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The Dark Encounter by Justice180482

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Chapter Notes: Thanks to my new beta FawkesToTheRescue for keeping the story from getting corny. As always please read and review.

“Back into the tunnel,” Snape ordered, looking down at Hermione. They turned around and took two hobbled steps back into the cold, dark tunnel. Inside, Hermione let go of Snape and pulled the stone door closed, clicking it into place, to make the door look like nothing more than the dungeon wall to whoever was out in the passage.

Snape slumped to the ground, leaning his back against the tunnel wall. He didn’t know how much more he could handle. Although the physical pain of his broken bones was mostly gone, with the exception of his ankle, the emotional toll the night had taken began to creep over him. The Cruciatus Curse had weakened him, and the mental effects caused by constant pain were almost unbearable.

He had been forced to permit the Dark Lord to invade his mind. Luckily, his skills as an Occlumens had been enough to keep the Dark Lord from seeing anything that would have betrayed his true loyalties.

Hermione pressed her ear against the stone door, trying to hear who was coming; her back was to Snape. Snape flicked his wand wrist, and the door turned transparent. Hermione jumped back.

“Now you can see whoever is out there, but they can’t see you,” Snape told her.

“Thanks, that’s a useful charm,” Hermione responded. Snape flicked his wrist again, casting the Muffliato charm to further ensure their privacy.

“Who is it?”

“I can’t see them yet but that voice… it almost sounds like… Malfoy,” Hermione replied. She turned and looked down at Snape; he was shaking slightly, and he looked like he was uncomfortable. “Are you all right?” Hermione asked as she bent down at his side.

“Fine,” he responded emotionlessly.

Hermione placed her hands on his biceps and examined his bloodshot eyes. His shaking stopped when Hermione touched his arms, but he still looked uncomfortable and nervous. He tried to appear strong. Hermione gave his shoulders a little rub and frowned slightly at him.

“Are you in pain?” she asked. Hermione couldn’t figure out what had happened to cause him to suddenly start shaking.

“No.” Snape didn’t elaborate, and the look on his face didn’t change. Hermione gazed deeper. Was it fright she saw there? She couldn’t be sure.

Still in a squatting position, she moved back to the door and peered out. She couldn’t see anyone, but she could hear the voices clearly now. One was definitely Malfoy.

“I was told to check here,” Malfoy said to an unidentified companion. “The Dark Lord indicated he was in pretty bad shape when he left the meeting, he wasn’t strong enough to pass the night’s tests.”

Inside the tunnel, Snape grunted. “It wasn’t a test,” he muttered to himself. “It was torture.” Hermione heard Snape, but she didn’t acknowledge his comment because he sounded upset and was clearly talking only to himself. She didn’t want to overstep her bounds and have him push her away.

Crouching in the tunnel, Hermione realized despite his reputation or what her friends thought, Snape was a good man. Anyone in his condition would never be loyal to the wizard that put him in the position he was in. And here he was, risking his life for the Order, a group of people who were not kind to him. The Marauders had harassed him at school and continued to taunt him in adulthood. He was never invited to stay for dinner at Grimmauld Place after Order meetings; and the one time Mrs. Weasley had invited him to stay, Lupin and Kingsley had given him such dirty looks he would never had dared accept. Hermione had felt bad for him that night. It had been cold and late, and he was practically kicked out of headquarters. But, as unfriendly as the Order was towards him, it was nothing compared to what Voldemort had done to him.

“The Dark Lord summoned me and said I should make sure Snape isn’t seen,” Malfoy continued. “He said it was highly unlikely Snape would make it all the way to his chambers, but seeing as we checked the grounds and castle and didn’t find him, maybe he made it to the dungeons.”

“What are we suppose to do with him if we find him?” asked Malfoy’s companion.

“Hide the body,” Malfoy replied. “The Dark Lord was clear; I am not to help him. If he isn’t strong enough to pass the tests to be a Death Eater, then he deserves to suffer. He shouldn’t be given help to make it through the requirements to be in the Dark Lord’s inner circle. However, the Dark Lord doesn’t want him seen. Therefore, if he has collapsed in a place where someone may happen upon him, I am supposed to move him.”

In the tunnel, Snape sucked in a deep, sad breath. Hermione turned and crawled the two paces back to Snape’s side. She sat down next to him and placed her hand on his shoulder.

Snape relaxed slightly; her touch was somewhat calming. It seemed to immediately sooth the turmoil occurring inside him- effects of the Cruciatus Curse, no doubt. Snape would never normally be this unnerved. He kept his eyes straight ahead.

“Don’t listen to him; he doesn’t know anything about strength. Voldemort is just feeding him lies,” Hermione told him. Snape flinched at the use of Voldemort’s name. He turned his head and looked at her. Their eyes met. Hermione’s stomach somersaulted under his piercing gaze. She was startled by her reaction and diverted her gaze, moving to pull her hand away, but before she could get her hand off his shoulder, Snape stopped her. He covered her hand with his own.

When their eyes locked, Snape noticed Hermione had become slightly flustered and went to remove her hand. His only thought was the sense of comfort that would leave him if she moved it. He didn’t know whether the calm he felt was from her specifically or from just having someone there, but either way, being close to Hermione made him feel better. Snape reached up and covered her hand with his own before she could take hers away.

Snape’s move shocked Hermione, but she couldn’t think about his gesture for long because her mind immediately went to the wet sticky substance on the hand that covered hers.

“Where are we going to dump him if we find him?” the unidentified voice asked Malfoy in a rough voice. Although Hermione couldn’t be sure, she thought it sounded a lot like Crabbe.

“The Forbidden Forest,” Malfoy responded. “But it doesn’t matter; I don’t see him down here, anyway.”

“Let’s get out of here,” the unidentified voice replied.

Hermione heard their footsteps echoing down the dungeon corridor and ascending toward the main level of the castle. At the same time, she became aware of Snape’s hand. A shiver passed through her body at the feel of his hand covering her own. It was wet. With her free hand, she grabbed his wrist and pulled his hand off hers. She flipped his palm upward, shone her wand light over it, and gasped at the blood she saw and the pebbles stuck in the blood.

“What happened to your hand?” she asked.

“I couldn’t walk; I had to drag myself down the tunnel. The floor is rough, it cut my hands.”

“Does it hurt?”

“Not as much as the other things.”

“Your broken bones?”

“No. My mind… the side effects…” Snape whispered. He knew it was the curse making him feel this way; he wasn’t emotional, and he would never normally voice such thoughts, but right then it seemed like the thing to do. Granger wouldn’t ordinarily make him feel better, nor would he typically want her close to him… would he?

Hermione didn’t know what to say, so she said, “I think they’re gone. We should get you back to your room.”

“Agreed,” Snape replied, shaking his head slightly to try and clear his mind.
Chapter Endnotes: Thanks for reading please review :>)