Search for His Soul
This fic is the story that is behind the one-shot, The Kiss. The M rating is for possible offensive references to disabilities brought on by the kiss of the Dementors, and also language and intimate scenes later on.
Prologue
Hermione adjusted the light throw over the still legs. "Is that better, love? It feels a bit chilly in the shade … but you've had enough sun today, I think." She brushed her hand against a pale cheek. "Lunch will be soon. Anything particular that you fancy?" She waited expectantly and then with a last caress, turned away into the other rooms.
The man in the lounge was silent and eerily still. The black eyes gazed sightlessly out over the veranda at the sea. The gentle incoming breeze ruffled his silver-streaked black hair. It needed cutting, but Hermione could not bring herself to do it. She spent hours brushing it smooth and running her fingers through it as she lay beside him on the lounger. She would whisper of dreams, plans for a future she did not know was even possible. But she refused to believe that it would not somehow happen. Somehow, they would find the key. Harry would save them, yet again …

Chapter 1
The nightmare recurred almost every single night. She got up, walking to the sliding glass doors of the bedroom patio. The night wind off the Mediterranean dried the perspiration on her skin as she stood there, waiting for the trembling to stop. Turning back to the bed, she stared at the man that lay unmoving on his side. She wiped the tears on her face with the back of her hand as she went back and climbed in beside him. There was no protest as she pulled his arm until it draped around her when she lay down. She let more tears fall unchecked to wet the front of his gauze nightshirt. The nightmare only faded a little as she wept, letting herself feel his warmth even if he wasn't giving it of his own accord. She remembered the horrible day in Azkaban, drawn into the memory as if the nightmare was the key to a door …

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 …

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 …"

Hermione forced her mind to stop dwelling on the scene yet again. It never changed. It always had the same ending. But there were times when she could not help replaying it, trying to see if there had been something she missed in their last moments, or thinking that perhaps it had all been but a nightmare and it would be over when she woke up.

She dressed herself in the flowing robes of the culture in which they lived, covering her curls with the requisite veil. She used her wand to dress Severus in the male robes favored here, and then put his head dress on herself. Days spent in the sun on the veranda had tanned them both until they were not as easily seen as mere visitors. This was a day of tests. They had been living here for three weeks. It was time to take him out. He needed to exercise, and the walk to the village market would be good for him. He had been easy enough to lead within the walls of the villa she had rented. She hoped it would go as well on the outside.

Harry would be coming tonight and she needed to buy food supplies. The thought of someone else to talk to was causing her guilty anticipation. Shouldn't it be enough that Severus was here with her and alive?

For a few moments she went back in time, before the Aurors took Severus away in magical chains …

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"'Mia! Where are you?" Hearing his voice calling, she stepped out of her lab, wiping her hands on a cleaning cloth. He saw her and swept her up in a twirling embrace, kissing her soundly. She laughed, enjoying his rare moments of unrestrained behavior.

When he put her down, she asked, "What's happened to make you so shamefully happy?"

He gave her one of his characteristic scowls, but it disappeared almost at once. "The apothecary placed a huge order for the Wolfsbane Curative. The contracts are sealed and we will be providing it. The European Ministry Confederation has agreed to pay the price for the supplies plus the stipend we requested."

Her eyes grew huge and she breathed, "They agreed to fund the cure for all of them?"
He nodded. "Any of them who comes forward voluntarily will be provided with it, free of charge."
She grabbed him, pulling his face down for another enthusiastic kiss. "I'm so proud of you, Severus –"
He took her by the shoulders and his black eyes bored into her brown ones. They softened as they gazed at her. "No. Be proud of us both, 'Mia. Without you, without your help and insight, it would not have happened."
She smiled up at him, continuing their familiar argument. "You would have done it regardless of my help, my brilliant Potions Master."
He looked over her shoulder into her private laboratory. "Do you have to attend to anything …"
She read the desire in his face and took his hands in hers to draw him towards their room. "Everything is in stasis at the moment. I'm all yours, my love."
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Hermione blinked back to the present. Reaching up her hand, she caressed his face and adjusted the long cloth that draped over his shoulders. "Ready for our adventure? Remember to keep hold of my hand, alright?" She knew it would be her keeping the tight hold on him, but she liked the illusion of him actually hearing her. Picking up the basket in which she would place her purchases, she lead him out of the confines of the house and out to the road.
Her own head covering was fastened to hide all of her face except her eyes. It was uncomfortable and too warm, and she thought again about moving them to a place that allowed a more liberal code of dress. Harry had chosen this village by the sea after an intensive search. He wanted them to be safe from any contact with wizardkind. This village had not one tiny glimmer of magic. The surrounding countryside was entirely Muggle. Any approach, by anyone with magical capabilities, would be instantly detected by the wards Harry had place around the perimeter. Hermione knew that it was for the best.
No one could find out what they were trying to do here. Everyone was to assume that she had spirited Severus away to die in peace. After all, no one who had ever received the Kiss in Azkaban lived very long afterwards. It was unusual that she had requested his soulless body. It was standard procedure, if there were any family of the Kissed prisoner, to simply wait to be notified of the prisoner's demise, and then claim the body. There had been a small uproar when she had insisted on claiming Severus prior to his demise. But no one could find any law or ruling to prevent it, so they had given him over to her.
The walk to the village went well; she kept her arm hooked through his and he was easy to steer along the dirt track. In the village proper, she held him close to her side as the crowd grew more bustling. When they entered the market place, she held tighter to him as the crowds threatened to separate them. She had to let go of him to select the fruits and vegetables she needed. The merchants were intent on haggling for higher prices and she hesitated, unsure what would be proper and inoffensive. When she finally finished the transaction and reached for Severus's, arm he was no longer beside her.
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She was certain that he could not hear her, so calling out was not an option. He would not answer when spoken to; plus she didn't want anyone else to hear his name, in case there were spies even here. Struggling to subdue her panic, she looked around her immediate area. Her panic blossomed when she noted that everyone was dressed so similarly. Men wore the white or tan long tunics of the region, heads turbaned with shading cloths covering hair and shadowing faces. It did not help at all that her petite height made it nearly impossible to see over the heads of those around her. Why had she not waited for Harry? He had said he would go with her this first time, to give his assistance. She had privately scoffed, thinking that she was more than capable of a simple trek into the village for foodstuffs. Now she wished that she had listened to him. What if Severus ran into trouble? Were there robbers here who looked for easy prey? Of course there were. He would be an unresisting target, without the instincts for self-preservation. His vacant expression would welcome anyone who looked for someone not paying attention.
Abruptly, she ran into the back of someone. As she struggled with the language to offer her apologies, she realized it was Severus. Breathing a ragged sigh of relief, she took hold of his arm and steered him back out of the town and up the hill towards their villa. Once inside, she guided him to his lounge and sat him down. Only then did she drop to her knees and put her head on his lap, sobbing.
"I could have lost you! You could have been hurt! I should have listened to Harry –"
"Listen to me what? What happened? Are you alright, 'Mione?" Harry emerged from another room and hurried to them, dropping down beside her and taking her by the shoulders. "Are you alright?" he asked again.
She put her head on his shoulder, letting him put strong arms around her as she cried. "I thought I should be able to go alone to the village with him. While I bought the food, he disappeared. I couldn't hold on to him and haggle at the same time."
Harry rubbed comforting circles on her back for a few moments and then leaned back. "You got him back here alright. Everything is fine."
"But what if it hadn't been fine? What if he had been accosted by robbers or something? I should have waited like you told me to." She turned back to Severus and took his hand, bringing it to her lips. "I'm so sorry, love. Please forgive me."
Harry stood up and pulled Hermione gently to her feet. "He's alright. You're alright. It's over and you're back."
She tried to turn back to Severus and he stopped her. "Hermione, stop. He doesn't hear you, he doesn't know you lost him, he isn't here to know anything. Stop doing this to yourself." He softened his words by pulling her back into his arms. "I do have a new lead though. Fix something for us to eat while I sit with him. Then I'll tell you both." He kissed her forehead and pushed her gently toward the kitchen.
When he was sure she had busied herself, he sat down in front of Severus. Taking the man's face in his hands, he turned it so he could see into his eyes. First the green eyes searched the onyx ones intently. Then he whispered, "Legilimens!"
Several minutes later he ceased the search into Severus's mind and sighed. Behind him, Hermione spoke quietly, "Nothing?"
Harry turned to her and answered, "I sense something, but it's so faint … I'm not sure if it isn't just whatever keeps him alive, whatever is sending out the signals to keep his body functioning."
"But it could be more?" she asked hopefully.
He stood up and went to help her carry in the dinner tray she had in her hands. He laid it over Severus's knees and shook out the damask napkin. He skillfully began to spoon the pureed foods into Severus's mouth.
She protested, "You don't have to do that, let me …"
"I want to, 'Mione." He looked up at her, "He was my guardian, my mentor. You know I'd do anything for him. Let me do this for you."
She finally nodded and returned to preparing their meal. Harry finished feeding the man who had little more than the basic reflexes needed to accept what was on the spoon put into his mouth and swallow. Harry talked to him, as he knew Hermione did, about what was happening in the world, what he was doing, what he saw each day.
As he wiped the man's mouth clean and removed the napkin from his lap, he spoke firmly, looking back into the blank eyes. "I will find you, Sev. I will keep searching and I will find a way to return you to yourself. I promised Hermione, and I promise you."
He carried the tray back to the kitchen and then joined Hermione at the dining table. As she ladled the rice and vegetables onto their plates, he said, "I spoke to a man in Egypt. He knows of a place where there may be a scroll that describes the place of souls. I'm going there tomorrow."
Hermione smiled and they settled down to discuss what Harry had found out thus far and what it might mean for the man in the other room.

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A/N: As promised, this is the fleshing out attempt at my one-shot, The Kiss. I am not quite sure how to predict its length, so I won't. I don't anticipate it will be as long as my other chaptered fics, though. Hermione's name notes- Severus calls her Mia (my-uh, not me-uh) His reasons will be explained later. The exact location of the villa is in my imagination; a small village on some Mediterranean coast, not entirely modern, but not archaic either. The dress requirements are what I see typical of conservative Middle Eastern society. I know very little about it, except what I have learned from a Lebanese friend, so don't be too hard on me there. The foods I describe will also be colored by my experience eating with my friends when they prepare wonderful dishes that are so unlike what I am used to here in Texas! It goes without saying that this is a non-canon fic. It could turn out to be an extension of the years following my fics, The First Prophecy, and Primoris Oraculum Duo, but for the moment it stands alone. As always, I don't own one single character. They all belong to JK Rowling and other various lucky people who hold licenses for the Harry Potter world. Thank you to my wonderful beta reader, logicalquirk, who has graciously taken on another of my projects! I send many hugs out to her!