Title: Illusory

Rating: Mature

Warnings: Possible waterboarding of the English language, for which I profusely apologise, and some minor slashy bits.

For the prompts: 1) Some time during the Battle of Hogwarts, Hermione feels compelled to go back to the Shrieking Shack. Snape's body is gone. There are a few more of his memories clinging to the blood on the floor, though. Hermione collects them. What they are, what she does with them and when, is up to the author. Snape is, of course alive.

3)After the Battle, Lucius goes back to the Shrieking Shack and finds an almost-dead Severus. He takes him to a secret location (author's choice) and remains there with him. Hermione Granger, debutante divorcee after 25 years of marriage and now head of Magical Law Enforcement, takes a well-deserved holiday very near the secret location. Threesome ensues

Notes: Thanks to thehalflie, as well as the person who spent hours coming up with wildly improbable car accident scenarios with me, although I doubt that he realises what it went towards.

Prologue

And there are corpses,

feet made of cold and sticky clay,

death is inside the bones,

like a barking where there are no dogs,

coming out from bells somewhere, from graves somewhere,

growing in the damp air like tears of rain.

'Nothing But Death' – Pablo Neruda

———

The Shrieking Shack was empty.

Hermione Granger took note of this fact with the special brand of cool, distant logic that can only exist in the mind of one who has yet to process the meaning behind specific information.

Not only was the place devoid of life, but also of the dead. The body was gone.

As she paced methodically through the various rooms, comprehension gradually dawned.

The body was gone, but why? Surely it would need to be analysed for cause of death, dissected for physical hints of motive. Somewhere in the back of her mind, the concept registered as 'wrong', but her grip on morality had never been weaker.

She re-entered the room in which she had last seen it and examined the floor, where the rusted colour of dried blood mingled with the greying floorboards. Later, the memory of the scent that lingered in the room would bury itself in her hair and stain her clothes—she would become a pathetic parody of Lady Macbeth, waking up in the night to running water as she reached for an absent bar of soap—but at the moment it barely registered. She needed to find the body.

What she would do with it, once found, remained unclear. She was acting purely on impulse and the knowledge that, as survivors banded together in relief, the man who had made the most sacrifices would rot away, forgotten until convenient.

Something glimmered and caught her eye from the hall, making her start in surprise. Cautiously, she approached it, then recognised it for what it was and transfigured a bauble from the dresser into a vial. Moving mechanically, she scooped the silvery fluid into it with her wand and began hunting for any more that might have been missed. The trail of blood and memory led her down the stairs and to the back door, where she found herself face to wand with Narcissa Malfoy.

"Say one word and I'll—"

"Mum," Draco hissed, forcibly lowering her arm as he slipped through the door. "She's alright. She won't hurt us, will you, Granger?"

Hermione barely reacted to his menacing tone, except to cap the vial and slide it into her pocket. "You're too late," she told them in a hoarse voice that she half-expected to break. "Someone's taken the body."

Narcissa's lip curled into a derisive sneer and she looked as though she was about to say something, but her son beat her to it. "Father did—he said that Uncle Severus should be taken care of by friends or the nearest thing he has."

"Oh," was the best she could manage.

"That doesn't mean Potter," Draco added helpfully.

There was a moment of silence as Hermione digested this. It seemed straightforward enough, but she felt that she was missing something, some important point that would pass her by if her panic-addled, sleep-deprived mind didn't catch it now.

Some of this desperation must have shown, since the next thing Draco said was, "Granger? Are you okay?"

He started to take a step towards her, but his mother held him back. "I hear someone."

"Don't worry," Hermione said, trying to be comforting, "I'll tell them what he did."

"No, Granger, you can't! You've got to—"

"Draco, there isn't time—"

"Please, don't tell them that Father—"

There was a flash of red and, before Hermione could register what, precisely had happened, Narcissa was dragging her Stunned son through the door. She paused before it closed, locking eyes with the younger woman as she said, perhaps a touch dismissively, "You'll do the right thing, I'm sure."

She blinked and they were gone.

"Hermione?" Luna's whispery voice echoed through the house, which, paradoxically, felt even emptier than it had before.

The grip on her arm was as surprisingly firm as it was sudden, and Hermione found herself off-balance and stumbling as she was led to the tunnel entrance.

"I told them you'd be here, but they didn't listen; everyone's convinced you've been caught by a leftover Death Eater."

Her head was throbbing and the scent of blood seemed to stick in her nostrils, even as they left the Shrieking Shack and began the walk—which had seemed so short in her earlier panic—back to Hogwarts.

"Is something wrong?" Luna paused to glance at her, wide-eyed, as though she were properly seeing Hermione for the first time.

"Of course not," Hermione replied, less weakly than she felt, then promptly did the only thing that seemed reasonable at the time: fainted.

She heard the voices before she saw their sources; they fluctuated like a poorly tuned radio that had run out of batteries, but she could pick out words like 'body', 'trial', and 'provisional government'. Memories came rushing to the surface, too rapidly for her to process, and she opened her mouth to speak but all that came out was a horrible croaking sound.

Several voices cried out her name, and by the time she managed to pry her eyes open Ron, Harry, Ginny, Bill, Neville, and Luna were staring down at her with varying degrees of the same expectant expression.

"What happened?" she managed.

"What were you doing in the Shrieking Shack?" Ron demanded. "Have you gone completely mental?"

She tried to prop herself up on her elbows, but found that it increased her headache tenfold, so slid back down. "I was…"

What had she been doing? She remembered an empty room with bloodstains on the floorboards, scooping up leaked bits of memory… and Draco and his mother.

"I went…"

Another moment, and all of the urgency that Draco had shown was rushing through her veins. He had been afraid of her doing something…

"I wanted… to bury Snape's body."

A moment of panic struck, and she reached into the pocket of the jeans that she was still wearing—had been wearing for how long? Her hand met the smooth glass of a vial, which she fingered for a moment, grateful for the blanket that obscured the motion from view.

"And?" Harry prompted sharply.

"And I did."

A collective sigh of relief seemed to fill the room, but it did nothing to ease the rolling fear that was filling her stomach to match the scent of old blood that in her nostrils. God help her, she had just lied to save a Malfoy's arse. Three Malfoy arses, to be precise.

"I think I'm…" She trailed off and leaned over the edge of the bed; Bill held out a bucket for her to retch in and she would have given him a smile of thanks if there had been time.