Continuing Tales

Just Let it Happen

A Harry Potter Story
by La. Bel. LM

Part 11 of 35

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Just Let It Happen

"Wake up, Granger. Wake up. I don't care how tired you think you are, I need for you to walk. Now."

Hermione's eyelids fluttered and she made a small groan in the back of her throat. It was dark, she was cold, and that terribly rude voice did not sound anything like Madam Pomfrey. Maybe if she ignored it, the voice would go away…

Hermione gasped, her eyes snapping open as a strong pair of hands suddenly grabbed her by the shoulders and shook her sharply from side to side. When the shaking stopped, she once again found herself staring into a pair of fierce black eyes, ones which each held a genuine spark of terror that seemed to be dancing just beneath the surface.

"Wh-where are we?" Hermione rasped, looking warily around. The whole left side of her face felt as though it had recently been pummeled by an iron sledgehammer.

At first, Hermione thought they were still sitting in the same alley in which she had fainted, the one just outside the church. Another cursory glance, however, revealed an unfamiliar pair of dustbins to the left and a flickering neon sign high above Snape's head that read, "THE SLEEPY INN" in enormous block letters. The moon hung in a dull pool of yellow light just above the giant 'S' and its advanced arc proved to Hermione that she must have been unconscious for at least a few hours.

Snape cleared his throat and sat back on his heels, the moonlight making his skin glow so white that he almost seemed to be carved from ivory.

"As you have undoubtedly noticed," he began quietly, yet still with that infuriatingly nonchalant air he always seemed to retain when in such dire situations, "we are currently sitting outside a Muggle inn." His lip twitched as though he were barely restraining a sneer. "We will stay the night here. It is imperative that we remain hidden over the next few days, while I... attempt to negotiate our situation."

Hermione's eyelids began to droop again. She was so tired, and she was having trouble concentrating on what Snape was saying. Something about the inn…

"I assume, by now," he continued, "Frend will have informed the Dark Lord of my treachery and every Death Eater on this side of the equator will be madly searching for the two of us, most likely with orders to capture, but possibly to kill, on sight." His voice dropped to an even lower octave, and he gave Hermione a significant look. "And the last thing I mean to do is risk leading those Death Eaters back to Hogwarts. They'll be crawling all over Hogsmeade, and the moment we—"

Hermione was barely hanging onto consciousness. "Back to Hogwarts," she muttered. "Yes... back to Hogwarts... Gotta see... Madam Pomfrey... Head hurts…"

She jumped as Snape reached out and grabbed her jaw firmly between his fingers.

"Don't you understand?" he hissed, giving her a short, firm shake. "We cannot go back to Hogwarts!"

It took a moment for this concept to penetrate the haze of her muddled thoughts, and then the full realization of what had happened finally seemed to hit.

Hermione realized that not only could she not go back to Hogwarts, but she also could not go home, or see her parents, or even go out in public without risk of discovery. Snape had betrayed Voldemort—deeply and willingly, and now, after all these years of secrecy and clever mind games, Voldemort knew about it. An entire fleet of Death Eaters was out there looking for both of them. Until Voldemort was destroyed, or his powers were somehow taken away, both she and Snape were presumably prime targets.

Hermione's eyes began to sting and her heart clenched painfully in her chest. How did everything become such a mess?


Snape's fingers were still wrapped firmly around Hermione's jaw, and she nodded dumbly to show him that she understood.

"We need to go inside now," he said, finally releasing her as he glanced quickly around to make sure that no one was watching. "And the less attention we draw to ourselves, the better. Which is why I need you to walk. Impossible feat though it may seem in your pathetic state, I'm not going to ask you again. Me carrying you, Animagus or not, is not an option anymore. Now, get up."

With trembling limbs, a heavy heart, and the sparks of hatred beginning to fester in her gut for this rough, unfeeling man who ordered her about so ungraciously, Hermione slowly pulled herself to her feet.

Sure, the world seemed to be crashing down around them, and sure, Snape had just forced himself to sacrifice his entire identity to save someone who, to all appearances, he seemed to absolutely despise.

But, honestly…

He didn't have to be so snippy about it.

Hermione leaned heavily against the peeling wallpaper in a shadowed corner of the lobby as Snape made his way to the check-in desk. She wondered why he had gone to all that trouble to make her walk and then just stuck her unceremoniously in a corner. Then she looked down at her clothes and realized what a fright she must be: Her hair all matted, her various burns and shaking limbs, her nightgown smudged with dirt (not to mention singed right through at the knees). Yes, good call, Snape. The less people who saw her, the better.

Hermione looked up, aghast, as Snape finished discussing something with the desk clerk, reached into his pocket, pulled out a small roll of Muggle money, and proceeded to handle the transaction as though he'd never seen a Galleon in his life.

Guess a spy's got to be prepared for anything, she thought numbly. Her entire body was steadily throbbing now, all of her individual pains seeming to have molded into one great, big, singular pain.

"This way — quickly," Snape snapped quietly as he approached and grabbed her elbow, pulling her down a side hall towards the lifts.

The desk clerk waved jovially to Hermione as they passed, then froze when he saw her in the light. No doubt he wondered why Hermione looked as though she had just been put through the beating of her life, and why she could barely walk without the support of Snape's harsh, possessive grip.

The desk clerk obviously had no desire to get mixed up in whatever it was that was going on, because he instantly turned back to staring at the blank surface of his desk, pretending as though he had seen nothing out of the ordinary at all.

Hermione knew that the stairs would probably have been the safest and most discreet way to travel, however, there was no way she was going to make it up six flights in her condition, and Snape was assuredly well aware of that.

Thankfully, the lift was empty when it arrived, and as the shiny, golden doors slid shut and the floor shuddered beneath their feet, Snape continued to remain silent—never making any move to console her, nor to tell her what the plan was, nor even to ask her how she was feeling. He simply stood there, still and stoic, his hands clenched at his sides and a deep frown permanently etched on his face.

Hermione was in no mood to care. All she could think about was the hopeless, irreversible magnitude of a disaster she had blundered into, and how she would probably never see her family, or anyone else she cared about, for a very long time to come. She was stuck with a man who had always seemed to loathe her from the very core of his being, and now had an extremely good reason to support it. Tears slipped silently down her cheeks, but she made no move to wipe them away. Her arms dangled uselessly at her sides as she spent all of her remaining concentration on just making sure that she remembered to breathe — steadily, in and out, over and over. One breath at a time, she told herself. One breath at a time.

Finally, after another long walk down the hallway, more than a few frustrated attempts at figuring out how to stick the key card into the slot, the little green light blinked at last as Snape swung the door open, leading Hermione inside. She stumbled the next few steps to the first bed she saw, and without a word or even another thought, Hermione collapsed onto the paisley comforter and instantly fell asleep.

Blood. There was so much blood everywhere. It was on her hands, on her face, in her hair. And there must have been a fire somewhere too, because the smoke was filling up her lungs, creating such a terrible pressure in her chest that she felt as though her whole torso was caving in on itself.

A pair of red, slanted eyes grew like a mirage in front of her until it completely filled her vision.

"You're dead, Mudblood," cackled a familiar, serpent-like voice.

Then she was blind, and all she could hear was the sound of a harsh, chilling, laughter as ice-cold fingers closed around her throat, squeezing tighter, and tighter, and tighter…

Hermione woke up screaming, flailing her arms around and knocking just about everything off her nightstand before a warm hand clamped over her mouth.

For a moment she forgot where she was and she clawed wildly at the arm that imprisoned her... before she realized that she recognized the voice hissing, "Shut up you idiot girl!" in her ear.

Hermione gulped and sat back against the headboard of her bed as Snape released her and pulled back, examining his arms where her nails had gouged long, red, angry marks on his skin.

"S-sorry," she stammered. "I had a nightmare."

Snape did not look at her. He stood and walked over to the door to check the peephole. "Yes. I noticed," he replied snidely. Then, seeming to think all was clear, he returned to his previous seat on the couch. "The Cruciatus can sometimes have that effect, and the most potent remedy would be a sedative potion." He scowled. "But, due to obvious circumstances, I do not have anything of the sort at my disposal."

"That's alright," Hermione said quietly. "I'm awake anyway."

Snape sighed—the first indication from him Hermione had seen so far of what must surely be a very deep weariness. "I suppose I should take a look at your face, now that you are in a rare state of consciousness and I am still able to use my wand."

"What do you mean?"

"Rare, Miss Granger, because it is, quite frankly, absurd the amount of times thus far, in my presence alone, you have dropped unexpectedly to the ground—as though some sort of narcoleptic chipmunk. I can only assume that this brief hiatus in which you are awake and speaking will in due course end abruptly with another inconveniently timed collapse, rendering you incapable of anything but lying lethargically on the ground, wasting oxygen... Incidentally, a state which I prefer in your case. That is, when we are not attempting to— "

"Excuse me, Professor, but that's not—"

Snape raised his eyebrows. "What then?" He glanced down at his wand. "Ah, yes, wand limitations—I presume, then, you are curious as to why I implied that I soon will be incapable of performing magic?" He did not wait for Hermione to respond before answering. "Obviously the Ministry keeps tabs on all wand magic in Muggle-infested areas — which, most hideously, this inn most assuredly is. And there are certain people within the Ministry that have, shall I say, a rather suspicious preference for long sleeves, among other things." His eyes narrowed. "Needless to say, I do not want any of them knowing my whereabouts."

Hermione nodded hesitantly. "Oh... yes, I see that. But... er... what's wrong with my face?"

Snape made a loud noise of disgust. "Gryffindors and their self-importance," he muttered. "Why don't you get off your arse and take a look for yourself?"

Hermione ground her teeth in irritation, though otherwise did as she was told. She took a moment to stretch her painful muscles before slipping off the bed and making her way to a small wooden vanity across the room. Then she saw exactly what was wrong with her face: A very prominent black eye where Frend had backhanded her. It was dark and swollen and ghastly beyond belief.

"Yes, he got you pretty good, didn't he, Granger?" Snape commented as Hermione sat back down on the bed and allowed him to have a look. He prodded her cheek with his wand and grunted knowingly when Hermione winced. "Of course... that's nothing to a broken leg."

Hermione did a brief double-take. Did he... Was that approval she had heard in his voice? Hermione nearly smiled.

Well and so. The big mean professor could be impressed after all.

Maybe, under everything, he isn't, really, all that bad, she thought belatedly.

Snape performed a few more spells—healing some of Hermione's burns, wiping away a few cuts, and one particularly wonderful spell that eased the incredible tension in her muscles (aftereffect of the Cruciatus).

"That, I believe," Snape then said, after he had turned the wand on himself and partially mended his broken nose, "is the extent of the magic I can do without being noticed. I may perform small magic, but anything larger and we might have twenty Death Eaters knocking on our door. I think it goes without saying that you may not do any magic at all."

Hermione felt the familiar tendrils of fear beginning to creep into her chest. "Don't have my wand anyway," she said in a small voice. "I lost it in the fight with the, with that... monster thing."

"Yes, I have been meaning to ask you about that."

Hermione gave an exhausted sigh and shook her head. "I wish there was an explanation I could give you, Professor, but I am not quite sure what happened myself." She shrugged. "All I can remember is that there was a monster in the bushes. I thought it was a wounded animal, so when I went to help—"

Snape snorted.

Hermione ignored him. "It attacked me and dragged me off into the woods." She paused then and gave him a very skeptical look. "How did you know where I was anyway? How did you just happen to show up at the right moment?"

Snape's lips thinned. "Honestly, Granger—A fire in the Forbidden Forest. You don't think I knew immediately who had set it? I was looking for Frend. I suppose it was fortunate that I had such trouble tracking him down, otherwise I would have missed you entirely, and as such, you would no longer be around to pester me with your ridiculous questions. Did I say fortunate?"

Hermione thought about retorting, then held herself back. It didn't matter. If Snape wanted to be Snape, there was no stopping him. "In any case," she grumbled, "that's why I don't have my wand."

"Actually," Snape quipped, reaching in his pocket and pulling out a very familiar cherrywood wand.

Hermione stared at it for a few moments before finally realizing why it was so familiar. It was hers. She nearly threw her arms around Snape all over again (though she had enough sense this time to realize that he would probably not appreciate another over-enthusiastic hug). "Oh, thank you," she breathed instead, reaching out to tenderly pluck the object from his outstretched hand.

"You should take better care of your weapon, Miss Granger. The number one rule in wizarding survival. Weren't you ever taught to keep your wand with you at all times?"

Hermione ignored his condescending tone, cradling the wand lovingly in her hand and twirling it slowly to inspect it for possible damage. Finding none, she set it down on the bed beside her. "So, what are we supposed to do now?" she asked apprehensively.

Snape pursed his lips. "There is very little we can do at the moment. I have spoken briefly with the Headmaster, and he—"

Hermione nearly leapt to her feet. "You've seen Dumbledore? How? When?"

"That is none of your concern. Clearly, I have my ways of communicating with the Headmaster, and that is the extent of what you need to know."

Hermione most certainly did not think that was all she needed to know, and she was getting very tired of him deciding what sort of things she should or should not be privy to. But she let the indignant comment die on her tongue once again. She was too tired to argue.

"At the moment," Snape continued, "Professor Dumbledore is searching for a safe place in which we might hide... indefinitely, Merlin help us."

Something suddenly occurred to Hermione, and her eyebrows furrowed. Snape had told her that Death Eaters were after both of them, yet... wouldn't they be most concerned with Snape? He was the traitor, here. Why was she in any more danger than she had been before? She was close to Harry; Frend had already known that.

"Excuse me, Professor," Hermione began assertively. "But why is it us that Professor Dumbledore is trying to hide? I'm afraid I don't understand. Why can't go back to Hogwarts?"

This was obviously the wrong thing to say (or at least the wrong way of saying it) because Snape's eyes instantly blazed with fury.

"I'm sorry, Miss Granger, does this inconvenience you in some way?" he spat. "Is this some sort of game that you are suddenly tired of playing? Believe me, if I had any choice in the matter, you would have quit my company a long time ago. Despite what you may think, spending my time playing babysitter to an over-curious Gryffindor is not very high on the list of things I like to do."

Feeling as though she had reached out for a flower and been suddenly and unexpectedly stung by its sharp nettles, Hermione fell silent.

"I need a toothbrush," she said eventually, and stood to leave.

Snape looked up at her with an incredulous expression. "Where do you think you're going?" he demanded sharply.

Hermione reached the door and turned the handle, pulling it partially open. "I'm just going to pop downstairs to see if I can get a complimentary–"

"You're not going anywhere!" Snape raced over and slammed the door shut again.

Hermione growled angrily, "What! Why? I'm just–"

"Use your head, Granger," Snape snapped. "Don't you think it would be staggeringly odd if you were to go downstairs without a black eye, when you entered just hours before with a very noticeable one? To go downstairs looking like the hopeless mess that you do? It would arouse suspicion in an instant, and, if you had actually listened to me instead of asking inane questions like you always do, you would know that suspicion is exactly the thing we are trying to avoid."

Hermione was absolutely on her last nerve, and her anger and exhaustion finally caught up with her. "You do it then, since you're so clever," she seethed. "And get us something to eat while you're at it!"

Snape slammed his fist against the door. "DON'T YOU UNDERSTAND," he roared. "I can't go anywhere, I'm as useless as you - My cover has been corrupted and I'm a traitor now! Nothing to give, no function to serve, AND IT'S ALL YOUR RUDDY FAULT."

Those words hit Hermione like a physical blow, and she lashed back, feeling both hurt and betrayed all over again. "All my fault is it? You're the one who blew your cover, not me. I didn't ask to be saved."

"You most certainly did." Snape's voice shook dangerously. "You sat there and looked at me with that pathetic, helpless expression on your face, Granger, knowing that for once, your precious little Potter was not there to save you. You did ask for my help, don't you dare deny it."

Hermione crossed trembling arms over her chest. "How you interpreted my expression is not my problem, Professor, it's yours."

"IT'S BOTH OF OUR PROBLEM, YOU UNGRATEFUL LITTLE HUSSY!" Snape slammed his fist again. "I could have left you to die!"

"Why didn't you! Why didn't you leave me to die!" Hermione burst out, near to matching him in both fervor and volume.

"WOULD YOU HAVE PREFERRED IT!" he roared back.

"AT LEAST WE WOULDN'T BE HERE! WE WOULDN'T BE IN THIS MESS! YOU COULD STILL HELP THE ORDER! AND HARRY! AND... and..." She took a few sobbing breaths, and then her face finally crumpled into tears. "Damn it," she moaned. "We've lost our best shot at defeating Him, haven't we? And all because, because I was s-stupid enough to—andyou were—and now the Order—and Harry can never—Oh, why did you help me? Why did you give your cover away? I wasn't worth it!"

Snape drew in a rattling breath, his face looking in that moment so terrifyingly angry that Hermione had the feeling he was a mere inch away from physically striking her.

"How dare you," he hissed. "How dare you say that my sacrifice was for nothing. I know your opinion of me is not very high, Granger, but know this — I would never be stupid enough, nor reckless enough, to throw away my entire identity on something that wasn't worth it."

Hermione tried to process those words as she stood there, her jaw slack, gaping foolishly back at him, completely unable to think of a response.

"A life debt is a life debt, and even I dare not defy that."

A life debt? Yes, Hermione thought. It's the only thing that makes sense.

Snape's voice reached an impossibly frosty level. "Now, silence these hysterics, get away from that door, and confine yourself to bed." His gaze was absolutely piercing. "You can go to sleep, stay awake, stare at the wall and twiddle your thumbs, I don't care what you do, just don't leave that bed. Do I make myself perfectly clear?"

Hermione nodded numbly. "Yes, sir."

Severus drummed his fingers distractedly on the plush arm of the sofa, his eyes closed tightly against the stampede of thoughts and suppressed emotions that crowded his mind.

There were so many things to fear, to consider, to figure out, and he had no idea where to begin. What he really needed was a Pensieve, but that was hundreds of miles away, locked up in Dumbledore's office. Severus took a deep breath and tried to calm the swirling tornado of thoughts crashing through his brain. One by one, he carefully picked out a thought or a worry and examined it, looked at it from all angles, and then, just as carefully, put it back. This didn't exactly help his situation, but it made him feel better at least, more controlled and relaxed.

Granger lay curled up in a pathetic ball on the bed, her back to him, facing the wall. Her breathing was slow and regular and she hadn't moved an inch in the last hour. Severus knew she was not asleep though. No one that angry could fall asleep without a great deal of tossing and turning.

He probably should not have lost his temper, Severus realized yet again, as he watched her. The walls were undoubtedly thin, and he was very aware that the things they had said sounded sufficiently suspicious. But she had made him so angry. Somehow, she always seemed to know just which buttons to press to set him off.

Severus groaned quietly.

And now he was stuck with her for Merlin only knew how long.

At some point, he was going to have to tell Granger the real reason she was in so much danger, and he was not looking forward to that conversation.

Severus reached into his pocket and fingered a tiny, one-sided mirror. This had been his way of communicating with Dumbledore, as Hermione Granger had sat crumpled in an unconscious heap at his feet outside the church.

Dumbledore possessed the other one-sided mirror, and he and Snape had simply talked back and forth as though looking at each other through a miniature window. Of course, not just anyone could activate the mirror, it took a skilled Legilimens (which, quite fortunately, both he and Dumbledore happened to be).

In any case, Snape had had every intention of disposing of the girl as promptly as he could, so that he could then scamper off to hole up in some convenient hide-away for an indefinite amount of time. However, to Snape's dumbfounded surprise, Dumbledore had refused to allow the girl to come back to Hogwarts. He had said that since Snape had given up his identity to save Granger, it was entirely possible that Voldemort and his followers (Frend in particular) would assume that Snape had, of all the ludicrous things in the world, developed a "soft spot" for the girl, and would attempt to "use her against him." Even Dumbledore seemed convinced that there was more behind Severus's sacrifice than his simple duty to her as her professor.

What the bloody hell did that mean? And even if, for the tiniest moment, hypothetically, it were assumed that this was the conclusion Frend reached, how would that change anything? Granger meant a hell of a lot more to Potter than she ever would to Severus; wasn't she therefore always in danger of being used?

Maybe it was the romantic implication. Maybe that made a difference. But who in their right mind would ever think such a thing could exist between him and... Granger, of all people.

Of course, Frend wasn't in his right mind, was he? None of them were.

And logic would suggest that it would have had to be a strong incentive, a strong bond, a strong desire to save and protect, in order for someone like Snape to destroy all that he had built over the past sixteen years.

"That's what it looks like, Severus," Dumbledore had said. "I know it pains you to hear it, and I know you want to resist the idea with every fiber of your being, but that's what it looks like. I'm sorry."

Severus buried his face in his hands.

Dumbledore was right. It certainly did look that way.

Hermione was wakened yet again by another rude shake.

"Get up, Granger. We need to move on."

Hermione sat up and rubbed her eyes tiredly. She had been having another nightmare. Thankfully, the visions had not seemed quite as vivid as before.

"Where—where are we going?" she said through an enormous yawn.

"The Headmaster has found us a place to stay for a few weeks, months, perhaps, if we're lucky. It's unplottable so we can't Apparate there. We will have to travel disguised as Muggles, which means you'll need to wear these, and we'll need to do something with that hair of yours. Probably cut the whole lot off and be done with it."

Hermione shook her head groggily and blinked several times as Snape placed a short-sleeved shirt and a ratty pair of jeans next to her on the bed. She picked them up gingerly and looked over to discover that Snape had already adorned his own Muggle attire: A long-sleeved oxford (black, of course) and pair of dark blue jeans.

"Where did you get these?" she asked hesitantly when he did not immediately explain.

"There were several suitcases in the hall. One of them seemed to belong to a girl your size, so those should fit. Take a quick shower and put them on. We have a long way to travel and very little time in which to do so."

"You—you stole these?" Hermione sputtered in disbelief.

Snape rolled his eyes dramatically. "Spare me your saintly semantics, Granger. Would you have rather we popped down to Harrods so you could try on everything in the store? This was the safest way to do things, and you're lucky I found something relatively your size. I'm not going to tell you again. Get dressed."

With her eyes still rather wide and her mouth still rather slack, Hermione turned and went to lock herself in the bathroom. She nearly screamed when she saw herself in the mirror. Snape was right, something needed to be done about her appearance, without doubt, or they wouldn't make it a single block without being noticed—possibly arrested.

Hermione turned the handles in the shower and tried to process all the information she had just received in the past few minutes.

Dumbledore had found them some place to stay. For how long? Weeks? Months? It was far away, but they couldn't Apparate. They were going to have to "travel the Muggle way" and Snape was clearly not thrilled about it. He had also said something about a disguise, and…

Hermione suddenly froze, her breath catching in her throat as she paid no attention to her hands still poised beneath the now scalding hot water.

And what did Snape say he was going to do to her hair?

Just Let it Happen

A Harry Potter Story
by La. Bel. LM

Part 11 of 35

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