Continuing Tales

Just Let it Happen

A Harry Potter Story
by La. Bel. LM

Part 19 of 35

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Just Let It Happen

It was hot, then cold, then hot again, then both at the same time. She was suffocating, confined, choking, and yet she was floating in a fathomless, limitless abyss. She was confused and frightened, but she couldn't speak. She couldn't see or hear, or even breathe.

That was all to be expected, wasn't it? She was dead after all. She had died. Frend had killed her.

But, then, how could she still be thinking? Feeling things, knowing things? She didn't feel alive, and she wasn't quite… gone, either. Was this what it felt like to be a ghost?

Somehow that thought comforted Hermione. The fierce panic and fear that had been swirling around inside her lessened a bit. Being a ghost wouldn't be all bad, would it? It was better than nothing. Anything was better than nothing.


Where there had once only been oppressive darkness, there were now little dots of light, small and few at first, but multiplying fast and growing brighter all the time. Her world was grayer than it had been before, and there was a bit of a glow about it. She could see shapes, vague, silhouetted forms — she wasn't sure of what.

A moment later, something stirred deep inside Hermione. A tickling sensation in her breast — like a tiny candle flame, flickering, struggling against a strong wind. Then, so slowly at first that she barely knew it was happening, Hermione felt herself… gathering. Gathering something. What, she didn't know, but whatever it was, it was filling her up, all the way up, from the tips of her hair to the ends of her toes, until she felt as though she were ready to burst. Then all of that… light? energy?... drew suddenly together, sucked in by an invisible vacuum to the center of her body.

There was a long suspended moment of utter nothing, with everything compacted into a tight pulsing ball, and then it exploded.

Her chest gave one loud, colossal thud.

Instantly Hermione entire being flooded with warmth, through every inch of her, sparking and tingling pleasantly in the most unlikely of places; the beds of her fingernails, the nape of her neck, the soles of her feet. With a long, quiet shudder, Hermione's lungs filled with air, and in that same moment, her vision returned. She was looking at a ceiling. There were flickering shadows on the blank, white surface — hard to make out, yet she knew who they were. Her hearing came next, and much slower. All she could discern were muffled voices, as though she were wearing a very thick pair of earmuffs.

Hermione then had only a very small window of blissful realization — that she was breathing, that her heart was beating, that she was alive — before all the pains of her body came crashing back, blindsiding her like a five-ton truck, and the shock of it nearly killed her all over again.

She clenched her teeth so tightly it made her jaw ache. The action kept her lucid, kept her focused and determined, and most importantly, it kept her from sinking right back into that fathomless darkness from which she had just emerged.

She could hear Snape now. With a slight adjustment of her head, she could see him too. He was just as she had left him; bruised, bloody and bound, with Frend's broad form standing over him like the Grim Reaper himself.

Snape was snarling, "Just kill me alreadyJust do it."

Frend grunted. "You'd like that, wouldn't you, Professor?" he hissed. "No, I intend to make you suffer a great deal more." With a flick of his wand, Frend had the fire in the fireplace blazing hotly again. "I've been told the poison I gave you last month caused a nasty fever—am I wrong?"

Snape did not look at Frend. His head was turned towards the far wall, as though he were resigning himself to whatever torture Frend felt appropriate.

Frend did not seem to care, for he continued talking. "Delightful as that sounds, I haven't a drop of it with me. But I'm nothing if not resourceful, Sev. I'll improvise if I must."

Hermione screamed inwardly as she realized what Frend intended to do.

"You asked if I was tired of you," Frend continued, a half-crazed glint welling up in his eyes. "You mocked me, and this is what you get, Snape. You brought this upon yourself."

With a desperate surge of adrenaline, Hermione felt herself tense, getting ready to fight one last time. Images of that night when Snape had come stumbling through the front doors of Hogwarts flickered across Hermione's mind. Images of his normally pale face all sweaty and flushed, of him shaking and trembling, coughing, collapsing into her arms, how close he had been to death, how much he had suffered.

Once more, Hermione closed her aching fingers around her wand. She had to be careful this time—oh so careful. She had been given a second chance, and it might well be her last. So with her mind and her heart filled with fierce determination, Hermione moved for the first time since she died.

Frend was already raising his wand; she didn't have long.

With every joint and muscle screaming in protest, Hermione gritted her teeth and reached up to grab hold of the charred, ruined couch once more. Her broken leg blazed and pulsed wildly beneath her, but the adrenaline helped her to ignore it. She was so tired, yet she knew that she had to be fully upright in order to cast a spell with the most strength — and she was going to need every bit of strength she could possibly muster.

Frend waved his wand and hissed, "Mobili-corpus."

Snape's stiff, bound body rose slowly into the air, hovering no more than a few inches off the floor and angled feet-first towards the hot, blazing fireplace.

Quickly, quickly, quickly. Careful, careful, careful. Hermione's pulse raced furiously. She felt each beat of her heart thud against her chest like a hammer.

Frend was still turned away from her, focusing every bit of his attention on the impending torture. He couldn't have been more exposed if he tried, and Hermione knew she had him this time, she just knew it.

With that thought foremost in her mind, Hermione threw back her wand arm, ignoring the horrid wrench it caused in her shoulder, and then sent it forward again with a loud, throaty, "STUPEFY!"

Frend barely had time to turn his head before the explosion of red light hit him squarely in the back.

And then it was over.

Two bodies crashed instantly to the floor. Only one stood up again.

Severus Snape got quickly to his feet, shaking off the ropes that had turned limp and useless the moment the man who had cast them fell.

There was a long silence, as Snape stood there on the hearth, straight-backed and tall, though he was shivering and shaking all over. His mouth opened and closed several times before any sound actually came out. "H-Hermione?" he breathed. "I thought, Frend he… He killed you, I saw it... You were… You…"

But Hermione couldn't stand it anymore and she gasped out, "My leg—"

A split-second later Snape had snatched up his wand and was kneeling at her side. "Lean on me," he said gruffly, his voice sounding unusually rough and ill-used.

Hermione held out her hands and placed them on Snape's shoulder, biting her lip as the raw and blistered skin on her palms made contact with the rough fabric. She swayed dangerously a few times, otherwise managing to hold herself steady as Snape moved his wand up and down both sides of her leg.

Within minutes Snape was done and he stood once again. As he did so, Hermione's hands fell away.

"I… could not fix it entirely," he said haltingly. "It will have to wait — for Madam Pomfrey. I dulled the pain as best I could…"

Bruised and bloody though it was, Snape's face was stark white beneath it all. He stood there, just as before, staring at her with his eyes wide and still red and puffy from the tears he had shed.

There followed another brief silence in which Hermione gingerly tested a bit of weight on her newly mended leg. Snape watched her do so without making a move. He almost seemed afraid to touch her.

"How…" he began again. "I thought you had…"

At last, Hermione broke her silence. "I did," she replied, surprised to find that her voice sounded nearly as rocky and miss-used as Snape's. She cleared her throat. "Or, I almostdid. So close that I stopped seeing—and hearing—stopped breathing even, I guess, except I was still alive… I think. But if… I mean how…" She shook her head. "I don't know. I really don't. I… I think it may have had something to do with my potion." Hermione furrowed her eyebrows, trying to pull together her fuzzy, muddled thoughts. "If it was, maybe I did die then, and it just brought me back. I can't remember. Maybe it has something to do with the regenerative properties of the Phoenix feathers I used — which would make more sense, because it didn't actually heal anything, technically — though I'm not sure what that hair did, then — I'm sorry, I don't understand either…really… I… Uhh…" Her vision wavered and her knees shook. She was so tired. "Anyway," she continued quietly. "It's over. That's all that matters."

Hesitantly, Snape reached out as though to put a hand on her shoulder. Then he stopped short, and let the arm fall back to his side. It was a very unsettling gesture coming from Snape, who usually acted with such conviction. But Hermione could hardly blame him. She was quite overcome herself.

"You are… really alive," Snape breathed, still staring at her as though she might drop dead at any moment.

Which was not an entirely unwarranted concern. Because just as Hermione smiled and nodded, her legs finally buckled beneath her, and she collapsed.

Snape was there. With one swift motion, he caught her up in his arms; his previous caution forgotten, he crushed her against his chest, hugging her so tightly that it took her breath away.

Tears pricked Hermione's eyes and she laughed weakly, basking in the kisses that Snape was suddenly raining down all over her face, and hair, and neck. Then he stopped, and drew back. "Why did you do that," he demanded sharply, giving her a shake. "You were told to run."

Hermione shrugged, started to say something, and then, realizing she had nothing to say, simply shook her head and gave another shrug.

Snape pulled her to him again. "Darling girl," he choked into her hair. "Stupid, foolish, darling girl."

With that, and quite unexpectedly, Hermione was smiling so widely that it hurt. She leaned up weakly to plant a kiss on Snape's bloody, scruffy cheek, delirious with the aftershock of it all. She was overwhelmed with... But her smile died almost as soon as it came. Her vision began to swim again and she fell back against Snape's arms. The world tossed and turned and lurched to and fro like the deck of a ship as the adrenaline drained from Hermione's body, the full extent of her injuries crashing back. Her lungs felt as though they were filled with lead, and all at once her heartbeat slowed.

Something was wrong.

Snape realized this instantly, snatching up Hermione's small, pale hand in his. He pressed it to his cheek, his eyebrows drawing sharply together when he felt how icy it was.

Hermione did not feel nearly as alert anymore. Her eyelids were starting to get heavy, so she let them close, relieved not to be watching the ceiling spinning above her anymore. The potion had brought her back alright, but it hadn't healed her. She was too weak, too stressed, and her heart couldn't handle the shock of it all.

"Wake up!" Snape demanded, shaking her sharply. "Damnit! Wake up!"

Hermione's eyes snapped open as a sudden, violent shock surged through her. Snape had taken her hand — the one with a dark line still firmly imprinted on its palm — and was pressing it hard against the golden lock of hair at his temple.

Hermione's body hummed wildly, but Snape did not let go. Then, through it all, she began to notice something very strange:

She was healing.

It was as though there was a part of her that had been missing and now it was returning, filling in gaping holes inside herself that she never noticed were there. It was wonderful. Soon, Snape no longer needed to hold on for her anymore, and his hand slipped away once he realized that her fingers were strong again.

When Hermione finally did let go, it was only because Snape was swaying dangerously and she glanced up to see that his face looked more tired and haggard than ever. With a guilty jolt, Hermione realized that everything she had just taken into her body — all of that energy — she had taken from him. Snape's nose was bleeding freely again.

"Oh, I'm so sorry," Hermione gasped. "I didn't know — I didn't mean to — Are you alright—" Hermione made as though to stand, but Snape's arms tightened around her with surprising strength and forced her to remain where she was.

"Yes, I'm alright, stop fussing," he growled.

"But shouldn't I at least—"

"No — Yes — In a moment. For once in your life, could you just shut up and do as I ask?"

Hermione's anxiety felt like a living animal in her chest. "Of course, but—"

"It's very simple. All I want you to do is sit — just sit right here for one sodding moment, and breathe. Can you do that?"

"You just… want me to breathe? That's all?"

"Yes, well, you weren't doing it for a while, so if you wouldn't mind…"

She didn't mind.

With her heart beating fast and strong, Hermione leaned into Snape's broad chest, feeling it rise and fall beneath her cheek. He was alive. She had saved him. Severus Snape was alive. She looked up at him again, intending to tell him just how brave and strong and good she thought he was, when she saw something that made her jaw drop.

Snape noticed her slack expression and raised his eyebrows questioningly. "What?"

She couldn't help it. A giggle started to force its way up her throat, and there was nothing she could do to stop. Hermione clamped a hand over her mouth in a vain attempt to muffle her laughter, but her shoulders were shaking far too much to hide.

"What is it!" Snape barked again.

"I'm sorry," she choked. "I'm sorry, but it's just… I don't mean to keep doing this to you, I swear…" Hermione pointed to the previously golden hair at Snape's temple.

"For Merlin's sake, what color is it now?" he growled, reaching up to run his fingers through a thick streak of pure, snowy white.

Hermione opened her mouth, intending to zing back a clever remark, but she was interrupted — by a long, loud, unmistakable groan.

They had forgotten about Travers.

Both Hermione and Snape shot immediately to their feet. Snape nearly fell right back to the ground again, but Hermione lent him her shoulder and he was able to steady himself.

"I'll take care of Travers," he said quietly in her ear. "You see if you can find that mirror I usually keep in my pocket. You know the one?"

Hermione nodded, puzzled.

"I believe it to be somewhere beneath the desk on the far wall." Then Snape let go and staggered off towards the two black heaps — one moaning, the other one still — next to the fireplace, warily holding his wand out in front of him.

Though there were now what seemed like a hundred different questions racing through her mind at once, Hermione asked none of them and instead did as she was told. Quickly, she made her way through the wreckage of the sitting room, amazed to find that her leg felt good as new. That elated feeling left very quickly, however, when she approached the desk. Where there had once been a very nice little white writing desk, there now sat many jagged, smoking pieces of wood. With a groan she dropped to her hands and knees and began to carefully and methodically sift through the charred remains, expecting at any moment to come upon the mirror crushed into a small pile of sparkling dust.

Hermione resisted the urge to look over her shoulder when she heard Snape mutter a swift Stupefy and two levitation spells; she would rather not see those particular bodies again.

"Is it there?" Snape asked distantly. Was he taking them into the garden?

Hermione immediately began to form the word 'no' but just then her fingers touched upon something smooth and cool and she changed her answer to a rather astounded, "Yes! Here it is!" She pulled the mirror from the rubble and wiped a hand across its dusty surface, her mouth falling slightly open in wonderment. Not even a scratch. More magic?

"Good." Snape was back inside. "Give it to me," he commanded sternly, and Hermione hurried over to set it face up in his open palm, a fierce anxiety beginning to bubble up again inside her.

"What are we going to do now?" she breathed nervously. "I hope Dumbledore got there in time. But what if he didn't. He can't have known. Vol — You-Know-Who could be on his way right now. And Sirius might be… Oh, Severus, it was a trap!"

Snape did not reply, but Hermione could instantly tell that he had been thinking the same thing. His face was drawn and pale, and he looked rather frightening beneath all that blood. Hermione would have offered to clean him up a bit, but she knew that it could wait. Snape's mouth set into a determined scowl as he gazed intently down at the mirror.

Hermione watched him, fascinated despite their perilous situation.

After a minute or two, the surface of the mirror began to glow faintly. At first Hermione thought it was just the moonlight shining in through the open window, except, the glow was more blue than yellow, and seemed to be pulsing steadily; almost as though it were…ringing. Like a telephone, only silently.

They stood there for long time, and Hermione couldn't help but wonder if Snape was waiting for Dumbledore to 'pick up.' This must have been the case, because after five minutes or so, the glowing stopped and Hermione could hear something… something that sounded a lot like the distant yells and crashes of a battle.

"Headmaster," Snape began at once, his eyes riveted unblinkingly on the mirror. "I have Granger, but we—"

Dumbledore's booming voice cut him off. "If you are able, stay put!"

The mirror flashed green, and Hermione gasped as she heard an answering scream.

Dumbledore seemed to be breathing quite hard. "I cannot help you now, Severus. I've got to — Voldemort has — Just stay put!" And then he was gone.

The mirror gave one pulse, like the click of a receiver, and then the surface was glassy, smooth and quiet once again.

Snape lowered his hand and carefully placed the little mirror back in his pocket. "The battle is not going well," he said darkly — though Hermione had already gathered as much for herself.

With a barely contained sob, Hermione buried her face in her hands. Snape responded instantly by pulling her hands away again, gathering her to him and kissing her deeply, hungrily. It only lasted for a moment, but Hermione felt her heart lifted all the same. As they pulled away, she offered Snape a weak smile which he did not return — though she had not, in all honesty, expected him to.

As Snape left her and silently began the task of transporting Rosier's limp body to join the others (whom he had tied up and left in the garden), Hermione conjured towels from the kitchen, soaking them through with warm water from her wand. She rubbed her face vigorously with one of them, which stung sharply and left her skin feeling a bit raw. She was determined to remove every speck of blood. Then, tentatively, she approached Snape with the other. He was standing by the window now, eyes closed, the tip of his wand pointed directly at the middle of his face as he began to realign his poor, mangled nose.

When he was finished, he snatched the damp cloth out of Hermione's hands with a sort of low grunt that Hermione took to mean "thank you." Normally, she might have been a bit offended at his sudden surly, distant disposition, but she knew how hurt and tired and frustrated he must be.

Dumbledore and the others were fighting for their lives at that very moment — against Voldemort himself — and all they could do was sit. And wait. Again.

Yes, Hermione understood very well how Snape felt.

Almost at once, Hermione felt a bone-deep weariness settle over her, like a thick, wet coat dropped upon her shoulders, and she longed for nothing more than a warm shower and a soft bed. She wanted to sleep for days — but there were still things to do. And they weren't safe yet.

Severus buried his face in the warm towel and exhaled slowly. Every inch of his body ached and trembled from more than just the aftereffects of the Cruciatus. There was a disturbing sort of emptiness inside him that had not been there before — or if it had, it had never been quite this noticeable. He was so exhausted that he felt about ninety years old.

Severus lowered the towel and glanced briefly out the open window, into the courtyard. Travers and Frend he had tied up with ropes, back-to-back and propped up against the side of a small fountain. Rosier he had simply laid out on the grass a few yards away. There was no real practical reason for why he had moved the bodies, he had simply felt compelled to do so. It was as though the Death Eaters gave off this invisible stench of darkness and decay that filled up the tiny sitting room like an odorless gas, and Severus was afraid of Hermione breathing in their toxic fumes.

Or, perhaps he simply wanted them out of the way. In any case, it didn't really matter, and he didn't feel like thinking about it.

Severus slung the towel around the back of his neck. Most of the warmth was already gone, but the little that was left still soothed some of the tightness in his muscles. He ran his hands distractedly through his hair, automatically bracing himself for the familiar thrill he had become so used to feeling at his fingertips. Except… it wasn't there. The strange presence had left him. He ignored the slight twinge of regret in his gut, and looked up to see Hermione standing quietly by the ruined sofa.

Her whole body seemed slumped and heavy. Her hair was a frazzled, matted mess around her shoulders, and her skin was so pale, drawn taut across her face. There were lingering lines of pain around her brown eyes and she was frowning deeply.

Distantly (for at the moment, everything felt rather distant and disconnected), Severus wished that she would smile. He felt a strange sadness at seeing such pain and weariness etched into her young face — usually so vibrant, so full of color and wit. Even though he normally found annoyance with her tiresome buoyancy, he would have very much preferred it over the wan, troubled, exhausted, anxious girl he was looking at right now…


Severus's mind was still trying desperately to get around exactly what had happened. Both she and Frend had mentioned a potion — and something about a hair? — but there was nothing in any book Severus had ever read (and he had read a lot of books) that could protect a person from Avada Kedavra. Nothing. No spell, no charm, no potion of any kind. What on earth had she done? What sort of potion could bring a person back from the dead? Then again, had she even died in the first place? But Severus was almost certain that she had. He remembered so clearly those vacant, glassy eyes, the complete and utter stillness of her body.

Hermione's head turned slightly and she caught him watching her.

Without saying a word, Severus looked away and went back to scrubbing the blood from his face — taking extra care with the bristled stubble on his jaw. Sexy or not, the next chance he got, he was shaving the damn thing off.

They had been quiet for a long time, and Hermione was now sitting on what was left of the sofa. As every second passed, a question began to grow stronger in the back of her mind. The silence was heavy and oppressive, and though she did not feel comfortable breaking it yet, Hermione did so anyway. "Who… er… did that to Travers?" she asked, so quietly that at first she wasn't sure Snape had even heard her.

"I don't know," Snape replied after a time, his voice nearly as quiet as hers. "Does it matter?"

Hermione shrugged. "Not really — I mean, I guess it sort of does — I mean, it… depends."

Snape was not looking at her, his profile stony and impassive in the moonlight. "I did not do it," he said icily.

"Oh, no," Hermione hurried to amend. "Of course you didn't. I didn't mean to say—"

"Yes, you did." He gave her a sidelong glance that she could not quite interpret. "Don't lie, Hermione. It does not become you."

Hermione did not know what to say to that. She mouthed wordlessly for a moment or two, feeling foolish and tongue-tied, and extremely guilty. "I'm sorry," she said at last, fervently.

Snape appeared to believe her. He nodded. "That spell is not something you would have learned about in any class or read about in any text. It was something Frend invented himself. You see, aside from his obvious connections with the M.A.R., the reason he happens to be in such high favor with the Dark Lord, is because he has a knack for creating his own torture techniques — for creating them and then spreading them around to his fellow Death Eaters. Truth be told, that spell could have been cast by any number of people in this room. Of course, it would have had to have been someone with supremely awful aim."

"And supreme stupidity," Hermione added. "Who in their right mind would fling a curse like that around with so many people in such close proximity?" Hermione was feeling sick to her stomach.

"Unfortunately, many Death Eaters fit those very specifications. As I said, it could have been any—"

Snape stopped talking immediately as the door to the sitting room squeaked slowly open.

Heart in her throat, Hermione whipped around to be met by a very strange sight: A small wooden broom, followed closely by a pink dustpan, was shuffling purposefully into the room. Within seconds both were scooping and sweeping the mounds of ash, shattered china, feathers and little bits of cloth that were scattered about the floor into an enormous pile, as though invisible servants had suddenly been summoned in to tidy up.

For the second time in the past hour, Hermione found herself slowly overcome by the strange desire to laugh.

"Worthless cleaning spells," Snape muttered. "Why show up now? They are usually so irritatingly prompt."

Hermione shrugged. "Maybe they were cleaning upstairs first?"


"Yes, I heard the Death Eaters blasting doors open with their wands when they were looking for me. Who knows what all they destroyed." As Hermione said this, it put her in mind of her potion, and she worried that someone might have found it. She thought briefly about going to fetch it, but then Dumbledore's voice rang through her head, shouting the words stay put, and she decided that she could wait a little while longer.

"Oh!" Hermione pointed at Snape's pocket, which had begun to pulse steadily with a faint blue light.

In a movement so swift she could barely follow it, Snape pulled the mirror out and began to gaze stonily into its depths, his eyes narrowed in fierce concentration. Hermione edged in beside him so she could peer over his elbow.

Moments later, Dumbledore's kind, bearded face swam into view. He looked haggard and tired, and much older than Hermione could ever remember.

"What is your situation, Severus?" Dumbledore began in a very somber yet agitated voice. "Are you alright? And Miss Granger?"

Hermione was dying to know what had happened in Hogsmeade. Snape probably harbored the same desire, but he answered Dumbledore's questions first. He related quickly and efficiently, sparing no detail, what had come to pass in Pruitt cottage during the past few hours.

Dumbledore listened to Snape in silence, his face more or less impassive — though Hermione could tell that a definite air of relief had stolen over him. He seemed less agitated now, more tired than anything else. At that moment in time, it seemed to Hermione as though everyone in the world were tired — as though everyone were just as exhausted and weary as she was, and she couldn't for the life of her imagine any differently.

Finally, Snape finished. He waited obediently for Dumbledore's instructions.

"Stay where you are," Dumbledore began at once. "You seem to be out of harm's way for the time being. I will arrange for your Floo to be connected to the network for an hour or so — but first I must speak to the Minister. I hope you don't mind if I strongly advise him to send a few Aurors over to collect the bodies, as he will probably want to interrogate Frend himself. Perhaps now he will see reason. I don't imagine even Cornelius Fudge will be able to deny the Dark Lord's return with such barefaced proof staring him right in the face."

"Yes, Headmaster," was all Snape said in reply.

Hermione could not contain herself any longer. "Professor Dumbledore! What happened at Hogsmeade? Is Sirius alright? Did anyone get hurt? Did You-Know-Who—"

But Dumbledore was making no acknowledgement of Hermione's outburst.

"He can't hear you," Snape growled testily.

"What was that?" replied Dumbledore.

"Herm — Miss Granger is here, Headmaster. She was asking about Hogsmeade."

Dumbledore's face, if possible, turned even graver. "It was a hard battle, Severus. If not for this mirror and your quick thinking, we never would have arrived in time."

He must have sent a message through the mirror when the Death Eaters arrived, Hermione thought briefly. That must have been why it was shoved under the desk. Well done, Severus!

"Even so," Dumbledore continued. "Voldemort got away — but only just. Many of his followers were caught, and many more of them, sadly, were killed in the battle."

"That's not entirely…" Hermione began anxiously. "It could have been worse, couldn't it? I mean, they could have—"

Snape shushed her sharply as Dumbledore went on.

"However, there were… casualties on our side as well."

Hermione felt the pit of her stomach drop.

"Professor Flitwick and Remus Lupin are thankfully still alive but in grave condition. Poppy is tending to them now. Along with Mr. Potter—"

"Oh!" exclaimed Hermione.

"—who suffered a severe laceration to his chest. I believe he is well on the mend by now — Poppy should have him to rights in a few days."

Hermione's hands were at her mouth now, her throat tightening painfully at the thought of her dear friend cut and bleeding. But if there was anxiety churning within her now, it was nothing to the gut-wrenching horror that took its place when Dumbledore spoke his next words.

"Sirius Black, I'm afraid, has been killed. He fell moments before we arrived, ambushed and alone. He hadn't a chance. Very sad business, very sad…"

Snape had to immediately let go of the mirror with one hand in order to grab Hermione by the arm before she could collapse to the floor.

Hermione doubled over, moaning piteously. She felt sick, violently ill, as though she had just swallowed a heady mouthful of poison. Sirius, she thought mournfully, her eyes spilling over with hot angry tears. Ambushed and alone. Unbidden, an image flashed across her mind of the final moment she had shared with Sirius. The bewildered expression on his face as Hermione had pulled back. She had abandoned him, and he had died alone.

Dimly she could hear Dumbledore's voice telling Snape that once the Aurors arrived, they were to Floo straight back to Hogwarts.

"It was wrong of me to send you away, Severus. I realize now that there is no safer place in the world that you could be. And, in any case… we have been missing our Potions Professor."

The moment she reached the Hospital Wing doors, Hermione threw them open and flew as fast as her feet could carry her straight to Harry. Madam Pomfrey tried to intercept her, but she easily ducked beneath her arms.

Ron was there, standing stiffly at his friend's side, his face blotchy and tear-stained. Lupin lay sleeping in the next bed over looking gaunter and grayer than ever, and next to him was a bed with its curtain drawn which must have contained tiny Professor Flitwick. Snape and McGonagall were somewhere behind Hermione, following grim and straight-backed in her wake.

But she had eyes only for Harry.

It was Harry's godfather who had died. It was Harry's godfather whom Hermione had been the last to see alive. It was Harry's godfather whom Hermione had sent into a trap.

She reached the bed, and though Harry was bound heavily in white bandages, she flung her arms around him, bursting into shuddering, heart-wrenching sobs. "Oh, Harry, I should have been there," she wailed. "I'm so sorry, Harry, I pulled back, I didn't go with him. I should have been there to help him! I should have known, all this time Frend was… and Sirius, he… Oh, Harry!"

It took more than a few hands to pry Hermione off her friend and back to her feet again, so no one had any attention to spare for the dark figure that slipped quietly out of the room and away down the hall, silent as a shadow as he tried but failed to ignore the sound of Hermione Granger's deep regret ringing hollowly in his ears.

Severus strode into his rooms, locked his doors, turned off all the lights, and promptly collapsed into bed — clothes and all. He had passed exhaustion hours ago. His body seemed so far away and disconnected now, almost as though he had transcended to a state of delirium.

Yet, as he lay there in the dark, sinking slowly into his mattress, he could not turn off his brain.

Hermione's words had hurt him more than they probably should have.

Oh, Harry, I should have been there! I didn't go with him! I should have been there to help him!

Severus didn't understand. Did she regret staying behind for him? Did she see it as a mistake? Did she wish that he and Black's places had been exchanged?

Surely not.

But there was a part of him — a big part of him — that still questioned the girl's feelings. It was such a ludicrous thing to consider, after all. It didn't make any sense, her caring for him in such a way. And if there was anything that Hermione Granger excelled at, it was good sense. What if she had simply been… lying? What if all of it had simply been some sort of elaborate joke?

Severus's head nearly exploded with fury at the thought. What if all that time she had merely been playing him for a fool? Her childish booby-trap hadn't worked, so she threw a tantrum and put her devious little mind to work on an even grander plan for revenge, was that it?

Severus's anger died away almost as instantly.

No, that wasn't it. She had stayed behind for him. As foolish and brazen and nauseatingly Gryffindor as it was, Hermione had proved her true feelings thoroughly and unflinchingly. And that made Severus… uncomfortable.

No one had ever done things like that for him before; stayed behind for him, fought for him, rescued him.

Now that impossible girl had done it twice.

How was he supposed to respond? What did she expect of him? Did she even expect anything of him? They were back at Hogwarts now, and she couldn't have forgotten their agreement. The rules applied now more than ever — especially after what had happened. Surely she needed to be with her friends far more than with him. Looking at her friends wouldn't remind her of that terror-filled cottage, of that ruthless attack, of that fateful decision she had made and now… regretted?

This brought Severus back to the root of it all once again.

She was meant to have gone with Black, that was always the plan. Severus was quite certain that this action would have done nothing to change the outcome, in fact she undoubtedly would have died alongside Black, but, in Granger's mind, there was no telling what sort of psychotic, guilt-driven fantasy she had woven for herself. She had, perhaps, convinced herself that had she been there, and fought beside him, they would have triumphed—and furthermore that, because of Severus, she hadn't been, and Sirius had died.

Was that it, really? Did she blame him?

Severus exhaled noisily and with a mighty effort, rolled over on his side, burying his face beneath a pillow. He didn't know what she was thinking, nor whom she blamed, and he damn well shouldn't care to know.

Sirius Black was dead. No matter where the blame lay, no matter how sorry or how guilty Hermione Granger felt, nothing was going to change that. Though, as dark and selfish as it was, Severus couldn't help thinking that Sirius Black had known about him and Granger and had fully intended to tell Dumbledore—but now, through unfortunate circumstances no one could have anticipated, he could not tell anyone. Their secret was safe.

Slowly but surely Severus at last began to fall into a fitful sleep, his mind full of troubles, and his heart heavy with dread for the morning.

Just Let it Happen

A Harry Potter Story
by La. Bel. LM

Part 19 of 35

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