Chapter beta: Dani
Chapter translator: Aivy
When we left the shop towards the Apparition Point, the streets were already very empty. It was dawning, and at such a dangerous time, the good, decent citizens were quickly drawn home to the safety of their own four walls.
The Twins were glad that Lee lived in the apartment above the shop, too, thus always made sure that the protective spells on the house were intact. But shall I tell you the truth? The fact that the Twins lived undisturbed despite their daring advertising had to do with their excellent connections to the Death Eater scene!
Well, no Death Eater would attack a house that belonged to a Malfoy in this life and if they did, they wouldn't have that life much longer.
Standing in front of the cottage I braced myself. As soon as we entered, we froze at the sound of raised voices, venomously berating each other. We three exchanged looks of horror. It didn't sound good at all!
In a hurry, we stormed into the living room and saw Draco almost getting into a brawl with Harry, Blaise had a rearing Ron in a headlock and the two girls were trying to shout at their friends to calm down.
It was chaos! It was funny how Harry tried to strangle Draco more or less and Draco in turn tried to kick Harry between his legs with a bright red head and a fierce expression. If they hadn't all meant it sincerely, I would have laughed but with the way things were I just got angry.
Now everyone was mad and crazy! First the Twins with their jealousy, now the rest of them fighting wildly. This could not be happening! Today they all seemed to be cracking up. I pulled out my wand and cast an Immobulus and let the maniacs freeze in their movement, so that now everyone looked at us in the entrance with big eyes. Since they were frozen they could not say anything, which was a relief after the loud noise they had created.
I saw how everyone stared up at me pleadingly. The twins in my back wisely didn't say anything for once. At the moment, I was even more angry and after last night I, once again, had a slight headache. I could already feel the creeping throb behind my temples. What was that about?!
"I hope you all have an excellent explanation for this!" I hissed softly. "Draco, what were you doing? That's... Ugh, if you make so much as a sound, I'll hex all of you once again... Got it?" I spat viciously. Everyone tried to signal their agreement with their eyes and so I released the spell with a flourish, whereupon everyone hit the ground more or less un-gallantly. I had no pity at all when they tumbled loudly one after the other.
Panting and moaning could be heard, but very quietly, and so everyone came back to their feet and looked at me apologetically. Harry tried a crooked smile and Draco brushed off his trousers emphatically and indifferently as if none of this affected him.
"Hermione, I'm so glad to see you," Harry said. "The ferret told us that... that... that... you were... well... just... and we asked him where you were. You didn't contact us; we thought that they-" Ron interrupted him with a bright red head.
"Yes, dammit. We thought, now the madman has caught you... And he was the most arrogant arse you can imagine," Ron said while staring Draco angrily into the ground, while the blonde only looked pejoratively at his fingernails.
"Draco...?" I asked, and he looked up at me with cold, grey eyes.
"That's what you get for trying to be nice! I thought you might be here. We were finished earlier than expected and, well, after this morning Father was not at all pleasant company," he twisted his pretty mouth. "I thought I'd tell them you were alive when I saw that you were not here yet. What I did not expect was that you had forgotten them," Draco put his finger on the wound with the precision of a surgeon. Ouch, very nice.
As I angrily furrowed my eyebrows, he knowingly lifted one brow knowingly and superiorly. Yes, he was right, I'd forgotten everything! And so he fell silent and prudently said nothing more.
"What does this mean?" Harry now demanded to know and put on his formerly cracked glasses after Daphne had repaired them for him. She was very thoughtful.
"What it means. I've forgotten you about my research," came the nasty answer from me, as I was angry with myself.
"What...? Why did you want to beat up Draco?" Fred now wondered, appalled. He and Draco, of all people, were heart and soul when it came to nonsense, and so he handed his mate a glass of water, which Draco gladly took and drank greedily.
"He came without Hermione, and said everything was running smoothly. We wanted to know what happened and he said she was a Death Eater, that lying snake," Ron raged and Draco rolled his eyes. At that moment, I became furious.
"Ron, you choleric, if you don't want to be chucked out on your arse, you'll shut your filthy mouth right now." I meant my words and everyone once again looked at me with big eyes. Ron closed his mouth with an audible sound. "Draco didn’t lie, I'm a Death Eater," I dropped the bombshell.
Harry sank down onto the couch as if his legs had been cut off. The girls squealed loudly, Blaise shook his head resignedly and Ron grabbed his heart and slumped to the floor.
Well, that's what they were saying, and the Twins, Draco, and I looked at each other slightly amused.
"QUIET," thundered Draco now. "Calm down, we'll tell you about it and if you hadn't tried to strangle me, I would have told you about it long ago." He sat down annoyed in his armchair and crossed his legs.
Thus I summarized the events in a few words. Once I saw Draco raise his brow when I omitted one or two unimportant details, like the advances of the Dark Lord, but then nodded to me thoughtfully, accepting the omission of this unpleasant aspect!
Then Draco pulled back his sleeve and presented his Dark Mark to the curious round. I sat down on my chair, tossed my hair out of the way and presented my mark. Everyone was amazed. Even Draco saw it for the first time from close up. He was baffled and pleased how tiny it was and stroked it in awe.
Harry just looked at me grief-stricken.
"Hermione, this won't be pretty. I hope I never have a vision of you and Voldemort together," was the only thing he said, and I could only agree with him wholeheartedly. For the Goddess’ sake, if he had seen THAT, no, to see his contempt in his gaze and the disgust in his emeralds... I didn't want that; I already felt far too much contempt for myself for that.
Ron was very pale and biting his lip, clenching his fist again and again, but he held his tongue. That was something. Well, here comes the next punch, I thought spitefully. But he was really annoying me today, probably because I was already irritated in the first place.
"So now that that's settled, next time try not to strangle Draco right away, please Harry, Ron?" They both nodded immediately like two naughty boys who had been caught, and a cynical sound escaped me.
"Well, then we should-" Draco wanted to stand up, but I raised my hand.
"Not yet, there's something else... Well, Ron get ready," I said and his head immediately twitched towards me, the expression in his eyes looking very frightened from one second to the next with what I would shock him next.
I made a dramatic gesture towards the Twins, who were once again lounging on large, comfortable cushions on the floor and who had been sitting there very quietly and uninvolved the whole time, considering that they knew what I would ask of them today.
"Um... Yeah, exactly. Well, as the most beautiful... We... It's like that... Well..." the sentences came from both of them very incoherently. The others just raised their eyebrows in surprise. Speechless Twins were a rarity, and Ron looked at them with curiosity and anticipation.
"Guys, come on," was the lovely interjection from Draco, who was clearly getting impatient. He never liked stuttering and now we had no time for it.
"Yeah, well, Ron, I've got - we have got something to tell you. May I introduce you to my lover, my life companion?" George had now taken heart, stood up and kissed Fred on the lips briefly and now it happened: Ron squeaked up loudly once, rolled his eyes until you could see the whites, then fainted unspectacularly and hit the floor with a loud cracking sound. Fortunately he had already been sitting, otherwise he would have hurt himself seriously. None of us had moved, we had simply let him fall and saw how he lay slightly contorted.
"That's what you call sweeping news," Blaise remarked dryly and we all looked full of pity at the unconscious Ron.
"You have told him now. Why?" Astoria was eager to know.
"Why? Ask her," Fred pointed accusingly at me.
"Yes. Now don't act like this. Those two were unbearable bitches because Angelina was in the shop," I retorted.
Immediately there was a collective groan and everyone rolled their eyes. Yes, by now everyone knew the jealousy scenes. Unfortunately...!
"And I decided that they shouldn't hide here at home, that doesn't agree with them and now Ron has to get past this. He would have found out sooner or later anyway, better now than later. Better for the peace here in the house and he will come to terms with it. He will have to..." I pointed to the unconscious man. "I hope you'll take care of him?" and everyone nodded.
"Well, we really have to get going, but I have something else here! It takes too long to tell all this, just this much: I think I know now that the Dark Lord took precautions and that's why he didn't die... Well, he didn't die for good when Harry vanquished him as a baby. I have all the books from the Black Library here about immortality and how to get it and I thought you might consult the books, see what might fit and I'll look in the Malfoy Library!
"Just so you know, there are seven death dates on a magical family tree for the Dark Lord. Yeah, don't look so dumbstruck, seven! Wait... here's the note, I wrote them down exactly. I found an event for almost every date that fits perfectly, when someone died, most likely by the hand of the Lord. So look for something that might fit, because I'm sure that's the explanation why he didn't die back then! The murders cannot be it, because all other family trees are normal, this anomaly only occurred for his name! I hope you will find something," I asked and ordered all in one, because I really wanted to. We had to make progress.
"Wow, Hermione. As Ron always says, you're brilliantly awesome, but really scary," I apparently impressed Harry, who measured me with an awed look. Then he bent down to Ron and patted his cheek, but had no success, as it seemed, because the latter was down under and, it seemed, very deep.
So we left a pile of old books in the cottage, knowing that they would take them apart precisely. The Twins had told me that the Lovegoods were unfortunately still unreachable and it seemed as if they would really only return shortly before the end of the holidays and then, the Twins promised me, they would be there immediately and ask the questions.
The next morning, we went for a run in the baroque park, which seemed to have sprung from a beautiful dream landscape in the dawn. It seemed so romantic, like in a fairy tale. Running through the sleeping, slowly awakening, spacious gardens was invigorating, even Draco next to me admitted that.
I was delighted that he was finally running with me here too, and so I smiled at him. Today I would have a lot to do again; how good that I was so structured. Draco had plans of his own, too, and that was fine with me.
A while later, I stood there in jeans and a tight green shirt. I looked very Muggle, which was a real relief after all the dresses, but I had already identified myself with my new role. What else could I have done but come to terms with my new status? And that, after all, included long robes and gowns. Well, there were worse things. Today, however, I didn't want to attract attention, even though I knew I shouldn't run into Lucius in these clothes!
Why did I want to go and see it? Why did I want to see if there was any more information? Why? I don't know, maybe because I was afraid what would happen the next time I saw HIM again?
Yes, that must be the reason why, at the crack of dawn, I was standing in front of the orphanage that had housed young Tom Riddle.
The building looked very dreary. Built of red bricks and behind a high, black fence it looked more like a prison than a house where children should have found their home. I could imagine that about eight years after the First World War and at the time of the Second World War, when he spent his holidays here, it had not made a friendlier impression. Had he experienced the air raids on London here, I wondered with interest.
He had grown up in a truly difficult time for Europe. Due to the Muggle Wars and the Wizarding War against Grindelwald, the mood must have been very gloomy. But even today the orphanage was no more inviting. It still looked like a bulwark and I cautiously stepped through the squeaky gate and walked across the concrete forecourt, which didn't really look welcoming, towards the entrance portal.
As I wanted to spare myself discussions, I became invisible and cast my Sonus Ex and scurried through the creaking door. One thing you had to give Filch credit for, he made sure everything worked smoothly at Hogwarts.
It seemed unfriendly as I walked through the dreary halls that were lined with grey cheap linoleum that smelled of a bad, vinegary cleaning agent. It was probably too early for the children. I went straight down to the basement. If they had held on to any records, they would have kept them there.
So... pride goes before a fall, dear children! Or was it my luck again? Well, we will never find out but my preconceived opinion turned out to be wrong... It was the attic! Finding out who had come up with this stupid idea was probably beyond possible, but that's how it was, to my sorrow.
I had examined the cellar and made a closer friendship with many rodents, which did not end happily for these creatures, but had found absolutely nothing. Except canned food, beverage crates and junk, there was nothing there.
Then I had started to climb the upper floors and had found a clue in an office that old documents were stored in the attic and now I made friends with cobwebs and dust. I had fought hard to gain access to this realm, whose entrance I first had had to find and now I looked like a mudlark.
Even I had to stoop down and fight my way to the farthest depths, because it seemed that before there were computers, they had always created ten-year-files that they packed in boxes and then banned up here. The only problem was that the age of the computer seemed to have arrived only recently. In addition, this orphanage had existed since 1924 and Riddle had graced these sacred halls since 1926, so they were very, very far back.
They were the last ones, to be exact. Was it possible to put my luck into words, I thought sarcastically, when I spit out, because I somehow got yucky cobwebs in my mouth. How absolutely disgusting!
So I went for the cardboard box containing the earliest years. It looked like it had been through a meat grinder before. Dampness, wetness, cold and heat under the roof and the crawling creatures had done a number on it. The files were wavy, yellowed and worn by time, but still legible.
I let myself sink exhausted into the dust - it didn't matter anyway, as dirty as I was - and rummaged through the big cardboard box. It was frightening how many children were orphaned during this time, but also frightening how many of these children died before they got the chance to grow up and also frightening how few children had found a new home. Well, the Dark Lord didn't seem to have spent his childhood in a good time.
And there I found him, my lord and master, who would surely be delighted to know how much I knew about him and his past.
His file was, shall we say, alarmingly large compared to the size of the other files. Yes, really, it was very thick!
The warden, Mrs. Cole, had written many things down even in the margin, as she had no explanation for many of the events surrounding this child. But one could tell by the way she worded her notes that she began to be afraid of THIS CHILD at a very early point in time.
She had noted that it hurt her especially because she had put an extraordinary amount of attention on the child. As a girl, she took up a position in the orphanage and could always remember the poor, ragged and heavily pregnant young woman who had come to the orphanage on New Year's Eve 1926, birthing her child an hour later and dying an hour after the birth. The mother had insisted vehemently on the child's name and so Tom was one of Mrs. Cole's first protégés of the hour zero, as she described it here, but soon strange incidents began to accumulate.
That's what she wrote down:
that he could make bad things happen;
that he had power over other children, and
that he had power over animals without training them;
that he had a particularly warped affinity for snakes;
that he could move things without touching them, but that this wasn't possible;
that he stole especially desirable toys from others and collected them as trophies in a shoe box, but she did not dare to look for this box.
She also admitted that she couldn't prove most of it and when the child left at the age of eleven, because a strange old man with a long beard came and explained that this boy could go to an exclusive boarding school, now she hadn't thought about it for long. The whole orphanage seemed to have cheered when the depressed mood left with the boy named Tom, which seemed to have weighed on them so far.
He had only returned during the summer holidays and, she thought, he was becoming more dangerous and incomprehensible every year. The memories of the warden were very detailed and no file was as extensive as that of Tom Marvolo Riddle. He seemed to have kept Mrs. Cole quite busy. Poor woman.
Her ward's file seemed to have developed more and more into a grief diary for the woman. By the late 1930s - Tom had been at Hogwarts since 1938 - the orphanage's annual summer outing had taken place. This was a trip to the country or to the coast of England, which changed regularly. Tom was there as always, because he had nowhere else to go.
She described a frightening and uncanny event that took place when they visited the coast and three children discovered a cave on the rocky coast on the beach and wanted to explore it.
The girl was still in primary school, her name was Amy Benson, and the boy at Tom's age was Dennis Bishop. They didn't report anything after showing up late because they were in shock. Tom seemed to be himself, withdrawn and dismissive as always, but the other two seemed upset and frightened. They had changed forever, seeming intimidated and shy from then on.
Mrs. Cole always wondered what he had done to the children in the caves to make them change so much.
Interesting, the Dark Lord seemed to have been a real sweetheart! Amused, I scaled down the file and put it in my pocket. I cleaned myself and covered my tracks in the thick layer of dust and set off, leaving the sad, uncomfortable but clean orphanage behind me.
It had taken a long time to find the files, longer than expected, but I still had a new destination in mind today.
As I appeared on a secluded country road I had spotted before, I looked out from a small hill towards the picturesque village in the county of East Sussex.
The day was a bit cloudy, but it did not detract from the ambivalent feelings that the village exuded, if only because of its name. It was Little Hangleton, referring to the word hanging and thus to a long tradition of carrying out death sentences in the village.
I walked along the country road into the typical English village. In the distance, I could make out the pub at the village square. 'The Hanged Man', how nice that they kept up the theme. I smiled.
It seemed quite uncanny, but that kind of thing hadn't stopped me for a long time. There was another reason why I came here and I wanted to tackle it now, so I left the sad Riddle House behind me and walked, guided by the description from the Prophet, along the path.
At the end of the road that led from Little Hangleton to Great Hangleton was the slope I now walked down. I was highly alert to catch all magical traces. When I was about to walk past some dark trees that overshadowed everything, I stopped abruptly and I reacted in a flash, whirled around silently and took cover behind one of the tall trees. Was I hallucinating, I wondered as my heart was thumping like mad. I hadn't expected to encounter someone else.
Had he noticed me? No, probably not, at least I hoped so. Nonverbally, I spelled myself invisible and silent. Damn, but who would expect to see HIM here! Should I start with my luck again? No, I spared myself.
Humming to himself in a good mood, he did not look up and rhythmically flicked his wand. Appearing out of nowhere, overshadowed and half-hidden, something slowly took shape before my eyes: a miserable, rather dilapidated hut, uninhabited for decades, which merged into a tree, seemed to be integrated into it. A crooked wooden door denied access.
What was he looking for here? He seemed very determined. Skillfully and with an admirable ease he broke through the protective spells that lay upon the hut.
Was I surprised that HE could break all black magic spells? No, not at all! Why would I? I knew who he was!
He even seemed to enjoy it, the way he muttered to himself and then let the door slide open, entering without hesitation, his long robe brushing the floor behind him when he disappeared into the gloom of the hut.
I took heart and crept to the open door, trusting that he did not expect that an overly curious witch was unintentionally there at the wrong - or rather, for me, the right - time to spy on him.
I could make out the interior because a bluish flame he had conjured illuminated the barren interior. A small living room contained what must have been an ancient couch, which was no longer recognizable as such.
The open kitchen could be identified only by its work surface. There was also an open fireplace that provided heat for the whole room when lit.
This had been the home of the proud descendants of the vain Salazar Slytherin? How pathetic! I couldn't imagine that the Dark Lord wanted the Death Eaters and the public to know that his ancestors, of whom he was so proud, had lived in such wretched conditions. It would be humiliating for him. Such an impressive ancestor and such despicable, degenerate descendants... Wow, that was a very sad family background, I thought.
He should be jealous of the Malfoys, whose family line can be traced back to the same age as the founders of Hogwarts. Hyperion Malfoy had already sent his son and heir to Hogwarts after he had come from Normandy as Monsieur de Malfoie, when not only the Normans invaded England with William, but also one or the other continental wizarding family had settled forever on our island in the 11th century.
Only the Malfoys had managed to increase their wealth over the centuries, while the Slytherins had been reduced to poverty and beggary.
No, the Dark Lord would never want this to come to light, that his family had nothing left to possess but noble lineage. Unlike the Malfoys, even their name had been lost and they were called Gaunt, a profane name that contained the meaning of being dark and frightening.
I also noticed that all the first names of the family started with an M: Marvolo, Merope, Morfin... This was, it seemed, the only thing they had left. It was tradition that held them up, because otherwise they had nothing left of the once noble and rich Slytherins/Gaunt family, except the memory of fading splendor.
If I thought of the Dark Lord's ugly mug with all the knowledge I now had, I would have said it was genetic. But Merope did the most intelligent thing she could: she had looked for and found fresh blood. Out of this had emerged an actually handsome, talented young man. But as it seemed, the mental degeneration had progressed too far so that a shot of fresh blood was not enough, unfortunately!
A jubilant cry of joy suddenly tore me from my thoughts and I looked at Dumbledore, who, without any concern about the dust of the decades, crawled across the floor with little elegance and seemed immensely fascinated. Even his beard dragged over the dirty floor.
At the last second, I suppressed a startled outcry. In front of him a small hole had opened in the floor where they hid their valuables. I had seen an unbelievably greedy glint in the old man's eyes and then he had simply reached for the object that was in the hole.
Was he insane?! He couldn't just do that! Where was the caution? Then I saw him holding the crude, thick gold ring in his hand, like something very precious and heard him muttering to himself "Ariana, Ariana," and then he tried to move the stone. So he really thought the Deathly Hallows existed?
From one second to the next, he screamed out in agony and a red-black ray broke out of the stone, illuminating the hut, bathing it in an eerie light and then fading away. Hadn't I known it? Anyone who knew the Dark Lord was aware that he guarded everything he wanted to protect. The stone flew through the air in a high arc and Dumbledore collapsed on the ground in agony.
I bit my lips until they cracked and I tasted blood, then I hurriedly entered the hut and looked at the old unconscious man whose wand hand was now coal-black and scorched. Half of the sleeve was burned away. I could see the bones under the black, burnt skin, beneath which all flesh seemed to have been etched away. What remained looked like bone covered with black leather.
The curse was spreading fast like a parasite. To buy us time, I quickly cast a slowing spell, Arresto Momentum, but I knew too little about the healing side of black magic to break the curse; here I was not the authority.
I looked at the gold ring, which was now lying in the dirt. I was not stupid enough to lay my hands on it, levitating it into a bag instead and then putting it into my pocket.
Damn, what had Dumbledore ridden to touch the stone just like that?! His guilty conscience about Ariana, his sister...? Was he crazy?! He had wanted to use it, so the sign was really that of Deathly Hallows! An angry growl escaped me when I saw time was pressing. Damn it!
Hallows or no hallows didn't matter right now. I had to act quickly and I would. I spelled him, creating an illusion around him, and took a dented metal cup from the floor and turned it into a Portkey, which was easy for me to handle.
Then I grabbed the now floating body of the unconscious Dumbledore, who was still writhing in pain, and activated the port key, feeling the magic work and how we left the wretched hut behind us.
Draco had told me this destination should I ever have problems and urgently need to see Severus. He said I shouldn't be fooled, the dark, black-wearing man had taken precautions and built in a spell that told him that someone was at the door of his unloved childhood home, no matter where he was.
Severus lived either at Malfoy Manor or Prince House, and Hogwarts, too, of course. However, he didn't want to be widely known, that he was the Prince Heir or that he had his own rooms in Malfoy Manor, which directly connected to Lucius' on the first floor, a small bedroom and a comfortable living room vestibule, which he used often enough, so he named his childhood home whenever he had to leave an address.
I could only shake my head about so much secretiveness.
Hence, I was now standing in Spinner's End, a poor, dreary industrial district near the river.
The quarter was dominated by a towering factory chimney and all the dirty brick buildings resembled each other in their run-down appearance. This is where Severus, when he had not lived with his grandmother Honoria, had stayed until she died. What a stark contrast that must have been.
Unimpressed with my surroundings, I hurried to the last house on the street and let the invisible, unconscious old man hover beside me. As soon as I spotted the relatively small house, I knocked on the door without hesitation, hoping that wherever he was, he would be quick and get his big, curious nose over here; I was worried!
End of Hermione's POV
Bloody hell, was I not allowed to have a moment of peace? No, not me! For once, you had an interesting book and then someone wanted something from you that was unpostponable, and had to be urgently and immediately dealt with! In this, Dumbledore, the Dark Lord, and Lucius agreed: everything that concerned them had precedence and was therefore priority.
I enjoyed it when I was in my house. It was beautiful; not nearly as stately as the Manor, but also a mansion, only more modest. The Prince had never been peacocks like the Malfoys, but I took in all I could from the hours I got to spend here, as everyone thought they needed me! I grimaced with disgust. All incompetent idiots.
And there, what was that? I was upset when I heard the humming that showed me that a mage was seeking entry in front of my pretended address. The Muggles were not able to find it, thanks to the defensive spells. Everyone thought this was my home address, even Dumbledore, as I always named this fucked up house of my hated Muggle father as my residence. But let's just say, because I was so sociable, I rarely got visits from witches and wizards.
So who wanted to deprive me of my well-deserved afternoon? I rose with a sigh and brushed my chin-length black hair out of my face and put the book aside with care, casting a regretful glance at my tea, which was now going to get cold.
Then, I disapparated and reappeared in the not very well maintained house in Spinner's End and heard the agitated, constant knocking and became annoyed again with so much noise. Was it not enough to knock once? Did they have to be so obtrusive?
I tore open the door with a grimace and wanted to rip into them when I stopped short as the minx was standing in front of me, almost hitting my chest with her fist - jeans, as I noticed at the second blink. Wow, if Lucius saw that, all hell would break loose. He disliked it when the women of his house were not dressed properly and the skin-tight, dark green, short-sleeved T-shirt with V-neck did not allow much imagination as to what she was hiding underneath. She was dressed very typically for a young Muggle girl, but rather less so for the noble Malfoy family, and looked at me impatiently and angrily, her hair puffing out wildly in a way I had not seen for a long time.
"Severus, at last, let me in, it is urgent," I heard her say in a pressing, breathless voice, and I gestured to her to pass me by, which she did awkwardly while seemingly conducting something with her hand. "Severus, quick, where is the bedroom?"
From one second to the other, my previously bad mood changed.
"If you have this craving, we can go somewhere else where the surroundings are much more comfortable and I could then take care of you thoroughly," I offered cynically.
"Ha ha very funny Severus. So I would have the opportunity to get to know Prince House? I am honored. Seriously, though, Dumbledore is dying," she said imploringly, and in that moment, she removed the illusion spell.
That wiped any thought of a few pleasurable hours with her from my mind. That she came to me for help was a sign of trust. One look from me was enough to see that the black magic curse slowly but steadily ate away at his hand and I reacted immediately, because she was right, he was dying.
"Up, second door on the right," I ordered. The minx had reacted correctly; she must have slowed down the curse. How good that she was always so cautious. I took my hat off to her cold-bloodedness to keep her nerves in volatile situations. But I would never show it to her, because then she would stick her pretty little nose up too high.
I had a good look at her firm butt in her crisp jeans while she was already climbing the stairs. It was a real pity that the old man was about to die. I sighed regretfully and hurried into the cellar.
A minute later, I quickly entered my parents' room and saw that she had already put Dumbledore on the bed and had used the Arresto Momentum spell again.
"What happened?" I snapped at her. She immediately stepped back and let me take care of the old man.
"He wanted to use a black magic item, which was covered with protective spells... The item belongs to the Dark Lord! A red and black bolt of light came out and struck his hand. He screamed, fell over and I saw the curse eat its way upwards. At first the fingers, now half of the hand has been affected. I came here with a port key. Can you do something?" she wanted to know in an interested but not nervous way. But I did not answer, instead I started the ritual healing chant and tossed her three vials, which she caught and then rushed to the old man's head on the other side and began to pour the potions into the unconscious wizard.
It took a long time and it was exhausting. Then I noticed that she was wiping my forehead with a cold cloth. How long had I been labouring here? The Dark Lord always did his work very thoroughly and so I had to fight hard!
The evening was approaching and Dumbledore was not yet awake, but I was making progress. I surmised that it would soon be over when I felt her patting me on the forehead again. She could be sweet, if she wanted to be, I mused silently, but she still remained a bitch.
I lowered my wand. She had come soon enough and I had done it, I had locked the curse in. The entire hand was now destroyed, but only the hand; the destructive curse went all the way to the wrist. From now on it was useless, skeletal, the skin looked decayed, black and withered. It was really not a beautiful, uplifting sight.
One of the potions was a strong sleeping potion. He would be asleep for a while longer, because waking up while I was still casting spells on him and the curse was doing its destructive work would have been extremely painful.
It was a cruel spell that ate you up relatively slowly, while you were still alive. It made your flesh rot under your skin until only the porous, aching bone remained, the now parched, leathery skin stretching over it. The whole body would look like this after some time, dried up like a mummy, if one did not act fast enough.
I looked up and saw her worried face as she smiled sadly at me and I silently beckoned her to follow me.
We walked down the dark hallway, where books were piled up in several piles, down the creaky stairs to the living room, which was also crammed with books and I signalled her to sit down while I went to get us a drink. I needed that after this exhausting activity.
I sat down next to her on the old velvet couch as I handed her her glass. The minx did not let on if she was affected by me getting so close to her, picking the glass out of my hand, our fingers brushing against each other.
Then, she regarded me with her large, brown doe eyes, which could look so innocent, even after all she had done, and I would have loved to use Legilimency to find out her big secret. Yet I was startled from my contemplation when she began to speak; I listened to her attentively.
"Severus, it was close. How bad is it?" she asked understandably, as I thought.
"Well, you appeared in time. He will survive, but without your Momentum spell the curse would have made him rot! It is good that in extreme situations you always maintain control of the situation and keep a clear head. He will be marked forever, always in pain; even if he decides to amputate his hand, the phantom pain will remain."
She shrugged her shoulders without sympathy, which made me frown.
"It's his own fault, so it's only right that he should always be reminded that he messed up," she saw my confusion and explained her motives. Wow, she kept reminding me that she was a surprisingly cold bitch. The old man had lost his hand, but pity was not her thing. That was something I wanted to address.
"So cold, my dear Hermione? Do you want to tell me how come you two were together?" I could clearly see how she closed up like an oyster at that moment. Her eyes got an impenetrable shine and she pinched her mouth slightly. Aha, that was interesting! Let me put it this way, I would not let her go.
"Severus, we did not travel together. I was investigating something and there he was. He doesn't know that I was there... I was invisible! When he passed out, I went to him and brought him here - and right, Draco gave me the tip! Who, if not you, could have helped me? Or should I have let him die?" She left me speechless. What were she and Dumbledore looking for?
"No, of course not! You did that well, but I do not understand, what were you looking for at the same time?" I did not want to let her get away so easily. She took a big sip but did not pull a face, rather seeming to enjoy the sharp alcohol, swallowing slowly, directing my gaze to her moving throat.
"I can't tell you that," I got in reply, although I was already aware that she wanted to keep it to herself.
"Then what will you tell Dumbledore how he came to be with me?" I showed my amusement. The minx really was too secretive.
"I don't know, but under no circumstances are you to tell him that it was I who brought him! Please Severus, promise me," she astonished me. She wanted to place herself in my hands, just so that the old man would never know to whom he owed his life! She saw how I weighed up my options and I saw how she thought that I was probably like Lucius in this relationship, who demanded something in return for everything and how she lowered her head in some level of defeat.
But before I could say anything or we could agree on how to deal with the situation, we heard a knock at the door and we whirled around. I saw how she looked at me in a hurried manner and I shrugged my white-clad shoulders, since I was only wearing my shirt.
I gestured to her to go upstairs to check on Dumbledore, as I did not know who was at the door. It was just after nine o'clock and so I got up and opened the door and was very irritated! What were they doing here? My eyes narrowed angrily.
They were already pushing through the open door and I was forced to let them in.
"Severus, fancy joining us?" Rabastan asked and I slowly raised an eyebrow.
"Oh, Rabastan, when did Severus ever fancy anything?" asked a cheerful Nott, grinning in a way that made him look incredibly stupid. When I tried to slam the door, the most horrible creature ever wriggled past me.
"Oh lala, Severus, so casual today?" Bellatrix purred, and I wanted to vomit as she scratched her far too long black-painted nails over my shirt. "Is Severus going to join us?"
Suddenly we heard something thumping loudly on the floor above us and all eyes twitched up and far too many suspicious looks were pointed at me. Great, I thought, if they found Dumbledore upstairs, I would have real problems and that's when the questions started.
"What are you hiding?"
"You never let anybody go up there!"
"What's going on here?! Would the Dark Lord care?"
What a nest of snakes, I could only think polemically! Before I could answer, my mouth almost fell open in surprise, but I fought doggedly for my indifferent attitude and so I just stared at her.
End of Severus’ POV