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Chapter 25: Chapter Twenty-Five
A/N: Sorry for the long wait, guys. I got tied up with SATs, Super Bowl, work, school play. A lot going on. But, I saw that most were thrilled to see Snape as the bad guy. Now, don’t kill me, but you might see more to Severus Snape here than you really want to. I mean, I hate the guy *DUMBLEDORE, I MISS YOU!*, but read on, because there’s more to it than that. Don’t kill me for my opinion, guys!
Severus Snape stared down his long, hooked nose at the form of the teenage girl with bushy brown hair that was sprawled across the dingy carpet of his home in Spinner’s End. And stared some more. She was unconscious now, and that was just as well. He didn’t think he could have dealt with the situation at hand. No doubt the girl would be in hysterics. He sneered.
“Well, Severus? Shouldn’t you be thanking me?” the shrill voice came from the other side of Hermione’s body.
“Thanking you, Bellatrix? For what, precisely? You do realize that even as we speak, Harry Potter and his band of followers will be on their way here? Surely you had enough sense to know that her kidnapping would spark anger in the Order! So why in the name of Merlin would I be thanking you? This is not as the Dark Lord wished it to be.”
“I saw my opportunity, and I took it, Snape,” the voice snapped waspishly.
“Now, imagine for a moment, Bellatrix that you were to arrive at home after a hard day only to find me in your living room with the unconscious body of one of Harry Potter’s best friends at my feet. How, exactly, would you react? No,” he said as the heavily lidded woman opened her mouth to speak defiantly, “We’ve no time for that. Just tell me how this girl came to be here.”
“I was traveling through the Floo Network searching for a chance just like this. I spotted the girl and before I could think, I had reached out and grabbed her by the wrist. She was knocked unconscious immediately. Being pulled out of your intended Floo path will do that,” she said matter of factly with not a little impatience.
“Will it, really, Bellatrix?” Snape questioned sarcastically, “This does not tell me how the girl came to be in my living room as opposed to yours. This was your idea, and clearly, you wish to take credit for it. In fact, I insist you take credit for it. You can explain to the Dark Lord that the Final Battle is commencing before it is supposed to because you had a whim.”
“Severus, you know not the thoughts of the Dark Lord. I alone know his true intentions and feelings. I brought the girl here because I thought that perhaps you would like to prove yourself on our side by killing here. That and the fact that your grate was the closest one to where I stopped the Mudblood.”
Snape remained eerily silent for a full ten seconds. Bellatrix shifted her weight, attempting to hide the nervousness that had just trickled through her system.
“Prove myself?” Snape whispered in a dangerous tone, “May I remind you that it was I who killed Dumbledore last summer? It was I! How quickly you forget!”
“You had taken the Unbreakable Vow, Severus,” Bellatrix spoke heatedly, “You couldn’t break it! Or you yourself would have been killed! You may not be on our side, but between your own life and that old fool’s you would, no doubt, choose your own. I do not believe that you killed Dumbledore for the sake of the Dark Lord.”
“Believe what you will, Bellatrix, for I can see now that nothing I can do will convince you. But you must understand that you have set into action a sequence of events that will lead to a premature Battle. You must find a way to return this girl to safety. Or risk it all, Bellatrix.” Snape’s tone remained cold and almost indifferent.
“Oh, no, Snape! You think I’d let you get away with letting this Mudblood go? Prove it to me. Kill her, Snape. If you truly believed in the Dark Lord, you would do it on principle. She’s a Mudblood! Think of her as only that, if you somehow can’t bear to kill Harry Potter’s precious friend. The Dark Lord is prepared for the Battle in ways that you wouldn’t dream, Severus! He has protection.”
Snape did not point out that this protection was not going to exist for much longer, but neither did he know how to untangle himself from this mess. It had surely been a quarter of an hour since Granger had been here. The Order would arrive soon, and the confidence that had built tenuously rebuilt between the Order and he would quickly crumble. He had to stall in whatever way possible. But, how to do so without raising the already rampant suspicions of Bellatrix Lestrange?
“Did it ever occur to you in any of your complex planning, that we could extract information from this girl since I am no longer privy to the goings-on within the Order?” Snape asked.
From the look of fury and the soundless sputters issuing from Bellatrix, she had not.
“And I suppose you’d like to do that yourself, would you, Severus?” Bellatrix shot at him.
“Oh, no,” he said calmly, “By all means, you may do it. But perhaps some Veritaserum would help us. I know Granger, and she won’t tell us a thing without it. Go and fetch it, Bellatrix, if you don’t trust me not to tamper with it from the closet to this room. It’s in my potions closet upstairs.”
Bellatrix looked pleased that she was going to be given free reign in the questioning. Snape knew he had to work fast. He had spoken the truth; he knew Granger well. She wouldn’t spill any information—especially if she was only given a dose of the false Veristaserum that he kept upstairs; the real stuff was in the kitchen. But she would blow his cover. He had a heartfelt disdain for the girl, but he couldn’t deny that she was intelligent. She would see reason, and play along with his cover. Then he could find a way to get her out before the Order showed up. That could be any minute.
“Ennervate,” Snape muttered, pointing his wand at Hermione.
She stirred immediately and her eyes came into focus as they met with Snape’s.
“Where am I? Oh, no! No, no, no,” her voice was increasing in volume so that Snape had to clap a hand over her mouth.
“Listen to me for once in your life, Granger. For once, you don’t have all the answers. Listen hard, and listen well. Bellatrix Lestrange managed to wrench you right out of your path in the Floo Network. She brought you here as a test to me as much as a provocation to Potter. She’s off now fetching what she believes to be Veritaserum. It is not. It’s simply water, but she doesn’t know this. She will question you on the goings-on at the Order. Mislead her in any way you can. I do not like you, Granger, and I don’t imagine you like me. But you have to trust that I’m telling you the truth or you sacrifice yourself and the Order. And I have to trust your intelligence in creating believable lies. There’s no time for you to argue with me now. Bellatrix cannot know that I’m back in with the Order, as she believes—along with the Dark Lord—that after Dumbledore’s death, I was cast out. Now, don’t tune me out because I brought that up. There are more important things at stake here. Just pretend to be unconscious so that I can pretend to wake you. You will act as though we have not spoken. Nod if you understand me.”
Hermione looked at him with a hate that usually only filled her eyes when Malfoy was nearby, but it did not appear as though she would be harmed if she followed Snape’s directions. At least until Ron turned up. And she was sure he would come for her. He always did. She almost smiled at the thought, but was jogged back to her surroundings by a sharp shake from Snape. She nodded slowly.
“Very well. I will try not to let her hurt you, but I know you can take it should that be impossible to prevent.”
Fear appeared in Hermione’s eyes for a brief moment, before she blinked it away and lay down on the stinky carpet and feigned unconsciousness. Not long after, she heard the footsteps of none other than Bellatrix Lestrange coming down the steps.
“Very well, Bellatrix, I will wake her,” Snape bent, pretending to perform a wordless spell. Hermione stirred convincingly and blinked up. Staring into Snape’s face, she thought to herself that if she was in this position, she might as well make the best of it.
“YOU! HOW DARE YOU! YOU SHOW YOUR FACE EVEN AFTER WHAT YOU DID TO DUMBLEDORE? WE ALL BELIEVED IN YOU! WE THOUGHT FOR SURE THAT IF DUMBLEDORE BELIEVED IN YOU, WE COULD TOO! HOW COULD YOU DO IT?” Hermione shrieked, not surprised to feel tears spring to her eyes. She reached to her robes for her wand, as she imagined she would have done had Snape not told her the truth of the matter. But she wanted to seem convincing. Not surprisingly, her wand was gone. She spotted it on the table behind Snape.
“Stop shouting, Granger,” Snape said so coldly that Hermione almost doubted that the story he had told her was true. Had she set herself up for failure by believing him?
“You never truly believed that I was on your side. You know that. And Dumbledore’s fault was that he wished to see the good in everyone. He failed to see that I was in league with the right sort.”
“Voldemort, you mean,” Hermione’s anger was just beginning to simmer, “He’s obviously the ‘right sort’, you know. The killing, plundering, the ruining of people’s lives. Those are the things the ‘right sort’ do, aren’t they?”
“Dumbledore was a fool, Granger, if he could not see what was coming,” Snape sneered.
“DUMBLEDORE WAS THE GREATEST WIZARD THE WORLD WILL HAVE EVER KNOWN. There. Is. No. Way. To. Replace. Him,” Hermione’s word became infused with emotion, each one dying in volume, but replaced with such feeling that it was difficult to imagine how hard a person’s heart would have to be not to be touched. Snape and Bellatrix were not touched.
“The Dark Lord is the greatest wizard, you stupid girl! You have no idea what you’re saying,” Bellatrix snapped.
“Don’t you dare,” Hermione snarled, turning to the thin woman behind her, “Don’t you dare compare him to Dumbledore. Dumbledore was great and kind and wise. HE was the best person I have ever or will ever know. And Voldemort is just murdering bast-”
Hermione was stunned into submission when she received a shocking blow to her cheek. Bellatrix stepped back and in one smooth step after administering the backhand, she whipped out her wand and forced Hermione into a full body bind.
“You will not speak that way about the Dark Lord, you horrible little Mudblood,” she snarled, pouring the Veritaserum/water down Hermione’s throat.
“Now, tell us who you are,” Bellatrix said.
Hermione had only ever read about how Veritaserum worked, but she knew that the person to whom the potion had been given went somewhat slack. She looked blindly at no specific point and said in a monotone, “I’m Hermione Jane Granger, daughter of-”
“Yes, yes, never mind that,” Bellatrix said impatiently, “Who is your best friend?”
“Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, Ginny Weasley,” Hermione began.
“We don’t need the whole sodding list. Now, how long have you known Harry Potter?”
“Has he ever told you any secrets? Fears?”
“Harry has no talent with girls. He shares his fears about them with me. Asks me advice.”
“Oh, no, you stupid girl. I mean real secrets!”
“I know that he’s in love with Ginny Weasley. That’s his deepest secret,” Hermione said, and knew that it was a secret Voldemort already knew.
“That’s it? That’s his deepest secret?”
“AS far as I know, yes.”
Bellatrix swore, “That’s all he shares with this girl? She’s simply a dating guide book for him? That’s all their friendship amounts to? I thought you said they were close, Severus! He may not even come after her. He’d only have to pick up a self-help book to replace her.”
Hermione brewed with anger below the surface. She hated having her and Harry’s friendship demeaned that way, but she fought the waves of loathing. She had to keep Bellatrix in the dark.
“Right, girl, what information did Dumbledore share with Harry Potter about the Dark Lord?”
“I don’t know.”
“You’re lying!” Bellatrix flew at Hermione and landed another blow across her face. Helpless even to rub the offending spot, Hermione took the hit with only a wince.
“Bellatrix, you have given her Veritaserum. She cannot lie. It’s clear that I have misjudged how much Potter confided in this girl.”
“I don’t believe so, Severus. It’s just a matter of asking the right question.”
“As much as I’d love to stick around and watch you try to beat the information out of her—information she obviously doesn’t possess—I’ll remind you that you’re on assignment for the Dark Lord tonight.”
“I am,” Bellatrix said simply, “Very well, Severus. Send her back before we start a Battle. I simply took a risk. It didn’t pay off. No harm done.”
“No harm done? You could have catapulted us into a situation we were not prepared for the sole reason of your rashness! Never again put me in that position, Bellatrix. I am loyal to the Dark Lord, but I do not serve you. Now, kindly leave my house. I’ll clean up the mess you have made.”
Bellatrix said nothing, but moved to the door with her head held high in the air. She opened the door and walked through it, slamming it behind her, but still without a word. This left Snape alone with Hermione. She had so many thoughts rushing through her mind. So many questions she needed answers to. But her first thought as a still seething Snape stepped towards her and raised his wand in the air to free her was that Ron should have been here by now. And no sooner had she thought it than a popping noise came from the fire and from within it stepped the red-headed boy she’d come to love. His eyes focused in on Hermione’s bound form with Snape standing above her, wand raised, with a menacing glint in his eyes. And fury filled the room.
A/N: Ok, don’t kill me because I didn’t make Snape evil. I had hoped to illustrate that even Bellatrix still has doubts as to Snape’s allegiance. Anyway, I hope you liked it, and, oh, have you guys seen the girl they cast as Luna for OotP? I think she’s gonna be great! Anyway, please, please, please, review!!!!