Camilla opened her eyes, staring around the stark white room in confusion. She sat up, her head feeling as if it were filled with rocks. She closed her eyes as a wave of dizziness swept over her.
A cheery voice called out, “You’re up, pet?” and Camilla’s eyes flew open.
Camilla looked up into the smiling face of a witch wearing lime green robes. Suddenly, realization dawned. The memories came flooding mercilessly back to her, along with a crushing sensation in the middle of her chest.
Severus was gone.
Tears sprang to her eyes as she fought for breath.
“You all right, love?” the witch asked.
Camilla shook her head and pulled her knees up to her chest. “Where’s Jon?”
“I’ll go find him,” the Healer replied, rushing for the door.
Minutes later, Jon appeared through another door that Camilla had assumed led to the toilet. He was at her side in an instant, brushing her tears away with his thumb. “Are you okay?”
“No, I’m not okay, Jon,” she spat. “I’ll never be okay again.”
“You’ve been out for a long time, Cam. But I think there’s something you should see,” he said, the corners of his mouth twitching.
She gave him a scrutinizing look. What the hell was he smiling about? She found it incredibly inappropriate and annoying. “I don’t want to see anything, Jon.”
“Come on, Cam,” he said, taking her hand and pulling her out of the bed. “Trust me, you want to see this.”
Camilla shrugged her shoulders and began to follow him listlessly to the door through which he had entered. He pushed the door open and motioned for her to go through.
“You’re not coming?” she asked.
Jon shook his head. “I’ll wait here.”
She stared at him. There was that maddening smile again. Was he actually happy that Severus was gone? She knew he didn’t like her husband, but she never thought he would be so cruel as to rejoice when she was so miserable. She glared at him and stepped through the door.
She thought she must have been hallucinating. Her grief-stricken mind had to have been manufacturing something that simply could not have been there.
She grabbed a nearby table for support and blinked her eyes several times, but the image remained. Severus was sitting up in bed, a scowl on his face, berating a young and frightened-looking Healer-in-training. A tray of food lay across his lap, which he shoved at the bewildered young witch.
“I realize your intelligence is lacking. However, even a dunderhead such as yourself can see that this poor excuse for a meal is hardly edible. Now, bring me back something palatable,” he spat.
The witch’s eyes filled up with tears as she took the tray from Severus and ran out of the room.
Camilla gaped at him, open-mouthed. He finally turned his head and met her eyes. His hard expression melted immediately. “Come here,” he whispered.
She approached the bed slowly, her mind working overtime. How was this possible?
She sat down beside him and stared at him. “Are--is this real?”
He smiled and took her hand. “I’m afraid so. You’re not free of me yet.”
She laced her fingers with his and pressed her lips against the back of his hand. “How is this possible?” she asked incredulously, now grinning widely. He was alive! She felt the warmth of this realization spread to her entire body. The weight that was crushing her chest was finally lifted and replaced with an indescribable joy.
“Potter,” Severus answered, with a wry smile.
Severus sighed. “Yes. Unbelievably, Potter was the one who saved my life. He found the origin of the potion I had ingested. He brought a sample to the Healers and they were able to concoct an antidote.”
Camilla shook her head in disbelief. “I thought you were dead. You stopped breathing. I thought…”
He pressed his finger against her lips. “Shh. I’m here now. You can’t rid yourself of me that easily.”
Camilla smiled despite herself. “Just don’t do that again and I might consider forgiving you.”
He pulled her down to lay beside him. “I’m glad you’re here,” he said, kissing her gently. He pulled her into his arms and she laid her head on his chest, as she had done so many times before.
“What happens now?” she asked.
He stroked her hair slowly. “I’m not sure.”
“They’ve come to arrest us both,” she said quietly.
“What do they want you for?” he asked, alarm evident in his voice.
Camilla sighed. “I helped you. I was hiding with you.”
“I can’t let you go to Azkaban for me,” he said, sitting up.
“What are you saying?” Camilla asked, pushing herself up to a sitting position.
He took hold of her shoulders and looked deep into her eyes. “I won’t allow you to be punished because of things I have done.”
“I don’t think there’s anything you can do to stop it, Severus.”
He looked away, his brow creased in thought. “What if I were to turn myself in? What if I confessed to everything in exchange for your freedom?”
“I can’t let you do that,” she said. “There’s got to be another way.”
He shook his head. “The Ministry will want someone to blame, Camilla. There’s no escape for me. My fate is already sealed. But yours is not.”
“Severus, please.” She stifled a sob as she gazed into his black eyes. “You don’t have to do this. I’m sure Harry will testify on your behalf. You did what you did because Dumbledore asked you to. Because of that bloody Vow you took! Surely they’ll have to see reason.”
Severus let out a mirthless laugh. “The Ministry believe Potter only when it is convenient for them. This war has been a mess, Camilla. They want to take the public focus off their incompetence. What better way than to punish the murderer, Severus Snape?”
“Well, if that’s what they want, what makes you think they will accept your confession? Wouldn’t they prefer a public trial?”
“No. Potter knows too much. He knows all the mistakes they have made. And he won’t be afraid to tell the world about them. Potter feels no loyalty to the Ministry. In fact, he blames them for the deaths of his friends. They did nothing to stop the Dark Lord. They refused to believe he had returned when Potter, Albus, and even I told them. By the time they recognized his return, it was too late.”
“Severus, I can’t let you do this. You have to stand up and fight. You did nothing wrong,” she pleaded, taking his face in her hands.
“I could never live with myself if you went to Azkaban, Camilla. No matter what happens, I’m headed there. That is inevitable.”
“No,” she said, shaking her head as tears spilled out of her eyes. “Don’t say that. You can’t give up.”
He smiled and kissed her. “I’m not giving up. I’m making sure my wife is taken care of.”
“I won’t go along with it, Severus.”
“I’m afraid you have no choice, my love. It has to be this way.”
She threw her arms around his neck and sobbed into his shoulder. “Are we just doomed to misery?”
He shook his head. “No. Misery was living without you.”
“This is so unfair,” she cried. “We finally found each other again; you survived being poisoned. And for what? To spend the rest of your life in Azkaban?”
“Camilla, please. Let’s just enjoy the time we have left together. Just let me hold you until someone tells me I have to stop.”
He lay back down and pulled her close to him.
“Tighter,” she whispered, as his arms enveloped her.
They lay there for a long time. For minutes, for hours, Camilla didn’t know. In each other’s arms, they delayed the terrible fate that awaited them. And although she knew it wouldn’t last forever, that there would be a time when he’d be ripped away from her, she forced herself to think of nothing but their bodies meshed together in this embrace. And she knew that if she ever let go, it would be over. They would be over. So, she held him even tighter, willing the end not to come.
Camilla leaned against the rough stone wall and stared blankly at the fire emanating from one of the torches lining the corridor. As hard as she tried, she could not make her feet move from that spot. Her body refused to go into that room again. For, today, a group of strangers would decide her future. She wasn’t ready to face that; she doubted she ever would be.
Since the day the Aurors ripped Severus from her arms, she had been dreading this. He had taken responsibility for everything, as he said he would, in exchange for Camilla’s freedom. They had accepted his offer most greedily, but still relished the opportunity to participate in his very public sentencing. And that was why Camilla was here today. Today she would know his fate.
She wasn’t naïve in any way. She knew that there would be no pleasant outcome to today’s proceedings. The Ministry would never just let Severus go free. Despite testimony from Harry that Severus had helped him destroy Voldemort, despite witnesses from the Order of the Phoenix bearing witness that Severus fought on their side that night, despite evidence Dumbledore himself had left behind, Camilla knew there was no chance of Severus receiving a light sentence.
Her reverie was interrupted by a comforting hand on her shoulder. She turned to see her best friend standing there, looking as distraught as she.
“Hey,” she said, leaning against him. “I didn’t even hear you coming.”
“How are you holding up?” Jon asked, concern in his deep brown eyes.
She gave him a wry smile. “I’m wonderful, how are you?”
He took her hand. “Are you ready?”
“No,” she said, biting her lip to force the tears back.
“Come on,” he said, pulling her toward the door, “It’s about to begin.” He pulled on the heavy iron handle and swung the door open.
She walked through the door, her head held high. The quiet chatter of the packed room was silenced immediately. All eyes were focused on her as she and Jon walked in.
“Looks like we’ll have to stand,” said Jon, his eyes sweeping over the raised benches. There was not a single place to sit. It was as if the entire Wizarding world had turned out for Severus’ sentencing.
“Fine,” Camilla mumbled, making her way to the side of the courtroom.
She reached for Jon’s hand as the Wizengamot began to file in. They were a sea of plum robes, looking pompous and smug, as if they could hardly wait to dole out their punishment. In the center of them all, on the first bench, was Rufus Scrimgeour, Minister of Magic. He cleared his throat as if to silence the crowd, but it was completely unnecessary; not a sound could be heard in the dim courtroom.
“Bring in the accused,” he announced.
The entire room seemed to hold a collective breath as a member of the court hurried to the door. It swung open to reveal Severus being escorted in by two immense and gruff-looking Aurors.
Camilla’s nails dug into Jon’s palm as Severus was brought in. Severus kept his head down, his face hidden by his curtain of black hair. As the Aurors thrust him toward the chair in the center of the room, he looked up briefly. His black eyes found Camilla’s in the crowd and she gave him a small smile.
As Severus was forced into the chair, its chains glowed and began to wrap themselves around his arms. He bristled slightly, but otherwise gave no reaction.
Scrimgeour stood and, with a booming voice, announced, “Severus Snape, you have been brought here today, having been accused of murder and participation in Death Eater crimes. We have heard testimony from a number of witnesses. At this time, the Wizengamot is prepared to make its final decision. Do you have anything to say?”
Severus did not look up; he kept his gaze focused on the ground and said nothing.
“Very well, then,” Scrimgeour continued. “Now there was discussion at length, and some of the court felt very strongly that due to the nature of the crimes you are being accused of, a fitting punishment would, of course, be the Dementor’s Kiss.”
A collective gasp and ripple of chatter followed this statement. Camilla gazed up at Jon helplessly. He squeezed her hand, his eyes narrowing as he glared at the Minister of Magic.
“However,” the Minister went on, “the court was soon reminded--” He stared down his nose at the young man with red hair and horn-rimmed glasses sitting next to him. “—that Dementors are no longer in the service of the Ministry, as some disapprove of their brutality.” He rolled his eyes skyward at this, as if it were preposterous. “Therefore, the court came to a unanimous decision…”
Camilla grabbed Jon’s arm and clung to him, fearing that her legs would no longer support her.
“Severus Snape…” the Minister said, staring down at Severus as if he were an insect. Severus finally looked up, his eyes boring into the Minister’s, his jaw taught and his fists clenched.
“Severus Snape, you are hereby condemned to a life sentence in Azkaban prison. Effective immediately.”
The crowd erupted in applause and excited chatter. Camilla collapsed against Jon, unable to breathe. Harry Potter stood from his seat in the front row. “You’re all mad!” he shouted. “Will you never listen? I’ve told you a thousand times; he saved my life! I suppose that means nothing, does it?”
“You will keep your seat, Potter, or suffer the consequences,” Scrimgeour snarled.
“What are you going to do, lock me up, too? I suppose that fits, doesn’t it?” Harry shot the Minister a look of disgust and approached Camilla and Jon.
“I’m sorry,” he said, placing a hand on Camilla’s shoulder. “I did what I could. It just wasn’t enough.”
Camilla stared up at the young man, unable to comprehend the words that were coming out of his mouth. She felt dizzy, sick. The whole room began to spin, and then she collapsed, hitting the stone floor with a thud.
Camilla awoke to a sea of faces peering down on her. Some bore expressions of concern, while others gazed down at her with awed fascination and curiosity. She scrambled to her feet and backed into Jon.
“Get me out of here,” she whispered, as some in the crowd began to pull out quills and parchment. She would rather have gone to Azkaban herself than speak with the press.
Jon grabbed her hand and dragged her through the disappointed throng and toward the door. “Let’s go,” he said, motioning toward the lifts.
As they waited for the lift to descend, Jon said, “I’m sorry, Cam. I never wanted this to happen.”
“I know,” she said quietly. “Do you know where he is now?”
“They’re probably holding him in Auror headquarters for the time being. Then they’ll transport him to Azkaban.”
The lift doors opened and Jon stepped inside. She remained outside the doors, staring up at him in desperation.
He hung his head and sighed. “Camilla, I know what you’re about to ask me and I just can’t.”
“Jon, please,” she implored. “I need to see him before he goes.”
He shook his head. “I don’t think they’ll even let me see him, let alone you.”
Camilla stepped inside. “I know. But can’t you at least try?”
He exhaled slowly, staring up at the ceiling. “I’ll see what I can do.”
“Thank you,” she said softly.
He gave her a grim nod as the lift began to ascend.
An hour later, Jon escorted her through the corridors of Auror headquarters. “I could only get you a few minutes,” he said, stopping at the end of a long hallway. “Make it count.” He turned the handle of the door and motioned for her to enter.
She gave him a grateful smile and stepped inside, the door clicking shut behind her. Severus was sitting slumped against the opposite wall, his head inclined. She approached him slowly and slid down the wall to sit beside him.
His only acknowledgement of her presence was to take her hand and lace his fingers with hers. She leaned into him and brushed the hair away from his face. “I’m sorry,” she whispered.
He sighed deeply and rested his head on her shoulder as she stroked his hair. “You don’t deserve this,” she said angrily. “They are fools who only see what they want to see. They should have given you an Order of Merlin rather than this despicable sentence. Don’t listen to them, Severus. You are a hero, no matter what they think.”
He lifted his head up then, finally resting his tortured eyes on her before looking away quickly. “I’ve been thinking.” he said in a hollow voice, staring at the wall ahead of him, “that I don’t want you to wait for me.”
She looked at him in confusion. “What are you talking about?”
“Be honest with yourself, Camilla,” he said bitterly. “You know as well as I know that they’ll never let me go free. Why should you spend the rest of your life waiting for something that will never happen?”
“No,” he snarled, moving away from her. “I have enough to deal with without having to think of you clinging to some desperate hope that one day I will be free. It won’t happen and I think you should just face it.”
“What are you saying?” she demanded.
“Forget about me,” he replied, meeting her gaze with an icy stare. “I’m as good as dead to you.”
“Don’t say that,” she said, taking his head in her hands. “I know you don’t mean it. You’re just angry. I’m angry, too. It isn’t fair.”
“No,” he said, pushing her hands away. “This is far from fair. Which is why you need to move on with your life. I know how unjust the Ministry can be. They have found their scapegoat and as long as I’m rotting in Azkaban they can feel absolved of any wrongdoing. They will never let me go.”
“So, you’re just giving up?” she demanded, hot tears spilling from her eyes.
“I don’t have a choice. They’re about to take me to Azkaban to live out the rest of my life. You think that’s what I want? You don’t think it’s killing me to leave you alone?”
“I know,” she said, looking down at the floor.
“I would rather die than be separated from you again, but I also can’t live with the thought of you spending the rest of your life in misery.”
“Severus,” she said softly, turning his face toward her, “don’t worry about me. I will be fine. But I’m not going to ‘move on.’ Where would I go? You’re all I have. You’re all I want. And you’re the only man I will ever love for the rest of my life.”
He looked up at her, an anguished expression on his face. “I don’t know how to let you go.”
She laid her palm on his cheek. “You don’t have to. We’ll always be together. Doesn’t matter where you are; you’ll still be mine. And I’m not giving up just yet. There’s still hope.”
He wrapped his arms around her and buried his face in her hair. She rested her cheek against his chest, relishing the feel of his arms around her. He always had the power to make her feel so safe and protected, even now. It broke her heart to think that she would have to be separated from him yet again. Only this time, it was for good.
Suddenly, the door swung open, revealing Jon standing in the doorway, looking apologetic. “I’m sorry, but… It’s time.”
Camilla nodded and turned back to Severus. “Don’t worry. I don’t know how, but I’ll find some way to get you out of there.” She kissed him tenderly and took his hand. “I want you to have this,” she said, pressing her wedding ring into his palm. “Whenever you feel lonely, look at it and remember that I am always with you.”
He squeezed his hand closed and took a deep breath. “You should go.”
“Okay,” she said, biting her lip as tears began to sting her eyes.
He cupped her head in his hands and kissed her one last time. “Go,” he whispered.
She stood up on shaky legs and headed for the door, hoping she could make it out before breaking down. He didn’t need to see that.
She turned around and smiled, wiping her face with the back of her hand. “Yeah?”
“Thank you,” he said.
“For what, love?” she asked, choking back a sob.
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