Disclaimer: This applies to all chapters. I do not own HP, nor do I make any profit from this story. All characters and Wizarding World references belong to JKR. One original character of my own is present, and will be noted in her debut chapter (minor significant role in story).
All sensitive subjects will be addressed at the front of each chapter for those who wish to skip them. WARNING: Story includes loss, some mild violence, mild swearing, and sexual content.
I lie here paralytic
Inside this soul
Screaming for you till
My throat is numb
I wanna break out
Hermione checked her watch, it was almost dawn. She had been keeping vigil all night, watching, waiting. The man in the bed in front of her had been inches from death only hours ago. She watched as the potion, magically suspended on a small table at his head, drifted in a thin line to the wounds on his neck pulling the venom from his blood. Bright green went in and muddy yellow came out bit by bit. It floated away to a small bowl beside the potion and deposited itself. The level had risen slightly since the potion was first administered, but right now there was no knowing how long it would take for all of the venom to be removed. In the morning, she had been told, they would know more.
Hermione sat down in the chair beside the bed, cradling her head in hands. She wished there was more she could do. But right now the magic had to do its work. It was a slow process, and while she was accustomed to being patient, waiting like this was torture. She had been asked to leave the battle to watch over a man they had long considered their enemy, only to find out that he had been on their side all along.
After Voldemort had left Snape for dead, she, Harry, and Ron had rushed inside the boathouse. Hermione remembered watching, astonished, as Harry went to the man's aid, trying to stop the flow of blood from the numerous puncture wounds on his neck as he lay dying on the floor. At the time she had thought even after everything Snape had done he didn't deserve to die like this. She watched as he began to cry. His tears were an odd but familiar blueish color, and she realized that they were memories, and he was asking Harry to take them. Her hand had shaken violently as she groped blindly for a flask inside her bag and was surprised she didn't drop it as she handed it to Harry. He collected the tears and handed the flask back to her. Harry had then returned his attention back to Snape and again tried to staunch the flow of blood, but she could tell by the pallor that had come over the Death Eater's face, it was too late. He gazed at Harry, his mouth forming words she couldn't hear, and then his eyes closed.
For a moment they all believed him to be dead. But Harry, who had not yet removed his hand from the man's neck, looked up. "He's still alive." He had said in a rush, and had turned back to her, asking for the Dittany in her bag. But she had shaken her head, it was all gone.
The only thing they could do was take him to St. Mungo's. He needed the skills of the Healers there. Harry had asked Hermione and Ron to take him, he needed to get to the Penseive. Ron had refused at first only giving in after precious moments of shouting had been exchanged between him and Harry. Hermione had gotten down on the floor and taken over keeping pressure on Snape's wounds. She had removed his black cravat and pressed it firmly against the slice Voldemort had cut across the front of his throat in an attempt to stop the majority loss of blood. She had turned and yelled at Ron herself that they didn't have time for petty arguing and that he had to make a choice. In the end Ron had helped Hermione magically suspended Snape's unconscious body between them and they apparated off the castle grounds.
Hermione still didn't know how they managed to make it to London and inside St. Mungo's without causing Snape further harm. But once they were inside, the Healers on duty conjured a stretcher and rushed Snape into the first-floor ward for creature related injuries. Ron had disapparated the moment they were out of sight. And at first Hermione was about to leave as well. The Healers were obligated to aid any person, muggle or magical, that came into the hospital. She knew they would do all that they could. But something inside her told her to remain and help.
They healed the slice across his throat first staunching the loss of blood from the wound. Nagini's punctures were less cooperative to magical medicine. They refused to close and what was worse, the antidote the Healers were attempting to administer was not counteracting the toxin fast enough. There was too much of it in his blood for the antidote to have any real effect yet. If something else was not done Snape would not have survived the night.
Hermione had returned to Hogwarts at that point to find Harry and Ron waiting for her inside the hall off the back courtyard. They stood at the base of the stone stairs leading up into the levels of the castle. Harry looked anxious, Ron looked irritated.
"Did he make it?" Harry had asked in a rush and Hermione had explained that Snape was still alive, but he wouldn't be for much longer if enough of the venom in his system couldn't be removed in order for the antidote to work.
The Healers were attempting to use the same method of treatment that had been given to Ron's father following his attack by Nagini. But the volume of toxin in Snape's body was so high that the majority of it would need to be physically removed before antidotes would have any affect. She asked if Harry still had the basilisk fang and he had handed it over to her. He had made Hermione promise to return to the hospital and help in any way that she could. She was the only one among the three of them that would know what to do. He then explained why he was asking this of her and what he had seen in the Penseive. Snape had been fighting on their side all these years out of love for Lily.
"We have to try." Harry had said to her. "He doesn't deserve to die tonight."
Ron, who had been silent the whole time, finally stepped up. "And why does it have to be us that saves him? What has he done that deserves our charity?"
"He risked his life for years for all of us." Harry had snapped back, rounding on his friend. "He deserves a chance."
He had then turned back to Hermione making her promise to do her best. And she had agreed. She would stay all night and come back in the morning when she knew more. But Harry had shaken his head at her and told her to just go. He had to face Voldemort. And it was likely he would not come out of it alive.
Hermione knew that had been coming all along and she had hugged her friend fiercely thinking it was the last time she would see him. She stepped back from the two young men in front of her. She had looked at Ron, who only a few hours ago had held her in the Chamber of Secrets and finally showed her how he truly felt about her. The kiss had been an explosion of emotions following the destruction of a Horcrux. She had been so grateful not to have been killed that she would have kissed Neville Longbottom had it been him beside her. But she had had to push those thoughts aside. She disapparated, basilisk fang in hand.
Upon returning to St. Mungo's she explained her theory, how it may take the more potent venom from the basilisk to counteract the venom already in Snape's body. The Healers took the fang from her and set to work. While she had been gone Snape had been moved to a private room in the Dai Llewellyn ward. He lay in the bed, disrobed, but a sheet covered him up to his collarbone. His neck was cleaned up as best could be at the time. Bandages covered the puncture wounds, stained red with blood and yellowish-green with the venom leeching from his body. It was a grisly scene, but Hermione had sat down in the chair next to his bed and waited.
She didn't know how much time had passed when she heard the door open and the head Potioneer for the first-floor ward came in carrying a small cauldron filled with a bright green brew that smoked wildly. She had asked Hermione for help in setting up the potion at Snape's head, removing some of the bandages so the potion had an entry point and the venom an exit. The effect was obvious after only a few minutes. The deathly gray pallor began to leave Snape's face as the toxin was extruded from his body.
"That was an impressive theory." The Head Potioneer had told her with a small smile. "Will you stay and watch? The potion has to work its way through his body overnight, and hopefully in the morning we will know what more has to be done."
Hermione had glanced down at Snape, his supine form so still you would have thought he had already died. He had given up so much for so many years. He had risked his life over and over again without ever asking for anything in return.
She spoke without even thinking about it. "I'm not leaving."
The last thing Severus could remember was pain.
It consumed his entire body, numbing him as it burned through him. It was like a fire had been lit under his skin and it scorched his nerves as it coursed through his blood cancelling out all feeling. Faces swam in and out of focus as he tried to draw breath. It felt odd. Air wasn't coming in just through his mouth, he could feel tiny wisps of it float through the punctures in his neck.
Potter was there, trying to stop the flow of blood from his wounds. There were things he needed to say, important things. Secret things. But words failed him, he couldn't hold the air in his lungs long enough. There was only one way. With the last of his strength he concentrated on the most important details, condensed 38 years of his life into as coherent a pattern that he could. He had no wand with which to draw the memories from his mind. Instead he let them escape as tears.
He barely managed to choke out to Potter to take them, he needed to see. There were things he needed to know. Things he had never been told, and now was the time. His vision blurred as the blackness started to close around him. But then he saw her eyes, Lily's eyes, above him. Potter had his mother's eyes. And he was grateful for the chance to see them one last time.
He was floating, drifting. Lost in a sea of black nothingness. But the pain was leaving him now. He could tell that much. There was feeling again in his fingers and toes. He tried to move them, felt his body respond, but it was delayed. He could hear movement beside him, soft footsteps and the quiet breaths of a female. There was a fresh, clean scent of lemon in the air mixed with mint and lavender. Light was starting to come in to focus, but he knew all of this couldn't be possible.
Because he was dead.
And if having his throat slit by Voldemort hadn't killed him then the attack by Nagini surely had.
Light danced in front of his eyes, and he realized that they were closed. He attempted to open one, but it was too heavy. It was easier to keep them shut. He tried to breathe deep, draw air into his lungs. They expanded easily. No air moved across his throat, only down.
As he released the breath he felt a cool hand press to his forehead. The touch was soft, and was gone as quickly as it had come. He heard the same quiet steps from before move away from him as the female left the room. They returned only moments later, followed by more footsteps. These were heavier, more authoritative. There were whispered voices over him now. One was older than the other, deeper and commanding. The voice of someone in charge. The other was soft and distinctly familiar.
He tried to open his eyes again, only managing a crack, but the effort drained his strength considerably and he shut them again. He had caught sight of lime green and nothing more. He heard his name being called and someone touched his shoulder. He didn't have the energy to respond. It was exhausting to even think of trying to form words in response. Returning to the blackness seemed the better option. He knew it would be effortless to allow his body to slip back into the void. But he still didn't know where he was, and more so, why he was still alive. Because surely if he were dead it would have been only too easy for him to perform the actions his body seemed to be rejecting.
But those questions would have to wait. He felt the dark pressing on his mind once more. He allowed himself one more deep breath before letting it take him back under.
Someone was calling to him again. An imposing female voice. A hand was on his shoulder. The voice called his name again, more firmly this time. It was trying to draw him out of the comfort of the blackness around him. He didn't want to leave it. He didn't want to wake. It was safe and secure here in the dark.
The voice was demanding a response now. He just wanted it to stop and leave him to rest. That was what he needed. But it did not seem he would be getting his way. He cracked first one eye with what felt like tremendous effort, and then the other. A kind, older feminine face came into focus. The woman beside him was dressed in the lime green robes of a St. Mungo's Healer. She smiled indulgently at him and nodded.
"Finally. You've been fighting us for the past few days."
Fighting? His body certainly felt as though he had been through battle. He attempted to shift, maybe sit up, but she held him down with a firm hand. "No, you stay right where you are. You are in no condition to attempt movement right now."
Normally he would feel his brows draw together in confusion, but even the muscles of his face betrayed involuntary action. "Wh...why am I here?" he almost choked on the words. It was agony to force his throat into movement it clearly did not want to execute. It felt stiff and unused.
"You were brought here."
"Four days ago. We have been working to remove the venom from your body but it is proving stubborn."
"Wh…who?" He croaked out.
The older witch stood up from her slightly bowed position over him. She moved to the side so he could see behind her. He had to turn his head a little, but there standing just behind the Healer was a young witch he had never thought to see again. Her wild brown hair was tied back at the moment in a braid and she was dressed in green robes as well, but instead of solid lime they were vertically striped alternatingly with pale green.
"You?" he hissed at her, but not in anger. He simply could not help the tone his voice took at the moment.
Hermione Granger said nothing. She simply stood there staring at him. Her face quickly registered relief at seeing him, but it was gone in a moment. Instead her expression went blank and she nodded in acknowledgement of his question.
"Those details are not important right now." The Healer spoke this time. "But I will tell you that it was Miss Granger who came up with the solution that saved your life."
His eyes flicked to her, she was still staring at him, her face still blank. But he could see it there, lingering in her eyes. Relief. But from what? Seeing him alive? Surely not.
"How?" He asked again, turning his attention back to the Healer.
She shook her head. "Again, the details are not important right now. You need rest."
Then why ever did you wake me in the first place? He though bitterly. But as soon as she had spoken the word, he could already feel the darkness coming for him again. And he fell into it, grateful for the reprieve. The last thing he saw as he slipped back into sleep was the hem of Miss Granger's robes as she exited the room.
He didn't know how much time had passed when he woke again, but when he opened his eyes Miss Granger was sitting in the chair beside his bed. She was dressed again in her striped green robes. In her lap was a pile of clean bandages that she was magically mending and folding, and then moving to a basket on the small end table beside her with a flick of her wand. She looked up from her work and saw that he was awake. She stood so suddenly that the pile of bandages fell from her lap into a heap on the floor. But her grip on her wand had changed. It was defensive. An instinctive reaction from spending years at war.
"I'm sorry." she muttered as her grip on her wand relaxed, and she placed it on the table. She quickly picked up the bandages, stuffing them into the basket.
Why was she apologizing? He had been the one to startle her. He tried to move again, but she rushed forward and held him down, just as the Healer had. In all the years he had known this young woman she had never touched him. His eyes flicked quickly to where her hand lay on his bare shoulder. She pulled back instantly, as though his skin had burned her.
"I'm sorry," She said again, "but you can't move yet. Not until the potion is removed."
He looked to the other side, turning his head slowly, and saw for the first time that a small black cauldron hovered magically over a second end table. A thin stream of bright green liquid floated from it and across the space to his bed. He couldn't see where it was going but he assumed it was his neck. Now that he was aware of it he could feel a tingling warmth in his throat. Beside the green liquid floated a sickly-yellow liquid that dropped into a white bowl beside the cauldron. The venom from Nagini.
He turned his eyes back to the young witch. She was folding the haphazard pile of bandages trying to tidy her mess.
"Explain." he rasped at her.
Severus watched her take a breath. Although it was deep, her shoulders barely moved. She kept her eyes on the basket in front of her. He couldn't see her expression in profile very well, but her body language told him she was hesitant. After a moment she gathered herself and turned to face him. The change in her astonished him. Her expression and posture transformed from uncertainty into confidence in a moment and she began to explain in a strong, assured voice.
She told him everything. How she and Weasley had brought him here. How she had stayed behind to help when the antidote the Healers attempted to use did not work, and how she had come up with the idea of using basilisk venom. The more powerful toxin pushed the inferior one out while an addition of phoenix tears kept the basilisk venom from causing further damage. Because the potion required an open wound to work, a small amount of blood-replenishing potion had been mixed in to top off what he would lose in the hours that the potion was administered.
Because Nagini had been such a powerfully magical creature there was some venom too deeply rooted in him that it may never release entirely. But only time would tell. She went on to further explain how Harry had gone to meet Voldemort in the forbidden forest. How a second attempt on his life had been made with the same curse, and that Harry had survived again. In the end he had defeated Voldemort, ridding the world of the Dark Lord once and for all.
While Severus was not surprised to hear this, some of the details of how it came about were shocking to him. He took away from Miss Granger's story a feeling of profound freedom. Something he had not felt for the last twenty years. He turned back to the young witch as she resumed her seat.
"Why are you still here?" He asked, his voice cracking with disuse. He could barely speak above a whisper. He was referring to the hospital, not what she was doing at his bedside. He supposed she could take the query either way, but this was the brightest witch he had ever known. Surely she would hear what he truly meant by the inquiry.
"I was offered an apprenticeship." She stated simply, as if it was common fact. "The Healer-in-Charge was impressed with my instincts and asked me if I wanted to stay on for some time to see if this was a position I would be interested in."
He could not imagine this young woman wanting to be a Healer. It was a calling not many wizards heard. Yes, she had the instincts, as she had just pointed out, and clearly she had the nerve. But she was also a Gryffindor which meant she was exceedingly brave. This was not a position for her to be wasting her gifts in.
"And why are you here?" He asked, doing his best to indicate the space between them.
"I offered to take this watch. I can leave if you don't want me here. I would understand."
"I never asked for you to leave."
He thought he saw the corner of her mouth lift into a small smile. "Well then, would it be all right if I resumed my watch?"
He had never been overly fond of company, having preferred his own for years. It gave him the quiet he favored in order to think. But knowing that she was nearby, this extraordinary young witch who had saved his life, felt strangely comforting to him. He wasn't entirely sure he liked it.
He turned away, his eyes on the ceiling. "Stay as long as you like."
At the end of another day Hermione went to the basement of the hospital where the potions laboratory and staff room was. She changed out of her apprentice robes leaving them in the cubby labeled H. Granger, Apprentice. She pulled on her denim jumper over her muggle shirt and tied up her trainers. She still carried her beaded hand bag with her everywhere, although now storing a significantly less amount. She kept every book she owned on magical plants, antidotes, and healing spells on her at all times, as well as a bottle of Dittany, spare parchment, quills, ink, a few flasks, and two of the coins she had enchanted in Fifth year for communication between D.A. members. She never knew when they would come in handy, and had improved upon her original Protean charm making it possible for those two coins to communicate only with each other.
She pulled her hair free from the braid she always wore it in while at the hospital and raked her fingers through it loosening the plait even more. It felt good to finally let her hair down after a long day. She was looking forward to returning to Grimmauld Place, a quick meal, a hot shower, and a large pot of tea.
Snape had improved much in the five days he had already been in St. Mungo's. There was more color in his face today and he was clearly getting some modicum of strength back, if his ability to banter with her before had been any indication. Hermione smiled to herself as she headed out. Even though Snape could be a real git sometimes he really was a good man underneath. She had already seen some glimpses of it, and she would be lying to herself if she thought she didn't want to see more. In all the years she had known Severus Snape she had always had a feeling that he was much more than the dark, cynical man he presented to the world. There was so much more going on underneath all of that, if what Harry had seen in the Penseive was true.
Hermione stopped by the ward entrance on her way out and stuck her head in. Snape had been moved out of the private room on his second day and was sharing the ward with only one other wizard right now, and he would be released tomorrow. Snape was fast asleep in his bed on his back. One of the Healers had come by and changed his bandages again and pulled the blanket up to his shoulders. She watched the rise and fall of his chest as he breathed and wondered for a moment what he was dreaming about. But she shook the thought off and continued on her way out, disapparating as soon as she exited the hospital.
After her first night in St. Mungo's when she had seen Harry again he had asked her if she had anywhere to go and he offered her Grimmauld Place. Later that day, when she felt secure leaving Snape in the capable hands of the Healers, she returned to the house that she, Harry, and Ron had stayed in briefly when they first ventured out to start hunting Horcruxes. Kreacher was gone. Harry had heard from Kingsley Shacklebolt that after Hermione had thrown off Yaxley outside Grimmauld Place when they escaped from the Ministry he had returned with two Death Eaters and tortured the poor house-elf in order to make him give up where the trio had disappeared to. Kreacher, not even aware that they had attempted to return, had died for his lack of information. Kingsley told Harry that he had stopped by the house after hearing of the incident but never recovered Kreacher's body.
Hermione appeared in the small park across from Grimmauld Place and after casting a revealing charm to see if anyone else was around, crossed the road and waited for Number Twelve to appear. She stepped inside and locked the door behind her casting her usual wards over it. She left her jumper and bag in the hallway, careful to not make any sudden sounds lest she wake the portrait of Sirius's mother, (something would have to be done about her), then took the stairs down to the kitchen. She really wasn't in the mood to cook, but she knew she had to eat something.
Harry had been kind enough to transfer a significant amount of money from his vault at Gringotts to Hermione's so she would be able to purchase food, supplies, and anything else she might need while she stayed in the house. He had flat out ignored her refusal to the money and swore she wouldn't have to return a single knut to him. It was his choice and he was choosing to help her. Ron had been sore about it, and was still sore about it, because he wasn't able to provide for his girlfriend in the same way that his best friend could. Hermione had tried to explain that Harry was doing his part as her friend while she stayed in London for her apprenticeship, and that he, Ron, was able to offer her something more that Harry could not.
Ron had not immediately caught on to her meaning but when it finally dawned on him he had merely scoffed at her and questioned what kind of relationship they were in if she was living in London full time, committed to an apprenticeship, and he was at home with nothing to do. Hermione had offered for Ron to stay with her but he didn't want that. He wanted Hermione at the Burrow with him. He asked why she had to do this apprenticeship now, and what would she get out of it when it ended and decided it wasn't for her.
Hermione had then made the mistake of bringing up Snape and trying to explain that Harry had made her promise to stay with him. That had led to their first fight only two days ago. Ron's angry voice still rang in her head as she put together a small dinner of leftover chicken and cooked vegetables from the previous evening.
After a year of being on the run she didn't have much of an appetite anymore. They had all lost weight, Harry having pointed hers out only the other day when he noticed how loose her clothes appeared on her. Hermione had been slender her entire life and therefore had not noticed the change. She had acknowledged her friend's comment and simply used a size-adjustment spell on her clothes to make them fit better.
She ate most of her dinner as she poured over some of her books on healing, focusing on serpent bites and known antidotes to see if there was maybe a combination of a few that could be made in order to produce a more effective result of toxin counteraction. Hermione didn't remember falling asleep, but she assumed she must have when she felt someone shaking her.
"Hermione, wake up."
She blinked a few times and picked her head up off of her arms. She had fallen asleep at the kitchen table on top of the last book she had been reading, Antidotes and Antitoxins: A Guide to Healing Venomous Bites and Stings.
"Late night?" Harry asked as she sat up, rubbing her eyes.
"I guess so." Hermione responded through a yawn. She closed the book and watched her friend move around the kitchen as he made tea. "What time is it?"
"Almost seven. I wanted to come by and see how you were. How's Snape doing?"
"Much improved. You should come in and see him. Explain some things."
"I plan to in a few days. Any word on how long he's going to be in St. Mungo's?"
"The Healer-in-Charge believes he will be recovered enough to leave in about another week or so, but he would still need to be on bed rest for at least two more weeks after that while he continues to heal and regain his strength."
"Does he have anywhere to go, or anyone to take care of him for that matter?" Harry set the fresh pot of tea between them at the table and sat. He poured two cups and handed one to Hermione.
"Thank you." Hermione took the proffered cup and blew on it for moment before taking a sip. She set it down and looked at her friend. "Not that I'm aware of, so he would probably have to stay at St. Mungo's until he can leave on his own."
Hermione watched her friend think as he sipped his tea. "He won't want to do that. He's too independent. You wouldn't want to do that."
"Not when I know I'm perfectly capable of taking care of myself. But he wouldn't be. He'll still need a constant supply of potions for some time after he's released."
They were silent for a minute and Hermione finished her first cup and poured herself a second. There was only one solution she could think of.
"What about bringing him here?" Harry asked. Hermione looked up at him in shock. That was what she had been thinking, but imagining Ron's reaction had kept her from voicing it. "Not the best idea, I know." Harry stated when he saw her expression.
"No, I mean, it's a fine idea. I was thinking the same thing. I just...what about Ron?" She circled her finger around the rim of her teacup in thought.
Harry poured himself a second cup of tea as well. "I'll talk to him. Try to make him understand."
"Maybe we should both talk to him. I'm more than willing to do whatever has to be done to help."
"Yes, but you shouldn't have to sacrifice your relationship in order to do it."
"If Ron doesn't want to understand what it is we're trying to do then he would be the one sacrificing our relationship. Not me. It's not like I plan on falling in love with Snape."
Harry smirked over the rim of his teacup at her. "Yes, because that would just be the epitome of weird."
Hermione smiled back, her finger still circling the rim of her cup. She bit her lower lip in thought. Harry was right, falling in love with her former professor would be weird. But she did care about him, or at least she cared about what would happen to him. So she made up her mind, and one way or the other, Ron was just going to have to accept it.
Once Snape was released from St. Mungo's she would bring him here for the remainder of his recovery time. And then he would be gone from their lives. And she and Ron could continue on where they had left off.