If the choice were mine to make

How to save a life

When the spell hit Constantine he slumped into his chair without making any noise. Hermione's eyes quickly darted to the closed door, her ears pricked for any sound from Livia. But there was only the low murmur of her voice, broken by laughter.
Quickly Hermione cast two other spells, one which made sure that Constantine would stay unconscious for a longer period of time, the other binding and gagging him. She smiled with relief when her magic didn't fail her.

Carefully Hermione went towards Constantine and placed the open Daily Prophet over him, so that his face was hidden from view and on first glance it would look as if he had fallen asleep. It wouldn't fool anyone for long, but for a few moments it might work.

Now to Livia. Somehow Hermione had to get to her, but opening the door would alert her and Hermione had no idea if she was in firing range from the doorway.

She could try to lure Livia out, of course, by making a noise or something like that. But that again might rise Livia's suspicion. Hermione had a great advantage in the Invisibility Cloak and the element of surprise, but it would be dangerous to underestimate the elder witch.

Suddenly Livia's low murmur stopped. Hermione listened, her heart beating fast, but nothing happened. She glanced around quickly, reached a decision and made for a large armchair just opposite the door to Livia's room, planning to position herself behind it. It might provide some protection from any spells that Livia might fire in her direction.

When she was just two feet away from the chair the door suddenly opened. Hermione stopped in her tracks, the half-open door obscuring her view of Livia. Her heart was beating fast as she was waiting for the elder witch to open the door completely so that she could hit her with a spell.

"Constantine?" Livia asked.

She stepped into the room and Hermione was just about to cast Stupefy when she was suddenly hit by a wave of pain unlike anything she had experienced before. She let go of her wand and doubled over, not able to stifle a gasp. There was only pain, her vision became blurred and the blood was roaring in her ears. Knowing that she had betrayed herself to Livia, Hermione fell down on the floor to get out of the way of spells, but it was too late.

Livia had quickly stepped into the room and yelled "Stupefy!" Her first spell missed Hermione, who was still wearing the cloak, but her second spell hit Hermione's shoulder and for a second all around her went black.

She recovered quickly, but when Hermione looked up she saw Livia standing over her, pointing her wand at her, the cloak and Hermione's wand in her other hand.

"Well well, Hermione, dear, you are resilient," Livia hissed, staring at her with very cold eyes. "How did you find me?"

Hermione quickly looked around, her heart hammering. She felt sick with anger and fear. How stupid of her to be overcome like that! She had been so close to rescuing Snape and now she had let herself get caught. Livia would kill her and Snape would die and everything would be her fault… Hermione's thoughts were racing. She simply had to get out of here. Help might be on its way, but she had no idea when it would arrive, if at all. Luckily the pain had vanished as quickly as it had come but Hermione thought it best to appear weak and helpless to Livia. And to keep her talking. As long as she talked she wouldn't kill her.

"Remember the day when I helped you with that stuck window?" she said, getting slowly on her knees but stopping there, trying to look as weak as possible – which wasn't that hard, really. "You cut your hand badly and some of your blood spilled onto my jacket. I forgot to have it cleaned."

"I see. So Severus told you what happened and you of course wanted to rescue him. And my blood brought you to me, but obviously it couldn't help you saving him." Suddenly Livia sniggered, as if something amused her greatly.

Keep her talking, Hermione thought, frantically searching for a way to get out of this mess. "What's so funny?" she asked coldly.

"Oh, even if you would have got some fresh blood from me, it wouldn't have saved Severus," Livia said with a smile. "I didn't give him the potion. Constantine did. You on the other hand…"

"What do you mean?" Hermione said, her surprise turning into a cold foreboding.

"Come on, Hermione, think!" Livia said, her smile dazzling. "You are so clever, aren't you?"

Hermione stared at her, her breathing going hard. The strange sudden pains… The failing of her magic… "You gave me the Morituri Potion, too," she stated slowly.

"I did. Long before Severus showed up."

"So you wanted to kill me right from the beginning?" In spite of everything Livia had done to her this still shocked Hermione. She felt helpless and weak, trying hard not to get overwhelmed by panic. She had to get out of this mess, now more than ever.

"It wasn't about you, darling," the elder woman said with a light shake of her head. "Not primarily. I wanted to hurt Severus."

Sudden realization hit Hermione. "So it was him you were talking to just now? To bask in your victory and see him suffer?"

"Clever girl. Yes, it was Severus. And now I understand why he was so busy in his laboratory. He thought that there was a chance of saving himself! But now he'll wait in vain, won't he?"

A new wave of pain shot through Hermione's body and she writhed, clutching at her heart, dimly hearing Livia's delighted laughter. But when the pain subsided, more slowly and reluctantly this time, she knew what she had to do. It wasn't a great plan, but it was the only one she had.

Below her lay a narrow, threadbare runner which went from one end of the room to the door on the other side. Livia was standing on it with her left foot. If Hermione could somehow jerk it upwards so that Livia lost her footing she might have a chance to overpower her.

"But perhaps help is on its way?" Livia went on, suspicion in her voice. "I suppose you weren't so stupid to charge in here all on your own? Well, it's a real shame to leave now and not watch your...end but I think I should get going." She snorted. "And take my useless brother with me."

Panic gripped Hermione. If Livia disapparated, everything was lost. Pretending to be still doubled over by pain so much that she needed to prop up herself with her hands, Hermione slowly shifted her feet down from the runner. Then she suddenly grabbed the left edge of the carpet and, bolting up, jerked at it with all her might.

Livia staggered. And Hermione charged.

One of the first things she'd done when she had left the wizarding world was to enrol in a muggle self-defense course. She never wanted to be helpless, not after all the things she'd been through, and when she had decided not to use magic anymore she had to find other ways to defend herself.

So when she closed the few yards between Livia and herself Hermione knew what she had to do. She saw the elder woman raise her wand and, with her full momentum and all the strength she had left jammed her right elbow hard into Livia's stomach. The elder woman doubled over and immediately Hermione let her elbow come down hard on her neck. Livia staggered and with a clatter let go of the two wands she had still been clutching. Immediately Hermione lunged towards the closest, her body hitting the floor hard. She grabbed the wand, turned around and yelled "Stupefy!"

With a dull thud Livia hit the floor.

Hermione lay there, panting hard, staring at the unconscious woman, her blood buzzing in her ears. Then she got up and quickly cast the same spells she had used on Constantine. Luckily they still worked.

Staring down on Livia, Hermione suddenly felt a surge of exhilaration. But the triumphant smile vanished from her face when she noticed that her hand was shaking badly. No, she had no time to waste now. She had already wasted more than enough, who knew if Snape was still alive…

Quickly she pushed that thought away, went to a nearby shelf and transfigured a glass paperweight and two pens into two syringes and a rubber belt. It was very hard but finally she held the items in her hands. Then she knelt down next to Livia, rolled up the sleeve on her left arm and wound the band around it above the elbow. Hermione had never taken a blood sample before, but had seen it often enough, in reality and on TV, to have a rough idea how it worked. And she certainly had no qualms about pricking Livia.

It took Hermione a few attempts until she actually hit a vein and was able to draw enough blood. When the syringe was full she quickly marked it with a black "L" and went over to Constantine. She was just about to insert the needle when she had to stop as a new wave of pain hit her. Afterwards her hands were shaking so badly she couldn't hit a vein. Hermione clenched her teeth. Get yourself together, she thought fervently. You're nearly there. Concentrate!

Finally she managed to extract Constantine's blood. Quickly she put the two syringes into her jacket and got ready to disapparate. She would tell Dumbledore where to collect Livia and her brother.

But nothing happened. Where there anti-apparition wards? Quite likely. Or was she no longer able to apparate? Hermione swayed for a moment, lost in horror at that thought. No, she had to get outside and try there. After a last, short look at Livia and her brother Hermione left the living room. She was walking towards the entrance door when it suddenly flew open.

Hermione drew her wand and pressed herself against the wall of the corridor, her heart racing. But then she let out a laughter mixed with a sob. McGonagall was standing in the doorway, her wand raised, Flitwick next to her.

"Professor," Hermione said weakly, stepping into the corridor and smiling at her widely. "You have no idea how glad I am to see you."

McGonagall's worried face relaxed, she put down her wand and in a few long strides stood next to Hermione. "Are you all right? Where is Livia?"

"Next door. I have her blood. And Constantine's. I need to get it to Snape immediately."

An uncontrollably shiver had seized Hermione and McGonagall threw her a worried glance. "We'll take you to him. Come."

And with this she took Hermione's elbow and gently but swiftly led her up the stairs to the street.

"How is Snape?" Hermione asked. Her mouth felt dry and she was dreading McGonagall's answer.

"Still alive," McGonagall said in a grim voice. "At least he was a few minutes ago."

Hermione felt as if a great weight had fallen off her heart. "I'm glad to hear it," she mumbled. Somehow her vision was getting blurred. She shook her head in irritation. Suddenly a new wave of pain hit her. Hermione gasped and doubled over. It was worse than before, worse even than the Cruciatus. Dimly she heard someone call her name. Then everything went black.

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