Sprout approached Minerva McGonagall much as Hagrid would a dangerous creature-- being sure to make noise as she carefully walked up and sat beside her on the bench. McGonagall had fled to a nearby alcove and was currently sitting completely still while staring intently at the wall as though there was something interesting churning within the granite stones.
"Minerva," Sprout said gently, "I know there's nothing really… I mean, no one expects you to understand this, especially considering how proud you were of Hermione-"
At this, McGonagall's eyes began to tear up, and Sprout nodded in understanding. "It's alright-"
"That is not the problem!" McGonagall said sharply, startling Sprout.
Sprout regarded her contemplatively. Minerva didn't often become this upset unless she had an underlying reason for it.
"What is the problem, then?"
"I," McGonagall gestured helplessly, "I just…"
Sprout smiled encouragingly, but McGonagall only shook her head, standing. "I'm sorry Pomona, and really, thank you for your concern. But I don't want to talk about it now."
"Well, wait, Minerva-"
Sprout's words did not seem to reach Minerva, who was already walking hurriedly in the other direction. Sprout watched her leave, feeling very much afraid the school's administration was falling apart.
To say that Dumbledore was surprised would have been an understatement of the greatest degree. He knew Snape would do everything in his power to help Hermione, due mostly to the fact that it was likely this spell had been intended for Snape himself. However, if Snape was suggesting Muggle means to counter the curse… Not only would doing so require outside assistance, but it would also require a great expenditure of energy on Snape's part. They would have to find ways around the fact that few electronic devices worked within Hogwart's boundaries, and there was no guarantee whatever process Snape had in mind would be effective in both removing the curse and keeping Hermione alive.
"Albus, I understand that you must be apprehensive about exposing Miss Granger to the effects-"
Dumbledore blinked, his reverie broken by Snape's terse words. "Severus, you know I trust you implicitly in these matters. Certainly, though, you also know how unlikely this is to work?"
Snape walked over to the seat in front of the Headmaster's desk and took a seat. "It is a rather large gamble," he said slowly, "but it is the only solution that we could be assured would be untraceable. The Dark Lord would hardly bother to worry about Muggle remedies, not when he believes Muggles so incompetent."
"Untraceable? My dear boy, you can't possibly be implying that I'm putting anything above the value of Hermione's life?"
"No, I'm not implying it," Snape said smugly, parroting the Headmaster's earlier words. "I am, quite candidly, assuring you that that is, in fact, the case."
Dumbledore frowned, but Snape continued before he could say anything. "As Minerva is not here, there is no need for you to mince words with me. The Order comes first, as we're all aware."
"You needn't make me sound so detached, Severus. The Order may come first, but believe me when I say the loss of any of our small number would be a tragedy."
Snape said nothing for a long moment, looking away from Dumbledore only to find himself face to beak with Fawkes.
"Fawkes," Snape said with some surprise. "I thought he was sleeping," he addressed Dumbledore while shifting backwards, seemingly repelled.
"He was, and is no longer. In fact, his slumber's end seemed to coincide almost exactly with the advent of Hermione's curse."
Fawkes had moved only slightly throughout Dumbledore's speech, but he now fluttered onto the arm of the chair in which Snape was sitting. Snape watched him carefully, as far to the other side of the seat as he could be without being too noticeable. However, Dumbledore saw his reluctance to get close to the bird.
"Suddenly afraid, Severus?"
Snape grimaced. "Of course not. The bird has saved my life more times than I can count. I just…" Here he trailed off, unwilling to say aloud that he felt the bird was too good for him. He felt an overwhelming urge to stroke the glittering scarlet feathers, but had the irrational notion that he would somehow dirty the phoenix's purity.
Fawkes, however, seemed to be having none of this. Butting his head against Snape's arm, he forced Snape to raise his hand, which he did, gingerly resting it on the phoenix's neck.
It was at this moment a loud crackling was heard in Dumbledore's fireplace and the face of Remus Lupin appeared.
"Albus, are you there?"
Snape froze, knowing he would not be noticed in his current position. Albus shot him a glance before moving in front of the fire, blocking the rest of the room from view.
"Remus, my boy, are you nearby?"
"Indeed; I'm at the Hog's Head now, and I'll be arriving at Hogwarts in the morning."
"And Sirius is with you, I presume?"
Behind Dumbledore, Snape curled his lip in disgust.
"Yes, he's abed now… Exhausted, I'm certain—"
While Remus related the particulars of his and Black's journey to Dumbledore, Snape stroked Fawkes' feathers absentmindedly. So he was to deal with Lupin and Black as well as try to figure out the solution for Hermione's problem? Lupin, he could tolerate… Providing it was nowhere near a full moon and he was fully dosed with Wolfsbane. Black, on the other hand…
Snape detested Black. He had since their first year at Hogwarts, when Black had gone to Gryffindor with no thought as to family tradition or propriety. After all, they'd been childhood friends, and had agreed that they would eventually attend Hogwarts together, becoming the top students of whichever House into which they were sorted.
Ravenclaw or Slytherin. That had been the arrangement; Black would see to it that he ended up in either Ravenclaw or Slytherin, and Snape would do likewise. Surely the Sorting Hat would understand the need for the two to stay close, and both children had known they were no Hufflepuffs. Avoid Gryffindor at all costs, Black had urged Snape, because everyone knew what foolish gits came from that House. And Snape, knowing little other social niceties than what he learned from his cousin Sirius, had nodded and agreed to do so.
But then-- They'd been separated while boarding the Hogwart's Express, and when Snape had finally stumbled across Black, he was sitting with a three other boys Snape had never met.
"Sev!" Black had exclaimed. "This is James Potter," the boy he motioned toward waved, "and this is Remus, and over there is Peter-"
"Nice to meet you," Snape had muttered. "Sirius, we've got to get going, Bellatrix wanted-"
"Oh, sod her," Black said with a wave of his hand. "I don't really care what she wants-"
"Severus!" Black had exclaimed, frowning at Snape. "Why don't you just go talk to her yourself if it's so important?"
Snape had quickly backed out of the compartment, startled by Black's sudden mood swing. He could still remember the boys inside laughing over "the little shrimp" who clung to Black. He'd stood waiting outside the door and balled his hands into fists, waiting for Black to defend him, or to come after him…
But it had never happened. Black had sat and laughed with the rest of them, adding that he followed him everywhere, and it was really nothing new. Snape just sat in the corridor, confused at Black's behaviour and oblivious to Remus' attempts to calm the boys inside the room.
Did I annoy Sirius? -Snape had wondered at the time. Maybe he was following him too closely. With that thought, he bolted down the corridor, finding an empty compartment in which he could spend the rest of the ride alone.
Snape frowned as he snapped back to the present and realized Dumbledore was still speaking with Lupin. Fawkes nudged his hand, as it had stilled with his thoughts, and he resumed petting the bird and thinking…
Snape had ridden the train alone, entered Hogwarts alone, stood off to the side by himself as he nervously waited to be Sorted. Perhaps Sirius was just in a bad mood… Yes, yes, that was it, and once Sirius was Sorted and in Ravenclaw or Slytherin, Snape would join him and try to find out what was wrong. Snape hadn't given much thought to the three new friends Sirius had made—He'd overheard Bellatrix tell Lucius that Potters were always Sorted into Gryffindor, and Sirius had already said he would never end up there, no matter what-
The surprise on Snape's face must have been evident as Black cheerfully took the Hat off his head and replaced it on the stool, walking over to the Gryffindor table and sitting there with a smug smile. Snape had motioned to himself and then Gryffindor table, feeling even more confused as Sirius shook his head vehemently.
As Snape watched, Lupin, Pettigrew, and Potter were all subsequently Sorted into Gryffindor, and Black greeted each with cheers. The whole ordeal was surreal, and Snape had walked mechanically to the Sorting Hat when his name was called, becoming more and more angry that his cousin, his best friend, had betrayed him.
'Oh dear, I sense more recent hate than anything in here…'
Snape had tried not to think of anything, but he kept seeing Sirius and his new friends laughing at Gryffindor table and he felt himself beginning to loathe him. He'd promised, then left him here alone.
Please, Snape had thought in alarm, Slytherin, put me in Slytherin, it's the only place I know anyone—
'Slytherin? But you would do so well in Ravenclaw… No? Oh, very well, if you insist…'
From there Snape had only vague memories; he'd waved uncertainly at Sirius, who'd ignored him, and as he sat he heard Bellatrix muttering about the "blood traitor" in the family…
Snape looked up calmly, trying not to let show how distracted he'd been. "Finished with your meeting?"
Dumbledore smiled wryly. "Yes, as I've said twice now. Remus and Sirius will be joining us in the morning, at which point they will assist you with—Well, what you're about to explain to me right now."
Snape straightened in his seat, Fawkes moving from the arm of the chair to his usual perch. "I have only a minute understanding of the process myself, but Muggles have found a way to restart a heart that has stopped through the application of electric shocks."
"No type of electric device-"
"Yes, yes, I'm aware. What I am referring to is the idea that once the heart is restarted, the body can be fully functional again, all intellect and memories intact."
Dumbledore stared at a point in the distance as he spoke. "This process is not guaranteed to work, and has a very low success rate."
At this, Snape had to take a moment to marvel inwardly at the knowledge Dumbledore had collected throughout his life. So then, the idea had occurred to the headmaster as well.
"But, Albus, we surely must have ways to keep the heart beating, instead of restarting it?" Dumbledore looked at Snape oddly as he continued his disjointed speech. "My point is, the body can be dead, and through continued blood circulation and proper precautions, it can be brought back to a healthy state once more."
"Severus, my boy," Dumbledore said slowly, "you are getting ahead of yourself. Hermione is alive and well in body, and at this point we are not trying to keep her alive-"
"Oh, I know," Snape said with a wolfish grin. "We're trying to kill her."
The Hospital Wing was eerily quiet. Madam Pomfrey had not anticipated anyone filling its beds during the summer, and now it was Hermione, who had been here in her second year for so long...
Pomfrey walked to stand beside Hermione, whose eyes were still open and unfocused. Hesitating a moment, Pomfrey waved her hand in front of Hermione's face, watching her intently. She sighed when she got no response.
"Oh, child, I hope that we can fix this," she whispered, sitting on the edge of Hermione's bed.
Pomfrey jumped, turning to see Snape striding across the room towards her. "Severus? Whatever are-"
"No time," he said, brushing her off and taking the seat on Hermione's bed she'd just been occupying. "Hello again, Miss Granger," he muttered, taking Hermione's face between his hands and preparing to use Legilimency once again.
"Wait, Severus, I really must protest-" Pomfrey started.
"If you must, then she will be lost to you," Snape said irately, not removing his gaze from Hermione's eyes. "Now, think long and hard before you disturb me again."
Pomfrey was only half-listening to Snape; as he'd sat before Hermione, she'd noticed Hermione's mouth curve into a half-smile and her eyes focus on his, the first movements Pomfrey had observed in her patient for hours.
"By all means, Severus," Poppy mumbled with a smile, sitting on a nearby bed to observe.
"Oh, where are you?" Snape murmured, wading through Hermione's mind much as he had earlier. Now, however, most of the dialogue in her memories was garbled, and every single thought contained traces of blue fog.
"Miss Granger!" Snape called, wondering why it was necessary to shout to find someone in their own mind. "Miss Granger!"
His statements only brought forth scrambled memories of himself, sneering at one of Hermione's potions, taking points from her for helping Longbottom, assigning Potter yet another detention—
Ah, finally. An image of Hermione, similar to the one he saw earlier, drifted forward. "Ye-es?"
Snape frowned. "Are you quite lucid, Miss Granger?"
The Hermione before him raised an eyebrow, the gesture disturbingly similar to his own. "'Course I am."
"Is that so?" Snape asked, watching her carefully.
Hermione scowled. "D'you honestly believe that's something I wouldn't notice? If I'm worried I've gone mental," Hermione said with a hiccough, "then it's most probable I haven't."
"You seem… intoxicated, Miss Granger."
"Oh, I do?" Hermione said snidely. "And where, exactly, would I get the means to end up that way? Don't exactly have all sorts of liquor around here."
"I suppose not. But, I do have a purpose in coming here, one that needs to be fulfilled immediately," Snape said, his eyes following Hermione as she swayed in place.
"Well, when're you planning on telling me what it is? We aren't all psychic, you know."
"Miss Granger, tell me all the ways you know how to kill a person."
Hermione blinked at him for a moment, looking at him strangely. "No frills?"
"Just the basics, if you please."
Another long moment passed, and then Hermione sighed as though this question was not unusual in the slightest. "Right. Well, there's always guns-"
"Muggle weapon," Hermione said, extending her forefinger at Snape with the thumb aimed toward the ceiling and her remaining fingers in a fist. "Propels a small projectile called a bullet with great force-"
As she spoke, an image of a metallic device began to flicker between them, and then the sound of a loud bang emitting from it caused Snape to flinch.
"Oh, very much so."
"No, no, that won't do. I'm looking for one that will cause the least amount of damage to the body possible."
"Least damage?" Hermione said confusedly. "Then why in the bloody hell are you trying to kill it?"
"Miss Granger, don't worry about that!"
Snape glanced around quickly; the background noise was rising, and soon he would be ejected from her mind again-- But this time, there would be no returning.
"Wait, you're in my mind, why do I have to say what I'm thinking out loud-"
Hermione was taken aback at the uncharacteristic display of impatience, and she immediately began to list every way to kill a human she could remember, corresponding pictures flashing through the air.
"There's suffocation, but that poses the risk of the lungs collapsing… Electricity! Oh, no, that causes nerve damage-"
"We can't get electricity at Hogwarts."
"You're trying to kill someone at Hogwarts!"
Hermione swallowed as she saw Snape begin to break out in a sweat, though he wasn't doing any type of physical exertion--
"Any poisons would remain in the body."
"But the opposite would be rather effective," Snape mused, looking away from the house engulfed in fire that had appeared before him. "What effects would extreme cold would have on the body, Miss Granger?"
"Um, hypothermia, probably? Unless you could find some way to keep the blood circulating long enough to warm it up again…"
"Anything else that might happen?"
"Well, when the body temperature drops to the cardiac arrest point, the heart would cease to-"
"Perfect!" Snape said softly, looking up at Hermione. "That's all, Miss Granger."
"Well," Hermione said angrily, "shouldn't you at least thank me?"
"You want my thanks for your help to save your own life?"
Hermione glowered at Snape for a moment. He could almost pinpoint the exact moment she realized what he intended to do.
"You're trying to kill me!"
Madam Pomfrey watched the interaction between Snape and Hermione with fascination. At regular intervals, Hermione would smile or laugh aloud, and Snape would scowl. All the while, they never broke their intense eye contact, Snape still holding her head tightly between his palms.
Suddenly, Hermione's serene expression turned to one of horror, and Snape winced before dropping her head gruffly.
"Any luck?" Madam Pomfrey asked Snape, who had gotten up from the bed only to stagger to the one beside it.
"Luck? Certainly not."
Pomfrey resisted the urge to roll her eyes. "Were you successful in-- Well, whatever you attempted to do?"
"I was," Snape said shortly. "We'll have to kill her tomorrow, though; the whole exercise has left me rather exhausted."
Before he passed out completely, he vaguely wondered if every woman he saw was going to yell at him.
Daylight at Hogwarts dawned late. By the time all occupants had awakened, the sky had barely lightened in color, though it was near to noon.
It was at this point that Remus and Sirius were limping across the grounds toward Hogwarts.
"You're daft, d'you know that?" Sirius grumbled, supporting Remus as they trudged along. "You could've just waited until I'd gotten the Whomping Willow settled, but did you do that? No. 'I'll run for it, Sirius', he says. Well, yeah, see how well that worked?"
"Oh, do shut up."
"'Shut up,' he says-"
"Who are you talking to that you keep referring to me in the third person?" Remus asked amusedly.
Sirius scowled at Remus, taking stock of the bruises that were already beginning to fade on his arm. "Lucky you heal so quickly, what with the amount of scrapes you get into-"
"That you get me into, you mean? And I suppose the quick healing is one of the only positive things about-"
Seeing Remus' face beginning to darken as he spoke, Sirius waved his free hand dismissively. "Never mind that. Now, what exactly has Dumbledore decided to do about Hermione?"
Remus looked up at the castle. He could see the huge doors marking the entrance beginning to open, and instead of answering Sirius, he just nodded toward the doors. "You'll find out soon enough."
Snape rarely slept late. He would wake up automatically after a sparse six hours of sleep, when he could even get that. Even now, knowing that he would not be attending any further encounters with the Dark Lord, he still had trouble sleeping: his nights plagued with the nightmares that had haunted him for years.
And yet here he was-- still groggy and disoriented several hours after the sun rose. He didn't sit up from his position lying on his back, groaning as he tried to turn his head and a sharp pain jolted through his neck. Must have slept on it wrong, he thought wryly.
Realistically, one would believe that it would be nothing extraordinary for Snape to wake up with his whole body a mass of pain. But what use is a Potions Master who is in too much pain to efficiently work? The Dark Lord had subjected Snape to the Cruciatus curse a mere handful of times, though he was beginning to dole it out to Snape and other Death Eaters more regularly. There were other, far more effective ways to induce pain than a simple Unforgivable, Snape thought with a grimace.
Before his mind could stray to these thoughts, he sat up abruptly, wincing as the room spun and then settled into its normal inert state. He cast an eye about the room, noticing his cloak was not in its usual post by the door, but rather thrown across a chair next to the bed. Ah, yes. Right where he'd left it after dragging himself down to his quarters sometime last night. Pomfrey's orders be damned; he was not spending a single night in the Infirmary when he didn't have to. It was unfortunate she'd seen him in such a state as he was yesterday, but Snape had stayed in that horrible room out of necessity too many times already.
He unconsciously rubbed his left arm, wondering idly why his Mark hadn't bothered him since yesterday, just when he was about to leave for the Library—
Snape jerked his head down to stare at his forearm, blinking furiously in the dim light of his room. It was an illusion, a trick… He was still asleep, dreaming of a time that could never exist—
Standing quickly, he strode over to his windows and threw open the curtains that obscured them. He squinted through the bright light that flooded his room, using his fingers to feel for the familiar ridges that had tormented him so much in recent weeks. His arm, however, remained exactly as it was when he first awoke: scarred, moderately hairy, and blissfully unmarked.
Sprout yawned as she toddled up the stairs to the Infirmary. Understandably, her sleep the previous night had not been restful. She couldn't help but avert her eyes from the form of Hermione, as she crossed the room to Pomfrey's office, the designated meeting place. Hermione didn't seem to be speaking anymore, but her eyes were wide open and as unfocused as yesterday, her fists clenching and unclenching at side.
"Poor dear," Sprout muttered, opening the door to the office.
Sprout looked up in surprise as Remus smiled warmly at her. "Remus, hello!" She flicked her gaze at the other occupants of the room before continuing. "I wish I could say we've chanced on each other under better circumstances."
"No chance involved, unfortunately," Sirius spoke from his corner, causing Sprout to whirl around to face him. "Dumbledore let us know there was a problem, and we hastened ourselves right down."
"If you don't mind me asking," Sprout said slowly, raising her eyebrow, "what exactly did you have in mind to, ah, assuage, or even eliminate, said problem?"
"Not a whole hell of a lot," Sirius replied bluntly.
"I see." Sprout glanced at Dumbledore, Pomfrey, and Flitwick, the only others present. "Where are Minerva and Severus?"
"I saw Minerva earlier this morning," Flitwick piped up. "Now, Severus is, most likely, brooding somewhere or other-"
"Likely not," Snape said calmly as he walked through the door, shutting it a bit more loudly than necessary behind him and causing Flitwick to jump.
"Now, I didn't mean anything by-"
"You never do. Pomona," Severus questioned, effectively ignoring Flitwick, "where is Minerva?"
"Filius just saw her," Sprout replied, her eyes twinkling in mirth. "Whether it was coming or going, he didn't say."
"Speak of me as if I'm not here, honestly-"
Remus' eyes had been flitting from speaker to speaker as they spoke, but it was Sirius who spoke first.
"Now, now, is all this arguing really necessary?"
Remus began to breathe out slowly, thinking the situation remedied… And then he released his breath a sigh as Sirius continued in his usual brusque manner.
"After all, it's hardly uncommon for Snivellus to be his usual whiny self, is it? I can see what Filius means-"
"Enough, Sirius!" Remus cried weakly. "Must you always cause chaos whenever Severus is involved?"
"Oh, Severus, is it?" Sirius said darkly. "Sweet Sevvie, dear Sevvie-"
"Black, should you ever address me in that manner again, you will find out just how 'sweet' I can be," Snape replied smoothly. "I don't know which disgusts me more, your painfully evident stupidity or the implication I would ever be familiar with," Snape paused here, curling his lip in distaste, "a werewolf."
"This has gone on long enough," Dumbledore said, casting disappointed looks on Snape and Sirius, who were still glaring at one another. "If Minerva does not want to attend, we'll have to continue without her."
"Oh!" Pomfrey said, startled. "We couldn't! I'll just go now and-"
"No need, Poppy," McGonagall said tiredly as she entered the room. She sat down, staring stonily at a space directly above Dumbledore's head. "My apologies for my tardiness," she said stiffly.
Sprout glanced worriedly at her, but Dumbledore just nodded and faced the room.
"Severus has uncovered a possible remedy for Hermione's condition. We will all," he said, staring pointedly at Sirius, "do our best to help him in whatever way he deems useful. Now, as I have little grasp on the specifics myself, I will allow him to explain."
"The only way to break this curse that we know of know would involve Miss Granger relinquishing her hold on life. Therefore, in order to ascertain no information she has been privy to is available to," he paused here, "whomever placed this curse, we must kill her."
"What?" McGonagall cried as Sirius jumped to his feet. "No!"
"Sirius," Remus said soothingly. "I'm sure if that was all that was involved, Severus would not have needed to explain. Let's hear the rest, yeah?"
"She needn't stay dead, however," Snape continued, slanting a look at an impassive Dumbledore. "So long as the body remains in a potentially functioning condition, Muggles have found ways of restoring life."
"I'm aware," Snape said sharply. "We do, however, have spells that can be tweaked to provide the same effects; namely, the Elahit Cruor to ensure continued blood flow, and we can make adjustments to the Electroshock Charm."
Sprout spoke tentatively. "It sounds doable, if risky. But how would we kill her?" Beside her, McGonagall winced.
"We'll freeze her," Snape said simply. "If done quickly enough, it would cause little damage to the body with the blood circulation spell firmly in place. However, when the body gets to a certain temperature, it enters cardiac arrest and the heart ceases to beat."
"Effectively killing Hermione and, hopefully, ending the curse as well," Remus mused.
"There is more to it. From the point where Miss Granger, ah, dies, we will have a limited amount of time to restore her without risking brain damage or worse."
"How limited is our time?" Dumbledore asked mildly.
Snape cleared his throat. "Sixty seconds, give or take."
"Shouldn't be a problem. Our warming charms work quick enough to accomplish that easily," Flitwick said with a dismissive wave of his hand.
"Actually," said Pomfrey slowly, "if we raise her body temperature too quickly, the Elahit Cruor could fail. She'd expire permanently, almost immediately, were that the case."
"I have considered this already," Snape said haughtily. "Administering the warming charm over the course of fifty-four seconds in a pattern I have developed will ensure this does not happen."
Remus frowned. "Doesn't leave much room for error, does it? And who would do it?"
"Wait a damn minute!" Sirius yelled frantically, waving his arms. "Just wait! We're going to freeze Hermione to death, apply charms that we'll have to tinker with experimentally -- and illegally, I might add -- and then perform a complex warming charm with a five second margin of error or else Hermione dies?"
"No, you imbecile," Snape said with a sigh, rubbing his temple and grimacing. "We'll have a six second margin of error."
"Oh," Sirius said sarcastically. "That's alright, then. You're all bloody daft!"
The members of the room turned as one to look at Sirius for a moment, then returned to the conversation once more as if nothing had been said.
"Minerva, what do you think of this?" Sprout asked.
"Well, it is, without question, the most outrageous idea I've ever heard. However," she stated at Sprout's wry glance, "As I can think of no better plan myself, I therefore will not criticize. But as Remus asked earlier, who will cast the charm? Albus?"
"Oh," Dumbledore said, affecting sudden weariness and slouching, "I'm much too old to learn an entire pattern of spells now."
"Severus," Pomfrey said loudly, interrupting Sirius's exclamation, "perhaps you should do it. You have the most control of any of us here other than Albus, and you'll need to be present for the procedure anyway."
Snape inclined his head, and Dumbledore straightened in his seat suddenly, seemingly spry once more. "We are working under a timeframe. Severus has indicated to me that the curse's effects progress with time, and very soon Hermione will be overwhelmed."
"How long?" McGonagall asked, involuntarily glancing at the door beyond which Hermione lay.
"We'll have to begin the process by tonight at the latest. The risk becomes too great if we wait any longer."
"Tonight?" Pomfrey said, startled. "No, no, it's too soon, we won't be able to modify the spells-"
"Wait any longer," Snape said mildly, "and it's only the first half of the plan that you'll need to worry about."
"Severus!" McGonagall gasped.
Remus shook his head. "He's right. We all know how difficult this will be, and like Pomona said, it may be risky, but it can be done. Severus," he said, turning to Snape, "what do you want us to do?"
As Remus spoke, Sirius was pacing near the door. He looked out the small window and yelped in surprise before throwing open the door. "Quick, everyone, it's Hermione!"
Jess: :snerk: Am I evil? Oh yes, I am. After you've all waited so patiently for this chapter, too… I'm almost sorry for the ending, honestly. My mind's telling me no, but my Sevvie is telling me ye-es… And I completely forgot to let you all in on the secret that only NotRachem caught: the excerpt in the second chapter is from Bleed Like Me, another fic on this account. Shameless self-promotion, I know, but I didn't want my dear Snape to insult anyone else's work, and I was too lazy to write more fiction within fanfiction.
In any case, Catherine, thank you very much for your thoughts. You helped me get the plot evened out nicely, and solved a few of my problems for me, haha. And Phae and Kate, I would have been lost without you guys, honestly. Your feedback helped me more than I'll ever be able to say… Oh, and the reviewers who don't want to kill me after such a long wait for the next chapter? Thank you all so much!