A/N: I do not own, etc etc, but Sev is my favourite plaything and I always put him back when I'm finished!

Okay, here is my second ever fanfic and two in two days at that! Probably not very good, totally out of character again but better than my first effort I think. I wrote this in an afternoon just because I got the idea out of nowhere. I MIGHT continue it if you think that I should. There's always room for some post-recovery fluff..

Anyhow, this chapter is angst/drama, not really much romance although there could easily be if I write further chapters. Please let me know when you R&R and I'll hug you in thanks.

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The pain raced the length of his forearm a final time, burning more than he had ever imagined it could, forcing him drop to his knees clutching it in agony. Bright spots danced in front of his eyes and he was convinced that this was it: that he was as dead as the creature he had once followed, that the brand that marked him so would make sure of that; but as abruptly as the pain had begun it was over, leaving him in a crumpled heap on the hard floor. He must have fainted then because when he came to night was falling steadily around him. He lay on his back staring up at the navy sky, trying to work out what had happened, certain something had changed. He was not mistaken, as a quick glance at his forearm proved. The dark mark he had worn as a constant reminder of who and what he was had gone. His forearm was pale and smooth and as unblemished as it had been when he was 17. So it really was over then. Voldemort was gone for good, the prophecy had been fulfilled. But who had survived? The question startled him from his reverie with his arm. There would be others worse off than him, he realised, others that would need his assistance. The destruction of the Dark Lord had taken place close by, he sensed, climbing unsteadily to his feet. Merlin only knew how many had died in order to achieve this! He walked slowly towards the centre of the destruction, seeing death all around but feeling very little. Severus was no stranger to death and pain; he had walked in its' shadow for most of his life, but the scale of it here was like nothing he had ever seen. Bodies littered his path and he could easily identify both Death Eaters and Order of the Phoenix members alike and they seemed equal in their numbers. He closed his eyes briefly when he realised how many of them he knew, how many were colleagues, students, even perhaps friends if he could admit to having such things.

When he opened his eyes again, he was furious to find them damp with tears. There was no time for this! He took a moment to steady himself, let his breathing return to normal and then walked on. His carefully maintained emotionless fa├žade was more important now than ever, especially if there were people who needed his help out here. As he neared a small cluster of burned and razed buildings he was beginning to give up hope of finding anyone who had survived this terrible battle when a small flutter of movement caught his eye. As he moved towards the figure he saw it lift its' head and with a jolt of shock realised who it was.

Hermione Granger was lying flat on her back, surrounded by the lifeless bodies of several black-cloaked Death Eaters that Severus supposed she had killed herself. Her robes were bloody and torn, he could see her left ankle and wrist was probably broken by the way she was trying to hold them. One side of her face was a sheet of blood from a nasty looking cut at her hairline and she was bleeding in at least half a dozen other places that he could see. Her eyes were half closed and her breathing was shallow and short, but as he leaned over her she seemed to stir a little and her eyes opened a little to meet his unflinchingly.

"Professor?" Her voice was weak, barely a whisper and Severus realised then just how badly injured she was, she could hardly find the strength to breathe, let alone talk. He moved swiftly then, sitting down on the floor close to her and easing her head onto his lap so that she was a little more comfortable. She tried to smile her thanks but winced suddenly in pain. Severus drew in breath sharply, knowing that none of the healing spells he knew would be enough to save her now. An hour, maybe less and she would be as dead as the rest of them. Frantically casting about him, he sent a shower of sparks high up into the night sky with his wand, desperately hoping that they would be seen. What Hermione needed was a Mediwitch and she needed one now. Severus knew that he would not be able to save her.

"Don't try to speak," he looked into her frightened eyes, wishing that there was more he could do. He knew full well that there was a spell that would simply stop her breathing, putting an end to her pain before it got much much worse but he was reluctant to use it if there was still a chance she could survive. He busied himself with conjuring splints for her wrist and ankle, trying to ignore her little moans of pain. There was little else he could do but wait. He did not know what kind of redemption either of them were likely to find. He stared off into the distance, hoping for her sake that the end would come quickly.

"Am I going to die?" Hermione's croaky voice cut through his thoughts and he looked down at her, his face a strange mixture of pity and hope.

"I can't tell you the answer to that," he told her softly, watching as her eyes flickered closed only for her to stubbornly open them again.

"I don't want to die," if she had the strength she would be crying he realised. It had never been in his nature to offer sympathy or comfort; he had always been a cold creature, disdaining the use of emotion, feeling very little. He had seen death, yes, but this was different. After all that had happened it seemed stupidly unfair that she should die now. She deserved to live, he realised. He wanted her to live.

"You've been very brave," he murmured, brushing stray strands of bloody hair away from her face, trying to make her comfortable. "You're a true Gryffindor, Hermione." Severus did not know it, but his eyes were gentle as they met hers. "You have nothing to fear now, little one. It is done."

"Then it is over?" This time, speaking made her cough violently and when she settled again he could see blood at the corners of her mouth. Her breathing was becoming more and more laboured and she was fading fast. How she remained so steadfastly brave he did not know.

"It is over. It would seem that the Dark Lord is gone, this time for good," he shoved the sleeve of his robes up over his forearm so that she could see that the Mark had gone. He was absurdly touched when she managed a faint smile.

"That's good," she whispered. Her eyes closed and this time they did not reopen. The only noise in the deep silence of the growing night was the rattle of her breath as she struggled to speak. "At least it wasn't all for nothing," she sighed.

"Not for nothing, no," Severus found himself speaking, agreeing with her just to try to keep her awake.

"Harry?" she managed to ask.

"I don't know," he told her honestly. "It would seem that the centre of the battle is some way away from here. You are the only survivor I have found." Her mouth formed a small 'o' of surprise and his smile was slow and bitter. "You always were a stubborn one," he said gently.

"Thank you," her voice was fainter now, her eyes still closed. Severus was losing her, he could feel it.

"Hermione." He gave her a little shake, just enough so that she opener her eyes for a moment. "Hermione, I know the only thing that you want to do right now is sleep, but you have to stay with me, just for a little while!" He grasped her hand and squeezed it, hoping that it was not too late. Her response was the faintest of squeezes in return.

"As long as I can," she promised him.

"Just a little longer," he knew his words could offer her little encouragement now. It was all up to her. In the long silence that followed he stroked her hair and held her hand, glad that at least she would not be alone. It would not be long now, he thought with a jolt of pain. It would be over soon and she would be at peace. It was a strange thought that offered him little consolation. Hermione Granger was one of the brightest, most powerful witches he had ever seen. The bodies strewn around her still living form were testament to that. No one on the side of good had deserved to die, but he thought that maybe this witch deserved to live most of all. Severus had known little joy in his life, but he did find pleasure in learning and reading and the precise art of potion-making. He had enjoyed having Hermione as his student more than he cared to admit. Her intellect and obvious enjoyment of his subject had pleased him enormously, even though he had chosen to conceal it with sarcasm and sometimes even cruelty. He had pushed her hard, forcing her to achieve all that she was capable of and he had never praised her. Now that she lay dying in his arms he wished that he had and regretted never doing so. They were more alike than she would ever know, and the world was about to be deprived of its brightest star.

Severus looked down at Hermione's face. She looked as though she was sleeping and it seemed as though her breathing has stabilised a little although he was not sure if he was imagining it.

"Are you still with me?" He whispered to her.

"Yes," she croaked. There was a pause. "Professor?"

"Severus." It seemed as ridiculous to correct her as her own stubborn formality was, but he did it all the same. He hadn't been 'her' professor for nearly three years, he acknowledged sadly.

"Severus," she used his name softly. It sounded strange for her to be doing so, but not altogether uncomfortable.

"Yes?" He wished frantically that he could freeze this moment in time, keeping her safe until help arrived. Hermione smiled a lazy sleepy smile.

"What are those lights?" Her voice was dreamy and he steeled himself against what he knew was coming, feeling an odd little twist in his heart.

"Don't be afraid," he cradled her against him. "You're safe now. The pain will be over shortly. Rest." There were tears in his eyes again and this time he could not prevent them falling. He waited for a few moments and realised that she was still breathing, looking up in astonishment as he too saw the lights. A large group of Mediwitches, wands alight, were crossing the scarred battlefield towards them. Relief overwhelmed him and the sound of sobbing startled him. It was his own.

"Safe now," Hermione whispered, her eyes watching him curiously. "Rest."