Rating: R for language SS/HG
Spoilers: Through OotP, takes place in the summer between 4th and 5th year.
Disclaimer: I own nothing except myself. Please R/R if it please you…It pleases me!
"Dark one spilling blood on my mistress' floor…" Hermione turned. She was curled into the window seat in the bedroom she and Ginny shared at Number 12 Grimmauld Place, a book on her lap and a cup of cocoa balanced on the sill. Harry and the whole Weasley family had gone out to Diagon Alley early in the day but she had opted to stay behind. She had finished most of her shopping as soon as the class lists were delivered and she could get any last minute supplies before they boarded the Hogwart's train. Moody was somewhere downstairs keeping watch but the rest of the Order were off on various missions for Dumbledore, leaving the house blessedly free of distractions.
For a few hours at least. Hermione thought ruefully.
She had hoped that perhaps she would be able to finish her book but Kreacher's mumbling voice interrupted her. Dark Master? Her heart gave a lurch. Surely he could not mean…?
"Good family, that one. Mistress knew his mother well. Blood traitor spy, that's what he is. Kreacher's mistress would not like him bleeding on her floor…"
Hermione relaxed as she realized that he was talking about Professor Snape. But why in the world would Professor Snape be bleeding on the floor? Hermione's brow furrowed.
"Kreacher, what's wrong with Professor Snape?"
The old house elf stared at her, disgusted. "Filthy Mudblood is talking to Kreacher. But Kreacher will not answer the Mudblood."
"Oh for goodness sake Kreacher, I can hear you. Now tell me what's wrong with Professor Snape!"
Kreacher narrowed his huge eyes at her but answered, "Snape is bleeding, bleeding, bleeding in the library."
"Bleeding in the library?" But the house elf was already shuffling away, mumbling to himself. Hermione sighed. Surely there was someone here that she could tell.
But there was not. Only Moody, and he and Snape could barely be civil in the best of times.
She sighed again and set down her book, preparing to go to the aid of the most foul-tempered person she knew.
It was completely dark inside the library and she stood at the door, allowing her eyes to adjust. She could see the dark shadow of the fireplace and the chairs in front of it.
"Professor Snape?" She asked softly.
He did not answer. She muttered a "Lumos" and her wand's tip flared to life. He was not in the chair by the fireplace as she had thought, but slumped over the sofa. He had a glass of Firewhiskey in one hand and a near empty bottle on the floor beside him. She wandered a little further into the room.
He refused to look at her but the dark eye she could see looked red-rimmed and swollen.
"Go away, Miss Granger." His voice came out in a flat hoarse whisper. It sounded like he had lost it.
Or screamed it out. She thought. She barely suppressed a shudder at the mental image of something that would make the fearsome Severus Snape scream.
"Professor, " She moved until she was standing at the foot of the couch. "Are you alright? Kreacher said that-" She broke off, for he had turned his head away to reveal the other half of his face.
Hermione gasped. His hair was matted down with blood, and his usually pristine shirt was soaked with it. Her eyes widened in horror and Snape caught the look and quirked up the corners of his mouth.
"Don't worry. It's not mine." He let out a bark of humorless laughter and then lifted the glass of Firewhiskey to his lips and downed it with one hard swallow. She could not miss the look of pain that flitted across his face as he lowered his arm.
"Accio water." A basin of hot water appeared on the table at her side and she called in a rag as well. She dipped it in the water and sat down next to him, reaching for his face.
"You look horrible." She murmured.
"Miss Granger, need I remind you that I am still your teacher and that comments on my appearance are neither warranted not appreciated." His voice lacked its usual bite but he took the rag from her hand and pressed it to the side of his face, wiping most of the blood away.
"Here, you've missed some." She said, taking the rag back from him. He sat quietly as she daubed his hair clean. Not his blood. She repeated to herself, wondering what horror he had been privy to the night before. It must have been terrible to set him drinking like this.
"There." She said, smoothing his hair back with her free hand. "All gone." Hid greasy hair immediately fell over his forehead and she reached up to push it back again before she realized what she was doing. She quickly removed her hand, flushing in embarrassment. She busied herself with removing the wash water and the rag back to the kitchen. She pointed her wand at the hearth, lighting a small fire in the grate.
Hermione turned back to Professor Snape and knelt down next to the couch. He had not moved and his eyes had once more taken on a sunken, far-away look.
"Professor?" He did not look at her. She sighed and tried again. "Professor." Still he would not look at her.
"Severus!" She said sharply. His eyes slowly rose to meet hers. God, he looked tired!
"How long since you've slept?" She asked.
He passed a trembling hand across his tired face. "Three days." He said.
"You should lie down."
He fixed her with a bleary-eyed glare.
"Not here." He ground out.
"Where then?" Hermione shot back. "You look like you're about to fall down. You can't floo without giving away our location and you certainly can't Apparate in this condition."
Professor Snape's lips compressed into a tight line but he could not argue with her and so he said nothing.
"Come on." Hermione said finally. She grasped his hand and hoisted him unceremoniously from the couch. She released his hand immediately and led him out of the library, up the stair to the second door on the right. She opened it to reveal a spacious bedroom.
"This is my room. No one will bother you here."
He stood at the door staring at her inscrutably.
"Weasley and Potter do not trust me." Drink had deepened his voice into a lazy drawl.
Hermione bit her lip, not knowing what to say or if indeed he required any answer at all. The silence spiraled until Snape filled it.
"Do take your time answering." His voice had regained some of its edge but his face was still slack and grey with exhaustion. Still, his words were enough to sting. Even now he couldn't give her a break.
"Yeah they don't." She said. She wasn't at Hogwarts now and she could say what she wished to him without fear of losing points. "Can you blame them? You are always so nasty to us in class, Harry especially. You're always punishing us for the very same things your Slytherins do. It's unfair."
He gave her a tightlipped smile. "Life is hardly fair, Miss Granger." He said. "But your friends mistrusted me from the first. And you?" He turned the last word up with a questioning look.
Hermione shrugged. "Dumbledore trusts you. He says you help the Order at great personal risk to yourself. And…and you saved Harry's life in our first year, even though you hate him." She shrugged again.
Snape gave her the same humorless smile. "It seems you are almost as intelligent as you think, Miss Granger."
Hermione turned on her heel and left the room.