Disclaimer: Nothing but the plot belongs to me; J.k Rowling is a goddess, although I am looking to have a few harsh words with her about killing Severus off…
Severus thinking to Hermione.
Hermione thinking to Severus.
Chapter 30 - Voldemort's Domain
She felt fear pass through the very fibre of her being then, comprehension of her task finally dawning upon her as panic threatened to take over. She blindly took the hand Severus held out to her and watched in a daze as he summoned his cloak and the cold glinting mask to his hands, she gazed on as he removed the familiar and comforting cloak she knew so well to replace it with the blood coloured crimson of the Death Eater.
Her heart hammered within her chest as she focussed on his eyes, the one part of him she would be able to see that remained the same; and felt safe. He spoke and his voice was perfectly clear, as though he weren't wearing a mask.
"I will let no harm come to you Hermione I promise... Now you need to transform, and remember what I said to you."
She nodded and kept her gaze on his eyes; not shutting her own this time as her form twisted and fur grew as did a tail. Vixen gazed up at him through terrified cinnamon eyes as the collar jingled at her neck from its own change, she did not make a sound as he lifted her into his arms and hurriedly extended his wand; a small patronus darting away to inform Dumbledore. He all but ran through the passageway as Hermione buried her head to his chest, the familiar smell calming her nerves as she felt the cool wind pass through her fur; signalling their arrival outside.
The tugging she despised pulled at her stomach as they apparated and the cool wind disappeared to be replaced by another chill, one not as welcoming as it seemed to clutch at her heart. She was dropped upon the floor and scarcely had time to compose herself before she was running after him, trotting at his heels and trying to keep up as her gaze roamed over the dark corridor. Torches lit their way through the halls and the usually comforting orange light she felt familiar with was tinged green and looked menacing and out of place here, the walls were bare and dark; the stone cracked in places.
As Severus' pace sped up she could hear voices, a low murmur of them before they reached an archway; one they entered through to stand at the outside of the room. She was momentarily grateful for Severus' reputation and false representation of his temper as it seemed to keep the other hooded and masked men away. She found herself butting her head against his leg to seek comfort, knowing he would not pick her up here she settled for hiding within the folds of his cloak.
From her vantage point she could see many shoe clad feet moving over the floor, some shining and some dull; she could bet that all she would need to do as Hermione to discover whom was a death eater, would now be to look down at their shoes.
She watched as a pair of gleaming shoes and the tip of a cane made their way toward where they were stood, she backed further into the folds of his cloak as a loud squawk came from what she presumed must be Malfoy senior's familiar. Her ears stood up to listen to what was being said above her.
"Severus, wonderful to see you again so soon..." She unconsciously bared her teeth at the arrogant drawl he spoke in, her claws digging into the hard stone below her.
She leant her head against Severus' leg, showing her support as he replied.
"Wonderful is not quite the term I would have used to describe seeing you again Lucius."
She stuck the bottom of her head out from beneath his cloak to look up at Malfoy's face twisted in an expression of disgust.
"Where is that oversized rat of yours, perhaps we should introduce her to Odyne?"
This is when Hermione's eyes flitted across to the large bird sat upon Malfoy's shoulder, its curved beak reminding her of a fisherman's blade. She narrowed her eyes as her mind processed the name of the bird... Odyne was the ancient Greek Goddess of pain, how fitting. The bird, which she now knew was Augurey or Irish phoenix, was clicking its large curved beak before it tilted its head at an unnatural angle to look down at her.
She continued to hold its gaze thinking to herself of its description in 'Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them' to calm herself.
'The Augurey is a thin and mournful-looking bird somewhat resembling a vulture, it is greenish-black in colour and native to Britain and Ireland. Normally remaining hidden in its nest in brambles and thorns, flying only in heavy rain, the feathers of the Augurey repel ink. Its distinctive cry was once thought to be a death omen, but it is now known that the Augurey's cry foretells rain. The Augurey eats insects and fairies.'
Wonderful she thought to herself, just what we need, a bird that was once believed to be a death omen...
She had again forgotten that her thoughts were not her own as his voice echoed in her head.
Still reciting from books I see, as your regurgitated babble said 'once thought to be a death omen' that theory was proved incorrect, now get out here and act like a fox.
She made sure to dig her claws into his leg before venturing out from the safety of his cloak into the wide room, again remembering her role she extended her claws before her to stretch, her back arching as her tail flicked high in the air. She then sat with her tail wrapped around her at Severus' feet, her eyes flicking over the room fully before landing on Malfoy who was still stood before them. She tilted her head as she looked to the bird and licked her lips, the scent of the thing finally reaching her, she could tell it was fed well as it looked down from his shoulder and squawked again at her. She bared her teeth at it and watched as the bird dug its claws into Malfoy's shoulder; whom in turn reached his hand up to hit the bird. The Augurey flapped its large wings as it fell and managed to gain flight, as her instincts took over she belted after it, the scent too inviting to ignore as every now and then she would jump up extending a claw after it. She was so close to it as she wove throughout the room and began jumping up steps as the tail got closer, she was about to pounce before large feet came into view surrounded by the velvet of a deep crimson cloak and she froze; not daring to go any closer.
Odyne the Augurey did not apparently have the same sense as Hermione, for she continued to fly straight for the Dark Lord himself who was seated in his throne. Hermione was frozen on the spot as she saw the red eyes she had so often had nightmares about watch her as a pale, skeletal hand extended a white wand and aimed it without looking at the bird. There was a green flash as it fell with a thump, its wing bent at an odd angle and Hermione swallowed, looking up to those cold red eyes again. The whole room had gone silent as Hermione dared not move before him, her heart racing as her gaze again flickered to the dead bird.
"Lucius, Severus." The cold voice demanded they both approached him, as they did and still she did not move, her gaze still focussed upon the bird.
"Do tell me Lucius, why you could not keep control of one animal. Your bird has been with you longer than Severus and his familiar; and yet she knew to stop where yours did not, why?"
She daren't turn around as she heard the shuffling of material and the arrogant drawl of Malfoy senior.
"My Lord, forgive me... The bird was dumb, you have done me a service my lord I-"
Hermione barely contained her flinch at Voldemort's tone.
"A service Lucius?"
She could practically smell the fear from Malfoy behind her as she kept her gaze locked on the bird, not really seeing it. Part of her felt pity for the man crouched behind her as he himself appeared to realise his blunder in the term of phrase he had used.
"No my lord, I did not mean-"
A single word, drawled with such boredom and yet holding such venom did make her flinch as white light flashed from his wand at the spoken curse.
His screams echoed around them as her ears flattened against her skull, her tail twitching as she tried to block out the noise to little avail. The scream seemed to catch in Malfoy's throat as he begin gurgling slightly, she was sure had she turned around; she would see blood dripping from his mouth. She could not help but be terrified as she realised that had she continued; it would also be her laying there dead, and Severus being tortured at Voldemort's feet. Once the screaming had stopped she looked up again to see that same red gaze upon her, she could not help the reflex to swallow the bile that rose to her throat.
"Severus, approach me."
She heard the familiar sound of his boots as he climbed the stone steps towards her, his feet stopping beside her as he knelt; Hermione herself trembled to see such a powerful man kneeling before this monster.
"Pick your familiar up Severus, and bring her to me."
She swallowed again and began shaking, every instinct she had both human and fox were telling her to bolt, to run as hard and fast as she could to get away... But that would be a betrayal to Severus and so she remained.
She knew that this was an unusual request for Voldemort to have made as Severus hesitated but a moment before picked her up in the familiar cradle, she could not take her eyes off of the skeletal form before her. She dug her claws into Severus' arms as he tried lowering her to Voldemort, fear making her tremble. She heard the familiar voice and the command within it when he spoke her name.
She retracted her claws and let him lower her, her tail flicking around her as she actually sat in the lap of the darkest wizard of her time. She remembered Severus' words from earlier as she twitched her ears and tilted her head to look at Voldemort. She was proud and disgusted with herself as she managed not to flinch when his hand extended to one of her ears and stroked down the smooth fur there. Her ear tickled and she twitched it slightly still looking at him, she watched as his gaze fell to her collar and what could possibly be a frown passed over his features.
"Yes My Lord."
It sounded as though they were agreeing on something, something she wasn't quite sure of as she tilted her head to look to Severus.
She looked back to Voldemort again confused but remembered she was supposed to be a familiar, not Hermione Granger and so she grit her teeth and butted her head against the skeletal hand that had been previously stroking her.
The chilling chuckle that echoed around her head appeared to show amusement at her actions as the hand resumed raking through her fur. When Voldemort spoke his voice seemed to be directed across the entire room.
"It would appear that our fellow friend Severus Snape has found a strong soul bond in his familiar."
She did not quite understand the whispers that began around the room.
"Indeed, only Dumbledore, and now Severus have that prestigious title."
Voldemort's voice had held contempt and disgust at Dumbledore's name, but as his gaze fell to her it turned to more of a curious tone.
"I would be willing to gamble Severus, that your familiar has hidden magic... I can feel it."
Hermione's heart pounded, she had not realised Voldemort could sense magic within a being or person; and of course a fox should have nowhere near the magic flowing through its veins that a witch did.
She saw Severus nod from the corner of her eye and was passed back to him, happy to burrow within his chest as the cold voice demanded someone remove both the unconscious Malfoy and dead bird from his sight.
She had stayed within his cloak for the rest of the night, only having to hear that empty voice one last time before they left; this was when Severus reported the attack upon his 'soul bond' and was assured of Malfoy's punishment.
She was in a daze as she felt the cool air upon her fur, having not even noticed their apparition but remaining breathing in his scent as those cruel red eyes burnt into her mind and the tortured screams of Malfoy echoed throughout her mind.
She was placed on the sofa as he removed both his robes and mask when they had re-entered their chambers, her form still shaking. He had sat down next to her and lifted her onto his lap, his soothing fingers stroking through her fur, and then her hair as she transformed back into herself and clung to him; unable to stop the tears that fell onto his white shirt.
He did not speak and for that she was grateful, merely to be held as she cried was what she needed at this moment in time, and he knew that. She clutched her necklace in her fist, the warmth from it spreading over her as she calmed and her tears slowed; she looked up at Severus feeling rather embarrassed. He only passed her a handkerchief as she wiped the tears away and smiled weakly at him, her voice cracking as she spoke.
"That was awful."
He raised a brow at her and nodded, clearing his throat as he looked down at them, a different type of awkwardness forming as she realised she was still sat in his lap. She smiled at him but couldn't bring herself to move.
"Well, at least there has been a mild improvement in the lap I am sitting in." She said as she looked at him with still watery eyes and he laughed, rolling his eyes.
She shrugged as she moved closer to him again, resting her head upon his shoulder; not saying out loud that she much preferred his lap over... The one she had been forced upon before.
"I'm sorry..." She mumbled into his neck. "It was totally foolish of me to run off like that; I could have gotten us both killed."
He didn't help soothe her guilt when he nodded and spoke. "Yes, you could have."
She sighed into his neck again as the tears threatened to fall again, her hand clutching the material of his shirt at his shoulder.
"But I found myself rather proud of you today; you presented yourself well to the Dark Lord and still remained in character."
She snorted slightly into his shoulder. "I got that poor bird killed."
"Are you saying that you wouldn't have killed it in your form anyway? It is the things own fault for flying straight at the Dark Lord. Do not cry over a ridiculous bird."
She shook her head as she sniffed slightly. "I wasn't, I'm not... I was crying because... Because those could have been your screams, it could have been my fault if that happened to you."
He shook his head again as one of his elegant hands moved to play with a curl at her shoulder. "But you didn't, we must trust one another's judgement Hermione, and you did wonderfully today."
She smiled into his neck as she breathed in his scent, then moved to stand before him and passed a hand over her itching eyes.
"I think I need a bath, I can't get the feel of him touching me out of my head." Here she shivered again and the bile rose to her throat.
He also stood and led her to the bathroom they had fallen in earlier and turned the taps on, magical bubbles filling the tub with the scent of vanilla and jasmine which made her frown. That was the same scent of the shampoo she usually used and her own soap, she raised her gaze to him as he moved around the bathroom gathering towels; she was touched he actually knew what her scent was and she smiled softly.
He turned around and looked at her with such a soft expression her heart seemed to have stopped beating for a moment, he laid the towels out waiting for her then moved to stand before her and for the first time she could remember; pulled her into a hug. She smiled as her own arms wrapped around his waist. It didn't last long though as he pulled away and raised a hand to her cheek where his thumb wiped away another tear, he did something then she would remember forever, as her heart raced he leant forward and pressed a soft, warm kiss to her forehead.
"Do not stay in too long, you will catch a chill." And with that he turned and left, his spicy scent lingering behind him as she swallowed and turned around; looking at her dishevelled and blotchy face which seemed to hold a faint blush, even through the tear tracks.
Ok guys, I hope you liked it :D I can't believe the length of this chapter; but I suppose it is fitting for the 30th to be 3,000 words in length give or take..
Please let me know what you thought! Your input is so important to me, you can also thank BigReaderUK for the fast update of this chapter, due to the delightful ego stroking review I received; there is nothing like a large ego to spurn your plot bunnies on.