She comes to in a moment of panic. Her eyes won't open and she tries to remember back, tries to find some idea of where she is. She finds nothing.
Even before she forces her eyelids open, she can tell from the faint red glow of light through skin that her surroundings are not as she imagines. There is a faint electrical hum which can only be Muggle. So she is saved then, and not a prisoner of Voldemort as she had feared.
She forces her eyes open wider, pushing back against the pain of the brightness. She is in a hospital of sorts, although the room is larger than any hospital room she has encountered. But what does she know of the Muggle world anymore?
There are fluids and syringes and complex machines with brightly glowing screens. Everything is chrome and that stark, medical white. She has been drugged. Her thought process is sluggish, as though she should have already figured out what is happening here, but her mind is still processing the pieces.
Her head lolls to one side, taking in the half of the room she has not yet seen. There are three men. The one in the white lab coat with the blue eyes and the surgical mask holds up a syringe with a clear liquid inside. The other two stand sentinel at either side of the door and what she sees next freezes her blood.
She has been a part of this war for years now. She has been tortured, poisoned, split open by curses. She has had Bellatrix Lestrange's knife held to her throat and Dolohov's wand pointed at her heart, but none of this has terrified her as much as the current sight. These men hold guns.
The Muggle world to her is synonymous with the safety of her childhood. It is the world of cartoons and Barbie dolls. It is the world of innocence, before danger and fear. She has fought for years on the front lines of a war, she has lived at wandpoint for longer than she cares to remember, but nothing has struck fear into her heart like the sight of the weapons these men hold.
She tries to move her arm and is not surprised to find that she is restrained. She is a prisoner of these Muggles and they wish her harm.
There is a loud clatter followed by some sort of struggle, but it happens fast and her mind is too far gone to be able to follow the action. She sees only a dark shape, moving like a shadow against the luminescent white. She knows it has come to save her.
And then there is a face, one that she never would have expected to be glad to see.
"Can you stand?" he asks as his arms slide down hers and he releases her restraints.
She nods, but her head feels large and floppy. He looks skeptical as she pushes herself up off the bed. Her feet come into contact with the cold floor, but her knees fail to lock and she's crumpling quickly like a rag doll. He catches her before she lands and props her up against the bed as he crosses the room to pull open a cabinet and quickly riffles through its contents. When he returns, he carries a syringe and a vial of liquid. He fills the syringe and injects her with a quick sting of pain. She does not ask where he has learned to do this.
He wears Muggle clothing. Every article is black.
Whatever he has injected her with clears her thoughts a little and once again her body is under her control. She stands and he is close, holding her lightly as though he does not trust that she will not fall again. The warmth of his hands burns her through the thin fabric of her hospital gown.
"We need to get out of here," he whispers.
His voice is an anchor, a point of familiarity in these foreign surroundings.
She cannot yet manage speech, but she nods to signal that she understands.
He starts through the corridors and she hurries to stay close behind him. If he has a wand, she does not see it. He moves nearly soundlessly even here and she realizes that it was not magic that kept his footsteps so silent throughout her school days. Her bare feet make a soft slapping sound against the cold linoleum.
They are obviously retracing the path he took in. The guard slumped over the counter has been shot in the head.
A broken window gets them outside onto the grounds. He removes his jacket and places it around her shoulders as she shivers in the cold air. The jacket is heavy and smells like leather.
There is a chain-link fence topped with barbed wire. She can see where the bottom has been pulled aside and she knows they are almost free. He lets her through first and then follows. There is a car parked on the other side, so black that its edges are almost indistinguishable against night.
She is trembling from the adrenaline, from relief, from the cold. He helps her into the passenger side and then they're off. She would be surprised that Snape can drive, but nothing since she woke up has made any sense. It seems silly to pick out his driving skills as the thing to surprise her. The leather seat is cold where it touches her bare skin.
He stares straight ahead at the road. The headlights illuminate only a small patch of asphalt that quickly fades into the blackness of the night. The hum of the motor soothes her and her eyes drift shut of their own accord.
She wakes with a start. She is on a bed in what looks like a room of a cheap motel. She turns her head and then she sees him, sitting in a chair by the window. The window is cracked and he takes slow drags on a cigarette and exhales through the gap.
"Snape," she whispers. Her throat is dry and scratchy.
He turns from the window and stares at her silently. It is still dark outside.
"Who were they?"
"Muggles," he answers.
His gaze returns to the window.
She pulls herself up into a sitting position on the bed.
He takes a deep breath and then gives her a real answer.
"They call themselves the Berwick Group. The Group is made up of politicians and scientists from across Europe. The Statue of Secrecy has been broken. Our worst fears have been realized."
"Our worst fears?"
"Everything we know is in danger. We don't know who it was. It could have been anyone, a Muggle relative, a governmental official, anyone. There is a group of Muggles that know of the Dark Lord and the danger he poses to them. They have been studying us, picking apart the workings of our magic with their technology and their tools. They feel that the only way to ensure their safety is to eliminate the threat, to kill every last one of us."
He pauses for a moment to take a long drag on his cigarette and then stubs it out in the ash tray. He still does not look at her.
"Muggles have been trying to wipe out our kind for thousands of years. Our magic has given us an advantage, has allowed us to stay one step ahead of them most of the time. But with their technology, for the first time they actually might succeed. They didn't take you because you're Hermione Granger, they took you because you're a witch, because you're different from them, because they're afraid of what you might do if they let you live."
It takes her a moment to fully digest this information. She had thought she had known the shape of the world. She had thought she had known what war she was fighting. There is a missing piece of information that fills her with dread.
"Who sent you to rescue me?"
He doesn't answer the question. He just stares out the window into the blackness beyond.
"The Order didn't send you, did they?"
His head turns slowly as he regards her with caution.
"I am no longer a member of the Order of the Phoenix."
She doesn't ask if he has quit or if they have kicked him out. It is almost irrelevant.
"Voldemort sent you to rescue me?" She cannot hide the bewilderment in her voice.
His silence is a confirmation.
"Because you're a witch."
"I'm a Mudblood."
His eyes find hers.
"You're still a witch."
She can form no words. She can only stare into his eyes as if she will find answers in their depths. There is anger in his eyes, and in his voice.
"The Order won't do what needs to be done. Longbottom, the Weasleys, these are Pureblood wizards who have grown up being told that Muggles are poor defenseless beings that need to be defended from evil wizards, because only evil wizards kill Muggles. The Group needs to be stopped. They need to be killed and their work needs to be destroyed. None of us are safe until that happens."
She swallows roughly as he continues to speak.
"Do you think they're only doing this to wizards? They've figured out the same things we have, that magic is genetic, and the safest way to destroy its existence is to destroy all who might carry the gene."
"The families of Muggle-borns." She wants to vomit.
So this is how it is then. She is caught in the middle of a war in which both sides want her and her family dead. For more years than she can count, she has pictured Voldemort's victory as the worst-case scenario. She had never imagined anything that could be worse. But now she can see it, a world filled with supermarkets and suburbs and television and automobiles. She can picture this bleak, empty world in which there are no hidden streets, no wands, no schools in castles, no magic. She sees a world in which everyone she has known and cared about for the past decade of her life is gone.
She looks around at the soulless efficiency of this Muggle motel room. This is the world that awaits.
"I need a shower." She mumbles, wanting nothing more than wash that horrible hospital off of her.
She stands and starts for the door.
"And I'm going to burn this hospital gown."
"Granger." She turns just in time to catch the lighter he has tossed to her. "No magic until we leave."
She emerges from the bathroom a half-hour later wearing the only piece of clothing she has left, his leather jacket. Fortunately he is quite tall and the jacket extends a bit below her waist, just barely long enough to cover all the necessary parts. The leather against her skin makes her feel reckless. Her nipples harden against it and for some reason she is sure that he knows. She doesn't miss the way his gaze slowly travels up her bare legs.
She sits back down on the bed and picks up where they left off.
"What is it that he wants from me?"
He doesn't need to ask to whom she is referring.
"My mission to infiltrate the Order has been aborted. I have been reassigned to the Berwick Group. I am going undercover as a researcher to spy on their operation, to bring it down from the inside."
She knows where this is going, but she wants him to say it.
"You still haven't answered my question."
He knows what she is doing and the corner of his lip twitches, but she cannot tell if it is with amusement or annoyance.
"I am not going in alone. I need a partner, one with recent knowledge of Muggle culture and technology."
She closes her eyes and shakes her head.
"I've been gone so long. I've grown up into the magical world, not the Muggle one. I'm not sure I'm the best person for the job."
He finally stands up from the chair and crosses the room. He sits on the bed facing her. His nearness is powerful and she feels like it should cause her heart to race, but it does not. Her heart beats steadily with a clear certainty she has not felt in some time.
She tries to remind herself that this man is a Death Eater. This man is the devil himself, come to tempt her into the Dark Lord's service. His cuff is unbuttoned and has shifted just enough for her to catch a hint of black against the pale skin of his forearm as it moves towards her.
His hand settles on her calf and slowly slides up her leg until he is gripping her thigh, his fingertips just barely under the bottom of the jacket, wedged between leather and skin. His eyes bore into hers and his voice is impossibly low.
"I need someone I can trust."
Their gazes are still locked and for a moment she feels nothing but a stark clarity.
"I could think of no one else."
The moment shatters into a thousand pieces as he flinches suddenly and grabs his left forearm.
"I need your decision now. Are you in?"
A/N: Just a little experimental one-shot. Muggles are not as helpless as they seem. I'm working on my other stories, I swear.