A/N All the rights to the great JKR, all the love to the perfectly amazing SilverandGold12294, and all the reviews to me please :)

"I require your … assistance" he murmured, cold and sibilant as always, and she followed him.

One night they had found her swallowing scar cream to heal her insides, but what they called madness he called wisdom. One night they had found her skimming the surface of the lake with stones in her left hand, but what they called danger he called freedom. And so she followed him to his classes and she followed him to his meals and eventually they started calling their names together as one. In one breath, one room, one being.

And then, one night, he kissed her. And it was not like when He kissed her, but that was alright because her boys were dead, dead, dead and it was time to live again.

They stood facing each other in the dim light of the potions classroom. He lifted the glass of clear liquid to his lips. She watched him swallow, never daring to blink. Then she spoke.

"Do you love me, Severus Snape?"

"I hate you," he said, eyes boring into her. She took a step backwards. He poured another glass of Veritaserum from his private stores and motioned to her to continue.

Sometimes he was too cruel and she too passionate. Sometimes he would find fragments of parchment in her hands, and a red-headed ghost would linger about her mouth for the day. Once she raised a pale finger to his face and he flinched away. She wrote that his soul was like mustard but he didn't understand and looked at her in that way she hated.

"Do you love me, Severus Snape?"

"No, I hate you." Another glass. Their hands shook. Hermione-and-Snape.

One morning she awoke to find she had words again, after seven months of potions and proddings. But the only word she wanted to say was the name of a boy. A boy with dark hair and knobby knees and a smile that had made her feel something, anything. A boy who was an archetype or an idol, something that didn't translate to the world outside her books. His eyes turned icy when she said the boy's name.

"Do you love me, Severus Snape? Do you? Do you love me?"

Silence. He looked at her. One last glass.

"No, but Gods did I try."

And the world shattered into a thousand brilliant pieces.

Night found Severus Snape vomiting up nothing but vodka and bile, one hand coiled around another glass of odorless, colorless destruction as the second woman he ever loved went to join her boys.