Hi! I am super new to this fandom, but not at all new to fanfiction. Really hoping you all enjoy my new story. Bit of business: obviously it's an AU since Severus is alive and kickin'. The story is just about finished, I'm fine-tuning and sending the chapters off to my beta. Speaking of which… huge thanks to darnedchild for not only betaing but helping me with HP business and simply being an amazing friend. I'm gifting the story to her because of her wonderful support and to likingthistoomuch because she's the one who ordered me to write it when I pitched the idea to her one day on tumblr. She also kept encouraging me to write along the way. Bless these wonderful woman. Last thanks go to MrsMCrieff who helped me with the title because I was completely stumped. I love you all!
**I also need to thank Elizabeth K1 for some additional betaing. 12/10/17**
Tiny bit about my writing style: horizontal line notates a new POV or new scene, the POVs are pretty obvious. Also, grouped italics are inner thoughts or flashbacks (it's pretty clear which is which).
I own nothing except the mistakes. Please enjoy. ~Lil~
Hermione lay in bed, exhausted, after the day she'd just had and dreaded what was coming next. Not that she didn't want to see her best friends, quite the contrary, but she didn't want to deal with the guilt that they'd be bringing along with them. She took a deep breath, as deep as she could with the ache in her chest and back at least, and waited. Not five minutes later came the first knock.
"Come in," she answered, knowing that Harry would be her first guest.
"Hey 'Mione. Do you need anything?" he asked.
"No Harry. I'm fine," she answered.
He stood next to the bed looking much older than his twenty-two years. "Listen…"
"Harry, if we're about to have a long conversation, will you please have a seat? You're making me nervous."
He nodded, looking slightly embarrassed, and pulled up a chair from the antique desk across the room. "You're married, Hermione. You're married to," he said, his face contorted in worry.
"I am indeed married. You were there. You were my witness." She didn't mean to sound so bitchy, but she was in a lot of pain, and her friend was stating the obvious.
"Gods, 'Mione, I'm so sorry."
"For having to marry Severus?" She shook her head. "Apologise to him, Harry, not me. He's the one who made the sacrifice."
"I know, but this is all my…" he started.
"Could we not do this today, Harry?" she interrupted.
"It's just…" He was sitting with his elbows on his knees. Burying his hands in his unruly hair he let out a frustrated grunt. "It so fucking unfair, 'Mione."
She tried to give him a reassuring smile but was afraid she failed. Tired as she was, she knew that she had no choice but to comfort her friend. "It is. Without a doubt it is unfair." She reached for his hand. "But the world won't end because of it. We've lost… so many. You've lost…"
"I don't want to lose you too," he said, his voice catching. It was impossible to miss the tears in his eyes.
"What? You don't trust the foremost potions master in all of the UK?" She tried to make her statement sound light, but it was ladened with fear. Fear that the wizard wouldn't be able to fix her in time. "If a solution can be found, he will find it."
Harry smiled at that. "I still can't believe he married you."
"Someone had to do it, Harry. It was the logical decision."
He instantly teared up again. "Your parents should be here for that! You shouldn't have been forced into this!" he protested.
"They're gone! And there was no one…" She took a deep breath, attempting to compose herself. "I don't have time to fall in love, Harry," she said in a near whisper.
She held up her hand. "I love you, but I'm tired and I still need to see Ron. Gods know what state he'll be in."
Harry stood then bent down, placing a kiss on her forehead. "I'll send him in. I love you too. I'm so sorry." He smoothed out her hair and patted her cheek and then left.
Hermione sighed as her best friend shut the door. Her chest was hurting as was her head. She was fighting her body to try and keep the tremors at bay. She just wanted to get this over with and take a long nap.
"She's ready to see you, Ron," Harry said as he entered the sitting room. Everyone else had already gone, leaving the 'brawn' and 'leader' of the Golden Trio and of course, his best friend's new husband.
"I'll go on up then," Ron said, but he didn't move. "I need the loo first." He then all but sprinted out of the room.
Snape watched after him for a moment then said, "I hope he never forgives himself," under his breath.
"Don't worry, he won't. But he couldn't have watched..."
"No. It seems that Gryffindor courage fails him at the most inopportune times." The imposing former professor turned his stare on Harry. "Did you need something, Potter?"
It took a moment for him to compose himself before speaking. "Why are you doing this?"
Snape squared on him. "Because it needs to be done."
"But by you?"
The older man huffed, it was almost a laugh, but not quite. "I've been getting you lot out of trouble for the last ten years. Why should I stop now?"
Harry studied the wizard for a moment, this man whom he had hated, respected even feared to some extent, then he finally dared to speak his mind. "You care for her." It wasn't a question.
Snape narrowed his eyes. "I care what happens to her. I care if she lives or dies. I care that, once again, you and Weasley got in over your heads but this time it could cost that young woman - a young woman who has done nothing but attempt to make the lives of those around her better - her life. I care that one of my former cohorts did this and is still out there to brag about it. I care…"
"It's okay Professor," Harry interrupted. "She's easy to love."
Harry would remember the look on Severus Snape's face for the rest of his life. The man was completely stunned. He felt somewhat honoured having been able to accomplish the task. Snape turned with a flourish and stalked out of the room.
"Ron, stop crying for Merlin's sake!" Hermione begged.
"I can't believe we're just supposed to leave and let him take care of you!" he protested. "He's such a bastard."
She was instantly furious. "Well, that bastard just left his home and moved in with me on the off chance that he can keep me alive long enough for someone to stumble upon Yaxley! That bastard married me so that he could make medical decisions for me when I'm too sick to make them for myself. That bastard is, quite possibly, the most honourable man I've ever met, Ronald, so I'll thank you to keep your gob shut when it comes to my husband." She fell back into the mountain of pillows on the bed and expelled a ragged breath. The rant had taken almost all of her energy.
"I'm sorry 'Mione. I… I just…"
Oh, gods save me from more stammering apologies!
"I know what everyone thinks. I know it should be me… I should have a-asked you," he finally managed.
She shook her head. "No, Ron, not everyone. I didn't. I knew better. It's…" How did she say this without insulting him? "It's just not who you are. And besides, it's not what I want for you. Severus knows what he's doing and this way he can work on my… case without having to travel." It was a weak excuse at best, but he'd believe it because he wanted to. She took his hand. "I want you to meet a nice young witch and have a dozen lovely ginger-haired kids. Can you do that for me?"
Ron nodded and wiped the escaping tears from his chin. "When did you start calling him Severus?" he asked.
"Well, I wasn't going to call my… husband? Professor Snape? This whole situation is odd enough as is." She adjusted the duvet. "It was a bit of an argument, but he finally agreed that it would be ridiculous to address each other formally, given the circumstances."
Ron continued to cry as he looked at her. "This is fucked up."
"You boys are acting like I'm already dead! Severus is just stubborn enough to not want to fail in this, you know."
He jumped up and threw his arms around her. She didn't have the heart to tell him how much the hug hurt. "Now go, and stop your blubbering!" she scolded when he finally released her.
"I'll come visit."
"I assumed you would. I'm not in Azkaban."
He was laughing as he exited the room.
Snape was waiting in the hallway. Shit!
"Can you really help her?" Ron asked in a whisper.
For a moment he wasn't sure if the surly wizard would answer. "I will do everything within my power to do so, Mr. Weasley."
Ron instantly wished that Snape had given him a sarcastic response; the older wizard's honesty cut too close to Ron's heart. "It should be me."
"But it's not," Snape replied without a hint of emotion.
"You think I'm a coward," he said without thinking, giving Snape the exact words to eviscerate him right there.
"Is that what Miss… Is that what she thinks?"
"She says she understands, but…"
"Then I think you should take your friend's words as the truth," Snape interrupted. "I know what it's like to live with regret, Mr. Weasley. It will eat you alive if you let it."
Ron Weasley had always hated Severus Snape, he'd never known another emotion when it came to the acerbic man. But suddenly he understood why everyone respected him so damn much. "You'll take good care of her, won't you?"
"That is my intention."
"Thank you, Professor," he said just before leaving the hallway and going to find Harry.
Severus gave himself a moment before entering his wife's room.
My… wife. What an absurd notion. He shook himself in an attempt to get into the right frame of mind. It had been an emotionally draining afternoon. Having to deal with a house full of people, mostly Weasleys, would try the nerves of the most patient wizard. And Severus wasn't known for his patience.
He had been relaxing in his piece of shit house at Spinner's End when he found out about the incident that caused Miss Granger's illness. He relished his retirement; still making potions for Hogwarts and St. Mungo's as well as consulting with the hospital on their more difficult cases. But for the most part, he was left alone. He was his own man for the first time in… well, as long as he could remember.
His Floo alerted him to a call and he dropped his wards. Suddenly the face of Healer Dunham was practically begging him to come help save the Brains of the Golden Trio. When he arrived at the hospital Miss Granger was convulsing, her entire body drawn tight in the worst seizure he'd ever seen outside of someone under the Cruciatus Curse. Diagnostic spells told him almost nothing that he couldn't see with his own eyes. It was a curse, but not one he'd ever seen before.
"Have you contacted Bill Weasley?" he asked.
An unknown mediwitch answered that they had indeed contacted the curse breaker as Severus went over the possible curses. He came up with none. She was dying, or at the very least was minutes from losing that bloody brilliant mind of hers, and he didn't know how to stop it. So he did the only thing he could at the moment; he put her in a full Body-Bind to prevent her from harming herself further and demanded a Calming Draught and Dreamless Sleep. He had a potion at his home that he'd take after a night of withstanding the Cruciatus that he hoped would work, at least for the meantime. His potion worked like a muggle anticonvulsant to aid in the post-curse tremors he would often experience. Simple paranoia had compelled him to keep a couple fresh phials on hand at all times.
The Draught and Sleep relaxed her and knocked her out, once they managed to get them down her throat, and he flooed back to Spinner's End. There had been no change when he returned to the hospital. She was sleeping, occasionally twitching and gasping, her face contorted in pain, but her condition did improve once he administered the anticonvulsant and improved, even more, when he made several tweaks and adjustments. What he really needed to know was what the hell curse she was hit with! Bill had almost no ideas but promised to keep researching and get back to him if he found anything. She was in the hospital for nearly a fortnight while Aurors searched for Yaxley and Severus attempted different treatments and cures. The potion could stabilise her fairly quickly once the spasms started, but someone had to be with her twenty-four hours a day to administer it. In other words: she needed constant care.
Finally, thirteen days in, it was decided that there was nothing more the Healers could do for her. A meeting was called.
Healer Dunham, some administrator named Adams, Potter, Weasley, Minerva, Kingsley Shacklebolt and Severus himself all sat in a small, cramped conference room to decide Miss Granger's fate.
Hermione was well enough to make decisions for herself, at the moment, but without knowing exactly they were dealing with, no one had any idea how long it would last. The first idea was for Minerva to formally adopt her. That was scratched almost instantly since Hermione was far too old for such action. Severus was relieved. No one else at the meeting was aware that his former colleague had buried a daughter some fifty years prior and he didn't want her to have to relive the experience. Kingsley brought up the option of marriage causing everyone in the room to look at the youngest Weasley male. Ron sat silently staring at his chipped teacup while the occupants waited for him to step up and volunteer to make Hermione his wife.
After at least five minutes of silence, Severus said, "I'll do it. I'll marry her and continue to try to find a cure." Then he turned to Ron. "You need to focus on finding the bastard, understand?" Then he got up and stormed out of the room before he could hear the expected protests. Besides, if this was going to happen he'd be the one to explain the situation to her. She deserved that much at the very least.
"Professor," Hermione said with a smile. How she could smile, he didn't know, but she did and often. "Any news? Do I get to leave anytime soon?"
"You do, Miss Granger. But it's been decided that you need a legal guardian." He sat down in the chair next to her bed.
"Someone to help make decisions for you… in case." He didn't elaborate. She was smart enough to fill in the blanks.
She stared across the room for a couple minutes before speaking. "I assume there's nothing like a Lasting Power of Attorney in the Wizarding World?" she asked, then bit her lip nervously.
"I'm afraid not. You'll need a husband." Once again he didn't explain further, she was one of the most intelligent people he'd ever met, he knew she'd figure out the rest.
"And since you're here explaining this to me and not Ronald, I can only assume…"
"Miss Granger…" He paused and tried to force softness into his voice. "...will you marry me?" he asked with a very small smile, deciding she deserved at least one bit of normalcy in this whole mess.
Her eyes instantly filled with tears. She looked away and wiped the moisture from her cheeks then turned back and said, "It would be my honour, sir." He tried to ignore the defeat in her tone.
Once he finally felt composed enough to enter the room, he needlessly checked his pockets once more for her potions, then knocked.
"Come on in," she said quietly.
She was propped up with a copy of "Jane Eyre" on her lap. "The boys finally leave?" she asked.
"Thank Merlin." She put the book on the bedside table. "I love them, but they make me a little crazy. Their guilt is oppressive."
He sat down in the chair left by her best friends. "I won't keep you, but I have your afternoon potions." He pulled the phials out of his pockets and handed them to her.
One was the adapted version of the anticonvulsant that he'd developed, one was a muscle relaxer and the last was for pain. He'd seen the look on her face during the very short ceremony, he knew her head and chest were hurting her. She didn't need to tell him, this was his job now.
She drank each one, without prompting, then gave the empty phials back to him.
"You need sleep," he said.
She didn't move, just stared at him. "Thank you," she said.
"I won't have you thanking me every time I administer your medication, Miss Gran… Hermione. It will become very tedious very quickly."
She shook her head. "No, I mean for this. For everything. For even trying."
Instantly uncomfortable with her appreciation, Severus busied himself with putting the phials back into his pockets. "It's not necessary. I wasn't forced."
"Your whole life has been one sacrifice after another. I don't blame you for being angry and bitter. Though you hardly seem that way anymore."
He had no response, but still couldn't meet her eyes.
"I want to be bitter," she admitted. "I was, for a while. And angry… just so angry that I survived everything else to die slowly and alone. But then I realised that I'm not alone, am I?" He looked up at her question. "I have the boys, in as much as I can have them. I have Molly and Arthur. Even if Mum and Dad are dead, the Weasleys love me like I'm their own, so does Minerva." She paused and drew a breath. "And I have you. You owe me nothing, Severus. If anything we owe you."
"You don't owe…"
"Oh, shut it! Of course I do! You were retired and enjoying life for once. Then I had to go and get myself half killed. Now you're stuck nursing my sad arse. So just listen to me: I have one more thing to say, then I'm taking a very long nap." She took a deep breath. "Promise me that you won't spend the rest of your life alone. When all this is over, and you have your life back. When I'm... gone or cured, more likely, because I do believe in you and your genius mind, please… try. I've gotten to know you recently and I find that you're not completely intolerable." The tired smirk on her lips told him she was trying to lighten the mood, albeit feebly.
"Wife," he started, deciding to humour her. "What makes you think I'd ever find anyone else who could stand my company as well as you? You only do it because of your incapacitated state."
Hermione laughed; it was a beautiful sound. "Gods, my husband is an intolerable git!" She smacked his leg. "Let me rest." She sat up and Severus immediately started removing pillows so that she could comfortably lie down. "This is not how I imagined my wedding night."
"I should think not," he said as she turned her back to him. He pulled the duvet up, tucking her in and wishing for nothing more than to find Yaxley and curse the wizard inside out.
Reviews are always appreciated. Thanks for reading. More to come. ~Lil~