AN: I know it has been a long time since I last posted. Thanks to all who have sent in such supportive emails requesting that I finish my story. Yes folks this is the final chapter. Yippeee! RL has been really bad for me as of late but who's life is a cake walk? However I did it, I have posted my first story. I wanted to thank my beta who has helped make my chicken scratch into pretty pictures. Thanks LJ! As always thanks to all of you for reading my little corner of this world. If you like it great I'm glad if not . . . I didn't do it. It was my evil twin. ;p

Standard legal disclaimer crap here. Not mine all the great HERS only the soup I place them into is mine.

Chapter 17: Two months later

Hermione entered the grand hall where all the meals normally took place, however tonight it was decorated for Christmas. Nervously fidgeting with her dress she looked around wondering where the boys had gotten to. She noticed that nearly everyone had already arrived and that there were but a few seats left.

From behind her she heard someone clear their throat. Hermione spun round dreading who may be standing behind her. It was the charms professor, Professor Flintwick. He held out his small arm and gestured Hermione forward and said, "Miss Granger, may I escort you to your seat?" Hermione smiled at the kind offer from the smaller man.

She did not take his arm as one would expect especially considering tonight she was wearing heals and it made her considerably taller than the Professor. "Thank you Professor Flintwick, that is very kind of you." Holding on to his fingers he directed her over to the seats.

The smaller man puffed out his chest with pride as he lead Hermione to the table. He took her to where Harry and Ron were waiting for her. Professor Flintwick pulled out her chair and waited for her to be seated before hurrying around the table to be seated at his own place.

After being seated she looked to her right and sent greetings to Harry, Ginny, and Ron respectively. She then looked to her left and all the air completely left her lungs. The head was turned to his left but she would have known that jet black hair anywhere. Feeling a hand being placed on her arm Hermione's head snapped to the right in time to see the regret on Harry's face. "I'm sorry," he mouthed to her. Pasting a smile to her face she shook her head slightly not wanting to have attention drawn to her.

She felt the moment Severus turned to see who had dared to seat themselves next to him. She felt him stiffen and she prayed that he wouldn't make a scene in front of everyone. Hermione didn't dare to look at him directly she could see him out of the corner of her eye and that was plenty thank you. She could see him glaring at her as if she'd arranged it some how. Hardly likely, as it was Hermione would dearly love to either crawl into a hole in the ground some where far from here, or disappear completely. Either would suffice. Hermione could feel the blood in her veins heating to unbearable temperatures. Her face must surly be as red as the festive table cloth that was adorning the extra long table by now.

Oh how she wished her parents had stayed in town for Christmas this year instead of visiting her mother's sister in Canada. She desperately wanted to go with them and tried every excuse she could think of to change their minds about leaving her behind but to no avail. Suddenly she felt an arm circle around behind her. So startled buy this unexpected touch was she that she turned to look at the dark man sitting next to her.

Unfortunately it was the wrong dark haired person she was looking at she realized to belatedly. For Severus did that slow turn that he could do that made you want to run and hide. He glared at her and Hermione swore that for one moment she saw regret. It was gone so quickly that she thought she must have been mistaken. There was something not right about him though. The more she stared at him; for that was what she was doing; she could see that something was off. She wanted to reach out and touch his face to see if it was really him. Her hand to her horror had started to rise from her lap as if it had a mind of its own.

Severus' eyes grew large and he said to her, "Miss Granger, may I help you?" The coldness in his voice helped her to see reason as she tried to recover.

"I just wanted to say Happy Christmas, Professor." Severus just snorted and turned away. She heard him mutter under his breath, "Happy Christmas indeed." She wanted to ask him what he meant by that but felt Harry who had put his arm around her, pull her closer to him.

Ginny looked over Harry to Hermione and whispered, "Are you all right you look shaken?"

Ron piped up on Ginny's right and whispered loudly, "You would to if you had HIM sitting next to you."

Hermione gave her friends a shaky smile knowing they were only trying to help. She only wanted to get away from such an uncomfortable situation.

The evening passed uneventfully with little being said between her and Severus to her left. The moment it was possible without being rude, Hermione rose from her chair and bid everyone goodnight.

Trudging to her room she felt as though she had aged since coming down the stairs earlier that evening. When she was approaching the next bout of stairs she felt as though she were being watched, which was silly of course since she was surrounded by paintings, many of whom were watching her. However, she couldn't help feeling as though there was an actual force touching her the back of her head and her back. Pausing Hermione turned around to see if maybe one of the ghosts were playing a trick on her, of if someone had joined her in the previously empty stairwell. Upon turning, it was apparent that no one was behind her and yet down a level there was a dark shadow and she thought she saw a black cloak poking out from the far edge of it.

Hermione was about to move to get a better look when there was a sudden explosion of noise from behind her. The fire works that Dumbledore had ordered for the evening had begun. Turning back to the dark shadow she noted that whatever had been there was now gone. Sighing Hermione turned back and resumed her course back to her room.

After watching Hermione exit the dining hall Severus also made his excuses and left. He knew his legs were following the girl but try as he might he just couldn't stop himself from doing the very thing he promised he would not do. She had betrayed him, how could he want to be anywhere near her after what she had done? Keeping to the shadows, Severus watched as the brunette made her way slowly up the ever changing staircase.

What would happen he wondered if he approached her at this moment? What if he said that he forgave her then turned on her and hurt her as much as he was hurting right now. He could do it he could right now go up to the chit and tell her that all was forgiven. Would she believe him? Of course she would she was that naive. He had every intention of moving forward so that he might exact his revenge. But then something happened.

Hermione turned around. She looked right at him. Severus had been very careful not to reveal himself to her so how had she know he was there? Then he saw it. The look on her face. He knew that look intimately. It was the same one he saw on his face when ever he looked in the mirror. Pain, sadness, longing.

Then there was the explosion outside and he took the opportunity to leave her there on the stairs. Afraid of what would happen if he stayed.

~SSSSSSHHHHHHHHSSSSSSSS~

Hermione was in the back of the room observing the students making their potions. She started walking towards the front of the room down the aisle that was farthest from the Professor, who was sitting in his chair doing some paperwork. Hermione kept her distance from him now taking her cue from him. He spoke to her only when he must. Most of the time Severus just gave her a parchment with a list of her duties for the day written on it. As Hermione neared the front of the room, one of the students just in front of her dropped a vial. Quick as a flash Hermione whipped out her wand and cast a dome over the vial just before it exploded. Other than making a crater in the stone floor the crisis had thankfully been averted. Suddenly there was a roar from the front of the room as Severus bore down on her position. He was shaking. Hermione's eyes widened but other than that, she gave no outward sign that she was terrified on the inside.

Sitting at his desk Severus had been surveying the room when suddenly his arm burned and throbbed worse then it ever had before. Something was wrong. He was never summoned during the day, and never when he was teaching a class. Ever! Fortunately for him he witnessed one of the students drop a vial. Thankfully, Hermione was on top of the situation. She moved as fast as he would have to contain the explosion. Striding down the aisle Severus didn't stop until he was face to face with his apprentice. "Showing off again Miss Granger?" he hissed at her.

Hermione didn't respond she knew he was baiting her. But for what reason she didn't know as she had just saved several students from serious injury. Just as she was about to say something Severus held up his hand to her and then swept his arm over the entire room. "Out!" He bellowed to the room. "All of you get your things and get out. This room has been compromised due to your fellow student's butter fingers. MOVE!" Amidst the shocked gasps students quickly grabbed their items and bolted from the room.

Hermione crossed her arms beneath her bosom in an unconscious imitation of the professor. She watched as the dark man twisted his left arm side to side as he strode back toward his desk. She wanted to go to him to see if he'd been somehow injured by the potion but his coldness towards her made her hesitate. In that brief moment of indecision Severus turned to her and said the words that were familiar to her.

"Tell Dumbledore that something is wrong, that I am being summoned now and that there was no time to inform him of my leaving and to stay ready." In truth, Severus didn't want to see the old man. He knew that all the safety measures were in place, he only had to give the word. But would there be time? That was the question.

To smother her gasp of fear, she covered her mouth. Now that they were alone she watched as Severus rubbed the dark mark attempting to ease the pain. "How bad is the pain?" Hermione asked concern for him written on her expressive face as she approached him from behind.

"Worse then it has ever been," Severus found himself admitting with gritted teeth, though he didn't know why he was telling her this. He took a step closer to Hermione. There was so much he wanted to tell her, so much he should have said to her. "Hermione . . ." he began. But no this was neither the time nor the place. He'd been nursing his wounded heart and pride all this time. He understood that now. Tonight he would see her as he always did before she had retired for the night. He would talk to her then. Maybe the words would come easier then.

Just then, the burning hit an all time high. It nearly brought him to his knees and he hissed his pain. Swiftly he turned and left the room to gather together his mask and cloak. "Be careful," he heard her call out quietly. It made his step falter but he kept going.

~SSSSSSHHHHHHHHSSSSSSSS~

The Dark Lord sat in his chair awaiting the arrival of his top Death Eaters. As they gathered he looked deeply in to the eye of each one. Confusion and anger was top most in many of the minds he had read. Many were extremely vexed at having to find an excuse as to why they had to leave so suddenly from what ever he had summoned them from. Since the Dark Lord had never done anything like this before they were right to be confused even fearful of his wrath. "Calm yourselves loyal ones. All will be made clear to you. We wait for but a few more to extricate themselves."

Severus stood calmly at his place as one of the high ranking Death Eaters. He snorted quietly to himself, his father would've been so proud to see his son finally at the top of something he thought was worth while. Every now and again Severus could feel the mind probe. He kept putting forward confusion, which was genuine, to how proud his father would have been to see him now. He interspersed this with thoughts of what he had for breakfast and what would he tell Dumbledore in his report as to his whereabouts. He could hear some of the other newer Death Eaters milling about restlessly. He felt the same way but knew better then to draw unneeded attention to himself. Blend and observe that had always worked in the past. Hopefully it would serve him well this night.

~SSSSSSHHHHHHHHSSSSSSSS~

As soon as Severus had left her, Hermione turned towards the fire in the classroom and grabbed a handful of powder then called out for Dumbledore's office. "Miss Granger?" the Headmaster queried, "What has happened child? Step through."

Directly after she set foot into the Headmaster's office she quickly explained the situation. "Has he ever been called away so suddenly like this before, professor?" She watched as Dumbledore paced in front of his desk. "Only once before, my dear, and that was a black day for all who survived."

Hermione was certain of his meaning. "You mean the night Harry's parents were killed don't you professor?"

"Yes, child, I do." Dumbledore replied as he headed back to his desk. He looked up into the warm brown eyes of one of his favourite students and gave her a small, tired smile. "Go put the classroom back to rights and head back your rooms. I will be contacting the others we'll see if there is anything else to be done."

Nodding Hermione turned and headed back to the floo. Turning Hermione said over her shoulder, "Professor?"

"Yes, Hermione?"

"He said to stay ready." I think something bad is going to happen, she thought, but never gave voice to her concerns.

"Duly noted, Miss Granger, thank you." Hermione nodded once then left the office to keep herself busy in Snape's class.

Looking up at the paintings he sighed. "It's happening all over again is it?" Questioned the one directly in front of Dumbledore's desk.

"It does appear that way doesn't it?"

"Well what are you to do but wait for the first wave? All is in readiness but it is up to the brute to make the first move. You sent home all the students you were able. The rest have refused to go. It does not make the waiting any easier though does it?" Dumbledore nodded. For he knew the former Headmaster spoke truth. "But then you were always more patient than I."

"I learned that lesson the hard way I assure you." Dumbledore replied.

~SSSSSSHHHHHHHHSSSSSSSS~

As the blue sky turned dusky hues of pinks and purples from the setting sun Severus stood near the window looking out taking a sip now and again from the drink he held in his hand it was getting darker earlier and earlier now he noted. He heard movement behind him but did not turn around. He knew it was Lucius. Closing his eyes he let go the thoughts of the coming battle. He had not been able to send a warning to the others. They'd have to do the rest on their own. He was so, so tired. Whatever happened he wanted it to be over. He wanted rest. However that rest came either by his death or a vacation. He snorted at the thought of the old mans face when he put in for a vacation after all these years. As these thoughts flitted through his mind Severus heard the slightly higher voice of his one time friend.

"Missing your mudblood are you?" Severus turned and scowled at the platinum haired man then snorted.

"Hardly, Lucius. I was just wondering if there would be time later if she survives of course to request her as a . . . slave if you will. In keeping with all of the house elves she's been trying to free."

Lucius' laughter brought a sneer that was supposed to be a smile to Severus' face. Lucius' laugh always had grated on his nerves. All around them the sounds of preparation was going on, then the Dark Lord called out. "It is time! First wave head out."

Donning his mask and cloak Severus' team prepared to head out. "Snape, a moment." The slimy snake called out. Severus went immediately to Voldermorts side.

"Yes my Lord how may I serve you?" It was then that Severus felt the probing of his mind.

"Snape were you able to put our poison into the witches head?" With great difficulty Severus forced all thoughts of Hermione from his mind and only put forth some of the fights he had seen between her and her friends though not what was being said as he was to far away to hear, with some random thoughts of work. "I did all I could, my Lord but I didn't have much time after my recovery. Dumbledore kept her very busy as did her two conspirators. But whenever she was in my class I put in as much as would not be detected."

Voldermort frowned which looked odd coming from him. "I was hoping for better from you, Snape! Well, no matter I have other plans that may yet come to fruition. Prepare yourself. You leave next." Bowing from the neck Severus backed away from the other man.

Deep down Severus wished he'd kissed Hermione one last time. He didn't think he'd survive tonight's little disaster. The people would not take this lying down as they did once before, they had seen the evil Voldemort was capable of and did not want to live like that. Make no mistake it would be bloody and there would be deaths but the Dark Lord was mistaken if he thought they would just roll over for him this time.

~SSSSSSHHHHHHHHSSSSSSSS~

It was dark now except for the fires that were burning everywhere, turning the sky a sickly orange. Every once in a while there were flashes of different coloured lights from wands, greens, blues, white, the occasional red. The war was here and it was loud with the screams of the dying and the pleas of the fearful. He had been angling his shots tonight to line up with others shots so that it looked as though he were casting some nasty curses. Though in truth if anyone was truly paying careful attention to him he was actually casting a mimic charm so that his shots held no true power yet the person fell just the same. Only the deed was not done by his hand.

However in the shadows someone was watching with eyes of pure malice. The hatred in the eyes told of retribution. That it would be slow and painful.

~SSSSSSHHHHHHHHSSSSSSSS~

Blackness, cold dark blackness. Hermione was floating in the blackness, no thinking or feeling required here. She preferred it. For a moment she thought she heard a voice crying out her name. The voice sounded so sad, so familiar. Yes there was someone calling her name. Maybe it was one of the boys. Unfortunately, she couldn't help them anymore, she thought with regret and then the blackness claimed her.

When Hermione surfaced once again, it felt as though the pain in her body was going to kill her. The last thing she remembered was someone yelling her name, telling her to get down. Then a green light clashing with another more powerful green light. She remembered it had made the air near her explode with its intensity and had thrown her backward. Now here she was, laying in the cold grass getting wet. Her sight was blurred and sound was a jumbled mess of people shouting different things but it was hard to pull herself together enough to understand their meaning. She wished they'd all shut up and let her pass out.

Hermione forced herself to concentrate on what the voices were so upset about. Something was nagging her. It was important to know why they were so angry. Opening her eyes, Hermione found that her vision wasn't nearly as bad as it had been the last time. She had a bitter taste of herbs in her mouth that someone had administered to her.

She was in pain and rolling over to her side took more effort then it should have. She tried to push herself up to her knees but her arm wasn't working properly and she nearly ended up on her face. Slowly, carefully, Hermione finally got to her knees. Ahead of her she could see blurry people running, hear them screaming and calling for the Aurors, begging for them to help. Children were calling for their mothers, and so were some of the adults. Trying to stand, she got as far as bent knees when she hit the ground again. Hanging her head like an exhausted work horse, Hermione was about to crawl away from all the noise when she heard a familiar tirade. He was cursing anyone and everyone who tried to get near to him.

Hermione smiled, it was the most wonderful cursing she had ever heard. He lived. Just before she passed out, she saw Severus go down. A green light headed his way. It had been meant for her but the dark blur had gotten in the way and taken the brunt of it. She had thought him dead. Closing her eyes Hermione thanked whom ever was listening to her for sparing his life.

Suddenly someone grabbed her arm, the one she thought dislocated and the searing pain of it wrenching back into place made her more clear headed. "Are you going to just let him die?"

Hermione jumped, she had no idea who had grabbed her arm and started to fight, until a familiar voice said, "Hey ow, geez you'd think I was one of them the way you're carrying on." Ginny, it was Ginny.

Hermione grabbed her shoulders and shook her. "Are you mad? If your mother catches you, you may not survive the war!" Ginny just rolled her eyes and snorted.

"They know me better then that" Ginny said loudly.

"Well since you are here what's going on? Is that who I think it is, yelling?"

"Yes it's Snape and he's keeping everyone at bay. They think he killed you. He was found kneeling over your body. Someone saw the killing curse hit you and you go down. Snape is ranting like a mad man, Hermione. You have to intervene or they're going to kill him for sure trial or no. Some of the people there are no friend to him. He won't even let Dumbledore near him."

"Lead me to him, Ginny, quickly." As the girls ran nearer to the crowd that was gathering they started pushing past people. Hermione still couldn't see very well and at one point Ginny was pulled from her side, causing a distraction so that Hermione could stumble into the clearing.

"Severus," Hermione shouted as she threw herself into the circle to get away from a well meaning, yet misguided person. Dumbledore looked shocked and for a moment the crowd fell silent. Then all of them erupted, trying to speak to her at once. Some yelled for her to get away from the mad man, others wanted to know how she survived a killing curse, the crowd started moving forward some of the Aurors tried to reach out to her to pull her from the circle Severus had created for himself. The wand that had been pointed in a different direction was now locked on her, and the look in his eyes told her to tread gently that Severus was not totally in control. That if she wanted them both to survive she had to handle this carefully.

"Severus?" Hermione crooned, "Severus, it's me, Hermione." For a moment he stopped his muttering, not looking at her exactly but something inside him was listening. The muttering had slowed and nearly stoped when someone behind her spoke.

"Are ya going to let a slip of a little girl tell you lot what to do? She's a child for the love of Merlin!"

Hermione called out to anyone who would listen, "No leave him to me. You're only going to make it worse."

Finally Dumbledore called out for the crowd to calm down and he stepped out in front. Severus thrust out a hand and grabbed her with shocking speed. He was now gripping her sore arm with such force that she was certain he was going to break it soon. One of the men on the side lunged for ward which of course had a negative effect on Severus who immediately hexed the man.

He started snarling and spitting out curses as fast as he could point his wand again and again. Apparently he could do double curses. When one curse was being said by the mouth his mind could also send out another. At any other time Hermione would find this fascinating but right now she had to ensure they lived, then she could quiz him to her hearts content. . . assuming that is that they both came out of this intact.

From the corner of her eye Hermione saw too late that a curse was headed her way. She tried to move but she wasn't feeling very well nor stable and she twisted. Unfortunately, instead of twisting away from her attacker she turned right into the curse. At the last possible moment Severus pushed her out of the way and took the brunt. He hit the ground like a stone statue, totally paralysed. Quick as a whip Hermione threw out a body binding curse of her own to the unknown attacker. She hit her mark and he was about to hit the ground but some one was able to cushion his fall. Hermione looked annoyed. Standing over her professor Hermione shouted, "The next person who touches this man will have to answer to me."

Finally Dumbledore, Ginny and Luna were able to push back the people. Then they heard a shout from the back. It was Mrs. Weasley. Shoving her way to the front of the crowd she started berating them for the treatment of her daughter, Dumbledore and the brave girl who helped defeat the very man who caused all these problems to begin with.

Soon a team arrived from the school to take Severus for treatment. As they got the dark man onto the stretcher one of the men noted that Severus was holding onto Hermione's hand. No matter what the medi witch did Severus would not let go. With no other choice, he agreed that Hermione could accompany them to the hospital wing at the school.

Speaking softly to the immobile man Hermione longed to stroke his hair but they were moving much to quickly and she really didn't want to embarrass him. He was not the type of man to show affection of any kind in public. The very fact that he was holding her hand indicated that he was not quite right.

After arriving at the medical wing Hermione tried once more to pry Severus' hand from her wrist but he held fast. The medical staff gave up and instead of trying to send Hermione out of the room they got her to help with his treatment.

Two hours later Hermione had her hand back and Severus was asleep in his rooms in the dungeon. Hermione managed to convince Madam Pomfrey that Severus would feel more comfortable in his own surroundings. "Besides," the bushy haired girl argued, "you need the space for the others that keep streaming in here. I promise to stay and look after him." Hermione rushed out the last bit as it looked as though she very much wanted to ague. But in the end Hermione knew that they needed the room and besides it wasn't like she'd never done this before she quietly reminded the older witch. Nodding the graying witch gave Hermione some supplies to take with her and told her to report in every hour or so just to be safe.

The room was dimly lit with only one soft candle glowing on the wall near the bed every now and again one of the staff called in via the floo network to check on his vital signs. They tried for the first little while to convince her to go home, after giving her a thorough going over. She was relieved to be given a clean bill of health. Mind you she was now sporting a burgundy streak of hair at the left temple. They told her that it was a good thing that who ever had treated her at the scene had saved her life.

Hermione sat staring the dark man lying amid the bland coloured blankets a riot of thoughts blazing through her mind. She had nearly lost him tonight. Her throat felt tight. Everyone had lost loved ones. Hermione also knew that Severus hadn't expected to make it through alive. She hadn't really expected to make it herself. But here they were, and she was so very tired. Laying her head on the bed next to Severus, Hermione drifted in and out of awareness. She woke every time the staff came to check on Severus but she didn't raise her head. It weighed to much.

Eventually Hermione felt a hand on her shoulder. Opening her eyes she saw the two faces she had been longing to see, Harry and Ron she had asked about them of course but hadn't gotten an answer. Smiling she sat up and held out her arms to them. She knew they had lived. She knew that she would have felt it if they had died especially after the spell she had placed on them both, but seeing them for herself was so much better.

~SSSSSSHHHHHHHHSSSSSSSS~

Night after night Hermione sat up late reading books in Severus' library, secretly of course. Then she found the very spell she had been looking for, it was complicated and she only had one shot to get it right. As she returned to the tower one night it was very late. Snape had sent her into the forest to gather some ingredients that he was low on for the next days lesson. Upon entering the common room Hermione saw her two best friends sleeping at the table using their homework for pillows. Silently she moved closer to them. Slipping her wand from the back pocket of her jeans Hermione started muttering the incantation. A bright pink light that was tinted red around the edges emitted from the end of her wand and started running over first Harry then Ron. She didn't know what to expect exactly but the pain in her own body was agony. Falling to her knees Hermione kept her wand steady on the still sleeping boys. Eventually the light flickered then disappeared altogether. It was done.

Ron woke first rubbing the sleep out of his eyes he looked over at Hermione kneeling on the stone floor and shoved Harry to wake him. Jumping out of their chairs they both reached her at the same moment. "Hermione!" Ron exclaimed. "Are you alright?"

"What have you been up to?" Harry asked with more intuition then she would have thought he possessed.

"Nothing," she lied smoothly, "I think I've been just working to hard for Snape lately. I likely just need more rest." Deep down she knew that they wouldn't like what she had done. It was a very old spell that she had used. It was a protection spell of sorts. She used some thing that had once protected Harry from the slimy snake kisser. Hermione visualize her love for first Harry then Ron as she cast each spell. She gave each of them a piece of herself to keep them safe. Almost as strong as the spell Harry's mother put on him with out knowing it. Hers however had the added benefit that if one of them should be in trouble she would be able to find them now. Feel it if they were hurt badly and needed her to get to them.

After helping Hermione to her room Ron bid them both good night and went off to bed. Harry stood in the doorway a moment then turned to Hermione who was taking off her shoes. "I can feel it you know. I know you did something to us. I want you to tell me."

Hermione just shook her head. "If I tell you and it doesn't work I'll never know if it was because I told you or not." Harry glared at her for a moment as she continued the very fascinating task of removing her shoes. Sighing Harry left the room in a huff.

~SSSSSSHHHHHHHHSSSSSSSS~

"So," Harry asked, "how is he? Any improvement?"

Hermione looked at the pale man still lying motionless on the bed. "No, not yet," she sighed. "He's still unconscious."

"We've all heard what he did you know." Harry said quietly. "One of the Aurors saw that he took the spell cast for you and put a protection spell around you. They're saying that if he should come out of this unscathed his past transgressions will be forgiven for saving one of

The 3. Harry said "The 3" like it had some special meaning.

"That's what their call us now you know." Pride was beaming in Ron's voice. Hermione smiled at her redheaded friend, though her thoughts were not much with the boys at present but with the man lying prone on the bed.

Harry took her hand and squeezed it. "He'll be all right you know."

"He's just been through so much," she whispered. "What if he doesn't come back? What if he's too tired of it all?" What if I loose him before he knows I love him? She thought to herself.

Harry smiled gently, "Seems to me that you've been in this same predicament once before." Quickly Hermione looked up and around to see if anyone had overheard the comment. "No one's around," he whispered.

"Yes," she whispered back, "this could . . . be considered similar. . . I suppose." She drawled reluctantly.

Harry nodded, "You were able to pull him through that time right?" Looking down at her hands Hermione just nodded her head. "Well you'll just have to do it again!" He said firmly.

Raising her eyes she said quietly, "But what if he doesn't want me to?"

Ron snorted, "Like I'm sure he really wanted you hanging about the last time! You put up with his snarls and glares last time, Hermie," Ron said affectionately. "It can't be so different this time can it?"

Hermione tried to put her thoughts into some as semblance of order for them but wasn't sure she was going to do that good of a job. Sighing she gave it her best shot. "I hurt him very badly you guys, and you know yourself that he's so not big on the forgiveness thing. He'd rather cut off his arm then let something go. He feels as though I betrayed him and, in a way, I guess I did, but all I ever wanted was to help him."

"I know that," Harry said. He knelt down next to Hermione so that they were at eye level as Ron left the room quietly. "He will too, you just need to give him time to see that for himself. If he hasn't already," Harry added with a lift of his brow.

Frowning Hermione asked, "What do you mean?"

"Wow," Harry teased, "you must be tired, you usually aren't this dense." Seeing Hermione's still confused face he explained. "Hermione, he took a curse, a killing curse meant for you. Do you honestly think he'd do that for just anybody? Me for example?" Harry smirked.

"Not bloody likely." Came Ron's snorted reply from the doorway.

"Exactly my point!" Harry exclaimed. "He would never put himself out there for just anyone. Only you."

Hermione gave a sad smile. "Maybe your right, but maybe he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time." Harry sighed. "Look Harry I don't want to get my hopes up. It'll just hurt more if your wrong." Nodding Harry let it go.

Rod called in from the door, "Harry, come on lets go. Mom wants us at the burrow in twenty or she'll come looking for us. I'll make an excuse for you Hermione. I'll tell her that your helping out Dumbledore."

Hermione smiled, "Thanks Ron. I don't want to have to explain anything yet. Especially since I don't know what is going on myself. I just need some time." Both of the boys nodded. Harry squeezed her shoulder as they left via the fireplace in the sitting room.

She returned to the bedroom after watching the boys leave and stood there looking at the silent man who had been in her thoughts every day. Watching him lay there so silently made her ache deeply. She wanted to reach out to touch him then she thought about what Harry and Ron had said. What if they were right? What if Severus needed a firmer hand? Or maybe just a more stubborn one? More stubborn then he was himself. She had never let anyone or thing stand in her way before, so why was this any different? Squaring her shoulders Hermione went closer to the bed and sat on the edge closest to his head. Reaching out Hermione smoothed away some of the hair that had fallen across his forehead.

"This is a new day Severus. A new time is dawning for us both. The bastard is dead and we have both survived," she whispered. "The question is what will we do with the time we've been given? I want you and I think you want me to. So I've decided that I'm going to be happy." She sniffed slightly as sudden tears tried to fill her eyes. "I want us both to be happy." She leaned down to whisper in his ear. "I want to make you happy Severus." She kissed his ear softly. "Come back to me."

~SSSSSSHHHHHHHHSSSSSSSS~

It was dark. The dark was everywhere thick and cold he was about to shy away from it but he saw some of the dark blackness turning grey so he went towards it. Severus could hear people talking but couldn't make out what they were saying. The noise was hurting his head and he was about to turn back to the blackness. He some how knew that if he did that there would be no getting back to the greyness, to the voices. This would be the end. Just as he was about to leave he heard the most lovely sound in the world. Hermione's voice. She was speaking softly to him and it didn't hurt him to hear her as it sometimes did. In fact his heart did a little skip knowing that she was with him. That she was well. That he had saved her. He had finally done something he thought was worth while. He couldn't make out what she was saying so he moved closer to the sound then he finally heard her final words. "Come back to me." So he did.

Hermione was just sitting back and looked at Severus' eyes when he did the unexpected. He opened them. He was looking around wildly as Hermione put a restraining hand to his shoulder. "It's okay, Severus. Your in your rooms at Hogworts. The fighting is over now calm down." As she spoke she took a good look at his eyes. There was some sort of film covering them.

Severus was frantic he couldn't see his vision was blurry. "Hermione?" He rasped.

Hermione was surprised that he knew it was her but then he was supposed to be the best. "Severus! Oh my God's, Severus you're awake. You took a killing curse , by rights you shouldn't even be alive. I'll summon Madame Pomfrey now that you're awake so that she can get the doctor that's in the castle and they can examine you." Hermione rose from the bed and returned to the sitting room. Her hands were shaking when she grasped the powder from the mantle and threw it into the flames. She called out her destination and waited impatiently for the fire to turn green. How Hermione hated sticking her face into the fire. So many years of her mother telling her 'No, no fire hot, burn' and now here she was seeing through fire. She wondered if she'd ever get over the stigma. Suddenly Madame Pomfrey's assistant was staring back at her.

"Yes, Miss Granger? Can I help you?"

"Willow, please tell Madame Pomfrey that Sev. . . er. . . um . . . I mean Professor Snape has woken and perhaps she and the doctor should come quickly."

Willow nodded and said, "Right away, Miss."

Hermione drew away from the flames as the assistant went to fetch the medi witch and went back into the bedroom. His eyes were closed again and Hermione wondered if he were asleep or passed out. As she stood in the door way Severus turned his head her way and tried to speak but his voice was ragged and gruff. Hermione went to the dresser next to the bed and got the glass of water that she had put there earlier. She picked up the straw laying next to it and brought it near Severus' mouth. "Open your mouth Severus. I have some warm water with a little honey in it for you. It will help ease your voice." The black eyes stared directly into her eyes, as though he could see her clearly. She brought the straw to his lips and he let her help him sip the concoction.

"No." Severus said though his voice was still rough.

"It's okay, Severus. It's not going to hurt you."

Severus turned his scowl from Hermione to the doc who had just walked into the room and back to her again. He was confused, he couldn't see, and there were even more people in his rooms. He didn't like it and really couldn't understand the droning of the other voice that wasn't Hermione's anyway. "Please Severus," she whispered, "I'm worried about you. Do this for me?"

Severus closed his mouth and lay back against the pillows, though why he was doing it he couldn't say. As he did this, the other grey misty figure that he assumed was the doctor she mentioned, continued spouting his chatter. He wasn't really listening anyway, he just kept staring at Hermione.

Sensing that Severus wasn't listening to the doctor, Hermione tried to pay attention, thought it was hard with the full weight of that frosted gaze focussed solely on her.

"He might have some nerve damage." The doctor said, "though it's hard to tell since I can't get him to do what I need him to. He does seem to follow you with his eyes though, young lady. Has he said much? Are all of his faculties still there?"

"I don't know yet he hasn't really said anything," she replied.

"Well," the man in the grey robes huffed, "I'll stop by tomorrow and check on him. Give him half of this now," he handed Hermione a small pure white bottle, "and only two drops of this," he handed her an even smaller bright emerald green bottle. "Give one dose now and the other after he has breakfast." Hermione nodded. "Well I'm off. I have other rounds to do before I can seek the comfort of my own bed this night." As he was leaving he pulled at Hermione's elbow, "Walk me out Miss?"

As Hermione looked puzzled she followed the elder man out of the bedroom. She could hear Madame Pomfrey fussing over Severus behind her.

"I was going to do this myself but I have seen his type of behaviour before, and there is no way he would let me touch him with out him going off, or me having to put a body binding curse on him."

Hermione gasped. "No," Hermione said quietly, "he most certainly wouldn't want that. I'll do it."

The older man patted her hand, "I thought as much." Giving her a third black bottle, he imparted a warning to her. "I think you should know, I don't know if he will regain his sight or if his mind will still be strong. Surviving this curse is extremely rare. As you well know there is only one other person who has survived."

Hermione nodded. "Harry."

"Exactly. But lets not fly into the fire just yet. With rest and time, all things may heal." With that the grey robed man turned and called to Madame Pomfrey, telling her he was leaving. Soon after, she also left.

Hermione was quick to give Severus the oral medication the doctor had given her the sighed as she realized she was stalling, rather than giving him the other eye drops. She was afraid of what he would do. She decided the best course of action would be to talk to him and tell him everything she was doing and hope that he didn't go off the deep end.

"Sev? I have some medication for you. The doctor gave it to me but it needs to go into your eyes." Hermione waited for some sign that he was listening to her. His face turned to the sound of her voice but his gaze was unfocused. She watched as he closed his eyes and seemed to calm just with sound of her voice. There was no way she could just hold him down and put the drops into his eyes. Not with him the way he was. Hermione gave a sigh that seemed to be pulled from her soul. The first tear started to track down her face. Then a second followed. She sniffed and that made Severus frown. He sniffed the air, then turned his head toward her as if he could look directly into her eyes. He reached out his hand and touched the wetness on her face.

All he could hear was mumbled words that didn't have any meaning for him and frankly the buzzing was beginning to give him a headache. Then suddenly he heard a sound one he thought he recognized. Some one had sniffed and for some reason he followed the action sniffing the air. Rain he thought I smell rain. But no it was too salty to be rain. At least he could still rely on his nose. Wait a moment tears? Why would I smell tears? It was all very confusing. He reached out to find the source of the smell and came in contact with the softest thing he'd ever felt. It was warm but there was moisture there. He brought the wetness to his lips. Yes they were tears. But who's were they? Opening his useless eyes he could only see a bright blur. Just as he was about to close them again he felt cold stinging drops like rain in one eye, then the other. He kept batting at whatever was doing this to him but he had no strength to do any real damage. So he gave his most fierce scowl. He heard a noise then the straw was brought to his lips he drank his fill of the cool water. It was spiked. He wasn't sure what with but at this point what did it matter? Maybe this would kill him. If Hermione hadn't survived then he didn't want to either. If only he'd told her he had forgiven her. That she had helped. That the termors were gone. That the only nightmares he had now were of losing her. Squeezing his eyes shut against the hot feeling that had suddenly put pressure there he felt his own tears slide down his face. He was so weak he thought.

Hermione was still talking to Severus, telling him what she was doing. When she finally realized that she was crying, Severus was already reaching out his hand. Hermione went completely still his hand kept on going until he reached her face. Hermione leaned forward to meet him. Upon contact Severus quickly located the salty tears then he did the oddest thing. He brought them to his mouth. It was as though he was trying to confirm what he already suspected.

Since his eyes were already open Hermione moved quickly saying "I'm sorry Severus but you need this medication." She put the drops into one eye then the other as soon as the drops were in Severus closed his eyes. After a few moments of watching his face to see if there was any reaction Hermione reached over for the other bottles on the night table and put the doses into his water. There was only a little left and should not affect the dose. As Hermione brought the straw to his mouth, Severus automatically opened up and started to suck. After the last of the water was gone she watched as emotions chased across his face. Finally he squeezed his eyes shut and his own tears came from his eyes only to roll down into his night black hair.

"Oh, Severus, please don't cry. I'm right here. You're not alone." She was making hushing noises as she very slowly touched his face wiping away the tears and smoothing his hair from his forehead. Finally the drugs over took him sending him into a healing sleep. But before he let go, she heard him whisper her name. She wondered if he finally knew she was there. For the first time in a while she let herself have some hope.

~SSSSSSHHHHHHHHSSSSSSSS~

Three days went by. Three days of him calling her name and her answering him but he never acknowledged her. On the third night, Severus called once again. Hermione was sitting next to the bed reading a book. She reached over as he stirred and took his hand in hers. "I'm here, Severus. Your safe I won't let any one hurt you." It was the same thing she had been saying day in and day out for three days. As she gave his hand a firm squeeze, for the first time she felt him squeeze back.

"Hermione, you really are here. I'm not just dreaming." Severus said this with much disbelief in his voice.

Hermione laughed and brought his hand to her lips. He heard her laugh and it was a truly happy sound. Thought his eyes were not perfect he could see enough to know who she was and it was enough for him. There was so much he wanted to tell her. So much that he wanted to ask her. But all that came out was, "Why did you stay with me?"

Hermione laughed and sniffed she was crying again. Oh yes he was in there alright. As she brought his hand to her cheek she spoke softly. "You needed me. Where else would I be? I will always be here for you, Severus."

Slowly, very slowly, Severus brought their clasped hands to his mouth and lay a gentle kiss on the back of her hand, then he lay her hand over his black, stained and damaged heart. It was then he could feel it as he had once before. He felt the tiny little strings tug at his heart the ones that had snapped slowly one by one each time he was mean or cruel to her. He could feel them now each one slowly pull itself together tighten and become stronger. This is what it meant to be in love. That you were stronger with the person than without them. This is what he had been looking for all his life. She was whom he had been looking for. But as he was taking this all in and coming to this realization, Hermione was still speaking.

Hermione got up and sat next to him on the bed. She placed a kiss on his forehead. "Thank you for saving my life."

"It was Lucius," he croaked. Helping to sit him up in bed Hermione brought the plain water to his mouth and helped him drink. "Lucius tried to kill you. I changed his spell at the last moment and absorbed some of the magic into myself." At Hermione's gasp of horror, Severus help up a staying hand. "It was not intentional I assure you. I tried to turn the spell back on Lucius but I wasn't quick enough. In the end I don't know what ended up happening to him." Looking at Hermione with a fuzzy gaze he tried to read her.

Taking a breath Hermione told him what she knew. "Lucius is in the mental hospital. I'm not exactly sure what you did to him at the end, but it drove him mad." Hermione saw the brief flicker of an evil grin grace Severus' features but it was so quick that she wasn't quite sure she saw what she had. "Severus," Hermione said slowly, "what did you do to him? Or don't I want to know?"

"I have no idea what you are talking about Hermione this is the first I've heard of this." It was true as far as the statement went. It really was the first he had heard whether or not the spell he had cast on Lucius had worked. Slowly he let the thoughts go. Lucius was gone Hermione was safe and they were both alive. He had been gazing at their joined hands for a few moments and Hermione fell silent. They both just sat there looking at the entwined fingers. His long and graceful but work worn. Hermione's fingers were still graceful though not quite as long as his own. His thumb had taken to rubbing back and forth across her wrist. Back and forth over and over. A soft gentle rhythm.

Tired, Hermione was so tired. Severus pulled her toward him, and her wary eyes met his steady one. "Severus, what are you about?" She started to pull away but he held her firmly. So she could do nothing but either pull harder or stay put. She had no doubt that he couldn't hold her at least not for very long in his condition. But she stayed where she was, no longer pulling away but not getting any closer either.

Severus sighed, he had taught her to be wary of him. He was sorry for that now. Sorrier that he knew how to say. But he was going to try because she was worth it. "I'm sorry I lashed out at you Hermione. I was hurt and scared and I attacked the only person who has ever really cared for me enough to try to help me." He took a deep shuddering breath and closed his eyes. What if she didn't believe him? What if he couldn't convince her that he wanted her in his life? Then he would end up alone just as his father said he would. He would be proving him right. Opening his eyes he looked through his lashes to the girl sitting next to him on the bed. He couldn't make out his features they were too fuzzy. Damn his eyes! He looked down trying to think of what else to say.

Hermione sat there gaping at him. He was sorry after everything she had done to him? He was apologizing? Hermione covered her mouth with her hand. "Oh Gods, Severus. You have nothing to apologize for. I'm the one. I'm the one who put you through everything."

They both started talking at once, both relieved that the other didn't hate them. They talked long into the night and Hermione eventually ended up laying next to him on the bed sharing his pillow. Softly kissing one another.

"I knew this would happen you know." She said softly slightly slurring her words as sleep crept in to take her over.

"What did you know?" Severus asked with a slight smile as he lazily kissed the tip of her nose.

Taking a deep satisfying breath, Hermione snuggled closer to her man, "That we would end up together. Because I'm never letting you go again, Severus Snape." A little frown appeared between her brows. "It was too hard to be with out you. I felt like part of myself was missing." Severus knew exactly what she meant as he had felt the same way himself.

Smiling, Severus said, "Good, then you won't mind moving in and marrying me."

A little smile grace her kissable lips as she murmured, "Alright." Then she was asleep.

Severus lay there for a while looking upon the face of his beloved. Of course he'd ask her again in the morning but after he sleepy reply he didn't think she'd say no. He grinned to himself as he pulled her closer to him and finally let himself find the healing sleep they both so desperately needed.

The end