Author's Note: Well, here's the last chapter. I have another (quite lengthy, as usual) Author's Note at the end. By the way, there's a Jane Eyre quote in here somewhere. Ten points and a chocolate frog to anybody who can pick it out!
Escape from the Darkness: Chapter 15
She tried, unsuccessfully, to turn over and see who the voice was coming from. She was too weak; her entire body felt like it was still asleep. The voice spoke again. "Uncle Severus, she's awake!" it screeched. "Hermione?" Footsteps came towards her.
"Be quiet, you annoying little girl," a different person hissed. Hermione could feel her lips trying to form a smile. She knew that voice. Severus. "Hermione?" he asked breathlessly, taking her hand in his.
She opened her eyes and found herself staring at the ceiling of the Hospital Wing. Hermione squeezed his hand and finally turned towards him. "Severus?" she asked, her voice barely coming out in a whisper. "Thanks, Selene," she whispered to the worried-looking young girl who was handing her a glass of water.
"I'm going to go tell Harry and Ron that she's awake," the girl said after a firm glance from Severus.
Hermione tried to sit up, wanting to look at Severus's face. She got up about halfway before collapsing back on the pillow. "Don't, it's too soon," he told her, tenderly moving a few strands of hair out of her eye.
"You're alive, Severus. And Harry and Ron." She still spoke hoarsely. The last thing that she had remembered… well, he had cast Avada Kedavra on Lucius Malfoy. She had so many questions. What had happened to Voldemort? Were all of her friends okay? At least Harry and Ron were, but what about the rest?
"I meant what I said, Severus; I want to marry you," she told him deliriously.
He kissed her forehead. "We can talk about our wedding later. Right now, my dear, you need to rest," Severus said.
She would have debated going back to sleep, for she had so many questions, but was in too much of an odd state to do so. 'Our wedding', he had said. His voice held hope for the future. She was somewhat elated by this, despite the pain and fatigue she felt. Before she could say anything more, Hermione slipped back into unconsciousness.
The next time she woke up, Harry was staring back at her, his hand holding hers. "Hermione," he said with concern in his eyes. "We've been taking turns watching you. All of us were so worried! Snape said that Lucius Malfoy used the Cruciatus Curse on you." Hermione nodded. Her head hurt so badly.
"Was it this painful when it was used on you?" she asked, her voice still scratchy.
"Malfoy held you under it for quite a while. Snape was worried that you might have permanent brain damage." Hermione gulped at Harry's words, thinking of the state of Neville's parents. Her mind was one of the most important things to her… What if she had lost it?
Seeing the look on her face, he changed the subject. "We won, all thanks to the two of you. If Snape hadn't given Voldemort the potion you made, he would have never been weak enough for me to kill him." He gave her a forced smile. However, Hermione could see the pained look in his eyes behind his smile and she knew that it was time to ask the question she had been dreading.
She took a deep breath. "Is everybody okay?" Hermione asked, closing her eyes in dread of the response.
"Hermione…" Harry shook his head and looked downward. He looked like he was ready to cry.
"Who, Harry?" she whispered, feeling herself falling into a panic. He didn't speak. She raised her voice higher. "Tell me!" she practically shrieked.
"Dumbledore," Harry responded.
Hermione shook her head. Her eyes began filling with tears as she thought of the smiling old man who always had a twinkle in his eyes and a kind word for everyone. She squeezed her eyes shut, falling back into a deep slumber.
Hermione slept through the night, surprisingly, not having the horrible dreams that she had expected. She assumed that this was connected to a vague memory of waking up and being fed Dreamless Sleep Potion by Madam Pomfrey.
She awoke feeling better than she had the evening before. Hermione slowly sat up, her eyes falling on two figures next to her bed. Her parents. Both of them looked worried and exhausted.
"Mum? Dad?" she whispered. Hermione quickly went to stand up and go to them. A wave of dizziness hit her.
"Be careful, darling," her mother told her gently. "You shouldn't move from bed just yet."
"Mum, Dad, I missed you so much," Hermione murmured as they brought her close in a hug, and began to cry. It had been far too long since she had last seen them.
"Sweetheart, Madam Pomfrey said that can come home with us tomorrow," her father told her.
She looked at him, wiping away her tears. "I'd like to stay here."
Her parents seemed surprised. "But Hermione, I thought that you would come back now that the war is over, especially now that you're done with your studies," her mother said, looking upset.
"I will… for a visit." She sighed.
"Mum, Dad, I have something to tell you." Hermione swallowed, wishing that she could have waited until she had her strength back. If only she had just agreed to go, then waited a few days after she had gotten home to say it. But, it was too late now. She had to finish what she had begun. "I'm getting married."
Both of them stared at her in astonishment for a few moments. "Hermione, this is… quite sudden," her mother finally said hesitantly. "You didn't even tell us that you were seeing someone. And you're still so young…"
"Which one is it, Hermione," her dad began, "Harry or Ron?"
Hermione sighed. This was not going to be easy. How would she tell her parents that she was marrying a man only a few years younger than they were? She decided to spit it out. "It's neither of them. I'm engaged to my Potions professor, Severus Snape."
Oh dear, she thought to herself as her mother's face paled and her father's turned red, this is certainly not the ideal reaction. Her mum looked ready to faint, and her dad seemed like he was about to lose control of his anger. Not that she had expected them to act any differently. Especially since her stupid Gryffindor courage had told her just to blurt it out, rather than preparing them for the shock of it.
Her father was the first to speak. "Your teacher, Hermione?" he spat out. "What kind of school is this where teachers take advantage of their students?"
"He didn't take advantage of me," Hermione cried. "It wasn't like that at all."
"Hermione, this is just so surprising and unexpected," her mother said. She also looked very upset. "If only you had found somebody younger…"
"Mum! You know that's not the way it works." Tears sprang to her eyes. "I love him," she said softly. "It's not something that I can help. And as amazing as it is, he loves me back."
The look on her father's face softened ever so slightly. However, he still seemed to be struggling to keep from getting angry again. "I'd like to meet him," he said in a strained voice.
Hermione nodded, then called to Madam Pomfrey. "Can you please ask Professor Snape to come up here?"
"Of course. But you really should be sleeping, dear. You've been through a terrible trauma."
"I will soon. Thank you," she said as the mediwitch left to Floo Severus from the next room.
Severus sighed. His meeting with Hermione's parents was going as he had expected. It had been filled with accusations of corrupting their daughter, followed by attempts on his part to get them to warm up to him (which didn't really work; Severus Snape was not good at being friendly). He was grateful for one thing: at least they were older than him, by more than ten years. Eventually their anger waned, thanks to the pleadings of their daughter. This was followed by strained conversation and uncomfortable silences.
The current problem was one of the latter. He didn't usually care for meaningless chatter, but the awkwardness was becoming too much for him. For Hermione's sake, he didn't want the Grangers to hate him.
"Hermione tells me that you are dentists," he finally said. Both of them perked up immediately at the simple statement.
"Yes, yes we are!" her father told him amicably. He and his wife went into an animated discussion about their dental practice. Severus felt a bit of relief at the couple's enthusiasm. Anything was better than being yelled at by the father of his fiancée. The conversation had been favorable… at least it had been until he had mentioned that he had never before been to a dentist.
"You do realize what you're getting yourself into, Severus?" Hermione asked after her parents had left. Her lips twitched in a grin. "Do you even know how to use a toothbrush?" He glared at her. She had seemed so depressed and sickly just a few minutes earlier. And now she was making fun of him?
"Of course I do!" he said resentfully. He didn't want to tell her that he had only heard about them, never having used one himself. Cleansing spells seemed much more convenient.
"They're going to bleach and straighten your teeth, in addition to fixing whatever other problems they find. Most likely there will be a lot, considering you've never gone to a dentist in all of your thirty-eight years. And it will probably be painful too." He frowned. Was it really necessary for her to act like such an insufferable know-it-all, even when she was bedridden in the Hospital Wing? Didn't she know that he had only agreed to it for her?! And it wasn't like he couldn't handle pain. If he could handle Crucio, he would certainly be able to take a visit to the dentist. He almost verbalized these thoughts but decided not to mention the Cruciatus Curse, which would no doubt resurface horrible memories of the battle a few days earlier. She was actually in a good mood, which was amazing when one considered what she had been through.
"You seem awfully happy about that," he told her with a smirk.
"No, I'm happy for a different reason." She paused. "Thank you, Severus," she whispered. "I've always worried that my parents would no longer be a part of my life once I completed Hogwarts, but now I think that there's hope. They seem to like you." Severus's sneer softened into a smile. He didn't want to spoil the moment with the obvious question: If they really liked him, why would they subject him to the pain that seemed to come with a visit to the dentist?
"You actually do want to marry me?" he asked. "You didn't just say that because there was a chance that one or both of us could be killed? Or because your mind was clouded by the horrible ordeal you went through?"
"Of course I want to marry you!"
He gave her a serious look. "Hermione, you know what type of man I used to be. I was a Death Eater, a supporter of the Dark. Innocent people were killed and I did nothing to stop it; in fact, I probably caused many of their deaths. Do I really deserve to be forgiven, Hermione?"
"Severus, please stop speaking of yourself in that manner. What necessity is there to dwell on the past, when the present is so much surer—the future so much brighter? So many have been saved because of the sacrifices you made! You have more than compensated for a few bad choices made long ago."
"Hermione…" He tenderly cradled her cheek in his hand.
"I love you, Severus," she said in a low voice, her eyes closed.
How was this possible? His life had barely been one step up from hell before, and he had never expected that to change. Somebody cared for him deeply, despite his shortcomings. And it wasn't just anybody; it was Hermione.
"I love you, too, Hermione." With that, he brought her lips to hers, their kiss full of promise and hope for the future.
Author's Note: Thank you to all of you who reviewed (especially the few of you who offered concrit—I literally jump for joy when I get those types of reviews). I never expected to get this many, but am pleasantly surprised by it. I enjoyed writing this very much, and hope that you enjoyed reading it too. Yes, I realize it's not perfect, and that there are many things that I would have done differently (such as finding a good beta) if I wrote this again, but this was, after all, the first work of fiction over two thousand words that I have ever written.
For those of you who were wondering, I do have several HG/SS plot bunnies in my head at the moment, in addition to a GW/DM story—based on my favorite book, Pride and Prejudice—that would be kind of a companion (and kind of, but not really like a sequel) to this one. If I was really obsessed with doing a series like this, I would also do Bill/Fleur story based on Persuasion (another one of my favorites). However, it's probably not going to happen. Those are all just possibilities, and will most likely just be thrown into the realm of Never-to-be-Completed fics (where I write one chapter, then toss it out because the thought of continuing bores me to tears). Oh, and I also have a parodyish thing that I'm in the middle of right now.
Please leave a review! Once again, thanks for reading!