- Hermione Granger
- Drama Romance
- Multiple Eras
- Philosopher's Stone Chamber of Secrets Prizoner of Azkaban Goblet of Fire Quidditch Through the Ages Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Published: 03/19/2002Updated: 09/01/2005Words: 220,150Chapters: 28Hits: 163,807
Falling Further In
- Story Summary:
- The story begins in the summer holidays before the sixth year. After her parents are murdered by Voldemort Hogwarts becomes Hermione's home. She joins the staff in the fight against Voldemort and learns more of the man behind the dark sarcasms of the classroom. Will *eventually* be Snape/Hermione. Lupin is again the Professor teaching Defence Against the Dark Arts, and has a black dog who lives with him - Sirius Black in his animagus form.
- Chapter Summary:
- Hermione learns more about the man behind the dark sarcasms of the classroom
While he saw no reason to tell his companion, Snape had spent comparatively little time in the Muggle world. He had forgotten the noise, the appalling chemical reek and the sheer strangeness which seemed to pervade everything. It didn't help that he was forced to rely upon Hermione for their destination. He found the various modes of transport dirty, smelly and inefficient and his wand hand twitched on a number of occasions. By watching her closely he thought he had avoided making any egregious errors but some of the customs were so odd it was hard to tell. He found the shops characterless and the quality of the merchandise appalling.
After a couple of murmured "Are you really proposing to buy something so shoddy?" he was gratified to discover Hermione was paying more attention to him.
He found the shoe emporium surprisingly erotic but nothing could have prepared him for the lingerie department; so many beautiful women and far too much lace and satin for his peace of mind. The pervasive sensuality of the place began to cause him some problems. Grateful for the concealing folds of his fastened frock coat, Snape paused to attend to a Deflating Charm under the pretext of examining a black piece of froth. That was a distraction, which meant he had to start all over again. The Ministry wouldn't like it but this was almost an emergency. Besides, it wasn't as if any Muggle would even know he was performing magic - if the charm worked.
To his relief, it did. Sternly monitoring the direction of his thoughts, it was a while longer before he appreciated that rather than shopping, Hermione was simply postponing the moment when she must go to her parents' house. She had even stopped talking, except for the odd, unconvincing burst of bright, meaningless chatter.
He twitched a cerise satin and lace chemise from her hand.
"It wouldn't suit you."
Her indignant glare was followed by a reluctant nod. While it went against the grain to admit it, he had impeccable taste, though she'd kill to know how Snape had become so experienced about women's underwear. It was a pity she couldn't share the joke with anyone.
"It's time to go," Snape said, suppressing a pang of sympathy when he saw how pale she had become.
Hermione gave a jerky nod. "How will we get there? By train?"
"We'll Disapparate. Pay for these first."
Hermione glanced down. "I don't need all those."
"We have the Muggle - We have the pounds, we may as well spend them. Then we need a quiet corner."
Both laden with bags, they avoided the lifts to take the stairs. The stairwell was deserted. Snape reduced the bags and stowed them in his pockets.
"I don't know how to Apparate," said Hermione, looking worried.
"I do, which is all that need concern you."
"Have you ever splinched?"
"No, and I see no need to break the habit of a lifetime just for you. We'll Apparate to inside your parents' house."
"How will you know where to go?" she asked.
"All will be explained when you start Apparation classes next year. Take my hand."
His clasp was firm, warm and dry and it managed the difficult feat of being both impersonal and comforting at the same time. When Hermione opened her eyes she was standing just inside the front door of her old home.
Snape stood in the narrow entrance hall of the Granger family home and tried to make sense of the various gadgets and furnishings he could see through the partially open doors. He felt useless, awkward and uncertain what was expected of him and he didn't enjoy the sensations at all.
Stone-faced, Hermione was stalking from room to room, muttering lists of incomprehensible actions that were required for who knew what reason. Because she seemed to have forgotten his existence Snape remained where he was, inhaling the stale, unfamiliar smells of a residence which hadn't been occupied for months. There were the unmistakable trace scents of blood, bile, bodily voidings and putrefaction, although he doubted if Hermione would be aware of them. It looked to him as if the Ministry had done a good job of clearing up the...mess but then it wasn't his home. From the one sound which had escaped her before she had stopped her mouth with her hand he suspected too much of what had occurred here must still be apparent to Hermione either from what remained, or from what had been removed.
The materials with which the house had been constructed were far less substantial than those to which he was accustomed. He glanced upwards, trusting the walls and ceiling would hold, although whether those cracks were due to damage or some decorative pattern he had no way of knowing.
But Hermione's agitation and reluctance to come back here was explained. If he hadn't been so preoccupied with his own concerns it might have occurred to him before now.
Stalking past him for the third time, Hermione stopped and with her back to him said: "I'll try not to detain you for long."
She looked very alone and full of pride. She should have had someone of her own with her - except there was no one left. His childhood had been far from perfect but even he had never found himself forced to rely on strangers - that delight had come later.
"As I hoped I had made clear to you, I'm at your disposal for as long as you need me," he said quietly. "Take all the time you want. And tell me how I can help."
Swinging around, her expression was savage. "You can - " Stopping with a visible effort, she regained a modicum of control. "I didn't anticipate it would be this difficult to come back and - I... I have to sort through my parents' personal belongings. I have sacks and boxes into which we can sort the items for the charity shops, rubbish and those I'll take with me."
Snape tried to look as if he had any idea what she was talking about. It was the first time that it was really brought home to him how different the lives of those who came from Muggle families were. Yet they seemed to cope without seeming effort. It was the wizards and witches who found it difficult to adapt to Muggle ways.
"I am adept at packing," he lied.
Hermione continued to stare at him. Little by little tension eased from her. "Somehow I find that difficult to imagine. You were born to order house elves around."
His twitching mouth and shrug conceded the point. She couldn't remember him being this approachable before.
"I can pack but would you mind...? I don't want to be alone in their room while I have to go through their things. Their personal things," she said in a rush.
"Of course." He wondered if it was the belongings that were significant, or the memories associated with them. He really should make some effort to familiarise himself with family life, knowing enough to realise his experience was far from typical.
He followed Hermione up the steep, mean staircase which felt as dead as the material covering it. When Poppy, Minerva and Ceres had advised him to keep her talking he hadn't bothered to point out that the trick was usually to get her to stop but he was beginning to appreciate that they may have had a point. Today was different. She was different and he missed his sharp-witted sparring partner and the intelligence which met and challenged his. When she had a little more confidence in her own abilities she would be unstoppable. In Diagon Alley there had been moments when she had seemed to take refuge in childhood, before shrugging those off while shopping in London. Now... Now he had no idea what to expect.
"I am not familiar with Muggle households. I should be interested to learn something about them," he said, following her into what felt like an extremely cramped room, although Hermione seemed comfortable enough - except that her eyes were brilliant with unshed tears.
"This used to be my room," she said in a tight voice, before she began giving him instructions in the bossy tone she usually reserved for Ron Weasley.
Snape discovered it was surprisingly effective in commanding obedience.
Although Snape had done all the physical work Hermione felt exhausted and oddly numb by the time she sank onto the edge of her parents' bed. She stared across the room to where the sun was flooding in through the grimy windows. Mum would be horrified by the state of them. Her arms folded across her torso, she watched the path of a 747 until the window ran out of sky.
Their arrival at the house had been protected by a Screening Charm, which remained in place, just as the front door and windows remained locked. Within seconds Snape had established a gentle flow of sweet air to relieve the first horror of arrival; he had a surprisingly subtle touch about such matters. She could never have foreseen how comfortable she would feel in his company, she mused, listening to the sound of his boot heels on the wooden floorboards of the hall, then the muffled sound of steps as he entered the carpeted room.
The mattress dipped as Snape silently sat beside her, offering nothing but the comfort of his presence, as he had done all day. She edged a little closer to his warmth, at ease with the intimacy because she knew it wouldn't be misinterpreted. Snape hadn't sniped at her at all since they had arrived at the house, treating her with an odd delicacy, as if she was an invalid recuperating from a long illness. It should have been comforting but she would have preferred his usual astringency. She even missed the biting sarcasms.
Snape studied the unattractive covering on the floor that smelt so alien, as did so much in this house. He was accustomed to the organic scents of wood and stone and minerals not - He didn't want to know what some of the things in this place were made of, he just wanted to leave them behind. It was difficult to imagine Hermione growing up here, she seemed so much a part of Hogwarts.
"I've almost finished," Hermione said eventually, oblivious to the amount of time that had passed. "I'm just trying to get used to the idea I won't be coming back. That this part of my life is over."
Snape studied his clasped hands. "Did you live here long?" he asked, trying to coax her from her state of frozen misery.
"All my life," she said in the same flat, hard voice. "Until I came to Hogwarts, that is. Then... You were right. I was already drifting away from mum and dad. Our worlds had so little in common and this one became increasingly irrelevant. I was twelve when I remember admitting to myself that I'd left home. For good. It was terrifying," she added in the same deadened voice.
"I was wrong," Snape said with flat conviction. "If they loved you enough to allow you to find your place in our world you would never have lost one another. It isn't the place that is important but the people, and the memories and emotions associated with them. But you don't need me to tell you what you already know."
The warmth of him down her right side was the only thing keeping away the chill. Hermione studied his set profile. "I think I did. I needed the reminder anyway. I've had to relearn a lot of things recently. I seem to be slower at some than others. Have you banged your arm?" she added, without any change in her tone.
Taken by surprise, Snape realised he had been rubbing the arm she had taken in a deathgrip in the cart at Gringotts.
"Possibly," he said, searching for a way to change the subject because he knew what was embedded in his arm, to the bone and beyond.
"You look loads better now. As if nothing hurts any more," she added in that clear, distinctive voice of hers.
"It doesn't," he said, wary of where this conversation might be heading.
"Madam Pomfrey told me that it was repeated inflictions of the Cruciatus Curse over the last two years which made you so ill - although I had already worked that out for myself. She also confirmed that you're working for the headmaster."
"It sounds as if you and she had quite a chat," he said dryly, resolving to have a word with Poppy on their return. What was the point of Albus Obliviating everyone in sight - including that damn reporter and the Minister - if she then failed to keep her own mouth shut to a chit of a girl. Although if he hadn't had that rush of blood to the head and told a room full of people that he was a Death Eater the entire mess could have been avoided. Naturally, Albus had reacted as if he'd done something clever. If he lived to be one hundred and sixty he would never understand that man.
"That would be a 'yes' then," said Hermione, trying to interpret what lay behind his distant expression.
"Hints are wasted on you, aren't they," he said, with more than a touch of acid.
"Sometimes you learn more with a little perseverance."
Despite himself his mouth twitched. "Well, yes, there is that," he was forced to concede. There were times when she had all the subtlety of a mating Hippogriff but she was usually right.
"There can't be many people capable of using the Unforgivable Curses," said Hermione, just when Snape had begun to relax again.
"More than you would think. Far more than any of us care to admit."
Hermione absorbed that in silence.
"You could have lied," she said at last.
"What would be the point? You're not a fool. The Unforgivable Curses don't require any great wizarding skill, just intense concentration and a degree of power. Even Longbottom could probably manage the Cruciatus, if pushed hard enough."
"Is that why you torment him so - to see if he'll crack?"
"Don't be impertinent." Snape did his best to keep a grip on his slipping temper.
The edge in his formerly mellow voice, allied to the sensation of being cut off from him, made Hermione shiver with distress. She locked her icy hands together and tried to straighten her inclined-to-sag shoulders because she had to know.
"Have you ever used any of the Unforgivables?" she asked in a rush before she realised what she had done. "I shouldn't have asked that," she added in a low voice when she noticed the peculiar blankness in his eyes and the way the skin around his mouth had whitened with the convulsive tightening of his jaw.
"Why?" he asked sharply. "Because personal questions are discourteous? Because the implication that I might consider inflicting any of the Unforgivables is insulting, or because my reply might give you the chance to send me to Azkaban?"
"I - Uh..." She suddenly realised she didn't want him to answer. She didn't want to know. Not today. Not ever.
"Well, that's honest enough anyway," Snape said, his voice flat as he absorbed her opinion of him - although quite why he should have expected any other response was a mystery.
Her head bowed.
He didn't need to look around, he could feel that she was shivering. If she was this afraid of him she should move, he thought irritably, just before it occurred to him that she might be cold. He enfolded her with the lightest of Warming Charms; as an afterthought he included himself. Despite the heat and humidity outside the room seemed cold.
When her shivering failed to abate he finally, and with considerable reluctance for what he might see on her face, turned to her, only to discover she was silently crying. From the splotched, reddened look of her face she had been doing so for some time.
He sprang to his feet fast enough to make her jump, although he didn't notice that. It hadn't occurred to him that she might be this terrified of him and it should have done. He'd terrorised enough children in his time just in the classroom. His fingers closed over the window ledge. Even the window frames were made of some foreign, dead substance. He wondered, without much interest, how long they had been here. He had drunk some water, and had made sure Hermione had done so too but neither of them had eaten, as his gastric juices had been announcing to the world for some time.
He hadn't done much of a job of protecting her. Ridiculous to take...offence. It had been a perfectly reasonable question, given what she knew of him.
Her crying had reached the breath-hitching stage.
"Stop snivelling," he commanded harshly, staring out the window. "I'm not going to hurt you."
She muttered something unintelligible in the middle of some unpleasantly moist sniffs.
"What?" Turning, he paused, sighed and went over to give her his handkerchief.
"Not everything's about you, you know," Hermione told him after a pause for some vigorous nose blowing.
He handed her a second handkerchief and she inhaled the scent of cypress and rosemary again.
"Besides, it never occurred to me that you might hurt me," she added.
"Then it should have done," he told her forthrightly. "Of all the damn stupid questions to ask a stranger that - "
"But you aren't a stranger," she said simply.
The trust in their eyes was always the worst, he thought vaguely.
"Don't deceive yourself. In the ways that matter most I'm a total stranger to you. I've inflicted the Imperius Curse three times," Snape added, swinging back to the window.
There were times when he thought Azkaban might be quite restful. It wasn't as if he had that many happy memories to lose. On the other hand, he was attached to those he did have. He thought it unlikely that she would report him. If she did Albus would probably disown him this time. Having left himself with no other choice, Snape waited to see what she would do.
Blowing her nose again, Hermione studied the achingly straight set of his broad shoulders and the tense muscles of his buttocks and legs. As she watched, he rubbed his forearm again. It occurred to her how often she had seen him do that over the years.
So, not a bruise then. But a scar. Did Voldemort mark his Death Eaters and if so, how? She could ask Snape, except she was afraid of the answer she might receive. The shudder which ran through her went clear to her toes. It was a while before she felt able to trust herself to speak.
"The headmaster asks a lot of you," she said finally. Even now her voice sounded high and tight with nerves.
From the speed with which Snape spun around he wasn't in much better state, but then he seemed to live on his nerves at the best of times.
"This has nothing to do with him."
"I hope he would be as quick to protect you," she said, distracted by a memory that was tantalisingly just out of reach.
"He has done nothing to require my protection," dismissed Snape. His face was so devoid of expression that she knew he was lying.
"Right," she said sceptically.
"To paraphrase Hagrid - which is always suspect, I concede - A great man, Dumbledore. A very great man."
"There can be no doubt that he's a wizard of immense power."
His eyes narrowing, Snape studied her for what seemed like a very long time. "You obviously have reservations."
"Of course you have them about me," he dismissed impatiently. "I'm talking about the headmaster."
"Then, yes. I have plenty of reservations about Albus Dumbledore. Probably more than I do about you."
It wasn't often anyone saw Snape disconcerted and it was a moment before he thought to hide the fact. He strode over to stand intimidatingly close - an unnerving reminder of his classroom persona.
"And what has occurred to make you feel that way?"
Ignoring his looming presence Hermione launched herself from the end of the bed, forcing him to withdraw or endure physical contact. He moved. Stepping into Snape's personal space she saw it disconcert him before he retreated to accommodate her. Which was how, in six short steps, she had Severus Snape pinned to the far wall.
"Don't you dare try to intimidate me in my own house!" she told him, shaking with anger. "I'm not some snivelling first year."
In one graceful movement he evaded her.
"No, you're a snivelling about-to-become-a-seventh-year. I detect no improvement."
About to reply in kind because a blazing row would at least help her forget the tomb-like atmosphere of the house, Hermione swung around to him, then paused.
"Oh, no. You don't distract me that easily." Gotcha! she thought with triumph when his expression changed before he thought to control it. "You used to be better at this," she said critically.
"I used to be a lot of things," he muttered, rubbing his forearm in exactly the same spot.
"Are you sure your arm isn't hurting?" she asked with dogged perseverance, discovering that she needed to know the worst after all.
"What?" He stared down at it. "Positive. I haven't felt the mark for several days." Realising what he had let slip, he forced himself to meet her eyes.
"They say Voldemort marks his Death Eaters."
"They say a lot of things."
"Is it true?"
"The person who's been putting you under the Cruciatus Curse. It's Voldemort himself, isn't it? You're a Death Eater," Hermione added, staring directly into his lightless eyes.
Even though he had been expecting it by this time, Snape flinched. "Yes," he confirmed, every nuance of emotion schooled from his face and pressed from his voice.
"I thought you must be," she said, barely missing a beat.
"Miss Granger... Hermione," he amended with deliberation, sharpening his tone because her lack of passion was worrying him.
"Yes? Oh. What did you expect from me, hysterics?"
"In the circumstances, yes. Unless you're under any misapprehension about what it means to be a Death Eater?"
"Murder, rape, pillage, all kinds of perversions... Have I missed anything?"
"A few things," he said dryly. "Although given that list would you mind explaining why you're quite so sanguine about my revelation?"
"You're the embodiment of a Death Eater to most first years," she said cruelly.
Snape just looked tired. "Yes," he accepted.
"Before these holidays, presuming I hadn't fainted from fright, I would have had you in a Binding Spell fast enough to make your head spin."
Hermione took her time in replying because it wasn't something she had consciously thought through and so she was too preoccupied to query his untypical forbearance. "Me. You, too, I suspect, but mainly me. Not least because you - the staff - have allowed me to see you 'off-duty'. And because of what happened when you collapsed."
"Pity is a poor thing on which to base a judgment," sneered Snape, but he still looked wary.
"It's nothing to do with pity - just common sense really. You were in so much pain you were incoherent. You couldn't even see at one point. Yet somehow you still managed to crawl away."
"So?" It didn't need his clipped tone to tell her how much he was hating this.
"The only reason you did that was in case you hurt me. I'm not stupid enough to think you're blameless - or without fault. But what you did then doesn't seem the act of a good Death Eater. Or something Voldemort would approve of."
The child he was accustomed to receded even further into the distance; Snape wasn't sure he was capable of dealing with her replacement at present.
"You give me too much credit. I don't even remember doing that."
For the first time that day Hermione gave a faint but genuine smile. "Exactly my point. Your behaviour was instinctive. How old were you when you became a Death Eater?"
Aware that he had lost all pretence of controlling this conversation, Snape leant back against the wall for some much needed support. "Eighteen. Two weeks after my birthday."
"And how old were you when you left?"
"I went to Dumbledore four months later."
"It wasn't what you were expecting?" she asked prosaically.
Suddenly catapulted back, a muscle high in Snape's jaw began to jump. "Not much. More mundane, and therefore even more terrifying."
Hermione resisted the impulse to go over and put her arm around him as she would have done with Ron or Harry. "Harry already knows the truth about you, doesn't he?"
"That's none of your - Yes."
"I thought he must do. He stopped calling you a bastard so often. I wondered why because you were. Still are, when it suits you. We're done here," Hermione added, heading out of the room without further warning.
Feeling as he had been attacked repeatedly by a Bludger, Snape followed her. Tame as a dog on a lead, he thought bitterly, wondering how much of this mess he owed to the fact that part of his concentration had remained on the wards he had placed around the house when they arrived. He would have done better to leave the front door open and keep a guard on his tongue. Albus was going to hang him by his balls for this.
"I have everything," Hermione announced as she emerged from what had been her bedroom. She gestured to the holdall floating at her side; apart from the shopping she had done earlier that day it contained all her old belongings, several large pieces of furniture, and some mementos of her parents. "Are we going to Apparate back to Hogwarts?"
Snape nodded and placed the holdall under a Lifting Charm of his own before taking the handles in a firm grasp. He extended his free hand, uncertain if she would be willing to take it now. If she didn't they would have to travel back by other means. And he... Well, it hardly mattered now.
"Thank you for coming with me today," she said tiredly, before she closed her cold fingers around his warm ones.
Shock stark on his face, Snape stared down at her.
"Yes, of course I meant it," she snapped irritably, as if he had spoken. "Must you look for double meanings or slights in everything. Now can we go home?"
"Certainly," he said, subduing the highly improper impulse to kiss the top of her head.
A moment later the musty hallway was empty.