When Hermione awoke, she did not know where she was. The last thing she remembered was being rushed into the hospital, an excruciating pain in her arm threatening to eat her up. But this wasn’t a hospital room, she thought after opening her eyes, staring at the Gryffindor-red curtains of a richly decorated four-poster bed. This place somehow reminded her of Hogwarts, but this couldn’t be as she saw her parents sitting next to her bed, staring down at her with a worried expression on their faces.
“Mum? Dad?” she rasped out, her throat feeling dry and sore.
“Hello pumpkin,” her mum said, looking at her with a watery smile. “How are you feeling?
Hermione listened into herself and with relief, she realized that she wasn't in any sort of pain. But still... "I... I feel strange," she admitted, furrowing her brows, frustrated by her incapability to find a better word. It was like her brain was still somewhat foggy from all the medication, she had surely received in the last hours. "It's like I can't think properly and my arm now feels somehow numb."
"This might be due to the potions I gave you," a familiar but totally unexpected voice answered her, making her realize that her parents were not the only people in the room. Professor Snape loomed in a chair in the back of the room, while Headmaster Dumbledore was standing at the other side of her bed, looking at her with twinkling eyes and a kind smile. Somehow their presence only confused her even more. The Headmaster had never come to speak with her, not even after she had landed herself in the Infirmary, after her recent visit to the Department of Mysteries. Why was he here now, wherever here was? The questions kept piling up in her head, but Hermione felt too tired to even start to make sense of any of this.
“What happened to me, Sir?” she finally asked, seeking out the old man’s blue eyes in confusion. The Headmaster looked at her with a reassuring smile.
“Ah, you will find that this is a rather complicated matter that I am sure Professor Snape will be able to explain to you, while I am showing your parents their temporary quarters at Hogwarts. They were unwilling to leave your side, as long as they could not be totally sure that you are well.”
So they were at Hogwarts, Hermione thought foggily. She saw her dad nod at the Headmaster’s words, his face looking tired and drawn. Witnessing her being in so much pain must have been rather shocking and terrifying for both of her parents, maybe even more terrifying than for herself.
“I already feel much better,” she assured her parents with a tiny smile on her face. “Professor Snape is brilliant with potions. He’ll have me up and healthy in no time. You’ll see.”
It wasn’t even a lie. Somehow she found that she trusted Professor Snape. If he was here and taking care of her, things were going to be alright, she thought.
Her mum looked at her with a little smile. “Alright, Pumpkin. If you’re sure we will go with Professor Dumbledore and get a bit of rest. The last hours have been a bit much, I admit.”
Hermione nodded. “Go ahead, I’ll be fine here. And who knows? Maybe I’ll soon be able to show you the castle?”
From behind she heard Professor Dumbledore chuckle. “I am sure this can be arranged, Miss Granger, but not today.” With that, he saw the man move towards the door and only then she caught a look at the man’s right hand. It was blackened and looked like it had been burned to a crisp. What had happened to him? He did not appear to be in pain, but Hermione was almost sure that this was the reason why he had recently been in need of Madam Pomphrey’s attention. She decided she’d ask Professor Snape or the Headmaster himself about it later. But right now, there were more important questions on her mind, questions she was desperate to get some answers for.
Miss Granger seemed… fine, for the most part. No matter how much pain she had been in, it had not broken her, as it had not broken him. Still, Severus was sure, that it had been the first time in her life, she experienced something comparable to torture and it pained him deeply to know, that he had been the one doing that to her, even if it had been unintended.
Miss Granger silently watched her parents leave the room, before her gaze shifted towards him and she watched him stepping closer without saying a word. Somehow her silence unnerved him, as he had expected she would bombard him with questions right away. Instead, she seemed to wait until he started the conversation or did anything at all. But somehow he found himself at a loss for words.
"I'm sure you have lots of questions," he said after clearing his throat and stepping closer, until he was standing right next to her bed. He saw her nod, but her facial expressions remained annoyingly hard to interpret. Then, suddenly the girl inclined her head, her caramel brown eyes staring right into his. She said: "For the start, I have just one. What happened to your arm, Professor?"
For a moment he felt like laughing, as she had picked the question he couldn't answer without answering the others first. But he'd have to tell her, wouldn't he? Severus looked at her with a sigh, before he found himself dragging a chair towards her bed and sitting down on it. Finally, he looked at her and said: "I quit my position as Dumbledore's Death Eater spy, because I was facing a rather impossible decision. My true allegiances are now known to the Dark Lord and you can imagine, that he is now trying to hunt me down. To make sure I couldn't be tracked or tortured through the Dark Mark, I had to remove it, rather quickly I might add."
She stared at him with an unnerving calmness. “What are you saying, Sir? To remove the Dark Mark you amputated your whole arm ?”
He nodded affirmatively. “I did. I plan to regrow it later, but therefore I’ll have to brew a special potion, which is rather difficult to do with only one arm,” he admitted with an ironic smile on his face. “Fortunately you do owe me several hours of work in the lab, which might solve this unfortunate situation.”
Miss Granger did not answer, just contemplated his words with a serious look on her face. He forced himself to wait for her to finish her assessment of his words, even though he found her silence rather unsettling.
“And Professor Dumbledore? What happened to him?” she finally asked, her voice totally calm. Somehow he had expected her to at least comment on his decision, but she didn’t.
“That is not for me to tell you,” he replied, which was the truth. Dumbledore was very private about his condition, as he hadn’t even told Madame Pomphrey of the severeness of his injury. Severus understood. If it had been him dying, he hadn’t wanted the others to be aware of the situation either.
Miss Granger nodded, even though she did not really seem happy about his answer. But she knew better than to press him and Severus was thankful for it. “Sir? Professor Dumbledore implied that you are aware of what is wrong with me. Would you tell me?”
He nodded seriously, carefully deciding how much to tell her. "It is a rather complicated matter," he said looking at her with a solemn expression. "I am still trying to find all the answers myself, which is rather difficult, I have to admit. But it is safe to say that there seems to be some sort of ... connection between us. The Headmaster is convinced that it has to do with our magic being in tune, but unfortunately, such incidents are rather scarcely documented which has been rather unhelpful in researching this condition. It seems to be quite certain though, that you are able to feel the pain I experience and vice versa."
For a moment the girl seemed speechless and just stared at him with wide eyes. Again he forced himself to stay outwardly calm, even though his heart had started to beat agitatedly in his chest. He could only hope she would forgive him for having caused her such an amount of pain.
“And the numbness I am feeling now? Is it a result of this… connection?” she asked, her face carefully studying his face. Why wasn’t she snapping at him, our shouting? She had to understand that he had been the one causing her this amount of pain.
Severus nodded. "I am forced to take a rather large amount of potions right now, to keep myself functioning. I am afraid the numbness you are experiencing is a result of that. I apologize if that causes you any more inconvenience." Again, Miss Granger remained surprisingly calm and slowly Severus started to ask himself if that coolness was a result of the potions he had given her. It was possible, which meant that she would probably snap later. Still, he had to apologize for the pain he caused her, as she had suffered because of his idiocy. "I never intended to hurt you, Miss Granger, but the recent situation forced me to make some decisions rather quickly. I hoped I had handled the situation better, forgive me."
Her caramel brown eyes sought him out and for a moment she did not reply. But then her mouth turned into a shy smile and she said: “There is nothing to forgive, Professor. You were in an impossible situation, Sir, because of the work you did for the Order. All the pain I felt, you felt, too and maybe more. You did not hurt me on purpose, you did it because you had no other choice. I understand and I am thankful for everything you did for the Order. I never took your work for granted, Sir and I never got the chance to thank you properly for it. So, thank you, Sir.”
Severus stared at her in disbelief and as no fitting reply seemed to come to him, he simply acknowledged her words by nodding at her. It luckily seemed to be enough as she continued a moment later: “What about my parents, Sir? Why are they here? I somehow got the impression that Professor Dumbledore did not just invite them to be able to sit at my sickbed.”
He nodded gravely. "Indeed. As it appears your parent's house has been destroyed by a group of Death Eaters, while you were being treated in the muggle hospital. I believe the Headmaster promised to set the house back to its original condition, but for the time being, we encouraged them to stay at the castle."
It was the first time during their conversation, that the girl truly looked shocked and a moment later he could see her start to shiver. “I’ve almost lost them,” she mumbled, her eyes staring unseeingly at his chest. “And if they had died it would have been my fault.” She shook her head in disbelief. “I swear, I had no idea they were already in so much danger. Merlin, what am I going to tell them? How am I going to explain?”
Severus had the strange impulse to comfort her, but he resisted by clasping his robe tightly with his remaining hand. This was not the time to lose control over his body and touch her. “Professor Dumbledore and I already talked to them. They understand that the appearance of this… terrorist group has been a recent development. We also informed them that it would be advisable for them to leave the country, as Muggles seem to be the main target of the Death Eaters, while we assured them that you would be perfectly safe behind the wards of the castle. They let us believe that they were considering this proposal, but I expect them to want to talk to you about the situation first.”
“I don’t know what to say, Sir,” Miss Granger said. Severus found that her eyes suddenly were full of gratitude and a warmth, that he had not expected to see during that conversation. “I have feared this conversation with my parents for years and now you just… thank you, Sir. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
Her eyes shone with a sincerity that warmed his heart and before he could avoid it, a small smile spread on his lips. “Don’t thank me yet, girl,” he said and got to his feet. “You’ll have enough time for that once they decide to leave without you, if that is even what they will be deciding. For now, try to rest. Your body needs time to recover, as does mine."
It was the truth. Severus could slowly feel the effect of the potions lessen and he wanted to take a new dose, to prevent the girl from being committed to his pain again.
Miss Granger nodded. “Good night, Sir,” she said, a soft smile on his lips. “And don’t worry. We will find a way to undo this strange connection between us. We can look into it, as soon as we are both recovered.”
He nodded, even though his innards turned to ice at her words. Severing that connection was the last thing he wanted, but of course, he could not tell her that.
Severus had never been a big fan of Order meetings, but today he wished he could be anywhere else instead of the stuffed kitchen at Grimmauld Place, with several redheads and a bunch of other idiots gawking at him and his missing appendage. The noise in the kitchen was almost deafening, everyone around him speculating what might have happened to his arm. It was no wonder the Headmaster had to raise his voice, to finally make those idiots shut up.
"I've called you here, because there have been some unfortunate developments today," Albus said, and one by one the ten assembled Order members fell silent and looked at him with wide, anxious eyes. "First of all, Severus has faced a seemingly unbreachable obstacle that made him resign from his position as a spy and therefore leave Voldemort's inner circle of Death Eaters."
Those words were all it took, to let the room erupt in chaos again. Merlin! Those adults were worse than a bunch of Hogwarts students sometimes.
“You defected ! ?” Was exclaimed throughout the room in either incredulity or surprise.
Severus stared the lot of them down, his face an expressionless mask. He calmly waited until the first bouts of surprise had died down, before he explained in an almost bored tone: “I was recently presented with the task to kill the Headmaster, a task I found myself unwilling to agree to. Therefore I turned my back on the Dark Lord, with the unfortunate side effect of losing my arm in the decision to rid myself of the Dark Mark.”
"Wicked!" the terrible two exclaimed behind him, making him roll his eyes at their naiveté. Of course, they would think him saving his arse by cutting off his arm was a great prank against the Dark Lord or something equally stupid. Gryffindor idiots!
"Oh, Severus!" Molly exclaimed to his right and before he grasped her intention, the woman put her clammy hand on his shoulder, probably in the hope to comfort him. "You did the right thing, of course. None of us blames you for your decision and if there is anything we can do for you…"
"Want some extra hands in the potions lab Professor? Forge and I wouldn't mind," one of the twins said mischievously as some people snickered at their joke.
"How kind of you to offer Messers Weasley. I will gladly take you both up on your offers," Severus purred dangerously. He turned to Arthur. "You wouldn't mind ensuring your sons floo over to the school every day for the rest of the summer would you? I am sure making fun of someone who just cut off an arm to not have to kill the Headmaster is something you and your wife would never condone."
Fred and George had turned green by now as they saw the looks both of their parents were sending them. But Severus was not finished. “I might not really need your help with brewing potions , as the two of you were next to useless in class. But you do have quite a bit of experience with scrubbing cauldrons, a task I currently find myself unable to complete with just one arm.”
They slowly seemed to realize that they may have screwed up. Good. He’d teach those idiots a lesson, a lesson that he was not to be joked about. Never again he would be the victim of humiliation, he’d had enough of that in his youth.
“But we can’t!” one of the redheads, probably George, protested and stared at him with wide eyes. “We’ve got the shop to take care of now.”
"You should have thought about that before you made fun of your poor Professor," Molly scolded them angrily. "He's risked his life for years and for that he deserves your recognition. Apologize to him, at once.”
“We’re sorry, Sir,” they chorussed, looking properly scolded. “We never meant to insult you.”
He looked at them with a raised brow, before he sighed. “You better not,” he growled, before he focussed his attention back on the gawking crowd. The Weasleys and Minerva had followed their exchange with unhidden interest, but now they seemed to remember the cause of this Order meeting and focussed back on Dumbledore. The man studied him for a moment and as he found that Severus did not want to say anything more he continued: “With Severus’s true allegiances exposed we have unfortunately lost our most important source of information concerning Voldemort and the ongoings of his Death Eaters. It will be one of our utmost goals to come up with an alternative strategy now, that we are unable to predict what his next moves in this war might be.”
Several Order members nodded, Moody, looking moodier than ever. "That's a heavy blow for us, Albus. We need to start recruiting again and we need another source of information or else it's only a matter of time until they hand us our arses…" he growled and Severus silently agreed. The whole situation was a mess, a mess that was basically his fault. But what would have been the alternative? They would have been even more pissed, if he had killed Albus, even though the man was already destined to die anyway. But that small piece of information the old goat of course kept to himself. Foolish old man, solely relying on him and his information until now! They should have started recruiting a year ago, when the Dark Lord stepped out of a god-damned cauldron . Had Albus really thought Severus would spy for him to the bitter end? Because the likeliness of him getting killed in his position as a spy in the course of the war, was staggeringly high. But maybe Albus hadn’t cared about that, because his death would have been for the “Greater Good” or something equally moronic.
“Unfortunately, my friends,” Dumbledore said, his voice raised as to get all of their attention, “those were not the only news I have for you. Earlier today, there has been a Death Eater attack in a Muggle neighborhood, affecting our dear Miss Granger and her parents.” Again, there were shouts of sorrow and disbelief, most of them coming from the Weasleys. Molly let out something like a wail whereas the twins suddenly looked ashen, probably realizing that this was a war and they had just signed up to be soldier s in it.
“They got Hermione?” one of them said, staring at Dumbledore for confirmation.
The old man shook his head with a grandfatherly smile. “Luckily, Miss Granger and her parents were not harmed in the attack. They are currently at Hogwarts, recovering from the shock and figuring out what to do.”
Again, there was murmuring, but this time it was much calmer than before. Still, Severus could tell that especially the newer Order members looked somewhat shaken. No wonder. None of them had been there during the last war. Towards the end, there had been at least one Death reported during each meeting, with their members dying or getting tortured into insanity left and right. He could only hope, that it would not be the same this time, because those idiots had no idea what they had signed up for.
The meeting slowly wound down afterwards, as only minor topics were left to be discussed. He could tell, that Dumbledore would need some time to come up with an alternative to having Severus as a willing pawn and spy, and for a moment Severus felt sorry for having disappointed the old man. But then, he remembered Miss Granger, lying in this huge bed, white as a sheet. He had other priorities now, priorities Dumbledore would have to learn to respect. He would not let the old man ruin his life by letting himself be manipulated into doing something that he would come to regret later. Because Severus had done enough idiotic, self-sacrificing things to last him a lifetime.
Half an hour later the meeting was over and even though most of the other Order members stayed behind for a short chat, Severus could not wait to get back to the castle. It had nothing to do with the fact that the girl was there, he usually steered clear of small-talk wherever he could. But today, he had no such luck.
“I wish Siri u s was still here,” Lupin said as he suddenly appeared in front of him. Severus looked at him with a scowl, but before he could reply something, the werewolf continued. “He’d owe me ten galleons, you know? The idiot always believed you were secretly a traitor and made me take a bet. Idiot. I knew you were on our side,” Lupin said, looking at him with a rueful expression. “I wish he’d been around to see that he was wrong about you.”
Severus looked at his former enemy with a cool expression. “Black was never very good in judging people’s loyalties, as him suggesting Pettigrew as a secret keeper for Lily showed.”
Lupin stared at him with a sad expression. “You’ve never forgiven him for that mistake, have you?” he asked and shook his head before Severus could reply. “Me neither.” With that, he offered him his hand. “If there’s anything I can do, Severus, let me know. I am forever in your debt, and not just because of the Wolfsbane you made for me. Not all of them might realize what it cost you to work as a spy for Dumbledore, but I do. And I’ll never forget it,” he swore, his eyes full of emotion.
Severus's first instinct was to sneer at the man's sentimentality, but giving it a second thought he decided against it. Instead, he accepted the man's offered hand with a nod. "Indeed," he replied, shook the man's hand and stepped away. That was when his eyes fell on Fred and George Weasley, who stood in the back of the room discussing animatedly while inconspicuously looking in his direction. He carefully stepped closer.
"I tell you, Georgie, this will be a hit," one of them murmured with a crooked grin. "We'll call them Limb Limbos. There are enough people out there missing a limb. Imagine you could restore it for one day, only being left the surprise that you could also end up with a tentacle or a horse leg instead." The redhead snickered. "By chopping off his arm Snape probably set a new trend amongst the Death Eaters. I bet most of them did not even consider that option until now. But with the war continuing there could soon be a growing market for our Limb Limbos, don't you think?"
The both of them snickered and Severus felt his hackles rise. Those idiots. During the meeting, he had considered letting them get away with their idiocy but now he realized, that it was probably time to teach them a lesson - a lesson both of them would not forget anytime soon.