Saving a Death Eater
Spoilers: Deathly Hallows.
Disclaimers and Author's Notes: None of the characters or the Potterverse is mine, belonging to JK Rowling and her assignees. However, I claim only the order of the words and the concept behind this idea – which neatly slots into the canon timeline. For my story's purposes, I rely on book canon rather than film canon, although on occasion, a hint of film canon will slither in.
The first chapters were beta read by the amazing SnarkyWench and A Bees Buzz, and they have my enduring thanks. There has been a long hiatus, during which these wonderful women have turned their attention to other facets of their lives.
I've been incredibly fortunate to have the amazing Subversa and Annie Talbot offer to sit on my shoulder, correct mistakes, and prod me in the right direction if I should find myself lost for these last chapters!
Finally, I just couldn't leave this alone, so two hours after reading the last book of the series – I was the fifteenth person to get the book after the midnight release – I put fingers to keyboard. Read at your own risk.
Fred was dead.
Hermione Granger could hardly believe it as she clung to Ginny, both young women sobbing.
The din in the in the Great Hall of Hogwarts, where triage and assessments were taking place as Voldemort waited for Harry's response to his ultimatum, was diffused somehow as Hermione attempted to re-adjust her shifting world view. It was something she'd learned to do these past months, but it hadn't been easy.
With a hiccupping sigh, Ginny gripped Hermione tightly and then released her, turning toward a visibly shaken and crying Ron.
Blinking furiously, Hermione looked up toward the Charmed ceiling; it was cloudy, with billowing black clouds.
The word reminded her of Snape.
He had behaved unexpectedly in the Shrieking Shack, as if he were trying to escape his Dark master. Snape hadn't seemed evil, he'd seemed almost desperate.
Hermione had recently grown quite familiar with evil … and desperation.
Without conscious thought, her fingers brushed the thin scar along her throat, where Bellatrix Lestrange had sliced her skin at Malfoy Manor.
Brown eyes rested briefly on the side-by-side bodies of Tonks and Remus Lupin, fresh tears stung Hermione's eyelids, and she blinked rapidly. Poor little Teddy Lupin. He would grow up without parents.
He would have an excellent godfather in Harry.
Where was Harry?
She whirled, her eyes searching for his familiar frame.
In the near distance, Luna Lovegood stooped over a heavily bandaged Lavender Brown, and further along the line of the injured, Madam Pomfrey was bent over someone, her wand arcing and swishing in a blur of motion.
Across the room, Michael Corner and Parvati Patil carried another body through the entrance.
Abruptly, Hermione left the grieving Weasleys to wend her way to the matron's side.
"Hermione?" It was Cho Chang. Her once-sleek hair was unevenly singed on one side and she was missing an eyebrow, but her chin was stubbornly set.
"Do you think Harry …."
"Yes," Hermione replied, repressively. "I think Harry will do exactly what's necessary to defeat that . . . that . . . You-Know-What. If you'll excuse me."
Without waiting for a reply, she slipped past the other witch and within three steps entered the Hogwarts matron's field of vision.
The matron's wand jabbed into a final stop above the vacant-eyed expression on Terry Boot's face. A thin sheen of pale green enveloped his body. "There, there, Mr. Boot." Pomfrey soothed her unresponsive patient. "All will be well."
Poppy Pomfrey raised her head, and Hermione was shocked to see the older witch's haggard expression. She looked exhausted.
A groan rose from a nearby wizard, and Pomfrey's voice was more than impatient when she spoke. "What is it, Miss Granger? Where are you hurt?"
"It's not me," Hermione said. "It's –"
"What? Who? I haven't much time."
"It's . . . it's Professor Snape," Hermione replied, her voice quavering. "I think he's dead."
Madam Pomfrey's fingers flew to her mouth. "No." She moaned the word, but then, she seemed to comprehend the essential point. "You think?"
"He was bitten by You-Know-Who's snake, and then he bled, and he—" Hermione glanced at Terry Boot's face, "—he looked an awful lot like Terry."
Pomfrey grasped her arm, eyes narrowing. "Are you sure?"
"Yes - I think so."
"Where is he?"
"Snap out of it, Miss Granger! Where is Severus Snape?"
"In the Shrieking Shack."
The matron grimly set her shoulders. "That's in Hogsmeade. We haven't a moment to lose. If he is as you say, then he's in shock and stasis as a result of Nagini's venom."
Pomfrey efficiently surveyed the row of patients before grabbing the arm of a passing witch. It was Padma Patil. "You, Miss Patil, monitor Mr. Boot, and ask Mr. Goldstein to seal the wound on Mr. Macmillan's leg. I will return as soon as possible." She snapped her wrist in a familiar flick and swish. "Accio broomstick!"
Hermione's brain caught up with the situation. "No. Madam Pomfrey, you don't have to go to Hogsmeade to get to the Shack. There's—"
"The tunnel beneath the Whomping Willow has been sealed off."
"We opened it just now . . . before—" Conflicting responsibilities warred within Hermione, but with Harry off doing something and Ron in a huddle with his grieving family, she had to do what she could to help Professor Snape, if there was any chance he remained alive.
Too much about his conversation with Voldemort had been inexplicable; it had given her second and third thoughts about Snape's real allegiances. Remembering the earlier scene in the Great Hall, when the massed houses had elected to stay or stand, her thoughts swirled without much cohesion, yet settled on the fact that Hogwarts had been relatively safe for the students. Snape, who knew that some of the staff belonged to the Order of the Phoenix, had done nothing to reveal those anti-Death Eater loyalties.
At that moment, a Nimbus 2000 hurtled through the Great Hall and Hermione made her decision. "I'll take you there, Madam Pomfrey, but we must hurry. I haven't much time."
They straddled the broomstick, the matron in front. Wrapping one arm around Pomfrey's waist, Hermione rapped her wand hard on each of their heads to Disillusion them.
"What in Merlin's name?"
"There are still Death Eaters on the grounds," Hermione informed the older woman.
"Oh. I haven't been out of the castle," Pomfrey replied as she launched them into the air.
Their flight was wild; they dodged debris and straggling survivors making their way into the Great Hall.
Pomfrey didn't bother to go through the broken front doors of the castle, instead angling the broom through the wide, jagged hole in the stone wall itself – where it had been torn by the fist of a marauding giant.
Heart pounding, Hermione heard Pomfrey mutter a spell before calling out, "Hold tight, Miss Granger!"
The broom lurched and Hermione's head snapped back at the explosive burst of speed.
Scant seconds later they were at the Whomping Willow, its remaining limbs agitated and flailing. Hermione wasted no time in using Ron's earlier trick, levitating the same twig to the same knot on the tree's trunk.
It was dark in the tunnel, but the two women moved swiftly. Pomfrey hiking her cumbersome skirts up to her hips enabling her to crawl faster, bloodying her knees in the process.
The loamy smell of dirt filled Hermione's nostrils, tickling her senses; the clean scent lasting until she followed Pomfrey into the fusty, still dimly lit room of the Shrieking Shack. Snape was laid on the filthy floor, vacant black eyes staring at nothing, a jagged tear in his seemingly bloodless neck.
"Oh, Severus!" Poppy cried, dashing to the wizard's side, her wand flicking in a frenzy of motion.
A shimmer of the palest green extruded from the tip of her wand, extending to cocoon Snape's entire body, draping like cling film over him: pallid face, dirty hair, stained hands.
She crooned at the mortally injured wizard like a mother Ridgeback with one hatchling. "Could you not have been more careful, little man?"
Hermione cast several protection spells on the room before sinking to her knees at Snape's side, her hands hovering above him, wanting to help, but afraid to touch. In the deep recesses of her mind, where she'd come of age this past year, she wondered what exactly Poppy Pomfrey knew, or where her allegiance might lie. And then Hermione scoffed at her own suspicion.
"What can I do?" she finally asked, gripping her wand and listening – with that extra sense which had been honed after months on the run – for intruders.
Pomfrey's hand shot out imperiously. "A glass. I need a glass, girl."
Within seconds the former student had conjured one and placed it in the older witch's hands.
Hermione watched in sheer fascination as Pomfrey rummaged in a pocket within her robes. From the depth of her arm – Pomfrey was shoulder deep – Hermione correctly surmised the capacious pocket was similar to her own little beaded bag, and that the matron carried a number of remedies on her person at all times.
Withdrawing her hand, Pomfrey held two vials in her palm. The first, Hermione recognized as a Blood-Replenishing Potion, and the second, from its color, she thought had something to do with poisons.
Keen blue eyes noted her interest. "It's antivenin, Miss Granger. It's risky, but it's specifically formulated against that vile serpent of He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named."
"Oh? Oh! You mean . . ."
"I mean that creature has been known to strike without provocation." Pomfrey's hands flew, pouring and measuring ingredients into the small glass Hermione had conjured. "Severus did his best to keep the students out of harm's way whenever that filth was in the castle."
"Then Professor Snape isn't –" Hermione couldn't finish the question.
"A loyal Death Eater?" Pomfrey spared a glance at the younger woman before raising the blended concoction in the air, eyeing its murky consistency with a cool professional eye. "No. Indeed he is not. He had only two confidantes in the school. Two of us he trusted with his deepest secrets. Well, only two living. I'm honored to be one of them. Albus, of course was the other, but for years, the Bloody Baron has also known the truth about Severus' sacrifices."
Suddenly, Hermione cocked her head as if listening for something attempting to breach her enchantments. There was nothing. Yet.
"Here, Miss – Hermione – you'll have to help me. Raise him."
Hermione's eyes flew wide. "Lift him you mean?"
"Yes." Pomfrey's patience was thin. "Raise him up so I can get this potion into him."
Hermione slid forward, placing her hands on Snape's black-clad shoulders. Her hands slipped right through the green spell-field, an electrical hum of magic coating her skin. "Like this?"
"Higher. Brace him against yourself and angle his head back."
Awkwardly, Hermione tugged and pulled at his body – she refused to consider him dead weight – until he was practically cradled in her lap, his head lolling against the crook of her arm. She was startled to find his clothing wet, and involuntarily her eyes strayed to the ragged gap in his neck, her stomach churning.
Her hands were covered in his blood.
Hermione had seen some horrifying things over the past several months, but this was different. More personal.
A tingle of magic crept along her limbs until she and Snape were enveloped, limned by the pale green field, as if they were a single entity.
Pomfrey muttered, "It's not the answer, and I'm afraid he'll have to negotiate with the unicorns to purify his blood if this works. Where we'll find a . . . never mind."
Pomfrey's blue eyes met her inquiring gaze. "Yes. He'll need a virgin to intercede on his behalf. If this works."
Hermione nodded briefly. "When it's necessary, I'll help."
Then she cradled Snape's head as Pomfrey coaxed his mouth open. The mediwitch muttered an incantation in a language Hermione had never heard before, and the potion swirled into iridescent silver.
Instantly, Pomfrey poured the thick liquid into his mouth. Some of the potion spilled across his thin lips, running in a thread-like rivulet down his chin, over his jaw and into the jagged tear of flesh. Where the glowing liquid touched skin it was quickly absorbed, the wound sealing in the potion's wake.
Hermione was amazed anew at the power of directed magic.
Pomfrey's fingers worked on Snape's neck, coaxing the muscles to work, to urge the potion down his throat and into his stomach.
Torchlight flickered as the hum of magic increased in the room, and all the hair on Hermione's arms stood on end.
"Come on, Severus!" Pomfrey chanted. "Come on, little man. You said this would work. It's your own bloody potion!"
After what seemed an eternity, Hermione felt a change in the magical field surrounding her and she tightened her arms around her former professor. Tilting her head, several tendrils of her hair – catching the torchlight in a halo of burnished copper – framed her face and his.
Electric tension rippled through his muscles, and her breath caught in her throat.
Those depthless black eyes were no longer empty and staring; there was something – someone there. Hermione's heart raced, and unable to tear her eyes from his face as cognizance illuminated his expression, she watched in wonder as he slowly blinked, his eyes turning to hers.
A furrow appeared on his brow.
She was aware of Pomfrey casting further spells, casting a Patronus which she directed to Healer Pauling at St. Mungo's, but Hermione couldn't look away from Snape.
He swallowed, Adam's Apple bobbing. "L-l-lily?"
And there was the answer.
The answer to the one question Hermione had never dared ask, nor thought she would ever know. Gently, she murmured, "No, sir. It's Hermione Granger. But you will be all right."
He stared at her for a very long moment, then his eyes moved past her, finding Madam Pomfrey. The matron was openly crying while conjuring a stretcher, and Snape watched her briefly, his face impassive, then his eyes snapped back to his former student.
Hermione stared at him, unashamedly crying. It was as if she'd never seen this hawk-faced man before.
Once more her paradigm evolved; this time, to a world in which Severus Snape was not a coward, not a Death Eater, but just a man who had loved a woman and had spent most of his life attempting to expiate his sins.
Tightening her grip on him, Hermione bent her head, her eyes never leaving his, and whispered, "She would have been very proud of you. I promise to do whatever I can to help Harry finish this."
"All right, Miss Granger—" Poppy Pomfrey rose to her feet, levitating the stretcher, "—I'll wait until my friend arrives and we'll take Severus directly to St. Mungo's." She reached through the magical field to pat Snape's arm.
He turned his head toward her, something which clearly took great effort. He still wasn't speaking, but Pomfrey didn't seem disturbed by that fact. "We'll do our best to fix you up. Miss Granger has agreed to mediate with the unicorns if necessary, and I think your antivenin has done the trick."
Suddenly a tremor shook the dilapidated house.
Black eyes and blue stared at her.
They were near enough to the Forbidden Forest that when giants moved the earth shook beneath the Most Haunted House in All Britain.
"I must go," she said. "I think Harry's done something rash." What might have been a paroxysm rippled through Snape's chest, and Hermione cried out. "Professor? Are you all right?"
But it seemed that, despite everything, Snape had a bit of gallows humor, and as much as his weakened state would allow, he was laughing.
Pomfrey's wand glowed amber and then turned a deep green. "Don't do that again, Severus," she scolded.
"It . . . seems—" he paused for a breath, and the two witches hung on every fought-for word "—Granger . . . has a . . . gift . . . for . . . understatement."
Despite the urgency, Pomfrey chuckled and Hermione smiled at Snape. It was the first honest smile she'd ever given him, and his eyes seemed riveted to her mouth.
The house shook again, but it didn't halt the misty white form of an owl flying through the half-hanging, broken door. It hooted its message, "On our way with a team. I will find you. Be safe, Poppy."
"I must go," Hermione announced, and shifted beneath Snape. Surprisingly she hadn't minded holding him. One of his hands grasped her wrist feebly. She looked into his dark, fathomless eyes. "You know I have to. Harry needs help even if he doesn't think he does."
Snape closed his eyes in acknowledgment.
"Miss Granger, surely—" Pomfrey began to say.
"I have other obligations." With her free hand and a non-verbal spell, Hermione levitated Snape off her lap. The separation of the magical field between them was a sharp pain and Hermione sucked in air, blinking rapidly against the startling loss. She noticed Snape, too, blinking his eyes and his lips pinched as if in pain. Then, with great care, she moved him to the stretcher which the mediwitch directed beneath his body.
The shack shook once more, detritus falling from the cracks in the ceiling.
Hermione sprang to her feet, rubbing her prickling legs to get the feeling back in them. She cast a quick cleaning spell which only succeeded in removing some of the blood soaking into her clothing and skin.
Then, rounding the stretcher, she strode toward the door where she turned for a last look.
Snape and Pomfrey watched her, their expressions grave.
"I won't forget about the unicorns," Hermione said. "Be safe."
She squeezed back into the confining tunnel, anxious to find Harry and Ron, hopeful that the night might end the way it was meant to be.