Continuing Tales

Just Let it Happen

A Harry Potter Story
by La. Bel. LM

Part 7 of 35

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Just Let It Happen

Straight to Dumbledore. She had gone straight to Dumbledore that night and told him everything. About the potion, about Snape's reaction... and about where Snape had gone.

There was nothing they could do; even Dumbledore knew that. Any effort they made to rescue or contact Snape would only reveal his identity.

As for Hermione's part in this—her foolishness, her recklessness—Dumbledore made little comment. He simply sat very still, looked long and hard into her eyes, and then softly ordered her off to bed.

To bed! To bed! The thought of her sleeping peacefully while Snape was in such mortal peril, not to mention all because of her own blundering ineptitudes, was beyond comprehension. She had wanted Dumbledore to yell at her, to punish her, expel her even, if that's what it took. Instead he had simply brushed her aside as he would an inquisitive six-year-old, as though she were too young to be held responsible for her own actions.

But she was responsible. And her worry, her anger, her overwhelming guilt, was tearing her apart inside.

She couldn't just do nothing. She had to... find an antidote, send a message, steal Harry's cloak and run after Snape herself—anything but lie around twiddling her thumbs and telling herself she was doing all she could.

Hermione went into an almost maniacal frenzy over the next day and late into following night. She wouldn't sleep, wouldn't eat, so obsessed was she with finding the antidote to her monstrosity. She had somehow convinced herself that there was still time, and that she could somehow still repair the havoc she had wrought.

But it was taking far too long. Even by skipping her classes and her meals, and spending every waking moment poring over books, it was obvious that any antidote she made would take weeks to prepare. Weeks that Snape most certainly did not have.

Meanwhile, there was not a scrap of news. Not from Dumbledore, not from McGonagall, not from anyone. Voldemort could be killing Snape any second, and no one made a single move to help him. Hermione was rapidly spiraling into despair.

Finally, late that night, as she sat alone in the Room of Requirement, with only the partially assembled makings of a potion scattered on the floor around her, she made up her mind to go after Snape herself. She knew that she had gone mad. She didn't care. Everything was her fault, and she was damn well going to do something about it.

Hermione waited until well after midnight to make sure that everyone was asleep. Then she snuck into the boys' dormitory and stole Harry's cloak out of his trunk.

She was not thrilled by the idea of stealing from a friend, but she was unable to muster up the nerve to actually ask him for it to his face. In fact, she had not had the nerve to face anyone since Dumbledore. Shame of what she had done had driven her to avoid as much human contact as she possibly could. Which, painful though it was, included both Harry and Ron.

The castle was dark and still as Hermione traveled swiftly down several flights of stairs towards the front doors of Hogwarts. She had no idea where she would go once she made it out onto the grounds, nor how she planned to travel to wherever it was she was headed. Though at this point, she and logic were not the best of friends anymore. Unshed tears burned behind her eyes as she thought about the look on Snape's face before he had gone; that expression of helpless terror played ruthlessly over and over again in her head until she felt as though she very well might explode.

Finally, Hermione caught sight of the enormous wooden doors in the front entrance hall, and her mouth thinned with a determined scowl. No turning back—this was it.

Then, just as she gathered all her courage and wits about her, just as she was striding forward to close the distance between her and the outside world, the enormous doors burst open with a loud bang... and in stepped Snape.

Step might have been a bit of an exaggeration. He could barely even lift his feet from the ground. In fact, he was only able to stagger forward, inches at most, before collapsing heavily against the doorframe, his legs wobbling and shaking beneath him as though they were only moments away from giving out. His face was dangerously flushed, his breath coming in short, hitched gasps, and he was obviously, there was no denying, in a great amount of pain.

Without a moment's hesitation, Hermione threw off her cloak and ran towards him. "Professor!" she yelled.

Snape's eyes widened and he made a sharp noise of surprise at her sudden appearance. His shock did not last long, however, for he threw out a hand, motioning Hermione to stop before she had barely taken three steps. "Don't–" he gasped. "Don't touch me, Granger." His voice was rough, unpleasantly dry, and his hands trembled. He looked around. "No one else—No one else with you? You'll—have to do, then. L-listen, Granger, I—"

"Please, Professor, let me help, you look—"

"SHUT UP AND LISTEN," he barked, coughed violently, and then took a deep, wheezing breath. "You've got to—to tell—Dumbledore, I—Occlu... Occ..." He shook his head. "Occlumency... it didn't—I couldn't concentrate p-properly." Snape let out a short, barely muffled groan of pain and doubled over, slipping even further down the side of the doorframe.

Couldn't concentrate properly...

Hermione started towards him, but was stopped once again as Snape threw out a hand.

"I SAID DON'T TOUCH ME," he thundered, causing himself yet another coughing fit. "The Dark Lord knows," he 1continued haltingly, as though every word were an immense effort. "He knows about—Black—Headquarters..." Snape shook his head again, sweat pouring down his face and neck and his voice grating like sandpaper. "Terrible danger — Must send someone—to — Black needs — Black needs to leave — you — understand? RIGHT NOW!" Snape staggered again and sucked in a rattling breath. He managed to straighten up for a brief moment, silhouetted against the starlit darkness, and then... he suddenly gave a short, clipped gasp and his eyes went very wide. "Granger," he breathed. "Get Poppy."

Snape's eyes rolled in the back of his head and he collapsed directly into Hermione's arms. She crumpled beneath his weight, grunting as her back made hard contact with the floor. A moment later, Snape began to seize. His entire body convulsed violently back and forth as a terrible choking sound began to bubble up from the back of his throat, like some invisible enemy was slowly strangling him.

"HELP!" Hermione screeched, and with a mighty effort, turned Snape's body on its side in a desperate attempt to keep him from snapping his neck. "MADAM POMFREY! DUMBLEDORE! SOMEBODY PLEASE HELP!"

Hermione reached out to put a steadying hand on Snape's forehead. Instantly, she snatched it back with a yelp. His skin was scalding hot. She looked down at her hand and choked back a sob when she saw her fingertips already beginning to blister from simply that brief second of contact.

Meanwhile, Snape continued his violent convulsions, his body struggling relentlessly against Hermione's hold and the choking sound in the back of his throat growing louder all the time.

Feeling debilitated and helpless, Hermione pulled Snape's shoulders onto her lap and cradled his head in her hands, ignoring the searing heat that emanated from his skin as she tangled her fingers into a lock of dark hair at his temple. Snape rolled over then and coughed up... coughed up... blood. Dark red and boiling, all over Hermione's arms and lap. She hissed through her teeth as it scalded the tender skin of her forearms.

"No," Hermione whined, tears of pain and fear streaming down her face. "Please I don't know what... Professor you can't... PLEASE SOMEBODY HELP!"

"Good Lord."

Hermione whipped her head around to see a slack-jawed Nearly Headless Nick hovering just a few feet away.

"Help me!" she pleaded. "Or find someone who can—please!"

Nick nodded sharply, and without another word, zoomed off down a side hall.

The moment he was gone, Hermione began to rock back and forth, sobbing and sobbing until she felt as though her eyes were going to fall out. She still clutched that same lock of hair at Snape's temple in a tight, unrelenting grip, whispering over and over, "Please don't die, please don't die. I didn't mean to, I didn't, I'm sorry, Professor, I'm so sorry. Please don't die, please don't die..."

As the seconds ticked by, Hermione began to notice something else beyond the pain of her burns and the outright terror clouding her mind. She felt another, rather odd sensation. The sensation that something was happening inside her. As though something were being pulled out of her.

The hand holding Snape's hair suddenly exploded with heat, and Hermione let out another squeal of pain. For some reason, she found that she could not force herself to let go. She did not want to let go.

Snape's shaking soon reduced to an odd, half-hearted twitch, and his coughing stopped altogether. A thin trickle of blood escaped the corner of his mouth, his breathing turning dangerously shallow and ragged. Hermione closed her eyes, praying harder than she ever had in her life. She knew he was dying. Severus Snape was dying. And she couldn't do a thing to stop it.

At long last, Hermione heard the sound of footsteps.

Madam Pomfrey, flanked closely by McGonagall and Dumbledore, came flying down the stairs, all three in their nightclothes.

McGonagall's hair was a frazzled mess around her shoulders and her eyes were round as galleons as she skidded to a stop. "Good Heavens, Poppy," she breathed. "Look at her arms! Miss Granger, whose blood is that?"

"HELP!" Hermione screamed hysterically, her heart nearly bursting at the sight of them. "He's—he's—I don't know what's wrong with him but he's—Professor Dumbledore, pleasehelp him!"

"Yes, Miss Granger, it's alright, we're here now. We are going to help him."

Dumbledore knelt down beside Hermione, his half-moon spectacles glinting in the starlight that poured through the doorway, still wide open as Snape had left it. He put a hand to Snape's skin, and, just as Hermione had before, pulled back sharply, his fingertips red and raw.

"Poppy," he said gravely, never removing his eyes from Snape's face. "His fever is beyond…" His mouth thinned. "If we do not take action immediately, he will burn alive."

Madam Pomfrey held a hand over her mouth in horror, but she nodded. "Yes, Headmaster."

Hermione blinked hard. The world was starting to spin.

"Miss Granger, you need to let go now," said Dumbledore.

She nodded, sobbing violently as Madam Pomfrey and McGonagall stepped forward to magic Snape's body into the air. As Hermione finally allowed herself to release her professor and pull her throbbing arms back to her own sides, something gold flashed beneath her fingers. She squinted in disbelief. The lock of Snape's hair she had been holding, hair that had once been dark as coal, was now a brilliant, gleaming gold.

McGonagall and Dumbledore exchanged meaningful looks.

"I-is that…" Madam Pomfrey stuttered. "Did she just…?"

"Not now, Poppy," Dumbledore said firmly, turning his eyes to Snape's alarmingly still form once again. "Take him to the hospital wing."

Both Pomfrey and McGonagall obeyed immediately, quickly shepherding Snape's floating body down the hall.

"Come with me, Miss Granger," Dumbledore said kindly, putting a hand beneath her elbow and helping her to her feet.

"Wait!" Hermione cried, her mind flashing with the urgency of Snape's last words.

All three adults turned to look at her very intently.

"It's Sirius," she explained breathlessly. "Professor Snape said something about Sirius—and Headquarters." Her vision truly began to swim at that point, and her breath came short and labored. "He... he said that Voldemort knows about him—about Sirius—and about where the Ord– " Hermione stopped herself, delirious. Was Madam Pomfrey in the Order? She didn't know. It didn't matter! "Professor Snape says that Sirius is in danger... He said... Professor, somebody needs to warn him."

Dumbledore leapt to his feet. "Minerva—"

"I'll let you know when he's safe." And without even waiting for the Headmaster's affirmative nod, McGonagall turned and disappeared up the stairs, taking them two at a time, her loose hair flying wildly behind her.

With another nod from Dumbledore, Madam Pomfrey immediately continued on towards the hospital wing, accompanied by Snape's eerily floating body.

Once more, Dumbledore reached down in order to help Hermione to her feet.

"Thank you, Miss Granger," he said softly. "You have been through a trying ordeal, and, as always, have handled yourself admirably. More than admirably. There are almost no words to describe what you have done tonight."

Hermione blinked hard against her dizziness, an uncomfortable feeling welling up in the pit of her stomach. "Th—the professor's hair... what was—"

"A discussion for another time. At the moment, we need to get you to the hospital wing as well."

"Will he be okay? Will Professor Snape be okay? He... He was so..."

Dumbledore looked very tired. "I... cannot answer that, Miss Granger."

Hermione's tears poured afresh, feeling overwhelmingly large, white-hot and stinging her cheeks. Her vision lurched unpleasantly. Her legs buckled, but Dumbledore caught her. And then, with a strength surprising for one his age, Dumbledore swung her into his arms.

"My fault," Hermione whispered against his soft beard. "I didn't mean to, I didn't mean to…"

Consciousness returned very slowly to Hermione. First, came her hearing, second came feeling in her feet and legs, and then, with a shock of pain, feeling in her arms.

Hermione cracked an eye, wondering hazily why she was in the hospital wing, and why she felt misery embedded so deeply in the very fabric of her being.

Dumbledore sat in a chair by her bedside, gazing intently at her from behind his spectacles. Why had Dumbledore come to visit her? she wondered. There was only one person he ever came to see—so did that mean Harry was there too? What happened? Had Voldemort come back? Had they fought him? And why did her arms hurt so much? They felt almost as if... as if they had been...

Everything from the previous night suddenly came crashing back to Hermione and she sat up with a gasp. "Professor Snape—"

Dumbledore held up a hand. "Will recover, Miss Granger. Thanks to you." He smiled. "Of course, do not take it to heart if he does not recognize the magnitude of your generosity. Professor Snape is a very... reserved person. As I am sure you are well aware."

Hermione breathed a long, heart-felt sigh of relief and looked around the room to see a bed in the far corner with the curtain drawn.

She turned back to Dumbledore, knowing the conversation that must now take place, and dreading it terribly.

"Do you know what happened to him?" she asked quietly. "What was wrong with him? Why he..." She trailed off, her throat clenched too tightly to continue.

Dumbledore's face went grim. "Poison," he said simply. Then he waited until he had Hermione's eyes, and added firmly, "But not from you, Miss Granger. I do not believe he has even stepped foot in his laboratory this week."

Hermione's heart gave one almighty thud, and then she felt herself flooded with a deep, life-shattering relief—all the way from the tips of her hair to the ends of her toes. "Are – are you sure?" she said breathlessly, hardly daring to believe it.

Dumbledore nodded. "Yes. During the... treatment... last night, Professor Snape became lucid enough to tell us that he had been poisoned by one of Lord Voldemort's followers. I believe he first came into contact with this poison during his absence earlier in the week. As for how and why this happened, I do not know for certain. Professor Snape was not able to tell us more than I have already shared with you. We will have to wait for him to wake before we can know the rest."

"You mean, he isn't awake yet?" Hermione said, stifling a yawn. Even through all of this excitement, Hermione felt an overwhelming wave of tiredness.

Dumbledore shook his head, giving her a small smile. "No, but I believe his body simply needs a rest. As does yours."

Hermione gave a groan and fell back into her pillows. Her head was pounding and her arms were achy and painful beneath a thorough wrapping of bandages.

She felt like she was forgetting something...

Hermione sat up with another gasp. "Sirius! What about—"

She jumped as something gave a loud bark by her feet.

A big black dog padded out from behind the footboard of her bed and trotted over to put its front paws on her sheets. Despite the pain, Hermione threw her arms around the dog and hugged him tight. "Sirius, I'm so glad you're alright."

He licked her cheek and she giggled.

Amazing, how quickly things could turn around. Just hours ago she felt like she wanted to throw herself under a bus, and now she was laughing.

Dumbledore chuckled as well. "Yes, Padfoot will be staying with us here at the castle. A brief visit, until we are able to make other arrangements." He looked at Sirius and raised an eyebrow. "Of course, he is not supposed to be seen in public areas..."

Sirius gave a small whine and nudged his wet nose under Hermione's bandaged palm.

"I know. Quite right. But now that you have seen Miss Granger and confirmed that she is indeed alive and well, I am going to have to ask you not to make an appearance again. Is that understood? We can never be too careful."

The dog gave a gruff snort that sounded an awful lot like a "Yes, sir!" and then turned and bounded out the door.

The moment Sirius left, Hermione felt herself overcome again, and she fell back against her pillows. "Why do I feel so horrible?" she groaned. "I wasn't the one who was poisoned."

There was a long pause and then Dumbledore spoke again, softly, as though he were broaching a very delicate subject. "When you were holding onto Professor Snape, what did you feel?"

Hermione's eyebrows furrowed. "What do you mean, what did I feel? His blood was boiling holes through my skin, he was about to die in my arms, nobody was around to help... I felt scared, Professor. More scared than I have ever felt."

"I imagine you were, Miss Granger, and certainly I do not blame you. What I mean to say is, was there anything else that you felt? Anything... abnormal, so to speak."

Hermione's head was pounding and her eyelids felt heavy as lead. Still, she knew exactly what he was talking about. She distinctly remembered the feeling that had stirred within her as she held Snape in her arms. That feeling of... draining.

She glanced up at Dumbledore who nodded, an instant, unspoken understanding having passed between them.

"Largitio," he explained. "In rough Latin, it means 'I give' or 'I bestow.' This magic is very old, very powerful, and very difficult to explain. Not even I fully understand how it works."

Hermione fought off sleep as hard as she could, determined to see this conversation through to the end.

"Somehow," Dumbledore continued, "without you knowing, something inside you recognized the peril that the Professor was in, and responded." He gave a heavy sigh and shook his head. "As I said, I have no idea how this magic works, nor how you triggered it. But, somehow, last night, Miss Granger, you gave some of yourself—your life energy, your spirit energy, whatever you wish to call it—you gave some of that to Professor Snape. You, quite literally, saved his life with a little of your own. That, perhaps, is the reason why you feel so worn out. Your body is trying to regenerate that energy."

Hermione blinked hard against the waves of dizziness and exhaustion that were crashing through her. "You mean... Is that why his hair turned gold? Is that where my... whatever, was being... transferred?"

Dumbledore nodded. "I believe so. In every similar incident that has happened in the past—and there have not been many—there have always been two marks." He turned his head towards Snape's bed. "One on the receiver." He looked at Hermione. "And one on the giver."

Hermione immediately grabbed handfuls of her hair and began pulling them in front of her face, checking to see if any of the locks had changed color. They hadn't. "I don't understand," she said. "Where's my mark?"

Dumbledore pointed to her hand. "I'm sure that once those bandages come off, you will have your answer." He stood. "No more talking now. It is time for you to rest."

"But I'm not tired," Hermione whined, completely undermining herself as she let out an enormous yawn.

"Sleep well, Miss Granger," Dumbledore said with a smile. "And thank you for what you did for Professor Snape. You are a very special girl."

The next time Hermione woke, there was no one waiting by her bedside. There was, however, a very significant supply of cards, chocolate frogs, and Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans. Clearly, Ron had been by, because some of the wrappers had already been opened along with a half-eaten box of Ice-Mice.

She sat up and looked around, rubbing her eyes groggily. Professor Snape's bed was empty—as was every other bed in the room. How much time had passed?

Slowly, she peeled back the covers and sat on the edge of her bed. Her arms were still a bit sore, but nothing to what they used to be.

"Madam Pomfrey?" she called, eyeing her bandages warily.

There was no response.

"May I take the bandages off?" she called again. She was dying to know what sort of mark had been left.

Again, there was no response from Madam Pomfrey, and so, shrugging, Hermione carefully unwrapped the cloth from around her right hand. She gasped as the bandage fell away and revealed a long tapered line that stretched diagonally across her palm. Only, the mark wasn't gold. It was black.

Just Let it Happen

A Harry Potter Story
by La. Bel. LM

Part 7 of 35

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