Title: Brave New World
Fandom: Harry Potter
Word count: ~1,500 (chapter)
Chapter: Prev | Next
Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter or any related characters. Making no money here, as they all still belong to their prospective owners.
Summary: Partially DH compliant, most AU. Voldemort arrived at Malfoy Manor quicker than expected, and like that, the war was over. Now, Hermione is Snape's "assigned companion," and as determined as ever to stop Voldemort and save her friends. But that's hard to do in Voldemort's new world…
Chapter Nine: Held Accountable
Her fingers gripped the alcove, her nails digging into the plaster. Her anxiety was showing, but she didn't care. She had a reason to be on edge, given the givens. She took a breath, stepping forward into the lounge, pausing just a few inches shy of the table that still contained the tray with the tea. Snape was resting his elbow on the arm of the sofa, his face partially hidden by his hand. He still had not made eye contact with her.
"What does he want you to do? About the half-bloods and muggle-borns?" she asked.
This was no time for shyness or tact. Or her anxiety. People's lives were in danger, including that of her friends. It was time for answers and decisions. She moved around the front of the sofa, not taking the chair that Voldemort had sat in—which she now saw as tainted—rather just to loom over her former professor.
"Snape? What does he want you to do?"
Dropping his hand from his face only to run it back up and over his head, pushing his hair out of his face, he took a few deep breaths of his own. He finally raised his black eyes to hers, holding her hard gaze with one of his own.
"He wants me to ensure that they are… separated off once they arrive at Hogwarts next year. He doesn't want them sorted, he doesn't want them educated magically… he wants them put into training for better service of purebloods. Then, instead of seven years of education, they will receive four years of lessons in subservience. After which they will be put into the pool of half-blood and muggle-borns to be claimed by a pureblood."
"Four years? Just fifteen? That's not even legal age. Why so young?" Hermione asked.
Here, Snape shrugged. "That I don't know. He didn't tell me. I would wager it would be to make sure the pool is always full of choice for those who are actually allowed to practice magic."
"It's full now," Hermione growled.
Snape tapped the tip of his fingers on the arm of the sofa. He seemed to be in debate about something, silently. Finally, he reached into his robes, withdrawing a copy of the Prophet.
"No, it's not," he said, tossing the folded up paper to her.
Hermione caught it one hand, unfolding it, and instantly catching the headline. Her eyes doubled.
"Half-Blood and Muggle-Born Death Toll Rising," she read. "I don't… they're dying?" She paused here, considering and realizing the truth. She crushed the paper in between her hands. "They're killing them."
Snape nodded. "Yes. My… compatriots, as it were, are not as gentle with their 'assigned companions' as I am, evidently. Some, I have heard, have been handed over to the Department of Mysteries at the Ministry… for trials, testing new spells and potions."
Hermione's chest was tight. Her hands still clutched the paper, and she heard her nails tearing a small section of it. Her mouth twitched, trying to hold back the wave of rage and sadness she felt. She swallowed hard, straightening herself into her full height.
"So, now what? You've got to start leaving bruises on me so we can play the part?" she whispered.
Snape's nails dug into the arm of the sofa and into the cushion beside him. His gaze dropped to the floor, and a snarl appears on his lips.
"Quiet, girl. You've no idea of what you speak about," he snapped.
Hermione waved the paper at him. "I don't, do I?" She tossed the Prophet so that it landed in his lap. It scattered all over him, and for a second he looked shocked, but just for a moment. "People are dying! People like us, in case you've forgotten!"
"I haven't forgotten, Granger. Believe me," he answered.
"But here you are, with no plan! You just seem to want to go along with it all! Let Voldemort do whatever he wants with the world!"
"Need I remind you? We're the minority now, Granger. And if we're not, then everyone else is keeping their mouths shut! Yes, Voldemort needs to be stopped. But it's not going to happen overnight, not unless you want even more bloodshed. Not with the current state of things. He has the Ministry, he has the school, and if case your memory really is spotty, he has Potter! For now, we do what we can to survive, until an opportunity presents itself."
The same words, again. It didn't make them any easier to hear. Hermione put her back to him, staring down into that vacant, dirtied chair. She imagined Voldemort sitting there again, gloating up at her. She pursed her lips, glancing over her shoulder.
"Can I really trust you?" she asked. She had thought the question a million times, but had never once dreamed of saying it out loud. She continued, "Killing Dumbledore, that was the truth? You really, truly want Voldemort gone?"
"Granger, right now, I too am in that minority as well, of people you should trust."
Hermione weighed these words against what she absolutely knew to be true. Other Death Eaters were torturing, maiming, and even killing their so-called "companions." Snape had only laid hands on her in public, to keep them from being found out. In private, he barely even spoke to her. He hated Harry, Hermione, and Ron, and now had the perfect opportunity to take out all that hatred on her. But he didn't. Hermione turned back to face him.
"Voldemort has split his soul, several times, into Horcruxes. That's why, at this present moment, he is unkillable," she said.
It was like a weight being lifted off of her shoulders. Now, maybe, the crusade that she and her friends had been on could be resumed. They could finally make actual headway into killing Voldemort.
"I know," Snape said.
Hermione's mouth dropped open. "What?"
"I know… all about it. Dumbledore, and later, after Voldemort's victory, Dumbledore's portrait told me everything."
He stopped speaking, but it looked as if he wanted to say more on the subject. After a second of internal struggle, he simply remained silent. Hermione shook her head.
"You know? And still… nothing. Why… why haven't you been looking for them? Trying to destroy them? Why are you still doing nothing?"
Snape shook his head. "You forget about the position we both find ourselves in. We must remain careful and vigilant. We would be unable to do so searching for Horcruxes."
"You're unbelievable!" she snapped. "How do I know you haven't come to like your new position of power at Voldemort's side? How do I know you really want him gone? I don't think you do. I think, not so secretly, you love being powerful and in charge. I think you hate your parentage, wish you were a pureblood, and just love love love that I'm nothing more than a servant to you! If Dumbledore really had that plan, to have you kill him instead of Malfoy, then I think he died in vain! You have no sense of honor, of compassion… of anything but self-interest!"
At this, Snape launched to his feet, sending the scattered newspaper floating to the floor. He got squarely in her face, his eyes alight with an anger Hermione wasn't sure she'd ever seen from her former professor.
"Shut up. You have no idea—no idea!—what my motivations are for wanting Voldemort gone! But they are there, I assure you. You've always been such a know-it-all, unable to contain yourself. But it would be far better for you in the moment to keep your mouth shut!"
He didn't scream the words at her. She almost wished he had. He delivered his speech in a calm, cold, harsh tone. The words were sharp as they hit her, and the way they pierced her left her speechless. Unable to argue, unable to form her own hatred, she turned and left the room, forcing herself to walk calmly all the way up into her bedroom. She didn't even give him the satisfaction of slamming her door.
She walked over to her bed, pulling out the scrap of parchment she had hidden containing the information of the next resistance meeting. It was still a couple of hours away, again around midnight. She tore the paper up, knowing that having kept it so long was a risk, and threw the pieces away in a nearby wastepaper basket. She sat on the bed, in the darkened room, resolved not to leave it again until the meeting. She had done this long wait before and she could do it again.
A little less than an hour later, she heard Snape's footsteps climbing the stairs and entering his own room. His door didn't slam either, and for some reason, that annoyed Hermione beyond words. She approached one of the candles on the bedside table, touching its waxy form. It lit, not with her own magic, but with the charm placed on it that obeyed touch. It took a second for Hermione's eyes to adjust, but when they did, she could see that it was finally time for her to take her leave. She slipped out of her bedroom, tiptoed out the door, and headed for the edge of the property to apparate.
It was nearly midnight, and Snape knew he ought to leave well enough alone. But he was tired of feeling out of place in his own home, and, as much as he was loathe to admit it, he could imagine that the powerlessness that Granger was feeling—because of him, because of everything—had to be overwhelming. But she had to understand. She had to come to realize that if they acted too soon, then all hope was lost. Why couldn't she understand? Even the bloody Weasleys seemed to have gotten it!
Unable to sleep—mostly because he hadn't even swapped into night clothes, due to his annoyance with Granger—he exited his room. He moved to the room that he had given over to her, pausing—as he had done before—just outside her door. This time, however, he was determined. Granger had to understand it all. The girl was not without reason. If he could just make her see past her anger, however justified it was, then maybe his home could go back to feeling like the sanctuary it had been before all of this.
He knocked. Several moments passed, and nothing. Perhaps she had fallen asleep. It was quite late. He tried again. Again, nothing. When he tried again, he spoke curtly through the door.
"Granger, we need to speak. Wake up and answer the door."
Nothing. Sighing, and praying that his next action didn't lead to yet another argument with that insufferable girl, he tried the doorknob. She had not locked the door, and he entered the room easily.
She wasn't there. The realization was immediate. Granger was gone. Anger and panic washed over him. If she was discovered, she would be dead. Voldemort was not a stupid man. Snape knew that the Dark Lord had to be suspicious of one of Potter's closest friends. Parkinson and Malfoy were already acting as sort of spies for him concerning the two members of the Weasley family that Potter had been closest to. Snape, though volunteering, was supposed to be acting in that capacity for Granger.
But it was difficult to spy on someone who was gone. Perhaps she was snooping around the house, trying to find something she felt she could use against him? True, she had had plenty of time here alone to do just that, but Snape was desperate. He flew out of the room, going to every nook and cranny of his home, trying to find her. But it was hopeless. He had to face reality then. With her gone, he had no clue where to begin searching for her.
Time passed, at least an hour, with Snape pacing the floor in the lounge, trying to think of all the places Granger could have possibly gone. It was then that he heard the familiar pop of apparition from outside. He ran into the kitchen, gazing out into the night. Granger was there! She was coming around the edge of the house now, sneaking back inside.
This time, anger's mate was relief. Relief that she had returned, that their cover as master/slave remained intact. But…
How dare she? How dare she jeopardize everything? He thought, briefly, about confronting her as he heard the front door creak open. But he paused, remaining hidden in the kitchen. He was smarter than that. After all, he had already told her of all the dangers of being discovered. If he did it any longer, he might as well be preaching to a brick wall. Instead, he would simply watch her a bit more closely, and, more importantly, figure out where she had sneaked off to.