Survivors

by Lara Wilson

No one would ever claim that he was a stupid man. Loyal to the end, past anyone alive's knowledge, yet at that end, he remained silent.

Despite years of aiding them without their knowledge, they still fell to the darkness.

And he was a part of that darkness.

What point would it have made to turn on the Dark Lord and stand with the Order in the final, futile battle? Chances were they wouldn't have accepted him back. In their eyes, he was a murderer, plain and simple.

There was nothing plain nor simple about Severus Snape.

Except his will to live.

*****

Alone, Hermione huddled in on herself, her body shaking from cold and fear and such deep loss she thought she'd die of it.

Two days had passed since the final battle and, of the Order, she was the only survivor. They'd killed the aurors first, then the other warriors, one by one. Remus, Ginny, Ron, all the remaining Weasleys, all her friends. Harry had been the last, and she'd been forced to watch as Voldemort finally got past his defenses and destroyed him from the inside out.

Apparently, though, she wasn't seen as a threat. Without her wand, her ability to perform wandless magic taken from her by a hex, the scholar was helpless.

She couldn't figure out why they'd left her alive, though. Helpless or not, what was the point of allowing her to live?

Perhaps as a witness to the fall of their world.

*****

Severus silently received the accolades of his Lord and companions, knowing his potions had done them much good and the world much harm. When the Dark Lord offered him a prize, he asked for her, knowing it was a small mercy, but the only one she'd be offered.

He doubted she'd see it that way, though.

With a false smile and even more false pleasure he accepted the Dark Lord's grant and went to fetch her from her cell.

He knew this would destroy her, but, for him, there was no choice. As for her, at least she would have her life.

*****

Startled by the sound of the heavy door opening for the first time since they'd shoved her into the dank cell, Hermione blinked rapidly against the light from the hallway and it took her a moment to recognize the man in black standing in the entrance. For a moment, hatred blinded her and she shoved herself to her feet, swaying slightly from hunger and pain from dozens of bruises sustained in the final battle. She controlled her emotions, though, and met his eyes with ones full of loathing. His eyes were cold--they were always cold.

"Have you come to kill me?" she snarled bravely, a part of her hoping he had.

His lips tightened but his eyes showed her nothing. "Death is not a part of your immediate future, Miss Granger."

She faltered at that because her mind, still oddly innocent, refused to think of any other future. When he held out a hand to her, she simply stared at him.

"Come here."

"No."

At her defiance, his lips twitched but he didn't smile. "You really don't want to stay here, girl."

Taking a brave step towards him, she forced out, "Where are you taking me?"

"Away." When she refused to take another step, he made a frustrated noise and strode into the cell to take her arm in his tight grip. She struggled and he bent to whisper, "If you stay here, they will all have you, Miss Granger, and I doubt you'd survive that. You'll have a much better chance belonging to me."

Hermione went white as a sheet, chills streaming through her followed by fear of a different sort. "Belonging?"

"The Dark Lord offered me a reward for my years of service. I asked for you."

"No," she screamed, hitting and kicking out at him.

With a simple spell, he sent her to sleep.

*****

Hermione awoke feeling warm and comfortable. It took her a moment to shake lose the cobwebs and realize she was laying on a soft mattress and there was a warm light next to her. Forcing her eyes to open, she yawned and saw a candle and a glowing fire across the room and beneath her a rich navy brocade spread and soft white cotton pillow.

And then everything flooded back.

Stomach twisting in terror, she stumbled from the bed and ran for the nearest door. Pulling on the knob, she cursed as it refused to turn, then let it go and turned to glance wildly around the room. It was a bedroom, obviously, richly decorated in dark woods and navy brocade and velvet. An elegant wingback chair sat in front of the marble fireplace and on a cherry wood table next to it stood a half-full goblet.

As she stared at it, trying not to think or remember or wonder what came next, another door opened and Severus emerged. He stopped, appearing to be startled at seeing her awake and on her feet, then moved quickly towards her.

"Stay away from me." She backed up as he continued to advance, and she sidestepped him and fled to the other side of the bed.

"Don't make me chase you around the room, girl. I'm not in the mood for games."

"Go to hell!"

He gave her a dark look and a smirk. "I believe we're already there."

As Hermione realized she'd trapped herself with only two walls, a heavy bureau and another night stand next to the bed behind her, her bravado fled. Her only chance of escape was to go over the bed and the thought of him catching her there terrified her. Flailing behind herself, she grabbed a candlestick and brandished it at him. "Stay away from me."

"Amusing me is probably a good idea, but if you hit me with that, you won't like the consequences."

Her hand wavered. "Please...please just let me go."

"I can't do that."

"Then...don't..." She broke down and tears spilled from her eyes as the truth finally set in. "Please don't do this."

Carefully Severus reached out and took the candlestick from her. Setting it on top of the bureau, he took another step towards her and was pleased to see her hold her ground even though she was beginning to shake like a leaf. "Come, Hermione. It must be done and the sooner, the better. I can't leave you with any illusions. I must take your hope from you."

"You evil bastard," she sobbed, hitting out at him as he took her arms and pulled her to him.

"Of course," he murmured in response before shoving her onto the bed.

*****

She'd been a virgin. That had surprised him. He'd been certain she'd given it to any one of her fellow do-gooders years before. She hadn't cried at his possession, and she hadn't stopped fighting him, neither of which surprised him. He'd always known she was the one with the inner strength and will of iron. Breaking her would be difficult.

But, Severus was experienced enough to know that pain wasn't the only tool in his arsenal. He could break her with kindness, too.

She lay on the far edge of the bed, curled into a tight ball, every muscle in her body tense. He knew she wasn't asleep, but she was no longer trying to escape. That was a small amount of progress.

And it was accomplished, this first possession that stripped her of her dreams and proved her fears. It hadn't been particularly enjoyable for him, but it had been necessary. If she used her intelligence she'd realize that fighting him was futile and it would be easier on her if she surrendered.

Severus doubted she'd see it that way, yet, but he had hope. She had a brilliant mind. It just needed to bury her stubbornness and courage beneath pragmatism, and that would undoubtedly take time.

With the war over, he had all the time he needed.

*****

Hermione couldn't stop trembling. Every nerve in her body felt like it was on fire and sheathed in ice at the same time. Horror clenched her stomach into a huge knot.

And, yet...a tiny part of her realized he hadn't really hurt her. He'd been forceful and determined, but in his own way patient, and, Hermione wasn't stupid, she knew it could have been much, much worse. She was scared and sad and lost, but her body wasn't broken and she'd recover physically from the minor hurts he'd had to cause her.

Recovering emotionally might take some time, but she was stubborn and strong and she wouldn't let him destroy her. She'd fight him in her own way.

Rationally she knew that fighting at all was pointless. They'd lost the war. Her friends were all dead. All she could do was survive. But, she wouldn't take his enslavement of her without a fight, and that thought lent her strength and the trembling stopped. Replacing the knot in her stomach was a determined fire, and she slowly uncurled her limbs.

*****

Severus watched her carefully, wondering what was going on in that overly active mind of hers. He knew this wasn't going to be easy. She couldn't accept the change in her reality overnight. If she did so, she wouldn't be true to herself. He'd actually admired that strength in her before and silently mourned its necessary loss. It would take a while, but he'd whittle away at her until all that was left was his possession.

He wondered if she realized any of the truth about him, but dismissed that thought. It didn't matter. This was the truth now. Regardless of how he'd felt, what he'd truly believed, the side he'd really been on, this was the reality.

She was his slave. He was her master.

To be anything else would lead only to their mutual destruction.

And, above all else, Severus Snape was a survivor.

Hermione would become whatever he needed her to become to keep them both alive.

There was no other choice.

End

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