a story by Anette S
This will be a story about healing and love. It is advisable to notice the rating. It is M for now, but it will become more detailed as the story progresses. I am in search of a Beta, so I beg for your patience if you notice mistakes.
UPDATE Sept.7th: This has now been Betaed by the fabulous Tzee. I am a happy writer now!
This is Jo's world. I just play with it, and promise to take really good care of its occupants. No money, just sleepless nights.
Comments are much appreciated.
His hand reaches absentmindedly for the scar. It has a tendency to itch with the change of weather, and the air smells like rain tonight. The leather on the armrest of his office sofa is tattered in places. He doesn't care.
He pulls out of the pensieve for the millionth time. It's Minerva's memories, again. She was the last one healed by the brave woman he had known and come to care for so deeply in the past year. The woman he searches for still, against all hopes, with only a few stubborn souls by his side.
She was taken in the midst of the chaos during the battle of Hogwarts, mere hours before the defeat of the Dark Lord. And yet, a year later, she is still missing.
Reaching up, away from his scar, he runs his fingers through the long black hair that falls into his eyes, closing them for a moment and rubbing his left temple. He feels a headache building. Damned sinuses; and his being a particularly developed kind.
A telltale creak makes him open his eyes and focus on the young blond haired boy peeking around from behind the door.
At the tender age of two and half, Teddy Lupin already shows remarkable wit and bravery, the former by managing to run away from his mother, and the latter by daring to come into the library that Severus had turned into his office months ago.
Luckily, the young marauder inherited neither his father's lycanthropy, nor his mother's metamorphagus nature, and could one day be a remarkable addition to the cunning house of Slytherin. Much to Remus's abhorrence of the idea, Severus could see one of his own as plainly as the wicked grin he now saw gracing the boy's face.
"Come inside Theodore, before your mother finds out you are walking the hallways at this time of night," he says, and the patter of the boy's feet is quick as he reaches him and climbs expertly onto the older man's lap.
"Hello uncle Sewwus," he says observing his scar intently.
"Ted, what have I told you about scanning my neck?"
His eyes are huge when he answers "That it's wude."
"Rude,say it correctly," Severus asks of the boy.
Teddy's little forehead sports a deep frown as he concentrates on the proper pronunciation.
"Rrr-ude," he finally says, and earns a nod from the older man.
"Now, why are you out of bed, and sneaking into the library, again, might I ask?"
"I want you to tell me a stowwy!" The boy exclaims excitedly. His concentration on the proper pronunciation of the damned letter can only go so far at his age.
"A story, is it?"
If anyone had told Severus Snape that, a year from now, he would be sitting calmly, holding any small boy, let alone the son of one Remus Lupin, in his lap as a dying fire crackled in the background, he would have thought them Imperio-ed, at best, and, at worst, simply out of their minds.
The boy swung his little legs over the armrest and laid his head on the strong chest of his father's friend, and lifted his expectant blue gaze to meet Snape's dark intensity.
Severus sighed in defeat. Yes, defeat. He had survived the Dark Lord, the disdain of the world, the fury and later remorse of the Order of the Phoenix, and managed to walk out of it all with doing what he set his mind to do. But recently, in the evenings, he had realized that more often than not, his goal to sip a glass of Ogden's Premium was being expertly thwarted by a little boy with a gnawing hunger for tales.
"The one about Hermione!"
A sigh of a different kind escaped his lips now.
"Umm…. When she escapes on a dragon," he says decidedly.
"Very well," he cleared his throat, "Once, there was a brave girl who thrived on saving creatures, both small and weak as well as big and dangerous, and her eyes shone with compassion unlike any other ever shone. Her mind knew the secrets of knowledge, and her heart understood the secrets of life. But her soul, it knew the secrets of both past and present, and it was with her soul that she spoke to the creatures lucky enough to cross her path…."
As Severus eased into the story, his mind reeled from the memories he was so intimately familiar with now. Memories of Hermione, graciously bestowed upon him, them, by the many who wished to contribute to their search. They had given up, one by one, as time dragged by, and no traces had been discovered, but had the mercy to leave their memories with him.
He breathed because of them now. And the tiny hope that she too was still breathing.
The heavy droop of the small head on his chest indicated that little Ted was fast asleep, just as he was approaching a vivid description of the dragon breaking out of Gringotts. He smiled. A secret, warm, genuine smile, reserved for the innocent boy sleeping soundly in his arms, a boy who, for some curious reason, loved him, and didn't question his past, his motives, or the weird scar on his neck. Well, he was rather intrigued by the scar, but not its origin.
Standing up slowly, he carried Teddy out of the library and down the long hallway of Grimauld Place to the room with a small bed adorned with silver and blue stars.
He laid the sleeping boy gently down, tucking him in carefully and caressing his forehead tenderly with his knuckles before he leaned down and brushed his lips over the trace of his hand.
"Good night my boy", he whispered.
He closed the door carefully, the doorknob clicking into place.
Turning around, he noticed Remus leaning on the doorframe of his and Dora's bedroom; two doors down from Teddy's room. The honey- blond man had a small smile on his face and a tender look in his eyes as he met the eyes of the man cloaked in black.
Severus nodded, trying to hide a smile that threatened to show itself. Although much more relaxed in the presence of others, Severus was still a man who didn't let his feelings openly show.
"Well, not much to do about it. We can't choose who loves us," the man said pointedly.
Severus rolled his eyes at the comment.
"Your son is adamant that I am his favourite uncle. I am sure it's that preposterous idea that makes him find me and make me tell him stories every night."
Remus chuckled. "My son is wise in seeing you with innocent eyes. He is teaching me more than I ever knew about the people around me. And I have to say it makes me happy he chose you for his favourite uncle."
"Do stop talking now," Severus brushed him off, but not without being betrayed by a small tug at the corners of his mouth.
"So… which one was it this evening?" Remus asks quietly.
"The story of Gringotts, as usual," Severus tells him, his tone guarded.
Remus is a man with sharp senses, and he has noticed the change in the man before him many months before today. He knows that Severus Snape's emotions for the woman they are trying to find go far beyond the call of duty, beyond that of mere friendship. He stands awestruck by the depth of feeling Severus is obviously trying to hide, curious as to what initiated it, but above all, wise enough to keep silent on the matter.
Only the three of them were left, after this past year, that were still engrossed in the search for the missing war heroine.
The others had long stopped believing she was alive. The day her hand on the Weasley family clock fell off signified the day Harry and Ron lost hope. That had been three months ago.
Each day the three of them hoped that it would be the day that they found some clue of her whereabouts. Each day they pray that it's not the day her body will be dumped on their doorstep, or someplace equally insignificant. But they refused to give up the search.
Remus bade goodnight to his new friend as Severus walked slowly back to the library, and shook his head as the door closed after the figure. He knew Severus was convinced the young woman was still alive. The Weasley clock only detected magic, and he was keen to believe that she was out there, somewhere, magically depleted perhaps, but alive. And they had to find her, if there was even the slightest chance of her survival.
So they kept looking.
Severus ducks behind a rotting tree trunk as the fight that has continued for the better part of the last hour goes on.
He looks to his right and finds Remus behind an equally rotting tree trunk on the other side of the back yard, huddling over a bleeding Tonks. She gives him a weak thumbs up as her husband murmurs a series of healing spells. He is alone for the moment, going against three of his former associates, two of them, and this is where he finds his strength, are none other than the Carrows.
She is here. She must be.
After a year of searching, following false leads, turning the wider perimeter of the Kingdom on its head, they are facing the final three of Voldemort's merry fools.
He feels anger bubbling inside of him, and is on his feet again, shouting hexes at the three wizards.
"Going soft Sevvy dear? And here I was, about to offer you a taste of the Mudblood," Alecto Carrow screeches, baring her rotten teeth. It feels like everything in this forsaken place is rotting. He shudders.
His shield is up, and he is mad with rage.
"Reducto!" he howls, closely followed by a strong "Sectumsempra!" and it hits its mark.
He turns just in time to notice the other Carrow, Amycus, charge at him with his wand raised in vengeance.
"Avada Kedavra!" he hears the shout, but ducks at the last moment and watches the curse hurling towards his already bleeding sister.
"Idiot," Severus mumbles as he finds unexpected calm in the moment.
He notices that Remus has left Tonks and joined him in the fight, and has the other man tied and stupefied against the wall.
Carrow's eye gleams with evil as he aims his wand at the unsuspecting auror, but Severus is quick and ruthless.
"Avada Kedavra," he grinds through his teeth and a strong blast of green light hits Amycus in the back.
It's another first. He has never fired the killing curse in the back of a wizard, holding for the final shreds of decency even in his darkest times. But now, he is at peace, watching Remus nod in thanks. He has saved a life, the life of his friend tonight, and the memory of the killing curse shot into a lowlife's back is not about to take away from his mission.
She is here. She is here… the thought is all consuming, and he tries to run, but his knees buckle.
"Easy there," Tonks's whisper reaches his ear as she lays a grateful hand on his shoulder. "The curse has left you weak. You cannot run."
"Hermione," he rasps.
She gives him a sad smile. "We have to make sure there are only three. Let us secure the perimeter first. Don't be a fool Severus."
He nods in acknowledgement. She is right, as usual. "Go. I have your back."
Severus watches the Aurors shooting spells around the dingy little house in the country that has popped up on the Wizzarding map for use of dark magic this evening. The roof is falling apart, the façade is crumbling, and the whole place looks oddly dark.
He sees Remus and Dora exchange a look, and motion for him to join them. He tries his legs again, and they shake, but carry him to them.
"Thank you my friend," Remus says as Severus comes to stand by him.
"All clear," Tonks says and joins them. The couple gives Severus a hopeful look.
He lifts his wand and casts a "Homenum revellio" in a wide arch over the house. They watch, holding their breath, and in a couple of moments, there in the air above the small shed, glows a faint blue light.
He runs, uncaring that his legs are weak and getting weaker by the moment.
Remus takes his arm and helps him ahead, as Tonks rushes past the men and hurls into the creaky wooden shed, not fit for pigs, let alone people.
"Stay out!" they hear Dora cry out, but it's too late, they are already inside and faced with a horrifying scene.
Hermione is tied to the wall, naked and dirty, her hair hanging over her face in a muddy tangled mess. Traces of blood and sweat cover her skin, and her legs are spread wide, her most intimate parts splayed in front of them. Her inner thighs are coated with the dark red of dry blood, and strands of hay cling to her calves.
The stench is sickening.
The wan halo of blue light is still hovering above her head, her eyes are closed; she is obviously unconscious.
"Merlin!" Remus exclaims, holding his hand over his mouth. He is going to be sick, and he doubles back a moment later. The sounds of his retching are the only thing filling the horrified silence as Severus and Dora exchange glances.
In a flash, he is beside her, and they are checking for spinal injuries. Finding none, they untie the rusty iron manacles and gently lower the still unconscious woman to the ground. Severus is quick and tears the cloak off his back with a well placed "Divesto", and they lay her on top of the dark wool. This is not a moment for emotions, and they slide into professional mode, performing diagnostic spells over her.
Remus is back, having evanesced his bile. With a guilty look in his eyes, he joins them.
"Sorry," he whispers.
He gets a nod from Severus and a comforting look from his wife.
After what seems like an eternity, they manage to conclude that she is, surprisingly, stable, and miraculously seems to be relatively unharmed. Physically. A big word. No broken bones, no internal damage. There will probably be lacerations found in her vagina in various stages of healing, but their diagnostic spells have not detected any bleeding.
Her mind will be a whole different issue. Her magic is, at the moment, non-existent, and it is not as though they didn't know, but still it's a serious blow.
"We better not wake her just yet, it is best to transport her to St. Mungo's unconscious," Dora says, and Remus nods.
Severus can't tear his eyes from the sight. She is alive, but the beasts have obviously treated her as a toy this past year, a rag doll in their dark games of dominance and exploits. She has been raped repeatedly at the least, and tortured by both magical and muggle means.
"Severus," Dora says quietly, but her intent is clear as she lays a firm hand on his shoulder.
"We have to get her to the hospital."
"Not like this," he croaks. "They can't see her like this."
Remus runs his hand through his hair and sighs. "Come Dora, it's not like the doctors will need to take evidence from her. She is, as much as it surprises me to say, unhurt physically, and my senses are warning me that there is death in here. We need to find it, whatever it is. I am sorry to say, but it's not animal death I detect, and the flesh has been rotting for a while, so it's not the damned creatures we left in the courtyard either."
Dora stands up and glances at Hermione and Snape. "Take care of our girl. We have her back now, that's what matters."
They walk to the end of the shack, each inspecting the hidden corners with their eyes and wands.
Severus is kneeling now, smoothing matted hair out of her face with long, gentle, fingers.
"How little I knew of you when we last saw each other," he whispers as he decides where to start. His wand now turned to her face, he whispers spell after spell and the grime, the dirt, the blood melt away, revealing her skin, stretched thinly over her bones. It's grey, almost translucent, the blue streaks of vein tissue clearly visible as it spreads in a web over her arms, shoulders, breasts, stomach… he takes special care to clean her where they soiled her the most, pulling from his memory a remedy for a dark spell he, and only he, sees the evidence of.
Dora missed it, for she could not have known. But the wolf sensed death, and he sensed right. Severus moves closer, his hand trembling as he pulls her knees apart and directs his wand at her vulva.
With another whisper, a fresh trail of dark blood leaks out of her still unconscious body.
His heart is heavy as his darkest fears are confirmed. She was with child, and they tortured her until she lost it, leaving her to expulse the unlucky creature by herself. She had to have been weak, as the blood still contains tissue.
He clears his mind and continues with his task, cleaning her and nursing her outer wounds. Surprisingly, there aren't many. Scars, new and old, healed on their own without magic testify of the length of her captivity. Cuts that are still recent enough to be healed by magic are quickly dealt with. He cleans her again and again, eviscerating the stench of months in captivity as best as he can without the help of a bath, and he finally moves to her hair.
He remembers the bushy mop he had to face for the first three years of her schooling, and how it turned into a smaller mess and more of a nest of ringlets in her fourth and fifth year. There were feeble attempts to rule the stubborn follicles with potions homemade and bought, and he was remembered of all the images that filled his pensieve this last year. Her hair was full of life, as she was. Stubborn, foolhardy, out of fashion and unique, the mop of hair a true representative of the head it kept warm.
He focused first on killing the lice. It was an insult to her, more than any other type of dirt he removed thus far from her skin, and there had been much of it. But to let her be infested with bugs… he shuddered, but his wand movements remained focused as his wrist circled over her head.
A few minutes later he lowers his wand. He has cleaned her hair to the best of his ability and wrapped her in his cloak. He is now holding her in his arms and cradling her to his chest.
"You have no idea what you have become to me. You will be well again, and I will be there for you, no matter what, my brave girl."
Remus and Tonks approach him, and he realizes it's hardly been ten minutes since they left him. Dora can't hide the surprise on her face as she lays her eyes on Hermione, now free of the evidence of her capture. He meets Remus's eyes, and they are sad. So sad.
"Severus, you need to know something…"he starts, but Dora meets his eyes and realizes.
"He knows," she whispers, and Severus nods.
"I… I cleaned her. I saw. You couldn't have known by looking at her, but I knew."
Remus clears his throat. "Severus, the bodies… they are still here."
He freezes in place, stopping the gentle rocking movements.
"Bodies?" More than one? Oh Hermione… "How many?" he asks.
Remus is lowering his head. "Three. Two were twins, so it's…."
"Two times." Dora finished his thoughts, and they are all now barely keeping their emotions at bay.
It is again Dora who calls them back to action.
"We should apparate now. I'll go first, alert the Healers at the Emergency ward. And the Auror department. I'm done here."
The men nod solemnly, as she spins in place and disappears a second later.
"We still have the Death Eater bound outside," Remus utters, his voice low and suggestive.
They are treading the fine line of reason and sanity by holding themselves back and not going out and killing the rapist in cold blood.
"It would give me immense pleasure," Severus starts "but he shall be kissed in Azkaban, and I do not wish to taint my soul any further."
"You are gracious, Severus, maybe more than me. If it were the night before the full moon, he would have already been dead."
"Remus, don't. It's a darkness you are not equipped to deal with. Trust me, you are better off not knowing," Severus says, and Remus lowers his eyes in guilt.
"I am sorry again, for you have been forced to kill to save me. I shall never be able to repay you for saving my life."
"Utter nonsense," Severus growls. "Have we not grown above such talk? Was it not you and your wife who found me and healed me after that blasted snake tore half of my neck out? Is it not your son who heals my soul every time he sits in my undeserving lap and demands I tell him a story? Am I not living under the same roof with your family, sharing meals and cleaning duties along with those obnoxious visits from the Potters and Weasleys?" he raises his eyes to meet the knowing blue ones "Are you not the only man who knows how deeply I have fallen for her?"
Remus nods, and puts a hand on Severus's shoulder. "Still, thank you, my friend."
"You are welcome," he replies. "We should apparate now. Take her, for I am still weak from casting the Unforgivable. I shall follow you."
Remus kneels and takes Hermione from Severus's arms, and they exchange a last, silent nod.
They are swirling and moments later met with a blast of noise, blinding lights and a hospital gurney as they appear at the entryway of St. Mungo's.
Remus lies Hermione down and the healers rush her inside, the three of them following closely behind.