Disclaimer: Not mine. I just like to borrow them and play with them.
Author's Note: This story is set between Chapters 9 and 10 of Deathly Hallows, on the first night Harry, Ron and Hermione are back at Grimmauld Place. Spoilers for DH… obviously.
In Your Memories
Grimmauld Place was silent and cold, and Hermione's footsteps echoed in the empty hallway as she paced its dusty length. The third time she passed the drawing room door, she pulled out her wand and whispered a charm to muffle the noise; Harry and Ron were in there, where they had set up a makeshift camp for the night. Her two friends had fallen asleep almost immediately, exhausted physically and mentally by the events of the day. From the joy and celebration of the wedding to the horror of their close call with Death Eaters, it had been a day of emotional extremes at both ends of the scale.
Hermione couldn't sleep, though. Her mind was filled with a roiling tangle of thoughts and worries… concern for her friends, fear for what would become of them now the Ministry had fallen into Voldemort's grasp. If their task – Harry's task – had been difficult before, it was infinitely tougher now.
She feared desperately for all their lives.
Walking through the former Headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix, she drew in slow, deep breaths of musty air. She needed this time, away from everything and everyone, to clear her head and maintain her sanity.
Reaching the stairs at the end of the hallway, Hermione paused and considered her options. Downstairs was the kitchen, the dark hallway with Mrs Black's portrait waiting to shriek at any visitor she deemed unworthy of entering the house, and then there was… the curse. Hermione shuddered as she remembered the terrifying, ghoulish likeness of Dumbledore that had set upon them as they entered the house earlier that day.
Decision made, for she didn't want to invoke that vision again if she could avoid it, she headed upstairs instead. On the next landing, the doors led to the bedroom she and Ginny had shared the summer before, and the one next door that had been Harry's and Ron's. How things changed in only a year…
True, a year ago they had already been at war, as they were now… but despite Sirius' untimely death, there had been so much more hope in everyone. Dumbledore's death had been a terrible blow, not only to the strategic war effort, but to the morale of all who had known him. And the betrayal of one of their own had been the cruellest turn of fate.
Hermione shook her head, wondering for the umpteenth time how she could have been so wrong about Snape… They had all been mistaken, of course… duped, tricked, manipulated. But Hermione hated herself for all the times she had defended him when her friends had seemed too harsh. How could any of them have been so blind?
Continuing on up to the next level, she found herself on the narrow landing with only two doors, each labelled with a name. On her left, the door bore a stern warning against entering without Regulus Black's permission. On the right, the faded nameplate simply said, Sirius.
Harry had refused to enter the room after his godfather's death, the memory and the guilt far too painful as it were without being confronted with more reminders of the man.
Having not known him as well, though, for Hermione the memories were not as painful, and her curiosity got the better of her. Silently, she turned the handle and pushed open the door.
The room was darker than the hallway outside, and it took a moment for her eyes to adjust. When they did, however, she realised she was not alone.
Kneeling on the floor between the bed and a tall wooden chest of drawers was a man, hooded and cloaked in black.
Inexplicably, her entrance hadn't alerted him to her presence, but her sharp intake of breath upon laying eyes upon him gave her away.
He moved with a speed Hermione hadn't thought was possible, and suddenly she found herself shoved roughly up against the back of the door as the solid wood slammed closed, her wand flying from her fingers. She tried to cry out, but her throat constricted as though an unseen hand was squeezing it. Trying to push back and give herself room to fight him, she grappled at the intruder's face, pushing the cloak aside and clawing at his eyes.
With a snarl of anger, he grabbed the front of her robes, and Hermione found herself bodily dragged across the room and thrown onto the bed, half-choking on the stale, dusty coverlet as a hand on the back of her head forced her face into the mattress. She lashed out with her foot, hearing a dull crack and a grunt of pain as she made contact with bone, but then the intruder's body was pressing against her, pinning her in place. His other hand somehow managed to catch her flaying ones, pinning them behind her back at a painful angle.
Through her wild yet futile struggling, she realised her captor was speaking to her in a low, rough voice.
"Stop! Stop struggling, you stupid girl. I won't harm you."
But her terror was renewed a hundredfold as she suddenly recognised the voice of Severus Snape in her ear. How had he gotten in here? How had he gotten past the trap at the front door? Had he been here since before she, Harry and Ron had arrived… but how had he avoided her Revealing Charm?
She struggled for a while longer, oblivious to his demands for her to cease; she began to tire, though, and her arms were aching painfully, bent behind her back as they were. Abruptly, she ceased to fight him, letting herself go limp in his bruising hold. If he let down his guard, was there a chance she could escape?
He held her in place for a moment, wary of a trap, but then finally released his grasp on her hands and head.
"Right," he said. "Now perhaps we might manage a civil conv–"
The instant Hermione felt him step away, Hermione kicked one foot backwards as hard as she could; she missed the intended target, but caught him in the stomach, and he fell to his knees, doubling over in pain. Now she saw her chance to escape, and she leapt towards the door.
No sooner than she put her hand on the doorknob, though, she found herself tearing it away, tears smarting in her eyes at the sudden, stinging pain in her palm. The orange glow faded from the doorknob, but she had no idea what the spell was, nor how to lift it.
She heard Snape getting to his feet across the room, and she realised she was well and truly trapped. The room suddenly brightened, though he hadn't uttered a word aloud, and turning fearfully, Hermione stared into the fierce, dark eyes of Dumbledore's murderer; his wand was pointed unwaveringly at her.
It was useless shouting for Harry and Ron… she knew by now the door would have a locking charm, silencing charm and who knew how many other protections cast upon it… she was trapped.
As he advanced on her, she shrank back against the door in terror.
"Hold out your hand," he said, looming over. He was breathing quickly through his nose, and his eyes were bloodshot and red-rimmed. The lank, black hair framing his face was longer than she remembered, and if his face had been pale before, it was ghostly now. Hermione had the fleeting thought that he looked more like the vampire students had once thought him to be than he ever had at school.
When she didn't react, he repeated his request, gesturing to the burned hand she was clutching against her and adding in a flat tone, "It's your choice, but it will be worse if you leave it be."
Confused, now, as well as frightened, Hermione extended her hand, palm up; the skin was an angry red and already starting to blister. She flinched when the tip of his wand touched her fingers, and his eyes flickered up from their focus on her hand to meet her own for a moment; his expression was closed.
Returning his attention to her hand, he murmured a quiet incantation that sent a cool, blue wisp of magic curling between Hermione's fingers and across her injured palm. When the magic faded, her hand was healed and free of pain.
Snape lowered his wand and stepped away from her, bending to retrieve her wand from where it had landed when he had knocked it out of her hand. Hermione drew a sharp breath as he spun back to face her again, but he simply held the wand out to her, handle first.
She stared at him in bewilderment, her mind a conflicting jumble of fear, hatred and now… now, she had no idea what to think. He had her locked in this room, and yet he had healed her hand. He had almost choked her and wrenched her arms out of their sockets, and yet he was handing her back her wand. Was he just trying to get her to lower her guard, trying to catch her off balance so he could make his escape… or worse, overpower her again and take her with him?
She stared at him, eyes narrowed in contemplation. Yes, that must be what he planned to do – play nicely until she began to doubt her own opinion of him, bide his time until he was ready to strike. Had he not done that with others in the past? For years, Albus Dumbledore had trusted him…
As though he could sense her conflict, he set both his wand and hers on the small table beside the door, next to where she stood, and moved across the room away from her. When he reached the tall chest of drawers beside the bed, he turned and leant against it, folding his arms in front of him as he regarded her from a distance.
Who was this man?
"Perhaps, if you'd come away from the door, we might manage that civilised conversation I mentioned earlier," he said at length. At her wary glare, he added, "Whatever you may think, I can assure you that you have nothing to fear from me. You're safe here."
"Safe?" she exclaimed, even more certain now he was playing her for a fool. "Like Dumbledore was safe from you? That kind of safe?"
He closed the distance between them again in an instant, taking her shoulders in a painfully tight grip.
"Do not speak of things you do not understand," he hissed, his face inches from her own. "You have no idea what truly happened that night, none of you! Yet you judge me for having the nerve to carry out the most reprehensible act that man has ever forced upon me."
Snape's voice cracked as he finished his invective, and his eyes, locked with Hermione's, changed. No longer were they cold or full of anger; now, the dark orbs were brimming with something entirely different… despair and pain… and a burning need for someone to understand.
"I… you– you're hurting me," she finally faltered, latching on to the only thing she was certain of anymore… his fingers digging into her shoulders.
He released her instantly and turned away, raising one hand to pass it over his eyes. She watched his back, his shoulders rising and falling unevenly as he struggled to remain calm.
"Professor?" she questioned hesitantly, but at her single word, he made a low noise and shook his head.
"Don't call me that."
Bitterness rang out clear in his voice, and she wondered if he had actually enjoyed teaching… shaping the young minds of the future? He had never seemed particularly enamoured with his job. Or was it that the title simply reminded him of Hogwarts and the terrible events of the evening on which he had last been there? Either way, Hermione was beginning to realise she knew absolutely nothing about this man.
But now she wanted to.
"I don't understand," she finally whispered.
He laughed harshly.
"There was only one who did, and I killed him."
"You did do it, then," she stated flatly. "You don't deny it?"
"Deny that I cast the killing curse at Albus Dumbledore? No. That I took his life with my wand? No. But you will never hear me say I did it of my own choice and free will."
"Were you forced to take his life? Imperiused? Magically bound?" Her voice rose with each question.
"There are stronger forces than magic in the world," he countered. "A promise between friends, unshakeable trust in a mentor, a belief that what you are doing will serve the greater good, no matter how much it appears otherwise at the time. Perhaps I was a fool to believe him when he insisted it must happen this way."
Hermione stared at the man before her; hearing him speak now was like listening to a complete stranger… nothing like the Potions teacher she thought she had known. His voice was filled with anger, but it was anger with himself… and there was something else, too… a regret and grief so powerful it seemed also to put him in physical pain.
She fought the sudden, ludicrous urge to reach out to him as he stood before her, and instead clasped her hands behind her, tilting her head as she evaluated this new, unexpected side of Snape. He still hadn't really given her any reason to trust him… other than the fact that he had refrained from hexing her the instant she had entered the room. Nevertheless, her instincts were telling her she had nothing to fear.
She took a small step forward to gain his attention, and when he met her eyes, she implored, "I want to understand. Please, tell me what really happened?"
For a mere moment, it seemed he would cave in, but then his eyes hardened and narrowed, and he fixed his face into an expression of disdain.
"Why should I explain myself to you, of all people?"
The change in his attitude was abrupt, but Hermione just as quickly recognised what he was doing: trying to clamp down on his brief and undoubtedly uncharacteristic display of emotion and shut her out again. That brief display had been a cry for help and understanding, though, and she found shewanted to help… she wanted to understand.
"Is there anyone else willing to listen?" she asked softly. "Who else will even try to understand? You're wanted for murder; anyone else will hex first and ask questions later, if they don't kill you on sight!"
"Believe me, that would be most welcome," he snarled, but his words were lacking true venom. He was slowly caving in again.
"Not before you've finished whatever you're doing," she countered. "If it was important enough that Professor Dumbledore died so you could continue your mission, it's obviously crucial to the war… to us – the Order – winning. What if something does happen to you? Someone needs to know what you've truly done."
An uncomfortable silence fell between them when he didn't immediately respond, and Hermione looked away from his unreadable eyes to gaze about the room instead. One of the drawers of the tall chest was slightly open, and an array of parchment, books and other junk were strewn over the top of the chest of drawers and scattered over the floor nearby. It looked as though someone had been sorting through them… or searching for something. A movement in what appeared to be a photo caught Hermione's eyes, and she bent down to pick it up off the floor, frowning as she realised it was torn. Looking more closely, she recognised the man in the photo to be James Potter; she's seen photos of him before in Harry's album. And the tiny wizard zooming around on the toy broomstick was Harry.
But where was the rest of the photo, and why had it been torn?
A shadow fell across the piece she held as Snape appeared beside her, and she was startled when he held up the other half of the photo; it showed Lily Potter, glowing with laughter at her son's antics.
She turned to stare at Snape. What on earth was he doing with a photo of Harry's mother? Had he torn it? Had he broken into Grimmauld Place specifically for it, ransacking room after room until he found it and then casting the unwanted James and infant Harry aside?
"You want to understand, so perhaps this–" He gestured to the photograph, "–is where I should begin."
"With Lily Potter?" she asked in disbelief.
He nodded, his face pensive.
"She's the reason I'm here – now – on this path, if you like."
Hermione glanced at the picture Snape held again, noticing the way his thumb was lightly caressing the edge of the picture, moving over Lily's face and shoulder as she lent to one side.
"You loved her," she stated softly. It wasn't a question, but a realisation, and a paradigm shift in Hermione's perception of the man before her.
"Very much," he murmured, and then fell silent.
Hermione's mind was reeling at his affirmation; it explained so many things… his loyalty to their side, his tireless dedication to his work for the Order, even his animosity towards Harry…
After a few minutes, Snape seemed to shake himself and his eyes flickered towards the door.
"Where are the other two?" he questioned.
"Asleep in the drawing room," she answered. She hoped they were still asleep… how would she ever explain this to them if they discovered her here with Snape? Harry would kill the older man on the spot.
Sensing her unease, Snape raised his wand for a moment.
"We'll know if they leave the room," he said, and Hermione nodded, relieved.
"Now, perhaps we should sit," he suggested. "This isn't going to be a short story."
For want of anywhere else, they sat on the bed. Hermione sat with her back against the headboard, arms hugging her knees up to her chest; Snape sat facing her, back against one of the canopy posts at the foot of the bed, one long leg stretched out towards her and the other curled underneath him.
There was an awkward pause as Hermione – and probably Snape as well – contemplated the strangeness of the situation. Noticing he still held the photograph of Lily, she held out her hand.
"May I see it?"
He glanced down at it for a moment before passing it reluctantly across to her.
Lily was the very picture of happiness, laughing delightedly at the antics of her husband and son even now the picture was torn and she was separated from them. Her eyes shone with love for her family, but upon watching her more closely Hermione saw a hint of worry creep across her features, and she glanced at the window just visible on the edge of the photograph. An instant later, the expression was gone, and she was smiling and laughing with her family again.
Hermione handed the torn photo back to Snape, and he stared at it for a long moment before setting it on the coverlet beside him.
"To understand the position I now find myself in," he said in a quiet voice, "you must understand how I came to be here. I make no excuses for the choices I have made in my life, and you will never hear me blame another person for my mistakes, but I cannot deny Lily Evans – her friendship, her love, if you like – had a profound influence on me and has undeniably shaped my life."
With that statement, he began.
Snape was silent for a long time after he had regaled Hermione with the bitter, dark tale that was his life. Half a dozen times during the course of telling his story, he'd been forced to pause and recollect his thoughts before going on. His voice shook as he'd described the night the Potter's were killed, and again as he spoke of the night he had taken Dumbledore's life.
He hadn't met her eyes once throughout the tale, but instead stared directly ahead, lost in the memories he was recalling. When the recollections became too much, he bowed his head, long hair hiding the heavy emotions that played across his face, the pain that haunted his eyes.
For her part, Hermione was thankful he wasn't taking more notice of her. Silent tears had been pouring down her cheeks much of the time, and once she had been unable to stop herself from sobbing aloud, clamping a hand over her mouth to stifle any further sound.
The knowledge of what this man had done, what he had been through not only in the past few years but for most of his life, had completely turned her vision of him upside-down. Through her earlier school years, she had always tried to show him the respect he deserved as a teacher, and then later as an Order member as well. The murder of Dumbledore had been a terrible blow to the Order, to Harry, and to the war effort… but also to Hermione's staunch belief in her former teacher. Never before had she been so terribly wrong about someone.
And now, as it turned out, she hadn't been.
If only she had looked beyond the obvious sooner…
"So, now you know," Snape eventually spoke up, his voice hollow. He finally looked up at her, and she met his eyes. Unable to articulate any of what she wanted to say to him, she simply held his gaze. Perhaps his skills in Legilimency would allow him to see into her mind, to the admiration, the sorrow and all the other roiling of emotions she was feeling for him that she could hardly begin to separate or identify.
He seemed to sense her inner turmoil and looked away again. Hermione watched him take a series of slow, deep breaths as he, too, fought for control… control of the demons his tale had reawakened. And if the burden he had carried already hadn't been great enough, the death of Dumbledore must have driven him right to the edge.
"What you must have been through these last few months," she murmured aloud, shaking her head.
"It hasn't been easy, that's for certain," he agreed quietly. "In truth, the only thing that has kept me going is the knowledge Albus died so I could continue in my role until the end."
Hermione nodded sympathetically, and this time she didn't hesitate to reach out to him. She shifted down to his end of the bed, sitting beside him resting her hand on his arm. He stiffened briefly, but then relaxed and seemed to release a breath.
She could feel the heat of his skin through the fabric of his shirt and cloak, warming her chilled hand. After a moment, he lifted his other hand and placed it over hers, squeezing briefly.
"Thank you, Hermione," he said quietly.
She looked up into his dark eyes and smiled wanly as she said, "No thanks are needed."
"But they are," he insisted. "Thank you for listening… I know it mustn't have been easy to hear. Thank you for not screaming the house down the moment you discovered me in here…" He paused, then added, "Why didn't you call for your friends? You'd have had enough time to scream before I shut the door."
"I didn't realise it was you straight away," she replied. "Not until you spoke. Subconsciously I probably recognised you, but it all happened so quickly… I was startled to find the room wasn't empty. I didn't expect to findanyone here, least of all you."
After a beat, she added, "I'm so grateful I did find you, though."
He seemed startled for a moment by the sincerity in her voice; he didn't smile, but there was a warmth in his eyes she hadn't seen in their depths before. Hermione found herself lost for words, uncertain how to react to this pensive, troubled man who had bared so much to her. She realised his hand was still covering hers as she grasped his arm, and her breath hitched in her throat as the pad of his thumb moved across the back of her hand in the lightest caress.
Hermione had no recollection of who leaned in first. All she knew was that in one moment she was losing herself in that pair of dark, haunted eyes, and in the next she was pressing her lips against his in the softest of kisses.
He sighed as they parted, the soft exhalation fluttering across Hermione's face. She opened her eyes again, though she couldn't recall having closed them, and looked at him once more. There was something else in his eyes now… they were darker, if that were possible, but burning with a fire she had never imagined seeing in him.
Raising her hand to his face, she traced the line of his jaw, then up over his bottom lip. The tip of his tongue flicked out to lick the tips of her fingers, and she gasped. She could feel herself trembling beneath his touch as he ran his hands up her arms, over her shoulders and up into the tangle of curls hanging around her face.
"Severus?" she whispered, frightened less by his heated gaze than she was by her own reaction to his closeness.
Her voice seemed to trigger something within him, because he dropped his hands abruptly and turned away, swinging his legs off the bed to sit on the edge with his back to her. Before he turned, Hermione caught the faintest hint of colour staining his pale cheeks.
"My apologies," he said. "That was… unforgivably forward. I don't know what came over me."
Thinking he'd mistaken the tone in her voice for fear of him, she rose onto her knees and shuffled closer to him again, squeezing his arm in what she hoped came across as a comforting gesture.
"It's quite all right, really," she said softly. "Quite all right."
Her tone suggested she would have little objection if he persisted, and the surprise on his face at that realisation was clear for a moment, before he simply shook his head, a wry smile curving his lips.
"Given the current circumstances, I believe I shall pretend you did not just say that."
Somewhere between disappointed and relieved, Hermione nodded, murmuring in agreement, "I suppose that's for the best."
They were both silent for many minutes; Hermione was contemplating all that had taken place in such a short space of time, and all she had learnt about Severus Snape. They both had an extremely difficult time ahead of them; Hermione daren't mention Harry's plans to search for the remaining Horcruxes, even though she was certain Severus could assist. He had his own tasks to complete before this war would be over, and she couldn't – she wouldn't – ask of him any more than he was already giving.
"What will you do now?" she asked at length.
"Continue on with my work," he said, a trace of weariness creeping into his voice. "The longer I can hold out working against the Dark Lord without detection, the more I shall hopefully be able to assist Potter in bringing him down. It becomes more difficult as each day passes, but I have a feeling it won't be long now until it's over, one way or another."
"I don't know how you do it, Severus," she said softly, "but you must know that we're all so grateful… so indebted to you for everything."
He shook his head and started to protest, but broke off when Hermione took both of his hands in hers. He looked down at them, and then up to meet her eyes again.
"I mean it, Severus," she said. "If you ever have need of me, please, send word. I want to help you in any way I can."
He pulled his hands from hers and stood abruptly. Crossing the room to where their two wands lay on the table by the door, he picked his own up, running a finger along the length of wood before he spoke.
"No. I won't be doing that."
Something in his voice had changed, and Hermione stood up, too. He turned to look at her, and there was a steely resolve in his eyes that frightened her.
"What do you mean?" she asked, unable to hide the sudden fear in her voice.
"You know I cannot allow you to leave this room armed with all you now know."
She took an involuntary step backwards, wishing she had retrieved her wand first.
"What are you– what– why?" she stammered, backing away even as he closed the distance between them.
"Think about it, Hermione," he said. "If you are captured and the Dark Lord sees these things in your mind, not only will my betrayal be known, but he will know how Potter intends to kill him and be able to lead the boy into a trap to seize victory for himself. Do you really want the fate of the wizarding world resting on your ability to avoid capture or perform Occlumency at will? Believe me when I say that knowledge is not always power. It can be a terrible burden."
"And it's a burden you've given me," she countered. "So let me bear it."
"I cannot. Perhaps it was foolish of me to tell you all that I have, but you were right… someone needed to know. And now you do know, but that knowledge cannot remain with you to be exploited by those who seek to destroy us."
"So, that's it, then?" she demanded, her voice rising in a crescendo as she continued. "You've just used me because you needed someone to talk to… a shoulder to cry on… and now what are you going to do, rid yourself of me for good.Obliviate me? Why don't you just kill me!"
His face visibly whitened.
"Kill you? Kill you?" he repeated incredulously. "After everything I have just told you, do you not think more of me than that?"
"Well, what are you going to do, then?" she cried. "I swear to you I won't reveal it, not any of it!"
"And I do not doubt the sincerity of your word," he agreed. "But I cannot take the risk that someone may draw it from you… under torture, under threat of death – one's own or that of a loved one – it is impossible to say what one will reveal. I will not burden you with the worry of concealing it. I shall take it from you."
He raised his wand, and she cried out, "Wait!"
"Please don't Obliviate me," she pleaded, now clear as to his intentions. He meant to erase their conversation in her mind, send her back through that door with no knowledge of the meeting, of Harry's terrible fate, and of who Severus Snape truly was.
"There are other charms," she reasoned. "To suppress the memories rather than erasing them… If I don't remember that I have the memories, how can the Death Eaters even know they are present to take them from me?"
He lowered his wand reluctantly, narrowing his eyes.
"Please," she said again, softly. "I want to have the chance to remember this in the future. I want to remember you."
"And what of Potter?" he enquired, circumventing her statement with another question. "What if, per chance, we do win this war, and Potter perishes to seal the victory? How will you cope, remembering only afterwards you had known what was in store for him, wishing you had remembered before because you left so many things unsaid in your false belief he would live? Do you truly want it to be like that?"
Hermione bit back a sob at the thought of what fate had in store for her friend. But she also saw what Snape was trying to do, playing on her emotions so she would agree that erasing the memories completely were for the best. She wasn't giving them up without a fight.
"And what about you?" she asked, moving closer to him, willing him to see the sincerity in her eyes. "What if you die without anyone knowing the truth? What if you die before the end and everyone still believes you are a murderer and a traitor? I won't let it happen. Not now that I know. I want to remember; I want to be able to tell people the truth… especially Harry. Don't you think he should know what an ally he's had in you for all these years?"
"Some ally," he scorned. "If it wasn't for my actions, things may have been very different… his parents may have even lived."
"You don't know that." Hermione shook her head vehemently. "The prophecy had to come true, one way or another, and you couldn't have known Vol– he would go after Lily. Whatever past wrongs you think you may have done, you've more than made up for them with the sacrifices you've made and the things you've done now."
It was his turn to shake his head.
"Only if Voldemort falls and Potter lives will I consider myself to have even started to atone for my wrongdoings. And if I die before that day… and I probably shall… then I will take my regrets to the grave."
"Take your regrets, if you must," Hermione said, "but don't take the truth with you. Don't let it die with you, if it should come to that. Leave it with me. Please, I beg you."
He deliberated her argument for a long time, twirling his wand between his fingers. Hermione had the fleeting idea to grab her own wand from near the door. Could she get to it and hex him before he realised her intention, allowing her to make her escape still armed with her memories?
She almost laughed at herself. Who was she kidding? She was no match for him.
"Very well," he said eventually. "I will spare you an Obliviate, but the alternative will bury the memories so deep within your mind, you will not recall them, and neither spell nor torture will draw them from you."
"Will I ever be able to remember?"
"Yes. I may choose to reverse the spell at any time, and upon my death, if it is still in place, the spell will be broken and your memories will be returned."
Hermione nodded, hoping it did not come to that but knowing full well it might.
"Is that an agreeable solution?" Severus asked.
She turned her hands palm-up in a gesture of helplessness and said quietly, "It will have to be, won't it? I don't want to lose the memories at all, but I understand why I must, and I hope I'll be able to get them back before… well, I hope you'll be able to reverse the spell when the war is over."
He nodded, his face pensive for a moment before his expression cleared.
"We best get this over and done with," he said. "I have stayed here much longer than I intended already."
Moving to the door, he retrieved her wand and handed it to her, dropped the Silencing charm on the door and pulled it open.
"You'll need to stand out on the landing," he instructed. "After I've performed the spell, you'll be disoriented for a few minutes. I'll shut and lock the door and Disapparate from in here; it will seem like you never entered the room.
Reluctantly, Hermione moved to the doorway, stopping when she was face to face with him.
"Until the war is over, then?" she asked sadly, knowing deep inside they would most likely never speak to one another again. What were the chances, after all, of the war ending favourably for one of them, let alone both?
"Until the war is over," he echoed. "Until then, Hermione, keep me in your memories. And though you won't remember, when you're out there with Potter, I'll be close as often as I can manage it, and I'll help you both whenever I can."
"I know you'll do what you can, Severus," she said softly.
They stared at one another for a long moment, and Hermione couldn't help herself; she stepped forwards, put her arms around him and embraced him tightly. As she lay her cheek against the scratchy wool of his cloak, his arms came around her, one hand on the small of her back, the other resting gently on the back of her head, holding her against him.
"Be safe, Severus," she whispered.
His response rumbled through his chest so she felt as well as heard the words.
When they parted, Hermione stepped backwards, out onto the landing. Severus raised his wand ready to cast the spell, his other hand poised to close the door quickly afterwards. For a moment, it seemed he was about to say something else, but he simply shook his head, and though his face was stoic, Hermione could see the despair in his eyes.
She was still holding his gaze when the non-verbal spell hit her, and the last thing she remembered was a flash of white… then everything was gone.
On the landing, Hermione shook her head, feeling oddly disoriented. Perhaps she was just tired. Looking at her watch, she realised with a start it was almost three in the morning; she'd been wandering the hallways and empty rooms of Grimmauld Place for hours.
The door in front of her lead to Sirius' old room, and she tried the handle, finding it locked.
Odd, she thought, stifling a wide yawn.
She could break the lock, of course, but it could probably wait until morning. She really was extraordinarily tired all of a sudden.
Turning to make her was back downstairs, she stopped, hearing a noise from within Sirius' room. It sounded like… no, impossible. No one could Apparate directly into or out of Grimmauld Place.
She listened for a few minutes, but on hearing no other noise, dismissed it as the old house playing tricks on her.
Something was tugging at her memory… something about that locked door… but she was too weary to think on it any further. Maybe her mind was playing tricks on her, too.
Yawning, she returned to the drawing room where Harry and Ron were still asleep, hoping now she was tired enough to be able to forget her worries for a few hours and get some much needed rest herself. They would all need it in the coming months, that much was for certain.
Author's note: I began writing this a few days after DH was released and then got stuck on a few points and put it aside. The solution came to me on New Year's Eve, of all times, so I've finally been able to finish it.
I've kept the timeline within canon, so theoretically this could be a missing scene from DH, however implausible it might be. We don't know when the memory occurred of Snape in Sirius' bedroom crying over the photo, so I've taken the liberty of slotting that in here as well.
There is a second story which begins when Hermione remembers again (set between the last chapter and epilogue of DH), but it's only really an idea at this stage, and given how long it took me to finish this one, it may or may not eventuate.
The title of this story comes from the lyrics of Linkin Park's 'Leave Out All The Rest'. I heard the song before Deathly Hallows came out and thought (and feared) at the time the lyrics suited Snape perfectly. After DH, they seem even more appropriate:
When my time comes, forget the wrong that I've done; help me leave behind some reason to be missed. Don't resent me, and when you're feeling empty, keep me in your memories; leave out all the rest.
Comments always welcome. I haven't been around in the HP fandom much lately, but as you can see, I still harbour the same delusions as always. :)