AN & Disclaimer: I do not own these characters and no
money is being made from this story. The following story will have mention of
sexual assault, suicidal attempts, adult/child non consensual sex and dark
thoughts. This in no way glorifies or agrees with these behaviors but is simply
a vehicle to write the story.
When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall, and down will come baby cradle and all.-Nursery Rhyme
Snape's snarl startled her, causing her to fling her arm upwards as if blocking a blow. The motion sent her tumbling backwards off her stool. Neville reached out to grab at her robes, trying to slow her descent, but he only heard the tear of the fabric and the sickening thud as she struck the floor headfirst.
Her eyes swelling with tears, Hermione heard her name being said loudly by a myriad of voices. She saw feet hurrying to stand around her and she let out a small whimper, hiding her face in her hands and began shaking violently.
"Why the bloody hell did you scare her like that!" she heard Harry's voice full of fury, shouting at presumably Professor Snape.
"Ten points from Gryffindor, Potter and everyone get in their seats, NOW!"
She heard muttered grumbles and a few curses as the pressing crowd around her dissolved. "Today Weasley!" She heard Snape's voice very close now and she cringed, trying to roll up into a ball, though the movement made her head hurt and nausea flooded over her. She felt a hand touch her shoulder and she whimpered again, moving away from the touch.
"Leave her alone, you bastard!"
"Potter, fifty points from Gryffindor and detention. Class dismissed, everyone out of here!" She heard Snape's voice full of fury right above her.
There was silence for a moment and then she heard the sounds of scuffling stools and hurried footsteps.
"Miss Granger?" he questioned sarcastically, wondering why the girl was over reacting from the fall. "Get up and let's see what damage you have inflicted from your foolishness."
She didn't answer, curling up tighter in a ball.
Damn, it was her fault he had yelled at her. If it hadn't been for her carelessness, almost putting the wrong ingredient in the potion that would have caused much more damage to her than the fall had.
He watched the girl's shaking back as she sobbed. Sighing, he wondered why things like this were always happening in his class. Stupid children, they really never failed to get under his skin. Still, the girl did seem to be in distress and he needed to check her injuries.
"Miss Granger?" The voice was soft, almost gentle. "I need to look at your head," said the same soothing voice, and she felt fingers lightly touch the back of her head.
"No!" she screamed pulling away, "please no…."she sobbed.
Snape reeled back on his heels at her terrified reaction. What had happened to this girl?
Ever since term had began after the Christmas break, the star pupil of Hogwarts, the irritating Gryffindor know- it -all had been replaced with a shadow of the once vivacious, sometimes bossy girl.
He had never paid much attention to her outside of class, however in the last weeks he had observed her in the dining hall. The girl was too pale, too thin. She kept her head down while eating, never looking up or around, barely answering her two friends who evidently tried to keep her talking.
Last week at the staff meeting, she had been the main subject of conversation. 'Hermione Granger is failing.' 'She couldn't even answer the simplest question.' 'The spell she cast, Albus, it was as if she didn't know how to use a wand.' His response had been 'she never puts her hand up anymore in class.' Cursing softly at that stupid response, he wondered how he could have been so insensitive. He just assumed she had been having problems at home, a boyfriend, maybe woman problems. As he sat there looking at the quivering thin back racked painfully with sobs, he knew that she was suffering from something much worse.
He saw the gold brown curls start to darken and he realized that she had hit her head too hard, as blood was beginning to seep through.
Damn. She couldn't bear to be touched and he needed to give her some aid. Pulling his wand from his sleeve he pointed it at her, casting a calming spell. Seeing the tension leave her body, he reached out gently, pulling her up into a sitting position. Though calmed under the spell, he couldn't help but let out a gasp as he looked into her dark brown eyes, which were too wide. The depths of horror he saw there only mirrored his own whenever he returned from a Death Eaters dark revel. What had happened to the child?
Pushing away his questions, he moved closer and ran his fingers gently through the tangled mass of curls, feeling her wince as he touched the spot where her head had struck an uneven stone on the floor. Removing his fingers, which were covered in blood, he placed his wand near the spot and murmured a spell to stop the bleeding. He felt her tremble at his nearness.
"Miss Granger," he said softly, "you have been hurt. Do you understand me?'
She nodded looking at him with those haunted eyes.
"I need to take you to the hospital wing. It will be much faster if you allow me to carry you than to conjure a stretcher. Do you understand?" he asked again.
She nodded once more though the terror in her eyes flared once more.
"If you allow me to I will, but if you do not want me to I will not force you," he said gently, speaking to her like a wounded animal, "but we must go now, your head has been injured and it is best not to take chances, okay?"
Again she nodded, and he rose to his feet. Bending over he lifted her, cursing inwardly as she trembled violently at his touch, though she did not whimper. How light she was! She was little more than bones. Merlin's beard, he thought striding out into the hall with her, how could this child be wasting away and he had not noticed. As he entered the hallway containing the hospital wing, he saw Madam Pomfrey and McGonagall hurrying towards him.
"Severus!" McGonagall snapped at him. "Potter and Weasley came to me saying Miss Granger had been scared to death because of you and was hurt…"
"Not now Minerva," Snape hissed, trying to keep his voice quiet as the girl flinched in his arms. Madam Pomfrey was at his shoulder, looking at Hermione raising a questioning eyebrow at him.
"She struck her head," he answered as he entered the hospital wing.
"Put her down there," Madam Pomfrey ordered as she went to a cabinet. Gently he laid her down on the bed, still amazed at her lightness. Turning away he saw McGonagall's face, her eyes flashing at him. She motioned him over to a corner of the room.
"What is this all about Severus?" she hissed at him. "The students told me you yelled so loudly at her you caused her to fall." Her cheeks were flushed and she reminded him of a hen, ruffling her feathers, ready to defend her chicks to the death.
"She was about to put dragon's blood into the potion assignment instead of dragon scales," he explained, his voice dripping with sarcasm. "The result would have been an explosion that would have disintegrated the classroom as well as any chambers within a hundred yards." He looked at McGonagall, his jaw set, waiting for the retort. Instead he saw the older woman's chin quiver, as she looked at him with worried eyes. "She's never been so careless in potions, though she has been slipping during the last month," he said softly, going over to Minerva and placing a comforting hand on her shoulder, "and I am truly sorry she was hurt."
"I know Severus," she said patting his hand, sniffing. "I just don't understand. She is doing terribly in all her classes and has withdrawn into her own little world. I am truly at a loss to know how to help her, she will not open up to anyone."
He raised an eyebrow at her.
"I have even went as far to put Potter and Weasley under the knife so to speak, and they are as lost as the rest of us. Except that Harry told me…"
"Yes," he urged, anger flaring at Potter's implication in this.
"That she asked to borrow his cloak weekly. It seems she is going out at night."
"Did you speak to her about this?" He asked feeling the bile in his throat. Potter and that damn invisibility cloak. If he had his way the thing would be confiscated.
"Of course I did. She just stated she was going to the library to study since she wasn't doing very well in her classes. Oh Severus, I know she was lying but she looked so desperate, as if I forbade her from going it would mean her death. I just told her she should use the library during hours and left it at that." She shook her head. "Her roommates, Patil and Brown, told me after I questioned them, that she often comes in during the night shaking, curling up in a ball and sobbing until dawn. They didn't know where she was going and she refuses to talk to them."
"Damn," he swore softly. That gifted girl couldn't be wasting away over a boy could she? The thought made him ill. If she was throwing her talents away on a stupid git, he would scare the boy to death himself. Foolish, foolish teenagers.
"I know what you are thinking Severus," Minerva managed a sardonic smile that Snape was proud of, "if she is having a lover's tryst, it must be a very unhealthy one. Someone who is abusive towards her or something. I find it hard to imagine Hermione with someone like that. I know intelligence doesn't play into affairs of the heart, that is why so many women stay in abusive relationships, but it seems much more than that. I am afraid she has lost her spirit to live." She finished as a tear slipped down her face.
Severus squeezed her shoulder.
"Minerva," Poppy's quiet voice interrupted them, "I need to show you something." Her face was pale and grim. "Professor nape this might not be proper for you."
"Hush woman," he told her, though his voice was gentle.
Leading them through the curtain around Hermione's bed, Severus felt a lump in his throat at the pale, incredibly thin girl lying there. Without her school robes on she looked little more than a skeleton.
"Oh Poppy," Minerva gasped. She too had not realized how thin Hermione had become.
"She starving to death," Poppy said matter of factly. "I would say that she has not been able to keep anything on her stomach for a while." They looked at her. "She has been throwing up a lot, you can tell by her teeth and the rawness in her throat. Whether accidentally or not I do not know."
"What do you mean or not?" Severus asked, his voice harsh.
"Some people, usually young girls, take it upon themselves to regurgitate regularly. I have never seen it in the Wizarding world but have read about it in the Muggle studies."
"But she was so healthy before Christmas," Minerva said, her voice trembling
Christmas break, Severus thought. What had happened over the holidays?
"There is something else Minerva," Pomfrey said quietly, though looking at Snape. "I will need your permission to uncover the girl with Severus here."
"Of course Poppy," Minerva said impatiently. "He is as concerned as the rest of us about Miss Granger."
Releasing the ties of Hermione's gown, she pulled the garment away from the small form.
Minerva gasped. Severus eyes narrowed dangerously as he looked upon the thin body. Ribs were evident, he could count each of them, and her hipbones jutted grotesquely out from her pelvic area. But it wasn't this that made his blood run cold. It was the bruises and the small red marks that marred the ivory skin. Some of the bruising was old, turning green as they healed; others were bright blue, purple and black. The red marks, most prominent on the small high breasts, were half moon shaped, the shape a person's mouth might make.
Pomfrey spoke swiftly as she went over Hermione's condition. "There is presence of assault; one rib was cracked, though several had been in the process of mending. The bruising on the thighs are probably the result of rough handling, the marks were made by human teeth, most prominent on the breast, collar bone and," she stopped and looked at Severus, who only nodded, "the folds of her womanhood. A swab taken from that area confirmed of sexual intercourse within the last 24 hours," and she added as an after thought, "she is suffering from a concussion from the fall she had in potions class." She glowered at Severus though he knew she was trying to put up a brave façade. "And there is one more thing."
Reaching out, she turned Hermione to her side and Minerva let out a sob as she looked on the back of her most brilliant student. Long cuts ran down the spine of the girl. Fifteen in all. Those near her neck were scarred, each running down her back were newer some scabbed, some red; the last one still oozed blood. As if someone was keeping score, using the flesh to record their success.
"My god," Minerva whispered, "who could have done this to her? What misbegotten son of a bitch in this school could treat a girl so?"
"Indeed," Severus said acidly, his voice a low growl, his thoughts dark and murderous. He did not want to know who but which of the misbegotten low-lifes did this, which would be death eater or rather sons' of death eaters had done this. He recognized all too well the handiwork.
"This one," Poppy said pointing at the top scar, "is about five weeks old. Of course this one pointing to the last was done within the last day."
Five weeks ago, Snape thought. Christmas break, again. What the hell had happened to Hermione Granger over the break?