Chapter Eighteen

Severus caught up with her, walking stiffly for several moments before he spoke.

"You and Blaise are…" he trailed off.

"Friends," Hermione said, sensing the anger in his voice. She told him the story of the fake Blaise on Christmas Eve, how he turned out to be Lucius, and of the real Blaise she found in the cage. "I killed his father with a rusty bar," she finished quietly.

Severus couldn't think of anything to say but, "I'm sorry." He couldn't imagine what that did to her; she wasn't the type to kill people and take it lightly.

"He deserved it," she spat.

Severus stared at her. Her golden eyes were much harder than they had been. Her white hair was streaked with dirt, what had she been doing?

"What did they do to you?" he asked gently. He saw her lips tremble for a second.

She suddenly wished Blaise were back. He already knew what they'd done to her. Telling Severus seemed much harder than telling Blaise.

"How many times did they take your blood?" he asked.

"Twice," she said. "Once by Lucius and the other by Voldemort."

Severus grimaced; the Dark Lord had touched her.

"There's something you should know," she continued. She told him about Emily's husband and where he had been living. Unsure if she should or not, Hermione went on to tell him why Emily hadn't left with Will.

Severus was silent for the remainder of the walk.

"The cottage is here somewhere," Hermione said. "Can you find it, Severus?"

He stepped forward, waving his wand. Hermione glanced at the sky.

"It will be morning soon. We've got to hurry," she breathed. The cottage revealed itself and Hermione hurried inside.

"No!" she gasped. Will was lying on his cot, looking like he was having a pleasant dream, but Hermione knew he was dead. Severus stared at him, too, seeming to pay quick homage.

"It's… through there," Hermione pointed, blinking back tears. Severus helped her into the tunnel with Harry right behind them. "He was holding on long enough to help me, I think."

"I think you're right," Severus said quietly. Hermione returned to the blackness of the tunnel and wondered how Blaise was doing.

They crawled quickly. Hermione was afraid they wouldn't get back on time. She explained to Harry and Severus that Lucius was to get her in the morning and take her to Voldemort. She didn't answer when they asked her why. The three of them devised a plan as they hurried back to her room.

She listened before lifting up the boards and the three of them squeezed out.

"Quick, clean me up," she told Severus, who waved his wand while Harry rushed into the bathroom to turn on the bath water. He reappeared and pulled out his Invisibility Cloak. The dirt and mud disappeared from her body while Severus finished his magic over her. She looked over her shoulder to see the sun coming up outside her window.

"Beside the door," Snape said. He elongated the Cloak to cover him and Harry. They gave Hermione one last look of encouragement before disappearing. She sat on the chest again, her breath loud in her ears.

The door opened, revealing Lucius, who walked in to meet her.

"Where's Blaise?" he asked.

"In the bath," Hermione said quietly. Harry and Severus would be slipping into the hallway now and waiting for them to lead the way. Lucius glanced toward the bathroom and heard the water running.

"You didn't take my advice then?" he asked. Hermione shook her head.

"I couldn't," she murmured. Lucius stared at her and motioned for her to follow.

"You should have," he said. They walked down the hallway. Lucius was moving rather slowly, and Hermione was glad she couldn't hear Severus and Harry behind her.

"How long will this take?" she asked. She realized she wasn't acting as scared as she should be.

"A few hours," Lucius said lowly. "He likes to draw it out usually."

"Merlin," Hermione shuddered. She didn't have to fake the shudder when thinking about sex with Voldemort.

"I could still help you," Lucius said. He continued to walk slowly and glanced at her. She pretended to think about it.

"Why do you want to help me?" she asked. "Besides the obvious benefit you get?"

Lucius hesitated.

"When you said there was some good in me, you were right," he said. "You haven't seen Draco because I've been hiding my family. I'm slowly making plans for escape. I can see what the Dark Lord is coming to."

"But your wife—"

"Neither of us is very faithful," he smirked and then became serious again. "I'm trying to help… Hermione."

"I can't, I'm sorry," Hermione shook her head. "I don't love you and I didn't love Blaise like that either. I just… can't."

"It's Severus."

Hermione had to resist nearly jumping out of her skin; she thought they'd been seen. Lucius was referring to whom she loved.

"It is," she breathed. They reached the door.

"Severus isn't coming," he said seriously to her. When she didn't reply, he sighed and opened the door. They both walked in and Hermione hoped Harry and Severus had been able to squeeze in, too.

"Milord," Lucius kneeled. Hermione stared at the floor.

"You may leave, Lucius," Voldemort said. Hermione heard the door shut behind her. "Hello, eluvia, I hope you haven't brought any more dinner knives?" he hissed.

She rolled her eyes toward the ceiling and he chuckled.

"I'd almost forgotten how you liked me," he smirked and changed into his human form. Hermione felt the tension change again and closed her eyes. She didn't want to fall under his spell again.

She jumped when his hands touched her waist.

"I had something to do last night; I hope you didn't miss me?" he said. "Just in case you misbehaved, I brought in a new batch of Muggle children."

Hermione growled in her throat, her eyes still shut.

"You don't believe me? We could go down there now and see them, although I may need to compensate for your lack of trust."

"No," she said quickly. "I believe you."

"Look at me."

She bit her lip and refused.

"You get this one warning. Each time you disobey, I kill one child. Look… at… me…" he hissed.

Hermione opened her eyes and fell into his dark stare immediately. He smiled.

"Good," he murmured and lowered his head to kiss her.

There was a loud cracking noise in front of Hermione's face that snapped her out of Voldemort's spell. Severus had jumped out from under the Invisibility Cloak and pummeled Voldemort right in the mouth.

The Dark Lord fell back and shrieked, pawing for his wand. Harry was already on him, brandishing the Gryffindor sword.

"Well done, Harry," Hermione said in a daze, glad he had thought to bring a weapon.

"Come out of it, Hermione!" Severus shouted at her. He then shoved her out of the way of a spell Voldemort had cast. "Stay out there!" he said, pushing her out the door.

Hermione stumbled directly into Lucius in the hallway, who stared down at her and then looked at the door. He made to go in, but Hermione grabbed his robe.

"You don't want to do that. They're all immune to curses and you aren't. You'll drop like a fly," she said flatly, staring at the door, too.

"Who else is in there?" Lucius asked.

"Severus and Harry. They came back with me. Blaise and I escaped through the floor last night and ran into them. Blaise took Ron to the hospital," Hermione said robotically.

"Ron Weas—" Lucius shook his head and decided to ask a different question. There were quite a lot of them. "How are they immune?"

"I gave Harry and Ron some blood months ago. Ron was hurt so Severus took his share instead. Harry's got a sword in there," she smirked. She still felt a little hazy from Voldemort's hypnosis.

"I should help," Lucius said.

"Which side?" Hermione asked. They heard a loud explosion behind the door. She and Lucius stared at each other. "This is your chance to go, Lucius. Harry's going to win. If you don't want to be put in Azkaban, you'd better get your family and hide," she said.

Lucius thought about it and turned from the door.

"Goodbye," the eluvia said gently. Lucius smiled at her quickly before running out of sight.

Hermione turned back to the door, feeling tired. It had been a long time since she slept and healing Severus was finally beginning to take some energy out of her. She raised her chin, though, and pushed open the door.

Harry shoved the blade into Voldemort's chest, who jerked with spasms. Severus was in the far corner, holding his side. Hermione went to him first to heal his ribs. She felt a lot of warmth leave her body.

Voldemort was no longer moving, collapsed on the floor in his own blood. Harry continued to repeatedly stab him in the chest.

"Potter, stop," Severus said.

"Harry," Hermione called softly. Harry sunk the blade into Voldemort's chest one more time before looking at Hermione and pulling his hands away. "He's gone, Harry. Forever."

Harry moved toward Hermione, who noticed that he was badly injured. She caught him as he fell and they both finally blacked out together.

"Hello," someone said as she opened her eyes. Blaise grinned down at her.

"Hi," she replied, looking around slowly. "Am I at St. Mungo's?"

"No, Hogwarts," Blaise replied and gave her some water. "Snape tried to stay with you in St. Mungo's. The nurse said he couldn't because, even though he was covered in his own blood, there wasn't anything wrong with him."

"I wonder why," Hermione smiled. Blaise laughed.

"So he demanded you be brought here so he didn't have to leave you. He does, however, seem to sleep after so long," Blaise said, jerking his head to the side.

Hermione rolled her head to the side to see Severus sleeping on the cot next to her. She giggled.

"How long have I been out?" she asked.

"Four days. This is the first time he's slept."

"How're Harry and Ron?"

"Perfectly fine. They're at St. Mungo's."

"And you?"

"I'm at peace for the first time in my life," he said quietly.

"Good," Hermione smiled.

Severus groaned a little; the cot didn't seem to agree with his back and he opened his eyes. Hermione stared back at him from her bed. Blaise cleared his throat and left quickly, not wanting to be in the middle of the two when they starting professing their love.

Severus went to her side and took the seat Blaise had been occupying.

"Hello," she said.

"How are you feeling?" he asked. Hermione shrugged.

"A little tired but otherwise healthy."

"I ran out of the antidote the time I mailed it to you," he explained.

"That's okay… What's wrong?"

"I didn't realize what the Dark Lord wanted with you, Hermione. I'm sorry for sending you back in there," he said roughly.

Hermione shrugged again like it was nothing. Severus noticed her eyes hardening again as she stared at the ceiling.

He snarled and snatched her up, blankets and all, and carried her out the door despite Madame Pomfrey's shouts. Hermione was silent as he carried her to his rooms, students staring as he stormed past, and locked the door behind them.

"There, we're alone," he huffed, setting her on the bed.

Hermione pursed her lips and clenched her fists.

"Stop acting so tough, Hermione! Everything's over with and you can tell me about it. I need to know," he urged. Severus was pained by her silence. He knew it'd be better if she let it go. "Say you killed someone and mean it," he told her, taking her by the shoulders and shaking her.

Her face crumbled. He almost had the real Hermione back.

"Say it!" he shouted.

"I killed him!" she screamed back at him, tears already falling down her cheeks. "I killed the little boy, too! It's my fault he died!"

Severus slid onto the bed and let Hermione crawl into his lap, wrapped in blankets and crying into his shoulder.

Hermione felt like something broke inside her. Severus had known it was there, but she didn't. She told him every detail, from beginning to end. She told about Hugh's pointy teeth and Blaise's bite marks. She admitted that she didn't know if Hugh actually deserved to die or not; she said she didn't feel as if it were her right to decide. She cried the most over the little boy that died. She told him about Voldemort's cold hands and the Hellhound she killed and how she helped the Death Eaters' morale. She shivered when talking about Voldemort changing to human form with his hypnotizing eyes and how he kissed her. Hermione told Severus that Lucius had offered to take her virginity gently. She, in return, told Lucius to hide because the Dark Lord was falling.

Severus, who had his arms wrapped snugly around her, smiled a little.

"Your wand was mailed back to Hogwarts," he said, "by an anonymous sender."

Hermione laughed a little through her tears.

"You think Lucius sent it?" Hermione asked.

"I'm sure of it," he replied. She grew quiet again. "Is that everything?" he pressed on, thinking there was something worse she was going to confess.

"I was waiting for you," she said timidly, looking up at him with her golden eyes. They were open and gentle again, not hardened like they were before.

"Then got impatient and broke yourself out. Some rescuer I am," he smirked.

"No," she said, blushing, "that's not what I meant. I wouldn't have given it away to anyone else, even under those circumstances."

"Ah," Severus said in realization. He was suddenly painfully aware of her straddling his lap. He wiped her tears away with the blankets then, his hands moving slowly and her eyes following their progress, he slipped his fingers under her hospital gown to pull it over her head. Hermione lifted her arms and Severus found her completely bare under the nightshirt.

She kissed him before he could look as long as he wanted to, but his hands did the looking for him. She shook under his wandering touch and pushed him back on the bed to kiss him more deeply. He helped her remove his clothes, steadying her shaking hands, and rolled them over so he could look down at her.

The eluvia, her white curls splayed around her olive skin and golden eyes watching him lovingly, reached up to him. Severus suddenly found himself thanking whatever higher force that gave her to him.

"I think I love you," he said quietly, awareness dawning on his expression.

Hermione smiled, because she already knew that.

"I love you, too."

Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter, but I do own eluvian!

Done! I really hoped you enjoyed it! :) I may disappear again for a while to polish off other unfinished fics I have on here. Don't worry, I'll be back. Thank you so much for reading! PLEASE review and let me know what you thought of the entire story, because I'd love to hear it.

You guys rock. :D