She should have checked the weather forecast. That was the single thought that ran through her mind as she made her way through the busy village. The rain was coming down so heavily (as it had been for the past four weeks) that the drops bounced when they hit the ground. It was simply imprudent to use magic; she had no desire to break the Statute of Security, and it was possible that someone was tracing her magic. She wished she had brought an umbrella.
With her head bowed and her hood masking her face, she avoided making eye-contact with the few people that passed, and headed towards the outskirts of the village. It was a grim little place in the rain, and she was certain that it was just as dismal in the sunshine. The houses had been dirtied over time by smoke, which had once billowed from the disused factory that towered ominously over the area and blocked any light. The people all looked unhappy; each wearing identical scowls and shuffling off home to get warm. She was certain that she could never fit in a place like this; but the person she was seeking would certainly find himself at home there.
As she passed the last of the small shops, she turned left into a back alley between two rows of identical houses. The alley was filthy; graffiti was sprayed across the wall, and piles of rubbish lined the sides. A rat scurried past her feet, and she fought the urge to squeal; even though she had witnessed worse things, rodents still disgusted her. The rancid smell from the nearby river made her nose wrinkle in revulsion. It was truly a horrid place. She followed this alley for fifteen minutes, until she reached the very end of the houses. Standing beneath the shadow of the disused factory, she tilted her head back to look at the towering chimney. It was a threatening sight; reminding her of the dangerous position she had put herself in. This was not her final destination, however, but she was close.
Continuing past the factory, the silence was broken as a dog barked. It made her jump, and she whipped round with her wand drawn. There was no one there, but it was better to be safe than sorry. Turning right after the factory, she found herself on the correct street. It was cobbled, and would have been quaint were it not for the desolate houses. Only one of them remained completely intact, and that was the one she wanted. As she approached it, she began to feel the nerves stirring in her stomach. She knew she was putting her life in danger, knew that there was a chance she had done something stupid by coming here. But how can you even be sure he'll be here she reasoned with herself the aurors will have checked, he would be stupid to return. As she came to a stop outside of the house, she was uncertain which alternative she preferred.
The first thing she did was, simply, to try and open the door. She had not expected it to work, and so found herself greatly surprised when the door opened with ease. On the other side, she found a narrow hallway that appeared not to have been touched for some time. The front room was, oddly, completely empty. Drawing her wand, she moved along the hallway to the back room. It was furnished as a small sitting room although, by the tiles on the walls, she could tell that it was formerly the kitchen. It was the strangest house she had ever seen, but she supposed that was because it wasn't a home.
Tentatively, she moved towards the small table that stood next to the only chair in the room. There was a pile of newspapers on it; the oldest dating from three months previously, the newest dating from only the day before. Her stomach flipped with anxiety. This seemed to confirm that the house had, at a recent time, been inhabited. She did not linger on this fact, however, as she was distracted by the front of the newspaper. She wanted to laugh aloud at the falsified propaganda that had been printed; her laughter was almost hysterical, for in truth she wanted to cry. The Death Eaters were in control of almost everything now, and it had only been two months since that fateful night at Hogwarts.
Even as she pondered these events, she knew that someone had entered the room. Being in hiding for the past few weeks, her senses had been heightened, and the back of her neck prickled with fear and awareness. She let out a small sigh to steady her nerves, before whipping round to face whoever had entered the room. It was him. She was not surprised; in fact, she was almost relieved. She was glad it was not an auror, as her presence there would have caused yet more chaos.
"Professor Snape." She breathed, her voice nothing more than a whisper.
"Miss Granger." His voice was clipped and formal, but tinged with a threat. She slipped her wand into her sleeve as a form of surrender, a peace offering. She was not there to harm him.
"I hope I'm not intruding."
It was clearly not the response he was expecting, for he raised an eyebrow. Hermione noticed that he was unwashed and unkempt; his robes were shabby, and his filthy hair had been tied back to prevent it becoming worse. She was probably in a similar state – being on the run was certainly not good for one's appearance.
"I have to say, Miss Granger, I am thoroughly disappointed in you."
"Oh?" She asked, being presumptuous enough to sit in the armchair without an invitation. "Why is that, sir?"
"Firstly you have come to my home, as it seems, completely alone with no apparent purpose. Secondly, your reaction has been thoroughly anti-climactic; I was at least hoping for hysterics, shouting and perhaps a pathetic attempt at an Unforgivable like you dear friend. And finally, because you seem to be lacking any sense of decorum by walking into my house unannounced."
Hermione offered him a half smile and a shrug, resting her head against the back of the chair. Even though it was old and worn, she was both warm and comfortable. She stretched out her legs and gave a satisfied sigh at the relief of being sat down. She had walked terribly far.
"This is the first time I've been inside for three weeks. I've been living rough, you see, moving around the country." He raised an eyebrow. "I know that isn't an excuse for my rudeness, sir." He said nothing in reply, but simply conjured another chair and sat down.
"Now tell me, why are you here?"
That was a very complex question, and Hermione was not certain of the answer herself. A whole mélange of things had led her to taking drastic measures, but she could not identify the reason why she had decided to track him down.
"I need your help, Professor." A dark look fell across his face, making him look more ominous than he usually did.
"My my! Seeking help from a known murderer? Whatever has happened to our self-righteous Miss Granger?"
"I still trust you. Professor Dumbledore trusted you and, despite your actions, his portrait it still defending you. He told Harry that you were not a great concern, that you were still 'an honourable man'."
"Well then you are a fool. Just like he was. I killed him, Granger."
"And I believe there is a reasonable explanation for it – not that you'll tell me what it is, of course."
He stared at her for a moment, his eyes narrowed. He was clearly mulling this over, trying to figure her out. Hermione still felt slightly afraid. Even though she asserted that she trusted him, she had no solid proof; he could still be Voldemort's man, a cold-blooded murderer. Although, he would have killed her by now if he'd wanted to.
"I stand firm that you are foolish. This house is usually watched every day by Death Eaters; they are only absent today because I am present here. You ran a great risk of getting yourself killed, Miss Granger."
"No matter where I go, I'm at risk!"
"But why are you not with Mr Potter, as the papers are purporting you to be? You said you have not been indoors for almost three weeks..." Hermione sighed, bringing a hand down to cover her eyes.
"I've been on the run, sir; living in forests, caves….anywhere inconspicuous where I could lay down my head."
"I do not understand."
"They left me!" She exclaimed. "They left me, Professor, and I had no other choice!"
Three weeks earlier
"I don't see why we have to do all the bloody cleaning up." Ron moaned, throwing himself onto his freshly-made bed. "You'd think we were House Elves, the way she's going on!" Hermione gave Ron a scolding look, before waving her wand and straightening the bed clothes beneath him. Harry was sat on the floor in the corner, lazily moving his wand to make a feather duster haphazardly dust the ceiling. It was a beautiful summer's day outside, the sun was high in the sky and blazing down across the Devonshire countryside; not that any of them had had the chance to experience it, for Molly had been cracking the whip.
"It's your brother's wedding tomorrow!" Hermione chastised. "You should want to help!"
"And I do. That's why me and Harry are showing people to their seats, isn't that right, mate?"
Hermione rolled her eyes and sat on the floor, pulling out a thick book from underneath the bed. It was a compilation, a collection of information that she had made; it told them almost everything they needed to know about the creation and destruction of Horcruxes, as well as important details about the Death Eaters and Lord Voldemort. She opened the book to the first page, where she had created a detailed time schedule. The boys had told her it was a waste of time, and that it was very unlikely things would go to plan, but she liked to be prepared. The only time slot she had not been able to fill, was what they would do directly after leaving The Burrow.
"So" she started, "I think now is the ideal time to decide where we're going to go next." She looked at Harry expectantly, smiling warmly at him.
The smile slid from Hermione's face, to be replaced by a pensive frown. Harry had always said that he wanted to visit Godric's Hollow, but Hermione thought that it was a terribly dangerous idea. Voldemort knew Harry; she was certain that all they would find there would be a life-threatening trap.
"I understand that you want to see the place you lived, but – "
"But you don't understand, do you? Otherwise we wouldn't be arguing about this. Again."
"It could be dangerous, Harry! They'll be expecting you, and who knows what could happen? I really think we should concentrate on finding the identity of R.A.B…Ron, what do you think?" Ron looked sheepish as the attention was turned to him.
"Well…er…I sort of think we should do what Harry wants really. I mean, he is The Chosen One and all that…"
Hermione let out a scoff. She could not believe how obstinate they were being; couldn't they see how dangerous it was? She let out a disgruntled sigh and slammed the book shut, shoving it back under the bed.
"If we should disregard our safety, simply because Harry is 'The Chosen One' I'm not entirely sure I want to come on this trip."
"Maybe it would be best if you didn't." Harry snapped. Ron let out a quiet gasp, looking from Harry to Hermione with wide eyes. Hermione felt her heart jump, and her eyes inexplicably well with tears.
"So you'd rather do this without me?" She stammered. "You…you would rather I didn't come?" Harry moved to sit next to her, putting a comforting arm around her shoulders.
"For your own safety, Hermione. You're afraid, I can tell. There isn't room for fear on a trip like this. Everywhere we go we'll brush death; it's inevitable."
She pushed his arm away from her, scrambling to her feet. Something inside of her had snapped. Ever since Dumbledore had been murdered, Hermione had been planning what they should do. She knew more about Voldemort's Horcruxes than Ron and Harry put together; in fact, she had dedicated most of her time to learning about them. Whilst they had been playing Quidditch and lounging about in the sunshine, behaving as if there was nothing wrong, she had been dedicating her time to real hard work. You-Know-Who wouldn't be lying around in bed until midday and sneaking to the local pub of an evening, would he? They needed to be as planned as he was, if they wanted a chance of beating him. The very idea that they would discard her, simply because she was feeling a little natural fear, sickened her. Weren't they supposed to be a trio – the Golden Trio?
"You need me! If I don't come with you, you'll know nothing!" She picked up the book and shook it at them. "This is what will help you defeat You-Know-Who, Harry! Not false bravado and sheer luck! I'm going to my room, and taking this with me. You know where to find me, when you finally come to your senses."
Hermione locked herself in her room, throwing the book angrily beneath her bed. The truth was they had hurt her by saying that she should not come. It was as though her work meant nothing to them. She knew that they had never understood her love for research and learning, but surely in this situation they had to realise how important it was. Muttering under her breath, she sat at the vanity table and began roughly brushing her hair. By the time she finished, it would be a huge unmanageable puff, but in the meantime it allowed her to vent her frustration. She was so angry at both of them – Ron especially. They had spoken often about Harry, and they had both agreed that he seemed more reckless now than ever; he appeared to have no plan, no idea what he was really going to do. But it seemed that Ron was not brave enough to admit this to Harry himself. She flung the brush down on the table in a fit of pique, cringing when it bumped the mirror with a clatter.
Alone in her room, she spent the next couple of hours reading. Hermione knew that it would take them a while to apologise, it always did, and so she was not expecting to seem them until the next morning. She sincerely hoped that their little argument would not ruin Bill and Fleur's wedding; it was going to be a wonderful day, and she certainly did not want to be the one to ruin it. As she turned the page, a tentative knock rang out around the room. Hermione looked up in surprise, before shouting "Come in!" It was Mrs Weasley. She smiled at Hermione nervously as she entered the room, shutting the door behind her with a quiet click.
"Is everything alright?" Hermione asked. She hoped that Mrs Weasley did not want her to polish the silver again.
"Do you know where the boys have got to, dear?" Hermione folded the corner of the page, closed the book and placed it on the bed.
"Well we had a tiff a few hours ago, so the last time I saw them they were in Ron's room."
"I've checked. They don't appear to have been there for some time." Hermione frowned thoughtfully. She looked towards the window; the dark was dense, you could see nothing.
"I can't imagine they'll be playing Quidditch at this time of night…" Molly let out a small sigh. "That is very odd indeed!"
Hermione could not help but feel a niggle of worry in the pit of her stomach. They had parted ways angrily, and Hermione's mother had always said 'do not let the sun go down on your anger'. A small voice in the back of her head muttered what if they've left you, what will you do? She shook her head to try and dispel the fears, but they were only worsened when a tapping sound came from the window. Shakily, Hermione opened the latch and an unfamiliar owl flew in.
"Mrs Weasley…" Molly took the letter that was attached to the bird's foot, and Hermione saw a flash of Harry's scribbling handwriting. Molly cleared her throat, wiping away a small tear.
"We…we're sorry Hermione. Please remember that…that we only want you to be safe. Don't worry about…about us – you…you taught us well. Harry and…and Ron."
Hermione sat in stony silence as Mrs Weasley comforted her briefly, before running from the room to tell Arthur that the boys had gone. It was not in Hermione's nature to cry, she seldom did it, but at that moment she let out a strangled sob. They had left her. This was the first time in all of their years as friends that they had ever carried out a threat, and they had completely left her behind. She balled her fists in anger, before thumping the bed and letting out another sob. Didn't they realise that she would be in danger now more than ever? Letting out a shaky sigh, she began to think seriously. She would have to leave, possibly go into hiding. It was no secret that the ministry would fall any day now – and when that happened, she would possibly only have days before they came for her. With a quick swoop of her wand, various important items flew into a large corduroy bag. She closed her eyes for a moment, breathing deeply to calm her nerves, before disapparating into the night.
Snape focused his eyes on her suspiciously. He raised an eyebrow as she squirmed beneath his discomfiting gaze. Hermione stuck out her chin defiantly, as he leant back and asked a question.
"How did you come to the conclusion that I would be your safest choice?" Hermione smiled wryly.
"Some sound advice from an old friend."
"But I still do not understand why you are here." She leant forwards, a glint of mischief and intrigue in her eyes.
"Because you are the only one who can do the job, sir. You are the only one who can help me."
Author's Note: Here it is, my tenth fic! I've been working on this in between settling in at university and trying to deal with the homesickness. Thankfully both seem to be in hand, and I can start posting again! The plot will follow the original Deathly Hallows timeline and plot, but with some obvious changes. Please let me know what you think, and the next chapter shall be up shortly. Thanks.