Gift-Exchange for SnapeSupercedesSocialization
Summary: SSHG, The end of the war was just the beginning of all the drama that would follow Severus Snape after he failed to die like a normal person.
Beta Love: No one found me yet :(, nope DeepShadows2 found me (gasp)
Me too, bird! - Dragon
And Dragon and the Rose, Dutchgirl01, and the elusive sneaky Flyby Commander Shepherd
The Scent of Moonflowers
I am not going to die. I'm going home like a shooting star.
The end of the war brought a new set of problems and tribulations to the Wizarding World, but the rebuilding of Hogwarts was not an option anyone questioned. The people insisted on its repair almost immediately— more so than the repair of the Ministry— because of what Hogwarts had stood for.
Minerva, curse her feline guilt, had thrust the role of Headmaster back upon him in an attempt to make up for having not believed in him when she should have. No manner of convincing could get her to take the blasted role back— and she liked teaching.
And people liked her teaching—
Bother and damnation.
All because he hadn't had the common decency to stay bloody well dead when he should have bled out and— well, DIED. Thank you very much.
Bloody school seemed to like him being there, too.
The students and staff had thought him an utter monster while he'd reigned as Headmaster, thinking all manner of horrible things—
Now, thanks to Harry-Let's-Tell-Everyone-About-Your-Teenage-Fixations-Potter, people thought him a tragic hero whose love was something they wanted for themselves.
No, no, and more no.
At least he wasn't in Azkaban—
Or Mungos for life—
No, he was going to be the fucking Headmaster forever—
He felt his eyelid spasming along with his eyebrow.
He had to admit that Hogwarts was the closest thing to home he'd had since— ever. Merlin knew his childhood home had been shite with a side of chips.
He closed his eyes and took a deep breath before staring out on the Hogwarts green.
The feel of Hogwarts had changed, he had to admit.
It felt more— alive.
Save for the obvious moving portraits and staircases, it was often hard to feel Hogwarts as a magical school. Sure, there were magical people in it and house elves, but before the school had seemed more like a school and less like a magical one.
Something had shifted and changed.
The scent of moonflowers caused him to sharply inhale, savouring the scent. It was delicately sweet unlike other flowers in the greenhouse, and his nose was not offended by it— not like most of the ambient scents he had the displeasure of smelling around Hogwarts.
Severus saw Gra— Master Granger walking across the dewy grass, her black robes fluttering behind her with a familiar billow. She'd chosen to take on a potions mastery with none other than the renowned Master Von Helmont— the ancient wizard who had supposedly been one of the few who knew how to make a philosopher's stone. He was an alchemist of the highest order and a potions expert that those like Severus would have worshipped in his earlier years simply from the amazing tales that were told about them.
How she had contacted him— hell, how he knew of her— remained a mystery. He knew only a handful of people who had ever claimed to have spoken to him via letter or in person, and even then it was more like stories told after having too many beers than truth.
But there was no doubt she was the real thing—
She wore the robes of her master's style as was tradition.
She had her master's mark branded into her magical signature —it was a trademark of the master and apprentice bond of old— so there could be no doubt of her claim—
The bonds, he knew, were supposedly eternal, and many believed once you were an apprentice with someone, the bond would be refound life after life— which begged the question: Had Hermione Granger already known Master Von Helmont from ages past?
Granger's return had been something of a "big deal" to Hogwarts.
Hogwarts seemed to recognise the witch as clearly as it had recognised his return. Magic seemed to frolic around her in wisps of magical plasma, and she didn't seem to speak as much as you knew what she was telling you.
And her eyes—
They were a fiery orange-gold and red, like the philosopher's stone.
If anything proved she was the true apprentice of the great Von Helmont, that alone could have done it.
It was, admittedly, rather eerie how silent Granger was. His image of her was completely ruined.
She stood tall and silent. She commanded her class without a verbal word, and she taught her students while demanding full attention and discipline.
Yet, even so, when he watched her teach, she would patrol the aisles and oversee her students' work, gently correcting and guiding without a sound, bringing smiles and epiphanies to her classes that he could have only dreamed of in his.
Without a sound.
Without a word.
Whatever whispers the students may have indulged in at the beginning were quickly squashed. He saw nothing but great respect for Professor Granger— perhaps even a bit of fear or awe. No one claimed she was unfair, save the ones who thought not being able to sleep in class and slack wasn't fair.
Perhaps, he thought, that silence was her secret strength. In the students' struggle to understand her, she had encouraged them to actually pay attention to her lessons, and that was, admittedly, a gift.
Her familiar frolicked around her in giant bounds like an overenthusiastic animal, but to call it a mere animal was like trying to call a dinosaur a lizard. Whatever Olde Magick she had used to summon herself a true familiar had given her one a doozy of a — something.
He wasn't quite sure what that something was, though.
One moment it slunk around like a feline and the next it was flying about and around her, skittering across the wall like a spider, or even perched on her shoulder like a parrot. It was as if its physical form was entirely based on need or perhaps simply its whim.
It was a true familiar— the likes of which hadn't been seen in untold centuries due to the sheer complexity of the ritual (and the rigidity of the spell itself.) It required an entire week of fasting and preparation, chanting, ritual circles, and a surrender of oneself to the Olde Magick—
And very few if any who had that kind of discipline could justify such an extensive ritual for "just a familiar." He knew back in the day when he was struggling to be a master in his own right, taking a week off to starve himself even more than he already was wasn't the way he envisioned his mastery studies.
But from what Granger had told him during their interview for the Potions position, her master refused to teach her anything until she had a proper familiar and "not one of those glorified pets they like to call familiars."
Yet, while that familiar had looked like a hulking gargoyle of a beast during the interview (fixedly staring at him with glowing, suspicious eyes) it transformed into river otter to help oversee the class. It bounced from place to place checking out the cauldrons, nipping inattentive students, and making squeaky commentary all the while.
He had to admit that the presence of a real familiar had the students (and some of the staff) wondering if their ideas of traditional familiars had been wrong all along or if they had always been like Hermione's and had simply chosen the forms of cats, owls, and toads to better "fit in".
It spoke volumes for the kind of discipline students of old must have had compared to today's typical eleven-year-old, if they were required to fast and cast complex rituals to summon a true familiar—
He imagined Crabbe and Goyle summoning literally half of something between them instead of a whole familiar—
Severus' own master had been all about the art of potions and very little if anything else. He had been, admittedly, a genius at his craft but unfortunately had the imagination of a gadfly for anything outside of potions. His familiar had been a stuffy old cat with one blind eye, no claws, and had been mostly deaf. It knew when dinner time was, though, and had caterwauled like a dying whale whenever it was late. It was enough to make Severus swear off familiars for life.
No, Granger's return to Hogwarts had helped the school. There was no doubt of that whatsoever.
Why, then, did seeing her again cause such conflict in his stomach?
"Come on, 'Mione, it's time!"
Severus heard the voice long before he made the connection to who it belonged to. It couldn't be who he thought it was— The school grounds were heavily warded unless—
Hagrid let the sodding wanker in.
Severus grit his teeth in annoyance.
Of course it was Hagrid.
Granger stood with her arms crossed, silent as always.
"I waited for you to get that mastery with Von Helsing, and now it's time we got married! It's been what? Ten years?"
Hermione's posture stiffened.
"Whatever. Von Helmuth. Helsinki. Heineken."
Hermione's eyebrows were pinned together in the center, her jaw visibly tightening.
"Don't be like this, Hermione," Ron whinged.
Granger pointed to the gate, her meaning unmistakable.
Ron turned to see a giant spider that made even Acromantulas look like tiny garden spiders standing above him, its wickedly sharp fangs dripping with venom.
The wizard went pelting for the gates so fast that he left his wand behind— only he misjudged where the gates actually were and ran straight into the Whomping Willow.
The Willow promptly beat the screaming wizard down to the ground and attempted to turn him into the next pretzel art project before unceremoniously punting him into Black Lake.
Ronald Weasley bounced off of the very baffled giant squid's head and splooshed into the dark water.
The giant spider then turned itself into a tiny robin and flitted about in glee before landing on Hermione's shoulder with a victorious chirp.
I'm sorry you had to see that, Severus heard in his head.
He startled, staring at Hermione.
She looked weary.
"Walk with me, Professor Granger?" he asked.
She nodded, squaring her shoulders.
And he smelled the soft, delicate scent of moonflowers.
Oddly, Snape realised, she made hardly a sound when she walked, and he wondered how much of those habits she had honed while on the run from Death Eaters, Snatchers, and whatever else may have plagued her in her short life.
"Does he or she have a name?" he asked, curious.
Hermione smiled at him. Most people wouldn't think to ask.
"If you haven't figured it out Master Granger," he replied with a snort. "I am not like most people."
Granger seemed to chuckle silently. His name is Pathos. My master said it was because he evokes pity in those that see him in order to get extra treats.
Snape snorted a laugh and gave her lifted eyebrows. "That is— fitting."
Pathos peered at him with curious glowing eyes as he took on the shape of a miniature Ukranian Ironbelly dragon with a phoenix tail.
"Your master sounds wise in the way of the world and far more accepting than mine was."
He is a very learned individual— and far more accepting than I was led to believe before I accepted his invitation. Many told me he was a fraud. That he had to be a fraud. No one had seen or heard from him in many years. Hermione tilted her head. I had no idea who he was. I know he shared the same name as the great alchemist, but as far as I knew— he only shared the name.
"And was this proven wrong?" Severus asked as they walked.
He invited me to stay with him for a summer. If I could successfully summon a familiar to my side by the end of it, he would teach me what the rest of the Wizarding World would kill to know.
"How long did it take you?"
Until the end of summer, she said with a shudder of her shoulders— a laugh, he realised. I exhausted every book. Nothing worked. I meditated. Nothing came to me. I chanted spells from the Oldest of Magicks— and nothing bent its ear to me.
Hermione shook her head. I was exhausted. Spent. I was tired beyond the creak of bones, and I felt as old and brittle as a person weighed down by countless centuries. I felt like a failure. I knew my relationship with Ronald was a farce. My parents— they wanted nothing to do with someone like me— a person who would rewrite their memories and send them to Australia without even asking them first. They cared not for my reasons and my attempts to explain. As far as they were concerned, I had betrayed them— and they were right to think what they did.
I walked until I couldn't walk anymore.
I fell to the ground in my weakness, my legs trembling and refusing to hold me up anymore.
And when my eyes opened, I realised I had fallen into the middle of an ancient circle, and in my weakened state, I had no shields to speak of. I could feel— magic like never before.
My magic channels were raw and so weak that they could not resist the thrum of that ancient magick.
I felt real magic around me. In everything. I had been blind to magic. I knew words. I knew incantations. I knew rules—
But I. Knew. Nothing.
I was but an infant looking upon the face of Creation and not having the words to even describe what I felt. Saw.
And I knew— in that moment— I was nothing.
Hermione turned to look at him with a strangely light smile as if nothing troubled her. I realised I could be anything if I let it remake me as it wished— rather than what I thought I wanted to be.
So I did.
I threw myself into that magic and let go.
And Pathos was there to catch me, wind himself around me, devour me, and remake me— he was the very first being I trusted with everything, and so he trusted me too.
"He doesn't care for Weasley," Severus said.
No, he doesn't, Hermione agreed with a silent chuckle. He knows Ron left Harry and me alone in the Forest of Dean because of his uncontrollable jealousy. Well, he knows a lot of things about Ron that do not paint him well.
"I know a lot of things about Ronald Weasley that do not paint him very well," Snape said dryly. " He and countless other students that I have had the unfortunate experience of being inflicted with."
Hermione smiled at him. I can only apologise for my part in it.
Snape scowled. "Trust me, there were infinitely worse examples of student stupidity in the school system than you, Master Granger."
You don't mean that unkindly, do you?
Snape closed his eyes. "No. I truly regret not being in a position to be a better teacher for those who could have understood my lessons."
Granger sighed. I think we all thought you just hated teaching. Hated children.
Snape shook his head. "I am not a fan of children in general, no," he said. "But nothing is more frustrating than to love a subject and have it disrespected by inattentive, spoiled children who would rather blow each other up than learn anything useful."
He tilted his head. "Yet— you seem to teach quite naturally."
Hermione shook her head. Teaching was never my dream, she said thoughtfully. Magick had other ideas.
"That amount of faith— must have been—" He trailed off. "It is hard for me to wrap my mind around it. I could not have— done as you did."
Granger regarded him with a sideways expression. You carved a niche out of scratch with nothing more than your own magic and sheer will. You have already done what many have not, cannot do. You defied a megalomaniac— or two. There are many things about you which I find I can only admire, such as your tenacity. My only regret is that you still carry a heavy burden that you cannot or will not share.
Hermione stretched, moving her shoulders and head to loosen her tense muscles. If you ever need to talk about it, I can offer a sympathetic ear and silent, non-judgmental tea.
"Tea, you say?" Snape mused.
Silent and entirely non-judgmental tea.
They stood together watching the lake without speaking for what could have been hours.
"I think—" Severus said after the silence seemed eternal. "I would take you up on that silent, non-judgmental tea, Master Granger."
Hermione turned and smiled at him, her eyes flickering brightly like embers in a fire. She gestured with her chin toward the castle and for him to follow.
With a sweep of her robes she trekked up the path.
Fascinated by her stoic acceptance, he followed, unable to quell a sense of wonder in the rather dramatic changes within the female member of Potter's merry little trio of rule-breakers.
As they trekked together up to Hogwarts, the sopping wet and humiliated form of Ronald Weasley found his way back to the far shore only to suddenly realise he had no wand.
"Bloody hell! I don't care what mum says. That witch is ruddy mental!"
The days began to pass far quicker than he realised. Silent and entirely non-judgmental teatime became another entirely non-judgemental teatime. She kept her promise— offering a sympathetic ear but not judgement. The silence was replaced by discussion. Discussion turned into debate. Debate turned into lengthy philosophical discussions about the composition of magic in the universe—
He found he was now looking forward to sharing teatime with Granger.
Her silent laughter sounded like a clarion bell in his mind, and it felt far more genuine. Her eyes held such a heaviness of knowing what the world was all about—
She seemed so much older than her peers, but he realised she had always been far above her peers.
As he digested such thoughts, he realised he had come to— care for her.
A part of him balked at the idea, screaming that she was a student.
The other part of him said "was" a student and had grown, matured, and definitely surpassed her student days.
And who was he to quibble over a few years anymore?
She was a vibrant, living creature and he—
He was just a bastard who failed at dying when every other normal person would have simply rolled over and expired.
He had no right— was in no position to assume anything other than Granger saw him as a colleague or a peer she happened to share interests with.
A niggling voice reminded him that Charity Burbage had once thought the same of him once and what had that gotten her?
He pulled the flask out from his robes and took a deep swig from it. His tongue darted out to lick a droplet of crimson from his lips. He had no right to her affections other than as a colleague.
None at all.
He could almost believe it, if his still heart hadn't actually beat in her presence.
When the summer hols came, Severus normally rejoiced in the quiet and solitude in the castle— but with the Board of Governors cutting costs and outsourcing potions for the school, Hermione was released to enjoy her summer hols away from Hogwarts. He, of course, had to stay at the castle and make sure things did not spontaneously explode while everyone was gone.
Merlin knew that between Hagrid's inept bumbling and Filch chasing his cat into all manner of odd places made for plenty of trouble even without the students being around to help.
But this summer—
Disquiet tore at his gut and his mind.
He was strangely restless—
Worse, the night was not nearly as comforting now. The moonflowers refused to bloom, and their scent was not even there to comfort him in her absence.
Even Hogwarts seemed to—
To miss her.
Just as he— missed her.
He desired her, but he knew what that would mean— why it could only end in anguish.
To love her was to eventually be so bound and drawn to her that he would be compelled to Turn her. He would have to kill the one he loved— steal her very life's blood and offer her nothing but death in return.
It wouldn't matter the reason.
It wouldn't matter how much he cared for her.
He would still have to drink her dry and feel her die in his arms.
He would forever be the one that killed her.
He was forever the accused man who killed everything he cared about.
He still— missed her.
Snape walked into the school infirmary to see hundreds of vials smashed against the wall, their liquids pooling together in a bizarre rainbow of chaos. He quelled the immediate sense of panic that came with seeing potions mixing together—
Gods only know what that would do to— the entire hospital wing.
"Don't worry, they are fake."
Poppy curled her lip in disgust, vanishing the mess with a wave of her wand. "The entire lot of potions the Board had me order instead of having us brew in house is completely fake. Nothing more than a light tincture of diluted willowbark tea. It won't even work as a pain potion!"
"I've sent for Master Granger, Headmaster, you needn't worry about having to take time away from trying to wrangle the other school idiocies. I know how long it took for you to brew for us." Poppy's expression was dark and absolutely furious. "If the Board has something to say about it, I will personally make them drink every one of the vials that are left."
The look Poppy had was the same look that said "drink this and don't complain" and "do not argue with your Mediwitch because I know how to break you in as many ways as I can heal you."
Severus swallowed hard. "I will— inform the Board of their failure to judge proper financial priorities."
Poppy gave a tight, predatory smile that made Snape think he was facing down a large predatory dinosaur of the carnivorous variety. "Thank you, Headmaster," she said and spun, storming off to the other side of the infirmary.
Merciful gods that woman, he thought. She's more scary now than she was when I was eleven.
Severus had to quell the need to laugh outright as one of the obstinate buffoons on the Board of Governors quaffed one of the "perfectly fine" potions and immediately sprouted a crown of rainbow feathers on his head and a monkey tail.
Apparently not all the potions were just willow bark tincture in water.
The tail, he had to admit, was terribly appropriate. The man was, at least from the rump down, a baboon.
Deciding the old contract to offer room and board for the resident Potions Master for the purposes of brewing the school's potions during the summer hols, the rest of the board quickly signed on the lines and smashed their signet rings into the sealing wax with all due haste.
Something, something about unto perpetuity—
Something, something until the land was swallowed by the sea—
Severus had to bite his own cheek not to laugh in their faces— especially those sporting purple horns and farting warts on their noses.
To be fair, the old coot had written him in that way from the start— his way of protecting his valued asset. They had eradicated that when they rewrote the contract on the Potions position on his being headmaster—
Well, that had come to bite them on the arse.
Mind— well, no one had wanted to offer Horace Slughorn tenure unto perpetuity due to his high life proclivities.
Granger, however, was nothing but the perfect example of why you didn't want your resident potions master to swan off to a bigger and better pond. Her potions were quality (even he could admit that,) and her teaching skill was practically preternatural. That she was a confirmed and successful apprentice to THE Master Von Helmont would have had her being sought after by every apothecary, potions supply, and alchemist's shoppe from here to the four corners of creation.
But Master Granger had returned to Hogwarts—
And if a little of her passion for potions (something he hadn't even realised she had under his reign of terror as her professor) rubbed off on but one of these students then the world was going to be better for it.
Even little Mathias Parkinson— the boy no one thought would be passionate about anything— worshipped Hermione and had the highest marks in Potions his family had ever seen.
If that wasn't a good enough reason to keep someone in tenure at the school, then what was?
She was certainly better than Trelawney—
And if someone as scatterbrained and drunk as Trelawney could maintain residency at Hogwarts—
Snape closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
He was still trying to untangle the paperwork and clauses that would allow him to either fire the horrible woman and hire someone competent.
Though with divination— Merlin only knew if competency even existed in the field.
Was he being bitter?
As one of the Board spontaneously combusted and the others sprayed him out with Aguamenti, Severus could only smile smugly.
They were all dunderheads.
When he saw Granger coming down the hall, he forced himself to walk another direction.
Even as a pain grew inside his chest to stop—
Even as his magic threatened to throttle him and jerk him back like a dog on a leash that had reached the end of his tether.
He needed to keep the distance.
It was for her own good.
It was for HIS own good.
Gods, but why did it hurt so much?
Why did it feel like he was losing Lily all over again— worse even.
Most definitely worse.
He felt like he was dying every time he left her proximity, and perhaps he wasn't so wrong—
His heart stopped without her near— the symptoms of his "new life" rising up like the curse he knew it was supposed to be.
Sunlight feeling like a million crawling, burning bites upon his skin—
The growing feeling that he would never again be warm—
Damned if you did— damned if you don't.
The walks at night felt hollow and lonely. There was a time not so long ago when he would have welcomed that peaceful solitude—
Prayed for it, even.
But countless non-judgemental tea times had changed that.
It had made him realise that he'd never known such companionship before, for had he known such a thing in his youth, he would have done so much more to keep it.
Defied a Dark Lord—
He would have wanted to be the kind of person she deserved to have as a friend.
He wanted to be the kind of person she—
Wanted to be with.
Merciful Hades on a broomstick!
Lines and lines of sharp teeth filled his vision and drool dripped—
The fires of hell seemed to rise up from the creature's throat and threaten to roast him alive.
So to speak.
The creature jerked his head around.
Eating the Headmaster is considered terribly rude.
The beast whined and bounded over to his mistress, flopping down beside her. His unblinking glowing eyes stared into Severus— judging him.
Are you done avoiding me? Hermione didn't even look up from her book as she leaned back against Pathos.
Severus winced. So much for being a spy.
It might have worked on a normal person. Hermione's flame-like eyes blinked slowly as she turned the page in her book.
Her expression was painfully detached, indifferent.
"Master Granger," he said so quietly he could barely hear himself.
He wanted to grovel.
He wanted to press his head to her feet.
He wanted to do anything he could to bring that warmth back into her voice— her eyes—
He missed it.
"I—" Words were hard. He'd never had problems with cutting words. Jibes. Insults. They were easy. Entirely too easy.
You know how to make a person feel insignificant and utterly unloveable.
He felt a stab in his heart— even as it beat. He could feel it beating, threatening to escape the confines of his ribcage and run off without his consent like the dish running away with the spoon.
"That was not my intent," he said in a harsh breath.
And what was your intent, Headmaster?
"To protect you."
You're hardly a rabid dog.
He looked shamefully at his boots. "I hurt you."
"I am sorry."
Pathos growled at him.
"You have no idea how sorry I am."
I am not you, Headmaster. I could not even begin to imagine your thoughts.
Granger looked up at him, her eyes narrowed as her head moved to the side, chin tilted.
"Please. Call me Severus."
It seems inappropriate to call you by your given name when I am addressed as Master Granger.
Severus closed his eyes. "I would call you by whatever name you desired— if you would allow me."
Hermione stood up, rolling her head to stretch her neck. It's Hermione, you know. My name.
He tried to say the name, but his tongue was stuck to the roof of his mouth— dry and impossibly heavy.
He took a step forward, compelled to close the impossible chasm that he had inadvertently crafted. He raised his hand to beg her tolerance— to touch her.
Thunderous footsteps and crackling wood broke through the escalating tension as Hagrid clumsily stumbled through, dragging a very large sack of something utterly foul-smelling behind him.
"Oi, Headmaster, sir! I'm so glad ta run inta ya." Hagrid bellowed. "The gnomes have been'a takin' bites outta da school garlic patch, and half the field is rotted. I need ta order a bunch more sets so dere will be enuff for the elves ta cook wi't when da students come back."
Snape winced, stifling a hiss as the offensive scent assaulted his nose with a vengeance. The smell would have been horrible enough when he'd been human, but it was far, far worse—
It instilled within in him the kind of rage he had barely felt since the time of Potter and his merry band of fuckwits as they strung him up by his ankles and—
It took all of his control not to attack Hagrid right then and there like the rabid animal Hermione had assured him he wasn't.
The lamentable state of the garlic fields can wait, don't you think, Hagrid?
Hagrid stood there, dumbly, waiting.
Severus realised Hermione's words did not register for Hagrid, and his control was wavering.
Suddenly, Pathos turned himself into a Sarcosucus, snapped a startled Hagrid up by the trousers, and ran at a full tilt (garlic sack and all) into the Black Lake— and kept right on going.
Severus panted with exertion, his fangs bared in effort— fangs that were now all too obvious.
Hermione's hands closed over his. He's gone.
"Don't touch me, Granger!" he hissed.
The moment her touch left his hands— he felt the emptiness again and abruptly realised what he had done. He looked up at her with panic to see her eyes Occlude before him.
"Granger, I—" he stumbled over his words.
But his words only caused her to draw even further away.
He looked into her eyes, desperately willing her to speak to him.
After a long silence, she closed her eyes and turned away completely.
He heard nothing.
"Please, Hermione—" he pleaded. "Say something. Anything."
She looked at him, staring directly at him.
Her lips moved, but there was no sound.
A long silence spanned between them.
She closed her eyes and turned away again. A tear trickled down her cheek as she stood.
Did he not say he would do anything to keep her warmth?
Did he not admit that she was the kind of person that made him want to be something worthy of her—?
He staggered forward, standing in front of her with a tortured expression on his face.
"Hermione," he pleaded, extending his hands to her. An invitation. An apology. A—
A wish his tortured heart wanted desperately to give voice to.
His hands were pale— so very pale. Crystalline claws glinted in the gloom. They were not human hands.
"I am a monster that loves you," he whispered hoarsely. "I am nothing but a beast wearing a human face. I want to hold you close, but I am afraid, Hermione. I am afraid I will kill you like I kill everything I have ever cared for, and all of them pale in comparison to what I feel for you."
He stood there like a statue.
A gaping fish.
He stood there like a quivering firstie in one of his own classes.
His hands trembled.
Slowly Hermione moved her hands to his— agonisingly slow. She hovered them above his as if deciding what placing them there would mean.
Then, like the Red Sea crashing together after being parted, her hands touched his.
Warmth like the heat of day without the stinging and burning sensation flowed into him. His heart thumped as it suddenly jolted into action. He shivered and closed his eyes as the scent of moonflowers wafted over him and he realised it was her.
It had always been— her.
His hands delicately cupped her face, his twisted talons weaving through her massive halo of curls.
"Hermione," he groaned, feeling a surge of emotion he could barely decipher, let alone control.
To be with a witch— physically or even mentally— it instilled a sense of wonder in him even as part of him was utterly panicked that he'd somehow manage to do something horrible to muck it all up.
Her lips parted in invitation, and his head dipped as his mind shifted gears and kicked all the "unnecessary" thoughts right out.
He felt her vibration as his tongue slid against hers, and their kiss deepened. He felt her body shudder against him and the damnable layers of cloth kept both him from her and her from him.
He growled in frustration, never so annoyed with himself for dressing with so many layers of clothing covered in countless bloody buttons. The fact that they were out in the middle of the Hogwarts green was hardly a thought in his mind.
Hermione seemed to have similar ideas in mind, but as her hands drew across his line of buttons, a tickle of her magic mischievously undid each and every one as her hands met bare skin, his scars, and the forest of hair that ran down his chest to lower, very interested parts of himself.
Yet, he had no access to her—
Somehow they had gone from vertical to horizontal, and his hands wove with hers as he pinned her down into the grass.
He looked into her eyes, his head pressed her hers as a grimace of both pleasure and pain quarrelled in his chest. His teeth ached as dual hungers fought within him, but both of them agreed that she was the solution— her and only her.
But he would NEVER take blood from her without—
Hermione tilted her head to the side, wiggling her hands out from his and pulled his head down to her neck with a silent sigh, her fingers tangled in his hair.
She couldn't possibly—
She tugged on his head silently, drawing him to her exposed neck— bared to him.
His fangs kissed her throat, and she pulled him tighter against himself— not away. Not away!
As his fangs sought the buried artery, the warm liquid surged into his mouth and he groaned as it seemed like ambrosia. With the blood he had taken from the deer he had killed and drained before handing the carcass over to the centaurs— that had only tasted of iron and salt. It had staved off starvation, but it was eating hardtack. Her blood might as well have been pure magic laced in the finest of wines but as rich as cream.
No one or nothing had ever drawn him in and been so utterly perfect—
His arms were around her, embracing her like the enraptured octopus, cradling and pulling her tight against him as if she was a buoy in a stormy sea. He found he was not driven to hurry. He could take his time and savour. Her body quaked against him, pulling closer.
He found himself licking the wound he had made upon her neck— an apology as much as appreciation. He hadn't felt so alive in—
She looked up at him drowsily, her eyes half-lidded as if she'd had the best sex of her life, and he had to admit just that one act had been as if he were a moggie rolling in fresh nip and ended with him flat on his back with paws in the air.
Wait— he was on his back.
Hermione was rubbing into him as if to scent mark him, placing kisses upon his skin— his throat. Every touch was like electric, causing his hands to spasm with the overload of her life flowing through him, resonating within him.
A part of him revelled in the ecstasy of the moment even as another part demanded to know why he had waited so long—
A buried instinct clawed its way up from his boxed nature—
To share this rapture with the one he loved—
Gods, was it true? Did he—
The quibbles he had so steadfastly clung to before seemed but the weak mewling of helpless kittens compared to the roar of a great beast laying claim to its territory.
It wanted her.
He wanted her.
But even as he instinctively drew his crystalline claw across his own neck— could he even presume to think she wanted to be with him on such an intimate level.
They hadn't even dated.
"Fool!" his heart yelled at him. "What do you think all of that tea and sympathy was?"
Had he truly been so blind?
As Hermione's warm mouth covered his offering— his Covenant to her—
There would never be anyone but her.
His soul would be hers—
As broken and tattered as his everything was—
But as her mouth worked gentle suction upon his neck, his eyes rolled back and it seemed as if her lifeforce was filling in the cracks and mending his tatters.
She had been what was missing in his life.
Gods, it had never been Lily he'd been waiting for.
The scent of moonflowers that had haunted him since he was but a child in Cokeworth—
It had been magic heralding him of her— Hermione.
Whispering to him to wait.
Whispering to him to be patient.
And he had mistakenly thought it was Lily.
How could he have known—
How could magic, anything have known that she would be the one—
A witch who hadn't even been born while he had been suffering the likes of his father and Potter, Black, Pettigrew—
He let out a ragged, emotional sigh. "I'm sorry I didn't wait," he whispered into her ear as he stroked her hair. "I'm sorry I hurt you."
She had her elbows on his chest as she glared down at him, face scrunched with the effort of her thoughts.
You could have saved me from that stupid crush on Gilderoy Lockhart, her mind voice scolded clearly.
He barely had the time to realise he could hear her again.
And that equally humiliating fascination with Ron.
He gave her a pained look mixed with horror and disgust.
I'm kidding, Severus. How could either of us have known?
He blinked at her, swallowing hard.
Just because something is meant to be doesn't mean we will have the straight and narrow path to find it. Sometimes we have to fall into a ravine and crawl out to realise we were on the wrong path from the start.
How was she so wise?
I'm not the only one who lived through a war, she said with a weariness that belied her age.
He cupped her face, pressing his forehead to hers. "If this continues, Hermione. I will be— driven to Turn you. If this is not what you want, we must end this now before I cannot exorcise what I feel for you. I am already so tightly bound to your very essence."
Hermione traced his brows with her fingers. What makes you think I want to live in a world without you? If I did not want that from the start, it would not have hurt so much when you pushed me away.
"You could not have known I was a vampire," he said grimly.
He stared at her.
You only drink tea and that beet juice which I highly suspect is not at all the blood of pulverised beets.
They lay together in the grass, snuggled together and unwilling to move. His eyes closed as he took in her scent of moonflowers and sea water.
Before he knew it, he was asleep.
He woke with a jolt as the sun beamed him in the eyes. He expected to see his skin smouldering and the itching burning and crawling of stinging insects to cover his body.
Hermione snuggled into him with a yawn, lazy and comfortable.
He watched his skin, moving it in and out of the sun.
It was just warm.
It was like— he was human again.
Only he knew it wasn't true because he could hear squirrels bickering in the forest from far away and the chittering calls of birds and the hooting of the owls way over in the tower.
No, he was most definitely still fanged and clawed, but something quite significant had changed.
Like not spontaneously combusting in the sun. That was a pretty good example of a hard-to-ignore change.
And the burning hunger no longer gnawed at his belly, demanding of him at all hours.
He knew it wasn't that it was human blood or even fresh blood— his first few weeks as a newborn vampire had proven that was definitely not the reason.
He hadn't had a sire, unlike all those other vampires such as Sanguini who liked to flaunt their bloodlines like it somehow mattered, forced to bow to the whims of whoever had opened a vein for them and given them enough blood to ensure their Turn.
No, this was different.
He nuzzled Hermione tenderly, lazily.
She vibrated like a hum, soundlessly. Her mind however made up for it, sending a song-like musical hum through his mind.
He'd never heard anything so beautiful in his life.
He placed a tender kiss upon her mouth. "Breakfast, love?"
She opened her eyes lethargically, pulling into his wool stubbornly like an energy sucking feline interloper.
Frowning at her stubborn morning languidness, he stood, carrying her in his arms like in a classical monster movie. "You're younger than I am, Granger."
She pulled herself closer into his robes and smashed her face into his buttonline.
I love you.
He almost dropped her.
Okay, so she was forgiven the sluggishness in the morning.
He could live with it.
He stopped avoiding her after their reconciliation, and he questioned why he'd even done it to begin with. Sure, he knew why he had— to protect her from himself— but it seemed the longer they were together the less those reasons even seemed to rise up to pester him.
He'd told her what his nature was. She knew.
He'd told her his instinct would urge him to do so.
She had accepted that.
He'd told her that if she didn't tell him now, he'd very likely be unable to stop whatever imprinting process seemed to be going on in his very soul as well as his biology— necrology …. oh, whatever ology vampires were considered.
He was already pretty sure he was doomed.
He'd have to leave Hogwarts and go teach penguins in Antarctica to keep himself from trying to be near her, and even then—
He had no idea.
Fortunately for him, Hermione didn't really seem to mind his biological demands— plasma or otherwise.
He hungered for her.
It was a manageable hunger, for her presence alone was like a soothing balm. And when things got out of hand, tempers raging as he tried to counter the Board of Governors' usual dumb-arsery, she seemed to know just when to come visit him. He would channel all that simmering anger into something far more enjoyable— worshipping her body until her body writhed under him and her mind sang his name. He'd see to her pleasure before taking blood, and her blood never failed to satisfy the hunger.
And his heart would beat, longer and longer each time he fed from her, even when she wasn't there.
Hermione looked up from the Potions Weekly article she was reading. Sanguini said something odd to me the other day when I was getting supplies at the apothecary.
"Oh, what did that dreadfully pompous bag of angst and drama want?"
Hermione snorted. He said if I wanted a real Sire, I should come to him.
Severus didn't even realise that his claws had dug deep into his palms until he registered the sound of his own blood dripping onto the floor.
Shite, Severus! Hermione cried, rushing over to cradle his injured hand.
Severus startled and brought his bloody hand to his mouth. "Sorry, I— the thought that Sanguini would dare attempt to butt in and interfere in our relationship— the thought he would offer to Turn you. I wanted to tear him to shreds."
Hermione frowned, touching his cheek. If anyone is going to turn my head it's you. If anyone is going to Turn me, it's also you. Not him— he looks like a bloodless turnip that sat in the sun too long. He played that up when he was at Slughorn's parties. He couldn't hear me. Isn't that strange? Severus— tell me. Why does he think I need a 'real' sire?
Severus sighed. "I am what they call a Cursed One. They said it with two syllables as if it makes it more cursed. I was not Sired by a bloodline. I have no other bound to me, serving me— no slaves or thralls. I care not for their blood politics. I couldn't give a rat's arse about their Sire's Sire's Sire. I would rather be here in some semblance of normality than creeping trying to charm thralls and bite the unwary."
You were never bitten?
"The bite does not necessarily make the vampire," Severus explained. "Some vampires originally rose from being buried in places like a crossroads. Unconsecrated ground. Every society seems to have had different ground rules. Many of these original vampires were nothing but bloodthirsty beasts with no mind. Just creatures of nothing but feral hunger but cunning enough to find their next meal. Some, like in the case of my family, it was a curse set long ago. So long ago that the Prince line does not all rise again seeking blood, but I did. Now, back when all vampires were but beasts, some of their victims exchanged blood with their attacker then died. They rose up with greater intelligence— or rather they retained some of theirs. This happened enough in times back then that the "original" bloodlines rose up considering themselves superior to both vampire and man. The younger grew more powerful, and if they were cunning enough, slew their Sires and took on their mantle as head of the line. Now, of course, they have such intricate laws about killing the 'head of the line' to protect themselves from the very backstabbing malarkey they were guilty of."
Severus sniffed. "I have no Sire and no line, so I do not bow to any of them. I cannot be compelled by a non-existent master, and the curse has been so old upon the Prince family line that the original family that cursed us has long since died off. All of this, of course, comes together after Sanguini tried to convince me to swear allegiance to him and his line and thus his master and Sire before him—thus giving however many imbeciles power over me. I told him precisely where he could stick it."
Severus snorted. "You see, they believe that power comes from the age of the vampire and the pertinent bloodline. They must keep this belief strong amongst their kind or there would be chaos and murder and many, many unhappy undead. Because if someone like myself could rise as a vampire and be powerful without a bloodline— then all their lies spanning back countless years would fall to so much dust. So, they create this nonsensical scorn and shunning of the so-called "cursed" ones to make it seem like being alone is far worse fate than death itself. They will try and catch new vampires amidst their newfound bloodlust, offer them a blood meal, and make them swear allegiance. Problem solved."
They never found you?
"Oh, they found me, but I have never trusted Sanguini, and when he came to me looking far, far worse than I, I told him what he could do with his blood meal in rather explicit detail."
That must have gone over well.
Severus chortled. "He attempted to force me. I ripped off his arm and fed it to him. As I recall, it took him a good year or so to regenerate it."
Hermione looked at him with wonder. You tore off his arm?
"I was—" Severus sighed. "Quite new to vampire-hood" He shrugged. "You see, the blood bond they try to sell depends on someone believing that it is truly the best choice. They must make the choice willingly. Otherwise the Oathmagic would not work. It would just be words. Creating a subservient vampire, which is what they always want, requires the creation of one and then starving them before offering them their first meal and the Oath. Or— converting someone who is already so completely mind-fucked that they would swear anything anyway for their masters. I find it utterly disgusting— worse even than what the Dark Lord wished. For even as twisted as Tom Riddle was, he wanted something better for the Wizarding World. Those like Sanguini wish only to rule and feel superior. They will always use clueless fools like Horace Slughorn to find new thralls, potential meals, and willing converts. They believe themselves the master puppeteers— they who would rule the world from eternal darkness."
Severus rolled his eyes. "I should have broken bloody Sanguini's neck."
Hermione pulled his head down for a kiss. I'm fine, Severus.
"If it were here, I could just kill him," Severus said, his expression stone, merciless. "Territory is only shared between mates amongst the cursed, but mine is significant. It is another thing that chafes them."
You protect Hogwarts, Hogsmeade.
Severus nodded. "Key places they would love to have access to." He looked at Hermione. "I tell you all of this, and you still look like you want me to kiss you."
He dipped his head and obliged her even as the hunger rose in him a little more strongly than usual. Damn Sanguini and his territorial postering.
He pulled away from the kiss with a slight furrow of his eyebrows. "Are you s—"
Your protectiveness. I truly appreciate it. Drink. You'll feel better.
She tilted her head to the side.
"I don't deserve you."
Make it up to me, she teased as his fangs sank into her slender neck. Her eyes fluttered as she grasped his back with a vice-like grip, clawing at him with her fingernails as if holding on for dear life.
He felt her pleasure as he drank, marvelling at how she shared his— trusting him so easily even after all he had done. Her blood caused his body to warm, even as he slowly, gently lapped at the trickle where he had pierced her neck. With each slow lave of his tongue, she shuddered in his arms, her voice eerily silent but her mind joyously singing his name.
"Hermione," he whispered into her neck. He drew his claw against his neck and pulled her to it. "Drink."
Their Covenant. His Oath to her and her alone. He could never be theirs— those odious posturing vampires moving about in the dark. He was already hers.
There could be no other.
Perhaps, if he had allowed himself to take a really good look, he would have realised it could never be anyone but her from the very start.
He also realised that if he did Turn Hermione that it would, technically, create his own Line, and that would just chaffe the ancient masters all the more. While part of him loathed the idea of being responsible for a territory and the people within it, he couldn't help but think that Hermione would make a most glorious mate whose power even the ancient vampires could not deny.
For if anything was more ancient than them, it was Ancient Magick itself.
The irony would be thick and satisfying.
Severus realised that their relationship had become serious when Pathos started to look to him for tasty snackies whenever Hermione was occupied. The cheeky familiar would stuff his nose into his robe pockets sniffing in search of stray biscuits or crisps or digestives like a snack-seeking missile. It was all the more amusing for the other staff diners at the Head Table when Hermione would shoo her familiar off her croutons only to have Pathos turn round and give googly eyes to the Headmaster.
The childrens' return in the autumn had gone as smoothly as he could remember, and he was grateful for that. More children from the post-war baby boom were now appearing on the student rosters, and the former war between the houses had been successfully confined to Quidditch matches and classroom point competitions rather than surreptitious wand fights in the halls.
The times when malicious pranksters like the Marauders had roamed the halls freely were, much to his profound relief, long past.
Hagrid was seriously grumpy most of the time now, thanks to Severus cracking down on his habit of ordering obscure things that usually equated to harbouring strange and new strains of animals that should never be kept in captivity, let alone anywhere near a school of young magical children with far less sense than brains.
While the half-giant seemed to respect Severus, the headmaster was starting to think the man had a serious OCD that could not be curbed without constant vigilance the like of which Alastor Moody would find overkill. Fortunately, most of the problems were found as eggs or babies, which wasn't to say there weren't problems as smaller versions, but at least they weren't full grown mutants that were "'armless and cute" (and equally if not more fatal as the adults.)
It had taken Snape about a year to find the hole in the contract that had allowed shady interpretation and ordering on Hagrid's part to allow him to purchase things such as slug repellent from Knockturn Alley. He'd plugged that hole and had to deal with the flak from Hagrid's moaning for another year before Severus dressed him down and told him if he had problems with having room, board, and job that allowed him greater freedom than most, he was welcome to retire.
That had seemed to hush the half-giant up— mostly.
All of this had happened before Hermione had returned to Hogwarts, however, so she thought the giant had found new hobbies.
Hagrid believed himself the best Care of Magical Creatures teacher anyone could have because he'd never lost fingers like old Kettleburn had, but he seemed to forget (and by forget he conveniently ignored) that he was a half-giant, not fully and fragilly human.
If anything, being a vampire had made it easier to keep Hagrid's OCDs in line, but even he wasn't able to watch the man all the time. He had other duties that required him, and Hagrid bloody well needed a full-time sitter.
Hagrid aside, the school was running smoother, and even Argus Filch had started to mellow out after the reconstruction of Hogwarts. People had seemed to realise everyone and every life was important, and there was more respect for the cantankerous caretaker than there ever was while the war was going on. Mrs Norris was starting to get a bit old for a feline, and Hermione had actually brewed the old girl a potion for her arthritis, winning Filch's respect at last.
Admittedly, Filch had barely even recognised Hermione Granger when she'd arrived clad in woolen robes the like of the old masters, her fire-like eyes, and utter silence. Many had wondered how the bushy-haired talkative know-it-all had transformed into a figure that arguably had the intimidation factor of their Headmaster.
Minerva, bless her furry feline nosiness, couldn't help but notice that the headmaster had become more comfortable around the newer potions master. Perhaps it was the two walls of relentless black that patrolled the halls together, sat together in the staff lounge, and were often spotted walking the grounds together. She seemed to realise that something had changed for the better between the man who believed he could never atone for his actions and the woman who had survived a war and kept her friends alive by some miracle known only to Merlin and the gods.
While Hermione wasn't exactly shunning social contact, many found her silence intimidating in itself, and while she could communicate without verbal words, many found that ability more intimidating than the silence. Her classes, however, seemed to realise there was more to their silent teacher if they simply silenced themselves and truly listened to her. Master Granger had very little problems with her classes, and that was saying something.
Whether it was because of her, her teaching style, or Pathos' eerie presence, well, it was working.
Severus watched anyone and everyone who got close to Hermione while he was around, watching for signals only he seemed to know to find. But Granger would turn to look at him with her silent smile and mind voice whispering her amusement without words. He knew she wouldn't have minded him being more obvious about their attachments in public, she seemed to respect that part of him was unsure how to do such things.
He had never had to before.
While the school rules said nothing about there being a problem with relations with each other save for evaluations having to be done by Minerva in Hermione's case to guarantee there wasn't favouritism—
That was enough to make the portraits heckle from the side lines.
The school was practically built on bloody favouritism to Gryffindor for the last few if not more decades, centuries, whatever have you.
So when Minerva lured Granger off for a "witch's chat," Severus was torn between being disturbed or amused. It was hard to say what Minerva was up to. She was a feline through and through and as fickle with her affections as she was her protections, one moment bumping into your legs and the next trying to take a pound of flesh off at the ankles—
Pathos was taking the form of a giant hellhound as he followed beside Hermione much to Minerva's consternation.
Snape chuckled to himself. Served the old moggie right.
"I haven't asked before because it hasn't affected your ability to teach, Hermione, but," Minerva began, "what happened to your voice?"
Hermione tilted her head to the side as if to evaluate and look at Minerva from a different angle. Pathos snapped at a passing bird as he took up the entire balcony, his tail sticking out of Minerva's double doors to the outside. It was the price of the bond to ancient magick.
Minerva tapped her temple, "It is so strange to feel you in my head— what you mean. It's like words, but it's more like meaning. I always had a feeling Albus was crawling around in my head, but this is different."
You have to be open to hearing me, Hermione said. If you do not truly wish to communicate, you won't.
"So the person has to be willing."
Hermione nodded. There are other hiccups— but that is the main thing, yes. Communication is a different part of the brain than when a Legilimens attempts to sift through memories. That takes more determination and is often— more forceful.
Minerva nodded. "What did you all learn from your master? You were with him for almost a decade?"
Hermione's shoulders quaked with silent laughter. Everything from his favourite bread recipe to how to parlay with the spirits. Alchemy. Potions. Silkworm wrangling, Arithmancy— it was like learning from the Earth itself. He taught me how to listen and then how to speak without a voice. He would tease me because he said he had a captive audience that couldn't give him lip. Everyone loses something when they gain the bond with ancient magick. It is— the balance. My apprenticeship would have lasted as long as I needed, and he said when he pinned me that I was ready to suffer the world again."
"I will confess my apprenticeship with Albus was not so intimate," Minerva said. "But I was all about achieving and meeting goals and proving myself." Minerva rubbed her chin. "What you have with your master was and is something special."
Hermione smiled, her hand resting on Pathos' head. The sneaky familiar had slunk back into the room and wedged his head under her hand for attention.
"Pathos seems quite devoted to you," Minerva said with a smile as Hermione shared her shortbread biscuit with him.
He's devoted to scritchies and snackies. Hermione laughed silently as Pathos gave her an ether-dripping slurp across the face.
Hermione dripped, smirking.
"So," Minerva said. "You and Severus?"
Hermione blinked at her.
"I'm not judging, lass. I think it's about damn time he found someone who would take care of him before some nebulous greater good— and about damned time you found someone who could keep up with your mind."
Hermione smiled shyly, staring at Pathos.
Pathos licked her nose.
You are okay with it?
"Aw lass," Minerva tutted. "To find the one you want to be with is hard enough. To find they think the same of you is like nothing else in the world. I am glad it is you two and not that Weasley boy."
Hermione silent-snorted at Minerva's refusal to say his name.
"You two were like fire in a library, Hermione," Minerva said. "I never understood Molly's obsession with having the two of you together."
Hermione's brows knit together.
He never approved of my mastery studies. He wanted to be married immediately after the war. Like Harry and Ginny. They married in a hurry because Molly was so desperate for something happy— I told them it wasn't a good idea to rush a wedding— Bill and Fleur had been together for years and had it planned for a while. Harry didn't have the heart to protest. He loves the Weasleys too much to rock the boat.
"Marriage should never be about pleasing the mother in law." Minerva shook her head. She looked grim. "Or the parents… or society."
Hermione placed a hand on Minerva's. I'm sorry.
"It was a long time ago, lass," Minerva said. "Twas my own fault the first. Twas cruel fate the second. Believe you me, grab a hold of what you have and savour its every moment. Don't give it up without a fight."
Hermione looked at the elder witch and smiled, nodding.
Minerva gave a sharp laugh as Pathos shoved his nose into her robes looking for biscuits.
Hermione laughed into her hand as Minerva patted the familiar on the head and placated him with a shortbread finger.
Severus narrowed his eyes at the quivering fifth year that was trying unsuccessfully to hide an egg in his robes.
"Mr Clarke," he rumbled. "Hand the egg over to me."
"But it's mine!"
"It's not allowed for students to have breeding projects outside of the standard curriculum— a fact you well know, Mr Clarke, as we have repeatedly warned you year after year. I am not sure what makes you think this year will be any different."
"B-but it's harmless!" the boy protested. "I have to be there when it imprints or—"
"Or what, Mr Clarke."
The boy looked ready to cry.
The boy trembled. "It'll go feral."
"It will go. Feral." Snape's voice was a growl. "And how exactly is that a safe thing?"
"If it imprints on me it will be perfectly safe!"
"Do you even know what it is?"
The student stared at the floor.
"Give me the egg, Mr Clarke. Immediately."
Mr Clarke shook his head violently from side to side, his hands squeezing the egg tightly.
A slippery lizard-like almost-cat thing slithered out of the boy's hands and landed on Snape's face, chomping him right on the nose. Its glowing eyes met his as the lizard made a happy cooing sound.
Snape's scowling face dripped with egg birthing fluid.
"Detention for you, Mr Clarke, for stupidly harbouring a venomous magical hybrid of unknown origin. You are quite fortunate that it did not bite someone of much smaller stature and fragile constitution. Be assured that I will be writing to your parents this evening where I will discuss with them the distinct possibility of your expulsion from Hogwarts for multiple serious infractions. You will report to Professor McGonagall tonight at eight p.m. sharp."
Venom dripped off Snape's nose from where the newborn lizard-thing had bitten him.
"Now get out of my sight."
The boy promptly turned tail and fled.
The reptilian baby of questionable heritage still happily clung to Snape's face. "Chirrrr!"
"Absofuckingwonderful," he growled after the students left.
Poppy eyed Severus with a quirked eyebrow. "You have one too?"
"Too?" Severus growled as he tried to remove the lizard from his face only to have it stubbornly cling to his nose for dear life, making a number of tiny, utterly despondent sounds of protest before biting his nose again to anchor itself more securely.
Snape scowled through his lizard-shaped accoutrement. "Please tell me a student hasn't been attacked by them."
"Well, no," Poppy assured him.
"Thank the gods for that," Snape said with a sniff.
"Hermione made sure to protect our students from them."
Snape went rigid even as his claws dug into his palms. "What?"
"They're fine, Severus," Poppy said calmly. "Apparently someone in Hogsmeade was passing out prize eggs that looked exactly like the candy eggs from Honeydukes. They came with instructions that said if they kept them warm and took them everywhere with them, they would hatch and become their very own familiar. A familiar that could never be taken from them."
Snape's lips hardened into a fine line, the skin pulled so tight that the outline of his teeth seemed to appear.
A fine tremor started in his fisted hand. "And Master Granger?"
"She's fine, Severus."
Snape's gaze narrowed, and his lip twitched. He could feel his fangs lengthening with his surge of emotion.
"Where is Master Granger?"
"She's fine, Severus."
Poppy stared right at him— seemingly right through him.
Severus waved his hand in front of her face.
"She's fine, Severus."
Severus' hand unfisted, his fingers twisting into talons. His eyes glowed ominously, resembling the sun behind the moon during a full eclipse. He growled, nostrils flaring.
Hogwarts had always been safe. Vampires had to be invited onto the grounds to get past the castle's formidable wards. Only staff could invite them in, and staff rarely if ever left his territory where they could be influenced.
Except Poppy made regular trips to St Mungos for her weekly healers' meetings to keep apprised of new diseases, curses, treatment methods and potions—
He had never had to use his vampire powers; his magic had always been enough. But if Poppy was being influenced via a mind roll from another vampire, he would have to cancel out the effect with something stronger and more powerful.
He stared into Poppy's calm blue eyes as his fingers spidered across her face. His face twisted into a snarl as he burned his way through her mental pathways looking for anything that was out of place. There were tendrils of a strange "fog" in her mind, clinging to places it did not belong, muddling her mental acuity and awareness— dulling her senses.
As the territory holder of Hogwarts and the surrounding areas, he called on the magicks of the land that was his home, and he blasted it through Poppy's clouded mind, tearing through the invader's influence and sending it burning right back at them in screaming psionic flames.
He "felt" the source of the influence hastily break the connection even as he heard them scream in agony— having obviously not been prepared for such a harsh response, perhaps not expecting to even be detected.
Severus released Poppy's head and snarled, turning away from her to school his features back to show only his human side. He did not want to come out as a vampire to Poppy while snarling at her face.
That was not what the poor woman deserved after having taken such good care of him for as long as she had.
"Severus? What—" Poppy said. She groaned, holding her head and squeezing her eyes shut. "I have a terrible headache all of the sudden."
Severus turned to look at her, all of his controls firmly in place— along with one really clingy baby lizard-thing.
"Oh Merlin, Severus!" Poppy cried. "You haven' t been bitten have you! Where are all these lizard creatures coming from? Hermione had so many bites, Severus! So many— I— why can't I remember?"
"Where is Master Granger?" Severus said, careful to keep his voice even.
"She's here in the back," Poppy said, rushing off towards the rear of the infirmary where the beds designated for staff members were located. "I was going to … oh, why can't I remember?"
He followed the Mediwitch to the back and stopped dead in his tracks as he saw Hermione lying on her back, pale and unmoving. A number of baby lizard-things were cuddling around her neck, but her face was riddled with multiple baby lizard bites.
The babies startled as he approached, hissing, puffing up larger, and opening their mouths in unmistakeable threat, positioning themselves over her face and chest in readiness to launch at him.
"I went to get the antivenin," Poppy muttered. "But I can't remember—"
The lizard on Severus' face puffed up and hiss-barked a threat causing the entire lounge of babies on Hermione to do the same.
Someone had clearly wanted Poppy to forget all about the antivenin and leave Hermione to suffer from the effects of the venom.
Suddenly, the lizards gathered on Hermione seemed to calm down, and Severus smelled the familiar scent of moonflowers and the sea.
He sat beside her, cradling her in his arms as he wove his hand through her hair. The lizards moved out of the way but didn't bite— strangely soothed from their earlier protective ire.
"Hermione," he whispered, pulling her to him, his face wrinkled in the pain of his helplessness.
They didn't mean to hurt me. They're actually very protective. Just— they all bit me at once.
"I have a lizard on my face."
I wish I could see it.
"No, you don't. It's utterly infuriating."
Her answer was a sleepy, dragged down, indistinct mental murmur.
"Hermione," he whispered, grimacing as he pressed his face to her cheek. "Stay with me."
He could feel her nestled within his mind, but he knew it was slipping away with her focus. The toxins she was fighting against were meant to disable her, possibly even kill her. The panic inside his heart was causing it to beat rapidly, and instincts he had long buried came to the surface along with the lengthening of his fangs.
"Please— stay with me. Be with me."
As if to agree with him, the lizard on his face gently licked Hermione's nose.
He stroked her hair. "I can help you, but it must be your choice. I could never. I would never— not unless you wanted it. To be with me. To become my mate."
The silence killed him slowly. Her scent was starting to fade. He realised that Pathos, too, had faded to near-transparency— his tether to the here and now being her, and she was fading away from him and the world.
"Hermione," he groaned, pulling her close to himself. The lizards began to hum together, even his, and for but a moment— she seemed to strengthen.
You've always had my permission, Severus. Only you. But I am essentially a living Philosopher's Stone. To accept me— is to accept change. She seemed resigned. And I know you hate change.
Severus realised with a start just why his heart had been able to beat. Why the sun never affected him when he drank from her— why the burning hunger never remained.
She was the reason. Hermione was a Philosopher's Stone— it was in her blood. She was the catalyst— a living catalyst— for change and evolution. She had opened his heart to compassion, freed his mind to love, and taught him the ecstasy of genuine reciprocated love. She had already changed him. What was a few more if it meant being with her— forever?
How could he not accept all of her?
"I may not adore change," he said as he stroked her pale cheek. "But I love you, and I will accept whatever form you are, whatever I may actually be— to have you at my side in this life. The next— I need you."
Do what you need to do, Severus.
Severus growled as he locked eyes with Poppy, who was still fussing around dazedly as she tried to figure out where her memory had gone. His eyes glowed. "Go for a walk, Poppy. Safely on the grounds. Take a good long time and savour the seasonal weather, and let no one distract you."
Poppy shuffled off. "I think I'm going for a walk. It will do me some good to get some fresh air."
As soon as Poppy was gone Snape's demeanor became feral, his mouth opened as his fangs lengthened, his jaw tightened as they jerked outward with intent. His claws threaded through her hair as his head dipped to cover her mouth in a kiss. "My heart. My soul. My blood to yours. Your blood to mine. Joined willingly. I give you all of me for all of you so that we may always be a part of the other."
He kissed her, then pulled away. He bit into his wrist, deep into where an artery beat, wincing as he did so. He pressed his wrist to her mouth as he sank his fangs into her throat, purposely seeking the carotid where the blood was richest. And while the taste of her blood was, as always, like the richest of creams rather than the metallic salt of its base compounds, the moment Hermione's mouth closed upon his wrist and took his blood to seal the Covenant he was done for.
He drank like a starving, dehydrated man in the desert as his body wrapped around hers and tried to unite their bodies through proximity alone. His body took in the venoms, his body, diluting their intensity, even as her blood joined with it— the potent cocktail of the essence of the Philosopher's Stone— and that too filtered back between them both. Him into her. Hers into him until where one began and the other ended was no longer possible to discern.
So enraptured by the ecstasy of it— the joining, the blending— he didn't even notice how his pupils changed into slits, how fine scales moved over his skin— so fine that they didn't even seem to be there at all. How each of them seemed to gain a long, mischievous tail that immediately wrapped around the others in a corkscrew of solidarity.
He fell into the bed with her, their bodies quaking together as their magic united with their blood.
A part of him waited—no, dreaded— pulling away to allow her body to die.
She would die in his arms.
To be with him.
He pulled away from her neck, beyond sated, fighting every instinct to remain in that endless circle of exquisite pleasure. He removed her from his wrist and kissed her mouth, their combined blood shared in a kiss.
He was so aware of her heartbeat.
At first it seemed so erratic, but then it began to slow.
He pulled her to him, both savouring her life and mourning its loss.
Her heart slowed and then he could not hear it— only his own.
The heartbeat she had given him.
It was with a half sob that he cradled her to him, rocking her in his embrace, mourning the potency of her life could have— should have— been longer than to end on this particular night.
Suddenly, Hermione's hand touched his cheek, and his eyes shot open to stare at her. Her lips curved into a small smile as she guided his hands to her chest.
His eyes widened.
Her heart hadn't stopped beating.
It had synchronised with his own.
Forgive me, but— I am really hungry all of the sudden.
Severus half choked a laugh of relief and celebration as he took one claw and drew it across his neck. "Drink. May I be the only thing you ever need to slake your hunger."
Hermione's mouth descended upon his offering as the pleasure and joy of her choosing him settled upon his soul.
"I love you," he whispered.
Hermione's warmth was everywhere. It was all around him.
I love you.
It was in him.
Will I be the only one you ever need?
"Always," he swore as their connection to the Earth and their shared territory blasted outwards and sang along with the hum of a large lounge of newly hatched mutant venomous cat-lizards.
As Severus and Hermione lay together in the bed, they didn't even notice how their mutant companions seemed to grow significantly larger, their bodies singing with magic even as Pathos transformed into a giant wyrm and curled protectively around them both— his body shimmering with bolstered magic.
When Sanguini arrived at Hogwarts, he smiled as the invitation allowed him to pass through the wards once more. It had been a while since Slughorn's gloriously indulgent parties, and Snape had been ironfistedly against him even sharing space with him since—
Bloody Cursed Ones.
They unsettled the natural order of things.
The way things had always been.
The ways of power.
The tingle of the Earth itched his skin, which was odd. Perhaps, he figured, he was too used to the feel of his Line's hallowed territory— but Snape was a Cursed One. His territory was only enforced with threat— the threat he had sealed by ripping off Sanguini's arm.
Even his masters admitted that Snape was far too willing to back up his threat with power, and that power was not small.
That, too, frustrated his masters, for that power was not under them.
If the newly turned got ideas that they could just have enough power to be independent—
No one survived outside one of the ancient lines, and Snape would bow to it now that his paramour was dying. It was stupid of him to leave his scent about her and not be with her in a public place. At night. Human.
If he wanted her, he should have taken her.
Thralled her and then Turned her.
Emotional stupidity could wait for later.
Or not at all.
Emotional attachments were nothing but weakness.
He walked up to the infirmary with confident strides, knowing the headmaster would be occupied being stupidly emotional over his fragile human toy. His utterly disgusting need to treat people like anything but the cattle and toys they were, ugh.
Sanguini growled in disgust.
He compelled those he passed to not notice him, preferring his vampire powers over the human wands and their magic. Wands were such a crutch.
Ah, and there was another reason why he loathed the current headmaster and his preference for human magic over the powers their greater species provided.
As he walked into the infirmary, it stank of cleanliness. It smelled terribly sterile where the glorious scent of life or death was oddly absent. He preferred the scent of death and the dying.
He saw only one bed currently filled, and it brought a smile to his lips. Good.
He approached the bed, sensing a thready, almost non-existent heartbeat.
"Here to gloat, Sanguini?" Snape's voice was a low growl, and it reminded him in ways that made his arm ache where it had been ripped from its moorings very literally.
Sanguini stood tall. "The masters would have you remember where your loyalties should be."
"And be a peon? A sycophant?" Snape asked sardonically. "Like you?"
Sanguini stiffened in outrage. He was a Cursed One— he was lesser than he was. He would always be lesser than him.
"The masters wish to offer you the only cure for your human paramour."
"You did this."
"The masters required you to see reason."
"Take your subjugation or let her die, why, you'd think I was being blackmailed."
"Snape, do try to see reason. Surely you can see that you have no chance at all standing alone? With no old bloodlines protecting you, no allies, no access to rare cures. My masters simply wish you to understand what position you are in and present an offer to make your rebellion into something more productive to everyone."
"You want my territory."
"You would quibble over this small bit of ground over your toy's life?"
"Master Granger is not a toy."
Sanguini smiled cruelly. "All humans are but fleeting entertainments."
"That doesn't make them lesser."
"Of course it does," Sanguini said. "How can something so short-lived ever compare to immortality?"
"And what are you offering for my sense of reason?" Snape hissed.
Sanguini fingered a pendant around his neck that had a tiny phial held within a cage-like protective encasement. "A cure for your issue."
"You assaulted Madam Pomfrey— left the woman's mind in a shambles. You mind-wiped how many people getting here? You set up Master Granger to be attacked by mutant creatures with a custom-made super venom. You used my students to bring them into this school. What makes you think you have any ground to stand against me?"
"Because you care for that—" Sanguini said, arrogantly gesturing to the still witch in the bed. "And you care for these walking juice boxes as if they truly matter."
"You do realise you would be nothing without those walking juice boxes as you so aptly describe them."
Sanguini sniffed derisively. "Time is ticking away, Snape. Are you going to see the reason in this? Or are you going to just let the plain little wisp die for your ridiculous beliefs?"
Snape's expression was completely stoic. "I believe I will let her die. She is, as you said, fleeting. Meaningless."
Sanguini's eyes widened.
"I think," Snape drawled. "I will let you claw out your own eyes and drink your own blood as you rot in the bowels of Azkaban for your crimes."
"Human prisons cannot hold a vampire," Sanguini said, smirking. "I only answer to vampire laws. Only a vampire can judge me."
"You are quite sure that you wish to give up on human laws?" Severus said, arching a brow. "Human laws would at least give you a trial."
"I have no use for humans. I renounce their laws. Humans and their tedious laws mean nothing to me."
Sanguini felt a strange prickling sensation down his neck and spine as Snape suddenly smiled at him.
Snape did not— smile.
Sanguini felt that strange prickling again, and he turned slowly to see a maw full of dark, crystalline teeth. The back of the mouth was an incredibly bright, infernal green, and about twenty glowing mutant lizard-cats pounced from inside and onto Sanguini with a simultaneous hiss. Shortly after that, he felt a burning in his vessels as the venom spread through his system.
No! It wasn't supposed to affect vampires! It wasn't supposed to—
He took the pendant from his neck and broke the seal, drinking down the antidote.
The fire continued to burn him from the inside with extreme prejudice.
Then, as he stumbled backwards in shock, Hermione arose from her bed like Frankenstein's monster in a vintage black and white movie and wrapped her slender arms around Sanguini's shoulders, neck, and chin.
She jerked his head sharply to the side and her chilling touch ran through Sanguini like a polar deep freeze, stealing away all the warmth he had stolen from his last meal.
He struggled, using all his strength to escape, but it wasn't enough.
Rejoice, Hermione hissed as her jaw jutted and fangs exposed. For very bad things are about to happen.
She snarled and sank her fangs into his neck as the lizards bit and clawed and bit some more.
Aurors and a number of agents from the Department of Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures walked out from under a crowded shroud of invisibility, their faces set in scowls of damnation.
"Help me!" Sanguini blurted.
"Under the DRCMC statute 54.3.B.V.606, we witness the following infractions against Wizarding Law: the vampire Sanguini refusing to acknowledge Wizarding jurisdiction and his insistence that he will only accept the tenets of Ancient Vampiric Law under Section 24.56.B. We hereby authorise the use of Vampire Law as pertaining to the reigning territory holder, Master Severus Snape and Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry."
"What?! No! I didn't—" Sanguini's voice cracked as Hermione's arms pinned him, her familiar's mass, and a countless angry lizard-things swarmed over him. He looked at Snape, his eyes filled with sheer panic as he felt the new vampire draining him dry. "Help me!"
Severus stared at him unblinkingly. "And why would I even do that?"
"I swear myself to your Line! All that I made would be under you! Every single vampire. Every last thrall! Every bit of land. I swear it, I swear myself to you!"
Snape bit the soft palm of his hand. The blood dripped thickly. "This is not an idle, temporary offer. If you swear to me, you swear to her. Your loyalty will be unquestionably bound. Your line— bound."
Sanguini could not get Snape's hand into his mouth fast enough, taking in the blood as Hermione pulled away, blood trickling down her chin as her eyes glowed malevolently.
The cat-lizards all bit him another time for good measure before skittering off into Hermione's robes and hair.
One straggler jumped off to crawl up Snape's robes and slip into his collar.
The Earth-magic rose up from the ground and swirled around Sanguini as layers and layers of shimmering chain-like filaments wrapped around his body and snapped taut between him, Severus, and Hermione. The filaments then sprawled outward and connected to Pathos and every mutant cat-lizard in the bunch. Severus then pulled his hand away, lips pulled back in a snarl as he stood and stepped back.
Hermione stood and walked over to him, their bodies pressed close as they shared a kiss, cleaning the blood from each other's lips as they did so. She looked back at Sanguini, still writhing in the agony of the cat-lizard's venom.
"How long will that go on?" asked one of the Aurors.
"Until he is subjugated," Snape said.
"How long will that take?" another asked, wincing at the vampire's shrill screams.
"Until his entire line falls in line. All of those who— he Sired."
"I thought that he had the antidote for Master Granger's lizard venom."
Polite stares of disagreement came from the Aurors and officials present.
"When I was forced to Turn Master Granger to save her from an undetermined amount of time in agony or death, we formed our own Line. Our magic changed, blended, mutated, and joined with our familiars. It changed them too."
"That explains the tails," the DRCMC representative muttered.
Hermione and Severus looked at their sneakily entwined tails.
"Hn," Severus said. "Those are new."
Hermione smiled. How useful!
"You gain a new tail and you think 'how useful'?" Snape asked.
Hermione grinned wider. Well they are! They're prehensile!
Severus experimented a moment. "Point."
Hermione nodded. See?
Severus murmured something about more experimentation would be required for tried and true results.
"Master Granger, did you at any point feel that you were pressured into being Turned?" one of the younger Aurors asked.
Hermione arched a brow. We'd discussed it a few times. I told him I did not mind if that was what would end up happening after many, many couplings when instinct would drive him to do so. He asked again before he did to be sure. There was no undue influence on my acceptance, Auror Fitzroy. The timetable was simply moved up.
The young Auror stared at her expectantly.
Hermione frowned. He can't hear me.
One of the other Aurors slapped the younger one upside the head and repeated what Hermione had said.
"But she didn't even say anything!"
"You were obviously thinking about the Quidditch game!"
"Well, yes, but I was still—"
Hermione and Severus exchanged glances, perhaps wondering what that fellow's debriefing was going to be like later.
The elder DRCMC representative cleared her throat. "Headmaster Snape, Master Granger, could you please allow us to examine and document these cat-lizards? Perhaps take a venom sample?"
They nodded. "As you wish, but you might want to wear dragonhide gloves."
They are babies. They bite rather often, Hermione said.
"Thank you," the elder replied with a nod. "We appreciate your cooperation in clearing up this confusion of events."
"Sir, if you wouldn't mind," one of the Aurors said. "For the record, what is your territory in vampire society?"
Snape closed his eyes as he held out his hand, and Hermione put hers within his as her eyes closed too. There was a thrum and pulse of magic as a glowing map formed in energy, the outline of various territories marked in different colours. The shapes formed slowly at first, as if they were sketching it out by hand as they felt their way across the land. The "map" formed in perfect 3D topography.
"That is ours," Severus said, pointing a crystalline claw at it. "Thanks to this one swearing in to our Line. Sanguini had made himself invaluable to his masters by subjugating the areas around us into his control, thus putting it under his masters control. But— well, that which was theirs is ours now."
"But that's all of bloody Scotland!" the younger Auror Fitzroy blurted.
"Unfortunately," Severus said with a sniff.
Fitzroy looked like he was going to say something stupid again, but his superior thumped him soundly again.
"I believe what my young companion was trying to ask was what keeps another master from doing what you did and just taking the control back?"
Severus' expression seemed grim. "Our unique mutations," Severus replied after some consideration. "Much of a vampire's innate powers are instinctive. Some have to be learned, but Hermione has a rare relationship with the Ancient Magick and her master. It allows for learning through that bond. You will just have to trust that I know the bond between us and our Line is absolute." He shook his head. "The entire concept of lines is purposely kept as something ancient and impossible to create new in vampire society. If every lone vampire could, with enough gumption and power, be independent, the entire master vampire system would fall on its ears."
"I never intended to create my own Line. I was perfectly fine with being an island unto myself. But, in bringing my mate into my life, we created our own official Line, and that allowed for certain things under old and obscure vampire law."
The older Auror nodded. "I've read quite a few of them in the archives. They are as convoluted as they are archaic."
Severus snorted. "They are indeed. It is a system that works mostly, but those like myself are dangerous precedents they would rather be subjugated before something like this happens."
"Will you be in danger?"
"Oh— they will try, but Hogwarts is a magical school that makes up its own mind. It has approved of me for better or worse, and that bond along with the bond to the lands around it make this my Home—and to challenge me here would be foolish, even for them. And to challenge me outside of my home would require delicate parlay."
"What keeps you all from just having a bloodbath in the middle of Diagon Alley?!" Fitzroy blurted.
Severus gave him the scowl reserved for firsties, Weasleys, and Potters.
"On their level?" Severus growled. "Who slaughters all of their food at once?"
The younger Auror paled. "So you think we're just food?"
"Me?" Severus let out a barking laugh. "No. You taste like salt and iron mixed with whatever wastes your body is rushing out as nutrients rush in. Most of you eat horrible diets, and your blood is equally horrible."
He looked toward Hermione. "She is all I require, and it is my hope that I am all she requires."
Hermione looked at him, licking her teeth hungrily. I am fairly certain that Severus is all I will require. Her mind voice was riddled with amusement as well as another sort of hunger.
Severus felt a flush of desire and hunger answer her gaze.
Gods, they would never leave the bloody bedroom at this rate—
Fairly certain, Hermione said with a smug smile.
Oh, you're on, witch, he thought back at her as loudly as possible.
Master Vampire Solomon Chetwoode had a slight problem.
His most dutiful errand boy had not yet returned, and Sanguini had always returned with news after a mission, even if that news was not what he desired.
Worse, Some of Sanguini's weaker underlings had come grovelling back to swear themselves to his service as if they weren't already his— whatever.
But the moment his blood touched their lips (and he admitted he did it only to humour them because Sanguini was already HIS, so by the very nature they were already his too), the idiots set themselves on fire and burned to ash right in front of him.
At first, he thought they had been dabbling in forbidden human magic. Human magic was far too primitive and limiting. It required incantation or movement or a wooden stick. No self-respecting vampire needed such human crutches to subvert their prey.
Which is why that Cursed One, Snape, needed to be quickly brought to heel—
The young ones could not be encouraged to hold on to their— he grimaced. Humanity.
Humanity was a weakness.
Humanity was a crutch.
So, he sent for a few of the vavasours that were close to Snape's brute-force claimed territory.
He couldn't even pull on the chain that should have connected him to them through Sanguini— a chain that should have immediately caused them to cow to his will.
But he couldn't even feel the bind anymore. The sense of the land— the entirety of Scotland, was somehow missing.
Hundreds of years worth of manipulation and work had gone into Scotland, mostly on Sanguini's part, but that was his lot in life as HIS underling.
So, Solomon Chetwoode did something he normally loathed to do: he went out himself and grabbed one of those younger vampires by the throat and squeezed until they told him what he wanted to know.
Only they didn't.
Instead, some great beast of shadows rose up like a demon out of the Earth and snatched his victim away and left him alone with about twenty agitated un-lizards that tried to bite off his face.
Pain like the sun hitting his skin spread through his vessels even as the great beast returned, gathered the pissed off creatures into its mouth, and disappeared again.
The venom should not have affected him.
He was a vampire! He was immune to stupid mortal toxins and venoms!
And that was when he realised that his territory, or what he thought was his territory, wasn't his at all.
He tried to sink into the Earth to heal himself, but the Earth denied him succor.
The sun was rising and he was stuck outside.
He tried to burst into a building, but nothing yielded to him— without an invitation, he was powerless to enter in a place that wasn't his territory. He tried to influence a passing human, but the territory itself rose up to give him a stinging slap across the face.
Some random person dropped a bag of poppy seeds, and he was frantically trying to count them all so he could move on—
The sun, however, like so many days before, rose on the horizon, spreading its rays across the village as it slept.
The cock crowed, answered by another and another.
But Master Vampire Solomon Chetwoode could only count, and count, and count.
A breeze stirred the seeds, and he frantically started all over again.
By the time Amelia Grayson opened her front door to collect the eggs from her hens, she spotted a strange scattering of clothes at her front garden path where a pile of poppy seeds mingled with some sort of ash. Mixed within that were golden amulets, rings, and sparkling gems the like of which she had never seen before in her life—
She brushed away the ash and seeds, and cradled the jewelry in her hands.
If it was real—
The debt of her family would be paid. They would be free.
She pressed the jewelry to her chest, her face swimming in tears and rushed back into the house, her egg basket forgotten on the garden path.
Severus Snape, ruling vampire bastard of Northern Britain, wanted to find a Time Turner and break Sanguini's neck back when he had first come to him and offered blood of the main Lines to him.
Maybe it wouldn't have helped.
Maybe it would have been worse.
But damn if it didn't make him feel better to simply imagine it.
Now, he and his mate were up to their necks in "adopted" vampires and their thralls from Sanguini's line and from the illustrious (see ignominious) line of Master Vampire Solomon Chetwoode, terror of the 1500s, righteously bigoted vampire terrorist, misogynist, chauvanist, misanthropist, and the list went on and on.
His territory was now even larger, much to his annoyance, and now he had to run a school, juggle vampires who couldn't even do maths without supervision, teach many of them how to bloody read, and and keep an iron-clad rein on their ambitions lest they break the human laws of those they lived with.
It was culture shock for many—
Education had never been an option for most of the vampires, but Severus could not afford blind ignorance to threaten the truce between vampires and the human world.
Ignorance, Severus would not tolerate.
Those who doubted him and his threat, had the choice of submitting to human law or having their fangs removed— those who doubted if he would discipline them for fudging the rules found themselves judged by traditional vampire law: the whim of the master of the territory.
And Severus already had a ruthless reputation.
It had been a rocky start at first— the eldest of the vampires that had served under Solomon had been just as twisted as he had been, but Hermione was willing to show them exactly what happened to those who threatened the school, its headmaster, and her mate. It was a show of power that had to be done as brutally as possible— it was the only way to guarantee there would be no doubt that the threat would be carried through.
Whatever quibbles human Hermione may have had, she had gained the same instincts as Severus had in knowing that there were some languages in vampire society that could only be answered in threat and carry through. She valued him, the school, and the lives of the humans they lived too much to risk misunderstandings.
Pathos dragged the vampires who threatened the Aurors and the laws they upheld into the dawn and let them burn. Others lived in agony as their lizard-cat venom ate them alive— or until they swore an unbreakable Vow to uphold the laws as mortals wrote them.
Fealty was nothing if they could not blend in.
Severus wanted no misunderstandings that if the Aurors came with evidence to bring one of his vampires before the Wizengamot, he would allow it, and if that vampire attempted to use their powers to sway them, Severus and Hermione would judge them instead.
It was not a democracy if it came to that.
It was a malevolent dictatorship.
But for most of the vampires who found themselves under Severus and Hermione Snape, the adoption into a new Line had ushered in a new life where they could be educated, get jobs, be independent as long as they did no harm to the humans they lived with, get in touch with their emotions, and even reconnect with relatives that had long since believed them dead if they so desired. They did not have to rely on the ruling "Lord" and grovel at their feet to give them a stipend. They could go out and earn their own money.
Many gladly swore a blood oath of fealty to the Snape Line.
While others licked their egos and fled back to the ancient masters that would have them—
Severus didn't truly care which they chose: him or them. They were welcome to their world of darkness, scheming in the night and making bad names for themselves. If they tried to enter their territory to cause trouble, well—
There were other threats he was itching to use.
Vampire hearts were, after all, exceedingly expensive potion reagents, and he knew how to extract them right out of their ribcage using his hand.
The inherited coffers of Solomon Chetwoode were now the Snapes', and it made the vaults of the Elder Malfoys look small and insignificant. The goblins were more than happy to invest it in ventures all over the world for a little off the top as commission.
No, the line of Snape was very well provided for, indeed.
What was the old saying?
The best revenge was living well.
And Severus Snape was very, very good at revenge.
Hermione looked up from a circle of attentive cat-lizards— all of them the size of tigers crossed with saltwater crocodiles. Hello, love.
Severus opened his arms to her, and she oozed into them, snuggling into him. "Whatever are you doing?"
Teaching them how to keep an eye on Hagrid's breeding compulsions.
"That man should just retire."
Hermione smiled at him. How was the Board Meeting?
"The Hogwarts Night School has been approved, my love, thanks to your extensive research and rationales."
Hermione looked dubious.
"Construction on the new wing begins this summer, and we can begin hiring teachers for law, English, maths, business, accounting, foreign languages, modern clothing Wizarding and Muggle, and— remedial magic for those of them who are suffering from amnesia."
Hermione laughed. Amnesia?
Severus shrugged. "Trying to explain a person having not used a wand in a few hundred years and forgetting the spell incantation for levitation? It was much easier to say amnesia. Trying to explain why some of the students preferred coffins to beds— well. I had to break out into a history lesson."
Pathos was chuckling even as he stuck his head into Severus' pockets to look for biscuits.
"Your familiar is going to be the death of my pockets."
Our familiar, love.
"Yours when he does this." Severus gestured to his pocket with Pathos' head sticking into it.
Hermione snuggled into his chest. Minerva is finally retiring. Shall we throw her a party?
Severus grunted. "She deserves a peaceful retirement and a glorious send off, I think."
Hermione wrapped her tail around his surreptitiously and tugged on it.
Severus startled as she placed a box in his hand.
"What is this?"
Open it, you insufferable man.
"Your insufferable man."
Hermione smiled at him, a flash of fang.
He teased the wrapping on the box with one claw and surgically removed the wooden latched box that was inside. "You gave me a box?"
Hermione made a mental psshhht as one of the cat-lizards nipped his leg.
Severus sighed as he realised it was "his" cat-lizard that was the guilty party.
He opened the latch on the mahogany box and his eyes widened. A crystal flask lay inside with a dark crimson liquid inside.
"Is this what I think it is?"
I'm not sure what you think it is. Hermione said coyly.
He unstoppered the flask and sniffed. It smelled like blood. Fresh blood.
But there was no scent of decay that came from blood that had been stored for time even under stasis after being harvested.
He knew she would never give him something harmful, but—
He tipped the flask to coat the tip of his finger and gingerly licked it.
It tasted like— a mouth-watering steak.
He stared at her.
Hermione stared back.
He tipped the flask again and tried again.
This time it tasted like fish and chips from the local pub.
Think of a drink.
He tried again.
A soothing drink complete with sweetness— an elderberry cordial he'd once tasted as an apprentice.
Severus capped the flask and stared at her. "You did it, Hermione."
She smiled at him. Happy early Christmas! I filed the patent this morning. The goblins would like rights to brew and distribute for the first ten years in exchange for, how did Gnarlgash put it? A disgusting amount of interest, profit, and gratitude from the Goblin Nation for being the very first to release a blood replacement that can taste like whatever human food or drink the vampires thinks of?
"Who would we be if we could not cultivate great mutually helpful relationships with the Goblin Nation?" Severus said.
Severus placed a kiss to her forehead. "You are a most amazing creature, Hermione Snape, and I love you. Eternally."
Mmmm, Hermione hummed. You say the most beautiful things.
Severus and Hermione stood in the back of the classroom enjoying the disillusionment against the obviously nervous first students of Hogwarts Night School.
A short grey-haired elderly vampire stood at the front of the room looking like she'd been there, done that, and knitted the cardigan.
"Welcome, class. You are here to learn how to become a responsible adult in human and especially Wizarding society," the granny-like vampire said, wrapping her walking cane sharply against the desk to startle the "younger" looking vampire in the front into paying attention. "Here you will learn basic manners, such as how not to kill your meals, to respect boundaries, hunt like you aren't a rabid animal, and leave no evidence of your supping target. Now—"
"I know that thanks to our gracious Lord and Lady, that we have options now that do not require us to starve ourselves or stalk people like a hungry uncivilised beast. I happen to enjoy having a nice nip of roast chicken and Yorkshire pudding or a nice cup of Twinings English Breakfast."
She slammed her cane down and startled the vampire who was trying to figure out why their cell phone wasn't working. "There will be no eating, sleeping, stalking, counting, maniacal laughter, or swooping around with opera capes in my class. We are not here to talk about how much of a bloody badass you were back in the day. We are here to talk about how much of a functioning member of this current society you can become."
"If any of you have a problem and feel you cannot do this, please let me know as the Headmaster has asked to be personally informed of it."
All the students suddenly sat straight up and paid attention.
The elderly vampire snorted, shaking her head. "Now Nicolas, I don't want any of that disgraceful behaviour you were up to in the last century to show its face here. Barnaby, I swear if you start telling people how you miss how it used to be back in the day, I will cane you until the lizards drag you off to the headmaster's office."
The two vampires swallowed hard together. "Yes, ma'am."
"Now, the first order of business is to fill out these forms so the Ministry knows you're not skulking about the country in one of those other territories being an uncivilised heathen."
She turned to the vampire in the front that was looking sullen and uncomfortable. "Phillip, my dear, I will help you with filling out your forms since you are still learning that entire writing thing. Don't you fret."
She turned back to the class, her face screwed in sternness. "Now, pick up a quill and start writing. Those of you who have forgotten the alphabet, you may find it up here on the board. Those of you who have forgotten how to write legibly, I will be rapping your knuckles as I go by. Do not test me. Begin."
As Severus and Hermione left the classroom and closed the door behind them, Hermione burst into giggles as Severus rolled his eyes.
She's beautiful, Severus!
"She volunteered to whip them into shape so they would be prepared for the other classes," Severus said.
Hermione's silent laughter had her shoulders quaking. Pathos seemed to echo her thoughts as he took the form of a Kookaburra and let off a cackling call of his own.
Oh my, Merlin, she gasped as her mind voice had a cackling fit. Was that Barnabas Collins? The actual one?
Severus shrugged. "Who knows. Vampires like to take on various names they think suit the mood of the century— but I have no idea if that was their true name or if they just think it is."
Hermione chuckled more into his line of buttons, her arms and tail twisting around him in a warm hug. A baby cat-lizard poised itself to leap on him from Hermione's head.
"Don't you d—"
The baby mutant lizard suckered to his face and chomped his nose, leaving a trail of venom to drip down his abused face.
Severus clucked his tongue. "Insolent lizard."
The cat-lizard chirred with love, snuggling his face.
Hermione's expression became mischievous as she tossed her head to the side and exposed her neck. You know, Headmaster. You look like you could really use a bite.
Severus' eyes went completely black as he let loose a primal growl. "Does my mate wish to tempt the headmaster in the middle of the school hallway?"
Maybe, she whispered as she drew a claw across her neck.
Severus hissed as his mouth bit his wrist and brought it to her mouth even as he descended upon her sweet, perfect neck.
A blast of Earth-magick blew outward, reinforcing the territory boundaries with the wave of heated energy.
The students in the classroom nearby started to chatter with distraction as the energy caused each and every vampire in their Line to feel the vibration of their Lord and Lady.
"More writing, less chatter!" Granny Frideswide snapped, rapping her cane.
"Yes, ma'am!" the class answered and the sound of furious quilling followed.
Granny Frideswide smiled as she heard the soft crack as the Headmaster and his wife Disapparated to their private chambers. "Kids."
It was good to be useful again.
She sipped the blood from her glass, savouring the taste of fresh-baked shortbreads and proper English tea as the scent of moonflowers and the sea wafted in from the hallway.
Unlife was good again.
The End? (lizard-cat hisses)
A/N: Granny Frideswide was crafted with lurve and hideous laughter by DeepShadows2. Send her love. Thanks to her and Dragon and the Rose for putting up with my vampire shenanigans for the length of this story.
I hope you enjoyed this story, SnapeSupercedesSocialization, and that it satisfied your requests.