Summary: [HG/SS] AU: Tom Riddle's diary didn't start with Ginny. In fact, it started with Lucius Malfoy. Taking over his mind, Tom found a sacrifice to use in the Chamber of Secrets to "prepare" the Chamber for his resurrection. He really should have read the fine print when remaking spell required the "kiss of the basilisk."
A/N: Um…. I'm on a roll with basilisks… sorry. Well, not sorry.
Beta Love: The Dragon and the Rose, dutchgirl01
Trigger warning: Bullying
Kiss of the Basilisk
Always Read the Fine Print
Have you ever held a snake?
They are so strong.
You can see why there are so many myths about them:
They are unlike any other creature.
— Michelle Paver
Lucius Malfoy walked carefully into the dark of the chamber, his pale blond hair only barely reflecting in light at all. In his arms was draped a young girl, perhaps eleven or twelve at the most. Her bushy brown hair was like a bird's nest, her arms were covered in multiple cuts and scrapes from a fierce struggle, and her eyes— her eyelids were fused shut with some kind of black ooze making impossible for the young girl to open her eyes. Yet, even as he carried the girl and walked into the darkened chamber, Lucius' own eyes were not active. They stared blankly ahead— lifeless, mindless.
As he dropped the girl's body like a sack of potatoes, he placed the leather-bound journal on top. Taking a knife, he slashed his hand open, allowing scarlet rivulets of his lifeblood drip down over the pages. He then unstoppered and poured a vial of silvery liquid over the pages to mix with the blood as it would.
Chamber of Secrets
Hear my plea
Take this girl's life
In exchange for me.
Prepare me a body,
And free me from this
With the basilisk's kiss.
Blood of the servant
Blood of the unicorn,
Taken under duress.
Take this girl
And make her thine.
Prepare me a body,
And make it mine!
Lucius ripped a page out of the diary and transfigured it into a cruel dagger and plunged it deep into the girl's chest. She screamed as the dagger sank cruelly into her fragile young body.
"There now, girl. Your blood will feed the chamber's waters and power my rise. Rejoice, for even as you bleed out, I shall be reborn. What better use for such useless, unworthy blood? Nothing better than this."
Lucius stood and turned, walking away, his movements very stiff and disjointed.
Meanwhile, the girl lay flat on her back on the chamber's floor, her blood leaking slowly from the wound and trickling into the water, tinging the fountains with pink.
"It's a human girl."
"How can you tell? Humans all look much the same to me."
"Well, serpents all look the same to me."
"Pssssh," the other voice hissed. "Says the flying dinosaur."
"I evolved," the one voice said. "What's your excuse?"
"One cannot improve on perfection, Fawkes."
"Ffft," Fawkes replied. "You are violently allergic to roosters, Sithiss."
"At least I'm not a bloody vegetarian."
The girl whimpered.
"Now, where are our manners? Shhh, child. Be still. We can help you."
"Yiss. The magic is already gathered. The idiot who dares insult Salazar Slytherin by trying to sacrifice a mere child in the Chamber."
"We can save you, child, but there is a price," Fawkes said, his voice warbling.
The girl whimpered.
"There now, we are here with you. Feel us with your hands."
The girl reach out, her hands seeking. She touched both feathers and scales and gasped.
"Do not fear," Sithiss hissed. "Do not be frightened, child. There is no shame in being afraid to die, but Death often chooses to pursue those who seek to cheat the natural cycle."
"I am scared," the girl whispered.
"What is your name, child?"
"Hermione, I am Sithiss."
"I am Fawkes."
"And I, child, am Death."
"Take my hand, dear child," Death's voice said, his voice laden in velvet and honey. "I shall give you a choice. The kind of choice one can only make once."
Hermione reached out and found his hand. She frowned as they felt like bones, yet they were oddly warm.
"Time is suspended in a moment— the moment of choice," Death whispered. "Instead of passing into the beyond, you may choose a different path."
"A path of Magic," Fawkes warbled.
"Path of Service," hissed Sithiss.
"The Path of Balance," Death whispered.
Hermione trembled, her face caught in between pain and shock. Her hands touched Death's face as her fingers traced the smooth bone. "What do you ask of me?"
"I shall give you a task, dear child," Death said in a whisper. "Three objects that belong rightfully to me have been loosed upon this world. Only those of mine can sense where they are at all times. I myself cannot. Rules. Always rules. But you, child, you could. In exchange, should you agree to peform this task, Fawkes and Sithiss will become your teachers and companions— your guardians and your friends, and perhaps, you might choose one amongst the mortal coil to guide your path as well. All I ask is that you make this choice of your own free will, and promise me that when I call for you to perform a particular task, that you will do it without question— or rather, question, but do it anyway. There will be times you will not understand why I ask you to do certain things. You must have faith in me— that I will protect you as part of our covenant."
Hermione winced. "Will it hurt?"
Death touched her cheek. "Yes, child, I fear it will at first. But the pain will not last forever. This, I can promise you. You have already come so far, and there will be some who cannot understand you, but I will always hear your voice across the Astral, and so will Fawkes and Sithiss."
"I am afraid," Hermione whispered, her hands clinging to Death's robes.
"It is okay to be afraid, Hermione," Death replied kindly, "but will you be brave in spite of it?"
"I want to be," Hermione answered.
"Devote your life to me, Hermione," Death said quietly, "and I shall devote mine to you."
Hermione hands sought the smooth scaled head of Sithiss, and she caressed her head tenderly. Then she soothed the feathers of the ones she knew only as Fawkes.
"You will be my friends?"Hermione asked, a twinge of deep loneliness in her voice.
"Yesss," Sithiss answered.
"Yes," Fawkes warbled.
Hermione grasped the bony hands of Death tight. "Then I'm ready."
Hermione felt the gentle ghost of a kiss upon her forehead.
"I claim you as mine, Hermione Jean Granger, witch of the human world," Death said. "From now until the end when I shall welcome you Home, you will bear my mark, see things as I see, and be drawn to life as it passes unto me."
"At your side, I give thee Sithiss, the guardian of the Dark places. I give thee also Fawkes, the guardian of the Light. May you walk in balance between them and learn from them."
"I mark you with my fangs, child, that you and I shall never be parted," Sithiss hissed.
Hermione cried out as the pain from her neck swelled from Sithiss' bite.
"I mark you with my tears, child, that you and I shall never be parted," Fawkes warbled, and Hermione felt a warmth unlike anything she had ever felt before touching her neck and easing the pain from Sithiss' fangs.
"I fill your eye with my venom, that you never be kept in the dark," Sithiss hissed.
Hermione screamed in agony as the venom burned her eyes, but she held onto Death's bony hands tightly.
"I fill your eyes with my tears, that you never forget compassion," Fawkes said, and Hermione trembled as the burning fire in her eyes eased.
"Drink of my venom and be driven to survive," Sithiss hissed.
Hermione swallowed the liquid that was a cold as ice yet it burned like acid down her throat. She whimpered again.
"Drink of my tears, and know for every pain there is succor," Fawkes warbled.
Hermione did so, and her body convulsed as venom and tears mixed together in a unique cocktail. Her teeth chattered as the fevers took her. Her arms trembled; her hands twitched. She screamed as her back arched, cracked, elongated, and twisted.
"Shedding one's skin is scary the first time," Sithiss' voice soothed.
"Once done, your body will remember," Fawkes reassured. "It will not hurt again.
Hermione moaned, her body flailing.
Death's bony hands wrapped around the hilt of the dagger as his other hand gently caressed her face.
I take this dagger from thee, child,
As I take you as my own.
I claim you as my flesh and blood
And give unto you my Home.
I free you from your Earthly bonds,
To serve me in task and deed.
I give you freedom of shape and form,
That you may go where there is need.
I bind your eyes in darkness,
That you may truly see.
Beware to those who bid you open them,
For stone they shall surely be.
And when you find the ones
Who will stand by you as the truest friends,
I allow you to bestow immunity,
That they may look upon you and transcend.
Spell crafted in selfishness and evil,
I banish you from my sight.
I turn your magic to life again,
And give birth to my daughter this night.
Create the body in which his selfishness desires.
Let him come upon it and think he had done all that is required.
Lure him closer, and let him think he's won.
Then burn his eyes from their sockets with the brilliance of the sun.
Death cradled Hermione in his arms and bony, draconic wings unfolded from his back— bright and gleaming like the fullness of the moon. Large wing bones glimmered with no membrane between them, but instead there was ethereal magic spanning them instead. He folded them around himself and the young witch in his arms as Fawkes landed on his shoulder and Sithiss coiled around them both. Magic gathered, forming the cocoon of life and death remade the girl who would be sacrificed into so much more than that. The pulse of a great, looming beast filled the chamber. Magic blasted outward in a rush of heat and cold.
Hermione lay on the cold chamber floor, listening to the sound of the running water, but she was not afraid. Her eyes were close, and over her eyes was a circlet of enchanted silver and dark emerald velvet pressed against her eyes. It was dark, but was was no longer fearful. She was no longer blind in the dark. She was no longer alone.
Fawkes cuddled up next to her neck, laying his head across her forehead, and Sithiss had curled around her like the wrap of a great tattoo. Her skin, from her hands to her neck were lined with the imprint of her scales. The ink moved under her skin like a living a thing. She could feel her warmth around her like the hug of her coils, and she smiled.
Never alone. Never again.
She would never have to be afraid again— even in the darkness. Perhaps, especially in the darkness.
She knew the wizard would be back— the man with the vacant eyes. His body was ready and waiting for him. Surely he knew it by now.
Fawkes and Sithiss brought her food, and in a gesture as a phoenix to its chick or a wolf feeding its pups, they fed her. Fawkes would gently push the fruity mash into her mouth and she would swallow. Sithiss would bring her water, and dribble it into her mouth, mixed with her venom. The venom made her stronger. Hermione no longer feared the kiss of its nature. Her Lord Father had seen to that.
She heard the footsteps coming, and she lay still. Fawkes flew up to hide over the giant carved effigy of Salazar Slytherin. She could see his heat and magical signature clearly, but everything that wasn't energy looked dark and uninteresting. If she opened her eyes, she knew should see as others saw, but if anyone happened to be around at the time, they would find their death in her gaze.
The gift of Sithiss and Fawkes had given her back her sight, but it was both better and worse. It was one more example of the checks and balances of a greater world she was only beginning to understand. Both the serpent and the phoenix promised to assist her in learning. Sithiss was the beacon of Darkness. Her aura was a dark, royal purple whose eyes were deep, but glowing orange. Fawkes was the brightest of gold and orange, surrounded by a deep, crimson red. One was Dark— the other Light— but each were companions for the greater journey. Each had been waiting for her to join them on theirs.
"At lassst," a voice hissed into the darkness. "At last I shall be remade."
It was a younger voice— not the one of the man who had abducted her. She heard the sound of something rising from the water. Water droplets were dripping onto the stone firmaments.
Energy was swirling. She could see it. It swirled like a cloud of angry hornets, gathering around the form of a man in the water. Beside that man was another. Tall, familiar. Ah, he was the one that had sacrificed her. She could not see his blond hair anymore, but she could see his magic. It swirled below his skin, circulating like blood. It quivered with sickness, signs of being used in a manner not natural.
Dark Magic, Sithiss hissed into her mind. See how it draws energy from the core. Of all magic, it has the highest price on the soul for those not born of its embrace.
Yet, unlike the other, Hermione could see flashes of gold and yellow in the turbulent sea of energy. Abused as he was, he was not fully Dark.
She could see the pages of the evil diary flipping by themselves. Words formed of magic flowed into the risen body as a spectre hovered close.
"You're pathetic Lucius," the spectre hissed, strange flecks of energy and heat coming from where his mouth would be. "Soon I will not need you. You and your weak duplicitous ways. I do not need to see my future to know you. Soon, I will make my Knights of Walpurgis anew. Perhaps, I will start with your son."
"No!" Lucius gasped. "Please, my Lord. He is only but a boy."
"A boy can be turned and trained," the spectre said. "The wolf, Fenrir, knows this well."
Lucius' colour was growing brighter, fighting back the darkness of his energy. "I will do whatever you require, my Lord. Let the boy be a boy."
The spectre snorted. "There are only two kinds of people in my new order, Lucius. Those who obey and those who are weak and die. I will find the Potter boy and turn him to my cause. Is not my face glorious and young? Will he not come to my open arms and bask as you yourself once did, Lucius?"
Despair came off Lucius' body, covering his energy with the sick green of despair.
Hermione felt pity for the one who had sacrificed her, and a part of her began to realise that one's appearance and demeanor were not always the truth of person within. Who was she to judge when her two companions in life were now a phoenix and a basilisk: two sides to the same galleon of life.
The spectre stood in the body and tendrils of oozing Dark magic erupted from the body and pulled him into the flesh.
"Perhaps, I will give you a chance to redeem yourself, Lucius," the younger man said, his voice unpracticed as he ran his hands over his head as if to confirm his body was in place.
"Yes, my Lord, please," Lucius groveled.
"I will let you choose between the life of your son to me or the death of your wife, who could never commit to accepting the Mark."
Lucius' aura grew faded and pale, quivering as his magic seemed to crawl into the darkness of the cavern.
"Or, perhaps I shall be merciful, and allow her to change her mind, but you are not permitted to tell her why," the younger man said with a hint of pleasure at the blond wizard's agony. "If she chooses the Mark, I will allow your boy to live. If she declines. I will murder them both as traitors."
Lucius' breathing was coming in harsh gasps. "My Lord—"
The younger man's aura-shape shot out his arm and throttled Lucius with ease. "Am I not… merciful?"
"Y—yes my Lord," Lucius choked.
"Let him go," Hermione said, sitting up from her place in the water and cold stone floor.
"Oh, ho!" the younger shape exclaimed. "What is this? You survived?"
Hermione stood, wobbling without practice not being able to "see" where she was standing. "You have your body. Leave him alone."
The figure flung Lucius into the statuaries as he stormed towards Hermione. His cold hand grasped her throat, tightening inexorably. "And who are you to stop me, little girl?"
Hermione made choking sounds, but she did not struggle.
"Why aren't you fighting?" he growled. "What is this pretty bauble on your face? Did you not like what I had done to them? You looked so much better without your eyes."
He started to move the circlet off her eyes.
"No, please," Hermione whispered.
His hands around her throat tightened as he moved her circlet off her eyes. "I think you look better with your empty eye sockets showing, blind girl." he snarled.
"You will not like what you see," Hermione rasped.
"Oh, I think I will, girl," he said, and her eyes were freed from confinement.
Sulfurous orange-yellow eyes, pupils like slits, stared back at him, set in field of purest black like the eyes of a phoenix. She stared into him and his pristine adolescent face, his handsome looks, and his artfully rumpled brown hair.
He let out a choked cry, falling backwards to land on the cold stone floor, staring at his hands in horror. They were clenched and unmoving, and the paralysis was quickly spreading from his extremities to the rest of his new body. "No! No!" he screamed. His neck clenched, his mouth freezing into place as had the rest of his newly-acquired body, his expression one of of thwarted, impotent rage.
Hermione touched his frozen, indignant face, placing her palm to his cheek. "It is my duty to release the souls to my Lord Father's keeping, but alas, it seems as if your soul is fragmented. I cannot release an incomplete soul, so I will leave you here," she said, tilting her head as though trying to ascertain some great knowledge. "Tom. You will be preserved here in perpetuity as you continue to cheat my Father. Ever so slowly, your magic will be drained into the very firmament of this most sacred place, and it, in turn, will grow more powerful, while you—" Hermione's eyes closed slowly as she placed her circle back over her eerie, glowing eyes. "While you, Tom, become what you hate the most: unmagical, unremarkable, and undeserving."
"This was never the purpose of this chamber, to be fair," Hermione said, running her fingers across his screaming, frozen face. "I learned a great many things quite recently, most of which I will not remember tomorrow, but that's okay. Tomorrow, I start anew, and you— well, I fear I won't remember you either. Alas, who will tell the world above that you are here in this long-forgotten chamber?"
Hermione tapped his nose. "Not I, most assuredly."
Hermione tilted her head as if listening intently to something. "I fear my father says it is quite past my bedtime. You will have to excuse me, hrm?"
Hermione held out her hands and started to work her way past the statuary fountains.
Lucius, who had been standing there with his jaw open and working like a landed fish gasping for air, suddenly stumbled forward. "My Lady," he stammered. "I have a cane—"
Hermione turned her head, looking at him. Her hand reached out to touch the cane. Her fingers caressed the snake head with curiosity. "Your wand is housed in here?"
Lucius nodded and then seemed to realise how ludicrous he was being. "Yes, but— I can remove it when I touch the jeweled eyes and slide it off the handle."
Hermione's fingers curiously worked over it, pressing in the gems of the snake head. With a click, Lucius' wand appeared. She ran her hands over it, her head weaving back and forth like a serpent listening to a flute. She gently slid the wand off the clasp and held it out for him. "Thank you," she said with a shy smile, putting the cane back together.
"If you will allow me, my Lady," Lucius said, taking the cane and tapping it with his wand. It elongated into the longer and more sensitive staff that the blind tended to favour.
Hermione tapped the cane experimentally and smiled. "Thank you— forgive me, I heard your name was Lucius, but your voice is deeper, like an adult. Would you give me your name that I might address you properly?"
"Malfoy," Lucius answered. "Lucius Malfoy."
Hermione's head lifted up slightly at his name. "I thank you, Lord Malfoy."
"You have saved my life and the lives of my family— my son and my wife," Lucius said. "You may call me Lucius, in all things."
Hermione stroked the head of the cane and nodded. "Thank you, Lucius. I will admit it will be much easier to say."
Lucius let out a dry laugh, slightly strained, but genuine.
"I am— Hermione," Hermione said awkwardly. "As much as I might have dreamed as young child to be royalty, I feel like I am in another world when said in relation to myself."
"Perhaps, I can assist you, Hermione," Lucius said. He tugged on his collar. "I fear I have come to a rather startling epiphany quite recently. One, is that the things I believed in were rubbish. Two, I owe you a debt of gratitude I cannot repay, but I plan to try."
"Hermione," Lucius said evenly. "This is one thing I want to do. The last few years, decades even, I have always done what someone else wanted me to do. This is my choice. I will assist you as I can in this world, teach you what you need to make your way in the circles that you currently do not understand. The Dark Lord knew all of these things. He knew them so well he could charm us all into following him without question. Then, one day, his requests were no longer polite, he began to make demands of us and there was no way out. You either carried out his orders or you and, very often, your entire family, would die a most agonizing death. My wife and my son— I would do anything to keep them safe. He knew this, and he knew all of our deepest secrets, including which ones we couldn't bear to have revealed. So I and many others were dragged into his service against our will."
Lucius' grey eyes looked haunted. "Only Severus and Narcissa, my wife, knows this, but my father, Abraxas, forced me to take the Mark. This terrible writhing darkness on my left arm. He found out what test the Dark Lord would require of me, and he Imperiused his own son into carrying it out. I woke the next morning, covered in blood and the Dark Mark emblazoned so proudly on my badly burned arm. My father then had me married off immediately. Lord Cygnus Black believed I was finally worthy of his youngest daughter's hand."
"I loved her," Lucius confessed. "He had denied my courtship for months, saying I didn't have the stones to be a real man. So my father set out to prove me worthy. And then, I could do nothing else put play the game and pray the Dark Lord never found out my secret."
Hermione reached out with one hand, her fingers brushing against his hand, and she clasped it gently. "I am truly sorry, Lucius."
"How can you be sorry when I very nearly murdered you," Lucius asked, his face haunted.
Hermione shook her head. "My parents are both dead. Shortly after I arrived here, their car was hit by a drunk driver when they were driving home from a dinner out with some friends. They didn't make it. Perhaps, had I not been grieving, I would have not been sitting on that bench like a perfectly wrapped sacrifice. Perhaps not, but I feel that all things happen for a reason. If this had not happened, we would not be having this conversation."
Lucius inhaled sharply. "I would like to discuss what has happened today with my family, Hermione, but I think that I may have a solution for your situation that could be mutually beneficial."
Hermione tapped the can on the stone a few times, pondering. "Perhaps after I get out of this deathtrap, Lucius?"
Lucius tapped her hand and guided it around his arm. "Please allow me to assist you, Hermione."
Hermione was looking very small and very alone on the infirmary bed as Poppy ran a series of diagnostic scans.
"Are you feeling dizzy at all, Hermione?"
"No, ma'am," Hermione answered politely.
"Okay, I have my goggles on, child," Poppy said. "I'm going to examine your eyes, okay?"
Hermione clutched the hand nearby, and Severus looked quite discomfited at this, but he looked to Lucius, who was slowly shaking his head at him. "Okay."
Poppy lifted the circlet and gasped at what she saw as she scanned the young girl's eyes. "Dear Merlin, child! What happened to you?"
"I fell down a long hole and something burned my eyes. I couldn't see. Then I woke up like this. Lord Malfoy found me aimlessly wandering the halls and brought me to Professor Snape," Hermione told the kindly matron, weaving the half-truths together into a cohesive unit.
Poppy sighed. "This school has a great many secrets, child, and not all of them are kind, I fear. I am glad to find that you are relatively uninjured."
Hermione squinted in the light, flicking her serpentine eye slits this way and that. "Professor Snape says perhaps contacts laced with the proper potions and healing shields could filter my— gaze?"
Poppy nodded. "It was a project we worked on long ago, but we never released it because the last person who had this issue was a half-gorgon. The petrifying gaze was the least of her problems, I fear."
"Your eyes are otherwise perfectly healthy, Hermione. They are simply quite deadly. I can put the contacts in over your irises and make them look more— well, human. I can then place your circlet back over them to let the innate magic seal them to your corneas. In the meantime, we can simply say you had a very bad potions accident."
Snape harrumphed at that.
Poppy shrugged. "It will take a few days for them to seal, but once it does, you will be able to function just as normally as you did before. I would have you go and stare at a rodent or something to make sure they are working."
"Okay," Hermione agreed, squirming herself into a more comfortable position.
"Just lean back now, child," Poppy instructed. "This will take some time to layer and then we'll pour the sealing potions over your eyes.
The process took a few hours altogether, and Hermione didn't let go of Snape's hand the entire time. The Potion Master seemed quite baffled by the change from frightened student (of him) to frightened student needing him to hold her hand for emotional support. Then again, Lucius had told Hermione who he trusted, and oddly the two had formed a strangely tight bond in a remarkably short period of time.
Fawkes arrived halfway through, and he snuggled into the girl with a sleepy warble and yawn. The phoenix seemed pleased to find her surrounded by people, and he rubbed his head against her cheek quite affectionately.
Strange, he thought. Fawkes had never shown any affection to a student before.
Poppy examined all of Hermione's tattoos as well, marveling at how very lifelike they were. Hermione had no tenderness or any telltale signs of magical trauma, which would have been a true sign of Dark Magic. The black markings were deep and highly detailed. Bone wings detailed down her back, looking as though they could unfurl at any moment. The serpent, however, curved around every part of her body, making it look like she was covered in living scales. Strangely, the eyes of the serpent were sealed shut.
When Poppy was done setting the magical overlays across Hermione's eyes, she covered them with the circlet once more, charming it so it would not come off unless Hermione herself willed it to do so.
When it was time for Hermione to return to Gryffindor tower, it became clear that she was not any more welcome there after her injury than before. Her dorm-mates sealed the door to their room so she couldn't come in, then she fell down the stairs when someone "accidentally" left something out for her to trip over, and these obstacles would somehow avoid Hermione's walking cane only to reposition themselves and trip her.
At one point, her wand showed up embedded into the topmost portrait of Sir Cadogan and her walking cane turned up broken into pieces and scattered down the hallway with Hermione desperately trying to feel around for it. Whenever she tried to stay in the library to study and read, practicing the text into mind spell Madam Pince taught her so she could read the books by touching the print, someone would find her and cast a sticking charm so her hands would stick to the pages. Hermione would suffer in distress and in silence until Madam Pince found her and taught her how to dispel it.
Every night, Hermione would carefully feel her way to the dungeons and sit with her hands around her knees in front of Snape's chamber door— having recognised the scent of smoke and herbs that always lingered on his robes. She would wait there quietly until he returned, and had anyone been brave enough to look, they would have seen a twinge of sympathy on the Potion master's usually impassive face.
To top off the humiliation, her walking cane was far from ordinary. Its craftsmanship alone combined with the distinctive goblin silver serpent head, had many students whispering all around her. Snape, McGonagall, and Flitwick had all taken turns fixing the broken walking cane, which would always seem to happen in some random hallway they didn't patrol in at that given hour. It took Dumbledore doing a trace on the walking cane to root out who the culprits there, and much to Hermione's heartbreak and shame, it came back to people in her very own house.
Finally, on the night it was finally deemed safe to remove the blindfold, Hagrid brought a cage filled with rodents that had been infiltrating his hut for her to experiment on.
"They all hate me," Hermione sobbed, unable to put a lid on the feeling of total despair that came with being so different from everyone else.
"They are simply jealous," Snape sighed. "Or fearful. Either way, it is not your fault, Miss Granger."
Hermione looked rather dubious, but shook her head anyway.
"Okay, the rodent cage is directly in front of you. Take off your blindfold and look at all of them, then put your blindfold back on," Snape directed. "Surely one of the creatures will look you in the eyes to test if the overlay has fully set."
Hermione did as she was instructed, knowing that he had turned his back to her to avoid any possible accidents. While she could still see energy and magic with her eyes covered, it wasn't quite the same as seeing the way she had grown up.
She stared into the cage, but most of the rodents were crammed in too tightly for any to move around, much less look her way. She turned the cage to try and look at any one of them in the face. All of them looked unimpressed. "They are crammed in too tightly," Hermione said, mildly frustrated. "They can't move around to look at me."
"Pass me the cage," Severus told her, putting his hand out without looking. He shuffled it around a moment and stunned a rodent with his wand and levitated towards her. The stun seemed to be wearing off unusually quickly, and Hermione ended up having to make a grab for it. The rat bit her finger, struggling to escape with all his might.
Hermione yelped, startled, as blood began seeping out from her wounded finger. Red was mixed with strands of shimmering silver and green: the proof of a very different sort of magic flowing through her body— hardly something Poppy would have been testing for.
The rat squeaked in terror, it's body twitching and convulsing. Hermione dropped it with a cry of horror. "Professor Snape!" she squeaked out as she hastily covered her eyes and backed away.
"I covered my eyes!" she cried.
Snape wasted no time, turning around keeping his eyes down just in case, but he didn't have to wait long. The rat was rapidly elongating, twisting, transforming. Human feet and human hands formed. A man's bulbous head shifted from giant rat to rat-like human. The man screamed shrilly, sounding more like a rat than a man.
"Pettigrew!" Snape hissed venomously, casting a chain of spells one after another.
He snarled, and the man-rat slammed into the far wall, face first with a resounding crack after his shoes stuck to the floor with a squelching sound.
Hermione was trembling, visibly frightened, and Snape pulled her close, cradling her head to his robes just in case her circlet wasn't on. She seemed to realise his concern and buried her pale face into his robes even deeper.
Snape help her against him until she stopped trembling, allowing her to regain control before attempting to deal with Pettigrew. Her hands began to reach out to feel his face, and he froze to allow her to ascertain his facial expression. She frowned as he did, but she didn't seem too disturbed.
"You are hurt," Snape said softly, pulling her hand to his. "Let me tend to it."
Hermione nodded, trying not to tremble as he poured a cool liquid on it and wrapped it with a small cloth bandage.
"As much as I would enjoy watching you test your eyes on this rat, Miss Granger, I fear it is not the best course of action," Snape said with a sigh. He sent a Patronus zinging out of the room, and Hermione tracked it with her head even without being able to "see" it.
Hermione's head lifted with a snap.
"Did you sense my Patronus?"
Hermione stared at floor, clutching his robes tightly.
"Miss Granger, I am not angry with you," Snape said. " Did you sense it?"
Hermione nodded slowly.
"There is nothing wrong with this, Miss Granger," Snape said, trying to get through to her. Then, remember something Lucius had said, changed tactics. "Hermione," he said softly.
Hermione lifted her head again, her death grip on his robes loosening slightly.
"I will keep your secrets, M— Hermione," Severus told her seriously but not unkindly. "Here, in my chambers or my office or when no one else is near, you may call me Severus."
Hermione's eyes as went wide as saucers.
"I was once— tormented by students at Hogwarts," Severus confessed slowly, watching her response. "This man here, was one of them. "There are many things I would wish upon him, but, I cannot act upon it. I know what it is like to have a secret that burns inside. I know what it is like to put on a brave face when things are not going well."
Hermione swallowed hard and nodded.
"When you get your vision back, I know things may not suddenly fix themselves. If you need a place to run, Hermione, you may come and find me. I promise you, I will not be angry, no matter what time it is or where I am. If that fails, you may let yourself into my office in the classroom. I will key you into the wards. Tip over the black rook on my desk, and I will know you are there."
Hermione nodded, clear relief in her eyes. It was obvious that her initial rather dubious opinion of her Potions professor was rapidly evolving. Snape was becoming a safe place, which was becoming clearer to Severus as time passed.
"Minerva has been off at the Ministry trying to sort out the mountain of paperwork to allow her to adopt you officially," Severus stated. "I believe you discussed this with her?"
"Yes, Pr— Severus," Hermione replied.
"I assure you, she will be raining hell and handbaskets all over Gryffindor tower when she returns and realises that you have been bullied by her own cubs," Severus reassured her. "She is many things, but she is not a fool, nor is she oblivious. Here at Hogwarts, children of professors are allowed to cohabitate. Most choose to live in the dorms because most children want to be away from their parents, but I think, perhaps, you will prefer this?"
Hermione nodded rapidly.
Severus looked far away and then seemed to come back to himself. "Minerva was my safe place, Hermione. The only one I had, but even she could not be everywhere. For I was Slytherin, and sadly, I was not her son."
Hermione yawned and then looked utterly aghast that she had just yawned right in her professor's face.
"I must take this rat to the Headmaster's office. The Aurors will have arrived by now," Severus said. "If you promise to not touch anything in my chambers save the couch and the loo, I will let you stay here until I return and then escort you to Madam Pince. She has volunteered after she noted your situation, a safe place to stay until your adoption goes through, yes?"
Hermione nodded, looking more relaxed.
Severus pulled a pillow and duvet out from the cabinet and enlarged the sofa to be a bed.
"Many things in my chambers are warded, Hermione. Do not touch anything I have not given you permission to do so. Am I clear?"
Hermione nodded again
He pulled out a set of his own robes and shrunk them down with his wand. "I fear I do not have any pajamas suitable for a female, so you will have to do with this."
Hermione pulled it close and looked relieved.
Severus waited, back turned, as she dressed and hopped into the makeshift bed. He nodded to her, cast a spell on Pettigrew to levitate him, and hooked his finger around the rat-man's collar to drag Pettigrew along with him.
As it turned out, Hermione was out like a light soon after.
Not So Dead After All
Peter Pettigrew was brought up on charges in front of the Wizengamot after recently being found very much alive and masquerading as a perfectly ordinary rat at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Pettigrew, who appears to be an illegal rat Animagus, was questioned by Aurors under Veritaserum as to the infamous events some ten years previous: the murder of thirteen Muggles on a busy street in London.
Pettigrew, who seemed all too eager to talk about the incident, confessed to shamefully betraying his friends James and Lily Potter to YKW, framing Sirius Black for their murder as well as his own, and then scampering off to become the familiar for a certain Wizarding family whose names have been protected at the time of this edition.
Sirius Black, who has protested his innocence since his initial incarceration, is scheduled to be released within the next few days. His funds, assets, and property have all been released along with accrued back pay from his position as a Ministry Auror at the time of his capture as an alleged mass murderer.
Pettigrew was arrested after being forced out of his Animagus form after a training session with a Hogwarts student happened to reveal his Animagus status in front of multiple witnesses. Professor Severus Snape instantly restrained and apprehended the newly-revealed Animagus and alerted the Aurors and Headmaster immediately.
Professor Snape has been recommended for an Order of Merlin First Class for his part in apprehending Pettigrew alive for questioning. Hogwarts student, Hermione Jean McGonagall, has been recommended for an Order of Merlin Second Class for her initial reveal of Pettigrew's presence in the school, living among our own children, no less!
Pettigrew has been sentenced to life in Azkaban for his crimes, and there is some talk of administering the Dementor's Kiss. Ironically, due to no other cells being currently available at Azkaban, the only unoccupied cell in which to place Pettigrew was the cell once occupied by the newly-freed Sirius Black. Pettigrew will be fitted with a Animagus suppression bracelet to prevent any possibility escape via his rat form.
Sirius Black is being given a thorough mental and physical wellness exam as well as any therapy he might require for his stay in Azkaban, completely free of charge. His official status as godfather to the Boy-Who-Lived, Harry Potter, has been fully restored. We at the Prophet wish Lord Sirius Black well and hope he makes a swift recovery from the trauma induced by his near-decade of incarceration for crimes that he did not commit.
As weeks passed, Hermione forgot more and more about what had happened in the Chamber of Secrets and instead exchanged them for memories of having meals with Minerva and being able to walk around without a walking cane or a circlet over her eyes. Perhaps the biggest change was being able to sleep in her own bed again and not have to dread some sort of prank happening.
Hermione woke often with Fawkes cuddled up next to her face and Sithiss curled around her entire bed, laying her huge head on the top of the mattress and causing it to tilt.
In the quiet moments, Sithiss would teach her about the Dark, and Fawkes would teach her about the Light. They would bid her close her eyes and see things without her outer-vision. Slowly but surely, she was becoming better at it, but every so often she would mess it up and misread the energy around her, confusing a cloud of bats flying around the castle with an energy attack, or misread Light energy and fire energy due to their similar colours.
Hermione, while now officially welcome in the Gryffindor common room, much preferred to stay with Professor McGonagall, and now that she was officially adopted, she was allowed to stay with any of the other professors as well whenever Minerva was occupied with her Deputy Headmistress duties.
While studious in everything she was being taught, there still were times when Hermione botched her spells, and one such spell caused the Gryffindor tower to be overrun with a flood of spiders of every shape and size. The terrified arachnids came flooding out of every nook and cranny, trying to make a bee-line for the window en masse. She filled Ravenclaw tower with massively replicating Bertie Bott's Every-Flavour Beans, and the Hufflepuff dorms with about a metre of highly-realistic badger plushies that squeaked when you squeezed them. Slytherin woke up one morning up to their chests in chocolate frogs, and the rest of the school wondered why they couldn't be so lucky as to be almost buried alive in tasty snacks. Hermione accidentally filled Minerva's sitting room with jacks that had been turned into a family of river otters, and it was only when Minerva let her keep one that Hermione agreed to banish the rest. Madam Pinch was positively ecstatic when half of her books started to bite students who dared to talk in the library, and Minerva had to remind her errant daughter that attacking fellow students with animate objects did not help them to study properly.
Hermione seemed dubious, but she listened to her mother, regardless.
Severus "accidentally" mentioned a spell that allowed cauldrons to "cuddle" an unfortunate victim, and Ronald Weasley ended up screaming bloody murder as the entire classroom of cauldrons tried to sit on him and cuddle him. One cauldron, which had the remnants of a NEWT student's old experimental potion inside, cuddled him a little too enthusiastically, and Ron ended up with colour-shifting hair that turned a very unflattering neon green whenever he lied and he broke into matching green spots when he did it again.
Minerva seemed somewhat suspicious as to the particular circumstances leading up to Ronald's unfortunate condition, but seeing him repeatedly break out in green convinced her that he most likely deserved what he got.
Dumbledore seemed far too busy deflecting all the parental concern about Death Eaters lurking among their children at Hogwarts, but he was keeping them at bay for the most part by painting Pettigrew as a very odd exception. He had, Dumbledore reminded them, fooled a wizarding family for almost a decade without ever once revealing his true identity.
Minerva allowed Lucius to visit on the weekends and teach Hermione Wizarding social structure and etiquette, and while the cat Animagus was very curious as to why Lucius seemed to have inexplicably turned over a brand new leaf, she wasn't complaining either. After watching them together very carefully for weeks, she realised that Lucius was genuinely fond of Hermione, so much so that he had sharply reprimanded his son for his rather "disgusting behaviour" that he additionally deemed to be "unbecoming to the name of Malfoy." It wasn't until she actually heard Hermione call Lucius by his Christian name that she realised the depth of the bond between them, and a part of Minerva's understandable paranoia was eased at last.
Hermione began to spend a considerable amount of time with Severus in the dungeons, studying quietly in the corner as he graded. Sometimes when she finished her homework, and Severus was never one to shirk checking over her efforts, he would teach her something new about Potions. Sometimes, he would share, albeit anonymously, bits and pieces of particularly horrible student essays that had Hermione giggling hysterically. Severus, whose expressions rarely seemed to change for most observers would let a small smile quirk the corners of his lips. This made Hermione beam even harder, try harder, and do what she could to see it again. He would sternly remind her that memorising the book was not the same as learning the material, and gradually, she began to do much less hand waving in all of her classes until she had pondered the question and her answer quite thoroughly.
Quite often, Severus would return to Minerva's quarters with a peacefully sleeping Hermione cradled in his arms or affixed to his trousers like a burr. Minerva would allow him to tuck her into bed, shaking her head at the growing changes in her adopted daughter and even the changes her presence was bringing about at Hogwarts.
To keep Hermione focused with her insatiable curiosity, Minerva began to teach her the Animagus meditations. Hermione took to it like a duckling to water, dutifully walking around with her mandrake leaf stuck to the roof of her mouth for a month.
Many of the faculty would find her sitting in windows in meditation or out on the green doing much the same. The faculty were forming a betting pool, wondering if she would be like her mother or branch out into something else. Most of them were convinced that she would shift in record time, either meeting or beating Minerva's record of five months from start to shift.
Sure enough, as spring began to surge over the land and the willow shed all of its snow, a fledgling thunderbird perched atop the parapets of Hogwarts with Fawkes, warbling and rawking to each other. Minerva had her registered before her daughter even touched down for the first time, sending off the registration forms with all due haste. No daughter of Minerva McGonagall was going to be an illegal and unregistered Animagus.
One odd trait of being a thunderbird seemed to be that she acted like a natural bug-light. Passing insects would zap themselves on her aura and fall to the ground, stunned. She was so effective that Professor Kettleburn occasionally "borrowed" her to tend his garden and rid it of slugs, weevils, grubs, and any other random pests or blood-suckers. Snape took her out when he wanted to collect shed fairy wings and other such potions ingredients found deep within the Forbidden Forest. The centaurs, who were perpetually plagued by flies and biting insects far more often than they cared to admit, gratefully welcomed the avian bug-zapper into their herd with open arms.
When Hermione's tail feathers began to darken and the tips of her primaries turned a stunning crimson red, Kettleburn noticed that if she stayed in one place sunning herself, storm clouds would soon start to gather. Dark, ominous thunderheads would roll in, and if she beat her wings just so, the storms would blow and lightning would strike her. Kettleburn had immediately come running out, absolutely frantic that the young bird was not ready for that kind of powerful electric punch to the face, but Hermione just shook off her wings as energy rippled and crackled off of them. Severus had commented to her that her enemies would be hard pressed to fight a witch whose gaze was lethal, but whose ability to summon thunder, lightning, and heavy winds was probably going to keep those who wanted to prank her very few and far between. Still, few people other than the professors and Pomfrey know of her gaze's lethality, and Hermione liked it that way. She still felt very much ostracised at it was, at least amongst her peers. Thankfully, her bond to the faculty members was only getting stronger, and no one in the student body wanted to piss off Hermione's notoriously wrathful Scottish mother. Even taking a lightning bolt to the arse seemed preferable to facing the wrath of Minerva McGonagall. Rumour had it that, when McGonagall rained her righteous wrath down upon you, that she would bite you square on the arse, causing you to pee bright red for an entire month and go about singing soppy Scottish love ballads to random people and objects. No one really wanted to risk that.
Shortly before the summer holidays, Harry Potter and Ronald Weasley ended up in the infirmary. Many speculated that the pair had been mauled by a rogue bear out in the Forbidden Forest before rolling downhill into a pile of broken butterbeer bottles. Some people suspected they had been out to the bog and were attacked by a random kelpie, but the thoroughly embarrassed boys refused to share the story of just what had gotten them both injured.
The last Quidditch game of the year arrived shortly after Harry had managed to heal up from his mysterious injuries. Hermione was about as interested in the entire affair as a Niffler surrounded in lead bricks, and all the conflicting auras were giving her an awful migraine.
Harry proved to be quite the the stellar seeker, catching the snitch in mid air and waving it triumphantly, narrowly avoiding a barrage of bludgers and slamming into one of the watchtowers.
"Something is happening to Harry's broom!" a voice cried out in a panic.
Hermione looked up quickly at that. Suspecting trouble, she closed her eyes, taking a closer look at what was happening with her inner gaze. Magical energy was twisting and surging around Harry's broom, causing it to violently buck and then stall. Tendrils of darker magic left a trail leading right back to the stands. It wasn't Dark magic per se as much as it wasn't the kind of magic that anyone wanted around their broom. But the magic was most definitely malicious in nature, she could sense that pretty easily.
Harry's broom had shaken him off and he was now precariously hanging from it by his hands. People were screaming and yelling frantically all around the stands.
Hermione contemplated all of the things she could do, but short of zapping the one doing it with lightning, which was not going to make her mother happy at all even if it was warranted in her opinion, there was really nothing in particular presenting itself as a better solution.
Instead, she stood up, and facing the stands where the professors were, she set about the kind of most blatant display of hand-waving that never failed to annoy Severus.
Sure enough, Severus glared at her, but he also focused on her, seemingly realising she had outgrown the silly hand-waving long before this. She pointed towards the one in the stands she had traced the malicious magic to using her elbow like she was cheering obnoxiously.
Severus seemed to get the message, and he nudged Minerva with his arm. Both professors stared into the opposite stands, wands out.
The Headmaster was standing up now, pointing his wand and chanting something in an attempt to stabilise the broom. Harry seemed to slow his broom a little, bringing it closer to the ground so he wouldn't fall to a rather painful and messy death. Minerva transfigured the ground under Harry into a giant pit filled with colorful, cushiony balls of fluff. Severus then sent a counterspell singing out towards the opposite stands, and shortly thereafter Cormac McLaggen's wand went sailing out of the stands onto the pitch below.
Every Gryffindor around him stared at the offender with disbelief as the rest of the stands sighed with relief as a relieved Harry crash landed into the pit of plush balls. He climbed out with the snitch still grasped tightly in his hand, basking in the moment as the spectators cheered.
As Hermione looked towards Harry, she saw something she didn't expect. Harry was looking straight at her, and he nodded his head to her. Somehow, despite all the commotion, he had see her trying to help him.
When everyone started to return back to their dorms, Hermione affixed herself tightly to Severus and Minerva, feeling the odd stares coming her way. The moment Severus' robes curled protectively around her, the feel of being watched immediately stopped. They all walked back to Hogwarts together, Hermione with her hands gripping Minerva and Severus' hands tight. If anyone believed her actions to be inappropriate, no one seemed inclined to make note of it.
When Harry walked out of the crowd of cheering fans he approached Hermione with a steady walk. Hermione swallowed hard and attempted to burrow into Severus and her mother, practically radiating her distress.
Something like remorse flickered across Harry's pale face as he approached her, and he seemed to realise that while others believed him a fairly innocuous sort, Hermione obviously did not. He flashed out his hands, waving them neutrally.
Hermione grasped Severus and Minerva' hands tightly.
"Mr Potter," Severus said, his eyes narrowing. "Is there something you require?"
Harry twitched, obviously thinking that McGonagall would have been better than Snape. Anyone would have been better than being interrogated by Snape. The crowd that had been following Harry seemed to take one look at Snape and start to shuffle off back to Hogwarts in any direction but forward.
"Hermione, I wanted to say thank you, for trying to help me out there.I saw it, and I really— " Harry fidgeted. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry that I took part in—" He trailed off.
"Tormenting a blind, recently orphaned girl, Mr Potter?" Severus said in a low growl.
Minerva perked at this, narrowing her eyes into a tight glare.
Harry flinched. "I'm sorry I tripped you, Hermione. I'm sorry for laughing when I knew you were hurting. I wanted to feel like I belonged too, but if anyone should have known what it's like to be an orphan— I'm sorry, Hermione."
Hermione looked to him and then shuffled closer to Snape, her hand tightening around his.
"I think, Mr Potter," Minerva said coolly, "that if you wish forgiveness from my daughter it would be best shown in deeds rather than mere words,"
Harry looked up at Snape's thunderous expression and visibly shrank back. "I'm going to try to be a better person, Hermione. I mean it."
Someone nearby was heckling, "Why are you talking to the little freak girl, Potter?"
Harry snarled back at them, "Leave her alone! She tried to save my life. That's more than any of you lot did."
Surprised and angry muttering came as part of the crowd began to disperse and head back into the castle for dinner.
Harry seemed to realise that Hermione needed some time before she could even process or consider his apology, and he hung his head down in shame. He scurried up the path back towards the school, his gaggle of fans moving in to re-assimilate him.
Hermione loosened her death grip on both Severus and Minerva's hands. Minerva looked at her with concern. "You alright, lass?"
Hermione nodded, silent, but more upbeat.
As they came back to the school and settled around the Great Hall for dinner, Hermione attempted to give sitting a little closer to the other students a try rather than her somewhat isolated place at the end of the table.
"Hey, the weird bint is here," someone chortled. "Maybe she can wave her hands around and signal dragons to crash-land on the tables!"
Hermione, who had just lifted a forkful of cut melon to her mouth, immediately dropped her fork and fled the table, rushing out the back of the Great Hall.
A few people made 'loser' gestures with their fingers and slapped them to their heads while chuckling raucously.
"You leave Hermione alone!" Harry cried out, flushing red with anger. "She hasn't done anything to you!"
"Unless you mean exist,"someone snorted.
Suddenly, an ominous dark shadow was cast over their section of the table. Dark, smoldering eyes glared across the table as pale hands snatched up Ronald Weasley and Seamus Finnegan by the collars and pulled them up out of their chairs. "Seeing as you are both incapable of following the adage 'If you can't say something nice, say nothing at all,' I think that perhaps you should ponder its merits in detention, Mr Weasley, Mr Finnigan. Seeing as the two of you just sent someone fleeing the Great Hall in tears, I think a letter to your respective parents are also in order. And before you puff up and say you did nothing wrong, I will gladly enclose memories of your most recent conversation, which you were so helpful in blurting out so very loudly."
Ronald and Seamus paled significantly.
"After you inhale your dinners with your distasteful lack of manners, you will serve detention with me, tonight, in the Potions classroom, where you will be scrubbing cauldrons with fine-toothed brushes, entirely without magic and without the benefit of your dragonhide gloves. Perhaps, this will give you focus. Oh, did I forget to mention that the cauldrons in question are from your own deplorable attempts at brewing Swelling Solution? While any exposed appendages might indeed swell up to a massive degree, at least the effects will not be… permanent."
Snape scowled at them both and then swept the Great Hall, his dark, billowing robes seeming even more menacing than before.
That night, when Snape carried a sleeping Hermione back to Minerva's quarters to tuck her in for the night, Minerva put a hand on Severus' shoulder.
"Thank you for being there for her, Severus."
Severus looked into the darkened bedroom that Hermione had been safely tucked into. "Thank you, Minerva, for being there for me."