A spasm hit him and his hand jerked upward a little. Snape clenched his teeth. Normally this potion was easy to brew and – luckily – didn't take long to finish. But the effects of the Morituri Potion had set in with their full strength now, and Snape was hardly able to stand, let alone perform the delicate and controlled movements necessary for potion brewing. He had already spoilt the first batch and simply couldn't risk to spoil this one as well. If he did, he wouldn't have the time to finish a new one. As it was he hardly knew how much time he had left. Not much, probably.
He sighed with relief when he had finished pouring. For a few seconds Snape let himself lose control over the pain that was racking his body. He gasped and closed his eyes, grabbing the table in front of him. It was nearly too much, but he was not finished yet. He still needed to cut up a mandrake root and this again was a task for which he'd need all the concentration and strength he had left.
Snape downed a potion standing next to him, concentrated hard and eventually managed to push the pain away. It got harder and harder every time and he looked with dismay at his shaking hands. How pathetic, he thought. And there was not only the pain in his body. He found it increasingly hard to concentrate on anything, his mind more and more muddled with unconnected thoughts and memories. And pain, of course. His head was throbbing like mad. His vision was becoming blurred, too. Snape could still see what was right in front of him, but around the edges it all got rather misty.
With a great effort he grabbed the knife and started cutting the mandrake root. His hand was shaking so badly that he spoilt more than half of it, but luckily he wouldn't need much.
"Severus, Severus. Why, still brewing? You know there's no use, don't you?"
Snape jerked around, his heart hammering fast. The flames of the fireplace at the other side of the laboratory had turned green and there, in the middle of them, he saw Livia's head, smiling at him with a look of triumph that made him shiver.
"How did you set up a floo connection?" He hissed, trying to hide his shaking hands and to stand as straight as possible. "And what do you want here? Have you come to gloat over me? To watch me dying?"
"Oh, I've friends at the Ministry," Livia replied, smiling broadly. "And I've not come to see you die – or not only." She stared at him with a hungry expression and Snape felt his throat constrict.
"How's your little mudblood?" she went on in a teasing tone.
Snape gasped at her words. For a second his concentration and hold on the pain slipped and he started shaking all over until, with a great effort of will, he was able to control himself again.
"Ah," Livia said slowly and with a wide smile. "It can't be long now, can it?"
"What about Hermione," Snape spat out between clenched teeth, his thoughts racing. Did she know about Hermione's plan? Had Livia caught her again? "What have you done to her?"
"Oh, nothing, nothing. I promised you I wouldn't, didn't I?"
Snape relaxed for a second but there was still that triumphant smile on her face.
"What I did before that promise, however…" Livia didn't finish her sentence but again stared at Snape with this hungry expression, as if she tried not to miss any kind of reaction from him. And in that moment Snape realized what she had done. For a second he thought the pain and desperation would overpower it. Perhaps that would be better, he wondered. Just to lose myself now, not to think of what is going to happen. How stupid of me to think she'd actually let Hermione live.
"You poisoned her as well," he heard himself say in a strange matter of fact voice. "You made her drink the Morituri Potion when she was still unconscious, before I even came, didn't you?"
Livia gave a small delighted laughter. "You're so clever. Yes, I did. In a much diluted concentration, of course. But you know that this won't change the result."
"No, it won't." Snape was thinking fervently. When would the potion start to work and how long would it take until it immobilized Hermione? Was there still a chance that she could find Livia on time, somehow get her blood and return? He had to believe it, otherwise there was only desperation left.
"Is that all?" he asked the gloating woman.
"All I wanted you to know, yes."
Clenching his teeth, Snape met Livia's triumphant gaze unflinchingly. He raised his wand to perform a spell which would close his fireplaces against further intrusion. But nothing happened.
Livia chuckled delightedly. "Ah, you're losing your magic. It won't be long now, Severus."
Snape had a hard time not letting his shock show on his face. Not to be able to perform magic gave him a terrible feeling of helplessness. He closed his eyes for a moment, concentrated very hard, and performed the spell. When he opened his eyes again Livia was gone.
Overwhelmed by shock and pain Snape crumbled against the table, taking deep hoarse breaths. His thoughts were racing. He had to tell Dumbledore what had happened so that he could somehow help Hermione. Dumbledore would be anxious in any case, probably wondering where Snape was. But he had to finish the potion first, finish it quickly lest it would be spoilt and any chance he or Hermione had of survival gone. And so Snape went back to cutting the mandrake root.
His mind was in turmoil, worries about Hermione fighting with the onslaught of pain and the increasing lack of concentration created by the effects of the Morituri Potion. And at the back of his mind was the nagging feeling that he was missing something, that there was something important he had forgot.
Snape shook his head. He couldn't have this distraction now. And with a great effort of will he pushed everything away, his whole concentration fixed on his task and on holding the pain and desperation at bay.
Luckily it took him only a few moments to cut the root and finish the potion. When he had made sure that it was perfect, missing only Livia's blood to make it work, Snape let go of the table he had been clutching to keep himself upright and laboriously went towards the door of the laboratory. He hardly made it and when he arrived there he had to hold on to the door handle and pause again for a few moments.
The pain was raging inside him, clouding his vision and his mind. But he clenched his teeth and slowly, very slowly left his laboratory and made towards his study. Halfway there he thought he'd faint with pain. Quickly he called Rose, hardly being able to notice her worried expression and exclamations, and ordered her to take him to his study.
When he arrived there he collapsed onto the nearest chair, clutching his heart, breathing raggedly. From very far away he heard Dumbledore's worried voice talking to him, but it took a few minutes until he had fought down the pain again and was able to understand him.
"Hermione got poisoned, too," he rasped, and quickly told Dumbledore everything that had happened. When he had finished he doubled over, shaken by new pain and not wanting Dumbledore to see his contorted face. Not long now, he thought dimly, not long. And part of him wanted it to end, to get away from this pain which was worse than anything he had experienced in all those long years in Voldemort's service.
"I will get help immediately," he heard Dumbledore's voice. "We'll have to come here first, to get the cloth with Hermione's blood."
Snape only nodded. It didn't matter now if the whole of Hogwarts invaded his sanctuary, did it?
He heard Dumbledore order Rose to follow him to Hogwarts. "Do what Dumbledore tells you," he said, his voice hardly more than a whisper.
"Severus?" he heard Dumbledore call out worriedly.
"I'm fine", he managed to say and looked up again, trying to compose his face as well as he could. "Go and help Hermione."
Dumbledore nodded and walked out of his picture, and with a very worried look on her face Rose disapparated. Then Snape was left alone.
Finally he could give in to the pain and he screamed, screamed until he was hoarse and deathly exhausted. But there was no respite from the anguish, he didn't have any strength left and there was no potion that would provide relief. The pain was tearing him apart, his body was burning with it and the small part of his mind that was still functioning could not imagine that this should ever end, that he could survive this.
But Hermione. She mustn't die, otherwise all of this would have been in vain. He mustn't think about this possibility because that pain would be even worse than what he was feeling right now. No, help would come in time, he was sure of that. And they'd help her get Livia's blood and then everything would be right again. The potion was ready, and all they needed for Hermione to survive was just one drop of the blood of the woman who had given her the potion.
Suddenly Snape gasped in surprise. His eyes, which had been shut, flew open and he stared in front of him, the now constant pain dimmed by a sudden realization. The nagging feeling that he was forgetting something… How could he have missed that? It was not Livia who had given him the Morituri Potion, it had been Constantine.
A short, bitter laughter escaped Snape's mouth and died as new pain shot through his body. Even if Hermione got Livia's blood here in time, he would die. He had to tell Dumbledore, to call Rose, but as his parched lips formed her name his body was shaken by a new wave of pain and darkness descended over him.