A/N: Written for the SS/HG summer fic exchange on LJ. (Winter round going on now - pimpity pimp pimp.) I thought I had already posted this here, but apparently not. Please read, review, and enjoy!
Like Father, Like Son
Hermione almost doesn't recognize the tinny jingling of her mobile when it rings.
"What is that?" her colleague asks, another Unspeakable.
"Oh!" She fumbles in her bag only to find she has missed the call. Feeling horribly embarrassed, she excuses herself. Out in the hallway, she dials her voicemail.
It is a message from her father. Her mother has been taken to the hospital. There are no details, just panicked worry. Hermione doesn't stay to explain where or why she's going, just Apparates away. Her co-workers won't mind. They are used to mystery.
By the time she reaches the hospital, every possible scenario has run through her brain. Her mother was in a car accident, with limbs severed, she is disfigured. She won't recognize her own mother, but she'll love her all the same.
She has had a heart attack. Heart disease runs in the family. Hermione told her she needed to eat better, exercise more, and stop smoking. But parents don't listen to their children. It's the other away around.
Or maybe it's something mild. She cut her hand while cooking. She knows her father to be melodramatic. Maybe the heart attack is just a bad case of heartburn. Her mother does enjoy takeout curry a little more than is healthy.
She should have called more often. Guilt fills her at the thought that she turned down dinner at home last week in favor of working late.
"I'm looking for Mrs. Granger's room, Helena Granger," she asks a bored looking receptionist. The girl stares at her blankly so that Hermione is forced to repeat herself before she gets any answers.
"Third floor, room 326."
She nods and hurries toward the lift. The door is closing as she runs up, and she yells, hoping someone will hold the door for her. But no one does.
With a sigh, she heads for the door marked stairs. She takes the steps two at a time. Rounding a corner, a dark shadow confronts her. She doesn't see him for who he is at first. Concentrating on the step, she first sees his polished black shoes. Dark trousers fall over them, covering thin legs. She follows them up to see a gray jumper and then with a gasp, she recognizes him.
"Miss Granger." It is the same low silky voice that taunted her throughout school, from first year until her sixth.
In a flash, she has her wand in her hand. But she isn't fast enough. He bounds down the few stairs between them and grabs her wrist with one hand. With the other arm, he pushes her back against the wall. She realizes with increasing fear that no one else is around. She wonders what he will do if she tries to yell for help, and then decides against it. They are in a hospital full of Muggles. Anyone who might come running will only be in the same mess she is – facing a deadly wizard without her wand.
"Put away your wand, you stupid girl," he spits. He holds her tightly against the wall. She stops struggling. It is no use. He can kill her with two words. She will never say goodbye to her sick mother.
"Put yours away first," she says vehemently, staring back into his dark cold eyes.
"I don't have mine out," he retorts, releasing her. He steps back and holds his empty hands up for her to see.
"What?" She looks down frantically and sees that he is right. His wand is nowhere in sight.
"You are aware of the International Statute of Secrecy?" he asks with sarcasm.
Hermione scowls while she pockets her wand. She doesn't remove her hand though, keeping a firm grip on the handle in case she needs to use it. Secrecy be damned, this is Severus Snape she is dealing with.
"What do you want with me?" she asks. She assumes this is a trap. Is her mother even here, or was that just a ruse? But what of the voicemail from her father?
It is his turn to scowl. "Nothing."
"Why are you here?"
"I could ask you the same thing," he says.
"I asked first." She clenches her teeth as she says it. He has always put her on edge.
"And you'll answer first as well," he says, taking a step closer. He towers over her, looking down his crooked nose to stare at her with a hard look. Hermione gulps. She takes a deep breath and nods. There is no purpose in arguing, yet.
"I had a message that my mother is ill," she answers. "I need to find her." She tries to push past him out of the corner, but he raises his hand and stops her, catching her by the shoulder.
"I don't believe you," he says soft and dangerous. "I can't have you running back to your friend, Potter, with my whereabouts." He reaches for his wand.
Panic threatens to take over her. She is nearly trembling. "Please, I need to see my mum," she pleads. "Kill me later."
She is surprised when he nods and lets go of her, but takes her firmly by the elbow. She looks at him with a questioning look.
"I don't want to let you out of my sight," he says plainly. She shakes her head in an effort to clear it, a vain gesture, as she is still thoroughly confused at what is transpiring. Severus Snape, known Death Eater and Professor Dumbledore's murderer is escorting her to her mother's hospital room.
They arrive in room 326 to find her mother in bed. She is pale with dark circles ringing her eyes. Her hair hangs down in her face, a frizzy mess. An IV hangs on the stand, running down to her wrist. Her father sits in a chair he has pulled up right next to the bed. He looks like he hasn't slept either.
"I got your message. What's wrong?" Hermione asks, shaking loose of Snape. He lets her go, remaining in the doorway.
"The doctor thinks it's food poisoning," her mother answers.
"She's been throwing up for two days straight. She could barely stand this morning, so I brought her to the emergency room," her father explains. Hermione nods, choking back a sob. Rushing to the bed, she folds her mother into a fierce embrace.
"Careful," she admonishes even as she grips Hermione back just as tight. Tears spill over and down her cheeks as she pulls back. The worry from the frantic message combined with the fear and panic of meeting Snape in the stairwell have finally overwhelmed her.
"I was so worried. Dad didn't give any details," she says, wiping at her eyes.
"I didn't have any when I called you. I just came home from work to find your mother had fainted dead away, lying in the bathroom floor."
Hermione nods, taking a tissue from her purse. Snape clears his throat from the doorway. She had forgotten about him until now. Turning slowly, she looks at him with a worried expression. She still has her wand, but it's hardly useful against a skilled duelist like him.
"I'm so sorry," she says.
"For what?" her mother asks.
She shakes her head, trying to stay the tears. "For not being here."
"You couldn't have known, dear." Her mother places a comforting hand on Hermione's. It's not what Hermione meant. She meant for everything – summer holidays spent at the Burrow instead of with them, quick phone calls rather than long visits, the distance.
"Who is your friend, pumpkin?" her father asks.
"Just a coworker, dad. He drove me here," she lies. She doesn't think he can handle the truth at the moment. "I'll be right back."
She follows Snape out into the hall. He isn't nearly as intimidating without the swish and swirl of his voluminous robes, she thinks as he leads them to a quiet corner. Nurses and doctors rush by, not noticing them. A cart, laden with lunch trays, hides them partially from view.
"Pumpkin?" Snape asks with vitriol in his voice.
"There are worse nicknames," she says in her defense.
'Snivellus for one,' she thinks, but she doesn't say it aloud. An angry Snape is not what she wants at the moment.
"You never answered my question," she says, moving on from nicknames.
He narrows his eyes, but answers cryptically with, "My father."
"What's wrong?" The concern in her voice is genuine; there is some fear left over from her mother's mystery illness.
"He's dying." He sounds less angry than before—just tired. She notices for the first time the exhaustion in his features. He was always pale but now he resembles a ghost. Dark purple tints the skin just under his eyes. And perhaps it is because he isn't wearing wizard robes, but she swears he is thinner. Being on the run from the authorities has not improved his appearance.
"I'm sorry," she says, feeling distinctly uncomfortable. He, of all people, does not deserve her sympathy. Nonetheless, she can't help but offer it.
"I'm not." His eyes narrow and his face contorts into a frightening mask. Hermione takes a step back.
"I—" she struggles for words and understanding. "Then why are you here?"
"To confirm it's real this time."
"This time?" He wheels around to face her, his eyes narrowing and his lip curling in anger, but it's obvious that it isn't directed at her this time. This goes much deeper.
"My father is a con artist. When he discovered my mother was a witch, he tried to involve her in every sort of scheme possible. When she died, he tried the same with me. He's faked serious illness before; even managed to convince quite a few people to give him money to pay for his treatment, which consisted of a Caribbean vacation."
She is surprised to hear such a telling confession. He's not holding her hand this time, but she follows him anyway when he leaves her and walks down the hall. She knows this might be her only opportunity to lose him, but she reasons he knows where her parents are, and besides her curiosity has always gotten the best of her.
He approaches the nurses' station and asks for Tobias Snape.
"You're his son?" the nurse asks. Snape only nods. "I'm afraid I have some bad news for you." She pauses, possibly in an effort to soften the blow, but it's obvious what is to come. "Your father passed away this morning. He went in his sleep, and we kept him as comfortable as possible at the end."
Snape only nods. An unbidden tear springs to Hermione's eye. She didn't even know the man. And what little she knows of him doesn't inspire any admiration. But even his life deserves to be mourned by someone. Snape doesn't say a word, but sits down in the row of chairs that make up the small waiting area.
"I'll give you two a moment," the nurse says, and then quickly retreats.
"I'm sorry for your loss," she says. She doesn't know what else to say. He doesn't appear to have heard her. Or he is ignoring her. She should leave. She should go back to her mum, or to the Ministry of Magic. There is a reward for his capture and she could use the extra Galleons to upgrade to a larger flat.
But she stays sitting where she is. The silence is heavy and uncomfortable. Eventually he gets up, taking her by the arm again as before, and approaches the nurse again.
"Can I see him?"
The nurse leads them to a room at the end of the corridor. "Through there," she points Hermione and Snape. It is dark inside with just a single bed. Someone has pulled the sheet over him, so that only a silhouette is visible.
Hermione is not unfamiliar with death. In the last few years, with the war, it became a part of life. But that doesn't mean she is used to it. She hesitates at the threshold. But Snape pulls at her elbow, telling her to "Stay with me," in a stern voice.
She dutifully follows. He nears the bed and pulls the sheet down, letting her go in the process. A dark man sleeps underneath. She now knows where Snape's greasy hair and crooked nose come from. With one fluid movement, he takes out his wand. Hermione flinches, but he doesn't point it at her, but at the body in the bed.
Hermione gasps. Without thinking, she grabs his arm and pulls it down. "Stop! He's dead!" Her hands remain over his as she looks up at his face contorted in a mixture of anger and grief. It takes him a moment to realize she has even stopped him.
"I had to be sure," he says quietly. "I had to be sure."
And then he grasps her tightly to his chest. And he holds her. Stunned, she doesn't know what to do for a few moments, but eventually winds her arms around him and returns his embrace. He smells of potion ingredients mixed with the sterile smell that every hospital emanates. An odd thought of how she will rid her own clothes of the odor floats through her mind, avoiding the fact that she is standing in a hospital hugging Professor Snape.
"This is what you wanted to find," she reminds him in a soft voice.
"Then why am I so bereft?" It is a loaded question, she realizes, but an important and telling one at the same time.
"Because you loved him. That's why it hurt so much. Why it hurts now. You've always loved him."
Finally, he pulls away, his hands still resting at her shoulders. He looks her up and down as though deciding something.
"He was a lying bastard," he spits.
"So are you," she says, forgetting herself. For a moment, he looks like he will turn the same curse he used on his father on her, his scowl burning her into the ground, but then his lips curl up almost into a smile, and with it his expression softens.
"So I am. Like father, like son, I suppose. We were both pretenders."
"Were?" she questions.
"I can hardly do so while running from the authorities, Miss Granger." She concedes silently with a look that he has a point, though even now she has a hard time believing that he killed Dumbledore without some ulterior purpose. And this latest display only shows him as human. Dedicated Death Eater just doesn't describe him. Just what was pretending and what was not is the question.
"Do you want to go get a cup of tea, or something," she says, faltering under his intense gaze. She has to say something. He shakes his head.
"Do you need to make…arrangements?"
"I can't call attention to myself that way," he answers. "And he deserves a pauper's grave anyway."
"Is there anything I can do?"
He looks at her thoughtfully. "Be grateful for what you have, Miss Granger."
Her eyes well up and she nods, thinking of her own parents back in their room, neglected once again by her, distracted by the Wizarding world and its politics. "I am," she says
He wipes away an escaped tear from her cheek with his thumb, her eyes drifting closed for a moment. It is too surreal to believe. When she opens her eyes again, his wand is pointed at her. She gasps, but there is no time to react.
She hears the word "Obliviate" and then there is a loud popping noise, and she is all alone. Wandering back into the hallway, she tries to remember where she is. It looks like a hospital, there are people wearing what look like pajamas bustling about using phrases like code blue and heart arrhythmia, but she can't remember why she is there.
"There you are, pumpkin," her father says. Hermione throws herself into his arms, hugging him tightly.
"Are you okay?" he asks. "What happened to your friend?"
She doesn't know about any friend, but she has a sudden and inexplicable rush of emotion over seeing her father here in the hallway.
"I love you, dad."
"I love you too," he answers, holding her tighter.