Continuing Tales

Just Let it Happen

A Harry Potter Story
by La. Bel. LM

Part 29 of 35

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Just Let It Happen

Hermione fell very fast. No breath to scream. With her eyes closed tight, she was unsure if it was her body or simply her head that was spinning. In any case, it didn't matter—within moments, she felt herself caught, roughly, in midair; strong arms wrapped around her waist, crushing her tightly against a warm, familiar body. Severus. Fearless Severus.

Despite the strength of his embrace, they slowed, but continued to fall—and quite rapidly it felt like. Hermione did not understand for half a beat why this was. Then she realized, with instant clarity, that she had been on the Firebolt. Snape was on Ron's Cleansweep. There was no way it could hold their combined weight.

Open your eyes, Hermione commanded herself. And to her surprise, she did. She found herself looking down at gray, white-topped waves hurtling towards her at an alarming speed. In that first suspended moment, she was taken back to a time, months and months ago, when she had found herself in similar peril. Only it had been treetops rushing up to greet her then, and Snape had not only saved her out of mere, grudging obligation, but had, in fact, been the very one to drop her in the first place. That time, he had taken no pains to do anything except deter her death, making minimal efforts to protect her. This time...

Hermione's heart gave a jump as she felt Snape wrap his body around her and turn so that he was between her and the oncoming ocean.

"Don't—" she began to say, but then they hit.

With a momentous crash that knocked every last trace of breath from her lungs, Hermione felt the cold shatter around her, razor sharp, like she had fallen through a thick sheet of ice. Water filled her mouth and her throat as she struggled to gather her bearings and pull herself up to the surface.

Where was he? Where was he? She didn't feel him anymore. His arms were gone. She was tossed violently as an enormous wave picked her up and swept her downwards again. Desperately, she kicked and kicked, reaching upwards with all her strength, trying to find oxygen again. Her clothes dragged at her, entangling her limbs. Where is he!

For the briefest of seconds, Hermione's head managed to break the surface. She sucked in one, glorious breath, before another icy wave crashed down on her and forced her beneath the water once more.

Despite the chill and the stinging salt, Hermione forced her eyes open, searching the murky waters frantically for her missing savior.

What if the fall had knocked him out? What if he was drowning right now, silently unconscious and unknowing, unable to save himself? She had to find him!

The water was impossible to see through more than two or three feet on any side, Hermione's lungs burned inside her body, but she continued to swim down, down, flinging her limbs about, hoping against hopes that the current had not carried him too far beyond her grasp.

Then her foot kicked something. A shoulder—a man's shoulder. Furiously, Hermione dove deeper to her right and grabbed a great handful of the man's shirt. Then she swam upwards again, heart pumping, limbs aching, cold permeating every last inch of her being. She struggled, exhaustion beginning to overshadow the strength of her adrenalin rush, and she knew she was beginning to lose control. The light was still so very far above her. She wasn't going to make it.

Then, with the very next kick of her legs, she found herself moving faster, much faster than she had been before—someone had grabbed Snape's other arm and was pulling him, with Hermione in tow, quickly out of the depths.


Feeling a burst of relief and gratitude, Hermione put in the very last ounce of strength she had to push herself and Snape towards safety. Within moments, they reached the surface again.

Snape sputtered instantly as he emerged from the water. Clearly the fall had not knocked him out, though it had probably dazed him. His legs weren't kicking; Hermione figured it was still the shock of the fall. "I used—" Snape struggled to say, as the heavy, rolling waves tossed the three of them up and down. "I used Granger's wand!" he said loudly over the wind. "I used magic!"

Hermione put it together before Harry did. "The Ministry!" She looked at Harry, whose eyes were wide and fearful in response. Where are his glasses? she thought stupidly. And how had he gotten here so fast? How had he been there to rescue them when, as Hermione knew very well, they had no third broom?

Hermione looked past Harry's shoulder as they crested the top of a particularly large wave, and she saw the shore, not far off. In fact it was no more than a few minutes' swim from were they were now. He must have seen Hermione's peril when the Dementor's attacked and anticipated her fall. He had to have jumped into the ocean well before she had actually fallen in order to be here so fast. He had done so just to be a fail safe, just in case. She felt such an enormous rush of gratitude for his devotion and his bravery, but there was no time to express it…

"The Ministry—They'll be here within—I don't know, but very soon!" Hermione shouted at him. "We have to hide!" She took a firmer hold of Snape's arm and struck out at once towards land.

"Where's the Firebolt!" Harry yelled back.

Hermione halted.

"I've got the Cleansweep!" He held up the handle (the rest was still beneath the water), and Hermione realized with a jolt, that he had been using it to propel her and Snape out of the depths—which explained how they had moved so fast. Now he was about to use it to pull them towards the shore.

He paused when Hermione's face fell, and she said back, her voice hoarse and small against the gales of wind, "I don't know, Harry, I couldn't hold it!"

"What about my dad's cloak?"

"Harry, I—Oh, Harry, I lost it! I'm so sorry I—"

"No you didn't," Snape retorted suddenly, struggling to pull his arm out of Hermione's grasp.

She understood why a moment later as Snape's hand emerged from the waters holding it in his fist. "I've got the cloak!"

Had they been in any other situation, had she the strength and the time and the gall to do so, Hermione would have thrown her arms around him with glee.

But they had only minutes at best to get themselves to shore and hidden before they were beset by Ministry officials (or worse, Death Eaters) looking for an escaped Azkaban prisoner and runaway Hogwarts students. So everyone shut there mouths, clung together, and let the Cleansweep drag them swiftly through the frigid water.

Quite obviously, none of this had been part of the original plan. Still, as Hermione saw it, Snape was free, and that was the most important part. They would just have to improvise the rest. Take it one step at a time. Prioritize. The priority for now: reach the shore. The next step: hide. The next: …Well, she'd think about that later.

It took much longer to fight against the waves than Hermione anticipated. It soon became apparent that they were not going to be able to make it out of the ocean before someone at the Ministry figured out their coordinates and came after them, probably by Apparating somewhere on the beach. Therefore, the moment Snape's long legs could reach the ocean floor, Harry and Hermione, still clinging on either side to his arms, each took an edge of the cloak and pulled it over all three of them—with Snape in the middle, dragging them all forward.

Hermione was instantly overwhelmed with the smell of salt, the weight of the sodden cloak (which was usually very light) pressing down upon her. She supposed it was also very cold, but her whole body was so numb by now, her nose and cheeks icy beyond feeling. Her whole body was overcome with fervid shivering, her teeth chattering—in fact all three of their teeth were chattering. That was to be expected. There was nothing to do about it.

There was no hope of Harry hiding the broom under the cloak with them. Instead, Harry gave it to Snape, who held it down by his side, beneath the water and out of sight.

Just as feared (and, thankfully, predicted), there were seven loud cracks, in quick succession, near the edge of the forest, long before Harry, Hermione and Snape had made it to dry land.

Seven Aurors! Hermione thought, aghast, as the intimidating wizard fighters Apparated before them, wands already out and ready for action.

Hermione searched their faces but did not recognize any of them. Even if she had recognized one of them—even if, say, Tonks, had been among them—she would not have risked exposure.

Once both Harry and Hermione were able to reach the bottom as well, instead of continuing forward, out of the ocean, the three turned and followed the shoreline sideways, away from the searching Aurors. If they took even one step on the sand, their footprints would give them away instantly.

So they continued on for the better part of an hour, waist deep in pulsing, icy, salty water, their legs shaking from exhaustion, the rest of their body shaking from the cold.

They didn't risk speech—in any case, they were all too tired to form words. Hermione and Snape most of all.

Hermione concentrated only on putting one foot in front of the other, of keeping her hold on Snape's arm and the edge of the invisibility cloak at her side. She supposed if she ever stopped—for even a moment—if she even stopped to think about how bruised and battered and worn out her body was, she would simply faint dead away. She couldn't do that to Harry and Snape; if she gave up now, she would be an almost impossible burden, and all their work might be for nothing.

And so it went. So she continued.

Finally, Snape stopped walking, causing the other two to halt with him. He jerked his head, indicating that they should think about making a break towards dry land. They were well out of reach of Death Eaters, Aurors, and Dementors by now, and the tree line was closer to the beach than it had been in the past half hour.

Hermione and Harry nodded. Then they all started dragging themselves out of the sea.

Once the water had receded enough for her to feel the full weight of her body, Hermione nearly collapsed. She hadn't realized how much the water had done to keep her afloat and ease the tension in her joints, the aching muscles in her legs. Somehow, she managed to compartmentalize. She just… stowed it all away. The pain and the exhaustion; it was like she just put all up on a shelf and said, I'll deal with you later, before continuing blindly forward, systematically, robotically, tirelessly.

They kept the cloak over themselves until they were well into the forest; in fact they were less than a dozen yards away from their campsite, when they had to stop. Hermione ducked out from underneath the cloak, stumbled away a few feet before falling heavily against the side of a tree, bending over, and promptly emptying the contents of her stomach amongst the leaves at her feet.

Harry rushed to her side.

"It's all that shaking," he said roughly. His voice sounded just as tired as Hermione felt. He put a hand on her back and rubbed gently. "We need to get you warm somewhere, and dry. You've got to lie down before you fall down."

Hermione wiped her mouth on her sleeve. "I… Oh wait…" She threw up again. Harry continued to rub her back. Her face felt flushed and warm. "I hit my head… a couple times," she said at last. "Back in—on the island. Quite hard, I think."

"You did what?" Snape's voice sounded sharp but unreadable somewhere behind her.

Harry answered. "She said she hit her head a few times. Hard—she said. What does that mean? Do you think she has a concussion? Hermione, do you think you—"

"I'm fine, Harry. It was a while ago. Really. Let's…" She felt a wave of dizziness fall over her. It took a second for the world to right itself again. "Let's just… get somewhere. Somewhere safe. As soon as possible."

"Yeah, but I mean… how? We haven't got the brooms. It's daylight and the cloak isn't going to help. All we can do is… Do you think we could Apparate?"

Hermione leaned back against the tree, shakily, and looked Harry straight in the eye. "I can't. Can you?"

"No," he replied. "But Snape can."

"What does that—"

"Side-Along apparition."

Hermione felt as though her heart skipped a beat. There was no way Snape could pull that off. "Oh, but Harry," she breathed. "You don't know what he's been through these past—He couldn't possibly—"

"I can do it."

Hermione turned to look at Snape as he set down the cloak and the Cleansweep and took a firm step towards them. His back was straight, defiant. Even though his skin was so deathly pale it almost seemed as white as the streak in his now markedly longer black hair, there was no denying that his jaw was firm beneath his beard. His eyes were aflame with steeled resolve. He looked like a wild man, Hermione thought. A wild man with a tempered will and a cool intellect that she had so grown to know and love. His mind was set, and his voice was determined. "Where do we need to go?"

Hermione couldn't help it; her heart was swept away with care and admiration for this man, this man who had wrapped himself around her and taken the blow of their fall. Merlin only knew how much that was hurting him. And he had been months in Azkaban—months—and Hermione had nearly lost her mind with less than twenty-four hours behind those stone walls. "Professor, I can't say how much it means for you to offer, and, frankly, how much it would help if you could. But surely it would be best—I mean, surely you can't be up to—"

"Don't, Granger," he snapped suddenly, cutting her off, "delude yourself into thinking you can tell me what I am or am not capable of doing."

Harry straightened immediately. "There is no need to take that tone," he said darkly.

"Excuse me, Potter, but what business is it of yours how I dictate my tone? Thank you for identifying the least pressing matter available to us in our current situation."

Harry, already rubbed quite raw, it would seem (perhaps he and Snape had not gotten along very well in the five hours it took for Hermione's Polyjuice to wear off and escape the prison), positively exploded. "How can you—What the hell is wrong with—Do you even realize what Hermione went through to—You can't even say THANK YOU, you ungrateful—"

Hermione, desperate to control what was fast promising to get out of control, put a hand on Harry's shoulder. "No, it's alright, he's just tired, OK, and I'm… Oh, Harry, I'm exhausted. Let's please just make it to the campsite and pack up our stuff so we can get out of here. Please."

Both Harry and Snape tensed, eyeing each other with clear disdain. Then it was Snape who looked away first, so that he could pick up the broom and cloak again and walk—shakily, yet proudly—towards their destination.

Harry put Hermione's arm around his shoulder, helping her as they followed suit.

Hermione groaned as they reached their campsite and found the duffle bag in torn ruins. Clearly some animal had gotten into it, gobbling up their last scraps of food and scattering what remained of their clothes and supplies all over the damp, mossy ground.

"I'll take care of it," said Harry immediately, gently removing Hermione's arm from around his shoulders. "You sit down."

Hermione remained standing, even after Harry moved away and began picking up their strewn belongings—among them, his glasses.

"No, I'll stand," she said faintly. "I'm afraid if I sit down I won't be able to get back up."

"There's something at your feet, Granger," said Snape, who was currently tucking the invisibility cloak back into what remained of the tattered duffle bag.

Hermione looked down… and then sighed with deep relief. It was one of their canteens. And as she bent down to pick it up, felt it slosh heavily, indicating that it was still mostly full, she realized how incredibly thirsty she was. The first few sips she used to simply swish around in her mouth before spitting the water back out, rigorously cleaning out the lingering taste of sickness and seawater. Then she drank greedily, feeling much more refreshed as some of the horrible throbbing in her head began to recede slightly.

Then she tossed the canteen to Snape, who drank several mouthfuls before tossing it to Harry, who drank none. "Save it," he said, throwing it right back to Snape.

Snape shrugged and put it in the duffle bag with the cloak and a few other articles of clothing they had already managed to salvage.

Gathering their things took all of ten minutes. By then, the three of them had faded so much that they barely had the strength it took to walk towards each other and meet up again for Snape's attempt at Side-Along Apparition.

Harry held the duffle bag. Snape, the Cleansweep.

They all looked at each other for a minute, until Hermione finally spoke up. "The Shrieking Shack," she said. "It's the best we've got, and Sev—Professor Snape knows the space, so it will be easier for him to take us there."

Harry nodded firmly. "And we can get back to Hogwarts quickly and undetected when we need to. Perfect, Hermione." He gave her a tired, crooked smile. "How is it, after all you've been through, half-drowned, concussed, hung-over and moments from collapsing, you've still got all the answers?"

Hermione snorted and shook her head. "Oh, I don't know. Divine inspiration, I guess."

"Can we get on with it," growled Snape. He was swaying slightly, as though dizzy.

Hermione barely restrained herself from reaching out to touch him. She so dearly wanted to offer him some tender show of support.

But Harry was there, Harry was watching. And Harry, most assuredly, could not know her true feelings.

Harry gave Hermione a gentle push. "Alright, Hermione, you go first."

Snape shook his head. "No, Potter. You should go."

"Why?" said both Harry and Hermione at once.

"Do you have your wand, Potter?"

"Yeah, right here."

Hermione's heart sank. "I don't," she said softly.

Harry shot an accusatory look at Snape. "You lost her wand?"

Snape simply shrugged.

Harry's eyes narrowed, though he did not press the matter. "Alright," he agreed. "Good idea. I'll go first. If there's danger, we can take care of it."

"But—" Hermione began to protest.

Harry cut her off. "If there's danger," he repeated, "we'll come right back, and then figure out our next step from there. We won't leave you stranded here, Hermione, I promise."

Hermione didn't know what to say. She was overwhelmed by a multitude of emotions—not the least of which was sheer delirium—and there were no possible words in the world to express how much she loved these two men standing before her. "Be safe," was all she could manage. She cleared her throat, tears starting to prick the corners of her eyes. "Please," she added firmly. "Especially you, Professor. Damn it all if I lose either of you now to a splinching!"

They all shared wry smiles. Well, Hermione and Harry did. Snape's mouth merely twitched, as though suggesting that somehow, somewhere, in the back of his mind, he was, perhaps, somewhat, half-way, mildly amused.

Then everyone was serious again.

Hermione took a step back, giving them space, clutching her arms around herself and trying to suppress the new wave of shivers threatening to overtake her.

Harry strode forward and linked arms with Snape. They both looked at Hermione for half a second, and then they closed their eyes.

"On three, Potter," Snape said.

Harry nodded.


Then Snape turned sharply, yanking Harry along—and with a loud pop, they vanished.

Hermione staggered backwards, surprised despite herself at the suddenness of their disappearance.

The forest was eerily quiet now. In the distance she could hear small animals ferreting around in the undergrowth, the lonely caw of a far off crow. Her senses were hyper-aware for any indication, any warning at all that something dangerous might be nearby.

If she was found now—by anything, be it Dementor, Auror, Death Eater, or rabid bear—she would be entirely defenseless. She was all but naked in her sodden, salt-encrusted prison uniform, her feet bare and aching from the tramp through the woods. Even if she had her wand, Hermione strongly doubted she would be able to so much as lift it past her waistline.

The seconds ticked by. Hermione waited, fretting over the possibilities of what might have befallen Harry and Snape.

What if there was some danger waiting for them at the Shrieking Shack? What if they were caught unprepared? What if there were Death Eaters—what if among them was Voldemort himself? Hermione was the one who had come up with the idea; if something happened to them, it would be entirely her doing. Her fault for not properly predicting the danger. For sending them blindly into a trap. Just like she had done with Sirius! Just like Sirius! She had lingered, and he had gone ahead. She had survived and he had been killed. And he had been perfectly healthy and rested. Snape and Harry were in no condition to fight—with wands or otherwise.

And what if Snape had not been able to get them there? What if he had splinched them? Or if he miscalculated—even by a few feet. He could Apparate them outside the house, and any passing stranger could see them, identify them, call the Ministry, and the guards, and the Dementors and—

Suddenly, with a loud crack, Snape materialized in front of her.

Hermione let out a shuddering sob of relief.

Snape took a step towards her. "It's safe," he said simply. "Quiet and undisturbed."

Hermione cleared her throat, trying hard to suppress the wave of tears beginning to well up behind her eyes, the sobs catching in her throat. "That's—good," she managed to hiccup.

Without saying a word, Snape reached up and undid the clasp holding the robe around his shoulders. It was the same one he had been wearing since he turned into Dylan and Hermione had thrown it over him, six hours ago, back in Azkaban. Then, so tenderly, she barely felt the fabric touch her skin, Snape wrapped it around Hermione's shoulders.

She had no words.

Snape did. "Of course…" He reached forward and pulled something out of one of the pockets of the robe. "I did not lose your wand," he said in a stony, unreadable voice. "Even in such a state as I am, I would never be so absent minded." He held up her dear, familiar, cherrywood wand to confirm its presence. Then, with a slight of his hand, he slipped it back into her pocket.

She was bewildered. "But you said… But then… then why did you…"

"Because," he replied, looking down at her, dark eyes boring into hers. "I wanted Potter to go first."

Hermione felt dizzy—and this time, not from exhaustion. From something else entirely. "Why?" she asked softly, somehow knowing, anticipating, aching for exactly what happened next.

"So I could do this—"

With that, Snape grabbed Hermione's wrist, pulled her against him and then, tenderly, drew her face to his. His broad palm was warm and rough against her cheek. His nose was inches from hers, his eyes closed, their foreheads touching as he breathed her in. Then he kissed her. He kissed her so fiercely, so long and deep. His lips were soft but possessive on hers, his tongue hot as he thrust into her mouth. He pushed against her, hungry and desperate for her, every inch of her, and Hermione responded with equal fervor. It stunned her to realize how much she had missed the taste of him, how she missed the soft sounds of pleasure he made in the back of his throat whenever she slid her fingers up the nape of his neck and into his hair, breathing hard as she pulled him closer, kissed him even deeper.

They were so intertwined in that moment, two souls so often saved by the other, it was impossible to keep count. They gave and took in equal amounts, not speaking, for there were no words to adequately facilitate what they were truly feeling for each other in that moment.

Barely aware of what she was doing, only knowing it was right, Hermione yanked her wrist out of Snape's grip, grabbed his hand, and then pressed it, hard, against her breast. All she knew was that she wanted to feel him—wanted him to feel her.

His hand at her neck immediately slipped down and around to the small of her back, pressing her even more firmly against him. She felt shot with pleasure to feel the unyielding strength of his arm, and his large, familiar hand on her breast, molding to her perfectly, so eager to accept her offer, to reciprocate her desire.

Finally, when it was simply too much for both of them, he broke their kiss, breath ragged, and whispered into her ear, "Don't ever… don't ever…" unable, through the overwhelming tidal wave of emotions running through him, to finish the sentence.

Leave again. Endanger yourself again.

Hermione knew what he meant, she didn't need him to finish it. As always, she knew what truly lay behind his words. And she answered in kind. "I won't," she choked into his chest. "If you won't."

They remained that way for a minute or two, simply holding each other, basking in the sheer, remarkable wonder of them being alive and unharmed, and in each other's arms.

"We have to go," Snape said finally.

Hermione didn't want to go. She didn't want this moment to be over, ever. "Let's stay," she pleaded. "A little longer, just a little bit longer."

"What about Potter?"

Hermione looked up at him and quirked a brief smile as she rubbed the tears from her cheeks with the back of her hand. "Oh just tell him you had to wait while I yacked in the bushes again."

Snape let out a deep, rumbling chuckle. "Quite the poet, as ever, I see."

Hermione couldn't help it, she laughed. And then pulled away, disentangling herself from his embrace. "Alright," she conceded. "Alright, then, let's go. Merlin knows I could use a safe place to rest."

Snape gave her playful sniff. "And bathe."

Her mouth fell open. "Speak for yourself!" she sputtered back.

Snape simply chuckled again in return and then put his arm around her shoulders, drawing her to him. "Hold tight," he whispered into her hair.

She wrapped her arms around his waist, and did as he commanded.

"On three."

She nodded.

"One… two…"

With Snape's final, "three!" and a last, resonating pop, Hermione and Snape left behind the forest across the sea from Azkaban Prison, and took one more step towards the comfort and safety that hopefully still waited for them within the golden halls and protective walls of Hogwarts School.

Just Let it Happen

A Harry Potter Story
by La. Bel. LM

Part 29 of 35

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