Title: How Quickly Things Change
Rating: M, just to be safe. Highly suggestive but not overly descriptive.
Disclaimer: Not mine. Dangit.
A/N: This is a little snippet that takes place at some point during Harry Potter and the Extended Camping Trip (better known as Deathly Hallows). Raise your hands if you have tickets to the midnight release!
Hermione breathed a sigh of relief as she crept away from the tent. Finally, finally, she'd been able to find the herbs she'd been looking for in the forest. The herbs that she added to their meager meal, that would not only add flavor enough to make her hungry comrades overeat, but would also render them unconscious for a good six hours.
It was testament to the lack of observational skills that they had failed to realize that she was only picking at her food.
She had a mission, one that neither Harry nor Ron could ever know about. The portrait of Phineas Nigellus that she carried with her had delivered a message from Professor…no, Headmaster Snape.
He needed to see her at once, needed to pass along information sensitive enough that it could only be done in person. This would be the first time she had spoken to him since… that night. The night when her whole world had been turned on its ear.
She'd been angry at first… they all had. Her professor, a man who she had respected above almost anyone else, had betrayed them. And it had cut her deeply. After a while, she'd begun to really think about it. Why would he do such a thing? After spending so many years supposedly spying for the Order… was Mad-Eye right? Did leopards never really change their spots?
The bottom line was that it didn't make sense. Once she had that firmly established, she began to turn the problem over and over, picking apart the details, remembering whispers of overheard conversations she'd long since forgotten, knowing looks shared across rooms.
Dumbledore wasn't stupid. Oh, she didn't agree with his decisions all the time, certainly, but she didn't doubt his abilities for a minute. He trusted Snape. And he was a sneaky, manipulative bastard, behind his 'benevolent old man' façade. Hermione was certain, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that he'd planned everything out, right down to the final details of his death.
It was tactically brilliant, really. By sacrificing himself at the end of Snape's wand, he cemented Snape's position as a loyal Death Eater in the eyes of Voldemort. Harry and Ron were even more committed to destroying the Dark Lord and his Death Eaters. And finally, as Voldemort's 'Golden Boy', Snape was put in as Headmaster at Hogwarts.
Hermione knew from the bits of news that they got that, despite outward appearances, he was doing everything in his power to protect the students from the Carrows. All detentions were being served with Hagrid, and punishments could only be given out by him. How did nobody see what was really going on?
Deep down, she knew. They were too blinded by their hatred.
Anxious as she was to reach her destination, she knew she had to get far enough away from the tent that the sound of her Apparation didn't alert anyone in the area.
After about a mile, she decided it was time.
Hermione reappeared at the edge of the forest, hidden from sight. Peering out from behind a tree, she used a clever spell to send a series of light flashes, a code they had worked out.
She waited for a long moment, breathing a sigh of relief when she finally got the 'all clear' signal from the upstairs window of the Shrieking Shack.
Still wrapped in Harry's invisibility cloak, she cautiously crossed the field.
Despite the signal she'd received, Hermione entered the house with her wand drawn; months of being on the run had made her more paranoid that she'd ever realized she could be.
She wouldn't call out, much as a part of her wanted to, needed to…it was too much of a risk. No, instead, she made her way to a moth-eaten chair in the corner of the room, one that kept her back to the wall. He would know she was here, and come to her.
She had waited for perhaps five minutes when one of the shadows in another part of the room detached itself from the wall and moved towards her.
He approached her warily, as though he didn't entirely trust her not to throw a hex at him. She didn't blame him, really; most wouldn't hesitate. What she did, however, after she stood to face him, surprised them both.
Without any warning, Hermione Granger threw herself into the arms of the second-most reviled wizard in the world.
Her actions clearly surprised him, because he froze for a moment before hesitantly wrapping his arms around her. After only a short time, though, the embrace changed, and he clung to her just as desperately.
'How long?' he wondered… how long had it been since someone held him like this, like he was needed…like he'd been missed?
He didn't want to, but he eventually pulled back. There was still work to be done. Taking her by the shoulders he looked down at his former student. She was a mess. Her robes were torn and dirty, and her hair, which had been pulled back haphazardly, looked like she'd been dragged backwards through a hedge. The skin underneath her eyes looked bruised, a visible testament to the pittance of sleep she'd been getting. And her eyes… her eyes were as haunted as his own.
She'd never looked more beautiful.
"Hermione," he said in a hushed tone. "We don't have much time…"
Hermione listened carefully as his words washed over her, processing the information, but at the same time couldn't stop playing the way her name sounded coming from his lips over and over in her head.
It was the second time he'd said it, in all of the years she'd known him.
The first…it seemed like a lifetime ago, though it had only been a brief period of time.
That night, the night the Death Eaters got into Hogwarts. The night he'd killed Dumbledore. When she and Luna had gone to find him, their eyes had locked for just an instant. In that moment, she'd heard her name whispered in her mind as surely as though it had been said out loud…
It had been accompanied by a wave of guilt, of sadness, and most surprising, of longing.
Up until this moment, when she'd felt him wrap his arms around her, she thought she'd been imagining things.
But she hadn't. It was there.
And he was still calling her Hermione.
He'd stopped giving her the information she needed, and had moved on to telling her things she already knew…dire warnings about how to avoid this or that, spells she should use to cover their tracks, types of plants in the forest that were edible.
She shook her head and reached up to cover his mouth with her fingers.
"I already know all of that… Severus," she said, proud of herself for not stumbling over his given name. "We'll be… we'll survive."
When he looked at her, she saw that he was resigned. She saw his own exhaustion, and his sadness, and the only thing she could think of was that she wanted to be the one to push it away, even for a moment.
She kissed him.
She fully expected him to shove her away and yell at her.
She wouldn't have minded, even.
What she didn't expect was for him to angle his head and return the kiss, his passion matching her own.
She certainly didn't mind that.
Nor did she object when they ended up on a bed he'd transfigured from the chair she'd formerly occupied.
It began as a frenzied coming together of two people with a desperate need to feel one last bit of happiness, but then it changed.
It was as if they were truly seeing each other for the first time.
There was no more professor, Headmaster, Death Eater, spy.
There was no more student, Know-It-All, third of the Golden Trio.
There was just Severus and Hermione, two people who suddenly discovered the true depth of their feelings for one another. The revelation was bittersweet, and tears fell from both their eyes as he moved inside her.
When they cried out, their ecstasy was tainted by the knowledge that their time was at an end.
They had entered the Shrieking Shack as comrades in arms, two people trying to survive a war.
They left it carrying a piece of the others' heart.
Hermione was dirty, exhausted, and still in an inordinate amount of pain from her encounter with Bellatrix (though she felt she was hiding that from her friends relatively well). More than that, she was emotionally wrung out.
She didn't have time to dwell on any of it, however. Right in the thick of things, they could only watch as Snape faced off with Voldemort. And she could only look on in horror when the monster released Nagini, who went for Snape's throat. She had to remain silent as his blood pooled on the floor, while they waited for the Dark Lord to leave the room.
Harry got Severus's memories of Lily Potter just before he died. Hermione couldn't even cry for him; it would raise too many questions, and she wasn't even sure she had any tears left.
It was only as they were leaving to rejoin the battle, Snape's dead body cooling on the floor, that she noticed what room they were in.
She glanced over to the wall and saw the small bed, its sheets clean but rumpled, despite their filthy surroundings.
The first and last place she had made love, to the first and last man who would ever hold her heart.
A/N: Okay, I realize Hermione may come off as a bit melodramatic there at the end, but I was in a mood. Hopefully you guys enjoyed it! Reviews are love.