Hello, dear readers!
I'm glad to present hopeforhealing with this little oneshot with two parts, as thanks for the 1,000th review of For the Only Hope!
My prompt was: Severus rescues Hermione from Bellatrix's torture at Malfoy Manner (maybe by suggesting he heal her & perform legilimency to "learn Harry's secrets" which would be easier to do if Bellatrix doesn't torture her until she goes insane or dies- he preserves his cover with Voldemort and still gets her away while Dobby helps the boys escape). Severus would bring her back (hidden) to his headmaster's quarters, heal her, and then get the fun task of figuring out how to work together to help end the war. To convince her they are on the same side, he would have to open up (legilimency or talking) about himself and they learn about each other and build trust. It's not necessarily romantic but a big deal because she learns more about him than anyone but Dumbledore knows, and they both see each other in a light other than just teacher-student. While it would most likely not be romantic at that point, they also gain an awareness of the other's physical state- he realizes she is a woman, albeit a malnourished one- and she sees him maybe in casual clothing and realizes he is a man, not a teacher in billowing robes, and they are both vulnerable. No sex scene, please, if you pick this one. I don't know if it is too involved for a one shot, but if I wrote a story this would be an angle I'd consider and I wouldn't make it just about sex- more about vulnerability and trust.
While it isn't exactly this, it is pretty close. :) I did my best!
Malfoy Manor rose high and intimidating in the twilight, spires twisting into the bruise colored sky. The elaborate gardens were smears of darkness, doted with specks of moving white- the peacocks. As Severus Snape stalked through the gates, cloak billowing, the storm that had been brewing for days finally released. Small droplets of water fell from the sky, accompanied with far off flashes of lightening.
Severus gritted his teeth and continued to the front door. Narcissa had called him to the Manor with a harried Floo call in which she refused to reveal the identity of the prisoner whom she wanted him to interrogate.
He lifted the heavy silver knocker, made in the shape of a serpent. The eyes were emeralds, yet another sign of the Malfoy's seemingly endless wealth.
Draco answered. Immediately Severus knew that something was very, very wrong- the boy's face was drawn and paler than it normally was, and his hands were shaking. The aristocratic Malfoy mouth was in a hard line, and his chin was set. "Snape," he sneered. "What are you doing here?"
"Your mother called me, Draco," Snape said brusquely. "Something about not letting your aunt kill an important prisoner."
Although his mouth curled in a scowl, something behind Draco's eyes relaxed. "Well, come in then," he snapped. "They're in the drawing room."
Severus knew his way through the house, through the halls with floors of marbles and impossibly high- magically high- ceilings. He heard the commotion before he saw it.
There was a high pitched, broken scream from the drawing room, and the low murmurs of voices. He knew Bella's voice, the mad crooning of a mad witch. But to his surprise he knew the screamer- it sounded familiar although he couldn't place it until the moment he saw the girl sprawled on the floor.
Severus absorbed the scene in an instant. Curly dark hair matted with blood was staining the bare marble floor; someone had thrown back the expensive rug to save it from the blood. There is an arm thrown out on the marble, an arm that has a fading tan and words etched in red blood and jagged skin. Wide brown eyes, open mouth, a scream that is suddenly cut short with gurgling blood. Bellatrix Lestrange laughing, wand almost casually pointed at the girl arched in pain on her sister's floor. Narcissa, her mouth in a hard line.
It is only one instant and he is looking up at Narcissa. "You called?" His voice was calm but his mind was racing- if Granger is here that means Potter and Weasley are probably here too. They've been captured somehow and I need to get them out.
"You called Snape?" snapped Bellatrix, releasing Hermione Granger from the spell. Where there once had been beauty (beauty that Severus remembered well considering it had been almost twenty years since Bellatrix Lestrange had been beautiful) there was the ravages of time and Dementors. As she bore down on Narcissa shrieking, the girl on the ground gave a few ragged coughs, expelling more blood.
Severus knelt on the ground and took her chin in his hands, feigning brusqueness as he inspected her. "I'll take her and interrogate her elsewhere," he said after a moment. "You've damaged the prisoner, Bella. She might not live."
"She's a Mudblood," Bellatrix hissed. "She doesn't matter. If she dies I can start in on the blood traitor."
Severus sighed. "You grow tiresome, Bella," he drawled. "She'll be useless if you continue. I've had the chit in classes- she has something of a brain on her. If anything she memorizes information and regurgitates it accurately. She knows something, and I'm going to find it out. Start on the blood traitor if you must. I'm taking her with me."
"Ask her about how she got this," Bella shouted, pointing at a gleaming sword. One part of Severus felt his stomach drop to his feet, but he had been training as a spy for most of his life.
He gave Bella a cold smile. "From my office, obviously," he snarled. "After those abominable children attempted to take the copy in the Headmaster's Office, I duplicated it and placed the one in the case in my chambers. They stole the one on display, presumably to get to Potter. I simply repeated the process- they have no idea that it was fake."
Clearly unsatisfied, Bella turned her back on Severus. "Take her, then," she snapped. "Wormtail, get the others."
"I'll return," Severus said hastily. He flicked his wand at the girl lying motionless on the floor, levitating her so she floated behind him. The marble floors clicked under his boots, but other than that the silence was only marred by the ragged breathing for the form trailing behind him.
Without caring for propriety and manners, Severus Apparated from the Malfoy's door. Society would dictate that he should leave outside the gates, but she was loosing blood and consciousness quickly. He had to get her to Hogwarts and then get Potter and Weasley to safety.
Clutching her limp body in his arms, Severus turned on his heel to arrive at a discreet side gate in the walls of Hogwarts- very few knew about it, and even less knew how to enter. He had used it to leave grounds for his Death Eater meetings without scaring the students- it was close to his old quarters in the dungeons. He could go through there, Floo-
The weight of her in his arms strained his muscles, even as thin as she was. When he finally deposited her on the long couch in his set of rooms, Severus froze for a moment, breathing heavily. How surreal this was- things were coming to a head.
He exited through the Headmaster's office, ignoring the questions from the portrait of the most recent Headmaster- Albus Dumbledore. He wasn't in the mood for questions, for answering and accounting for every action.
The Floo in the office was open, allowing him to go directly through to Malfoy Manor. His previous friendship with Lucius served Severus well here- he could Apparate directly into the drawing room.
Through the swirl of green fire he went, emerging into chaos.
A house elf was falling with the chandelier, Potter and Weasley were dueling with Narcissa and Draco, and Bellatrix was shrieking. As Severus stepped out of the fireplace, the house elf grabbed Weasley and Potter and disappeared.
Severus smiled thinly at the mess in the Malfoy drawing room. There was a slight heat in his Dark Mark, and a small speck of darkness growing larger and taking the shape of a man in the night outside one of the shattered windows. It was time for him to leave once more.
The girl was still on his couch, her face lit by a fireplace not connected to the Floo network. This fire had dwindled down to mere embers, emitting a red glow that made shadows on the walls seem twice as tall and twice as terrifying.
He removed his outer robe, leaving it in his bedroom as he scanned his potions cabinet. She would need the Cruciatus Potion, yes, and a Blood Replenisher. If that knife was cursed, she might need an antidote.
Well. He wouldn't actually know until he looked at her, would he?
Kneeling by the sofa gave him the best perspective- still tall enough, but not towering over her. If she woke, he didn't want her to be terrified.
Scans told him that Bellatrix Lestrange had employed various means of torture, from Cruciatus to breaking several bones in her hand and wrist to carving into her skin. There were several slashes across her back, and a contusion on her head.
He was in for a long night.
As he toiled over her, pouring potion after potion down her throat, exhausting himself with complicated spells, her eyelids only ever fluttered. Hopefully he could put off the inevitable for a while longer- he just hoped she would still be herself when he finished. Bellatrix had a talent for separating body and soul through Cruciatus alone.
Pain. Pain was all she knew, hotfireburning pain and knifecuttingseparating pain and thuddingheadbanging pain. The Cruciatus wracked through her body, making her back arch until it was cut off and she fell back to the marble floor, her head making a thwack as it collided with the marble floor.
Then black. Blissful black, with only a trace of the thuddingheadpiercing pain tethering her to her body. Hermione Granger was seriously considering sinking deeper into the black, leaving painpainpain for peace when strong arms picked her up and she was moving.
Moving far, far away from Narcissa, beautiful and proud and broken, scared. Standing half in front of the face that had been aching in its familiar beauty. Draco, the aristocrat's face that she had seen grow from round faced boy to lean man, this man watching her scream on his floor. His eyes told her that the round faced boy was the one watching her scream, despite the hollow cheeks and the lean height from which he was watching her. As much as she had hated him in school and he had hated her she had never thought it would come to this.
Will Narcissa let him watch me die? Hermione had wondered hazily, when the torture had first started. Or will she cover those eyes?
Bellatrix. The name had always carried a shiver of fear but now it was more pronounced, now every cell in Hermione's body knew the name of Bellatrix Lestrange. It had been burned into them with the force of pain and terror. She could see that face in her mind's eye, beautiful and terrible. High cheekbones, like Sirius, wide dark eyes that had sunk into her face, like Sirius. Rank breath, yellow teeth, wild hair similar to Hermione's own. A high lilting voice that demanded and a hand heavy with rings that slapped and nails that dug into Hermione's skin.
She was glad to be moving away.
She was gladder when she was no longer floating- how unnatural to float in the air that was why she hated brooms- and strong arms were anchoring her to her body rather than the achingthuddingshaking pain. Arms and a warm chest. First she thought it might be Harry, since he was warm and smelled good, but then it must have been Ron because she was up high in the air.
But then it couldn't be Ron because when her eyes fluttered open she saw black hair and white skin and Ron had red hair- and besides, Ron didn't smell so good like juniper and cinnamon and herbs and wood smoke. She focused on the heartbeat under her ear to distract listening to the steady thumping.
And then she was floating on softness and she could feel warmth and finally she sunk into a fitful sleep, without the strong arms and warm chest and the thudthudthud of the heartbeats.
He collapsed next to her when he had finished, with only the rug to keep him from the chill of the flagstones. At least the Headmaster's Quarters were much warmer than his previous dungeon quarters, where he could have very well frozen to death by sleeping on the floor in the midst of winter. Spring would have been safer- but even in these last weeks of March, snow was still refusing to melt on the Hogwarts grounds and harsh winds howled at night.
The magical cuckoo clock that had been Dumbledore's woke him before the sunrise- he pulled himself off the floor and stood, looking at her in the grey light from the window and the barest hint of glow from the fireplace.
Her hair was matted with blood, as much as he had tried to siphon it off. At least it was like a pillow for her. In the center of the riot of hair, her face was a pale oval. Her summer tan had nearly faded from the long winter, and there was nearly no color to her face. She looked still as death. Her eyelids were blueish, her lips pale and chapped. A long neck, thin shoulders- her entire body was thin. If he had known that food was scarce for them he would have done something- but Potter had looked hale enough and Weasley even more so.
But Weasley had left them, returned to civilization and home cooked meals while Potter and Granger had starved in a cold tent. If he knew her at all- and for some reason he felt that he did- Granger would have given Potter more of the food, probably without his knowing. The sharp protrusion of collarbones and hipbones and ribs had told him this and made Severus Snape furious. (this was a woman who gave and gave and gave and yes severus snape knew what it was to give to those who didn't know who would never know and he knew that the giving left a bitter taste in his mouth just as hunger had left a bitter taste in hers the taste of food cooked but not eaten the smells that coat the back of the throat never to be swallowed)
Severus exhaled slowly, pushing his anger back to the place in his mind where all his anger raged and boiled and frothed- there it would be stored until he needed it.
She needed to be warmed. He would move her to his bed- not with magic. Although his brief sleep had replenished it, he preferred to do it the Muggle way. With a slight groan- his back protested lifting her- he rose with the girl in his arms and made his way to his bedroom.
He hardly slept here anyway. More often, on the rare occasions when sleep did find Severus Snape, he was hunched over papers on his desk or stretched out on the very sofa he had just lifted her from. Tucking her into his bed was strange only because he was meant to sleep here- but it would be put to a better purpose.
Before he left the room, he lit the braziers and fire place, getting his bedchamber as warm as he could. It wouldn't do for the girl to catch a chill, not with what had already happened to her.
He was tired enough to fall asleep in the chair next to her, but he had appearances to keep up. To the Great Hall he went, to another day as the Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. There was only one thing that he had to do first.
On the coast a strong wind blew, a wind that bore something small and white with an almost supernatural precision. A note appeared on the flagstones of Shell Cottage, to be picked up by Bill Weasley. He opened it warily, after using his expertise as a curse breaker to make sure it was safe.
She is safe, and being healed. With Order members.
Bill bowed his head in relief. When he straightened, he yelled, "Ron! Harry!"
"The girl is dead, my lord," Severus said, looking up at the snake-like man sitting at the head of the Malfoy dining table like a king. "Her injuries were too severe."
Lord Voldemort sighed. "You are a Potions Master, Severus," he hissed. "Are you telling me you were unable to save her?"
"From an extended bout of Cruciatus, several curses, and Muggle torture methods? Yes," Severus drawled, exuding as much confidence as he could. "I'm a Potions Master, not a healer, and she had the weak constitution expected of a Muggle."
"Did you get any information from her before she died?" asked the Dark Lord. "Anything at all, Severus?"
Severus smiled thinly. "They are losing hope. Potter, Weasley, and the girl. For the past months they've been grasping at straws, completely unsure of what to do. Dumbledore left them no instructions, and they are floundering."
The pale face split into a grin that revealed sharp teeth. "Excellent."
There was warmth again, the softness of a mattress, and that same smell of potions and juniper and cinnamon. Hermione could feel herself coming up through the blissful dark to wakefulness, awareness.
Her entire body ached. She could feel a dull stinging in her arms, a general weakness in her bones, throbbing pain in her back, and a curious sensation like all her nerves were on the fritz.
We must be somewhere safe or I wouldn't be in a bed, thought Hermione. It was difficult to form coherent thoughts- her mind felt as if it was swimming and while close to the surface, it had yet to break into fresh clear air.
Her eyelids were heavy, and it took several tries to open them. The first thing she saw was the ceiling- high, arched, with an elaborate painting of the Lady of the Lake giving King Arthur a sword. She let her eyelids close, then opened them again, trying to turn her head to the side. There was a sense of unease prickling now, worry. She had never been to this place before. While her eyes were still closed it might have been the Burrow or Number 12, but she should have known. The Burrow smelled like cooking and Number 12 of dust- not of juniper and cinnamon.
She must have made a small noise as she struggled to turn her head, because there was the sound of someone getting up near her, moving toward her.
"Do not struggle over much, Miss Granger," a smooth voice said. "You are still very weak. You must return to sleep, after I check to insure that your cognitive function has not been impaired."
Hermione knew that voice. Years of Potions Lessons, hearing it curl around insults and snap out directions or mock in that same smooth tone-
She gasped, tried to move away from him, but her body refused to move as she wished it. Her heart was beating faster and faster, making her chest ache as she tried to scramble away find her wand-
And then total control of her body was lost. Spasms wracked her entire body, and Hermione felt the reoccurring pain of the Cruciatus, dulled, spreading through her limbs. Dimly she could feel strong hands grasp her chin and force her mouth apart, pouring some potion that tasted like mint and asparagus down her throat.
Her breathing slowed, and as the seizures gradually stopped she came back to herself. The man- Professor Severus Snape- was talking.
"I'm not going to hurt you, Miss Granger. You were being tortured by Bellatrix Lestrange; I took you from Malfoy Manor to save your life. Your friends know that you are safe. I understand you are probably quite confused, I will answer all questions once I have ascertained that you are healing as you should." Her eyes opened to meet his, a grey so dark they were nearly black. "Say something."
She glared at him. "Why?" she croaked. It hardly sounded like a word- but something in his face relaxed.
It wasn't the Potions Professor she had seen all her days at Hogwarts. Snape was in a simple white button down shirt and black slacks, with billowing robes nowhere to be seen. His hair was pulled away from his face with a simple tie, making his nose seem even larger and more hawk-like than before. Still, there was a scowl on his face and underneath the thin material of his shirt she could see a darkness shifting on his arm that had to be his Dark Mark.
Snape was moving away from her, pocketing the empty vial. "Because I wanted to be sure that the Cruciatus didn't leave you mindless," he snapped. "Good. You obviously have your memories, if you reacted to me in such a way, and you don't seem to have any type of aphasia or-"
"Why did you help me?" she interrupted. "Death Eater." He was fetching what looked to Hermione like a Dreamless Sleep potion, but she couldn't be sure, not with a Death Eater like this around-
"In name only," Snape replied. "You need to sleep. Drink this."
Hermione pushed herself up. "No," she said firmly. "How can I trust you?"
"You can't," he snapped. "When you're well we can talk more. But for now I need you to drink this." When her face remained mulishly set, he frowned. "Did Potter and Weasley tell you how they found the sword?"
She nodded cautiously.
Severus handed her the vial, then drew his wand. "Expecto Patronum," he cast, closing his eyes. A silver doe bounded about the room, then turned to Hermione. It nuzzled her, then turned to Severus expectantly. He made a shooing gesture, and it bounded away, fading on its second leap.
He stared after it, turning with a slight jump at a small popping sound. Hermione had pulled the cork from the vial. When their eyes met, she drank.
When she woke again, he wasn't there. On the bedspread, by her hand, was a folded note.
In case you do not recall our last encounter, let me remind you that it is in your best interests to trust me. You were being held in Malfoy Manor, with Potter and Weasley, enduring torture at the hands of Bellatrix Lestrange. I have brought you here, so that you may heal and rest.
Potter and Weasley know that you are safe, although the Dark Lord thinks that you are dead.
The Cruciatus was used heavily on you, although you seem to have retained full mental capacity. However, the side effect of many minutes under the spell (especially by a witch as powerful as Bellatrix Lestrange) include phantom pains and seizures. Drink the potion in the small vial on your nightstand if you begin to have another seizure, followed by one swallow of the Dreamless Sleep. If I have taught you anything in your time at Hogwarts, you should be able to recognize it. If you poison yourself I will have no sympathy.
Your wand is on the nightstand, but do not try any spells. Another symptom of extended Cruciatus use is a drain on the magical core. Again, disobey my warning at your own risk.
I'm sure you have many other questions, rest assured that those I deem appropriate will be answered when I return. As Headmaster of Hogwarts, I have many duties. I might not return until late, although I will endeavor to look in on you before dinner.
Hermione put down the note slowly, after reading it twice. A look at the clock above the wall told her that she was a half hour away from dinner, and that if he would be returning it would be soon.
How strange. He was a Death Eater, she knew that first hand. But he was also an Order member, that she knew as well.
But he had killed Dumbledore.
But he had rescued her.
Severus Snape was a confusing mess that Hermione didn't exactly want to think about.
"You trusted me once, can't you do it again?" he snapped irritably. "I didn't poison you the first time."
Hermione crossed her arms. "I know. But I'm just about healed now, so I need more information. How long have I been here? How do Harry and Ron know I'm safe? Why are you helping me? Why did you kill Dumbledore?"
Severus let something that sounded like a growl escape. "You're asking all the easy questions, aren't you?" he said sarcastically.
"Yes," Hermione replied pertly. "Now answer. Please."
"Three days, I left them a note, I'm not really a Death Eater, and because he asked me to," Snape rattled off. "I've answered, now drink."
Hermione considered for a moment, then sipped at the flask. "Thank you," she said, her voice slurring as she began to fall into sleep.
"The Granger girl is alive, Albus," Severus snapped at the portrait.
It frowned at him. "Are you sure that was wise?"
Severus suppressed the urge to incinerate the image. Even if he did the painting would not be harmed, only the frame would. "Yes," he said shortly. "Potter and Weasley depend on her. I've let them know she is safe."
"When will you be returning her to the boys?" asked Dumbledore. He raised two painted white eyebrows. "Surely you weren't planning to keep her here."
"Only until she is healed," he replied. "She would be a liability to them in her current state."
It was very strange to be in the sitting room of the Headmaster of Hogwarts- and even stranger that the current Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry was Severus Snape. Hermione couldn't shake the feeling that something was wrong, very wrong, even as she accepted a cup of tea from him.
Hermione was cautiously seated in a fluffy winged armchair, one that she was quite certain was a relic of Albus Dumbledore. Severus had a chair made of sterner stuff, dark leather and brass. It was worn, however, which told her it had been in his possession for a long time.
It was her first day out of bed (she had been sleeping in his bed this entire time?!) and Severus had judged the distance from the bed to the armchair just enough to test out her legs.
Her steps had been shaky and Severus' arm was heavily leaned upon as she struggled to make the distance- but she had succeeded, and was now watching the fire with him, a cup of tea in her hands.
"Why am I so weak?" Hermione asked softly. "I read about the Cruciatus and it never mentioned anything like this."
Severus sighed, not looking at her. "What one could call a 'normal' bout of the Cruciatus lasts for less than a minute and it is only one or two castings. It was only in the first years of the war that it was discovered what an extended period of time under the influence of the Cruciatus would do to a wizard, mainly thanks to the efforts of one Bellatrix Lestrange." He gave her what might have been a sardonic nod. "More than ten rounds of the curse lasting between six to eleven minutes total is enough to result in a state like the Longbottoms or death. Between that and a normal bout results in seizures, weakness, and muscle spasms."
They sat in silence as Hermione absorbed the information. "Why did Dumbledore ask you to kill him?"
Severus' head whipped around to stare at her. "What?"
"I asked why Dumbledore wanted you to kill him," Hermione said again, enunciating. "You haven't killed me yet- in fact you healed me. You said that you identify as loyal to the Order but the fact remains that you killed the head of the Order and the one man who many said was the only person V- You-Know-Who every feared. So why?"
He sat there, frowning at her. "I don't owe you any answers, Miss Granger" he said after a long moment.
"Far from it," Hermione agreed. "If you don't want to answer, that's fine. I just have one more question."
"I don't believe I can stop you from asking it," Severus said irritably. "Go on, then."
Hermione tilted her head, looking past him at the darkening sky outside his window. "When will I be able to go out and find them? To help them? When- when will I be cured?"
Severus followed her gaze- it was the end of another day. Outside of the walls of Hogwarts the Dark Lord was growing ever stronger and the Wizarding Resistance was crumbling slowly. Things were drawing to a head- or would be drawing to a head soon. "Three weeks," he said, staring at the stars. "I have a potion I'm in the midst of brewing."
"Thanks," she said after a moment. "And you can call me Hermione, you know," she added. "I'm not exactly a student anymore."
She was sleeping again, her hair dark on the white pillowcase. Severus closed the door, glad that the slight intrusion had not bothered her. Hermione was curled into a protective ball- she had endured another slight seizure, much better than the ones she had experienced immediately after her torture. This one had lasted barely thirty seconds, a good sign.
The girl was surprising him. No... she wasn't exactly a girl any longer. Eighteen- long past the Wizarding majority and the Muggle one. And no one could still be a child after what she had gone through.
Severus had seen many tortures and no one left a scene like that with any kind of innocence left in them. (even the children had something stripped away by the time they left because it was a tainted act)
There was something dark and foul about the act of deliberately hurting another human being, especially one that was defenseless and undeserving. Faces haunted Severus, faces that were being drained of their innocence.
Hermione Granger had been his student, in his care, for years. All the students of Hogwarts had been. He had seen her round eleven-year-old face transform into a woman's face, he had seen her handwriting shrink and her essays become nearly flawless. For most former students, when he looked at them he still saw the child.
With her that was no more. The face that shifted beneath her own was not bucktoothed and eager, it was a mask of terror and pain screaming, always screaming, with blood and marble-
Severus bowed his head, ignoring the work on his desk. People didn't normally bother him like this- but he was finding that he... liked wasn't the right word. He respected her, certainly. He didn't hate her. In fact, she was was higher in his esteem than any of the Weasleys or Potter himself.
For now, she was sleeping and he had another sleepless night in front of him. There was work to do, work that would distract him from the voice telling him that he should talk to her, should explain.
The voice that said that if he was going to die someone should know the truth. (because not even dumbledore had made it out of the war alive and dumbledore was the only one who knew about severus and not just snape)
And so ends Part One of this little story.
If you enjoyed this, go check out my full length SSHG story, For the Only Hope! Or one of my other SSHG stories. (there's two others)
If you are here from FTOH, let me know in your review!
Part Two of this story is finished, and will be added soon. Reviews are always lovely, as it is nice to know what you guys are thinking!