Hermione watched in silent horror as long, pale fingers grappled with the serpent's impossible girth. These were hands made for the creation of flawless potions, the brilliant manipulation of wand and spell; these were the hands of a Master. Her mind refused the image her eyes brought it. How could Severus Snape be going to his knees in this vile shack? Was this not the wizard who bested the great Albus Dumbledore? If he was to fall, it should be at wand point in duel, not this barbaric display of physical violence.
Time slowed as Voldemort and the snake left the black-clad Headmaster on his knees, growing more ashen by the minute. Ron and Harry faded away as her vision tunneled and her ears rang. He was going to die. This was not right; there was no justice in this death. He should stand trial, account for the life he stole from Dumbledore.
Harry moved around the crate concealing them and she found herself following without thought. Ron's shoulder brushed against hers and she reached out suddenly and clutched his sleeve as Snape swayed and crashed to the floor. Harry drew closer to Snape as he trembled in the steadily growing pool of his own blood. Hermione felt her stomach lurch.
Suddenly Snape reached out, grabbing Harry by the collar and dragging the unlikely savior of the world to the floor with him. Blood bubbled up his throat and leaked from the corners of his mouth; it ran in tear-like tracks from his eyes and pooled in his ears. She stood frozen with horror. Only when the blue wisps began to flow with the rivers of red was she able to step into action.
"Take...it...take...it," Snape whispered.
Hermione conjured a flask and pressed it to Harry's icy palm. How they managed to collect all of it would forever be lost to her when she tried to recall the moment. When the memories stopped flowing, Snape stopped trembling. She nearly touched him before he drew a shuddering, wet breath.
"Look...at...me," he gasped, looking into Harry's eyes, who could do nothing but comply.
She watched as his grip loosened from the fabric of Harry's clothes and finally released completely. Harry would later describe watching the light fade from his eyes.
"We have to go."
Ron's voice startled her. Harry got to his feet with the bloody vial clasped tightly in his shaking hands. The war gave no pause for death and the lot of them had to move on.
Harry took the cup and ran with Ron close on his heals. Hermione, still numb with shock, moved to follow them until her trainer squelched in the clotting blood. They were well ahead of her now, and failed to notice as she stopped, physically unable to move forward. The biting tang of blood flooded her senses and made the room spin. Her knees went to jelly. Slowly she sank to the filthy ground beside Snape. His blood was still warm as it soaked through her jeans.
Had he ever thought a snake bite would be the death of him, the Head of Slytherin? The irony was so crass. He had died slowly in agony. Why had he not asked for help when he saw them? He only wanted Harry to see…something…from his memory. The act was desperate; how much effort must it have taken to produce them in such a manner? Why would this man request that Harry Potter look at him with his dying breath? There was no curse, no snide or cutting remark, there was no malice toward Harry at all. He was loyal to Voldemort; if he had enough strength to loose those memories then surely he had enough to strike out at Harry. None of this added up. She felt a renewed burst of anger for Dumbledore. He was a brilliant wizard, but he left them in a state of chaos with no direction, only this eternal second and third guessing.
Snape was an enigma, the one part of the puzzle that was always in flux. She found herself gently running her hand up his back. He was still warm. He drew breath only moments before and now he lay here, dead. Her fingers stilled just below the collar of his robes- just below the jagged and weeping wound.
Could she still see the faintest of pulsing in that trickle of blood? She shifted closer to get a proper look and silence the foolish hope stirring within her. She should move on with Ron who was no doubt wondering where the hell she was now, but Merlin if the wound was not still pulsing ever so faintly. He was alive in the loosest sense of the word. Adrenalin spiked across her belly as she moved closer.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry..." she whispered as she rolled him onto his back. Something had to be done, but what?
"Hermione you are an idiot, a bloody idiot," she lamented, shaking her head as she summoned his healing potions and bandaging. She could not feel a pulse; perhaps her eyes had tricked her. She had to be sure though, so she pressed her ear to his chest and held her breath.
His heart gave a stuttered lub-dub and she flew into action. Her fingers laced and pressed just above the base of his sternum. Who would have thought her parents insistence that she learn muggle CPR might save a wizard of all things? His heart was obviously giving a small effort, but she knew it was not enough to move any of the blood still in his arteries to his brain.
"OUCH!" Hermione cried in frustration as Snape's potion kit smacked into the back of her head.
It clattered to the floorboards behind her along with a ridiculous amount of bandaging supplies. She continued her cycle of compressions and leaned back, shoulders screaming from the physical effort, and grabbed for the first vial that looked like a blood replenisher.
"How do I get this down your throat?" she said as she tipped his head forward slightly and brought the potion to his lips. There was so much blood, so much! She figured herself a bit round the bend after all the recent trauma and death, which could be the only explanation for her illogical reasons to save this man who until only a few minutes ago she believed to be a cold-blooded turncoat, a murderer.
When the last drop left the bottle she tossed it aside and resumed chest compressions. After the tenth compression, blood began to pulse from his neck in earnest. She stopped and fumbled through the bandaging, leaving bloody trails over the crisp, clean linens that she tossed aside. Finding one that looked to be the right size, she whispered "Occludis" and watched the wax-like film spread from her wand tip over the cloth. When she was satisfied the bandage would not breathe, she pressed it over the angry, ripped flesh of his neck, adhering it to the healthy skin around the wound.
"Please work, please work. Come on," Hermione cried as she pressed rhythmically over his heart.
She could not be sure, but it looked as though some color was visible in his cheeks. When her count hit thirty, she let off and tipped his head back again, sending a prayer that she could do this right, and leaned over the mouth that had done nothing but utter the harshest of criticisms in a sinfully beautiful baritone. She pinched his nose, drew a deep breath, and sealed her lips over his. She watched his chest as she exhaled, willing life into his body, and felt a hot tear slide down her cheek as his chest rose. The breath was in! Adrenalin rushed anew as hope revived itself. She broke contact with him after another successful breath and grabbed another blood-replenisher.
"Come on, come back, come back..."
Her back and shoulders screamed in protest as she worked round after round, cycle after cycle trying to save him. Driven by a force she could not name, could not control, she would not relent. The bloody pool was sticky by now, the coagulant finally doing its job despite the venom from the damned snake...
"The venom," Hermione cried.
She abruptly stopped and looked for anything that would work as anti-venom. She read about the uses of some potions for this, but she did not dare hazard a guess, not after he had been down so long; after so much blood had left him that muggles would have never tried to revive him.
She dug through his bag, willing the deep leather casings to give up their secrets. She was so tired, so very tired and coming across nothing that would help. She cried out in frustration and wiped a bloody hand across her face. A single beazor rolled from the pouch. She snatched it up and shoved it in Snape's mouth, hoping this last effort would work. She waited for what seemed an age, watching for any sign of life.
She had failed.
It really shouldn't have surprised her, not after the man had shed nearly every drop of his blood. All she could do now was hope she had not contributed to his pain.
She almost fainted from fright as Ron's voice echoed off the dusty walls of the shack. He would be angry with her for frightening him, as he well should be. If he had left her side without warning during this battle she would have killed him herself. His shock of red hair came around the corner before she could call to him, and as his eyes found her he froze in place. She was soaked with sweat and liberally covered in Snape's blood, her hair disheveled and bright tear tracks cut through the grime on her cheeks.
"Love, what are you doing?" he asked in the kindest voice Hermione had ever heard him use. He was at her side in a heartbeat, pulling her close.
"He was already gone Hermione, it was far too late for us to help him." She nodded as she buried her head in his chest, breathing in his scent. They were still for a moment, until the sound of something hitting the ground jerked them apart. Ron almost knocked Hermione over as he drew his wand, but she already identified the source. Her pathetic attempt to feed Snape the beazor had failed so completely that the damned thing fell from his still-bleeding mouth. A violent crash nearby startled her to her feet.
"Please, Ron, go help Harry! I will be there in a moment, but I have to hide his body. Please don't look at me like that! I can't stand for them to get him. Please, Ron go!"
Ron gave her a look that clearly communicated what he felt about leaving her, but another crash put his feet into motion as he shouted for her to be careful. He was gone in an instant leaving Hermione with the body. She closed her eyes to collect herself before reaching down to close his eyes the fraction they were open. Just as her fingers brushed against the lids, Snape drew in a ragged, agonal breath and Hermione stumbled backwards in shock.
She got to her knees and crawled to his side, disbelieving as he drew yet another breath. Tears began to slide from the corners of his eyes into his matted hairline and his face contorted with pain. She startled as his hand reached feebly into the air, reaching for something she could not see.
"L...Lily...s...so...s...sorry..." he sobbed, sobbed she thought to herself as she caught his hand. His eyes shot open and pierced her with a look of such longing it took her breath away. Understanding slammed into her with blinding force; the shouted lessons to Harry the night Dumbledore died, the memories, "look at me…" with your mother's eyes…
He was hyperventilating, drawing quick, shallow breaths that gurgled and rattled deep in his chest. She immediately shifted to sit by his shoulders, lifting him up and propping him over her thigh so that his head lay in the crook of her arm. Her stomach turned as blood that had soaked his hair ran down and dripped from her elbow. He was trembling so violently that the sound of his boots scraping across the floorboards overpowered his labored breathing. What had she done? He had died this death once. She could not bear the thought of causing him to suffer it again for naught.
"Hold on professor, hold on. Try and slow your breathing down. Breathe with me, breathe with me," she instructed in as calm a voice as she could muster. She began to breathe loud and deep, willing him to calm down and follow her lead. She knew he must be in absolute agony from his wounds and fervently wished she could ease his pain, though she dared not give him anything at this volatile point in his struggle for life. This, and a warming charm were all she could do for him.
"L...Lily?" he breathed, reaching for her arm and clutching her wrist in his icy hand. He was calling for Harry's mother. He was calling for a woman who married the primary tormenter in his young life, the man who almost killed him as a boy.
The maddening injustice of it all closed her chest in a vice, she found herself rocking ever-so-slightly and smoothing his matted hair along his hairline. Never, in any lifetime, in any number of years would she have believed she would ever be clinging to Snape, rocking him while trying to soothe away the pain he felt. If he needed her to be Lily Evans right now, she would not speak, she would not rob him of his comfort.
He could not stay here much longer, it was a miracle that he was alive even now and there was no guarantee that he would stay in his body. Hermione drew her wand and summoned her patronous, whispering instructions to find Madam Pomfery. The silvery otter wriggled and sped away through the walls of the shack. A groan of pain drew her attention back to the sharp face of the professor, who was now staring at her with mixed apprehension and confusion.
"G-Grang..." he rasped with each exhalation. Hermione nodded, wanting to spare him the effort. "Yes, Granger, Sir. I just sent for Madam Pomfery. I am sorry you are in pain, I am afraid to give you anything for it just now, you have lost an amazing amount of blood."
Pain clouded his eyes as he clutched her wrist harder. "Potter?" he rasped. She nodded and answered gently, "He has the memories; he got them. Ron is with him now, helping him. Please save your strength, Poppy should be here very, very soon."
He was going to answer, but his body shuddered and spasmed, tearing a cry from his throat as raw and wounded as an animal. She abandoned his hair and placed her free hand over his heart, applying the most gentle and yet detectable pressure there, grounding him. She continued to breathe deeply and audibly as a pacer for him. She doubted he even realized it, but he turned his face toward her stomach and clung now to the fabric of her shoulder.
"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry I know it hurts, I'm so sorry," she whispered.
His trembling nearly toppled her over as exhaustion set deep in her bones. She sobbed in relief when Madam Pomfery appeared, confused and worried. She did not say a word as she took in the scene of Hermione Granger and Severus Snape in a pool of blood. Hermione quickly informed the mediwitch of his situation and her treatments as she allowed the weight of him to be levitated off of her. She rose shakily to her feet as Snape was lowered onto the stretcher, still clutching her sleeve. As gently as she could, she prized his fingers away from her clothes but held fast to his pale hand. She leaned over his shaking form and whispered to him, laying his hand over his stomach, "I do not know the details, professor Snape, but I do know you are not what you seem. Stay with us, professor, stay with us," and with that, she turned away from him and entered the tunnel, ready to rejoin the fray.
Author's notes: Quotes in italics spoken by Snape are the work of JK Rowling. No infringement is intended, no money is being made.