This story is by Bellemaine Chercoeur and was the "Recommended story" for the month of November 2002. As Bellmaine Chercoeur is not a member of this site, I have posted this in her place. THIS IS NOT MY STORY. I am only posting it.
By Bellemaine Chercoeur
Disclaimer: Hermione Granger and Severus Snape, along with the title character and everyone you recognise in this world belong to J. K. Rowling, who is most definitely one of the most influential and popular writers walking the earth at this moment. This work means no infringement, and no profit will be made, and believe me I will be buying any further publications that JK and Bloomsbury publish regarding Harry. Roll on Volume 5!
Title: The Price
Author: Bellemaine Chercoeur
Rating: PG-13 (Death, destruction, the usual from the final show down with a Dark Lord)
Summary: Sometimes the price that must be paid is too great to bear. S/H, also featuring Harry and Ron and with glimpses of lots of canon characters. A this could be how it happens scene of Voldemort attacking Hogwarts in their Seventh Year.
by Bellemaine Chercoeur
The scream of denial, frantic, horrified, torn from a heart that stopped beating in that fatal instant, echoed across the grand hall of Hogwarts. From beneath upturned tables and charred house banners, the pitifully small number of students who remained alive watched in varying degrees of dulled horror as their head girl stumbled, then toppled backwards.
Her hands pressed close to her stomach, Hermione Granger felt herself falling backwards and was unable to stop herself. As a thought about how hard the cold flagstones were going to feel when she landed on them spun through her mind, she felt herself caught and gently lowered to the floor. She forced her eyelids to remain open as she took in the carnage about her. Tears filled her eyes as the wasted young lives of her fellow schoolmates lay before her. Cut down at the very start of their lives; a whole generation of Britain's best and brightest wizards gone forever. So many of them had been her friends, so many of them had looked to her for guidance, for safety, for leadership. And in that crucial moment, when Voldemort had stormed into the room with a league of Death Eaters, she had frozen. Her fear, her terror, her uncertainty had caused this.
In moments, everything had changed.
Dumbledore had risen, his command for the students to remain seated instantly obeyed. If only she had thought to turn Voldemort's attention from Dumbledore, if only she had been the one to give that commandment.... if only she had done anything to pre-empt Voldemort's strike against Dumbledore. In his concern for his students, Dumbledore had left Voldemort the opportunity to strike at him. In that instant of concentration upon the students, Voldemort had felled him. Horrorstruck, Hermoine had watched in disbelief as Dumbledore fell back into his chair, then slid bonelessly to the floor. Professor McGonnagal had grabbed her by the neck of her robe and thrown her to the floor. Joining hands with Professor Flitwick, McGonagall had upturned the head table to create a barricade.
At the movement, all the other students had slipped beneath their tables. Madam Hooch peered over the barricade and muttered a quick charm, plunging the room into darkness. Hermione watched as McGonagall crawled to Dumbledore's side. She touched his cheek briefly, whispered "rest well, dear Albus," and then stood. As one the teachers of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, stood behind her. Her knees shaking, Hermione stood beside them, the metal of her Head Girl badge unseen in the darkness of the hall.
"You dare disturb the halls of Hogwarts, Voldemort? You dare to pollute this place with your foulness?" The stern, measured tones of McGonagall did not hide the depth of her anger or the strength of her determination. "Do you dare face us all, Voldemort?"
Silence echoed in the great hall, and was then replaced by a mocking laugh. "My dear Minerva, I never dare. I simply do. Now, seeing that doddering old fool Dumbledore has been...removed...shall we say, I see no opposition to my taking his place." Suddenly the room was illuminated by sullen green light, a sickly corrupt colour that turned the stately hall into a creepy and cavernous waste. The light was enough to see how hideously outnumbered the teachers were. Apart from the Dark Lord himself, there were at least fifty Death Eaters striding down the aisles. As Hermione watched in horror, they took up position about the hall, forming a chain of death around the walls.
Voldemort swept up the centre aisle to come to a halt before McGonagall. "This school is mine, to do with as I will." He smirked, a strange expression that Hermione would never have thought to see on his face. A smirk seemed almost too petty, too human for someone as evil as him. He swept a disdainful look along the row of teachers, then moved to stand before Professor Sprout. "Even the most pathetic simpletons among you shall do as I command. You, for example, will provide me with enough Devil's Snare to blanket the Thames."
Professor Sprout merely shook her head and said, "Never."
Voldemort raised an eyebrow and looked towards his Death Eaters. He was preparing to make some pithy and arrogant comment, Hermione thought savagely, when suddenly Professor Sprout shook some powder from her sleeve and threw it in Voldemort's face. Pointing her wand at him she screamed, "Inflamerum."
As it if was an unspoken signal, the Professors attacked as one, disarming death eaters, wreaking havoc amongst them. They stormed through the hall as Voldemort staggered sideways away from them. Hermione joined them, pulling students towards the centre of the hall as quickly as possible, pushing the youngest furthermost under the tables, and placing the seventh years as an honorary shield about them. Every single person had their wand in their hand.
And the screams of the dead and dying mixed with battle cries, weeping and pain. The Death eaters were not disarming, they were killing.
She turned from the Ravenclaw table and saw the eldest Slytherins grouped around the youngest. Draco Malfoy was standing on the table, blasting any who came near them with whatever charm or curse he could think of, and shouting encouragement at the other Slytherins to hold firm against them. Shocked, she realised that he was standing with the other houses. She saw a figure looming behind him, the hideous mask stretched into a vindictive sneer. She screamed a warning, but it was lost in the clamour of battle. Praying that no one stepped in front of her, she lifted her wand and yelled the first charm that come to her. Draco caught sight of her just as she released the charm. She saw the bitterness in his face and realised that he thought she was aiming at him. "Behind you!" she screamed as a Death Eater barrelled into her from behind, knocking her sideways.
Malfoy turned and jumped aside as the Death Eater crashed onto the table. Hermione had managed to levitate him briefly, and Draco took the opportunity to throw himself out of harm's way. For a moment he met the eyes of the wizard beneath the mask, and the coldness of fear and horrified certainty filled him. The eyes he looked into were the same shade as his own. With a howl of rage, Lucius sprang at his son, knocking him backward off the table and out of sight. The terrible thud of flesh against unforgiving stone was almost overpowered by the high pitched scream of the redhead girl who threw herself across the hall and over the table after them.
Ginny Weasley cast herself on the Death Eaters back and planted her hands on either side of the helmet. Holding on for dear life, she began reciting the charm to heat water. As the steel beneath her hands began to warm, her voice became louder. Lucius cried out in agony as the metal scalded his skin, and he blindly staggered against the wall.
"Draco? Draco? Taliesin, please, no, no, no..." The rest of the Slytherins barely dared to look, as Ginny crouched over the still form. His silver blond hair was awash in the ruby richness of his blood. The back of his skull had caved in from the impact of the stone. Lucius had crushed the skull of his own son in retaliation for supporting Dumbledore. Even as she touched his cheek, the light was fading from his eyes. Ginny leaned towards him, tears streaming down her face. As her lips brushed his cheek, the last word to fall from his lips was "Virginia." Her stunned disbelief rendered her unaware of Lucius's approach. Lucius grabbed her by the hair and snapped her neck, letting her body fall across that of Draco. Her fall encouraged the remaining Slytherins to choose sides and with a few notable exceptions they threw themselves into the fray, assisting the other Houses to stand against Voldemort.
Neville pulled Hermione out from under the shattered remains of a chair, just as a storm of blazing light erupted across the hall. Standing in front of Dumbledore's chair, Voldemort raised a hand, and the light fell indiscriminately among them, burning and freezing at the same time. Hermione had thought the previous screams of agony were the worst sound she could hear, she soon realised she had been mistaken.
Over it all, she heard the voice of Voldemort whispering in her ear. "Do you like it? It is a little refinement of the crucias curse. Along with the pain; the uncertainty of whether you face fire or ice."
Anger bubbled to the surface, and she pushed past Neville and rushed to the head table. Her mind refused to acknowledge that the still forms about the hall had once been her fellow students and teachers. Without thought, without plan, without any idea really what she was doing, Hermione hauled back and struck Voldemort across the face with all the strength she possessed. It shocked him enough to lose control of the curse, and the sizzling white light disappeared as quickly as it had appeared.
Her arm ached with the force of the blow, but it was no match for the heaviness of her heart. As the victims moaned in pain as the last of the crucias curse burnt along their nerve endings, Voldemort seized Hermione's arm. The blood in her veins chilled as he laughed, and her stomach ached as she realised that she had given Voldemort a perfect weapon to use against Harry. Herself.
She braced herself for racking pain, and was momentarily puzzled to find herself levitated high above the tables. Green light surrounded her; it felt cold and almost slimy against her cheek. Through her fear, she tried to concentrate on Voldemort's words. "Hermione Granger, I do believe. Gryffindor, and Head Girl, and most assuredly, a great friend of the very one whom I seek. Where is he?"
Hermione shook her head in denial. She saw the Death Eaters forming a circle beneath her, and the vague cries of students demanding that she not tell. The cries were quickly silenced. Holding Voldemort's gaze, Hermione clenched each hand into a fist. She knew her words would be important. Her voice, clear and steady, echoed through the hall. She was a young Boudicca, defying the armed might of the legions of Rome. "You waste your time, Voldemort. He is not here. If I knew where he was, I would not tell you. When he learns of this, he will find you. Every person here shall be avenged. He will choose the time and place."
As the rage burned stronger in Voldemort, Hermione braced herself. As wave after wave of pain ripped through her, she gripped her bottom lip between her teeth, refusing to scream aloud. She felt darkness descending upon her, the loss of consciousness from excruciating pain, and fought to erect a barrier around her mind, protecting herself as far as possible. She slipped over the edge into pain, and found to her horror that the onslaught did not stop. Instead it grew stronger, caging her within its claws, leaving the outside world as a blur beyond the sphere of pain enveloping her.
"Let me go! He has her, I have to go. He wants me. Let me go! Now!" Almost incoherent with panic, Harry fought in vain against the strong arms that held him against the wall. Only the combined weight of Snape and Ron held him in place.
"Don't be a fool, Potter. The moment you enter that Hall we are all dead." Snape spat the words at him; his gaze fixed on the limp form of Hermione.
Ron, white faced and trembling, grimly held onto Harry's left arm. His eyes left Hermione's limp form and turned towards Snape. He was suddenly unsure which was the more devastating sight. Snape's face was locked into its usual expression of coldness, but his eyes were those of a damned soul, burning with rage, worry and grief. Ron forced himself to ask, "What do we do now, Professor?"
Snape's lip curled. "I promised Dumbledore that Voldemort would never take Hogwarts while there was breath in my body, Mr Weasley. I intend to keep that promise."
Ron noted the grim determination in his voice, and felt the icy anger radiating from Snape. A mere three years ago, Ron would never have believed that he would be standing shoulder to shoulder with Snape against Voldemort. The silent yet vicious war that had been raging between Death Eaters and the Order of the Phoenix had forced all of them to grow up, and both Ron and Harry had put aside their childish dislike for the Potions master and replaced it with grudging respect for his sacrifices and abilities. Although the stench of his Death Eater past remained, and Harry continued to fall in line with Sirius's ranting at times, Ron was somehow sure that beneath it all, Snape was a decent man.
A certainty that almost took a beating as Snape suddenly locked Harry in a full body bind and dropped him in Ron's arms. Ron struggled with the sudden weight as Snape gripped his shoulders.
"Take Potter and lock him in Dumbledore's office. Use the passageways and keep out of sight. It appears that all of the Death Eaters he has been able to summon are within the hall, but we will not take chances at this stage. Use Fawkes to send a distress signal, Dumbledore showed you how. Go."
Seized by the sudden certainty that he did not want to know exactly what Snape planned to do, Ron nevertheless caught at his sleeve as he moved away. "Sir..." His voice trailed off as Snape turned back towards him.
Tightening his grip on Snape's sleeve, Ron gathered his wits and said, "Be careful, Sir. Please, look after her."
Without a visible change of expression, Snape placed a hand on Ron's shoulder. "I swear to you Weasley, if it is within my power, no harm shall come to Hermione."
With that promise ringing in his ears, Ron fled down the dark hallways, dragging an unconscious Harry behind him.
No fanfares sounded, no crash of thunder or lightning strike preceded him as Snape entered the Great Hall. Without looking right or left, he silently strode towards the remnants of the Head Table. He avoided fallen bodies and crying injured children, brushed past the turning forms of Death Eaters and finally came to a stop before Voldemort himself.
Knowing the eyes of everyone in the Hall were riveted upon his back, Snape forced his gaze to lock with that of Voldemort. He sank to one knee, and simply said, "Master."
An oppressive silence hung like a pall over the occupants of the Great Hall. No one dared speak; many barely dared to breathe, as the former Death Eater Snape kneeled in obeisance before his former Dark Lord.
Snape continued to kneel, his eyes never leaving Voldemort. He could almost feel the hate-filled glares of the students behind him, many of which were matched by his former compatriots in arms.
Voldemort finally broke the silence. Not by his words, but by a stream of harsh, cruel, mocking laughter that echoed in the silence. Snape forced himself to remain still, as he swiftly catalogued his surroundings. Hermione hovered above him on his right; Voldemort showed no strain in keeping her levitating. She could have been dead, only an occasional twitch or spasm gave him hope that she lived. Dumbledore lay crumpled on the ground to his left, the head table was shattered and hideous lumps of cloth and hair scattered about them were the earthly remains of his fellow teachers and students. He forced himself to concentrate on Voldemort; he would only have one chance to convince him that he had truly turned back to his service.
"Severus Snape." Voldemort mockingly drew out the hissing sounds of the s in his name, laughingly comparing it to a snake. "One of my own chosen few. One who willingly betrayed me to my enemies. One who remained here in safety with the old fool Dumbledore and taught Harry Potter to resist me."
Snape waited in silence, making no move to defend himself. His silence enraged Voldemort further, who finally demanded that Snape defend himself.
Snape kept his voice even, his tone deferential and respectful. "Master, I know that I deserve death for turning from your cause. I swear that I only turned from you after.....," he stumbled slightly, aware that Voldemort would not want his death mentioned. "...afterwards, when our ranks lay depleted and exhausted, grieving at your loss, without purpose, without hope. In that moment, I lost all hope and returned to my position here at Hogwarts. Slowly I lost contact with my comrades, yet when necessary I returned to their midst for the required rituals. When Harry Potter came to Hogwarts, I stood watch over him, looking for an opportunity to exact our vengeance upon him. Dumbledore kept him well guarded, but I slowly learnt his weaknesses, his obsessions, the ways in which to manipulate and control him. I thought to bring him to his knees, to humble himself before your memory, I wished him to beg for death in the instant before I granted i t to him."
Voldemort cast a bored glance at Snape, who suddenly found himself unable to speak further. "My dear boy. I congratulate you on your presence of mind, and your ability to concoct a story. Your Slytherin cunning shines through. You forget that I myself was here. I was here in Potter's first year, when you muttered the counter charms as Quirrell jinxed his broom.
"Master, I swear to you it was only to save him from too merciful a death. I did not know Quirrell was one of us. I helped Barty Crouch remove Potter from the field after he returned from your long awaited Rising, I would have helped Pettigrew if he asked it of me. I ensured all knew Potter was a Parselmouth, I kept location charms and low level spells on the boy so he could never leave the grounds without my knowledge. I followed him and tracked him, my only thought to bring about his prolonged a painful death. I know where he is, Master. At this very moment, I know where Potter is." Snape broke eye contact and fixed his gaze on the floor. He had done all he could, his cover story was weak at best, with so many holes that the merest brush of scrutiny would send the entire structure down about his ears. If only Voldemort would take the bait.
Voldemort hesitated momentarily, then lazily waved a hand at Snape. Snape found himself on his feet, then involuntarily moving towards Voldemort. The Dark Lord then forced him to move behind Dumbledore's still body. Snape dragged his sight from Dumbledore, unable to see his mentor brought so low. Snape looked out across the charred and scattered remnants of his school. He dimly recognised some of the battered figures standing before him, encircled by the terrifying figures of Death Eaters bespelled by death, torture and malice. Snape locked his gaze to that of McGonagall, she held it firmly never flinching or judging, and he found a small measure of strength in her steady gaze.
Voldemort's words rolled over the occupants of the hall like a pall of putrid smoke, and Snape forced himself not to gag. "My Loyal Death Eaters obey me without question, Snape. They show loyalty to none but myself, they think of nothing but pleasing me. My command will be your greatest wish. If you are truly returned to me, you will do as I command without question. Without thought, your reactions will be attuned to my wishes.
Consider carefully, Snape. Fail to do as I command, and I shall know you to be a traitor and spy, and will take great pleasure in slaughtering as many students as possible in the moment that you hesitate. Obey me swiftly and without qualm and I will know you to be a loyal servant. Or, and this remains your final choice, admit now that you have betrayed me and your death will be agonising, but you alone will bear the brunt of my displeasure."
Minerva McGonagall kept her eyes locked with Snape, even as the dread grew within her. As long as he held firm, Voldemort would toy with him; the longer Voldemort was distracted, the longer the students would remain alive.
Snape maintained the calm facade he had cultivated over so many years, pushing all thoughts and emotions into the secret, innermost recesses of his mind. His voice remained steady as he replied, "As you wish, Master."
Triumphant mockery ran through Voldemort's voice. "At your feet lies Albus Dumbledore. He was a Muggle lover and harbourer of Mudbloods, he betrayed the ancient bloodline that flowed through his veins. He is less than filth, and we are well rid of him. Offer him the honour he deserves my loyal Death Eater. Spit upon his carcass."
With great difficulty, Severus managed to contain the bile that immediately rose into his throat. McGonagall's eyes bored into him, helping to ground him in this hideous reality. For an instant he was back in her Transfiguration classroom, an angry young student being brought to task for disobedience. Her eyes held the same sternness, the same compelling sense of justice and respect for right. Her eyes flashed, gleaming with grief, rage and misery, and suddenly her eyelids dropped in silent acquiescence. She was making his decision for him; granting him tacit approval to dishonour the body of a man beloved by so many.
He forced himself to do as Voldemort commanded.
Pandemonium erupted throughout the hall, as students and teachers alike voiced their hatred of Severus Snape. Calls of shame clashed with fervent hopes for his long and painful death. Snape blocked as much of the noise as possible from his mind, instead watching McGonagall's face as if she held all the answers to all the questions in the world. Neville Longbottom stood beside her. Neville wept and attempted to break free of the tenacious hold that McGonagall had bestowed upon his shoulder. Even as Neville tried to break her grip, she stood firm, her impassive face a stark contrast to the jumble of emotions coursing through Neville. The hate that Neville felt was clearly marked upon his face, his fervent wish that the teacher who had ridiculed and harassed him for seven years would be struck down in that instant was easily heard. As the Death Eaters waded into the group of students, subduing them through a mixture of force and intimidation, Snape watched a single tear roll down McGonagall's cheek. She never broke eye contact with him, and in that moment, he knew precisely why Dumbledore had died, why James and Lily Potter had died, why Neville Longbottom's parents had been forced into insanity. When you love, the urge to protect is so strong that you are willing to sacrifice yourself to keep the loved ones safe. Even though he could never be termed as a people person, Snape loved these halls, loved the grounds, and most importantly he loved these people. The staff and students were his family, and even though he may detest some of them with the utmost loathing, you can not choose your family.
Snape turned back towards Voldemort, stepping over Dumbledore's body as if it were no more than discarded garbage in his path. Once more he knelt before Voldemort.
"You hesitated, dear boy."
Snape kept his eyes on the floor, knowing in his very bones what Voldemort's tone of voice meant.
Snape's body jerked and flailed as one agonising wave of pain after another ripped through him. The pain was nothing new to him, yet each time it was administered the raw lash of pain cut deeper. Snape accepted the pain gladly, feeling it to be a just punishment for what he had done to Dumbledore. He was vaguely aware of cries around him, and a small voice in his mind marvelled that any present would have concern for his well being. As the pain roared through his veins, he struggled to focus his mind on something external, something to which he could cling as the pain drove him towards insanity. The knowledge that Hermione was also undergoing the same torment provided him with the hook he desperately needed. He concentrated on her body floating beside him, watching through veiled lashes as her body spasmodically twitched and writhed in pain. As he watched her he realised that one of her eyes was open just a fraction. She was conscious, now dimly aware of what was going on around her. The very thought that she lived allowed him to stay sane. Her hands were curled into fists, and somehow he noticed blood had started to drip down her wrists. Her fingernails had burrowed hard enough into her soft palms to draw blood. He watched the drops of blood fall from her skin onto the stone floor, and vowed to exact a heavy price from Voldemort for each drop shed.
Finally, the excruciating pain lifted.
"Very well, Severus Snape. Tell me where Potter is."
Snape took a deep breath and forced his voice into a semblance of calm, as he forced himself back into a kneeling position. The lie fell easily from his tongue. "He is trying to escape, my Lord. Beneath the Whomping Willow in the Grounds lies a secret passage that leads into an abandoned building in Hogsmeade. He and the Weasley boy have fled there, hoping to raise the alarm. Even if they make it into the passage, they will not make it to the village. The entrance has been blocked from the other end; a barrier of concrete and warding spells has been used. He will be trapped in the tunnel, Master."
Voldemort looked at Snape, his eyes narrowing for a moment, before a hideously malicious chuckle escaped his lips. "A tunnel beneath the Whomping Willow Tree? Go." He waved a languid hand and four Death Eaters broke from position at his command, and left to secure the tree. Voldemort returned his attention to Snape, who remained before him.
"My Felicitations, Severus Snape. You have proved yourself loyal. " He lifted his gaze to the remaining staff and students. "You shall all witness my final triumph over the Potter boy; with his death will my return to power be both final and uncontested."
Voldemort's gaze lifted from Snape and focussed upon Hermione. With a careless wave of his hand, he released her from his spell, and she began to plummet towards the stone floor below. And thus it was that Severus Snape betrayed himself. Acting on instinct he turned and caught her as she fell, cradling her tortured and shaken body against his own. Even as he clutched Hermione to his chest, Snape realised what he had done. She was barely conscious, her fingers gripping his black robes tightly and her cheek pressed into his shoulder. She somehow managed to keep her feet under her, relying more on Snape to keep her upright than her own sense of balance. Realising how badly he had betrayed himself, Snape clutched her closer, desperately trying to think of a way to buy some time. He mentally cursed himself; he had handed Voldemort not only the truth regarding his intentions, but also a weapon for him to wield against them all.
You must be logged in to post a review on this story.