Hermione couldn't have said with any accuracy how long she had been lying on the floor, tied up, and with nothing to do besides listen to hear if Snape was coming back. The books in the room had been old school books, most being various levels of the Standard Book of Spells. She wondered if they too would have original editions made by the Half-Blood Prince or if it was something he had reserved for his potions textbook. She had begun to relax, after the attack she had been hyper aware as the adrenaline coursed through her veins. Now, she felt sluggish and tired. It did not help that anytime she breathed too deeply her torso would flare with pain. A combination of rolling and worming had left her tucked in a corner, a position that would afford her more protection if he did attack again. While she did not innately distrust Snape, she had learned that this Snape was a fundamentally different man than the one she knew in school and the one she had grown to know through his journals. She could only hope that he had left to collect himself and not to report to Voldemort that he had captured a Seer.
The tiny whine the door emitted roused her from her dozing thoughts. Keeping her eyes closed, she listened for the sound of approaching footfalls. When she heard nothing, she cautiously peeked out from beneath her latches to see Severus Snape standing in the doorway. The man looked like an emotional void, posture relaxed and face neutrally set but something seemed off. His gaze was staring fixedly at her. Sensing that he was deciding something crucial, Hermione kept perfectly still. Afraid that the slightest movement on her part would tip the balance away from her.
Suddenly, he was striding towards her, decision apparently made. Closing her eyes, she waited. Feeling the ropes that had kept her immobile disappear she slowly sat up, careful not to jostle her side.
"How do you know?" Severus asked, voice conveying little interest but his body language spoke otherwise. He had come closer and was using his superior height to stare down his long nose at her.
"I'm afraid you will have to either accept that I am what I've told you since the beginning and proven time and time again or continue to doubt it. You have to decide that." Hermione explained slowly, wondering if his ire at the situation would drive him to violence again.
"How did you know it was a woman?" At her puzzled look, he continued, "the flower."
"Love will be yours and unless you're partial to a hydrangea I could safely assume it was a woman." At his low rumble of anger, she defiantly raised her eyes to meet his in a silent challenge. If he was going to ask silly questions, she would make sure he knew how ridiculous he was being. "Your fate isn't decided. It's in your hands. You can save her. Save yourself too. If she goes you'll go too. It's up to you, do you want her to live?" The tall man was pacing, casting scathing looks her way as she spoke.
"It's not that simple!" He snapped, halting mid-stride. "I want to save her, I would do anything to save her but I don't know how. I joined to protect her." His impassioned speech was wasted on Hermione. Forcing herself to stand, she kept herself from swaying on the spot by focusing all of her energy into the act of wagging her finger at the younger man.
"Now listen here! You can and you will or you will kill her just as surely as what you're involved with will! If you joined to protect her now you have to spy to protect her. I did not share my inner eye with you because I thought you were a weak man. You can do this." Her anger kept her from the insanity that she was committing speaking to Severus Snape like he was an errant school boy. The need to turn him kept her face from showing the agony she was in from speaking so much after her procedure and subsequent strangling.
"I don't have a choice, they'll find out!" He shouted, closing the distance between them to tower over her slight form. Undeterred, she stepped closer, bearing a feral smile at his attempts to intimidate her. She had been through a war and emerged victorious. She had fought her way up the Ministry ladder to the research position she had desired. While many had tried to get her to give up and turn away she had never let them win and she wouldn't now either. With renewed determination, she moved closer to the black clad form.
"Then you've killed her." The pain that flashed across his black eyes as she pronounced his love's fate convinced her to push her advantage. "If you love her you will do what must be done, you joined a group that will kill her for all that you tried to protect her. You don't want to be a Death Eater anymore. Do it for her. Make your mistakes have meaning. Do it for her or you will lose her." Her words seemed to strike him, as if recoiling away from his own personal Nostradamus.
He said nothing as he turned and left the room. The click of the lock and the fading sounds of his footsteps convinced the time traveler he had left. Slumping down to the floor, Hermione contemplated screaming. Her body felt like it had after the Department of Mysteries and one of the key people in the past was no closer to warming up to her than he had been when she had met him, she thought miserably. The fact that he had not hurt her again was quietly shuffled away for consideration later as she gave in to the need to sleep.
When she awoke it was to the sight of a small jar near the door. Inspecting the item showed there was no label, only smooth emerald glass. Tentatively opening up the jar she could smell the faint odor of peppermint. Examining the contents she saw it had the consistency of paste. Giving the mixture another discerning sniff, she was honestly befuddled. While Snape had not attacked her the last time she had seen him, the gesture of giving her Bruisewort Balm was above and beyond what she would have expected.
With no mirror in the room she could only imagine where the bruising was exactly and how bad it would be. Scooping some of the concoction up, she applied it liberally to her throat and after lifting her shirt did the same for her ribs. Wincing at the pressure she muttered a litany of insults about hot-tempered men.
"It's no wonder Cassandra didn't want to be a Seer, you get abducted by psychopaths and they don't even have the decency to believe what you're telling them!" She ranted as she tugged her shirt down which immediately became stuck to the balm.
"Even when you're locked away you're still too talkative." Whirling around only to find Snape standing in the doorway she was pleased he had the decency to wait until she had covered herself back up before speaking up.
"Yes, well I haven't exactly got a lot else to do at the moment." Crossing her arms over her chest she examined the man across from her. To put it lightly he looked like death warmed up. His pallor had never been anything but pale and he looked even more drained with dark purple bruising under his eyes from loss of sleep, she suspected. He looked like he would do well with a good meal, his robes hung off his lanky body. His sneer upon noticing her inspection did nothing to improve his physical appearance.
"I don't imagine you'll have anything to do for awhile. Though, I did receive a most interesting missive on your behalf." He intoned, strolling into the room, leaving the door wide open behind him. Thoughts racing, she resolved to ignore his goading. He would taunt her with a chance at escaping. If she had learned anything about Snape, he would have carefully orchestrated it so even if she was able to get out of the room, the house would be warded against allowing anyone out. That combined with his wand and she without hers left her at a distinct disadvantage. Resisting the urge to growl she instead took the bait.
"Taking my mail now as well? My, you must be bored." Pointedly walking away from the open door to come closer to him she was happy to see his calculating look follow her every movement.
"You're meeting Dumbledore." He stated, placing his hands behind his back.
"Well, I certainly hope to. Even Seers are in need of steady jobs. We can't all turn tricks in Knockturn alley." Giving him a winsome smile she was slightly put out to see he didn't seem effected by her barb.
"You will be meeting with Dumbledore and I will be going with you." Massaging her temples she wished she at least had a chair to sit down in before addressing his wishes.
"I'm going to assume he will be meeting me at my room." When he did not contradict her, she continued on, "Do you really think it's wise? He's going to think meeting with me is a trap if you're there when he walks in the door. Why not wait until the interview is over and I can introduce you. Explain to him why you're doing what you're doing."
"No. He will not know why I'll be doing it. Never — never tell! This must be between us! Swear it!" The tall man advanced on her, a look of crazed anguish twisting his features.
"I swear it! I will never tell anyone that you're doing it for her. No one. But Dumbledore will not accept that you've changed sides if I can not say something to him." She made placating gestures to the man who seemed on the verge of either crying or hurling her across the room in a fit of rage.
"I will speak to him. I will save Lily. You will help me, Seer." His anger seemed to drain from his body, leaving him resolute and immovable.
"I have already promised to help you. You don't have to threaten me. I approached you after all. I'm continuing to speak to you because I want to help you. But I will not help you as a prisoner. I will not help you under threat of violence. If you want my help, if you want to save Lily, you will treat me with respect. Is that clear?" At his begrudging nod in acknowledgement, she felt the fear recede. While it was far from the perfect arrangement as long as he believed he needed her she would be safe. His love of Lily was obsessional as much as devotion. He had fixated on her for so long and thought her beyond his reach that the mere chance that he could have her again had ignited desperation for her. Anything that could help him to get her was vital to him. As long as she could remain vital, she could remain alive she reasoned. That did not mean that she would trust him though. She trusted his love of Lily, not the man who stood before her.
"Good, now I am in desperate need of food and a shower." Hermione placed her hands on her hips to show she meant business. Snape seemed to be warring with himself as irritation flashed across his eyes.
"Very well, follow me." If she had thought the room she had been in was run-down, the house showed her what squalor really was. The wallpaper was peeling from the walls, the carpeting had numerous splotches in varying colors that she did her best not to step on, and the very air had a musty and unpleasant aroma.
"I'll need my wand back." Though he did not turn around, she could imagine the look he was giving her. "I won't repeat myself." After a flight of stairs and a quick right turn, the pair had entered the kitchen. Seating herself at the table that wobbled slightly, she watched as Snape efficiently moved about collecting left-overs and two glasses of water.
"I'm Maya Dunn, by the way." The silence stretched on. "You could at least tell me your name."
"I thought you knew everything." The cold detachment of his voice had her huffing in annoyance.
"Don't be stupid." Tapping her fingers impatiently on the desk she ignored the thunderous look he leveled at her, "Of course I don't know everything. That's not how the Fates work. They don't draw up a list of details on everyone; they tell me what they find relevant. Often, it takes a lot of time and thought to pull apart what they meant. It's not some mystical free for all, I'm not privy to all the details of your life and the second you stop treating me like a mind reader the better off we'll both be."
"Don't call me stupid." Every word was spoken crisply and further stressed by the sound of two glasses of water slapping down on the table. Choosing to ignore his outburst, Hermione sipped at her water. Savoring the soothing feeling it brought to her throat she massaged her aching jaw reflexively. Halting her movements when she saw his assessing eyes following her every movement she gulped down the remainder of the water.
"I didn't hurt your jaw." Fighting the urge to gasp, Hermione let her body relax, reclining into her chair and opening up her posture. Severus Snape was far too observant for his own good, she thought critically. Any sign of her lying and he would attack again like he did before. Her only way out was to convey complete honesty, or at least enough of a half-truth to sound truthful.
"You'd be surprised at how committed old, crotchety men are when they want to see their prophecies fulfilled." Rubbing at her jaw she contemplated how this world's Dumbledore would react to having a seer who was wise to all of his ploys.
"It seems your… charming personality has been noticed by others." His faintly amused look at her plight earned him an indignant sniff and a dismissive toss of her head.
"Well my charming personality, as you so quaintly put it, is now demanding that we go collect my things." Folding her arms over her chest she leveled a no-nonsense stare at the sullen man sitting across from her. "Also, we will be going to get real food, left-overs simply won't be cutting it. I am ravenous."
"I should have known you would be a harpy in addition to being a pain in my ass." Sensing no real anger behind his glare, Hermione waved a dismissive hand in his direction. Before she had gone back she had expected Snape to be much like his older self only less jaded. Now, she had realized how wrong she was. He was a completely different man with both more rage and less control on his emotions overall. While she would have to be more cautious of provoking true rage she could also harry him, like a lioness after gazelle. By keeping him constantly on his guard she could wear him down until he would start to slip up and let her in. She had his compliance with her plan but he was jaded and would fight the Order as much as he helped them, just as he did in the past railing against all the members who condemned him and tried to help him in equal measure. Her plan was simple but impactful, she hoped. She would use what she knew of him through his journals to befriend him. If she could break down some of his walls she was confident Lily would do the rest.
"I'll need my things as well." His mulish expression only served to make her chuckle. "We can't get into my room without my wand, all the wards are keyed to it. Also, I'll be needing my letter from Dumbledore back. I would like to respond to him right away." Rising, she went and refilled her cup with water, waiting him out.
"If you try to run…" The threat didn't need to be stated aloud. Nodding curtly Hermione watched as the younger man stepped out of the room. Breathing out a sigh of relief she congratulated herself on a job well done. If he trusted her enough to let her have her wand back then he had believed her. Now, her plan truly was in motion.
Collecting the harridan's belongings was grating. Severus Snape was no house elf and yet she had dismissed him as if she was the one in charge. Clenching his teeth tightly, he contemplated how quickly his life had changed and all because of the damned woman camped out in his kitchen. He had been serving a cause that respected him. Sure, they did things that he didn't care for but they at least wanted him. Valued his potions and his skills. And now, now Lily was in danger. It had been in the back of his mind ever since he had heard of the cause. She was a mudblood. But, he had always believed that he could protect her. If he could be useful enough surely his master would spare her. But, it seemed Fate was the vile bitch he had always known her to be. The most precious thing in his universe was in danger and he would do anything to protect her. Even turning traitor. Even risking his life. But then, Lily was his life. He risked nothing except for her.
It would seem the harpy would have to be tolerated until then. Her prophecies would be useful, as well as her contacts with Dumbledore. At first he had thought the woman a spy herself. An outside agent the Order had contacted. But, her prophecies had been far too real and her desperation had hung thick in the air when he had abducted her. If she was a spy she was a poor one. The letter from Dumbledore about meeting for a potential job had solidified her use to him. If anyone could protect Lily it would be Dumbledore. Since the wretch already had an appointed time to meet with him in the Hog's Head it would be stupid not to use it. He would talk to Dumbledore, plead his case, and turn his back on the Dark Lord. The bossy woman was his best chance of accomplishing what he needed to and for that she would be tolerated. Barely.
She was mouthy, self-assured, passable in combat, and one of the most annoying people he had come in contact with. She would have to be watched, closely. While she denied being a harlot Seers spent their time selling their wares for a prophet. There was no guarantee that she wouldn't sell information on him if she got the chance. Her agreement to stay with him was only the first step. She was too useful to kill and yet too useful to lose. She would have to be watched. Would have to bend to his purposes. Lily would be protected at all costs and a pet Seer would go a long way to secure that.
Returning to the kitchen with her wand and bag in tow, he dumped them unceremoniously in front of her, pleased when she shot him a dirty look. "We will go now." Best not to give her much to work with. The less she knew about him the better. It wouldn't do to give her more leverage over him. Seizing a hold of her arm, he apparated behind the Hog's Head, giving the witch a slight jerk when she swayed on her feet from the effects of side-along. Clinically noting that in her weakened state she would likely throw up if they apparated again without getting her food he resigned himself to lowering himself to granting yet another of her wishes.
Releasing her arm, he instead snaked his hand to the small of her back. From all appearances they would seem to be intimate when really it allowed him to keep her more firmly in his control. She said nothing though the stubborn lifting of her chin showed what she thought of the gesture. Seeing Aberforth take an active interest in them as they walked in, Severus more forcefully guided his captive towards the staircase. If Aberforth was interested in them it was likely Dumbledore would be informed of their impromptu public performance.
When they were safely out of his sight Severus muttered in her ear, "Why was he so interested?" Her speculative gaze up at him prompted a flair of annoyance.
"He's been watching me since I first got here. I thought he was just curious about having a foreign witch staying here." Seeing the small shrug of her shoulders he waited as she withdrew her wand and performed the necessary movements to lower her wards. Placing the key in the lock he wasn't prepared for a mass of orange fur to dart from the bed straight towards them.
"Crookshanks!" The woman squealed, picking up the ugliest cat Severus had ever seen.
"What is that?" He demanded, convinced his captive must have been blind as she peppered the cat with kisses and nearly smothered it with a long hug. The cat didn't seem to enjoy the treatment for long and had soon squirmed out of her embrace and jumped to the floor.
"It's my cat, Crookshanks." Mystified at the besotted look she bestowed on the beast that had taken up its perch on her bed and was staring him down with lamp like eyes he was certain she really was blind.
"Indeed." Turning his attention away from the creature, he took stock of the room. Everything was in careful order and spotlessly clean. Something he knew from experience the other rooms in the Hog's Head would not be able to claim. It seemed she was a neat freak and exceptionally precise. Strolling across the room he noted a lack of personal items. There were no picture frames or items that could give any insight. It seemed purposefully impersonal. Filing away the information for later, he turned and watched as the woman chased her cat about the room.
"What are you doing?" When she had said she needed to get her things he had thought toiletries and clothing, she couldn't be thinking of taking the monster with her, could she?
"I have to get him in his carrier and he always gets a bit feisty." A bit feisty seemed to entail hissing and worming his way under the bed to take swipes at his master's hand.
"He is not going to be in my home." This was ridiculous. First, she had made him into her personal house elf and now she expected him to allow a cat in his home. She was in for a rude awakening if he had his say. "That thing is a beast and will destroy my home. You said you needed your things. I have been more than reasonable." Folding his arms across his chest he stood rigid as Maya Dunn cast her dark brown eyes up at him, seeming to struggle with words.
It was at that precise moment that the cat darted out of his hiding place and clawed his way up Snape like a lumberjack would a redwood. Howling from rage and pain, Snape tried to dislodge Crookshanks who instead dug his claws in deeper. The woman was at his side in a flash, placing the mouth of the cat carrier under the feline and using her other hand had shoved the cat inside. Shaking with rage he tried to collect himself as the luminous eyes of the cat shone from the dark of his carrier, seeming to mock him.
"Well, he's in his cage now so he's coming. He likes you; he doesn't come out for just anyone." Sputtering, Severus looked down his long nose to the witch who seemed to flutter her eyelashes coquettishly. Howling his frustration, Severus settled with kicking a nearby chair.
"We're leaving!" Grabbing the woman roughly by the arm, he hauled her along after him down the stairs. Not caring that he looked like a lunatic, he ignored her muttered curses as she hastily closed the door to her room and armed her charms all while stumbling along behind him with the cat carrier squashed between her arm and her side with her wand clutched in her other hand. Not caring that Aberforth looked alarmed as Maya struggled to keep up with his long strides he was out of the Hog's Head in record time. Turning on the spot, he apparated into his home accompanied by the sound of the woman retching.
I'm so sorry this is so late! I just started a new job and haven't had as much time. However, the next chapter will be out come Monday, I promise! The action in the story is starting to pick up and we get to see Severus' side of things. :) A huge thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read, review, follow, and favorite!