"Severus, try to be reasonable." Snapped Minerva. "You are behaving as if this was a lifelong sentence in Azkaban prison. Even you must admit that this is the best solution to an awful situation for everybody involved."
"Best solution?" The other parties in the room tensed at his soft, almost whispered tone. Shouting they could handle. If he lost his temper and threw the occasional heavy object, they had all seen it before. Vicious insults, covering everything from intelligence to parentage were fairly normal drama. But Professor Snape was volatile enough to cause real nervousness when he lost his temper thoroughly, and soft caressing tones were often the calm before the storm. Harry gripped his wand more firmly and edged further back into the shadows, turning his head to exchange a look with Ron.
"You think that shunting me off to Muggle London is the best solution." His nostrils flared dangerously with his increased ire, the only outward symptom of the rage that boiled beneath the surface. Harry knew that calm face and whisper soft voice. He had heard it often enough before Snape would decimate house points, issue detentions, and insult his parents. There was something equally disturbing about the fact that Harry knew the professor so well, he hadn't realized it before, but his every expression was ingrained in his consciousness. "You think that dumping me with a litter full of strangers with the pretense of protecting them from the very people you are suggesting I hide from is the best solution?"
Harry wished Hermione were here. But with Muggle attacks up this last summer she had insisted on staying home with her family. The row that had followed with Headmistress McGonagall was spectacular. The screaming could have been heard for blocks. The facts were unchanged by the outcome. Hermione was a target, and should be safe housed with the order. Hermione would not leave her family defenseless in the event of a Death Eater raid. Hermione staying home both helped and hindered her family's safety. On one hand they were a target by association and could be used to lure Hermione out of hiding. On the other, if Death Eaters were looking for her, now they would find her family right beside her. It was a big fat mess, and the Order could not spare people to watch out for Hermione's kin, so she had taken up the task herself.
Even a direct order from the Headmistress had not swayed his friend. She had simply replied that if Harry asked her to she would leave. As it was she was licensed for Apparition and could be anywhere required within minuets her home base should be of little consequence. This new plan of the Headmistress looked as though it would cause equal uproar. Harry wondered if Miss Licensed for Apparition knew what was going down right now or if she was even to be told. He amused himself for a moment with the mental picture of Snape showing up on her doorstep, a note from McGonagall clutched in his fist.
"My loyalty is to Dumbledore, I see now that transferring that loyalty to his lackeys was a grave mistake. Perhaps I should throw myself at the Dark Lord's feet and beg forgiveness. Surely the punishment I would receive would be less severe than the loss of my mind. What is the cost of a limb in comparison to spending an undermined span of time breathing the same air as Hermione Granger and her band of Merry Muggles?"
"Professor, quit being so ridiculous." McGonagall barked, obviously reaching the end of her patience. "No one knows the truth about what happened on that tower except a few students and a handful of Order members. The truth of things simply cannot be told right now, you have to go into hiding and no one will look for you at the Grangers. Now you can continue to be of use to us or you can go completely underground but we don't have the time or resources to field your childish temper tantrum."
"Granger is of little importance in the grand scheme of things. I know that she is your personal favorite, but assigning her a bodyguard because she refuses to come in as ordered is too much. You want to hold the reins of leadership, sometimes there are hard decisions to be made, and your delicate feelings have to be set aside."
Harry snorted, and then pulled back into the shadows, afraid of discovery. If McGonagall was delicate he was a Norwegian Ridgeback.
"Hermione Granger's safety was a high priority issue when I last spoke with Albus. It was at his request that you do this." Her words were spoken quietly and without heat, from the sad look on her face Harry could tell she hadn't wanted to reveal that bit of information. Whether because she wanted her decisions to stand on their own now that she was in charge, or because it was painful for Snape to hear he didn't know. But his resigned features spoke more than he would have wished. He swept out of the room, robes flaring dramatically. The slamming of the front door awakened Mrs. Black and the teachers rushed from the room to quiet her.
Harry's private tutor is on his way over. He's planning to be a houseguest. He is most likely of the same opinion of your mum as Harry's mum.
"Are you sure that she will understand it?" Ron asked dubiously, even as he secured the note to Hedwig's leg."
"Hermione clever. She'll know what we are talking about." Harry said, giving his owl a farewell pat and opening the window.
"We ought to be more specific. I wouldn't put it past old McGonagall not to even tell her that he is coming."
"You know how smart Hermione is, besides there isn't time. He could be on her doorstep already."
And with that Hedwig took flight, spiraling three times before setting out on her journey. "Safe Trip." Harry whispered before taking out a fresh set of parchment to pen a note to Dumbledore.
How disgustingly quaint. The Muggle house was clean and cute and well cared for. He couldn't imagine spending his days in such a nauseatingly pleasant place. Even the sunshine seemed brighter when reflected off of happy yellow paint and a sparkling green lawn.
Snape sneered at the tidy flowerbeds and stepping-stones, choosing to trod through the grass rather than shorten his lengthy stride to tread on the little gingerbread colored stones. Dumbledore thought he was clever did he. There wasn't a doubt in anyone's mind that Miss Granger was perfectly capable of watching out for herself. Lord knows she had managed to keep those two bumbling idiots of hers safe for six years. But still he was shunted off to play nursemaid. He wasn't dim enough to think that his real purpose here was bodyguard, though an extra wand certainly wouldn't hurt. Dumbledore was up to something clever and Snape was determined to find out what it was. Just because he had faked his death and was underground was no excuse for meddling. He would have to find something else to do in his now abundant stretches of spare time.
Snape took note of a blindingly obvious white owl swooping low to tap at an upstairs window. Really, could Potter be any less subtle? He didn't know how she put up with those boys. He rapped smartly on the door three times, ignoring the Muggle chimer in favor of the more intimidating sound of pounding. He noticed that the owl had been let in even as the door swung open.
Hermione's mother was a beautiful woman. Her daughters' antithesis if you counted the carefully groomed hair, cleanly pressed clothes, and artfully applied makeup. But if you looked beyond the shocking differences there was no doubt that this woman was very closely related to Miss Granger. She had the same sparkling eyes, the same curve to her face, the same pouty pink lips. "Mrs. Granger I presume?"
"You must be Professor Snape. Minerva told me you would be coming. Please," she stood aside for him, "Be Welcome."
He nodded at her politely, stepping across her threshold and made several immediate observations. Mrs. Granger was an excellent cook, judging by the wonderful aroma coming from the kitchen. The house was immaculate yet welcoming and he could actually be comfortable here. And Mrs. Granger was far too gracious to be rude to. He hated people like that. Be Welcome. Bugger.
He hated being interrupted, but his dreams of peace were immediately squashed by non other than Hermione herself.
She came skidding down the stairway with an alarming amount of speed. He took in her appearance from toe to head and found nothing more than he had expected. Slouchy baggy Muggle clothes, haphazard ponytail, an ink smudge marring a creamy complexion. Disheveled and pretty, but not at all surprised to see him. "Don't…" Her voice trailed off at the sight of him and she came to a stop halfway down. He wondered if she had intended to tell her mother not to let him in. Potter's letter was clenched in her fist and she lost a shade of color while she tried to think of something to say. She finally settled on "Hello Professor." How inane. As if they were meeting in the library. He expected better of her.
"Hermione dear, show the Professor where he can put his things, and then change into something suitable for dinner." The girl gave her mother a tight smile and gestured for him to follow her, turning around and going back up the stairs. "And do something with your hair!" Her mother called.
The silence was loaded and the guest room acceptable, if a little frilly for his tastes. But he had an excellent view of the street if he twitched the heavy curtains so he should be able to keep an eye on things. The smell of potpourri certainly had to go. He finished his cursory inspection and turned to dismiss the girl, but she beat him to speech and surprised him with her words.
"You will treat my parents with courtesy and respect. You will remember you are a guest here. I don't care what the Order says, this is my home and you will act accordingly." He hated the way she could take him by surprise. Not at all predictable like her peers, or the hundreds of other teenagers he had known. She didn't demand to know why he was here, or ask inane questions, or immediately quiz him about Dumbledore. Just ordered him about as high and mighty as you please. "There is a guest bath in the hall if you would like to freshen up prior to dinner. My mother makes a very big affair over guests and I'm sure that the requirement for me to wear a skirt to dine with you will give you endless sadistic pleasure."
And as quickly as that she was gone, leaving a light floral scent in her wake.
It was going to be a very long summer.
It was going to be a very long summer. Hermione flounced back down the steps with far more…oomph in her step than she would normally used and hurried into the kitchen to confront her mother. Honestly, what had the woman been thinking? The sight of Albus Dumbledore sitting in his kitchen having scones was unexpected and she experienced an otherworldly feeling. All that was needed was the commentary and Twilight Zone music. Didn't the man know he was supposed to be dead? Being found dining in a Muggle kitchen might cast doubt on that universally accepted fact.
"Hello Professor." Was all that she could think of? How inane. Really she expected better of herself.
"Miss Granger. You have been getting reacquainted with your new house guest I presume."
"You presume too much if you think he is a welcome houseguest Professor." Hermione was shocked at the frankness of her tone and her rudeness. She wished the boys were here to witness it since they would never believe it, not in a million years. "This is going too far, I want him gone."
"He is here for his own safety, as well as contributing to your family's safety. Which recently you declared took precedence over even Order affairs." Dumbledore had risen to his feet and towered above her, his face lined and serious, his voice firm. She often forgot just how intimidating that her old Headmaster could be. But she wasn't in Gryffindor for nothing. She straitened her spine and looked him in the eye despite the fact that her knees were practically knocking together.
"They will be searching for him. They will find him. They must not find him here. This is putting my family at risk and I wont have it."
"Severus has put himself at risk repeated times, both for the Order and for your Personal friends Miss Granger. It is my decision that he stays here. Thank you for tea Mrs. Granger," he nodded at her mother, "I'm afraid I have pressing business and must be off."
He Disapparated, leaving her sputtering at a blank splotch of wall. She hated being put in her place.
"I'll never get used to the way the magical folk just pop in and out." Her mother said, giving her a shrewd look. "I won't ask you to apologize to the professor because an insincere apology is without worth. However, I expect you to treat my guests with courtesy and I will expect to speak about this when you have calmed down."
"Mum, I'm sorry but…"
"I asked you to dress for dinner." Her mother turned to take something from the oven and Hermione shifted from foot to foot trying to think of a way to get around her dismissal without further displeasure. Finally she sighed, turned around and went back upstairs. Her mother's feelings were so sensitive.
So now she had a Convicted Death Eater stowed in her guest room. A spot in the top ten Death Eater Hit List. Harry was angry with her. Professor McGonagall was angry with her. Professor Dumbledore was angry with her. And now her mum. Her first year self would have had a heart attack and drown herself in the lake. It was a good thing that she no longer had possession of a time turner. Something awful could happen to her. But still Hermione couldn't ditch that horrible gnawing and twisting in her stomach that came from disappointing those around her.
She was a worrier by nature. And this whole mess was taking its toll on her mind. There were too many things to juggle, too much at stake, and everything couldn't be done. Perfectionist Hermione Granger had to trim her priority list and it was killing her. Five O'clock was just around the bend. And with the whole extended family staying with her, things were crowded and uncomfortable. There was no quiet place to read. An act that had never failed to calm her before. And Snape got the whole guest room to himself. Slimy Git.
Five O'clock would bring three uncles, an aunt, and her father home. Grandma Betty would be up from her nap and the house would be worse than the Weasleys on holiday.
Deal with that Snape.
He would probably huddle in his private room. Well Good. She didn't want him around anyway. She stepped over her cousin Arabella lying in the floor, open coloring book in front of her and took some parchment from her desk. It was time the boys forgave her by not staying at the Black house. And this note from them might just be the thawing of the ice.
The dinner bell rang before she had finished her note and she jumped up startled. She had half a mind to go downstairs in her jeans but her mothers' disapproval stayed her from this and she rushed to her closet to find something to put on. Arabella immediately began an annoying singsong about her being late. Really, she had never been that annoying, even when she had been five.
She managed to find a decent skirt, one that wasn't Frumpy and then immediately began digging for a top that wasn't creased with wrinkles. She heard her mother call from below stairs and tripped over a roller skate on her way to the door to reply. "I'll be right down," she wished Harry would hurry up and win this war already so she could have her life of calm and order back. This was ridiculous. The only top that even remotely matched the patterned skirt was white, which was fine except it had bare shoulders and she wouldn't dream of wearing something so daring in front of the professor. She picked out a modest sweater and dove back into her closet to find a skirt to match. Her mother hollered up the stairs again, and Hermione let out a little cry of frustration, chasing her annoying cousin out so she could dress in peace.
How could she have an entire closet full of designer clothes and nothing to wear? If only her mother would take into account her personal style when she shopped this could all be avoided! She wasn't about to wear half of these skirts; they didn't even reach her knee! And really, what was this thing her mother had about bare shoulders. She was going to go shopping first thing in the morning.
Severus didn't know what he had anticipated, but this definitely was not it. The table was pristine, the food was delicious, and the guests were well mannered. All to be expected. Hermione however, dressed in demure silks with bare shoulders, was not. She was a wonderful hostess and catered to the gaggle of people clogging the dining room as if she was a born servant. Her mother had cooked and apparently it fell upon the daughter to serve.
The bending, carrying, and pouring that she was carrying on with was just not to be done with silk shifting and clinging to every young curve. Away from the confines of Hogwarts he was suddenly faced with a revelation. Hermione Granger had gone from 'She will grow up to be a fine young woman one day' to 'She had grown into a fine young woman'. This was not a realization he usually had to make about his students while they were still his students. It left a disturbing hollow feeling in his stomach.
Especially since she wasn't technically still his student. He'd been fired, was in fact a fugitive from the Ministry. Hogwarts might not even reopen this year. Worst of all word had it that Miss Granger had decided to throw away her exemplary education in favor of gallivanting across country with Potter. And he was dim enough to let her. To say Minerva was irritated was an understatement. It didn't matter that she wasn't his student anymore however. But now that the thought had planted itself in his mind it wouldn't seem to go away.
She had pulled her hair down from that haphazard ponytail but apparently hadn't put much further effort into it because it was a messy mass of curls bouncing all around her. Clinging to curves, her mouth, brushing the top of her derriere in an almost mesmerizing sway. It was indecent and her mother ought to make her chop the lot of it off. Really sashaying around that way at dinner. But everyone seemed to be oblivious to his discomfort, even when he had to shift in his seat to relieve some pressure.
Always being so damn unpredictable.
And then she chose to take a seat next to him of all places. Stinking the air up with her lilac scented hair and light perfume. He was trying to eat here. He completely chose to ignore the fact that the seat next to him was the only one available and he had known that she would sit there. That the tension over the last ten minutes had been almost unbearable as he had waited for her to get done bringing out the food, knowing that she would be within touching distance. He didn't think he would make it through the meal without being ill.
The professor, ex-professor, whatever, was watching her. He hadn't taken his dark eyes off her once. He made her feel like a bug in a jar. And suddenly it was just like she was in primary school again. When she had two left feet, bushy hair, and awkward hands. When she finally sat down, at his left much to her horror, he gave her a look so foul that she almost bolted from the table rather than sit a meal with him.
She really hated professor Dumbledore for doing this to her.
There was sort of surreal moment, where everything was perfectly normal, where her family, and her professor surrounded her, and then suddenly chaos descended into her dining room with a swiftness that was unbelievable. She stood frozen when as the glass in the living room shattered and men in masks moved into her living room, stepping through the gaping swarming with purpose towards her family. She might have stood there in shock until she died if a cruel grip hadn't tugged her down behind the table, even as he upended it to create a weak shield from curses.
The next five or ten seconds passed in a horrible slow stickiness that made no sense. The exchanged look, grabbing her young cousin and racing towards the back of the house to the emergency floo, Snape standing to buy them time wand raised dramatically before he was out of sight. And then time flash forwarded and bombarded her with urgency and a sense of controlled panic as she shoved her screaming mother into the fireplace before her and shoving her cousin in her arms. Grabbed the next child and flooed her out with an aunt. The fire safe sprinklers coming on in response to a fire in her kitchen soaked everyone through, but didn't cause a moment's pause. A third set of people was quickly swept to safety.
"There's no time!" She shouted to her father even as she used her wand to bodily force her father into the floo, the green smoke whooshing the last of her family away. Then she stood and barreled back down the hall to get Snape.
The boys would never forgive her if she died.
He met her in the hall at a dead run. "Is everyone out?" He shouted and at her nod he grabbed her arm again, she had just enough time to look over his shoulder at a green curse zooming towards them before she felt the rather sickening hook of a Portkey at her navel.
The world spun dizzily and she tumbled out of a dry grate onto a clean swept plain wooden floor. The air was bitingly cold and her body immediately began to shiver underneath her sopping wet garments. It was good to notice these things instead of the fact that she was a wet tangled mess of arms and legs with her lanky lean professor. Who was shockingly hard bodied underneath those voluminous robes clinging wetly to him, and smelled surprisingly nice. There was daylight pouring into the sparkling clean windows and Snapes' hand had somehow lodged itself under her skirt so that when he grabbed something to steady them with, it was her bare thigh.
It wouldn't have been so awful if she hadn't landed square on his thighs and clutched his shoulders to sit up at the same time.
It was one of those awkward moments you never saw coming and seemed to stretch out farther than it should have before she scrambled quickly to her feet.
She stood there, taking in the plain unfurnished room, letting Snape get to his feet stiffly and try to wring out his robes all over the now wet floor. Everything had happened so quickly and now it seemed she hardly had enough energy to breathe. But as was her nature Hermione immediately began planning out a list of what needed to be done even as she moved to the window to get a sense of where she was. There was a good portion of snow layered over what appeared to be wilderness as far as she could see, the stark whiteness only broken by one warped branchless tree.
She needed to make sure that Snape was going to live.
She needed to Apparate to London and check in on her family. Harry would be keeping them safe but would be frantic about her absence.
Then she needed to find out exactly who had dared infiltrate her home and then make them pay over and over and over again.
And then maybe she owed Professor Dumbledore an apology because Snape had turned out to be quite useful and necessary after all. Unless of course the Death Eaters were looking for him and not her. Which would not be Snape's fault, but infuriating nontheless.
And at some point she needed to get dry and warm before she froze to death.
She took out her wand to remedy the wetness and start a fire so she could make sure that Snape was in one piece and warm up a bit. "Desiccate." The word rang out powerfully, but it was the only powerful thing. Her wand just sat there like damp wood. She waved it, puzzled, and tried again.
"It won't work. There is no magic here." He said rather deadpan, walking away down a dreary unadorned hallway.
"What do you mean there's no magic. I'm magic, nothing changes that!" She felt a little alarmed with her fizzled spell, this cold bare place, and her family far away. Far away but safe, she had to believe that. And she hated to be ignored. Which was what the professor was doing. He had gone into a small room, with a small twin bed neatly made and no other furnishings, and began to rifle around in the cupboards.
"Supplies are going to be low. I haven't been here for years and really hadn't expected to ever come back. It's a good thing the dustless charms held or we'd be hacking out our lungs on top of freezing to death."
"Why doesn't my spell work?"
He flung a white dress shirt behind him and it landed at her feet. She might have tried to catch it, but never being part of sports it didn't occur to her until it was a heap on the floor. He followed with a towel, which she did try to catch and missed.
"I'm afraid my britches are going to be a mile too big on you and I don't have any spare robes. We'll have to make due. Until Dumbledore figures out where we are; staying warm and dry is the biggest priority."
"Why doesn't my spell work?"
He finally turned to look at her, took in the pile of things at her feet, and gave her his most famous scowl. The one reserved just for thick Gryffindor's. "I would think a witch of your caliber wouldn't need every detail spelled out like a toddler, my estimation of your intelligence was obviously overrated. Your spell won't work here because this is a magic free zone."
"Oh, I've read about those! The Poles for instance…"
"Of course you have Miss Granger, and it doesn't surprise me a bit that you will stand here waxing poetic about some dusty tomb while we freeze to death. Do I have to dress you like a toddler as well or do you think you can manage changing into dry things. There will be no magic fire, there will be no knight bus, and it will likely be several hours before the headmaster figures out where we've gone to."