"Where is it?" Severus Snape muttered as he ransacked the seemingly endless shelves of his personal library.

Ancient texts tumbled to the ground with a careless sweep of his arm but he didn't give them a second glance. Delicate manuscripts were tossed across the room without concern. Carefully rolled parchment tore and ripped under his searching hands.

His frustration had ratcheted up to new heights when he realized that he couldn't Accio this particular book into his grasp. For some reason, the title simply wouldn't come to mind. He knew what it looked like, however. If he could just find the damn thing...

The terrible irony of Hermione Granger losing her life because someone had too many books didn't escape him.

He forced his focus to the task at hand. Find the book, find the recipe for the antidote, and brew the potion. Don't think about her deathly pale face or blue-tinged lips. Don't think about the minutes and the life that was ticking away while he spent his time looking for a fucking book.

It was such an obscure potion and he couldn't be expected to remember every ingredient needed for every potion ever created, but that was cold comfort at the moment.

Snape growled through clenched teeth and he cursed Draco Malfoy under his breath. But some detached part of his mind had to give the boy credit. Attempting to murder another student at the Yule Ball in front of the entire school took a certain amount of nerve. His plan, however, had been poorly rendered. The poison hadn't even been meant for her. Potter had been his intended victim but the ever clumsy Mr. Weasley had knocked over Hermione's glass. Potter had simply handed her his drink and gone to fetch another for himself.

If she died, Snape thought grimly, Malfoy needn't worry about Azkaban. He'd kill the little bastard himself.

There. There. Finally.

Long, slender fingers flipped rapidly through the pages and black eyes scanned back and forth seeking and finding the antidote. He was reading the recipe even as he ran to the lab.

Gathering the ingredients took precious seconds, the grating, chopping and grinding leached away minutes. Waiting for the mixture to come to a boil took an eternity. He stole glances at the clock, his hands beginning to tremble slightly as he decanted the liquid and poured it carefully into a vial.

He took the steps from the dungeons two and three at a time. In his rush through the corridors, he knocked over a second-year Hufflepuff and never looked back.

He quickly pushed past Pomfrey, his eyes locked on the girl lying on the thin infirmary cot. For an instant, his breath caught in his throat at the fear he'd taken too long but the shallow rise and fall of her chest reassured him. Her drawn, paper-white face contrasted sharply with her red dress robes and carefully arranged hairstyle. One pale hand slipped under her neck and he carefully poured the antidote into her mouth. Convulsively, she swallowed and he raised her head a bit higher to prevent her from choking.

"Come on," he demanded softly. "Wake up."

Color began to return to her face and her eyelashes fluttered briefly before her eyes barely opened to focus on him.

"Severus?" she whispered faintly. "Severus, what happened?"

He ignored the shocked looks from Potter and Weasley at her use of his given name. He refused to acknowledge the sudden, furious look of understanding that appeared in McGonagall's eyes or the disappointed frown that had settled on Dumbledore's face.

"Everything will be fine now, Hermione," he replied, his normally silken voice choked with emotion. He gathered her carefully into his arms. "I'm here. I'm here."