Author's Notes: This story was written in response to the SSHGexchange on Live Journal. The prompt was: Set several years after Hermione has left school in which Severus has already been exonerated. For story inspiration, look to Shakespearean Comedies, but update the story for today.
Disclaimer: I am neither J.K. Rowling nor William Shakespeare, nor am I associated with either. Anything you recognize is their property.
"What on earth were they thinking going off like that? No Aurors! Not telling anyone! They could have been killed!" Molly Weasley was livid with the four missing men who had been found at last and were now at St. Mungo's. "It's a good thing they are alive so I can kill them myself!"
"Harry and Ron are always going off without thinking," said Hermione Granger, who had emerged from the loo looking like someone who was trying to hide the fact that she had been crying. "But Remus and Snape should have known better."
"War heroes or not, it was stupid of them to go after the Lestrange brothers alone. Honestly!"
Molly was on a roll. Tuning out her ranting, Hermione lost herself in the flames dancing along a log in the fire. She was angry, frustrated, hurt, worried; she had wanted to be there with them, at the hospital, at the confrontation. She should have been facing the Death Eaters as well. It had always been the three of them; the Trio always stood together in the face of danger. But this time, they had left without her. They hadn't even told her that the Lestranges had been found. She knew they were only looking out for her after what happened the last time. Absently running a finger down her sternum, she quickly withdrew it. The lightest touch sent stabs of pain through her chest. Damn Lucius Malfoy!
"Hermione, are you feeling well? You're looking pale." Molly's concern cut through Hermione's thoughts.
"I'm fine," she said, flashing a small smile. "I just wish I could see them."
"They'll be here soon enough," Molly said, giving her a hug. Hermione bit her lip so as not to gasp in pain as Molly squeezed her tightly.
Everyone knew that she had been hurt by the final curse Lucius bit off before Kingsley Shacklebolt Stupified and bound him. But no one knew the extent of the damage. She had requested that the details of her medical condition not be shared with anyone else and the doctors at St. Mungo's had honored her wishes. There was nothing they could do for her other than treat the symptoms. Lucius had been given the Dementor's Kiss before the doctors realized that he would be the only person who could reverse the curse, and now he couldn't even hold his wand, let alone heal her. Now she was left suffering with a wound that not only wouldn't heal but was also getting progressively worse.
The pain lessened some as Molly released her.
"Don't worry, dear. Why don't you go and have a rest before they arrive? I'll get started on dinner," Molly suggested.
Hermione nodded and went up to her room. She, Harry and Ron had moved into Grimmauld Place after their sixth year, using it as a headquarters of sorts while hunting for the Horcruxes. It had taken a nearly a year and a half of grueling legwork to find and destroy those parts of Voldemort's soul.
It was in no small thanks to their former professor that they did so. Severus Snape, who had disappeared the night of Albus Dumbledore's murder, had begun sending anonymous clues to Hermione, not just about the Horcruxes, but also about Voldemort's plans in the war. Though she had been hesitant to trust such information at first, after it had repeatedly proved to be reliable she took the sender's word as truth, and that information helped the Order win the war. Though she had her theories, it wasn't until the Final Battle that Hermione had discovered for certain who her informant had been.
Curses were flying in the Great Hall as students and faculty fought against the masked Death Eaters. The Trio led the fight with the Order and Dumbledore's Army at their backs. She had been cornered by a revenge-seeking Dolohov. As he raised his wand, the Killing Curse starting to fall from his mouth, he was struck from behind and fell onto Hermione. She pushed him off, wand reflexively pointed at the Death Eater behind him.
"Careful, Miss Granger. I'd hate to lose my contact now," the familiar silky voice sneered.
"Professor?" Her mind reeled. The man responsible for killing the Headmaster was the one helping her? Why? Hermione had always believed – wanted to believe – there was something else about that night that they didn't know. But no matter how hard she had looked, she'd found no evidence to support her belief that Professor Snape's hand had been forced. Hermione looked at the man before her, not knowing whether to thank him or kill him.
"Get down!" he yelled, pushing her aside as a blast of yellow light flew toward them.
By the time Hermione had struggled to her feet again, Snape had disappeared in the sea of duelers. She shook all thoughts of him from her head and dove back into the battle, making her way toward Harry who was circling Voldemort in the middle of the room.
A crash echoed through the Great Hall as the doors shattered, reduced to mere splinters as the Aurors finally arrived. The Death Eaters were finally outnumbered. Hermione had managed to reach Ron's side just as Harry began to chant. Hermione and Ron clasped hands and pointed their wands at Harry. They recited the incantation she had discovered in an ancient book in the attic of Grimmauld Place. It permitted them to send the energy of all the love they felt for Harry, their friends and their family to him, allowing him to channel it with his own and force it into Voldemort. Such feelings of humanity literally began tearing the Dark Lord apart. Suddenly, she jumped as a hand touched her shoulder. Snape stood by her side, adding his power to hers. All around them, members of the Order and Dumbledore's Army had joined in. An overwhelming burst of white light surged forth from Harry's wand, blinding them all. When they could finally see, all that was left of Voldemort was a powerless, mortal thing writhing on the ground. She watched as Harry drew the Sword of Gryffindor and plunged it into the creature's heart, saving the wizarding world once again before all went dark around her.
When Hermione awoke, she had been in the hospital wing. She had survived. And against the odds, so had those she loved most: Ron, Harry, Ginny, Neville, Remus, Tonks and Headmistress McGonagall. While St. Mungo's had been overflowing with those injured in the fight, the death toll for the victorious side during the Final Battle had been amazingly low: two. Hagrid and Firenze had died heroes, trying to keep Voldemort's wicked hordes from crossing the gates of Hogwarts.
The Death Eaters, Snape included, had been rounded up and sent to Azkaban to await trials.
With the fall of the Dark Lord, Dumbledore's portrait finally had finally spoken. It had directed Minerva to a secret room in his old study that held a pensive full of all the memories of the events leading up to the night on the Tower. There had also been a sealed, signed document in which Dumbledore had declared that he had been dying due to a curse received while destroying the ring Horcrux, and it had been his decision to call upon Severus Snape's life debt to him to do whatever it took to keep Draco Malfoy from becoming a murderer and to keep his own place as a spy in Voldemort's camp, even if it meant Dumbledore's own death. He had written that he had given Snape no choice, not even when Snape had offered his own life instead.
Hermione always thought it was the sight of that single tear that Snape, her proud, stoic professor, hadn't been able to blink back as he sat before the Wizengamot, with regret, grief and utter hopelessness flying across his usually blank face as Dumbledore's admission had been read that had finally swayed the wizarding world in his favor. He had been acquitted of the murder of Albus Dumbledore, and, against his will, declared a war hero for risking his life time and again to pass information to the Order, both now and seventeen years ago.
In the two years and countless duels since, Harry and Snape's mutual hatred had slowly transformed first to mutual respect and then a begrudging acquaintanceship as they chased down those Death Eaters who managed to remain free. They would never be mates, but the fact that they could now be in the same room without drawing blood was a huge improvement. The rest of the Order had followed Harry's lead and offered a tentative hand of friendship to the ex-spy.
Hermione didn't know how to define her relationship with Snape. She wouldn't go so far as to call them friends, but she did take great pleasure in their verbal sparring. With sharp tongues and slicing barbs, they used their intelligence to keep each other on their toes. Both seemed to revel in their battle of wits, even if it sent others running for cover.
But now Snape, Harry, Ron and Remus were once again in hospital beds and she was too weak to go to them. She slid open a drawer and removed the potion a Healer at St. Mungo's had given her, and took a dose of the painkiller, sighing as the stinging was reduced to a dull ache. She was careful to ward the drawer again; it wouldn't do for her friends to find out there was anything more than residual tiredness left of the curse. She curled up on her bed and closed her eyes. Saying a silent prayer for her friends' speedy recovery from their injuries and their stupidity, she fell asleep.
Author's Notes: I'd like to thank Zafania and Tjwritter for their help with the first draft of this story and my beta Logical Quirk for the quick turnaround