A/N: 2 hour commutes suck, but this is where I got the inspiration.
Beta Love: The Long-Sufferer-of-Me-Dragon and the Rose, the Abused-and-Tired-Dutchgirl01, and the Dominator-of-Assassin's-Creed-Commander Shepard
Summary: [HG/SS] AU: When Hermione was born, her parents knew she was special, but they didn't realise how special until she crafted her own pair of wings and glued them onto her back— and they worked. Her sisters, Lily and Petunia, think their sister is a freak, and they try to break her, starting with her wings. NC/EWE/Completely right out of my arse
Spiders: No money being made disclaimer here!
Learning to Fly
The man who has no imagination has no wings.
When Hermione's parents had her, they knew she was special, but when she read a book called Mail Order Wings she had to, of course, make her own pair.
She'd worked on them for weeks, measuring them and crafting each of the structures, under structures, over structures… then she pressed the feathers she'd collected from the local farmers during the mold until she had just the right number. Library books from grates far above her age scattered on the floor of her room— books on birds, anatomy, muscles, flight structures— and Hermione insisted on going to the zoo to see them in real life, trying to decide which bird had the best wingspan to deal with the weight of a human.
While her sisters were most concerned with tea parties and dresses, he followed around a zoologist for an entire week, helping them with feeding and cleaning in exchange for information. The zookeepers were more than happy to have her around, seeing her as the zoologist of the future or some great doctor of veterinary science.
Hermione knew the bone names, the locations, the difference between the terminal phalanx and the basal phalanx. She could spell carpometacarpus and show you where it was. She crafted each bone using polymer clay and even hollowed them out and made spongy bone structures inside before putting them back together again. She learned all the muscle groups and carved them out of clay, using her mum's pins to score each group and her father's patterned ties to press texture into the clay— much to her father's chagrin.
The wings worked, mostly. They moved. They flapped. They just couldn't carry her aloft. Aloft was what she wanted, but alas— they did everything BUT fly.
Yet, when Hermione won the zoo's scholarship to an outstanding prep-school with her project, her parents forgave her for cutting up the curtains, getting clay on her father's expensive ties, and using all of her mum's silk pins for sticking things that silk pins were not made to stick. The rift between herself and her sisters, however, grew ever wider and vast as they realised Hermione was nothing like them.
In a fit of jealousy and spite, Petunia and Lily took her wings to school with them, claiming they meant to show them off, but the teachers found them smashed and broken in the dirt just before a devastated Hermione stumbled upon them, painstakingly gathered them up in a box, and ran from school in tears.
"Freak, freak, you're a freak. Freak, freak, you're a freak!" the two sisters chanted as the girl fled.
"Are those your wings?" a soft voice asked as Hermione looked up to see a thin, pale boy looking at her from his perch on the limb of a tree. He wore strangely oversized clothes that didn't quite fit him… in fact, his ill-fitting ensemble looked strange on him in general, like the clothes weren't really his at all.
Hermione, sniffling, found she couldn't speak— and in fact when she tried, nothing came out. She burst into tears again, and didn't stop until the boy sat by her, gently touching the broken wings, petting the feathers.
"Who did it?" the boy asked quietly.
Hermione frowned, still sniffling.
"Family, huh? I know the feeling," the boy said, a flicker of dark anger showing in his solemn black eyes, and Hermione's vivid green eyes seemed to flash. Her own bottled up anger caused her curls to writhe, moving on its own.
"You're a witch," he breathed, awed.
Hermione's head jerked up, and she gritted her teeth. Anger— rage like nothing he'd seen on the face of his father— made her eyes seem to glow like will-o-wisps.
"No," the boy quickly explained. "A real one. There are witches and there are wizards. Magical people. I'm a wizard. You're just like me… special."
Hermione looked like she was trying very hard to say something, but no sound came out. The boy looked at her carefully, his inky brows furrowing.
"I'm Severus," he said a little shyly.
She told him her name, but it came out silent, yet it didn't seem like she realised it was.
Severus watched her mouth carefully. "Her— my— oh— knee?" he pronounced carefully.
"Maybe we can fix these, huh?" he said, pulling them out of the box. He soothed the feathers as he looked at her.
Hermione looked down, fighting back tears again. Her tears splashed down on his hand as he reached to touch them. Warmth, a sensation unlike anything Hermione had ever felt before suddenly flooded through her, and as she looked at Severus—
She knew he felt the same feelings.
You're a freak! She saw an older man— the same pitch black hair. The same beaky nose. A freak boy from a freak mother. You should have killed her on the way out.
Freak! Freak! You're nothing but a pathetic little freak! Her older sisters screamed out the hateful words, pointing and laughing at her as she carried her broken wings away with her, clutching her box as hot tears streamed down her face.
I just want to run away! Their voices cried out together. Somewhere far away from—them!
A bright, brilliant flash of light blazed as the two children were caught in a pillar of white light that seemed to either come from below or perhaps rained down from above. The wings, that had lain broken and twisted leapt up in the light and emitted golden light down on the pair. The dazzling light filled them both to bursting, and it came pouring out of their eyes, nose, mouth, fingertips—
The small, rubbish-littered park with one very sad-looking willow was overcome by a supernova of magic that blew throughout the entire town of Cokeworth, causing the power to go out everywhere and the utter blackness of night to completely consume the area.
Monster Rises Up From Lake!
Hunt for Missing Child Cut Short by Chaos
Panic and mayhem descended on Cokeworth last night when a freak power outage had Mrs Bernice Nutter screaming to any who would listen that Godzilla had risen from the lake and a rogue unicorn had killed her grandmother. Others claimed they had witnessed the arrival of alien invaders, that savage hellhounds were killing their sheep, while some others swore that a giant glowing moth-beast was eating the pollution coming out of the smokestacks in town.
When dawn arrived, power still hadn't been fully restored, and the desperate search by the Evans family for their missing 9-year-old daughter, Hermione Jean Evans, had been overcast by frantic townspeople flooding the emergency lines with wild tales of "monsters" allegedly attacking Cokeworth.
[Photo of Mr and Mrs Evans looking grief-stricken as two older daughters have their arms crossed and wearing angry expressions]
Any information regarding the possible whereabouts of Hermione Jean Evans should be called into the local constabulary.
Town Drunk Says Nikes Stole His Booze
Luther Stonebelt caused a ruckus this evening that had people calling in to authorities about his constant wailing.
"Nikes stole me beer!" he proclaimed.
"Luther's always been a few sarnies short of a picnic," one local said, "but this is the first time he's blamed it on a ruddy Greek myth."
Authorities have gone over copious amounts of CCTV footage and say there was nothing more than a particularly fierce gust of wind just as Mr Stonebelt's beer went flying out of his hands.
"They were nikes!" Luther hissed insistently, with the unmistakable odor of liquor on his breath.
Any further reports of ancient Greek winged goddesses stealing beer have so far been limited to to the Cokeworth area.
Hermione perched on the branch, wings slightly spread as she looked down upon the open upstairs window. "That's your home?"
"Was," Severus corrected, his lips twisted in a dark scowl that made him look much older. He wrapped one wing around her. "Are you cold?"
Hermione shook her head. "Not when you're here."
The boy smiled at her, just a small tug of his lips that seemed to her like a broad grin. "I'll always be here for you," he promised.
"Always is a long time," Hermione said, her eyes haunted, the pain of her sister's betrayal still fresh and jagged.
He looked at her, squeezing her hand. "I really mean it, Hermione."
Hermione bit her lip but nodded. "Do you have to go in there?"
"I need something from there," he said. "Then we can go, I promise. Far away from here."
Hermione nodded, folding her wings carefully as she sat down on the branch. "Be careful."
Severus plucked a leaf and it transformed into a soft cloak. He lay it around her shoulders to keep her warm. "I'll be back soon."
He jumped into the air and glided down to the housing district and the open window that beckoned him to him like a moth to a flame.
Severus landed on the window and crawled in. The summer heat in Cokeworth was beyond insufferable, but it seemed strangely chill to him now. The further he went from Hermione's side, the colder it seemed. Before, he was always either too hot or too cold. There was never an in-between, but something had happened when they had touched. Her tears upon his skin had triggered something utterly profound— far more than just the wings upon their backs.
Yet what that thing was, he wasn't sure. He just knew he had to get her out of Cokeworth. They both needed to go.
Hermione had tried to return home, only to find that her older sisters had completely gutted her room and were fighting over her stuff. Her beloved books were burned in the fire as her sisters giggled together in glee. It had broken something in her, and Severus had recognised it instantly. No matter how much she loved her parents— they would never understand why she had run away. Why she would even consider it a viable option.
And her sisters already hated her with a passion that went beyond words. What room was there for a winged child in a family such as that?
No matter how much he still loved his mother, Severus' burning hatred for his drunkard father was much more powerful. There would never be peace, never be happiness in that house, more so while he remained there.
But he couldn't leave without at least saying goodbye to his mother. She would at least understand why he had to go. His father— would just pile even more reasons on why Severus should've died at birth.
As he crept into his room, he picked up his tattered rucksack and threw the few things he actually liked into it. His favourite book, his grandmother's old hairbrush, the little stone-inlaid box he had hidden under his bed, a small plush dragon that his mother had given him for his fifth birthday, and a scrap of cloth that had a bloodstain on it— his reminder of the first time he'd said no to his father and had the shite beaten out of him. He tucked those and his odds and ends into the bag and threw it over his shoulder.
He walked carefully down the hall, listening intently. Sounds seemed so much clearer now— he heard his father's drunken snores coming from downstairs, where he inevitably passed out on the couch. He slipped into his parents' bedroom.
"Severus?" his mother whispered, sitting straight up in bed.
Before he knew it, her thin arms were around him, holding him tightly.
"Severus, I thought you were…" she looked at him and then saw his wings. "Oh, Severus… that's why you didn't come home."
Severus tried to say something, but she looked at him like he was barely whispering to her..
His mother shook her head, placing her hand to his lips. She pried open a loose board on the floor and pulled out a box, shoving it into his hands. "Take this. Be careful, Severus. Please." She hugged him fiercely, placing a kiss on his forehead. She put the box into his back and with a gesture, sealed his bag with a silent spell.
Suddenly, the door flung open, and Tobias took his son by the throat and shoved him into the dresser with a crack. "Came back, boy?" His ugly yellow teeth were bared at him. "What did you do to yourself eh, Boy? Finally look like the bloody freak you are?"
He clenched his hand around the boy's throat.
Tobias swiftly backhanded his wife, sending Eileen flying across the room. She struck the wall, sliding down to lay still and unconscious on the floor.
Severus struggled in his father's iron grip, but he was still small, and Tobias had the deep-seated drunken wrath he had used to fuel his unreasoning hatred of his wife and son.
Glass shattered as the entire window was smashed in, and a blur of honey banded wings swooped in to slam forcefully into Tobias, sending the drunken man sprawling and knocking Severus free. He staggered away, choking and gasping for air.
Tobias whirled and seized Hermione by the throat with both hands. "Another little freak. eh? You relying on girls to save you now, whelp? Not even man enough to protect yourself?"
He crushed Hermione's slender throat, and her eyes began to glow a fierce, unearthly green. A sound came from her throat— unlike anything human. A bay. A howl. A scream. It was there and yet everywhere as well.
The floor of the house trembled, and dark tendrils rose up from every crack like smoke. The smell of fire and brimstone filled the air as the darkness moved across every wall like the fingers of dead trees moving closer, ever closer.
Multiple dark shapes rose from the floor, shaped like dogs but so much more not-dog in character. Dark, pointed spines like the blades of a saw rose from their backs. They had eerily skull-like faces with fires burning inside their eyes and mouths dripping with magma and breathing black smoke mixed with flame.
Tobias' eyes went wide as fluid dripped down his legs. "Wut? What dark magic is this? You make it stop! YOU MAKE IT STOP!"
He slammed Hermione into the wall over and over, and her glowing eyes remained fixed on him, filled with the exact opposite of what he wanted to see. Fear had been replaced by raw, protective fury.
The pack of Gwyllgi snarled and and leapt upon him, tearing him to pieces, soul tatter by soul tatter, leaving his body as filthy but as intact as it ever was.
When the body of Tobias Snape went still, breathing but staring sightlessly up at the ceiling, the Gwyllgi walked up to Hermione and whined, pressing their muzzles into her hands for pets. Some of them nuzzled Severus, helping him stand up.
The pack waited.
Hermione's hands slowly caressed the beasts' heads, her eyes blinking as her face became less blank— less instinctive. She looked down and swallowed. She went to Severus, stumbling. "Severus."
He staggered but stood, rubbing his throat with his hands. "Hermione, are you okay?" His eyes grew wide as he realised he was uncosciously petting one of the Gwyllgi. He gave Hermione a look that was all questions with a chaser of concern.
You called to us, we come. The voices said around them all at once, united like a choir with layers upon layers.
"What do we call you?" Hermione asked.
Yours, the Gwyllgi replied. Long we have waited to answer the Call. Your pain we will soothe. Your ire we shall serve. Your favour, we shall drink and be strong.
Your enemies we shall devour.
Your friends we shall always remember.
Severus took Hermione into his arms, hugging her with his wings before he noticed his mother and quickly ran to her side, his fingers on her neck to check for a pulse. "She's alive. What do we do?"
Hermione looked at Tobias, her green eyes as cold as ice. "We should get her out of here."
We can, one of the beasts said.
"Who are you?"
I am Haydn, it said, pushing its head against her hand.
"You can take her somewhere safe? Somewhere— like a hospital?"
The beast tilted its head. If you wish it.
Severus gave his mother a worried look before looking back at Hermione. She nodded to him. "Please, take her safely to a hospital."
The beasts surrounded Eileen Snape. As you desire.
They disappeared with her in a poof of black smoke.
"What about him," Hermione asked, her fist clenching.
Severus pulled his bag over his shoulder and held out his hand. "Let's go, Hermione. Leave him. They'll find him when they figure out who my mother is."
Hermione gave Tobias one last, hateful look. "Okay." She allowed Severus' hand to clasp hers and drag her to the hole she had made in the side of the house. They both launched into the air, leaving Cokeworth behind them.
Tobias Snape Found Catatonic After Wife Mysteriously Appears at Local Hospital in Critical Condition
Mr Tobias Snape was found staring up at the ceiling with no wounds or other obvious injuries on his person. His body was found by police when they were performing a wellness check after his wife, Eileen Snape appeared seemingly out of nowhere at a local hospital in Cokeworth. Her condition is critical, her body bearing evidence of multiple healing injuries as well as the newest ones to her head that are presumed to be from her husband.
As to how Mr Snape ended up in a catatonic state, there is some suspicion that he may have had a stroke or some some sort of severe seizure, but the assessment of his condition is still ongoing. One thing, however, is certain. Should he return to consciousness, he will be facing multiple counts of spousal abuse, and, should his wife not survive treatment— murder.
Severus stared off into the distance as they sat on a branch together. His face was schooled into a very sharp scowl, and Hermione looked down at her lap.
"Do you hate me?"
Severus startled. He wrapped a wing around her. "Why would you ask me that? No, of course not."
"I hurt your father," she said quietly.
"He deserved it," he replied. "And more— so much more." He pulled an apple out from his backpack and handed it to her. "You need to eat."
"So do you."
"This one is for you," he insisted.
"You take a bite too," she said.
Severus huffed. "Fine," he said, taking a bite and swallowing. "Now will you eat it?"
Hermione nodded sinking her teeth into the fruit hungrily. She whittled it down to half and then gave it back to him, giving him a look.
He frowned at her, but she gave him the eye.
Despite his scowl, he accepted the other half and ate it hungrily. She smiled at him despite her growling stomach.
Severus held out his hand. "Come, let's get a bit deeper into the forest. There should be wild berries this time of year. Mum would sometimes get some for me when da was away."
Hermione nodded silently and together they took wing, flying deeper into the forest and away from the town and the people within. They followed the river upstream, dipping down sometimes to splash and chase each other, experimenting on how fast they could go, turn, or lose the other.
Finally, they landed, laughing with exhaustion, dipping their hands to scoop the water into their mouths— clear and cool thanks to being so deep in the forest and away from the local towns.
The Gwyllgi moved in the shadows, giving barks and tail wags as they found something for them.
Severus smiled, gesturing her over. "They found some ripe berries for us!"
Hermione rushed over, flomping playfully into his back. She giggled. "Sorry."
He gave her a stern look, but the tug of a smile was on his mouth.
They picked the ripe blackberries, happily devouring the bush clean before they looked at each other with a little embarrassment. Thankfully, many more brambles surrounded them, and many future meals seemed to await their eager attention.
The forest floor seemed to favour them, and the leaves and moss were a thick carpet for two young winged children who had managed to wrangle themselves through one very, very long day.
Severus plucked a leaf, and his magic turned it into a soft blanket. He placed it over Hermione before curling up next to her, closing his eyes. It wasn't long before her magic made the blanket much larger, and she cast it over Severus too, cuddling up next to him and tucking her wings against him as his curved around hers.
As their eyes closed, the Gwyllgi settled in all around them, filling in the spaces and laying their warm bodies up against the sleeping children.
Days passed into weeks, and they moved from place to place in the deep woods, putting their heads together to find shelter and teaching themselves magic to make time go by faster. Fire was never a problem with the Gwyllgi around them. They could start anything aflame, if they so chose, but they had to be reminded not to set the entire forest on fire.
Severus seemed to think that moving further south would be good, where the weather would stay warmer longer, and Hermione was of the mind to migrate south as it got colder just like the geese did. But they still tired easily, even as they practiced flying every day. Their wings were just not strong enough yet to carry them the longer distances.
Then, as the weather turned cool and the leaves to change, another concern sent terror into the winged children: gunfire.
The first gunshot sent a frantic Hermione plowing into Severus as he was gathering water for their canteens, and he found himself with an armful of trembling young witch.
"We're going to have to be more careful in the day," he said. "Travel at night."
The Gwyllgi seemed to sense the change as well, and they stayed with the two more often, wandering less and protecting more. From time to time, the Gwyllgi would bring down a deer or some other sort of wild game, and the children had to learn what to do about it. Hermione discovered that if she took the meat and laid it out on Haydn, it would cook and dry in just a few minutes, and now venison jerky was being made to fill Severus' pack and fill their bellies.
Hermione just wished she had a real knife— not that flint-napping wasn't exciting in its own way. She had read lots of books on the subject. Her skill itself was a little sad, however.
One night, they stumbled across a deer carcass, and they approached nervously, ready to take flight at a moment's notice. Yet, the animal seemed well and truly dead but— the body stank. They saw a few arrows in it and the antlers were gone— well, no the head was gone. The rest was clearly left to rot with a knife discarded and stuck into the side
The two exchanged glances and carefully pulled out the knife. The meat itself was unusable— gone for much too long in the unforgiving elements, but they cleaned the blade and used a piece of rawhide to make a safe sheath to carry it in.
Later, they found an old fishing net with a rusty old pocket-knife tangled up in it, and Severus took it, using a rough rock to clean off the rust and try to work some sharpness back into it. His father had many a knife and whetstone back home, which was way his mother rarely said anything to him and why Severus had not fought back against the abuse— both of them knew that if Tobias got angry enough, he'd have shanked them both in their sleep with no compunction.
Experiments on rocks created a new whetstone for Severus, and he happily made good use of it, both of them quite relieved that magic was working for them instead of against. Still, winter was coming, and they were still unable to fly very far. Fast, oh yes. Far? No, not really.
More time passed, and they were getting better. Their wings got stronger, their teamwork more in tune. Their bond to the gwyllgi seemed to strengthen as well, and the dark dogs seemed to pop in and out more leisurely instead of paranoidly packing around them like at a moment's notice they might need them and they not be there to help.
The nuts were perfect now, and it lured them high into the trees to fight the squirrels for their fair share of the hazelnuts and other autumn goodies. Fortunately for them but not-so-great for the squirrels, they had wings.
"They're cursing at us in squirrel-ese," Hermione said as she filled her woven basket with nuts.
"Probably," Severus said, contemplating shaking the branch to make the indignant squirrel stop.
They sat together on a thicker branch, eating the leaf-wrapped berries they had picked earlier.
"You two are pretty hard to find," a kindly voice said.
The two children jerked and looked up to see a young woman with a kind face staring at them, her wings swinging as the branch she was on bowed up and down.
They stared back at her, their eyes very wide.
And stared at her.
Annnnnd stared at her some more.
"I'm Amelia," she said.
"You can fly too," Severus said, disbelief written clear in the arch of his eyebrows.
"Obviously," she said cheerfully. She tossed them something, and they nimbly caught it.
"A pear!" Hermione squealed, sniffing it fondly.
"It looks funny. Round."
"I bet they taste great!"
"They dfo," Amelia said, her own mouth full of pear.
The children tore into them, getting juice everywhere.
Amelia watched them, especially how the girl tucked one wing protectively around the boy's slim waist and he curled one around her back, keeping in constant physical contact.
"I'm Hermione," the girl said gratefully. "Thanks for the pear!"
She elbowed the boy.
"Severus," he said, frowning at Hermione rather sternly. She smiled back at him, kicking her legs as they sat on the branch.
"You know, I normally like to go through more of an interview process before offering jobs, but I've already seen you two surviving out here on your own in the woods at the age of nine," the woman said. "How about coming to work for me, hrm? You'd get to stay together, yet have a chance to meet other magicals like yourselves, no longer suffer with grumbling tummies, even apprentice with a good friend of mine, and eventually attend school at Hogwarts when you are old enough."
"We could do all that?" they asked together.
"Of course you could," Amelia replied. "I'm the boss!"
The pair exchanged glances. "Wait, you can hear us!"
Amelia smiled. "Where I work, they'll all be able to."
Hermione whispered to Severus.
"That would be acceptable," he said for them both.
"Well, let's start off with a hot meal, a warm bath, and a good night's sleep in a real bed, hrm? We can iron out the rest after the top three things have been dealt with, yes?"
They nodded to her.
"Wait," Hermione said.
"Yes?" Amelia asked.
"Do you like dogs?"
Amelia smiled. "They can come too."
Hermione's eyes went comically wide. "She must be psychic!" she whispered to Severus.
Severus shrugged. "She's a witch."
Hermione put her hand in Severus'. "Okay. We'll go with you."
Amelia nodded with a warm smile. "Excellent." She tossed Severus his worn rucksack, and he caught it with wide eyes.
Severus leaned in to Hermione's ear. "She IS psychic."
Kingsley sat quietly watching the two new additions to the DoM family, carefully staying far enough away not to be oppressive and allowing them to explore their new home.
Trust, he knew, was a hard won thing for children such as them— Wishkin.
Most of the other beings seated in the DoM were Wishkin— children who, at some point in their young lives, had their lives threatened with death so early that magic itself had chosen to intervene. In that very moment, if the child was conscious, if they made a heartfelt wish there was a chance, however small, that magic would attempt to answer their cry amidst a bout of desperate accidental magic and profound need. While he knew there were abuse cases out there in the world, he knew that not all abuse cases resulted in Wishkin, and not all Wishkin came from horrible families. Sometimes— the moment of fate happened.
And these two children—
They had both been desperate to escape a situation that was sure to destroy them. Amelia had introduced the children to Master Amygdala, and the master Legilimens had carefully extracted the memories of their past— memories that were necessary to shelter them deep within the DoM. Fortunately for the two children, both had been so tired that they had slept through the entire process, having succumbed to the exhaustion of living alone in the wilderness with only their wits and fortuitous ability to call fantastic beasts to their side.
The Gwyllgi were an enigma, even to the DoM. The Department of Regulation for magical beasts called them dogs of darkness, and considered them malevolent spirits that took form to terrorise travelers at night. Others called them demon dogs, while others just ran for their lives. It was obvious they cared about "their" people, however, seemingly begging for affection and pets like any loyal hound to their master. They were not the kind of thing normally allowed to follow people around, but it was obvious that these two children had bonded tightly to them in a familiar way— all of them, the entire pack.
That meant only one thing. The pair were Amimonstra— the beast charmers, rare magical beings who had the ability to bond to more than one familiar and sway fantastic beasts to their service. It was really the only thing he could see them as being.
Severus was sitting on the settee with Hermione, and he was brushing her curls with an old, inlaid brush. She sat patiently, her hands in her lap. It was obvious the pair bond had become quitestrong in a very short amount of time— forged in the magic that had transformed them together. They were children, and they very likely would not realise just what they had together, especially so young. Severus was protective of her, always ensuring Hermione was safe and fed before he tended to himself. She, on the other hand, always made him ate too, never eating everything unless he, too, had a share.
It was uncommon for children to be so thoughtful and unselfish so early in their lives, not that it was totally unheard of. Most children, he knew, were taken care of by their families. More time was spent at home than at school. More time was spent with parents and siblings than peers— at least usually.
But Kingsley had read of the exploits of one Hermione Jean Evans in the Muggle world. She was a brilliant little witch, who would have been the top scholar of her time in the Muggle world had things not gone the way they had. Severus, however, had a harder home life— a drunken lout of a father who beat his wife and his son. Yet, the boy's wit was obviously razor keen. He was suspicious of everything, as to be expected— except for Hermione. She alone, he trusted she wasn't hiding something from him. Yet the boy was always looking for the way out, the escape route if they had to flee. He evaluated each person he met with a few seconds of assessment—
That, Kingsley knew, was thanks to the abuse of his father. Had he lived in a more loving home, perhaps the boy would have been just as apt but in other areas and a slower pace— or maybe not. It was hard to say, having only known the boy a few hours.
For now, they would live together, sharing the master and apprentice quarters as they settled in which both new surroundings and each other. Amelia had broken the ice with them, so a bond of tentative trust existed to transfer over to him— but he knew he'd have to be careful or the two would lose trust in him and that could take far longer to heal than it would for him to be patient with them from the start.
For one thing, the only ones they had come to trust in fully were each other, and they kept in almost constant physical contact. A wing, a hand, a lean. There was always something they did to reassure the other. Bath time had been a strange crisis. For months, they had bathed together in the wilds of Britain— too scared to be apart to even consider their own modesty.
The bath had been designed for single person use, and Amelia had found them huddled together under the shower, cramming themselves together rather than bathing alone. So, realising that something had to change quickly, Amelia transfigured the bath into a hot springs— something a little more natural. Bathing pools with steaming water and a "shower" made by waterfall. The surrounding trees seemed to make the two feel better almost instantly, and they plunged into the water fall to wash away the dirt and grime and then plunged into the hot springs to soak.
After-bath rituals seemed just as important, and the pair groomed each other's wings, taking time to spread oil from a gland on their wrists to the other's feathers. The both of them seems oddly fascinated by the new robes they were given— perfectly soft and allowing their wings to remain free and unencumbered.
Now, Hermione was taking the same brush Severus had used on her and was carefully brushing out Severus' black hair. His eyes closed in appreciation of the reciprocated preening. Then, without even a word being said between them, they hustled off to the bedroom, not seemingly caring which one it was, piled the pillows around them to make a bowl, and then curled up together.
Hermione curled up in the fetal position, as Severus curled around her, his one wing curved around her body as his arm did around her waist. The Gwyllgi then rose up out of the very floor and settled in around them as the enchanted candles in the room went out.
Kingsley chuckled to himself. It was going to be an interesting few years.
You made me a, you made me a believer, believer
You break me down, you built me up, believer, believer
I let the bullets fly, oh let them rain
My life, my love, my drive, it came from
You made me a, you made me a believer, believer.
— Imagine Dragons
"I'm Geralt," a white-haired boy said, his golden almost-feline-reptilian eyes glowing as he kicked his legs as he sat on a pile of crates. "You new?"
Hermione shuffled closer, staring into the boy's eyes, fascinated. "Yes, we just got here," she said.
Severus frowned, peering at the other boy with suspicion. He placed a hand on Hermione's wing, and she took his hand and smiled. His dark eyes met hers, and her green eyes flashed with a rise of her magic as something passed between them. He gave the other boy a look and then nodded.
"I'm Hermione," Hermione said with a smile.
"Severus," Severus said quietly.
Geralt smiled and nodded. "I've been here for years. Amelia found me after my ma and da died in a fire. Brothers and sisters didn't make it."
"Sorry," Hermione said.
Geralt shrugged. "It happens. All of us— something happened, yeah? Something bad. Something we survived. I'm studying with Master Groot. Survival. Rogue monster hunting. Tracking. Heard you lived out in the forest before here."
"Pretty good. Not all of us are so lucky," Geralt said. "Pamela was picked up starved and weak. Took her about a year to come out of her shell. Now, well, you can't get her stop climbing the walls like a sodding spider monkey."
Hermione giggled and Severus rose a brow.
"To be fair, she is part-monkey," the boy said with a sigh, looking like he was forced to tolerate her for some higher reason he wasn't sharing at the moment.
"Why can people here understand us?" Severus asked. "People— outside—"
Geralt lifted his hand to expose the band of silver on his middle finger. "You got one, yeah? We all have them. It lets us hear each other at whatever level is comfortable to ourselves. So, maybe you speak really high or really low like an elephant. I'd hear you like you hear me. The Unspeakables will teach you signs that they use to communicate outside of here. We all use them. Outside, we all wear uniforms. Robes that cover our— individual differences. No one sees us without them outside. They all think we are creepy people who hiss and make funny gestures at everyone."
Hermione tilted her head. "Mmm, okay."
"Be happy we all have one. Otherwise we'd have to listen to Pamela screeching and howling as she scampers around."
Severus stuck his finger in his ear and twisted. "Yes," he agreed.
"Can you understand Haydn?" Hermione asked as the large Gwyllgi nudged her hand with his nose and enveloped her entire hand with his mouth and drooled.
Geralt shook his head. "Magical beasts are different."
He smells okay, Haydn said. You can keep him.
Severus snorted as Hermione's eyes widened.
"What?" Geralt asked.
Hermione tried to say something but her mouth worked with no sound.
"The flaming mongrel says you may live," Severus said.
Geralt laughed. "I'm glad. I'd hate to have my life cut short by a pack of Gwyllgi in the peak of my young, innocent life."
Geralt tapped his nose. "You're too sharp, Severus. The masters will have to keep an eye or three on you."
"Three?" Hermione asked.
"Two in front, one in back, always," Geralt said. "Masters always grow a third eye, sometimes a fourth," he tapped the space between his eyes.
Hermione's eyes widened.
Severus leaned over to whisper into her ear.
Hermione's eyes widened more and then narrowed. "You're messing with me!"
Geralt smiled cheekily. "Did it work?"
Hermione put her hands on her hips. "Maybe."
Haydn suddenly pounced Geralt, snarling, his mouth opened wide to expose molten teeth.
The boy yelped, eyes growing very, very wide.
Suddenly, he bounced away, sitting next to Hermione and leaning in for a scratch.
Geralt slumped on his back, panting. "You were messing with me."
"Did it work?" Hermione echoed.
The white-haired boy sighed. "Maybe."
Severus' tight smile said everything in silence.
"Come on, i'll take you to the mess hall, yeah? It's lunchtime, so they'll have put out a buffet to die for."
Hermione and Severus perked at the idea of food. "Okay."
Hermione giggled as the enchanted measuring tape and scissors swirled around her. Severus gave her the eyebrow, silently tolerating the strange attention the witch was giving her as she measured and tutted over them both.
The Unspeakables were standing there with them— well, some of them were. Their moonlit robes seemed more like light rather than conventional cloth. Their hoods cast their faces in shadow, and their eyes had blindfolds over them. Their mouths, still in shadow, seemed to have a plate-like guard over them.
"Don't hover, Donovan, Michaels," the witch tutted. "I'm hardly going to kidnap them."
The Unspeakables exchanged glances silently.
"I've known you since you were in diapers, pets," she said. "I know hovering when I see it."
One of the measuring tapes got tangled up in Hermione's wing and she jerked her wing. The poor tape went flying off and bonked one Unspeakable on the head.
The tape made a soft sound of protest as it slid down the Unspeakable's body and landed with a thump on the floor.
"I'm so sorry!" Hermione cried, jumping off the platform to go retrieve the innocent victim of her wing abuse. She cradled it in her hands and gave it to the elder witch.
"There now, pet," she said, giving her a fond pat on the head. "No harm done. Believe you me, this old tape and I have had to measure everything from wings, spikes, horns, and everything in between."
The tape shuddered in the witch's hand.
"I'm sorry," Hermione said to the tape.
The tape extended itself and slowly touched Hermione's hand and then seemed to accept the apology, doing a loop de loop. It finished its measurements, getting all over Hermione with enthusiastic measuring.
Hermione looked at Severus, who was still standing perfectly still like a statue, giving her a tolerant sigh.
"Okay, loves," the witch said. "I'll get your new robes to you as soon as they are done. It's important you always have them on when you go outside of here. You understand, yes?"
Hermione and Severus nodded, their wings touching the other for reassurance under the elder witch's scrutiny.
One of the Unspeakables lowered their hood, exposing the kindly face of Kingsley Shacklebolt. "Ready to go inspect the library?"
Hermione and Severus perked together, smiles instantly appearing on their faces.
"Let's go then. Thank Madam Potts for her kind attention, please."
"Thank you Madam Potts," the children chimed together.
"You're very welcome, pets," she said with a warm smile.
The pair each took one of Kingsley's hands and walked beside him, no small amount of joy in their steps and in the spring of their wings.
"I don't like you," the thin, black and white haired boy said. His hair was split down the middle between white and black, and he had curly ears on his head that seemed more canine than feline. He got up into Severus' face, using the great span of three extra inches to show his physical dominance.
"And why should I even care," Severus answered, his dark eyes seeming even darker, "what you think of me?"
"I heard about you," the boy snapped. "You killed your own father."
Severus' eyes seemed to darken. "Maybe he deserved it. Do you?"
"Do I what?" the other boy said.
"Deserve it." Severus's lips pressed together as darkness seemed to gather in his gaze, turning it umbral and dangerous. The moment their gazes locked, Severus got a flash of insight from the other boy's mind.
His lip curled. "Attacking me won't bring them back."
"What are you talking about?!"
The other boy's face grew very red and—
Severus stood, a stream of blood trickling down his face.
"I didn't need them, and I don't need you here mucking up our family," the other boy hissed.
Severus drew his arm across his face, wiping away the blood. Hermione started to come up, but Severus gave her a look and a tiny twitch of his wings. Hermione stopped, seemingly realising that he needed to handle this situation alone. For a moment, their eyes glowed green together, and Hermione stepped away into the crowd.
"Need a little girl to help you?" the other boy mocked.
Severus' eyes had bleed into purest black, the tiniest twitch of his lip disclosed a bitter connection of this one boy to Tobias Snape.
"Leave. Her. Out. Of. This," Severus said, his fist clenching.
The other boy, thinking himself victorious, smiled. "I don't need some helpless girl to stand up for me."
"She's not helpless," Severus said. Something flickered in his eyes, making the boy seem far older than his smaller stature belied. "She knows I do not need help to deal with—" He didn't even get to finish as the other boy leapt upon him, pummeling him into the ground with his fists.
"Stewart Ashgroven," a deep voice snarled, and the boy's head jerked up, eyes wide.
A creature that looked like a cross between a dragon and a bat loomed over the crowd of lunchtime eaters.
"You shame me," the creature snarled, his ears laid flat against his head.
"Master," the boy grovelled even as Severus was bleeding all over his face, lying flat on his back.
Stewart prostrated himself on the floor, and the draconic bat growled. "Back to your quarters, Mr Ashgroven. There you will stay until I decide what is appropriate to do to you that doesn't involve me ripping out your throat with my teeth. Now go!"
The boy scrambled out of the lunchroom and away.
The dragonbat wing-walked over to where Severus was and lowered his head, breathing out a misty cloud of green vapour. Severus coughed, sitting up, his eyes wide as he looked at the monstrous muzzle of his saviour.
"I must apologise for my apprentice," the creature said. "He will be… appropriately dealt with."
Severus' face was still swollen and bleeding, and he sniffled as Hermione rushed to place her hands on his face, her hands shaking as she saw just how wounded he was.
"I'm fine," he insisted.
But the moment she placed her hands on his face, her wings curled around his back and his wrapped around hers. There was a warm rush of magic as his face healed right before everyone's eyes.
Snape's expression softened as he pet her hair soothingly. "Foolish girl," he chided gently.
Hermione pulled away and swatted him playfully as the dragonbat chuckled. "Severus, Hermione, please go to the infirmary and make sure you are not suffering from anything unforeseen, yes?"
"Yes, Master Morgan."
The dragonbat grunted. "I will tell Kingsley about how you took multiple blows to the face without losing your cool. However, I think, perhaps, we shall work on teaching you how to dodge."
Severus looked at his feet. "Yes, Master Morgan."
"And young Severus?"
"Take care of yourself, or Hermione will cuff you about the head and it will not heal as fast, hrm?"
Severus flushed. "Yes, Master."
He grasped Hermione's hand as they bowed and scurried down the hallway.
As Eileen Snape opened her eyes, the first thing she saw was her son and a mysterious girl curled up together on the family couch-bed in the room. They were sleeping, nestled together with a closeness that even she and Tobias had never had— even when he had been sober.
The second thing she saw was the Unspeakable— in full regalia— sitting beside them. Its eerie gaze seemed to gaze straight through her, and it made her tremble. She couldn't help it. Unspeakables were like the boogeymen you always warned your children about. Don't do that or the Unspeakables will get you.
Her son and the mysterious winged girl were curled up in the Unspeakable's lap, resting their heads upon its leg—
How did you even tell if they were male or female?
She realised, much to her disorientation, that she wasn't back in Cokeworth's hospital, either. She was—
She stirred in the bed, and her son opened his eyes, meeting her gaze with silent inquiry. He never was one for talking— not since Tobias had beaten it out of him. Pangs of guilt gnawed at her stomach. She should have been a better mother. She should have protected her son— instead, she had sworn off her magic in her shame of having a drunken one night stand with a Muggle man.
There was no doubt in her mind that one day, Tobias would be the death of her or her son— or both.
Yet, somehow she was alive. Somehow, her son had escaped Tobias.
Was she imagining it, or did her son's eyes just flash green?
The girl was stirring now, and she yawned, stretching like a lazy cat in a sunbeam, ending with a tiny squeak as she smacked her lips and blinked blearily. She sat up, rubbing her eyes, sleepily leaning into Severus.
Touching her son…
Yet there was no flinch. No withdrawal. Not even a token scowl. There was something different about this little girl with her son. Something—
The girl's hair was standing straight up after sleep, and Severus silently scooched over and patted the couch-bed beside him. She bounced over on the couch and put her back to him, and he pulled out the inlaid hairbrush from his grandmother. Gently coaxing the hair into submission, the girl drooped, wings fluttering, obviously finding pleasure and happiness in the attention.
Eileen's eyes nearly bugged out of her head when the girl turned around and made a twirling motion with her finger. Severus obediently turned for her, and she brushed his hair down, and once that was done, she fussed with his wings, using her fingers to preen them into place and spread and realign the feathers. Once all was done, Severus leaned to whisper something to the girl, and she peered over at Eileen with suspicious eyes.
Severus touched her arm, stroking it tenderly— reassurance. That was when she saw it— a flash of Sight that showed the tendrils like silk woven between her son and this mysterious girl. Their magic was woven together. The uninhibited touches, the— trust. Trust he didn't even have for her. His own mother.
Not that she deserved it— she knew this. She had failed him in many, many ways. She had run from her own talents and the magical world, getting herself drunk and pregnant by a random Muggle man. She had the Sight, and she had run from it. She had never stopped running from something.
Her Sight. Her family's wishes. Her own guilt and shame.
Yet there it was, right in front of her. Her wonderful, sensitive son as it could have been between them.
The girl sighed and nodded, hopping into the Unspeakable's lap and wrapping her arms around its neck. The figure stood, and Eileen realised he was quite tall. Yes. Definitely a he. He wrapped his arm around the young winged girl and walked out of the room, not even bothered by the girl's death grip around his neck. As he passed, the soft sound of chimes rang in his wake.
Eileen shivered. Unspeakables were scary. It was almost visceral, the deep, instinctive need to shrink back from him.
Severus stood and walked over to her bed. He stood, silent and stiff. His dark eyes were unreadable— long gone were the days when he had worn his emotions on his sleeve. Long gone, too, were the days when her son would come to him and want her approval.
She had wasted nine whole years— running from her old life and then running from her new one. She had even run from him, her own son, thinking that if he didn't stay close that maybe it would be better, safer for him somehow.
Severus' mouth moved, but she could hear nothing.
She shook her head at him, wondering if somehow she'd lost the ability to hear after being knocked about the head.
Severus sighed at her, and he held out a band of metal— a ring.
She looked at it.
He gave her a stern look— so very grown up for a young child. He held it out, giving her the eye.
Slowly, she put it on, gasping as it slithered around her finger and tightened.
"Now can you hear me, mum?"
Eileen's eyes widened. "Yes, Severus. What are you— how on earth did I get here?"
"Master Shacklebolt moved you here from Cokeworth," he said. "Said after what da did to you, it was high time you left Cokeworth behind."
Eileen flinched. Cokeworth, as horrible as it was, had become the hell she knew, and she both wanted to leave it and yet didn't at the same time. Tobias would be so angry. He'd beat her bloody— but if she went back maybe he wouldn't just find her later and kill her.
Severus was frowning at her. "You cannot go back."
Eileen jerked her head up. "Severus, it's our home!"
Severus shook his head. "No, it's not. It's the place where you let him beat you almost to death. It's the place he tried to kill me. It's the place he tried to kill Her— he deserves what he got."
Eileen's blood froze. "What did you do, Severus?"
"I got my head bashed into a wall, mum. I couldn't do a bloody thing." Severus' casual use of profanity caused her to jerk back in shock. He was nine. What had happened to her son to turn him into such a—
A crushing wave of guilt again—
"What happened to your father?"
Severus' eyes flashed emerald for just a second. "The hellhounds got him, mum. They saved my life. They tore his soul to shreds. He lives in a Muggle mental hospital now."
Eileen blinked. Severus never, ever made things up the way most children would, but how was she supposed to take the news that some sort of mythical hell-beast had come and dealt with Tobias?
Severus turned his head away, his wings twitching in a nervous tic. "Master Shacklebolt said you don't have to worry about me anymore, mum. Just worry about healing yourself. I live with him now as his apprentice."
Who was this Master Shacklebolt?
She started to sit up to put her feet on the floor.
"What are you doing?" Severus hissed.
"I'm going home."
"No," Severus snapped, grasping at her wrist.
"Let go of me, Severus!"
Severus shook his head. "You can't go back there!"
She felt it then— the anger. He dropped her hand. "I may not be able to stop you, mum, but there are others who can."
Eileen frowned. Her son would call the Aurors on her? Would he even know how?
Nine, she kept telling herself. He was only nine-years-old.
A low growl sounded off as a pair of dark smoky canines seeped up from the tiled floor. Glowing eyes of fire met with spikes on the back and jaws dripping with magma—
Her son had really meant hellhounds.
"Nisha and Kyra will stay here with you," Severus said. His dark eyes bore into her. "If you try to leave Mungos, I'll know immediately." His hands rubbed the Gwyllgi's ears, and they looked up at him with pure adoration.
Merlin— what in Merlin's name had her son become?
"They will not hurt you," he said. "But they will not let you leave until you are well again."
"Severus," Eileen gasped. What could she say to her young son who just set hellhounds on her to keep her from going back to Cokeworth?
"It's for your own good, mum," Severus said quietly. "He almost killed you." The silent "again" went unsaid.
"Severus, I'm an adult. I can handle it."
"Like you handled it all my life?" Severus hissed furiously.
Eileen recoiled at the level of venom in her young son's voice.
What had she done? She'd robbed her own son of his childhood, and he would never get it back. She had taken away his innocence. She'd robbed him of love.
There was a knock at the door, and the little girl ran in carrying in a large bundle of flowers, mums in autumnal shades of gold, amber, copper and burgundy. The Unspeakable gestured to the table and this time she could understand them.
"Use the spell just like I taught you, Hermione."
She concentrated really hard as her hands cupped on the table.
An elegant crystal vase appeared.
Severus poured water into the vase as Hermione set in the flowers. She pet them to arrange them neatly in the vase.
"I got her some flowers, Severus. I really hope she likes them!" She smiled up at him and he engulfed her in a hug of warm wings and arms.
"They're very pretty," he replied with a fond smile. "Thank you."
She leaned in to whisper in his ear. "I didn't have any money, but Master leant me a galleon."
Severus smiled. He then turned back to Eileen and sighed. "I hope you get better soon, mum, but until then, I'm glad you're finally somewhere safe."
He paused. "They really like to be pet on the ears, by the way. They like to cuddle too." He gave the two Gwyllgi fond pats.
He held out his hand.
"The ring is just a loaner," he explained.
She removed it and placed it in his hand. He handed it to the Unspeakable, and this time all she heard was the sound of windchimes.
Severus said something to her, but she couldn't hear it again.
Goodbye, mum, she realised as she watched his lips form the words once more.
The Unspeakable left the room first, and the two children followed after— hands linked and their wings touching just before the telltale crack of a Disapparate carried them away.
Eileen stared at the two Gwyllgi with no little nervousness, but they just lay on the pull out bed and watched her. She looked at the flowers and saw that one dark feather and a honey-brown feather sat mixed in amongst the flower buds.
"Guess I don't have much of a choice but to stay," she said to herself.
Woof, one Gwyllgi barked.
The other just watched her, silent and intimidating.
Maybe it was time for her to stop running after all.
And everyone dies. The End.
(ok, not really, but blame IShouldBeWritingSomethingElse for leaving me on an evil cliffhanger. Cliffhangers make me GRUMPY!) LOL. (Not really blaming her, but my heart is… argh!)
And this is not a cliffhanger, thank you very much. I try hard not to do that to people with my crazy writing schedule or lack thereof.
A/N: Praise be to The Dragon and the Rose, who stayed up past her expiration hour to beta this chapter. Send her helpful plush spiders to cuddle. Hope you enjoyed this chapter.