Thank you RandomPonyWriter for your help and inspiration. I consider this chapter to be more collaboration between us than anything else, and I know for certain that I would shrivel up and die without you and your thoughtful attention to detail. Any mistakes you see are my own.
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter or anything that links back to the J.K. Rowling Universe.
The pungent smell was the first thing that assaulted Hermione's senses as she walked into the house she had considered her home for the last 16 years. Her father had been at King's Cross to pick her up like every break that she had joined her parents for since her Hogwarts career had begun; only this time he had been alone. When she had asked after her mother, his response had been oblique at best.
'Your mum is at home dear.' That had been all he'd been willing to say on the matter.
Now, she wondered how her mother could allow something so obviously rotten to stay in their home for any amount of time.
"Mum!" she hollered, turning on lights as she preceded her father into the house. No sound answered her however, and Hermione turned back to face her father; her question clear in her eyes.
"Mum's in bed dear." Her father's answer was at odds with the smile he was giving her, and suddenly Hermione was on her guard.
"What's wrong with Mum?" she asked slowly, watching his response closely.
"Perhaps it would be best if you just went on up to check on her dear," her father responded, his smile growing slightly. Hermione blinked in confusion, nodding at her father before turning back around and heading further into the house. She mounted the steps, noticing for the first time that the smell seemed to originate from upstairs. Her concern and confusion grew as she neared the master bedroom, and Hermione nearly fainted dead away when she opened the door.
Blood. There was so much blood. Oh god…
She buckled over; vomit forcing its way past her lips violently as the image of her mother's prone form burned itself into her mind…
Oh god the smell! Her body continued to convulse in disgust as her senses cried out against the smell of death…
Dead. Her mother dead and decaying in a pool of her own blood. Tears streamed down Hermione's face unhindered by pride or vanity. For what was left after this? Her mother was dead. She could barely breathe as her nostrils continued to be overwhelmed by the decaying scent that had exploded when she opened the door to her parents' room. How long had she been dead?
And suddenly Hermione recalled exactly what her father had said. She scrambled to her feet as she registered his presence, fury causing her body to shake as she grabbed her wand out of her coat pocket.
"You KILLED her!" Hermione's voice was scratchy from the bile that had damaged her esophagus, disbelief coloring her scream as her magic seemed to spiral out of her, her hair whipped about by wind that formed out of nowhere and wrapped itself around Hermione like an unstoppable force of nature.
"Don't you see? She was only getting in the way!" Her father's desperation and joy reached out to Hermione and she stumbled back as if his words had physically struck her.
Hermione couldn't wrap her mind around what he'd done. He had viewed his wife as a nuisance, and now she was dead all because Hermione hadn't acted soon enough. What delusion did her father create in his deviant mind that caused him to kill the one woman he had promised to honor, love and cherish above all else?
"She found out what you were doing to me, didn't she?" Hermione muttered almost to herself, sudden clarity focusing her mind like a serrated knife. For a moment she nearly forgot with whom she was speaking.
"Your mum wanted to take you away from me. She thought our relationship was disgusting! She wouldn't listen to reason so I did the only thing that would-"
"I can't believe you! You are a monster! How could you have thought that I ever enjoyed all those years of torture!" Hermione screamed over her father's explanation. "I was afraid of you, but no more." She swished her wand imperiously, cords leaping from the tip and snaking around her father, binding his hands and legs together tightly enough so that he was forced to the ground, falling into the puddle of vomit she had yet to clear away.
She turned back to the bed and slowly made her way to her dead mother's body. Tears leaked from her eyes as she took in the decaying form. It was clear even to her untrained eye that her mother had been dead for weeks now, and at once she recalled the letter her father had sent her. Bile rose once more as hate burned through her veins, galvanizing in her a desire for blood and vengeance so strong that she collapsed under its weight.
Her throat closed in on itself as she tried to regain control, her breathing laborious as she forced the lump that had formed in her throat down with difficulty. She couldn't have told anyone how long she had sat beside the bed trying to stop shivering from shock. It had never occurred to her that there was a fate worse than the ignominy of her father's treatment, but she had been proven wrong. This was so much worse.
John Granger began a litany of excuses after she had turned her back on him, and it was only after several minutes had passed that she remembered his presence at the scene of a crime so horrifying and disturbing that Hermione felt her body react without thought or consideration.
Suddenly she stood over her abhorrent father, wand trained on his heart as the words that she had never thought she would speak rushed to the tip of her tongue. Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately – Hermione had yet to find out which – she was startled from her task by a loud crack outside the bedroom door. She forced her eyes to investigate and was surprised by who now stood at the door frame; his black robes a stark contrast to the light shining from the lower level of the house.
"Professor Snape!" the words escaped in exclamation, and she couldn't help but notice the lines of worry and fear that marred his usually stoic face, his eyes boring into her as he assessed the situation that he had stumbled upon. Without thought, Hermione launched herself at the man who had never evinced any desire to be touched, wrapping her arms around his torso as she allowed tears to fall freely once more.
She was startled anew as she felt his arms come around her hand tuck her against his body, the warmth of his form helping to thaw the block of ice that had settled into her stomach as the reality of what she had almost done forced itself past the shock her body was still experiencing.
"She's mine!" Her father's voice broke through the silence that had descended upon the room after her brash decision to seek whatever comfort her acerbic professor could provide her, recalling them both to the man who had clearly lost all touch with reality. "You can't have her, she's mine!"
"What is your father babbling about Miss Granger?" Severus asked pointedly as he took in once more the carnage that he couldn't help but notice even from the door frame.
"Don't you dare answer him child! You are not to-"
"Silence!" Severus bellowed, his nonverbal spell doing what John Granger was clearly unwilling to do on his own. When he realized that no one could hear what he was saying, the man on the floor redoubled his efforts to scream his warnings through the jinx, his flesh mottled by the effort.
Hermione had burrowed as far as she could into Severus's chest at her father's angry tirade, her body continuing to shake in fear and despair. When her father's words were cut off abruptly, she sighed with relief that he had taken the initiative to prevent him from saying anything more damning. She was sure that her potions professor would undoubtedly have questions as to what he meant, but she hoped she could avoid that as long as possible.
"Miss Granger," he murmured gently, much like speaking to a scared animal. "I need you to look at me so we may address this situation." Still he spoke with a measure of calm in his voice.
She pulled away enough to look at her professor. "He killed my mum," Hermione muttered belligerently, "How do you suggest we deal with this?" she swept her arm over to her mother's corpse, anger tingeing her words as she tried to take back control.
Severus ignored her tone as he moved past the distraught teenager to more closely examine the form that had caught his attention nearly as quickly as his charge's tear stained face had. The woman, who had clearly been Hermione's mother in life, lay sprawled out on the bed in a parody of rest. As he continued to look around his mind formed conclusions and what he determined was beyond anything he had assumed when he first saw past the young Gryffindor's mind traps.
It was clear to the spy and Death Eater that her father was the perpetrator in the memory he had witnessed all those weeks ago, and as his own anger and fear began to claw at his heart, he realized with sudden clarity that he would do anything to protect this young woman from further pain. The desire to kill her father was so strong that it left him unsettled and wrong-footed. The red haze that formed around the edges of his mind made it increasingly difficult to function, and without thought or provocation he found his wand pointed at the man who had the temerity to lay claim to a woman who had seen far too much in her short yet violent life.
"Severus." It was only as he heard her speak his given name that he realized she had been calling to him for several moments, her hand now trying to press his wand arm away from its target.
"It's the least he deserves," he murmured, eyes now trained on the object of his intense protective streak.
"Yes, but I will not have you going to Azkaban on my behalf," she answered resolutely, her hand remaining on his forearm as she stared him down from his present course. More shyly she added, "I need you." He searched her eyes for artifice or deceit, but the truth of her words was clear even to the head of Slytherin. Lowering his wand, he pulled her back to his side, allowing himself the comfort of her embrace as he considered what they were to do now.
After another length of silence, he voiced his plan. "I need to speak to the headmaster about this. While I am gone, you need to call the police so they may handle the muggle investigation of your mother's death. I will return to collect you, so do not allow Child Services to take you. Do you understand?"
"Yes," she answered at once. Frowning slightly, she asked, "How did you know I needed help?"
"The headmaster placed wards around your home earlier this week to ensure your safety while away from the castle. We were alerted to your distress and I apparated here as quickly as possible," Severus responded quickly, not realizing that he had provided an answer to a question without sneer or scowl as was his modus operandi. She simply nodded to this, stepping away from him so he could find his way back to Hogwarts without accidently taking her along.
"Call the police," he repeated, and then he was gone.
After a sleepless night spent at her home while the police collected evidence and took her father into custody, Hermione and the headmaster found themselves at the police station, the latter dressed in a rather dour muggle suit. Since Hermione's grandparents were all dead and both her parents had been only children, she had no family to help her through this. Thus it had been decided that the headmaster at her school would be the perfect surrogate caregiver. After a lengthy interview with an investigator and the prosecutor's office, Albus was given official dispensation to allow the school to care for her until she reached the age of majority in the muggle world as he was willing and able to do so.
According to the prosecutor who had been assigned her father's case, the police had interrogated her father to no avail. It seemed as if her father had regained a modicum of sense and refused to explain why his wife was now dead. Apparently motive was rather important to the courts. So it was that Hermione swallowed her pride and told them what had transpired the night before, and why her father felt her mother's continued existence was so detrimental to his continued happiness. When further questioned, it became clear to the prosecutor that he would be trying John Granger with charges of first degree murder as well as aggravated sexual assault.
When he asked the young woman who had been placed in such an untenable situation if she was willing to testify, Hermione looked at the rather young attorney with such fire and conviction he was surprised he didn't feel his skin burn as she told him that she would do whatever it took to keep her father behind bars for as long as his natural life would last.
Hermione shamefully admitted that it had never occurred to her to press charges against her father. The guilt she felt because of this oversight was what induced her to cooperate fully. If not for her, her mother may have survived. Now all she could do was ensure that her useless excuse for a father never saw the light of freedom ever again. Motive was essential to keep him locked up, she understood that now.
The prosecutor then told her that it was his job to make sure men like John Granger were punished for their crimes. However he was required to try and force her father to accept a deal or a plea bargain in exchange for a lesser sentence. He told her that under no circumstances would he agree to anything less than 25 years to life since the evidence the crime scene investigators found was so damning, but unfortunately that meant that there was every possibility that her father could be released as early as his 71st birthday.
She considered what her father would be able to do at the age of 71 and found that she was okay with the possibility. Besides, if he did ever did get released, she had at least 25 years to plan her revenge.
A/N: I hope you all enjoyed this chapter, and I would especially appreciate any feedback you may wish to share. Things are really starting to shift away from canon, and I hope that everyone who is reading this will continue with me on this fantastic journey. As always...
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