Disclaimer: I own none of the Harry Potter ideas or characters or plots, or anything else thought up by the amazing author of the series.
A Mutual Understanding
by Lily Elizabeth Snape
A shout in the night.
The sound of a door slamming. She awakens from a light sleep at her desk.
"Get down here, girl. Right now!"
Achingly, the withering form of the slight student creeps down the stairs. "Yes, fath-…uhm…sorry, sir. Yes, sir! I'm sorry, sir!"
"Quite right," comes the increasingly menacing voice of the man she had called daddy a few short months ago. He grabs his daughter roughly by the chin and croons, "How could my little schnookums call me father when she's now mum of the house?"
Shortly after the start of the summer holidays, Hermione's mum had been in a horrible accident. Hermione had stood strongly with her father throughout the calling and funeral, greeting those who came as politely as she could. Mr. Granger hadn't uttered a sound, however. His look, rather than grief, was that of constant rage and disappointment, especially when he gazed upon his eldest daughter. His wife had rushed out to get Hermione a 'welcome home' gift, and had never returned. After the funeral came the drink to the once kind-hearted family man. Now Hermione shook perceptibly each time he drew near.
His wild-haired daughter reached out to take her father's hat and coat, something she had always warmly done for him since she was big enough to drag the coat behind her. This time he struck her.
As she was backhanded, hard, across the right side of her cheek, Hermione lurched sideways and caught the side of her head on the banister.
Watching her sheer form burst onto the floor in a heap, Mr. Granger spat, "I'm not a bloody child you ugly little tramp! I can take care of my clothing myself. Get up!"
With a kick to her side he continued raging, "And make me some breakfast. Now!"
Hermione scrambled and scratched to disentangle herself from the floor before another kick followed. As her remaining long fingernails bent backward and broke, she hastened a respectful, "Yes, sir," from her lips before she allowed the lump of forbidden tears to affix itself firmly in her throat.
Meanwhile, across the great divide between the muggle and wizarding worlds, a regal, two-story dark wooden door creaked into action as a disheveled, grey House Elf, Fiora, bowed. "Master Snape, sir. Please come in, sir."
"Ah, Severus. Always a pleasure," the elder Malfoy hissed behind it, voice dripping with bitter sarcasm.
While Severus nervously sidled into the grand entrance of the Malfoy estate, a more-than-harsh, "Close that bloody door, Fiora! You're letting the disgustingly hot air pour in!" rang through the corridor.
In a dim, upstairs room – a room locked, cramped and cold – Draco heard the front door close. He breathed a shaky sigh of relief. Professor Snape would help him. "I will find some relief this night," he dared to whisper into the darkness.
"Defendere colonae," intoned the silver-haired Lucius Malfoy at the foot of the spiraling stair, securing the manor from prying ears and eyes, and Severus tensed. Lucius swept over to Snape, stopping millimeters from the taller man's face. "What are you prepared to do to keep your nasty spying secret safe today, Snape?"
"Whatever you wish…Master Malfoy," Severus forced himself to utter.
Lucius really was the most vile bastard imaginable, next to He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, naturally. He took much pleasure in tormenting the stoic Potions master who had called this evening. 'Severus brought this upon himself,' Lucius mused savagely. 'How dare he pry into family affairs?'
Professor Snape had noticed something amiss directly after the end of the Christmas holiday that year. Draco was the first to leave the Great Hall's festivities on the eve of returning to Hogwarts, and Professor Snape, never one for giddy reunions, had already been stalking the castle's corridors. Severus had noticed Draco looking particularly dejected and had walked up behind the boy to offer comfort, putting a black-robe clad arm around the young Malfoy's shaky shoulder. Draco had leapt away from the touch, a quiet, but unmistakable, grunt of pain escaping the boy's lips. Young Mister Malfoy quickly and deliberately forced his facial features to register shocked surprise, rather than shocked anguish.
He gave his head-of-house a nearly-perfect grin and said, "You startled me, professor!" Severus was, for once, speechless. Draco had thought, 'Does he suspect?' before hastening a, "How was your holiday, sir?"
Other members of Slytherin House permitted themselves to slide into familiarity with Severus, but never Draco. The Malfoy household taught its members to behave. . formally.
Severus was still nearly gawking at little Draco, but became calculatingly cool and replied, "Passable, Draco, and yours?"
"Very good, sir." A twitch in his right eye broadcasted the truth, not that Severus needed the clue. After another awkward silence, Draco continued, "Well, um, good night then, Professor Snape." and quickened his pace to the Slytherin Common Room.
Severus was still as he regarded the boy, who was trying desperately not to limp as his Slytherin robes shrank out of sight. The professor knew he could easily relive an encounter nearly identical to it, if he probed his own pensieve. An encounter between Professor Dumbledore and he when Severus had been in his fifth year.
At the manor on that balmy summer night, Snape had only had a split second to prepare. The precise moment he finished the words, "Whatever you wish, Master Malfoy," a shrill cry of, "Crucio!" had left Lucius.
All Severus could hear was Malfoy's tainted, maniacal laughter and feel the pain that coursed through his body in unnatural waves. As always, Snape did everything possible not to cry out. He had trained himself well during his own childhood, but no wizard or witch could outstand the Cruciatus for long without vocalizing the floods of raw, seething agony ripping through every vein, muscle, and bone.
Draco heard his favorite professor cry out; he felt hot salt tears drip off his chin. The weary boy knew crying out only strengthened his father's resolve to hurt his victim.
Once Lucius Malfoy was out of breath from laughter, he let Severus out of the unforgivable and slammed him onto the cold, stone floor.
The magical lock on Draco's door was let slip as his father heaved, "Draco, get down here and clean up this bloody mess!"
Lucius swept out of the room, muttering, "Finite defendere colonae," lifting the protective spell from Malfoy Manor.
Draco muddled down the stairs as best he could, and even though his professor was undoubtedly in much more pain than he, Severus still breathed in and said, "I'm so sorry, Draco."
As the two broken wizards made their way to a safer part of the mansion, each thought of the first night this happened, a month prior. The day school term ended. The day Severus confronted Lucius about Draco's treatment. The day Lucius revealed Draco had willingly told his father about Snape's treachery rather than face the Cruciatus and a dose of Veritaserum. Of course, Draco hadn't recalled the painful encounter due to strong memory charms his father cast upon him. This was the day Severus Snape lost much power in his own life, only to give more to the dark side he now sourly detested.
In muggle Surrey, dementors had attacked Harry Potter. After an amazing show of skill and sheer power, Harry defeated them. He drug his massive cousin back to Number 4, Privet Drive, slammed the front entryway door behind him, and was informed by swift owl he was expelled and must attend a hearing for the transgression of use of underage magic. Lovely. Over the next few moments, during a rapid succession of confusing owls, the Dursleys learnt far, far too much about the wizarding world to be healthy for Harry James Potter.
As Harry's explanations and the letters finally made sense to the overgrown brute of an Uncle, Vernon surmised: Harry is set to have a trial where the wizard govern-whatzits will decide if they will snatch his wand, banish him from school, maybe even imprison him. Delicious!
After bellowing at Harry to go to bed, Vernon further assumed that the boy no longer had anyone on his side; he was in trouble with the law. He was helpless, and would definitely rot in that Azkawhooie wizard prison if he dared to use his wand again. Vernon realized he could finally give the boy the treatment he deserved.