Everything that Harry wanted was to rest. His biggest desire was to lay down in his bed, upstairs, in Gryffindor’s common room. But before doing that, there was something else he had to do. He could not sleep until then.
“I must go find him.” He said out loud, causing Ron and Hermione to look at him without understanding.
The three of them where in the middle of a hallway destroyed during the battle. They had moved the wounded and the bodies of the fallen, but Harry could still see the holes in the walls and the stains of blood. He tore his eyes from a particularly big stain and forced himself to look at his best friends.
“Harry?” Asked Hermione. “What…?”
“Snape. I have to go find him.” He repeated. “He can’t stay there, all alone.”
Hermione and Ron shared a look. The two of them were as exhausted as Harry, but they understood what he must have been feeling.
“Alright, I will inform Professor McGonagall and ask her to send somebody.” Said Hermione. “You go to sleep, it’s clear that you need it”.
“No! No, I can’t-”
Hermione opened her mouth to reply but Harry was quicker.
“You don’t understand. It has to be somebody that believes completely in his innocence. I can’t risk it!” He noticed that he had raised his voice and he forced himself to calm down. “There are a lot of people that still want revenge for Dumbledore’s death and… well, not everyone has believed me as fast as you guys. I cannot risk them cursing the body or doing something to it.”
“Okay, I understand.” Hermione put her hands up, trying to calm him down. “You are right.”
“I need to bring him back.” Insisted Harry. “He has to be at home.”
He said, and his voice broke.
His mind could not stop reminding him of all those people they had lost in the battle: Remus, Tonks, Fred, even poor Colin Creevey. But they rested beneath the starry sky of the Great Hall, surrounded by their families. Snape, instead, was alone in that horrible place and Harry needed to do something about it.
“We will go.” said Ron firmly. “You go get some rest, Harry. Hermione and I will bring him home.”
Ron wore the pain of Fred’s loss in each centimetre of his face, and Harry looked at him without knowing what to say.
“I can’t ask you that.” He said. “If anyone deserves to sleep it’s you.”
“Harry is right.” Said Hermione softly. She put a hand on Ron’s shoulder and squeezed, showing her affection. “Besides, if you don’t want to sleep, you should be with your family. I can take care of this on my own.”
Ron shook his head, maybe with too much energy.
“No, I don’t want to. I can’t right now.” He closed his eyes and tried to control himself. “I’m not strong enough to be there with them. I can’t handle looking at my mum’s face or see George with those empty eyes that he has and…”
Suddenly, he felt out of breath and started breathing fast and shakily. A heartbeat later, Harry and Hermione were there, hugging him both at the same time. Inside that safe place, Ron could finally let himself go and started crying silently. It took him a while to notice that they were crying too, and in a way, it made him feel better. If he wasn’t in that situation, he would probably remark how crazy they looked: three teenagers alone in the middle of a hallway, hugging and crying in silence.
They stayed like that for a few moments in which they said with the strength of their arms what they couldn’t say out loud until, finally, they let go. They all had tears on their faces, but they felt better than before.
“I’m okay, I’m okay.” Said Ron, breathing deeply. “And I know. I know that at some point I will have to face this. But… But I’m not there yet. I don’t want to sleep. I don’t… I don’t want to think about it.” He confessed, lowering his voice.
He averted their gaze, ashamed and scared that they would judge him, but Harry understood.
“I went through something similar with Sirius.” He told him. “If what you need right now is to keep busy, I get it. You are not a bad person for it.”
Ron swallowed and nodded slowly.
“So, do you trust me to bring Snape back?” He asked.
“Of course, I do, but…”
“But let me at least go with you.” Intervened Hermione, smiling gently at him.
“You don’t have to babysit me.” said Ron. “Really, I can handle it.”
“I know. And that’s not why I want to come.” She explained, calming him down. “The truth is that I don’t want to sleep either. But if you prefer that I don’t go, I will understand. Just say it and I will stay here.”
Hermione didn’t want to leave him alone, but she knew that it had to be his choice. That’s why she felt better when, after a few seconds, Ron nodded.
“If you want to, that is okay.”
“I want to.” She told him, closing the topic.
The look of affection that Ron was giving Hermione, told her that she did the right thing by coming with him. He shouldn’t be on his own during those moments.
“Go to sleep, Harry.” She added, turning towards him. “We will take care of it.”
Even though Harry knew that everything was going to be okay, he was nervous to be away from them after all that had happened. He was going to say something about it when a yawn interrupted his words. After that, he was sure that Hermione was going to do her best Mrs. Weasley imitation and send him to bed without the possibility to argue. So, aware that he had no other option, he nodded.
“Alright but take with you the D.A. coin.” It calmed him down to know that he could communicate with them in an instant.
“Don’t worry, I always have it on me.” Promised Hermione, pointing at her purse.
Then, softly, she gave him a pat in the arm.
“Really, try to get some rest, okay? We will see each other when you wake up.”
Harry nodded again and looked at Ron before walking up the stairs towards his room.
“We will be there.” He assured him.
And, with that, they finally parted ways.
“Everything is so quiet.” Hermione said, breaking the silence. “It’s weird.”
“It is. But I prefer it to the explosions and the screams.” Ron was aware of how depressing his words sounded, but he couldn’t help himself.
“Yeah… That’s true.”
From that point, Hermione decided to not say anything else. She knew that Ron would need time to be the same as before, if he ever would be the same. But she was going to be there for him for as long as he needed, helping him heal.
“Look, there it is.”
The boy’s voice took her out of her thoughts.
Ron was pointing at the huge tree that guarded the entrance to the Shrieking Shack. The Whomping Willow didn’t look good: it had lost some branches fighting Death Eaters and its bark had burn marks and cuts.
“I’ll take care of this.” Said Hermione, taking her wand out. "Wingardium Leviosa".
In an instant, a branch flew from the ground to the point of the tree that could paralyze it. Hermione shook her wand and the branch touched it, freezing the Willow in its place.
“Okay, that’s it. Ready?”
Ron nodded and together they started descending through the tunnel. When they reached the end, a sombre and unpleasant scene greeted them. Snape, laying on his back, with a puddle of blood around his head.
The two teenagers became paralyzed when they saw it.
“Merlin…” Whispered Ron. “It’s worse than I remembered.”
“I guess we didn’t see it clearly when it happened.” Said Hermione, approaching slowly, with her eyes more open than normal. “We were in the middle of the battle. And with the adrenalin and everything…”
Ron nodded, distant, and then moved his eyes to any other place of the room that wasn’t Snape.
“It’s weird to see him like this.” Continued Hermione, without knowing exactly what to feel. “So many years and I had never seen him so vulnerable.”
Ron returned his gaze back to Snape’s body. Then he swallowed, studying his face.
“It makes you realize that he was only a man.” He said, finally.
There, laying in the darkness, pale and bloody, Snape looked more human than he had ever looked when he was alive.
“It’s weird, to know the truth about him.” Said Hermione, that until that moment hadn’t really had the time to think about it. “Bittersweet.”
“Yeah… You are right.” Ron shook his head. “Seeing him like this… It’s hard to think of him as the greasy and evil Potion’s Master.”
“I can’t believe that he was on our side this whole time …” Whispered Hermione, with shaky voice.
Ron couldn’t believe it either, his exhausted brain still wasn’t able to assimilate everything that had happened.
“Well...” Sighed Hermione. “Let’s get this over with.”
She cleared her throat, uttered some words, and waved her wand. In a moment, a white bed like the ones in the infirmary appeared.
“Go to his other side, Ron. I stay here and between the two of us we pull him up.”
“Alright.” He nodded and went to Snape’s left.
Suddenly, he noticed that his eyes were open, and he crouched down to close them. He rested on his knees and put a hand over the professor’s face. He had just closed his eyes when he felt something that made him gasp in surprise.
“What? What happened?” Hermione said, scared.
But Ron didn’t seem to be listening to her, his eyes went from Snape’s face to his own hand. He moved it again towards the dead man, slowly. This time, he positioned his hand under the hooked nose. He felt it again. It was there, a breeze of air. Snape was breathing.
Ron’s blue eyes met Hermione’s, who was looking at him with her mouth open. She also fell on her knees next to Snape, and took her fingers towards the professor’s neck, careful to not touch the wounded area. There, very weak but undeniable, she found the heartbeat that she was looking for.
“Ron.” She said slowly. “Ron, do you know what this means?”
The boy’s lips formed a smile for the first time in days, filled with incredulity.
“He is alive.” He whispered, without believing it fully.
He let go a shocked laugh and, suddenly, he was crying. The faces of Fred, of Remus, of Tonks, appeared in his mind and Ron couldn’t stop. He released everything he had been accumulating, all the fear, the desperation and the sadness disappeared with his sobs until the only thing that was left was hope.
“You are going to live.” He promised, helping Hermione put Snape on the bed. “You stupid greasy bat, you are going to live.”
They had lost a lot of people, but Ron wasn’t going to allow anybody else to die. At least, that was something that he could achieve.
“Come on, Snape, come on. Don’t you dare slip away.” He said, running through Hogwarts’ grounds with Hermione next to him and Snape floating in his bed. “We are almost home.”
Harry was about to fall asleep when something vibrated next to him. When he noticed that the thing making that noise was the D.A.’s coin, he immediately sat up and took it in his hands. His heart skipped a beat when he read the words written on it:
Harry, he is alive
He jumped out of bed and started running towards the infirmary, with the cold stone floor touching his naked feet.