Disclaimer: I am not the all-powerful JKR, I merely play with her world.
Severus Snape leaned his aching head on his weary arms, propped up by the desk, and sighed—a rare show of weakness. He was tired, so tired. Teaching was a full time job. Teaching and spying left him drained, sometimes unable to even step further than his own quarters in the dungeons during the weekends. If that wasn't enough, the Dark Lord had become even more volatile as of late, unpredictable and explosive. Where once he had been cunning Tom Riddle, quick to reward as incentive and sparing with his harsh punishments for failure, now there only existed the reptilian madness of petulance. Severus shook his head in dismay. He knew it was really bad when he started comparing the Dark Lord to the students he taught at Hogwarts and wishing he could discipline him the same way.
It was in the early hours of dawn, and Severus had not accomplished a thing he needed to do. A pile of unmarked essays still glared conspicuously from the table, he had not been able to obtain further information for Albus pertaining to the Dark Lord's further plans, and he had a first period Slytherin-Gryffindor potions class—Potter's class. Considering the long night of horrors he had just attended at the Dark Lord's bidding, it was time to utilize something he rarely permitted himself to touch: he went into his chambers and retrieved his time-turner. As long as he made sure to turn the time back to after he had already left at the summons, he could get in almost a full night's sleep.
The class went, as far as he was concerned, extraordinarily well. Potter had not made any glaring blunders, Malfoy had not made any snide remarks, and Granger had once again managed to rescue Longbottom's potion from blowing up, this time in a much subtler way so he could pretend not to have noticed at all.
The period over, he sat down to mark the papers he had abandoned last night. Only to curse again under his breath as his left arm flared with white-hot heat, the same pain that had signaled the initial branding of the accursed mark on his forearm. What could the Dark Lord want in the middle of the day, when he knew Severus would be teaching and could not get away easily?
Panting with frustration at the feverish and swollen effects of the call, he hastily locked the potions classroom, snatched his cloak and mask, and made for the closest apparition point. As he did so, he twirled the dial on his watch once, sharply. Moments later, the watch's face displayed a message from Albus: "Will cover for you if you cannot return. Find out what you can—he's been too quiet lately. Be safe."
Be safe indeed. When was one ever safe in the presence of an insane reptile?
Hermione blinked in surprise and glanced over at Harry and Ron, before nodding and sliding out of her seat in the commons. "Of course, Professor McGonagall. I have a moment."
The older witch ushered her out and down the hall. "Thank you my dear. I know it's late, but this is important."
"May I ask why-"
"Not here, Miss Granger. Wait a minute, and we'll explain everything to you inside." They entered the headmaster's office, and Hermione rushed forward. "Mum! Dad! What are you doing here at Hogwarts? Is everything okay?"
Her parents hugged her, and her mother smiled wanly. "We're well, darling. Although I can't say the same for our office." Her father wrapped an arm protectively around Hermione and her mother.
"What do you mean?"
Professor Dumbledore spoke up then from the background. "I'm afraid, Miss Granger, that your parents were targets of Death Eater attacks tonight. Luckily, as you can see, thanks to the quick thinking of our spy among the ranks, we were able to fake their deaths. However, you can see our predicament here now. We're going to have to move fast to place your parents in a safe house."
Hermione looked up then, and noticed Professor Snape lurking in the shadows on the far side of the office. Surprised at her own clear state of mind as well as steady voice, she asked, "Professor Snape would be our spy then I presume?"
His head shot up at the mention of his name, but he said nothing, instead twisting his lips into a half-hearted sneer. "Ah, always quick on the uptake, Hermione. That is correct, my dear, Severus is our spy and a fine job he does of it too." Dumbledore beamed.
Hermione warily walked over to him. He stiffened; Hermione ignored it, and put out her hand. "Sir, I'd like to thank you for rescuing my parents."
His face remained unreadable, but he slowly took her hand and grasped it briefly. "I could do no less for anyone, Miss Granger."
She walked back over to stand with her parents, and faced Dumbledore again. "Professor, what happens now? With my parents, and everything?"
"Well I think we've got that pretty much worked out. Several Order members will escort your parents to an undisclosed location protected by Fidelius, and your parents will have to stay there for the duration of the war—hopefully our most optimistic projections at this point will come to pass, which estimates a year or so. You will mourn the apparent violent deaths of your parents, and none but Professor Snape, Professor McGonagall, and myself will be any the wiser."
"That will be hard."
She stated it flatly. It was not a question. Surprisingly, it was not Professor Dumbledore who responded, but Professor Snape. "Miss Granger. Your parents almost died tonight, would have died tonight if I hadn't don't some quick thinking and had a bottle of the Draught of Living Death with me at the time. And you're worried about lying? Surely even Potter and Weasley are not thickheaded enough to trouble you unnecessarily during your 'mourning period'. All you have to do is be—sad."
He sneered on the last word, as if it disgusted him to even say such an elementary and emotional word. The tension in the room felt like a thick green pea soup, waiting for Hermione—or anyone—to foolishly, bravely, attempt to stir. But harsh as the words were, Hermione later, in the privacy of her own room, would secretly appreciate them. The sting of Professor Snape's acidic tongue was enough to slice through the fog that seemed to freeze her brain processes and toss her thoughts like a salad, and the resentment the words evoked was a clear-cut emotion, one that firmly superceded all the other conflicting emotions clouding her brain and allowing Hermione to once again think clearly.
Rather than give Professor Snape the satisfaction of an answer, Hermione straightened, and faced Professor Dumbledore. "If it will keep my parents safe, I'll manage, Professor Dumbledore. Will they be moved to the safe house tonight? Will I be able to owl them, or see them?"
If Albus Dumbledore wondered at the unspoken tension between his spy and the smartest student to grace Hogwarts for years, he didn't show it. Except for perhaps an extra brightness to the twinkle that never seemed to leave his eyes no matter what. Instead, he got right down to business. "Yes, Miss Granger, you will be able to contact them but not by owl. If you wish to write to them, do so and give the letters to the gargoyle that guards my office, the left one. He'll know what to do with them. I'm afraid you won't know where they are, it'll be safer that way. Yes, they'll be moved there tonight. I'll let you and your parents catch up now, while I get the preparations for their travel and stay. It should take an hour or so, please feel free to make use of my office."
He left then, with Professor Snape a moment after, leaving Hermione alone in the office with her parents.
Hermione looked at her parents hesitantly. "Mum. Dad…"
Her mother pulled her close for another fierce hug. "Oh darling!" There were no more words needed. They understood, like they somehow understood all the truly important things. Things like how sorry she was for being what she was and placing them in that danger, and how much she was going to miss them, and how she wanted them to stay safe and she almost wished she could go with them but she had to stay and help fight because she couldn't abandon her friends and a battle that desperately needed her help.
She didn't know how long she remained in her parent's embrace, but after a while they began to talk.
"You'll be careful, won't you? It is safe for you here?" her father asked.
Hermione nodded seriously. "Yes, I'll be very careful. It's probably the safest place for me right now, Hogwarts is I mean. Short of going into hiding, which I can't, Hogwarts is very secure. I read in Hogwarts: A History that every headmaster and headmistress of Hogwarts has added more wards and shields to protect the school, so it's virtually impenetrable now."
Her mother laughed. "Is that the ridiculously thick book you were reading nonstop for weeks after our first visit to Diagon Alley?"
Hermione smiled ruefully. "Yes, it is. You know me too well, Mum."
The door opened again, and Professor Snape came in. Again, Hermione felt a lingering surge of anger—how dare he imply she was not up to any challenge, and how dare he insult her friends!—but she shoved the feeling away. She would deal with it in the Room of Requirement, with some physical exertion, the way she always worked out any frustrations. It was considerably more beneficial than yelling and losing house points.
"Miss Granger. Mr. and Mrs. Granger. We've made arrangements for you, and you'll be portkeying out from here shortly and to a midway location before someone else transfers you the rest of the way to your final destination. Are you ready?"
Hermione's mother took a deep breath. "Yes, thank you. We're ready. And we'd also like to thank you again, for saving our lives. Please, call us Jane and Daniel. Take care of yourself."
Daniel Granger added, "Yes, your line of work seems to be particularly dangerous. Be careful. And don't put up with any nonsense with our daughter!" The last he said in a joking tone, but Severus Snape's throat clenched involuntarily at the easy affection. His resident know-it-all blushed, pulled a face, and hit her father lightly on the arm.
"Mum, make sure Dad doesn't ask too many questions about magic, he'll drive whoever's escorting you crazy."
"Hmm, like someone else I know."
"Sorry, little know-it-all."
Severus raised his eyebrow, but remained silent. So, her parents call her a know-it-all as a term of endearment. That might actually be why she seems so furious whenever anyone calls her that, since she's used to the name as one of affection.
Albus entered, holding a small jade figurine of a dragon. He said nothing, but offered it to the Grangers. Jane and Daniel both seemed familiar with the idea of a portkey, as they asked no questions but instead took the figurine, both touching it.
"It's set to leave in three minutes," Albus informed them gently.
Jane and Daniel Granger turned to their daughter, and Hermione hugged them again before stepping back and biting her lip.
"We love you, darling. Keep up your studies. I don't want to hear that you've been stressing and pulling all-nighters like last time for your exams!"
Jane Granger's voice echoed as they disappeared, leaving behind empty space.
Albus sighed, breaking the spell of silence that had descended on his office. "Miss Granger, you'll see your parents again. Don't worry. They will be safe. Meanwhile, perhaps Professor Snape would be as good as to walk you to your dormitory?"
Severus scowled. An order, phrased as a question. Nevertheless, he ushered the silent Miss Granger out into the hallway.
It was a quiet walk, for the most part. Miss Granger was lost in her own thoughts, and Severus liked that just fine. She was much more tolerable when she wasn't waving her hand in the air and reciting answers from books. When they reached the portrait guarding the Gryffindor dormitories, she hesitated before finally speaking. "Thank you, Professor Snape, for everything."
She told the portrait, "Pax Somnium," and entered, leaving him gazing thoughtfully after her.
Shaking his head, he turned and left as well. Pax somnium—peaceful sleep—was a rare commodity and he still had to brew a batch of various potions for Poppy before he went to bed tonight.
A.N.: Tell me what you think! I don't speak an iota of Latin, so I don't know if pax somnium is good grammar or makes sense…oh well.