disclaimer: The story is mine, the characters are not, with the exception of a couple of OC's.
A/N: Takes place before the sixth book and is pretty much wildly AU. Written on a whim when insomnia struck.
In Harry Potter's sixth year at Hogwarts he, with the help of his friends and the Order of the Phoenix, finally took down Voldemort. As frightening and as brutal as the battle was, more followers of the Dark Lord's perished than did on the side of Light. Hogwarts castle itself suffered and there were young deaths in all the houses, although it had been the House of Slytherin that had been hit the hardest. Draco Malfoy had survived but only because he had followed in his godfather's footsteps and fought against the Dark.
Severus Snape, who had been certain he would not survive the final battle, owed his life to an heroic Gryffindor, Hermione Granger. He had fallen, broken and battered upon the field of battle only to find himself trapped by one of the Lestrange brothers. It was the swift blocking spell that Hermione threw to protect him and herself that kept the killing curse from putting an end to the potions professor. In turn she had thrown a killing curse to kill the Death Eater and then kept Snape protected until he and others wounded could be safely removed to the hospital.
Hermione had escaped remarkably with cuts and bruises and was soon drafted to aid Madam Pomfrey, Ginny Weasley and Molly Weasley in tending the injured. Harry's magic had been so depleted he had been moved to St. Mungo's as soon as his injuries had been stabilized. Ron Weasley, also fighting alongside Harry, had been caught by several curses that caused several broken bones, but nothing he wouldn't be able to fully heal from.
Albus Dumbledore probably suffered the worst from his injuries due to his age. He had been hit by a particularly vicious burning curse that eventually rendered his right arm completely useless. He had been sent to St. Mungo's as well and Minerva McGonagall had stepped into his shoes as Headmistress; a position that was made permanent when Dumbledore, from his sickbed, retired.
Slowly but surely Hogwarts, its students and its staff recovered from its injuries. Severus Snape was one of the last to leave the hospital. Until he could leave, though, he was visited on a daily basis by Hermione.
Because she had saved him, he kept a civil tongue in his mouth and it was a good thing he did. Hermione Granger, he was to learn, wasn't quite like most young girls her age who never had anything to say beyond fashion and boys. Of course he knew she was intelligent, but beyond his classes he just never gave her a second thought. He wasn't about to admit it to anyone, much less the girl herself, but he looked forward to her quiet visits in the evening. They discussed a variety of topics and he found that she could argue, rather well. He baited her, quite often, to test her knowledge, and she never hesitated in matching his own intellect.
He was slightly dismayed when a few nights before he was to be released she announced that she was to bring her parents out of hiding. As Muggles and at Dumbledore's insistence two years before her parents had been placed in hiding for their safety. It had been a painful separation, but one designed to safeguard her parents.
"Miss Granger," he asked with concern. "Is it wise to be doing this with so many of the Dark Lord's followers still on the run?"
For the next several minutes she had assured him that there were many who felt it was safe to do so. Dumbledore was one, as was the interim new head of the Ministry of Magic, Kingsley Shacklebolt.
They were wrong.
Three days later Severus Snape was released from Madam Pomfrey's care and began inquiring what happened to Hermione Granger. It alarmed him that no one had heard from her. It wasn't unusual, of course. Recovery was a disorganized business and there were many funerals as well that added to the chaos.
It seemed that Dumbledore was the only one who knew where Hermione's parents were and so one morning Severus floo'd over to see the old man. He was bent on wresting information from the headmaster, but had paused at seeing Albus in his hospital bed.
His arm that had borne the brunt of the burning curse had been healed as well as could be, but it was still thin and wasted looking and rested against his side, immobile. That was the wizard's most visible injury, but his age was showing and he was tired, very tired looking. His pleasure at seeing Snape was not diminished and when Dumbledore beckoned the young man closer, he bore the brief, one-armed embrace, with a stillness in his heart.
"I am so very glad to see you are well, my dear Severus." Snape took the chair by his bed and seated himself. "Have you, by chance, seen Harry?"
Severus nodded. "Just for a moment. He is still in a healing coma." The old man nodded and closed his eyes. "Albus, I've come on an urgent matter. It regards Miss Granger." Dumbledore opened his eyes. "I'm not sure if you know, but three days ago she went to bring her family out of hiding. No one has heard from her."
"Did anyone go with her?" asked Dumbledore with a note of concern in his voice. "I suggested that she ask an auror to go with her."
Severus shook his head. "It seems she went herself. There are so few aurors left and they're busy hunting down Voldemort's followers."
Dumbledore then told Snape where Hermione's parents were and Snape with Remus Lupin and Nymphadora Tonks left later that afternoon to see what had befallen the girl and if she was all right.
The sight they found was not one that would leave any of their nightmares for a very long time to come. Hermione had been followed to her home by at least two Death Eaters. They had tortured and mutilated Hermione's parents in front of her and then brutalized her as well. Perhaps they had thought her dead, and she very nearly was. She was found nestled between the bodies of her parents, deep in shock, and covered with their blood and hers.
Severus had reached her first and for a brief moment she acknowledged him before letting out an anguished scream.
Madam Pomfrey dealt with Hermione's physical injuries, but she could do nothing for the girl's mind. It had been broken, possibly beyond repair. Hermione did not respond to anyone or anything and did not speak. However, when Severus came to visit, the haunted look would leave her face and she would acknowledge him with a single word, 'Professor'.
A month into the poor girl's recovery Snape had come for a visit. He often read to her during his visits and had planned to read the latest Potions Digest to her when he found Minerva and Poppy arguing quietly nearby.
"Poppy! I cannot believe you can insist upon this. She's just barely sixteen and her condition..."
Poppy interrupted the new headmistress, "Minerva, I don't want her to have to endure this anymore than you do, but it is precisely her condition that warrants my decision."
Severus stepped closer to the two women. "Is there another problem with Miss Granger, Madam Pomfrey?"
Minerva gave Severus a look that sent shivers down his spine. Poppy replied, "Her injuries were too extensive before for me to detect this, but Miss Granger is pregnant." Severus sent a stricken look toward the young girl who was currently eating her dinner placidly. He knew she had been brutally raped, but had not expected this to have happened.
"Can it be terminated?" he asked softly.
"I do not think it can be done safely, Severus," said Madam Pomfrey. "Her emotional state is severely fragile and she is still healing from very serious injuries. I'm afraid that by the time she would be healed well enough, at least physically, for a termination, she'd be far too along. I am afraid that however we may feel for poor Miss Granger, the safest thing for her is to have this baby."
As the months passed, Hermione's pregnancy progressed. She remained in the Hogwarts hospital and was visited regularly by a psychologist from St. Mungo's. Her friends, Ron and Harry had fully recovered from their injuries, and between catching up on their studies and a normal life, they visited when they could.
Dumbledore arrived for a visit one late Saturday afternoon while Severus was sitting beside the girl, reading some of the first years essays to her. Hermione was in her fourth month, yet was completely unaware of her obvious pregnancy. She listened politely to Severus, and every once in awhile spoke the only word she knew, 'Professor'.
Upon seeing Dumbledore, he conjured a chair for the old wizard and helped him to sit down. "Miss Granger," Severus spoke softly, "Professor Dumbledore has come to see you."
"Professor." she said simply as she gazed up into Severus' eyes. She did not acknowledge Dumbledore. Hermione lay back against her pillows and closed her eyes.
Dumbledore sighed. "The brightest witch of her day," he said sadly. Severus eyed him grimly and leaned back in his chair. "I wanted to talk to you, Severus." Snape sat up straight and crossed his arms over his chest. "I'm sure you can guess that Minerva's spoken to me."
"She's an interfering witch," muttered Snape with no real malice.
"Be that as it may, I think she has a valid concern, don't you?"
"Miss Granger saved my life, Albus. I cannot say that I did the same for her. This is no life that she has."
"And so, out of an obligation for such a life debt you intend to raise her child?" Snape did not look at Albus, but aimed his stubborn gaze at Hermione's swollen belly. "You're a young man, Severus. Don't you think someone like Molly and Arthur might be better suited?"
"I have already spoken to them, Albus." The older wizard was surprised at this. "I shall take custody of the child, but Molly and Arthur have agreed to take care of the child when I must teach."
"Ah, then so you have thought this out more than I had expected, my boy." Albus smiled gently and Severus sneered at the twinkling eyes.
Just before the Christmas holidays, Hermione Granger gave birth to a daughter. The next day she was transferred from the Hogwarts hospital to a permanent room in the Perpetual Care Ward at St. Mungo's. There was some initial resistence to Severus Snape adopting the little girl, but with Molly and Arthur Weasley and Albus Dumbledore and Minerva McGonagall as references, it went through easily enough. Severus named the little baby Nanelle Eliza Granger Snape.
That Christmas holiday was spent at the Burrow. Not something he wished to do, but Severus Snape found himself quickly overwhelmed by the responsibility he had taken on. Of course, it didn't help that he was surrounded not only by most of the Weasley clan, but Harry Potter was there as well.
"This is just weird," muttered Ron as he looked down into the living room where Snape was seated with the baby in his arms as he fed her.
"It's all weird," agreed Harry. "It's too bad Hermione can't see this."
Ron sighed heavily. He had been hit hard by losing Hermione in such a way. He was feeling guilty, though, because he had recently begun to date Lavender Brown. "Do you think she'd hate me, Harry?"
"No, she wouldn't. 'Mione would understand. She's always been the level-headed one of us." Harry nudged Ron and grinned. "C'mon, let's see if Snape will let us hold her."
Harry got up, headed down the stairs and into the living room, followed by Ron. "Uhm, Professor," began Harry. "Do you think I could hold Nanelle?"
Snape gave Harry a wary glare before removing the child's bottle from her mouth and carefully handing her over. "Be careful, Potter. If you drop her, it will give me just the excuse I need to hex you into oblivion."
Harry smiled, down at the baby. "Yes, sir." Harry was very careful and was delighted when Nanelle curled her tiny fist around one of his fingers.
"Oogie, oogie, Baby!" said Ron as his finger stroked a soft cheek.
"English, Mr. Weasley! This is Miss Granger's daughter and no doubt has her mother's intelligence so do not attempt to bring her down to your level." Ron just glared at Snape.
That night, in Fred and George's old room with Nanelle quietly in a crib, Severus Snape stared uneasily at the ceiling. For the thousandth time he was certain he had gone mad in adopting this baby. It was too late to give her up and when he was honest with himself, he didn't want to. He'd once dreamed of a life where he might have the joy of a wife and family, but a single word and a subsequent wrong decision had wiped such dreams; nearly forever.
A life debt was not something to trifle with and he knew deep down he owed it to Hermione Granger to give her daughter the best life he possibly could. And, he would love her, as well. Love, which he had so long had to deny himself, he was now free to give to this small, innocent life. Rising from the bed, he picked up the sleeping girl and cradled her in his arms. He promised to Miss Granger and to Nanelle that he would make certain her life would be a happy one.
Severus Snape never stopped visiting Hermione, although his visits dwindled to once a week. He never brought Nanelle with him as he was uncertain what Hermione might make of the child. He also didn't want to see her not even acknowledge her own daughter.
During his visits he spoke to Hermione about his classes, read from books to her, or regaled her with the inanity of his students essays. Hermione still spoke only his title to him and she always seemed at ease with his visits.
After her fourth year at St. Mungo's Severus had come for a visit and with him was little four year old Nanelle. He had been unable to get a sitter and decided at the last minute to bring the little girl with him.
Nanelle looked a great deal like her mother. Her hair was long and curly, but darker and was much better tamed than the bushiness Hermione had dealt with as a teen. Nanelle had her mother's eyes and she'd become quite adept at using those upon her father when she was in trouble. Nanelle was also a very intelligent child. From the time she could talk, Severus had told Nanelle about her mother and so the child was in silent awe as they walked toward Hermione's room.
"Mr. Snape!" A healer called to him and he stopped as he recognized Granville Tosh, Hermione's healer. "Mr. Snape, I'm glad I caught you. I wanted to let you know that Miss Granger may have had a breakthrough late last night."
Snape listened as the healer related that Hermione had wakened the night nurse with a nightmare about her parents. She'd had many such nightmares in the past and they had always set any possible recovery she seemed to have further back. However, this time when they had managed to calm her down, just as she was sleeping, she had asked for him.
"What did she say?" Severus asked as his heart pounded painfully in his chest.
"She said, please tell Professor Snape that I am sorry I missed my NEWTs."
For a moment Severus laughed before sobering. "Did she say anything else? How is she doing since last night?"
Healer Tosh sighed heavily. "She's much the same as she was, but I'm hoping that maybe she'll respond more to you." Severus glanced down uneasily at Nanelle and the healer immediately understood. "Let me take her, Mr. Snape. I'll take her up to the daycare while you visit with Miss Granger."
Nanelle waved goodbye to her father and Snape then entered Hermione's room. Her greeting was the same as it always had been, a simple smile and then, "Professor."
"Good afternoon, Miss Granger. I hear you're doing better." He hoped for a reply, but there was none. Recalling what she'd said after her nightmare about her NEWTs, he tried to provoke her gently. "I have heard that you're quite concerned about your NEWTs, Miss Granger."
Hermione lifted her head and frowned slightly. "My NEWTs."
He almost felt like leaping to his feet and taking her into his arms, but he kept still and allowed the professorial mien she once knew take over. "That is correct, Miss Granger. Normally I would not consider this for most students, but you are an exception. I am certain your other professors would agree that you should have a chance at finishing your NEWTs. Would you like that?"
He had watched as her eyes had watched him. She had been listening, very intently. "My NEWTs. I need my NEWTs, Professor Snape."
Snape did not expect anymore from the young woman than this, but then she began to cry. He had not seen her cry, ever. Not even after many of the nightmares he'd witnessed while she was recovering at Hogwarts. He rose from his chair and as he knelt down in front of her she threw her arms around his neck and buried her face in his shoulder. He drew her into his arms, offering what comfort he could.
"They're dead... they're dead..." she murmured over and over and he began to rock her gently. After several long moments she pulled away and rose until she was once more seated in her chair. Severus gave her a handkerchief and she quietly wiped her face and nose. His heart seemed to stop as he could see in her eyes that she was drifting away again. He couldn't let that happen.
"Miss Granger, please stay." Hermione's head turned and she looked down into those obsidian orbs. Her fingers lightly touched his cheek as she tried to understand what was happening to her.
"I saw you. There was so much... blood... so much pain. I was certain I was dead, but I saw you. If you were there, I wasn't... I'm not dead?"
"No Miss Granger, you're very much alive."
"I... I don't want to be..." a tear slipped down her cheek and he brushed it away gently.
"No Miss Granger, you don't. I don't want you to die, either. Nor do your friends. Please stay with us?"
She didn't seem to have heard what he'd said, but he felt heartened that she continued to talk to him. "I heard you..." she smiled, almost shyly. "Every time I wanted to stay asleep, I heard you." She sighed sadly. "I don't know... when it is... they died, Professor. I shouldn't have gone."
Hermione Granger was recovering. It wasn't easy and there were still many nightmares to deal with, but each day proved to be better than the one before it. It was just when Summer began, nearly three months later, that Healer Tosh spoke to Severus and told him that it was time to tell Hermione about her daughter. She knew she had been brutalized by the Death Eaters; knew she'd been raped. She did not know she had been pregnant. Healer Tosh had reservations about Severus telling her, but he had insisted upon it.
Severus sat uneasily before Hermione on the veranda of St. Mungo's. A pleasant breeze drifted lazily around them and Severus took a moment to truly see Hermione as the young woman she'd become in her convalescence. Since her breakthrough a great deal of the spit-fire student he had known had returned as well. Yet, there was still a fragility that hovered about her like an aura. He hoped that she would have the strength to hear what he was to tell her.
He had thought carefully about what he might say, but when it came to now, he couldn't find the right words. Hermione sat in front of him, patiently. She knew he had something to tell her and she knew it wasn't easy for him. Tentatively, she stretched a hand out to his and he found he was taking strength from her.
It was then he knew that there was no easy way to tell her and so he just spoke simply, "You have a daughter, Hermione."
He felt her hand grip his tightly as the blood drained from her face. He wasn't certain if she was going to faint, but if she was... no, she did not faint. She took several deep breaths as she focused her eyes upon his. After several minutes, her voice, faint, but firm asked him, "Where is she?"
Severus then turned to a nearby nurse who had been quietly waiting. The nurse quickly left and in a few minutes Nanelle came through the door and ran to her father. Hermione gasped and struggled to keep the tears that threatened as she looked down at the beautiful little girl, her daughter.
"Hermione, this is Nanelle Eliza."
Hermione looked up at him. "That was my mother's middle name, Nanelle," she whispered. Silently the tears slid down her cheeks, but she smiled as she dabbed uselessly at them.
Nanelle tugged her father's arm and he leaned toward her, "Papa, is she my mother?" There was a hopeful look in the young child's eyes and it was Hermione who slid from her chair and knelt down so she was at eye level with the girl.
"I am your mum, little Nanelle. You are so very beautiful." Nanelle threw her arms around Hermione and as she hugged her daughter, she took a moment to look questioningly at Severus. Nanelle had called him papa?
"I chose to adopt her and raise her, Miss Granger. I could no less for you having saved my life." He smiled then and Hermione realized, in that brief smile, that although she had saved his life, it was Nanelle who gave him a life to love.
"Severus," Hermione said softly as she raised a hand to his cheek. He grasped her hand in both of his and was not at all surprised when he brought her fingertips to his lips.
Six months later Hermione was released from St. Mungo's whereupon she returned to Hogwarts as its oldest student. She was determined to finish her NEWTs and she did so. She had very little to brush up on, for her mind had not lost one whit of her knowledge. That did not stop her from studying each and everyday. She would have lived in the library if it hadn't been for Severus and Nanelle who made it their job to make certain that became part of their lives.
Severus Snape could never say when, precisely, he had fallen in love with Hermione but she was certain it had begun when he first set his eyes upon Nanelle. He could only say that he was unable to think of a life without Hermione and so it was, almost a year and half after she left St. Mungo's that she wed Severus. Nanelle never had a doubt about her papa and her mum marrying; it was supposed to be that way. And, just like her mother, Nanelle is always right.
A/N: This story completely proves I'm a sap, so be it. Please do review and thank you to everyone who has written a Snape/Hermione romance that I've enjoyed.