A/N:Wow, there were a lot of reviews for the last chapter. We've reached 800, and usually I like to note the person who reached these numbers but as this was a guest who didn't sign by name, I would like to simply thank each and every one of you for sticking through even when I barely updated, and for all of the kind reviews you wrote.
Disclaimer: I do not own Supernatural or Harry Potter.
She barely had the time to stand up after she put the box in the sand. The presence behind her was clear, the two of them the only living beings at the crossroad.
Though, perhaps, the word 'living' wasn't quite the right one to describe him.
Despite the situation she was in, she couldn't help but let out a smile at the familiarity of his accent.
"Yours or his?"
She didn't turn to nod her head towards him, but the meaning was clear.
"Little bit of both," he replied, disappearing and reappearing in front of her and allowing her to get a good look at him.
If she didn't know better, she'd have guessed he was a man in his mid-forties. He was dressed in an expensive looking suit, his hair was impeccable and his skin looked well cared.
He looked like a businessman. Fittingly so, Hermione had to admit, since essentially that's what he was. The only thing that gave away that he was something more was the flash of red eyes, before they faded into brown.
She looked away from him and at the castle behind him.
"Yes," he muttered. "It's been years since I've been here last. Centuries, even."
"You went to Hogwarts?" Hermione asked, not turning her head to look at him.
"It was a long time ago," he shrugged, glancing towards her. "The Statute of Secrecy wasn't even signed until after I attended."
"What House were you in?" Hermione questioned.
"Gryffindor. Oh, let's be honest," he added, rolling his eyes at her surprise, "who but a Gryffindor is reckless enough to sell their own soul? Slytherins got too much self-preservation and Ravenclaws are too smart. And don't even get me started on Hufflepuffs," he said. "They'd pass out from fright before they even get a word out."
Hermione let out a snort of laughter, and the demon smiled.
"Hufflepuff jokes," he said. "Always a sure way to break the ice. Name's Crowley. This is usually the point where I ask for your name, but considering the circumstances…"
"If you know who I am, then you know why I'm here," Hermione said.
"I do," Crowley said. "But I have to warn you… you won't get a good deal out of this."
"Never expected to," Hermione said simply. "What's the offer?"
Crowley looked at her for a moment before sighing. "Dean is to die in eight days. I can only give you seven days from today."
"Makes sense," Hermione commented.
The more they spoke, the more she felt like she was seeing it through somebody else's eyes. She knew that feeling detached was nothing more than a coping mechanism, but she didn't care.
Not even when she knew it was her soul that is being spoken about, not anyone else's.
"There is… one thing," Crowley said. "If you agree to the deal, when you go down to Hell you won't be tortured on the rack like everyone else."
"I won't be?" Hermione asked, surprised.
"No," Crowley said. "A part of the deal is that from the moment you get there… you'll be putting people in the rack. You'll torture them yourself. Sorry," he added with a nonchalant shrug, "but Hell's all about what would torture you the most, and hurting others seems to be it."
Hermione swallowed hard, nodding in understanding. "I'm that case, I want to add something else to the deal," she stated. "Dean, Sam, my dad… nobody is allowed to trade their souls for mine."
"Trust me, we never planned to," Crowley told her. "Last thing we needed is the four of you selling your souls for each other for all of eternity."
Again, Hermione nodded, a small blush building on her cheeks. She really should have seen that one coming. Then again, it never hurt to have the demons deal-bound for it.
"So?" Crowley asked. "Do we have a deal?"
For the first time since he arrived, Hermione looked straight at the demon's face. He was quite good looking, and it eased her a little for what was to come next. Without saying a word, she pressed her mouth onto his, feeling the magic of the deal settling around them before pulling back.
Crowley smiled as Hermione turned her gaze back to the castle behind him.
"Pleasure doing business with you," he said, disappearing as abruptly as he arrived.
Hermione woke up in a bed, her heart beating almost fast enough to cover for the way she shivered. She felt suffocated, air didn't seem to get into her lungs and even though she fought for every breath she took, it didn't seem to be enough.
Warm hands grasped her, holding her in a tight hug and for a moment she was nearly overcome with the urge to fight whoever it was, before a familiar voice started talking.
"Take a deep breath," the voice said. "Calm down. You're safe now. I'm not going to let anything hurt you. Breathe deeply. I'm In and out, slowly. Focus on my voice. Calm down. You're safe now. Nothing's gonna hurt you."
She didn't know who the voice belonged to, yet somehow she knew she should listen to it. She knew that the owner of the voice was someone who would help her, she knew the words he said were true and, though she couldn't for the life of her understand how, she knew he won't judge her for what she's done.
"Take a deep breath. Nothing will hurt you. You're safe now," the voice repeated, and slowly Hermione allowed herself to stop fighting the arms around her and to start doing as the voice said.
She took deep breaths, counting in and out along with the voice until she no longer felt like there was something keeping the oxygen away from her lungs. The voice kept talking, whispering calming words into her ear, reminding her that she was safe.
"Nothing will hurt you. I'll keep you safe. You're safe now. I won't let anything hurt you. You're safe."
Slowly, her head resting on the chest of the voice's owner, she started falling asleep. Her aching muscles relaxed, and the tense feeling that engulfed her was gone as she felt calmness replacing it.
"Go to sleep," the voice said just as she was on the verge of entering the land of dreams. "I'll keep you safe. Nothing's gonna hurt you while I'm here, Herms."
The nickname sparked something in her, and she unconsciously moved closer to the person next to her.
"Go to sleep."
When she woke up again, Hermione felt significantly calmer. She no longer felt the effects of what she now realized was a panic attack.
Instead, she was slowly starting to feel a sense of curiosity as she took in her surroundings.
She was in a room she had never seen before. She was clearly no longer in Hell, but there was still an air of power around the place, and it was clear there was a supernatural being in close proximity.
What being, she couldn't tell, as it wasn't as much as similar to anything she had felt before. Somehow, though, she knew that she was safe.
"Finally woken up, I see," a familiar voice said, and Hermione turned to see the origin of the power in the room.
The being – Charles, the Trickster, Loki, whoever he was – smiled softly.
"I was starting to worry," he said. "You've been out of it for almost a week. Can't really blame you, with what your body's been through," he added. "But I'm glad to see you're feeling better now."
"What are you?"
Hermione didn't plan for the question to leave her mouth, but she didn't regret that it did. Charles pulled a face for a moment before stepping closer to her.
"All in good time," he said. "First, I have a few questions for you. Like what were you thinking?"
"I was thinking that I had to save Dean," Hermione said. "I… I couldn't just let him die. I couldn't let him go to Hell."
"So you went instead?"
"It was the only way to save him," Hermione said. "Everyone else had already given up. Him, Sam, my dad… even you."
"Look, all I'm trying to do is stay out of it -"
"But you didn't stay out of it," Hermione told him. "You interfered. You pulled me out, and say what you will but no demigod can do that."
"I wasn't just going to let you rot in there for all of eternity!"
"And for that, I am more than grateful," Hermione said. "But you still didn't answer my question. What are you?"
Charles sighed, sitting by her side on the bed.
"Since you've gone down there, a chain of events had set into motion," he said. "Lilith… Lilith had started the task of breaking the 66 seals."
"Seals?" Hermione asked, confused. "What Seals?"
"The Seals to unlock Lucifer's cage," Charles replied. "She's trying to release the Devil."
"Wait," Hermione frowned. "But… Lucifer was an Archangel before he fell. Angels… Angels aren't real… are they?" Charles didn't say anything, and this time it was Hermione's turn to swallow hard. "Who are you?" she whispered.
"Gabriel," he said. "My name… is Gabriel."
Michael, Raphael, Gabriel and Lucifer, Hermione thought, remembering things she had read decades ago, before she even knew the truth about what she was and what was out there. The four Archangels.
A thought occurred to Hermione, making a snort of laughter leave her mouth. At the shocked look on Gabriel's face, the laughter turned into a giggling fit that caused him to frown further, only to make her laugh harder.
"What's so funny?" He asked, more than a bit annoyed.
"I'm a witch…" she said between ragged breaths, "raised by a hunter… and my ex is a bloody Archangel… who pulled me out of Hell!"
"It's not funny," Gabriel said.
"Oh, it's hilarious!"
"Hermione," Gabriel snapped, "I've seen some stupid things over the past few millennia. But let me tell you, you selling your soul is no doubt at the top of that list. Hermione!" he called out when she kept laughing. "You have a child, for crying out loud! Did you even think about her?"
In an instant, all laughter was gone from Hermione's face.
"Of course I did," she said. "I… of course I did."
"Well, you sure didn't act like it."
Gabriel wasn't sure how Hermione had the strength to throw him to the floor when she could barely even hold herself up. He barely even managed to finish the sentence before all air escaped his lungs, his body hitting the floor harshly.
"Don't you dare," she hissed. "Don't you dare suggest I don't care about my daughter. Don't you dare suggest I didn't think of her when I made the deal. That I didn't think about the fact that she'll grow up motherless, like I did." She let go of him and stood up, her hair sparkling with magic and anger. "She had other people. She had Ron, and Harry, and the rest of the Weasleys. Sam doesn't have anyone but Dean."
Slowly, Gabriel stood up and neared Hermione. He put a hand on her shoulder, making the aura of magic around her calm down, though still not completely.
"He had you," he said. "Your father had you. Dean had you. And you took it away from them, without even asking them first."
"They would have said no."
"For a good reason," Gabriel retorted. "But, hey, better ask for forgiveness than permission, right? It's only a tad harder when you're in the freaking Pit."
Hermione closed her eyes, taking a deep breath before talking again.
"She's all grown up now, isn't she?" she asked. "So much time had passed…"
"Herms…" Gabriel sighed. "Time in Hell… it passes differently. I was in Hell for nearly a year, trying to figure out a way to get you out without getting caught or letting every demon and angel on Earth know I'm still alive. But out here, on Earth?" he questioned. "It's been barely three days."
"But…" Hermione frowned, worry starting to overcome her. "Gabriel… I've been there for ten years. How long has it been?"
For the first time since Hermione noticed his presence in the room, Gabriel looked away from her.
"A month," he said after a few long seconds of silence. "It's been a month."
Dizziness and unconsciousness followed shortly after, sending Hermione back into the world of darkness.