Hermione's uniform boots squeaked disruptively on the tile floors of St. Mungo's, leaving little black streaks of rubber in her wake. Her robes, unbuttoned in several places, trailed behind her in an impressive billow from the pace she kept.

A healer spotted her, a cumulonimbus of hair and thrumming magic, and instead of impeding her hasty march, directed her towards the end of the ward where several rooms were occupied. She didn't stop to nod her thanks but her brain catalogued the embroidered name for future reference. Eidetic exercises were invaluable.

"Hermione!" Ron shouted from the end of the ward. The scars from his encounter with the brains in the Department of Mysteries stood starkly from his arms as he pointed to a room. "Here!"

Her vinewood was out before she reached the cluster of Weasleys, minus one. Hermione dismissed the small crowd from the room, and they tripped over themselves to lock the door on the way out.

Percy, as the Head of Magical Transportation, was a required attendee at the Wizengamot trial to permanently banish the remaining dementors from the basement of the Ministry. A project under her wing for the last several months after joining the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, Hermione felt personally responsible for the state of her colleague now.

His shock of red hair stood starkly against the white linens. He was breathing, thank Merlin and Circe and whomever else listened. He was so stupid to dodge out in front of them when the dementors were getting a bit too fiesty. She was too winded to scream them aloud, but she made sure to project many vehement threats to his person if he so much as went close to death. She needed a memory, and a good one.

A warm hand brushing hers in the lift. No, not strong enough.

Casually working around each other past the midnight hour, researching in the archives. No. Not enough, either.

Hermione's eyes shot open in realization. "Expecto Patronum!"

Her otter sprang from her wand and only spared her a fleeting glance before colliding with the man on the bed, disippating inside of him. Loud, haggard coughing began not a moment later.

"Anapneo," she whispered, moving swiftly to the bedside.

Percy immediately sucked in a strong breath through his nostrils, color returning to his cheeks every passing second. His blue eyes were shining too brightly, and his lips were still too pale, but that didn't stop Hermione from leaning over and kissing him for all he was worth.

He wasted no time in returning it wholeheartedly, weakened fingers moving to her neck, not strong enough to tangle with her curls.

She'd never truly understood Harry's convoluted explanation to how he cast his first Patronus. He'd already done it. How was that even possible? Hermione had cast it too many times to count since learning in fifth year, but the power of a corporeal Patronus still was difficult without the strength of memory. But, this time, she drew on the happiness of what could be if Percy were to stay. Stay with her.

"Well," he said, when she'd finally slowed her desperate kiss. "This isn't exactly what I had in mind."

With her forehead still pressed against his, the emotions of the day catching up and pricking at her eyes, she released a breathy laugh. "And what exactly was going through your head when you pulled that stunt, Mr. Weasley?"

"I think we're well past surnames, Hermione."

His tone made her blush. She waited another minute before summoning the rest of the family and Healers into the soon-cramped room. Forcing them to wait would be cruel.

While each one reassured themselves he was in fact, alive and unaffected from the near-possession of a dementor, Hermione kept her gaze steadfastly on him. Each glance he stole in her direction heated her cheeks and loosened the knot in her stomach, tightened by fright. A fear she understood, implicitly, he shared. As the knot loosened, small butterflies replaced the clenching fear.

"I do not regret what I did," he said, once the last person trailed out of the room.

Hermione cocked her head to the side, torn between his suddenly professional tone and the warmth in his gaze. He'd had time to consider what she'd done.

Percy caught the flicker of self-doubt, and reached for his wand. She could hear the muttered Expecto Patronum but her attention was rapt on the creature emerging from the end. Her eyes shone brilliantly in the bright light of the hospital room.

"Lutrinae," he whispered.

"An otter," she replied.

The two spent the night holding hands on the enlarged hospital bed, neither wishing to drift from the other in a sea of could-have-beens.

June 20th, 2016 - requested by dulce-de-leche-go on tumblr.