a/n: written for livejournal community "fraternizing."

He's magic and myth

As strong as with I believe
A tragedy with
More damage than a soul should see

- Kelly Clarkson, 'Beautiful Disaster"

As always, Hermione is left to clean up the messes. The hours after the end are blurry. Hermione realizes how tired she is and how far away sleep remains. Ron is swept up by his family and Harry is taken by the adults and Hermione who has no family and has done nothing noticeably heroic in comparison, is left standing in a field of the dead and the dying. Her wounds are emotional and superficial. She heals the cuts, scrapes, and bruises herself. She ignores the headache and the hunger. She makes herself a list.

Harry is gone and the injured are being transported to St. Mungo's. She conjures a parchment and a quill and walks along, cataloguing the dead. She writes what she already knows – Mad Eye, Hedwig the Owl, Dobby the free Elf, Tonks, Lupin, Fred, and on and on.

She pauses before she writes Severus Snape.

There was something all wrong about that entire encounter. Snape's unwillingness to follow Voldemort's orders, his desperation to get away. His reaction to Harry and the memories that mixed with the blood that spilled. It was, Hermione decided, inconclusive. Her feet found her way outside almost of her own accord. She stilled the Whomping Willow and she crawled on her hands and knees through the tunnel to the Shrieking Shack. Her pants are filthy and ripped and the crawling shreds her knees but she doesn't think of stopping. All the can think of is finding out details.

The shack is stiller than she has ever seen it. The walls do not rattle and the floorboards do not moan. It as if the ghosts and ghouls that call this most haunted dwelling home have stilled in respect for the death that lies there.

Snape looks dead – pale and empty. It takes her a moment to reach out and touch him. Her instincts are to press her fingers to his neck but there is so much blood and two gaping holes so instead she reaches for his wrist.

There is no pulse but… it's odd. His skin is so warm. It hasn't been so long but it isn't just warm, it's clammy. It tingles under her touch. The list she has been holding drops to the floor and suddenly she is on Snape, shaking him.

"Professor," she calls but he is unresponsive and heavy. "Help!" she calls but there is no one around to hear. She pulls the blood-soaked cloth away from his neck. She uses her wand to cut away the clothing and pull it apart. His chest is pale and thin and has that same clammy sheen. Is it magic? It seems like the same rippling glow that floats over an unfinished potion when under a stasis charm. She thinks about trying a finite incantatum on him but if it is truly some sort of status, she knows it's the only thing keeping him alive, keeping the poison from more thoroughly coursing through his body.

"Did you know?" she asks him. "Did you suspect all along?"

And so, she pats him down. She shoves her hands into the pockets of his trousers, struggling to reach into the back ones. She searches through his many layers – shirt, vest, and in the torn frockcoat she finds it. A small, almost too tiny, vial. It is no bigger than the hourglass that sits at the heart of her time-turner. The liquid inside is faint, almost imperceptible. She has to use her wand to remove such a delicate cork. She looks at his unmoving, open mouth and his dark, blank eyes.

"If this kills you, I'm sorry," she says. "If you're already dead…" It won't matter anyhow. After all, she only has suspicions – the dark mark is clear on his arm and his loyalties, always suspect, are still unconfirmed.

She lifts his head harshly by his hair and lets the liquid trickle into his open mouth. She rubs her hand along his throat, hoping it is enough to get him to swallow. She waits too long, her tired eyes desperate for a sign of life.

She feels it before she sees it – a warm trickle against her leg. She is already covered in his blood and it takes her a moment to realize that fresh blood – moving blood! – has begun to seep from the wounds in his neck. She panics at her own lack of foresight and shoves her hand against his neck to try to stifle the flow. When she looks back up at his face, the blank eyes were hidden behind white lids. He is alive, but, she knew, on death's path.

"Merlin, I hope I was right about you," she whispers before she disapperates them both to St. Mungo's. She leaves him there with shouts of 'critical' and 'from Hogwarts' and 'ministry official' to make sure he's properly cared for. She returns to the castle and almost collapses in a chair in one of the hallways.

She dozes for a little while and wakes up only at the sound of a familiar scream. She opens her eyes and sits up at the sight of her head of house.

"Miss Granger, for heaven's sake, I thought you were…" she trails off, a hand at her neck still. She looks old and tired. "You're covered in blood,"

"It isn't mine," says Hermione exhaustedly. She cannot say more and McGonagall doesn't force her too. Instead she helps Hermione up and leads her to a room full of empty cots.

"I'll bring you something to eat," McGonagall says. She is mostly asleep when McGonagall returns. She feels the cot shift as McGonagall sits and Hermione feels a cool, clean hand on her forehead. She doesn't open her eyes, and lets McGonagall stroke back her dirty, tangled hair gently.

"Such a good girl," says McGonagall softly. Hermione cannot help the hot tears that well in her closed eyes. It has been so long since she has been treated like a child and in this safe room with a woman she respects and even loves, it feels right.

Hermione sleeps for a long time. She isn't sure how long but it's more than usual. She wakes up from time to time. Someone forces her to sip water or take a potion but it isn't concrete and it doesn't last.

When she wakes up fully to herself, she sees she has been cleaned and cared for. Her clothes are different and she doesn't feel so grimy. She sits up and looks around. She is in the infirmary, not the room with cots and there are others – Dean and Lee Jordan on either side. Her feet are bare and the stone is cold when she touches them to the ground. As soon as she's made contact, Madame Pomfrey bustles out and for a moment, Hermione thinks the last year was all a bad dream and that they did go back for their final year of school. But the harried look on Pomfrey's face tells her otherwise.

"Miss Granger," she says. "How good to see you awake,"

"Where's Harry?" she asks.

"Mr. Potter is in the care of the Weasleys," she says. "His instructions were to make sure you were quite well,"

"Where is Snape?" she asks. Pomfrey frowns.

"The Headmaster's body was not found on the grounds," Pomfrey reveals.

"What about the hospital?" Hermione asks.

"Many of the injured were taken there, Miss Granger, I cannot say," Pomfrey shakes her head with emphasis. Hermione can tell that Pomfrey isn't quite done with Hermione but Hermione can't stay there anymore. She leaves the infirmary and carefully navigates her way through the crumbled hallways. She has never seen the castle this way – so in shambles. Crumbled walls and dented suits of armor. Tapestries she has grown accustomed to seeing no longer hang but are burnt and limp on the floor. There are no bodies but there are suspicious red puddles and a sickly green tinge hangs over everything. The air crackles with magical residue.

She finds herself wandless and it takes her a while to realize this. Down in the lower floors, where most the elves reside, she finds the laundry room filled with piles of dirty clothes and stacks of folded uniforms. She trades her white, cotton gown for a uniform. She puts on the first things in her size – a grey skirt, a white shirt, and a sweater in Ravenclaw colors. She puts on socks with yellow stripes but there are no shoes and so she forgets them. It is strange to be in the stiff, sturdy uniform again. She knows she will never have the seventh year of school that she expected, will never see a Hogwarts graduation surrounded by the people she started with.

She tries to find the room she was first put to bed in. She thinks her wand might be there but it's hard to retrace her steps. She was so tired and delirious that she doesn't remember where McGonagall put her. It's hard to move from floor to floor because some of the staircases are stalled in midair. From floor three to four, she has to climb a bit and jump down a further distance than she was comfortable with, even if she had shoes. The landing hurts but she continues on, stopping at McGonagall's office door, slightly ajar.

She knocks.

"Hermione," McGonagall greets. She sits behind her desk, miraculously unharmed or unchanged.

"Do you have my wand?" she asks. It's an uncomfortable question – wands are so personal and now ownership, with what she has learned, is sort of a murky subject. McGonagall looks at her kindly and pulls the wand from somewhere inside her robes. It feels right in Hermione's hand; comfortable and powerful. Her body hums a little with the contact. "Thank you,"

"You're welcome," McGonagall says quietly. Hermione is about to leave her to her thoughts when she pauses.

"Have you heard anything about Snape?" she asks. McGonagall shakes her head sadly.

"Mr. Potter says he has been killed," she says. "I didn't… at the time, I didn't understand how what he was doing was protecting us," Her eyes fill with tears. She looks like she has been crying for a long time.

"I see," Hermione says. She doesn't know if this means he is truly dead or no one has reported him at the hospital. McGonagall looks at her now.

"Those aren't your house colors," she says, finally, trying to compose herself.

"Forgive me, Professor, but the entire notion of house colors seems somewhat silly, now," Hermione says, looking at the line of blue that circles her waist and the sweater – the bright yellow that ends just below her knees. She leaves McGonagall and with her wand safely in her possession, finds an active fireplace and floos to the Burrow.

She tumbles out of the fireplace sooty and disoriented. Flooing has never been comfortable for her and now she is malnourished and weak. She gets up carefully and is promptly pulled into the arms of Mrs. Weasley. She is crushed to her bosom and when she is finally released she finds herself in tears. Mrs. Weasley provides her with hot soup and fresh bread. She is given milk instead of juice or butterbeer.

"I'll find the men for you," she says. It is jarring to hear Mrs. Weasley refer to Ron and Harry as men but they both are. They both come in tall and lean with growth on their chins and cuts and bruises as signs of their victory.

"Hermione!" Ron says and wraps himself around her. She remembers kissing him and blushes a little. She likes Ron, yes, but it all seems so long ago.

"What are you wearing?" Harry asks, smiling.

"Someone else's clothes. Is my suitcase still upstairs?" she asks. She wants to be joyous at this successful reunion but she feels distracted and distant. She frees herself from Ron and climbs the stairs. They wait in the kitchen, watching her disappear. She passes Ginny's open door.

"Hey Gin," she says. Ginny looks up from her desk and smiles.

"Hi," she says. "You're back,"

"Just… just for a bit," she says. "I need to go right my parents and go back to Hogwarts."

"Oh, yeah," she says. "I almost forgot about Australia," Hermione shrugs, feeling slightly like maybe they'd be forever better off down under.

"I'm," she pauses. "I'm so sorry about Fred,"

Ginny waves Hermione into her room and she shuts the door behind her.

"George hasn't said a single thing since," Ginny confides. Hermione is an only child and can't possibly begin to understand what it must be like to lose a sibling. She imagines it would be something like losing Harry but she has escaped this most horrible fate.

"It's going to take time," Hermione says, lamely, but Ginny nods. Hermione starts back up the stairs but pauses. "Ginny, will you tell them I'll be back in a couple days?"

"Okay," Ginny says, giving her a strange look. "Do you want some company?"

"No," Hermione says. "Thanks,"

She changes in her room and leaves the dirty clothes and the rest of her things when she apparates. Maybe her beaded bag is somewhere on the grounds of Hogwarts but she isn't too worried about it. Either it will be found or it will not and certain things are gone forever.

She goes to St. Mungo's and tries to be inconspicuous because Voldemort's demise was printed on the front page of everything with words and her picture was there, too. She doesn't want to be recognized anymore. After years of trying to outshine everyone around her, now all she wants is to fade into obscurity for a while. Her curiosity keeps her here. She is too tired, to indifferent for a glamour and in the end, being recognized helps her cut through the paperwork, the bureaucracy.

"I want to see Severus Snape," she says to the witch behind the desk.

"No visitors," she snaps back and Hermione is actually startled.

"But he's alive?" she asks, quietly. The witch waves her away but she is not discouraged. She looks at all of the different floors and figures out where the sickest must be. She takes the lift and when mediwitches pass her, they say nothing. She looks into room after room and finally, finally she sees him.

He is still and pale and blissfully alive.

She touches his hand and he is warm and dry. She puts her hand into his and pulls up a chair. She thinks she can feel a small pressure in return, like he's trying to give her a squeeze but she isn't sure. It doesn't seem like the Snape thing to do.

When it gets dark enough, she walks to the window and sends her Patronus out into the night. Her otter swims through the murky stars with her message.

Snape is alive!

It will tell Harry and McGonagall before dissipating into nothing more but mist.

She sits back down and lets her head rest awkwardly on the back of the chair. She thinks that if Snape is going to sleep through her visit, he won't mind if she dozes a bit.