Continuing Tales

Just Let it Happen

A Harry Potter Story
by La. Bel. LM

Part 10 of 35

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Just Let It Happen

Hermione awoke knowing three things:

1. She was trapped in a room with two Death Eaters.

2. At least one of those Death Eaters had an extremely strong desire to hurt her.

3. For once in her life, she was actually sorry not to be in the hospital wing.

The next coherent thought that came to mind was, I'm tied to a chair. How primitive.

Hermione cracked an eyelid and looked blearily around to see a room that was large, mostly empty, dimly lit, and made completely of stone. It gave her the immediate sense of being trapped in a sort of medieval dungeon or torture chamber. Which more or less confirmed that Snape was out of ideas.

Involuntarily, Hermione let out a small moan.

All talking (for there had been some incoherent muttering going on somewhere outside her line of vision) stopped immediately, and Hermione warily looked up to see that she now had Frend's undivided attention.

"Awake," he grunted, shaking his head. "Already. Tenacious little insect, is she?" He appraised Hermione through narrowed eyes. "You're wondering, I suppose, why you're not dead."

Well. Now she certainly was.

"In truth, I had every intention of killing you hours ago, but…"

Hermione blinked hard against her swimming vision as Frend began circling her chair. She could just barely see the dark form of Snape leaning against the far wall, his face and torso nearly swallowed in shadow.

"But," continued Frend, and he shot a look at Snape over his shoulder, "when I informed the Dark Lord of your capture, he expressed the desire to kill you himself. A very great honor, the grand sort of death your kind do not deserve, though I'm fairly certain you won't think so." He muttered briefly to Snape, "Mudbloods have an inane sense of logic, not difficult to predict. In any case, the Dark Lord is busy at the moment. Has a lot on his plate, as you may imagine. So we must wait before he is able to grace us with his presence."

Hermione could almost hear the chilling smile spread across his face.

"In the meantime... What do you think, Severus? You never answered my question. I think we should have a little fun."

Hermione looked over again at Snape, desperately hoping that he had managed to figure something out by now. Once again, he avoided her gaze, turning instead to face his fellow Death Eater.

"I've told you, the Dark Lord would not like it if you ruined the captive before he arrived, Frend," Snape drawled in a very bored tone.

Frend finished his circle around Hermione's chair and then squatted down to look her full in the face, his ice blue eyes glinting sharply.

Hermione resisted the strong urge to spit.

"Don't patronize me, Snape. I'm not going to ruin her. I just want to give her a... taste of what's coming."

Then Frend reached out to stroke a long, thick finger down Hermione's cheek.

This time, Hermione could not control herself, and she lashed out with her teeth, narrowly missing the end of Frend's finger. Instantly he backhanded her hard across the face. Pain exploded beneath Hermione's left eye socket.

"Spitting fire, now that's a surprise," Frend laughed, slowly pulling out his wand. "But I'll put you in your place, little devil. Crucio!"

Hermione screamed and jerked around in her chair so violently that she nearly tipped it over. She could not believe how much this hurt: Her torn knee, the burns on her arms, the backhand across her cheek — all that pain seemed to return one hundred-fold, along with what felt like every other injury she had ever received in her life. Her insides twisted painfully, tighter and tighter. She wanted desperately to curl up into a ball, to somehow assuage the riveting pain that coursed through her body, but because of the way she was tied, she was unable to do anything more than strain against her bindings. Tears streamed down her face, and for one wild moment Hermione thought there was someone in the room yelling, "STOP! PLEASE STOP!" until she realized that it was her own voice.

"That's enough, Frend," Snape hissed as he strode towards them, nostrils flaring.

Hermione shook her head groggily as the spell ended. Her every nerve felt aflame, as though a layer of hot coals had somehow been embedded beneath her skin.

Frend narrowed his eyes. "You seem strangely protective of your student, Professor. As I've said, you can't keep her to yourself. Or is there something else you wish to share? Not having second thoughts, are you?"

"Don't be absurd," Snape snorted.

"So, maybe you'd like to have a go?"

Hermione held her breath. Snape barely even paused to think.

"Once again, I do not think the Dark Lord would be very pleased if she was—"

Frend made a loud noise of exasperation. "If you're that worried, then go on and leave. Stand outside. I would hate to think you'd gone soft, Severus, that's something the Dark Lord would not be very pleased about."

"I have not gone soft," Snape growled.

Frend gave Snape a dismissive wave with one of his massive hands. "Go ahead and leave," he said. "Before I tell our master how reluctant you are to punish a very deserving creature."

Hermione tried to blink the sweat and tears out of her eyes as she watched Snape stand there, still as a statue, his face as blank as stone. Behind that blank mask, however, Hermione knew there were a thousand things going through his mind.

If Snape made any attempt to save her, then his cover, his entire identity, would be blown, and not only would this endanger his life, but would also rob the Order of their most precious source of information. Then again, surely even Snape would struggle with the thought of leaving one of his own students alone in a room with a sadistic Death Eater (chatter-box know-it-all though she was).

Hermione hoped fervently he thought of something fast.

"Do not damage her," Snape said at last and started towards the door.

Hermione's heart sank.

"Crucio!" Frend screamed again, cackling wildly as Hermione erupted into renewed shrieks of pain.

Hermione watched Snape's retreating back through a vision blurred by tears as she thrashed about, pulling uselessly at her ropes. She knew that Snape had made the right decision, but she could not ignore the feeling of betrayal that clawed at her wildly from within her chest.

As Snape reached the door, he stopped, and slowly turned around.

For the first time, their eyes met. Hermione could see the agony on his face as plain as day. Her sobs came back double-fold, her heart feeling just about ready to explode. She screamed and screamed, but she did not ask for his help. She did not reveal his identity. She knew how important he was to the Order, and Merlin be damned if she was going to be the one who gave him away.

In the span of no more than a few seconds, Hermione watched as Snape made several movements to go. And every time, he turned back, clearly battling with himself, his hands clenched in quivering fists at his sides. Finally, he looked up at the ceiling, seeming to offer a quick prayer to some unknown entity, and then, with a yell, he hurled himself at Frend, wrestling the wand from his unsuspecting hand.

Hermione slumped against her bindings as the spell finally ended, her vision seeming to come and go as little dots of light danced around in front of her eyes.

Meanwhile, Snape and Frend rolled back and forth in a frantic battle on the floor, throwing punches and bashing each other's heads against the stone. When looking at the two men side by side, it would be almost laughable to imagine them pitted against each other in a physical battle. Snape was so thin and lanky, while Frend was all muscle, hulking, broad-shouldered, with fists like bowling balls. But Snape had not become the man that he was without learning his fair share of tricks, and though he was admittedly rather scrawny, judging by the way he was able to wrestle a man twice his weight to the ground, he was strong as an ox.

Frend, his face screwed up with a mixture of anger and shocked betrayal, threw blow after blow against Snape's back and the side of his face with one hand, while using the other to keep his opponent from drawing his wand.

Hermione did not know what to feel.

On one hand, she was thrilled that Snape had come to her rescue (she had not been looking forward to torture and most likely eventual death). On the other hand, she had worked so hard not to give Snape up, and here he was doing it anyway.

What have we blundered into? If only I'd stayed out of the forest, damn it all!

Frend gave Snape a particularly violent elbow to the face, and as Snape flew backwards, his hand clutched over his nose, Frend snatched back his wand. Now free of the massive man's grip, Snape's own wand was out in a flash. Then commenced the most spectacular battle between two wizards that Hermione had ever witnessed (though she was hardly in any condition to take notes). Spells flew everywhere: Jinxes, hexes, counter-jinxes, counter-hexes, flashes of red, blue, violet — and most horrifying of all — green light, bounced wildly about the room.

Hermione tried to make herself as small as she possibly could, feeling shockwaves of terror every time that a blaze of some unknown spell came within inches of her defenseless body.

She yelped as something rebounded off the back wall and crashed into the side of her chair, slamming her to the ground, wrenching her shoulder and bashing her elbow so hard against stone that she felt it in her teeth. I'm done for, she thought, all that and I'm going to die anyway! And by accident too, how stupid! How utterly and completely stupid! Another wayward spell sizzled mere centimeters from Hermione's upturned knees and the tail end of it burned a hole through her night gown, singing her skin, making her yelp again with pain. Perhaps it was because of this pain that it took several moments for Hermione to realize that the spell had also managed to burn through a large portion of the ropes confining her legs. With a strong kick and a few twists, they fell away.

Though her arms were still bound tightly, she felt a renewed surge of strength now that she was partially free. Hermione looked over to see that Frend's back was turned towards her. He was steadily advancing on Snape, pushing him farther and farther into a corner, his face still contorted with rage and intense concentration.

So, knowing that this was probably the only chance she was ever going to get (and that if she didn't do something soon, this battle might very well last until Voldemort himself showed up), Hermione gathered together all the strength she had left, rocked herself to her feet, stood, took a running start, and then threw herself chair first as hard as she could at Frend's back.

She fell a little short, but there was a satisfying snap as the wooden chair connected with one of Frend's legs and, with a sound like a wounded boar, he crumpled to the ground.

Snape was on him in an instant, his wand raised. "Avada Ke–"

Before he could finish the spell, there was a sharp pop, and Turnus disappeared, leaving Snape and Hermione alone in the room, the echoes of Snape's almost-murder still ringing in the air.

There was a short silence then, filled only with Snape's heavy breathing and Hermione's sharp, pained gasps.

Hermione was first to break the silence. "Why did you—?"

"You saved my life, Granger. Now I have saved yours. Twice. We're even. I'm done with you."

There was another short pause, as though neither party could fully grasp the reality of their situation. A moment later, Snape finally seemed to click into gear.

"We need to get out of here," he said quickly, getting to his feet and undoing Hermione's remaining ropes with a flick of his wand. There was a steady stream of blood still flowing from his nose and a nasty looking lump had risen just above his right eyebrow. He was sweating and panting heavily, but otherwise seemed to be alright. "Can you stand?" he asked gruffly.

Hermione disentangled herself from the ropes and shakily tried to get to her feet. She could not. As the shock and adrenaline wore off, her battered legs were unable to bear her weight. She slid back down to the stone floor.

"I would rather not carry you, Granger," Snape said instantly, his expression looking decidedly fed-up.

"We could use Side-Along App–"

"You can't here."

"But Frend just–"

"I said you can't Apparate here. Unless you've secretly joined the Death Eaters and are hiding a Dark Mark somewhere beneath that frilly sleeve of yours, the only way you can leave is through the front door."

Hermione nodded numbly, her body still trembling all over. It took almost all of her concentration just to keep from throwing up. "Where exactly are we?" she asked as she made several more attempts to get to her feet and failed miserably each time.

Snape didn't answer, sighing noisily. "Is that the best you can do? We don't have time for this. If you can't walk, then I am forced to carry you." He paused slightly, as if trying to see their situation twenty steps ahead. "This will not be easy, Granger... I mean, you're not exactly a pixie, are you? If you weren't as heavy perhaps we would stand a better chance, but—"

Ignoring the blatant offense, Hermione's mind flashed with an idea. "Wait," she said. "If I… Then you could definitely… Um… Well, you see, there's something, something I should probably tell you. Or should have told you. Or whatever… Um… I… I guess I could just show you? Not sure I can do it in this condition. Oh well, here it goes…" Hermione closed her eyes and took a few deep breaths, doing her best to clear her mind and let her incredibly tense and pain-riddled body relax.

Snape's eyes narrowed. "Granger, what the blazes do you think you're—"

Hermione had a look of pained concentration on her face for a brief moment, and then, quite suddenly, right where she had just been sitting, instead now sat a very furry, very tired, but unmistakably real, brown-haired rabbit. Its long ears drooped almost to the floor and its big honey eyes were dulled with pain and exhaustion. Even so, there was no question in Snape's mind what had just happened.

His jaw went slack with surprise.

Hermione Granger was an Animagus.

An unregistered Animagus.

Well, he thought, that certainly makes her easier to carry.

Snape shook his head and willed himself to get a grip. No time. He fixed on a heavy scowl and reached out for her. "The teeth are uncanny, Granger," he drawled.

Hermione snapped at his fingers as if to say, "Uncanny, but useful, thank you very much."

Snape pulled back with a hiss. "Watch it, Granger."

She growled angrily in return and Snape made a loud noise of disgust. "We don't have time for stubbornness, foolish girl. If you want to escape with your life, climb onto my shoulder. I need both of my hands."

Hesitantly, Hermione started towards him. Halfway there her stuttered hop became a very slow and stuttered walk. Even in animal form, her legs felt ready to collapse beneath her. Finally, she reached him and fell into the palm of his hand, her whole body trembling from ears to cottontail. Her eyes fell closed and she wheezed softly every time she pulled in a breath. Then she felt Snape's hands pick her up in a surprisingly tender grip, and when she opened her eyes again, she found herself staring directly into his own coal-black gaze.

"I'm aware that you're tired," he said sternly. "And I know it hurts, Granger, believe me, I know it hurts. But you need to pull yourself together, dammit, immediately." He sneered. "Just dig into that secret stash of Gryffindor resolve I know you've got buried away somewhere in anticipation of such occasions."

If Hermione had had the strength to be astonished that Snape had just given her an impromptu pep talk, she would have expressed it. Instead, she simply nodded, and desperately tried to find that buried resolve, as Snape set her gently onto his shoulder.

"Hold tight," he demanded sharply. "I can't keep steadying you or I'll get us both killed."

With two taps of his wand, he put a disillusionment charm on both of them, and Hermione shivered as the spell slowly trickled down her body. Then, before she barely even had time to adjust herself against his neck, Snape walked forward, very quietly opened the door, and stepped out into a dark, stone hallway.

The only things that Hermione managed to notice from her vantage point atop Snape's shoulder were the torches on the wall in place of windows, and that every door they passed seemed to be barred shut from the outside (which was not, as she was concerned, a very good sign).

As they made their way through the twisting corridor, Snape held his hands out in front of him, as if searching for something in the air.

Hermione watched, mesmerized, as he eventually came to halt, and to all appearances, seemed to be leaning against an invisible wall. She felt his vocal chords vibrate against her furry cheek as he began to mutter an incantation. Even as close to him as she was, he whispered so softly that she couldn't make out a single word.

His palms glowed briefly, and then, with one more flick of his wand, Snape walked forward again, completely unhindered.

They came upon a few more barriers just like that one, and each time, Snape seemed to know exactly when to put out his hands.

On one blindingly terrifying occasion, they came upon a small group of Death Eaters (apparently "on guard"), laughing as they tortured a poor, helpless bat that had somehow been trapped inside. They each took turns shooting pockets of air at it out of their wands, and watched as the creature tumbled and fluttered wildly around in the air, crashing into the walls and ceiling, emitting sad, shrill noises over their cruel jests.

Hermione squeaked angrily, but Snape reached back and covered her face with his hand.

"Quiet," he hissed in an almost imperceptible whisper.

She nodded, and they moved on unnoticed.

Hermione finally became so exhausted that it was all she could do just to keep from falling off Snape's shoulder entirely. Her eyes were closed and even her hearing seemed to fade in and out over the rest of the journey.

At last, Snape gave Hermione a nudge and she opened her eyes to see that they had reached a staircase leading up to a door in the ceiling. It was then that she realized they had been underground the entire time.

"A church!" Hermione opened her mouth to say as they came out of the floor of a confessional and into the chapel. All that escaped her mouth was another squeak.

Snape seemed to understand. "The Dark Lord loves the touch of irony," he said softly.

A yellow-orange light filtered through the stained-glass windows of the chapel as more than a few Muggles sat in scattered clumps on the benches, their heads bowed in worship. Whispered prayers echoed softly off the high-arching ceiling and around the large marble pillars, and though she was not a devoutly religious person herself, Hermione found the sound very soothing in its own way.

Snape hugged the walls as he slowly made his way towards the door, keeping to the shadows whenever possible.

When at last they reached the doors, they had to wait a few minutes for the next person to enter so that they could slip out unnoticed, but then they were finally in the open air again! Free! Alive!

Hermione had never been so happy to be in the cold, biting though it was.

As Snape made his way down the stairs and turned into a shaded alley, Hermione could not help noticing that the yellow-orange light was that of sunset, not sunrise. They had been down there for an entire day! With this realization, Hermione immediately felt herself overcome by a heavy wave of exhaustion and she unintentionally began to slip forward. She had just enough sense to pour her remaining strength into turning back into her human self, before she fainted dead away in Snape's arms.

Hopefully, the next time she woke, it would be in slightly friendlier surroundings.

Just Let it Happen

A Harry Potter Story
by La. Bel. LM

Part 10 of 35

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