Summary: [HG/SS] There was a reason Madam Pince zealously kept the library's restricted section off limits and most definitely closed at night, but everyone assumed it was because she was a witch who preferred books to people. The truth was far, far stranger. AU
Beta Love: The Dragon and the Rose, Dutchgirl01, Flyby Commander Shepard
The Bat Amongst the Bookshelves
Life and death are illusions. We are in a constant state of transformation.
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
The first time he saw her, it was as if magic had suddenly returned to his life— seeing the creature dangling from the highest rafters of the library, squeaking as she leafed through various tomes before putting them oh so carefully back. She touched each book with such reverence, it was undeniable that she was not just looking for pictures.
It was a she, he knew, but just how he knew, he couldn't say.
It had been impossible to sneak into the library after hours, and now he knew why. Madam Pince's most zealously guarded secret lived in the Hogwarts library.
"Hermione," Pince's voice said, startling Severus into plastering himself against the wall. Her voice was… warm?
The large bat-creature squeaked unfurling her wings as Pince approached. The witch smiled at her, rubbing her ears with a tender circular motion.
The creature purr-rumbled, squeaking with happiness at the attention.
Pince pulled out ripe mango. "I know what you want, my dear, but not around the books." She pointed to the window.
The creature squeaked with glee, taking the mango into her mouth and dropping off the rafter to fly over to the window and hang there, fastidiously ripping into it so not even one drop of juice dribbled.
She dropped to the floor and moved across it somewhat awkwardly, her wingarms making the motion seem unnatural. She pounced Madam Pince from behind with a squeak, rubbing her head against the witch with nothing short of mischief, and the witch surprised Severus by smiling and whirling, taking the creature into a hug.
"Have you finished your studies?" Pince asked.
Hermione nodded, squeaking.
"Minerva will be very happy," Irma said with a snort. "I wish things were not so hostile for things that are different, even here at Hogwarts. I'm sure you'd love to do more than see Hogwarts by night. Have someone other than teachers to be your friends."
Hermione squeaked and shrugged, nosing Pince affectionately.
"Don't stay up too late, young lady," Pince admonished. "You don't want any of the students catching sight of you in the daylight."
Hermione squeaked sadly but nodded.
Pince rubbed her ears and smiled. "I love you, my dear. Say hello to Margorian for me."
Hermione squeaked affirmative, rubbing her head against Pince's affectionately before hopping onto the window ledge and disappearing in the darkness.
Snape's interest in the Dark Arts was abruptly changed to research on bats— any and every kind of bat he could find. The added benefit to being at the library at every moment possible was seeing a lot less of Potter and his annoying tagalongs. He started to sketch her, painstakingly learning how to extract his own memory and view it so he could draw her properly. Then, he used the picture to try and figure out what kind of bat she was, but it was all for naught.
Whatever species she was, it wasn't wholly a normal bat, at least in regards to being in any book. He wondered, had she always been that way? Had she been cursed? She was obviously sentient if not extremely intelligent. Professor McGonagall was teaching her. Madam Pince actually liked her. Surely there was much more to her than being a bat creature.
But the more he researched, the more he realised he didn't really care what she was as much as he was fascinated by who she was. He found himself sneaking out, not to catch Potter and Black out doing nothing good but to catch a glimpse of her as she glided across Black Lake and over the treetops of the Forbidden Forest. He watched her play with the Whomping Willow in a way he'd never dreamed. She would dodge the tree's blows for minutes to an hour and then, play done, she would flop between its boughs and dangle. The great tree would not beat on her, but instead seemed to coat her in pollen as she roosted, lapping at the trees forbidden and well-guarded nectar. She would pluck fruits from the orchards on the wing, frolicking with the night birds and smaller bats. Yet, when day came, she would be gone, having disappeared as though morning mist.
The first time he met her, truly met her, had been on what could have been the worst day of his entire life. He, like an idiot, had allowed Black to lure him to the Whomping Willow with a hint about why they had been so very secretive, and he had wanted to believe it was a secret about the she-bat— why else would they go towards such a place?
He had been wrong.
So very wrong.
Somehow, Black had released a creature hidden in a tunnel under the tree— and that creature howled for his blood.
He had no doubt that Black knew exactly what it was and that it would have been waiting for him. He saw the teeth, the yellow eyes, the snarling lupine-yet-not muzzle.
Black had led him into the path of a sodding honest-to-Merlin werewolf.
He pulled out his wand, fully intending to use every single curse he knew, but a blur of black fur slammed into him, sinking fangs into his arm and ripping the wand out of hand and bounding off into the underbrush.
What the FUCK?!
Was he infected now? Was he going to turn? The werewolf was still coming. Were there two of them?!
His brain refused to work for him.
He was bleeding.
There was a werewolf.
He couldn't move. He had no wand. His legs refused to do what they were meant to do, and instead of running, he stood there like one of those imbeciles in a horror movie that ran towards danger instead of away.
The yellow eyes, filled with hate, came ever closer. Closer.
It leapt, and Severus could only hold his hands up in a useless defensive position and scream.
A blur of golden brown fur thumped down in front of him as leathery black wings pushed him back. Ivory fangs bared, dripping crystal rivulets of saliva as the she-bat screamed her fury at the oncoming werewolf.
The werewolf, maddened with a lust for human blood—to bite, to kill— didn't even try to pull back its pounce. It sank its teeth into the she-bat's wing, ripping and tearing in proxy for a human victim as he tried, desperately, to infect someone else.
As the blood trickled down Hermione's savaged wing, the mane of hair on her head and down her back rose as if living fire. She screamed at him, and the sheer power of that sound caused Severus to clamp his hands over his ears, but for the werewolf—
The werewolf tumbled backwards, yelping in pain as his eardrums burst, blood poured from his nose, and the cracking of his bones sounded off even under his unbroken skin.
Severus gasped, breathing heavy, but watched in fascination as her injured wing mended itself back together— tendons pulled back with a pop to realign the bone, and the membrane mended seamlessly. Her eyes blazed with fury as she launched up into the air, her rear talons spread grotesquely as they dug deep into the werewolf's pale flesh under the shaggy coat of fur.
The werewolf yelped piteously as the she-bat carried him into the air some distance away and then—
She dropped him!
Severus limped away, knowing that running forward was about a good idea as dousing yourself in petrol and then trying to light your fag. Without his wand, he was vulnerable, and he limped back towards Hogwarts as fast as his legs would go— finally serving him instead of hampering his escape.
He looked back once, wondering if the she-bat was going to pick the werewolf up and drop him again until all of his bones were broken, but all he heard was screaming and animal sounds of savage violence.
Gnashing of teeth.
Suddenly, something had him firmly by the shoulders, and he let out a strangled yell as he was lifted up off the ground and carried.
Please don't drop me.
Please, please don't drop me, he said the words like a prayer in his very soul.
As he passed over Black Lake, he changed his prayer to include, If you're going to drop me, at least drop me in the water.
But as he opened his eyes to see where he was, he realised the she-bat was carrying him up, up, up to one of the wings of Hogwarts—
She set him down on a balcony, and Severus had barely enough wherewithal to catch his breath as Professor McGonagall ran out to meet him.
"Hermione? What happened? Mr Snape?" Minerva rushed over, noting his bitten arm and hand. "Oh, heavens," she breathed, pulling out her wand and summoning supplies from her cabinets as she sent a Patronus out the window to places unknown.
As she poured water over the wounds, her floo came to life and Poppy stumbled through it. "Minerva, I got your— oh dear!" She rushed over and ran her spells over him. Much to Severus' surprise, the wounds immediately mended with the magic.
"Am I going to be a werewolf?" Severus asked in a trembling whisper.
"A werewolf?" Minerva gasped. "Whyever would you think that?"
Poppy's eyes bulged out of her head. "That's impossible."
Hermione let out a series of loud squeaks.
Poppy flinched and looked at Minerva. "Albus had me take Mr Lupin to the shack outside of Hogsmeade on the full moons. He created it so there was a tunnel that went from the Whomping Willow to the shack, so he could change there and not hurt anyone. Only we knew about it, or so we thought. The door only opens from the outside, Minerva. There is no way he could possibly have escaped from the inside!"
Minerva's eyes bulged in shock even as she carefully wrapped Snape's arm with a protective bandage to protect the healing skin. "We have a werewolf at our school? How was I not made aware of this?!"
Hermione squeaked furiously.
"Wait, what? Slow down. You are so terribly hard to understand when you're this excited!" Minerva told the she-bat.
Hermione took a deep breath and let it out slowly, huffing. She looked at Minerva and met her eyes, staring intently.
"Sirius Black? A dog Animagus? He did this to Mr Snape's arm and stole his wand?"
Minerva's face went through a myriad number of expressions, from shock, to anger and horror to everything in-between. "Okay, you remember what I taught you." She handed the she-bat a vial. "All in here, please, while I make sure there aren't any other concerns at work here."
Hermione squeaked at her, pointing with her wing.
"WHAT?!" Minerva cried.
The Animagus ran out the door clad in her red tartan dressing gown.
Poppy sighed. "You sit right here, Mr Snape, so I can make sure you don't have any other injuries before we floo you over to the infirmary for the night."
Poppy placed a gentle hand on Hermione's wing. "Are you alright, my dear?"
Hermione sighed, squeaking quietly.
"Hermione, you should go hide yourself before things get too… messy."
Snape's hand reached out to touch Poppy. "Please, can she stay?"
Poppy's brows furrowed. "Let's get you somewhere safe, Mr Snape."
Snape began to struggle. "No, please—"
"Mr Snape!" Poppy protested.
The she-bat squeaked at Poppy.
Poppy frowned. "You know I can't understand you as well as Minerva can!"
Hermione gave a frustrated squeak, throwing her wings up expressively.
"Okay, okay, stop giving me that look, young lady!" Poppy said. "You may be brilliant according to Amelia, but she's not trying to juggle a school! It doesn't matter what level of Unspeakable nonsense she thinks you're cleared for!"
Hermione squeaked back at Poppy, clearly agitated.
"Come along, Mr Snape," Poppy said. "Let's get you somewhere safe where the other incoming patients will not be sharing a room with you."
When Severus woke a few hours later, after exhaustion and stress finally pulled him under without his express permission, he saw a familiar shadow hanging from the rafters, a tome clutched in her claws. He looked to the window and realised either it was still night or it had become night once more.
He rubbed his head. "How long was I out?"
Hermione foot-shuffled on the ceiling towards him and plopped the book on the stand by his bed. She peered at him, her honey-fire eyes meeting his. Her nostrils flared as she sniffed him, tilting her head.
Severus sat up in bed and stood, wincing as his muscles ached. He rubbed his shoulder, making a face as his shoulder seemed rather more tender than he expected.
The she-bat stared intently at him, and he felt a kind of tingle in his mind, as if something alive was moving under his skull.
Severus blinked. He looked at Hermione intently.
She stared back at him.
"Yes?" he said, feeling like an idiot. Surely he had imagined that?
Her wings draped across his shoulders as her furry body pressed against his. Her warmth, like a beacon of fire in the cold, suffused into his aching muscles, providing instant relief. It felt relaxing, peaceful. In that moment, nothing else seemed to matter.
Suddenly, she was gone, moving away from him, and he felt a keen sense of loss. The warmth had been soul-deep, and in that warmth he had felt her terrible loneliness— a longing that reached deep into his heart and resonated like a bell.
He turned, reaching to take her "wrists" with his hand, his fingers curling around her bat thumbs. "Thank you," he whispered.
As the words left his mouth, there was a jolt of warm magic between them and suddenly there was a young woman staring at him with wide eyes, her wild mane of golden-brown hair very much resembling the mane of the she-bat. She looked down and shrieked, batlike, as she realised that she was very naked.
She lunged for the first thing she could find to cover herself, and it was the sheet from his bed.
Poppy burst in, having heard the commotion, and immediately pulled out her wand to point it at the yet unknown female whose only adornment was a sheet.
"What are you DOING in here, Mr Snape!" she yelled. "This is no place to bring a paramour—"
Hermione let out a series of loud squeaks, sounding slightly off by human vocal chords that were not quite designed for the sounds she was trying to make.
Minerva burst in seconds later, wand up, and Hermione made a screeing sound of total mortification.
"Hermione?!" Minerva cried, sheathing her wand to quickly remove and drape her outer robe over the terrified young woman.
Poppy quickly conjured a curtain between the mortified young woman and the equally embarrassed young wizard as Minerva quickly rushed Hermione out of the room.
As Snape sat on his bed, so many conflicting feelings running through his mind and his heart, he found his hand touching the book the she-bat had left on his bed stand: Wordless and Wandless: Magical Mastery of the Mind.
Severus found his world drastically changed in the coming weeks after the werewolf incident. Aurors started visiting in greater frequency, and the great House of Gryffindor was spoken of with the sort of hushed whispers and fear that had once been Slytherin's forte. Remus Lupin, Peter Pettigrew, Sirius Black, and a little-known Hufflepuff bloke named Fando McGillicutty (who had unfortunately been out smoking grass and stargazing during the full moon) had been whisked away from Hogwarts by an extensive detail of Aurors.
James Potter, oddly, had been found unconscious in a tunnel that led out of Hogwarts, with half of some sort of homemade map clutched in his petrified hands.
The truth, at least according to the debriefing he had gotten from Professor McGonagall, was that Potter had intended to warn Severus about the danger and his "friends" had taken him out to preserve their "prank." The prank, however, had gone horribly wrong on both parties thanks to Hermione's (known to only a few) intervention. In dropping the werewolf to ensure Snape had been brought to safety, she had inadvertently deposited the dazed and angry werewolf right on top of the hidden Sirius Black and Peter Pettigrew, who were so busy laughing about what Lupin would surely do to Snape that they didn't even consider the possibility that he'd be dropped on them.
The pair, who had apparently been studying to be Animagi along with James Potter, had been sneaking out on full moons and setting "Moony" free to romp the grounds with them. As animals, Moony had no bloodlust towards them— but they had been quite surprised by the air delivery of one said werewolf. Both had been bitten soundly on the arse, and the next day's full moon had them howling and as uncontrollable as Lupin.
All of them had been expelled from Hogwarts and taken into custody by the Aurors. Where they were to go from there would supposedly be decided by the Wizengamot after Headmaster Albus Dumbledore answered a grueling chain of questions about many hows and whys a werewolf had been allowed on the ground to begin with as well as how three young wizards managed to teach themselves to be Animagi and defeat the "protective" measures that had supposedly been in place, and all right under the headmaster's overlong nose.
Most of this, however, was not made public knowledge. Severus had been made privy to it due to his involvement, but for the safety of Hermione— his saviour that night— he remained quiet, feigning amnesia of the traumatic event. Fortunately, thanks to the severity of his wounds, at least on paper to explain his absence from classes for a few weeks, no one questioned it.
Lily seemed relieved to see him one returned to the public eye. Many seemed to think he'd lost a limb or something drastic, some even thinking he'd been dragged away by the Aurors, but when they saw he was, at least to first glance, still with both arms, legs, and one head solidly on his neck, many breathed a sigh of relief.
James Potter, bane of his life, had seemingly changed for the better after the ordeal. The fact that his best mates had petrified him in order to stop him from interfering with their attempt to murder Snape, even someone they didn't like, had been too far, too much, and too over the line. Lily seemed to take more interest in the changed James, and for the first time, Severus didn't feel that pang of pure jealousy that had risen up in his heart so many times before.
He had, if just for a moment, felt what it was like to be treated with compassion and warmth. Even if he was never to have that relationship with Lily, he knew what it felt like to be cared for.
He wondered, deep in his heart, if that same person who showed him such warmth, could ever realised what a gift she had given him in that one act of compassion.
As for Headmaster Dumbledore, he had a full plate dealing with officials both from the Board of Governors and the Ministry, and Minerva McGonagall was made acting Headmistress until if or when Dumbledore returned. Most folks believed he was on sabbatical, and Minerva had informed them that she didn't give a hippogriff's nethers what people thought of how Dumbledore had left as long as Hogwarts got its act back together again.
And if anyone had believed that Hogwarts would be weaker with Minerva McGonagall at the helm instead of Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, all doubts were wiped away very quickly.
The almost expected favouritism of Gryffindor students took a nosedive back into reality, and suddenly every house found they had an equal chance at greatness, just as they had an equal chance for detention. Respect had returned to Hogwarts, both from students to teachers and teachers and staff amongst each other.
Even more oddly, Severus noted, less people in Slytherin spoke of those clandestine meetings with "the man who wanted to bring back the old ways". Even Lucius seemed content with how things were now at Hogwarts, his whispers of discontent he had once been quite loud about in the Slytherin common room had faded away and disappeared. Instead, people seemed much more worried about their grades and how the team would do in Quidditch, along with a healthy fear of going out during full moons lest another series of students disappear by Auror.
It was odd, Severus thought, that even with the clues of the full moon, few if any believed a werewolf was ever there in the days or even weeks after the night he'd almost lost his life to one. It was almost as if no one wanted to believe werewolves were a real threat so close to home.
The year came to a close far quicker than he thought it would, and he began to think he'd never see the familiar she-bat again after her mortifying change into a human before his very eyes. Madam Pince had become many more times effective in ensuring that he and every last lollygagger in the library was cleared out the moment the library closed, and the new Auror presence helping out at night made it impossible to simply sneak out and see if she was romping with the Whomping Willow, safely unnoticed.
It pained him in a way he'd never expected, losing his clandestine meetings with the friendly she-bat in exchange for a better school life. He didn't blame her for it. She hadn't been the one trying to murder him that night. He couldn't help but think she was even lonelier now than she had been before, for he had a feeling she'd chosen to allow him entry into her life. She was a bat, after all. She could have heard him following long before seeing him.
As the day to return home for the summer hols inched ever closer, he felt more and more inklings of despair. Would he ever get to see her again?
Did she even think of him?
Summer was always horrible, he realised, but it seemed even more so when he couldn't escape the reality that his father was still a violent, abusive drunkard and his mother—
His mother would never leave him.
Maybe he got his irritating loyalty from his mother, he thought.
He dipped his feet into the pond, the only clean place in all of Cokeworth. The pond and the trees here were perhaps the only natural place that hadn't been polluted and destroyed by humans.
Lily no longer met him here. He imagined her owling Potter every hour like an infatuated child with a crush. She'd always sworn she'd never be like that, but she'd also sworn fervently that he was an obnoxious toerag and she'd never give him the time of day.
That had certainly changed.
His parents, both his mum and his drunkard father, barely knew where he was, or maybe they didn't care. His mum had so many more immediate concerns like dodging blows from her drunken husband.
He'd once wanted to be a great Dark wizard, powerful enough to show his father what for—
Now, he hungered for an altogether different sort of fulfilment.
He knew it lay far away from this foul, hazy, smog-filled town, in this dump of a living place. He knew it lay outside of Dark magic. He knew because she was the very opposite of Dark magic. The feel of her magic, the brush of her incredible warmth against his skin— had that been the start? Or had it started even before then, from that night when he first saw her in the library, clutching her beloved book to her as she hung by her feet from the library rafters?
"I miss you," he whispered, staring up to the hazy sky.
How was it possible, he wondered. How could he feel so strongly about a creature— a being, no, a person— he had only known for such a short time in comparison to Lily?
He slid his feet into his manky hand-me-down sandals and got up, walking back towards his parents' house. Only a year more to go, and he would be free to leave and make his life in the magical world where he wanted to be, rather than under the same roof of the man who hated him far more than he had ever loved his mother.
As he slid through the creaking front door and up the tattered stairs, he silently slipped into the small corner room that was more of a large cupboard than a room. It was the only room his father couldn't fit through the front of the room, and thus it had quickly become Severus' preferred room. Better in the corner feeling like he was in a storeroom than a bigger room that his father could easily walk into and start swinging. Perhaps when he was younger, when his father was much skinnier, nothing really saved him, but several years worth of cheap beer and stale crisps had turned him into a right terror to the eye. He'd hocked almost everything of value in the house to get more booze.
Ironically, the wedding ring had been the first thing to go.
As Severus' head hit the skimpy pillow, he silently used a charm to fluff it, happy that his uncelebrated seventeenth birthday had at least taken the Trace off. Mostly uncelebrated, anyway. Mysteriously, every year he'd been at Hogwarts, he'd gotten a book that would appear on his bedside table.
Moste Potente Potions
One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi
Magical Drafts and Potions
So You Want to Become a Potions Master?
The last one had included a letter from a Master Potioneer based in Kembleford, who had expressed sincere interest in teaching him, all expenses paid, provided he passed his N.E.W.T.s.
He had always figured it had Lucius, who'd known Severus wasn't one to be able to afford a new book. Lucius denied it, of course, but that was the Slytherin way. To admit you did something for someone implied you were keeping track. A true friend didn't, so it was entirely logical that Lucius had gifted him such things and denied it per social protocol.
All expenses paid? Surely that had to be Lucius' doing. Only he could throw money so casually and then deny doing it. Only Lucius knew his true fondness for Potions. Right?
Rubbish. Of course it was Lucius. Idiot.
Sleep came, somewhat delayed due to the humid heat that the room's tiny window didn't aleve. Outside was just as bad as inside in Cokeworth. He found himself wondering if Lupin had been pardoned for his part in the attack as it hadn't been his fault he was a werewolf and his friends were using him as a weapon. As his eyes finally drifted shut, he imagined the comforting warmth of the she-bat's wings instead of the suffocating smog of Cokeworth, and he was finally asleep.
Hermione dangled from her feet from the old oak, nostrils flaring. She hated the scents in this place, and the only place it was halfway passable to her senses was in the small patch of trees and a pond that was fed by spring deep within the earth. It was the only patch of green in a sea of smog and dull colours. She preferred the oak here because the willow gave away her position too easily.
No, she thought, the willow gave away her position too easily to HIM specifically.
The truth was, she'd always been fascinated by him, the young Severus Snape. He'd always seemed lonely and misunderstood, much as she'd been. It was was because of her inability to connect to others that had driven her to cry herself to the lavatory, and there where the troll had beaten her senseless.
When she woke, though, Professor Quirrell had her bound in some place where water ran out from the mouth of snakes. He chanted over her, seemingly talking, arguing to himself. He painted her with blood. He burned things around her. He made her swallow a glowing stone. He embedded some sort of thing into her, and covered her in some strange glyphs saying it would make her body into the perfect immortal vessel for his power so he could possess her— and no one would notice her being gone.
He'd been right about the last part, even if he botched the first.
At least, she was pretty sure that when you set off to make an immortal body out of some innocent victim, you don't intent to literally imbue it with the body of a bat. She was fairly sure he'd misread something about the qualities he wanted to give "his" new body as being powers versus a physical change. The artefact had been Meso American, covered in snarling pictographs of a beast— a bat, she'd come to realise with her avid research post-transformation.
The final transformation hadn't hurt, oddly enough. It had been the other stuff before it that had been torturous. It had actually felt quite warm and powerful. She'd thought she was finally being allowed to die, and she'd let herself go to it, wanting nothing more than to be released from the agony.
Only she hadn't died. She'd instead, by Quirrell's own making, become something more— something immune to his magic.
Something had gone wrong from the plan, obviously, because there was much screaming after that, mainly Quirrell yelling at himself, tearing at his turban, and exposing a second head on the back of his own. Looking back on that terrifying memory, which she had then greeted with nothings short of a terrified scream, having two faces would put you in conflict with yourself.
That had been her first sonic scream— imbued with all her terror and horror a young twelve year old could muster after having been captured, tortured, chanted over, fed magical items, and painted with magical markings in blood— and it had been a doozy. It had, for lack of better words, shattered every bone in his body, and when that had been done, moved on to liquify his organs.
Seeing what she had done had brought on an understandable reaction of passing out, and she only vaguely hearing a soft voice soothing her, telling her that she was very brave and that sadly there was more to be done. She would have to be brave a bit longer but not to fear; she wouldn't have to be alone forever.
She had awakened dangling by her feet next to a warm hearth in none other than Madam Pince's library— a part of her own collection connected to the public section. The witch had been understandably suspicious and curious, and Hermione had been understandable scared and confused as to why Madam Pince's face seemed so much younger than she remembered.
Witch and she-bat had stared at each other for what seemed like hours before the witch pulled out a piece of fruit— and that was that.
Hermione had felt instant love for the witch, who had conjured her fruit, and she had polished it off in seconds only to have another passed to her and another until her belly was full and her eyes were heavy with fruit-induced bliss.
It had taken a few weeks for Hermione to discover she could, if properly concentrating, project words into Pince's mind, and the moment the witch realised Hermione was more than just sentient, she'd brought in two people: Minerva McGonagall and a young witch named Amelia Bones. Minerva, she had known, but again the youth had confused her. Amelia Bones was a kind, warm-hearted woman who seemed to realise that Hermione was more than just special. Unlike Madam Pince, she talked to her immediately like she understood, asking her questions that were easily nodded yes or no to to speeden the communication process.
They weren't afraid of her, and it gave Hermione the strength to explore her condition without fear. Understandably, they wanted to her remain safe and secret, lest someone less understanding find her presence more than jarring, but Amelia had a plan.
Hermione was to be trained by Madam Pince and Minerva while they tried to figure out if her condition was reversible, or at least gave her the ability to shift to give her a little more freedom to blend in.
Hermione, who had been ostracised due to her buck teeth and hair for as long as she'd been alive, seemed to think blending in was a dream never to be fulfilled.
Weekdays, she holed up in the shared quarters with Madam Pince, learning all the things she could, and at night she got to explore when most everyone else was asleep. The library was her favourite haunt, and Pince had been zealously keeping people out so the she-bat could freely move about and explore.
She'd made friends with the local centaur, who appreciated her ability to knock fruits down from the high places in the trees to their waiting tarps. She would dangle by her feet and listen to their stories, history and lore. All of it fascinated her, and unlike other, humans specifically, the centaurs believed her one of the magicfolk, no more human than they were. Magorian called her Dangles because of her tendency to hang upside to listen to their campfire stories. Bane called her Ghost-in-the-Forest, Ghost for short.
Truth be told, she'd never felt more useful than she did as a bat-creature. She'd always been afraid of flying, at least by broom or airplane, but on her own wings— nothing beat it. It had taken Madam Pince much calling to get her to return home before dawn those first few weeks. She'd wanted to stay out and playing in the sky forever.
Weekends were special training with Amelia and her people at the Department of Mysteries. She learned from the once scary-looking Unspeakables who always kept their heads and bodies covered when out in public. But within, they removed their uniforms and taught her everything from observance to disillusionment, visualizing points of reference, preserving memories, and more. To Hermione it was a game. Learning was fun, and the more she learned the less the loneliness tugged at her.
It had taken almost a year or more to accept that her parents had not even had her yet. The people she remembered was all she had: memory. But, with all the new contacts she made, mentors, and teachers, as well as the centaur— the ache of family was filled. There was just that other ache inside her that grew as she got older. She wasn't immune, watching all the other children pair off and canoodle with each other. To touch and be touched.
The first person she'd seen out in the snows alone had been Severus Snape— a young boy with hand-me-down clothes that were too big for him. Sometimes he'd be with a girl, Lily she remembered, and they would study together under a big tree during the day, but at night, Severus was alone.
She remembered the older, sterner, Severus Snape. The older Potions Professor had been harsh and unforgiving, but the boy fascinated her. He was brilliant and wickedly talented, but he was also strangely ostracised, even by his friends.
She'd catch him reading books in the library, and she'd watch him from her hidden places, caught up in paying attention to all the little details. She wondered what it would be like to be his friend— someone who could hug and be hugged. It was foolish, she knew, to think a human would accept her like that.
But when his birthday came, and she knew it was because she remembered birthdays, no one gave him presents. Her parents had taught her memorisation as a game, and it had kept her mind occupied. She felt bad for him, and scraping together her stipend from her apprenticeships, she sneaked into the bookstore, took the book she needed, and left the pile of galleons plus change in a small pile near the register.
Wrapping it had been hard. Wing thumbs and teeth were her only helpers there. Her wandless and silent magic had been pants back then and had conjured whipped cream instead of wrapping paper, much to her horror. Finally she decided it was just going to have to be unwrapped, and she sneaked it onto his bed stand when they were all at class.
She could always sneak around Hogwarts like a ghost. It was like the very building encouraged her to do so, opening places to explore, hidden places to squeeze into, and fun adventures to be had for one lone she-bat with nothing better to do.
She hoped he liked the books. He figured as a future Potion's master, they were appropriate gifts. For Christmas, she gave him a warm, fluffy, Slytherin scarf and warm socks, sad that he never seemed to get anything. It fascinated her how much he seemed to treasure the items, even though he thought Lucius gave them to him. It amused her, though a part of her wished to give him things in person.
Probably better that he never knew— if he knew her, his history could change. What if something important had to happen that made him what he was in the future?
Selfish curiosity won out, however, and one day she let him see her in the library without letting Irma know about it. She wanted to know what he'd do. She'd lead him on merry chases, making him think he was being all sneaky, amused that he'd neglect the hearing of a giant fruit bat. She contemplated confronting him to see how he'd react, but the time never seemed right. The reasons never seemed less than selfish.
But when the werewolf was attacking, she couldn't not help. She fell from the sky and protected him, driving him backward to the school, carrying the werewolf off to the lake and dropping it in. She'd been so focused on getting Severus back to the school, she'd not even realised she'd dropped the werewolf on his "best mates".
Karma's a bitch.
But after that, she'd stayed in the shadows, no longer allowing him to see her anymore. It was for his own good and his safety as well as her own. As lonely as she was, the last thing he needed was more reason to be ostracised. Time avoiding Aurors was a game to her, and she had the official clearance to cavort outside their influence if it came down to it. Amelia had seen to it she was protected. But, she had a feeling being interrogated by Aurors was not Snape's idea of fun.
She still watched over him, though, especially when he was alone, listening to him talk to himself.
I miss you, he'd said.
Surely not her. He'd probably meant Lily Evans.
Yet it had been his touch that had given her a jolt of magic that had triggered a shift into a human form, even if for but a few hours— a terrified girl who hadn't not worn fur for upwards of five years until then. No other had been able to do that.
What made him… special?
She followed him home, watching him walk toward the horrible hole in the wall in town that stank of industry. The noise messed with her "vision", making flying awkward the usual way. She had to rely on her eyes, and that was a handicap for one such as her.
Now that she'd taken her exams, she had more free time, yet free time seemed less satisfying when there wasn't someone to share it with. It'd never mattered before—
Hermione sighed. Truly, she was doomed. What hope did she have in having a normal friendship or relationship like a normal witch and wizard?
She smelled the smoke long before she saw the fire. It jolted her out of her thoughts. Smoke and trash— that was all normal for Cokeworth— but this one was different. This one was—
Severus' house was consumed by fire!
A man, screaming, busted out the front door, body consumed in flames before he fell flat on his face, unmoving.
What had started a fire so hot, so fast?!
She saw him, trapped in his closet room, the room filled with smoke as the fire below moved ever quicker. He had blasted the side of the house open to escape, but the act had done what every fire wants: feed it more oxygen.
She could hear him coughing as the roar of the flames blasted inward and out from the stairs and hall, blowing him up in the the air with the blaze.
Hermione was a blur of frantic wingbeats, her muscles straining like never before. She'd never tried to merge magic with her physical form as she had then, in that moment.
She was in front of him, his body slamming into hers as her claws dug into his clothes and jerked him upward.
The fire consumed the upper level and the heat blew her off course, almost into the other building. She strained, muscles aching, and she focused.
They were gone as the flames consumed the house and spread to the houses beside it even as the sirens of the firetrucks came to douse the flames.
Murder-Suicide By Fire in Cokeworth
The charred remains of a residence in Cokeworth leaves two dead, one missing, and a handful of injured as a house burst into flames last night around two in the morning.
Ironically, the body of Eileen Snape was found almost untouched, surrounded by a blaze caused by her drunken husband as he attempted to, what we can only guess: burn down all evidence of her murder at his hands.
Eileen Snape, dead by a blunt blow to the head, had no evidence of smoke inhalation. Her husband, however, suffered third degree burns from accelerant believed to be alcohol, which he had doused the entire bottom floor with and, perhaps unknowingly, himself.
The fire caught quickly and then exploded as the propane gas bottles took to flame as well. The fire seems to have blown out the top floor through the side, and the fire then consumed the top floor before the flames started to catch two neighboring houses aflame.
Evidence seems to point to someone living on the top floor, but no other body was found. The Snapes had a son, according to records, but all attempts to reach or find him have failed. All neighbours can recall is that Eileen and Tobias Snape argued often, well into the night, except for last night: the fatal night in question.
Ironically, Eileen Snape had a significant life insurance policy on herself if something should happen, with her son as the sole beneficiary.
Authorities are still searching for the teenaged son, Severus Snape, who is believed to be either abroad studying for school or perhaps wandering Cokeworth, injured.
"WHY DID YOU RESCUE ME?!" Severus screamed at the startled she-bat. "Now everything is gone! Any sense of family I may have had is gone! If you had really cared a lick about me, you should have saved my mother!"
Hermione, pale with shock of his reaction, tried to reach out to comfort him, but he slapped her wing away, his face twisted in pain and anger.
"Don't you fucking TOUCH ME!" he yelled at her. "You FREAK!"
The she-bat, utterly stunned, slumped, utterly defeated. In a blur of movement, she was gone out the window.
For a moment, there was only the pain and the rage, and the anger that she'd saved him but not his mother. The only member of his family he had thought even remotely redeemable—
But when the she-bat had left, he felt it: regret.
Stomach gnawing, heart twisting regret.
He'd never once. Not once had he ever thought of her as a freak, yet in his anger and his pain out the hurtful word had come boiling out, throwing out the first painful thing he knew would hurt her— the one word that would drive her away.
He ran to the window and looked out, but the sky was empty.
Anguish filled him.
As a healer came in to check on him, the man tutted as he looked over the clipboard. "You are very lucky to be alive, Mr Snape," the healer said. "Someone must be looking out for you. Did our lovely she-bat take a shine to you?"
Severus' face twisted in pain."But I know fucked that up properly."
The healer looked at him confused.
A kind-hearted looking woman walked in, all smiles. She had healing robes that looked normal until he saw what lay below the waist where her lower body connected into a leonine body. "Ahh, Mr Snape. I will be one of your healers that will be taking care of of your wounds from the fire. My name is Healer Seki."
Seki smiled at the other healer. "Aaron, what is your assessment of Mr Snape's current condition?"
"The burns are healing well, thanks to the salve," Aaron replied with a nod, but the pain relieving properties seem to have given Mr Snape some delusions of wellness beyond expectation." The healer looked at Snape critically.
"Please, sit down, Mr Snape," Seki said, gesturing to the bed. The salve will keep you from developing scar tissue as you heal, but you should rest as much as you can, as you did breathe in superheated air. We would rather you take the time to heal that carefully, as magic can heal the lungs too quickly and cause you difficulty catching your breath."
Severus sat down, wincing, the very act of knowing he was injured was like realising he had a cut. The pain came with with the revelation.
"Now, Radar's aura helped heal you as she flew you here to us, but without the physical contact, you have to rely on us. We cannot expect her to be here all the time, otherwise our Amelia would yell at us for monopolising her abilities for our patients," Seki said.
"I love that aura," Aaron confessed.
"Don't we all, Aaron," Seki said as she chuckled and smiled.
Snape frowned. "Radar?"
Seki looked at him. "Ah, that is her callsign around here. She can leave us all in the dark, you see?" She pantomimed ears over her head. "The radar is a wonderful Muggle invention, if I do say so myself."
"Where am I?"
"You are in the Department of Mysteries, Mr Snape," Seki replied. "It was not safe for Radar to bring you in to Mungo's as she is, so she brought you to us instead."
The healer sighed. "I am sorry to be the one to say this, Mr Snape, but our Amelia will be coming in soon to discuss the matters of the estate which your mother left to you upon her death. She has assembled the nasty bit of paperwork to allow it to transfer to Gringott's instead of having to jump through hoops in both places. She has already taken care of the entanglements of explaining where you were the night your father— and I am so sorry, Mr Snape. Alcoholism is a serious, nasty business."
Snape's fist clenched until his knuckles were white. "Why didn't she save my mum? Why did she save me?"
Healer Seki and Aaron exchanged glances.
"I'm sorry, I had assumed you had already read the papers," she said, pointing to the stack of Muggle tabloids. "Your mum was already gone long before the fire took the house."
"What?" he said.
"I'm sorry, Mr Snape," Seki said. "She saved the only one she could have saved. You, and you but barely in time."
Snape's eyes closed as he fought back the tears. "Please… can I— get a message to her?"
Seki and Aaron exchanged significant glances again. "Did she not tell you? Tonight was her last night here for a while. She is going on assignment out in the field. We do not expect her back for some time."
Snape didn't hear anything after that. All he could see was the she-bat's horrified, devastated expression as he had called her— a freak.
Days turned into weeks, and the summer went by at a crawl. Amelia had given him a few tests to see if he qualified for special accommodations due to his situation, and a few of the DoM Potions Masters gave him things to work on to keep his mind focused on something other than his grief.
He'd signed a rather extensive confidentiality agreement in order to remain under the DoM's care, and taken an Oath in order to avoid being obliviated about what he had seen. All the while, he hoped to catch a glimpse of the she-bat he had so gravely offended, but she never came.
He saw, instead, so many other manners of creatures that were far less human and more beast working for the DoM— creatures of myth and stories rooted in what even the magical world believed was fantasy. Talking beasts, working sphinxes, and even delivery Nifflers topped the list of amazing fantastic beasts. They had people and beasts for all manner of tasks, making the lip service paid to acceptance outside the DoM seem shallow and meaningless.
There seemed to be a great many tiers to the DoM. Some never saw the places where beasts were, only tending work akin to the bog standard Ministry fare. The petty blood wars that raged on in the world above seemed even more evil.
He had almost walked right in and signed up for it.
Lily had always said that his friends, Mulciber and Avery specifically, had a horrible set of values. While it wasn't to say Lucius was any better when it came to blood bigotry, Mulciber and Avery backed it up with depraved acts of violence and spite. While they had never harmed Severus, as they all shared House solidarity, he knew that they were one big step into psychopathy. As much as he hated to admit it to her, she'd been right.
Even Lucius had said he greatly preferred the way Hogwarts felt with Minerva in charge, and while he had gone and graduated, the personal influence of the former prince of Slytherin still lingered on.
There had been no more talk of clandestine meetings with some mysterious wizard who wanted to bring back the old ways anymore— or if there was, Severus hadn't heard it anymore. Word from Ministry said that Albus Dumbledore was still fighting scrutiny from the Wizengamot for endangering students by allowing a werewolf in the school without telling his staff and making safer, foolproof arrangements for student safety that couldn't be foiled by a group of determined students who thought setting loose a werewolf on school grounds was a great idea.
As for the official "outside" story, Snape wasn't quite sure what it was. Some said Dumbledore was retiring at last. Rita Skeeter had said he was being outed for any reason her twisted mind could make up. He was obviously a someone with enough influence that he wasn't being blackballed in public.
As the time to return to Hogwarts came, Snape was given a second option: an apprenticeship with a Potions Master where he could study for his N.E.W.T.s and learn from none other than the master that had written interest to take him on—
Severus realised as he accepted it, that his new Master, Master Crowfoot, was a part of the DoM all along, and that brought him to a painful realisation.
It hadn't been Lucius who had gifted him those books, the warm winter clothes, and the connections for his apprenticeship. It had been Hermione, the she-bat, from the very start.
And he had done what he did best: push people away and make them despise him.
Now, faced with a career that would expand before him as long as he worked hard, he found that one he wished to share it with was nowhere to be found.
Spring Cleaning at Hogwarts Reveals Corrupt Artefact
Hogwarts was in for quite a surprise last week when the house-elves were busy cleaning all of the hidden nooks and crannies of Hogwarts for the returning students' arrival. Piles and piles of lost and forgotten items piled up on the main green as the staff busied themselves sorting through it all, donating much of it those in need, whether it be student or staff and even needy families in Hogsmeade.
Amongst the lost items that were found was none other than the Diadem of Rowena Ravenclaw. The house-elves had dipped it in magical cleanser (provided by the Ministry) to purge any possible Dark taint or influence that might endanger the students, and found the artefact had been warped and twisted by forbidden Horcrux magic by a person or persons unknown, sometime within the current century..
Special teams have been gathered and put under specific Oaths to prevent corruption. They will be dispatched to Trace the magic to any other possible artefacts sharing the same signature. So far, apart from the Diadem, three other items have been gathered and purged, but as to what they where or where they were found, nothing is being said until all other traces have been eliminated.
As for who did the corruption to begin with, no one is willing to speak out, but speculation as to their identity is rife.
As for the excess of lost and found items at Hogwarts, Acting Headmistress Minerva McGonagall is opening up the school for visits the first week for any interested parties to claim their property, provided they can describe said property to her satisfaction.
Gringotts Uses Dark Magic Ban Clause to Allow Aurors to Claim Dangerous Dark Artefacts From Vaults
Aurors made a safety check at Gringotts over the last month, touching nothing save found Dark Artefacts, which were confiscated, recorded, photographed, and reported to the Ministry's newly-created Misuse of Magical Artefacts in conjunction with the Misuse of Muggle Artefacts office.
The goblins, in cooperation with the Auror Department, supervised the visits, making sure nothing was taken from the vaults that was not duly recorded.
"Objects that can endanger people, especially our staff, have always been watched very closely, but hidden Dark Artefacts, objects that have intentionally been smuggled in order to keep them from being discovered by the regulatory agencies, have always been under a removal upon discovery clause.
"All objects removed from Gringott's will always be recorded and reported to the original vault owner so they can appeal for its return, especially in the case of family heirlooms that were often made during a time when such things were still permitted, in the case that a family simply forgot they had stored the object in the first place," goblin supervisor Griphook stated. "We will be happy to assist any family with the return of their heirlooms and recording them properly so this does not happen again."
"Apprentice Snape," a satyr said with a polite bow. "Could you please take these potions up to the level one overflow infirmary? Belgarne said there was an unfortunate incident over at Gringott's earlier today. Some witch named Bellatrix Black went absolutely mental over her family vault and attacked everyone that was present at the time in the main lobby. They are stabilising them before they can be transported to Mungos."
Severus bowed his head. "Of course, Master Korav." He took the crate of shrunken potions and carried them with him. The emergency healing potions were more delicate and always had to be transported by hand, but they were very effective.
The level one infirmary was, for the most part, a facade for screening for "real" issues of a magical nature. They provided basic healing services for accidents at the Ministry and transportation to Mungos when they were stable, if they required it. The level two infirmary was more like a real clinic and lay in the middle of the Ministry, but the real, specialised infirmary for the Department of Mysteries lay below, deep within the lowest bowels of the DoM.
His apprenticeship had challenged him far more than the classes at Hogwarts, though he had expected it to be different from standard textbook fare. His master had demanded he learn the standard way of every potion before expanding on the better ways, reasoning that he would run into other people who made the standard potions and he would have to know how they were different.
His mother's inheritance had, ironically, given him a significant leg up in finances with money she had never once revealed in all her years of marriage to Tobias— money that hailed from the Prince family she had left behind when she had become pregnant with him. He found himself in a place he'd never expected to be: financially stable.
Yet, the emptiness inside him always remained. That and the pain of a wound that had never healed— a wound of his own making. That was the worst of it. He had done it to himself.
After delivering his crate of potions, he walked down to the DoM infirmary with the reports from upstairs. He walked in and noticed that, with relief, there were very few patients. The clinic above had overflowed with patients— all victims— of Bellatrix.
A strange humming— a song?— came from one of the side rooms. He shuffled in, peering around the door to the patient room. He stifled a gasp as a great she-bat hung down from the ceiling, her leathery wings wrapped around someone or something. A master-healer's circlet adorned her head and the gem-studded specialist bangles jingled softly around her ankle— the only things on her that weren't naturally found on a bat.
She rocked back and forth like she was rocking a baby, humming, and then her wings unfurled as she slowly set her patient back down in the bed. Another healer ran their wand over the patient, nodding to the she-bat and making sounds of approval.
"She's stable, Healer Radar, thank you," the other healer said. "I will be able to stabilise her on my own from here."
The she-bat stretched out her wings, the span on them touching both sides of the room before she folded them again. She nodded and dropped to the floor, shaking her legs a little as she awkwardly wing walked out of the room to leave the patient with the other healer.
Severus felt the breath catch in his throat.
She was huge, now. Her body had grown even larger; her wings even longer. It was almost as if she had embraced what she was and no longer tried to remain small and relatively inconspicuous.
Then again, he thought, he had changed too. His body has filled out, replacing the lankiness of a gawky teen with more muscle in all the right places. He had been eating better, no longer starving himself away from Hogwarts. Even his voice had shifted into the deeper range in a way that his father's never had.
They had both… changed.
His mind thought of Lily and how she had changed as well, no longer the thin, delicate wisp of a girl who could blow away when the wind changed. The last photo she had sent him— ugh, of Potter and her together by a fountain— had her all bundled up in her winter clothes, looking more like a mummy instead of a woman.
Hermione's wild mane of hair, oh those ringlet curls, flowed from her shoulders to her back and down to her small feet. The fur glistened with shine and health. She'd become a master, already, but it didn't really surprise him. She had been studying hard since before he'd even known for sure what he wanted to be— what he wanted to do. The old school apprenticeships worked that way. Intensive one-on-one instruction always had a one-up on the more enmasse teaching at the schools, and she had had it from the start. He imagined she was more than a good healer, now.
"Hermione," he whispered.
The she-bat recoiled almost immediately, her fur standing on end as she let out a loud series of squeaks. She stared at him intently, her golden eyes wide and her ears comically pointed straight up like satellite dishes.
She opened her wings, raising up as she looked ready to flee out whatever door provided the fastest escape.
"I'm sorry!" he blurted, sinking to his knees. "I was sorry even the moment I said it. I've been sorry for every second of every day since then. I tried to send you a message, but they said you were out in the field. I tried to send you an owl, and the owl got tangled up in a cyclone and had to be in rehab for months—!"
The she-bat was frozen in place, still looking like she was going to flee. Her head slowly turned to look at him.
"I didn't give you a chance to explain," he said. "I was hurting so much. I thought— I thought my mother had burned alive while I— I'm so sorry. I'm so very sorry. I never, ever, believed what I said. I never saw you as anything but— beautiful. Magical. Brilliant."
Severus' face twisted in agony. "You saved my life more than once, and I repaid you in pain. Even— even if you cannot forgive me. I need you to know that I am truly sorry." He felt a hot tear running down his cheek, and he quickly wiped it away.
You really should leave here, her voice said in his mind.
He jerked his head up, wincing.
The patients are sleeping, she explained.
"Will I see you again?" he asked, both wanting and not wanting the answer.
The she-bat closed her eyes and shook her head. I do not know. I need time to think on what you have said and decide how I feel about it. She sighed heavily. I will send you an owl when I am ready to talk to you again.
Severus closed his eyes. "That is fair. Thank you."
When he opened his eyes, she was gone— silent as a ghost, or perhaps, if he was truthful, far quieter. His heart sank as he suspected that would be the last time he ever saw her.
Time passed at a snail's pace for Severus as he fretted over Hermione's response or even if she would. His studies kept him busy, but with any free time, he found himself suffering from a kind of lingering depression. To combat that, he tried to keep himself more occupied and focus better on his Animagus studies.
The truth was, he'd been studying it for a while— the moment he found he could at the DoM— but short of running around with a mandrake leaf plastered to the roof of his mouth, the meditations were less than successful— or rather, he would end up thinking of her and his thoughts would end up thinking of bats again.
Bats and more bats.
All of which lead back to her again.
Severus opened his eyes from his meditation and immediately started to flail. He was upside down, and the ground was way below him.
He tumbled from where he had been (where the hell was that anyway?!) and tried to get his bearings, but he was falling!
Crack. Tumble. CREEAK.
Severus passed through about a hundred, thousand branches, beating himself almost senseless as they smacked him upside the face and body, narrowing avoiding impaling himself on many of them only to land spread eagle, or spreadBAT, on one larger branch towards the bottom.
A shower of plums hit the ground, having been jostled by his ten point failure to land gracefully.
He saw bats around his head, all of them chasing stars.
Squeak. Ow. Squeak. OW!
He tried to pull himself up, but his arms were tangled up, no those were his hands. No. those were his wings. FUCK!
He tripped over himself and ended up dangling by one foot… the ground was disturbingly far away.
He heard voices. Oh gods, they were load. His ears flattened on his head. He squeaked in distress, but the sound of his sounds reflected back at him, amplified by his wings, and he "saw" the entire orchard in vivid detail.
Ow. OW. OWWW!
He tried to hold his head, but he ended punching himself in the face with his wings, his "thumb" almost stabbing his own eyes out.
He flapped his wings, but one thumb ended tangled in the membranes of his other wing, and he ended up entangled in himself, squeaking in indignation.
Merlin, Hecate, and Morrigan.
He stared out the hole of his homemade cocoon and squeaked wearily. Now what? Was he just going to dangle here by one foot, tangled in his own wings, and die of dehydration or something?
What if someone saw him?
Oh, crud. What if someone DID see him like this? He'd be the laughing stock of—
He struggled again, making frantic squeaking noises as he felt his thumb scrape across his wing membrane.
He was falling, his wings all every which way. He tried to flap, but the over correction bashed his head into another branch—
Everything went black.
He awoke to black and warmth. His head ached a little, but not as much as his pride. He wondered if he was bleeding out on the ground somewhere or if someone stepped on him when he crashed to the ground. That would be just his luck there.
Apprentice Severus made his Animagus shift! Annnnnd promptly destroyed himself by falling from the highest part of the arboretum and crashing into a tree.
There would be a picture framed somewhere of the entire end— motion and all.
He heard chuckling. Oh gods. Someone DID see him. Kill me now. Just… end me.
The chuckling was all around him, vibrating his body as warmth unwrapped from his body, making him feel utterly naked to the world.
Look at the bright side, there are worse places to fall from. You could have been trampled to death by frightened Muggles. Most of them fear bats.
Severus cringed as light almost blinded him as the cocoon of warmth moved away from him. The shadow of a large wing moved away from him, and his eyes widened as he realised the she-bat was regarding him with amusement plastered on her honey-brown muzzle. She had a plum stuck on her thumb, and she extended it to him.
You should eat something. Your metabolism is starving, most likely.
Severus smelled the plum approaching before he saw it. He was drooling before he could stop himself. His wings clamped around the offered plum, and he dug into it with a loud squeak, messily eating it like it was the last plum on earth.
Sanity didn't return until about five plums in, and even then, his stomach was still more in control than his brain.
He stared at the larger she-bat as she delicately peeled a mango with her teeth and removed all the golden yellow flesh with the precision of a surgeon. He wasn't sure what he found more fascinating at that moment, the mango or the she-bat. Both were, unfortunately, equally exciting at that given moment.
The she-bat eyed him with a chuckle, letting the mango seed, completely stripped off all fruity goodness, thump to the ground at the base of the tree.
Most bats are small and inconspicuous, Hermione's voice said with a tinge of curiosity. Interesting you would end up being the rarer megabat. She seemed to sigh. At least you have a species.
Severus tried to say something, but it came out as a flurry of squeaks. He smacked himself with his wing thumbs, feeling around his face-muzzle, looking baffled.
Hermione chuckled. Well, now you know what it was like for me trying to communicate as a bat when you unceremoniously turned me human.
Severus' eyes widened as he swallowed, heat filling his body with embarrassment.
Hermione, who didn't seem embarrassed at all, yawned, the healer's bangles on her ankle tinkled like wind chimes. You should probably register your Animagus form before someone unsavoury tries to report you. It won't be anyone here in the DoM, most likely, but you did choose the one public arboretum in the entire Ministry.
Fortunately for me, they think I'm someone's familiar.
Hermione's voice was amused.
Severus eyed the ground nervously, wrapping his wings tighter around himself.
Come, follow me.
The she-bat dropped from the branch smoothly, wings spread as she glided off and out of the arboretum.
Severus twitched, eyeing the ground and then the direction Hermione left.
He took a deep breath and let go of the branch, spreading his wings out as far as they would go.
A few ministry workers touched their hair and looked around just after a large, black megabat zoomed over their heads on his way to somewhere— very, very fast and squeaking hysterically.
"That Amelia Bones," the one whispered to the other. "Why does she have to have to have bat familiars?"
The other shushed her. "Shh, they're listening."
The other official sighed. "Why can't she have a nice owl like a normal person?"
"I want to know how she has more than one familiar," the other said. "I can't even get one."
The one's companion stared at him. "Kare, you can't even keep a houseplant alive. You're not allowed to have a familiar."
The man slumped. "Rude."
The woman eyed him, shaking her head. "Truth."
Severus squeaked in indignation as the official measured his wings, checked his membranes, examined his toes, and everything in between. All the while, the she-bat dangled from the ceiling nearby, snacking on what had to be the most delectable smelling persimmon on the planet.
It didn't help that she had a rather delectable musk that had definitely not been so obvious to his human nose.
Oh, damn it all.
Severus squeaked as the official put a measuring tape around him and across his wings, writing down the markings and other such random information.
"Okay, there we go, Mr Snape," the older witch said. "You're all registered. Let me give you the identification mark. Do you prefer a bangle like your friend there? We recommend them for the species that can pass as familiars and working creatures such as owls. Less suspicion or paranoia that way, but it's your choice."
Severus looked at the different kinds of marks on the page. Everything from jewelry to magical tattoos scattered about the page. Maybe it would be better to look like someone's familiar or a messenger bat. There would be less scrutiny that way, he thought.
He pointed with his wing thumb to the one he wanted, and the elder witch pulled out a drawer, fingered through it, pulled a band out, cast a series of spells over it, and then slipped it over his left foot like one of the bangles the post owls had that gave them access to various areas.
"Alright, Mr Snape," she said, rubbing her palms together. "That's that. I'll send an owl to your master to let him know the paperwork is completed, so he won't try and send you back again. Thank you for being dutiful and registering as soon as you did. It saves us a lot of paperwork in case you get caught out before you can or, Merlin help you, get caught by Muggles."
Snape squeaked, nodding, and then pounced on the juicy fig she had in her hands. The elder witch laughed and relinquished it with a smile.
"They think us so backwards here," the witch said with a warm chuckle. "But we know our animals, beasts, and creatures, don't we, hrm?" She gathered up the paperwork. "Congratulations on your fine new form, Mr Snape."
Snape squeaked out a sigh of relief.
The witch handed the larger she-bat a cantaloupe and gave her a fond scratch behind the ears. "Don't be such a stranger, Hermione. You can visit us just as often as you like."
Hermione squeaked in appreciation for the fruit and the ear scratch, rubbing her muzzle against the witch's cheek. The witch walked into the back, leaving her desk unattended as Hermione used her thumb to carve the melon in half.
The heavenly scent of perfectly ripe melon assaulted Snape's overworking nose, and he felt a shiver of desire to dive into the melon half, face first— like a respectable human being.
Hermione eyed him as he inched ever closer, but she munched on the half the melon clutched in her claws. Just as he got within pouncing range, she very subtly moved herself and the melon just out of range.
Severus couldn't help but squeak in protest.
A low thrumming filled the air, and Snape realised she was laughing. She moved over and thumped the other half of the melon down for him, fastidiously cleaning up her half with gusto.
He had no self-control and pounced the melon half with squeaks of pure happiness, tearing into it with far less subtlety and far more enthusiasm, getting melon juice and seeds all over his face.
I never would have pegged you for a fruitivore, Hermione's voice chuckled in his head.
Severus, slightly embarrassed now, tried to groom the fruit bits off himself, but he wasn't that experienced there either.
Suddenly, the she-bat was very close, and she pegged him with her tongue, cleaning off the sticky fruity bits off his tortured fur. He froze as the close contact with her plucked his soul like a harp string, and he didn't want to move, lest it end. He trembled with the very sweet agony of it. Her soothing warmth was like a siren's call, and more than ever he ached to bask in it.
He couldn't take it anymore, and he started to groom her back, his tongue working furiously on her ears and muzzle. The she-bat froze in place, caught somewhere between surprise and the sweet rapture of enjoying reciprocation on such a powerful level. With each glide of his tongue, he soothed her silky fur, feeling a strange resonance between them— something he had, perhaps, longed for all his life and never even realised. He wished,more than anything, to make things right— to be there for her, even if it meant giving up being more human than bat in order to do so. It would be so worth it— just be able to touch her, for her to allow him to touch her.
He nuzzled her, squeaking as he channelled the depths of his regret, his admiration, his very longing for her.
Hermione. His voice, clear as a bell, said her name directly into her mind.
Suddenly she was gone, zooming out of the office in a blur of golden brown, but this time—
This time Severus was ready.
This time he would not be left behind.
He flew. He dodged people, windows, and doors alike. He followed the imprint of her warmth upon his memory, refusing to fail— refusing to let her slip through his claws.
She was everything.
If ever there was a god of bats, let him get this one thing right. Let him be what she needed to ease that loneliness he had felt so long ago— that he knew she had even now. Let her be happy. Even if he was not the one— even though he wanted to be, allow him to ease that loneliness.
She deserved to be happy.
He thought of Lily and how he had once thought she was the only bright spot in his gloomy life, how he'd longed to have her attention instead of her growing need for more than their friendship. Lily had always wanted more— better grades, better friends, better life— to prove to her sister she was worthy of their parents favour.
She'd never given him things for his birthday or Christmas— until, well… after. The gifts were like casual afterthoughts, like generic holiday socks or smelly toiletries that made him sneeze. Regulus adored such things, but he— well, he just gave them all to Regulus to play with.
Regulus was always such a peacock.
Apparently, Lily had spent good money on them, so they didn't go to waste. They just weren't— him.
He was pretty sure Lily had always wondered why nothing ever seemed to change on Severus, and why he preferred smelling of fresh-cut herbs, like a potion ingredient closet rather than a pricey cologne-scented Regulus.
Yet, the mysterious gifts that adorned his nightstand from time-to-time: a leather-bound journal, fine quills, a new stirring rod to take the place of the one Gerald Goyle had melted, a beautiful silver knife, a highly-polished copper cauldron, and even a subscription for Potions Weekly— all the things he had believed Lucius had sneakily gifted him—he knew who had really gifted them, now.
One fascinating she-bat who had learned more of him from afar than those close to him had learned up close had captured his heart long before he finally understood what it meant.
But what his thoughts boiled down to was that he didn't wish Lily ill. In fact, he genuinely wanted her to be happy, and if that happened to be with Potter, well, it was her choice. They had never, truly, connected save for a childhood dream of magic but for a time. And now, he knew what he really wanted, and there was nothing like self-loathing and regret over stupidly blurted words said in pain and anger to put things into crystal-clear focus.
As his wings beat, he didn't even notice how the beats came ever easier, how his wingspan seemed to grow, or how his shadow seemed to grow beneath him. His hair spread down his back, longer, thicker, broader. His muzzle widened, teeth sharpened, and ears grew even more large. He chased the she-bat through the arboretums and the hidden hallways, nooks and crannies where only wings could carry them. She glided smoothly, so obviously used to all the places that could fit her body, where she could spread her wings, and where she had to roll in the air with her wings pressed to her body. He mirrored her every move, determined not to lose her, and if this was a test, it was one he was determined to pass.
Suddenly, they were outside. The night air kissed his body, ruffling the fur over his body. As his wings flapped, he gained a clear picture of the world around him, obstacles, places of note, and the most important thing of all: Hermione. His ears swivelled, filling in the cracks of his mental picture, all the meantime never losing his pursuit of the she-bat.
The sun was dipping below the horizon, and they were free to fly high and even over people's heads. No one seemed to notice or care. It was so very clear how Hermione had gone so many years at Hogwarts without a single person realising who was flying overhead: undetected and unfeared.
Yet as he began to fly closer to her, their wings almost touching as they synchronised their wingbeats, he realised she had never once Disapparated to escape him. She was so close— her delicious warmth sending tendrils of tantalising heat to wrap around his body. She dipped over the small lake, cooling herself by allowing her body to dip just into the water without fully immersing herself, then she soared back upwards, allowing the thermal to jerk her up and away.
He was tiring, his wings aching, but he refused to yield. She, too, was tiring at last, and she slowed her pace as they passed a huge, elder tree that overlooked the forest's younger generation. Her wings beat quickly as she folded one wing and kept the other fully extended, flipping herself upside down in a fraction of a second, allowing inertia to guide her feet upwards and so she could grasp the tree branch in a smooth, perfect upside-down landing.
At first, Severus thought he was going to die, his body smashed against the tree as he tried to stop and then fall to his death so many, many metres below. But his body, unlike his first crash through the orchard canopy, seemed to know how to preserve his life. His wing folded just enough as the opposite extended, propelling his legs up to lock around the branch and allow him to hang there next to the she-bat that had taken him on the chase of his life. As he panted from his exertions, his weight locked his talons in place, neatly clenching the branch without much effort.
Hermione eyed him, perhaps appraising his ability to chase her.
He extended a wing, slowly caressing her mane of thick fur that moved down her back and then even more slowly wrapping his wing around her.
Her eyes widened as they both realised simultaneously that he had become larger or she had become smaller— his wings were able to wrap around her and hold her close. His muzzle nuzzled hers gently as he tenderly licked her head, grooming her ears. After a few frozen seconds, she snuggled into him as her tongue darted out to groom his muzzle in return as her warmth enclosed him with wings of its own.
I forgive you, her voice whispered into his mind.
Severus awoke in a bed, which was the first surprise.
The second was that his arms were wrapped around a very naked, bushy-haired witch. The third revelation was that he was very much in the same boat of nakedness.
Not that he was complaining, but—
The last thing he remembered was dangling in a tree somewhere outside London. He wasn't even sure where that place was, either.
Hermione stirred against him, squeaking softly as she snuggled closer to his warmth. He found himself pressing his face into her mane of hair, inhaling deeply of her musky scent, a hint of the almost-spice of the she-bat mixed with warm pollens and sweet nectars.
Her eyes opened as she took in the sight of his bare chest and his face, half-obscured by a sleep-tousled mane of long black hair. She squeaked with surprise, eyes going very wide as she stared at her human hands, opening and closing them. She ran her hands over her body, hugging herself as though she still had wings.
Severus swallowed hard, knowing that there would have to be a rather overdue conversation, and cricked his neck. "Erm, if you could point me towards your kitchen, I think breakfast— I can handle making breakfast, and uhh… clothes. I should probably—"
He tripped over a pile of neatly folded robes. "Um, are these your—" He picked them up and started to hand them to her.
Hermione shook her head frantically, pulling a pillow over herself and hugging it fiercely, her fingers pointing at him, the robes and the rest of his scattered clothing. Her face was graced with a shy smile yet flushed with embarrassment as she tried to bury it in the pillow.
Severus stumbled behind the dressing screen and pulled everything on, his fingers working frantically on every single button. He cursed himself inwardly for having so many bloody buttons to fasten. As he pulled on his boots, staggering and almost tripping in his haste to tighten the laces, he picked up a twig that had tried to trip him.
Hermione squeaked as she pulled the pillow back over herself along with the sheets, looking very confused as to what to do to cover herself.
Severus stared at the twig in his hand and passed his hand over it, transforming it into a silken dressing gown that he hoped was actually her size. He nervously thrust the soft moss-green garment in front of him like a shield, practically throwing it at her in his haste to begin gathering whatever scraps might remain of his dignity. "Thisshouldwork IhopeI'mgoingto makebreakfastnow," he sputtered, quickly fleeing the room towards what he hoped was the kitchen and not the basement.
Or a trapdoor.
Or a tiger trap.
Or all of the above.
When Hermione finally crept into the kitchen, she looked around strangely as if she'd never really seen the place before. She looked up, where the evidence of her usual claws digging into the rafters indicated well-loved use.
Severus had a full English breakfast going with everything from potatoes to sausages, plus grilled tomatoes, eggs, and fried bread. The tea was freshly brewed and poured, and he had an impressive-looking fruit salad in the middle of the table, piled high in a melon-half bowl.
Severus fidgeted a bit as he saw her. "I wasn't quite sure what you liked, and your pantry had a little of everything, so I, um, well, made the standard fryup with some— fruit salad? Oh, and tea. That too."
Hermione's eyes widened as she walked over to the pantry and opened the door. She squeaked a series of surprised notes and closed the door, opened it, looked again, then closed it.
Severus tilted his head, listening intently. The squeaks, which he once thought were just her pinging sound off objects to find her way, started to form into coherent words, if pitched so high that a normal human would never have heard it, at least, he figured, as words.
He sat down at the table, waiting for her to sit.
She stared at the chair, frowning as she tried to figure out what to do with it. Concept aside, it wasn't exactly normal for a bat to sit in a chair.
She slowly sat down on the chair, standing slightly as her bum hit the seat, staring at the seat accusatory, and then sitting again.
"T-tth—" she tried to say. She squeaked with frustration. "Th-ank (Squeak!) you."
She watched him closely, not touching the food until Severus realised she was watching him for reminders of what to do, or rather, how to eat like a human born with hands. She mirrored his taking of the fork and knife, even the way he stabbed his sausage pieces and held his toast.
The moment the food touched her mouth, she squeaked in shock as the taste wasn't what she was expecting. She rolled it around in her mouth, making faces, and then nibbled a little more. Watching him intently, she seemed to be deciding if it was okay to be excited over the new flavours and textures.
"This is my master's favourite breakfast for the weekends," Severus said. "He usually prepares the meals during the week, but I cook on the weekends."
Hermione nibbled on the fried bread with clear enthusiasm.
"I guess you wouldn't really cook much, normally," Severus said with an awkward tug of his lips. "Do you… like it?"
Hermione nodded slowly.
Severus smiled, and the moment he did, Hermione stared at him, fascinated. Unused to such scrutiny, he turned his head away, flushing.
They ate quietly together, and Hermione savoured his makings of the English breakfast she hadn't had since her change.
When Severus cleaned up the table, he saw her looking out the window with her head tilted over, perhaps putting what she was used to seeing more upside down into focus.
"Are you all right?" he asked quietly.
Hermione hugged herself with her arms, looking so much like her bat self. "Th— ink so," she said carefully, she felt her throat, seemingly baffled by the sound of the words coming from her own body.
She struggled, face frowning. "Outside?"
Snape nodded. "Sure."
The porch, he found, was formed from the branches and roots of the great tree, and when he looked back on the "house" he realised Hermione had made her home quite literally inside the hollow of the tree's base.
The tree, concealing any and all resemblance to a home, had only one distinguishing feature: being the largest tree around. It's canopy seemed like an umbrella over the area, the smaller, younger trees around it seeming like supplicants, groveling below for the chance to bathe in its magnificence.
They seemed to be on an island surrounded by the much larger lake, and that lake was surrounded by the ominous stretch of thickly grown forest. It was with some difficulty, he realised they were back in Scotland. The form of the rocks, the colours, and even the moss on the trees told him he was either in or near the Forbidden Forest, and if not that, at least in Scotland. He realised, had he not spend so much time watching the younger she-bat and her antics in the forest, he would never have known such things— obviously living like most of the Hogwarts students to the life outside of the immediate.
"Hermione, about last night," he started to say.
Hermione turned to look at him, eyes wide.
"I hope I did nothing you would regret," he said, wincing. "I— I fear I don't remember much after the chase."
She stared at him, a look of sorrow on her face that immediately made him want to fix it. "Y-ou re(squeak)gret us?"
"NO!" Severus said immediately, wincing as Hermione looked startled. He held out his hands to her. "I would never regret spending time with you. The only thing I regret is that I drove you away before we could have, I mean, had a real go at it." He frowned, brows creased in conflict as his command of English flew out into the forest on the wings of drunken bats.
Hermione's brows furrowed. "You…" She blinked and struggled with words. She let out a flurry of squeaks as she gave him meaningful eyebrows. It's okay if I'm not what you expected. It's okay if you want to move on.
Severus' eyes widened. His hands closed around hers. "Hermione, I have spent most of my school life wishing you would but give me a chance. Wishing I had wings so I could join you on those nights you flew alone. Wishing my mouth would stop saying things I didn't mean." Severus rubbed her wrists with his fingers. "I want to be with you. Know you. Feel you close to me." He blushed. "I would prefer it be when I remember how exactly I got there—"
"Not that I didn't enjoy having you close," he said, also flushing crimson.
She reached out, perhaps to touch him, and hesitated.
"You can touch me," he said, wanting nothing more but to feel her skin against his.
Slowly, curiously, she touched his face, tracing his nose and mouth, eyebrows and chin. She carefully placed her face into his neck, nostrils flaring as she took in his scent. His eyes fluttered, and he let out a tortured groan.
"Hermione," he whispered. "May I touch you?"
Hermione struggled, her lips moving as her throat worked.
He enfolded her with his arms, her arms like the ghost of his once-wings. She shuddered against him, giving him a long, pleasured squeak of contentment.
Severus knew in that one, intense moment, that he was undone, ruined. The emptiness inside him, the ache, the void, it was shaped like her, and the moment his arms folded around her, that pain transformed into a pleasure he'd never known: completion.
Days to months passed, and every evening and free moment when their schedules allowed, they spent together, even if it was only for a brief evening flight before sleep. Sometimes, they would wake cocooned in each others wings as they dangled together. Sometimes, they would wake entangled in each other's arms.
Hermione slowly learned to speak as a human again, and even more slowly learned to do things right-side-up while Severus learned to do things upside down. Sometimes, when they touched, memories would trickle between them, and they would learn more of each other's past.
Nothing, however, prepared Snape for what he saw in the memories of what had created her, this marvelous creature with so much compassion that it seemed like a cosmic balance that she was forced into a shape that most humans feared on an almost visceral level. The glimpses of the older and more embittered Snape, however, shook him to the core.
Strangely, the young Hermione of so long ago had such a sense of wonder and fascination to the older Snape. Her only disappointment was, despite her best efforts, first impressions had gone horribly, and he as well as her peers had shunned and ostracized her to the point of tears. The irony that the human Hermione had been inflicted with so much pain and trauma, while her bat-self bad been adopted and loved by Madam Pince of all people was not lost on him. Hermione was a resilient creature, truly more adept at adaptation that most humans would have been in lesser situations.
He was quite sure that had he been in a similar situation, it would not have gone as well for him. His first year had been so full of hate for his father, a drive to be powerful at any cost, willingness to dip into Dark magic, that he was pretty sure whatever ritual this "Professor Quirrell" bastard did to turn Hermione into what she was would have made him a true monster, body and soul, if not exactly what the man had wanted: a perfect, powerful body fit to house a Dark Lord.
Yet, there were times Severus believed he got the better deal in the memory exchange. She seemed so complex and fascinating, while his past seemed oddly petty and obsessed with the downfall of his abusive drunkard of a father. Now that his father had kindly done himself in, he realised he was much the same as before— dragging himself down into Dark magic when there was so much more to the world.
His mother, he admitted to himself, would have been happy for him. Part of her, he realised, knew she was doomed for a fate less than flattering, but she had made arrangements so that his life would be better not if but when her life came to an unfortunate end. The doors to the magical world had shut for her, by her own choice, but not for him. He had the freedom to choose, and his choice had been to let go of his father's yoke and the hate, the jealousy of Lily's popularity and everyone else's looks, and the drive to see others suffer in some jaded view of equality.
But with the she-bat tucked snugly against his body, letting go of everything else seemed so much easier, as long as it wasn't her.
As long as she desired his company, he would be there whenever he could, and if the gods were willing—he would gladly bind his life to hers magically to prove it to her. But Hermione, he knew, would never ask for such a thing. She valued freedom, others even more than herself.
The thing was, he thought to himself, he would gladly do it, body and soul, if he thought there was even a chance that she would have him for the long haul.
She had won his heart from the very first time he had seen her, dangling from the ceiling of the Hogwarts' library, hugging a tome to her chest. He just hadn't realised it then.
Graduation came with a profound sigh of relief, and to his great amusement, nothing really changed. He was still brewing for the DoM, only now he didn't have to have it checked thrice over just for official concerns. He'd sat his N.E.W.T.s, drank about two hangover potions to get rid of his migraine from that bloody fiasco, and then took his Mastery exams. Those, he found, were easier than the N.E.W.T.s. As much as he appreciated Hogwarts for what it had given him, the apprenticeship had given him a focused education customised to his needs and allowed him to study more intently for his mastery.
On the night he was pinned, it was a small, secretive affair in the DoM, surrounded by Unspeakables and a great many magical and fantastical beasts that had been among his peers for the last two years. He found he much preferred it that way, for nestled in the dark at the back of the room, a certain dark bat-shape dangled from the rafters, the soft tinkle of her bangles sounding off like windchimes.
String of Muggle Murders Point to Dark Magic
A strange increase in murders in Muggle London have begun to make our Aurors suspicious. The Muggle victims, found bent and broken, yet with none of the typical wounds found when dealing with Muggle-style violence, has caused the Aurors to infiltrate the Muggle investigative authorities and scan the victims' bodies for traces of magic.
Much to their horror, the victims in question were killed with Unforgivables.
All attempts to trace the magic back to the culprit(s) have failed, but Alastor Moody of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement tells us the attacks were getting more and more random and increasingly violent, perhaps pointing to a kind of desperation that may bring still more brutal deaths before an end is in sight.
Augustus Rookwood hated his job. He always had, and he knew he always would. He hated being under the orders of a witch. He hated being forced to work with Mudbloods, beasts, half-breeds, and freaks pretending to be human. He hated that Amelia made each of her Unspeakables go under psychological testing monthly to make sure their jobs weren't negatively affecting their mental status.
He hated how she mothered over "her" people. He hated how very young she was and yet still had the respect of so many. He hated how inconveniently perceptive she was—
He knew it would only be a matter of time when her vague suspicions of him would eventually catch him up to "no good". Now that the Dark Lord was starting to…
Rookwood had no idea what was going on with their Lord, other than with every murder he committed, and there were many, he was starting to loose bits of himself. Like his nose. Like his… humanity.
Gone were the handsome eyes and cheekbones that had swayed so many. Gone was the persuasive, almost seductive voice that had charmed even more. Now, the Dark Lord's body was gnarled and twisted, but he continued to kill, swearing that he needed more and more murderous violence to—
Augustus had no idea what, only knowing that his Lord firmly believed that it had to be done, and by himself. Rookwood really didn't care as long as when they won, he would have free reign to torture that Amelia Bones until she knew the true meaning of unspeakable.
First things first, though.
Rookwood had nicked a few of the Unspeakable training uniforms and modified them to look like the full, bonded versions the non-trainees wore any time they had to do work outside of the DoM. No one questioned an Unspeakable walking through the Ministry, and Rookwood knew exactly what a real one looked like. They were perfect in every last detail for doing what no one would ever have suspected: smuggling in the Dark Lord.
They had a plan. Persuade that bat bitch to heal the Dark Lord, hopefully convincing her he was only damaged from being out in the field, or— well, it was always good to have a backup plan. Once the Dark Lord was healed, then they could kill her just before they destroyed this pathetic community of freaks that Amelia had so kindly gathered in one place.
He hated that damned bat freak with a passion. While all the other Unspeakables sang her praises, he refused to see her. He didn't want to be that close to something so unnatural. But, even as he thought that, the statistics and the words of so many healers didn't lie. She had saved many lives and reversed many curses just by being close to the person. The closer you came to her, the more you were healed.
Bellatrix seemed to think it didn't matter who or what healed the Dark Lord as long as he regained his full power— sacrifice chickens, people, housepets. Bellatrix didn't care. Then, she said, he could do whatever he wanted with them. Knowing Bellatrix, she would want to torture them and make them scream until they had no voice left. Causing pain was Bella's greatest pleasure, and everyone knew it.
The infirmary was located off the central corridor towards the back, just out of the way, designed to be easy to get to, yet giving some privacy to the patients there if they were going to be there for longer than expected. The apothecary was located further down the hall to provide whatever the infirmary needed as well as producing supplies for the field agents. The commissary lay on the other side, so the higher traffic would be automatically routed away from the infirmary. It made sense, but Rookwood sneered at the attention paid to the sick and the weak.
A nagging whine in the back of his mind boggled that he was smuggling in the Dark Lord himself to get healer attention, but he quickly squashed it.
What if you got sick?
The nagging continued.
What if you were injured?
Rookwood dug his fingernails into his palms.
As they walked passed the guards, Rookwood nodded, pushing his "apprentices" in front of him. With their heads covered with the field hood, all that could be seen were tiny bands of skin that the blindfold that covered the eyes and the veil over the face didn't conceal.
However, the secret to getting in was knowing who was on duty that night. He knew that Fitzgerald would be off on this particular night because his wife was at Mungos birthing a whelp where the rest of the family could visit. They still had family that wasn't part of this rampaging community of freaks. Rookwood was glad the man wasn't going to be here. He liked the bloke, usually. One of the exceedingly few.
Fitzgerald, however, was a real stickler for the rules. He always asked for identification, even from the Unspeakables. He was especially harsh on the apprentices. Michaels, however, he went by eye. He also worked more than he was scheduled and ended up being drowsy on shift. Now, usually, there would always be two on guard, just in case, but this night, he'd "arranged" for number of people to call in sick.
He hoped they were all violently sick, the muppets. He'd laced the biscuits in the guards' break room with special sprinkles.
Heh. Heh. Heh.
Everything was going perfectly, just as he'd planned.
No one ever expected Unspeakables to talk, so they wouldn't have to worry about someone not recognising their voices.
The infirmary lighting was dimmed since it was well past the last shift, so the daytime visitors had already left and the patients were all expected to be sleeping. A man in robes with the distinctive dark purple collar of the Apothecary staff was carefully putting vials and flasks as well as tins into the cabinets.
Rookwood jerked his head towards Bellatrix, and he shot her a vicious glare as she started to giggle insanely from behind the veil. Then they assisted their ailing Lord onto the nearest empty infirmary bed.
Fortunately, their Lord's raspy wheezing was the perfect cue that a "patient" needed tending, and the man with the purple collar reached over and rang a bell. The bell was high-pitched and yet strangely soft, barely even noticeable.
There was the deep rustling of leathery wings, and a familiar dark shape swooped in, flipping upside down to plant their claws in the rafter above. The huge she-bat's muzzle pulled back into what seemed like a snarl, but her wings fanned and tucked as she sniffed over the patient.
Rookwood, confident that he'd enchanted the clothing perfectly, didn't break a sweat. Unfortunately, Bellatrix was starting to giggle again— and Unspeakables most definitely did not giggle.
He pretended to cough and stomped hard on her foot, making it look like he'd accidentally bumped into "his apprentice."
He could feel Bellatrix' fury and her fierce desire to shank him right then and there, but then she seemed to gain a grain of restraint, just in the nick of time.
The she-bat squeaked something towards the man, shifting her feet on the rafter as one wing extended to tug away the uniform of the "apprentice." The freak-healer recoiled upon seeing the Dark Lord's withered face where the skin had pulled sharply back from his teeth, making him look like a living mummy.
Like she had any room to think their Lord was worth recoiling over, the freak.
The she-bat's body practically dripped energy, power; her aura extending out from her body as she read their Lord's health. The call of such great power piqued Bellatrix' interest, and Rookwood knew that their cover was going to fail if Bella's self-control broke. He knew that had to stand there, silent. That was what Unspeakables did— it was he had to do day after day. Why did Bella have to insist on coming? She was such a pain in the arse, prone to indulging her personal interests, endangering everyone unfortunate enough to be stuck working with the psychotic bitch.
The she-bat's eyes glowed golden in the dark of the room, and she extended that strangely warm aura out again.
Bellatrix was making a high-pitched sound of eagerness.
Damn her to—
The she-bat's head jerked to the side, her eyes narrowing.
Fuck. She suspected. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.
He saw her eyes flick to the summoning orb they had in every room in case of emergencies.
Suddenly, Rosier and Mulciber barged in, their headdresses torn off and robes in tatters, but with a pale-skinned man held tightly with his hands secured behind his back.
Apparently those two morons actually managed to get Snape, he thought. Seems like Crabbe didn't make it, though.
Bellatrix burst out in insane giggles and grabbed Snape in a headlock. "Iddle biddle Shevvruff," she mocked in a half-bark. "We've heard all about you." She jabbed her cursed knife into his jaw and then traced a line of blood down his neck. "Now, be a good little bat-bat, and heal your new patient there before you get another patient."
Rosier and Mulciber grabbed pillows and made their way down the hall, evil smirks on their faces.
The she-bat's muzzle wrinkled with anger.
Bellatrix jabbed the knife in tighter, and Severus made a gurgling sound as a dark rivulet of blood trickled down his neck. "Now, do what we tell you, bat-bat, or I slit his throat."
The she-bat's eyes flicked from Severus to the Dark Lord.
Bella pushed the knife in closer. "Do eet," she hissed, teeth bared like a dog's.
Rookwood, knowing he could still escape this with his name untarnished, started to slowly back away.
The she-bat extended her aura once more, her wing extending to curve around the Dark Lord. His body began to tremble and shake, and Bellatrix took it as the magic working. She started to cackle wildly and caper about, choking Severus even tighter just as she saw Rookwood backing away.
"Oh no you don't, Rooksie!" she cackled, and she shoved her knife deep into Severus' side and threw him down as she launched herself at Rookwood. "You don't get to crawl back under your stupid little rock and pretend to be on the good side and then be first in line when our Lord rises stronger than ever!"
Severus let out a strangled yell, crumpling as Bellatrix shoved him aside. One bloody hand clung to the privacy drape as he went crashing down to the floor.
Hermione's wings beat furiously as she looked from Severus to the Dark Lord and then the Death Eaters that were looking like they were either going for her patients or for each other— and it didn't seem like there was any amount of sanity between any of them.
She looked at Severus, her muzzle twisted in painful anguish as she had to choose between her patients and him. His eyes met hers, and the corners of his lips twisted upward even in his pain.
Hermione looked down to the Dark Lord, recognising the twisted face as the one she'd seen on Quirrell's head— the man who refused to die by any and every means possible. The pain she endured, the things he had done to her— the horrific things he had done to so many people.
You will not be alone, child. This I promise you.
She looked at Severus, her patients, the Dark Lord.
Anger filled her for the justice of the dead. Justice for the many more that would die if this true monster walked again.
She saw herself as a young, human girl looking up into her parents' eyes and seeing the joy they had for her when they first found out she was a witch.
There will come a time when you must choose… what is right versus what is easy. When you do, know that it will not be the end. This I swear. With my the power of my magic as your ancestor, I send ye back. Back to the time where you may thrive and grow… protect the future by giving up your own and make for yourself a new present.
Hermione spread her great wings wide, gathering all of her power.
For you are mine, child. One who descends from my own blood, my power— forgotten, buried under so many stories and lost beneath so many more lies.
Hermione took in a deep, deep breath, filling her lungs as she pulled in all of the power around her from the very air and beyond what the world could see.
For as the serpent is cunning, so is the bat, and Camazotz— the great bat god—rules over the night, death, and sacrifice. Night is the realm that shall be your cover. Your old life is what died here today— all that you were to become something more. Sacrifice is what you must do to save others, and I am sorry it falls to you, my child. But I shall always be with you.
Hermione screeched, channelling all of her wrath and all of her light as she focused on the power of her scream. The Death Eaters clutched their ears as blood trickled out their noses, but they were not the target, no. She focused her scream upon the Dark Lord, whose warped and twisted body was already destroying itself by his own actions. His mouth twisted into a scream, but there came no sound as the she-bat's screech broke everything left to break in his body before the judgement of her Light purged the husk of a body of every last scrap of Dark magic.
Yet, as it happened, the Dark Lord struggled on, pulling on all the connections to his knights, using the very Mark of their supposed pride to drain them every last drop of their lifeforce and magic to feed his drive to survive at all costs. His body jerked and spasmed, bones and flesh filling out, molding into something new. His clawed hands clamped around the she-bat's neck and squeezed the sound closed.
The she-bat struggled, bucking, writhing to be free, her teeth gnashing so very close but not close enough to tear into his flesh. Her struggles grew weaker even as the fire in her eyes grew greater.
"I. Am. Forever," Riddle hissed through his snout-like face as he clenched his hand harder on the she-bat's neck.
Suddenly, a deep black bat rose up behind him, wings curved to touch the she-bat's as their energy blurred together and became one.
I am to you, my mate, forever and always. But you, my Lord, are dust. Severus' voice hung in the air as though he had spoken aloud. His eyes blazed with rage. His mouth opened, and he screeched a sonic blast right into the Dark Lord's head, and it atomized into dark grey particles.
The warped and twisted body of Tom Riddle fell into a pile of ash as the two bats met together, their wings wrapping around the other as their muzzles rubbed up against each other. A cocoon of swirling light wove around them, tightening until their bodies seemed made of pure light, and the light blazed out of the room from every crack and door as every Death Eater that hadn't been drained dry by their Lord burst into flames and screamed in agony as they burned.
"Oi, far be it for me to interrupt a pair of canoodling super greater mega whatever bats," Alastor Moody grunted as he used his cane to poke the wing-wrapped dangling bats, "but can we please get a report as to what in bloody hell happened here before Amelia has us all flogged?"
"Too late," Amelia said, her face pulled into a tight-lipped frown. She pulled out a small watermelon and "knocked" on the leathery cocoon of wings. The wings unfurled as wing thumbs wrapped around the melon and quickly made it disappear, enthusiastic squeaking noises and crunching coming from within.
Alastor peered at Amelia who stared back at him.
"Well?" Alastor muttered.
Amelia help up her hand and waited.
After a long chain of happy munching noises, wings unfurled and the two bats untangled from each other, giving Amelia the curious eye.
Amelia pointed to the charred corpses in the room and then the strangely miraculously healed patients talking to Aurors before giving the two bats meaningful eyebrows of interrogation.
Hermione crooned and rubbed her head against Amelia's cheek, feigning a total lack of English.
Amelia tilted her head down to look over her nose at the she-bat. "Mmmhmm."
He was going to hurt my patients, she said. And the one named Bellatrix cut Severus with a cursed, evil knife. You could hear it screaming for blood.
Hermione tilted her head.
They brought a man here. He was connected to them somehow, through Dark, evil magic. When I healed him, it drove the Dark magic out, but his body was warped, twisted, like the root of a tree. He pulled on the lifeforce of his— Hermione squeaked, unsure of what word would would best describe them.
Minions. Severus's voice rumbled into Amelia's head and her eyes widened.
"You are all right?" she asked. "The knife?"
Severus unfolded his wings to allow Amelia to inspect him, his wing fingers spread as their massive span touched the floor.
"Did a little growing there, lad," Alastor observed, goggling a bit.
Snape squeaked a chuckle. Apparently.
Hermione crooned. I like him. I believe I will keep him.
Snape flushed deeply as Alastor and Amelia busted out laughing. He dangled a vial on a cord in front of Amelia. Silvery memories swirled within. Your evidence and record, Madam.
Amelia broke into a smile. "You both get a raise. You can split Rookwood's salary and pension between you., half paid in fresh fruit."
Both bats perked, squeaking with great interest as Alastor belted out uproarious laughter. "You sure know how to sweet talk a bat, Amelia."
Amelia smiled. "Wait till they see the orchard we purchased."
Two sets of highly interested bat eyes and ears perked towards Amelia.
"All depends on how fast they get their report on my desk—"
A blur of fur and wings shot out the infirmary door.
Alastor eyed Amelia. "Was that really necessary?"
She grinned. "It gives us time to think of how we are going to release all this to the press without mass panic, hrm?"
Amelia eyed the charred bodies on the floor, one of which had a shiny, cursed knife still clutched tightly in her hand. "It's a good thing we've suspected Rookwood might try to pull something soon. While we weren't expecting him to bring his Lord in here of all places, all the other areas were contained before any damage could be done. At least we now know which people were sympathisers and which were just victims of that horrible bit of poison Rookwood put in the biscuits at the guard station."
"What are we going to tell the Minister?" Alastor asked. "Or my supposed boss, for that matter?"
Amelia sighed. "Let's give those two some time to write up their reports and then— well, we have the memories to look over too."
Alastor shrugged and shook his head. "Aye, lass. Let's hope it goes more smoothly than Dumbledore's interrogation."
Amelia closed her eyes and shook her head. "That was not my area of expertise."
Fires Mysteriously Break Out Across Wizarding Britain Claiming Many Lives
Abraxas Malfoy Dies in Freak Fire, Half of Family Estate Goes Up In Flames
Rash of Werewolf Attacks After Breakout from Ministry Facility
Fenrir Greyback Abducts Children During Winter Hols
Bounty Raised on Fugitives Sirius Black and Peter Pettigrew, Known Conspirators of Fenrir Greyback
James Potter to Marry Lily Evans after Heroic Rescue From Former Best Mates Turned Werewolves
Bounty Money Donated To Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to Fund Muggle and Creature Studies
(Invitation Pinned to Bulletin Board in the Unspeakables Lounge)
Join us to celebrate the (official) wedding of our beloved bats in the new orchard courtyard this weekend. The ceremony itself will be a quick, official affair in Amelia's office on Friday afternoon, but the reception festivities are open and the entire DoM family is welcome to join in the joyous celebration on Saturday evening at 9.
Madam Mulberry will be making her famous fruit salad in honour of the event, so be sure not to miss it!
I know this is really last minute, but could you and Hermione possibly watch Harry for us this weekend? We're working on trying to mend things with Petunia and Vernon. It's always so horrible, and I'm sure they will bring Dudley over too.
Can you believe it's already been six years since Hogwarts? I feel like it was just yesterday we were all sitting in the Great Hall listening to Dumbledore make those strange speeches.
Petunia said she must bring her "darling, precious Dudley" with them tonight, and I really don't want Harry picking up bad habits from him. He's such a dreadful influence, well, the whole Dursley family is a bad influence, and it would mean so much to me if you could make sure our Harry has a nice, normal weekend and doesn't pick up any awful bad habits.
I'll have him floo over at 4 o'clock on Friday so he's out before my sister gets here.
Please, Sev? You know what my sister is like…
As Lily Portkeyed into the surrounding outer gardens, she couldn't help but boggle at the magnificent botanical garden home Sev had made for himself. The path to the house was more like a woodland trail, where roots and branches wove together to make smooth way through the pseudo-jungle rainforest.
The broad-leafed greenery mixed with fruit-bearing vines and date palms, as one area teemed with brightly-coloured tropical fish amongst the mangroves, while another had "drier" ground, no less lush with life. Small birds flitted from flower to flower, their long beaks seeking the nectar they desired, their heads dusted liberally with pollen as butterflies flitted all around them.
A huge tree towered above it all, rising so far above that it seemed almost like a Muggle skyscraper, yet she knew that this place was as every bit as unplottable as Hogwarts itself. The only way for her to visit her childhood friend was via Floo or Portkey, and the Floo was rarely open unless they knew in advance that someone was coming.
The area practically dripped with powerful magic, and she could feel the thrum of a leyline woven beneath the tree's roots. The entire place was nothing short of magical, even without seeing the expanse of such a sprawling biome.
It was so strange, even having known Severus for as long as she had, she had no idea he was so interested in plants. Hell, she had no idea that he had a girlfriend, let alone a wife until James had overheard Amelia and Alastor discussing their wedding one day at work. She had always assumed—
Much to her mortification, she had found the invitation to the wedding reception buried under hundred different parchments on James' desk— a year later— along with a neatly-wrapped wedding gift for their wedding AND another for the baby shower for her Harry.
The shower had been at her Muggle parents' place, so she hadn't really expected most of the magicals to show. Her wedding, too, had been (while very expansive) smack in the middle of Muggle everything— that had been so important to her parents, that she couldn't find it within herself to refuse and so she did as they wished.
So, a few things had gotten lost from each event on the magical side, buried under hundreds of other official greetings, offers, and random bits of correspondence. She did feel guilty about having completely missed Severus' wedding, though she had a feeling he'd met her while apprenticing rather than at Hogwarts. She was pretty good with faces, and she didn't remember seeing Hermione around at school, ever.
She heard the laughing of her son before she saw him. He had his father's laugh as well as many notable features, save for his bright green eyes. Those, he got from her. It was strange seeing her own eyes out of a young James-like face. The laughter made her happy that Harry's trepidation being social had been outgrown or at least remedied. She remembered how scared Harry had been to spend the night at Uncle and Aunt Snape's. Maybe, it had been because of his trauma after spending just one night at the Dursleys—
Surely her sister could have behaved herself for one night?
Regardless, now the problem was always getting Harry to want to come home. Despite the more than comfortable home thanks to James' job at the Office of Magical Law Enforcement and her own at Madam Primpernelle's, the grass seemed much greener on the Snape side of the fence for Harry.
Perhaps, it was because he was impressionable. More than once, after visiting his dad at work, Harry would come home, wrap a throw around his shoulders, hang upside down by his knees, and bellow "constant vigilance!" Why he felt he had to do that while hanging upside down and pretending to be a bat, however, she had no idea. He made up some pretty fantastic stories about Auntie Hermione and Uncle Severus being giant bats that would take him gliding between them over the lake on some sort of sling they supposedly carried between their legs.
Surely he'd outgrow such tall tales eventually.
Then again, Severus did apparently have this strange love for bats, and the home habitat they had created catered to countless clouds of fruit-loving bats. There were a couple really huge ones, which she though might be flying foxes, but she couldn't tell them apart. Bats all looked like—well, bats to her.
She just hoped none of the bats around the habitat had any nasty diseases like she'd heard of in the Muggle news.
As she walked up to the house, she saw none other than Madam Pince walking down the trail with a goofy smile on her face as she carried a large bat in her arms.
"We won't tell your mum that we're going to the beach and the library, hrm?" the witch told the beast in her arms.
Pince was smuggling a bat to a beach and the library? She was a strange woman for sure.
Madam Pince eyed Lily as she walked by, looking as if she was searching for an overdue book hidden on her person.
As she went up into the house, she called for Harry, and as usual, he didn't come immediately, but he did hear a "coming mum," from somewhere in the house.
Her son rushed down the spiral staircase, sliding down the last of the railing and landed on his feet to get to her. "Sorry, Mum, we were just cleaning up from our game."
"What game?" Lily asked.
"What Fruit, That Fruit," Harry said.
"I've never heard about that game," Lily confessed.
"Xavier and Laia taught it to me, but Laia had to go with Auntie Irma," Harry said looking around as he got distracted. "Can we take a few mangos home, mummy?"
Lily scrunched her eyebrows together. "Mangos?"
"That's the fruit of the day!" Harry said happily.
"You are welcome to take some home with you," a female voice said as a bushy-haired woman walked down the stairs. "Harry, thank you for cleaning up upstairs."
"It wos the rrrright thing to do!" Harry said rolling his r's as he imitated an accident he had apparently picked up from somewhere.
"Indeed, it was," Hermione said approvingly. "I hope your family reunion was satisfactory?"
Lily jolted and then collected herself. "Oh, yes. Well, my sister and I haven't see eye to eye since—" she trailed off. "Since she found out she couldn't go to Hogwarts."
Harry tugged on her sleeve. "Mummy, maybe you need to talk to her telewathically."
Lily eyed her child, eyebrow raising.
Harry tapped his head. "You know, with your mind."
"It doesn't work that way," Lily replied.
"But it does work!" Harry protested. "I know it works!"
Lily lifted him up and hugged him "I know, love, I know." She silently mouthed to Hermione, "I'm sorry."
Hermione just shrugged, an understanding smile on her face.
"Auntie, we can go fly over the lake again next time, right?" Harry asked excitedly.
"Of course, Harry," Hermione said, "as long as your mother approves."
"Pleaaaasseeee, Mummy, PLEASE!" Harry begged, beating on his mum's head with his palms like a drum.
Lily shook her head. "Hey, stop drumming on me," she said. "What have I told you about that, young man?"
Harry slumped, pouting. "Sorry."
"I suppose that if Uncle Sev and Auntie Hermione wish to take you on a flight, you may, just as long as you are with them at all times."
Harry looked puzzled. "Of course. You need two to carry the sling."
Lily, wondering what strange thing Harry was doing on a broom this time, could only shrug. "Now you tell Auntie Hermione goodbye for now."
"Bye-bye," Harry said, opening and closing his small fist in a wave.
Hermione watched the pair go after Lily mouthed a silent "thank you" before exiting with her son.
A fast-moving bat pup tackle-hugged his mother, squeaking excitedly.
"Hello, love," Hermione said, nuzzling his muzzle with her face. "Your sister is off enjoying Auntie Irma's library tonight, so it's just you and me."
Xavier squeaked excitedly again, making expressive movements with his wings.
"Storytime with the centaurs?" she replied. "Oh, I suppose, if Magorian thinks you've behaved.
Xavier made large, soulful eyes at his mum.
Hermione grinned as her body stretched out and unfolded into her bat form, and Xavier tucked himself securely against her chest. She awkwardly wing-walked up the side of the wall to the upper window, unfolded her wings, and dropped into the air into flight, giving off a long chain of squeaks as she disappeared into the starry night sky.
As Severus returned from delivering his orders of potions and tinctures, he sloughed off his robes and hung them on the hook before grabbing a pear from the fruit bowl and polishing it off in a few seconds, savouring the sweet, delicious juice.
His beloved pups were off with Alastor and Minerva, and he knew they would be safe. Yet, who would be more tired by the end of the day, the pups or the people, Severus wasn't quite sure. With every exposure to the human element, their children were slowly beginning to experiment with being human, but convincing a young bat pup that walking on two legs and not flying was actually a good thing was a pretty hard sell.
As he washed himself and wrapped a towel around his slim waist, he walked into the bedroom where his beloved wife dangled from the ceiling over the bed. As he entered, her wings unfolded and she met his gaze with lazy, sleepy eyes.
Slowly, she flopped down onto the bed, and he joined her, his hands gently soothing the soft fur on her muzzle. Her eyes closed, and her body seemed to pull into itself and shrink into that of a young human woman.
"Hello," he greeted warmly.
Hermione laid her head against his chest as he pulled her against himself, tugging the duvet over them both.
His arms wrapped around her under the covers much like his wings, and he gave a soft sigh of pure contentment. "I love you," he whispered against her cheek, cherishing the feel of his beautiful mate snuggling against him and the love they shared together.
Hermione snuggled closer to his warmth, radiating her own warmth and joy of life and the happiness she felt being close to him. She squeaked happily as she savoured his presence as she did every night, never once expressing a need to have her own space.
"I love you best," she said, her lips softly capturing his.
As they parted, he wrapped her closer, pressing his face into her neck, feeling her gratitude in every breath she took— thankfulness for being alive, for having survived, for having been given a second chance at a life, and to having found him.
Despite how strange the circumstances had been that carried her into his life, no matter how painful her past had been, despite the longest of odds, they had both found their way home in each other.
A/N: Bwahahahahahahhaa…. Batastically happily ever after. I hope you enjoyed the story
And that's a bat! (muah)