If the choice were mine to make


After Snape had left, Hermione went to her desk and took out her wand to cast a few more healing spells on herself. She had brought it to Cambridge some weeks ago on an impulse but had not performed any magic with it, still adhering to the decision she had made before leaving Hogwarts.

Now, however, this didn't seem to matter anymore. She performed the spells without really thinking about it, her mind still numbed by everything that had happened.

When she had finished Hermione prepared herself a cup of tea, sat down in her armchair and ate a whole bar of chocolate, being ravenous after having eaten nothing since the evening before.

She didn't stay in the chair for long, however, but soon got up again to hunt through her drawers for some pain killers her father had given her after a very nasty root canal. In spite of Snape's and her own spells her body was still hurting. And there was also the horror of what had happened, of first being imprisoned in that strange place and then being tortured. Right now the memories were numbed by her pain and weariness and Hermione was glad for that, but she knew that they would come back with their full power sooner or later.

Snape had saved her life. Again. Hermione had no idea what to make of it, of his appearance and his behaviour towards her. Perhaps it would make sense when she wasn't so tired and aching and could think straight again.

The sudden sound of someone apparating made her spin around, her heart beating fast. But it was only Rose who looked very worried.

"Mistress," she said and dropped a courtesy. "Master sends me to tell you he is well."

Hermione felt relieved. "I'm glad to hear it."

Rose, however, was looking at her imploringly and there was a slight tremor shaking her body. All of a sudden Hermione had a strange feeling of foreboding. "Tell me, Rose," she asked, "is really everything all right with him?"

"Yeees…" Rose replied slowly, but her eyes suddenly filled with tears.

Hermione stared at her and her pulse quickened. "Something is not right, is it?" She asked. "And your master forbade you to tell me?"

There was a visible fight going on in the elf, but finally she gave a short, jerking nod.

Feeling very cold now, Hermione knelt down next to Rose so her face was level with the elf's. "What is it?" Hermione asked softly. "You know that I am his friend, that I will try to help him."

Suddenly Rose broke into tears and heavy sobs shook her small body. On an impulse Hermione leant forward and embraced her. "Master is going to die," the elf sobbed into Hermione's shoulder. "And he sent Rose away, and there is no one there to help him."

Hermione felt as if her heart had stopped beating. "He is dying?" She asked, her voice brittle. She shook her head. "But that's impossible, why should he be dying, he wasn't harmed…"

"The evil woman made Master drink a potion," the elf replied, pulling away from Hermione and looking at her with tearful eyes. "And he said he will die. He told Master Dumbledore. I was listening, secretly," Rose winced, "I was worried about Master... Master didn't know that I heard everything. And he sent me away." Again she started sobbing.

Hermione stared at her, her mind reeling. "What potion?" she finally asked, grabbing the thought as if it were a lifeline. There were antidotes, surely. Snape couldn't die, he simply couldn't.

"Master called it the Morituri Potion."

"Good lord," Hermione replied hoarsely. Her chest cramped with a painful sob and suddenly she started shaking all over. Her mind, however, was still working, telling her with perverse clarity all she had ever read about the Morituri Potion. That it was a deathly poison which brought a slow and extremely painful death. That there was only one antidote to it, a potion which was simple to brew but which had to include a vital ingredient. A few drops of the blood of the foe who had administered the Morituri Potion.

A few drops of Livia's blood. Hermione stared in front of her. She had no idea where Livia was, had no way of finding her in time. No way of saving Snape.

Leaden despair overwhelmed her. Why had he taken the potion? There was only one explanation. It must have something to do with her, with their escape. Some kind of deal, probably. He was dying for her... And of course he hadn't wanted her to know...

But there had to be a way. She couldn't just let him die, not after what he had done. She had to find Livia, had to get her blood...

Hermione cudgelled her brain, trying to think, to find a solution. She had no idea where they had been held captive, much less if Livia was still there. But perhaps it had been the flat or house in which Livia had lived as Mary? And even if not, perhaps going to her place might provide some clues? It was a desperate hope, but better than just doing nothing and letting Snape die. She just had to find out where Mary was living. Perhaps the warden would know, or at least he could give her the number of someone who knew.

Hermione got up quickly, told Rose to wait for her and hurried out into the corridor and down the stairs. On the second landing she suddenly stopped and a strange cry escaped her lips. She turned swiftly, rushed up to her room again, hurried to her wardrobe and started rummaging in it. After a few seconds she drew out a white jacket.

Hermione stared at it. There was dried blood on it, the blood that Mary – no, Livia had lost when the window had come down on her hand in July. Hermione had wanted to have it cleaned, but had forgotten all about it after her break-up with Thomas later that evening and what had happened in Stratford a few days afterwards.

Livia's blood. It wouldn't be much use for the antidote since it was old and dried up. But she could track Livia with this, at least if the elder witch hadn't thought of taking very elaborate precautions against it. Could track and find her and force Livia to give her some fresh blood.

Quickly Hermione turned to Rose who was watching her with wide eyes. "I think I can help your master," she said and grabbed her wand. She would need it. "Take me to him."

At first Rose looked fearful and undecided, but then nodded and held out her hand. Hermione took it and together they disapparated.

They apparated in Snape's living room. He wasn't there and Hermione had the impression that Rose was quite glad that she didn't have to face her master. Hermione told her to wait, then set out to find Snape, checking first the laboratory and his bedroom, but finding both of them empty. Finally she stood in front of the door to his study, clutching the bloodstained jacket, her heart beating fast. She knocked and entered after a second.

Snape was sitting in an armchair, staring at her. His face was ashen.

"What are you doing here?" he asked in a hoarse voice. He got out of his chair and drew back a few steps, leaning against the wall. "You shouldn't be here."

"Rose was worried about you," Hermione said softly, a great lump in her throat. "Why did you do that?"

"Do what?" He had put on his dispassionate mask again, but Hermione saw that there were drops of sweat on his forehead.

"Drink the Morituri Potion." Slowly she came forward until she stood opposite Snape. That close to him she saw how tense his face was, saw the slight tremor of his hands.

He didn't answer, only looked at her. "It was the only way."

Hermione shook her head forcefully. "You have this morbid urge to save my life," she said, her light tone sounding forced in her ears. "We'll have to discuss this later." She paused. "But now I've come to help you."

"There is no help," he said quietly. "You know that."

Hermione held out the jacket. "This is Livia's blood. She hurt herself as Mary once in my presence, some of her blood spilled onto my jacket and I forgot to have it cleaned. I know it's useless for the antidote, but I can track her with it."

Snape's eyes lit up but the spark was gone immediately. "Even if you should find her, you'll never get her blood," he stated, his voice raspy. "It's far too dangerous. I don't want you to go."

"I don't care," Hermione replied, raising her chin and meeting his dark eyes fiercely.

His eyes flashed. "For Merlin's sake, Hermione, I didn't drink the potion so you could get yourself killed!"

"I won't be killed," she said, trying to convey more confidence than she felt.

He gave a short laugh. "Stupid Gryffindor bravado." He seemed to deliberate, then said. "I'll go with you."

"No," Hermione shook her head. "You are in no condition. And you need to brew the potion. Do you think you're up to it?"

He snorted. "Are you trying to insult me? But you should take Rose."

Again Hermione shook her head. "No. You know she's no fighter. She must stay with you, help you with the potion if necessary." She hesitated, then asked quietly. "How long?"

"Until I die?" he replied in a matter-of-fact voice. "I don't know. A little less than two hours, I suppose."

Hermione stared at him. "I'm so sorry," she whispered.

Snape shook his head but suddenly his face twisted in pain and he doubled over, gasping for breath. After a second of shock, Hermione looked around and found a glass with some dark liquid standing on the small table next to his armchair. Quickly she got it and held it out to him.

Still breathing hard Snape downed the potion. His hands were shaking and Hermione reached out and grabbed them. She felt aching tenderness and cold despair, just held at bay by her will to believe that this might still end happily.

After some moments he seemed to relax and let go of her hands.

"I'll go now," Hermione said softly.

He gave her a painful smile and suddenly there was so much affection in his eyes that Hermione felt overwhelmed. "I suppose I can't dissuade you? Dumbledore should be here very soon, he could get more help."

"No, definitely not. We don't have the time." She drew out her wand, cast a quick spell and suddenly there was a tiny wound at her left wrist, oozing out a few drops of blood. Hermione took a handkerchief from her bag, wiped away the blood and performed another spell which made the wound disappear.

"Here, take that," she said, holding the handkerchief towards Snape. "So Dumbledore can send help after me."

"Very well," he replied and took the handkerchief. "Be careful, will you?" His gaze was intense.

"I will." Hermione stared at Snape and there were hundreds of things to tell him but now was not the time. "Just don't die," she whispered.

He gave her a short nod. "I won't."

Their eyes locked for a few seconds but finally Hermione broke the contact, called for Rose and asked her to take her to her parents' house.

She apparated in her room. For a second she listened carefully, to check if her apparating had been noticed. But everything remained silent. Perhaps her parents had gone out. Whatever it was, Hermione was grateful for it. She just didn't have the time now to explain to her parents why she had shown up, and especially why she was doing magic again. As it was, she had debated with herself if she should even come here at all, but she needed Harry's invisibility cloak if she wanted to have a chance to get at Livia, and it was stashed away in her room.

Hermione sent back Rose, then quickly went to the wardrobe, pulled out the box, opened it and tore out the cloak. Next she took the jacket with Livia's blood on it and performed a complex tracking charm. And then she threw the invisibility cloak over herself and disapparated.

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