Title: Caged Bird Sings
Betas: Lucianwolf, kallonista, snarkyscorp
Pairing: Hermione Granger/Severus Snape
Summary: Hermione wakes up in a cell, held captive by none other than her former professor, Severus Snape. She's scared, alone, and confused about her feelings for her unwilling captor. How can she know what is real and what isn't when he won't tell her anything?
Rating: Adult (NC-17)
Warnings: explicit sex, dubious consent due to questionable mental state, captor/captive relationship
Word Count: 56 800 overall
Author's Notes: This story is slightly AU from the end of the Order of the Phoenix and uses bits and pieces of canon, twisted to suit the story. Thank you so much to my betas! You were all really helpful and just amazing. I can't thank you enough.
I did some research on Stockholm Syndrome before writing this, and I hope that, despite the nature of the fic, it comes across as being a story of two desperate people in a maddening situation. Thank you for reading!
I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,
When he beats his bars and would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
But a prayer that he sends from his heart's deep core,
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings –
I know why the caged bird sings.
-Paul Laurence Dunbar, Sympathy
I can't be certain that that is the real elapsed time. I did try to keep track, but I think Snape must have noticed, because the scratches I'd been leaving on the desk disappeared over a week ago. Maybe if I could see day turn into night, or if my meals came on a schedule, I'd be better able to count the days. But I'm obviously in a basement or dungeon of some sort—no light gets in. My meals are sometimes there when I wake up, and other times they don't arrive for hours. Sometimes I get three or four meals a day, hours apart, other times I wake up and go to sleep having only had one meal.
It will be easier, now that I have a quill and parchment.
I'd begged Snape for days for something to keep me from going mad. I pleaded for a copy of the Daily Prophet to see how Harry was fairing in the war against Voldemort, but he wouldn't be moved. He did say that everything was going according to plan, but I never know which plan he means: Voldemort's, Dumbledore's, or his own.
I don't know who he is or whose side he's on, but he's all I have. And he did bring me this parchment. It smells really good… reminds me of the library at Hogwarts. I wonder how everyone is doing there… I hope Harry isn't looking for me. I hope he and Ron have carried on with the plan.
I'm hungry. My food is very late today. It's all I have to look forward to, and it helps break the
The clang and clatter of the metal tray against the stone floors is familiar. Hermione couldn't help but feel like she'd been trained to salivate at the sound. It was food. That was all that mattered, really.
Turning, Hermione saw Snape standing there. The room was split in half by steel bars. In her half of the room was a bed, a desk, a small bookshelf, a chest of drawers, as well as a toilet, sink, and very basic shower. Snape had been considerate enough to give her a folding room divider to protect her modesty, but that had taken days of good behaviour.
Behaviour that was becoming second nature.
Hermione looked to Snape's hands. He'd brought a book for her today. That was better than food, though it was only when there was food that she thought this way. When she went without, she'd much rather have empty shelves than an empty stomach.
"Miss Granger," he said stiffly, gesturing toward the tray. She picked it up and carried it to her bed. There was stew, Snape's speciality—or perhaps the only thing he could cook. There were also thick slices of heavily buttered bread—her favourite—and a medley of vegetables. She stared at the vegetables for a long moment, marvelling at the colours.
"Thank you," she whispered, touching the vegetables with one fingertip.
Snape took a seat in his half of the room. He usually stayed while she ate, and sometimes they read together. He didn't read the same things she did, so they weren't able to discuss the subject matter. Hermione had asked him to bring her the same thing he was reading so they could talk, but then he'd left for almost an entire day, and she'd been so hungry that she knew asking for things meant pain, so she didn't ask again.
Except for the quill and parchment. But that had been important.
"Is the Dark Lord still alive?" she asked, the first of her daily recitation of questions.
"Yes," Snape said, looking pleased that she'd used the proper title. It wasn't worth the thirst to rebel and say Voldemort.
Snape eyed her carefully. "Yes."
"What is happening out there?"
Snape never answered this question. He flicked a page in his book.
"Can I go home?"
"Because you are safe here."
Hermione wanted to debate his understanding of the word 'safe.' She'd felt safer before. And what was he keeping her safe from? If she were so safe, why not explain why she was locked up?
"Can I go outside today?"
He'd never said yes to that, but she'd promised herself she'd ask every day.
"Will you come in here?"
"Will you open the door?"
"For an hour, when you finish eating."
Hermione sighed and returned to her food. She wanted Snape to come in; she was sure that if he only got a little closer, she'd be able to tell what he meant to do with her. She didn't remember leaving Hogwarts. She'd gone to bed one night and woke up in a foreign bed, chained down.
She'd hurt herself trying to escape those bonds. She'd been alone that entire day—no food, no water. She'd had to pee so badly she'd been in tears by the time she'd fallen asleep again. She'd been sure she was going to die, chained to a bed, eventually having to pass water, rotting in her own piss.
But sometime in the first night, the aroma of food had reached her nostrils, and when she'd reached for it, she'd realised she was no longer bound, nor did she have to use the loo. She'd eaten greedily, falling back asleep with a full stomach after exploring the cell that was now her home.
After she ate in the evenings, or what she assumed them to be as she'd been up for hours and hours, Snape would open the door to her cell for an hour. She wasn't allowed to pass through, but having the door open gave her a sense of peace and freedom. It was short-lived but worth it. When the cage was closed, she felt tight and sometimes it became hard to breathe.
"Professor Snape?" Hermione prompted, indicating her empty dish. She pushed it under the door to her cage, which had a gap just enough for the tray to fit through. She hurried back to the bed, grabbing her book on the way. She hadn't quite finished Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, but she probably would tonight. Snape always brought her Muggle books. She didn't know why.
Snape picked up the tray and set it on a small table. He watched her for a moment, and she remained perfectly still, not allowing any of that old challenge to rise to the surface. She was saving that.
Apparently not seeing anything to disconcert him, Snape slid a long key into the lock and opened the door. The actual door to the room was beyond Snape, so even if she ran through, she'd have to battle him and win before she could truly escape. And she didn't think she was quite capable of fighting Snape when he kept his wand drawn and almost always trained on her.
Although the bars on the cage didn't in any way restrict airflow, when the door was open, it felt like the atmosphere became lighter, the air fresher, easier to inhale. She laid back and linked her fingers behind her head, enjoying the only freedom she was permitted.
Snape cleared his throat and she looked at him. He held up the book in his hand and made as if to toss it to her. Even with the door open, he wouldn't come through. She nodded, and the book sailed through the air, landing with a thud on her abdomen. She coughed, but ignored the pain as she snatched up the book.
Tales of 1001 Nights.
At least he had a sense of humour.
Author's Note: Thank you for reading! I hope you all enjoy this story. It's seventeen chapters, completed (though I'm still working on it), and quite an emotional roller coaster. Updates will be every Tuesday (the rest of the chapters are much longer).