Hello, lovely readers! I just finished writing this fic today,(I just triumphantly wrote the last word of the epilogue) and to celebrate, I decided to publish it! I will continue celebrating by posting a new chapter every day for the next 28 days or so. (Less, if I can't help myself from posting more than one chapter a day.)

I genuinely hope you will enjoy reading this fic!

Reviews light up my life!

Oh, and; I don't own anything you recognise!

-o-

Hermione Granger felt like an ancient being compared to her fellow students at Hogwarts. She wasn't, of course, but fighting in a war had its..drawbacks.

Hermione had decided to not go back to Hogwarts after the war. Not right away, anyway. She had gone looking for her parents instead, and it had taken her six months to find them. Then, she had spent three months trying to restore their memories.

She had failed.

She had finally admitted defeat just after Christmas, and then she had gone home, where she had found Ron in bed with another woman.

Needless to say, Ron and Hermione were no longer a couple.

She had stayed at Hogwarts after that, and helped rebuild the school. As it turned out, Hermione had a knack for wards, probably after being on the run for so long, casting wards on a whole new level of paranoid, several times a day.

So now, Hermione had taken part in not only the actual rebuilding of the school, but resetting the wards. She was somewhat in awe from the thought that her magic was now a part of Hogwarts.

After the rebuilding was complete, she had decided to finish her education, so here she was, a Hogwarts-student once more.

It was bittersweet being back. It was lovely to see the world going back to normal, to see that life goes on, but Hermione knew all too well what price had been paid to come this far. A price paid in human lives.

There had been a lot of casualties. Too many casualties.

She had thought Professor Snape to one of those casualties, but he had survived. This had thrilled her, but crushed her with shame and guilt as well.

He was still alive, and they had left him.

They had just left him.

She couldn't make herself look him in the eye.

The Professor had returned to Hogwarts as well, taking his role as Potions Master once again. The first potions classes had been hell. Not because he treated her badly, but because he didn't. He was still ever the spiteful man, but he was less spiteful than before. Not having to play the double agent had done wonders for him, and he seemed more relaxed than before.

He even graded her fairly. And it made her feel even worse. Of course, he still gave her low grades, but he had taken to actually letting her know what she was doing wrong.

Hermione would turn twenty in just a few days, but she felt like she was at least twice as old.

-o-

She was perusing the library, looking for a specific book about potions. Professor Snape had told her that she needed to think for herself, to not just know the facts, but be able to put two and two together and understand the facts.

Perhaps it's in the Restricted Section, she thought, not knowing why it would be there, but it was worth a shot.

She entered the Restricted Section, and walked around, brushing her fingers gently on the book-spines as she went.

Then everything went black.

-o-

Severus Snape was in his office grading papers, and had just scrawled a huge, red T on one of the essays when he felt something change. It was like the castle itself told him so. He felt the wards vibrate, and he wondered what the hell was going on.

Something was wrong.

The wards seemed..familiar. He had been a part of resetting the wards, and it was like his magic signature in the wards was warning him. Except..it wasn't his magic signature, it was someone else's. Someone with a magical signature very similar to his.

He rushed into the Headmistress' office, startling Minerva in the process. "Severus? What's the matter?"

He shook his head. "Are you doing something to the wards? It feels.. I am not quite sure.. Wrong. It feels wrong."

Minerva gave him a puzzled look. "I am not doing anything, Severus, and I can't feel anything different."

Severus just stared at her for a moment, trying to relax, to tell himself he was wrong, that he was just paranoid. But he couldn't. Something was definitely wrong. "I don't know why, but something is wrong."

Minerva looked at him, apparently trying to figure out what to do. Finally, she nodded. "Very well. If you say something is wrong, then something is wrong. I will alert the teachers, and we will search the castle."

Severus felt relief flow through him, and quickly realised it wasn't only his, it was like the castle itself felt relieved.

-o-

The teachers split up, and Severus had spent an hour traipsing the castle to no avail.

Finally he stopped, closing his eyes and concentrated. Alright, you bloody thing, he thought. You are able to tell me something is wrong, but it would be rather helpful if you could tell me where.

Severus' eyes snapped open when he felt the wards vibrate again.

Thank you, he thought, and rushed off to the library.

-o-

He had searched the whole library, and was frustrated to find nothing. Finally, he realised there was one place he hadn't been. The Restricted Section.

And that's where he found her.

He ran over to the girl on the floor, kneeling down and grabbed her shoulders. "Granger!" No response. "Dammit, Granger!"

She was lying face down, so he gently turned her over to her back, and his breath hitched from what he saw. Her face was frozen in a twisted way, frozen in an expression that clearly said terror. Her eyes were wide open, her mouth frozen in a silent scream.

Severus Snape felt his blood go cold. He got up and looked around, looking for something amiss. Nothing. Pulling out his wand, he cast a detection spell, but found no trace of Dark Magic. He turned to the girl, and cast a diagnostic spell. Again, no trace of Dark Magic. Her heart, though.. Her heart.. It was racing. And her adrenaline was sky high.

Oh, Merlin, he thought. Please don't let me be right about this.

He sighed as he turned towards the bookshelf closest to the girl, and cast a different detection spell. His heart sank when of the books glowed red. His heart sank even further when he cast another spell. A more specific detection spell.

The curse was not meant for her. It was meant for him.

He knew the book could do no more harm since the curse had already played out, but Severus banished the book to his quarters, just to be sure.

He then picked up the limp body on the floor, briefly thinking how light she was, and how fragile she seemed, before he quickly carried her out of the library.

-o-

Poppy Pomfrey rushed towards him as he entered the Hospital Wing. "Severus! What happened? Is that- Miss Granger! Oh my-" she froze as she saw the expression of terror on the girl's face. "Oh, Merlin," Poppy whispered. "What is wrong with Hermione?"

Severus shook his head. "It's complicated. I'll explain when the rest are here. For now, get her into a bed, and see what you can do for her. I suspect it's not much, but your first priority is to find a way to lower her heart rate. I will locate Minerva and the rest of the staff, and return shortly.

-o-

"What's wrong with her, Severus? I can see from your expression that it is not at all good."

Severus sighed. "That's an understatement, Headmistress. Miss Granger has been cursed. One of the books in the Restricted Section had a dormant curse on it, lying in wait for the right person to touch it."

Minerva gasped. "Someone had set a trap for Hermione?"

Severus had to take a deep breath, collecting himself before he could answer. "No, Minerva. The trap was not meant for Miss Granger. It was meant for me. I am not sure how this happened, because the curse was meant to respond to my magic, and my magic alone. This should not be possible." Realisation hit him. The wards. The similar magic signature. Granger's signature was very similar to his own. Did she help with the wards? he thought. Yes, she did.

That had to be the reason.

Minerva twisted her hands, looking at Granger. "Why is her face like that," she whispered. "Why does it look like she is terrified?"

Severus' voice was almost a whisper as well when he spoke. "Because she is. She is trapped inside her own mind, reliving her worst nightmares."

"What can we do?"

Severus turned to Poppy with a bitter expression. "Nothing. This is extremely Dark Magic, and there is no known cure. It's called The Nightmare Malediction, and it is a dreadful curse, causing the victim to live through its darkest, most terrifying nightmares again and again. Eventually, the victim will die."

"How? Why?"

"Although the terror is only in her mind, her body is reacting to it as well, causing extreme heart rates, and a sky high, constant adrenaline rush. In the end, the heart will give in."

Poppy sighed sadly. "What about a spell to petrify her? Can we freeze her in her current state in some way?"

Severus shook his head. "The curse will overrule whatever magic is cast on her. There is nothing we can do."

Minerva brushed a hand over Granger's forehead. "How long.."

He gazed at the girl. "It all depends on how strong her heart is. A weak heart; perhaps three days. A strong heart; perhaps a week."

"We should notify her friends."

Severus gave Minerva an angry look. "You will do no such thing. I said there was no known cure, but that does not mean I intend to sit here and watch her die."

"But still, her friends should know."

Severus sighed. "Give me twenty four hours, at least." Minerva nodded, and Severus looked at Poppy. "I am going to bring her to my quarters." Poppy was about to object l, but Severus held up a hand. "This is not up for discussion. I am perfectly capable of monitoring her vitals. You can check on her if you like, but the less you disturb me, the better." He could see Poppy falter, so he continued in a softer voice. "I have seen this curse once before, Poppy. If anyone has a chance of saving her, it's me. And the curse was meant for me. I will do everything in my power to save her."

-o-

Severus spent the first thirty minutes switching between hovering over the girl on his sofa, and pacing around the room.

He didn't know what to do. He didn't even know where to begin.

He had to save her. This was all his fault. If she died, it would be his fault. And he couldn't let that happen.

Especially because she had saved him.

Bloody Granger, he thought. Bloody know-it-all. Bloody Essence of Dittany.

She didn't know, of course, that her actions were the reason for why he was still alive.

The night of the final battle, he had been prepared. He had developed an anti-venom against Nagini's venom ages ago, and he was fully prepared, his pockets full of healing potions and bezoars.

But the blood loss. The blood loss had been too great for a simple healing potion.

So, he had been lying there, on the floor of the Shrieking Shack, despairing because he had failed. The boy did not know the essential things he needed to know to defeat the Dark Lord, and now it was too late.

Severus Snape had failed in the end. All his efforts were in vain, all the horrors and dreadful things he had done.. All in vain.

He had been on the brink of death by the time Granger got there. He had been sure he was hallucinating when he heard voices, and opened his eyes to find himself staring into a pair of golden-brown eyes filled with sadness.

Then there had been hands touching him, small, gentle hands on his skin. He had vaguely heard a voice, the words Essence of Dittany, and then there has been a new pair of eyes, green ones this time.

He had not failed after all.

And then, Severus Snape died. And he embraced death with open arms.

Severus gazed at the girl with unseeing eyes, lost in thought as he remembered what had happened next.

"You have done well, my boy."

Severus spun around to meet a pair of blue, twinkling eyes, and he realised what was happening.

Sighing, he inclined his head at the old man. "Even in death, you pester me."

Dumbledore chuckled. "Oh, I do not intend to stay long. But I wanted to see you, Severus. To tell you how proud I am of you."

Severus felt his heart squeeze in his chest. "I almost failed. I still don't know if I failed."

Dumbledore shook his head. "You did not fail, Severus. You have done more than asked of you. The rest is up to Harry. It was always meant to be that way."

"I was always meant to die?" Severus sighed. "I always knew I would die. I was not meant to survive this war."

Dumbledore's eyes twinkled. "Oh, but it is not over yet, my boy."

"What do you mean? I am dead, aren't I?"

Dumbledore nodded, and Severus heart sank. "Right in this moment, yes, you are dead. But you would not be here if it was final."

Severus looked at his surroundings. "And where exactly am I?"

"It is different for everyone. What do you see?"

Severus looked around again, and as he did, the surroundings cleared. "I am..on the hill. The hill where I told you the Dark Lord was after Lily."

Dumbledore nodded. "The place where you made your choice. Well, now you have another choice to make, but I will not impose on your time, as I think there is someone else who wishes to speak with you." Suddenly, Dumbledore's eyes widened before the twinkle returned with vengeance. "And I believe I have someone to talk to as well."

Severus was confused as the Headmaster vanished into thin air, but a moment later he forgot how to breathe. "Lily.." His voice was barely a whisper. "Lily.. I am so sorry.. Forgive me.."

Green eyes met his, and he saw the warmth and love in them. "There is nothing to forgive, Severus. I have watched you. I have seen how you protected Harry, how much you have suffered. I have seen the torment you have gone through, the pain it has caused you. Your debt is paid. Your debt was paid long ago. You have been amazing, Severus."

She reached him, and he closed his eyes for a moment when she put a soft hand on his cheek. He opened them again to look at her. "Lily, I..I miss you."

She nodded at him. "I know. I miss you too, Severus."

"Can I.. Can I stay with you?"

She gazed at him for a long moment before her eyes softened. "You realise my place is with James, don't you, Severus?"

He sighed. "Of course, Lily. That was not what I meant."

She gave him a soft smile. "You could stay here, Severus, stay with me and move on. But you don't have to."

"And why would I even want to go back?"

She stroked his cheek and smiled at him. "You have given half your life away, and it has caused you nothing but misery. But, Severus, my dear friend, you are so young, and you have so many things to live for."

"What things? I don't even know if Potter has succeeded. If I go back and Potter has not managed to kill the Dark Lord, what is there for me? I am so tired, Lily. I am so very tired."

Lilly's smile brightened. "No, Severus. The battle is over. Harry has succeeded, Severus, and it is all due to you. The Dark Lord is dead. Truly dead this time. You have a chance to live your life."

He shook his head. "I am still the traitor. I will have no life, Lily," he said with a defeated voice. "There will be no roses and rainbows for me."

Lily put her other hand on his cheek, cupping his face. "Harry lives, and Harry knows. Albus knows. And I know, Severus, that there will be a life for you to live."

"How do you know?"

She shook her head. "I cannot tell you. But I hope you will trust me when I say this. You, Severus Snape, will find happiness. You are free, sweetheart, and if you return, you will find happiness. But remember, happiness comes from the most unlikely sources. Open your heart, Severus. Let go of me, let go of your guilt. I am at peace, dear. You are forgiven. I am so endlessly proud of you."

"What am I supposed to do, Lily? How do I choose?"

She hugged him tightly before letting go of him and smiled at him. "You can come with me, if you wish, and move on. Or, and I truly hope you will choose this, you can close your eyes and decide to go back."

Severus sighed. Did he want to live? Did he want happiness? Happiness was almost a foreign thing for him. He gave Lily a sad look. "I don't know how to do this, Lily. I don't know what to do, if I go back."

"Just open your heart, Severus."

"How do I do that?"

"You will find out, in time. I promise you this."

Severus sighed again. "Very well. I trust you, Lily." He proceeded to raise an eyebrow. "I only wish I got the chance to tell the Dark Lord what side I was really on."

Lily chuckled. "Harry told him, Severus. He told him where your loyalties lie. Needless to say, the Dark Lord was rather displeased to learn this." She pulled him in for a hug, and he put his arms around her just as she whispered in his ear. "We will meet again, sweetheart. But you have a life to live first. Close your eyes, love. Let go."

Severus wrapped his arms around her, giving her a crushing hug. "Until next time, Lily."

And then he closed his eyes and let go.

Severus snapped back to reality. He could reminisce over old memories later. Now there was something much more important he had to do.

-o-

Three hours later, he was beyond frustrated. He found nothing. Nothing to help, not even a clue of where to begin, and he had already used too much of the time Minerva had given him.

And the girl was just lying there, slowly dying.

He had to do something! How did one wake from one's worst nightmare? If only she knew she was dreaming. Granger was a clever girl, was she not? If only she had known how to control her dreams. If only he could help her control her dreams.

Perhaps, he thought. Perhaps I can.

He quickly transfigured the sofa she was lying on, propping her up to a sitting position, and sat down to face her.

I wonder how long this will take, he thought. I wonder if I will ever come out again.

He knew there was a chance that he would be sucked into the nightmare with her, and if he couldn't snap her out of it, he wouldn't be able to withdraw from her mind. Sighing, he did a few more changes on the sofa, so he too was sitting comfortably, and his head wouldn't fall down. He had to keep eye contact. If he broke eye contact, the connection would be broken, and that was definitely not good. Not if he was trapped there. Then neither of them would get out.

There is a rather high risk you will die, he thought. Is it worth it?

It was definitely worth it.

"Legilimens," he whispered, and was brutally dragged away from reality.

-o-

Author's note: There you go, first chapter! I hope you like it! Chapter two will follow soon!