Disclaimer and AN:

The focus of my Harry Potter fan fiction is a romantic relationship between Severus Snape and Hermione Granger.

Please note that the age of consent where they live is sixteen (16).

However, in my stories the younger (Hermione Granger) of the two, is over the age of eighteen (18) BEFORE any romantic relationship develops.

Remember, not only is she a birth year older then her classmates; but, she gained years and expirience with her use of a Time-Turner, as well.

I would like to speak briefly about this particular fan fictional relationship. (I am only speaking about my fan fiction and it's characters.) In my fan fiction neither Severus Snape nor Hermione Granger hold a destructively dominant role in their relationship. In my stories, (I am only speaking about my fan fiction and it's characters) Severus Snape and Hermione Granger are completely equal in their relationship. They are emotional and intellectual equals; and, they are equal in power, as well. No one abuses a position of authority to coerce the other party in the relationship.

There is no harm being done to either party in their relationship, on any level including; psychological, emotional, and physical.

(Nor is their relationship harming anyone else.)

Far fetched?
However, that is why they call it fan fiction.

With that said, if you are still interested, please read my stories!

I would to thank Nakhash, for her initial beta reading of the first five chapters.

I am rewriting this story to make it Deatlhy Hallows compliant. Most of the major plot points won't change, too dramatically. If anyone wishes to compare them, the original 9 chapters will be kept at my website. Just follow the link on my author's page.

This story is on hiatus; however, it will be completed.

Chapter One: Old Vows

Two large tartan-draped windows dominated the small room, revealing the rain and wind as it lashed at the glass. The windows framed an elegant fireplace that staved off the bitter cold. The wind and weather were harsh, even for Scotland in early March. However, the small room was snug and inviting, softly candle-lit and warmed as it was by the merrily crackling fire. Two chairs, pristinely covered in tartan and grouped around an ornately carved table, were situated before the fire. The chairs were empty as the occupants of the room sat across from each other at a large co-ordinating desk, facing the gleaming wood door.

Minerva McGonagall, Headmistress of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, was well known for her serious disposition. Straight-laced, rigid and severe in her attitude, formally proper and stiff in her bearing, she was not given to excessive displays of emotion. It was an extreme occasion, indeed, when Minerva McGonagall would laugh or shed a tear. However, as she sat and regarded her guest, she had to repress the urge to gather him into her arms and comfort him as a mother would a lost or wounded child. As she studied him, his deep voice broke into her silent contemplation.

'Why am I here?' was the curt greeting she received from her irascible guest.

Minerva McGonagall lifted her eyes to his face and responded tartly. 'I had been teaching for just over four years when little Eileen Prince gave birth to you, Severus Snape, so don't you take that tone with me, young man. You would do well to remember our positions!'

The corner of Snape's mouth twitched as he registered McGonagall's obvious attempt to exert her authority based on her age. Certainly she was much older than he, and older than his parents, as well, but she was far from ancient. In a world where their kind lived easily into their mid-hundreds, Minerva McGonagall was a woman just barely heading into her middle-years.

'Resorting to trickery, Minerva?' Severus asked in a voice of cold disdain. 'How crass.'

'Really, Severus,' she said, 'I have been looking for you for months, ever since you were released from St Mungo's. When I couldn't find you by conventional means, I had different charmed objects placed everywhere I thought you might travel. It was inevitable that you touch one eventually. They were all keyed to you specifically. The charm on the objects called to you. When you finally came across one, you would find it very difficult to resist picking it up, and then ... as you've discovered, you were transported here. For anyone else, the objects would have been nothing more than what they seemed. A specialist developed the charm just to find you. You should be flattered.' She paused to allow her statement to sink in. 'And I, as you so kindly phrased it, "resorted to trickery" because I need your help.'

He had been incensed when, after picking up a phial he'd found at the side of the road, he was whisked to Minerva McGonagall's house. He had avoided everyone he knew, and all people in general, for months, only to be trapped by a charmed phial.

He raised a disbelieving eyebrow, and then proceeded to nonchalantly smooth the sleeve of his black frock coat, giving the impression that he had no intention of deigning to comment on such a ridiculous statement.

'Yes, Severus, I need your help,' she repeated as she got a good look at his appearance. It was no wonder she had wanted to comfort him. To say recent times had been hard for him would be quite an understatement. She surmised that events had been considerably worse for him than even his role as a double agent for all those years had been. His clothes were well cared for, as always, yet they had the look of having seen better days. They hung loosely on his evem thinner frame, doing nothing for his skin: skin that had the distinct pallor of one who was undernourished and, thereby, not in the best of health. His physical scars were not visible, but she knew they were there, hidden beneath his layers of clothing, much as she suspected that he hid himself beneath layers of the personality that she supposed he had fashioned as a self-defence mechanism. She had seen him while he laid unconscious and a prisoner in St Mungo's, before he was officially cleared of all guilt in Albus Dumbledore's murder. He had almost died alone and hated by all who knew his name, and many who didn't, many who simply thought of him as an unnamed Death Eater and murderer. She keenly felt her own guilt at not trusting him, at taking events, and Harry Potter's original accounting of Albus's murder, at face value, damning, in her own mind, an innocent man. She wondered how she had succumbed so easily to circumstantial evidence, how she could have doubted Severus Snape when her dearest friend, Albus Dumbledore, had trusted him so completely. She was thoroughly disgusted with herself and at somewhat of a loss as to how to proceed, now that he was finally seated before her.

Snape saw her struggle, and spoke. 'You could not have known, Minerva. No one knew, that was the point, after all,' he snapped. His next words were said so softly that Minerva had to strain to hear them. 'Albus did not want you to know. He would not put you in that danger.'

Minerva scoffed. 'Albus did not coddle anyone.'

Surprised by her candour, Snape replied smoothly. 'Perhaps not. However, it would have jeopardised everything if anyone had known of my true loyalty to Albus ... and the Order.'

'No one knew, but someone suspected that you were not guilty, as I should have.'

It was Snape's turn to scoff. 'Suspected, indeed! Who would this omniscient person be, Minerva?'

'Think, Severus,' she said. 'I was told you gained consciousness, more than once. Try to remember.'

Severus did: he remembered the death and desecration, the carnage and the pain. He thought back to the needless waste of lives and the destruction of Hogwarts: the place that Tom Riddle had longed to reign from; and the place he was, in the end, unable to take. He remembered the cold dread that filled him when he realised that the Dark Lord meant to kill him. He remembered impotently lifting his wand, and the brief thought that he had been given respite when no spell hit him. This thought was followed immediately by the horror of realisation, upon seeing Nagini's cage coming at him. He remembered the blinding pain, and the terror that he felt when the snake's fangs sank into the delicate flesh of his throat. He remembered vainly trying to wandlessly heal the wound in his neck; to staunch the gushing of his blood onto the filthy floor. He remembered realising, as his warm blood poured over his hands, that the beazor he had swallowed while making his way to the Dark Lord's side wouldn't be enough to save him, not with his carotid arteries torn open. It was a new habit of his, beazor swallowing. One that he had cultivated since he witnessed Hogwart's Muggle Studies teacher die by Nagini. He knew the beazor would protect him from Nagini's venom; but, it couldn't replenish his blood. With a terrifying clarity, he recalled becoming overwhelmed by the coppery smell of his own blood during his frantic attempts to stop his bleeding. His mind had been racing then, trying to find any way to save himself; so that he could continue to be of use to the Order, and posthumously, Albus Dumbledore. He didn't want Albus's sacrifice to have been in vain. He ceased his desperate attempts when he saw Harry Potter. Instead of continuing to fight for his life, a fight he knew he would lose, he shook off the cold dread of his impending death; and became consumed with the need to give Potter memories that might motivate him, and aid in the fight against the Dark Lord. He recalled grabbing Potter and wandlessly initiating the magic needed to expel memories. He relived the relief he felt upon seeing that his memories had been recognised for what they were. He thought back to how utterly drained he felt after utilising that last bit of magic. He was so drained in fact, that he couldn't physically give Potter any more memories. He knew he would have to initialise Legillimency to let Potter see the rest of what he needed to show him, to ensure the Dark Lord's defeat. He remembered that his hands had become too weak to maintain their firm hold on Potter's robes. With embarrassment, he realised how weak his voice had sounded when he gave what he thought would be his last command. He remembered thinking how ironic it was that his last words would be asking Harry Potter to look at him. He remembered looking into Potter's bright green eyes, and thinking the spell to begin the Legillimency. After that, all he remembered was thinking that it hurt when his hand hit the floor, and wondering why his hand had hit the floor with such a loud thud. He knew he hadn't intended that to happen. Then he knew no more until he awoke in St Mungo's ... until now. Now, he remembered bits and pieces of the time in between. He remembered feeling gentle hands on his neck, and he heard a song of healing. He recalled the foul taste of the Blood-Replenishing Potion, and he remembered hearing soft words of comfort. Words whispered in a disturbingly familiar female voice. He hadn't remembered these things before; it had all been too muddied after his first loss of consciousness. Now that he remembered, he looked Minerva in the eye and whispered one word: 'Granger.'

'Yes, Severus, Hermione Granger,' Minerva concurred.

'Not omniscient at all, then, merely a know-it-all,' he said derisively.

Minerva ignored his snide comment and continued. 'I thought you should know that she suspected your innocence all along, as she is integral in the favour I am about to ask of you.'

'I'm sorry, Minerva,' he said abruptly, rising to leave, 'I cannot help you.'

'I realise how difficult this has all been for you, Severus,' her voice cracked with unexpressed emotion, 'but, I really need your help. I -'

'Nothing,' he spat venomously, 'has been difficult. I -'

It was Minerva's turn to cut across him. 'Sit back down, Severus Snape,' she ordered loudly, 'and hear me out.'

Severus Snape sank back into the seat he had so recently vacated. The look he gave Minerva would have frozen a charging Hippogriff. It had absolutely no effect on the Headmistress.

'As I was saying,' she continued briskly, 'you've had a hard time, and I'll hear no argument to the contrary. Your life was constantly in danger for years while you fought to protect us all from You Know Who, and we were, most of us... difficult through it all. Then, being forced to hold a wand on your ..." here Minerva trailed off and, withdrawing a pristine-white lace-edged handkerchief, she blew her nose before continuing, her burr intensifying with her feelings, "... and then being considered by everyone as Albus's murderer; well, that must have torn you apart.' She looked at him with a fire in her eyes. 'Yet you went back to You Know Who again. You put your life on the line constantly to save us, and we, your friends and colleagues, paid you back with contempt and...' Minerva blew her nose again. 'I'm sorry to go on like this, Severus,' she said, 'it's just so much, and you claim you've had no difficulties. But, I saw you when you lay wounded, and quite likely dying, with Aurors queueing up to arrest you. Then, you were held prisoner in the hospital, until Harry could present his evidence to the Wizengamot, along with Albus's Pensieve, and all the other proof of your innocence that Albus left behind. Still, today, you are spoken of with scorn and mistrust.' She paused and looked at him with her mouth set in a stern line, then she asked solemnly, 'Can you even get work, Severus?'

'It is no business -"

'It is my business!' Minerva contended vehemently. 'I didn't trust you when I should have. Even so,' she continued, the brisk tone coming back in her voice, 'he would have wanted me to...' She stopped and gathered herself. 'Severus, I must ask, for myself even more than because Albus wanted it. It's selfish, I know, to ask more of you, so I am trying to justify it. If you admit that you can't get a job ... well then, perhaps I'm not asking so much? Nevertheless, I shall take responsibility for my request. I know this is no recompense for the wrongs we have all done you.' She straightened her square spectacles and looked Severus Snape directly in the eye. 'I am offering you a choice of positions at Hogwarts when it reopens. You may be Professor of Defence Against The Dark Arts,' she smiled, 'you were the best Hogwarts ever saw, or you may take back the dungeons and ply your impressive skills as a master of Potions. You may have whichever you prefer, as well as the deputy headship.'

'No, Minerva,' he responded quietly, 'I will not.'

'Yes, you will,' she declared as she stood behind her desk. 'You will not be expected to help with the rebuilding; however, when Hogwarts is completed, I'd appreciate your help in its re-warding. All you need to do is turn up a week before Hogwarts opens its doors on first September, in eighteen months' time. Please, Severus, for me?' She picked up an envelope and extended it to him. 'From him,' she said, nodding at the envelope. 'It appeared after you were released from St Mungo's.'

Severus Snape shook his head, refusing to accept the suspicious envelope.

'You may as well take it,' Minerva said. 'A similar one appeared for me about the same time as this one. The minute I laid eyes on it, I was trapped.'

Severus still did not take the envelope.

'I can tell you from experience, that this envelope will follow you relentlessly until you do open it.'

Severus reached out a slightly trembling hand and took the envelope that bore his name. Minerva sat back down as he examined it. It was addressed to him in an eerily familiar handwriting, and was closed with Albus Dumbledore's personal seal. He stared at it for a moment, taking in the enormity of a posthumous communication. When he broke the seal and began to read, his face was an unfathomable mask; he seemed to cease breathing. All that could be heard was the crackling of the fire.

When he looked up again, it was Minerva who spoke. 'I don't know everything Albus said to you, nor do I know all that he may have asked of you in your letter. However, he did tell me, in my letter, the parts that pertain to Hogwarts and me. I expect you back here in eighteen months' time,' she said tartly. 'From here we shall proceed to Hogwarts -'

Snape began to protest, but the Headmistress cut him off with a sharp look.

'Where,' she continued in her stern tone, 'you will accept your choice of teaching posts. You will also accept the position of Deputy Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. You will execute your duties in those positions for at least seven years, as Albus requested. As he pointed out to me, that will be plenty of time to reestablish your reputation in our community. It was Albus's last wish, and you will honour it.' She sat and opened a drawer in her ornate desk, withdrawing a small key. 'There is a vault in your name at Gringotts. Funds have been deposited for your use until the school opens. It's not much, it's not your full salary. But, the deed to your house in Spinner's End is finally back in your name, housed safely in the same vault. There is also a blank Gringott's draft keyed to Albus's estate's vault and made out on your behalf in the new wandmaker's name. I will accompany you tomorrow, and you will have a new wand. I expect you to stay here tonight. I won't dishonour you by forcing you to stay, but, I do beg it of you. I would like to go to the wandmaker's with you, and there is someone you need to meet in regards to the second part of my request.'

'There's more?' he asked, his deep baritone sounding oddly strangled.

'Yes, there's more, I'll get to that in a minute. First, you need to know I have selected someone who needs training in either defense or potions. You see, we are dreadfully short on staff, and I am creating an associate staff to teach the younger students. I'm sure that you realise Hogwarts will be inundated with first-years because of the time it will take to rebuild. Each staff member will have an associate professor to work with them, one who will take their younger classes for them. Due to our losses, most of the associate professors will be seventh-years, themselves. However, your associate professor is a Muggle-born, someone who has suffered great personal loss, someone who needs to be encouraged to not forsake magic. You will need to be -'

Severus cut across her and asked incredulously, 'You wish me to be an encouraging private tutor?'

'Yes, well, these are unique circumstances,' she replied. 'I'm sure you are aware of the fact that even though He Who... Volde- ... Tom is gone and his army is disbanded, there are still some of his most loyal followers at large in our community. You must be aware that they are perpetuating desperate, heinous crimes for the sake of their lost cause. Crimes mostly committed against Muggle-borns or their families. Against the family of the person I have chosen to be your associate professor.'

'Indeed,' he answered, suspicion tainting his voice, 'and I suppose you would have me attempt to infiltrate these renegades and spy on them? It would never work; the fact that my name was cleared has been all over the Prophet and Witch Weekly... and every other wizarding publication,' he snarled in a tone full of disgust. 'I have been linked with the Order too publicly -'

Minerva cut him off again as her eyes widened in shock. 'Good heavens, no! Severus, I would never ask that of you. You may well oppose what I will ask of you; you may find it distasteful, but I assure you it is not life-threatening.'

'Well, that is something, I suppose.'

'Good,' she agreed heartily. She rose and approached the chairs before the fire; she sat in one and called a house-elf by name. With a pop, the free-elf Dobby appeared, bearing an immense tray laden with a thistle-themed tea service, as well as sandwiches and cakes. 'Come, Severus, please,' she said, indicating the other chair as the elf vanished, 'join me. I missed lunch and I must admit I'm starving.'

Severus looked as though he were headed to the gallows as he stood and made his way to the chair opposite Minerva. She poured tea for the both of them and loaded their plates with food.

She would eat until she burst, if she had to, in order to get some much-needed nourishment into Severus. As she began, she noticed that Severus was looking at his food warily.

'For goodness sake, it's not poison,' she said.

Severus raised an eyebrow at her and began to nibble tentatively at the corner of a sandwich while affecting a look of bored indifference.

Knowing he must be hungry, she wondered why he wasn't wolfing his food, and then realisation hit her. 'Good lord, child,' she said with concern, 'how long has it been since you've eaten properly?'

Severus scowled at her and opened his mouth to retort, but she cut him off.

'You wait right here,' she ordered. 'I will return in just a minute.' So saying, she bustled out of the room.

Severus dropped his aching forehead to his palm and wondered how he had been stupid enough to touch the charmed phial that brought him here. He had made vows to Albus over the years. Not Unbreakable Vows ... no, that would have been too easy; he could have reneged on an Unbreakable Vow and ended his sorry life. No, his vows to Albus were on his honour, and his honour was something that he would not compromise. He was stuck, and he knew it. His head felt so thick, and his neck ached so badly, that he couldn't think. In fact, the only thing he could think about was how much everything ached and how very tired he was, tired in more ways than one. Well, that was his answer. He had been too far gone; his well-developed senses had deserted him; and, unthinkingly, he had touched the blasted charmed phial, landing himself in yet another disastrous entanglement.

Minerva came back in, rousing him from his attempted reverie. 'Take these,' she said as she thrust three potion phials into his hand, treating him in much the same way she had when he was a first-year.

The Potions master recognised the contents of the phials immediately. He wanted to refuse them. To exclaim how insulted he was by Minerva's presumption. However, he knew there would be no sense in that. She knew, or she wouldn't have brought the potions, and he knew he needed them. He made a show of disdainfully inspecting their quality. He uncorked the first, knowing they needed to be taken in a specific order for them to have the best effect. He drank the Malnutrition-Reversal Potion in one quick swallow, his neutral face belying the repulsive feel of the potion slithering down his throat, and through his digestive tract. Next, he swallowed the Nutrimens Potion, followed by the Pepper-up.

Minerva was pleased that he hadn't argued or protested as she had expected. She watched him stare at the empty phials, lost in thought as steam came from his ears. He didn't notice her call Dobby, nor did he notice the elf returning with another tray.

Severus roused from his musings at the touch of Minerva's hand on his arm. He looked down his large nose in distaste at the infringing appendage, but his attention was taken by the glass she was offering him. His keen sense of smell noted fresh water with a hint of lemon. He took it from her and drank deeply.

'Now,' she said, 'let's get you to bed. We'll eat well in the morning, when you should be up to it.'

'I am sorry, but, no, Minerva, I cannot stay,' he said firmly. 'However, I do thank you.'

'You can stay,' she said, the stubborn line coming back to her mouth, 'and you will.' She relented, and her voice took a softer almost-pleading tone. 'Just tonight, Severus. 'We'll get you to your home tomorrow. 'Please, stay here tonight.' At his look, she added hastily, 'This is not charity, it's purely selfish on my part. I need you to agree to the second half of my request, which I will make to you after brunch tomorrow, before we head to Diagon Alley to get you a wand, and -'

'Minerva,' he interjected smoothly, his silky voice almost amused, 'your attempt at Slytherin persuasion is nullified if you voice your desires.'

'Well,' she smiled, 'I was head of Gryffindor, so I'll be blunt.' I need something from you, and I'm asking you to stay so I can be sure to have you where I want you, to make my request.'

'Why not simply ask me now and have done with it?'

'No, no. You need sleep and food, and then I'll ask. I don't want to give you an opportunity to say you agreed under duress.'

'What makes you think that I will agree?'

'The same reason you will accept the teaching and Deputy Headmaster positions.'



Minerva led Severus down a short hall lined with family portraits that watched curiously from their frames. She opened a highly polished wood door to reveal a sumptuous bedroom. 'Here we are. I had Dobby make it up for you.'

Severus raised an elegant eyebrow, but his disdain was somewhat diminished by the steam still trailing from his ears. 'Minerva led him into the room and opened a door to an en suite bath.

'If there's anything you need, Severus, anything at all, just call Dobby,' Minerva instructed.

'Thank you, Minerva,' he replied silkily.

'Don't be silly, Severus,' Minerva huffed, 'I'm just glad to have you back with us. Sleep well.'

'And you,' he said, softly closing the door behind her retreating back.

He surveyed his surroundings. The room was neither posh, nor was it spartan. Minerva's taste ran to the practically elegant. His eyes took in the turned-down bed: a real bed. He eyed it hungrily, and then looked down at himself. He turned on his heel and headed for the en suite, dropping his clothes as he went. He could not wait to avail himself of some soap and water. Cleansing Spells had become impossible for him these days; and, even under the best of circumstances, they could never match soap and water.

What he found was beyond anything he had had the pleasure of using in over a year. The bath was pristine and simple in design, but the elf, obviously not knowing what he would like, had left toiletries that were varied and plentiful. Severus filled the large bath with steaming water and poured a liberal amount of orange and clove oil into the water. He left it reluctantly to take a thorough shower, first. He had no desire to sit in his own filth. Not that he was filthy, by any means; he had availed himself regularly of facilities open to the populace in Muggle London. However, he certainly wasn't up to his usual standards; he wasn't even close. Despite the popular opinion of his former students, he was fastidious in his personal hygiene: something that would have been obvious to all but a dunderhead by his smell and the impeccable condition of his clothing. His hair, well, the Fates had cursed him there, and there was no hope for it. He lathered and scrubbed his body and hair repeatedly under the hot spray. When he was finally satisfied, he sank into the tub and picked up a potions journal from the stand next to it. He rarely indulged in baths, but having had to make do for so long, he gave in to temptation. He was soon finished with the journal; his eyes had drunk in every word as quickly as a thirsty man would down a pint. He had missed reading almost as much as he had missed eating something that wasn't picked out of a trash bin, and a real shower with hot water and soap. He set the periodical aside and picked up the old-fashioned shaving gear that had been laid out, once again thinking that for some things, foolish wand waving would never measure up. Clean-shaven, and with his hair neatly trimmed back to shoulder length, he wrapped himself in the fluffy heated towels and headed for the bed he had been transfixed by earlier.

As he made his way into the bedroom, he noticed that his clothes had disappeared. No doubt, the elf had taken them to clean. He made it to the bed in two quick strides. Across the pillow he found a soft forest-green nightshirt; shrugging into it, he dropped his towels in the open laundry hamper.

Severus sank onto the bed. He found that he could not sit there long; the call of the mattress was too strong. He lay down and pulled the soft sheets and duvet up over himself. He sank into the comfort and released a breath. He did not know what to think. He never allowed himself to hope. His magical energy had diminished to practically nothing, and he knew that was seriously unwell. He had expected to die alone in the not too distant future. He had never thought there was a possibility of living or, indeed, of living a life amongst others again. He hardly dared believe it now. Certainly Albus, damn his hide, had said in the letter that there was. Minerva seemed to agree. However, those two had never walked in the shoes of a supposed traitor. His brow furrowed as he realised that his boots, too, had disappeared with his clothes. He didn't know what to make of things. Albus, in his letter, had asked him to teach and assume the position of Deputy Headmaster for seven years, once Hogwarts re-opened. He could not refuse the request; Albus had surely known this when he wrote to him. Albus had also asked him to complete the request Minerva would have of him. What could the dratted connivers want of him now...? Looking to his right, he saw a phial of Sleeping Draught on the bedside table. He did not want to take it; he didn't want to miss a minute in this delightfully soft, warm bed. He sighed, he knew without it his mind would not rest this night, and he did want to be alert for whatever Minerva had up her sleeve.

'Here he is, Poppy,' Minerva said urgently.

Poppy Pomfrey was led into Minerva McGonagall's guest room at four in the morning. She walked briskly to the bed where her patient lay. Hogwarts' seasoned Matron gasped and covered her mouth in shock. The wizard laying beneath the covers bore little resemblance to the strong, healthy wizard she knew. A wizard who could take simultaneous Cruciatus and Sectumsempra spells; and, directly afterward, seem as though he'd merely been bitten by a mosquito. She had known Severus Snape for years. She had taken care of his ills and injuries since he was eleven. She had healed him after Voldemort had punished him, time and again, and she knew what it would take to bring him to such a state. She was appalled and outraged, but at the same time, she was professional enough not to let it distract her. She quickly recovered from her initial shock and got straight to business. 'He's still under the draught,' she noted aloud.

'I didn't think he would agree to be treated if he was awake,' Minerva responded.

'Probably not,' Poppy agreed, 'he has always been such a difficult patient. He doesn't take well to anyone helping him or caring for him,' Poppy commented as she got to work, pulling the bedclothes down to reveal Severus's emaciated form. 'What have you done to yourself?' she clucked as she took out her wand and cast some diagnostic spells. After a few minutes, she spoke to Minerva. 'It's no wonder he's in such bad shape. It's clear that he wasn't properly healed before he was released from St Mungo's.'

'Thrown out, you mean,' Minerva corrected.

"Despite the beazor that was found in his stomach, there are residual effects from that vile snake's bite that are sapping his magic,' Poppy diagnosed. 'With the constant draining of his magic, he couldn't have managed to take care of himself no matter how hard he tried.' She huffed. 'He wouldn't be able to conjure a glass of water. The inability to care for himself magically has caused him to weaken physically, as well. His immune system is compromised by malnutrition, his body has not had the care it needed to heal from his wounds and blood loss. He has extensive internal damage, however, that seems more recent.' She shook her head. 'I don't know how he's survived, and I'm not sure he would have for much longer in this condition. I'm going to need to do some work here to fix him up.'

'Will he be -' Minerva began to question.

'Oh, yes, he'll be right as rain eventually. There's nothing here that I can't handle.' Poppy began pulling potions out of her bag as she spoke. 'You'll see, in the end, he'll be as good as new.'

'Perhaps I should leave you to it, then?' Minerva asked.

'Oh my, yes. Do.' Poppy smiled. 'I shudder to imagine his reaction if he knew his treatment had been done before an audience. Go and get a cuppa and I'll be out as soon as I'm done.' She began casting an aseptic shield before Minerva was through the door.

Several hours passed as Madam Pomfrey cast healing spells, administered healing potions, and intoned healing chants over Severus's sleeping form.

As the clock struck nine, Severus Snape began to awaken. He could hear Madam Pomfrey healing him, and he could smell the pungent potions she had been using. He lay in confusion for a minute, and then he smiled. He knew that if the Matron was fussing over him, he had to be in the hospital wing at Hogwarts, and if he was at Hogwarts, then Albus was alive. He had not been forced to kill Albus. It had all been a nightmare. He slowly opened his eyes. He saw Poppy bent over his leg, her wand pointed at an open and infected wound on his shin. His eyes travelled to the bedding across his midsection, and he wondered why Poppy had him covered with a patterned blanket, rather than the usual white. He looked around to see what else was incongruous. It took a few seconds, but upon seeing the rest of the room, his memory flooded back to him. He was not in the hospital wing. He had killed his beloved mentor, and he had nearly been killed by the Dark Lord's snake. He closed his eyes tightly, willing himself another moment of believing that it had all been a nightmare, another moment of believing that Albus would walk through the doors to the hospital wing and pester him with concerned comments. He sighed roughly as he realised that his mind was too cruel, and he could not re-enter that blessed fantasy. Instead, anger began to seep into his mind with the realisation that if he was indeed not hospitalised, then he had been taken advantage of in his potion-induced sleep. This he would not tolerate.

'RELEASE ME!' Severus Snape bellowed as he tried to rise.

'Be still and behave yourself,' Poppy snapped. She had put him under a medical binding spell as soon as she realised that the Sleeping Draught was beginning to lose effect. He was immobilised from the neck down, and was not happy about it.

As he realised she was making no move to release him, he became livid. 'LET ME GO, YOU STUPID WOMAN,' he shouted, his eyes glittering madly.

'And let you leave without being healed? I should think not. You will lay there and behave yourself while I tend to you.'

'You cannot simply force your treatment on me! I demand that you counter the bind this minute, gather your medicaments, and be gone!'

Madam Pomfrey ignored him.

'LEAVE OFF ME, YOU HAG! I will not be molested in my sleep! Have you no common decency? I did not ask for, nor will I accept your -'

'Enough!' the Matron barked. 'One more foul word or complaint, and I will silence you, as well.'

Severus did not doubt her word; she had silenced him before during treatment. He would never let her know, but he really did appreciate her tenacity. He sniffed haughtily and turned his head away from her.

Madam Pomfrey smiled. She knew how Severus Snape hated to admit that he needed her help. She wasn't smiling because she had won their verbal bout - no, she always won in the end, even with the most difficult patients, and Severus Snape qualified, of that there was no doubt - it was that she never failed to be amused by his methods of capitulation. This time he turned away, pretending, as a small child would, that if he didn't see her she wasn't there. Yet, for all his childish behaviour, he managed to maintain a haughty dignity. It was quite comical for those he couldn't intimidate. It was true that the group was small, now that Albus and He Who Must Not Be Named were gone; she and Minerva were the only two she knew of that didn't quake with fear at a mere sharp glance from the powerful Severus Snape.

A few hours later saw Severus Snape striding into Minerva McGonagall's sitting room.

'Severus,' said Minerva, as she swallowed her amusement, 'feeling better?'

'You cannot fool me, Minerva,' Severus sneered, 'the two of you were singing gossip like Fwoopers while I dressed, I am certain of it.'

'Poppy did say that she expects you to make a full recovery, and that you are mostly healed now.' Minerva smiled.

'What else did she say?'

'That she bound your magic for ten weeks so that you can regain your full strength. I'm sorry, Severus. But, it's really not that long, and you'll be as good as new when it's over. Poppy said it's the only way. She said you need to build back up to full strength before you expend magical energy, and it's the only way to regain everything that you lost.'

'I suppose you had a good laugh, did you? Severus Snape, former Death Eater, living like a Muggle. I am sure you both thought it quite a joke,' he spat.

'You thought wrong, Severus,' Minerva said curtly. 'I ... we ... care about you.'

He ignored her comment and went on. 'As there is no need to accompany a ... Muggle,' the word was emphasised with distaste, 'to a wandmaker, I shall thank you and take my leave, Minerva.'

'Severus, please wait. You know I have a request to make of you. I have brunch waiting in my study and -'

She was cut off by Dobby popping in. 'I is sorry, but your guest is being at the front door, Madam Headmistress, Ma'am.'

'Very good,' Minerva said, 'I'll receive them in my study, Dobby. Please show them in.' She rose and turned to Severus. 'Severus, I need you to stay and hear me out. Calmly. Your associate professor is here and I don't want you frightening-'

'I, Minerva, frightening?' he interrupted silkily as he followed her from the room, his curiosity temporarily taking precedence over his indignance.