Morning sunlight filtered in through the high windows of the Great Hall, sun brightly shining from the enchanted ceiling. Large pumpkins sat in the corners of the hall, bats flew above the heads of the eating students and fallen leaves were strung in garlands along tables and rafters. It was the morning of October thirty-first, Halloween, and every student was talking excitedly about the feast that evening. Students milled around their house tables, eating and talking and making plans for that day's activities. Harry and Ron were no different, talking adamantly about practicing Quidditch later in afternoon. Hermione, however, did not share in their enthusiasm and was currently reading from a book propped up against a milk jug.
"Come on Hermione, please just watch us for a little while," Ron begged.
"We'll be really quick, promise," Harry added.
"You two are perfectly capable of playing without my attention," Hermione mumbled from behind her book.
"But then you'll sit in the library all day and we'll never see you," complained Ron. "Can't you please just sit in the stands? We'll only be an hour, tops."
Hermione sighed, setting down her fork. She understood their eagerness: with Professor Snape gone for the day, the boys were instilled with a new sense of freedom. This freedom seemed to grasp the whole school, and while the Slytherins were forlorn at the sudden, if brief, loss of their house master, no one seemed to mind his absence. Hermione felt sorry for her uncle, whose leaving caused great joy throughout the school. Although he was a wonderful professor, his disdainful attitude was not favored by his students. Despite the fact that she knew Severus wouldn't care much about how anyone reacted to his leaving, she still pitied the man.
"Hermione, with the Greasy Git gone, we can do anything," said Harry.
"And I intend to," Ron quipped.
Hermione leaned back in her seat, turning her head to look at the staff table. The headmaster was having an animated conversation with Professor Flitwick, O'Riley was reading the morning paper, McGonagall was grading papers in between spoonfuls of porridge, and none seemed to notice the empty space that Snape had once occupied. She sighed deeply, turning her gaze back to her friends.
"Oh all right. I guess I'll come along, but just for an hour," said Hermione.
Both boys smiled, thanked her, and resumed their conversation. As breakfast progressed, Hermione heard the flutter of wings and a hoard of owls swooped into the hall, parcels and letters tied to their legs and clutched in their beaks. Hermione turned away from the scene, knowing full well that there was nothing for her, and resumed her reading. However, a letter did fall in front of her. The tawny owl that had delivered it dropped a similar one in the lap of Professor Dumbledore, and then flew off without a moment's pause. Curiously, Hermione lifted the letter, unfamiliar with the hand it was written in. She broke the wax seal and slipped the parchment out of the envelope, noticing immediately the Ministry of Magic crest. What she read caused her heart to stop in her chest.
Her father, the man who had raised her, cared for her, loved her, was dead. The letter, written with so little heart, calmly upturned her life in a matter of sentences. Death Eaters had broken into her home killed her father and kidnapped her mother. Tears sprang to her eyes, a lump rrose in her throat, and she felt the urge to be sick. Her mind was reeling, hoping against hope that somehow her mother was alright, that she wasn't harmed and that they would see each other again. She swiftly glanced down the table at her brother, who was happily talking with his friends. He was a Snape in the eyes of the Ministry, and was completely ignorant of the tragedy that had befallen their family. Hermione's hands fisted, crushing the parchment they held. Her gaze turned to her headmaster, whose face was white and sorrowful. He had risen in his chair, hands resting on the table top, many eyes on him. Hermione opened her mouth, trying to speak, but the only sound she made was that of a choking sob. Tears poured freely down her cheeks, and with every sob she felt her chest constrict. It hurt to breathe, to cry, and a sharp pain slashed through her heart.
"Hermione?" asked Harry, worry in his voice.
"What's wrong?" Ron's voice was confused.
Hermione couldn't seem to answer them as she sobbed, pushing herself out of her seat. She stumbled away from the table, turning and fleeing the Great Hall. Her friends called after her, Dumbledore moved to follow her, but she kept running. She flung open the doors of the Entrance Hall, heading down the stone steps to the lake. Fallen leaves whirled around her on the high fall breeze, cold air permeating her thin robe. Hermione stumbled down the slope, vision blurred by tears. Her jeans became grass stained, her limbs stiffened, and the bitter wind rubbed her exposed skin raw. Tripping over her feet, Hermione finally collapsed at the edge of the lake. She cried on her hands and knees, sobs shaking her thin frame. She pounded the ground with her fists, tore up the letter that was still grasped in her hand and screamed till her throat was raw. Hermione never could understand why things had to happen this way.
"Why?" she choked, "Why did he have to die? He didn't do anything. He didn't deserve any of this. He was innocent."
Hermione sniffed, tears dribbling down the front of her robes, "This is all my fault. He's dead because of me, he died because of me," she cried.
Amidst her sobs, she found she couldn't breath, and she gasped for breath raggedly. She dug her fingernails into the ground, clawing and piercing it with every pain her heart made. As she cried, Hermione felt a pair of arms encircle her, stroking her hair. Professor McGonagall held her student to her, rocking Hermione gently as the girl cried. Dumbledore stood by her side, Harry and Ron flanking him. As Hermione cried, McGonagall raised her head, looking at the headmaster with questioning eyes.
"What should we do Albus?" she asked, voice quivering.
"Bring her up to my office Minerva. We'll discuss things there," Dumbledore instructed after a moment's pause.
McGonagall nodded, helping Hermione to her feet. With the aid of Harry and Ron, the group managed to make it to Dumbledore's office and settle the sobbing Hermione into a chair. Taking a hint from Dumbledore, Harry and Ron reluctantly excused themselves to their sobbing friend and turned to wait outside. Dumbledore did little to comfort Hermione, answering the Ministry's owl, setting a few books aside and allowing the girl seated in front of him to unload her grief the best she could. It was some time before Hermione's sobs weakened to a mere sniffle and Dumbledore turned to see his puffy Head Girl.
"Are you alright, Miss Granger?" he inquired.
Hermione nodded, "Yes Headmaster."
Dumbledore nodded, taking a seat at his desk. He folded his hands before him, long fingers entwining, and looked her straight in the eye. "Miss Granger, I have made arrangements for you to visit St. Mungo's tomorrow, alone, although you may have a professor accompany you if you wish," Dumbledore began, taking a deep breath. "In a few moments I will be calling Tom to my office, and I would like it if you would inform him of this. When you do, I will contact Severus. Annelise is back in the care of Death Eaters, and I would like it if he knew before hand. I am also considering a special arrangement for you and your brother."
"Arrangement, sir?" asked Hermione with a sniffle.
"It is my understanding that you have no other family, is that correct?"
"Yes sir," Hermione mumbled.
"I think its best that for the next few days, Severus should take a short leave of absence. I want you and Tom to stay with him during that time. He is currently at the residence of your grandparents, and I wish that you to stay there for the duration of the weekend," said Dumbledore.
"But sir, no one but Uncle Severus knows about Tom and I," said Hermione.
"That is true, but this evening Severus will be informing his family of the existence of both you and your brother and will correct any misinformation they have."
Hermione bit her lip, nodding her head as her front teeth sank deeper into the soft pink flesh. Dumbledore stood, calling McGonagall back into the office. She had previously stood in the hall with the two boys, waiting anxiously. The headmaster instructed her to bring Tom Snape to his office, which greatly confused the Head of Gryffindor House. Moments later, moments spent in saddened silence, Tom walked into the room. He was alone, dressed casually and looked as if he had been out doors. Hermione turned to him, sniffing at him and his puzzled look.
"Oh Tom," she whispered.
"Professor Dumbledore, you wanted to see me?" Tom asked, puzzled.
"Yes Tom. Your sister wishes to speak with you about some private matters," said Dumbledore, turning to leave. "I'll give you some time alone."
Tom turned to his sister, confusion etched on his face. A lump formed in Hermione's throat and she choked back a sob. Tom stepped towards her, hand outstretched. Suddenly, in one sweeping movement, Hermione had risen from her chair and wrapped her arms around her little brother. Tears once again fell down her cheeks, wetting her brother's robes. Tom, utterly bewildered and worried, spoke in a small voice:
"Mynee, what's going on?"
"Tom," Hermione sniffled. "I have something to tell you."
"What is it?"
"I got a letter today, from the Ministry of Magic," Hermione began.
"Is that why you ran out of the hall? I saw you, you were crying," said Tom.
Hermione nodded, "It is why I ran out. You see…Death Eaters came to our house last night. They kidnapped mum," she sniveled.
"Is she alright? How's dad?" asked Tom frantically.
"I don't know Tom, but the letter also said that something happened to dad," Hermione took a deep breath, voice quivering.
"He died, Tom. Death Eaters killed him," Hermione sobbed. "I am so sorry, Tom."
Tears had since formed in the boys eyes. His onyx eyes were glazed, his bottom lip quivering. He hugged his sister tighter, opening his mouth only to hear a sob in the place of words. Hermione pulled him closer, her own sobs mixing with his. The boy's small body shook in her arms, and Hermione felt another pang in her heart as her brother cried.
"Miss Granger?" came the voice of Dumbledore, who placed a weathered hand on her shoulder.
"Yes, Professor?" Hermione asked, voice cracking.
"I have just owled Severus. He should be receiving the letter within a few hours. I would like it if you would go to your dormitories. You may escort Tom if you like," he offered, smiling at her sadly.
"Come on Tom," said Hermione, standing up, dragging her brother with her.
"I am so sorry, my boy," Dumbledore whispered. "Fear not; you'll be with your uncle soon."
Tom nodded, rubbing his red eyes. Hermione whipped her eyes dry with the sleeve of her robe, leading her brother out. The winding stair deposited them beside Harry and Ron, who raced up to their friend and the rather distraught first year. Hermione gave them a watery smile before she brushed past them, walking swiftly to the Gryffindor dormitory.
"I have to…take him back to the tower," Hermione mumbled in her retreated.
They walked slowly, not a word passing between them. Hermione led her brother along the familiar path to Gryffindor Tower, where she tearfully deposited him. Tom had smiled at her, gently squeezing her hand as he did so. He ran a hand through his tousled hair and muttered the password, stepping through the portrait hole. The Fat Lady gave Hermione a concerned look as she left, a sad smile crossing her plump lips. Hermione managed to return to her common room without encountering anyone, and within a few minutes. Having brushed off the worried questions from the Founders upon entering, she felt overcome with lethargy and crawled onto the sofa where she fell asleep.
It was the sound of feet on the stairs that awoke her, summoning her from her horrid slumber. Throughout it, she had been plagued with nightmares in which she witnessed the many cruel ways her father might have been killed. Rising slowly into a sitting position, hair mussed and eyes full of sleep, Hermione turned to the owner of the footsteps. Standing there, clad casually in a green jumper, was Draco, who looked very bewildered. Their eyes locked and Hermione felt rage course through her. Though she didn't know for certain, she had an inkling that Lucius Malfoy was behind the attack at her house. She was sure it had been the elder Malfoy who had drawn his wand and tortured her father, spitting out the killing curse with unfathomable disgust. Now standing in front of her was his son, who would most likely take great pleasure in knowing that his father had caused Hermione pain. Her eyes formed into a glare, anger flushing her cheeks, and in a swift movement Hermione had left the sofa and lunged at him.
"What the hell?" cried Draco in shock.
"You bastard! He's dead because of you! Because of your father! He killed him! He killed him! I hate you!" Hermione was pounding on Draco's chest, clawing and scratching her way to his throat.
"What are you talking about Granger?" Draco asked, trying to fend off the enraged Head Girl.
"I won't let you hurt us anymore! I want you dead! Damn you! Damn you and your stupid stuck-up, evil family!" Hermione cried, pulling at Draco's clothes in an attempt to harm him. "You and your damn Death Eaters, you should all be killed!"
During the time Hermione was screaming, words becoming unintelligible, her tears had formed anew and were streaming down her cheeks. Draco was utterly confused, trying to both understand what she was ranting about and keep her from strangling him. His hands grasped her forearms, holding them in such a way that she could no longer claw at him.
"Granger, what the bloody hell is the matter with you?"
Hermione made a noise that sounded very much like a snarl, "You're what's the matter! You and your family! Your father killed him just so that I would suffer!"
Draco, still as puzzled as before, heaved a sigh. It seemed that all his roommate wanted to do at the moment was yell at him. Having had enough, he gripped her arms tighter, and dragged her over to the sofa. With a grunt Draco tossed Hermione onto the couch, straightening his clothes afterwards. Hermione, breathing heavily, lay where she had been tossed, feeling exposed and open. After a moment or so, Draco sat on the table opposite her, leaning his elbows on his knees. He stared at her, watching as her breathing returned to normal.
"Calm, Granger?" he asked.
Hermione stared at him, fury still etched on her face.
"Alright then, how 'bout you answer a few questions for me," said Draco. "Firstly, what in the hell is the matter with you?"
"Your father…" Hermione started, trailing off.
"Yes, my father, what did he do that has got you in such a tizzy?"
"He killed…" once again, Hermione trailed off.
"He killed, yes, he does that often. Who did he kill?" Draco leaned forward.
"He killed," Hermione took a deep breath. "My father."
"Your…what?" Draco exclaimed.
"He came into my home, last night, and killed my father. No one knows where my mother is, most likely with your father and the rest of those damn Death Eaters," Hermione mumbled.
Draco was silent for a moment. He didn't know what to say to her. Lucius Malfoy was a ruthless man, and it was within Draco's knowledge that he killed people, but he never knew who they were. Be the helpless people muggle or wizard, he never knew them or their aggrieved family. Now sitting in front of him was the daughter left behind, who had escaped his father's wrath.
"I…" he muttered, rubbing his hands together nervously.
"I knew you wouldn't have anything to say. Probably proud of what your father's done. He made the mudblood cry," Hermione hypothesized bitterly.
"That's not it at all!" Draco cried.
Hermione raised an eyebrow.
"My father's a bastard, that's a given, but don't presume to think that I'm proud of him killing innocent people!"
Hermione was slightly taken aback. "I may want and idolize what he has; money, power, respect, but I do not condone any of his sick hobbies. I am not like that!" Draco seethed.
They sat in silence for some time, Draco fuming at the Head Girl's allegations. Hermione turned away from him, staring out the window into the grey sky that threatened rainfall. She felt guilty for accusing him and punishing him for the crimes of his father; crimes he had no control over. Even if Lucius killed Henry Granger, that didn't mean that Draco knew or had any part in it. He was just as innocent as she was; as Henry had been.
Without warning, Hermione threw her arms around a stunned Draco, sobbing into his shoulder. Not having much experience with crying females, he petted her on the head, wondering about her rather odd change in temperment.
"It's alright Granger," he said awkwardly. "Everything's going to be fine."
Hermione, too distraught to make any sort of verbal response, nodded dumbly.
"What is the owl about, Severus?" asked Lenore Porter, looking up from her dinner plate.
"Yes, do tell us Severus. After all, whatever it is seems to have put a bee in your bonnet," smirked Salazar Snape.
"Please excuse me. I must write a response," Severus said hastily, rising from the table and retreating to the study.
The members of the Snape family looked at each other in confusion. An owl had flow through the open window to land on Severus' chair during their morose early supper. Severus, irked by the Hogwarts' owl, had testily snatched the letter away from it and batted the creature away. He had naturally assumed it was some drivel from Albus that could have waited until he returned to the school, but was sadly mistaken. He was shocked to the core to learn that his sister had been captured by Death Eaters and her muggle husband murdered. He had been even more shocked to learn that his niece and nephew were coming to stay here at the manor for the weekend. His family queried as to what the letter was about, and who had sent it. Severus, however, was much too frazzled to answer their silly questions.
Once in the study, Severus grabbed the nearest scrap of parchment and a quill and wrote a quick note to the Headmaster, telling him to send Tom and Hermione to the manor immediately. Once the owl was sent, Severus sank into the leather desk chair and rubbed his temples. Albus had rather poor timing. After dinner, Severus had planned to explain everything to his family; Annelise, Hermione, Tom and everything connected to them. Now, it seemed he may have to postpone the explanation. At least, he thought to himself, I have a few hours until they arrive.
Snape manor was located at the southern most tip of Britain, just south-west of Truro. It was a large home, made of dark stone and covered in ivy. Trees carefully hid it from muggle view, and the gardens jetted off to a rocky beach. The gap between his current residence and Hogwarts gave Severus more than a couple hours until the owl reached Albus' hands and his niece and nephew flooed over. However, this did not allow him a reprieve from his sibling's constant questioning.
"Severus, what are you doing up there?" called his brother-in-law, William.
"Escaping the constant jabbering of your wife; the one I am loath to call sister," Severus snapped.
William chuckled. "I'll tell everyone you'll be down in a few minutes then, shall I?"
"If you must," Severus muttered.
Severus made his way to the dinning room at a leisurely pace, finishing the meal with few words to his family. Afterwards, when his mother inquired towards Albus' letter, she and Severus' father got into a row. Of course, this was perfectly common. The indifference his parents felt on matters, such as the Dark Lord, was not merely a matter of fence sitting. Both his parents held opposing views on the subject, and after many childish rants, squabbles and days without speaking to each other, they found indifference to be the solution.
Hours passed, and the Snape matron and patriarch hauled themselves to separate rooms, refusing to speak to each other. Despite this being the normal course of their arguments, Severus' patience was wearing thin. Hermione and Tom would be arriving within minutes, if his calculations were correct, and neither of his parents would listen to him.
"Mother, please come into the lounge so I can explain some things to you and father. I do not wish to repeat myself," Severus pleaded from behind a locked door.
"Not until the overbearing goblin I'm married to agrees with me," his mother called.
Severus sighed, having received a similar response from his father. He felt a headache brewing.
"Severus!" called a voice from downstairs.
"What?" he snapped.
"You better come down here!"
Grumbling to himself, Severus swept down the stairs and into the lounge where he saw a most grievous sight. His niece and nephew were lying in a heap on the hearth rug, covered in soot. Their faces were pale and tear-stained, grief prominent in their eyes. Hermione's robes were stained with dirt and grass, her hair a frizzy mess; Tom looked no better. They starred at each other, wide-eyed, no one moving. Suddenly, Tom staggered to his feet and tearfully made his way to his uncle, burying his face in his robes. Severus awkwardly put his arms around the boy, trying to comfort him. Glancing up, he saw Hermione still as a statue, a vapid expression on her face.
"Who the hell are you?"
A/N: Sorry for the long wait. It's my senior year and I'm VERY busy. Hope you like the chapter. The plot is FINALLY picking up. :)
Kiyoko- You'll just have to wait and see if Hermione's evil or not. Thanks!
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