(a/n): my first Tom/Hermione fic…it is HBP compliant, although some out of character-ness is unavoidable…I hope you enjoy!
Even though she couldn't see them, she knew they were there. In her mind's eye she saw them as clearly as she did when they weren't secreted away under invisibility cloaks, one on her left and walking just a step ahead, and the other on her right a step behind her.
She wondered briefly, a small smile touching her lips as it always did when she thought about it, what people would say if her bodyguards were to be uncloaked and visible. A small laugh bubbled within her, but she managed to stifle it. Her fellow classmates would surely run screaming bloody murder in fear for their lives.
Hermione Granger shook her head softly to clear the thought, although the small amused smile remained.
"Something amusing, Miss Granger?" both the soft whisper that tickled her ear and the near sneering undertone almost made her giggle.
Her eyes swept the corridor and when the last student turned the corner she replied softly, "Just the usual, Severus."
"Meaning that she is picturing us in a rather unfriendly situation, old friend," came from her other ghost.
"Too true, Lucius," Severus agreed.
And although she couldn't see either of them she knew they were smirking in a rather arrogant way.
"Why did I have to get stuck with you two as bodyguards? I can very well take care of myself, I'll have you know," she hissed in a mixture of annoyance and amusement.
"Of course, Hermione, we are merely here to protect those foolish enough to get in your way," Lucius smirked.
Hermione snorted. "Bloody Slytherins," she muttered as she entered her Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom.
She had said it quietly enough not to be heard, but the dry snort she heard from both men told her that they had and that they found her to be amusing.
It was the second week of summer out of her sixth year when Hermione's life irrevocably changed forever.
She had always thought that Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters would sweep down on her unsuspecting parents, torture them for any information, and then kill them when they had no important facts. She had expected to come home one evening to see the Dark Mark floating above her two story house, tinting her neighborhood an eerie green.
Hermione had even prepared for such an event. Her first day out of school, Remus Lupin had apparated in and helped her set some of the most complicated advanced wards on her home. He had even equipped all three of them with emergency portkeys that would immediately transport them to Grimmauld Place once activated.
And even with all of her preparation, Hermione had tried to train herself to accept her parents' demise at the hands of an evil wizard. If Death Eaters had managed to get past her wards, and if for some reason her parents had not been able to use their portkeys, Hermione would have been able to console herself with the fact that she had tried. She would console herself with the knowledge that Voldemort would fall, and justice would be received.
But Hermione had been completely unprepared when she received word that her parents had died in a car accident on their way home from work.
This isn't supposed to happen, was the only thought she could process when the officers came to her house to break the news.
She managed to fill out the necessary paperwork and make arrangements for their burial before she contacted Remus. He came immediately and stayed with her while she arranged for items and the house to be sold. He was there when her grandparents flew in from Italy, and he stood by her during the funeral. And it was he who offered Hermione a new home at Grimmauld Place.
She had thought of staying with Harry at the Burrow, but had dismissed the thought no sooner than it entered her mind. She loved her boys, but she didn't want them to see her as she was- numb and as cold as ice.
So after all of the papers and business had concluded, and after her grandparents, her mother's parents and also her last living relatives, flew back out, Remus had taken her to live at Grimmauld with him.
And then, before she had any time to adjust to the loss of her parents, her life completely changed once more.
She had taken three steps into the living room and was faced with a sight that had filled her veins with ice. Severus Snape and Lucius Malfoy were standing by the fireplace, deep in conversation. With reflexes that Severus and Lucius would later confide stunned and shocked them, Hermione had her wand out and stunned her ex-professor, the man who had murdered Albus Dumbledore.
She had the first half of another spell out of her mouth, her wand now aimed at Lucius, before Remus grabbed her hand and pinned her arms forcefully at her sides. Fear made her hysterical. What was going on? Why were those two in the Order's head quarters? Why was Remus protecting them?
The questions spilled out of her mouth, one after the other in a never ending stream of accusations. It was then that Remus released her left arm and brought a reassuring hand to cup her cheek.
And with his next words, Hermione's life altered drastically.
"Hermione," he had said gently but firmly, "very few things are what they seem."
Then he proceeded to explain about how the men before her were the Order's two most important members and spies.
Settling in a seat at the back of the class so Lucius and Severus would have both a good view of the room and a little extra space to pace in, Hermione rolled her eyes at the memory.
It had taken much convincing on their part. In fact, she actually forced them to ingest three drops of Veritaserum each and answer her questions satisfactorily before she fully believed them.
Albus was already dying from destroying the ring, they had said, and had ordered his death at the hands of one of his spies in order to secure their position in Voldemort's inner circle. Lucius was indisposed, Draco Malfoy had been unable to do the deed in the end, and so Severus's hand had been forced. He killed the man that had saved and redeemed his dark life, and Hermione knew now that he'd never forgive himself.
But, she could forgive him, she discovered. And she had, within only a few days after hearing the truth. Lucius Malfoy, however, was not as easy to forgive, especially since he refused to offer an apology.
"I did what was necessary," he had hissed at her, grey eyes flashing, "I will not apologize for doing what was essential in securing the safety of me and my family."
It had been a rocky summer for Hermione. She couldn't handle the death of her parents and was missing sleep as well as meals, she didn't want to speak with Remus since he had lied to her, and she most certainly did not want to talk to Severus or Lucius.
Although her life took another twist when Severus came back home after a disturbing meeting with the Dark Lord with news that she, Hermione "Mudblood" Granger, had been raised to number one of Voldemort's priority list.
What exactly he wanted, no one was sure, or at least, that was what she was told. Lucius, Severus, Remus, and Minerva (who was often in and out of the house) all didn't seem very surprised about Voldemort's interest in her. All Severus said, to her at least, was that he was under strict orders to watch, and if necessary, protect her- from what, no one could say. And so, the Order moved to assign Severus Snape and Lucius Malfoy as her "bodyguards."
It was rough at first, as was to be expected. Neither of them were exactly friendly people, and she wasn't feeling so chatty either. So, they kept to a neutral ground: academics. Severus had a great command on potions and defense against the dark arts, Lucius knew a great deal about arthimancy and magical creatures, and Hermione herself was quite knowledgeable on charms and transfiguration. Their conversations were clipped and forcefully polite at first, no one wanting to incite an argument. But gradually, their dialogue grew more heated when they'd get into debates. Hermione, who had been a shadow of her old self, began to feel her old fire kindling again as her desire to learn everything she possibly could from these men grew. Soon, they were able to discuss things other than academics; politics, their respective pasts, and even their families.
When the topic of family came up, Hermione had little to offer. She spoke of her grandparents in Italy with warmth, and a small smile. She told them of her parents in short, concise sentences. But she never spoke of their deaths. Lucius and Severus were surprisingly understanding about this and had always steered the conversation away from that topic.
They were an awkward trio, but in hindsight, Hermione could understand how and why they bonded during that fateful summer. Severus Snape was a wanted man, hated by many on both sides of the war and with no family. Lucius Malfoy, no longer able to fill his spy duties since Draco had blown their cover, and who was also alone since his son and wife were out of the country in hiding while he remained behind as their secret keeper. And then there she was- one third of the golden trio, recently orphaned, and Voldemort's number one priority for some unknown reason.
They started out as enemies, then hesitant allies, from that to awkward colleagues, to tentative friends, to uncles and their niece, then to a sort of father daughter relationship, and from there to best friends. She trusted them solely and completely and knew she held their trust similarly. It was odd that she was good friends with men old enough to be her father, and bloody Slytherins to boot.
But, as her two snakes loved to point out, she was mature way beyond her young years, and also had quite a few Slytherin tendencies.
They had been mostly joking when they first compared her to Slytherins, but she had the satisfaction of wiping off their smirks when she told them that the sorting hat had very nearly put her in said house. They hadn't believed her, of course, and had asked her to truthfully tell them what the sorting hat had said to her, but she just smirked and went back to her book.
Smiling at the memory, Hermione pulled out a blank sheet of parchment and her quill, preparing to take notes for her last class of the day. The door swung open, drawing her attention, and in walked Harry Potter and Ron Weasley, her other best friends and her two brothers. They hadn't taken to the news about Severus and Lucius well, especially Harry. There had been yelling, cursing, and even some physical fighting. It had taken more than Veritaserum to convince them. Harry and Ron only came to terms with the two Slytherins' true nature once they went into Dumbledore's pensieve. And even after that, their relationship with said snakes could be called tense at best.
She had expected them to be angry at her, though, for consorting with them, but they were not. In fact, Harry and Ron had been surprisingly understanding and thoughtful when it came to her relationship with Severus and Lucius. She knew this had a great deal about her parents' death and her new status as number one priority for Voldemort. They saw her as fragile and thought one word would break her.
Instead of feeling insulted, however, she chose to use it to her advantage. Now, she was able to balance four best friends, two snakes and two lions.
"Hermione," Harry smiled softly in greeting.
"Hermie," Ron grinned.
Hermione smiled, rolling her eyes at Ron's new nickname for her. "Boys," she nodded.
They silently took a seat beside her, Harry on her left and Ron on her right and they prepared for Professor Remus Lupin to lecture them on defense against a succubus.
Hermione, once Remus began his lecture, took out a special piece of black parchment and rather pointedly spread it out before her. Almost instantly, words penned in a vibrant silver ink appeared.
'The room is secure,' floated on the parchment. The sharp, spiky letters told her it was Severus who had enchanted them to appear them.
'No evil trolls are hiding under any desks,' this appeared under Severus's scrawl and was the complete opposite of his prickly handwriting. This phrase was scrawled in elegant, rounded curves and positively screamed aristocrat in the way only Lucius Malfoy could.
'You even sound arrogant when you write, Lu-Lu,' Hermione hastily jotted down on the parchment, quickly going back to her class notes while trying not to smirk.
Someone nudged her none too gently from behind, causing Harry to look up from his own notes to quirk a brow at her curiously. She smiled and shook her head, and Harry was bright enough to know it most certainly had something to do with her two ghosts and was also wise enough to know that he had no desire to find out what.
Harry, she thought fondly, was a rather bright boy.
'I resent that, Lucius, truly I do,' she scribbled quickly once Harry went back to his notes.
'And I resent you, my dear.'
'Severus, are you going to let him talk to me that way?' she implored.
'Technically, he was not speaking, Hermione,' his writing was almost as sharp as his tongue.
'You're right- Sevy,' she wrote with an evil grin.
Her shoulder lurched when Severus jabbed her, causing her to leave a big ink blot on her school notes as well as for Ron to stifle a snicker. She sighed rather pointedly as she took out her wand and cleared away the blemish.
'You asked for it…Hermie,' Lucius wrote.
Hermione winced. 'Touché,' she scribbled before going back to her notes.
The black piece of parchment was something she had created in order to converse with Severus and Lucius while in public. With a wave of their wands, Severus and Lucius were able to record their thoughts and comments on the parchment. It was inspired, actually, by the Marauder's Map. Remus had given her the list of charms, and Hermione had added her own transfigurations, such as the silver ink and the color black for the actual parchment. Those two colors had seemed very fitting when considering the gentlemen she was conversing with. In fact, she had almost made the parchment green but quickly came to her senses. The mischievous part of her wanted to make the paper crimson and the ink gold, but in the end, she decided that Lucius and Severus knew too many curses.
'Truce,' the words swirled onto the black parchment.
Hermione smiled. 'Truce,' she conceded. A girl needed to pick her battles, after all.
Class passed rather quickly after that. Hermione answered the majority of Remus's questions, earning her house a grand total of twenty-five points, and then Remus sent them on their merry way with a two feet essay assignment on sucubi.
With the dismissal of class, Hermione headed towards the library after a quick promise to Harry and Ron that she'd meet up with them for dinner. Down the hall, a flight of stairs, and two corridors later Hermione found herself in the massive library, her home away from home. She made a beeline to the defense section and took out a book on sucubi, and then three others that looked interesting. From there she went to one of the study rooms placing a well aimed silence charm around it.
Almost immediately, Severus and Lucius took off their cloaks.
"Freedom," Severus drawled as he threw his cloak over a chair.
Hermione snorted. "Eloquent as ever, Severus," she stated.
In one fluid movement Lucius perched regally on one of the chairs. "Come now, children, at ease," he smirked.
She rolled her eyes as she took her seat. "You two will be the death of me," she proclaimed.
"My, my, Hermione, nose down."
"Enough of this," Hermione huffed, "Let's get down to brass tacks: Severus, have you found anything out yet?"
Immediately the playful mood evaporated. Severus sat up straighter in his chair, his eyes darkening a shade, and Lucius adopted a somber air. The two men shared a meaningful look, causing Hermione to frown at being obviously left out.
What were her little snakes hiding?
They turned their eyes and attention back to her, and when Severus's dark eyes connected with hers, she instantly knew that what he was about to say was a lie.
"No, Hermione, we have still yet to uncover why the Dark Lord is interested in you," he murmured.
Curiously, she tilted her head, her eyes searching his for that flicker, unnoticeable to all who had no idea what to look for, that belied his statement. Unfortunately for him, she saw it.
"You're lying," she whispered incredibly.
Severus tightened his jaw, but other than that, gave no outward reaction to her.
"You are," she insisted, "there is something you're not telling me. You and Lucius know something and you're keeping it from me."
Lucius sat forward. "Hermione, you have to understand-"
"I don't have to understand anything, Lucius," she hissed. "You both are withholding something from me, and I want the truth."
"We know nothing," Severus insisted.
"No, Severus, that's bullocks. Please, you have to tell me; I can't face this problem blinded. You have seen what withholding information has caused," she implored, nearly begging.
There was a long moment of silence in which Hermione fancied that she could hear the grass grow. She waited, hoping that one of these two men would speak to her, reach out to her. The seconds ticked by and as though she had actually seen the mental barrier snap down in place, she realized that they weren't going to be the ones who broke that silence.
They weren't going to tell her. They were going to keep the information from her and she'd face the devil ignorant, and alone.
Disappointment crashed down on her. They had been different, she had thought. Severus and Lucius treated her as an adult- albeit more like a kid sister or a niece, but one that was mature enough to handle the truth. They were the last two she would ever thought would hide something this important from her. But no, they were just like the others. Hiding in some rotten house, plotting and strategizing without bothering to talk with those whose lives they were toying with. It was sick.
But what made it worse was the fact that it was Severus and Lucius doing it to her. She had worked hard to get over her prejudice of them, and they of her. They had come so far since first meeting each other, but apparently, not far enough.
She stood slowly, her head high with the dignity of a queen. "I would have expected more from the both of you," she simply said.
And without looking back, she left the room, not running but walking quickly so as not to be followed by them. She didn't want her ghosts with her; she needed time alone to think.
Unconsciously, her feet lead her to the corridor where the Room of Requirement was located. She stopped abruptly when she noticed this, but was gratefully for her idle wandering. The Room of Requirement was the perfect place to hide.
So she began pacing. I need answers, she thought as she walked. I need to go someplace where I can be safe and find the answers I seek, a place where no one can reach me…
The door materialized before her, abruptly cutting off her furious pacing. She sighed in relief and gazed at the door that would hopefully lead her to the answers she so desperately sought.
When she entered the room created for her, she didn't look back. As she crossed the threshold, she was not gripped with an inane feeling that something larger was coming into play, as though fate herself had placed this door before her. Hermione didn't know that by entering the room, she had set the wheels in motion for an event that had existed for fifty-four years. She couldn't have known that after she entered the room her life would be forever changed, and perhaps had she known, she would not have entered.
But she was blind to all of this; she had absolutely no reason to expect that she was about to make history. Lucius and Severus had not opened her eyes; they had left her to fend for herself. And maybe, had they told her the Dark Lord's reason for being enthralled by her, told her the story of a boy named Tom Riddle who met, married, and loved a strange girl who mysteriously appeared during his seventh year by means of a strange room; and had they told her that girl's name was Hermione Jane Granger- perhaps then she would have been prepared.