14 June, 1998
"Miss Granger!" demanded the deep, forceful whisper. Hermione whirled at bay, her wand out, a reflexive hex on her lips. Behind her, the statue of the hump-backed witch clicked shut behind the two young students now safely on their way down the secret passage out of Hogwarts to Honeydukes. If the boys kept their heads, they'd reach the safety of Hogsmeade before the Death Eaters breached the final defenses.
"Professor Snape?" Hermione managed, looking up at the tall, imposing figure striding down the hall towards her. The man was intimidating in his scholar's robes, but in the black and gray of Voldemort's supporters, he was terrifying. A silver mask hung from a tie around his neck, disappearing into the cowl of his cloak.
"What are you doing here?" he questioned fiercely. "You were supposed to evacuate with the other students! The wards have just given way!"
"No!" she breathed, knowing her denial was futile even as she said the word. "There are still a few students left here!" The Maurader's Map, clenched in her fingers, showed the castle nearly deserted, save for a few dots milling here and there, most in the Slytherin common room. However, more than half a dozen names showed where students were hiding in the Astronomy tower or Hufflepuff's territory.
"If they were too stupid to flee with Dumbledore and the teachers, then they're on their own," Snape told her in a in a tone that brooked no argument, seizing her upper arm and dragging her to a staircase. They clattered down several flights before Hermione could summon the breath to ask where they were going.
"There's a door beyond the classroom area that leads out to the greenhouses," he told her sharply. "Ermengarde uses it to slip down to the village for a nip now and then at the Three Broomsticks."
"Professor Sprout drinks?" she asked. Her mind was stupidly grasping on the irrelevant even as her life was crashing down around her. She was hushed suddenly as Snape put his hand over her mouth and pressed them both back into the shadows. She heard an excited voice saying, "See? Didn't I tell you? Lord Voldemort will be pleased, won't he!" The heavy footfalls of several pairs of boots echoed dully down the corridor.
"Yes, Pansy," replied a voice, echoed by wordless agreement from other men's throats. "You're as resourceful as I'd always hoped, my darling."
Snape made no noise, but his head dropped slightly as though he'd curse if he had the time and energy to spare. Without a sound he pulled Hermione from their shared niche and dragged her back they way they'd come.
"You are in very grave danger," he hissed over his shoulder to her. "You should never have remained here. Why didn't you follow Potter and the other teachers?"
"I couldn't," she whispered back, breathless with their pace. "Only Harry can close the doorway to the Chamber of.."
"Don't tell me," he interrupted harshly. "I don't want to know how Dumbledore evacuated the school. I'm going to be hard pressed to explain how several hundred students disappeared from under my nose as it is."
"And if you don't know, you can't be forced to tell," Hermione confirmed.
"Exactly. And I'm wasting precious time trying to save a foolish Head Girl when I should be helping the Death Eaters invade Hogwarts."
"Then let me go," Hermione demanded, wrenching her wrist from his grip. "Tell Voldemort someone cast a silencing spell over your lab and you only realized what was happening when the wards fell. I'll escape on my own, and you'll be safe."
"Don't be stupid!" he sneered as he grabbed her arm once more, forcing her to keep up with his rapid pace. "Death Eaters are already combing the castle. You'll more likely be captured and tortured for everything you know."
"I wouldn't say anything!" she protested hotly.
Snape abruptly pushed her against the wall, deliberately attempting to frighten her. It worked. "You would," he told her flatly. "Cruciatus, combined with Veritaserum, is a very persuasive interrogation method. You'll tell Voldemort where your friends went, and who helped them, and who helped you, and then both our bodies will be left here, displayed in creative ways for the Ministry to find when they finally get off their official collective arses and come to investigate the Dark Mark floating above Hogwarts."
Horrified, Hermione only stared back at his harsh countenance so close to her own. Before either one could say another word, the sound of boots echoed through the corridor and a man's voice called Snape's name in a loud, authoritarian tone.
"Snape! There you are," said the voice, issued from behind another silver mask. "Wondered where you'd disappeared to. Found something to keep you busy, have you?"
Hermione struggled to flee, but Snape's grip tightened. "You could say that," he purred, pushing his body against hers.
"Don't," she told him, fighting to keep herself away from him, but his face buried itself in the crook of her neck.
"Scream," he whispered. When she did not immediately comply, he sank his teeth into the top of her shoulder. A shriek forced itself from her lips, causing the other Death Eater to chuckle.
"I see," the man said, his amusement evident at Hermione's situation. "Our lord is in the main hall, and he has commanded us all to join him. Don't dally too long."
"Not too much longer," Snape promised absently, his hands tightening on Hermione's arms until she cried out in pain once more.
As the echoes of the anonymous Death Eater's footfalls faded in the distance, Snape released his grip on Hermione and stepped back. Frightened beyond words, Hermione glanced up at his dark eyes and saw very little to reassure her. He glanced down the hallway and then back to her.
"You understand the role you must play?" he asked thinly.
Hermione's head jerked as she nodded, and after a moment shrugged the heavy black student robe down her shoulders, revealing her white uniform blouse. Without a word she loosened the red and gold tie around her neck, and then desperately not thinking about what she was doing, grasped either side of her shirt front and wrenched. One button flew free; the other broke in half and dangled from a loose thread. The edge of her white bra peeked through the rent fabric, and she pushed the shirt and bra strap aside far enough to expose the bite on her shoulder, already going purple in a perfect imprint of his crooked tooth pattern.
It took everything she had not to flinch as Severus Snape's long, thin fingers reached for the loose knot of her tie and slid it free, smoothing the creased silk. Hermione pulled out the Maurader's Map and her wand, muttering "Mischief managed," before holding them both out to her teacher. Snape thrust both the wand and the map, now blank parchment, into one of the inner pockets of his robe before tying Hermione's unresisting hands together with the tie.
"Will this do?" she asked nervously. "Will it fool them?"
Severus glanced at her face as he pulled the silk tight. "It will be more convincing if you could summon tears," he said brusquely.
Hermione stared at his harsh features, trying to school her features and thoughts into the proper mindset of a victim. After a moment, she shook her head.
"I can't," she whispered.
"If you expect us to survive the next hour, Miss Granger, I suggest you try."
She took a quick breath and looked at him through the tangled curls of her hair. "Then hit me."
The faint crease between his black brows might have been consternation, but his hand hesitated no more than a moment as he lifted it and slapped Hermione across the face. She gasped at the impact, but quickly shook her hair back and faced him boldly once more.
"Harder," she ordered breathlessly.
This time there was no hesitation as his hand struck her with a harsh crack, jerking her face to one side. Her exposed chest heaved with a sob, and when she glanced up again, involuntary tears tracked down her cheeks. A spot of blood appeared at the corner of her mouth, growing larger as she probed it with her fingers. The imprint of his fingers showed boldly on her fair skin.
Without conscious thought Severus reached out to her, wanting to apologize, to mollify the damage he'd done. Instead, he grasped the silken end of her tie as it dangled between her wrists and pulled her after him, cinching the silver mask onto his face as he went to meet his lord.
Dragging his captive behind him, making no allowances for her shorter legs, Severus crossed through the milling crowd of Death Eaters to the center of the Great Hall. The Head Table lay smashed on the floor behind the dais, its broken legs stabbing mutely towards the enchanted ceiling. In its place, Voldemort had appropriated the Headmaster's chair and sat enthroned before his minions. His head lifted with interest as he perceived the pair coming forward.
"My Lord," Snape announced obsequiously, bowing deeply before the reptilian wizard. "I submit myself to your punishment. I was unaware of Dumbledore's plans, and I offer no excuses."
"Let me guess – you were in your laboratory, and did not hear the students scurrying away like rats in the night?" His red eyes flicked towards Peter Pettigrew at his side, who shuffled self-consciously at his leader's joke.
"When I realized you had come at last, my lord, I did go in search of the students. Unfortunately, I was -- distracted," he admitted, bowing his head once more, even as he shoved Hermione to the ground, ignoring her whimpers as her knees landed on the hard flagstone floor.
"Distracted?" echoed Voldemort. "It has been a long time since you have indulged at the revels I have created for my loyal followers, Severus. And now you have the nerve to say this child distracted you?"
"A special case, my lord. Something of a memento of my years under Dumbledore's yoke."
Voldemort's red eyes narrowed into slits, and Hermione's blood chilled as a chuffing noise came from the wizard's chest until she realized he was laughing.
"A memento. Your sense of humor is sharp as ever, Severus." He beckoned with one hand. "Let us see this souvenir."
A hand twisted into Hermione's hair and another closed around her upper arm, jerking her off the floor. She did not have to pretend to be frightened as Snape dragged her forward and presented her to the world's most feared wizard. Even with her eyes closed she could sense his red eyes raking over her body, from the snarled hair and bruised lip to her exposed, heaving chest.
"Look at me," demanded the cold voice, and she fearfully cracked open her eyelids to see Voldemort staring down at her.
"Who are you?" he asked.
She wet her dry lips gingerly. "Her-Hermione Granger," she admitted.
"Granger? I'm not familiar with the family," Voldemort mused. "Severus?"
"She's a Muggle-born," Snape sneered. "No one will miss her, or ask about her. And I have put up with her for nearly seven years."
"Head Girl," mused Voldemort, spying the little pin on her robes. His eyes narrowed thoughtfully before he raised his wand. "Probatio," he muttered.
Hermione, tensed for an Unforgivable, gasped as the spell swept over her. The power shivered down through her body and then swirled into the air before Voldemort.
The wizard frowned at the female outline forming in the air before him. The head glowed brightly golden, the heart a bright pink. The entire form itself was a pale, spring green, while the lower abdomen included a pinpoint of pure white.
"Interesting." Voldemort banished the image with a wave of his hand. "She's intelligent and spirited."
"And a virgin," Snape added with surprised, oily satisfaction. "Which will make it that much more fun to break her."
"Not so fast," interrupted a tenor voice, and both wizards turned to the Death Eater who had been standing to one side. Draco Malfoy shoved his mask up to better confront his Head of House. "I want her."
"And this concerns me?" Snape drawled.
Draco's face flushed with anger. "I've been searching all over the school for her. I want her, and I demand you give her to me."
"You demand?" questioned Snape coldly. "Who are you to demand anything? You're a whelp – nothing but a spoilt daddy's boy."
"How dare you!" Draco shouted. "My father will –"
"Your father will do nothing," Voldemort interjected mildly, and Draco's flush quickly faded as he realized who he'd been raising his voice to. "If you truly wish to dispute your confederate's right to keep the Mudbood, you can duel for her."
"What?" Draco asked.
"Duel," Severus repeated with casual emphasis. "It has always been our way to settle disputes over the spoils. Care to duel?" He pulled Hermione's body closer to his own while he twirled his wand casually, knowing full well the junior Malfoy was hopelessly outmatched.
"You will learn, young Malfoy, that your position in my court is not granted on your father's name," Voldemort told the young man silkily. "Severus Snape has served me and earned my indulgence. You are earning yourself nothing but a reminder of your place."
Draco paled even further and murmured something apologetic, bowing low before his master.
"There remains the question of what I shall do with you, Severus," Voldemort continued. Snape immediately went to one knee.
"Punish me as you see fit, my lord. I have no excuses for my tardiness, nor for allowing the old fool to escape with the students."
"Get up, Severus. You're getting your robes dirty, and you're starting to sound like Wormtail. As for Dumbledore and his brats, I don't really care. In fact, it means less work for us all, in the long run. Prisoners are so tedious.
"Hogwarts is mine," he said, leaning back in his chair with satisfaction. "The very fact that the old fool has fled shows his fear of me. Although he obviously suspected you of returning to my service, it matters little. Your intelligence has been of great value, and your service will be rewarded." The red eyes flickered over the kneeling man before him, and his captive.
"Take your souvenir and go. Break her as you will, but don't kill her. She may yet be useful."
"You are merciful, my lord. Thank you." Snape dragged Hermione by the arm and withdrew from the room. His black eyes caught hers and flashed meaningfully. Her breath caught as she realized what he meant and she began to struggle.
"No," she cried out. "No, no, no, NO!" Despite her best efforts, Snape reeled her closer and clamped a wiry arm around her waist. Several of the Death Eaters chuckled at the scene.
"Want a hand?" offered one silver-masked individual. "I've always enjoyed breaking a spirited filly."
"No," Snape cut him off coldly. He pressed one long-fingered hand around Hermione's throat, pushing her head against his shoulder. "I've got it under control." He waited until she sagged, nearly unconscious for lack of air, before releasing her and drawing his wand. A swish later, he dis-Apparated from Hogwarts, possibly the first to do so since the now-shattered wards were first cast over a century ago.