Hands clutched hands around the rusted steel bars. He leaned his face down and was barely able to touch his forehead to hers through the space between the bars. He felt her shivering and wished he could enfold her. He was beyond cold himself, and hearing the whisper of hungry shadows did nothing to alleviate it. He wished…
Disentangling her hands from his, she reached up and put them into his hair, gently brushing back the now silvered strands of jet. She tugged on them and raised her lips to whisper beside his cheek, "I'll be here, right here."
He felt the small flicker of warmth from her breath and wound his own hands in the mass of curls surrounding her face.
"Don't stay. I do not wish this to be your last memory of me."
Stealthy whispers from just outside their range of vision caught both of their attention and they both struggled to shut it out. Only moments remained.
The scraping of feet on the stone floor brought his awareness up from where he rested his head against hers and the bars. Green eyes stared back, their depths shadowed with another kind of sorrow. He hated him intruding like this, but he was grateful that she would not be alone in the end. Someone was here for her.
Turning his focus back to her he gripped her face between his hands, sorry that they were so cold on her, but glad for the heat he felt from her skin, a last comforting sensation. He felt a tear then, hot on the back of his hand as it left her cheek to slide over his cold flesh. How had it come to this? He had always been alone, and now, only here at the last was he with someone who cared about him, someone he cared for in return.
She choked out another whisper. "I wish there had been more time; that we had known each other better before, even if it was forbidden."
"I know. I was too wrapped up in appearances. I should have seen you…and I missed it."
Lips found hers and they were gentle and soft under his. They tasted of the salt her tears had left there. Behind her lips he could hear her struggling to subdue a sob. He had to try again to get her away from witnessing the coming horror.
"I do not want you to be here. Can you not give me that last peace; knowing you are not witness to the last of my sanity being taken?"
"Don't make me go… I want to be here…I can't believe that they will really take everything…maybe I can give it back if I'm here…maybe I can reach you and you will still know me…" He heard the desperation in her voice.
"You know it does not work like that." He tightened his hold as he heard them drawing nearer from down the corridor. "You are the one thing I regret leaving. You are the love I never thought I'd have."
He did not say that without her he would have had nothing to lose when the Dementors came for him. If he had not found himself in the astonishing position of having and returning her love, there would be no good thoughts for them to suck out when they took his soul. His soul would have still been as black as pitch, a totally unsatisfying meal for the guards of Azkaban.
Icy cold penetrated the cell as the door clanged open. A blast of fetid air accompanied a harsh, scraping voice, "It is time…come…"
Her hands left him suddenly and he thought for a moment that she had decided to leave after all. Then he felt her solid warmth against him. She had come through the cell door and had wrapped her arms around his neck, pulling him as close as she could. His arms went around her and he expelled a hitching breath.
Fiercely, she twisted her fingers in his hair and pulled his lips to hers. Her mouth devoured his as she sought to remember every bit of how he felt in her arms, how he tasted, how he loved.
He felt the skeletal hands close on his shoulder and he looked up. Gripping her firmly, he gently pushed her back, locking pleading black eyes with green ones, 'Take care of her…'
With a nod, Harry stepped forward. He silently gave his teacher's hand a firm squeeze before he took Hermione in his arms. She struggled against him, unwilling to let go of Severus. Harry tightened his arms, wrapping her in an embrace, holding her back up against him as the Dementors led Severus from the cell.
A wail wrenched itself from deep inside her and he murmured against her ear, "Don't…It makes it worse for him if they think he has more to lose, if they feel your pain as well."
She struggled to get control of her despair and when Harry felt her relax a bit, he let go, moving to hold only her hand so that she might not try to intervene.
They followed the Dementors down the dank corridor until they came to the Execution Chamber. The Minister and various representatives of the Wizengamot and MLE were already present.
Before Harry could stop her, Hermione raced forward and took hold of the Minister's robes. "Please, let me be beside him."
The Minister of Magic cleared his throat uncomfortably. "That's not how things usually proceed, Miss Granger."
She begged, a half-crazed light in her eyes, "This is not usual, Minister! Can't you have a little mercy, for the sake of what he did for the cause? Can't you give him- give me- that much? Please?"
The Minister glanced around at those present. Seeing no one protesting, he gave the girl a grudging nod. She gave him a grateful smile in return.
The Dementors had secured Severus into a roughly hewn wooden chair, its back reclined so that his head was laid back for their access. He was staring at the ceiling, trying to clear his mind and prepare himself.
He looked up, startled, into her tear-filled brown eyes when she took his hand in hers. He managed to turn his over against the bonds that held him, so that he could lace his fingers tightly with hers. She bent and pressed her lips against his, letting tears spill onto his face.
She kept hold of his hand when the Dementors forced her to the side.
She kept hold of his hand when they bent their decaying hooded forms over him.
She kept hold of his hand when he gripped hers so hard that it felt as if her bones might be crushed with it.
She kept hold of his hand when the vacuum of their breaths began to pull all that made Severus a living being out through his groaning mouth.
She kept hold of his hand, even after it became limp in hers, after he was gone and would no longer recognize her as his lover, best friend, colleague, and unwavering supporter.
She kept hold of his hand, after the Dementors had backed away and she could see the blank black stare, the now gaunt pale face, the shell of what had been Severus Snape.
She kept hold of his hand.
A/N: Why was Severus given the Dementor's Kiss? What had been the relationship between Hermione and Severus? Why were Hermione and Harry supportive of Snape at this last moment? I have a story to precede this if I get enough feedback to indicate an interest…
A/N: Edited and resubmitted after imput from FA, faithful reader KimSpiritTalks, and my wonderful beta logicalquirks