A/N: So here I am, starting a new one. I'm sure this scenario starts off like a slew of other fics, but oh well. If I make you no promises, I can tell you no lies, but Snape will not be fluffy in this fic and all situations may or may not be canon. This was supposed to be a Lolita-esque fic, for those of you that read Lolita I think you know what I'm getting at ;)…although it's changed into something entirely different. Either way, let me know your thoughts. A special thanks to my alpha CRMediaGal for her support with this fic!
Severus Snape stumbled up the short set of steps at Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place. Every bit of his body hurt and he wanted nothing more than to retire to the closest thing he considered a personal sanctuary-his private suite at Hogwarts.
Unfortunately, he'd been forced to play nanny for three young adults that hated him for all intents and purposes.
Sirius Black was dead, and Remus Lupin was the next person closest to Harry Potter.
He was the reason that Snape had to endure the inconvenience of an uncomfortable stay at Grimmauld Place instead of Apparating back to Hogwarts like he'd done many other nights. Lupin had been watching over Ron, Hermione, and Harry since the start of summer. It was Snape's misfortune when there was a full moon, as Lupin had to hide from the world and chain himself up in an undisclosed area.
Dumbledore deemed it necessary for Snape to take Lupin's place, despite his dry, polite, and then emphatically bellowed 'no's'." It hadn't matter to the elderly, white-haired wizard that Snape was utterly knackered, every bone feeling as if it was imploding beneath his skin after returning from particularly trying meetings with the Dark Lord. No one noticed the way he dragged himself up to his room, as they'd all but scurried in the opposite direction upon his unceremonious, banging entrances into the house each time. Even the surly house-elf, Kreacher, managed to stay out of sight whenever Snape showed face, and that was saying something, as the elf's unyieldingly nasty attitude paled in comparison to his.
Snarling and cursing loudly, and refusing to lower his voice despite the ungodly hour, Snape managed to creep into the dark and musty smelling drawing room, where he sought slight comfort near the softly glowing hearth.
Closing his stinging and bloodshot eyes, Snape lowered his head onto the dusty carpeting, mentally willing the fiery sensation that still gripped his bones to leave.
Snape gritted his teeth when he heard his title being uttered in a soft, yet annoyingly familiar voice. Perhaps if he pretended to be asleep, it would go away.
Grinding his molars once more, Snape realized that the voice had grown closer. Prying one black eye open, the blurred image of Hermione Granger clad in a juvenile looking stripey jumper bent down and hovering over him materialized, her bushy hair hanging in a messy curtain and appearing as if it was trying to swallow her face.
"Are you all right?"
"Perhaps I'm stating the obvious, but do I look all right, you stupid girl?"
The young witch continued hovering over his form, the insult making her frown slightly. "Well, of course you don't, but there's no need to get shirty."
"Damned chit, you hold all the subtlety of a Hufflepuff. It wouldn't do for me to besmirch those innocent, little ears of yours, but do try and think. "
Hermione continued frowning, the cogs turning in her head nearly audible. Snape took that opportunity to close his eyes, fervently wishing that the unfailingly attentive witch would leave him alone. He was sure that he was a sight to see, what with his sweat-dampened hair sticking to his face, and his dust-covered traveling cloak and black suit picking up more dust on the floor.
"Do you need me to help you to your room?"
"Dammit, Granger, no! I don't need you or anyone else to do anything, except to leave me the hell alone."
"But sir, you can't move and you look as if you're in pain."
"Is your wretched need to state the obvious congenital? Or perhaps you were taught it by your fellow maudlin Gryffindors?"
"You're a right bastard, do you know that?" Hermione finally snapped, her voice wavering with anger. "I'm not daft or blind; I see you skulking into the house night after night, wincing when you think no one is looking, and I'm sorry for not offering my help before, but if you want to behave like a raving lunatic, then by all means, be my guest. I'll make sure Kreacher doesn't try to Hoover you along with the rest of this filthy carpet in the morning."
With that, the irritated witch rose to her full height and flounced out of the drawing room without looking back once.
Snape would have laughed bitterly to himself had every bit of his body ceased to hurt. He couldn't believe that Granger actually left him sprawled out on the floor, giving him cheek before making a grand exit.
An hour passed by, and then another, the stark silence punctuated by the loud ticking of an ancient grandfather clock somewhere in the vicinity.
Snape finally managed to gain control of his trembling limbs and attempted to stand up, discouraged by the thought of the long walk up the winding, rickety staircase that led to his bedroom at the very top of the house. His first condition of remaining at Grimmauld Place was that his sleeping quarters be far away from the likes of the three miscreants, one of his less abrasive nicknames for Ron, Harry and Hermione.
Now Snape realized that the out-of-the-way bedroom was his own self-served punishment. Mustering enough fortitude to sit up, Snape dragged himself across the carpet, collapsing back against the edge of an armchair. He was already exhausted by the strenuous effort, and perspiration dotted across his forehead and upper lip.
Closing his eyes and tilting his head back against the cushions, he suddenly heard the patter of footsteps just outside the drawing room. The slow, cautious gait was much too soft to belong to that of Weasley or Potter.
The footfalls came to a stop once it passed a few inches over the threshold. It was obvious that the intruder was standing still, most likely unsure of what to make of the half-conscious wizard clinging to the antiquated and ugly armchair.
"So you've come back, have you?" he rasped without opening his eyes.
Hermione moved closer to Snape yet continued to give him wide berth as if she was expecting him to draw his wand on her. She had changed out of her homely and misshapen jumper, replacing everything with an even more appalling nightgown and carpet slippers. Hermione stood wide eyes with anxiety, watching as Snape's onyx eyes opened and scornfully roved over her rigid form.
"I couldn't leave you down here," she told him in a tight voice, each word tumbling out as if Snape might jinx her tongue to the roof of her mouth before she would be able to finish her sentence.
"And pray tell, why not?"
"Because it wouldn't be right," Hermione continued, stepping closer when the Professor still hadn't sent her away. Cautiously extending an arm, she waiting to see if Snape would actually accept her succor.
Staring at the offered hand as if it was a dead rodent, Snape finally relented, knowing that his only options were to stay in the drawing room until morning, in which case he would be tactlessly greeted by two other irritating teenagers, or to allow the overbearing witch to help him to his room.
Hermione nearly gasped in shock when the pale and slightly clammy hand made its way into hers, long, cold fingers curling around her wrist. Firmly anchoring her feet into place, Hermione used her redistributed weight to pull Snape up. He roared in pain at the feel of being jostled after lying completely still for a length of time, shooting Hermione a derisive scowl as if she was the cause of his discomfort.
It took another couple of minutes before he was able to pull himself completely up, grumbling the entire time. Snape then looked down at the goggled-eyed Gryffindor that stared back up at him with a visage akin to disbelief.
"For future reference," he began patronizingly, snatching his hand out of Hermione's, "Kreacher doesn't Hoover anything, as you were so keen to incorrectly point out. He's a house-elf; they use magic to clean, assuming one was able to describe this dilapidated hovel as clean."
Hermione remained quiet as the dark-haired wizard ranted on-of course, thanking her was out of the question-his lean, black-robed form towering over hers. Snape's raving ended abruptly as it started, and silently grimacing, he began making his way out of the drawing room.
His breathing was slightly labored as he made his way up the staircase, his knuckles straining as he clutched onto the banister with each step. Snape had to pause when he reached the first landing, and once again took out his frustrations on Hermione, snapping at her to leave him alone and to go back to bed.
Hermione did her best to ignore his blustering, trying to convince herself that it wasn't she who Snape was upset with. Somewhere in the recesses of her mind Hermione knew that she only bore the brunt of his abuse simply because she was nearby at the moment...admittedly that being her choice.
She was still on Snape's heels by the time they made it up the second set of steps. He paused to lean heavily against the wall, his black hair limply hanging and falling into his eyes. Snape didn't bother with pushing the misplaced strands out of his face, as his need was eager to complete the last staircase and finally pay homage to his bed.
"Take your leave, Miss Granger," he curtly told Hermione when they had finally made it to his room. He was already pushing the door open and walking through when she opened her mouth.
"But, sir, are you-"
Hermione was cut off as he abruptly slammed the door in her face, effectively ending the one-sided conversation. She was still a bit stunned as she walked back to the bedroom she usually shared with Ginny.
She was thankful that Mrs. Weasley's overprotective nature had kicked in, as Ginny had to remain at the Burrow with the rest of her family. Only Ron had been allowed to stay at Grimmauld Place with her and Harry, provided that at least one member of the Order was always present.
Kicking off her slippers and crawling into bed, Hermione desperately tried to fall asleep but was unable to. Every time she closed her eyes, the vision of the downtrodden professor appeared. For as long as she could remember, Snape was cruel, his black as China ink eyes glittering coldly whenever he crossed paths with most. Still, his stance had always been upright and unyielding, never once faltering. He made an impressive and highly terrifying figure, and it was no surprise that most chose to avoid him.
But tonight had been another story. Even though Hermione knew she and her best friends were undoubtedly on Snape's bad side, the last thing she could do was to stand by and do nothing while he was unable to move so much as a finger.
Hermione knew that it was nearly suicidal to approach the professor, despite the fact that he'd rudely dismissed mere hours prior to her second visit to the drawing room. She hadn't expected him to accept her assistance, and felt somewhat mollified when he did.
Despite being repaid with nothing but sound belittlement and a slammed door, Hermione believed it to be a small price to pay for a man that was protecting her and her friends, for which he received nothing in return.
"That damned Sorting Hat gives no leeway, apparently," Snape drawled, speaking of what he deemed to be Hermione's unwarranted noble cause when he found her waiting up for him on his next painful voyage into the drawing room. He was still forced to remain at Grimmauld place, as Lupin still hadn't fully recovered his last bout of transformation. All of which served to further infuriate Snape, causing him to become even nastier towards his three adolescent charges.
Hermione had been curled up with a book, dozing over the opened pages when the dour professor's form spilled into the house, before collapsing in the doorway of the drawing room. Snapping to attention, Hermione jumped up from the sofa, and ignoring the snarled insults sent her way, helped Snape into the room and up into an armchair.
"The Sorting Hat could have always put me in Slytherin, in which case you would still be sitting on your arse out on the cold floor instead of here," she retorted, secretly worried by his labored breathing.
"Do you really think that poorly of us all?" Snape archly inquired, wincing as he shifted his weight to sit upright.
Hermione raised an eyebrow. "Would you be here of your own free will if you had any other choice?"
"Would you?" he shot back. "I take that back-you would. Forgive me, but I forget that you're the heart and soul of Gryffindor, always on the lookout for someone in need. It doesn't matter if said person can barely stand the sight of you, Hermione Granger will force her help upon them, whether they want it or not."
For someone that took pride in complete self-control, Snape was surprised to find himself unable to bite back derisive remarks that came easily as water gushing from a open tap. Perhaps it was because the young witch was a tangible reminder of the person he'd been forced to watch over, in a most detested place that he was stick in for an undeterminable amount of time, but Snape didn't care if he insulted Hermione or hurt her feelings. The sooner she learned about life and had that perpetually unwavering smile wiped off her face, the better.
Even though Hermione solidly remained standing in front of Snape, the light in her amber eyes seemed to grow dimmer. Still, she set her jaw firmly and went on to ask if he needed anything. Snape continued staring back at her as if she was a specter, and if so, just what her intentions were.
When a solid five minutes had passed without him uttering so much as snarl, Hermione turned to walk out of the drawing room. She had just completed the first set of steps when she heard her name uttered in that smooth yet menacing tone that never failed to capture her attention since day one.
Hermione had a niggling suspicion that Snape purposely waited for her to get halfway up the steps before calling her back down. Even so, she wasn't brazen enough to ignore him, and returned to the drawing room.
Complete silence. Snape was still sitting in the same position she'd left him, his black eyes unblinkingly focused on hers.
"If you would be so kind," he finally returned, voice dripping with sarcasm.
Hermione was stunned that Snape was outright asking for her assistance, even if he was behaving in a most ungrateful manner. Approaching much like one would approach a coiled and hissing rattlesnake, she timidly stood before Snape, waiting for him to take hold of her hand. The sensation of his icy fingers curving around hers somehow felt less foreign.
Once Snape had painfully gotten to his feet, Hermione followed closely behind him as they make a slow trek up the multiple staircases. For some unknown reason he chose to remain quiet, berating Hermione only once when she accidentally stepped on the hem of his traveling cloak.
When they made it to his bedroom, Snape bypassed all mentions of gratitude and simply shut the door in Hermione's face.
"I'm tired of being stuck in this house," Ron grumbled that next day over breakfast. "No offense, Harry, but it's bloody boring being cooped up in here."
Harry had been chewing on a piece of bacon when he paused, his green eyes curiously focused on his best friend.
"Ronald!" Hermione snapped. "You know very well that we'd all like to be able to roam freely, but Dumbledore said that we have to stay here. You aren't the only one that's bored; I've already read all of the books I brought with me."
"So read them again," Ron unhelpfully suggested.
"I've already read them four times! Ugh, what I wouldn't give to go to a book shop."
"Hermione, you can always look around the house if you want," Harry told her. "I'm sure Sirius had something in one of these rooms to hold your interest."
Secretly, Hermione had already taken a gander around Grimmauld Place. Many of the books she'd found had grown moldy and needed to be discarded, and some she was apprehensive about touching, purely based on the dark and sinister titles of the tomes. Kreacher, however, was the reason that put her off from any further snooping around. The squalid house-elf made no attempt to curtail his twisted and drooping mouth, hurling insults at Hermione when he found her poring over the dusty, cobweb laden shelves in the Black family library.
Hermione knew that she could have told Harry about the house-elf's behavior, but the unfailingly kind and perhaps foolish part of her couldn't bear to see Kreacher being punished, even if he had disrespected and threatened her. So she said nothing, and relegated herself to rereading the same but thankfully innocuous books that she'd brought with her from home.
Ron wasn't the only one going stir-crazy. Staying at Grimmauld Place wasn't an option, rather an order, that came from Dumbledore. There had been attacks on Muggles since the previous school term had ended, each incident glaringly obvious to those living in the Wizarding world. Hermione's parents had been put under strict watch, although that fact was well-hidden from the Grangers.
Hermione had been sick with worry over her parents, only going by weekly reports that came from various members of the Order who assured that the Grangers were safe and faring well. She knew that Harry was also under stress, although, like her, he managed to keep it hidden. Of course it was obvious to Hermione that Harry was just as distraught as she was, but she tried to hold herself if for no one but his sake.
Lupin had been somewhat of a reprieve to the madness. Mrs. Weasley nagged and mothered the three incessantly, and Mr. Weasley was friendly but kept to himself as usual. Shacklebolt, Tonks, and Moody rarely made an appearance, Mr. Weasley explaining that they were busy at the Ministry.
Lupin was the only one that actually spoke to Ron, Harry, and Hermione as if they were young adults and not three-year-olds. He had been more than happy to tell Harry about his mum and dad, even sharing stories about the mischief the Marauders often got into. Even Ron stopped complaining and piped down long enough to listen to their former professor.
Hermione desperately tried to join in on the light-hearted banter, but the entire time she'd been screaming on the inside. It drove her crazy knowing that she couldn't see her parents, much less do anything else as she was confined to the dusty walls of Grimmauld Place. When the Weasley family came over, she and Ginny made small talk, but it was obvious that the redheaded witch was more interested in spending time with Harry.
She couldn't blame Ginny and it wasn't as if she minded. Hermione would gladly divert Ron's attention away from his other best friend and sister, allowing the couple to have some rarely given alone time. It was a sacrifice that Hermione was willing to make, as although she loved Ron dearly, the way one loved a mischievous but cuddly pet, if she had the gall to admit it out loud, Hermione would have screamed from the rafters that he was annoying her to no end.
Hermione's thoughts hadn't been clear ever since she'd been forced to leave her parents' home. Her sleep had been fitful, and during her waking hours, her mind felt muddled and distracted. Harry hadn't talked much, and Hermione knew it was due to the fact that he felt idle, as if he should be out trying to do only Merlin knew what, instead of being cooped up in Grimmauld Place. At one point he made the comparison of himself to Sirius, stating that he understood how his godfather felt, being sequestered in the very place that he'd been desperate to get away since childhood.
Hermione gently pointed out that it was safer for her, Ron, and Harry to stick together at Grimmauld Place, also mentioning that he wasn't on the lam like Sirius had been. Harry had nodded his head, giving Hermione a faint smile that didn't quite reach up to his green eyes. Thankfully Ron had chimed in, distracting Harry with a conversation about Quidditch, and that seemed to bring the black messy-haired wizard back to his senses.
Though annoying Ron might be, his grousing and silly banter was the only familiar thing that somewhat kept things from getting too thick at Grimmauld Place.
Professor Snape's unwelcome and aberrant presence in the house seemed to bring everyone to heel. Harry and Ron both treated the professor with a forced politeness, although Hermione had to clap her hands over Ron's mouth a few times, just as the words 'greasy git' had been about to escape his mouth. It hadn't mattered that they were no longer back in Hogwarts; Hermione knew that Snape had a twisted streak and most likely wouldn't hesitate to retaliate in his own recondite and sly manner.
Hermione had an inbred sense of savoir-faire, one that had been instilled in her since childhood. Her parents had always taught her to be polite, even to those who didn't hold the same notion. She hadn't expected Snape to sit down and have a chinwag with her and her best friends the way Lupin had, but Hermione thought that he would at least attempt to be cordial.
Apparently, that had been asking for too much. Snape went right on treating them like the same witless children that he dealt with back in Hogwarts, never once breaking out of his saturnine countenance. The only time he opened his mouth was to criticize or berate, and that was if he actually ventured out of his bedroom.
The first night of Snape's arrival, the three held an impromptu meeting in the kitchen, Ron cursing over a mug of cocoa about how it wasn't fair that they had to put up with the professor during the school term, as well as the summer holiday.
Hermione and Harry both snickered at Ron's continued raving, although she attempted to be the voice of reason, pointing out that Snape was only there to protect them.
"Not bloody likely!" Ron had retorted. "He's most likely going to smother us in our sleep or lace our food with poison. In fact, how do I know this cocoa hasn't been poisoned?"
Ron had then snatched up his mug, starting for the sink in aims of pouring its contents down the drain when Hermione reached over and smacked him on the arm, forcing him to sit back down.
"It's not poisoned, you idiot," she laughed. "I just made it, and I promise that it's poison free."
Hermione wanted to add that Snape wouldn't really poison them-all the while trying to ignore that he had in fact made a partial threat on Neville's toad, Trevor, in Potions class-but knew that if she said anything that remotely sounded defensive on Snape's behalf, that Ron would merely launch into another tirade on why he couldn't stand the professor.
"I wonder if Mum and Dad would let us go to Diagon Alley," Ron was now pondering aloud, shoving an entire piece of toast smothered with jam into his mouth.
"I wish," Hermione told him wistfully. "But you heard what Dumbledore said, rather, what he told Mr. Weasley. We have to stay here."
"I know Hermione," Ron stressed. "But I meant if they came with, or sent Tonks, or hell, even Moody. As scary as Mad-Eye is, I'm desperate enough to go anywhere with him so long as it gets me out of this house."
"He has a point," Harry conceded. "Right about now, even I'd take Mad-Eyes paranoia and him shouting 'constant vigilance!' every other minute."
"Oh, you two!" Hermione scoffed. "Come on, it can't be that bad. We'll find something to do!"
"Yeah, like what?!" Ron shot back, his dubious visage similar to Harry's.
"Something!" Hermione trilled, though her optimistic attitude seemed forced even to herself. "But only after the breakfast dishes are done. I cooked, so you two can clean," she continued, laughing when Ron scowled at her.