Harry watched in horror as his lover was enveloped in icy blue light. Before his eyes, Severus’ face began to age, becoming slightly more angular. Lines deepened around his eyes and forehead, and his hair grew even longer. He lay motionless on the floor.
“You Bastard!” Harry shrieked, throwing himself at the tall man who stood laughing, sparks still flickering around the tip of his wand. Voldemort, obviously not expecting a physical attack, staggered and fell, his head smashing against the ancient stone floor. Blood oozed from beneath the collar of his robes and Harry backed away, feeling sick.
The Dark Lord’s head was twisted at an unnatural angle and the red eyes were rolled back in his head, only the whites showing from beneath lowered lids. All around Harry, wizards were shaking their heads as the fog over their minds lifted, but Harry paid them no heed.
“Severus!” he gasped, dashing over to his lover’s side. The body was too still.
“We have to get you out of here.” Harry fumbled in Severus’ pockets, withdrawing the portkey with a sigh of relief. Pulling out his wand and keeping a tight hold on Severus’ wrist, he spoke the incantation and closed his eyes as they were whisked out of the room.
They landed heavily outside the school gates. Harry gasped as his back hit the ground hard, then twisted around to check on Severus. He was still far too still. Harry pulled Severus’ arm over his shoulders and tried his best to stand, but Severus was a dead weight against him. Much taller than Harry himself, Severus was impossible to carry alone. Harry pulled harder, desperate to get them both back to Hogwarts and into the infirmary. As he toppled once again, Harry bit back a sob. It was hopeless.
Distantly, he heard a high, musical sound. Looking up he saw Fawkes, newly burned, circling above him. The bird landed with a swish of golden feathers.
“Fawkes,” Harry gasped, struggling for breath. “We have to get him to Madame Pomfrey.”
Fawkes let out another high-pitched note and grasped the back Severus’ black robe in his long claws. With a flapping of his great wings, the bird took off, carrying his precious burden. Not pausing to wonder at the fantastic strength of his pet, Harry stumbled to his feet and followed as quickly as he could.
By the time he got to the infirmary, Severus had already aged to the point where Harry was startled to see his potions professor looking back at him. Fawkes was perched on the headboard of the bed, thick pearly tears falling silently from the bright, glittering eyes. Madame Pomfrey stood beside him, her wand spitting out a continuous stream of diagnostic spells. Finally, she drew back with a sigh.
“Is he alive?” Harry asked, hating the way his voice trembled, and how his eyes filled with tears.
“Yes,” said Madame Pomfrey. “For now. The phoenix tears have slowed the ageing. The cells of Mr. Snape’s body have been multiplying and ageing at a much faster rate then normal. It is almost like a cancer. The phoenix tears have been combating the process and attempting to regulate the rate at which the cells reproduce. Unfortunately, they can not seem to do it fast enough. If I can not find a cure within the next twenty-four hours, I am afraid he will die.”
Madame Pomfrey searched tirelessly for a way to reverse the ageing spell; Harry working right beside her, until they eventually had to give in.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Potter,” she said. “There is no time left. Mr. Snape will die within the next hour.”
Harry wiped his eyes discreetly with his sleeve.
“I suggest you get some sleep,” Madame Pomfrey continued.
“No!” Harry yelled. “No, I have to see him.”
“Alright,” Madame Pomfrey agreed. “I suppose it is only your right as his friend to be there with him.”
Dabbing at her own eyes with a blue handkerchief she stood and led the way back through the castle.
Harry sat down by Severus’ bed, watching him. The thin chest rose and fell with shuddering, effortful breaths and Harry felt his own breaths catch in his throat. Severus’ hair was white now, and his skin was as pale as the sheets strewn around him. As Harry watched, the eyes blinked slowly open, the only darkness left on a man who should have lived so much longer.
“Neville?” he croaked.
“Severus!” Harry seized the long fingers, his grip almost painful. “How do you feel?”
“Tired,” Severus mumbled. “Very tired. Am I going to die?”
Harry hesitated. It was all the answer Severus needed.
“Love you, Neville,” he whispered.
Harry let out a short, harsh sob. “Harry,” he whispered back.
“What?” the dark eyes were becoming glazed and unfocused.
Harry took a deep breath. “My name is Harry.”
“I see.” The lips curved up slightly in a gentle smile. “I love you… Harry.”
Harry threw his arms around the fragile body and hugged his lover as tightly as he dared. Shaking arms curled around his back, holding him gently against the cold body. Harry laid his head on Severus’ chest and listened to every breath drawn in, and every one released, until finally a last breath escaped in a soft sigh.
Severus was gone.