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, Madam 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 this instant! 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! Soon, her questions were answered.
"Professor Dumbledore? How did you get here?"
"It was thought that I might be able to help Miss Granger," Dumbledore said gravely. "My portrait has been moved here so that I may observe her."
Hermione struggled again to open her eyes, but no part of her body would obey her. Her nose itched, but she could not 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 now to check again myself."
"We will need his expertise."
"Is Snape - hurt very badly?" asked Harry tentatively, after soft, quick footsteps signaled that Madam 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."
Madam 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 tried again to open her eyes. She had to tell them that she was all right and not to worry. She did not feel any pain and 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. Shaky breathing filled the silence.
Finally, Madam Pomfrey spoke 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 moment."
Hermione was left alone. She could hear the ragged breaths of the 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 could not open her eyes. She gave up trying and focused on her racing thoughts.
What had happened to her? She could remember only small parts of the battle at Hogwarts. She remembered Fred, Tonks, and Remus lying dead. She could not 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 appeared in battle, after they had all thought he was dead. The first thing he had done was kill Nagini, ripping the sword from Neville's hand and lopping her head off with a great, guttural yell.
Neville had stood there with his mouth hanging open in shock, momentarily 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.
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 could not 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 warmed her vision and once again she tried to open her eyes to no avail. She began to panic, but 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.
"Good morning, Albus," was Madam Pomfrey's soft greeting, which came 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 after all."
Hermione despaired at those words. Was that it? Her only hope was Professor Snape, who was dying? Surely there was someone else!
Madam 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 calm yourself and think clearly... for Miss Granger's sake."
"And she'll never hear it either."
Hermione felt a hand stroke her face.
The hand was gone. Madam Pomfrey's footsteps faded away.
What have I done?
Hermione still could not remember what had happened to her. What had Harry said last night? Or it had been Ron? Something about her being hit by a curse from Voldemort?
Harry had gone to 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. Hermione remembered Snape killing Nagini and shielding Neville, effectively shocking everyone who thought he was dead and on Voldemort's side. Harry must not have made it to Dumbledore's office, because he had 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 had 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 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?
Hermione listened intently to the sounds around her. Hushed voices and muffled footsteps were her only distraction from her thoughts. Once, she thought she heard Dumbledore's portrait snoring.
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. Then, she heard voices near her bed.
"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, Minerva. 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.
Harry was truly alive! It was impossible – but then, it was Harry. And Ron must really have made it as well! Hermione thought she would explode with happiness. That must mean that it was over for good. Voldemort was gone.
Hermione had gone 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," the portrait said.
"And the other portraits?"
"I am in the process of interviewing them," he replied, "but so far, I've found 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 Madam 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 Madam 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.
"He's gone!" said a voice.
"Severus is gone!"
"Oh, Minerva, I don't believe it!"
Two sets of footsteps rushed from the room.