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Romance Interrupted

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Severus

It’s much easier than most people believe to perform illegal human experimentation. All it requires is knowing which humans will leave the smallest dent in society should something unfortunate befall them and understanding how to persuade the people assigned to care for them.

Consider, for example, the man before me. Short, balding, with a large belly and nicotine-stained fingers. His bulbous nose in a Muggle magazine with mostly naked women on the cover, he barely looks at me when I approach, and he probably hasn’t looked at the pathetic specimen pacing ten feet away for hours. Though I’m certain he was looking enough before, possibly forcing some shadow of civility as he took her clothes from her and laid them on the other side of the room, where she’d have to stand and come to the bars to let him hand them to her.

I swallow my disgust. A simple bribe should work for this one. Just as well. I’ve no desire to root around in his mind, sidestepping god knows what filth before finding something to blackmail him with.

“What do you want?” the guard grunts as I approach.

I drop a coin purse onto the desk in front of him. “I wish to have a moment alone with your charge when she transforms back.”

He looks at the purse, then up at me and gives me a disgusting, knowing grin. “Yeah. All right.” He slides the purse into his pocket with practiced ease, and I wonder how many werewolves have been molested because of him. I clench my teeth, biting back a Cruciatus. If I’m not going to kill him, I need his cooperation, no matter how vile he is or what he thinks of me. And I can’t kill him, not without raising an alarm and bringing down more trouble on myself than this worthless rat deserves. No, a word to Lupin should be enough. I’m certain he has a contact in St. Mungo’s with the authority to see to it this man loses his job and a proper guard takes his place. I’m surprised he hasn’t looked into the situation here already.

I don’t have to wait long. Within minutes, the setting moon makes the werewolf yelp and jerk with pain as her bones realign. The monster withdraws into itself, and soon all that remains is a dirty, naked woman gasping and curled in a fetal position on the cold stone floor.

I shoot the guard a glare, and he leers at the woman, takes his magazine, and leaves, locking the door behind him.

There’s no time to waste. She’ll come to her senses soon if she hasn’t already, and it’s imperative that she not remember what I’m about to do to her.

Alohomora,” I hiss, pointing my wand at the lock, and it clanks open. I fling the cell door wide and slip inside, reaching into the pocket of my robes as I approach the shuddering, too-thin form.

Wild hair, caked with mud and blood, covers the woman’s face. She’s bleeding from a bite on her ankle, and there are deep scratches on her arms. She flinches when I kneel next to her, my robes brushing her skin, but doesn’t resist as I pull the hair back from her face enough to see her trembling lips.

I don’t have the time or patience to be gentle, especially not with one of these. (The guard misjudged me in more ways than one. Even if I were the type of man to rape a defenseless victim, I’d hardly choose a creature such as her. Despite modern political correctness and my current association with Lupin, I have no love for werewolves.) I grasp her jaw firmly, forcing her mouth open, use my teeth to unstopper the vial, and pour the potion down her throat.

She swallows instinctively, then convulses, coughing and cringing. I sit back on my heels to wait and watch. It’s possible the basilisk scale would cause any reaction to be immediate, but maybe not. That’s the thing about experimental potions: you never quite know what to expect until you test it. I might still commit murder today. If necessary, I’ll Obliviate the guard and no one will know who killed this woman. But I hope I won’t have to do that.

The woman stops coughing and goes still, lying flat on her back. The rise and fall of her breasts tell me she’s not dead. But did the potion work?

Damn. I loathe inconclusive results. I’ll have to find a way to keep an eye on her, watch for any unusual symptoms or sudden illness. I don’t relish feeling like a stalker, but I know how to go unseen when necessary.

I stand and head for the door, but her voice, weak and hoarse, stops me.

“Professor Snape?”

Damn it to hell. I wasn’t fast enough. I should have known she’d recognize me on sight. Young, but not too young. And of course I didn’t think to wear anything other than the same black robes I’ve worn since my teaching days. I’m losing it.

I press forward, my back still to her. If she doesn’t see my face, she can’t be certain.

“Professor?” she says again, her voice stronger, and I hear her drag herself into an upright position. But that’s not what freezes my blood in my veins. I know that voice.

I turn horrified eyes on her, and I see it now. The hair should have given it away, even despite the wounds and dirt and nakedness.

I nod at her, as if we’d just met on the street. “Miss Granger.”

 

Hermione

Questions flood my mind, and I can’t decide which to ask first. Finally, I settle on, “Did Harry send you?” He’d threatened to send someone after me if I didn’t tell him where I go to change. I never thought it’d be Professor Snape.

Snape’s blank look turns quizzical, but he only says, “No.”

Belatedly, I remember I’m naked. Snape’s eyes are locked with mine, but I’m not deluded enough to think he didn’t at least have a look. Even Harry hadn’t been able to help looking that time he saw me in the forest after a transformation. Quickly, I cover my breasts with my arms, fold my knees into a more modest posture, and try to regain as much dignity as I can.

“Would you please hand me my clothes?” I ask, pointing with my chin to a table on his side of the bars. He hesitates, then silently takes them and passes them to me. He has the courtesy to look away as I withdraw one arm from my breasts to take the stack of clothing. “Thank you, Professor.”

He snorts, and his eyes meet mine again. “I’m no longer a teacher, Miss Granger, much less yours.” Then his eyes rake over what of my body he can see—not lingering, just making it clear he’s not blind—and I press my bundle of clothes against my chest. “At this point, I think it’s fair to say you may use my first name if you wish.”

Heat rises in my cheeks at his look, but I push the anger and embarrassment aside. The idea that a former teacher might see me like this is... unsettling. “Oh,” I say as he turns his back to me. Then he walks toward the door like he means to leave. “Wait! S-Severus,” I call, stumbling over his name like I’d only just left school. He stops, but doesn’t turn back to me. I lick my lips nervously. What is that taste? Memories come back: he was kneeling over me, forcing something into my mouth. “You gave me a potion!” I realize, and his stance stiffens. Could it have been a healing potion for my wounds? I don’t feel any better than I did a minute ago. “What was it?” I ask, not bothering to hide my suspicion.

He doesn’t answer for a long moment, then sighs. He turns half-way to me, looking at me through the curtain of his black hair. “I’ll tell you, but you’re not going to like the answer.”

“Don’t leave,” I order, wondering just how illegal that potion was and if I’d have to call Harry on him for it.

Snape—Severus—faces away from me again and waits. I dress quickly, trying to make myself as presentable as possible, given the circumstances. I pull my hair back and do my best to wipe the dirt from my face. My wounds are bleeding and will need to be seen to soon, but for now they’ll have to wait.

The thug-like guard comes in as I’m straightening my robes. I duck my head so he doesn’t get too good a look at me. “Everything satisfactory?” he asks Severus with a lecherous grin.

Severus glares at him. “That depends on your ability to keep your mouth shut.” Then he apparently decides better of it, as he points his wand at the man, a curse shoots out, and the dazed look of an Obliviate comes over the guard. “Just in case,” Severus says cryptically and walks out the door.

Without discussing it, we both head down a side passageway that leads to a service entrance, well off the main pathways of the hospital and, at this time of day, completely deserted.

“Severus,” I say with irritation when we step out onto the twilit London street, but he holds up a hand and I instinctively shut my mouth.

“I think it would be best if we have this discussion somewhere private, don’t you?”

I nod and look around for prying eyes before I can think to look less suspicious.

“Then come.”

I bristle at his tone. Does he think I’m a dog to be ordered around? He ignores my indignation and strides off down the street, and all I can do is try to keep up.

 

Severus

By the time we reach my flat, I’ve resigned myself to what has to happen. My options are limited, after all. I can’t kill her, Obliviating her would be too risky, and denying everything would be utterly futile. I’ll just have to rely on her vaunted intelligence to see things my way and hope she can keep her emotions in check long enough to avoid pulling her wand on me. Even if it were in self-defense, I doubt I could get away with killing the best friend of the savior of the Wizarding world.

“Tea?” I ask, shutting the door behind us. She doesn’t seem to hear me. Instead, she’s gawking like she were a first-year just stepped into Hogwarts. “Or perhaps breakfast?” I say, louder, letting my irritation show.

“I’m fine,” she says, finally turning away from my bookcases to give me a hard look. “How long have you been illegally experimenting with potions on unwilling subjects?”

“How long have you been a werewolf?” I counter.

“It’s not illegal to be a werewolf!” she shoots back.

“And yet it’s not common knowledge that you are one, which means you must be hiding the fact very carefully. How odd for someone who professes to be a forward-thinking proponent for the rights of the abused and downtrodden. Are you ashamed, Miss Granger?”

“Hermione,” she corrects, and narrows her eyes. “For now. And don’t presume to judge my motives, Severus. You know nothing about my situation or my choices.”

I take a seat in the least threadbare of my chairs, lean back, and steeple my fingers. “Please, enlighten me.”

She straightens her back. “There’s absolutely no reason I should do that. As you pointed out, Severus, you’re no longer my teacher. You can’t order me to do anything, and I—I don’t need your approval.”

I hear the stutter and smirk. She may not be my student any more, but such an eagerness to please one’s teachers is not easily left behind. But I don’t actually care that much why she hasn’t made it public. Hypocrisy holds no interest for me; I’ve seen too much of it. “Then tell me this, at least: was it Greyback?” I haven’t heard if he’s been captured, and I’m not ashamed to admit that the thought of that murderous pedophile running around loose terrifies me.

Miss—Hermione shakes her head, looking at the floor. “No.” She continues to avoid my gaze.

“Was it Lupin?”

Her head snaps up in shock. “No! How could you even think—”

I wave it away, slightly disappointed. “I’ve no interest in a sermon on the saintliness of Lupin, thank you. ‘No’ will suffice.”

She crosses her arms and gives me a look which no doubt makes Potter and Weasley tremble in fear. “What was the potion you gave me, Severus?”

“It doesn’t have a name yet.”

“Will it hurt me?”

“It hasn’t so far, has it?”

“That’s not what I asked.”

I take a deep breath, think about putting my hand on my wand, and decide against it. There’s no need to provoke her further. “I don’t know. As you said, it’s experimental.”

Her brown eyes blaze at me from across the room, her mouth pursing into a pout that’s in no way as fierce as she thinks it is. “How dare you!” she hisses.

“It might yet hurt you—or even kill you,” I admit, ignoring the look of shock that crosses her face. “Or it might cure you.”

That stops her, and I indulge in another smirk. She moves to the chair nearest me, sits very stiffly with her hands folded in her lap, and says, “Explain.”

It seems there’s no way around this. With a flick of my wand, I conjure bandages and fling them toward her. “Wrap your wounds. You’re going to bleed on my furniture.”

She picks up the bandages with a glare, but begins to wrap them tightly around her wounded arms and ankle. Lines around her eyes and mouth form as she does so, but she’s showing far less obvious signs of pain than most women would. She’s gone through more than a few transformations, then.

“I’ve been hired to find a cure for lycanthropy,” I say, wondering how little I can get away with telling her. I resolve to answer her truthfully—I did just make her my test subject, after all; it seems fair—but I’m not eager to volunteer information.

I find the look of surprise that crosses her face mildly insulting. “You? But—”

“But it’s impossible? Give me some credit, Miss Granger.”

Her eyebrows lower in irritation. “I was going to say, ‘But you hate werewolves.’ And you haven’t yet annoyed me enough for me to revoke permission to use my first name.”

I smirk. “I shall endeavor to intensify my efforts.” I don’t bother to contradict her about my feelings on werewolves.

She notices. “I can’t help but think, Severus,” she says carefully, “that it would be very easy for such an accomplished potioneer as yourself to find a way to poison the entire werewolf population of Britain under the guise of curing them.”

“You are a clever witch,” I say, an edge to my voice and the smile gone from my lips, “but despite what you may think of my past actions, I am not a willful murderer. While I may loathe the mongrels and would be more than happy to see every last one keel over and die”—I don’t bother excepting present company, which doesn’t seem to improve her mood—“I am not blind to the fact that they are, technically, still human. And I am not so deeply deplorable as to engage in genocide, Hermione.”

She takes the rebuke for what it is, her gaze straying to the shag carpet before returning to me. “You promised me an explanation, I believe. I’m waiting.”

“I really do think I’d like some tea,” I say instead of answering her. I snap my fingers, and a pudgy House-elf with ears like mud flaps appears between us. Hermione gapes in outraged surprise as she takes in the elf’s tea towel dress and simpering demeanor. “Tea please, Polly.”

“Yes, master. Right away,” the elf says in a tinny voice before disappearing.

To my surprise, Hermione doesn’t rise to the bait. For once, she holds her tongue, contenting herself with glaring daggers at me across my small sitting room. I admire her newfound self control even as it annoys me.

Polly returns a moment later with tea and sandwiches.

Hermione’s post-transformation hunger wins out over her obvious desire to appear cool and respectable, and she tucks into the plate of sandwiches with vigor. I quite chivalrously refrain from commenting on the sight of it and satisfy myself with just a cup of tea and a biscuit.

“If you’re not going to eat,” she says between sandwiches, “talk.”

I suppose I can’t put her off any longer. At least this way she can’t interrupt me as easily. “Have you heard of Arthur Gallagher?” She looks at me, her cheeks stuffed with food, and shakes her head. “He was a very old, very wealthy wizard with no family save one grandson who was attacked and killed by a werewolf three years ago. The old man took it in his head that the werewolf who killed his grandson was a victim of his own circumstance. He actually felt pity for the—” I see the hard look in her eyes and relent, amending what I was going to say to, “killer.” She must hear my opinion of this viewpoint in my tone, as she shakes her head ruefully like some long-suffering wife. “When he died, he left his fortune to the most upstanding member of the werewolf community he knew of, in the hopes that said member would be able to help other werewolves before more of them became killers. The poor things,” I sneer.

She ignores the jab, gulping down the food in her mouth and blurting, “Remus?” I nod. “We wondered where he’d suddenly got all that money, but it seemed rude to ask....”

“Apparently it’s not all that difficult to become the most respected werewolf in Britain. All it requires is choosing the right side in a war. Funny so few of them were capable of doing it.”

“You don’t know what it’s like, Severus,” she snaps with surprising vehemence. “You think it was easy for the rest of them? You think it was wrong of them to be tempted by Voldemort’s promises? You don’t have any idea what it was like for them. It wasn’t about power for them, or wealth or influence. It was about freedom.”

I don’t miss the accusation in her voice, but neither do I miss her point. “I do know something about the desire for freedom,” I say quietly.

“From your own choices, Severus,” she says, the anger ebbing, “but from something terrible done to you?”

I remain quiet, unable to find a response.

Hermione finishes off the last of the sandwiches and sits back in her chair. “So, Remus hired the best potioneer he knows to fulfill Mr. Gallagher’s last request to help werewolves escape what they are. I presume you worked until you found a potion you thought might be the cure...” I can practically see the wheels moving in her head as she puts it together. “The only werewolf you know—or knew you know—is Remus, but you couldn’t give it to him. If he died from it, you’d lose your funding. So you tried to find some anonymous wretch whom nobody would miss if the potion went bad. Does that about cover it?”

“Full marks,” I say sardonically.

“You were willing to risk the life of a stranger? For the greater good, Severus?”

Her barb hits truer than mine did, but I don’t let it show. “It had to be tested, and the only way to tell how it would react in the body of a live werewolf was to feed it to a live werewolf.”

“You could have asked for a volunteer! I’m sure there are several werewolves who would—”

“The type of werewolves who would willingly risk their lives for the hope of healing their kind are, generally speaking, the same type of werewolf that the community at large can least afford to lose. Would you have all the self-sacrificing wolves get killed only to allow the selfish, cruel ones to live?”

“That’s not the point.”

“Yes, I know. Personal choice, human rights, et cetera. I did what had to be done, Hermione. As it has always fallen to me to do.”

“Oh, don’t get self-righteous on me, Severus. I know very well that half of what you’ve suffered you brought on yourself, and the other half was from the arrogant assumption that no one could do as good a job as you. We’re not all so incompetent as you think.”

“Having attempted to teach half the current adult population of Wizarding Britain, I beg to differ.”

She lets out an irritated huff, but doesn’t rebut. Another point to me. “Do you intend to report me to the authorities?” I ask.

She appears to consider it. “I should.” I hear the ‘but’ in her voice. “You’ve broken the law. You’ve put my life in danger...”

I wait for it.

“But...”

I smirk again.

“If it works, it would be an astonishing breakthrough. A cure for lycanthropy would save many from a life of oppression and hardship.”

“I imagine it would also be convenient,” I offer, “if you were cured before the general public found out about your condition.”

“That’s beside the point,” she says too quickly, then tries to recover herself. “If Remus had enough faith in you to hire you for the job, then I’m willing to give you a shot as well. If you get arrested now, any progress you’ve made will likely be lost. Since I’m already dosed anyway, I’ll see this one trial through. But no more unwilling human test subjects, Severus. I’m serious. If the potion you gave me doesn’t work, you’ll find actual volunteers for future tests.”

I nod reluctantly and don’t mention that if the potion I gave her doesn’t work, she won’t likely be around to hold me to this agreement.

“So,” she says, “I suppose you’ll need to watch me to see how I react. When should the effects be known?”

“If it doesn’t work, things could go wrong at any time. If it does work, we’ll know when you don’t turn into a wolf at the next full moon.”

She frowns. “Not for a month? We’ll have to find some way for you to observe me that wouldn’t draw attention. People would notice if we suddenly started spending time together. It could cause suspicion. Unless...”

My eyebrows press together. I know that tone. It never bodes well.

“We could claim to be seeing each other.”

Her ridiculous suggestion startles a laugh out of me. “Seeing each other? Romantically?”

Her back stiffens. “Come now, Severus. You’re not really that hideous.”

Ouch. The wolf’s got teeth. “Likewise.” Though that’s not true, of course. From what I saw earlier, she’d be more than adequate—if she weren’t now one of them.

Hermione accepts the reciprocated insult with narrow-eyed annoyance. At least she doesn’t run crying from the room. Good to see she’s grown out of some of her childish oversensitivity in the past decade.

“I’m seeing Ron, of course,” she explains in a clipped voice. “He knows I’m a werewolf now. I can explain things to him. Don’t worry, Severus; I’ll say I volunteered to take the potion. I know it wouldn’t do any good to have them taking vengeance on you. I’ll get Ron to manufacture a row, then a few days later, you and I could be seen having lunch, and from there we could just let people believe that I’m seeing you to get back at Ron. Once the moon comes and you get your results, Ron and I can get back together and people will just believe it was a little bump in our relationship. It might make the Prophet, but it will blow over quickly enough once it’s past. And it’s better than people guessing the real reason for our sudden companionship.”

I snort at her choice of word. “And how much of each other will you allow people to assume we are seeing?” I ask.

She blushes satisfactorily. “Don’t be crass,” she snaps back.

“I merely want to understand how deeply into my role I can expect to plunge.”

The double entendre is not lost on her. “I have taken care to protect my reputation, Severus,” she says pointedly. “And, tarnished though it may be in other ways, yours is as clean as mine when it comes to romance. Cleaner, even. We will show people a respectable, civilized courtship, just as they would expect to see.” My expression must slip, because she seems to see something in my face. “And it’s no good pretending you’d want anything else. I know you’re just baiting me.”

“Of course I am. And it’s working.”

“It is not.”

“As you like,” I concede, and she knows I’ve won. “Now, if I’m going to be having to play such an in-depth charade, perhaps you’d better tell me how you became a werewolf.” She opens her mouth to refuse, but I insist. “You know there’s no point in hiding it from me any longer.”

 

Hermione

The man is certainly aggravating, but he’s right. I sit back and take a deep breath. Severus just stares at me expressionlessly, waiting.

“You might know that since leaving Hogwarts, I’ve been working in the Ministry to try to help repair the damage to the rights of various classes of people and creature done during the last years of the war. We’ve even been able to get some new laws in place to make things better than they were before the war.”

“I don’t need your life story, Hermione,” Severus drawls. “Skip to the relevant part, if you please.”

“I’m getting there!”

He keeps staring.

“Fine. Two years ago, I was asked to represent the plaintiff in a case he was bringing against his employer. Obviously, I can’t give you details, so let’s call him John.”

“Ooh, how clandestine,” Snape says with infuriating false delight.

“John,” I say, ignoring his remark, “is a Muggleborn. He was bitten by Greyback after being picked up by the Snatchers but managed to escape. After the war ended, he tried to go back to the job he’d had before. His employer sacked him because he was a werewolf. And, because of the abhorrent laws put in place by Fudge and Umbridge, the sacking was entirely legal. But John didn’t want to just give up. Once the changes started happening in the Ministry, he decided to take action against his employer if they continued to refuse him employment. I saw it as a chance to get new case law established and get rid of those ridiculous laws that make it nearly impossible for werewolves to get jobs.”

“Can I assume that ‘John’ is the one who bit you?”

He seems so smug, I wish I could deny it. “After about a year, I hadn’t been able to make as much progress on his case as I’d hoped. He was getting impatient and angry. Much more so than I knew. He asked to meet me at his flat. I suppose I should have known better, but I’d thought we’d developed a rapport, and he seemed in a fine mood that day. So fine that I entirely forgot it was the full moon. He trapped me in his flat until sundown.”

“He took out his aggravation on the one person trying to help him. How shocking,” Severus said, not sounding shocked at all.

“He didn’t kill me,” I protest, feeling the need to defend John even now, even through my own fury at what he did to me. “He just felt like he wasn’t being heard, like no one really knew what it was like. He just wanted me to understand.”

“And do you?”

“Not exactly. I still have my job. My friends. My condition’s still a secret. Ron and Harry arrested John the next morning. He’s... being kept somewhere where he can’t... spread rumors...”

“Azkaban.”

I flinch, feeling the sharp sting of failure all over again. “For now. Yes.”

“And besides me, Potter and Weasley are the only ones who know?”

“And Lavender. She’s a Healer now. Ron took me to her after the attack, and she treats me when I injure myself. She... doesn’t tell anyone.” It’s still strange to think about sometimes. Lavender Brown, a woman I was never close to in school, now one of only three people who know my secret. But after what happened to her during the final battle, I knew she’d understand. I know that, despite her love of gossip, she’ll keep this secret for me.

“You’ve told no one else? Not even Lupin?”

“No.”

“Why?”

“I... don’t know.” But I do know. Severus was right. I am ashamed. Too ashamed even to tell the one friend I have who would be the most helpful and empathetic to me. Or maybe I can’t bear to see him find some way to take the blame for this on himself. That’s the reason I tell myself, anyway.

“And changing at St. Mungo’s?”

“I... don’t want anyone to see me like that. I don’t want to put anyone at risk. I use a glamour when I go in so no one recognizes me. Most of the people who guard that room wouldn’t know who I am by sight anyway. Not really newspaper readers.”

“I know something of your skills in Potions, Hermione. I find it hard to believe you can’t brew the Wolfsbane Potion.”

“I could,” I admit. But why don’t I? Self-punishment for what I let happen to ‘John’? Maybe. “Some of the ingredients are rarely used.”

“You don’t want anyone to guess what you need it for.”

I nod.

And then I go blind.

 

Severus

Bloody hell, she’s terrified. It’s one thing to fight for werewolf rights, but faced with the reality of being one is more than she can handle. I almost pity her.

“Severus?” she says quietly, but I can hear the terror. Adrenaline floods my veins at her next words. “I can’t see.”

Damn it all to bloody hell!

I move to her side so swiftly that she jumps at my touch. “Hold still,” I tell her, and tilt her head back, casting a pinpoint light from my wand into her eyes. Her irises don’t contract. “Hermione, I need you to tell me if you feel or experience anything else unusual. Dizziness, pain, loss of sensation—”

“What?” she says, panic rising in her voice as she tries in vain to look at me. “I can’t—I can’t hear you. Your voice is fading out. Say something!”

“I’m here. Can you hear me?” But I know it’s too late. The effects were delayed, but they’re acting quickly now. I have nothing to give her to counteract an experimental potion, and even if I did, I wouldn’t have time to reach it.

She clings to me, clawing at my robes desperately. “Severus! I can’t hear anything!” And then she relaxes, and I think she might have died. But after a moment, her voice comes again, quieter than ever but with a resigned strength. “The potion didn’t work.”

“No,” I say. “I’m... sorry.” And I am.

“Keep trying. You can do it. Just... use volunteers next time.”

Then she cringes and screams, and I don’t have to lie about doing as she asks. She writhes for a minute or so, and I hold her so she doesn’t convulse more violently, and then she goes still.

I lay her body on the floor of my sitting room, mentally catalogue the people who saw us walking together, and go to my lab to prepare for the autopsy.