The vicious, definite explosion had taken nearly everyone in the vicinity by surprise. Hermione had been locked in tight quarters fighting with both Antonin Dolohov and Gregory Goyle, managing to use the latter’s infamous thickness against both him and his far more dangerous partner.
The explosion had only been a few yards away and had been strong enough to knock her to her knees. Shaking her head, Hermione struggled back up, her mind still on the two Death Eaters so determined to kill her. But both of them, she quickly found, were in no shape to be a threat to her at present.
Goyle lay on the ground, screaming and writhing as he clutched at his forearm. Even Dolohov, who obviously no stranger to pain and suffering, could not hold in several small whimpers as he lay on the ground in a similar position. Both of their wands lay on the ground nearby, useless.
For a brief moment, Hermione stared at them. She felt little sympathy for Goyle, and even less for Dolohov. Both had chosen their paths, even Goyle, as thick as he was. But she was not a killer by nature, so she would not kill them while they lay on the ground, helpless to protect themselves. Shaking her head, she quickly cast binding spells on both of them, and then grabbed their wands before leaving them for the Aurors to deal with at a later time.
Severus would probably chastise her later for leaving them alive, she thought as she rushed off towards the origin of the explosion, even if they were restrained. He would call it foolhardy, condemning her Gryffindor honor. But when the dust was settled, she would probably enjoy hearing him lecture her. It would be proof they were both alive and the war was, at last, over.
The end of her brief journey explained little of what had occurred. Harry was only at that moment making his way shakily to his feet, assisted by both a weary Professor Dumbledore and a bloodied and exhausted Ron. Relief shot through her. They were alive. Perhaps a little battered, but still there.
Hermione’s eyes drifted away from the three before her to just a few feet away from them. The earth was blackened and charred, covered in ash. Next to that, lay two wands, broken. The wands, brothers at their cores, had been shattered as their wielders had battled. She shivered and turned away. Her thoughts were already turning towards something more important than wands. Or, rather, someone more important.
He was only a few feet away from Dumbledore, Harry, and Ron. Surprising, as she hadn’t seen him at first glance. But wasn’t that so like him, she thought idly. To blend in, to be seen only when he chose to be seen?
His dark eyes were taking in the scene before him, watching the three rest wearily against one another, before they shifted and met her own gaze. He was obviously drained, probably on the verge of collapse. His gaze was hard, still dealing with the adrenaline of fighting for his life.
Hermione managed to direct a small smile at him. Seeing him standing there, alive and in one piece, was like a healing balm on every wound she had. He was safe. He’d made it through the battle alive, despite his own observances to the contrary.
For the past two years, the two of them had worked together almost constantly as Potions Master and Apprentice, researching and creating potions that would be of use to help defend the school in case of an assault on Hogwarts. They’d engaged in all manners of conversation, from arguing and bickering to somewhat civil discussions.
In the last few months, she’d taken to spending nearly all her time in the dungeons, working frantically to finish all the potions needed for defense. She’d sometimes be there so late that she would be present when he’d come back from the Dark Revels, battered and bleeding heavily. He’d been in so much pain he hadn’t have the strength to send her away and prevent her from starting his healing process. He didn’t even push her away when she would hold his hand gently between her own, hoping to be a comforting presence.
Sometimes, he would speak. Hermione had sometimes felt that he hadn’t even been fully aware that she was there. He would tell her that he didn’t expect to survive the battle. One did not betray the Dark Lord and expect to live a long, fulfilling life. His betrayal of the Dark Lord and his followers would be paid for, most certainly in his own blood.
Hermione had quickly found that speaking was beyond her when he fell into those moods. She could only sit an listen as he talked of his inevitable demise at the hands of his former master. Only his words hung in the air and her silent tears had been the only response she was able to give.
But now it appeared that he had been wrong. Her mentor still lived and the Dark Lord was gone at last. The one who had predicted his own death, the one who had become much more than a teacher to her, was still alive.
He continued to study her, taking in her small smile with his usual stoicism. After several moments, his gaze softened slightly and he nodded to her in a manner that could only be described as gracious. At least, coming from him. To her, it had the same effect a returned smile would have had.
Fairly humming with renewed energy, she gave him another smile, one far brighter and happier, before turning back to the spot where the Dark Lord had finally been defeated. Despite her fatigue, her mind couldn’t help but wonder about what was left of the monster. Perhaps-
“Potter! Get down!”
Hermione whirled, clutching her wand and ready to fire off a hex at any point. Still, by then, even as fast as she had moved, it was too late.
He lay on the ground in a crumpled heap, half-covering Harry with his own body. Both Ron and Professor Dumbledore had their wands brandished, pointed in the direction of another body that now lay motionless, a body she vaguely recognized as Lucius Malfoy.
Hermione paid little attention, trusting Ron and the Professor to cover her if Malfoy proved to still be alive. She sank down next to him, catching him as Harry carefully pushed him off. “Professor,” Harry called urgently. “Professor? Snape?”
There was no answer. His black head rolled limply against the arm that supported him at the neck. His dark eyes were horribly vacant.
She let out a shocked whimper and shook him frantically. “Professor Snape, answer us this minute! I do not find this at all amusing!”
He was silent still. Even the world seemed to mock her declaration, coming to complete silence.
She choked on her own rising despair and pulled his motionless body closer. Her wild eyes briefly met Harry’s horrified green gaze, but she was drawn, almost unwillingly, back to the man who lay limply in her lap.
He was gone. He was dead. Just as he had predicted. He was gone.
Hermione sobbed and buried her face in his hair, her tears coming in earnest. “Severus,” she whispered into him, “No… come back… Severus…”