Disclaimer: never did and never will own it. J.K. Rowling does.
Spoilers: Order of the Phoenix
Thank you to my beta, Nakhash Mekashefah!
~ Hunted Man ~
I was a wanted man, and if I didn’t want to end up as Dementors’ food, I had to find a way to change the odds. I had appealed to Dumbledore’s protective streak, to Potter’s sense of fairness and, though those two war heroes had vouched for me, the Ministry hadn’t cared. Now that the Dark Lord, my supposed master, was truly defeated – as certified by Dumbledore – they had decided to wipe the world of all remaining Death Eaters. A perfectly good idea in my opinion, as I didn’t want my former colleagues to hunt me down as The Traitor.
I still maintain it was a good idea. That is, until they précised that ‘all remaining Death Eaters’ included me. It was brought to their attention that I was not really a Death Eater since I was, and had been for quite a long time, a spy for the Order. They insisted that Dark Arts rarely released their hold on someone and that, considering my cheerful character and sunny disposition, I obviously was still tempted by them. In short: once a Death Eater, forever a Death Eater. Ever heard of redemption? Not likely, the word was three-syllables-long, at least one too many for them to understand it.
Not that I believed in redemption. That tripe was good enough for Gryffindors, and any ounce of Gryffindor in me had died with my first breath. I had made a mistake, and I had paid more than twenty years of my life to correct that youthful indiscretion. Not for the glory of it, but simply because Dumbledore would have sent me to Azkaban if not. Considering this, it was only fair for him to be left behind at Hogwarts, trying to convince the Aurors to leave me alone. I had no doubts the Ministry would send them soon and, even if there were some members of the Order amongst those sent to arrest me, they would pay no heed to Dumbledore’s arguments. Not when the whole Wizengamot had validated that decision.
They would look for me, of course, and Wonder Potter would be asked to participate. I did wonder if he would accept. Despite his hatred for me, he knew I had done much for the good cause and, remember, we are talking of the boy who let the assassin of his parents live. I hadn’t killed anybody he held dear, so I should rank higher than Pettigrew. Hopefully. Even though I knew I could elude them for quite a while, being a hunted man was not quite the life I had envisaged for after the battle. I wanted quiet and peace for my researches. And to achieve that goal, I had only one way: I had to be found.
For my plan to succeed, I needed help. I knew what to do and how to do it; the most difficult thing had been to decide who to do it with. After some reflection, I had come to the conclusion that there was only one person who would not hex me on sight and, though surprised, would be likely to let me speak, maybe long enough to allow me to convince her. At first, I wanted to ask Potter; it would have been perfect, but then, he was too defiant lately. Even with me. Especially with me. She wasn’t.
I Apparated near her apartment. The Aurors probably still didn’t know I wasn’t in Hogwarts’ dungeons, gently waiting for them, and thus hadn’t yet put a tracking spell on my Apparition license. I climbed up the stairs at a quick pace, giving all the appearances of being in a hurry and already hunted down. She had to believe it. She most likely had heard me, because she opened the door almost immediately after I knocked.
“Professor Snape? What–”
She was surprised, as I knew she would be. I cast a quick glance over my shoulder, making sure she noticed it, and tried to look out of sorts.
“Miss Granger, may I come in?”
For once, she privileged actions above talking and motioned me inside before closing the door behind her. There was only a simple lock on it, but why would she have bothered with more Muggle security? Her place was invisible to Muggles, Unplottable to wizards and under strong anti-Apparition wards. While at the Order’s meetings, she had been sometimes called ‘Auror Granger’: I knew she was not an Auror. She was an Unspeakable and that made her the perfect ally.
We observed each other for quite a long time, and I saw her wand thrust in the back pocket of her jeans. Having been a spy pays off; you always noticed where the important things are.
“What can I do for you, Professor? I guess–”
I didn’t care for her guesses, so I crossed the room toward her.
“You must help me, Miss Granger… Hermione.”
I took her hands in mine, and she abandoned them quite willingly. Foolish girl. One word released a spell – a Dark one, naturally – that lay dormant, and I looked at myself through her eyes. I loved that body-swap spell. Freeing my – her – hands quickly, I seized her wand and pointed it at her – me – whatever. She blinked, frowning, trying to assess the situation, and I smirked.
You don’t know what is true evil until you’ve crossed the path of a Slytherin intent on surviving.
I could see in her eyes that she had guessed my plan. I must hand it to her that she had a quick mind, but no matter what, it was too late for me to go back.
“I’m quite sorry it has to be you, Miss Granger,” I said conversationally, breaking artistically a few items to make believe a fight had happened, “but as they say, better you than me. I would rather have preferred Potter, it would have made such a nice ending to our rivalry, but his life is not one I could live. He’s insipid. Yours, on the contrary, suits me quite well. You’re far off the spotlights and well into books and research. And you’re rather decent at Potions.”
I had a last look around me, satisfied with the setting, and checked my watch. The Aurors should be ready to look for me everywhere. Now was the time to start the second part of my plan.
“Goodbye, little lioness. Say hello to the Dementors for me.”
I forced her fingers to close around my wand and spared a brief tinge of regret for the last time I would be using it. It had served me loyally all those years.
“Try to see the bright side of things,” I said wickedly. “You don’t have to cope anymore with that mop of frizzy hair. Mine is much more manageable.”
The mixture of emotions in her eyes would have broken a stone’s heart. Fear, fury, pain. Her pain irked me.
“Don’t be sad for me, little girl. I’m the one who gets to live. You don’t.”
I allowed her a brief moment to digest that, in case she had harboured some foolish hopes about the outcome of the events.
“Crucio,” I murmured, pointing the wand toward my midsection.
The pain was irrelevant. What mattered was that the Aurors would be coming soon. I stepped back, and my wand fell from her fingers. I took the pose of a fighting stance, just when the Aurors came crashing through the door.
“Miss Granger! Are you all right?” asked Kingsley Shacklebolt while his colleagues surrounded the dreaded Potions master.
“Quite fine, thank you,” I replied, still shaking from the Cruciatus curse. “What will happen to him?”
“He signed his death warrant, I’m afraid,” said Shacklebolt, sadness in his eyes. “There might have been a chance for him before, but not after such an attack. I’m sorry it has to end this way.”
“Probably not as much as he is.”
He sent me a strange glance, nodded reluctantly and left with his prisoner. Only hours later, I received an owl telling me that the Dementor’s Kiss had been performed on Severus Snape. Looking at those words, knowing whom I had condemned, I couldn’t find in me any ounce of guilt. I had never felt so alive.