Last Touch

By Becky

The day was a bit overcast, the sun seemed to fade in and out, as dark brooding clouds raced by like the rushing of a river. Headmaster Harry Potter walked the streets of Muggle London in search of a present for his best friend and adopted sister, Hermione Granger. Her 35th birthday loomed on the horizon, and knowing that the midterm exams were facing the students at Hogwarts, and his time would be limited, Harry decided a trip to London was needed. Many times in the past two weeks he'd planned this trip, but his duties as Headmaster always seemed to come first. Talking with his deputy headmaster the night before, Justin Finch-Fletchley, it was decided that Justin would hold down the fort, while Harry went to London.

As he walked the streets, his eyes traveled from doorway to alley and back, searching, always searching, for his once dreaded Potions Professor, Severus Snape. It had been years since he'd fled, under the cover of darkness, after killing Headmaster Albus Dumbledore.

Harry Potter took it upon himself to search for the man, 'to bring him to justice.' he told himself, but all the while secretly wanting to just kill him with his bare hands. It was months after the final battle, that the truth from Dumbledore's own Pensieve was revealed, thus clearing Severus Snape of any wrong doing. Harry begrudgingly had to admit the man's innocence in light of the memories stored there, and let go of the hatred he held. Still, old habits die hard, and even after 12 years, he still searched, looking, always looking, for the man.

The street seemed to bustle with people as he neared Harrods Department Store. Their selection of books was the finest in London, and Harry knew that his friend always needed something to read.

As he drew nearer to the store, he noticed there seemed to be a crowd gathering near an alleyway. Curiosity got the best of him as he slowly made his way toward the gathering throng of people. Standing near the back, he could hear several comments from the other onlookers, "Drunk" stated one, "More like a drug overdose," snickered another, as she turned and walked quickly toward the store entrance.

As the crowd began to move along, Harry decided a drunken Muggle didn't rate a looksee, and began to turn away. The magical surge that flared was faint, but powerful. Turning back quickly, he stared at the prone figure, and crept closer to get a better look at the man laying there. His hair was long, lank and matted from lack of care. His beard was unkempt, and his clothes were tattered, and dirty. He was unrecognisable, except for the hawk-like nose, and obsidian eyes, that burned brightly with fever, yet never faltered as he held the gaze of Harry Potter. They had an intensity unlike any other person, and Harry knew immediately who this man was.

Quickly looking around, Harry noticed the crowd had withdrawn. He was alone, and looking down at none other than Severus Snape. A familiar sneer met his gaze as he knelt down.

"Professor, Professor Snape, sir," Harry whispered with an urgency in his voice that belied the calmness of his features.

"Potter," was all his dry, parched throat could manage to speak before he lost consciousness. Looking quickly around, Harry cast a "NOTICE ME NOT" charm on himself and Snape. Grasping the man's upper arm, he realized he was mere skin and bones, no substance remained of what was once a powerful, robust wizard.

Shaking his head at the injustice of it all, he drew his wand, and Apparated them to the gates of Hogwarts.

The hospital wing of Hogwarts was, for once, empty, and Hermione Granger had just finished restocking the shelves, when she turned to see Hagrid carrying something in his massive arms. He was cradling whatever it was as if it were a child. It was then she noticed the gaunt hand that was visible beneath the cloak that was thrown over the form that Hagrid carried.

Motioning him forward, she gestured toward the cot beyond. "Lay him there, please." As Hagrid moved forward, she quickly turned down the top sheet of the cot, and stepped back. Hagrid gently placed the unconscious form of Severus Snape on the bed, and turned away.

"Hagrid, where did you find this person, and who is it?" she questioned.

"I found him, in London, laying in the street." the voice of Harry Potter cut across the tense silence between Hermione and Hagrid, as he strolled into the room.

A puzzled look crossed Hermione's features as she turned to look at the man laying there. He was deathly ill, his hair was dirty and matted, his clothes were torn and tattered, and his skin was ashen. He looked as if death had already claimed him, but for the shallow, rapid, rise and fall of his chest as he breathed.

Knowing Harry as she did, she knew he wouldn't bring just anyone into the grounds of Hogwarts. As she studied the face of the man on the cot, Harry stepped forward, when sudden realization dawned on her face, and she stifled a ragged sob.
"Yes Hermione, it's Snape." His voice held no trace of bitterness, as it once had, whenever he spoke of Severus Snape.

Hermione turned quickly, and retrieved her diagnostic wand. The scan took only seconds, and as she ran the wand over his body, a red glow emanated from his form indicating a fever, several broken ribs, various internal injuries, bruises and scrapes. His lips were a faint blue, and his breathing was labored.

Hermione mended his broken ribs, and his breathing improved dramatically. She saw him draw deep, cleansing breaths, and watched as his lips turned pink from the faint blue they had been only moments before. She then cast a cleansing charm on his face, removing the dirty, rough beard. Another charm on the bloody, matted hair on his head, had it clean and untangled. His clothes were replaced with a fresh gown after a cleansing charm was applied to his body.

Settling him underneath the stark white sheets, Hermione noticed the color made him appear almost ghostly. As she began the IV potion, she noticed his gauntness, and how his veins were almost non existent. His face was the same as she remembered it, save for the dark circles under his eyes, and his almost transparent skin pulled tight over his high cheek bones.

This was the face she'd dreamed of so many nights in the twelve years since his disappearance. He was feverish, dehydrated, and malnourished. She counted on the IV potion to re-hydrate him, and temporarily supply him with some vitamins and nutrients to help him regain his strength. She reasoned, when he was conscious again and stronger, he could begin to eat, and rebuild the muscle tissue that had so obviously wasted away.

A sob escaped her then, and she turned away, banishing the tears away from her face, with the back of her hand. Looking up, she found Harry still standing there, watching her, a sad smile on his face. "It will take time, but I believe he may recover." she stated with a tremulous voice.

Nodding in understanding, Harry stepped forward, and drew her into his arms for a gentle hug, then he whispered, "Take care of him.", turned, and went back to his duties.

As the days passed, one after the other, the man on the cot seemed to rally one moment, and weaken the next. Hermione kept a vigilant watch over him, and as the days passed, she began to think the worst when his vital signs dipped severely, and his fever rose once again.

Several days after Harry had rescued his emaciated former Potion's professor, he made his way back to the hospital wing to check on his condition. Hermione was preparing to take another scan. As he walked in the door, he noticed her actions toward Snape. Her gentle touch as she smoothed his hair away from his face, and stilled her hand upon his cheek, told Harry that she loved the man.

"Hermione," he called softly, as she turned quickly and tried to hide the emotions that crossed her face. "How is he today?" he questioned.

Shaking her head, she looked at Harry, and let the tears fall. Harry gathered his friend close, and held her while she wept.

"I've loved him since the beginning of seventh year, but after Albus' death, and what they said about him..." she continued with a trembling voice, "Oh Harry, I'm so afraid! It's so unfair."

"Hermione, don't give up hope, he might regain consciousness at any time." Harry whispered.

Shaking her head, she replied, "I won't Harry. I won't give up hope." she turned from the bedside, and made her way to her office to gather another potion for the IV.

Just as Harry was turning to leave the hospital wing, he spared one final glance at Severus Snape. A jolt coursed through him when he realized the man was staring back at him. His eyes held a small spark, and were still piercing in their intensity.

"Potter." he whispered, "Potter."

Harry knelt beside the cot that held the man. "Professor?"

"Potter, tell her I love her." he said as his eyes fluttered and closed once more.

"Professor, wait." he urged gently, and shook the man. Severus opened his eyes once more, and looked at the man kneeling there.

"Hermione! Hermione, come quickly!" Harry cried urgently, rising from the floor, and heading toward the office.

Rounding the corner, Hermione looked at Harry, fear etched on her face. Harry looked back at Severus, and Hermione followed his gaze. Severus was looking at her, his eyes were sad, but never left her face, as she rushed to his side.

"Severus, oh Severus." she cried as she knelt on the floor, and gathered him in her arms. She kissed his face, and cried, murmuring, "I love you, I love you."

He reached his hand toward her, and caressed her face gently. "Hermione, I…I didn't want to. I didn't want to do it." he whispered, as she held him close.

Hermione's tears flowed as she spoke to him, whispering his name, over and over. "Yes Severus, I know. Everyone knows you didn't betray us."

"Hermione, I'm sorry." he whispered, and brushed the tears from her eyes.

"I love you Severus, I love you." she continued to murmur, and his face seemed to soften at her words. 'My life was not wasted, someone did love me.' he thought, as his pain seemed to disappear.

He looked into her eyes and whispered, "I love you, too. I Love you, Hermione, always love you." One lone tear slipped down his thin cheek.

The air in the room seemed to grow heavy, and as Severus caressed Hermione's cheek. His eyes grew wide, and his face took on a look of wonder. Reaching out, as if touching whatever he saw behind her, his eyes grew bright, and his voice became clear and strong once again. "Albus? Albus?" he called out, then smiled as his hand dropped and he closed his eyes.

Tears of sadness and grief fell from Hermione's eyes, as she touched his face, and whispered goodbye. Out of the corner of his eye, Headmaster Harry Potter witnessed the two ghostly figures of Albus Dumbledore, and Severus Snape, arm in arm, as they walked slowly into the light.