After hours of searching, Charity found Severus in the Forbidden Forest, wrapped in silk and pale as death—who was looming over him.
"Stop!" she cried, running forward. "I can save him!"
DO YOU REALLY THINK SO? asked Death, drawing aside.
Heedless of the question, Charity knelt before Severus and removed several phials from her robes. She cleansed his puncture wound with the first of these, poured the contents of the second down his throat, and unstoppered the third. Pearlescent drops fell upwards from it, forming a circle over Charity, who now clutched Severus to her breast, before falling in a curtain of shimmering light between them and Death.
A PARLOUR TRICK.
"It's not! You cannot pass the ward."
"Severus, Severus, can you hear me? Severus."
HE HAS LOST A GREAT DEAL OF BLOOD. YOUR POTIONS MAY NOT BE ENOUGH TO SAVE HIM.
"Even if they aren't, you still can't take him. It's the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, and your powers are weak. On this day, you may be turned away by a lover, and I claim that right!"
MORTALS MAY EXERCISE THAT RIGHT ONCE AND ONCE ONLY, CHARITY BURBAGE.
"I know. I don't care. Severus? Severus, please, wake up!"
SEVERUS SNAPE DOES NOT CARE FOR YOU AS YOU DO FOR HIM. HE WOULD NOT DO THE SA—
"He would. He would do the same for me! Leave us!"
AS YOU WISH, CHARITY BURBAGE.
In the absence of Death, Charity's ward dissolved, and Severus coughed.
"Oh, thank God!" she exclaimed, drawing an athame through the Acromantula silk that bound him. "Severus, are you—"
"G—God has nothing . . . to do . . . with it."
Laughing through her tears, Charity threw herself atop Severus and covered him in kisses.
"Charity, stop," Severus told her, as he fought with the silk to free himself.
"Oh, I'm sorry. I'm just so relieved! Death came for you, but I—"
"What's this?" asked Charity.
"A calming draught."
Charity took the phial from Severus' hand and drank. "Always so thoughtful, even now, even after—"
"I was foolish enough to stray too far into the forest alone. Fucking spiders! I didn't even have time to draw my wand!"
"Well, you're all right now, my love, and you've plenty of time," Charity said, clasping his hands in hers. "We have plenty of time."
Unobserved, Death noted, as Charity Burbage did not, that the eyes of Severus Snape did not meet hers—and then he continued on his way towards the soul he'd truly come to claim, certain of his welcome.
FOR CENTAURS ACCEPT ME AT THEIR APPOINTED TIME.