Continuing Tales

Just Let it Happen

A Harry Potter Story
by La. Bel. LM

Part 28 of 35

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Just Let It Happen

Hermione shrank back into the darkness as she heard heavy booted footsteps approaching. Despite the iron grate between her and the oncoming wizard guard, the fear was too much. She shut her eyes. Already, her teeth ached from how desperately hard she was clenching the foul-smelling fabric she held in her mouth. The fabric was an Azkaban prison uniform—one for which she had gone to great lengths to steal, and which was subsequently to blame for her current situation. She had managed to locate the closet where they were kept relatively fast, only to find the area busy with patrolling guards and so was forced to travel by way of the prison's drainage system. The pipes, which turned out to be hopelessly labyrinthine—meaning she could not for the life of her figure out a way to return the same way she came—gave her few options for escape. Most of the grates she happened upon where either rusted shut, blocked by something heavy, or in an area too open for her to attempt any sort of remotely inconspicuous exit. So she had continued on through the dark, wet, winding tunnels of pipe and claustrophobic stone, lost and frightened, dragging her tired body from grate to grate. Now, at last, she had found a viable one through which to free herself, and she was all but ready to collapse with exhaustion! All that peril for one moldy piece of cloth. But, it was a necessary moldy piece of cloth, detrimental to the success of tomorrow's plan, and so she did not, even for a moment, consider it unworthy of her struggles.

As the footsteps grew louder, seeming so close now she thought she could smell the boot leather, a white glow pressed briefly against Hermione's closed eyelids. This glow was that of the wizard guard's Patronus, she knew, and it horrified her. She had seen it twice before. A bloodhound.

Though her human mind knew that the Patronus was not real, that it was all but ethereal and harmful only to Dementors, her rabbit mind was going haywire with terror. She flattened her long ears against her body, trying to preserve whatever fleeting scraps of rational thought still remained within her. If she let instinct take over—the animal instinct already half-permeated through her body—she would lose it. She would bolt. She would be caught. And she would die.

Well, perhaps she would not die—but the consequences would be severe. So much so that she refused to even begin to contemplate what they might be. Best to just assume death. Because either way, failure, discovery, was not an option.

Fortunately, within a few short breaths, it was over. The footsteps passed, the glow receded, and Hermione was left alone once again in the dank, oppressive darkness of the drainpipe.

Time to go.

Paws wet and trembling—for she was sitting in a good three inches of frigid water—Hermione crept forward so that her back could press up against the small grate above her. She braced herself as best she could on the slick ground, and pushed upwards, hard. The grate creaked but did not budge. She pushed again, harder, the iron ridges digging into the muscles of her back. This time the grate yielded briefly, rising for a fraction of a second before her strength failed and she had to let it fall back down again with a muffled clang.

Breathing hard, Hermione made one last ditch effort to pull herself together. This had to work, this was her only viable option for escape—she had to accomplish this or she would never find her way out and all would be lost.

Hermione closed her eyes once more, and attempted to summon back even the tiniest degree of that electric determination she had first felt when looking into the haunted eyes of her imprisoned professor (whose company she had parted no more than an hour ago). Her heart ached for his pale, wasted figure. She yearned help him, and yet there, in his cell, she hadn't had time for pity or attempts at comfort, there was only time enough for a fiery sense of indignation to explode within her, consuming her instantly with a burning resolve to follow her plan through no matter what it took, and to finally secure Snape's immediate, justified, release.

Sitting there in the storm drain beneath one of Azkaban's minor passageways, Hermione recalled the image of Snape's face in her mind. It had been very dark, but her eyes were keen and she could well see the gauntness of his cheeks, the scrapes on his hands and face, the bruises; as he had stared deep into her eyes, his mind delving aggressively, mercilessly into hers, she had felt, in one, all-consuming wave, every one of the eighty-seven days he had spent in wretched, torturous misery.

The least you can do, Hermione, is budge one blasted scrap of metal!

She gathered her strength for the last time, muscles tense and aching, and drew upon the most powerful memory she could imagine:

Snape, collapsed on the ground, helpless with fever, dying in her arms. How she had held him to her, cradled his head, and wished, and wished, and…

CLANG!Hermione exploded upwards with all her might. The iron grate fell away at last. She was free!

Hermione slipped and scrabbled her way out of the pipe, yanking the cumbersome uniform after her. The sleeve snagged suddenly, and she fell back. Her heart leapt. She pulled again but the sleeve was wedged tight now. A cloud of chill descended upon the passageway. Hermione could see her breath. A Dementor was coming!

Just across the hall from where she now sat, stuck, tugging with growing desperation at her precious burden, was a heavy wooden door. Just a short ways beyond it, she could sense the Dementor coming towards her. It shouldn't be able to see her or sense her yet. It was moving fast. Something was in all probability makingit move. Another wizard guard and his Patronus! Perhaps even the same one from before. How could he already be coming back!

She was so exposed here and defenseless, but she couldn't dive back into the drainpipe because there would be no way of replacing the grate behind her. The guard might see the hole and she would be found out for sure. She needed to run, she needed to escape. She also couldn't leave the uniform, she needed it too!

Finally, after another long, frantic pull, there was a nasty rip and the sleeve gave way. Hermione paused briefly to attempt to nudge the grate back into place, but it was too heavy to move more than a few inches. She gave up, turning and taking off with lightning speed towards what she prayed with all her might was an exit.

She regretted having to leave the grate where it was, lying still significantly askew. There was nothing she could do about it. She would just have to chance it and hope no one noticed. Surely everything could still work out! Surely she hadn't just ruined things after all this!

Hermione rounded a corner as she heard the door, far behind her now, open and close. She had been right about the wizard guard; there were distant footsteps coming her way. But her nerves were lessening. She could sense that she was headed in the right direction, in the direction of what would soon be the outer walls of the prison, and freedom at last. The doors to the outside, of course, were locked shut, but there were plenty of windows with bars wide enough for her to squeeze through.

She just had to find one.

A minute later, Hermione emerged from the passageway into a large, dimly lit room. It was bare, all stone and heavy wooden doors, just like the rest of the endless passageways she had already run through many times tonight. And yet... there was an absence of torches in this room, it had to be moonlight, where was it coming from? Left! Hermione turned and sprinted towards a small window about waist high off the ground. She had no plan or experience to help her with what she was about to do, she was just taking a shot and hoping it turned out. Halfway to her goal, she put on a burst of speed and took a running leap straight towards the window.

She misjudged her trajectory by about an inch and a half. The side of her head collided with one of the thick metal bars with a sharp crack. Ouch!She tried to steady herself again, eyes running with tears as little dots of light danced around her vision. The left side of her brain felt like someone was pressing down on it with the flat side of a white-hot poker. Thankfully, somehow, she had found and retained her grip on the stone window ledge. The bulk of the uniform she was carrying had, surprisingly, served as an aid rather than hindrance. It not only cushioned the blow, but helped her remain in place, wedged as she was, halfway in and halfway out of the prison window.

Knowing she did not have even seconds to spare, Hermione ignored the blistering pain in her head and wriggled forward, kicking her large rabbit feet until she could sit fully on the window frame. The wind from the outside battered at her, freezing cold, making her nose and eyes burn. She welcomed it all the same. The salt air, the starlight it was bracing. She was almost free!

Next, with a small amount of squirming around, Hermione managed to pull the uniform out from beneath her and dropped it strategically on the rocky ground below. Carefully, she then slipped down off the window, using the thick cloth to cushion her fall.

Gathering up her burden once again, she began the long, winding climb back down the cliff face. She did not know where on the island she had emerged, and so thought the wisest bet would be to take a diagonal path, around and around the whole perimeter, until, hopefully, she might recognize the place where she had first arrived.

Even though the moon and stars were out, the night was still very dark, the cold-induced tears in her eyes made it difficult to see, and Hermione was extraordinarily disoriented. It took a long, torturous hour of searching before she was able to find her way. By that time, she had at last gone ahead and taken the risk of changing herself back into regular form; she feared that if she waited any longer, she might not have the strength to do it at all. On top of which, she simply could not drag that bloody uniform any further. Not an inch further. Instead, once human again, she pulled it over her head and wore it. Though admittedly repulsive under any other circumstances (added to which, there was a long rent where the sleeve had torn), Hermione was sure she was borderline hypothermic, and the uniform was surprisingly thick. She welcomed the extra layer of warmth.

The amount of relief she felt when she at last saw Ron's cleansweep, exactly where she had left it, wedged in between the rocks near the large 'X' she had carved several hours previously, was almost unfathomable. She had to scale a particularly large bolder in order to reach it, and that took a few tries. Once she had pulled herself on top, she made the mistake of looking over the side, and felt an immediate sense of vertigo. She was not so very far away from the ocean. But the waves were churning with an alarming velocity, and the height was still plenty enough to cause pain or injury if she fell. Swallowing back her fear, Hermione, turned to the broom and attempted to free it. She was successful, but only with some difficulty, as her arms and legs were shaking so violently she could hardly control them. Either from the cold or from exhaustion, of from the fear of possible drowning, she didn't know. Perhaps all of it put together.

Once she had the broom firmly in her hands, she mounted up, and without any further ceremony, launched herself outwards into the open air. For the briefest second, she let herself relax, sensing victory, finally, ready to let the broom take over her journey back to land.

She hadn't launched herself hard enough.

An enormous gust of wind slammed into her from the front, rocketing her backwards into the side of the island. In the blink of an eye, she was bashed violently sideways against the rocks, and for the second time that night she felt her head crack against a hard surface. Momentarily paralyzed with pain and shock, she crumpled instantly to the ground. The surface on which she landed was wet and slick. She slid off the large boulder from which she had just launched, falling several feet into a small groove between rocks on an overhang just bellow.

Hermione dimly felt the broom slip out of her hand. She tried to command her fist to grasp it, keep hold of it—dear God, it was her only hope!—but her body would not listen. The broom fell away.

Hermione lay there in the dark, dazed, her body twisted and throbbing. She could hardly breath, crushed as she was into such a small space, utterly entombed in stone. Was she going to die here? The manner in which she fell had her neck bent so far back that she could see behind her. All that greeted her was a blank wall of more stone. Her left arm had been pinned underneath her body somehow, and it hurt viciously. She didn't have the strength to move it. The wind howled overhead, like a thousand banshee's wailing unceasingly just outside her range of vision. The waves off the ocean added further violence, crashing thunderously against the cliff face, so near that she felt the vibrations in her teeth. A heavy mist of sea spray descended on her from above, salt digging angrily into her pores, making her skin burn and itch to the point of debilitating irritation.

She was defeated. The broom was lost. Everything was over.

With that, Hermione began to cry.

Her chest ached with the force of her sobs. She cried, and cried, and made no attempt to stop. In the grand scheme of things, she knew how dreadfully much she needed to cry; she hadn't for so long, and in that moment, there was nothing else she could do.

Visions of Snape wove in and out of her mind as the seconds ticked by. Him hunkered down in his cell, like a caged animal, curled up on the floor, wasting away with hunger and torment, his whole body as wracked with pain as hers was now. Worse, even. Worse…

He may have felt what she was feeling, Hermione realized, but she had only felt it for a few hours. He had been feeling this way for eighty-seven days. And yet, as she had seen him just hours ago, he was still fighting. He still clung on, preparing himself to grit his teeth and continue forward with every ounce of strength he had left in him.

If you can, so can I, she vowed silently. I swear to God, to everything, I swear to whatever spark of love and devotion we may still share between us, I won't give up. I won't, I bloody swear I won't!

As best she could, Hermione rolled herself sideways, managing, with a painful wrench, to unpin her arm. Once free, with an effort so mighty she thought she might faint, she grasped the edge of the boulder to her side and pulled herself into a sitting position.

Her sobs had calmed now. The tears still came, but she paid them no mind, wiping them away on her sleeve. She blinked hard, clearing her vision, and began searching furiously around for the lost cleansweep. Yes, the wind was hideously strong, and in all likelihood the broom had been blown away or dashed against the rocks. Hermione refused to believe it; to believe it would be to admit defeat, and she was not ready for that. All she had in mind now was her plan. It was crystal clear. Nothing else crowded her thoughts. Only instinct, only the desire to complete her objective. The night was wearing on, and she needed to make it back to the campsite before daybreak.

She squinted through the heavy mist, trying not to panic, trying to hurry, but also trying to be methodic and not rush herself in case she missed something. Many times, she lost her train of sight in the shadows and crevices of the rocks, but her resolution did not waver. Then…

There! It was just there! Only a few yards away, tucked precariously beneath a small overhang, she saw it.

Good luck willing, she figured she could reach it in a minute or two, hopefully before an errant wave or gust of wind took it out of sight again. So, ignoring the protest of her many aches, her joints, what seemed like each sinew of muscle, as well as the rhythmic, shuddering pain in her head that all but took her breath away—she wiped something from her forehead, then from her cheek, was that blood?—Hermione scrambled as best she could out of the crevice and over the side of the island towards the small speck of brown. Clumsily, she scraped her hands and knees as she didn't dare take her eyes away from the precious object even for a second.

Very soon, she was there, and Ron's broom was once again captured firmly in her hands.

Trembling violently, Hermione mounted once more. She gripped the handle, knuckles white. Her jaw set. This time, no mistakes. She took a breath then kicked off from the ground, hard. She could feel the jolt like a gunshot from the balls of her heels up the entire length of her spine—painful, but it did the trick. She soared high into the sky. Up and up, fast as she could, then forward and forward, on and on, she flew, wild and relentless, through the raging winds, until she dared to look behind her and Azkaban was nothing but a shapeless shadow far, far in the distance.

Hermione should have felt relief at last. The shoreline was approaching fast before her. But all she felt was determination. She had caught her second wind. Literally. And her body was taught with nerves. The plan was still on course. Everything was still in place. Soon it would be morning. She was anxious for the next hour of action.




Severus had no sense of time or day, how could he? No watch, no window, just darkness. Even the guards' rounds were erratic and unpredictable, therefore unhelpful as a measurable device. He had no notion of how many hours, months—years?—had passed. He simply lived… or rather, existed, in a suspended world of torture.

Even though he knew the plan, his role within it and how to execute the required actions, he could not anticipate when it would begin. He was very tired—as he always was, perpetually, every moment since he had arrived here—and was tempted to sleep. Yet therein lay the problem of not knowing how much longer until daybreak; he wanted his wits about him when Hermione came. It would add greater difficulty to an already difficult feat if he were groggy or disoriented from sleep.

The upshot was that she would be there very early the following morning, which meant he only needed to wait, at most, a few hours. But those hours seemed long, as time crawled at a gruelingly slow pace in the haze of anticipation.

Physical exertion would help him to ward off sleep, Severus thought, but he also did not want to do anything out of the ordinary that might draw suspicion. Until now, he had spent the majority of his time either sleeping or lying lethargically on the ground. If a guard happened to walk by and saw him pacing his cell—anxiously or otherwise—they might, for whatever reason, be inclined to keep a tighter watch on him.

As it was, his only option was to lie there, just as he had been for the past however many hours, and dream of his escape. There was not much else to occupy his thoughts—or distract him from the dark mark on his arm, which had been irritating him more than usual of late. Either because he was more aware of it, or because the Dark Lord had recently suffered a particularly infuriating setback. Either way, it was bothering him.

Severus adjusted himself uncomfortably. As he did so, the pouch tucked away in his sleeve shifted, and the two vials of polyjuice potion within it clinked together softly. He froze.

No. Certainly no one had heard that. There were too many screams and moans of agony rippling through these prison walls.

More time passed without incident, and Severus once again slipped into a state of tedious anticipation. How much longer? How much time had already passed? At least two hours. At least. Maybe. It was so hard to tell! And made all the more frustrating with the knowledge that, prior to his stay at Azkaban, Severus recalled possessing an extraordinarily adept internal clock—precise almost to a heartbeat. Such a skill was one of many which had made him very good at his job, as a spy and member of the Order. Now that skill was apparently gone… Then again, what did it matter? Regardless of whether he made it out of prison alive, his double agent days were over. The same for his as a Professor at Hogwarts (though that thought did not particularly pain him). In less than twenty-four hours, he would be what he had been before—in hiding—only, this time, there would be no alternate place he could turn, no position to fill, no even marginally relevant use to serve. Both sides would be after him. Voldemort for betraying him, and the Ministry for escaping Azkaban. He would be nothing. Less than nothing—a coward! A runaway, a convict! Unless…

Of course, there was, potentially, one more role for him to play, and for a cause other than his own self-preservation.

Severus had extracted crucial information from Travers about Voldemort: his new whereabouts, his plans for the future, potential weaknesses. Once Severus in turn revealed this information to the appropriate people (Dumbledore, members of the Order), they could begin to assemble a final resistance, a final attack, to finish the Dark Lord and his followers once and for all. If this happened, Severus would be able, temporarily, to abandon his role as a traitorous convict and take on something new. A far worthier role. He would be a warrior. A warrior knight, with a respectable cause, leading the charge, fire in his heart, the sun at his back, illuminating whatever scrap of purity and goodness still lay within him for all the world to see…

Severus did not realize he had fallen asleep until the loud clang of a door opening and closing halfway down the cellblock startled him awake.

Groggy for half a second, unthinking of the circumstances, he relaxed again against the floor, meaning to fall back right back asleep—then a pair of blazing, golden brown eyes flashed in his memory and he snapped to attention. Hermione! The escape!

He remained where he lay, but his muscles were taught, and his mind whirled quickly through the steps he would be taking in the next ten minutes. It would be quick, and it had to be flawless; one mistake and it would all be over. One way or another, in ten minutes, it would all be over.

Several pairs of footsteps approached. Severus pretended to be asleep. The icy chill of Dementor gloom increased exponentially, and the footsteps stopped. They were standing right outside his cell. She… Hermione, was standing right outside.

A key scraped the lock of the cell and one of the guards rapped against the bars with his wand.

"Visitor, Professor! Rise and shine, Slimy—you've got a visitor from the Daily Prophet!"

One, two, three, four

Severus breathed in, out, rolled over and rose, slowly, as though he were confused and cautious (admittedly, the trepidation, he did not have to fake). His hands clenched tightly inside his sleeves; in one fist, the left, was the vial of Polyjuice Potion to which Dylan Hadley's hair had been added. In the other fist was the vial in which Severus had placed his own hair just a few hours previously.

…five, six…

Severus blinked dully as the two wizard guards opened the door to Severus's cell and led a cloaked, gangly, mousy-haired young man inside. The man tripped momentarily on the hem of his robes, managed to catch himself, and seemed to blush with embarrassment. But Severus saw something else in that blush: terror, anxiety, someone dopey with alcohol-induced intoxication.

This young man, who, to all appearances, looked like Penny Paige's flunky assistant, Dylan Hadley—was actually not Dylan Hadley at all. It was Hermione Granger, and she had far more than "interviewing" on her mind.

…seven, eight, nine…

Dylan cleared his throat. "Er, I have… um, a few, a few questions, Mr. uh… Mr. Snape." He stepped cautiously forward, one hand clenched tightly to keep the cloak wrapped close around his shoulders. In fact, his hand was the only thing keeping it on his body, for—if Hermione had followed the plan correctly—the clasp was undone in preparation for what was about to happen next.

…eleven, twelve…

Four more seconds to go, thought Severus, as, despite himself, he felt his pulse begin to race. Surreptitiously, from within his sleeves, he uncorked the two vials of Polyjuice. His palms were sweaty, but his muscles, though tense, did not tremble. He was in control. He knew what to do. This plan was flawless—Granger had thought it through beautifully—he just had to execute it properly.

Severus stared at Dylan, and Dylan stared back. Only, it wasn't Dylan. Hermione, plain as day, was looking at him from behind those eyes. How did no one else see it? There she was, bold as brass, defiant and ready—loopy with firewhisky, yet focused, alight with anxious energy, and damned ready for action. An electric charge filled the air in the small space between them. There was a distinct thrill in this, in what they were doing. It was dangerous, but here they were—two intelligent beings defying the law and working together to do it in symbiotic harmony, as perfectly and completely as though they were one mind—and, in a sense, they were.


Dylan held out his hand as though to introduce himself, using this as a pretense to stride forward so that he would be no more than two or three feet away.

…fourteen… fifteen… and—

Suddenly, the two guards jumped as what sounded like a bomb exploded some ways down the cellblock. In the excruciatingly small amount of time it took for the guards to turn their backs, walk a few steps, and look outside the cell towards the explosion, several things happened in quick succession:

First, Severus handed Dylan the Polyjuice Potion he held at his right, while at the same time lifted the one at his left to his lips and downed it in one gulp. As he did this, Dylan-Hermione in turn downed the potion she had just received, while simultaneously flinging the cloak off her shoulders and in the same motion, throwing it around Severus's. As the Polyjuice Potion began to take instant effect, both of them, as one, in two calculated strides, circled each other, and switched places.

Hermione handed Severus back the empty vial, which he pocketed along with the other one and the two corks, before wrapping the cloak tightly over his Azkaban prison uniform and hiding it entirely from view.

By the time one of the guards (the braver of the two) had taken off down the hall to investigate the noise, and the other turned back around to keep an eye on the prisoner and his guest, everything was in place—and the guard had no notion of anything having taken place at all.

Severus's potion had turned him into Dylan, and Hermione's potion had turned her into Severus. The only potential indication that something was out of order was a slight tear in the new Severus's uniform sleeve—but tears were not uncommon, such shoddy material often fell into disrepair, and so the guard had no reason to take notice of this minor altercation.

Severus stood there in Dylan's body looking eerily back at a gaunt, wasted version of himself. Is that what Azkaban had done to him? Then he swayed slightly where he stood as the alcohol hit him like a brick wall. His body was buzzing, his thoughts slippery and elusive. Focus, he told himself. Next step: Get out.

Severus turned to the guard, putting on a show of nervous energy (or, rather, letting his natural nerves show). "W-what was that?"

"Dunno," the guard replied, and then yelled down the cellblock to his partner. "What was it?"

"Whatever it is," came the irritated reply. "It smells like… URGH it smells like someone let off a dungbomb! But I can't find… I mean, I smell it, but there's nothing here."

The guard inside the cell turned to Severus, pointing his wand at him aggressively. "Did you do this?"

"I—" Severus was about to point out that "he" had "been here the whole time," when he was interrupted by a dull thump, indicating that Hermione—or rather, Severus, now—had fallen heavily to the ground.

Severus looked down at the copy of himself, whose face was alarmingly white, with a tinge of green, as though he were moments away from spilling his guts all over the floor. The Severus copy looked extraordinarily disoriented, and his eyes eventually closed, indicating that perhaps the room were spinning too fast for him to handle.

This made sense to Severus, as Hermione had now, in the span of an hour, taken two full doses of the densely alcoholic Polyjuice Potion, and whatever effects Severus was now feeling (which were surprisingly strong for such a small portion), Hermione was now feeling double.

Severus was instantly afire with anxiety. It took all his self control not to rush to her aid—too much alcohol in the blood could prove very dangerous—but there was no turning back, and the rest of their plan needed to be followed very strictly or else they would both be in an unthinkable amount of peril. He needed to section it off, he had done it before. Section off that part of his mind where Hermione Granger had somehow managed to permeate, ignore it, and then execute his current task with unflinching efficiency.

Gesturing to the Severus on the floor, Dylan-Severus said defensively, "I didn't do anything to him, I swear it! He just…"

The guard, surprisingly, did not look overly perturbed. "Yeah… It's the smell, I reckon. And anyway, that greasy rat's been looking sickly for weeks. Listen—I don't know what this dungbomb thing is about, but I don't like the looks of it, and, quite frankly, I don't like the looks of you."

Severus silently urged the guard to say what he hoped he would say next.

"Mr. Hadley, I think you had better come back another time. Or, preferably, not at all."


"I—I'm supposed to…" Severus pretended to protest faintly. Then he covered his nose as though so disgusted by the smell of the dungbomb that he would be very hard pressed to remain standing where he was.

As a result, the guard simply stepped back and made a sweeping gesture towards the open gate, as though to indicate that Dylan should leave.

Severus immediately obliged, sparing one long, unfathomable last look at his copy lying prostrate on the ground, as the guard closed the cell once more and locked it tight.

Even though he had made the particular effort of diluting his emotions, Severus could not help letting one final thought slip through, and linger for a moment, in the very front of his mind:

Hermione was on her own now.

Merlin help her.

Hermione lay where she had fallen for a long time, her eyes shut tight against overwhelming nausea and the disorientation caused by the world seemingly spinning rapidly around her.

On top of that, however, there was a small spark of triumph swelling somewhere inside her. Even though there was much yet to go, the majority of the escape had gone as planned, and—(Hermione couldn't help but smile)—at this very moment, Snape was on his way out the door. The guards would lead him back to the visitor area where Hermione had entered that morning, hand him her wand and her broom, which she had checked in upon arrival, and just like that, he would be off. Free and alive. Back to where Harry was waiting for him at their campsite.

Of course, meanwhile…

Hermione clenched her teeth as another rolling wave of nausea hit her. All of her limbs felt so heavy, the ground was like wet concrete, and she was slowly sinking into it, never to rise again.

She spared a moment to speculate that it would have been a violently odd sensation to inhabit the body of Severus Snape. But, as the situation stood now, she was too far gone to even begin to appreciate, not to mention explore, the utter absurdity of it. She felt rather tall (which was strange, because she was lying down), and that was about it.

Hermione tried to keep her senses as sharp as possible—even going so far as to attempt to recite the first page of Hogwarts, a History(which she had committed to memory long ago), but it was a futile effort, and eventually she fell into what could charitably be described as a drunken stupor. Every now and then she would remember where she was and what she was supposed to be waiting for, but, most of the time, she just let her brain sit very still, wrapped in a blanket of white static, with no thoughts or ideas running through it to stir up her anxieties.

It did smell very awful. Which was alright. She had only herself to blame.

The dungbomb had been Harry's idea, which Hermione had then been able to integrate into the complex weave of events she had already managed to organize. What made this dungbomb special was that not only was it a Weasley product, but because it was a Weasley product, it had an extra feature—in the form of an extraordinarily accurate time delay which the user could easily adjust to his or her own needs in order to facilitate the most effective mischief possible. Hermione had taken the extra precaution of turning it invisible (a charm she was vastly grateful to Professor Flitwick for teaching their class prior to this adventure). The bomb had worked perfectly as a timed distraction so that she and Snape could make the switch. Now though, the stench remained, and Hermione was beginning to regret such a hasty choice. She still had five hours to go before she could leave… and it was so dark and cold… How in the world would she be able to stand this…

It wasn't long before Hermione fell asleep. A deep sleep. So deep, in fact, she only tediously began to drift back into wakefulness just as her body started to pop and morph back into shape. She opened her eyes blearily to the feeling of herself shrinking, her limbs shortening, her hair growing. Immediately, the panic rose into her throat, her heart pattering, pattering inside her chest. It took a while for her to fully orientate herself.

This was it, the time had come. One final step and it would all be over.

She closed her eyes, gathered her thoughts as best she could, and bent her will to transforming herself into rabbit form.

Nothing happened.

She took a deep breath and tried again—this time with more fervor, a more sustained effort.

Still nothing.

Tears of frustration began to form behind her eyes and she shut them tighter than ever, grinding her teeth, internally screaming at herself to get a grip, to pull it together, to do what she needed to do. She was so close!

Her panic soon mounted into full-out hysteria as she heard a door open, followed by the approaching footsteps of the Azkaban guards. Oh God, oh God, please, please, please—please transform! PLEASE!

But there was no hope of it now; she was too far lost in the madness of terror to accomplish such a complicated feat.

What could she do? There was no alternative, they were going to see her! She was Hermione now, entirely, visually herself, and there was no way to change that. This was something she had not accounted for… or rather, something she had dreaded would happen, but had no solution to provide if things went horribly wrong. And this was wrong—this was all wrong!

She had to hide herself. There was nowhere to go. The cell was so small and bare. It was dark, but not dark enough. No, no, no—the footsteps were getting louder now.

Unable to fathom another option or possibility, Hermione scrambled towards the far right corner of her cell, in the darkest space available and curled in on herself, drawing her knees to her chest. She then tucked as much of her hair as she could into the back of the uniform she was wearing and, with a final, silent plea for mercy, she threw her arms over her head, hoping it was enough to cover herself. She wasn't invisible, obviously, but if she was lucky, maybe she would look like any other unrecognizable figure huddled in the corner.

Surely other inmates did this, slept curled up in the corner. Surely no one would think this behavior strange.

She shivered as she felt Dementors come swooping by, right outside the cell. And then the guards, two of them, walking, quietly talking, closer and closer, booted steps getting louder, until… they passed. And were gone. Just like that, without even a pause.

They probably didn't even look inside, Hermione thought with enormous relief. A few more seconds passed, and she finally let herself relax the smallest bit. She took several slow, deep breaths, and felt her muscles ease out of their rigid tension.

Now, she thought simply.

That was it. Her ears grew, her skin sprouted fur, her legs shrank.

For a moment, Hermione let herself fall into the proper mindset of her new form before daring to move. Her animagus form was always difficult to adapt to, and as unstable as her mind already was, any more disorienting trauma might very well put her over the edge.

Once properly situated, Hermione stretched her long back legs, shook herself from head to toe, gearing herself up for the flight—the final race. And then she took off, wriggling between the bars, and scampered down the cellblock towards her eventual freedom.

If her previous escape had felt pressured for time, it was nothing to this. Before, she had only needed to worry about being found by the wandering guards and their Patronuses—she could take however long she needed to hide or find a divergent course. Now, she was really working against the clock.

It was good, then, that the guards had walked by when the did, because that meant the maximum amount of time before they came back by again—and in all likelihood, would notice the disappearance of a very important prisoner.

Hermione had to—had to—escape the island before this happened. The very second Snape's disappearance was realized, all manner of alarms would be raised and Hermione would not have a hope in hell of leaving undetected.

With the haunting vision of a Dementor's hooded face descending towards her, its mouth eagerly waiting to suck out her soul, fueling her fear like nothing else in the world, Hermione raced down passage after passage, trying as best she could to remember the path she had taken not even twenty-four hours ago.

It was difficult; she had done most of it through pipes. She made a few wrong turns, and meandered a bit somewhere in the East wing, but by some miracle of divine intervention, she managed to find her way again, and scrambled out the first window she came upon.

Thankfully, this one was much lower to the ground than the one she had previously used, and she was careful enough to avoid bashing her head against the bars.

Once out in the daylight (though it was hardly considered daylight, as the sky was dark gray, roiling with clouds, and a sharp drizzle of rain of rain was falling), Hermione attempted to gather her bearings. She figured she had emerged not far from where she had arrived by broomstick (as Dylan) that morning, and it had been exactly opposite, on the other side of the island, from the place near the water where Hermione was headed, where Harry's Firebolt—hopefully still covered by the invisibility cloak—waited for her, just as she had left it so many hours ago. God, it felt like weeks had passed since then.

With that thought, Hermione took a sharp left, and clambered down the side of the island, weaving in and out of rocks, thankful for her inherent rabbit agility.

Gray, gray, gray, everywhere, she almost couldn't take it; the rocks, the sky, even the water that spanned for miles all around. Hermione felt the color closing in around her as though it were a Dementor itself, sucking all the life and happiness from deep out of the marrow of her bones. (Whatever life was left, anyway).

But the thought of the end drove her on. She just had to make it around the island. She couldn't be too far now.

Hermione jumped and then cowered low to the ground as an actual Dementor whooshed by overhead. Whether it was sniffing her out, or had coincidentally decided to swoop down at just that spot where Hermione was hiding, she didn't know. It had been much too close for her comfort, and she picked up the pace.

Finally, Hermione could see, just a few yards ahead of her and slightly below, the large X she had carved in the boulder. She scurried towards it, hope beginning to kindle in her chest.

There were two Dementors circling high in the air directly above her—maybe close enough to "sense" her if she turned human, but it really was a far distance, and Hermione did not have the time to wait for them to move.

She choreographed her next few steps very carefully, preparing herself for precisely what she needed to do so that she would be able to execute her escape as quickly and efficiently as possible.

First, she nudged as close she could to the spot where she remembered placing the broom, until she could feel the cloak brush lightly against her paw. Then she changed—much faster and much easier than before. It was always easier when going from animal to human. The very split second Hermione felt fully herself again, she shot her arm beneath the cloak, scrabbled around until she had the broom handle clutched firmly in her fist, grabbed the invisibility cloak with her free hand and then kicked the rocks away that were holding it down.

The cloak was instantly taken up in the wind, but Hermione had a good grip, and it stayed with her. Then, feeling ever wary of the two Dementors who-only-knew-where in the clouds above her, she swung her leg over the Firebolt and drew the invisibility cloak, as best she could, close around herself.

She braced herself, and then kicked off the ground as hard as her waning strength would allow, shooting into the sky with a speed that was frankly alarming. In fact, the speed was too great. Either she had kicked off much too hard, or the Firebolt was simply that sensitive, for even as she tried to correct the course of her flight to go forwards instead of upwards, within seconds she flew right passed a hovering Dementor. Only inches to spare.


Hermione hadn't a clue if either of the Dementor's had noticed her and were giving chase—she just darted forward as fast as she dared, even faster than she dared, more terrified of what was surely right behind her, than the churning waters below her.

On and on, she urged the Firebolt forward, even as the wind tore at the invisibility cloak and nearly ripped it from her hand.

The shoreline at the edge of the ocean was getting nearer; she could see the trees now, the gap far in the distance where they were supposed to rendezvous, where Harry—where Snape—was waiting for her. If possible, she put on an even stronger burst of speed, fueled by the thought of the man she had struggled for so long to free, being there to welcome her, actually there, safe and alive, close enough to see, and hear, and touch, and kiss.

Hermione shrieked and swerved violently, almost unseating herself, as the massive, flowing figure of a Dementor flew into her path from below. It reached out a hand, but Hermione had swerved just in time and it grasped only empty air.

They followed her! How did they catch up to her already—she was going so fast!

Hermione had no other defense but speed; she didn't have her wand, nor did she have even the slightest sense of mind or adequate happiness to conjure a Patronus even if she did possess a wand and managed somehow to wave it, hold the cloak, and hold the broom, all at the same time.

Another Dementor came down at her from above, its hood pulled back, its gaping mouth ready to attack. She shrieked again and impulsively kicked out with her foot, in an effort to deter it. Her foot caught it right in the middle, where its stomach should have been—but the substance she encountered was not at all what she was expecting. There was something there. Whatever it was it did not feel even remotely like flesh. Instead, it had an enormous amount of give, like the consistency of a rotted pumpkin.

This was a small triumph. Even though her kick had done nothing to eliminate the Dementor as a threat, it opened her pathway again and she pushed the Firebolt straight through into open air. She was racing towards the shore again, wind roaring in her ears. But, with a sudden jerk, the broom stopped. Hermione went flying off the end—managing, somehow, to retain her hold on the broom so that she just hung there by an arm, her entire body dangling hundreds of feet over the ice cold sea.

The invisibility cloak had come off her shoulders, and she only retained her grip on the very edge of it, with just a few fingers.

She looked up and saw that the second Dementor had grabbed the back of her broom, causing it to halt instantly in midair. The first Dementor, the one she had just kicked, was now drifting over to meet her, its bony hands trembling as they reached up to pull back the hood of its robes. Its rancid breath rattled, and even through the wind and the pounding in her head and the overwhelming fear, Hermione could hear it plain as day. That was a sound that could pierce through any amount of noise in the world. Her heart froze over. All the breath left her lungs. She was staring into the face of death now. After all this, after everything she had done the past day, the past month—after having been grasped in death's clutches, and still somehow clawing her way back out—she was really going to be done for this time. Only she wouldn't even be dead, she would be worse than dead.

The Dementor reached out for her. There was nothing Hermione could do to stop it. She couldn't even let go of the broom. She tried to command her hand to loosen, to let her fall. Even drowning in the churning waters below would be preferable to what she was facing now. But her hand was frozen stiff. The invisibility cloak was still clutched in her other hand, and Hermione spared a moment to consider that it was stupid she had cared so much to save it. Did she really value Harry's cloak over her own life?

The Dementor's hands closed over her shoulders.

Did it even matter now? She would have found herself in the same situation whether she had lost the cloak or not. Perhaps if she had taken the initiative and thrown herself off the broom before the Dementor's had the chance to get so close, to freeze her conscious will, to paralyze her so that all she could do was hang there limply and await her imminent demise...

The Dementor's lipless mouth drew closer. Just inches away now. Inches away from never hugging her Mother again, or spending sleepless nights in the Library doing homework, of laboring lovingly over her favorite classes, or laughing with Ginny and Ron and Harry, or growing up and getting married, having children, of seeing, holding, kissing, basking in the devotion of the one and only man she truly—


Hermione felt an instant shockwave of warm energy as a massive, blindingly white object barreled passed her, shooing the two Dementors away in the blink of an instant.

Hold on, hold on, hold on, she told herself, as her vision began to blur and the darkness began to close in around her.

She narrowed her eyes, trying hard to focus on the hovering figure, her savior, just a few yards away, flying fast towards her on a broomstick.

She knew that voice.

She knew that silhouette.

But who, and how did… how did he… I… Oh… my…It happened very fast. However, Hermione was very focused, and so, for that particular reason, she did not miss it. In fact, she could do nothing but gape, dumbstruck, as she caught a glimpse of the heroic Patronus as it circled back around her and returned, shining and triumphant, to the man's waiting wand.

She had only caught a glimpse—but that glimpse was enough.

The Patronus was one she had never seen before, yet she knew instantly to whom it belonged. Because the silvery white animal had an unmistakable shape. Long, elegant ears, a peculiar, bounding gait—and, this part, Hermione was certain of, because she had seen it just as it disappeared into the man's wand—a small, fluffy, cotton tail.

His Patronus, she thought dimly, her body shaking and quivering, her broom beginning to sink in midair because her muscles were near to giving out from such profound and insurmountable exhaustion.

…It's me.

The broom handle slipped from her grasp.

Just Let it Happen

A Harry Potter Story
by La. Bel. LM

Part 28 of 35

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