She had lost her mind. She was going to Azkaban when they found her and that would be the end of it. The side-along Apperation had exhausted her so much that she fell to the floor beside her bleeding captive.
The ticking of an office clock and professor Snape's labored breathing were the only sounds that interrupted the silence. Hermione took a deep breath and pushed herself up; she needed to focus right away if she was going to help this man at all.
He lay flat on his back with his eyes shut tight, his fists knotted the cloth of his trousers and the muscles of his thin arms strained against the ropes that bound him. She glanced at the window and let out a small sigh of relief when she found the sky dark. The office would be empty for a few more hours at least.
"Sir, can you hear me?"
When he did not answer she grew concerned, taking a knee beside him.
"Please open your eyes if you can hear me," she asked softly, longing to touch him.
The lines around his eyes relaxed slightly and reveled a flash of white and iris.
"I am going to move you into this chair so that you are more comfortable. We are in my parent's dental office in London. The doctors who took over their practice will not be in until the morning."
Severus could not quite grasp what had just occurred. It was simply inconceivable that Granger would take him to a private location after he warned her of his very real and nearly uncontrollable desire to harm her. If the damn pain would release him for but a moment he could think clearly. His body tingled as she levitated him from the ground to an oddly reclined chair. It would shock no one that he had never entered a dental office in all his years.
Thought ran from his mind like water through a sieve as the searing agony swelled to a paralyzing crescendo. He could not cry out for his lungs had seized and he could not thrash as the ropes bound him tighter still. Granger was speaking to him, she sounded panicked. He needed to hear what she was saying but the blood was pounding so loudly in his ears. She only spoke so quickly when she was justifying a wrong-doing to herself.
He did not feel the sting of the needle entering his vein. He did, however, notice the tingling warmth that spread from his arm to his heart and up the back of his neck. The relief was so rapid and so unexpected that he sobbed in relief. His bones seemed to melt into his muscles and he sank into the gentle embrace of the chair.
"Severus! Please, please open your eyes!" Hermione cried desperately as she dropped the syringe on a tray. She had been calling him by his formal titles and nothing seemed to pull him to attention. His given name felt foreign on her tongue. His breathing slowed.
"Gra-ger, wha've you done," he slurred. The pain had moved into the background- along with his ability to speak properly it would seem.
"I had to give you something for the pain," she explained as she bustled about with bandaging the wounds on his neck.
Severus closed his eyes and floated on whatever medication laced his blood. His body felt oddly detached from his head and -were it not for his inability to think straight- could be quite enjoyable. He felt a small hand slide into his.
"Please leave this alone for a few minutes, alright? I am just going to the other side of the room to check some numbers," Granger said with obviously forced calm. He looked down at his hand and cocked his head to the side in wonder at the fabric bandage emitting a red light. A white wire trailed up his forearm and vanished beyond his peripheral vision to the tray beside his chair. He thought of turning his head, but the effort seemed laughable and this medication created such a warm haze to lie in. Sleep called to him softly and he gladly fell into the arms of Morpheus.
Hermione drummed her fingers as the office computer ran through its boot cycle. Her parents would be horrified to see her becoming a web-informed pseudo-doctor, but that was exactly what she had to do right now. Had it not been for the PDR she would have second guessed the dose of Codeine she administered. It was truly insane to use a narcotic on a man with magical snake venom in his system without medical training, but the rules had long flown out the window. She glanced at the pulse-ox as the webpage loaded and wished she could understand the numbers better. His pulse seemed alright at 82 beats per minute but the saturation level was lost on her at 96%.
The page finally loaded, showing her that while his O2 sats were not ideal, they were acceptable and she could breathe easy for a while. She scrubbed her hands over her eyes and took a deep breath. They could not stay here much longer, but where to go? Bill would be no help to them; this was not a curse he could break. She had no dwelling of her own to take him to and there was simply no way they could go to his home, had he one at all.
The sky outside was graying and her window of time was closing. There was nothing else for it; they would have to stay in a muggle hotel. How absurd, she thought to herself as she lifted the receiver to ring the local hotel. After requesting a corner room farthest from the lift and demanding that they check her in via phone, Hermione ended the call and set to collecting (it could not possibly be stealing, everything would be replaced as soon as possible) everything she could think they might need for his care.
Kingsley sat at his desk with the bridge of his nose pinched between thumb and pointer. Hermione and Snape had been missing nearly 72 hours and it was becoming very, very difficult to keep this from becoming public knowledge. His meeting with Harry prior to the hero's first interview post-war was tiring; the boy was decidedly not a boy any longer. He shared the memories Snape had bleed out under oath that none of the information would leave the office without Snape's consent. How in the bloody hell Potter expected him to pardon Snape, not just pardon but award him, without making the intricate details of the last two decades known to all was a mystery. Harry made it quite clear that he felt with the honor of being Minister for Magic carried the responsibility of making such things possible.
Now Snape had gone mad with Granger alongside him. They were off the map, unable to be followed. It was no surprise really; Snape and Hermione were two of the sharpest minds in Wizarding Britain. Snape was more stubborn than the definition of the word allowed, and Granger was formidable when she had a cause she believed in. A knock at the door shook him from his thoughts.
"Come in," he said with a sigh.
Bill Weasley glided through the doorway and took the first chair in front of Kingsley's remarkably modest desk for his title. Kingsley looked into his tired eyes and waited for the man to speak first. He ignored the twinge of emotion as he remembered this was a tactic Severus himself instilled in him.
"It is nothing I can help with, Minister. Late Possession is a thing of legend, a myth. I have read every text I can find on the phenomenon and cannot imagine a situation where I would be more unable to assist."
Kingsley was silent as he absorbed the news. He dragged a finger across his lower lip when Bill sat forward, resting his elbows on his knees.
"Kingsley, are you certain that he is acting against his own will? If you believe he could fool Voldemort, then why not all of us?"
The Minister was glad for a question he could finally answer.
"I am certain that he is dedicated to the Order. Well, perhaps not the Order itself but what it stands for. Have you, Bill, ever found Severus Snape to be a man of hope? His odds are long at best that he will remain out of prison and longer still that anyone would embrace him as a hero. He offered himself for slaughter when his affliction took hold. If the man were suicidal he would have been long dead."
Bill gave a slight nod and a sigh. Between calming his mother, mourning his younger brother and watching George waste away he could not feel any more spent. Fleur was amazing as always, rising to the occasion when needed. She was at the Burrow even now, cooking and cleaning and fussing about Mum.
"If it is Late Possession, we have to find them. He will tear Hermione to shreds. She is already weak as it is, Kingsley. Did you know she was tortured at the Malfoy Mansion?"
Kingsley had caught wind of the incident. It was minor when compared to the teetering stack of incidents he had to deal with, piled high upon his desk. They were all weak, they were all exhausted.
"Have you ever known Mr. Potter to fail at anything he sets his mind to? They will be found," Kingsley answered as Bill rose to leave, giving a soft chuckle just before the door snicked closed behind him.
Keeping him sedated was far from solving the problem, and the sedative was running low. Hermione sighed and closed the tome she had poured over the last four hours. Every book in her bag was worthless for the information she so desperately needed. Her eyes burned and she dug the heels of her hands into them.
She nearly died when the alarm clock sounded. She twirled towards the noise and her chair went flying.
Snape was awake now, staring at her with raised brow. She lowered her wand and covered her face with her free hand.
"Sorry, bit jumpy. How are you feeling?"
The brow lowered as he looked away. His bandages would need changing again she noted as his neck exposed itself. He wore not but black fleece trousers and (presumably) the same pants from St. Mungos. She could not stand to leave him bound when they arrived in the room that first day, so she set a magical ward around the bed that restricted him so that he could sit up comfortably and lay down, but he could not get completely up without her. It had yet to bother him, as he was only awake for twenty or so minutes at a time.
"How long have we been here, Granger?"
She winced at the roughness of his voice.
"Three days now, Sir. Are you hungry? Can I get you anything?"
He turned then to look at her with glassy eyes.
"What is it that you intend to do here, Granger? Are you at last rejecting the knowledge of all the books you read? Death is the only cure for this affliction and you damn well know it by now!" His shout turned to forceful coughing. She wanted to touch him but thought better of it. Instead she conjured a glass of water and brought it to him, waiting at his side until his breathing eased. He waved the glass away and struggled to push himself up. His hair fell forward in sheets and obstructed his face from her as he sat. She looked at his pale hands trembling on his lap and reached for him.
"Get BACK you foolish…" he growled as he pulled away from her, hissing with pain and anger.
Hermione lost her footing as she backed away and hit the night table beside the bed. She yelped and turned away, making for the loo as quickly as possible. When the door slammed shut behind her she closed her eyes and tipped her head back, breathing deep. What in Merlin's arse had she been thinking? Lack of sleep and proper meals was making her sloppy, which put them both in danger. The man was cursed to rend her limb from limb and she tried to fluff his pillows.
She remembered when she was the one talking others out of imbecilic ideas like this, how funny she could not apply that logic to her own situation.
Guilt overwhelmed her, smothering her composure. She was helpless to the tears that spilled down her cheeks as she slid down the door. The ground was cool beneath her as she wrapped her arms around her stomach. The first sob was so deep it physically hurt to loose; the ones that followed left her dizzy and light headed. What had she done?
Author's Notes: Okay you guys, I am very sorry that it took MONTHS to get this to you. RL got in the way big time. I still promise not to abandon this one, I just don't know how long it will take me to finish. I am so happy to get reviews from you all even after so long, thank you so much for your support! I am very glad you are enjoying the story.