Leaving his Mark

Disclaimer: I don't own any part of the Harry Potter franchise, created by J.K. Rowling.

Summary: In the final days of Battle, Harry and his friends prepare for the worst. Lives are lost, and the world is taken over by Voldemort. Even worse, Hermione has committed the worst atrocity there is—opening her heart to one of the most unlikely people. Severus/Hermione

AN: Sorry for the wait, I hope you like it!

"—completely mad. It was horrible, she was clawing out her hair for merlin sakes!" exclaimed Harry, shivering in the infirmary. Madame Pomfrey bustled around him, running diagnostic and healing spells, as he told his story.

Dumbledore and Ron listened, while McGonagall nodded along and sadly said, "Although I was there, she didn't seem to see me at all. Then the poor dear fainted, right onto Severus."

"No way, Hermione is the smartest girl here!" Ron interjected.

McGonagall looked at Ron sternly, and Dumbledore sighed, "Mr. Weasley, even the strongest of minds can lose their grip on reality when faced with such tragedy."

Ron went silent, either in agreement or confusion. It was likely the latter.

Dumbledore resumed speaking, questioning curiously, "Harry, tell me, what do you know of Miss Granger's and Severus's relationship?"

The boy fidgeted. "Well, I found them in the hallway hugging. Plus, since this summer she's been spending an awful lot of time in his classroom…" Harry then laughed, enlightenment filling his eyes. "So that's what she was lying about!

Noticing the confusion in the room, he explained, "I asked Hermione why she was spending so much time with Snape and she said something like, He is one of the greatest potion masters of our era, of course I couldn't resist picking his brain. I knew she was lying, but couldn't figure out what about."

Dumbledore also laughed, but Ron sat rigidly, his face turning as red as his hair.

"Hermione was with SNAPE!?" he bellowed. Albus shushed him, glancing at the sleeping inhabitants of the infirmary. He quickly erected a silencing barrier for precaution.

Ron leaned forward, hissing to Harry, "How could you keep this from me? I thought you hated the git too."

Betrayal colored his face, and Harry looked away. "I… just couldn't Ron. If you saw her, you would feel the same way. She was just so happy."

McGonagall left the room silently during the conversation, but Dumbledore stayed, looking between the two boys with surprise.

"Harry," he said, his voice snapping the two out of their silent argument. "Putting your hate of Severus behind you for Hermione's sake is very mature of you."

Harry blushed and mumbled, "Thanks Headmaster."

"No worries my boy," the headmaster replied. Then his face hardened and he whispered, "Listen closely. I want to be alerted immediately when Miss Granger awakens. It is imperative that I run a diagnostic spell on her mind, to make sure madness won't take hold of her again," he paused sadly, "Plus, I do believe she would want to go visit his grave."

Neither of them had to ask who he was. Harry nodded solemnly, and so did Ron, albeit reluctantly.

"Yes sir, I promise that we," Harry looked at Ron, who crossed his arms stubbornly, "will stay here and watch over Hermione."

"How long is she going to be asleep?" interjected the redhead.

"I haven't the faintest idea. It could be hours, days, or even weeks. She is suffering from intense magical exhaustion, physical and mental."

"Poor Hermione…"

Dumbledore stood and patted both of the boys on the head. "Alright, good work today. I will see both of you soon, as I must retire to my office."

After the headmaster left, Harry quickly moved to Hermione's bedside. Her face was pale and she looked so aged, one of the side effects of war.

'How could I let this happen?' thought Harry.

"Hey mate," whispered Ron, his eyebrows pulled together. He looked at Hermione and sighed, "So, she really loved him eh?"

He sounded resolute; as if he had finally give up the fight, as absurd and disgusting he thought the idea to be.

"I think so."

Ron then looked at him and asked completely deadpan, "I just need to know one thing. Have they… kissed?" His face was twisted in disgust.

Harry stared at his best friend for a long moment in disbelief. 'This is his main concern?' He smiled and said, "Yes Ron. They were heavily snogging in the corridor when I found them."

It was slightly exaggerated, but the expression on Ron's face was priceless.

Ron stood, his face green and his eyes wide. "Oh Merlin. I think I'm going to be sick…" He then turned and dashed out of the room, likely to the closest loo.

And for the first time in days, Harry Potter, the savior of the wizarding world, truly laughed.

"Miss Granger? Are you awake?"

Her mind was foggy, and the noise was harsh, like it was scraping against the soft tissues of her ear drums. Hermione groaned, and slowly opened her eyes. It was so bright, and she blinked a few times before finding Dumbledore sitting before her.

He was smiling grimly. "Hello Hermione."

"Headmaster?" she croaked, wincing at the strained effort it took to speak.

"We are so grateful to have you back. But... time is short. Could I ask you a few questions?"

Hermione nodded, shifting under the sheets of the bed. Her eyes widened when she realized she felt rather stuck, or specifically, strapped down. She looked down and found leather straps around her wrists and ankles, anchoring her to the bed.

'What is going on?' she thought with panic. She struggled to phrase her questions, and Dumbledore looked at her, worry on his face.

"You are in the infirmary Miss Granger. If I may ask, do you remember what happened?"

She frowned but obliged, searching for the memories of that day. Suddenly a barrage of images flooded her mind of the battle and the many deaths that followed. She remembered the fall, and her dangerous climb up the cliff to find Severus, only it wasn't him—it was his body.

Hermione gritted her teeth. It would've been nice to have forgotten that part. "Of course I remember. How could I forget?" she whispered, a dull ache spreading through her chest.

Relief filled Dumbledore's eyes and he said, "Good, I worried you had forgotten that day. You've been unconscious for so long…"

"How long?"

"Six months. Your friends have been so worried, and so have I."

She felt dizzy, thinking of all the time she had missed. Time she could never reclaim, taken away from her. "Why was I unconscious for so long?" she demanded, "I had no injuries!"

"You expended an enormous amount of magic, in order to chain the madness that briefly took hold of you—"

Hermione remembered! It was a horrible voice, whispering ideas to her, screaming at her to kill Harry. She froze with panic, remembering the invasiveness of the voice and the long darkness that followed.

'Voice?' she called in her mind, only to be met with silence. 'Are you gone?' After a few moments of silence, she realized that she was the only one there. It was a privilege Hermione would never forget.

"I'm sorry. For going mad and his death."

Dumbledore patted her hand. "Child, it wasn't your fault. Anyone would go mad after that," he eyes softened, "Severus made the choice to save you. He loved you very much."

"How did you know-" he cut her off, tapping his head with his forefinger. She grinned; he was an old man who acted like a child.

"Headmaster, stay out of my head!"

He smiled and stood. "Hermione, you are welcome to visit the graveyard." She winced, and he continued. "But only after you rest for a bit. Also, would you like a lemon drop?"

A memory hit her so quick it stunned her, of lemon drop wrappers littering the Potions classroom, a deeply hidden secret of Severus's. She frantically shook her head and replied, "N-no sir, I hate lemon drops."

Dumbledore nodded sadly and left the room.

The memories were painful, and she gasped for air. Now there were no distractions, no friendly faces to pull her from the darkness. Hermione drifted under the blankets, thinking of war and blood and bodies.

She sunk into despair, and spent the day crying silently, wishing she could rewind time.

The rest of her day passed slowly. Hermione drifted in and out of sleep, sometimes startling awake, dreams of battle and bloodshed haunting her.

Harry came to visit her in the afternoon. He hugged her and said condolences such as, "I'm so sorry," and "I'm happy your fine Hermione." None of his words could change anything, but they lifted her heart, knowing she had such a caring friend.

He was smiling brightly, and carried on the conversation mostly with himself. He even laughed when retelling the daily antics of Fred and George. Hermione didn't talk much; every time she did her voice stuck and her throat hurt.

But he also brought news. He reported, "The Daily Prophet wants one of the students from the battle to write an excerpt about it. And with your grades… they picked you Hermione."

She simply nodded, but after Harry left, she lay in her bed and wondered if should write for them. If she should care. If this had happened a year ago, she would have been ecstatic with the honor. Now, the pleasure seemed muted.

'But,' she reasoned with herself, 'At least it's something to do while I'm stuck in bed.'

Pulling out some parchment and a quill, Hermione considered what to write. Writing about the war wasn't easy; it brought with it a flood of woeful images. Her part in the battle was significant, but she felt no pride in it. The only story she wanted to tell was of her heart, and how the war had destroyed it.

She began to write, her strokes fast with the sudden urgency to share her thoughts with the world. After what seemed to be hours, she finished writing and took a deep, relieved breath.

Dumbledore stopped by and picked up her article. It was then taken to the Daily Prophet and published the next day. She heard nothing of it until Harry came to her with the newspaper, his eyes sad.

"Hermione," he said, his voice breaking, "I read the article. Everyone is raving about how good it was, how sad."

"If it was so great, why do you look like Ron has just died?" she asked in exasperation. 'Does he have to beat around the bush?'

"I read it. It was horrible! I've been pretending everything is okay when it's not. And I'm sorry Hermione."

She nodded. His euphoric behavior had been unnerving, but now she understood. It was how he coped with all the pain.

"It's fine Harry. I understand. Now," she forced excitement into her voice, "can I see my article?"

He handed her the article. In big, black letters, the headline read, 'Leaving their Mark: Did we win or lose?' Below that was her short article.

'The war has taken so much from us; family, friends, and homes. We have all lost something close. We may have won the battle, but the cost was enormous.

Below is my account of losing someone whom I loved dearly. He was my professor, but over the years he became so much more to me. After his death I realized how incomplete I was and everything was put into perspective. Have I treasured every moment? Have I striven to be a kind person? I question myself because Severus is dead and he will never experience life again. His was cut short by a madman.

Suddenly, everything is ten times harder and life moves at an achingly slow pace. But at the same time, the universe rolls on forward and leaves me behind. Everyone is pretending the war didn't happen, that the countless lives lost don't matter. But I am alone now. Why is there celebration? Voldemort is gone. And so is Severus. I almost want to bring them both back, just to have my friend and love back for a few moments.

All my previous worries seem insignificant. They were flies, but this is a boulder rolling towards me. And I loved him too, which makes it so much worse. I lost a part of myself, a part that I will never get back. Every thought, every action, and every single second reminds me of Severus. It reminds me that life is to be appreciated because he can't. These nostalgic moments make me crumble to the ground, my breath deserting me. All I can see is his face and hear his voice.

Then when I think I am better, five days or fifty years later, Severus will come back and whisper in my ear, "How can you forget me when you're alive and I'm dead?"

Hermione finished reading, tears dripping down her chin. She looked up, hoping Harry wasn't there to see her weakness. Luckily he wasn't. He must have silently left while she was engrossed in reading her hearts melancholy words.

She curled under the covers in exhaustion. She felt empty now, as if that article had sucked all the words from her. Perhaps, if she visited his grave it would bring her some acceptance. 'Tomorrow, maybe.'

Of course, Hermione Granger never was one for hoping.

Well that was depressing. I hope you guys like it! And please, please review.