Disclaimer - I don't own HP or anything related.
Sorry about the long wait, but here it is…
Hermione couldn't sleep. It was around 1:00 AM, and she was wide awake. She was clad in a light blue nightgown and robe, but she'd found it uncommonly chilly for early July out on the balcony, so she'd grabbed a shimmering cerulean coloured cloak as well. Her hair was out of the twist it had been for the better part of the day – and what a day it had been! They'd spent the whole day touring the castle, memorizing its twists and turns, and playing Meet and Greet, trying to win everyone's trust. This was until around 7:00 PM when dinner was served, and as soon as it ended, Severus and Peter were gone.
During the tour, Hermione had discovered the castle's front gates could been seen from her balcony. Now, she was waiting for the Potions Master to come through those gates.
Hermione frowned, staring into the night. Her teacher, her best friend and the darkest wizard of all time were right - she didn't understand her uncle at all. How could he do such a thing? How did he expect to keep his followers loyal if he rewarded hard work with more hard work? Especially something as dangerous as breaking into Gringotts – a place laced with numerous obstacles – to kidnap a bunch of trolls. She'd whined and ranted about this for a long time after dinner when she and Ginny had been trying to learn more magic. The redhead had finally left for her room after becoming annoyed enough to set a few bats on her friend.
Hermione was interrupted from her thoughts when the front gates suddenly swung open. A black carriage, pulled by half a dozen hippogriffs, appeared through it and whipped up the long pathway to the castle.
Heart thudding wildly in her throat, Hermione left the balcony and stumbled through her room in the dark. As soon as she was out, she started running to the foyer, all the while inwardly praying that the Potions Master was okay. She couldn't do this mission alone – she, Ginny and Surgeon needed him. Their whole world needed him. She suddenly found herself thinking of all the times he'd saved her and her friends from disaster. Yes, he tortured them in class as payment, but the man had saved their lives. He was good. A mean-spirited and ill-tempered Slytherin, but still, he was good.
There was also something he said to her the previous night – "I trust no one." The words kept ringing through her head and she just couldn't forget them. Every time she relived the memory, she felt that ache at the bottom of her chest… The same ache she felt whilst reminiscing about Sirius and his life. She didn't know what it was, but she knew she didn't like it. Neither Severus' inability to trust nor her reaction to this information.
Hermione saw the arched entrance to the foyer and sped up. The foyer was a beautiful area; built in polished wood, with many catwalks and balconies lining its tall walls. She'd spent a lot of time there – it was easily one of her most favourite places in the castle. She wished it wasn't so busy, though. It seemed that people were always coming and going.
Hermione pretty much skidded to a stop at the entrance to the foyer. Her uncle, the Dark Lord, was already there. When she stopped, she almost considered pouncing behind a plant at the side of the arch, when Voldemort slightly turned and gave his niece a questioning look out of the corner of his crimson eye. Hermione only gulped, and dropped into a half curtsy, fixing her eyes firmly onto the ground.
"Well, don't just stand there, Hermione," Voldemort said. His tone was almost casual. He turned back to face the entrance. "They'll be here soon."
Hermione took a few steps into the foyer, hoping that she didn't look as breathless as she felt. She wouldn't be able to explain why she'd run down here at breakneck speed… She wasn't even quite sure herself. She glanced at Voldemort's back. He was dressed as immaculately as ever. Because of his face and physique, it was hard to tell if he'd been resting or awake all night, but his robes were neat. Had he been waiting up as well?
Hermione turned around as her uncle did. Two Death Eaters, both masked, were coming in from a side entrance. "The holding cells are ready."
As soon as the words were broken, there was a loud whinnying outside. Voldemort barely nodded before his two soldiers in the room rushed out to help their colleagues. When they were alone, the Dark Lord muttered, "I don't know what to think." He paused, almost causing his niece a stroke, before adding, "Your concern for one of the few people you trust here."
Before Hermione could react, four figures appeared in the doorway. The brunette almost gasped out loud and rushed forward to help, but managed to keep her place and silence. Severus and Peter were bloody, both having trouble standing and walking. They were both being helped by the two who'd just run out. It was obvious who her teacher was, as he was taller than the three around him. He was also easy to pick out because of his damnable pride – he kept shoving his aid away, willing himself to walk on his own.
"Well, Severus? Peter?" Voldemort slipped his wand out, and was now holding it lightly, slightly twirling it, leisurely. The threat was not lost on anyone around him. "Has the night been a waste?"
Severus managed to push the other Death Eater away before taking a step toward Voldemort. As he knelt, he reached into his robes and pulled out a small glass cube. Peter was just lowering himself to the floor when Severus tapped it with his wand and it enlarged. Hermione frowned in confusion – the glass cube was empty.
"My Lord," Severus muttered. His tone was almost as smooth as ever, but Hermione could hear the strain in it. To the untrained ear, he would have sounded fine, but she knew it wasn't. That was not the same voice that had ordered her and her friends around for the last six years. "They've been shrunk, but they're all in here. Four of them."
Voldemort looked absolutely gleeful. In a second, his wand was in its place in his sleeve again. "Excellent work. I knew I could trust you two."
Hermione gulped a little. Even Voldemort trusted. To an extent.
"Now," the Dark Lord breathed. "The trolls will be taken to their cells. Severus, Peter – rest. I assure you, you will be rewarded. And my door is open, if you should need anything." With that, he turned and glided out of the side entrance.
Hermione, while thankful that he hadn't gone by her, stood still until she heard a door close in the direction her uncle had left in. Something about his parting speech irked her; she was sure he hadn't been as pleased as he'd led on. But as soon as Voldemort was gone, her attention was diverted to the ill-tempered, half-blooded Slytherin she did truly care about. Said Slytherin had, with all his injuries, managed to once again, jostle a Death Eater aside. Severus tried getting up on his own, but fell to his knees again. Hermione was almost exasperated as she was worried when she rushed forward and knelt down in front of him.
Peter had been carried away by the other two Death Eaters, so Hermione was left alone with Severus. Severus winced and almost fell forward, but Hermione caught his shoulders and kept him up, frowning in worry. "What happened?" she asked, quietly, using a tone one might use to calm an injured and frightened animal. "Where are you hurt?" Her amber eyes ran all over him. He had one arm wrapped tightly around his abdomen, but the whole front of his robes was bloody. There was also blood on his forehead and the corner of one eye, and his hair was wet – either with blood or perspiration, Hermione couldn't make out.
Severus growled a little, and when he spoke, he barely got the words out. "Damned goblins," he hissed. Now that his guard was down, his tone was much less smooth. It was so hoarse and strained. "Damned bank…"
"Why didn't you let them take you to the hospital wing?" Hermione whispered. She looked around, trying to remember which way it was.
Severus suddenly shook his head before abruptly stopping. Obviously, the movement had caused him further discomfort. "I've… Get back… Pomfr…" That was all he was able to manage before he winced and curled into himself a bit.
"No!" Hermione hissed, reacting. "You can barely stand. How do you expect to…?" Her voice trailed off when she noticed that her teacher had his lips pulled back. He was tense, like he was trying to hold in a scream. "Professor?"
Severus let out a low cry. His hands were balled into fists. All of a sudden, his upper body heaved a little before he fell a little again. Hermione leant forward and caught him, her arms around his shoulders. Her cheek was now wet with whatever was in his hair. She could feel the bottom of his chin on her shoulder and his gasps against her ear. He felt so cold. For a moment, she just held him, panicking, trying to figure out how to get him to the hospital wing, while simultaneously feeling thankful that he hadn't shoved her away as well.
"It'll be alright," Hermione suddenly heard herself saying. She glanced down at him out of the corner of her eye. "You're stronger than this."
All of a sudden, he heaved again, and Hermione tightened her arms around him. She heard him gasp and cough. His cough sounded… Wet. As soon as she thought this, the back of her shoulder started feeling damp. She turned her head a little and her heart raced when she saw that it was blood. He'd just coughed up blood. A lot of blood. What did that mean? Internal injuries? "Oh, dear God, no…" Even in these dire circumstances, his orders for her came back to haunt her. "Oh, Circe, help…"
As if Circe herself had responded, four house elves suddenly appeared around the two. Hermione looked around in shock as they bowed low. "Mistress, we have come to take Master Snape to the hospital wing," one said, stepping forward. Hermione looked at him curiously. Before she could ask who sent them, the elf answered. He nodded toward one of the balconies on the foyer wall.
Hermione looked up and met the hard, unreadable gaze of her best friend. Ginny was watching them, her hair and clothes as immaculate as her uncle's had been. Before Hermione could think of anything to say, Ginny turned and disappeared through a door. Hermione hung her head for a second before she gingerly helped the elves get Severus onto a floating mattress. Ginny would give her hell for this, but Hermione found it hard to care.
"We'll take it from here, Mistress," one of the elves said. Without waiting for a reply, all four disappeared, taking Severus with them.
Hermione stood, feeling dazed for a second before she turned and started back up to her room. There were millions of thoughts racing through her head. It had been amazing (and unbelievably exasperating) that Severus had managed to keep himself up until the Dark Lord had left. Was showing such a weakness, especially after a feat like the one he'd just pulled, so looked down upon? She was angry with herself, as well. For many reasons. Of course, Voldemort would have been waiting for them to return. Why wouldn't he? Of course, there were house elves around to help. Why wouldn't there be? Was she slowly losing her intelligence and common sense?
Hermione started, panic immediately bursting in her. She turned around fearfully, her memory telling her who the voice belonged to. She wasn't surprised to find Fenrir Greyback standing before her. In the dim light of the torches, he didn't look so different from her potions professor. His long gray hair was pulled back into a ponytail, his robes showed off broad shoulders and the shadows played across his sharp features. She thought she saw one of his fangs gleam in the firelight. "Master Greyback." Even Hermione was surprised at how steady her voice sounded.
Fenrir chuckled. His laugh was as throaty and deep as his voice. "How many times must I beg my Mistress to address me by my given name?"
Infinite. Hermione managed a thin smile. "Fenrir. What are you doing up?" she asked, carefully.
Fenrir smiled, wolfishly. "I couldn't sleep," he answered, taking a step toward her. "I was going outside, to take a few moments, to gaze at the moon. It calms me." He paused, and took a few more slow steps toward the young woman in front of him. "I had no idea I would run into our own Sol here."
Hermione, who had been fighting the longing to take steps back, looked up at him in surprise. "Sol?" she repeated. She fought a sudden desire to smile. "I am no sun goddess, Fenrir." She didn't even think to cringe inwardly when the werewolf stepped up to her.
"You look like a sun goddess," Fenrir said. His lips were quirked in a small smile. "With your golden skin… Amber eyes. Curls of russet…"
Hermione stiffened, remembering herself when he suddenly had a hand near the side of her face. For a third time that night, she choked, her eyes fixed firmly on Fenrir's slightly curled hand as it travelled slowly toward her hair. Icy coldness shot through her veins. "What are you doing, Fenrir?" she asked, trying to place a warning in her question.
Fenrir let out a quiet chuckle, but retracted his hand. "You look nothing like your uncle."
Hermione gulped a little. "So I've been told," she muttered.
Fenrir tilted his head a little and, for a second, simply gazed at her. "Won't you grant me the pleasure of using your given name?"
Hermione stiffened. She couldn't believe it – Fenrir Greyback was interested in her. Her. This thought sent a wave of panic and fear through Hermione as she realized just where they were standing – alone in a deserted corridor in the middle of the night. She gulped and steeled herself before looking up to meet the werewolf's gaze. "I doubt I would please my uncle by granting such things." She hoped the mention of her relative would throw Fenrir. She was disappointed.
Fenrir smirked. "It can be our little secret," he told her, leaning a little toward her.
Hermione almost leaned back, but looked up at Fenrir bravely. "Fenrir, I may not look like my uncle but I know I have other things in common with him."
Fenrir nodded, almost approvingly. He was smiling when he spoke. "You have his temper."
Hermione furrowed her eyebrows. "That," she agreed. Somewhere in her subconscious, a small voice tried to deny it.
Fenrir sighed a little. "Rumour has it that you also have his penchant for punishment."
Hermione's eyes widened. She had not been expecting that. "I bed your pardon?" she asked.
Fenrir was watching her carefully, his lips pulled back into a teasing smile. His expression clearly taunted her – 'I know something you don't.' "May I escort you back to your room?"
Hermione frowned, clearly bothered. "There's no need."
In a sudden, swift movement, Fenrir had Hermione arm lightly around his. "But I insist."
They walked silently to Hermione's room and Hermione kept her eyes away from Fenrir, trying to focus on the disappearing, flickering of his shadow in the dim light, so that she'd be warned if he tried anything. She was so scared, she could barely walk – her heart was pounding, there was an insane amount of blood rushing to her head.
Hermione thought about what had just happened. Fenrir hadn't been pushy, or aggressive. He hadn't been violent at all… So unlike the way Severus Snape had treated her the previous evening. But that had been different. She was scared now. She'd thought she'd been afraid when she'd been with Severus, but now she realized that what she'd been feeling then wasn't fear, it was… What was it?
When they came to her room, Fenrir bowed, and gently ran his lips across Hermione's knuckles before straightening. "Good night, Hermione."
"Fenrir," Hermione said, stiffly. She wasn't in her room fast enough. And she'd been unable to sleep for the rest of the night.
By the time Hermione saw the tips of the sun appear over the horizon, she was glad for an excuse to get out of bed. She quickly showered, picked a few robes out of the wardrobe and dressed. She ran a brush through her hair and pulled half of it back into a ponytail. It wasn't half as classy as any of the styles Ginny managed with a flick of her wand, but it would do. At least the dark green satin robes she was wearing were radiant – the silvery embroidery made her think of a coniferous forest in winter.
Hermione left her room and looked down both ways of the corridor for a second. She had no idea where the hospital wing was. Hesitating a little, she whispered, "I need a house elf." She wasn't so surprised when one appeared in front of her. She took a moment to frown at the shapeless burlap sack it was wearing before steeling herself and asking it to lead her to the infirmary.
The infirmary looked very much like the one at school. So much that it was scary. Was her uncle trying to recreate Hogwarts here? Hermione nodded at the house elf before stepping inside, vaguely noticing the creature disappear away.
Hermione turned to the woman who had appeared at her right. This wasn't someone she had met the other day. She was a bit older, maybe in her forties or fifties. Her ebony black skin was a bit wrinkled, her eyes were brown and her dark hair was pulled into dreadlocks. She had an allure of her own and had a serious aura about her. "Hello. You are…?"
"Afia Gatura," the woman replied. She had an accent that suddenly made Hermione think of Tia Dalma. As she pushed the thought from her mind, she noticed that Afia was watching her carefully.
"That's a lovely name," Hermione said.
Afia narrowed her eyes a little and smiled slowly. "Yours is lovely as well. 'Tis a pity that everyone must call you 'Mistress' instead of your own name." She nodded. "It is, after all, who you are."
Hermione blinked, before frowning a little. "Not everyone," she said. Afia smirked a little and Hermione realized that Afia hadn't accepted her position of power yet. The thought made her scowl a little. "You are a Death Eater?" she asked, a touch of frost in her voice.
Afia shook her head. "I am not a fighter." She nodded at the Dark Lord, who was engaged in conversation with Greyback. "I am here to aid your uncle in his search for immortality. I also double as a nurse for your injured."
Hermione suddenly remembered why she was here. But she stopped herself before she blurted out a query about Severus. It would seem too suspicious, wouldn't it? "How are they? Severus Snape and Peter Pettigrew?"
Afia turned around to hide her smile. "I will show you to Severus. He's been up for a while now, bellyaching about wanting to go home." She started to walk toward the back of the room, followed closely by Hermione. "I've placed silencing charms on each of the beds, so that they'll get good nights' rests. I'm sure he will be happy to see you." She stopped in front of a drawn curtain and turned to Hermione. The older woman looked curious. "May I ask you something, my Mistress?"
Hermione stiffened, not liking where the conversation was going.
"Why is the Dark Lord's niece visiting a lowly follower?"
There was something about the way Afia voiced that question. Like she knew they were spies. Hermione raked through her mind for an answer. He's my uncle's most trusted spy. He's protected and saved me from many dangers. He's a great teacher, and I have lots to learn? Hermione finally scowled, settling on a response that would do her Riddle ancestors proud. "Why would the Dark Lord's niece have to bear questioning from a lowly servant?"
Afia's eyebrows rose, but she was smiling. She gestured toward the curtain before leaving.
Hermione couldn't help but notice that Afia hadn't bowed. The fact that she'd noticed unsettled her.
Brushing it off, Hermione pushed the curtain aside and stepped into the square space, pulling the hangings shut again. "You are amazing," she said, dryly. There was power here – Severus didn't look hurt at all. He looked pale and tired, but no signs of injury were visible.
Severus didn't even turn to scowl at her. He was staring blankly at the curtain to the side. "You shouldn't be here. My Mistress."
Hermione stepped up to the foot of the bed. "Your cuts have healed nicely," she remarked. Severus didn't answer. She smiled thinly. "You were bleeding from your forehead last night. I can't help but think how funny it would have been if it had left a scar." She almost laughed out loud when Severus finally turned to glare at her. "It's almost nice to see you're yourself again. Almost."
Severus smirked, wryly. "I warned you about your comments."
Hermione's gaze traveled up the bed. He was covered to his neck with the blanket. "You're still hurt, aren't you?" she asked. He didn't reply. "Internal?" She felt the phantom memory of his gasps against her neck… His blood on her shoulder. "When will you be better?"
Severus looked at her, scowling. "Why are you here? What will you do if your uncle asks you why you visited?"
"I wanted to make sure you were okay," Hermione answered, fighting to keep her voice even. "If he asks, I'll tell him the truth. His followers haven't really accepted me as yet, and I was worried for one of the few people I trusted." Her words sounded almost scripted. When Severus raised an eyebrow, she smiled thinly. "I practiced before I came down," she said.
Severus didn't look comforted. "Now that you know I'm alive, you may leave," he said, narrowing his eyes. His voice was soft, but cold. "And for the future, don't waste my time unless you have some news." He turned again so that he was facing the curtain.
Hermione bristled, not knowing how to feel. She might have expected this, but… Gods, he was infuriating. "I did have some news," she stated. She turned around and gently took hold of the curtains. Eyeing the cheap border, she said in a clear, painfully casual voice, "Fenrir likes me." She glanced at Severus and saw that she had his undivided attention now. He was watching her with narrowed, disturbed eyes. She almost smirked at his discomfort. "I mean, he really, really likes me." Without waiting for a reply, she'd thrown back the curtains and walked out, leaving Severus to wonder and worry about her words for the next four hours that he was there in the hospital.
End of Chapter 6
Did Hermione seem bitchy in that chapter? Oh, Mione, Mione…
And what did Fenrir mean about Hermione's penchant for punishment?
Bellatrix confronts Severus.
Voldemort has a conversation with Hermione. (You'll never guess what this is about!)
Severus and Hermione, in a deserted dungeon, arguing about Fenrir. … Yeah, this'll end well…