Again, this part is the conclusion of the story requested by hopeforhealing. I hope you enjoy!
A note: Some people mentioned how I transitioned from past to present tense in the first part. I'm leaving it like that- it was intentional. It's something that is supposed to convey the shock of seeing something, how everything speeds up and is confusing for a bit in its stark reality of the present. If you have questions about it, message me.
ALSO: FF does not like my use of line breaks. Ugh. So some have disappeared, and I cannot get them to stay for the life of me. So some will be actual line breaks and others will be makedo.
He heard her screaming and ran from his office to his rooms. Fear was flooding his body- had one of the Carrows discovered her? Was it a curse that he hadn't found? Was someone taking her-
No. It was merely a dream, a nightmare that had one of the bravest people he had even seen screaming and writhing on the bed. (who was he to say it was merely a dream he who knew what dreams could do and how they could hurt the night ones and the days ones like)
"Wake up," he commanded, sitting on the bed and grasping her shoulders. The bones of her body were fragile yet hard under his hands. "Miss Granger!" When she didn't respond, he shook her lightly. "Hermione!"
Her eyes flew open with another strangled scream and she was clutching at him, tears falling hot and fast on his shirt. Hermione had a death grip on him, and her head was buried in the crook between neck and shoulder.
Wordlessly he gathered her to him, awkwardly stroking her hair as she sobbed into his shirt. (no one had ever cried on him before why was she crying on him make her stop no don't when she's done the warmth will be gone how long had it been since someone had held him since he had held someone)
When she calmed, he performed the perfunctory spell to remove the traces from her face. "What was it, Miss Granger?" he asked cautiously.
"You called me Hermione before," said the woman, pulling away slowly. He ached for the warmth she was denying him and hated himself for it.
He just raised an eyebrow at her. "It is your name," he said waspishly. "If you don't wish to discuss the dream-"
"I was alone," Hermione said, interrupting and resting a hand on his arm, to keep him from rising. The moonlight from the windows was scarce, and he could barely see the light reflecting off her eyes and being absorbed into her hair. She was play of light and dark, her mouth a dark slash in the white of her face, her eyes dark and shiny, her hair framing her head and neck.
"I was alone and then I wasn't; you were with me and so was Draco and you were looking at him and saying something to him and then he disappeared and you disappeared and it was just me and Harry and Bellatrix and-" her breath caught up to her and she stumbled over her words.
She calmed herself, and stilled. It was the time of the night when sound is almost sacrilegious and the only words permissible are secrets. "I'm so scared of the war and of fighting," she admitted in a near whisper. "I'm scared of pain and of dying. I'm scared, Pro-" Her face twisted in an action he could see.
"Severus," he said, understanding the expression for what it was. "As you said earlier. You are no longer a child and I am no longer anything like a teacher."
"I'm scared, Severus," Hermione whispered again. "Sometimes I feel so scared I don't know how my heart doesn't explode from fear. Or I can't move and the terror is just overwhelming."
It was the lateness that made him say it, the hour and the darkness and his own weariness. "I know," he whispered back. "The feeling that everything went wrong and you should've or could've fixed it but-"
"Now it's too late," Hermione finished. Her hand curled on his arm, in a gesture that was almost like she was stroking his arm. "It's the end of the world and we're all going to die."
Severus shook his head. "Not everyone," he said roughly. "Tell my story when I'm dead." It was a plea, a demand, a question.
"If you tell it to me," answered Hermione, making the promise he asked of her. Her voice was rough from screaming, but her hand and her eyes were sure and he had never trusted anyone like this.
(why would he trust her she was just a girl a woman with eyes like honey and a voice like a thousand kept promises who had listened to him and trusted him with her life and who clutched at him in the dark of the night with the echos of her own screams rebounding in both their ears as she cried on him and gave him her warmth as she drew comfort from him where had she gotten it from she had pulled warmth from him just as he pulled warmth from her no she was the sun and he was the moon just reflecting only ever as brilliant as she was)
It spilled from his mouth unbidden, the prince's tale. He told her how he had never met anyone as brilliant as Lily, that no one with a head of fire and eyes that were spring had ever cared about him before. How he had believed her when she said they'd be friends forever. How they had grown apart, how he had killed her.
How a boy who didn't know who to grow into a man was shunned by the Light and welcomed by the Dark. How he hadn't meant for it all to happen. How he was seduced by Lucius Malfoy and Tom Riddle and the pureblood elite of society, how desperately he had craved the sense of belonging and deservedness they all wore as cloaks.
How he had managed to hold in the vomit until he had been alone, how he had retched until there had been nothing left inside of him, until his body felt as empty as his soul. How he had been so angry at the people who had driven him to his choice he had given the prophecy to the Dark Lord with hardly another thought.
How when Lily had died he had grieved, not for her sake (he had let go of her long ago by a lake with the blood rushing to his head) but for the death of what she had represented to him: the one true friend whom he had killed.
How when Dumbledore had accepted him into the Order he felt as if he finally had a chance at redemption.
How that hope had deserted him before spring.
How he had balanced precariously on the fringes of each society, accepted but despised. Not a true Order member, not a trusted Death Eater. Beholden to two powerful masters, one Light one Dark but both corrupt.
How he would die before the war was out and no one would ever know that he wasn't an awful person or at least not as awful as people thought he was.
In the light of the day he was a normal man again and she a normal woman. They had fallen asleep on the bed, and he had awakened when the grey light of a spring dawn brushed his face.
Looking down at her he felt a thread of panic. In sleep her face was more peaceful- there was a furrow from fretting in her brow still and her hands were clenched but her mouth was soft and her lashes long. The roundness that the long winter had stolen from her face could be reimagined here, something to ease the harsh cut of her jaw and the jut of her collarbones.
He had told her everything. Severus had only ever told half to Dumbledore and half to the Dark Lord but she- she had cast something over him, a spell of tears and warmth and night that had made him confess. He had confessed, confessed wrong doing and innocence and fault and blame and regret, and she had given him an atonement he did not feel in the light of the day.
It was so far away it felt like a dream. (dreams have the power to hurt severus knows this well but this dream had healed and when it had faded away it had hurt even more)
Hermione watched Severus Snape with new eyes.
He moved around the small room with grace and power, his face always impassive. There was no hint of the pain he had revealed to her the night before, the story that had left her crying again. He had told it all to her in the dark of the night, his voice low and smooth and sad.
When he left to patrol the school she read from his bookcase, half lost in thought.
She had never known.
No one knew, no one except Dumbledore who was dead.
And now her.
She, Hermione Granger, knew this man's secrets. Severus Snape was reviled across Wizarding England by Death Eaters and Order alike. He had killed Albus Dumbledore, loved by many. He had taken Hogwarts, he had betrayed his masters both many times over. He was cruel, he was harsh, he was cold.
Except Dumbledore had begged this man, begged him to become a murderer again, begged him for death at the hand of a friendly wand. Begged him to spare his godson. He protected Hogwarts, keeping the Carrows in line, giving detentions with Hagrid of all people. Hermione had seen a man who was capable of regret, remorse, of the most human of all fears: of dying and leaving behind a memory of only wrong.
Her heart had torn for him.
"Drink this," he commanded, sitting on the bed as he handed her a flask. "It should help."
Hermione gazed up at him, his face blurry through a haze of tears. The pain was back, it had flared in her back and had torn through her body again, leaving the seizures behind for an ache that was overwhelming.
She tried reaching for the flask but couldn't force her arms to move. He understood, uncorking the vial and pressing it to her lips so she could drink.
Once the potion was gone Severus started to move away. There was the sense that perhaps this was a private thing, the pain that was making her lose control of her body in such a horrible fashion. But no- she grabbed his hand, squeezing tightly.
"Please," she begged, her voice nearly a whimper. "Stay."
The tears on her cheeks didn't make him agree. No, it was the tightness of her hand that told him that she needed him there, it was her eyes that pleaded with him now and had cried for him the night before.
"Of course," he replied smoothly, shifting to make it more comfortable for both of them.
They had fallen asleep together again, but this time he was supporting her weight. Severus was leaning back against the headboard, with the woman's head resting on his chest. She was still clutching his hand- there were still red marks from where she had gripped so tightly he had gritted his own teeth in pain.
He had given her comfort, though. That, at least, was something. She had asked him for it, rather than struggle through the pain alone, as he would have done.
Although the sun was rising, he decided to wait to rise, as to not wake her. If he didn't appear at breakfast it wouldn't be a tragedy.
"Do you like Hoffman?" Severus asked casually, identifying the book she was reading with a glance.
Hermione nodded, looking up from the heavy tome. "He has interesting theories on how Magical governments influenced the formation of Muggle governments and vice versa," she said happily. "But the only reason I picked this one up was because I had read some of his work in Transfiguration theory last year."
Giving her a grave nod, Severus crossed the room to a bookshelf half hidden in shadow. "He is a varied warlock, and also did research into Potions," he called over his shoulder. "If you would be interested in reading it, I have an original copy of his text."
Finding the small, leather bound book, Severus plucked it from the shelf and took it over to Hermione. She took it with reverent hands, turning it over to look at the back cover. He noticed that she was one of those people who stroked books, as if they were small pets who could feel affection.
"Thank you," she said, giving him a large grin.
Normally, when Severus brewed, the act of creating a potion from the most unlikely of ingredients took all of his concentration. He was unaware of things happening outside his small realm of a workroom.
The woman was perched on a stool, pouring over the book he had given her by Hoffman. She read quickly, her eyes moving fast. By measuring the rate she was turning pages, he estimated that her reading speed was twice that of his.
She was intelligent- not just smart as he had thought. Any student could have written the papers she had submitted to his class (had they spent eight hours researching the material and a basic understanding of sentence structure and grammar). Hermione Granger had not used her own thoughts enough, at least not until the end of her fourth year.
But in the recent days she had surprised him with animated conversations about Transfiguration and Potions theory- as well as her willingness to accept that she was wrong (after arguing the point for at least an hour and demanding an explanation). He found that he had enjoyed the conversation, the opportunity to talk about something other than the war.
Even as his hands chopped and ground and stirred, half of his attention was focused on the woman reading a few meters away. She had an odd kind of beauty that wasn't quite perfect. Large brown eyes that were compelling, skin that was reasonably clear, hair that had an odd charm of its own. Her mouth was full, her nose too long (but who was he to complain about anyone's nose?).
And she was kind, too. He had seen it over the years as she struggled to help Longbottom and other students, never trying to lord her competence and skill over them.
Severus Snape was realizing, slowly, that he quite liked Hermione Granger.
He was something to look at as he brewed, Hermione mused. There had always been a grace around Severus Snape, as if he had exacting knowledge of his body and how to use it best to his advantage. There was the knowledge of his own power and his own skill- he understood that he could singlehandedly defeat every person in a room, and he expected everyone else to understand it too.
Severus' hands were quick and sure as they chopped and diced- she swallowed hard and looked back at the book. Half of her returned to the book, but the other half turned over her new opinion of Severus Snape.
It took a lot to change Hermione Granger's mind- but once convinced, it was convinced. A month ago she hated this man, and now- now she was feeling something quite different. She liked him, found him witty and acerbic and even, perhaps, a bit attractive.
Not in the conventional sense- more in that he was masculine, very much so, and she had been stuck in a tent with Harry Potter of all people for far too long. And he was powerful and so smart- she had always liked intelligence in men.
But no. It was more that one, single night in which everything had changed. Everything. There were no fitting words to describe the feeling of being honored in such a way- he thought he was dying and so he had given her his story, trusting that she would not let it be forgotten or deserted.
Trusting that she would give his memory the respect that it deserved.
Trusting that she would believe him, that she would defend him, that she of all people was worthy enough to know the truth.
She had cried more tears than she had when she was motionless in pain, pain that he had stayed with her through. It was something simple, and yet, she was finding she loved him in an odd sort of way for it. It was the kind of thing that Harry or Ron might have done... but this was a gesture that came from Severus Snape and was therefore to be granted the significance it was due.
They stood in the sitting room in front of the fire. In Severus' hand was a clear phial with a cloudy liquid. Wordlessly he offered it to the woman before him.
Hermione uncorked it, then tilted her head back and drank it all in one gulp. She handed the phial back to him, and he pocketed it.
"It will take about an hour to take full effect," said Severus, his voice quiet. "It will begin to repair the damage done to your nerves by the Cruciatus. The process will take about four hours- and then you will be fine to return to Potter. I'll Apparate you to the place where they are hiding." He hesitated, then told her the truth. "It will be painful," he said quickly. "I've taken it myself and the pain is hellish. I would offer you Dreamless Sleep but it would interfere with the reparation potion."
She nodded, but slowly. He could sense her fear, whether it was fear of pain or fear of returning to the world at war.
"Would you like some tea?" Offering some form of comfort was the least he could do, Severus reasoned.
"Yes, please," Hermione said gratefully.
He gave her a crooked smile. "Sit. I'll prepare it."
For the next half hour they drank tea and talked in low voices- of the war, the topic that had been taboo until that point.
"He grows stronger," Severus told her, meeting her eyes. "His people are everywhere. Even if he is defeated, the Ministry is corrupt inside and out."
"I remember," Hermione said, a distant look in her eye. "The Muggleborn Registration Committee. Trials with Dementors. It was terrifying."
After about forty-five minutes, her breathing grew more labored. At fifty sweat was appearing along her hairline and she was biting her lower lip hard. After the full hour had passed, she made a small sound of pain.
"It's starting," Severus said, clenching his jaw. He didn't want to see her in pain. "Do you want to go to the bed?"
Hermione glanced at the bedroom, measuring the distance. "I'd like to but I don't think I can," she said regretfully. "I should have thought of it when the pains first started."
He knew that the first signs that the potion was working was little pricks, similar to a hand or foot falling asleep then jolting into sensitive life. Then the pain that had been small and merely irritating grew more painful and more present- until it felt like every nerve was afire again, every muscle protesting, every bone breaking.
It would be better to be in a bed.
"It's no matter," he said smoothly, offering her a hand to stand. She struggled to her feet, something in her face telling him that she was stealing herself to walk over to the bedroom herself. Carefully, he hooked an arm under her knees and lifted her.
"Wha-" She squeaked, clinging to his neck. "What do you think you're doing, Severus Snape?"
He looked down at her, slightly worried that she was angry. "Helping you to the bed," he replied. "I wasn't about to make you walk there."
"Oh," was all she had to say. She was silent for a moment, then looked up at him. "Thank you."
When she was settled on the bed, he hovered for a moment, unsure of what she wanted. Hermione took care of the problem for him, tilting her head to look up at him. "Stay with me?"
He sat, offering his hand to her. "Of course," he replied smoothly.
Like before, she took his hand and squeezed it lightly in thank you. "Try not to break my fingers this time," he said wryly. "You did a fine job avoiding that last time, and I feel I must remind you that should I survive this farce of a war my livelihood will be potion making, for which I need all my fingers to be in working order."
She laughed, as he had wanted her to. Then she squeezed his hand tighter, a reflex from the pain.
It was beginning.
Five hours later, Hermione and Severus stood once more in his siting room. Hermione, freshly showered and feeling much healthier, was reading a scrap of paper, on which the words Shell Cottage were written in a neat script she recognized as Remus Lupin's.
"You won't believe what I had to do to get that," Severus said wryly. "So I won't tell you. I have one more thing for you, and it is absolutely essential that you understand its importance." He handed her a necklace, from which a small phial hung, filled with a clear potion.
"What is it?" Hermione asked, securing it around her neck and fumbling with the clasp.
Severus sighed, brushing aside her hair and clasping it himself. "It's the antivenin for Nagini's venom," he replied, stepping away. "The Dark Lord likes to use it to kill people- this could save Potter or Weasley if you need it to. There is an unbreakable charm on it, do not worry about breaking it."
Hermione turned and flung her arms around him in a quick hug. "Thank you," she said into his shirt. "Thank you."
Severus held her for a moment, then let her pull away without comment. He checked his watch, then gestured to the sheet of paper. "Can you Apparate yourself there?"
"I can," Hermione said. There was color and heat in her cheeks, and this was making it dissipate. "Won't we need to go outside, though?"
She was loathe to leave him- walking outside would give them more time. Unless of course, he sent her out alone...
"No, we don't," Severus said, giving her a small, self-satisfied smirk. "The Headmaster of Hogwarts can raise or lower the Anti-Apparition wards on any part of the castle at any time. Remember- every year, the Headmaster takes them down in the Great Hall for Apparition lessons."
"But Hogwarts: A History says-" Hermione began, then frowned and stopped herself. "Oh. That's fascinating!"
He shook his head, overcome by the urge to laugh. Thankfully, it was easily suppressed. "Go directly there," he ordered her. "Knock at the door, and expect to be confronted about your identity. But don't tell them that it was me who helped you."
"I know, Severus," she said, looking down and away. Hermione gave him back the piece of paper, allowing an image of Shell Cottage to come before her eyes. "Are the wards down?"
For a moment he was silent, eyes closed. When he opened them again, he nodded. "For the next three and a half minutes," he said, satisfied.
Hermione took a steadying breath. "Thank you for everything," she said taking a step closer to him. "For saving me, for healing me, for- for confiding in me."
"As strange as it seems I wouldn't change my choice," Severus told her, offering her a nod. "I- I wanted at least one person to know."
There was a sudden fire of determination in her eyes that warned him of what she was going to do in the moments before she did it. He did nothing to stop her, nothing to defend himself or push her away.
In a moment her arms were wound around his neck and she was kissing him gently at first, but when his arms crushed her to him she opened her mouth to his and pressed her tongue to his.
And then she was pulling away and he was letting her go and she was Apparating with tears streaming down her face.
The questions from the boys were endless. Everything at Shell Cottage seemed to bright after weeks indoors, with only firelight and occasionally some natural light from the windows of the Headmaster's rooms. Even the smell of the sea seemed intrusive.
When she had stumbled to the cottage, still crying, Fleur had opened the door and nearly cursed Hermione. At wandpoint she was invited inside, questioned, and then smothered with hugs.
Ron, with his large baby blue eyes and hair that was nearly as long and red as Bill's, was the worst. He had picked her up and swung her around, and then the incessant questions started.
Harry had just hugged her for a long while, squeezing her tighter than was comfortable.
Neither would have ever guessed that she had just kissed their old Potions Master. The thought made her somewhat giddy.
She was back with them, with her friends, the people who felt like family, and the last time she had felt this lonely was in her first few months at Hogwarts.
"Something's wrong with her," Ron whispered to Harry, staring out the kitchen window at the woman sitting alone at the top of a hill, watching the sea.
Bill frowned at his little brother. "She was tortured, Ron. Tortured and healed by some mysterious person she won't name. She has 'mudblood' carved into her fucking arm."
His wife came over, laying a hand on his back. "Language, mon amour. Give her time, boys. She's healed with the body, but perhaps not with the mind."
They were in the Shrieking Shack, crowded under the cloak in a dusty tunnel. Harry was at the front of the tunnel, looking at a scene which Hermione and Ron could only hear.
Hermione's heart was thudding in her throat.
"Master the wand, and I master Potter at last," Voldemort was saying, his words sibilant and soft.
And then Severus' voice- "My Lord-"
Hermione's eyes widened in horror as a horrible hissing sound came from Voldemort's throat. Harry gasped, and there was the sound of flesh tearing and breath gurgling, and a scream, a terrible scream from Severus.
"I regret it," said Voldemort coldly.
The only sounds were the breathing of the three, loud in such a small space, and the rasping sounds of Severus trying to take in air. As soon as Voldemort was gone, Harry levitated the box blocking the tunnel out of the way, and she rushed to him.
There was blood all over the floor, blood staining Hermione's jeans as she kneeled in it to see Severus. She was crying outright now, tears falling down her face.
"Give... it... to... him." said Severus, breathing out a cloud of memory. Hermione hastily conjured a vial, shoving it into Harry's hands for him to collect. Hermione put her wand at Severus' neck, going through every healing incantation she knew.
"Ron, get the Essence of Dittany and all of the Blood Replenishers," she choked, shoving the beaded bag at Ron. "Now!"
"But-" She turned, glaring at him.
"This man saved my life and I am going to bloody well save his," she said dangerously. "Harry, he gave you those memories because there's something important in them. Go see. Ron, get me those potions."
Both boys stood there, looking at her. "Now!" snapped Hermione. Harry nodded, turning and loping out of the room, running toward the castle if Hermione was correct. Ron Summoned the correct potions from her bag, handing them to her silently.
"Look... at... me," Severus rasped.
Hermione did as he asked, looking deep into his eyes. There was a pushing sensation and he was in her mind, showing her something forcefully.
With a gasp she pulled the necklace from her neck, uncorking it and pouring the antivenin down his throat. The Essence of Dittany was poured directly onto the wound, and the Blood Replenishers followed the antivenin.
The color was beginning to come back to his face, his breathing eased. Tears fell from her face to his as the horrible gaping wound began to knit, as the skin began to close along the gash.
He would live. He had to live.
St. Mungo's was filled with people: those who had been hurt in the Battle of Hogwarts, those visiting friends or family members, and the normal flood of magical accidents that always followed a large celebration.
Hermione navigated through it all determinedly, weaving through those with burns from fireworks or spells, transfigured animal heads, and more permanent spell injuries. She saw Parvati going up the stairs a flight ahead of her- probably to visit Lavender, who had been attacked by Greyback.
Severus Snape was in a private room. Hermione was unsure if it was because the hospital had already heard how Harry Potter had defeated Voldemort, or if they had just thought that Severus wouldn't play nice with other patients. Either way, it was the best choice.
A Healer was exiting as she entered, bearing a tray full of empty potion flasks. She squinted at Hermione, tilting her head. "Are you the one... you know..."
You know what? The one who helped Harry Potter? The one who saved Severus Snape? The one who got tortured by Bellatrix Lestrange?
Hermione raised her eyebrows, trying to convey her annoyance in one look. The Healer blushed and hurried off with a muttered apology. With a sigh, Hermione moved into the room.
"I took all the potions already-" Severus began to snap, but he fell silent when he saw Hermione. His voice had a hoarse, strained quality that made her tripes clench- this wasn't the silky voice she had ha
She walked toward the side of his bed, taking in the bright white bandages against the sallow tone of his skin. He was scowling, at her or at the situation she didn't know.
"I came as soon as I could," Hermione said quietly. "How are you?"
His eyes were intense, burning black in his face. "I should be dead, by all rights," he told her. "You were supposed to let me die."
"I couldn't," said Hermione resolutely. "You saved my life- I couldn't just let you die. And you didn't want to die- you told me to get the antivenin."
Severus frowned at her. "Still. Here I am, with no family nor friends, no job, and Azkaban on the horizon."
She frowned back at him, taking a seat in the uncomfortable visitor's chair. "One friend and no Azkaban. There's no doubt you'll be exonerated, Severus. Lauded as a hero, definitely- there's talk of an Order of Merlin, first class."
He was quiet, considering the news for a long moment. "Why?"
"Because Harry used your betrayal to kill Voldemort," Hermione answered. "The memories you gave him of his mother- all of that, he used it to destroy that thing and told everyone that you're a hero. And since then there have been letters pouring in from people you've rescued- no one, including me and Harry, is going to let you go to Azkaban without a huge fight."
Impulsively, she reached out and covered his hand with hers. His was cold, his knuckles bony under her hand. "Everything's going to be okay."
Slowly his hand turned up under hers, moving until their fingers were intertwined. "Thank you." It was a breath, barely audible.
Even so, tears welled up in her eyes. "Of course."
Ever so carefully, he raised their clasped hands to his mouth, where he pressed the smallest of kisses to the back of her hand. "Thank you," he breathed.
The war was over, the Dark Lord was dead, and somehow, everything was going to be alright.
And so ends Part Two.
Thanks to everyone who read! If this is your first time reading one of my stories, I have several others! And three more SSHG!
This is the end of this story. More FTOH will be posted on July 4, although the posting might be delayed a bit by my trip to France. :)
Thanks for reading! Please review!