Anti-litigation charm- I will only say this once. The Harry Potter 'verse is the property of one J.K Rowling, the goddess I bow down to. Any character, concept or setting that you recognise is hers and should be treated by such. I'm just borrowing them for a little while. I'll put Severus back…honest.
His breath came harsh and heavy and he stumbled, barely catching himself before he hit the gravel path. He cursed at the pain that coursed through his leg but limped on, regardless, clutching one arm to his chest. Somehow, he managed to reach the doors of the castle without another fall and wrenched it open.
The dim candlelight of the castle's entrance hall greeted him and for once he was glad of it. But typically, he was left with no time to rest there and slowly made himself continue across the stone floor and down the steps that led to the dungeons, leaving the light far behind. Even as a student he hadn't missed the irony, but the corridors beneath the castle always held more lure than they might initially promise.
Gripping the banister with his one good hand, he made it off the last step and held in the groan of pain that threatened to escape him. He couldn't chance waking anyone. Not now. He carried on unsteadily, his hands trusting the walls to guide him. If he could just make it a few more steps, he'd be in his quarters and closer to the potion he'd brewed before he left.
Without warning, his body gave way to the pain seconds before he could grasp the door handle. He suppressed the cry he wanted to give as he collapsed to the ground. Not quite unconscious, he attempted to reach his wand but his hand didn't seem to be acquiescing with his needs. He closed his eyes in both pain and frustration and hoped the effects of the curse would tire of him soon. There were only a few hours until the students would arise and if he was come upon like this…
Severus Snape groaned. He really wasn't in the mood for an Infirmary stay.
Hermione Granger stared at the pages in annoyance. There was no use in trying, she decided, closing the book with a thump. For once, reading wasn't distracting her from her inability to sleep.
She glanced around the Common Room, dimly lit by the fire, which was burning down to its embers now. What I'd give for a television now, she thought. Any inane late night comedy would do, just something that would make her drop off. She looked at her watch. Two o' clock in the morning. She hoped the time alone would make her yawn, but no such luck.
Hermione stood up. Maybe some exercise would do the trick. Being Head Girl had its advantages- late night walks were one of them. Pulling on her cloak over her pyjamas, she climbed out of the portrait hole and out into the dark hall. Realising she was going to lose her way in the shadows, she took out the small jar she kept in her pocket and said the words required to conjure a small blue flame. She nodded in approval as it sprung up and started to walk along the corridors.
Most of the portraits were asleep, snoring peacefully in their frames, but the few that were not called out a greeting to her. After a little chat with Norman the Nostalgic, she decided to make her way to the entrance hall. The Grey Lady often haunted there at this time and she was sometimes an interesting ghost to hold a conversation with, until her voice began to hold a wistful tone, which often signified the best time to leave.
As Hermione came towards the sweeping staircase, she heard a noise. The door to the castle was creaking open; she'd heard the sound often enough to recognise it. Logic told her that it could easily be any of the teachers; Professor Sprout was harvesting some interesting plants from Arabia that needed careful attention every three hours, or even a student, breaking the rules.
But nerves told her it could easily be someone else.
Feeling silly, but not wanting to be seen, the Head Girl crouched down and shuffled forward, peering through the gaps in the banister railings. What she saw made her crane forward for a closer look. Something that moved like a shadow was closing the door gently behind them. She heard a muffled groan and her eyes widened.
She watched as he staggered across the floor, his arm held tightly to his chest. From one of his voluminous pockets peeked a corner of black cloth and a flash of silver.
Voldemort, was her first thought. He'd been to a Death-Eater gathering, obviously. Snape might seem like a creature of the night, but there could only be one good reason for his stumbling in back to the dungeons in the middle of the night.
Hermione couldn't be sure of what exactly had been done to him except that his arm looked broken.
As she watched, Snape took his time down the steps, grimacing and gripping to the handrail. Though she wanted to, something told her not to run to Dumbledore or McGonagall. Was he capable of taking care of this himself? Was this the first time he had come back this way?
Strange curiosity peaked; Hermione stole down the carpeted stairs and made her way down into the dungeons, making sure her footfalls weren't heard.
The black shadow ahead of her was feeling his way along the walls and she could hear his sharp intake of breath when he paused. Snape was leading the way towards the Potions classroom until he made a right and limped slowly towards his office door. She hid around the corner as he stopped by the door. She could see him reaching for the handle when his tall frame swayed unsteadily and crumpled to the ground. There was a loud groan and Snape lay silent.
Her eyes wide in horror, Hermione slipped round the corner and raced towards his still body.
Severus Snape's eyes were closed and for one terrifying second she thought he was lifeless. Then his chest rose slowly to take in air. Hermione exhaled in relief. Her pale hand hovered over his body, unsure of what to do. She began to shake his shoulder gently.
"Professor? Are you-? Professor?"
His long lashes flickered slightly and he said something incomprehensible. Hermione stared down at his pallid face. It was whiter than usual and his wet hair was caked to his skull, a long strand pasted across his forehead.
"Professor?" Hermione shook him harder. "Please, please wake up," she begged. For all her logical mind could cope with, this was one situation it hadn't been prepared for and she didn't know what she was supposed to do.
Think, Hermione. You can't leave him out here. Anyone could find him.
Hermione slowed her breath, forcing herself to calm down. Panicked Hermione couldn't help him.
She glanced towards his office. He had obviously been aiming to go there. Her mind kicked into gear. There must be something, some potion, or spell that could ease his pain inside. She looked around the dark corridor quickly to ensure nobody was around before putting her hand on the handle and pushing the door open. Swiftly, she brought out her wand and pointed it at her Professor.
"Mobilicorpus!" The prone body of Snape lifted easily into the air. She walked slowly backwards into his office, her wand held high, with him following. Once he was safely inside, she closed the door and took in his office. There was nowhere he could safely place him, and the floor looked too hard and cold to be accommodating. Then she spotted another door, half hidden by a wall tapestry. She crossed to it, her hand still in the air and pressed down on the handle, hoping against hope that he hadn't warded it before he'd left.
Apparently, he had had some sort of foresight, for the door swung inwards easily. She breathed out in relief. There was a black couch before a fire in what looked to be his sitting room. She allowed him to drift across the room to float above the couch before she lowered her wand. Snape landed softly upon the cushions, barely moving.
Now sure that he was safe for the time being, Hermione went back through the open door and into the office. She needed to find something that could ease the pain. She scanned the room impatiently; desk, bookcase, glass fronted cabinet and a tall cupboard. There. She went to open it and was surprised again to find she wouldn't require an Unlocking Charm. She opened both doors and looked through all the contents. There were plenty of glass flagons in here, all tightly corked and neatly labelled in his spidery handwriting. Hermione sighed in frustration. She obviously couldn't try them all.
Then she spotted something. One bottle on the second shelf had been pushed forward, more so that the others. There was no label and the cork was loose.
The liquid inside was a murky purple, similar to the colour of a Healing Potion she'd made the year before. If he had hit by a curse, which seemed the most liable reason for his pain, he might have prepared it in advance. Biting her lip, she decided to take the chance and went back into the other room.
Snape was still unmoving, except for a muscle beneath his left eye which twitched repeatedly. She looked at him closely. His arm was still atop his chest. Gently, she lifted it and pulled away his ragged robe sleeve.
Hermione grimaced. The skin there was bruised, an unhealthy mix of blue and purple. Taking pains not to disturb him, she squeezed it gently before nodding grimly to herself. It was most definitely broken. Still, it wasn't too severe a problem. A simple spell could fix it. Problem was, Hermione had never tried it before. Torn between attempting the spell and worrying whether it would make the injury worse, Hermione took her wand out again and placed the potion bottle upon the nearby table. Hoping for the best, she took a deep breath.
With the specified flick of her wand, she calmly said, "Exsarcio."
Nothing happened for a few moments until she saw a faint rippling beneath his skin. Thinking it had worked, she was taken aback at a sudden cracking noise from Snape's arm.
Her face fell at the thought that the spell had created a worse problem. Deciding to let it go for the time being, she went to put down her wand. At that moment, Snape's once broken arm shot out and grabbed her own with unnerving strength for the state he was in.
She gasped and tried to move back but his grip was too tight, his fingers pinching her skin. Hermione cried out at the sudden pain. Snape's eyes still hadn't opened, but he spoke to her.
"Damn medi-witch," he croaked. "I can fix this. Leave me be!" His grip loosened slightly.
Hermione hesitated for a second and then answered him quietly. "I'm not Madam Pomfrey, Professor...I- Professor?"
His eyelids had opened a crack and she caught a glimpse of his dark irises.
"Who…" he broke off and began to cough. It was a horrible noise, hacking and dry. She winced as he tried to pull himself up.
"Professor? If you'll let me, I'm going to give you this potion to drink. I think it might help you."
Snape started drowsily. "What? No, cupboard…my office…sec-second shelf…" His words faded into another bout of coughs.
When he had finished, Hermione placed her hand across his mouth, without thinking. "Don't talk," she told him firmly. "I've got the potion you want. If you can just sit up a little more, I'll give it to you."
His lips moved slightly but he didn't say anything. With difficulty, he pushed himself up onto the cushions, Hermione giving him her arm for support. She removed her hand from his mouth once he was settled and reached over for the potion.
Hermione uncorked the bottle and then put one hand behind his head, tilting it back. "Good. Now, if you can open your mouth, I'll put the bottle to your lips for you to drink. Are you okay to swallow it, sir?"
Hermione didn't recognise her own voice. In a situation which would make anyone, even her logical self, panic and act on instinct, she was talking calmly and making a rational decision on how to help her Professor. Her tone didn't shake or hesitate. In fact, she could identify it with his own even voice when he instructed his class to clear up a potentially dangerous Potions accident.
There was a vague movement of his head, signifying a 'yes' to her question. Without further ado, she brought the bottle to his mouth and tipped it slightly, allowing a little of the liquid to spill into his mouth. It was easier than she'd expected; he caught on quickly and had emptied the bottle with just a few swallows.
Once she'd set the bottle down, she was pleased to see that it had calmed him somewhat, the once erratic movements of his chest had relaxed and slowed into a steady rhythm.
Hermione had done what she could, but she realised that she'd have to find the Headmaster. This was too big for her to deal with by herself.
"Just stay still," she whispered. "I'm going to get Dumbledore."
The reaction was immediate. Snape's eyes shot open and he looked at her urgently.
Hermione was startled and looked at him in confusion. "Sir…I have to get someone…I can't just leave you here-
"No, not Albus…the potion is already taking effect…I don't want him down here…"
His unlikely tone struck her. Was Professor Snape pleading with her? His black eyes were searching her face, not in recognition of who she was, but of what she would do. Hermione regarded him in trepidation, thoughts rushing through her head. Would it be right to leave him here alone like this? Was there a reason he didn't want the Headmaster to see him? She was sure the Headmaster knew of what dangers lay in wait for Snape when he went to pay homage to Voldemort. There was no way he could be ignorant of them.
She worried her lip between her teeth. Snape had seemed better a moment ago, before she'd mentioned Dumbledore. Surely sleep would help him further?
"He knows…I don't need to-" Snape took in breath sharply as he turned on the couch, trying to sit up again.
"No, don't…I won't go to Dumbledore," Hermione said worriedly, trying to stop him. "Please…sir…just lie down. I'm not going to Dumbledore."
Snape relaxed slightly but his eyes still looked suspicious as she eased him down again.
He lay there for a while, still, dark eyes gazing emotionlessly at the ceiling until they began to close again. It seemed like hours until Hermione was convinced that he was asleep.
Gradually she stood up; her knees were becoming cramped from kneeling on the floor for so long. She stretched and looked over to his mantelpiece to check the clock, which stood beside a shallow dish of Floo powder. Her eyes widened. Four in the morning.
Hermione glanced down at his fireplace, the flames of which were long dead. She quickly lit it with her wand and then turned her attention back to the sleeping man on the couch. She worried over whether the fire would be enough, but there wasn't any blanket in the room to give him. Finally, she took off her cloak and Transfigured it into one. Green, naturally, she thought, and was surprised to feel a tiny smile creep onto her face.
Hermione draped it gently over him and then absently nodded to herself, as if tucking a small child into bed. It would do.
With a fleeting glance back at Snape, Hermione crossed to the fireplace and took a small handful of Floo powder. She threw it into the fire and immediately stepped into the bright flames.
"Gryffindor Common Room."
When she arrived in the Gryffindor fireplace, she stepped out in a hurry, shivering and dusting the soot from her pyjamas. On the way up to the dormitory, Hermione stifled a yawn. The extra sleep would be appreciated now, she thought as she climbed into bed.
Though she began to doze minutes later, settled comfortably between the sheets, her dreams were filled with the same image of a dark man collapsing to the ground in pain. She awoke a few hours later to the sound of maniacal laughter in her head and shot up in bed, blinking the sleep away and trying to make sense of the night before.
Severus stretched and then winced at his stiff joints. Abruptly, he realised he had been sleeping on the sofa and turned over, only to fall heavily to the stone below, a blanket falling over his head. Swearing under his breath and shaking it off, he got to his feet, unsteadily somnolent.
It only took a few moments for the events of last night to catch up with him. He ran what he remembered through in his head; Apparating to Hogsmeade, making his way into the castle, down into the dungeons, collapsing…he stopped. What then?
He could hazily recall just reaching his office but everything after that was blank. He thought carefully for a moment. Had he recovered consciousness sometime after and managed to stumble inside?
Severus shook his head. He'd remember, he always had before. Suddenly, his eyes travelled down to the offending material he was still holding. A blanket. He didn't have any like these…and if he'd had the strength to conjure one, he'd have had the strength to get into bed, surely.
He looked at his arm and turned it slightly. Last night it had been broken, badly injured. Now it was fine. Better, in fact. The bruising he'd been subject to the afternoon before from smacking his arm on a desk after lunging to stop a third year's volatile cauldron from tipping over, had mostly gone.
Something occurred to him. Severus walked through into his office and through open the doors of his private potions cupboard. The one he'd brewed specially to alleviate the effects of the Cruciatus was gone. He looked back into the living room, noticing for the first time the empty bottle on the table.
He growled. Something had happened last night and he'd obviously not been privy to it. Someone had tended to him and left him asleep on the couch.
Severus's lip curled. Most likely Dumbledore. The interfering old man had probably been waiting up all night so that he could act the saviour again. He never seemed to realise that if Severus's disloyalty could slip past the Dark Lord's notice time and time again, he could easily handle a little pain when he returned.
He exhaled loudly in displeasure and headed for the bathroom, wishing that for once, everyone would just leave him alone. He'd got himself into this mess to start with and he would rather clean it up by himself.
A/N: This is a plot bunny I was itching to write, and probably one of my longest first chapters, though I'm being quite naughty by straying from my fics that need attention. I do intend to continue, but don't expect the updates to be frequent on this one as I will be concentrating on the others. Tell me what you reckon- interesting or no? For once, I have the whole plot worked out already and I'm planning on all the chapters to be this approximate length.