"I'm sorry, Mr. Longbottom, Ms Granger is still comatose. Alive, but comatose" the nurse shook her head, "Your nose has not yet fully recovered, and it would be wise for you to lie down"
"But when is she going to wake up?" Neville pleaded, desperate. For hours he had kept his vigil next to his comatose friend, begging for her to wake up. He had been pleading since the moment Dolohov's spell struck her down. The blinding pain when his nose broke seemed to fade when he could see her still form. Throughout all the horrors of that night, when he saw his friends fall one by one, even staring into the eyes of Bellatrix Lestrange, his worst fear hung over his head.
He was only fifteen,, but he felt very old. Very, very old. A war had begun, and one of the people he cherished most of the world was lying very, very still. She had been injured before; petrified, exposed to dementors, abducted by merpeople, but through it all she knew what she was doing. Neville reached out to grasp her still hand. She was always the one who knew what she was doing. Now, where would he turn to? She was the candle that led him through the dungeon, and it seemed as if though it had been extinguished.
Harry was his other guide when Hermione fell, but he knew Harry was with Dumbledore, and had much weightier issues to deal with. Ron and Ginny were by him, waiting desperately for their friend to awake, but they didn't have what Hermione had. Neville himself wasn't sure what Hermione had in the first place. Wisdom? Beauty? Intelligence? Leadership? And yet, there was something else she had. Something that had made Neville fall in love with her.
He loved her. He really didn't think of it. It just came naturally. He loved her, and that was it. He had never told Hermione that for some reason. She was in love with Ron, after all, and he didn't stand much of a chance. But he still loved her, regardless of whether it would be returned. Neville wished he could just tell that once she woke up, but he knew he'd just choke and scurry away again.
He still held her hand. She looked peaceful, sleeping quietly. When she was petrified, she was frozen with an expression of shock that send chills down his spine. But here, she was as if she was sleeping, breathing ever so slightly. He remembered when she first fell, and how he was so determined to reach her Dolohov broke his nose with a kick he never saw coming. A broken nose was nothing, but Hermione was irreplaceable.
She stirred slightly, startling him. Neville leaned in, desperately hoping she was coming to.
"Hermione? Please wake up?" he whispered.
Ron and Ginny joined him in watching, but she showed no sign of response.
"She has to wake up soon. She's got to" Ron murmured
The nurse chose that moment to rush in.
"Miss Weasley! Mr. Longbottom! Lay down! You still have one more day before you are allowed to leave. Mr. Weasley, get out of here!" she barked territorially
"But-but-" Ron protested, but she glared at him in a way that both Ron's mum and Neville's gran would be proud, and all the teenagers complied.
Ginny had it worst. She had a broken leg that had almost healed, but it prevented her from getting back up.
"What about Ginny? Mum told me to stay with her" Ron looked for any excuse
"I don't care. You've used up all your time. Now get out!"
Ron admitted defeat as the indomitable medical worker, and slunk away without a single word more, the nurse stalking on his heels.
Neville wasn't going to give up, though. When the nurse finally left, he managed to slip out of bed and walk over to Hermione's.
"Hermione, please come back. I love you. You can't die. You have to get back" he pleaded quietly.
This time there was a response.
"Neville…." She murmured. Her eyes were still closed, but her eyebrows narrowed and she shifted her weight.
"Yes. You're going to be alright"
"Where?" Her voice was barely audible
"You're in the hospital. You're safe"
"They're all right. Ginny and Luna are fine, too"
"I broke it"
"Idiot" She broke into a smile
"I love you" Neville couldn't help himself.
"Love you, too"
There was a long silence. Neville felt very warm and very cold at the same time.
"You gonna be all right?"
"I need some rest"
"Right, I'll go back to bed"
Shocked but not stopping to think, he obliged, leaning down to kiss her. Clumsily
"Thank you" She paused, "You need practice"
"That was my first"
"We'll practice soon enough. Get some rest. I'm going to take a nap right now"
"Get better" He gave her hand one last squeeze. Hermione squeezed his hand right back.