Author's Note: Wow. If you ever re-read your fanfics and almost gag, you'll know how I felt after recently re-reading my own story. Can you say fluff? Honestly, I love all the reviews and such, but I NEED honestly. You guys are too smart not to recognize crap when you see it. If I ever cross the boundary of Snape saying the word "dabble" again, please strangle me soundly, and then take this keyboard away from me before I do anymore damage. As it is, I'm decimating the update code of honor and slouching around wondering when I'll ever have a good enough thread to follow, so I can drag this story out of the puddle of gooey marshmallow mess that it has wallowed in for far too long. ARGH! Thank you.
I can feel you near me, even when you're far away.
Severus Snape awoke to the clamor of someone practically beating down his door. Groggily he awoke, threw on his robe from the day before, conveniently draped over the post of his bed. He stumbled to the door and, leaning on the frame, opened it a crack. Outside was Harry Potter.
Harry was panting and when he spoke it was quick, loud, and strained. "Damn Professor! I've been banging on your door for five minutes. Do you have any concept of urgency?"
Snape ran his hand through his tousled hair and groaned. Every damn word Potter said echoed in his head, and if hearing him talk normally was one thing, hearing one million screaming repetitions of his voice was quite another. Not to mention his eyes felt heavy inside his head, and it was all he could do to prevent the burning pain behind them from showing on his face.
"What is the bloody time?" Snape asked, squeezing the bridge of his nose.
"Five in the morning, but Snape, you need to listen to…!"
"Spare me the hysterics Potter, and just tell me what I need to know so urgently."
"It's Hermione. We brought her to the hospital wing earlier this morning. Madame Pomfrey insisted, you know how she is…is…is…" Harry continued to pant and stutter.
Snape's patience had plummeted the moment Hermione's name had been mentioned and, quickly at the end of his tether, Snape grabbed Harry's collar.
"Spit it out! What's wrong with her?"
Harry's face grew stony, and his breathing became even shallower. "She won't stop shaking, and Madame Pomfrey says you can help her."
Before the sentence was finished Snape was running down the hall and up the stairs towards the hospital wing. His bare feet scraped on the stone floor. He could hear Harry running behind him at first, but he slowly pulled ahead. Finally he reached the hospital wing, and when he did Harry was nowhere to be seen. He had fallen far behind long before. When Snape entered the room Poppy and Albus were on either side of Hermione. Madame Pomfrey's brow was etched with worry and loose tendrils of her hair were wet with sweat and stuck to her face. Dumbledore was holding onto Hermione's arm with a sort of power that Snape believed him to have lost long ago, and he was calm. Hermione, on the other hand, was on the bed, seizing erratically. Arms pressed forcefully on either side, her torso was flailing up, down, and her legs kicked out stiffly and violently. Snape looked first from Hermione, and then to Pomfrey, waiting for directions.
"Nothing I've tried has worked. Charms, potions, nothing!"
Snape roughly grabbed Hermione from the bed and made his way towards the door. He needed to get her to the dungeons as quickly as possible. That was the only way he could help her. Nothing he gave Madame Pomfrey was of high enough caliber to deal with Hermione's sickness.
"Why did you take her from the hospital wing? She is obviously still not well."
Madame Pomfrey's eyes turned to steel. "I'm sure that Hermione prefers my care to the care of some faceless hospital nurse."
Snape spun around and Hermione continued to shake.
Hermione wasn't just convulsing on the outside. Her very soul was like a tumultuous ocean against the unshakable island that was her physical being. She knew she was growing stronger, and she knew that that was the last thing she wanted to do. From the moment she had come back to the castle she had felt her body tugging on Severus', her, Source. He wouldn't let go, and it had resulted in a tempestuous war between two great armies, that of Severus' conscious need to see, and that of Hermione's body, which was unwilling to let a perfectly good Source of strength and healing to remain in a stranger. She had unwittingly tried to steal the Source away, like a thief in the night, while Severus was sleeping. But Snape was used to underhanded moves, and had experience in actually being a thief in the night. His unconscious brutally ripped the Source back, and with it so much more. It was pain, beyond any torture Hermione had ever experienced, and she couldn't take it anymore. She started to lose her grip, and then she lost control completely. She was full of raw need now, an animal instinct for survival. She clawed back.
"Poppy, while it may be true that Hermione considers you a worthwhile acquaintance in times of flu, colds, or petrification, and may even consider you a friend, that is all that you are. Even I cannot deny that you are decent as a nurse, but you cannot compare with St. Mungo's trained professionals. I can't believe that you would… endanger a patient, a friend, to satisfy your own hunger for a challenge and professionalism. You think that only you can do what you do, and that only you are the best? Stop kidding yourself woman…!"
By now Snape was positively yelling and Harry had reached the hospital ward. He stood in the doorway, staring at the scene before him. Dumbledore had had enough.
"Severus!" he whispered. "What are you saying?"
Madame Pomfrey, who had been silent through the majority of Snape's rant, leaning against the wall, cried out in obvious pain. She slid down the wall and curled up into a ball, her face contorted in anguish.
Harry rushed to her side and cradled her head in his arms before she could hit the ground. Snape watched as both Harry, and Dumbledore stared at him. Snape's breathing was loud in his own head, and he was jolted back to the task at hand as a groan issued from Hermione's pale lips. He turned and ran.
Once again someone was following him, this time it was Dumbledore.
Why didn't I just levitate her? I'm running so slowly.
But even as Snape thought these thoughts to himself he was slowing down and his head was aching, throbbing, and then searing with pain. Suddenly a jolt of energy flew from Snape's body where him and Hermione touched, and his vision went black. Hermione went completely limp as Snape let out a yell of fear. He fell to his knees and his eyes rolled back in his head.
It was dark. It was so dark…
With one final wrench, Hermione was free. She heard a yell. She felt so revived, but Snape was falling back. Losing his vision.
Oh God. God No! Severus, take it back! I'm so sorry! Fight me again Severus. Don't let it go!
He heard Hermione whispering from some distant place.
Hold on to it Severus, don't let me take it back. Please… please.
And then, much louder, much closer, Albus.
"Minerva, come here! Bring her back to the hospital wing. She will need to lie back down. I have Severus."
The clapping of Minerva's high-heeled shoes echoed in the stone hallway as she whisked Hermione away in the opposite direction from the dungeons, back towards the hospital wing.
"Severus, can you hear me?"
Snape made no effort to speak. All he could focus on was the little beam of light in the center of his now very bleak vision.
Hermione shivered slightly at the feeling that came from being levitated.
"Minerva, please put me down. We need to go back."
McGonagall grimaced. "You sure seem to be recovering quickly." She slowly lowered Hermione to the ground.
Hermione wobbled on her feet. "Not that quickly. Help me back to Severus."
Minerva grabbed Hermione's arm and together, they made their way back to Snape's dark form on the stone floor. Dumbledore gently prodded Snape with his wand, muttering softly under his breath, and shaking his head.
"He's gone…" Dumbledore whispered. "I don't understand."
McGonagall stood like a statue, hand to her mouth.
"He isn't gone yet! Help me Professor." Hermione and Dumbledore pulled Snape into a sitting position. Hermione gasped at how she felt.
He barely weighs anything. I feel perfectly fine. I feel amazing.
But Hermione knew that the better she felt, the more invincible, the more Snape was losing the battle. She needed to return her Source, but at the same time she knew it would be difficult. She wanted to, but she didn't know if she could let herself let go of something so soundly imbedded into her deepest self. She would have to try.
Placing her hands over his heart, because it seemed like the best place, Hermione concentrated on giving herself up. She didn't know exactly how to go about it. Obviously it was easier for her to take then to give. The very thought made her feel sick to her stomach. She continued to struggle. A tear ran down her cheek and her jaw began to shake with the exertion of it all.
How will I stop him from taking everything back like he did before?
She found that she didn't care.
Snape was coming back, crawling back from the edges of consciousness. He had a distinct feeling that a large well of force and stability was just within his grasp. But somehow he knew not to take it. It felt so right to touch it, to gently tickle it with the tips of possibility, but he shuddered when it quickly backed away from him, leaving small pools for him to swallow up, enough for him to open his eyes…
… and see again.
Hermione was there, her eyes shut tightly, sweat trickling down the sides of her face. She started when Snape pushed his hand off of his chest. It was hard for him when she was so close, hard for him to take more of her. He knew that was what was happening. He was taking more of her away.
Neither Snape nor Hermione spoke as, Minerva and Dumbledore, respectively, led them to their rooms.
Snape could feel Minerva shivering as she touched him and he stiffened slightly. She removed her hand from his arm, and they continued towards Snape's quarters. When they reached his rooms, Minerva finally spoke.
"We'll obviously be finding someone to teach your classes. You'll need to rest. I expect you to get straight into bed." She shot a wispy bolt of what looked like smoke from her wand, towards the fireplace, and within moments, house elves were scurrying about Snape's bed, changing the sheets, and filling a pitcher of water by his bedside. Within another minute they were gone.
Snape didn't protest. He merely looked straight into McGonagall's eyes. He willed her to leave.
"You couldn't have done anything for me Minerva. Even I don't understand what happened."
McGonagall nodded, and then left the room, closing the door so softly behind her, that Snape did not even hear it click.
He expected to be awake for a while, adrenaline was literally coursing through his veins, but he was asleep before his head hit the pillow.
Dumbledore sat on a chair next to Hermione's bed. Hermione was curled into a fetal position under her sheets, recounting her experiences of that morning to Dumbledore as he nodded gravely beside her.
"I was trying to take back my Source. But it wasn't on purpose. I wanted so badly to stop myself from stealing it back, but it was like it wasn't my decision. When I finally got it back, it became so much harder to keep it, because he started fighting. And then he wrenched it back, so viciously, I just couldn't take it. I started to…"
"That's when you started to convulse." Albus smoothed Hermione's hair. "Hermione my dear girl, let me tell you one thing first. I believe it is the most important, or I would have said this last, so you must understand…"
Hermione nodded and managed a half smile. Even in the most serious of times, Dumbledore remained his sweet self. She couldn't help but smile as best she could.
"You didn't steal your Source back from Severus. You took back what your body rightly considered it's own. Such is the dilemma of giving a Source to another living person. As you may have noticed, your Source has a will of it's own. It knows where it belongs.
Hermione didn't understand. "It belongs with Severus!"
Dumbledore shook his head. "No my dear. Your Source belongs with you. Now, as the best student Hogwarts has ever seen, I know you did your research before you used your Source the main ingredient in Severus' cure. In fact, I am sure of it, because we have discussed this before. As you are aware, no person who has ever transferred their Source to another person has been successful in their endeavors for longer then a week. You have been successful for almost two months. I don't know how it is possible. Do you happen to know?"
Hermione shook her head. "No sir."
Dumbledore sighed. "I didn't think you would. It was worth a try though wasn't it? Well then, I have a theory. I believe that through your keeping Severus from knowing of the Source transfer, you have protected him from being aware that anything was different, not with his sight, but in his soul. You have given him no reason to be protective. But now he knows Hermione, and Severus is an intelligent man. He knows what has happened in past experiments of this nature. He fears that his sight will be taken away, and so now he is clinging to your Source as much as he can."
"He thinks I will take it from him! He expects me to take it back?"
"He knows" Dumbledore interrupted, "that you will have no other choice. You cannot let yourself stay without a Source Hermione."
"I can," Hermione gasped, "I will!"
"No, Miss Granger, you physically cannot. You cannot stop yourself from breathing any more then you can stop your Source from striving to return to your body. It is impossible. Unless…"
He paused and Hermione finished his sentence before he could change the conversation's direction.
"Unless I die." Hermione turned to back to Dumbledore and fingered the velvet curtain now in front of her face. A pure white bobcat removed itself from within the shadowed depths of the forest. She ran her finger along it's spine. It paused for a moment, and then leapt into a tree and straddled a branch lazily, staring at her. It was making her tired.
"So you do understand. I knew you would understand, in the academic sense of the word."
"I don't understand in the way I want to…" Hermione whispered, drifting away into a dreamless sleep, thanks to the potion she had drank earlier.
"Not many people can or do, Hermione. It isn't expected." Dumbledore whispered back. "Hermione?"
When she didn't respond, he closed the curtain. It was definitely time for a trip to the pensieve.
When Snape awoke he was face to face with Madame Pomfrey. She had dark circles and running mascara under her eyes and was without her nurse's hat. She hadn't bothered to pull up a chair. Instead she was sitting on the floor, next to Severus' bed, staring him straight in the eyes. Snape's breath caught in his throat as he though of what he had said earlier. He didn't want to deal with Poppy. He just wanted to go back to sleep and forget that this ever happened. He closed his eyes.
"Open your eyes Severus Snape, and look at me. I have a few things to say to you."
Snape groaned, but opened his eyes nevertheless. He wouldn't let it show on his face, but he wasn't exactly feeling secure with his earlier behavior right now, and he was never one to question himself on matters of less then extreme importance.
"First of all, you are an ungrateful, selfish bastard. I don't care how many times you save the Wizarding World from another "He Who Must Not Be Named". I remember when you used to come home from your terrible Death Eater meetings. I don't know how many broken bones, cuts, and scrapes I repaired on you. Not to mention when your eyes were torn out by that demon. You were ungrateful even then. Did you feel that way every time you made potions for me to use, or sent one of your students up to me to be healed in one of your damned potion's class accidents? What about when you went insane, and I'm not talking about today!" She sniffed, and then continued, "I'm talking about when you were truly insane. You were in your little padded room. I let you stay. I could have sent you to Saint Mungo's. Is that what you wanted. To be imprisoned in the mental illness ward. I let Miss Granger see you!"
She had struck a nerve. Snape's wide eyes winced.
"That was a mistake."
Madame Pomfrey sniffed again. "I beg to differ. I think it was one of the best decisions that I have ever made." Snape covered his face, and Madame Pomfrey continued. "Besides, Hermione never would have let you go to St. Mungo's anyway. She… cares for you so."
"Miss Granger was in no position to make decisions for her own good. I could have hurt her badly."
"Imagine how you'd hurt her if she knew that you thought her incapable of making decisions about personal safety. She helped you didn't she, with your Arithmacy predictions. She wrote down the Runes for you. That was a large enough decision to be made involving personal safety if you were to ask me. Look what happened to you! She experienced YOU first-hand, hell, you kissed her in one of your mad fits. I know that you remember."
Snape grimaced. When Hermione had asked about the kiss he had pretended like he had forgotten about it, to spare her the embarrassment. But he still remembered it, and still had nightmares about how close he had come to completely losing control, how he had completely lost control.
"Don't pretend like things would have turned out the same without her Severus."
Snape could no longer look Poppy in the eye. His guilt was too great, his realization to deep for anything but staring at nice, calming, dark maroon sheets.
"Number two…" Madame Pomfrey continued after a pause, "How are you feeling?"
She grabbed Snape's chin and made him look at her. He gave her a cold stare as she checked his eyes, his pulse, and his reflexes. He stared at her as she tutted incessantly, knowing that he had seen a side to Madame Pomfrey that probably only Dumbledore had seen. That is why he trusts her with the care of his students. Madame Pomfrey is intelligent, observant, professional, and above all honest. He had been wrong. If any nurse deserved the head spot at St. Mungo's it would definitely be Poppy. If only she would stop her incessant tutting.
"Hermione is doing well." Poppy continued after another brief pause. "She recently woke up from her dreamless sleep. I believe that she was planning on dining in the Great Hall tonight with the students. Do you feel well enough to join her?"
Snape considered for a moment, and then nodded.
"Good," Madame Pomfrey rose and primly replaced her slightly wrinkled nurse's hat upon her head. May I use your bathroom please. I'd rather be presentable when I return to the hospital ward. She pointed at her face, and further smeared her already abysmal mascara.
"What have you been doing all day?" Snape asked, feeling the need to make conversation while Poppy was in his bathroom.
"I've taken the morning off, and the beginning of the afternoon." Snape heard shuffling inside and wondered what she was doing. "I'm actually quite nervous, and ready to return to work. I've left a 7th year mediwitch in training in charge, and I quite fear she may have destroyed the entire ward by now." Finally she exited the bathroom, after Snape heard the mirror compliment loudly on her prim appearance.
"Your bathroom is a mess. When was the last time you cleaned it?"
Snape smirked. "Not since I've gotten my eyes."
"Well," Madame Pomfrey scolded, "that's nice… but its about time you do a good thorough cleaning on it."
"Thanks." Snape responded, just before she closed the door. "Not just for the bathroom advice."
Poppy paused for a moment in the doorway, before shutting the door.
Hermione continued to get dressed to go to dinner. He had chosen comfortable clothes, which were also incidentally, the easiest to put on. Which was good, because her fingers were shaking.
She didn't know how she would control her Source. Another seizing fiasco in front of the whole student body would not be appropriate. She wondered in Snape would come, and if he did, if it would be worse. She was afraid. She needed to g somewhere before dinner. Somewhere to relax and think before she had a nervous breakdown.
The Potion's Garden.