmother was full of surprises, and thinking of an ultra-traditional Pureblood witch kicking over the traces so thoroughly was very entertaining.
"Severus was killed in 1940, when men from the Ministry stormed the house and found all of the documents and other evidence of his activities. He refused to surrender and was killed. The Snape monies and property was seized. My son was now fifteen, and living alone in this house, virtually penniless.
"Marcus and I came back as soon as we heard of what had happened, of course, but by then it was too late. He strutted around this house as if he owned everything. Perhaps he did own everything, but there wasn't much left to be so blasted proud about."
Hermione stifled a snicker. For all the times Professor Snape had made snide remarks about Harry strutting about, it sounded as though his father was even worse.
"Auberon was horrid to his uncle, who was technically his guardian, and utterly hateful to myself. If I so much as spoke to Marcus in his presence, he called me a whore. If I gave him money, he accused me of trying to buy him. I tried to tutor him, since he would not return to Hogwarts after his OWLS, most of which he failed, and he accused me of belittling his intelligence."
She sighed wearily. "I believe we fought loudly and bitterly nearly every single day for the next two years until he gained his majority. The day he turned seventeen, he demanded Marcus and I leave the family home. That was 1942, if I remember correctly, and Grindewald was still traipsing about Europe causing problems."
"Grindewald was defeated in 1945," Hermione supplied. Charlotte gave her a look that said 'don't be such a swot.'
"Marcus and I went back to Brazil, were married, and were fabulously happy for thirty years. He died when I was seventy-five years old, and for some unknown reason I decided to return to this house, perhaps out of some ridiculous sense of duty.
"I found that my son had turned out even worse that I'd expected," Charlotte declared. "He'd married some poor Greek girl with more money than common sense and no spine whatsoever, which was probably why he chose her in the first place. Poor girl was a wreck, and it was obvious he beat her regularly. My grandson was skinny little thirteen year old and just as sullen as his father had been."
"I tried to talk some sense into Levania, but she refused to leave her boy behind. She would have been well shot of him, I think. I told her the little brat would turn out like his father and grandfather before him, but she wouldn't listen."
"That's rather harsh, don't you think?" Hermione objected.
"Whose story is this?" Charlotte shot back. "My son forbade me to interfere in his family, and refused to let me stay in the family home. My owls were returned, any gifts I sent my grandson were destroyed.
"Finally, I gave up. I sent my son all the money I had left, save what I needed to live on, and returned to Brazil. This portrait was painted sometime before I died, and was sent to my son along with my other effects when I died."
"So, you don't actually know how you died?" Hermione asked. "I had always wondered about that. Portraits always seem to remember their lives up until they were painted, and of course anything that happened after they awaken, but nothing in between."
"No idea," Charlotte declared in a voice that indicated she didn't care, either. "I believe I lived the rest of my life in Brazil, and left instructions that this portrait and a single trunk of my things were all that were left to Auberon. You should have heard him rant," she said with relish. "I didn't leave him another Knut. He was so angry he had this portrait silenced for years."
"Your trunk… is it still upstairs? I found a number of things in the attic."
"Very likely. What difference does it make?"
"I don't suppose your wand is in there?" Hermione asked quickly.
"It's a blue trunk with brass corners; the wand is yours if you want it, girl. But don't be too excited – it was nearly worn out when I last saw it. Unless I obtained another after this portrait was painted, it's likely useless."
"Thank you. I'll go and look this afternoon."
"You're a nice child, girl. Why on earth are you not doing your best to escape this house?"
She shrugged. "He's not so bad."
"He's a Death Eater," Charlotte declared with disgust. "He used to bring his friends here, carousing all hours of the night."
Snape? Carousing? "How long ago was that?"
"All right, it's been nearly 20 years," Charlotte admitted. "Once his father was dead, he would come home with his hooligan friends, drinking and talking about the Dark Lord and how wonderful he was."
"That was only for a while, wasn't it?" Hermione asked.
"Nearly a year."
The girl on the ottoman shifted, nodding in thought. "My friends and I have a theory, that Professor Snape took the Dark Mark right out of school, and regretted it within a short time. I do know he became a Potions Master and a teacher around 1982."
Charlotte gave her a long look down her elegant nose. "You and your friends spend a lot of time worrying about your teacher, do you? Your girlfriends, I suppose?" she asked archly. "Of course, I was married at your age."
"NO!" Hermione blushed. The fact that her best friends were boys didn't help the assumption Charlotte had made. "Let's just say we found it prudent to identify the players in this war. And Professor Snape is definitely a player in this, so we've spent quite some time trying to figure out what makes him tick."
She and Ron had wondered if Professor Snape had had an abusive parent; the man certainly had some of the symptoms of such a childhood. Harry had refused to contribute to the discussion and flatly stated that it didn't matter what the man's background, it was still no excuse for the way he treated people.
Knowing Harry's own home life was less than ideal, she could admit he had a point, even if she didn't entirely agree with it.
"Well, my girl, if you ever want any help dealing with my grandson, I'll be the first to cheer you on. I hope you do your best to keep the man on his toes – it makes them easier to knock off balance when the mood suits you."
Hermione thanked her for the advice, and promised to do her best. In the meantime, she had a trunk to find.
After a quick lunch, Hermione went straight up into the attic. She hadn't thought there would be a wand in all the trunks and other junk up there, but it was certainly a good possibility. She located the blue trunk after a bit of a search and found it tucked under the lower eves along one side of the attic. It was locked, but the key was helpfully dangling on a stiff, desiccated leather cord tied to one handle.
The lock gave up after a bit of struggle, and she propped open the lid on another pile of junk. The interior was a beautiful blue satin, stained and faded with time. A small tray on one side held some combs and pins, and – aha! – a short yellowed wand!
Unfortunately the wood was so old it had cracked along the length of the wand, and the bits of wood were turning powdery. A faint glimmer down the middle revealed a single silver hair that Hermione recognized as a unicorn hair. She was able to extract it, with much lip-biting care, from the dry and disintegrating wood.
Under the wand was a packet of papers, and she gently untied the little bow to open them. The first sheet was a death certificate, written in Portuguese, she thought. One of the fields in the standardized form stated 'Falha de coração,' which she guessed meant heart failure.
The pins and hair combs were the only adornment in the trunk. Several light-weight robes, in a Grecian style, seemed appropriate to a warmer climate than Britain's. If they'd been in better condition, Hermione would have considered adopting them, but the cottons and silks were fragile and were beginning to tear just from being rearranged in the trunk. However much she detested them, it appeared as though she were stuck wearing the leftover maids' robes for the next little while.
An hour later, she had retrieved the length of vinewood from its hiding place in the library and wandered casually out into the garden. The decrepit Victorian greenhouse was a suitably private place for Hermione's experiment, and she gently unwound the unicorn hair from her finger and coiled it carefully around the twisted length of dry vine.
She wished once more that she had a decent book on wand making that would tell her what she desperately needed to know, but the heavens failed to open one and plop one down on the bench beside her. Instead, she took a deep breath, held both ends of the vine and the too-short hair, and concentrated on focusing her magic into the would-be wand in her hands.
The silver hair began to glow, and Hermione could barely contain her excitement as the vinewood also began to display little dots of bright color chasing themselves up and down the length of the wand. Her excitement was cut short, however, when the light abruptly flared, leaving an afterimage of the wand imprinted on her retina and singed her fingertips.
The wand clattered to the benchtop as Hermione cursed indistinctly around one red fingertip and then another as she sucked on the tiny burns that had appeared on her thumbs and index fingers. The vinewood appeared intact, but the unicorn hair was nothing more than a scorch mark that wound around the wood. Frustrated, she slid the vinewood onto one of the shelves, sliding it beside a collection of small pots that were in varying states of falling apart. Several long dowels were on the same shelf, obviously meant for tying up droopy plants, and the vinewood would be perfectly camouflaged by the other pieces.
Still blowing on one tiny blister, Hermione went back in the house, intending on going back to her room and finding the charm book she'd been reading lately. To her surprise, Snape was in the kitchen work area, his deep voice directing Whitlock and Bitta in some task.
Curious, she walked into the kitchen before thinking about it. "What's all this, then?"
Snape turned and gave her a dark look. "They're potions supplies, Miss Granger. After seven years at Hogwarts, I might have assumed you would be able to recognize them as such, but apparently I was too optimistic."
In no mood for His Royal Snarkiness, Hermione scowled back at him. "They're boxes, in plain paper. For all I know you're throwing a birthday party."
"Be silent!" he ordered shortly. "Bitta, you know what to do while I'm gone. Follow my instructions exactly."
"Yes, Master," the old elf replied, levitating a stack of boxes taller than she was towards her grand-nephew. Whitlock took over, making the stack bobble dangerously before it righted itself and followed him down the stairs to Snape's laboratory.
"If I do not return within two days, you have my instructions."
"Master will not die!" Bitta hissed vehemently.
In shock, Hermione realized Snape was wearing the long black robes of a Death Eater, looking entirely out of place in the neat, bright kitchen.
"You will see to it, Bitta. Do not disobey me on this."
"Professor…" Hermione wasn't sure what to say, and the tense, uncompromising expression on Snape's face did not help anything.
"I do not know when I will return," Snape continued, directing his comments to both Bitta and Hermione. "Try not to kill each other while I'm gone." His robes snapped loudly as turned, his quick stride taking him out of the room before Hermione could say anything further.
"Good luck," she whispered finally.