Infuriated, Severus stormed…well, rather, limped, into the Hospital Wing, a novice Healer upon his heels.

"Pomfrey! Can you tell this insufferable woman to leave me alone? Apparently," Severus spoke through clenched teeth, "she won't listen to me." He stood with arms crossed in front of a harried Madam Pomfrey.

She sighed. "Severus, you're wounded. You need-"

"I know what is wrong with me, thank you very much. I also know that with, frankly, some well-deserved rest, I will heal. I do not need this…girl, dogging my every footstep!" His anger was barely contained.

"Yes, yes, alright. Judy, find someone else to help. Thank you, dear." Pomfrey turned from Severus to tend to a wounded student.

The battle had been fierce. Severus and a handful of others were lucky to escape with their lives.

Suddenly tired, Severus sank onto a nearby bed and glared around the room. His attention was arrested by a small figure sitting by the nearest window.

Her back was to him, but he would recognize that bushy head anywhere. She seemed to be mumbling to herself and studying the window and the blackness beyond it in depth; her head was rocking slowly from side to side.

"Poppy…" Severus quiet got the attention of the Mediwitch beside him.

"Mm?"

"What's wrong with Miss Granger?"

Pomfrey paused in her ministrations, straightened up, and quietly replied, "Her mind… Her brain has been addled. There's no one that can help her." Swallowing, Pomfrey continued with her duties, trying to suppress tears.

Severus stared, his heart in this throat.

She was the brightest witch of her age; her mind was invaluable.

Severus swallowed.

*****

Later that night, when some semblance of order had settled upon the destroyed castle, Severus made his way, slowly and painfully, to the window where she had not stirred except to eat some broth served by that annoying healer.

He sat down quietly beside her, afraid to see her turn her eyes to him, afraid of what might be there, of the darkness that might greet him.

She was shivering. Was no one taking care of her? Severus looked around but was only greeted with the sight of healers and volunteers tending to the more pressing matters of gaping wounds, dark smoke, and screaming, cursed victims.

He slowly slid out of his great coat and wrapped it around her shoulders. She flinched but soon huddled deeper into the warm fabric. She closed her eyes.

"Miss Granger?"

She pulled the coat tighter around herself.

"Hermione?" Her eyes opened. Quietly, Severus repeated himself and slowly, she turned her head towards him, her eyes slowly fixed upon him, those large, honey brown eyes he dreamed about. She seemed the same, but he knew she was fragile, damaged even. He refused to believe there could be nothing done for her.

"It's me, Severus."

***

The next day, Severus stopped by the lab they had shared for so many hours before the Final Battle, and found her discarded school bag. Inside was her favorite book. Sometimes, when there was nothing to do but wait for potions to brew and she had, ever the diligent student, already finished her homework, they would sit and chat, or she would read parts of Tellyson's Magic of the Joonerburn.

He brought it to her. Gently handing it over to her, he tried to get her to recall those times they had spent in the dungeons together. Talking. Theorizing. Yes, even laughing.

She frowned and looked the book over. He opened the book to the first page and saw her eyes widen as if she had never beheld so many words before.

His heart broke. He gently took the book from her and began to read.

After an hour, her weak body forced her to rest, and she fell asleep with her head on his shoulder. He gently lowered her down onto her cot and tucked her hair behind her ear.

***

Many days later, after Severus had read his way through the entire book, he found her stroking the pages and muttering to herself.

When he sat beside her he mentioned that they had finished the book, but he would find her another if she wanted to read it.

And then, for the first time in days, she spoke. Quietly, and roughly, she uttered, "Read."

Severus watched her. She turned to him and commanded, more strongly this time, "Read."

"Why don't you read it to me, Hermione?"

She thrust the book at him, and glared. "Read!"

With a smirk, Severus turned to the first page. He sensed some of her bossy nature was coming back. Though he had to reread the book from front to back with a dry throat, he had never been happier.

****

Severus' stride was slowly coming back. He reached Minerva's office in half the time it would normally take him.

"Severus, please have a seat. Ginger snap?"

He shook his head.

"I wanted to thank you for what you've done for Miss Granger. She is almost a whole new person now." Her eyes were tired and saddened. She knew her favorite student would never fully recover but that she had found comfort and strength with her strange friendship with the Potions Master was reassurance to all.

They were good for each other.

"What did you wish to discuss?"

"You are healing too, Severus, and, well, we think it's time that we got her a ward at St. Mungo's. Once you leave her, she will need constant care and-"

"You cannot put her in that place! After all she has gone through, how far she's come, and you want to lock her up in that prison? She won't heal there! She needs a friend!"

Minerva nodded slowly. "I know. I fear for her when you leave but she is not your responsibility, Severus. We cannot care for her properly here at Hogwarts. She will be moved in two days."

Severus frowned and stood up, rather too abruptly, causing him to wince. He turned his back on Minerva and studied the oak wood of the wall.

"She needs more than what St. Mungo's can offer. She… I never told her before… I never told her that… I loved…love her." After a brief moment, in which he and Minerva both composed themselves after that confession, he turned around and stated, "She will not go to St. Mungo's. She will stay with me."

"Severus… She has come a long way and for that we must thank you but she will never be truly healed. In ten years, she will still be… unwell."

"Yes, but she will be with me." On that final understanding, Severus left.

****

Together, they got through a lot. Severus was always at her side, showing her what he could never say, what she would never truly understand. And together, they both grew. Hermione became stronger, more aware, less afraid. She only trusted him, and though her friends were heartbroken, they could see the good he had done for her.

They were an odd couple, walking to the shops together, reading books together.

They were broken, but they were stronger as well.

Hermione trusted her dark prince. Her Severus. She would only speak to him, she would only let him touch her and after many years together, he showed her how wonderful, how safe, his touch could feel. And she reveled in it, reveled in his love that she didn't truly understand.

****

"Severus! Severus!" She screamed and reached for his hand. He squeezed back and spoke soothing words but it all hurt so much. She didn't understand but he told her it would be over soon, that he was so proud of her, that he was sorry for hurting her.

And she screamed some more. But then, it was over, and she looked up at him, and he smiled down at her.

Someone handed her something.

"Hermione…" Severus fought back tears. "This is your daughter."

"Baby?" She asked him as she enfolded the child in her arms.

Severus nodded, unable to speak.

She frowned. "Our baby?"

"Yes, our baby."

****

Hermione Jane Snape was only 33 when she died. Britain mourned her tragic, short life but no one understood just how much joy she had taken from it in that short time. Despite everything, she was determined to be happy, to enjoy her life with her husband and child.

Severus and Joy held hands at her newly erected tombstone. Joy was only 9 but had the wisdom that only a daughter of Severus and Hermione could have.

She held her father's hand.

They were good for each other.