A/N: General disclaimer. I don't own, or make money from my musings.

J.K. Rowling graced us with the sandbox. I'm merely making sandcastles with Dungeon Bats and Know-It-All princesses.
As a warning, this fic is non DH compliant, but otherwise as canon as I can manage (save for the SS/HGness.)

His eyes flew open as he took a heaving gasp, air flooding his lungs and oxygen filling his bloodstream. His hand flew to his throat, finding the skin cached with dried blood, but the wound knitted together, the only evidence of that ghastly snake bite a bit of raised flesh.

He had been conscious as Hermione had clutched him to her chest, able to recognize and understand her stuttering between her sobs, but he had been unable to let her know he heard, unable to let her know that he felt the same way.

She had said she loved him.

"Look. At. Me," he rasped as Potter crept closer, his brow furrowed in confusion.

Severus completed the transfer of memories, falling backwards with a shuddering gasp. Potter let out a cry as he registered the information, pulling at Hermione's sleeve, anxious to get back to the battlefield.

"Hermione! I've got it! We have to get back!" Without waiting on his friend, Potter was up and running, scrambling to get back through the underground passageway and out underneath the Whomping Willow.

The idiot didn't even look back to make sure Hermione was following him.

As his vision greyed at the edges, he saw Hermione crawl forward, felt her rifling through his robes. Every nerve ending was on fire, his bones ached. His felt himself weakening as blood continued to gush from the wound on his neck.

Hermione gave a ragged sob as she found the vials she was looking for.

"Severus," she hiccupped, pressing a cool glass phial against his lips. "Drink it! Please drink it!" She begged. "You can't die now...oh gods, you can't die."

He felt a stinging sensation slide down his throat, warring for supremacy with Nagini's bite. He managed a swallow, grimacing in both pain and disgust at the taste. He felt another phial being tipped into his mouth, and he wanted nothing more than to spit it out. But the pain was too great, and he couldn't hold on any longer.

As he blacked out, he managed to catch one final glimpse of his beloved Hermione.

Severus groaned as he shifted into a sitting position, shocked at how damned weak he was. He was alone in the Shrieking Shack, and he had a distinct feeling of weightlessness.

In a fit of motion, he dragged the left sleeve of his coat up, nearly sobbing with relief at the patch of skin that had once borne his Dark Mark. The skin was darker than the rest of his pale forearm, but he was free. Potter had done it.

Severus had never imagined he would live to see the end of the despot's reign. He had never imagined that he might be able to truly enjoy his life free of the burdens of two masters. Free to live, love.

Gazing around the dusty room, he dimly registered that he was alone. Without Hermione. His chest ached at the thought that she may have gone to the battle, and could be lying on the ground among the carnage, wounded or dead.


She couldn't be dead. Not when they had worked so damned hard to create a world where they could be together. He needed to fine Potter. He needed to find Hermione.

Brushing his hand across the floor next to him, his fingers bumped over his wand. Gripping it tightly, he summoned up his happiest memory. In one corner of his mind, he idly wondered just when his happiest memories no longer focused on Lily Evans, but instead on one Hermione Granger.

Absorbed in his musings, Severus didn't notice that as his Patronus was cast, it took not the form of a doe, but instead a silver otter.

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