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The sounds were deafeningly loud. Severus cursed under his breath sheltering his eyes from shards of glass flying everywhere. The sounds of battle moved from the chamber he was in to another. He’d be better protected wearing his mask, but he dared not to place it on his face.

“To Nine Hells with Dark Lord and Dumbledore alike. His first order was to stay in school and watch over the students- from both of them. Not a full hour later the calls came.

The Dark Lord wanted him in the shadows, joining in if all seemed lost and to capture Potter, but otherwise not interfering.

Dumbledore wanted him to save Potter and his band of dunderheads but at the same time to stay hidden from other Order members.

How was he supposed to obey both of them and survive?  

The hiss of a charm mere inches from his ear forced him to duck and change his course, winding between the falling shelves. There was a flash, more glass shards rained on him, something akin to sand slipped over his collar and down his back. Severus kept on running hoping with all his might that his back will still have at least some patches of skin remaining if it was glass dust.

There was a loud bang and a flash of another curse and something hit him in the back of the head. Darkness swallowed him.

 

His head was ringing. His thoughts were blurry and it took him a good few moments to realise where he was. The chamber was shrouded in darkness and quiet. Severus tried to move and realised that he was covered with the debris of broken shelves.

He swore silently. How long was I out?

This was bad. He will undoubtedly suffer the wrath of both the Dark Lord and Dumbledore. Kicking the remnants of a shelf off his battered form,  he still didn’t dare to sit up. How come Aurors still haven’t found me?  With all the comotion he’d expect the hoards of Aurors to mill around, the damage to the chamber was extensive even before he blacked out.

Maybe I did have luck . ?

At this point he should be counting his blessings and write his will, for he wouldn’t survive the return to one of his Masters. Tormentors more likely. There was a noise toward the far end of the chamber and Severus stilled his breathing. It won’t bode well for him if Aurors find him while he had his Death Eater robes over his Teaching robes.

Someone was moving towards him, not even trying to shine light, most likely a hidden Death Eater trying to slip away before Aurors find him or some of the students who suffered a fate similar to his. He was indecisive what would be better.

Dark shade approached and he nearly stopped breathing, swallowing his breaths. He squinted his eyes trying to discern who was approaching or at least to what side person belonged. All he could tell in this dark was that she was female. He waited patiently.

Moments passed dragging to infinity.

One heartbeat- Two- Three-

She was upon him, or more precisely stepping over him. Severus caught the glimpse of  a mane of unruly hair of the intruder. He’d know that rat’s nest anywhere. Of course it had to be  the Hogwarts resident Know-it-all. At least Dumbledore won’t complain too much if he returns the student to school.

Making a decision he grabbed the girl by the ankle before she managed to move away from him. There was a quiet squeak of fear and a thrud. He rolled to get a better grip and her free foot painfully collided with his shoulder. She scrambled over to free herself, kicking and huffing.

Severus rolled to the other side, to avoid being kicked again and pounced on the girl.

“Calm down, Miss Granger, I’ll take you back to school.,” he whispered harshly.

The words hurt his throat as if he hadn’t spoken a word for months. He slipped his wand from the sleeve pocket and casted a Lumos. Granger stopped struggling and sat on her knees blinking at him owlishly.

“Merlin’s beard! What did you do with yourself, Miss Granger?” Severus couldn’t stop the words pouring out of his mouth.

The girl looked older, much older. Maybe thirty or forty. What the hell happened to her? No wonder she stayed hidden and tried to sneak out. Severus sat on his knees facing the unfortunate student, she really was magical accident prone; first a cat, now this. In the most soothing voice he could produce he tried to calm her down.

“Do not worry, Miss Granger, whatever happened to you I’m sure the Headmaster will be able to help you.”

Granger widened her eyes, shock written clearly on her face. She tried to speak, mouth open and closing but no sound came.

Oh, bollocks!

Only now he remembered that he still had his Death Eater robes and that he probably scared the life out of the girl. It wasn’t like him to be so careless, but he still felt disoriented.

“Professor Snape?” she whispered, her voice full of disbelief.

“I should start deducting points for stating the obvious, Miss Granger.” Severus sneered biting his tongue not to say that he expected more from her than from her idiotic friends.

The girl just blinked at him, still full of confusion and disbelief. Severus wasn’t sure should he feel worried, she was more than obviously not at her full capacity. He grunted in surprise, internal horror reaching new heights when Granger hugged him with a thrilled but still rather quiet cry.

“It is you! Merlin!” Her embrace tightened.

“Unhand me at once, Miss Granger! Fifty points from Gryffindor,” he barked, startled.

She did release him, but instead of an argument, which he fully expected- she grabbed his face, running the soft pads of her thumbs over his features. It was as if she didn’t hear him at all.

“Merlin, Professor, you didn’t age a day,” she whispered with fascination.

“Miss Granger, I’ll make sure to inform the Headmaster of your unseemly behaviour. Now release my person before I’m forced to hex you,”  Severus hissed, his intolerance for this type of disturbance going through the roof. 

But that seemed to do the trick, the girl released him. The hex-curse-whatever that hit her must have addled her brain. Because she managed to surprise him by a startled yelp and hit his hand. His wand rolled to the ground, leaving them in darkness once more.

“Are you insane? Do you want us killed or worse- captured? How did you managed to preserve your wand? Where have you been all this time?” Granger’s hiss turned into a stream of questions.

Poor girl, her brain is damaged. Luckily not completely, it seems.

“I am sure that misfortune that found you, Miss Granger, made you feel like you have been hiding- I’ll assume- for a long time, but I can assure you it can’t be more than couple of hours.” He tried to feel for his wand in the darkness.

“All this time? What do you think the current time is, Professor?” she asked, baffled.

There was something in her voice that forced him to abandon the search and face her, even if he could only see a vague contour of her. His eyes had trouble focusing and his head was still buzzing.  It might be a concussion , he deduced.

“Do not try to save yourself from detention by claiming loss of memory, it is too late for that.” Severus stopped himself, maybe she really didn’t know. “It is June 18th, 1996. And we are at the Ministry, now I’m not sure what chamber is this but…” her loud gasp cut off his words.

“We are in the Time Room, Professor and… Of course how could I be so stupid? How stupid we all were! But no one knew you were here when all of this happened” Granger sounded agitated, distressed. “Today is the June 18th 2014 . You disappeared Professor, for eighteen years we thought you dead and gone.”

He groaned, that was just what he needed a student whose brain had turned into a delusional mush. Granger seemed to ignore him now, she pressed her ear and started mumbling into her sleeve button.

“Mission aborted. I need support vehicle… And I have an extra passenger.”

He wanted to say something and stop this nonsense when a soft sound, a buzz of muffled and distant words stopped him. What in the Merlin’s name is going on?

“No, nothing over the com. You won’t believe, I can hardly believe my eyes. And we have a working wand, not repaired and not registered. I think I know how, but I won’t explain now, just send the bloody car! We are going straight to the shelter, bring Minerva, Remus, Tonks… only the most trusted of the inner circle. And contact our mole, we’ll need another set of papers for the asylum. Roger that. Yes, we can stay hidden here for another half an hour.”

“Miss Granger!” he called to her, impatient.

Severus tried to get up but he was too dizzy to do so.

“Carefull, Professor, time travel can be disorienting.” She scrambled to him, holding her arms out to help and he jerked away.

With sigh she crawled a little over the floor to his utter confusion. Now when his eyes adjusted to darkness he could see that she was holding his wand like it was something precious. She returned the wand to him.

“Do not use it, Professor or they will find us.”

“What are you on about, Miss Granger? I’m sure that Dumbledore can explain everything if we just…” Severus stopped.

“Oh, Professor, you have no idea. The day you disappeared turned the tides of war- horribly wrong.” She choked a muffled sob. “It was chaos. Dumbledore thought you were taken and killed or harmed by Voldemort. Voldemort thought that Dumbledore did something to you. After weeks of attacks and rescue actions on both sides, Voldemort and Dumbledore met. They met to negotiate your release, but… They made a truce, and joined forces to find you. It was so horrible. It was a time of terror- you can’t even imagine!”

Severus could bloody well imagine. Both men were megalomaniacs, power hungry and ruthless when they had their eye on the goal. Their approach might have been different, but in their core they were mirror image. He huffed through his nose.

It wasn’t that he believed in this nonsense, but he figured if he played along the girl would finally agree to follow him to the Headmaster willingly. Severus wasn’t so keen on hexing the student, not with all the trouble he was in.

“FInally, the new current emerged, the one that brought down both of them. Voldemort, all his horcruxes and Dumbledore are dead. But they exposed our world to Muggles. It was a- mess. The new Ministry reached agreement with Muggle government. The Magic is largely forbidden now. You may be executed for the possession of the wand without permission. Magical world is more than ever cut off from the Muggle one, the magical children are taken from Muggle parents at their birth,” she continued.

“And what are you doing in the Ministry then?” he asked to gain time, deducing that the poor girl lost all touch with reality.

“The new Ministry tried to prosecute all that fought on the side of light and dark, by the new rules we knew too much dangerous magic. The guard is the only group that can use magic for attack and defence. We had to flee, many died… Muggle government offered us a political asylum, but only if we promised not to practice our magic. We, the ones who accepted asylum, formed the resistance.”

“That still does not answer my question, Miss Granger.” Severus was getting tired of this fairytale, no matter how plausible it sounded.

“Harry is locked away in Azkaban, you see. So we are trying to rescue him. There are Azkaban plans here in old Ministry building, I came to retrieve them.” She sighed. “It’s almost time, we must go.”

Granger stood up, helping him to stand as well. This wasn’t good, the room spun around him, but at least the girl decided that it is time to go. Severus almost longed to see Dumbledore and dump this addled child in Headmaster’s lap. The old goat was the one to blame for the destruction of a brilliant mind that once was Hermione Granger.

He followed the girl to the main entrance. Suspicion started to gnaw at him. The Ministry was dark, deserted and in ruins. She lead him through the maze of what looked like corridors for cleaning and repair workers until they reached the streets.

Soft breeze of summer night greeted them. He however wasn’t able to enjoy the fresh air, Granger tugged him towards the dirty white car that looked like a Mini Cooper. The car door opened he was almost pulled inside, the Granger girl seated next to him.

There was a collective gasp in the car before everyone started to talk at once. The interior of the car spun around him. Familiar yet unfamiliar faces revolving around him like bodiless heads.

They were older.

All of them.

Bloody Merlin’s saggy balls! The story Granger told me was true!

He tried to fill his lungs with air but he couldn’t, he must be looking like a fish out of water. How utterly embarrassing. Through the cacophony, Granger’s voice pushed through.

“Neville, start the engine and drive before we draw suspicion. Everyone else, quiet!” Silence became deafening all of a sudden. Car rumbled, tugged a bit and started moving. His hand was squeezed hard and he raised his eyes- facing the young version of Lucius.

Draco.

“Godfather?” Draco’s voice teetered on the verge of breaking, the boy, no! The man, looked at Granger. “How?”

“He was at the Ministry. In the Time room at the time of the explosion... “ Granger whispered. “He time-travelled, we should give him space to adjust. I couldn’t explain everything, I did my best.”

The car ride passed in a blur, for most part Severus tried to get caught up with his brain, doubting his sanity. Try as he may, he was still surrounded with older versions of his students, in unfamiliar model of a car. And he was the only one in wizarding robes.

Car stopped, they ushered him into the typical London house, though the corridor wall into another dark and dusty passage and into a small square chamber. Draco took him to the adjoining broom closet that he called the guest room  with only one bed and a lightbulb on a bare wire.

“I… You have no idea what it means to me that you are alive, godfather.” Draco’s voice broke in a croak.

Salazar, I hope he won’t start crying.

He wasn’t capable of consoling anyone, he still felt- disjointed . Yes, that was a good word for what he felt- weak on his legs, dizzyingly disoriented and overwhelmed. Draco cleared his throat and said:

“I know it is lot to take in. Believe me, you being alive is a lot to process as well. But I need to know- is it true?”

“What?” Severus blinked at Draco, he had no idea what was going on. Not anymore.

“After Voldemort and Dumbledore joined forces… About you and Harry’s mum, you being a spy for the Dumbledore?” Draco asked. “Not that it matters anymore, but at time it broke mother’s and father’s hearts.”

Severus nodded, feeling numb. “Yes, yes it’s true. I am-was…”

“I see. It doesn’t matter anymore. Now we are all together, on one side. Nothing like a common enemy to even our petty differences, eh? I’ll leave you to rest.” Draco turned to leave.

Staying alone sounded scary. Terrifying in fact. What he needed now was to know, to learn, to keep at least one person at his side.

“Lucius and Narcissa…” Severus said loudly, Draco stopped at his tracks and turned.

“They- died. Well, they were executed for refusing to surrender their wands. “ Draco didn’t sound sad and Severus frowned. “We parted our ways long before that, I still mourned… More for you than I did for them in later years.”

“What happened?” Do I really want to know?  

“They disapproved of my relationship. I... My hope was that you would be more- understanding .” Draco hid his eyes.

“A Muggleborn.” Severus nodded wondering if the said Muggleborn was Granger.

“Ahem, no. Not a witch, in fact. A wizard.” Draco shuffled pulling back and in himself like he was prepared to be yelled at.

“Ah.” Severus nodded, he could imagine the reaction of Narcissa. Lucius would be purely duplicitous about it, of course. “Anyone I know? Does he treat you right? Are you- happy ?”

“Yes, you know him and yes he treats me right. I am happy with him, when he’s around. He is at the moment in Azkaban.” Draco’s voice was quiet.

“So, Potter.” Severus nodded, in the midst of all this insanity, somehow this information made sense.

The noise in the other room reached crescendo. He jerked, twitching his wand-hand when the door banged open. Granger’s silhouette at the door frame.

“If you do not wish for me to use magic, Miss Granger, I propose less violent entrances,“ he drawled.

“I’m sorry, Professor, I think it’s too early but regrettably it is time. I explained your situation, but the Resistance members want to see you.”

He nodded. He would welcome some time to better understand this situation, where he was. But that would be an easy solution. When in his life had anything been easy? He stood up and Granger approached him, with a bit of forethought he extended his wand to her.

“I trust you to safekeep it, Miss Granger, or I might feel compelled to use it there.”

She took the wand and handed it to Draco. “You are on his side, I know that.”

With fascination Severus watched as Hermione placed a hand on Draco’ shoulder and squeezed it supportively. Draco returned the smile.

Too much. It was all too much, even his occlumency walls couldn’t keep his sanity intact now. Now, he seen it all. He followed Draco and Granger to the other room, full of unfamiliar and yet familiar faces.

Minerva, looking more wrinkled, her lips pressed tight but her left cheek dancing in a nervous jitter. Lupin and Tonks huddled together, blinking in confusion. Lupin grey and with a cane, Tonks  with blond hair, and a few line over her face that started to show. Neville, slim and quiet but not looking scared as he remembered, holding hands with Luna Lovegood, who looked older but airy as always. Crabbe and Goyle still looking dull with gaping mouths. Avery, Rossier, Theodore Nott- Severus’ brain tried to process that image. The Greengrass family wasn't a surprise.

Severus blinked, the man next to Kingsley wasn’t familiar.  Yet in a room full of mute people he spoke first.

“Is this the man, the one that had the time travel accident?”

“Yes. He is still actively wanted by our Ministry. He’ll need asylum as fast as possible,” Granger explained.

“More than that, Hermione,” rumbled Kingsley. “He’ll need a protective, no extradition clause, asylum. Once they get the word of Severus being alive, the Ministry will demand his blood.”

“It is comforting to know nothing has changed.” Severus sneered.

“Sweet Morgana, it is him.” Minerva’s cry startled everyone in the room. She rushed towards him and Severus pulled back a step. She wouldn’t… his thought cut off as Minerva gave him a bone crushing hug.  

“Will you pull yourself together woman, and release me?” he demanded. The world has gone insane.

What was with witches and their hugging tonight. Only days ago they were more for hexing than hugging him. In fact, there was no witch in England that would hug him voluntarily.

Correction, there wasn’t, eighteen years ago. But it seemed that things has changed in his absence.

“It is nice to see you alive again, Professor,” chirped Luna. Merlin, is there anything to rattle her cage?

The man cleared his throat, he was digging through the briefcase he had with him. “Yes, if you don’t mind I’d like to finish this as quickly as possible.” He sat at the table and started to fill in the blanks, checking boxes. “The name if you will?”

“Severus Snape,” he said and the man drew a sharp breath of air.

“I see. He will need a safe place to stay. I’ll take all other information from the file and see to rush the necessary paperwork. Where he will be staying?” The man looked around the room.

“He may stay with us,” Lupin said. Severus squared his shoulders, Azkaban sounded like a acceptable option in comparison to that. He narrowed his eyes ready to object.

“Remus, for you it's been eighteen years, for Severus it wasn’t more than a few hours. I don’t think he’d be comfortable staying with you.” Avery turned to Lupin.

Severus swallowed the gasp. It was too big of a change to take it in stride.

“He’ll stay with me,” Granger stated. “At the moment I am the only one that has no one in transit, and Draco’s home is too public for the Professor to be there.”

“Don’t tell me you are some sort of public figure.” Severus turned to Draco who smiled shyly.

“No, I run a bakery with Harry. Our flat is adjoined to the shop.”

Malfoy running a bakery. Severus just nodded, walked to the first available chair and sat.

It was all too much. The man stood up and nodded. “I’ll come to your place in a day or two Miss Granger. By then I should have preliminary paperwork done. For how long you can accommodate Mr Snape?”

“For as long as it needed,” Hermione said.  

“Hermione…” Draco turned to her.

“We’ll manage. I’d appreciate if you don’t come all at once. We may gather again in a few days, in the meantime I’ll fill in the blanks, tell the Professor what happened and teach him what he needs to know.” Granger was in her element, that much was clear. “He has to catch up with history and technology, not to mention the rules. There is nothing we can ask him that we already don’t know, so I suggest to give him time to adjust.”

The murmur of agreement buzzed through the room.

Granger… Merlin, maybe it isn’t too late to surrender myself to the Ministry.

Severus sharply turned, sending the room into a spin, when a hand fell on his shoulder. Granger was standing next to him. “I am sorry, Professor, to make such a decision without consulting you. I take it you are too confused right now to understand, but you will.”

He just nodded, unsure if surviving the time travel was a smart thing to do.

Chapter Text

Severus allowed himself to be shuffled, hugged by few more witches, patted on the back and greeted by people around him. The faces were familiar, but he didn’t know any of them. 

Avery, he knew from his school days and later would have hexed the life out of the Werewolf, but now, they chatted idly, arranging a family night together. A small sense of normalcy was induced by Draco still ordering Crabbe and Goyle around, Miss Lovegood’s inane statements, Minerva’s stern disposition and Hermione Granger’s bossy attitude. 

“Professor it’s time. Neville will take us to my flat.” Granger said and he jerked himself out of the stupor. 

“I’ll come around tomorrow,” Draco promised.  

The boy - young man - looked as hungry for love and acceptance as he did as a child. He couldn’t be there for the boy...

No, not now... Before… Merlin!

His head felt like it could burst. The beginnings of a migraine pressed on his forehead. At the time, he couldn’t give Draco the support he needed, not without getting on Lucius and Narcissa’s bad side. 

They have their way and idea of how Draco should be raised Had ... Past tense... Everything you know is in the past tense, now.  

Granger called, and he followed her and Neville. This time, they used a more conventional, and infinitely cleaner, way out. That was good, Severus was sick and tired of dust and dirt. 

They emerged on the street. The fresh air felt sublime. It helped Severus, at least marginally, to clear his mind. The street was unfamiliar, but he never claimed to know London all that well. Still, nothing out of the ordinary. The cars were different…

Newer models, he presumed. 

A soft hum of the engine forced him to focus on the same car he arrived in. He glanced at Granger. She was scanning the street in what she probably thought was a covert way. He forced himself not to huff.

It is a miracle they have survived this long.   

The inside of the car was smaller now, and Severus suddenly felt claustrophobic in the limited space of the backseat, cramped next to the silent Granger. The Lovegood girl chatted with Neville. He supposed he should be grateful, his students, ex-students , left him at peace. Which was for the best, because, from his point of view, Longbottoms driving skills leave a lot to be desired. 

Not that he was an apt driver, but even he could tell that the poor car was more tortured than driven. He watched through the window, trying to spot any change. There was plenty, but nothing of significance. Then again, he wouldn’t know too much to begin with. The Muggle world was a necessity but given the choice, he preferred the shelter of the magical world. Living in the Muggle world never brought him anything good. In truth, the same thing could be said for the magical world as well.  

Even if Severus would never claim that he knew London, he wasn't completely unfamiliar with it. And he was sure that they are moving in the wrong direction from place he knew was a living area, or areas. 

“Isn’t this the Industrial area, Miss Granger,” he asked, wondering if the impossible chit had chosen to live in an abandoned storehouse.

“It used to be, Professor. Now it’s a residential area. Social residences, but not quite the slums. Not a very posh neighbourhood, I’m afraid, but decent.” Granger smiled at him. 

The car stopped near a tall building, it must have had at least twelve or fifteen floors. Parked cars covered the vastness of concrete that could be spotted from the road. In the dark, created by too few working street lights, he could see more tall buildings behind the most visible one. 

Granger ushered him out of the car and said her goodbyes to Longbottom and Lovegood. Severus just stood on the sidewalk feeling inept. It retaliated in a wave of nausea and paranoia. Granger hooked her hand in his arm. He jerked back, startled and appalled by her audacity. She just squeezed softly on his forearm, leading him towards cluster of buildings.

To his surprise, that helped a bit.  

“Good evening, Professor,” came a call behind them and they both turned. 

His hand twitched, instinct to take out his wand overwhelmed him. A tighter squeeze of Granger’s hand reminded him that it would be smart to let her talk. An elderly woman tottered towards them. Her small piggy eyes sized him up. 

“Good evening, Madam Bellamy,” Granger replied politely, but Severus thought he heard concealed groan in her voice.  

“How are you deerie? I see you have a guest,” the woman continued, finally reaching their proximity. She never ceased to scan him. Severus resisted the need to sneer.  

“Yes, this is my friend, Professor Severus Snape.” Granger tightened her grip on his arm, pulling him closer to her.

It was purely a protective motion. Severus started to wonder if he should be worried? Were they in any danger? Granger’s stance seemed defencive, but in the annoyed way one might have with noisy or boringly persistent neighbour. Nothing about her told him  that she is preparing for a fight, so he relaxed, if only just. 

“My pleasure, Madam.” Severus bowed slightly, not extending his arm. 

“Another professor,” the woman huffed, still out of breath a bit. “I am glad to see you with a decent sort of man for a change.”

“Indeed.” Granger’s voice was tight but still polite.

What sort of men had this woman seen her with?  

Granger never struck him as type to hang around the problematic types. She did, however, befriended Potter and Wesley so it was a moot point. The woman continued to chatter, ignoring the obvious unfriendliness in Granger’s voice and attitude.    

“You are such a lovely and educated young lady. I was so sad to see you with those .” The woman gave him one more thorough glance. “Don’t tell me he is married or…” 

“No he is not married or otherwise taken.” Granger’s voice started to lose politeness and began to verge on annoyance. 

“Good, I was starting to think that you are one of... those yourself, you know. Not that I ever...” The woman paused and gave him an approving look, then frowned. “He’s not a priest?” 

“No, Madam Bellamy, he is not. He’s just came from a foreign country. In fact, I was hoping to bring him home quickly and let him rest. Time difference and all, you know.” Granger started to tug him as if they were to walk away. 

“Traveled from abroad, without his luggage?” The woman squinted at them.

“My luggage was lost by the airline. We had a very tiring evening, Madam.” Severus replied, allowing annoyance to colour his words with a bit of aggressive impatience. The woman pulled back a fraction. 

He hoped that airline services were still incompetent. He remembered reading an article about lost luggage complaints while he was forced to spend holidays at his parental home. It was fairly recent news, not that he knew how an airport looked or functioned at all. Was a recent news.  

“They are still at it… On my name, they are incompetent as ever. What a bother it must have been for you…” The woman continued and Severus glanced at Granger wondering when the hexing would start. 

“I’m sorry, Madam Bellamy, but it is late and my friend is tired… So, if you don’t mind…” Granger almost hissed at the woman.  

“Dear me, where are my manners! Of course! Don’t let me hold you. I’ll see you around, Professors,” the woman said and Severus wasn’t sure to whom she was talking. 

“Have a pleasant night, Madam Bellamy,” Granger said already tugging him along. He heard her mumble under her breath, “Bloody nuisance.” 

So, Granger is also some sort of Professor in the Muggle world. At least that explained why the woman called at them like that. The nausea he felt wasn’t caused by the dizzy spell but by his attempt to wrap his brain around the new information he had received. It was too much, too bloody fast.  

They reached the tallest building, first in the row. The facade was donned in layers upon layers of scribbled drawings. The hallway was lit by a blinking and weak light. She ushered him into a lift, which reeked of… Severus tried not to dwell on the stench of bodily fluids, old socks and Merlin knew what else. Granger seemed not to notice the smell at all. The lift jerked unpleasantly and stopped. 

She lead him down a long corridor to the last door on the right and unlocked it. To Severus, it sounded like she was unlocking a vault. The door was heavy and, by appearance, looked like it could withstand a tank attack. Only when they were inside, and door once more bolted by the sound of it, her shoulders relaxed. 

Severus glanced around the narrow hallway, occupied only by a coat rack and a small shoe shelf. Granger turned to him with an apologetic smile.

“It’s not much but it’s home. And I know this may come as a shock to you, but we will manage. I have a system, you see, so you have nothing to worry about Professor.” She sounded a bit insecure.

Severus frowned, her words didn’t manage to imbue trust. In fact, her words irritated him to the point of unbearable nervousness. Severus tried to push those feelings under his control by the application of Occlumency, but even that could do only so much.

“I will be the judge of that, Miss Granger. Now, if you would lead the way.” Severus tried to hide how he felt under a stern facade and snideness. After all, that had worked for him for a long time now.  

Was working… Past tense...   

She swallowed, nodded and lead him to the next room, the only room in the flat as far as he could tell. It was clean but not tidy, odd pieces of clothing lingered carelessly tossed here and there. 

If there is anything like Muggle Hell, I’m in it.

His eyes darted, scanning every corner. The feeling of horror climbing up his throat. To his right was a small kitchenette. Just a small cooling box, two heater stove and a pitifully small counter with a sink. 

Starvation is a given, as it seems.

There were a fair share of appliances. One looked familiar in shape and use, he hoped. But the rest were foreign to him. 

Between the kitchenette and the part that was living room, Granger managed to cram a small square table. The table was covered with books, more books and papers. He didn’t know what some objects were, but they appeared to be electrical in nature.

At least she has more than one chair. 

Severus frowned. She had three chairs, but two of them were taken over by more books and piles of clothes. The table, obviously, wasn’t used for eating. 

To his right, was a long wall that stretched as a continuation of the hallway. The wall was covered with bookshelves, they sagged under the weight of the books. A gap in those shelves contained a shiny rectangular black object whose purpose he couldn't identify.  

One miniature side table shared between two cushioned arm chairs created a narrow passage to the rest of the room. 

Opposite to him, was a small armoire and one chest of drawers next to the door, leading to the bathroom he presumed. The chest of drawers served as a nightstand as well. 

Oh no, not in a million years. 

The bed in the far corner, wedged between the chest of drawers and a wall was not particularly large, it could accommodate two people but not give them enough space for privacy. 

“Are you hungry, Professor?” Granger's voice sounded loud in the small space of a single room flat. 

Severus jerked, lost in his thoughts, she triggered his paranoia. Confusion rattled his mind for a few long moments before he managed to discern what she asked. Was he hungry? 

“No," he replied gruffly.

He wasn't hungry. Severus was lost - figuratively and literally. At this moment, he needed answers more than food or anything else. He needed at least a shred of understanding of this insanity. 

“It is nearly two in the morning, if you would prefer to sleep…” Granger started but he interrupted her.

“Sleeping, as it turns out, is an issue, Miss Granger.” Severus frowned, folding arms over his chest. 

If he could, he would wrap his arms around himself like a lost little boy. He felt lost. But Severus couldn’t afford to show any sign of weakness, not now and not in front of her , his stude-, his ex-student. 

The pain started to pound at his temples and forehead. 

“Why would sleeping be an issue?” Granger blinked at him.  

Has sanity parted its way with her? Severus raised one eyebrow and glared in the direction of the bed with carefully schooled frown on his face. She followed his eyes. 

"Oh! Oh, no! These chairs can unfold into a single bed," Granger gave him a shy smile, blushing. "I will sleep on the chair and you may have the bed."

It was entertaining, watching her squirm and blush while she avoided looking at him. Other than that, Severus could draw nothing that would help him to lift his headache or his spirit. She shuffled and sighed.

"I will set the bed…"

"I do not recall agreeing to sleep or to these sleeping arguments, Miss Granger," Severus hissed. 

Granger looked at him with confusion written all over her face. That made him feel marginally better, at least he wasn't the only one feeling lost. Fear coiled in his gut again, pawing at his throat with icy claws.

"An explanation, Miss Granger… if I could choose, and if you are not too tired, a story of what happened is the most pressing issue." He sighed, pointedly ignoring that hollow feeling inside his chest and the sweattiness of his palms. 

"Yes, I mean- no…" Granger tripped over the words, so different from the girl in that safehouse. She huffed, annoyed. "What I want to say is- I don't mind talking, I'm full of caffeine and energy drinks. But I thought that you, sir, might be tired." 

"I had a Wide Eye potion only a few hours ago, Miss Granger," Severus forced himself to say; it was too much personal information to share. 

Granger widened her eyes, then closed them with a longing expression. 

"That is a vile potion. Oh, what I would give to taste it again…" she whispered. 

Emotions, his or of others, always made him feel awkward. Severus never knew how to approach emotions, in that regard being a House Head and the teacher was a nightmare. 

The slight, annoying, buzz in his head intensified. He cleared his throat. 

"Well, Miss Granger?" He asked. 

"What? Oh, yes. I presume that tea wouldn't go amiss. Please, Professor, make yourself comfortable and I'll try to tell you as much as I can." Granger motioned towards the chairs. 

Severus glared at the chairs for a few moments wondering what to ask first? 

What would one in my situation wanted to know first? About the friends or family, of which I have-had none? Events? 

He carefully sat on the edge of one armchair. The material was unfamiliar to the touch. The pounding in his head intensified. 

Granger returned with a teapot and two mugs. Mugs? Muggle world, future… Maybe the fine art of tea sets is lost to the world. Severus frowned with disgust. Tea-bags...

"How do you… Right, black with a bit of sugar and no milk." Granger chatted awkwardly. She prepared his tea and gave him the mug with a sigh and a shake of her head. "It-it is still hard to believe that you are here, alive, after all these years."

"Miss Granger…" he started. 

"Please Professor, Hermione. We are of the same age now, and somewhat of the same profession." Granger blushed. "And frankly, it would appear odd if I kept calling you Professor and you calling me Miss Granger. "

"Miss Granger I do not condone such familiarity with my stud…" Severus stopped himself. "I see. I will do my best to adjust as quickly as possible. In the meantime, what can you tell me about the events in past… almost two decades, was it?" 

"Uh, um- yes. Well, it may be prudent to start with what are the limitations on magic." She shuffled uncomfortably. 

"Miss…" Severus paused, call the insufferable menace by her name. "Hermione, it may seem like a trivial thing to you, however, it would be for the best if you start from the beginning."

She nodded, her face thoughtful. Severus had the desire to shake her until she starts to talk. Silence stretched for what seemed like hours before she nodded to herself and took a long breath.

“Well, after the battle in the Ministry… But of course, you don’t know. It was a mess. Bellatrix killed Sirius. Many Death Eaters were captured by the Ministry officials. But, Dumbledore fought Voldemort in the Main Ministry Hall. Ron was attacked by the brain…” Granger started her tale. 

“I feel pity for the poor thing.” Severus couldn’t resist a smirk, the very notion of brain attacking Ronald Weasley sounded like a bad joke. Not that the youngest male Weasley didn’t have a brain, he just opted not to use it. 

“Oh, Ron was fine in the end.” Granger assured him eagerly. 

“I was referring to the brain. Do continue your story.” Severus cut her off. 

Granger blinked at him, and for a moment Severus expected for Granger to rebel but she just frowned and took another deep breath. 

So, it seems that Miss Granger had a change of heart. Minerva owes me galleons. 

“Yes, well,” Granger continued. “I was also hurt, cursed by Dolohov. I still have the scar. And because of that, I missed the first few days after the battle. But it seemed that in those first weeks or so, no one noticed you were gone. Looking at it from what we know now, it was rather logical. 

But, after ten days Dumbledore started to ask questions. He gathered all the spies he had, which was not much or useful, and started to ask questions.” She paused and he smirked again. 

“I agree with your assessment Mi… Hermione. Mundungus Fletcher and his ilk can be useful at times but I’d hardly call them spies.” Severus nodded which resulted in a mad spin of the room. “Do continue.”

“At first, Harry was devastated by SIrius’ death. He refused to understand why Dumbledore would want to find you. He blamed you for Sirius’ death. But, Dumbledore was persistent. He even sent Remus on the  mission. Well, that didn’t end well either. On one of those missions, Remus was captured... 

You see, all this wasn’t happening all that fast. It lasted for months. In the meantime, the Ministry was on high alert, in shambles but aware of Voldemort’s presence. Lucius Malfoy, among others, was captured at the Ministry. More than once Death Eaters tried to raid the school. Order members raided the Malfoy manor and other Death Eater houses along with Ministry Aurors.

Everyone looked for you, but no one spoke of it openly. At least not then...

Anyway, Harry was still not on board with all of us, he refused to listen to Dumbledore. In fact he didn’t listen to anyone, he was just so angry, all the time. And then Remus was captured. Casualties started to amount on both sides. At the time, many couldn’t tell what went so wrong with the war.”

“Many?” Severus raised an eyebrow. “Say it like it is, Mi...Hermione.”

“I am.” She lowered her eyes, blushing. “Remus, Kingsley, Arthur, Fred and George, me and unbelievably Neville. We sort of put two and two together. Hagrid seemed to know too, Poppy also... 

Dumbledore seemed almost desperate to find you. Remus was captured. The Order had Goyle senior and Nott. The other side lost more people than we did, but to us, it seemed like they were winning. It felt like they were better organised and knew what they were doing.”

“The other side had more than one spy. They also had an agenda, an ideal to fight for. It is much harder to resist than to follow a certain goal.” Severus shook his head. 

“Well, yes. We arranged the exchange of prisoners. What came as a surprise was that both Dumbledore and Voldemort attended the exchange. We met in an abandoned house on the countryside, first day of summer break. 

The exchange was fairly simple, we released people we had, they gave us Remus. We were ready to fight, it was such an opportunity… And then Dumbledore suggested that Voldemort release you, that he was willing to negotiate. I think that Voldemort would have won that time if it weren’t for Wormtail.” Granger stopped shaking her head, her eyes lost in the memory. 

Severus sat quietly, not willing to speak. What the girl told him didn’t come as a surprise. Both Dumbledore and Voldemort gave him space. He had set in motion a web of well thought lies that only he could detect. They were his contingency plan. He’d warn Dumbledore on time of falsehood of information, but only he knew all. 

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. 

That lesson was well learned. And, as it seems, his plan was solid. It wasn’t even anything spectacular, more that it kept the information he provided to the Dark Lord more accurate. 

“Well, Wormtail literally screamed at Dumbledore that he should release you, instead of making up lies to hide you. Voldemort killed him… Wormtail that is. All hell broke loose.” She sighed. “Anyway, we had two more meetings before Remus was in any shape to talk. 

He told us that he stayed alive only because they hoped he’d tell them where Dumbledore was keeping you. It turned out that both Dumbledore and Voldemort used you as a sonar to navigate a safe path.”

“As wha… Never mind, do continue.” His headache intensified. Muggle reference grated on his nerves, not because he thought she offended him, but more because it pointed out how much he was not adapted to Muggle world. A perspective he lost living among Death Eaters, who knew less than nothing.

It is easy to be smart if you are surrounded by idiots and ignorants. 

He did isolate himself from the Muggle world, mostly. Spending time at his parents house only when it was unavoidable, in a run down, dying town…

“Do you know what happened to my parent’s home?” Severus said, suddenly glad that at least he had something he could ask.   

Yes, and I even… Oh! In all this I completely forgotten. Granger jumped from her chair and went to rummage through her purse.

Severus watched with confusion as she took a rather small rectangular object and punched it with finger a few times before she placed it on her ear. 

“Hello, Arthur, sorry to wake you up… Ah, good-. No-. Oh, so you’ve heard. Yes, yes he is with me now.- Fine, still confused but I’m doing my best to tell him all he has to know.- Yes, I will.- Arthur, I will need that box with my things, the one I left at your place.- Thank you, and thank you for keeping it.- Yes, give my love to your family. And tell Molly a day after tomorrow is perfectly fine.- Yes. See you all on Tuesday evening.”

Granger let the object fall to the table with a thump, sporting an idiotic, happy grin. She returned to her chair, sighing contentedly.

“I thought that magic can’t be used,” Severus hissed at her. 

“Oh, it’s not magic. It is a Muggle invention, it’s called a mobile. A telephone if you’d like,” she giggled. 

“Miss Granger, I am not as unfamiliar with the Muggle world as you might think. I know how a telephone looks like and works,” Severus growled.

Miss Know-it-all thinks she can fool me like this? His confusion slowly started to slip into irritation. 

“This is a rather modern invention. Useful but it doesn’t work with magic at all,” Granger shrugged. “Anyway, I have things from your home in Arthur’s and Molly’s cellar. They will bring them here. They are sending their greetings to you.” 

“And how, pray tell, did you came into possession of my things?” Severus narrowed his eyes, rage filling him. He welcomed the familiar feeling, at least he knew how to be angry. 

“Uh, yes. Maybe it is better if I continue my story?” Granger seemed to shrink somehow, pulling away from him. 

Idiot. Now she’s scared of me. 

Severus fast deflated his annoyance. It wouldn’t bode well if she tossed him out from her home. Apart from not wanting to be here, there was no place he could go, and apparently his home was not unplottable anymore. 

“Well…” He raised his eyebrow at her.

“Where was I? Ah, yes. Dumbledore and Voldemort had a couple more meetings. I can’t tell you what was going on in them, they were alone, behind locked doors, heavily warded. They called it a truce of sorts while they talked. 

Not that a truce really came, but at least Death Eater attacks reduced and gave us, well, the rest of us , time to better prepare.”

“Behind Dumbledore’s back I presume,” Severus smirked. 

“Well- yes. His behaviour was rather odd at that point and we were worried. We still believed in him…” a bitter smile twisted her lips, after a moment or two she sighed shrugging. “Anyway, Dumbledore and Voldemort came to an understanding at the end. They negotiated an alliance of sorts.

The Death Eaters had to accept all of magical blood, but in return all Magical children that were Muggle born had to be taught about the Wizarding world and how it worked from a very early age. 

Voldemort was persuaded by Dumbledore, and don’t ask me how - I do not know that, no one does… He renounced of all his Horcruxes.”

Severus shuddered, even he didn’t anticipated that. A Horcrux was a dark magic, one that even the darkest of wizards shied away from. 

Megalomaniac indeed. And once in my life I was insane enough to be seduced by that twisted madman. 

Granger seemed to be unaware of his reaction, she continued to talk, staring at her mug. 

“In part, that was the first thing that broke our trust in Dumbledore. It turned out that one of the Horcruxes was Harry. Dumbledore seemed willing to sacrifice him, we threatened to rebel l- all of us from the Order. The truce would be broken so…it took almost three years before they found a way to remove the Horcrux without harming Harry.”

Severus’s stiffened, rage bubbling under his skin. 

That conniving, manipulative old ass!  

Not only that, he was tricked by Voldemort. The only reason he ever stayed next to Dumbledore, the only reason he pushed himself over the limits was that boy. No, he didn’t like the boy, but that kid was the only thing left from Lily. And he swore to preserve that. 

He stood up abruptly, pacing like a caged animal. 

Granger jerked, uncertainty and fear evident on her face. 

“I-I can understand the sentiment…” she started, her voice thin.

“No, Miss Granger, you can’t,” Severus hissed. 

“Well, maybe I can’t. But I know… I-we all know about your reasons to join the side of light .” The bitterness in her voice stopped him in his tracks.

Is she bitter at me or the side of light? With a sigh he forced himself to sit down and motioned for her to continue. 

“Yes, um… Our side had to follow the rules of an agreement. And Muggleborns, once they entered the wizarding world had to renounce the Muggle world. Well, that was rather poorly planned out... 

The hardest part was that both of them demanded not only truce but mutual cooperation of us. All of us…

You see they came to the conclusion that you…”  Granger stopped talking, hiding her eyes. 

“That I betrayed them both and used the opportunity to disappear,” Severus finished, it wasn’t much of a mind leap. He knew well how both of his masters thought. 

“Well, yes. In a way you were the common enemy to them. Dumbledore told the entire wizarding England about your love for Lily, and how you protected Harry,” she smirked. “It was a lot to take in, and it took Harry time to wrap his head around it. And he wasn’t the only one. But, some of us… Well, some took it in stride.”

“Poppy I presume…” Severus nodded. 

“Yes, Poppy, Hagrid, me… Most other Death Eaters, they didn’t took that information as positively. The Malfoy’s were enraged. I had the feeling that Lucius Malfoy felt betrayed; he always had such bitter tone talking about you. Draco was the only one who didn’t sound off put by what we learned.”

She glanced at him and closed her eyes. Severus thought that she looked how he felt, weighed down and uneasy, haunted by the memories. More so in the pale dawn that came through the window. 

Granger yawned and Severus sighed, his own potion would wear out soon. After all he went through, some sleep wouldn’t go amiss. 

“Miss G...Hermione, I believe that at least bit of sleep is in order. Make no mistake, we will continue this conversation,” he said. 

Granger looked at him and yawned with a nod. 

“Right. You may use the bed…” she frowned and stood up rummaging through one of the drawers. Returning, she handed him a bundle of clothes and an unopened toothbrush. “You may change in the bathroom.”

Severus glanced at his hands then at the door she pointed out. I honestly hope that she didn’t give me something that belongs to the Weasley. Why couldn’t I just die?

Chapter Text

The bathroom was- tiny. There were no other words to describe the space. 

And yet she managed to cram all this in it. 

Severus frowned at his image in a full length mirror. The sheer size of the mirror took up most of the wall on one side.

I never took her for a vain person, not with… But that was before, she grew up nicely, albeit not by much.  

He glanced at the shower booth made from clear glass opposite to the mirror and sighed. Mirrors didn't agree with him, or he didn't agree with them. Either way, showering would be a gruelling task. 

Unfortunately, it wasn't the only mirror. A smaller one hung above the miniscule sink on the adjoining wall. 

A washing machine, modern looking, was jammed between the sink and the next wall, small cabinet above it. The washer was covered with beauty products, at least he presumed that multitude of bottles and jars amassed on its surface were beauty products. Carefully, he placed the bundle she gave him on the small portion of clear space on the washer. 

Severus began to remove his clothes. Only too late realising that he had no additional underwear. A low growl escaped him. 

This is not my day. It is, however, consistent with my life...

His thoughts were interrupted by a corner of white cloth peking from the appallingly red bundle on washing machine. He reached to unroll it and managed to send few of the bottles rolling to the floor with a loud chatter. 

"Is everything OK?" Granger called from the room sounding slightly worried. 

She startled him, even if he should have expecting her reaction with all the noise he made. Severus jerked, which resulted in more things tumbling from the washer to the ground. 

"Yes, Miss Granger. Everything is- fine," Severus hissed. Appropriate for the situation, if that may be defined as fine

Deciding to leave the fallen products on the floor, he finally managed to unroll the bundle without any more accidents. To his surprise, and worry, Severus discovered a white cotton undershirt and boxer shorts rolled in a sour cherry coloured pyjamas. 

He inspected the clothing she had given him. The underthings at least still had store tags on them. 

Severus couldn’t decide whether he should be happy or concerned with the development. One thing was obvious, Miss Granger was prepared for situations like this is. 

Or I'm about to spend the night in the Wesley's… Severus groaned, feeling mortified. 

"Miss-- Hermione, who's garments are these?" He called. 

"Oh, the underthings are new, same as the toothbrush. Pyjamas are used, but cleaned. I'm sorry, but I don't have new pyjamas." Hermione sounded apologetic. 

"It's quite alright…" Severus forced himself to swallow the rest of the reply. Small fortune's, at least I do not have to suffer in a Wesley's cast-outs. 

He removed the layers of both of his robes, taking good care to keep his back to the mirror. A twisting feeling, not at all pleasant, told him that the potion started to wear off and it's more unpleasant side effects reapered. 

Severus hastily removed his garments. It was good that he was already in the bathroom. He sat on the toilet, wedged between the mirrored wall and the shower glass.

Salazar, kill me now. 

For someone who avoided mirrors for the best part of his life, he certainly could not appreciate the sight of his too gaunt shape in the one. 

She did part with her reason after all. 

Severus decided, while he eyed his image, having the uncomfortable impression that another version of him sat also on the loo- shoulder to shoulder. The unpleasant crunching in his stomach was enhanced with rising of the bile and cold sweat that prespired from his skin. He raised one shaking hand and swiped it over his face. 

A shower and a bit of a sleep, that's what I need. Maybe tomorrow I'll wake up in the hospital wing, and everything will be as it is. 

Frowning at the mirror with a vindictive glee he finished with the loo and unsteadily stepped into the shower. Luckily, faucets still worked on the same principle. The hot water felt like a balm, comforting and shooting. Warmed him up, inside and out. Finally, the shivering stopped and Severus cursed while shampooing his hair. 

Orange and olive oil, that'll do wonders, I'm sure of it. 

But given he had no other options, no amount of complaining would help, not that it ever had. The lightness which came with scrubbing off of dust, and sweat and grime improved his mood, if just so. 

For a long time, he stood under the running water, leaving the shower only when his fingers pruned to resemble a raisin. The small bathroom was full of steam and  the mirrors were blissfully fogged.

Severus took one of the neatly folded towels on the sink’s countertop, hoping that they are clean and unused. He counted on Miss Granger’s fastidious nature, but thinking of the state of her flat, it was a moot point. He decided not to dwell on it, but rather to hurry and dress before the fog from the mirrors pulls back. 

He found toothpaste in a glass placed next to the towels, and jabbed the toothbrush painfully at his inner cheek when Granger called, startling him.

“You can place your dirty laundry in the hemp under the sink.”

Severus replied with a hiss and growl, not just from the pain.. The undershirt was too long, hanging on him like some sort of bizarre short dress. The boxer shorts a tad too tight, pinching and sticking to his damp legs. The payamas too big, small mercy was that bottom part had a string for tying, but he had to forego the upper part while washing his teeth. And only now he noticed that sour cherry cotton had small silvery stars.

I could compete with Albus for the title of most heinous wear, he groaned inwardly.

If he was given the option, Severus thought how spending what was left of the night in the bathroom would be quite acceptable. To him misfortune the potion effects were wearing off fast, now that he expelled them from his system. 

With a silent sigh, he fortified himself and re-entered the room once more.

The cushioned chair was transformed into a small bed, Granger already sitting on it, dressed in similar looking payamas, she smiled at him.

This is- unsettling.

“I’ll turn off the light when you lie down.” Granger motioned toward the bed. 

Severus just mutely nodded, it was far safer than speaking, he couldn’t guarantee what would come out of his mouth. Hissing at the humiliating need to hold the payama legs while he walked to the bed, Severus rushed under the covers. 

Granger took a breath to say something but he turned and glared at her, ready to spill all his poison on her head if she dare to mention any of this. She just nodded and smiled timidly.

“Right, good night, Professor.” She finally said.

He grunted and the light was off, leaving him in the dark. Severus listened, soft steps of a bare feet, crack of the springs, a sigh. Shimmer of light, through the window, distant, coming from below. 

The oblivion of sleep took him. 



The smell of coffee and something sweet tickled his nose. Light breached under his closed eyelids and he closed them tighter, growling.

Bloody elves, can’t they just let me sleep? Bloody Albus...

Albus had penchant for early morning briefings, sending elves with food to lure him out of bed. It felt as if he had just closed his eyes. Soft steps, hissing of water boiling and something else- the soft hum in female voice. 

Severus sat up in bed, blinking, nearly blinded by the bright light of a day. He reached under his pillow but his wand was not there. He saw a blurry silhouette with a tumbleweed of a hair.

“Miss Granger, what. Are. You. Doing. Here?” His voice was rough from sleep, the words scratched his throat.

“Oh, good morning, or rather- good day. And it’s Hermione. I’m sorry if I woke you up.” The shadow with Granger’s voice spoke, like it was the most normal thing in the world to be in his quarters. 

And where was this light coming from?    

"What are you doing in my quarters, Miss Granger ," he repeated, annoyed and more than a little panicked by the sudden intrusion. 

"Oh, I see. Ummm, do you remember last night?" Her voice sounded thin. 

Panic grabbed him at full force. 

What in Salazar's name happened last night and why would a student from any house, little less rivaling be in my private quarters? 

Severus tried to remember. Albus and Voldemort sent him to the Ministry, he was knocked out, blank…

Did I drink later?

He did not indulge as a rule, but on a few occasions he drank himself into a stupor, once or twice he even… But no matter how drunk he got he would not end up with a student, not active one at least. He closed his eyes and shook his head.

No pain, so I wasn’t drinking then. The hospital wing? But what would Granger be doing there and… No, that is not right.    

He opened his eyes again, vision finally coming to focus, revealing a much older version of Hermione Granger. 

He glanced around an unfamiliar space. 

Memories came rushing in. 

"Last night wasn't a nightmare?" As idiotic as he felt given the evidence around him, he couldn't stop the question escaping him.

"Oh! Oh, no, I'm afraid not."Granger replied, her voice and eyes full of sadness. 

Severus fell down on the bed and covered his eyes with an arm. 

"I take it, it is quite a shock. But-but the good thing is- you are alive." Granger sounded forcibly cheerful. 

"That is a matter of opinion, Miss…" he started. 

"Hermione," she cut him off. "Look, I can't even imagine… Why don't you have a coffee and breakfast and we'll continue our conversation." 

He struggled out of the entangled sheets, and hissed. The string on his pajama bottoms loosened up, he had to hold them to keep them from sliding down. Severus noticed that she glanced at him and he growled warningly. 

"I haven’t put laundry to wash, but I placed a pair of jeans, belt, and shirt in the bathroom. They'll be slightly big, but…" she jammered.  

"Will you stop talking? Do you ever stop?" 

He snapped. 

"Ummm…" Granger blinked at him impersonating a cod. 

Severus rushed into the bathroom before she managed to find her footing and start talking again. 

The jeans were black, the shirt had black and white tartan pattern. The jeans did need use of the belt. The shirt, he had to roll up his sleeves. 

Severus returned to the… 

What do you call this? A room? A flat? A prison cell? 

Coffee waited for him on the tea table next to, now once more, two chairs. Granger seemed like she had got the message. She worked quietly around the dining table. He observed her trying to clear the mess. 

The coffee was black and strong, he couldn't tell if she had came in to knowledge how he liked his coffee or if this was simply an astute presumption. Either way, a small twinge of appreciation forced him to frown. 

Granger set the table and glanced in his direction. He moved to sit, clenching his cup. The breakfast was passable and blissfully quiet. She didn't complain when he helped her to clear the table. Granger spoke only after he tried to wash the dishes. 

"I have a dishwasher."

"Indeed," he grumbled. "Well, shall we continue?" 

"Ummm yes. Where was I?" He watched her frown in concentration. " I told you what they agreed upon, but…" she made a pause. 

"They worked in the background, so those were the plans for the future," he suggested. Like those two would do anything openly. I wonder how much they agreed upon and concealed from you naive lot. 

"Well yes. They did pair us up, to cooperate. I was paired with Ron, Harry, Draco, Blaze and Pansy. And in that regard I had good luck. We were a reasonably cooperative team. 

Malfoy senior was paired with Arthur, that was…" 

Severus laughed. For the first time in who knows how long he laughed from the heart. Granger blinked at him, mouth gaping, utter befuddlement written all over her face. 

Reality truly is what we make of it. 

By the time he finally stopped laughing his face hurt. Granger's confusion nearly drove him to another fit of laughter. 

"You do realise, at least now, that you were sold out by Albus?" His voice scratchy from laughter, Severus reached for his tea- it wasn't there. 

“I’ll make some tea.” Granger jumped on her feet. “And yes, well- now. That is, much later we realised that they both sold us out. Dumbledore maybe more to us, the Light , than Voldemort did to the Dark side. But we were all sold. 

In the end, it turned out…At any rate,” she huffed, bringing the tea and seating herself across him once more. “My team was tasked with making an inventory of your home, and bringing or throwing away things.”

She stopped talking and gulped, her eyes full of fear. Severus suppressed the need to hex her or blow things up. Getting the story out of her was priority, he could eviscerate her later. He motioned her to continue, gripping his tea mug a bit too tightly, ignoring the scorching heat. 

“They planned to involve the Ministry and they wanted anything or everything not Ministry approved removed first. We had a list of books to bring to them, and some potions if there were any, also a similar list of what to destroy. 

Well, when we started, Draco had that idea to remove a few more personal items and rare books and save them from Ministry. So we took one trunk, used untraceable extension charm on it and, well… 

But, before that, a few books on the bring or destroy lists were quite valuable , so we hid them as well. Well, I did, I went the evening before anyone and removed them, making it look like you took them with you. I-I thought you wouldn’t want to part with them, considering they were quite rare and all… I told Draco about it, but only later.”

Severus arched an eyebrow. “And they believed you?” 

“Ummm yes. T he entire team confirmed that those titles weren’t on the shelf or anywhere in the house. Draco and I added them later to your personal belongings. 

They allowed us to get a few of your things- I received your brewing equipment and ingredients. They are all under a strong stasis in the trunk. Draco received a good portion of your library, which is there as well. But that was much later, years later, in fact.  

In the time we worked in your home, Harry… it’s enough to say that  he changed his mind about you. He and Draco hit it off, Ron and Pansy as well. 

Anyway, that’s how I came to the possession of your things. After, Dumbledore notified the Ministry that you disappeared, telling everyone how you worked for the Light and that he suspected Voldemort.”

“They didn’t believe him, naturally,” Severus quipped, almost amused. 

“Oh, no, they did,” Granger exclaimed. “On the night you disappeared, there was a big fight between Dumbledore and Voldemort in the Ministry hall, everyone saw... It was a rouse,”

“Indeed,” he grumbled

“Dumbledore told us how you were bullied in your home and in school, blamed himself for your joining to the side of the Dark. How you loved Harry’s mum, and turned spie to avenge her death and to atone for…” Granger sounded a bit awkward, but she had a dreamy look in her eyes. 

Albus sold them the romanticized version of me and they ate it up! That old goat... 

Severus laughed again. He did not appreciate being made into a gossip column story in sequences in the Prophet, which is probably what Albus did. That man had all the subtlety of an Erumpent. Albus, obviously, kept the rouse up even after his disappearance, spinning the story. 

“I don’t think it’s funny,” Granger sounded offended. “I think it is romantic and admirable.”

He choked, his jaw hurt but he couldn’t stop laughing. 

Maybe I’m finally gone mad?   

He certainly didn’t feel like laughing, all the same he couldn’t stop. His fried nerves giving out. He’d have to be twice as mean to her later… What’s the point?

He had no reason to act now, or ever if things stayed the same. His madness took a sharp turn from laughter to chilling emptiness. At least he wasn’t laughing anymore. Granger still held herself in an offended posture. 

“I can assure you, there is-was nothing admirable in my actions, Hermione,” he croaked. “But I can see that Albus managed to pull the wool over the eyes of the entirety of wizarding Britain.” 

“So you weren’t in love with Harry’s mum?” Granger widened her eyes. 

Bloody idiot , he admonished himself silently. Of course she would ask questions.  

“The best lie, Hermione, contains 80% of the truth. But do continue…” Severus frowned.  

“Well, lie or not, you gained the sympathy of the population. For the next three or four years nothing major happened. To the public seemed that Voldemort started to lose sympathisers, many Purebloods started socialising publicly with Half-bloods and Muggleborns. It was all so surreal. From the outside it all seemed like things finally started to go for the better.

At that point I was employed in the Ministry, so as Harry and Ron and Draco. Luna was Magizoologist and Neville studied under Professor Sprout to replace her. I was leading the Werewolf rights division, and…”

“Do tell, did you by any chance organised Werewolf registry and free distribution of Wolfsbane?” Severus hissed, feeling the skin on his scalp prickling.

“Ummm, yes, I did.” Granger blinked at him, blushing. 

“You are, surprisingly, the biggest dunderhead of them all. Did you learn nothing from your S.P.E.W. fiasco? Did you ever stop to think? Of course not! A self righteous, attention seeking swot that you are…” Severus hissed. “Why didn’t you consult Lupin?”

Much to his surprise Granger bowed her head, tears glistening in her eyes. 

“You are correct, it turned out to be a bad idea. And Remus did oppose it, but… Everyone else supported the idea. And for a couple of years Werewolves had steady job, right to education…” she hiccuped.

A sound came from the entrance door, one of unlocking a multitude of locks before Draco’s voice rang. 

“It’s me!” 

Moment’s later, bolting sound again and Draco appeared in the room. The grin on his face dimmed when he saw Granger crying. 

“Hermione...? Severus, what did you say to her?” 

“Nothing Draco, I was just telling him the history, and…” Granger hiccuped. 

To his amazement, Draco rushed to hug Granger, lulling her like a small child. 

I definitely and irrevocably gone mad.  

“That shirt looks good on you, Severus.” Draco smiled at him over the riot of brown curls. 

“That is a matter of opinion. It is, however, serviceable for the time being,” he nodded. 

“Well, my opinion does matter, as I bought it for Harry,” Draco smirked.

Granger lifted her head sharply, eyes red-rimmed, she sniffled. “I thought it looked familiar, but you know how everything comes back eventually with clothes for transients . It’s been washed,” she directed to Severus. “It is as clean as can be.” 

That didn’t sound acceptable, in fact, Severus felt as though the shirt had started to burn his skin. Potter’s clothing was, if possible, less desirable than Weasley’s, and maybe just a smidge better than Lupin’s. 

Not to mention, the shirt was too big for him, it was unsettling thought. The boy did show signs that he’d reach at least Severus’ height, but these sleeves were at least a size and a half longer. 

“Harry has to roll his sleeves as well, but he does have shoulders like a lumberjack…” Draco continued to daydream, sadness colouring pale eyes.   

Merlin, save me or kill me! 

“Are there any substitute clothes in here?” Severus hissed, standing up. 

“Oh, you gave him Harry’s jeans as well!” Draco sounded wistful and happy at the same time. 

Severus had the distinct need to strip. Like being stuck in the same flat with her isn’t a punishment enough.

“I’m sorry, Pro-- Severus, but no. It is a reserve for such occasions, I sent the rest to other places, not often do I have transients. Draco, when did Harry leave this here?” Granger apparently managed to compose herself, which was good- he had no patience for her tears. 

“Do you remember when Harry house-sat for you…” Draco widened his grin. 

If he had no ears, he’d be grinning around his head, like a perfect moron. Severus clenched his fists to prevent scratching. His skin itched like an army of ants crawled all over him.

“Yes, but he told me he packed everything…” Granger sounded confused.

“Well, he did pack everything. He had that on when I came to pick him up.” Draco wiggled his eyebrows at her. 

“Don’t tell me he went out of the house naked!” Granger widened her eyes.

I need something else to wear, and something to scrub myself raw, maybe even burn off a layer or two of skin.  

The pair at the table didn’t pay much attention to him at the moment, which was a blessing in disguise considering that he had a hard time controlling his emotions. 

“No, he took clean clothes from the bag.” Draco shook his head, chuckling. “It was a memorable afternoon.” 

Draco wistfully caressed the surface of the table and Granger jumped like something bit her. It took him a while to detangle their conversation, her actions and interpet Draco’s hint. A feeling of nausea washed over him. 

“We need to go shopping.” Granger exclaimed. 

“I took the temporary permit for Severus from Mr. Jannings before I came here , we can take him with us . I figured that Severus wouldn’t appreciate being forced to stay locked up in the apartment until they finish up proper paperwork. So, Primark or H&M or…” Draco sounded serious now. 

“We’ll go to the nearest mall, I need an assortment of disinfectants or a new table….”  Granger glared at Draco.

“And I’d welcome- more fitting clothes.” Severus added, biting the scratching remark he had on the tip of his tongue. 

“Well, if you are all set to go…” Draco chimed with the keys.

The memory of Lucius behind the wheel, that one time they celebrated his birthday in the Muggle world, flashed before Severus’ eyes. It was trauma still fresh in his mind, and Severus considered himself lucky for surviving that ordeal.   

Sweet Salazar, we are going to die.