A wizard´s trial
Making no money, thanking JKR for allowing us fans to play with her brilliant characters…the usual…
This is my first HP-fanfic and it is un-beta-ed. So please put forth constructive criticism and helpful advice rather than flames. Furthermore, English isn´t my first language. Repeated disregard for grammatical rules, extended torture of idiomatic expressions and mutilated bits of British and American English may lie ahead, be warned!
Please note that this story is set during the Trio´s sixth year and that Hermione Granger is of age in the WW. Yes, that is relevant, because the story is rated M for good reason (later on). This story is planned as a 3-4 chapter story at the most. The first chapter pretty much gives us a set-up for the story and impressions of how Hermione perceives our dear Potions master. I promise we´ll get to the action in chapter 2.
Chapter one- A once in a time opportunity
Hermione Granger usually was not prone to rule-breaking.
Yes, there had been circumstances that had made it necessary to interpret certain aspects of those rules a little more freely. Surely anyone would recognise those decisions for what they were, though, wouldn´t they? They had been absolutely necessary and completely understandable at the given time. Yes, necessary and understandable. So, if she would be caught tonight surely whoever confronted her could be talked to, reasonably. She would calmly explain her regretfully necessary disregard for curfew and then they would discuss this like adults. Certainly she would be able to convince her teacher to let her continue. If it isn´t him, at least.
She was full of unquenchable anticipation. Ever since the moment she had read about the ritual she had been fascinated. Her thirst for knowledge and her unstoppable enthusiasm for new experiences had very quickly changed into an idée fixe. She needed to see it herself and tonight of all nights was the one and only opportunity. The election of a mermaid chieftain only happened once in a century and even with the longevity of witches and wizards Hermione had no guarantee that she would be given another chance. She simply had to be there tonight! Just imagine the wonders she would be witnessing, the lights the music – well underwater, of course. She had no wish to repeat the dreadful moment when Seamus had made Harry open the egg during the Triwizard Tournament. To think that such screeching and wailing could be the sweetest and purest melody when released underwater. She had, of course, revised the bubble-head-charm and other useful spells. The Black Lake wasn´t exactly a cosy environment at its best of times. And, Hermione shuddered, it was already starting to be really cold outside. Oh, but it was so worth it.
Hermione giddily hurried down the stairs, Harry´s cloak of Invisibility tightly wrapped around her. The Fat Lady had been somewhat confused when the portrait had opened seemingly of its own accord, but seemed to have dismissed it when nothing else had happened. Hermione had to catch the right moment at the main entrance. She was well prepared. It was common knowledge that Professor Slughorn had a certain affinity for late night visits to the "Three Broomsticks". All she would have to do was to wait there and slip out before he resealed the massive front door. Hermione tried to reassure herself for the hundredth time this night. Everything would be fine, Slughorn would be coming and he wouldn´t catch her and she would be able to get to the Black Lake on time.
Hermione startled when a shadow danced in the torch-lights and vanished as quickly as it had come. Damn Harry for being so obstinate. Her friend was so obsessed with finding out about Malfoy´s imagined illicit activities that he had refused to lend her the Marauders´ Map for even one evening- which meant that she had to sneak through Hogwarts castle under his stupid cloak and jump at every shadow like a frightened first-year, honestly. Hermione slowed down and silently stepped away from the stairs. She tiptoed to the right side of the main entrance and crouched down behind one of the statues. Now she would wait for Professor Slughorn.
She felt slightly guilty for using him like this. Then again she had some difficulties keeping up the usual 100% of respect for this teacher what with the way he handled Harry´s obvious cheating in class. She had often enough been the target of Snape´s harsh words and unfair treatment, but she had to admit to herself that he was a far better teacher than Slughorn. Why, just yesterday Seamus had melted and exploded a total of three cauldrons in just one lesson. Professor Snape would have put an end to it after the first. He would have made him see what had gone wrong and thereby actually achieve something. Their current Potions teacher had just laughed it off and told them about some very important connections he had to this maker of fine cauldrons and that specialist in pyro-magics.
Now that she thought about Professor Snape she suddenly realised that she hadn´t seen him at supper in the Great Hall. That was unusual. Normally the staff attended the meals. Worst case meant that he had been summoned. Hermione shifted uncomfortably in her crouched position. She sincerely hoped that the Professor would come back unharmed. Through the last year she had thought a lot about their misanthropic DADA teacher.
Harry´s constant nagging about how he couldn´t be trusted and how the dungeon bat deceived them all had driven her mad and so she had finally decided to approach her friend´s mistrust issues like she did everything else- with cool intellect. She had started an extensive collection of 'evidence' on the Order´s spy. She had summarised what all of them had experienced with him, not emotionally, but based on facts. She had added snippets she had overheard from other students or order members. She had even gone so far as to look him up in the Library. She hadn´t been particularly surprised to find out that his exam results were equal to hers. His nearly anankastic approach to brewing and everything else, mixed with a generally uncompromising concentration and nearly frightening intensity clearly marked him as a fierce learner, and teacher. What had really left her staring open-mouthed, however, was the extent of research and publications as a Potions Master she had found referenced. Like all students she hadn´t thought about her former Potions teacher as a private person with interests and a life outside of school before. She had been deeply impressed by his work.
Ever since she had had that kind of diffuse feeling that dreaded Professor Snape was more than met the eye on a profound basis. Somehow the world seemed to choose a rather black and white view where the Slytherin Head was concerned. It always came down to good or bad, Order Member or Death Eater, Spy or Traitor and so on. As if the man himself was one-dimensional and if you got the final, definite answer as to his true loyalty you comprehended and maybe even controlled what and who he was. Hermione hadn´t been any better, she had had to admit grudgingly. She, too, had only been concerned with finding evidence for or against Harry´s theory. It seemed so immature now. Certainly, it was important to think about who to trust and who to be wary with. However, with most people you´d try to get to know them in order to judge. With Snape no one wanted to get to know the man, just ascertain that he posed no threat. And therein, so she thought, lay the fundamental problem.
Severus Snape was anything but one-dimensional. You just couldn´t 'get him' by employing crude methods and taking everything he said and did at face value. He was the Head of Slytherin House for God´s sake! It was well and truly amazing that nobody else had caught on. It was so simple really. You just had to stop antagonizing him for long enough to pose one question: 'What is he really trying to achieve with what he´s doing right now?' Hermione thought that she had finally understood what made her sour professor such a brilliant spy. He somehow managed to project such archaic images of himself that others stopped looking for the real human being behind the act. He had perfected the art of staying completely anonymous behind an outer facade that all too easily misled others into a sense of knowing just 'what kind of guy that man' was. Everyone was so occupied with analysing his outer shell that he stayed free and in control behind it. Thus he could secretly protect Gryffindors while openly doing everything in his power to embarrass and humiliate them or openly favour Slytherins while secretly nudging them to think for themselves or giving them no practical help at all. It was rather beautifully executed once you looked at it as a masterfully set play on stage.
Hermione was fascinated and intrigued. A dangerous combination with her as it meant that she wouldn´t be able to let it go. Hermione Granger desperately wanted to get to know Severus Snape, worse, she felt entitled to it as she was the one who had 'figured it out'. The problem was that she was quite certain that the subject of her earth-shattering revelations didn´t share her wish in the slightest. Draco Malfoy would take part in a Muggle, female synchronised swimming contest before Severus Snape ever expressed even the tiniest bit of interest in the bushy-haired Gryffindor Know-it-all. That was a fact.
The young witch was roused from her contemplations when footsteps quickly approached her hiding place. It was Professor Slughorn, just as expected. He was wearing a cloak against the cold and some sort of cap with furry ear-pieces. Something in his pockets made clinking noises. The Potions teacher patted his cloak and hurriedly looked around before he visibly relaxed and muttered some kind of password. The great doors swung open. Hermione had stepped from her hiding place. As soon as the doors moved she threw a harmless hex at one of the armours lining the wall. The rattling sound distracted her professor long enough for her to slip through the crack without him noticing.
I made it! I am out of the school. It was exhilarating. She had never been out here at this hour before. It was dawn and the horizon was painted a beautiful golden and red hue. Hermione wrapped the cloak firmly around herself. It really was rather cold. However, she was determined and she would not be deterred. She waited until Slughorn had vanished into the direction of Hogsmeade, then she set off on her way. The book had been very specific about the place of the mermaids´ assembly and she didn´t want to have to swim through the whole Lake to get there. Unfortunately the shortest path to her goal started at a spot just outside of the Hogwarts Grounds and therefore its shield. It took her about half an hour to reach her destination. The small bay was lined by trees and bushes on one side and opened to a wide meadow on the other. Two minutes ago she had felt a small tingle when she had left the protective enchantments of Hogwarts School. She was truly on her own now.
She chose a spot where she could hide her clothes and the cloak in a thicket. She gingerly stepped behind the green screen and pulled off the cloak. Then she stripped down to the black bathing suit she was wearing underneath her uniform. Goosebumps were spreading all over her body and she started shivering. She quickly used a warming spell on her suit. That would last at least half an hour then it would have to be renewed. Her arms and legs would stay cold like this but she had wanted to have the best mobility underwater, therefore she had decided against long underpants or gloves. She transfigured her socks into a pair of flippers. Hermione bundled her clothes up and pushed them under several branches. She laid the cloak over it. Any evidence of someone being there was completely concealed, perfect.
She picked up the flippers and walked to the edge of the lake. She tested the water with her toe. It was cold, but not yet icy. The young Gryffindor sat down on the ledge, braided her unmanageable hair into as tight a ponytail as possible and slipped on the flippers. It was still light enough to see the ground of the lake from her position. She had chosen it for its comparatively gentle slope. Five meters in the ground level reached about 20 feet. This far in only dimly shapes of plants and stones were still visible.
Hermione slid of the edge. The water lapped at her body and it took some time to adjust to the cold. The water was reaching up to her chin so she could still breathe freely. She took out her wand and applied the bubble-head charm. That would last for approximately one hour. After that she would have to resurface and renew the charm. Well, it had worked for Cedric, hadn´t it? On her left arm she wore a metallic wand-holder. Better safe than sorry. It wouldn´t do to lose her wand in the hidden depths of the Black Lake. She fastened the wand and experimentally dived underwater. She could breathe alright, however she couldn´t see very clearly. The Black Lake was abundantly covered with vegetation and the shadows made it hard to see anything in the poor light. Hermione resurfaced and hobbled over to the ledge. She rather felt like a duck with the flippers hampering her progress. She picked up a stone and transfigured it into a pair of goggles. She decided to light her wand until she found the assembly of mermaids. There would be many beautiful illuminations at the gathering according to the ritual she had read about in the book. She took another experimental dip and was satisfied.
She was just about to dive in earnest when the explosive sounds of several apparations split the silence. Instinctively Hermione glided through the water and nestled hastily against the grassy ledge hiding behind some branches that hung over it. Through the sparse leaves she could make out four figures that approached the Black Lake at an uncomfortably small distance.
Three of them were wearing heavy black cloaks and silver masks. The fourth hung limply between the Death Eaters, his hands bound behind him. Hermione watched in shock as a bloodied and obviously unconscious Professor Snape was dragged to the very edge of the Lake and unceremoniously dumped there.
"Well, let´s have some fun, shall we?"
Derisive laughter followed these words. One of the men bowed down and took out his wand. Hermione tensed in her hiding spot.
The man on the ground came alive with a gasp, but immediately fell quiet after that. The Order´s spy looked up at his captors contemptuously.
"Wakey, Wakey, Snapey!"
Another of the figures hunched down. A woman´s voice. The young witch shuddered. This voice was as cruel as it was obviously demented. There was only one Death Eater she knew to fit this description, Bellatrix Lestrange.
"So, Traitor, awake are we? Oh, I will have so much fun with you, you disgusting Muggle lover. I have thought about such a nice way for you to go. Do you wanna know? Yes? You´ll like it, I promise. You know I thought of this especially for you, Muggle-loving scum that you are."
Her voice had taken on a nearly unbearable cooing tone. She was simpering and spittle flew from her mouth. All the while she was stroking the Professor´s hair in a paradoxical gesture of affection. He merely jerked back his head and lifted his chin in defiance. He didn´t make a single noise.
"Oh, don´t be such a mood killer, Sevy. Come on, just ask me, do me this little favour, yes? Be a good boy and ask me. Ask me!"
The black-haired man didn´t move. Bellatrix spat him in the face and sprung up from the ground. Like the mad-woman she was she screeched and stomped her foot in a horrible imitation of a five-year old. Then she muttered something under her breath and turned once again to the man on the ground.
"Ask or you will regret it."
No reaction. Bellatrix shrugged and pointed her wand at the captive.
Severus Snape´s body thrashed on the ground uncontrollably. Hermione felt tears sting her eyes. No human being should be subjected to this, it was horrible and disgusting and demeaning. The grip on her wand tightened. She couldn´t let them do this to the professor. She needed to do something. She was frantically searching for a solution when one of the other Death Eater cancelled the spell.
"What? How dare you—"
"He is unconscious again. Besides, he won´t survive another bout of Cruciatus. We have already had our go with that, right? He´ll just die silently."
"How I hate him."
She kicked him hard, in the ribs and against his head. Then she once again lifted her wand.
"Ennervate! So, Snape, I am going to tell you what I am going to do with you. Listen up. Ever heard of the Inquisition? You see, those Muggles were out there to find and kill our kind. And how did they do this? They tested and murdered hundreds of women. Therefore I think it is only fitting that you will be tested, as well. You couldn´t be a real wizard, not after you have betrayed us like this. So, here´s the deal. Survive this and we acknowledge that you are a real wizard and will kill you as a Traitor. Die and you will be acknowledged as a Muggle and thus be declared innocent. Isn´t that wonderfully poetic?"
Bellatrix cackled gleefully and summoned a large rock from the bottom of the lake. She transformed part of it to a chain and wound that around the wizard´s ankles.
"So, that is your test: We will throw you in. If you surface again, you are a wizard and we will kill you. If you drown, well, that is self-explanatory, isn´t it? Since we have taken your wand it shouldn´t be necessary, but better safe than sorry, yes? We will use the magicum revelio spell. We´ll know immediately if you try to cheat, any use of magic and we´ll kill you immediately, understood? Very well, here we go."
Hermione watched desperately as the mad witch levitated the bound Professor and the rock slowly over the glistening surface of the lake.
"Magicum revelio! Have a nice swim."
With that she terminated the spell and Severus Snape plummeted down and sank to the ground of the lake.