Author's Note: This fiction is dark in places and I will post appropriate warnings at the top of the relevant chapters. This is my first fanfiction, so I hope you all enjoy reading it as much as I've enjoyed writing it.
Here goes nothing, Hermione thought. Classes had ended hours before. The hallway leading to the Potions classroom was empty and deserted. The dungeon walls seemed more dank and sinister than usual, and she tried to ignore the creeping feeling that she was a prisoner on her walk to the execution chamber. Stop being melodramatic, she told herself.
She'd had an idea for a new potion, one that would increase the power and range of certain spells. She'd done the theoretical part of the work on her own, but if she were going to progress any further, she'd need access to Professor Snape's private stores. She also needed his approval for her to work in his laboratory after class hours. She had already prepared herself for the harsh mocking she was sure she'd have to endure from him when she asked for these things. But she could stand his sarcasm, as long as he gave her what she wanted.
She stopped just outside the classroom, pausing to mentally run through her proposal again. She'd checked and rechecked her work so many times that she could recite it from memory. It was a good idea; there was no question of that. If she told the Order about it, they'd certainly be interested. But she wanted to approach Snape first. Tactically she thought this would be better than having Dumbledore simply command Snape to allow her the use of his stores. She felt instinctively that this would not go well.
That's an understatement.
She hadn't told anyone of her plans. If Snape rejected her proposal, she wanted time and privacy to regroup. Ron and Harry going on about how this proved the "Great Git" was an evil bastard would not be helpful. She'd tell them if Snape approved it.
She was as ready as she was ever going to be. She took a deep breath and entered through the Potions classroom door.
"Professor Snape?" she called out. The room was empty, the work tables cleared off and the blackboard wiped clean. He wasn't in. He should have been in. Hermione frowned. This was the time of day when he graded papers in the classroom; she'd made sure of that. She sighed audibly, half-hoping this would summon him from some shadowy corner. But it appeared he really was gone.
She considered leaving the papers on his desk, but decided against it; it was too likely that he'd see they were from her and sweep them directly into the bin. Or burn them in the fireplace. The Potions Master had no love lost for his most enthusiastic student, and she well knew it.
Highly vexing. She glanced around the classroom one last time. Empty and deserted.
Snape had a laboratory and office in his private quarters, and with a sinking heart, Hermione realized that is where he must be. Interrupting him in the midst of working in his private lab. Brilliant idea, Hermione. That should go really, really well. But the proposal wasn't going to present itself, and if she put it off she'd just have to do this some other day instead.
No; she'd do it now. She took another deep breath, inhaling the familiar dank scent of the Potions classroom. She'd never been inside Snape's private quarters, but she knew where they were. A few short minutes and she'd be there, and she'd have this over with. She squared her shoulders, and left the deserted room behind her.
Snape was in a foul mood from having had to attend an emergency Order-related meeting in Dumbledore's office, and in his distraction he was almost at his chambers before he saw that his wards were broken. He had his wand out instantly, surveying the hallway around him. No-one. Whoever it was might still be inside.
He pushed the door open with the toe of his boot. As it swung open, he scanned the interior for intruders. There were few places to hide. The great stone room was lined with bookshelves, but otherwise contained only his desk and a few chairs, separated from the hearth by a wide expanse of stone flooring. Snape had designed his quarters to be spare, both because he preferred that aesthetic and for the lack of cover it afforded. Paranoid, yes; but paranoia was why he was still alive.
There was a figure standing in the center of that wide stone expanse. A person.
Snape reflexively cast "Expelliarmus!" but nothing happened. The figure remained perfectly motionless, unrecognizable in the darkness. Apparently there was nothing to disarm.
"What is this?" he snarled. With a quick "Lumos"he brightened the room.
He expelled his breath then, and with a grunt of disgust, said, "Granger. Why am I not surprised?"
It would be her. He wondered if Potter and Weasley were involved in this somehow. He wouldn't be terribly surprised if they were here as well, although a quick glance revealed that Granger was currently the only Petrified student in his private office. He examined her; she was frozen in place, her arms straight down at her sides and her back ramrod straight, staring at him silently. She blinked as he watched; so at least she could do that much. Other than that, she could have been an unusually lifelike statue. This was an odd form of Petrificus; Granger was standing upright. Someone must have charmed her to stay that way…or used a form of Petrificus he hadn't seen before.
Of greater concern was the fact that whoever it was had broken through his wards. It couldn't have been the girl; she wasn't skilled enough for that. Or was she? He considered this, and then dismissed it. No, it had to be someone experienced in the Dark Arts. His wards were complex and difficult even for other staff members here at Hogwarts. It was simply not possible that a student, even a bright student - his best student; yes, in the privacy of his own thoughts he could admit this - could have broken through them. Someone else had to have done it. Likely a Death Eater.
So what was Granger doing here? And why in the hell were Death Eaters breaking into his quarters? He felt icy tendrils of fear creep down his spine. Have I been found out? But that made no sense; if Voldemort suspected him, he'd be dead already. And it defied reason that Granger could be involved with rogue Death Eaters in any way.
So logically he had to conclude that the girl had come upon one or more Death Eaters after they'd already broken into his quarters. But why was she in his quarters in the first place? He was increasingly certain that Potter and Weasley had somehow put her up to it. Granger was tedious and annoying, but it was uncharacteristic for her to go sneaking around his private offices after hours.
Well, he could find out what had happened easily enough. He pointed his wand at her. She flinched, barely visible as a tightening around the corners of her eyes, and he allowed himself a small smirk, wondering exactly what she thought he might do.
Nothing happened. Granger's eyes visibly widened. Snape was rather surprised as well. The failure of Finite Incantatem indicated complex magic. Any thoughts that this might have been a childish prank were now dismissed; this spell was the work of a Death Eater.
"Miss Granger, can you move?"
Nothing. She only stared, motionless and silent. He thought with some irony about the many times in his classroom he'd wished he could hex the girl into silence.
Again, then: "Finite Incantatem!"
She remained still and frozen except for her eyes. And judging by those eyes, she was quite afraid. As well she should be. The spell holding her in place was powerful Dark magic. If he knew exactly what the spell was, he might be able to reverse it, but of course the girl had no way of telling him.
No way of directly telling him, that is.
You're a bastard, Snape, he thought to himself, but there was really no other way.
He looked directly into her frightened eyes, and said, "This is necessary." She began blinking rapidly, and he almost laughed. She couldn't help protesting and arguing, even now. Admittedly, what he was about to do was somewhat unethical, but he had no real alternative. And it's not as though there's anything she can do about it, he thought without a trace of guilt.
He looked into her wide brown eyes, tapped his wand to her forehead - gratifyingly, she flinched - and said, "Legilimens!"