Her feet ached. Her head ached. Her entire damn body ached, come to think of it. But still she pressed on with Harry and Ron, the sword of Godric Gryffindor in hand. They were flying down the path to the Whomping Willow, desperately hoping the tunnel would be open. Luckily it was and the three pinched in, fumbling in the dark. When the terrain leveled out they stopped for a breather.
Panting, Hermione clutched at Harry. "There's something—I have to tell you," she breathed. "Harry—Harry I think you're—"
But she never got to finish her sentence. A large bang farther down the passage inside the Shrieking Shack resounded loudly. The three broke into a spring again, feverishly hoping the snake would appear.
It did, but not the way Hermione wanted.
Everything happened so fast, but in slow motion at the same time.
Voldemort. Snape. The accusations. The bite.
No. No, no, no, no, no.
She flew past Harry and Ron, bursting into the room. Snape. Pool of blood. Gasping. Her hands fumbling over an empty vial. Memories. Ron shoving her out the door. Neville killing the snake. Harry dying and returning and vanquishing Voldemort. It was all a jumble. Everything was confusing and her head was filled with cotton.
She shouldn't be where they—Merlin, she had to go back. She had been gone for so long but maybe. Just maybe.
She hoped. She hoped against all odds that he was still awake. Her feet pounded against the dirt, pounded against the wood floors. Bloody fucking Shack and bloody fucking snake and bloody fucking fuck all to hell. Hermione could think few words besides obscenities.
She dropped to her knees—blood, God, so much blood—and lifted Snape's head into her hands.
"Professor? Can you hear me?" she whispered.
Her stomach leapt to her throat. Sobs wracked her body. When had she become so attached? Sure, she had admired him her entire school career for his intellect and recently for his courage, but Circe…
She clung to his limp body, willing her magic to save him. Willing everything she had to return his life force.
"Stop," he rasped, his voice strained.
Hermione gasped and turned her head to see him better. "Professor!"
"No, Miss Granger. I can feel what you're doing. Your magic. Don't. You'll never get it back."
She choked. "But you can't die! Not after all you've done!"
Snape took a ragged breath. "Potter has everything he needs. I am no longer useful."
"But—but—who will terrorize the first years? Who will I steal ingredients from? Who will—the forest, Professor." She was grasping desperately to make him stay. Snape had pushed her magic back somehow, cutting off the flow. She could feel him draining once more.
"Dying is an art, Miss Granger. You're ruining my performance. Stop sniveling."
She laughed sadly. "I rather think this is a shite death, sir."
She pulled him to her again, hugging him tightly.
"You remind me a bit of her, you know."
"Lily Evans. You were both clever Muggle-borns. Both with the same fire and tenacity to do what's right and fight the good fight. But you're more forgiving than she was, I think."
Hermione didn't know how to interpret what he was saying. Was he mourning his long-lost love? Or was he mourning Hermione's good qualities? She settled for resigned and pressed a kiss to his temple. Thinking better of it, she curved so her face was even with his.
"Look at me, Severus."
He brought his eyes up and Hermione's lips descended, catching his in a delightfully angsty kiss. He tasted of coppery blood and salt. His hands didn't come up to rifle her hair. He didn't move to bite her neck. His body didn't press into hers roughly.
He was still.
AN: See what happens when you press me for more chapters on a one-shot? I DESTROY EVERYTHING YOU LOVE. But to be honest, I'm quite glad I went back and did more. Usually turning one-shots into more drives me batty, but this worked out, I think. Don't get used to my generosity though. ;P