When Hermione Fights
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 Snape at “Rose Cottage”, chapter 63

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Anzahl der Beiträge : 107
Anmeldedatum : 25.10.14
Ort : Bodensee

Snape at “Rose Cottage”, chapter 63 Empty
BeitragThema: Snape at “Rose Cottage”, chapter 63   Snape at “Rose Cottage”, chapter 63 EmptyDo Apr 19, 2018 6:47 am

Chapter beta: Dani
Chapter translator: Maria, Aivy, (Sophie)

Snape’s POV

It seethed inside me. What was this insufferable Granger doing here? What always drove her to the most impossible of places? This annoying know-it-all was harder to take care of than herding cats and I would actually, in order to spare my nerves, prefer the cats!

What worried me the most was the way Lucius had eyed her. It could not mean anything good. He had looked as if he was going to hunt and that never ended well.

I don't want to know what would have happened if I hadn't done my errands in the pharmacy so fast. He had actually grabbed her by the throat. Even if Lucius was a dangerous man, I was sure he was making the mistake of underestimating Miss Granger. How could he know that she was responsible for Bole and Derrick? How would he know what the dainty little Miss Granger was capable of?

I, too, had put her into hard-pressed situations, and she had always looked at me with a cold, indifferent gaze, sometimes with contempt. But never fear, apprehension or worry; if she felt any of these feelings, she masterfully managed to hide them. The disturbing thing was, I was not sure if she was playing me in this case or if she was truly that unemotional.

I could imagine it already, when she sent Lucius such a look out of her expressive, brown eyes, that he could barely contain and control himself, wanting to dominate, break and subjugate her on the spot, because that's what Lucius was always about. He always had to be the one who pulled the strings and he loved imposing his will on others.

But that damned Granger always attracted luck almost magically! If I did something like that, though I never would, I would have pulled my hair out.

She would be a particularly hard nut to crack, Lucius had realized it at once; the only thing he did not know was that I trusted her to stand up to Lucius, for better or for worse. Did I want that to happen? Under no circumstances, when things went badly, people would die!

How was I supposed to reign in a Malfoy that had gone wild? That would go as well as when I wanted to forbid Draco from meeting with the girl and you had seen where that ended. This family was stubborn, simply conceited and terribly overbearing. She would bring me to my grave, that was clear for me.

The two, I think, could evolve into explosives, dynamite and TNT all in one. Both Lucius and Granger had the necessary temperament! I mean, that brat had managed to get Black riled up enough to beat her and I wouldn’t put a lot past him, but he must have forgotten himself immensely there to act like that. Even the unemotional Draco had developed to this date unimagined possessive and protective instincts for her. And I, well, unfortunately, she did not leave me cold either. For that her mind, which I had been able to examine only in small extracts, was just too ingenious to not fascinate me.

I curled my lips in disgust. Lucius was walking elegantly beside me and keeping his head straight; I often thought to myself how one could go through life so arrogantly without falling on his nose, but he could. To my chagrin, Lucius had always mastered it!

Oh, Granger, what would Draco say? Would she tell him? I wouldn’t put it past this minx! Where had Lucius met her? It was not like they were part of the same social circles! I would give her a piece of my mind for sure; I was already looking forward to continue the detention. If I did not have such a damn bad feeling about Lucius... You did not tease Lucius Malfoy with impunity and that's what this stupid girl had done.

I had to do something, just what was beyond me. This stupid, stubborn and far too proud girl was overestimating her abilities and was nothing but trouble, creating problems everywhere. Most of all, I'd like to destroy her pride in one way or another, but no, wait, then there was the next Malfoy ready to battle on her behalf.

Should I become an alcoholic over this injustice? What had not happened over all those cruel and terrible years, it would be her fault, definitely. Lucius had no idea what he was getting himself into! I even trusted her to do what no one else had done except the Dark Lord, to curb Lucius for good, for he had certainly never before met such a nagging, rebellious woman.

He, who only had to pick up the beauties lying on the floor before him, who were there either because they adored him or because they were afraid of his brutality. However, I was sure he wouldn't have a chance to break through Granger’s reserve with either method, I had already experienced her to be too cold-blooded and indifferent for that. Now I had to try to prevent Lucius from developing a morbid obsession for Granger if it was not already too late, which I feared when I looked into his storm-clouded eyes.

"Lucius, say, am I imagining that or are your eyes shining?" I tried to elicit something from him, sometimes it worked easily, sometimes he clammed up, then nothing did the trick. That were Malfoys for you! I looked at him urgently.

"What makes you think so, Severus? You are not the type to imagine things, my friend!" he replied eloquently. Aha, he denied it and that badly. I could hear in his voice, my friend had honestly started the hunt. If only Dumbledore knew...

"Lucius, am I Fudge or one of the other idiots? Where have you met Granger?" I snarled coldly while interlacing my fingers behind my back as I walked, so I wouldn’t hit the roof as soon as I found out how this brat had managed to attract one of the most dangerous and powerful men in our society.

"Oh, Severus, you will not like that, you are always much too moral and stiff!" He lifted a corner of his mouth and slapped his walking stick into his other hand, he loved to play with that idiotic thing.

"You are the one to talk. Who is always walking around with a cane?" His criticism bounced off of me. However, I believed him that I would not like what I was about to hear.

"You are an old grumbler, Severus, and you are the younger of the two of us!" Lucius gave me his predator's smile, which was not nice while mocking me. "She was at the ball ...!"

"Ball? The Ministry Ball?" I interjected, my long black hair flying into my face as I turned my head in surprise. What the hell was Granger doing in the Ministry. She should be … Where should this nuisance actually be? At Black’s? That’s where Potter was. Or at home? Great, now I would spend my precious free time looking for and finding this minx.

"Yes, the little girl had her big performance there, with Viktor Krum. She is ... charming!" he told me in his velvety voice with an unexpected openness he would never show to any other person in the world.

"Granger and charming? Lucius, she's a brat!" I spat in disgust. Whatever had he noticed there again? Can’t be!

"Severus, Severus, always so interested in the big picture, always so focused that you deign to ignore the smaller details! ... No, you never miss anything, that would never happen to you, the perfectionist! But you are always so hard pushed to get over your so hastily made opinions, my dear," he said haughtily, licking his lips in an unconscious gesture with the tip of his tongue. I clenched my jaw so tightly that it crunched, I hated it like the plague when Lucius had his mopes and thought he needed to analyze me.

"That does not change anything, Granger is a brat!" I pressed quietly through my teeth, yes, even I could be stubborn.

"My dear, your Miss Granger is a lot, but not a brat! She’s a sly old dog and most astonishingly, for a Gryffindor Mudblood she seems very cunning. Can you imagine that? She smiled to herself in the alley earlier and wasn’t brought down to her knees with fear! Something that, in my opinion, is amazing!" he said it very pompously and braggily, stroking back his long, open, white-blond strands and raising his chin high up in the air.

"Why?" I said as Mr. Peacock wished.

"I allowed myself to have a bit of fun with the little girl... Oh, if only there were several like her..." He was lost in his dreams. Great, great! Malfoys were not to be underestimated if they got like this, my concern grew! In what kind of nettles had Granger managed to settle herself so well, I wondered furiously. And thus I just grunted, so that he would finally continue to tell his tale while we went down Knockturn Alley and the riff-raff who roamed the streets around here obediently slipped away hastily when they saw us coming, the Left and the Right Hand of the Dark Lord.

"Oh, sorry! She was delicious, her scent ... sweet and that unbroken pride in her eyes, a pleasure, and that crisp, young body, so pliable, worth a sin ... ", he gushed with pleasure, as only Lucius could, and licked his lips again provocatively.

"What are you talking about, Lucius? That sounds like you have done more ... She's a student, she's not a pureblood!" I told him indignantly. Hearing his description of Granger, my heart had inevitably rocketed and I remembered our two kisses, those intense kisses and her scent that had captured me, and her soft lips. Damn, push those pictures away from you, I demanded of myself resolutely and turned to the essential. Lucius and his way forward.

"To my chagrin, not so much ‘more’ yet. Nothing more happened yet, because of Fudge, this idiot, but I tasted her and she was delicious ...", it came very distantly from our gentleman. He had tasted her, that could mean a lot to Lucius.

"What, where, how?" I could not resist asking.

"Her shoulder and imagine ... she did not scream ...", he chuckled ecstatically and sighed wistfully. Oh, Granger, do you have any idea what a horrible mess you're in? That meant that he had not kissed her or something like that, which would’ve been a surprise considering Lucius’ character. ‘Her shoulder’ meant he had bitten her. Well, I had to find her quickly before Lucius did. And so I got a little impatient, I had to find out where she was.

"She did not make a sound. Nobody has done that yet ... I can not wait to catch her, but you had to intervene, Severus! You're a spoilsport!" he snapped at me, staring at me with cool discontent.

“It wouldn’t be fun for you if you succeeded that fast!” I countered curtly, showing how unconcerned I was about his scolding.

“You are quite right, my friend…” Now he stopped, his elaborate, blue-grey velvet coat billowing around his legs. "I have to go to Borgin! Will you come with me?"

"No, I have to add a few of these ingredients as quickly as possible to a potion that is simmering, otherwise all the work was in vain. You understand, I hope. You can tell me about the hunt another time in detail over a glass of liquor, and how you plan to go about it," I offered businesslike.

"Severus, so verbose. That's not how I know you. And so ... interested! Did I say something about a hunt? ... But well, then come to the Manor the day after tomorrow, then we'll make it a nice cozy evening!" he drawled and I rolled my eyes in annoyment, which let him twinkle at me profoundly in turn. He didn’t have to say it; I knew him too well and he knew that.

Lucius Malfoy wanted her, even a blind man would see that. I gave him a stiff nod and apparated to Grimmauld Place immediately, I had to find out where she was staying.

When I stormed the forbidding Black estate, my mood had rapidly turned into an arctic glacier. What had I done to deserve this? Now I sought out Potter and the mutt, just because of her, the bitch!

As usual, the loud horde in its entirety sat in the kitchen, gathered around the table. When I burst in unexpectedly, general attention turned to me and the frosty silence, which immediately welcomed me, warmed my heart, I thought cynically amused by their inferiority way to punish me, as this was a truly clumsy attempt. As if this would affect or even touch me.

I gave the ragtag pack a contemptuous smile. I had spotted most of the Weasleys and Potter, but I couldn’t see the red-haired twin clowns and Granger in the crowd.

"Severus, what can we do for you?" Lupin wanted to know politely while I was still standing in the doorway. I did not have time for small talk and so I stared directly at Black, ignoring the other baggage.

"Black, do you know where the magpie is?" I asked ambiguously, looking intently at him, hoping his miserable mind would get going.

I could see him wince and think about it, frowning.

"Why?" he replied warily, and everyone listened with interest to our friendly dialogue.

"Black, do you know it or not?" I asked, hissing impatiently, but otherwise not showing my hurry. Potter watched us suspiciously with those oh-so-green eyes, displaying a skeptical expression.

"No, I don’t. She had other plans!" He said with a shrug, as if it did not concern him.

Wonderful, that was a way to describe it, and what plans she had! To charm a Malfoy so that he blew the hunt.

"Hmph ..." I exclaimed indignantly and wanted to turn away brusquely.

"Something happened? When you're in such a good mood?" Black suddenly expressed astonishing interest after he had noted my superb mood.

"Lucius happened!" I announced curtly. Why should I be the only one who knew how dangerous the game had just become?

"Shit, fuck! How did she manage to do that yet again?" Black knew how to use the right words, almost jumping out of his chair and finally giving up his casual posture.

"Sorry, but who is she?" I could hear Lupin’s inquiry, but Black stopped him with a wave of his hand.

"How should I know?" I turned away. All I could see and hear before I left the kitchen behind me was that he had now got up and was already getting grilled by the others.

"What magpie?"

"What's that about?"

"What does Snape want to know ...?"

Blah blah blah, always the same nonsensical chatter.

"Severus, wait!" I heard him cry out, because Black had run after me and now whispered softly: "I only know that she was taken by Minerva to her parents' house the very next day. How could Malfoy Senior become aware of her?"

"You do not want to know that, Black!" I told him quite coldly. "Considering how it ended between you two," I said maliciously while grinning nastily.

"She told you?" Black asked, looking downright frozen in shock about the fact that I knew.
"No, I got it from another party!" I then honestly informed him, because Draco had told me, back then in the common room.

"So it’s true, after all? She didn’t want to tell me which snake she's messing around with!” Black grunted furiously, seeming deeply invested.

"Black, what are you so upset about? Be glad that you are rid of her. Look at what mess she’s already gotten herself into again. You know that you’ve never been a match for her and will never be!" I said dismissively, baring my teeth. Although I had only said the truth and meant it.

"Despite everything, I'm worried. Malfoy is not a person to be trifled with!" he warned, worried, running his fingers nervously through his long, dark mane.

"Why do you think I'm looking for her?" I pointed out with blatant irony.

"The Twins are not here either. They left at Christmas, supposedly to stay with Lee Jordan, their friend, but I do not believe it," he told me on the way out and closed the front door behind me.

So where to go? I knew where she lived, I had looked it up once and not forgotten. It was an address directly in London and so I apparated in front of the upper-class townhouse in which she lived and rang the bell.

Nobody opened and when a neighbor approached me, asking what I wanted, I said I had an appointment with Miss Granger, my student. The old woman looked funny but was happy to inform me that the parents were skiing in Switzerland like they did every year and Miss Granger was not here. Should I wonder that she had lied to everyone at Grimmauld Place?

So now I stood in a secluded alley and thought; these insufferable twins had fled the annoying lot at Grimmauld Place. No one could blame them for that. The way Lucius had complained to me at the beginning of our meeting, Draco had absconded too, because he prefered to spend Christmas with Blaise Zabini rather than at home!

Only I didn't really believe that! If Granger was alone and Draco also took to his heels, these two could only be together. Hence Zabini was an alibi, the only question was how much or how little he did know, so I decided to go to Zabini and see if Draco actually spent time with his house mate. Though it would not surprise me if it was just a ruse, I didn’t want to judge early.

Zabini lived in a beautiful, large country house in the middle of England, that is, in the middle of nowhere. The house was huge, although not nearly as big and impressive as the Manor it did look impressive. It was reminiscent of a mid-sized mansion of past centuries. Which name his mother carried at the moment, I did not know, as the former Mrs. Zabini had just buried her seventh or sixth husband, I believe, and was in mourning. Whoever married this woman was sooner or later dead, that much was clear! That she still found gullible men who wanted to be sent to the afterlife as soon as possible, astonished me every time I read a wedding ad, but it was no problem of mine.

No question, she was a beautiful woman, with her roots in Martinique and her chocolate-brown skin, eyes sparkling with passion and exuberance, but she was also scary in her restlessness! How she had managed to produce such a well-balanced son who stoically endured all new stepfathers amazed me once again beyond all measure. Hopefully, she was not there. Not that I would get into her focus, my sarcasm always got the best of me.

When I was escorted to the cozy parlour by a zealous house-elf, I was granted that wish; the chipped bird had truly flown. Not that she tried to become Mrs. Snape, I thought mockingly.

And so only Blaise joined me. He was a handsome boy who made the girls' hearts beat faster at Hogwarts, and certainly was a philanderer. He probably had that from his mother, it shot very sardonically through my head.

"Professor Snape, what a surprise. Can I do something for you? What do you want?” He showed me his respect and bowed his head to me. I loved the manners of my Slytherins.

"Mr. Zabini, pleased to see you well! I heard that Mr. Malfoy should be with you. I need to speak to him," I said firmly, looking at him vigilantly.

Because of my close scrutiny, I noticed immediately how his Adam's apple hopped when he swallowed hard. Not a good sign. I wouldn’t find him here. I could barely suppress an annoyed sigh.

"Well, Professor, Draco out and about ..." he tried quite well, but I was better and so I interrupted him resolutely.

"Mr. Zabini, it looks like Mr. Malfoy is not here and probably never was. Would you be kind enough to let me know where he is?" I demanded harshly.

"I do not know, sir!" He slouched his shoulders.

"Nothing, Mr. Zabini? You would be helping Draco, not cause him any problems!" I tried to approach him with unusual sensitivity, focussing on him.

"Um, well ... he's with Abraxina!" It burst out of him suddenly, after he had collapsed under my demanding look. Yes, I had already thought so.

"Did he come up with some way with which you could reach him in case something happened?" I enquired impatiently.

"Yes, I was to send him my owl!" the boy confessed quickly, albeit very nervously.

"Then we should do that, Mr. Zabini!" I finally ordered and a short time later an eagle owl sailed off towards Draco.

So we sat opposite to each other in two bulky, yellow armchairs and stayed silent. It was exhilarating to see the continued silence tugging on the young man's nerves. Well, I did not want to be like that and would provide a topic, the only question was whether he appreciated the subject.

"Mr. Zabini, what do you know about Abraxina?" I used the inane name Draco had invented for Granger. His head jerked up and he stared at me with his dark brown eyes.

"Nothing, sir!" he stated plainly.

"What do the Slytherins know?" I pushed further into him and he tried to appear determined to not let me intimidate him.

"Nothing, sir!" He replied again quickly. Was it not always a pleasure to talk to snakes? It was such a refreshing, insightful communication.

"What is suspected, Mr. Zabini?" I continued patiently.

"A lot, sir.” You might think Granger had apprenticed here; she was clearly in the wrong house. Zabini could become her best friend the way he behaved. Internally, I sighed heavily.

"Could you go into detail, Mr. Zabini?" I tried to show infinite patience. According to the horror in his eyes, I didn’t seem to succeed completely. Absentmindedly, I drummed my fingers on the arm of the chair.

"... of course, sir. Well, it is common believe that she is a Ravenclaw, as Hufflepuffs, by unanimous opinion, do not have the guts to enter the common room of another house… Sir, but I ... well," he stuttered, now nibbling on his lips.

"And you ..., Mr. Zabini?" I repeated silkily. That was very exciting.

"Well, I think after your ... hem, and Draco’s... How do I say that now? So, when you had this discussion back then, I thought you knew the girl and the way it all seemed, I think ... No, I have to put it this way, I think none of the girls in the two houses mentioned would have the potential to captivate Draco so much. Because of that, I think ... but only I ... She’s a Gryffindor!" He declared with uncertainty, running his hands nervously through his short, black hair.

Even though my blank mask was perfect and I would never admit it out loud, my heart jumped with joy when I saw that I had such impressive people in my house who possessed the power of deduction. That was a confirmation that I was not just surrounded by total incompetence! Although I perceived his inquietude.

"And what do you intend to do with these opinions?" I threatened gently, but also very pleased that he had seen behind the bigger picture.

"Nothing, sir. Am I right?" he asked in a dither. He would have to work on that.

"Mr. Zabini, I think it's better if I do not answer that, for your own good! But how about you, can you keep silent?" I wanted to know, casually crossing my legs.

"Sir, with all due respect, I consider Draco a friend and I hope someday he will see me as one again too, so his secrets should be mine!" The young man insisted with fervent sincerity and I liked him better and better. Draco would have to keep on the right side of him, someone as loyal as that could be worth his weight in gold.

Just then we were interrupted by the house elf opening the door and a black figure sliding inside, its footsteps abruptly stopping when it caught side of us.

"Uncle Severus ?!" I could hear Draco's incredulous voice and he pulled the hood from his head. "Blaise," he nodded curtly in greeting.

"Good that you have contacted me, I wanted to see you after what happened today!" The proclamation bubbled out of him and he astonished me when he quickly stepped up to me.

I was still sitting, looking coolly at my agitated godson. However, I was positively inclined towards him at the moment, as he seemed to correctly judge the danger his father posed. I found it satisfying not to be surrounded by fools.

“Draco, great you‘re showing up so fast, you‘re not easy to find these days!“ I could grant him that compliment. Without tracking down Draco, I wouldn‘t have had an idea where to find Granger. It bothered me immensely, but also put my mind at ease. When I was unable to find them quickly, Lucius wouldn‘t either.

“Thank you for the compliment, but the credit is all due to her!“ he replied notably proudly, whilst his storm grey eyes sparkled full of emotions. That‘s not good, I thought at this sight. “Shall we go?“

“Not so fast my dear! I just had a little talk with Mr. Zabini. I guess the content should be worth your interest.“ I encouraged him and Draco gave us a questioning look.

“Uhm, as you wish, sir. Draco, I hope one day you’ll see me again as the good friend I still see in you. And I believe ‘Abraxina’ is a Gryffindor!“ he rattled down almost as quick as a shot. Well, feelings and emotions were definitely none of our favourite topics, I thought tragically affected while slightly shaking my head. He had sounded like I had hold him at wand point. I could watch how the expression in Draco’s eyes changed from disbelief to astonishment and then into light anger. Otherwise he behaved like a true Malfoy, looking deliberately at Blaise with a slightly tilted head.

“Blaise, I consider you as a friend… still. Otherwise I would have never asked you to cover me. I am pleased that our friendship means so much to you… Apart from that, I know I only got the permission to take Severus, however, you should also come with me, just because of the spell!” he said very deliberately. I immediately knew which spell he was talking about and I really liked this well thought-out idea. Yet, the young Zabini still gave a very overwhelmed impression.

“Of course, Draco, I’ll come with you. Will I need anything?” He was instantly ready and I really found his trust into Draco intriguing.

“Just your coat. Come on, let’s go!” he ordered and so we quickly set off and arrived a short time later under a expansive, huge tree seeing nothing. I almost snapped at Draco what kind of joke this should be, when he gave me a paper on which I could read “Rose Cottage”. The very moment we finished reading a very beautiful and scenic Cottage with a garden revealed itself to us!

What, please?

“Draco, where does the Fidelius come from?” I enquired flatly. We hadn’t stirred from the spot yet.

“She did it, right after the ball! Isn‘t she amazing? What she is capable of doing, all on her own!“ He beamed, visibly proud of her prowess.

“Draco, do you know how dangerous that was? If the ritual had been interrupted... This is great magic, extremely exhausting and demanding, she shouldn‘t be capable of doing this kind of magic!“ I replied tartly. I hated it when such a thing happened. I was far too old to get completely thrown by this brat again and again. But her magical potential terrified me as much as it astonished me. To dare to cast the Fidelius at her age was enormous; her presumptuousness to even try it was as meaningful as it was daft.

“We knew that. However, everything went more than well. It was a calculated risk and we found it was the lesser of two evils compared to remaining unprotected! She slept through the next night and then everything was fine again. Come on!” he instructed us to follow him. I struggled to overcome my shock about this harebrained action, I would need a clear head soon.

We had followed Draco to the door, which he had opened,stepping into a short vestibule, where he took our coats, when we heard the loud laughter of more than one person.

“Wait a moment,” he said and went into the living room and Zabini and I could overhear what was spoken.

“Darling?” Draco approached her gently.

“You are back already...? I have good news, Draco, I did it…” she told him, followed by rumbustious laughter and the sound of a kiss, which made us step closer to the opening and I watch Granger lying in Draco’s arms, getting kissed passionately, while the two red terrors were standing near by rubbing their eyes theatrically.

“Stop it, you maniacs. Are the new ones helping and have you got different animals now?” Draco asked and I was at a complete loss what he meant.

“Shush, Draco! No, unfortunately not. They only look more mean and malicious now and are more aggressive. Please don’t say anything else in this regard,” the plea came from Granger and the Twins looked downright homicidal. “I will set my wits to the ‘why’ later.”

“Keep your hair on, guys. To calm you down, I invite you to help me deplete the whiskey supply,” Draco offered generously. “And now… I brought two people with me!” he admitted and got the Twins to spin around at once.

“What!?” Granger hissed, her expression darkening rapidly.

“Severus and… and…” Thus we entered the room. Zabini looked a bit pale. He, too, had witnessed the kiss between Draco and Granger. It must have been shocking for him to see Potter’s bosom friend together with his arch enemy.

“Darling, please don’t fret, it was necessary…” Draco implored urgently, embracing her waist from behind and pulling her against his chest. “You must have been aware that I would talk to Blaise!”

“Yes. Talk, Draco, is something different than bringing him here!” She declared curtly, shaking off his embrace roughly. Then she snapped at him: “Hadn’t we just discussed that during Christmas: First ask me, then act!”

“Sorry, mate, you’ll have to stick it out…” The Twins waved it off lapidary, which made me wonder what had happened at Christmas.

“Draco, I have violent fantasies right now in which I’m choking you to death slowly but surely!” she ranted fervently. What should I say? She was bitch! At least I wasn’t the only one who got to experience this lovely side of her.

“Enough already, Hermione! I was right the first time and now as well, bringing those two! Come off it! I already abased myself on my knees for doing that to you,” he replied, justifying his actions! Alright, now I was more than curious and Zabini next to me appeared to nearly burst with curiosity. A grovelling and begging Malfoy! Only the Twins looked knowingly and slightly gleeful. Fascinating.

“And I have forgiven you, on the condition that you wouldn’t go over my head again. What did you do?” she snarled self-righteously, wagging her hand in our direction. The way she dominated the room with her curly hair was impressive. Draco squirmed uneasily under her angry glare, as if he wasn’t sure of himself after all.

“Hermione, that’s enough!” one of the reds intervened now, astonishingly determined and unexpectedly foolhardy. No idea which one, they looked too much alike to tell them apart. “Draco hasn’t acted wrong this time. Hear him out! There are going to be situations where he will not be able to ask you first and he’ll have to make the decision on his own and you’ll have to trust him then! So stop laying into the poor guy!” The Twin’s words faded away. I was very grateful that I worked so long and hard to never show even the tiniest reaction, because I was aghast. Weasleys siding with a Malfoy. Gryffindors stepping into the breach for a Slytherin. Sadly, the same couldn’t be said for Zabini, who looked like he would need oxygen, he was deeply shocked.

I could observe how Draco breathed in relief and gave them a thumbs up in thanks, what Granger couldn’t see as she had turned around to face the Twins.

“I beg your pardon?” she asked with visible consternation.

“Yes, beautiful, I agree with George. Don’t hold the story in your bed against him forever! I still approve, even if you’re still furious about it. And you wanted him to speak with Snape about earlier… Okay, he brought Zabini too, but he will have his reasons!” Fred, apparently, also spoke for Draco. The world had turned upside-down indeed.

For a moment, she hid her face in her palms in defeat, muttering: “Uh… Draco, sorry. But your father has the great talent to drive me up the wall, and whenever he does something it has consequences to my detriment!” she voiced her indignation.

Draco pulled her close. “I know, I don’t like it, too. But Blaise is a friend and he guessed that the girl visiting me could only be a Gryffindor! And that’s why I thought it would be better if you used your spell!” he explained softly. When they next looked at us, the two intruders, her mask sat perfectly as well again. What had Draco done that made her jump out of her skin like that?

“Please excuse the reception, Professor Snape. And welcome to you too, Zabini. Please take a seat,” she greeted us now, playing the role of irreproachable hostess and pointing us to the dining table that would be able to seat us all.

“Do you want something?” she offered with pretend politeness, giving us a fake smile.

“It’s okay, Hermione, I’ll do it. Does everybody want some whiskey?” Draco took over and everyone simply nodded their head.

That’s what I call an illustre circle. Two Weasleys with unusually sombre faces, Granger whom showed her unreadable mask sat there stiff as a poker, Zabini who was sitting somewhat lost next to the Twins and ostentatiously gazing at the Christmas decoration, and Draco, who was impersonating a house-elf with a floating tray in front of him.

“Miss Granger, do you know the trouble you are in?” I started stiffly.

“I’m aware, sir!” she nodded in confirmation.

“What were you doing at the Ministry?” I enquired further. She looked around, snorting, while the Twins were grinning and even Draco eyed at her cheekily.

“May I first put the spell on Blaise or do you want to do it, sir?” she requested provocatively and I wouldn’t let the opportunity pass by to try the spell myself, thus drawing my wand immediately.

“Am I allowed to cast a spell on you, Mr. Zabini?” I asked tactfully and he looked back at me with a startled expression.

“Don’t worry, Zabini, we all got it!” Two very diabolic red heads were trying to out-grin each other. I hated so much cheerfulness. However, thanks to their interjection he nodded slightly disturbed still, but according to Granger’s instruction that was all that was necessary to proceed.

“Credere Tacientiae,” I aimed my wand and added all of our names. With my work done, I reclined in my seat, took a swig from my glass and halted. Good whiskey, although a Muggle brand, and that one had been served to me by Draco? Astounding. His grandfather was turning in his grave and if Lucius had already been lying in his own, he would be too.

“So, with this taken care of…” Granger stated amiably, leaning back. “Yes, I was at the Ministry, I had something to accomplish. What that was is none of your business, all that’s important is that it was successful,” she grinned impishly, her eyes sparkling mischievously. The way she had crossed her arms in front of her chest she looked very satisfied. “Only when I wanted to return to the ballroom, Lucius barred my way… He, he suggested that he was not above messing around with me. A mudblood! Draco freed me, or rescued me, as I was behaving mostly passive. I didn’t want to cause a scandal, that was the last thing I needed,” she pursed her lips, sounding terribly cold, and then Draco stept in:

“Well, Severus, I had to search for Father, as his speech was due, and found him glued to Hermione. He left her in a dishevelled state and I took care of her, fled with her directly here, bringing us to safety. She.. was bleeding…,” he said, but was rudely interrupted.

“Oh, Draco, don’t say it like that to the professor. He has seen me already when I was bleeding for good. Professor, that was nothing, only a minor bite!” she dismissed it as irrelevant.

“Draco, I think Miss Granger is right, the wound itself should have been the smallest of your problems!” I declared rather unimpressed.

“I know that, you two, I was just annoyed with Father, that he let himself loose control so much, we were in public!” Draco complained arrogantly.

“Professor, Draco fetched you because we know that Lucius has called the hunt; and today in Diagon Alley you saw it for yourself. We are aware of the danger! I don’t want to be the one to make Draco fatherless. If you hadn’t arrived when you did, I don’t know how I would have reacted!” she admitted and I noticed Draco caressing her arm gently and Zabini also looked mesmerized at the display of affection.

“Well, since the one violent incident I can’t stand it if someone tries to choke me. I don’t know whether I could have retained my control, sir!” She had her gaze lowered to the tabletop during her confession.

“Understandably enough, Miss Granger, getting nearly choked to death leaves an impression!” I agreed with her, which caused Zabini and the Twins to look at her with dismay. “You never told the two of them?” I asked, perplexed. That surprised me.

“Why should I, Professor? Nobody knows everything about me,” she gave me a cold, grisly smile.

“Beautiful, you were nearly choked to death. When?” the Twins echoed stricken, both looking grave and quite angry on her behalf.

“I only didn’t tell you because it was already done. I’m still living, so the issue is over. And regarding when… when I sent my magpie into the kitchen!” she recounted so emotionless, that it sent cold shivers down my spine when I recalled the sight of her in the Black library. Evidently, she proved once more that she was tougher as one should assume, as I didn’t pick up any indication that the memory affected her deeply, despite the fact that she had fought a battle for life and death.

“I had been slightly injured, but the professor was nice enough to heal me,” she said reassuringly, lying without a blush, she didn’t know any shame. I didn’t ‘heal her’. I stitched her back together. Slightly injured… What did she understand under a severe injury then?

“Well yes, Professor Snape, we know Hermione’s inclination towards understatement, that's why we want to ask you, sir: is she honest or was she more dead than alive?” The jesting duo had apparently much more bright than they let on and Granger, naturally, had been the first to notice.

They had furnished me a fit occasion. I shot her a glance and she looked back intently, raising her glass mockingly. Minx! But I wouldn’t pass up the opportunity

“Well, gentlemen, one could gauge it either way! The strangulation marks were impressive, but the knife protruding from her side managed to capture most of my attention!” A diabolic grin slipped onto my face. I believe she had anticipated my answer as she was showing me a cynical smirk.

The reactions came promptly. The Twins were pale, and yes, if Zabini could get pale, he would be now as well. All of them looked around with their mouths wide open; Draco would have to practice with them so they didn’t play fish all the time.

“Hermione Jean Granger, you didn’t think that relevant enough to tell us? Who did it?” one of the twins screeched, showing astonishing resemblance to their mother Molly.

“Well, he who did it… no longer exists!” She remained cool while the others flew into a rage.

“You did… Of course you did. I told you for a long time, Fred, she kills everything that doesn’t suit her…,” the other twin grinned with unforeseen viciousness, bestowing upon me the great challenge not to loose my face confronted with the unexpected behaviour of the Gryffindors present. What kind of place was this? What kind of children were this? Certainly not good ones!

“Bole!” Zabini breathed, his skin tone reminding me of white chocolate. His power of deduction was fantastic. Granger nodded slowly in confirmation with Draco smiling cryptically the whole time. I could guess why, in all probability he knew the most in this, our circle.

“What… he had been nearly beheaded… That, that was you?” the Twins sputtered and she simply nodded, laughing.

“Wicked. How was it…? You don’t tell us something like that, you bad girl. I demand the story with all the details!” said one twin or the other. From which one? I had no idea. Should these two humans actually be Molly’s and Arthur’s children? I hoped for the parents’ sake that an exchange had taken place in the hospital.

“That’s the reason, Fred, I wouldn’t have got any peace from you,” she retorted with cynicism and turned back to me: “But back to our problem. What will we do regarding Malfoy Senior? Did you get anything more out of him?”

“Yes, he wants you, he finds you ravishing… I suggest you don’t leave Hogwarts at all, neither for your training, nor to visit Hogsmeade!”

“That’s unacceptable. I can’t let my combat training slide. Should I once again run into Lucius, it’s my best shot as he isn’t expecting it,” she ranted, spurning my sensible recommendation.

“She is right, Severus,” Draco declared gravely. I allowed myself to groan as I had to look into the big, pleading eyes of my godson, who had already managed to talk me into doing his will when he was still a toddler. I knew what he wanted me to do. What a shrewd, cunning little manipulator. Where did he get it from? Certainly not from me or his father.

“Very well, but you will owe me! You will abandon your training outside of Hogwarts... “ I informed her with a tone of finality. Thereat she wanted to protest in outrage, but was stopped by my cold glare and Draco’s hand. “... and instead I’m going to teach you in combat Wednesdays and Fridays, magically as well as… with non-magical weapons!” I offered unexpectedly generously. Granger sank back into her seat, slightly surprised and taken aback. “Though you will continue to brew on Mondays, it can’t hurt!” I added with the spitefulness they were more used to.

“Gladly, Professor. If you are offering, I’ll accept. As I’m not closing my eyes against the danger that is Lucius, I am ready to bear the resulting consequences and restrictions,” she agreed surprisingly quickly, but she wasn’t stupid. An admirable girl!

“Severus, couldn’t you train us all, as were are here, on Sundays as well? It wouldn’t hurt,” Draco asked me suddenly. I was surprised for a moment before I realised Draco was behaving the way he had always done, the Malfoy way. Give him an inch and he'll take an ell.

“I’m going to leave you all to your own devices now. You, Miss Granger, will leave the house as little as possible, and not at all with your own looks. Tomorrow I will be back! Mr. Zabini, do you have to return?” I demanded to know from the tongue-tied and seemingly overwhelmed boy.

“Eh…!” was the eloquent and very intelligent answer. I frowned in indignation. What kind of articulation was that?

“We have a spare room, you can stay if you want!” Draco offered quickly and Granger nodded as well, if hesitantly.

“Yes, I’d like to stay. There is nobody waiting at home…” he stated honestly pleased about the unexpected offer. “And I have some questions…”

“Good, that is settled. Until tomorrow!” I made a classy exit, sweeping off.

On the way to the Dark Lord I was thinking about many different things, pondering what I should think about this illustrious circle.

I hadn’t expected to ever see Draco like that! But she was good for him, unbelievable but true! That the Twins were that mean-spirited and cruel did actually frighten me, even if I would never admit that openly. The way I had experienced them just now, made me feel slightly uneasy whenever I thought about them. Even the joker side of the two of them had to be handled with care. But with this affinity for evil, with this cold-bloodedness and bloodthirstiness, they were truly dangerous. Birds of a feather flock together. I was curious, though not without worry, what this circle would accomplish. Where would it end? Especially Granger; she was on a totally different level, the head of it all, and she had Potter in her hands as well, the way he always looked at her full of trust and naïvety. He was eating out of her hand. Dumbledore had no idea, he was blind to what was happening right under his nose.

Maybe Lucius was right and I should stop seeing the brat in her and start to recognize the grown woman she had become.

End of Snape’s POV
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