Life Debt

Poisons and Antidotes

-Hermione-

Pain ebbed and flowed, coming and going as it pleased. Every now and then, Luna or Molly would come into the room to check on me. I wanted to ask them what was going on, what Harry's plan was, where Draco had gone after the last time he'd visited me. It hurt to speak, though, the words feeling like a thousand needles in my throat as I tried to say them. In an attempt to keep the pain at bay, I didn't move, did everything I could to keep still. It seemed, the more I moved, the farther the pain would spread, as if the manticore poison, or whatever it was that the stinger had contained, needed my movement to spread.

Lying there, feeling completely and utterly useless, reminded me of my second year at Hogwarts, after the snake had petrified me. Only now, I didn't have the answer, didn't have the solution to the problem at hand. The boys were going into it on their own, without me to help them. Not that they needed me, but I wanted to be there, to protect them, to protect Draco.

-Draco-

The plan was simple. After all, it really wasn't much of a plan. Head to the manor, face off with Voldemort, and hope to Merlin that having command of the Elder Wand would be enough to finally bring him down. Potter chose not to endanger too many of us, preferring to simply have Weasley, me, and a few others go with us. We'd be outnumbered, for sure, but it was the only way we could guarantee everyone else's safety. If we failed, they would all at least be safe in the Black family's hideout. Most importantly, Hermione would be safe.

"I don't like this. At all. Are you sure this is the only way, Harry?" Weasley was clearly uneasy. We were preparing to leave the hideout, double checking our supplies, the final touches of our 'plan'.

"Yes. I'm tired of people being hurt because of me. What happened to Hermione...I can't let that happen to anyone else. It's bad enough I'll have to deal with what I put all of you through, I don't want any more bloodshed on my behalf." Potter was honorable, I gave him that, but stupid. Foolhardy. Then again, I agreed completely with his plan.

"We have the Elder Wand. We can win." I gripped the wand over the material of my pocket. Despite the discomfort the voice it projected caused in me, it was reassuring to know we might have the upper hand.

A few of the others going with us, Tonks, Lupin, Weasley Sr., gathered around. On the wall, the portrait of my mother looked at me. Her eyes full of concern, I could tell it was difficult for her to see this. If she wanted, she could have a perfect view of the fight to come at the manor. After a sad smile, she spoke, addressing everyone in the room.

"Voldemort knows you have the wand. He's furious, and out of control. If there were a perfect time to strike, it's now."

-Hermione-

It was dark, and I wasn't sure if it was due to my eyes being closed, or the lack of light in the room. I couldn't feel anything, having gone numb from the constant pain. I imagined this might be what it felt like to be in suspended animation, floating in the dark, people's voices around me muffled as if I were under water.

"Miss Granger..." Suddenly, I was no longer in the dark. It was Hogwarts castle, in the Great Hall, the candles glowing dimly. I was alone in the room, save for one other person. Snape stood some feet away, arms crossed in front of his chest.

"Professor? What...what is going on?" Was the poison making me hallucinate now?

"I thought a know-it-all such as yourself would have known better than to attack a manticore head-on without a contingency plan." Although his words didn't hold the venom they did when he used to be my professor, they still annoyed me.

"If you're here to lecture me, I don't want to hear it."

"I see Draco has rubbed off on you." I don't remember ever seeing Snape smile. It was odd, yet a comforting sight all at once.

"Why are you here?" I'd been in the magical world long enough to know better than to see this as only a hallucination. Whether it was in my head or not, this meeting was very real.

"You're dying, Miss Granger. I'm here to help you."

-Draco-

We Apparated into my room with Dobby's help. My mother was already there, waiting for us. "He knows you're here."

Mr. Potter. Shall we settle this now? Voldemort's voice reverberated throughout the manor, challenging Potter to a duel. I exchanged a look with him, and after a brief nod, I handed him the Elder Wand. He couldn't get out of using it now.

"If anything happens to me, Malfoy..." He didn't have to continue. I nodded.

Moments later, we were in the parlor, the Order members forming a protective barrier around Potter, myself included. Voldemort stood by the fireplace, a few Death Eaters flanking him. I could see Lucius among them.

"This is between you and me, Voldemort. We'll end this, once and for all." Potter stepped forwarded, breaking the barrier of Order members. My hand itched, as the Elder Wand continued to call for me, despite also enticing Potter.

Voldemort stepped forward as well, extending his arm as if to tell his Death Eaters to stand back. "Very well Mr. Potter." He bowed, the traditional beginning to a duel. "Shall we begin?"

-Hermione-

"What do you mean, dying? If I were going to die from the poison, I would have by now." My heart sank, and I could feel myself go paler than I already was.

"Having the tail cut off delays the poison. Most people are not aware of this specific manticore trait. There is a cure, though I do not think you'd find it very appealing." Snape sat at one of the tables, more casual than I had ever seen him be in life.

"And what is that?" I sat across from him, hoping he would tell me the cure quickly so I could relay the information to Luna or Molly.

"Blood. Manticore blood, specifically. They are extraordinary creatures, quite literally immune to everything. Drinking their blood would have the same effect on you." The thought of drinking a manticore's blood disgusted me completely.

"Why...why doesn't anyone know that?"

"No one is foolish enough to try. But, since there are a couple of corpses in Hogwarts right now, you can go ahead and have your pick, so to speak. I would suggest the manticore that poisoned you in the first place." I tried not to think about the actual drinking of the blood. First things first, I needed someone to go get it for me.

"Thank you professor." I gave him a grateful smile, though he didn't return the gesture. Nodding, he stood and walked towards the front of the hall, disappearing behind the table.

When I woke up, the pain erupted all at once. No longer coming and going, it seemed to be getting worse. How much time did I have left? I sat up, moving through the pain, every cough and gasping only increasing its reach.

"L-Luna! M-Molly!" I was shaking, gripping the sheets as tightly as I could to keep myself upright. Both women rushed into the room, the latter immediately ordering me to lie back down.

"Hermione, dear, you mustn't move!" She tried to place me back down, but I fought against her.

"N-Not much...time. Need m-manticore b-blood. To drink... The-The one that poisoned...me. Luna...please..." Before I could continue, the pain took over once more, making me collapse back onto the bed.

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