Dented and Tarnished
A Drabble Chain in Four Parts
by Ladymage Samiko

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Hermione began avoiding… well, nearly everyone after her shouting match with Harry. She didn't need— couldn't stand —any more emotional turmoil. The Malfoys were— oddly —safe. They cared about him, they knew what they were doing— and they didn't ask for more than she could give.

And Hermione was beginning to respect Narcissa in a way she'd never believed possible.

Another week and their preparations were nearly complete. Hermione could see herself in the mirror, face drawn, hair a bird's nest atop her head.

"Don't worry," Narcissa murmured in her ear. "We'll fix you up properly when the time comes."

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— . — . — . — . —

Fingers flexed experimentally, eyes blinked with exaggerated care. His mouth moved, but if he'd wanted to speak, no sound emerged. Hermione hesitantly threaded her fingers through his, looking anxiously for his expression as he registered her presence.

"In—" he wheezed with rusty vocal chords. "In… sufferably im… patient little girl."

But there was no bite, no anger to his words, and Hermione managed a wobbly smile. "I didn't see why we had to wait," she whispered.

And there was another harsh, grating sound— Severus's laugh. "'Cleverest witch of her age.'"

"The Malfoys helped," she murmured, reddening.

"That's… what I mean."

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— . — . — . — . —

She wouldn't let go. His hand, his robe, his hair… (A fastidious Narcissa shuddered at that last.) Hermione would not leave Severus alone. Perhaps, the older witch mused, it had something to do with her habits with Severus's soul-box.

Or it might be sheer relief. She and her beloved Lucius, after all, just after the war… Well, it was surprising that Draco wasn't yet to have a sibling.

But explanations were in order. The 'good' wizards were present to hear them. Narcissa glanced sidelong at the couple; it was their story, their right to tell it in their own way.

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— . — . — . — . —

Snape allowed Hermione to recount her version of events; his own was for no other ears but hers. Besides, his voice was still recovering from months of being buried.

When she had finished, Minerva wore her most disapproving look, and Potter was— unsurprisingly —livid.

"Necromancy," Minerva said severely, "is expressly forbidden." She avoided meeting his eyes. Disgust for a 'revenant'? Or guilt?

"Necromancy is disapproved of because it meddles with souls beyond the Veil," Narcissa interjected smoothly, "which is far from what we accomplished, Professor. It was simply a matter of healing the body and returning Severus's soul to it."

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— . — . — . — . —

Potter became a very queer— and rather delightful —shade of green. "That's what you were doing that night? When you came back all muddy?"

Hermione shrugged with admirable nonchalance. "Wards prevented me from digging up his body magically, and unlike some people, Severus didn't rate a mausoleum with a monument," she replied with asperity.

"That's just… sick."

"It's not like I fucked his corpse," Hermione snapped back. "Would you rather I found someone else's body to put him in? Severus was in two pieces; we merely put him back together."

"He's dead! He shouldn't be in anyone's body at all!"

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— . — . — . — . —

"If you wish me dead, Potter, you'll have to kill me yourself." His rasping, metal-on-slate voice caused the others to wince. "That goes for you, too, Professor McGonagall, Professor Flitwick. My soul is in my body. Which moves and breathes of its own accord. I am more alive now than I have been at any point in the last thirty-eight years." Hermione had draped herself, cat-like, along the arm and back of his chair, and he deliberately tilted his head back against her. "I refuse to simply lie down and die because you don't approve of my continued existence."

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— . — . — . — . —

"Feel free, if you must," Severus goaded them. "Here I am, without my wand. Avada me into the next world if it suits your sense of morality. My soul is at peace; it wouldn't bother me. It might," he allowed as Hermione tightened her hold, "bother her." He could practically feel the girl's glare over his head. Potter and Flitwick turned red; Minerva still refused to 'see' him. "So if you consider me simply a reanimated corpse, then by all means." He spread upraised hands. "Do it.

"Do precisely what you've wanted to do for the past year, my friends."

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— . — . — . — . —

"Still too difficult?" he spat. "Then allow me to make it easier for you." Snape pulled himself to his feet, struggling with a body that now felt composed of solid lead. He turned, offering them his back, his arms suspended in empty air to either side. He quelled Hermione's movement with a sharp, sidelong glance. "There. Now you don't even have to look me in the face. It's just a robe, here, on a stand. Surely you can knock down a robe."

"Severus Snape, cease these childish histrionics immediately."

"Ah, I see I do exist in your universe, Minerva. Finally."

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— . — . — . — . —

"You're being deliberately obstreperous, Severus."

"And you were deliberately ignoring me, Professor McGonagall. But I was also being deliberately honest. I don't mind being dead; Miss Granger took care of that quite nicely. But for her sake, I won't give up living just because it's less troublesome for you.

"The truth is, you're upset that Granger is precisely what you've groomed her to be: intelligent, compassionate, and self-sacrificing. Admittedly, I'm an odd choice for compassion, but there you are; Granger doesn't discriminate.

"She is also considerate— she asked if I was willing to return —and more stubborn than a mule."

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— . — . — . — . —

"Granger cares," Severus murmured, his hand reaching to ghost over her hair, cup her cheek. She gazed back at him, her eyes full of her emotions. "And for me of all people. It is a strange, new thing in my life.

"As I imagine you're well aware of, Potter," he added caustically. "I'll have that vial returned, if you please."

His voice gentled again, but kept a hard edge of determination. "She cares, and I'll not see her suffer any more for that caring than she already has. She deserves your admiration for her ability and resourcefulness, not your condemnation."

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— . — . — . — . —

Slowly, objections were reasoned away and resistance worn through. Minerva and Severus went for a long walk around the grounds, talking through issues both past and present. Narcissa and Lucius proved (perhaps unsurprisingly) capable advocates, arguing points of law and subtleties of soul magic. And when Severus returned to the house, he found a Hermione transformed by a woman's particular magic into a creature that took his breath away.

:: You've stolen my soul again, you brazen witch. ::

:: Only because you pinched mine when I wasn't looking, you conniving wizard. ::

:: Truce, then? ::

:: Truce. …I love you, Severus. ::

:: I love you, Hermione. ::

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ANs:Well, there you are. A drabble series complete in four parts. I hope it has proved satisfying for your HGSS needs. I worried a bit about wrapping it up a bit too abruptly, but at the time, I was a little more worried about having it drag on too long, so I made the executive decision. As always, tokens in the little box below are appreciated, be they positive or critical. Thank you to those who have made their donations so far.