Rating: M – inappropriate for readers under the age of 16; contains scenes of explicit sexuality and violence.
Disclaimer: Characters and settings ©J.K. Rowling.

Author's Note: This is an idea that I've been tossing about for ages. It observes everything that has happened in the entire series of Harry Potter, up until the final chapter, but it excludes the epilogue. I don't know for certain if I will actually take it anywhere, but I had to get it out of me and into written words, or else I would explode! Please note that all the content codes listed in the summary will be relevant if I do in fact continue this story, but only then.

Potions, Plans, and Second Chances

K. Marie

Chapter 1

Hermione Jean Granger had approached her work after Hogwarts much like she did anything else: with a great deal of perseverance, dedication, and with just a touch of pure stubbornness. It was for those traits that the Sorting Hat ultimately decided placing her in Gryffindor rather than Ravenclaw, and those very characteristics were what continued to pull her through the Second Wizarding War in one piece.

The same could not be said for her beau, and Ronald Bilius Weasley struggled immensely after the fall of Voldemort. He had been committed to St. Mungo's twice for (as his brother George so warmly referred to it) "lapses in sanity," and while the twin brother was worse for wear since the loss of his confidante, best friend, and business partner, he did seem better off than his youngest brother.

Regardless of which label one desired to tack on Ron's condition, Hermione remained loyally by his side throughout it all. Granted, finishing university would have been much easier had she not spent half her waking hours at his bedside, tending to his needs, but ultimately she felt it did contribute some to her success after graduation; she had become familiar with the staff at St. Mungo's, and after receiving her licensure as a Healer, she was given a high position among the ranks nearly immediately.

And good thing for it, too. With Ron's bouts with depression and sleeplessness, the once-cheerful, albeit rather dim Weasley struggled to maintain work. Hermione's was the only steady stream of income they saw. After about three years following the fall of Voldemort, George offered Ron a job at his joke shop, offering a great deal of leniency concerning his younger brother's emotional distress. It seemed, in fact, that Ron was taking the losses garnered from the war the hardest, even though he himself had emerged with the majority of his relationships fully intact.

Hermione and Ron were leasing an apartment in the city, within walking distance from the hospital, though that didn't matter, really. Transportation was never an issue when one was trained in Apparition, but Hermione did enjoy the leisurely walk to the hospital on the warmer days of the year.

Harry, no worse for wear and having seen many a horrible thing in his life already, emerged from the war relatively unscathed. He was working for the Ministry as an Auror, while Ginny continued her studies at university. They had purchased a home not far from the Burrow and were living a life of leisure, Harry finally enjoying what it was to lead a relatively normal lifestyle, though secretly he complained to Hermione that sometimes it was simply boring.

Working in what a Muggle would equate to an emergency room, Hermione saw her fair share of brutality. While Voldemort himself had fallen six years previous, that by no means suggested the world was rid of dark magic. And in fact, one would be foolish to believe such, but Hermione was reminded of the grim reality every day. She had mended many wounds, set many a broken bone; all minor injuries in compared to some of the more extreme, merciless cases.

The Death Eaters – though of course they no longer congregated under that label – were still rampant. Their Lord had fallen once and resurrected; was it so unlikely it could happen again? The few that survived the war that also escaped incarceration were still wheedling their way through the world, just out of view of the Ministry. And they struck with a certain vengeance.

It was not often that it happened, but there were instances where mysteriously, the gruesome, decaying remains of a missing person were discovered. The attacks were truly bloodthirsty; they made no use of the traditional curses that were named justly so. These attacks were driven by madness, by a bloodlust comparable to Voldemort himself. The victims were beaten and tortured, presumably for information but in other cases, the reason was based purely out of prejudice. The bodies of Muggleborns and "blood traitors" were maimed nearly beyond recognition, while those that may have had information on the Dark Lord were simply stabbed and beaten until they either lost consciousness or passed on.

Those former Death Eaters who were committing the heinous crimes moved quickly and there were no traces to lead to their capture. Aurors – Harry included – had been combing the hills for months following an attack to turn up with nothing. Then another attack – and there was never any justice, never any closure for the families of the victims.

As Hermione pushed open the door to her apartment building, she stifled a yawn. She was glad to report that the day was indeed rather slow, nothing more than broken bones to mend. She heard the televisions growling through the walls of her neighbors, and as she climbed the stairs to her own apartment, she could hear a similar sound creeping out from under the door.

As she entered her home, she spotted Ron on the couch. His eyes were heavy-lidded with fatigue and he turned to face her. Quickly he rose, coming to her side and kissing her gently. Pulling out of his embrace she set her bag down beside her desk and lowered herself into the chair.

"How was your day, Ron?" she asked, her eyes passing between him and the Muggle news network he had been watching.

"Fine," he replied, lowering himself to the couch once more. As she studied his features, she noticed the roughness along his chin and cheeks that suggested a face that needed shaving. "Not much to report from this end, you know that."

Indeed she did, and while the conversation was really just arbitrary prattle, she liked to at least try to fool herself into believing she wanted to maintain the relationship. It was true, she was growing quite weary of Ron's exhaustive flip-flop of mood states, and moreover she simply sought more engaging conversation. But she couldn't bring herself to abandon him. Not when he needed someone like he needed her.

Often times she cursed herself for allowing him ever to visit her parents in their home. It was those visits that inspired his purchase of a television, in front of which it seemed she found him each evening.

When it became clear that he wasn't going to query about her day, she rose from her desk chair and moved into the bedroom. She had resigned herself months ago that their intimacy had dwindled to the seemingly obligatory greeting kiss, and there it would remain indefinitely.

She disrobed, allowing her clothes to fall to her feet before moving to her dresser and pulling on some sleeping clothes. Climbing under the heavy covers of the bed, she allowed sleep to overwhelm her, and she succumbed to her world of dreams.

"Good morning, Ms. Granger," from behind the tall marble desk, a blonde woman with piercing green eyes greeted Hermione happily.

Hermione smiled in return, passing through the entrance hall of the hospital to the corridor that would lead to the emergency center. As she pushed open the doors, she entered a sterile environment of overbearing white, busy bodies, and frustrated voices. One of the mediwizards crossed paths with Hermione as he was hurrying to another room, and he greeted her with a frantic hello before disappearing through the doorway.

Approaching the counter, she paused only briefly to talk with the woman seated there. The woman informed Hermione that Marcus MacLean had just asked after her, and that he needed her assistance immediately. Hermione nodded, thanking the young witch, and proceeded in the direction she had been pointed.

As Hermione eased her way through the groups of healers, nurses, and the occasional medi-apprentice, she caught faint whispers of the conversation she had been instructed to join. Three men, all clad in traditional mediwizard garb, gathered together in a tight circle, their heads tipped forward as if trying to ensure that their discussion would not escape the confines of their bodies.

"We have no history for him…"

"He won't speak; he won't say a word to us."

"We've scoured missing persons, there's nothing on file…"

"He may as well be dead!"

Hermione indelicately cleared her throat from behind the men, receiving a startled reaction from one of them. The oldest of the men – or so she assumed; starting at his temple, a crown of silver hair feathered the roots of his otherwise dark hair – nodded to her in acknowledgement. The younger two, neither showing a hint of graying of their hair nor wrinkle in their face, turned their attention from Marcus to Hermione.

"This way, Ms. Granger," he said, touching his hand to the small of her back to lead her into the private room outside which they were conversing.

As they entered the room, the patient she had been beckoned to examine was hidden behind a sterile green curtain. From the end of the bed she noticed the dark red staining of the white sheets, a subtle tremor of the feet of the bed's inhabitant sending a resultant shudder along the length of the fabric.

Hermione gently closed the door behind her, her eyes never leaving that tremulous limb. As she came to stand beside the wizard once more, she finally looked up to him, the deep creases in his face betraying his otherwise calm disposition.

"Let me see his chart," Hermione began slowly, her amber eyes flickering back to the foot of the bed.

Without any motion from either of them, the document lifted from its place at the end of the bed frame and levitated to her hand. It was so barren, so destitute; it may have well been an empty folder as she stared at its cover. As she looked to the identification sticker, a slight wrinkle pressed into her forehead as she furrowed her brow.

Name: Unknown
PID: 6-5325-023-10
MR: 987-098-4321-01
DOB: Unknown
Age: Unknown
Sex: Male

She flicked open the cover of the dismally indigent folder and inside, a single yellow sheet of paper glared up at her, almost mockingly. Gleaning from it what little information it offered, she gently closed the folder once more. Tucking it under her arm, she reached out for the privacy curtain. The wizard beside her touched her arm gently and before she pulled open the curtain, she turned to him.

"What is it, Marcus?" she said, her voice quiet.

He tugged at her, pulling her away from the curtain. With their backs facing the patient's bed, he tipped his head towards her, his voice a mere whisper, barely audible, as he spoke.

"This is an attack unlike any that we've seen before, Hermione. It's remarkable he is still alive. He's been drifting in and out of consciousness since he arrived several hours ago, and whenever he's been awake we've been trying to ascertain his identity. There is, surprisingly, no trauma to his larynx – so we have no idea why he isn't speaking," Marcus replied, his pale green eyes flickering from her face to the foot of the bed. "I've forbidden the nurses from cleaning him until you have performed a full examination."

"Haven't you already assessed his condition?" she replied sharply, as though both irritated and horrified he would have neglected such a prudent portion of his responsibility as a Healer.

"Of course, I have," he replied, quiet still.

She didn't allow him to finish, simply offered a 'tut' in disapproval. Turning towards the patient's bed once more, she gently pulled back the curtain, moving towards the patient slowly. She hadn't noticed it before, but as she moved closer, her senses were momentarily overwhelmed by the scent of human blood – though she was not surprised, considering how crimson his sheets were. There was also the pungent odor of filthy skin and dirt.

His dark hair was matted and tangled with blood and dirt, and as Hermione drew closer she noticed tiny twigs snarled amidst the mess as well. His face was gaunt, pallid from blood loss; his prominent cheekbones bore ugly gashes that were crusted with dried blood and mud. Around his eyes there was dark bruising, several small cuts that crusted brown. His nose, which upon primary glance appeared too large for his sallow face, was quite obviously broken, blood crusted around his long nostrils and vicious bruising lining the bridge. There was ugly bruising along his jaw, his lip split and caked with blood.

She reached for the bedside table and donned a pair of gloves. Something seemed so familiar about this man, and yet, as hard as she wracked her memory, she could not recall why she would recognize him. Gently, she manipulated his lips to examine his mouth; his slightly yellowed, slightly crooked teeth were bordered along his gums with blood and dirt. Touching his mouth had aggravated the gash in his lip, and it began bleeding again. She reached for a clean cloth and pressed it against his mouth carefully, stanching the bleed.

Her amber eyes scanned the rest of his body. He was mostly covered by the sheet and she knew to get a better idea of what sort of trauma he endured, she'd have to draw the curtain around them. Lifting the cloth from his lip, she checked the open wound; it was only oozing blood now, very scant amounts, and she placed the cloth in the basin by the bed and proceeded to draw the curtain.

"How was he discovered, Marcus?" Hermione asked quietly through the curtain as she began to examine the rest of the patient's battered body. All injuries she could tend to in a moment, as the Blood-Replenishing Potions Marcus had administered had all but replaced the blood loss.

"He was stumbled upon by some children in an open field about fifteen kilometers south of the Chelmsford," the Healer replied. "The injuries were too severe – with weapon and cause unidentifiable by Muggle means, anyway – to treat at the local hospital. After a brief consultation with the Prime Minister, he was transported here."

"What does the Prime Minister have to do with the affairs of a local hospital?" Hermione asked curiously, her delicate hands turning over the left arm of the John Smith in the bed. He had several deep lacerations lacing the flesh of his arm, all of which oozed minute traces of blood. As her eyes scanned the skin carefully, and through the dried blood and dirt, she spied an interesting scar pattern on his forearm; she noted to view it closer after she had cleaned him. The sheet beneath his arm was damp with blood and sweat, and she set his arm back down.

"It was a curious case, as you can imagine," Marcus replied from behind the curtain. "He had only been there twenty minutes before they declared it an unusual circumstance. One of the doctors there is the father of a Muggleborn wizard, you see."

Hermione bent over the bed, carefully studying the patient's neck. Something peculiar had caught her eye, and as she drew closer, she noticed the unique scarring there. Two circular blemishes, about as wide apart as her closed fist, one of which would have perfectly punctured the man's jugular. Briefly, she recalled witnessing that abominable serpent stretching towards Severus Snape, her long, venomous fangs piercing his throat, and the blood that pooled beneath him as he collapsed…

She breathed in deeply, forcing the unpleasant memory from her mind. This was no time for recollection, and she knew she had suffered many a night with the horrible dreams of the man's violent, tragic death. She had witnessed the deaths of many people now, and though it never grew easier for her, she had found herself growing more callused as the days passed. Resuming her examination, she pulled open the modesty ribbon of his patient robes, folding them down towards his feet to reveal his chest to her.

His chest was disturbingly purple with bruising, as though he had been subject to a severe beating – though, given the state of the rest of him, Hermione figured it did not seem so preposterous after all. He had several deep gashes along the flesh of his breast, dried blood crusting at the edges. His abdomen, barely concealing the hint of lean muscle beneath the pale skin, was also mutilated in a similar way, deep lacerations mingling among the dark bruising.

"And we have no idea what happened to him?" she asked, her examination taking her to the other side of the bed, where she tenderly lifted his arm, inspecting it for damage. She was not disappointed; this limb bore similar abuse as his other, the thin fabric of the mattress beneath him stained red with his blood. Gingerly, she turned his hand over, carefully inspecting the long fingers and callused pads of his palm. His nails were caked with dirt, his fingers rough from years of use. She returned the gown to his chest, tying it loosely around his neck.

"Conjecture," he replied softly.

"Very well. Thank you, Marcus. You can leave," she replied simply, her eyes never ceasing in their constant, diligent examination.

Tucking the blanket back to reveal one of his legs to her, Hermione began carefully manipulating the limb to allow her better visualization of the wounds that decorated it. There was a deep gash along his thigh that just barely missed his femoral artery. She continued down the long limb, finally reaching his toes; his feet seemed to be the only unscarred portion of his entire body. She covered the limb, and moved around to the other side to continue her examination.

As she reached to finally uncover his genitals, leaving the most immodest portion of her examination for last, she cried out in shock when a strong hand came to grasp her wrist. He had come to support himself, albeit very gingerly and with great effort, on his elbow. He grimaced in pain at his own sudden movements, his pale, withered chest heaving for air. Looking up at the face of her patient, her lips parted in a quick apology, but he shook his head slowly.

"But I need to ensure—" He was not the one to interrupt her, however; as she stared at his face, his dark eyes boring into her own, the strength of her voice abandoned her. The last word on her lips was a mere squeak as she breathed it, and she thought for certain, her eyes were betraying her.

Those eyes; those eternally fathomless, cold, black eyes – she recognized that penetrating gaze as though she had just served detention with its owner the evening last. Her eyes broke his stare, flickering to the scarring on his throat, and the peculiar mark, tarnished with filth and blood as it was, on his left forearm.

Finally, he released her wrist and lowered himself to the pillow once more, a small groan escaping him. She turned to the foot of the bed, retrieving the chart once more. Desperately, she searched its solitary page for any information that would prove her wrong; she knew she had to be mistaken. She had witnessed the man exsanguinate in the Shrieking Shack, his fingers unable to stanch the wound. Six years later, she still woke in a cold sweat to the sound of his scream as Nagini sunk her fangs into his throat. The rattle of his last shallow breath; the sound of his hand falling to the floor in a quiet thud.

It wasn't possible! Her eyes were shiny now, her hands trembling as she held the empty chart in her hands. It offered her no more information than what she had gathered on her thorough examination. As she set the file back in its holder, she looked up at the John Smith in the bed before her; the patient whom she still wished to believe was unidentified. He had pulled the sheets to his chest in a simple gesture of modesty, his pallid face bearing a grimace that she had only ever seen once before.

Recognizing his pained expression, she turned to the medicine cart by his bed. Brandishing the key from her pocket, she opened it, offering him a dose of the best analgesic potion he had prescribed to him. He swallowed it, his dark eyes never leaving her face as she lifted the small goblet to his lips, and she held his gaze just as levelly.

She set the goblet on the table beside his bed, her amber eyes wide with shock. She searched his face for some distinguishing characteristic, anything at all. She was absolutely mental, she had to be – he was dead. Long since dead. Did he have family? Perhaps this was his twin. Her gaze flickered to his throat once more and then back to his face; his glittering black eyes held some emotion there, something she didn't recognize – that must be the difference! The man she thought to be dead never displayed any emotion. It couldn't be him!

Breathing deeply, she forced herself to remain professional, distancing herself from her thoughts. Regardless of his unknown identity (or her suspicions), he was very ill indeed. The fact he was even conscious for her then was a miracle in and of itself, but the administration of blood-replenishing potions no doubt assisted in that. Finally, she turned towards the basin on the side of his bed. Normally, the nurses would handle the task of cleaning a patient, but Hermione couldn't bring herself to allow another individual to be so intimate with the man. She couldn't explain why she immediately felt so protective of him, but he seemed to appreciate it regardless; as she filled the basin with comfortably hot water, she smiled at him, and she thought she caught the brief tug of the corner of his mouth that may have been a smile.

Hermione was unique in her bedside manner in that, when she could help it, she personally saw to the traditional care of her patients. Magic had its merits in so many ways, but she believed strongly in the strength of the gentle hand in caring for the sick. She held steadfast in her belief, despite the mockery of her fellow Healers; but at the very least, her patients appreciated her efforts. Where she could use her own tender hand to care for her patient, she would abandon the use of magic, and in cleaning a patient's wounds (especially when she had time or was particularly interested in forming a strong bond with her patient), she tucked her wand away. It allowed for a certain level of intimacy between Healer and patient, something magic simply could not grant; while she cleaned her patients, they would talk to her, telling her all about their lives. And from there, the foundation of trust could be built.

Wetting the cloth, she gently began wiping him clean. She started with his face, tenderly moving the warm cloth over his wounds, cleaning away the dried blood. His dark eyes simply watched her face the entire time, though he did occasionally grimace when she rubbed against a particularly painful gash. The bruising around his eyes and nose seemed exaggerated now that his face was clean, white like porcelain as the skin was, his left eye swelling rapidly with each passing minute.

He lifted his head to expose his throat to her and she delicately smoothed the cloth over the flesh. The cloth dragged over the stubble of his unshaven jaw, rough with the growth of a beard. She noticed a faint line of pink skin just above the prominence of his Adam's apple, as though a knife had been pressed there. Hermione frowned; what happened to this man? With his throat cleaned now, the scarring that had been so disturbing to her before was much more evident, and she felt her heart race.

As she moved down his body, she tenderly cleaned the open wounds and applied a coagulation paste to those that seemed determined to bleed. He was hesitant to allow her to handle his left arm, and for a moment, she challenged him with a firm stare. He resigned to her, and as she gently cleaned the soil and crusted blood from the flesh, the scarring there glared at her as though it was active. Though now it was just a silvery scar, the distinctive serpent protruding from the mouth of a skull sent a shiver down Hermione's spine. She knew now why he was so hesitant to allow her to clean his limb, and she looked at him with a certain amount of sympathy in the amber pools of her eyes.

Doing her best to remain professional even as the truths she thought she knew crumbled, she tore her attention from the significant scar. There were areas of his body that seemed particular sensitive for him, and as she moved over them, she noted them mentally for further examination. Given the bruising of his body, she would not be surprised if he had suffered some broken bones. All along his form there were scars of varying ages, some implying more savage wounds than others. Forty-five minutes later she had finally finished, and as she wringed the cloth over the basin, the water inside swimming with pink and gobs of crusty blood, she turned to him once more.

"I was asked to do a consultation," she began quietly, sitting in the chair beside his bed. With her wand out, she pointed at the bed, and slowly the head began to rise until he was more upright. His expression never changed, so she assumed he was content with the change in position. "I am the best Healer this hospital has to offer. Your injuries are severe, as I'm sure you can imagine. The others – they don't trust their ability to heal you properly."

His dark gaze was fixed on her face, flickering over her features. Despite her calm disposition, her heart was racing beneath her breast. Her astonishment that he was laying in the hospital bed before her had not yet passed, and with every second that ticked away, she became more certain of his identity.

"My colleagues tell me you haven't spoken a word since you arrived here," she continued, standing only to reach for his chart. "You are listed as a number, and that's all. We have no information on your identity, no history." She flashed the patient tag in front of him, her finger gesturing to the identification number.

His expression did not change, but as she studied his face, her eyes almost hungrily searching his features for something that would discern this man from whom she believed him to be, she noticed the deep lines around his eyes and at his mouth, the crevices creasing his forehead despite his relaxed brow. He looked so much older now than she remembered.

Lowering back into the chair, she opened his file in her lap. The single yellow page glared at her, and she turned it over as though hoping for something more yielding of information, but it held nothing significant she didn't already know. Her hands were trembling, and as the lightweight folder in her hands began to betray her, quietly rustling in her tremulous grasp, she closed it roughly and set it on the edge of the bed.

She found herself reverting to the teenage girl he had humiliated so often in her youth. Her heart seemed to have no intention on slowing, and the longer her apprehension persisted, the more concerned she grew that the muscle may cease functioning. As her eyes scanned his face, the familiar features that were only a memory barely two hours before, she felt her resolve falter. The strength in her voice failed her as she looked at him. "You're more than just a number, though," she said, her voice cracking. "If you are who I think you are… you're a hero."

Finally, his eyes left her face and he turned to stare at the ceiling. The mess of his hair was too daunting for her to tackle by hand, and with her wand, she whispered a spell, and it lay flat and smooth around his head. As she removed the twigs that lingered behind, its length was her last confirmation; from what she could tell, it hung to his shoulders, shining and black just as she remembered it.

"Where have you been?" she whispered. "I… I watched you die."

The corners of his mouth pulled in a smirk, and she could have sworn his grunt was a disguised chuckle. Slowly, he shook his head, as though silently refuting her claim. He made no gesture to speak, however, and his gaze lingered on the ceiling.

Rising to her feet, she held her wand at his face, and his dark eyes widened briefly before a loud crack resonated in the room, and his face twisted into an agonized grimace. Blood began gushing from his newly set nose, and she quickly brought a cloth to it. He tipped his head back, and she pinched the bridge of his nose with one hand, holding the cloth to his nostrils with the other.

"Hold this here," she said softly, and he brought his hand to the cloth.

Picking her wand up from his bed, she held it levelly with his nose once more. "Confutoepistaxi." With a soft whooshing sound, the bleeding from his nose ceased, and he pulled the cloth away.

She began tending to the remainder of his wounds, the coagulation potion having had time to stop the bleeding. Her quiet whispers and quick wristwork with her wand expedited the healing process of his body. The smaller wounds would heal rapidly, only requiring a few minutes to seal the delicate flesh. There were several other deeper lacerations though that would require a combination of treatments, and she turned to the medicine cabinet.

She withdrew the tincture she required, conjuring a dropper from the air. Leaning over the lacerations she knew magic alone could not heal, she applied the potion to the wounded flesh. As the solution permeated the gashes, the flesh began to smoke as though she were burning it, the solution foaming at first contact. Her patient tensed violently against the sudden burst of pain, a loud groan escaping his lips and in the silence to follow, she could hear the obnoxious and unpleasant grind of his teeth as he suppressed his cries. She hurried the application, knowing from stories past that the particular potion in use felt very much like slicing healthy flesh with a searing hot blade. As he writhed in the bed beneath her, she grimaced in sympathy.

As she finished her task of applying the potion, his body finally relaxed. Leaning over him, she began to recite the incantation that would begin the healing process of the wounds she treated. His hands flexed around the edge of the mattress, and while Hermione noticed his white-knuckle grasp, she did not address it. Over each wound she repeated the spell with a hushed voice, and the entire process required a great deal of her time. Nearly thirty minutes later, she had tended to each wound, and while they still gaped, there was a soft yellow glow about them that indicated her magic was working.

While her movements were adept, they were not accompanied by commentary and her silence left her patient wondering what she would do next. Honestly, she was amazed that neither of his arms was broken, though by the way he catered to his right side, she suspected he suffered at least one broken rib. But given the bruising of his chest, she doubted it was the only one.

With her wand raised, his skin began to glow a dark purple, not unlike a very severe bruise (which left him wondering how she could discern one from the other), over the bones that suffered injury. The discoloration remained and as she held her wand levelly at each location, a quiet snap was heard, a wave of excruciating pain passed over him, and the bone was set.

Once she finished with her wand, she tucked it into her Healer robes and turned to her patient once more. As she looked at him, almost pensively, she came to a silent decision. "This is going to be very unpleasant, but it must be done to ensure the proper treatment of any internal trauma."

He nodded slowly. She lowered herself into the chair slowly, studying his features. With a face as distinct as Professor Severus Snape's, there truly was no mistaking him for someone else; nor was it common to mistake another person as Severus Snape. She had no doubt as she examined his face that she was sitting across from that very man, and her shock at such a discovery both churned her stomach in great unease and caused her heart to beat so rapidly she thought the organ may explode.

Knowing her responsibility as a Healer predominated over any personal needs she may have, she rose from the chair once more. She rummaged through the medicine cabinet, removing the solution she sought. Examining the darkly colored solution within, she shook the vial, sloshing the liquid against the glass.

Moving over to the bed, she held the vial to the lips of the man whom she had believed to be dead for six years, and cradling his head in her hand, she helped him swallow the solution. He grimaced as the sticky, distasteful potion slithered down his throat, and she set the vial beside his bed.

Breathing an anxious sigh, she raised her hands in the air, one brandishing her wand, the other laying flat as though against some invisible surface, and she began quietly reciting an incantation. A wave of agonizing pain rushed over his body as though he was erupting from the inside, and he released a horrifying groan.

As she lowered her hands closer to his body, her voice continued to sing the soft incantation, and he was overcome with a feeling of warmth; it was not so unlike the feeling as blood returned to the empty veins, and the icy hand of death relinquished its grasp.

He hadn't realized it, but as his body was bathed in the blissful feeling of warmth, he had arched from the bed as though achieving the most pleasurable climax he had ever experienced – and with his flesh flushing with the rush of blood to all – all – parts of his body, he certainly appeared that way as well. As she lowered into the chair, his back slowly came in contact with the sheets below him, and his mind rapidly returned to the present.

For a brief second, he felt a fleeting feeling of humility, having enacted a very private act in the presence of the young woman tending to him. He gathered the covers to his groin to conceal the increase blood flow to that portion of his body. And then it occurred to him, she had just carefully bathed him and healed his wounds, and while he knew while it was only in the realm of her responsibilities as a Healer, the familiar face and concerned disposition was comforting to him. As her warm eyes studied him, not once acknowledging the reaction he found awkward to her spell, he shook his head as though literally shaking it of the thoughts that lingered there.

Hermione's concern rose as she became aware of the extent of his internal injuries. He would not appreciate the news that he would be laid up in the infirmary for a month or more, though were he to protest, she would have no problem locking him away in isolation. Cynically, she wondered if it would make any difference to him – though he neither confirmed nor denied her suspicion, she highly doubted he would receive any visitors anyway; nobody believed the man to be alive in the first place. At least, nobody who wished him to remain that way, as judging by the brutality of the attack that garnered him a trip to the hospital.

Turning to the medicine cabinet, she began searching for the remedy that would begin the healing process of his insides. She had yet to brew several complicated potions – specifically one tending to the damaged tissue of his heart, which currently was the most critical of tasks. The fragments of rib that had broken away when the bone was fractured embedded themselves in the various organs which they were intended to protect, and even though she was able to set the bone, she could not remove the shards without risking further injury.

Instead, she turned to him with the potion that would begin to dissolve such shards. In a day's time she would be able to address the wounded organs themselves, but for now, she simply cradled his head as he drank from the goblet.

"It's really quite amazing you survived this long with these injuries," she said, her voice calm. "Had you not received proper treatment in time—" she paused, reconsidering her sentence. "It is fortunate you arrived here when you did."

Setting the goblet down on the table, her eyes searched his face. In the few hours she had been in the room with him, he had not spoken a single syllable, neither confirming nor denying her suspicion of his identity nor providing any additional information that may expedite his healing. She wasn't even sure the hospital would still have the record of Severus Snape, the entire world having believed he was dead and gone for six years now, and no children whom would benefit from his health history.

He wasn't looking at her now, his face tipped up towards the ceiling. She lowered herself into the chair beside his bed, her hands grasping tightly at the arms.

"Why do you refuse to speak?" she asked him bluntly, pulling her chair closer to his bedside. "I know there is nothing wrong with your vocal chords. They may be the only thing, but they are fine."

His lips tugged at the corner once more, and his dark eyes scanned her features. She was much prettier now than he remembered six years ago when he last laid eyes on her. Perhaps it was that she was older now, and he didn't view her any longer as a student. Even in her age – she must be twenty-four now – faint freckles decorated the bridge of her nose. He leaned his head back into the cushion of the pillow, simply watching her.

"Can you at least confirm my suspicions?" she pleaded, leaning on his bed. "You – you don't understand. I watched you die. I saw the pool of blood, your last breath. You stopped breathing."

His eyes left her face and she knew in that moment he had no intention on speaking with her then. His gaze was fixed on the window across from her, and without saying a word, she knew he had just requested she leave. Standing slowly, indignant at his dismissal but knowing there was nothing she could do for it, she began to lead towards the door.

Pulling back the privacy curtain, Hermione paused before she disappeared behind it and through the door. He turned his head towards her, his arched eyebrow betraying his otherwise emotionless face.

"If you prefer, to… limit your exposure to those who may recognize you," she began softly, her eyes lowering from his face to the floor, and then back again. "I may be able to have you moved to an isolation wing, and restrict visitors and mediwizards."

He seemed to nod curtly to this suggestion, and she breathed a small sigh. "I can see if Marcus is willing to work with you. No?" He had shaken his head just slightly to this suggestion, and she furrowed her brow. "Just me, then? I'll see what I can do, but my services are in very high demand. I won't be available at all hours, but I can certainly be the one to provide your treatment." He seemed to relax at this, and for some reason, it filled her with a certain sense of pride. "Very well, then. I will speak with you very soon."

While he may not have confirmed her suspicions with his agreement to her suggestion, he certainly offered her more convincing evidence that she was correct. As she turned to leave his room, one last thing came to her mind, and she turned on her heel once more. But rather than speak directly to the man in the bed who seemed to be teetering on the edge of consciousness, she thought to speak to the nurse at the station.

Closing the door quietly behind her, she crossed the hallway to the nurse's station. Leaning over the counter, she smiled kindly at the young apprentice who seemed to be hurriedly scrawling notes in a chart. A nurse sitting by the wall turned towards Hermione, her flaming hair not unlike that of her fiancé. If she hadn't known better she'd have thought her to be a relative.

"Gwen," Hermione began in a kind but stern tone. "The patient – in room A-7—"

"The John Smith?" she replied.

"Yes," Hermione replied. "Please have him moved to the isolation ward upstairs. I'll be solely responsible for his care, though if in an emergency I'm unavailable, see to it that Marcus treats him."

Gwen turned her head curiously, but Hermione didn't give her the opportunity to query further. "See to it, please. Before this evening." And with that, Hermione picked up the chart the apprentice had been busy writing in, and proceeded to the patient's room.

Hermione had visited her "unidentified" patient's room twice more that day, once to check on his needs – which he had none, short of the required doses of his prescription potions – and another to inform him of the room change. He seemed pleased at the last bit of news, if only judging by his slight change in facial expression, and she assisted with the move.

The process didn't take very long at all, with the aid of magic on the side of the Healers. Hermione and Marcus worked together to levitate the patient from bed to stretcher, and then stretcher to the awkwardly tight stairwell. It was a feat to fit the long stretcher in there, but they managed, with the patient safely constrained with the use of confining charms. Finally they made it to the designated floor, and though this ward was used infrequently, it was readily appropriated to handle a multitude of needs.

As she guided the stretcher to one of the rooms, it came to life with light. With Marcus' aid, she moved the patient into the bed, covering him with the clean and sterile sheets. As she bade farewell to Marcus, thanking him for his assistance, she turned towards the patient in the bed once more. Still hesitant to refer to him as Severus, or Snape, or any combination of titles and names he may have preferred, she tried to distance herself from her suspicion, and would call him "the patient" in her mind until he confirmed what she already knew to be true.

Hermione performed a thorough, yet quick, examination of him, ensuring that nothing had changed since she had left him earlier. Even though he grimaced as she gently fingered some of the wounds, he seemed as intact as she had left him.

As she arranged a chair to sit beside his bed, she looked at him closely, studying his face. He watched her too, as though waiting for her to make her move, and as she lowered herself into the chair she placed by him, and turned her head curiously to the side.

"How long are you going to continue without speaking?" she knew it was foolish to ask such a question to a man who refused to say a word, but she thought it worthwhile to try.

He smirked slightly, the corner of his mouth tugging just barely. Turning his eyes from her to the window where the orange sky was darkening as the sun disappeared behind the horizon, Hermione released a frustrated sigh.

"I will find out either way, you know," she said pointedly. "I'm a very clever witch, or so I'm told."

A small chuckle eased out of him, but it suddenly twisted into a raspy cough, and he clutched at his chest. Hermione conjured a self-refilling goblet, helping him drink the icy water within, and he finally managed to catch his breath, leaning back into the pillows.

He turned to her, a crease pressed between his eyebrows, emphasizing the fine wrinkles around his eyes and the deep crevices in his forehead. He looked at her strangely, his expression meaningless to her if not a look of concern or confusion.

"What is it?" she pressed, leaning close to him, her fingers pressed to his throat, counting his pulse. It was rapid, but strong, and as she pulled back from him, her eyes hurriedly searched his face.

He parted his lips to speak, but at first, nothing came out. A rash sound escaped him as he cleared his throat, and he managed a simple word: "…thank…" His voice was weak, cracking as he spoke, as though it had been a very long time since he had actually used it.

Hermione touched her hand to his forehead in a motherly fashion, checking for a high temperature. As she pressed her fingers to his throat once more, her eyes watching the second hand of her watch as she counted the beating of his heart. After a quiet moment had passed, she turned her gaze to his face once more, but he wasn't looking at her anymore.

"Are you at least going to tell me your name?" she asked, her voice soft.

He didn't respond, and in that moment, she finally realized it would take a great deal more than cleaning him and healing his wounds to earn his trust. Finally resigning to the reality of the situation, she nodded.

"I understand," she said, and she tucked her hand into her pocket. "I know you're familiar with this," she handed him a Galleon, and as he looked at her curiously, she smiled. "It's fake. I've charmed it with a Protean charm. If you need me, just use it, and I will be here as soon as I possibly can."

He held the coin in his palm, studying it closely before curling his fingers around it and nodding to her. "If I can't make it immediately, the serial number around the edge here" – she pulled open his hand gingerly and pointed to the numerals she was referring to – "will change to the time I estimate I will arrive."

He seemed to consider her with a certain amount of… respect, or perhaps intrigue, though she couldn't be sure, as it was hard to gauge the meaning behind someone's expressions when they never shared words. She smiled, surprised at her own swelling pride; it was the first time he ever really displayed towards her any positive regard.

"It's identical to the method Dumbledore's Army congregated in my fifth year at Hogwarts," she said coolly, intended as an open display of her certainty of his identity.

He simply nodded in acknowledgement and turned his face away from her, clutching the coin close to his chest. With that final gesture, she left him to rest, turning on her heel and gently closing the door behind her.

With the evening rapidly approaching, she seriously considered staying the night in the room next door. The bed wasn't very comfortable, she knew, but that could be fixed, and she dreaded leaving the man overnight. If he needed her – and she wouldn't have been surprised if he had, it would be his first night in the infirmary and often times if something went wrong with a patient, it often happened within twenty-four hours of admittance.

As she descended the staircase to the emergency floor, Hermione decided she would indeed remain at the hospital overnight – just as a precautionary method. When she entered her office, she threw some powder into the hearth and stepped through the flames to let Ron know of her plans.

As she emerged through the hearth into their small apartment, Hermione spotted Ron reclining on the couch, fixated on the television. He was watching the Muggle news network again, and she frowned. She wished she would find him elsewhere, but it seemed each evening she returned, there he was in front of the television. He only spent four hours of his day at the joke shop, and the rest of his day was spent vegetating on the couch.

"I'm going to be staying at the hospital tonight, Ron," she said. "We admitted a very unstable patient today, and I don't want to leave him alone through the night."

Ron looked at her as though he had never noticed her entrance in the first place. Rising from the couch, he came to her, pulling her into his arms and kissing her. She returned the gesture but pulled from his arms quickly, disappearing into the green flames once more.

Passing through the department, she stopped by the nurse's station and informed the night nurse there of her plan. She nodded, knowing full well that it was common of Hermione to stay when she was overseeing the care of a particularly ill patient, and the Healer was off in a flurry of lime green.

Climbing the stairs, she checked her watch. It was only nearing nine o'clock, but she didn't know if he would be wakeful. She rapped gently on his door with her knuckles and entered, peering around the door. There was no light; the soft glow of the moon offered scant illumination, but it was enough to make out his form in the bed if she squinted. He was lying on his side, facing the window.

Coming around the bed, her presence did not go unnoticed by the saturnine man in the bed. His sallow face turned towards her, his dark eyebrow arched in curiosity, and he moved gingerly onto his back.

"I'm going to stay in the next room over, if you need anything," she said, plainly. "I didn't want to be too far away should something happen."

He only nodded once, as though leery of her true intentions. His forehead relaxed, the deep creases still apparent through his age. Again, she was frighteningly reminded of the Potions Master she had come to despise during her school years at Hogwarts, and despite his resistance to admit it to her, she knew it had to be him.

"I don't understand why you won't talk," she said softly, chewing her lip as she considered her next statement. "But I do understand that it is going to take some time to earn your trust."

He didn't say a word to her, instead turning from her to look out the window. She took that as her excusal, and wishing him a good night, she left the room.

She had several potions she needed to begin brewing and quickly, she descended the stairs to the dungeon beneath the hospital. She smiled to herself almost cynically; how appropriate it was for the hospital to have an apothecary in the dungeons when she would be creating potions for the very man who had taught her everything she had known – in dungeons.

She began the process, lighting several cauldrons and pulling out the book that would guide her in the process. Several hours later – when she checked her watch, it was nearing one in the morning – she had finished, and the potions would have to mature until morning before they were ready.

Removing her gloves and rubbing at her eyes, she dragged herself up the stairs. In her exhaustion they seemed exaggerated in their length, and she felt as though years had passed before she had made it to the isolation floor. Passing by the patient's room, she peered in just quickly. The room was dark, but she could hear his rattling breaths, even and deep with sleep.

With the silence settling in all around her in the sterile confines of her own small room, Hermione's mind began to whirl. She had manage to suppress her anxieties as she worked with him – compartmentalizing was a wonderful skill to possess, she had learned long ago – and so now, with so many emotions boiling up and threatening to spill, she found herself overwhelmed with her own mind.

As she laid back in the spongy hospital bed, she let her eyes flicker closed for just a split second to see the form of Severus Snape, clutching desperately at his throat in attempts to close the bleeding wound. He was gasping for air as he collapsed to the ground, a pool of blood quickly forming around him as Harry lurched forward…

Shaking her head of the mortifying memory, she thought back to the man in the room next door. The scars from her vicious fangs tainted the otherwise smooth flesh of his neck. She recalled, with a start, the thin mark of a blade pressed against his throat. It was not a scar, but a fresh wound, and she couldn't help but ponder what had brought him to the hospital in the first place.

He seemed so concerned with keeping his identity a secret. She wondered if there was anyone else who realized that he was, in fact, still alive. There must have been; what else could explain the brutality of the attack he was victim to? The injuries he received were those of vengeance, not of war. What role was he playing that required his identity to remain hidden?

She shook her head. Of course, this was all wild conjecture until he confirmed her suspicions to be true. Though, quite honestly, it was rather difficult to mistake those distinguishing features for anyone else. She had very little doubt that she had just taken care of the man she was certain she witnessed die, and yet he was laying in bed in the next room over.

In that moment, she was quite glad for the confidentiality laws that governed her work. It ensured that, no matter what, she could not be forced to give the identity of the patient in the next room over, and as she laid in bed staring at the ceiling he was so often fixated on, she made a note to point that out to him tomorrow, when she pressed for more information.

Hermione's morning was rather slow, but the remainder of her day would not remain that way. Even so, she slipped into the history department of the hospital. Stepping inside the door, she was reminded vaguely of the Hall of Prophecy in the Ministry of Magic. There were shelves towering well above where the ceiling should have been, reaching easily twenty feet in the air, if not further. The rows between were narrow, almost labyrinthine, and there was a thick layer of dust covering the floor.

The attendant working the thousands upon thousands of folders spotted her immediately, and though Hermione could not remember the young man's name, he recognized her nearly immediately.

"Ms. Granger!" he exclaimed eagerly. She knew this was an area of the hospital that was very infrequently visited, and it was quite apparent in the young man's avid greeting. "What can I do for you?"

"Point me in the direction of 'S'," she said quickly.

The young man seemed quite deflated at her hurried tone, but gestured in the direction of her goal. Nodding her thanks, she hurried down the row. Peering over her should to ensure she was not being watched, she brandished her wand and whispered, "Accio Severus Snape file."

Obediently, the thin folder came soaring towards her from the very top of the shelf. Catching it gracefully, she frowned as the file weighed barely more than the one for the patient upstairs. She flicked it open, her brown eyes hurriedly scanning its contents. On the very front page, there was a small photograph of the man of the file. His long, pale face glared menacingly up at her.

"Geminio," she whispered, and a twin of the file appeared in her hands. She tucked the copy into her robes and sent the original file back up to its location.

Quickly sweeping through the dusty corridor, she vacated the large room with a quick wave to the young man working it. Before heading to her office, she descended into the basement apothecary to retrieve the potions she had brewed the night previous. They would be ready for administration, and collecting the covered vials, she locked the door behind her.

She made directly for her office, where she sat down behind her desk and spread Snape's file. She searched it for anything relevant, anything at all – there were a few notes on various scars on his body, and when she went to reassess him later that morning, she made a note to check for those.

He had to know she would discover the truth eventually. He should also have known she wouldn't speak a word to anyone if that was his wish. She couldn't imagine why – he was a hero in their world, his portrait hung proudly in the Headmaster's office of Hogwarts. As soon as Harry confessed to everyone that Severus Snape had been on their side all along – and had not murdered Albus Dumbledore so much as spared him a very painful death – there was a wave of sorrow that washed over the school. Harry had left Snape's history much a secret though – including his lifelong love of his mother (which admittedly made Hermione tear up when she learned of it, especially when she realized what his Patronus was).

There was nothing more significant in his folder, and Hermione sighed in frustration. Closing the folder and tucking it away in a drawer of her desk, she rose from her chair and made for the isolation ward. Passing by the station, she plucked up a copy of the morning's Daily Prophet and climbed the stairs.

Rapping gently on the door, she waited a moment before entering. When there came no response, she pushed open the door and moved around the privacy curtain to the man lying in the bed.

"Good morning," she said softly. He simply looked at her, a curt nod indicating his return greeting. "I didn't know if you'd be interested, but I brought you the paper." She waved it in the air casually before setting it beside him. "I need to examine you, but before I do is there anything I can get for you? Do you need to use the loo?"

The corners of his mouth tugged in a frown and he nodded, as though suddenly very aware of nature's call. Smiling gently, she searched through the bedside table and removed an elongated plastic receptacle.

"I don't suppose I need to show you how to use this," she said, handing it over to him. "I'll be on the other side of the curtain."

Disappearing from sight, she hoped he wouldn't suddenly suffer performance anxiety. But with her morning tasks requiring her attention, she did not want to wait too long before she got started simply because he refused to use the perfectly-healthy chords in his throat. And so she waited behind the curtain, listening to his grunting and groans as he appropriated the urinal.

After silence settled in on the room once more, she waited quietly a moment longer before coming around the curtain. Taking the urinal from him, she tapped it with her wand and it vanished, only to be replaced a few moments later by a clean container. She set it beside his bed on the table, and began her morning exam.

Donning gloves, she pressed in on the wounds she treated yesterday. The smaller cuts had already healed with barely a silver streak of a scar, while the gaping lacerations were warm to the touch and thinner than they had been. With her wand directed at each wound individually, she chanted the same quiet spell and another half hour passed before she finished. Then, she gently pressed in on the bones she mended, and when he did not wince, she knew they were holding together well.

She drew the modesty ribbon from his gown, rolling down the chest. He didn't watch her so carefully this time, instead staring out the window with a scowl. The file made mention of a twelve centimeter scar traveling the length of his breastbone and another above his right nipple, only eight centimeters, but significant enough to be mentioned. Removing her gloves, she smoothed her hands over his emaciated chest, the wiry black hairs scratching against her hands. Surely enough, a long, silvery scar followed the path of his sternum. She drew in her breath sharply, and the man before her looked to her with alarm. With her eyes focused on his chest, he followed her gaze to the scar she studied so closely.

Looking up at him, her normally smooth forehead wrinkled with furrowed brow, she pulled her hands away from his chest, covering him once more with the gown. He met her gaze levelly, his dark eyes studying her face closely. She turned from him, emptying her pockets and setting each vial on the bedside table.

"This will begin to heal your heart," she said, holding up a yellowish liquid. "I need you to drink all of it, and I warn you now, it isn't exactly palatable."

He reached out to her, grasping the vial from her hands and tossing it back unceremoniously. His face twisted into a disgusted grimace, but he swallowed hard, forcing the solution into his stomach. It wasn't a minute more he was clutching at his chest, gasping ragged breaths of air. Hermione watched with sympathy, knowing his reaction was expected, and sat beside him for him to ride the discomfort out.

He sat straight up in his bed, grabbing at his chest and throat as though he were drowning. She laid a reassuring hand on his thigh, and after several more minutes, he collapsed back into the bed, breathing heavily, but alive.

"I don't like to mention it mimics a heart attack," she said with an apologetic tone. "It's much more difficult to administer it when the patient is so apprehensive of dying. Though – I'm sure you knew that, given you didn't actually protest during the throes."

He scowled at her before turning his attention to the second vial on the counter.

She followed his gaze. "Ah." Picking up a solution of vivid blue, she swirled it around in the jar. "This is the second dose. To be taken in an hour. And this." She lifted a glass vial with a murky green solution inside. "Addresses the problems with the rest of your organs."

He tipped his head back as if to say, 'Ah.' His gaze dropped to the paper she left there, and he lifted it into his lap.

"I wanted to inform you that I am bound by confidentiality laws. If… if you so desired, I wouldn't even be able to change the name on the chart. You would continue to be patient" – she lifted the chart from its holder – "zero two three dash ten."

With the paper open in his lap, he turned his eyes on her, his eyebrow arched with piqued curiosity. He folded his hands on top of the newspaper, the paper crackling beneath the weight, as he considered her.

She noted his sudden change in mood, and quickly added: "I also reviewed the file of whom I believe you to be."

Just minutely, his expression changed, but if she hadn't been paying close attention she would have missed it. Like a glimmer of hope in the eye of the hopeless, across his face flickered an expression of concern, but it lasted only a second before his countenance returned to its previous emotionless state.

"It is rather bare, as well." She gestured to the file in her hands as comparison. "But it makes note of two particularly distinctive marks. And no, not the Dark Mark" – her eyes flickered to the faded scar on his left forearm – "but those."

Rising to her feet, she set the file on the edge of the bed and leaned over him. Touching her cool hands to his chest, she traced the lines of the scar down his breastbone, and the one above his nipple. He glared at her in frustration and finally breathed a raspy sigh of resignation. She sat back in the chair, clutching the file to her lap, her gaze holding his.

His eyes flickered from her face to the general location of the door, and without having spoken a word, Hermione heard the quiet click of the lock. Her heart began racing, and there was a subtle tremor in her hands as she forced them against the tops of her thighs to quell the trembling. Even without his wand – who knew where it was at this point – he was capable of simple spells. She couldn't help but wonder the extent of his magical ability.

He cleared his throat. "Yes…Granger," his voice was weak, grainy, as though he hadn't spoken for some time. The words were broken, cracking as they left his lips. "But… mustn't say… word."

"But – you're—" she gasped.

"It... irrelevant." His dark eyes scanned the room for something, and Hermione stood quickly. "Water…"

She conjured a goblet full of self-replenishing ice water and helped him as he drank. With her hand cradling his head she held the goblet to his lips and pulled away as soon as he gestured to her. After three goblets' worth of water, he motioned for her to set the goblet on the table. There, it refilled with ice water, and she lowered herself to the chair once more, her eyes carefully fixed on his face.

"How?" she pressed.

Before he responded, he cleared his throat again. Even though his voice had regained some of its oily strength, it still broke on his words. "Did you… think that I… wouldn't… come prepared… that morning?" Speaking required more of his energy than he preferred, and his chest heaved with his breath.

"Pre—what do you mean?" Hermione stammered, her hands reaching forcefully for anything to maintain her posture. She couldn't believe how broken, how fragile, his voice was. She was so accustomed to the calm, commanding, and icy-cold intonation that carried across the dungeons. For a split second, she heard his raspy whisper to Harry, broken and struggling much the same as he was now.

"Look… at… me…"

Her hands trembled as she stared at him. Even though she had suspected for nearly an entire day that he was indeed Severus Snape, she felt overwhelmed by the surge of emotions flooding her at that moment. She was shocked – no, that wasn't even strong enough a word to describe the paralyzing astonishment she felt in that moment.

"Granger…" he groaned. "Don't… give… enough credit… there are many… things I am… skilled…" He gestured to the goblet, and quickly she rose to assist him in drinking. Sighing in exhaustion, he leaned back into the pillow after he finished drinking.

"What should I call you?" she asked him, her voice trembling.

"Anything but… my name," he replied, his eyes flickering closed. His body settled deeper into the pillow behind him, and his head lulled to the side.

She knew he needed his rest, but she had so many questions for him. His cryptic answers did nothing to soothe her curiosity, and as he laid in bed, his breathing slowing as he drifted into sleep, her mind whirled. How had he survived that attack? Where had he been these past six years? Why was his identity a secret?

But in that moment, the Healer in Hermione conquered, and her primary concern rested in whatever brought him to St. Mungo's.

A/N: "John Smith" is one of the common placeholder names used in England in the case of an unidentified person (similar to "John Doe" in the United States).