The idea for this story was inspired by Michmak's "Heart With No Companion" - check it out if you like Hermione/Snape fics, or even if you don't. ;)
Chapter One: The Awakening
"Her parents seem to have disappeared . . ."
"What's wrong with her?! Is she-"
"She's breathing, Harry! She's alive! Hermione!"
"BOYS! Stop shouting at once! She has not responded to-"
"Please, Madame Pomfrey! She's – is she going to be alright?"
"If you would let me speak – Harry – I, that is, we don't know yet what sort of curse hit her."
"But – what's wrong with her? She looks fine!"
"Mr. Weasley – Ron, dear – we really can't say. She appears to be asleep, but as I'm sure you know, that could mean many things."
"Whatever it is, it must be awful! Volde-"
"I must insist that you both get back to your beds now! You need to rest, you are very weak."
"I'm FINE! I haven't been hit by a curse from Voldemort – but SHE has and she's my friend! If you think I'm just going to go to sleep now, you can-"
"Harry . . ."
It was Dumbledore's gentle reproof that brought Hermione fully to consciousness. How could it be? Hermione tried to open her eyes, but they seemed to be glued shut. She grew desperate – she had to see if she had imagined that familiar voice! Then, her questions were answered.
"It was thought that I might be able to help Miss Granger," Dumbledore said, gravely, "my portrait had been moved here so that I may observe her."
Hermione struggled again to open her eyes. It seemed that no part of her body would obey her. Her nose itched, but she couldn't so much as wrinkle it.
"You'll be able to figure it out, won't you? If the healers don't know what to do, you'll figure it out?" Harry sounded much younger than his seventeen years.
"I certainly hope so," was all Dumbledore said in reply.
"How is Severus? Still no change?"
"I left another healer with him in case he wakes, but I'll go check myself."
"We will need his expertise."
"Is Snape - hurt very badly?" asked Harry tentatively, when Madame Pomfrey had gone.
"Professor Snape, Harry, and yes, I believe so," said Dumbledore in the same grave tone. Nobody spoke for a while.
"He doesn't look good, not good at all."
Madame Pomfrey had returned. "And we have no idea what to do for him. Albus, I've never been so useless," her voice cracked. She seemed to have forgotten that Harry and Ron were there. Hermione had never heard her sound so vulnerable.
Hermione wanted to open her eyes so badly – she had to tell them that she was alright and not to worry. She didn't feel any pain, she could think clearly – now if only if she could find the strength to move!
"Is she – do you think – in pain?" Harry sounded like he was about to cry as well. There was silence but for shaky breathing. Finally, Madame Pomfrey said very kindly,
"It's time to get some rest, boys, you can't do anything for her by staying up. I promise, if anything happens, I will come and get you right away. The healers are going to help me keep watch every minute."
Hermione was left alone. She could hear the ragged breaths of other wounded, and she knew that Dumbledore's portrait was hanging somewhere above her head, but nobody else spoke that night. She was wide awake, but still couldn't open her eyes. She gave up trying and started to think. What had happened to her? She could remember only parts of the battle at Hogwarts. She remembered Fred, Tonks, and Remus lying dead. She couldn't even cry about it, though her heart was breaking. And Fred! How would George ever live without him! Voldemort had gotten tired of waiting for Harry and invaded the castle before the time limit was up. She remembered that Professor Snape had shown up, when they thought he was dead. The first thing he did was kill Nagini, ripping the sword from Neville's hand and lopping her head off.
Neville had stood there with his mouth hanging open, forgetting that he was in the middle of a battle. Snape had shielded him from a few curses before pushing him out of the way. But after that she remembered nothing but darkness and falling. Hermione was getting tired, and since her eyes were already closed it was easy to drift off to sleep again. She couldn't tell if the darkness was a memory or merely sleep overtaking her thoughts.
The next time Hermione woke, she could tell it was morning. The light on the other side of her eyelids told her so. She tried to open her eyes again, but still could not. She began to panic, but she could not move or call out for help. She could not even swallow or take a deep breath. She soon found that she could not even stop breathing – her body would not obey any request. When the panic wore off, she started listening to the sounds around her.
"Good morning, Albus," was Madame Pomfrey's soft greeting, from somewhere near Hermione's head, "I just came to tell you that Severus is," she paused, "looking worse. I don't know if he will be able to help Miss Granger at all."
Hermione despaired at these words. Was that it? Her only hope was Professor Snape, who was dying at that moment? Surely there was someone else!
Madame Pomfrey spoke again.
"The papers are already asking about him! He's a hero and he'll never know it – he's going to die knowing only how we hated him this year and we'll-" she sniffed, "never get to thank him!"
"Poppy," said Dumbledore, "You must-"
"And she'll never hear it either."
Hermione felt a hand stroke her face.
"Brave girl," The hand was gone. Madame Pomfrey's footsteps faded away.
What have I done? Hermione did not remember what happened to her. She had no idea how she had ended up in the infirmary unable to move. What had Harry said last night? Or it had been Ron? It was something about her being hit by a curse from Voldemort. At least she thought so. How had it happened? She didn't think even her Gryffindor bravery would have given her the courage to duel him.
Hermione thought back to Snape killing Nagini and shielding Neville, effectively shocking everyone who thought he was dead and on Voldemort's side. Harry had been in Dumbledore's office with Snape's memories. She remembered entering the Great Hall with Harry and Ron after the Shrieking Shack. Voldemort had told Harry he had an hour to come out, but he had lied. He entered the castle and the battle began again. Harry must not have made it to Dumbledore's office, because he appeared in the Great Hall right after Voldemort and the Death Eaters. He had – died. She had seen the killing curse hit Harry and watched his body fall while cries of despair echoed around the hall. It happened without ceremony. As soon as Harry appeared Voldemort killed him. His laugh still rang in her ears. Had she only imagined Harry last night? That thought tortured Hermione for a long while. She wished she could sleep again, but her memories would not let her. She began to wish she was dead. If she had imagined Harry last night, she must have imagined Ron as well. How many others had died after she fell and why was she still alive when everyone that mattered in the universe was gone. What hope was there if Harry had not succeeded? Where was Voldemort now?
Come and kill me, she taunted him silently, I'd rather die than live in this miserable world.
Hermione listened intently to the sounds around her. Hushed voices and muffled footsteps were the only distraction from her thoughts. Once, she thought she heard Dumbledore's portrait snoring.
If I am dead, she mused, this a very strange afterlife. Maybe I'm only dreaming. I'm going to wake up in the tent with Harry and Ron and we're going to keep searching for Horcruxes. There was no battle; nobody is dead yet. It's all been a long, horrible dream.
But Hermione could not believe that the sounds around her were not real. She could not believe that a dream would last so long, and she was sure that she was not dead. Then, she heard a new voice.
"Yes, I am one of the lucky ones, Poppy."
It was Professor McGonagall.
"You have no idea how glad I am to see you alive, Minerva!"
The rustling of fabric suggested that they were embracing. There was a long pause.
"What about Harry? When I saw him fall-"
Hermione wished she could howl with misery.
"He's fine! Not a scratch on him! I don't know how it happened, or what sort of power that boy has. He has done the impossible twice now!"
"The boy-who-lived," said McGonagall reverently.
Could it be true! Harry was alive? It was impossible – but then, it was Harry. And Ron must have made it as well! Hermione thought she would explode with happiness. That could only mean that it was over for good – that Voldemort was gone. Hermione went from wishing she could get up and throw herself out of a window to desperately wanting to live in less than thirty seconds. Why didn't they come visit her? She needed to hear their voices again.
"Well, Albus? Have you any ideas?" McGonagall was very close to her now.
"I know of no curse which would cause this," he said.
"And the other portraits?"
"I am in the process of interviewing them," he replied, "So far, nothing. I will be in the office if you need me."
There was a short silence, and Hermione assumed that Dumbledore had left them. McGonagall spoke.
"How is Severus?"
"Not good, Minerva, not good at all."
"What about Horace? Is he awake yet? Perhaps he can help."
"He's still not quite himself," said Madame Pomfrey, "but he looks much stronger this morning."
Another silence followed and Hermione felt one of the women pat her arm.
"Where is Severus?" asked McGonagall quietly.
"Next to the rose window, at the end."
McGonagall left, but Madame Pomfrey kept her hand on Hermione's arm, and then felt her forehead and her pulse.
"You're in perfect health, Miss Granger. I can't find a thing wrong with you and that rosy glow is certainly not from a fever."
The older woman stood over her for a few more minutes before removing her hand and walking away. Before she was gone, Hermione heard quick footsteps pounding the floor.
"Gone!" said a voice.
"Severus – is not with us anymore. Come see for yourself."
"Oh, Minerva, I don't believe it!"
Two sets of footsteps rushed from the room.