Written for HP_conenvy, specifically for Alwaysimploding who wanted: Snape/Granger, horcrux of your choice, by the lake. Mood should be passion dressed in dramatic angst (you know, sex but not the light-weight, happy kind). Usual disclaimer - J.K. Rowling owns everything Harry Potter and I make nothing, which explains why I'm dirt poor. ;)

It is often said that when a person experiences la petite mort, they lose a measure of their soul in the process of achieving a few moments of mindless bliss. For some, it is an addiction. For others, it is necessity.

They had been secretly meeting ever since Hermione deduced that Snape was the one that had sent the Patronus to guide Harry to Gryffindor's sword. The meetings never lasted long; a quick word or two about the state of each group's position in the war, a brief check of one another's health, and then a few moments of silent longing, at least on her part. When they parted, Snape would always give her a sidelong glance, as if he were reconsidering something of great importance, but then he would shake his head, turn, and flee into the night. She always watched him go; her heart filling with quiet anguish, wondering if that would be the last she would see of him.

Their relationship changed one night in the latter part of April, when things were their most oppressive and dangerous. Bedraggled and in pain, clutching the area surrounding his left ribs, Snape made his way to their designated meeting spot on the furthest shore of the Black Lake. Resting against a tree, he didn't have to wait long for her to arrive.

"Danger lies before you, while safety lies behind," Hermione whispered into the inky darkness. It was their code to distinguish one another from an imposter. She was the only one who knew the correct answer from so long ago.

A laboured breath wheezed the remaining stanza of the riddle. "Two of us will... help you, whichever... you would find."

"Severus?" There was a brief rustling of leaves and then she was beside him, a worried expression on her face. "What happened?"

"Nothing, you silly girl." He tried to push her away but she refused to budge. "Overzealous Death Eaters, if you must know," he groused when she glared at him.

Ignoring his protests, she removed his hand from his side and felt along his trunk for the injury. She stopped the moment he hissed in agony and her hand came away coated in his blood. "I think your lung is punctured," she murmured.

"I figured that out long ago, Miss Granger." He halted her hand which was reaching for her wand, assuming she was going to heal him. "The Dark Lord will know if you use it."

She frowned, retrieving it anyway. "How?"

He tapped the hand holding the twisted hawthorn stick. "Because it's Bellatrix's wand."

Eyes widening in genuine fear, she gripped the handle of the hated thing. "Then how do we heal you?"

"You don't."

"There must be some way to—"

"There isn't," he snarled, putting a halt to her insistence. He watched her eyes widen at his tone and tried to restore the fragile trust they'd formed in the past weeks. "It isn't mortal. This will be over soon."

Biting her lip, she glanced between her bloody hand and the man she'd come to care for a great deal. "I know," she whispered as tears welled in her eyes. Taking a calculated risk, she gave him a hard glare. "I don't want you to end like this."

Severus studied her pensive demeanour for a few moments, as if looking for any hint of reluctance, and determining that he found none, began rustling around in his cloak for something. "I take it you've read Secrets of the Darkest Art, Miss Granger?" He shook his head, smirking ruefully. "Of course you have. How else would you know how to destroy a Horcrux?"

"I borrowed it from Professor Dumbledore's office before we left last year," she admitted quietly.

"Borrowed? Interesting choice of words." Finding what he searched for amongst his pockets, he beckoned her closer.

Shifting so that their faces were nearer, she gave him a look of momentary regret. "I plan on returning it."

"You'd be foolish to do such a thing," he advised. He looked over her features in the scant moonlight. "I have something to give you that is very..." He grimaced at his next choice of words. "Very precious to me."

The tears that fringed her lashes from before seeped over and spilled down her cheeks. "You should give it to me after." They both knew what after meant. "Besides," she said, smiling a little, "why would you give it to me if it is valuable to you?"

Opening her clenched fist with his nimble fingers, he pressed a heavy object into her palm. "Because you are one of the few people I trust not to muck it up." He snorted. "Only you would agonize over getting it right."

Hermione frowned as she examined the small wax seal stamp, turning it over and testing the weight. "What is this?"

"My mother's family were pure-bloods." He tapped the item in her hand. "The Prince family seal with their coat of arms."

Her jaw hung slack. "Why would you give me something like this?"

He hesitated for a great, long while. "It is my Horcrux," he said finally, watching for her reaction.

She didn't disappoint. "Why on earth would you make one?" she shrilled. "How did you make one?" Since reading the book he mentioned, she knew the process involved a spell and a horrible act. To split the soul, one must also commit the most supreme act of evil—murder—and then encase a portion of their fractured soul into a chosen object.

Grabbing her wrist before she could pull away, he held her in his tight grip. "It was long ago, before you were even born, I wager." He relaxed his hold when she stilled her struggling. "The Dark Lord insisted that his Death Eaters experiment on themselves before he undertook the splitting of his own soul." His head dropped in shame. "When I survived the process of splitting my soul, he killed the others to see if it were true, that one could return if a fragment of their soul remained within an object. Only one other had the power to do so—Bellatrix."

The hand not holding his seal clasped over her mouth to stifle the scream that wanted release. "It's why she's mad, isn't it?" She blinked rapidly, her thoughts scrambling for answers. "Did she make another?"

He shook his head. "The Dark Lord bade us make only one. Thankfully, I have never had to use mine. For all intents and purposes, Bellatrix is nothing more than an insane shadow, living a half-life, her mind obliterated by his will." He grasped her chin and ran his thumb over her lower lip, caressing the worn flesh. "I appear much older than I am in reality, a side-effect of losing part of one's soul. Within your hand, you hold the other half of me."

She clutched the seal and held it against her chest. "How do I bring you back?" she whimpered.

His fingers traced the arch of her brow, the curve of her smudged cheek, the delicate lashes that fanned her eyes. "Love is just as powerful, if not more so, than Death."

Inhaling sharply, she made to retreat, but his hand at the back of her neck stopped her progress. "You know?"

Leaning his forehead against hers, he breathed against her lips, "I possess the power of Legelimency, silly girl. However, I don't need to use it to see the emotion in your gaze, misguided though it may be." He then closed the distance and took her mouth in a raw and passionate kiss.

Never resisting, she returned his fervent exploration. Always conscious of what he'd given her, she pocketed the brass seal and then proceeded to thread her fingers through his baby-fine hair. In the back of her mind, she knew she wouldn't have another chance to do this, to show him her devotion and love, not ithis/i time. They were both pragmatic enough to realize he would not survive the final battle, not against his master when it was revealed whose side Severus was really on.

"Does he know you have the Horcrux?" Hermione panted, as he palmed her breast through the thick layers of clothing she always wore.

"No." He skimmed his hands down to the waistband of her jeans and slipped beneath to touch her bare skin. "I do believe the fool forgot about it." Delving below her knickers, he stroked the swell of her arse. "Gods, I haven't touched anything that soft in decades."

His questing fingers drove her mad and she arched up against his chest which caused him to yelp in pain. "Sorry," she mumbled, removing herself from his embrace.

They both sighed in frustration. "Maybe this would be better concluded after," he drawled.

"I'm honoured you have such faith in me," she said, self-deprecation lacing her tone. "But I want this, just once... before."

A fiery light filled his eyes. "Come here," he demanded.

Doing as he ordered, she moved back to her original position but kneeled instead of sitting. His wide hands spanned her hips as he deftly unbuttoned the rivet and lowered the zip holding her jeans around her waist. Pushing them down, he smirked at her conventional white knickers before sliding them to her knees where her trousers rested.

"Spread your legs as wide as you can."

Obeying without question, her head fell back the moment his calloused fingers found her wet folds. "Yes," she hissed with pleasure.

"Are you a virgin, Miss Granger?" he asked casually as he circled her nubbin.

She opened her eyes and stared at him. "Hermione," she whispered. "And yes, I am."

"Hermione," he acquiesced. "Good."

Pulling her closer in a rough manner, he plumbed her depths with his long fingers until he touched her barrier. "If I break this, the blood will act as a bonding agent for the Horcrux, and it will be easier to bring me back."

"Do it, then," she told him without having to think about it.

Pressing upwards, he caught her gaze, commanding her to hold it. "Do you give it willingly?"

"Yes," she said, one hand on his shoulder and the other swiping at the stray locks that fell into his eyes.

"Ego vestri cruor sano meus animus," he chanted in a languid lilt, much like he'd done when he had healed Draco last year. He then pushed past her barrier, coating his hand with her crimson fluid.

Her gasps of pain were loud in the humid night air and she clutched at his shoulder to remain upright. When he began pumping in and out of her core, the friction caused a maelstrom to build within her, and she bucked her hips to relieve the ache his ministrations produced. After several moments, unable to resist the climbing need, she screamed her release for all the world to hear as her legs trembled from the stimulation.

Slowly, Severus withdrew his hand. "Give me the seal, Hermione."

Shaking her head to clear her mind of the blissful fog, she reached into her pocket and handed him the brass seal. She watched in fascination as he smeared her blood and spendings over the entire seal.

"That should be highly effective." He handed it back to her. "Your virgin's blood, combined with your essence and soul, should allow my return with relative ease."

"My soul?" she whispered, studying the object.

"A sliver of a person's soul is always given when they experience rapture," he explained. "It is the reason sex can become addictive. Who wouldn't want to gain power over another and force them into giving up a portion of their soul?" He took in the state of his hand. "I have done you a great disservice, one I cannot repay."

She had redressed herself while he spoke, but she halted when he sounded regretful. "Please," she said, cupping his sallow cheek, "don't feel remorse at wanting to remain alive." Leaning forward, she placed her lips against his. "We will finish this properly... after."

He kissed her thoroughly then moved to stand on shaky legs, straightening his robes and wincing from the pain in his side. "When it is over, go to my private chambers within Hogwarts and look for a book that has no business being in my collection. Within it, you will find what you need to complete the transformation without harm to yourself."

Smiling tremulously, she nodded and wiped the stray tear that had begun to fall once more. "Is there a password to dismantle your wards?"

Laying his cheek along hers, he whispered, "Know-it-all," and disappeared into the night.