Disclaimer: The world of Harry Potter and all who reside therein belong to the woman whose name is on the side of the books: J.K. Rowling. And certainly not to me.
Title: Another Story
Author: Aeryn Alexander
Summary (the better one): Sequel to "Another World". Two weeks have passed since Hermione, Severus, Ginny, and Remus have returned from the demon realm. Love is beginning to blossom for them, and for the headmaster and deputy headmistress, but all is not right with the world. Voldemort is gathering his forces. Severus is honor-bound to spy on his former master. But his disloyalty is not what may cost him his life. Hermione is worried about the man she has come to love. And Ginny and Remus? Well, the werewolf has a lot on his mind. And the war IS coming, and very soon. When its all over, who will be left standing?
Rating: PG-13 (moderate violence, mild language, light to moderate romance, some sex-related dialog and humor, some abuse, and angst)
Genre: General/drama/romance/angst/action
Year: 7th for Hermione/ 6th for Ginny
Author's Note: I never intended to write a sequel, but here it is, picking up where "Another World" left off. I am making every attempt to keep the author's notes to a minimum. The chapters of this story should be longer, and I will continue to attempt to update in a regular fashion. This story is at least twice as dark as its predecessor. But this kind of story has to be dark. Of course, I'm working some fluff into it too (so I don't scare anyone). The perspective tends to meander, but I think in a better way than in the first story. Italics are used rather liberally for emphasis, for letters, and for some memories. I'm also in the process of removing 'hard stops' from my dialog. If for some reason this does not all get posted by June 21st, I am declaring it canon-consistent only through GoF without the intent to restructure the plot to comply with OotP. I always appreciate feedback. Thank you!
Dedication: To all the reviewers of "Another World", especially those who requested a sequel and/or gave me ideas concerning what should go in it.

Another Story

Doch das ist eine andere Geschichte und soll ein andermal erzählt werden.

- Michael Ende, Die unendlich Geschichte

Chapter One

In which the story begins

If anyone had told Hermione Granger two weeks earlier that she would be using Professor McGonagall's floo to travel to the dungeons, to the private chambers of one Severus Snape, she would have called them stark raving mad, and with some justification. But there she was, granules of greenish gray floo powder in her hand, ready to make the journey through castle floo system that connect the professors' rooms and offices.

Hermione glanced at Minerva in one of the high-backed chairs by the fireside, where the older woman sat reading, and smiled. She had admonished Hermione rather gently about the time, which was half past nine in the evening, before going back to her book. It was a transfigurations' text for next term's third year students, which Hermione would be helping her teach as an assistant. And the thought made Hermione positively beam. She would be teaching at Hogwarts! It was a dream come true for her.

Hermione had not had very much to smile about over the last few days. Severus had been called twice to his meetings since the end of their sojourn in the demon realm. She would never have guessed that such a simple word could cause so much anxiety, worry, and unhappiness. But there it was.

Both times he had returned weary and reticent to allow her near him. She was well-versed enough in Defense Against the Dark Arts and could see that the Cruciatus curse had been applied rather liberally. She said very little about it. He would not want her to fuss over him. She only made him some tea and prepared a hot bath for him before returning to her dormitory. Hermione could see it in his eyes as he kissed her good-night. Severus was grateful.

Snape had told her just that morning that he planned to back in his quarters before ten o'clock. Voldemort had indicated to him that the meetings would be brief, though certainly not painless, until he felt that it was time to coordinate another assault on Hogwarts. Severus was waiting for that day, hoping that he could give more sufficient warning to Dumbledore this time and hoping even more fervently that there would be no loss of life during this battle. It was a fool's hope, and he knew it. And it would cheat him. He was certain of that.

Hermione shook her head absently and said, "Snape's rooms."

In a moment, she found herself in the heart of Slytherindom and the parlor of the man she loved. There was an interesting dichotomy there for the young Gryffindor.

The room was cold, she noted, as she brushed small traces of soot from her robes. Both professors kept their floos impeccably clean possibly because they were used so often. Or rather the house elves probably did it for them. Hermione pondered asking Severus if that was the case.

Looking around, Hermione felt her smile falter. He had yet to return from his errand. It was still early. But it did not make her feel any better about it. The idea of Severus among all of those unreformed Death Eaters, all of those callous torturers and murderers, scared her and made her quite ill, though she had never told Severus so. She had been with him during the summons once just days earlier. He had stiffened at first when she tried to hold him against the pain that emanated from the Dark Mark. Then he had allowed it as he suffered in silence, clutching his left forearm and waiting for it to end. Then he had simply gone.

Hermione shivered and seated herself on the couch. She preferred to wait for him there. She imagined that he preferred it as well, not exactly relishing the idea of a Gryffindor rummaging about in his chambers during his absence. He was a very private person. Hermione felt quite certain nonetheless that they felt the same way about each other, though he was not over vocal about his feelings, perhaps at least in part due to spending years as a spy and the current danger. Of course, their relationship was still all so new to both of them. It was new to other people too.

The past week or so had been quite difficult for Hermione. Keeping their relationship a secret was not as easy as she had imagined. Snape was still beastly to her in potions' class, although perhaps his animosity toward students in general was muted, dulled by the experience that he had shared with two young Gryffindors and their lycanthropic Defense Against the Dark Arts professor. But much worse than that, Harry and Ron, the latter of whom had ceased to speak to her several days ago, had not quite understood what had happened.

Harry was patient and simply ignored the issue to the best of his ability. For her part Hermione was content with that. But not Ronald Weasley, not by any means! Hermione gritted her teeth in frustration as she relived their last conversation on the matter of her love life.

"You can't be serious!" Ron had groaned after she had confessed to Harry and to him that she was indeed in love with Snape. Harry had not been surprised, only resigned and perhaps a little uncomfortable. "You just can't be!" Ron repeated.

"I am, Ron," she had whispered. "And I hope you respect me enough to trust my judgment and my decision," she added more fiercely.

"But he's ... he's Snape! He's greasy and mean! And old enough to be your father!"

"He is older. I admit that. But the other accusations are just unfair."

"Are we even that certain about his loyalties? He could still be working for You-Know-Who," said Ron.

Even Harry's eyes had flashed slightly at that remark. Hermione felt her face flush scarlet with indignation on behalf of brave Severus. He had shown his true colors when he became a spy, risking his life again and again for them and for their safety. He was playing a dangerous game and received not even a modicum of thanks or gratitude for it. And it was quite possible that he never would.

"Ron ..." said Harry warningly as Hermione struggled for words.

"All right. Maybe that was unfair. But still, he has a past. He was once one of them. Do you really feel safe knowing that?" asked Ron, back pedaling slightly.

"I trust him completely. You didn't see how brave his was in there. He always thought of us, of Ginny and me, first. Our safety was his first priority. And speaking of Ginny, I don't see you mercilessly hounding your sister about her love life," said Hermione. Her tone was cold, but anger was getting the better of her nonetheless.

She saw Harry raise his eyebrows in shock out of the corner of her eye. Ron simply turned a rather deep shade of red.

"Professor Lupin is a very nice man. He is a paragon of virtue and ... and ... decency. I can trust him with Ginny. He gave me his word of honor, I'll have you know, and I know that his intentions are nothing but honorable," said Ron very loudly.

"And you're saying that Severus could never be like that?" asked Hermione.

The irony was that, though Hermione would never tell her friends so, the two of them had agreed not to allow their relationship to move to a more intimate level until she had completed her studies. To Severus it was a matter of honor, ethics, and integrity, just as it was for Remus Lupin. To Hermione it was an understandable precaution that was quite necessary at least until she learned a few handy protective spells. But she was certainly not to going to tell Ron Weasley that.

"Yes!" said Ron emphatically. "And I think you know it."

"You're wrong," she said.

Little did any of the trio realize that Ron was about to take the argument to the next level.

"I never exactly liked the fact that you went out with Viktor Krum, but to insult his memory like this ..."

The next thing Ron knew he was clutching the side of his face, which was smarting. In fact he thought he could see stars. Hermione had backhanded him with all of her strength.

"Don't you ever say that again!" she said shrilly. There were tears in her voice. "Damn you, Ronald Weasley, don't you dare ever say anything about Viktor again!"

Harry placed himself between them, afraid of what Ron would say and what Hermione would do.

Viktor Krum had been killed during the spring of her fifth year. He had died trying to hold Durmstrang against an invasion of Dark Wizards in the absence of a strong headmaster. Viktor had remained at the school in an advisory position, granted to him because of his fame and because he had wanted it so badly. After many of the professors had fled, Krum and only a handful of students had defended the gate of their school with their lives while many of the other students looked on in apathy, waiting for the wizards to come and take over the school. Durmstrang's students had dark leanings according to rumor. It only became fact on that day. Viktor's parents had sent Hermione a letter, telling her how much he had loved her and how proud he was to have known her, if only for a year and a few months. Two years later, she still had the letter.

Suggesting that she would do anything that would insult the memory of him was unthinkable and very cruel, and Ron knew that.

"Fine. You got it," said Ron, narrowing his eyes at her and walking away.

"I actually feel like we're all thirteen or fourteen again," muttered Harry, shaking his head. "But he will get over it," he assured her.

Days had passed, and Ron ignored her. She was sorry she had lost her temper and slapped him, but a part of her still felt that he had deserved it.

His silence made her miserable, so much so that she had mentioned it to Severus. His answer? An understanding nod and muttered words about how hard it was to cross certain lines, such as the one between Gryffindor and Slytherin, the 'age line' between the two of them, and the dividing line between good and evil that Ron perceived between his friends and himself and their potions' master. Very hard to cross indeed, especially for some people.

And Hermione loved Severus all the more for his patient and thoughtful answer. He could have simply called Ron a small-minded twit and have been done with it. But he gave her more than that. It was sometimes extraordinary how sensitive and how wonderful he could be when he dropped his defenses, though that was not often.

Hermione shivered and magically lit a fire in the hearth. It always seemed to go out when Severus was gone, as though it knew that it didn't need to be there. Conserving magical energy perhaps, she wondered idly, curling up on the couch and checking the time. It was a few minutes after ten o'clock. If Severus didn't arrive soon, Professor McGonagall would come for her, and the professor would not be pleased. Hermione was out after hours after all.

Of course, in the back of her mind, there was also this little voice that said, "He's been found out. They've killed him. They're doing unspeakable things ..."

Hermione squeezed her eyes closed and told herself to ignore it, that Severus had been at this for too long to die now, that he knew what he was doing. She rested her head against the arm of the couch and tried to think more positive thoughts, no matter how ludicrous.

"He stopped on the way back for a butterbeer. He went to Diagon Alley for potions' ingredients, or ice cream. He had to see Dumbledore first thing ..." she told herself.

She almost managed a chuckle at the mental imagine of Snape eating a sundae at Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlor. Maybe they could go there together sometime, when the war was over, in the summer time perhaps, when everything was right with the world again ...

The door to the dungeon apartment opened without a sound, which is why Hermione awoke from her half-dozing state with a jolt when someone sat down next to her on the couch.

"Shouldn't you be studying for your Newts?"

It was Severus. Hermione turned and would have made a comment about studying for four hours straight earlier that evening, but the words died at her lips. His face was much more pale than normal, and there were dark circles forming under his eyes. He was struggling to hide the fact, but he was trembling too. Hermione knew that the Cruciatus curse had been used on him and not just a few times. The acrid scent of dark magic and pain clung to him like a second set of robes.

"Severus?" she questioned as he closed his eyes.

"You know how much I hate the tone of voice. I'm all right, Hermione," he said, detecting a fearful or perhaps anguished note of pity in her voice.

She touched his arm lightly, extracting a pained hiss before thinking better of it, and asked, "Severus, can I at least help you to bed then?"

"I can manage ..." he began to say.


Severus slowly opened his eyes and looked at her. His lips twitched slightly. If it weren't for the pain, he might have smiled. Maybe it wasn't pity. Even after returning to the world of the living, as he thought of it, she continued to show him concern and affection and that funny little thing called compassion. He had been more than a little afraid that it would be too difficult for their relationship to continue or that her feelings would change when the danger had passed. But as he looked into her eyes, he knew that nothing had changed, at least not yet. He nodded his assent silently and saw vague relief register in her eyes.

Hermione moved to help him up from the couch and watched him grimace as she touched him. Another cruelty of the curse that had been so heavily applied to Severus. Every touch, meant to comfort or soothe, only caused more pain and suffering for the victim. She drew away for a moment.

"It's all right," said Severus softly. "I am quite accustomed to the sensation."

"I wish you weren't," she said in a whisper, looking away.

It would never seem right to her nor fair that Severus was tortured so cruelly and so often, even if it was to a good end, even if it would help them win the war. No matter how valuable the information he learned was, she would always wonder if it were worth it. Just as Hermione wondered if it would cost him his life before the end.

"It is necessary," he told her, almost reading her thoughts.

She nodded mutely and helped him to his room, desperately trying to be gentle. His steps were slow and uncertain, but his strength did not fail him. He had walked from the edge of the Dark Forest, and exhaustion was beginning to set in.

He felt unburdened and significantly more comfortable when Hermione slipped his heavy robes from his shoulders and laid them aside with a look of distaste. The thick robes carried the scent of dark magic and perhaps of evil itself.

It was the middle of April and rather unseasonably warm even in the late evening, but he continued to wear his heavier clothes to the meetings. No amount of fabric could lessen the effects of the Cruciatus curse, but the robes padded his body against the hard ground or stone floors upon which he and his former comrades writhed in agony, and he tried to spare himself bumps and bruises whenever possible. The fewer concealing charms he used, the better, Severus had decided long ago.

"I can get the buttons," said Severus as she began unbuttoning his shirt.

"You're shaking. Let me do it," said Hermione.

"I'm not helpless," he reminded her.

"Of course not. Far from it, actually. If you were, I don't think you would be here ..." she answered, trailing off suddenly.

"I wish I could tell you something that would make this better for both of us, Hermione, but there is nothing that I can say to reassure you. This is my ... our life right now," he said in a matter-of-fact tone.

"And I wish I could say something to you," she said with a soft chuckle, gently pulling his shirt from his shoulders. "You need it more than I do," she added silently, looking at his sickly complexion and haunted, pain-filled eyes.

Hermione was amazed that Severus could be so nonchalant about the torture he experienced on a relatively regular basis and had been experiencing for almost three years. She had been aware from the beginning, from the beginning of her fifth year, that whenever he was not present at the castle, he was somewhere unpleasant, but she had never seen the effects of the curse close up, not even following Voldemort's first and failed assault on Hogwarts the previous year. In the last week she had had enough experience to last her a life time.

"Shoes," she muttered, carefully forcing him to sit down on the bed. He did not have the strength or will or inclination to resist.

"I sleep in my socks, you know, although I usually kick them off in the middle of the night," he said as she carefully tugged his shoes from his feet.

Hermione chuckled softly and said, "Well, you do live in a drafty dungeon. I'm not surprised you sleep in them." "And he probably doesn't sleep very soundly. I know I couldn't in his position," she thought unhappily.

"Drafty?" he questioned, managing to feign an insulted tone.

His lips tried to quirk into a semblance of a smile, but he was too weary to manage it. He enjoyed teasing her, mostly because she never knew when he was serious and when he was only kidding. He enjoyed the banter, which made his heart feel a good bit lighter.

"Chilly then?" she questioned, narrowing her eyes slightly as she helped him out of his trousers.

How could he do that? How could he joke when he was trembling from the aftermath of an unforgivable curse? Hermione would never understand him. She was certain of that. But she was willing to spend many years, a life time if necessary, in the attempt. Her stomach flip-flopped at the sudden sentiment.

"So this is falling in love. Interesting," she thought.

"Yes, the dungeons are a bit chilly, I suppose," he acknowledged.

"Do you want a nightshirt?" she asked, looking toward a bureau set against the wall. She already knew where most of his things were.

"Just a warming charm on the linens, if you please," he said, climbing under the covers and lying on his stomach, which always seemed to be the most comfortable way to sleep after an evening with Voldemort. More comfortable and more secure.

Hermione tucked him in carefully and brushed strands of jet black hair away from his face before casting the charm. Severus sighed softly, gratefully as the warmth enveloped his body, soothing the aching pain in his bones. It was almost as good as a nice long bath.

Then he heard Hermione whispering a few incantations under her breath. He opened one eye and watched her waving her wand over him. The ache was diminishing further and the exhaustion with it, leaving him sleepy, but no longer in severe pain or distress. She had taken it upon herself to learn anti-Cruciatus spells.

"I hope you haven't been practicing this on anyone else," he murmured.

"Well, I considered trying it on a spider or something, but then, a spider couldn't tell me if it worked or not," she replied in a very matter-of-fact tone.

"Thank you for doing this for me," he said, letting his eyes close on their own accord.

She leaned down and kissed his forehead, answering, "You don't have to thank me, Severus. I'm just doing what I can."

He grunted softly in reply before falling fast asleep. Hermione murmured a few more quiet, gentle spells designed to remove the side effects of particularly brutal curses and smoothed the linens compulsively.

"Miss Granger," said a voice from the doorway behind her, startling her badly, "I do believe it is after curfew."

She turned with her wand raised to see Albus Dumbledore standing there watching her. How long he had been there she could not say.

"I was just on my way out, sir," she stammered.

"Don't worry, child. I haven't come here to scold you or deduct house points," he chuckled. "I just wanted to be sure that Severus had returned to us unharmed," Dumbledore added, striding toward the bed.

"I don't know if I would say unharmed," said Hermione softly, moving aside so that the headmaster could take a look at his young colleague.

"Yes, perhaps that isn't a fair assessment," conceded Dumbledore, laying a hand upon Severus' forehead. "You have already taken care of him, I see. Well done, Miss Granger."

"Just some simple spells I learned."

"You are doing yourself a disservice. The spells that combat the effects of the Cruciatus curse are hardly elementary."

"Thank you, professor."

"I am glad that he has you, Miss Granger. It will make the coming days easier for him. Has he given you any news?" questioned Dumbledore.

"About the war?"


"He almost never mentions it. Sometimes he slips, but not very often."

"Severus is protecting you. There are servants of darkness even within these walls. He would not give them any cause to harm you or seek to extract information from you."

"How many are there?" Hermione asked with a slight quaver in her voice.

She hated the idea of any of Hogwarts' students taking the Mark or serving Voldemort in any fashion. Hermione did not wish to fight her own classmates when the time for the final battle comes. It was a sickening thought.

"Severus knows of three. Two have taken the Dark Mark, though they have not openly revealed it to him. He is not completely trusted even now, you see. One is wavering. Severus does not know if he will succumb to the dark forces around him or even if he already has. There may be others, of course."

"I know you cannot tell me who it is, but are they all in Slytherin?"

"I cannot even answer that. I do not wish to falsely confirm your suspicions concerning your fellow students," said Dumbledore, looking over his spectacles at her.

"Of course not."

Turning his attention back to sleeping Severus, he said, "I have other business tonight, but I think I will stay here with Severus for a while. You should return to your dormitory before Professor McGonagall becomes agitated."

Hermione nodded and took one last look at Severus. His face looked peaceful. It was a rare sight. His color was coming back too.

"Good-night, professor," she said to Dumbledore before turning and leaving.

"That's quite a girl you've got there, Severus. I hope you can hold onto her," he said quietly.


A/N: The quote at the beggining of the chapter is from the book "The Neverending Story" by Michael Ende and is roughly translated as: "But that is another story and should be told another time."