Disclaimer & Story Warnings: The characters and the world of the HARRY POTTER universe belong to JKR. The plot is mine. This story plot is rated MATURE. If you are not 18 years or older, this story is not for you. You have been warned!
Hermione’s knees shook as the two wizards guided her into the tower-like prison known as Azkaban. Even without the presence of Dementors, the place had a gloomy and forbidden feel about it. The door that Hermione was ushered roughly through was small; the dank hall ahead of her was narrow and empty of light except for a few sconces several feet above her that barely lit their way to a set of steep spiral stairs. She jumped as the small but heavy door clanged shut behind them and shivered when she heard magical locks snap into place. It’s only for two months, she chanted over and over again in her head as they took the stairway up into the stony prison. Ever few minutes or so they would pass by doors leading to different levels, but she never truly got to look through their bars to see a glimpse of what was waiting for her; this, of course, gave her the impression that she was being led inside from some kind of back entrance.
Her feet began to ache after ten minutes of climbing. Her breathe came in gasps as she tried her best to keep pace ahead of the two wizards, who would shove her if she faltered for even a second. Finally, when it felt as if her lungs would burst, they stopped at the top of the stairs and went through another heavy but small door. She had a brief glimpse of seven other such doors before she was shoved through the closest cell on the right. One of the wizards stood guard in front of the door as the other pushed her further into the cramped cell and shut the door behind him.
Hermione’s bindings were magically released from her aching arms, and the moment she was free she backed away from the wizard, staring at him with frightened eyes.
“Miss Granger, this will be your cell for the duration of your sentence here at Azkaban. You will not be allowed to leave this room until two full months have passed; your time starts the moment I leave this room and the door is locked. Everything you need to survive will be provided. After I leave, food, water, and a blanket will appear. Whenever food appears – at two appointed hours, seven A.M. and seven P.M. – you will have fifteen minutes to eat before the food disappears. On your nightstand there is a tin cup for your water. If you are thirsty at any time, merely pick up the glass and it will fill as many times as you might need,” he said. He took a breath and continued.
“Once a week a Mediwitch will visit and check you over to make sure you are as healthy as can be expected in such circumstances. If for any reason you become ill, a Mediwitch will be appointed to watch over you until you recover. There is one window in this room, though you will notice that it is too high for you to reach. The window is there for one purpose only: to allow you a minimum of light during the day and plenty of fresh air. As you know, this prison is located in the middle of the sea, and the weather can become rough now and then. When that happens you will temporarily be given an extra blanket. Last but not least, you are in a high-security cell. These cells are monitored for the prisoners’ safety but are otherwise completely sound-proof, so you have no contact with anyone, especially the other prisoners,” he said. He nodded once and abruptly left her.
As the magic locks clicked into place behind him, leaving her alone in the dark, Hermione sank down onto the floor and cried.
Severus Snape settled down in the chair of his personal library with a glass of Firewhisky. It was only three hours since the two wizards had left Hogwarts to escort Hermione to Azkaban, but it felt like years. After they had left, Severus and Minerva had spoken at length about what Hermione could do during her coming time of incarceration at Hogwarts. Severus had immediately suggested that she become Minerva’s personal assistant. But Minerva had had other ideas, much to his chagrin.
“Severus,” she said, “I was thinking that given the circumstances she could assist you with the grading of the first through fourth year papers. You did demand that that duty be handed off to someone else to ease your headaches and allow you time to work on your own personal potions research….”
“Minerva, as convenient as that might sound to you, I would rather not. Miss Granger may have scraped a fair amount of O.W.L.s, but I believe it to be for the best all around if you assign her something else to do,” he replied tightly.
“Severus, you made those demands on me, which I grant you is perfectly acceptable after everything you have done over the years for this school and for wizard-kind in general. But you did sign on for another five years as Potions Master. Therefore you are under obligation to me, and I’m afraid that as Headmistress I must insist,” she countered a bit smugly as he scowled at her.
“Why are you suddenly so set on her working with me, Minerva?” he asked stiffly.
“Because she saved your life, Severus. She has always admired you as a teacher, but you never gave her the credit she was due – even though I realize you couldn’t because of the war. But that is over. You no longer have to hold back your praise from worthy students and pupils just because they are not in Slytherin. She saved your life…the least you can do is act as a mentor for her,” Minerva said, the chiding note in her words clear.
Severus was quiet for several moments, ignoring Minerva as she stared and waited for what she knew he wanted to ask. Finally he got up and headed for the door, only to turn and finally address the matter of the elephant in the room. “Why do you think she did it?” he asked quietly, his voice failing to hide his desperate curiosity and confusion.
“I honestly don’t know why, Severus. All I know is that Hermione Granger is a bright young witch who shows an amazing amount of respect for you. Beyond that, I’m left to guess just as you are, unless she decides to confide in one of us…and I’m betting that if she worked with you on school work nearly every day for a whole year, that opportunity just might come up,” she said with a slight smile.
Severus scowled again and left her office to drown his sorrows in hopes of forgetting it all. But here he was, several glasses gone, and still his thoughts went to a young witch who was now presumably situated in a dank cell in Azkaban.
Harry and Ron were busily eating breakfast when they heard a whoosh from the fireplace and Minerva McGonagall being greeted by Mrs. Weasley. They both left the table and rushed into the living room in hopes of seeing their best friend. “Is she here with you?” Ron asked, looking around.
“No, I’m afraid not. That’s why I’ve come over this morning. Hermione is gone for a while and she wanted me to express her regret for not being able to say goodbye before she left,” Minerva said, only to be interrupted by their various exclamations. “Hold on and I’ll tell you,” she scolded as she took a seat and waited for the three of them to do the same.
“Where is Hermione? Is something wrong?” Molly asked in her motherly way.
“Hermione wouldn’t just up and leave us like that, Professor,” Ron commented as he grudgingly took a seat.
“Did she at least write us a letter or something?” Harry asked as he too sat down.
Minerva lifted her hand to forestall the continued onslaught of questions. “Nothing…is wrong. Hermione was visited by someone from the Ministry and offered a rather last minute position as an apprentice. Due to the secrecy of the job itself, she had to leave to start right away and was not permitted to contact you. She is now apprenticed to someone in the Department of Mysteries, but that is all I know about it. She promised that as soon as she could manage, she would write you all, though I doubt she will ever be able to share exactly what she is studying. The only thing that is widely known about that area of the Ministry is that they are quite regimented in their non-disclosure agreements,” she said, hoping Merlin would step in and make them believe this tale she was spinning.
“The Department of Mysteries? That’s quite an honor, isn’t it? Only highly qualified witches and wizards are chosen for that kind of work,” Molly said, her face beaming with pride.
“Hermione – an Unspeakable? I don’t think it would suit her. The thing she loves most in the world is to share whatever she learns with anyone who will listen to her. I bet it won’t last,” Ron said, a bit of a pout betraying his feelings.
“Wow. I can see why she would be chosen, but I’m with Ron. I don’t think it will last. She’d miss us too much!” Harry said, saddened but at the same time excited for her.
Minerva visited with them for a few more minutes and finally escaped, claiming an appointment she couldn’t miss. Despite the shock and confusion she left behind her, she thought her lie had gone over quite well.
Lightning flashed through the small window far above Hermione’s head, waking her from an exhausted sleep. When it flashed again she looked around and realized that she was still sitting on the floor of her cell. Trying to move was a bit painful, but slowly she stood up and stretched her aching limbs. Her throat was parched, and she remembered the tin cup on the plain wooden table next to the cot-like bed. Picking it up she nearly dropped it as the cup filled with water. She took a tentative sip and was reminded of the tap water one would get at a public park in London.
Looking around, she wondered what time it was and whether she had missed dinner. She set the cup down, and suddenly her whole body froze and she found herself unable to move. Seconds later she heard the door behind her open and close; someone had entered. Slowly the paralysis lifted; she felt her head give way as her body was lifted an inch off the floor, and she turned her head awkwardly to face the person who had entered the room. The witch who stood there lowered Hermione back down to the floor and brightened the light that was coming from the tip of her wand, giving Hermione a good look at her visitor.
“I am Lola. I will be your Mediwitch during your time here. The Petrificus spell is standard for my safety and yours. I will remove it as soon as I leave,” Lola said as she approached Hermione and raised her wand in a series of movements Hermione didn’t recognize. “All right then, all done. You are healthy. I must warn you that unless you do some sort of exercise during the day, you may become quite weak while you are locked in your cell. I suggest jumping jacks, crunches, even running in place. I’ll see you next week – oh, and your dinner will pop in any minute now. Remember, you have only fifteen minutes to eat before the food is taken away. Good evening,” she said, turning to leave just as abruptly as she had appeared.
“Wait, Miss…Lola,” Hermione said hurriedly. “Can you tell me if there’s some way to tell the time in here? I just don’t know how else I’ll know when it’s meal time, and if I’m sleeping…I don’t want to starve while I’m here,” Hermione said, embarrassed.
“When the food appears, a sound like a bell will alert you in case you are sleeping,” Lola answered. Then she departed, leaving the room in darkness once again.
After the locks clicked back into place the rest of Hermione’s body unfroze and she nearly fell. As she made her way over to the cot and sat down, making out the interior of the room as best she could in the brief flashes of lightning, she heard a bell just as she’d been told and a plate with some gruel-like substance on it appeared on the table. Hermione sniffed at it gingerly and sent a prayer to Merlin that she would live through the next two months without withering away. She also wondered how much worse it would have been before the war, when Dementors still guarded Azkaban.
A/N: Another chapter for you! Just so you know, I will be participating in NaNoWriMo this year, but I still plan to make time for FanFic writing. Please read and review! *HUGS*