A/N: First things first: I don't know how many of you knew Savva, or Savvyshka on deviantart, but she passed last month. She was an amazing artist, a great writer and an amazing friend and her passing has left a hole in my heart. I'd hope to meet her some day but life had different plans. But she left behind lots of great memories and the fruits of her labor and for that I am grateful.

Now... my update: I'm really and truly and thoroughly sorry that it takes me so long to update. I know I always promise you that I won't abandon my stories and I DON'T. NOT EVER EVER. My stories are my babies and what keeps me sane. I do write a little each night and I don't want to churn out some crap purely just to have swift updates, but unfortunately it means that it takes me longer than anyone else to turn out chapters.

Then let's add into that adult life: lots of overtime, asthma trying to kill me yet again (why can't we just have autumn year round? October is my favourite month. Halloween is during October! But no, I must suffer and stick to a strict schedule of medicine so I don't end up coughing up a lung. Fun stuff, right?

My darlings, I love you and appreciate all of the the follows, favorites, and reviews. Even if I cannot reply to your review right away (mostly because I'm either working or sleeping) believe me when I say I appreciate your kind words and I cherish you all.

"The worst type of crying wasn't the kind everyone could see-the wailing on street corners, the tearing at clothes. No, the worst kind happened when your soul wept and no matter what you did, there was no way to comfort it. A section withered and became a scar on the part of your soul that survived. For people like me and Echo, our souls contained more scar tissue than life."
― Katie McGarry, Pushing the Limits

Hermione was unable to count the amount of times she'd been frozen into place beneath the intimidating stare of Severus Snape. Once the dynamics of their relationship shifted into something intimate, those stares hadn't stopped but her reaction to them changed.

At the present time, that stare left Hermione feeling a mixture of shock, relief, and contentment. Once her feet decided to work again, she leaned forward and slowly pressed her palm against Severus's cheek.

The sound of rustling blankets reached Hermione's ears, and she glanced down to see Severus clenching his hand into a fist and attempting to lift his arm. Hermione remembered the spell keeping him tethered to bed, and she quickly slid her hand into his in hopes of preventing him from becoming agitated. That seemed to do the trick because his arm went slack and his fingers curved around hers.

Not being able to verbally console him or say that she was not going to leave made Hermione resentful. She faintly remembered the aftermath of her torture at Malfoy manor. She'd been scared and confused and everything hurt so badly that she wanted to die. Severus's quiet reassurances had been the only thing that kept her going when she had been on the verge of giving up. It wasn't fair that she was unable to return that same favour, and she hoped he knew that she was really there with him, that her presence was physical and not induced by some bout of delirium.

Guilt kicked in when Hermione reminded herself that she had to leave, but after kissing the top of Severus's hand, she looked up and found his eyes closed. There was no resistance as she reluctantly pulled her fingers from his grasp and after one final glance, Hermione hurried out the room.

Harry returned the next morning shortly after lunch. He was alone, which left Hermione feeling secretly pleased and a bit guilty. She loved Ron as much as Harry, but interacting with him the day before left her exhausted. Harry was a little better, as he didn't feel the need to fill every bit of silence with empty chatter.

"...and Kingsley's been at Hogwarts nearly every day. He asked about you but I wasn't sure if you wanted me to say anything. Is it all right if I tell him that you're here?"

Hermione nodded as she accepted the bag of biscuits Harry had brought. He'd kept them stuffed in his pocket as he wasn't sure if he was allowed to bring outside food into St. Mungo's, and apologised when Hermione pulled out crumbs. But half-broken biscuits were better than no biscuits at all, and Hermione polished off half the bag with Harry.

"Actually, Kingsley's not the only one who keeps mentioning your name but I figure if everyone knows you're here, they'll be queuing outside your door for a visit. Don't worry, I won't say anything," Harry told Hermione in a rush when he saw the panic in her eyes. "Believe me, I know about wanting to be left alone. Why do you think I'm hiding here with you?"

That was obviously a joke because Harry gave one of his half-smiles, which made Hermione laugh and shake her head.

"Seriously though, I know everyone means well but if anyone asks me if I'm okay one more time, I'm going to fling myself off the Astronomy Tower. Kingsley's fine and all and I know he doesn't mean to be a bother, but I'm tired of answering questions and talking to Ministry officials. It got so bad last week that even McGonagall got fed up and we hid together in Hagrid's hut."

The idea of the prim and proper Scotswoman absconding to Hagrid's cosy yet untidy and over-cluttered hut was amusing, and Hermione gave a silent laugh.

"It was funny," Harry chuckled, grinning as he thought back to that day. "Hagrid went to let out Fang and I tried to warn McGonagall to only drink the tea and I'd hide the biscuits he'd made in my pocket, but she whispered that she'd known Hagrid since before I was born and breaking a tooth one time on a piece of bone had made her well aware of his horrific baking skills. So I hid my biscuits in my pocket and she stuffed hers somewhere in those long robes, and when Hagrid came back he never noticed a thing."

Hermione smiled wistfully as she thought about Hagrid. His rock cakes left much to be desired, but it was the effort that counted. She missed him and his tatty, oversized chairs and she missed Fang, despite the fact that he loved to lay his massive head in her lap and drool all over her hands. The more Harry talked, the more bittersweet memories flooded Hermione's mind. She thought about the first weekend she'd spent at Hogwarts. She hadn't made friends yet and kept herself busy by studying, but that Saturday she'd spent half the morning walking around the castle, awestruck by the sheer size of medieval structures and statues.

"This is a rather abrupt change of subject, but I figure you ought to know," Harry began, now looking uncomfortable. "Turns out you were right all along about Snape—he was trying to help us. And he did kill Dumbledore but only because the headmaster asked him to. Dumbledore was dying because of Riddle's cursed ring. Also there's this whole thing with him and my mum that I still haven't quite wrapped my head around, but I thought you'd want to know that Snape wasn't bad. Well, not all bad. He was a right mean bastard but turns out he was a mean bastard who'd been looking after our necks the entire time."

Hermione frowned, mentally trying to put together pieces of this puzzle. She wondered what Harry meant by the thing between his mother and Severus, and she also couldn't understand why Dumbledore would ask to be killed, or why Severus would agree to such a horrid thing.

"This is the watered down version because I don't want to bog you down with the details just yet, mostly because I still don't understand everything, but I will admit to feeling a bit guilty. I almost feel like I owe Snape an apology, but that feeling comes and goes. But if he was alive I would tell him thank you."

Harry didn't notice the odd expression on Hermione's face and continued rambling.

"I'm sure he's dead, well, I think he is. Ron and I last saw him in the boathouse where Nagini attacked him, and just before Snape died he gave me his memories. After the battle was over I told Kingsley about everything, but when the Aurors went to the boathouse they couldn't find his body. So no one knows what happened but to be honest, I don't think they're looking very hard. I get the impression that Snape wasn't very important to many people, which seems sort of wrong now that we know the truth. But I suppose they're going by their interactions with him in other capacities."

Harry mentioning Severus's attack took Hermione back to the evening at St. Mungo's when she arrived with the bloodied, half-dead wizard in her arms. Only a few people knew he was alive, but knowing that the rest of the wizarding world thought him to be dead yet didn't care, left an ache in her chest.

"Are you OK? Do you need a Healer or something?"

Hermione shook her head, yet Harry remained unconvinced. She wondered if she should tell Harry—rather, show him—that Severus was alive and just down the corridor from where they stood.

Even though Harry said Kingsley knew that Snape truly had been working for The Order the entire time, and that his hand had been forced in Dumbledore's death, Hermione couldn't help but to imagine the worse possible outcome if she told. She refused to fathom the idea of Severus locked away in Azkaban. He'd already been a prisoner of circumstance and poor choices for the majority of his life, but there was no way he deserved to be physically put away. It didn't matter that she couldn't speak, for Hermione vowed to make everyone feel her wrath should they attempt to send her wandmate to prison.

"You're scaring me, Hermione. Are you sure you're all right?"

She wasn't all right, but it wasn't as though Harry was able to do anything about that. Thankfully he continued talking after Hermione waved him on, and she exhaled in relief.

"It really is too bad Snape didn't make it. They're talking about awarding him a posthumous Order of Merlin, First Class. Of course it's just an idea right now as some people are still pretty brassed off about him abandoning his post as headmaster, but under the now known circumstances I'm sure he had no choice. Though to be honest, I think Snape could have killed Voldemort himself and it still wouldn't matter to some. I thought I hated Snape before but I have to admit, anything I've said pales in comparison to some of the things I've heard."

Hermione didn't realise that her nostrils were flared with anger, and she told herself to calm down when she saw Harry staring at her in surprise.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to upset you," Harry apologised. "You were the one always telling us that evil was the wrong word for Snape, and, well, you were right. But then again, you were right most of the time even if me and Ron were too daft to notice."

Judging by the wry look on Hermione's face, it was easy to see that she agreed.

"I don't know what's supposed to happen now," Harry continued, exhaling hard. "I don't even know what I'm supposed to be doing. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad to be rid of all this shit, but now everything feels like one big question mark. I can't stay at Hogwarts forever and I refuse to go back with the Dursleys. Grimmauld Place technically belongs to me now but how can I stay there with Sirius gone?"

Hermione had gone through her own version of Harry's torment too many times to count. Her childhood home was gone, as were her parents. Her education had been interrupted, which posed a problem in terms of gaining secure employment, and Hermione had no idea how she would support herself. Severus had made it clear that he would look after her, but besides hating the idea of letting someone take care of her, Hermione had no idea if Severus would be able to look after himself, much less another person. It went without saying that she would care for him as best as she could if and when he left St. Mungo's, but beyond that Hermione was unable to fathom her life in long and short-term and that left her wrought with anxiety.

"You've got that look you always get right before final exams," Harry commented. "I came to cheer you up and instead I'm being an arse. All right, change of plans. Wanna go for a walk?"

A walk sounded like the perfect thing to break the tension, and Hermione nodded.

Time and reality were discordant thing for Severus Snape.

It was dreadfully hard work to open his eyes, but the few times he managed, he wasn't entirely sure that he was alive. The strong sleeping potions that had been forced down his throat left him numb and completely detached from his body. His wits were just as dull, and there was the odd sensation that was akin to believing one had awoken when they were still dreaming. A few weak attempts to move his fingers proved that everything was physically intact, even if his hands seemed to be locked in place. To top it all off, there was a horrible sense of isolation. Every so often, a mixture of unfamiliar voices could be heard within the vicinity of where he lay, but they seemed to be talking over him and never directly to him.

Snape had no way of knowing that he was also being given Dreamless Sleep, but it hadn't been able to stop his subconscious visitor. This visitor was the only thing that brought him comfort, and while she seemed too good to be true, he clung to this sweet apparition the way a person who'd been stranded in the desert clung to their first drink of water.

None of it made sense. Snape was no stranger to feeling lost, but this situation was something else. Yet just as he'd reached the verge of giving up, he opened his eyes and found himself staring up into the face of his wandmate.

He didn't recognise her at first; the room was dark and he was still mostly incoherent. Eventually a sense of remembrance kicked in and he tried to move, but something wouldn't let him. The soft, warm hand that slipped into his made him forget about trying to sit up, and he became settled by the gentle strokes against his palm. He had intended on going back to sleep; moments like this were fleeting and he wanted to make it last. But when he managed to open his eyes again, his hand was cold and she was gone.

When Snape opened his eyes again, someone else was at his side and they were talking to him.

"You awake lad?"

The Mancunian brogue was vaguely familiar, but Snape's mind ran in slow motion and still hadn't caught up.

The sound of a chair creaking followed by feet shuffling reached Snape's ears. The thick padding of bandages taped to his neck and chest prevented him from moving his head, but the person approached his bed and moved within his line of vision.


A tatty brown waistcoat covered in cat hair was the first thing Severus saw. It took some time for him to look up, and pale eyes and straggly grey hair were the next things he noticed. His brows knitted together as he slowly looked over the man's withered face, dumbly trying to place his name. The man moved closer and the scent of tobacco, turpentine, and cleaning solvents stung his nose. It was a horrible blend of odours, but it was one that Severus grew accustomed to as a child, and it always brought him comfort.

"Severus," the man repeated. "Do you know who I am?"

Snape parted his lips as though to speak, but could only manage a small creaking noise. His mouth was dry and his tongue felt as though it were made of cotton.

"It's all right lad, don't try to speak. We're just glad to see you awake."

Severus wished he knew who 'we' was; he also wished for a drink of water.

"Not sure if you realise it, but Hermione's been here to see you. We've both been here. Usually we come together but it wouldn't surprise me if she's been sneaking off to make her way down here, just like she did back at school. 'Course at the time I didn't know it was her with you. Thought I was good at skulking round undetected, but you two have me beat."

Severus could not understand what the man was babbling about, but the name 'Hermione' caused his heart to jump.

"Don't get excited, Severus," the man urged, gently pressing a hand to his shoulder. "She's all right and so are you. Now, I expect you're thirsty but there's nowt for me to do unless I get a nurse. Hold on, I'll be right back."

The man disappeared from the room and when he returned, he was behind a Mediwitch who had bright orange hair, a large bust, and a genuine smile.

"Oh, you're awake!" she exclaimed, plucking her wand somewhere from beneath her uniform and waving it over his body. "Very good, very good," she murmured, nodding as she carried out her task. "I'll let your Healer know but Argus tells me you're thirsty. I think we can sort you out with something but it'll have to be water for now. What do you say?"

It wasn't as though he could respond, but the witch waved her wand at the side table and a carafe along with a glass and straw appeared.

"Just a little," she warned, filling the glass halfway and dropping in the straw. "We need to make sure you can swallow first. "

If Severus had been in his right mind, he would have told the woman to stop mucking about and give him the damned glass. However, as it was the opposite case right now, the most basic instincts made themselves known and he stared at the glass, keeping his eyes on it as though it would disappear. And just like a babe when first placed at his mother's breast, those initial pulls on the straw were weak and clumsy.

The first drop tasted like water, but the consistency was thick and off and he would have gagged, but he was so damned thirsty. Yet when more of the cool stuff hit his parched tongue, Severus tried to suck down the rest in a few swallows.

"Easy, young man, there's more where that came from," she chuckled, carefully prying the straw from his lips and setting down the empty glass. "Give it a few and we'll see about more. Argus, I need to find Severus's Healer and let him know he's awake. Do you mind waiting a bit with him?"

"I'll be right here."

"Thanks. That's for you while you wait."

The woman flicked her wand at the tray holding the empty glass and a cup of tea appeared.

"And wot are you lookin' at?" Filch groused as moved to pick up his tea and felt two black eyes burning into the side of his face, likely due to the familiar manner in which the Healer spoke to him. "She's all right, that one. Nicer than the rest of that lot. Tea isn't bad either. She's the reason why I'm here now instead of creeping in at the thick of night."

Filch knew once Severus was completely alert, he would take the piss at him about the friendly nurse with the great set of Bristols. For now, Severus's gaze had redirected from Filch's cheek and settled mournfully upon his empty water glass.

"When the nurse comes back I'll tell her you want more," Filch told him.

Severus gave him a hard stare and words were not needed to convey his message.

"Damn it, man, Ursulina'll have my bollocks if I give you more and you choke to death! And let me tell you, I won't go through that again. Now she said she wouldn't take long, just give her a minute."

Snape was not interested in the semantics—he wanted his water and if he was to leave this world from death by cup, so be it.

"Fine. You win." Filch set down his teacup hard, causing some of the amber liquid to slosh out over the sides. He snatched up the carafe and began filling the water glass.

"Wot the fuck is this...?" Filch muttered under his breath when he tilted the carafe and was shocked at the liquid slowly trickling down instead of pouring evenly. Comprehension dawned upon the man when he realised the water was still water although it had a syrup-like consistency, likely due to the weak muscles in Severus's throat. After getting over his shock, he filled the glass three-quarters full and held it far away from Severus's face.

"Slowly, Severus. You know damn well I'm a Squib and I can't use a reverse choking charm or whatever the hell you'd use. I'll have to snatch you out of bed and thump you on your back and at this point I'm worried I'd break something. So mind that you don't suck it down in one go, yeah?"

Severus looked as though he understood every word of Filch's rant, but he followed the man's instructions of slowly emptying the glass when Filch put the straw to his lips.

"Me and my bollocks thank you for not choking," Filch said flatly, thumping down the glass and picking up his tea again. "Now if you need more, Ursulina'll have to give it to you. My old heart can't take this much excitement.

When the Mediwitch Ursulina returned, she was flanked by a group of officious-looking Healers in pristine white robes. Filch easily knew which person was in charge as everyone kept deferring to the man whenever he spoke. Said man was currently nudging Filch out the way to get to Severus's bedside and he practically screamed into his patient's face.

"Oh, you're awake!"

If Severus could talk, Filch was sure the professor would have given the man a thorough bollocking for shouting at him and spraying him with spittle.

The next few minutes were filled with the Healer using spells that were unfamiliar to Filch's ears and asking Severus a series of simple questions, all of which went unanswered.

"So I'm sure he's able to speak, but there are instances where the mind needs time to catch up with the body."

The rude Healer said this to the group with his back turned to Filch and Severus, and Filch wanted to ask what sort of manners he had. Yet he opted to bite his tongue for the moment, telling himself that these people were the ones looking after Severus and if he had to pick between manners and proper care, it was better for them to be efficient rather than polite.

The Healer went on talking without turning around, and Filch nearly sputtered with outrage when he made to exit without so much as a by-your-leave.

"Do you people intend on doing anything about his hands?" Filch asked with forced politeness.

"I beg your pardon?" the Healer asked, his hand still on the door and appearing irritated at his hasty exit being thwarted.

"His hands!" Filch snapped, now uncaring if he sounded peeved. "You've got them bloody tied to the bed."

The Healer looked at Filch as though he'd suddenly sprouted an extra head.

"At this time we feel it's best to keep the patient's hands bound. He's proven to be quite, ah, volatile, and we'd rather avoid any potential problems."

"The patient's name is Severus and the least you could do is bloody look at him instead of talking over him like he's not right there," Filch spat, already fed up with this snooty man. "Never mind you spending all of three minutes here and already you're gagging to get out that door."

The Healer harrumphed under his breath and Filch watched as his face flushed an ugly shade of tomato red.

"I'll see what we can do," he muttered before hurrying away from the angry man.

If Severus was pleased about having Filch speaking up on his behalf, it was hard to know. The entire time he remained rather detached, staring bleakly across the room and not making eye contact with any of the medical staff.

"A fecking idiot he is," Filch grumbled once they were alone again. "But don't you worry, I'll come here every day if need be so long as it means keeping that numpty away."

Severus slowly made eye contact with the older man. There was an intense, lingering stare, one Filch took as a 'thank you'.

"'S'alright lad, I'm looking after you," Filch offered with a small nod.

Severus's brows drew together ever so slightly, and he shut his eyes. When he opened them, Filch was gone and someone with bushy hair and their head resting at his side had taken his place. They were fast asleep with their face buried into the crook of their arm, and their hand held onto his.

The tangle of curls draped over his wrist felt familiar, as did the small fingers laced through his. He wanted to pull his hand free and capture one of those curls between his fingers, purely as a test to see if they were a figment of his imagination. To his surprise he was awake and furthermore, his hands were no longer bound.

Just as he attempted to move his hand, his slumbering guest turned their head, exhaling lightly without breaking their sleep.

Severus stayed awake as long as his eyes would allow him to, completely taken by the young woman at his side. He worried if he was to go back to sleep that she would disappear and he'd wake up to find himself alone again.

Eventually he did fall back into a deep, relaxed sleep. He stirred slightly just before the morning shift arrived and found that he got his wish: she was still there. And she remained there as he drifted back to sleep, and hours later she would have still been at his side if not for someone calling her name and causing her to jolt upright and away from the bed.

"Miss Granger?"

The Healer, Ursulina, who Hermione liked was at the door, although her usually calm countenance had been replaced by a sense of urgency. But it was clear that the slow, deep voice did not belong to her. Behind the Healer stood a sombre Kingsley Shacklebolt, resplendent in purple robes with his wand drawn, its tip pointed at the floor.

"Apologies dearie, we didn't mean to wake you," the woman told Hermione before turning back to Shacklebolt. "See, Minister? Told you there's nothing to be worried about," the Healer told him in a soothing tone. "No Death Eaters in here, not unless this young lady became one overnight."

"I appreciate it, madam, thank you," he told the woman distractedly, his face going from relief when he saw Hermione tucked into an armchair beside a hospital bed, to shock when his gaze fell upon the hospital bed that contained a sleeping Snape. "Would you excuse us for a moment?"

"Of course," the Healer replied, stepping outside and shutting the door quietly behind her.

"Well, Miss Granger, I must confess that it is a relief to see you," Shacklebolt told her, tucking away his wand. "When we heard whispers about a few rogue Death Eaters planning on storming St. Mungo's, Ron and Harry told me you were here. No worries now as it seems like everything was merely rumour, although there was some alarm when we found your room empty."

Kingsley paused and his eyes fell upon Severus again, and it was easy to see the questions forming in his mind.

Hermione had been thrust into a quiet state of panic upon seeing the Minister of Magic enter Severus's room. Then there was the mention of Death Eaters and it caused her heart to gallop so hard she was sure Kingsley could hear it.

"All the same, I think it best if we keep a few undercover Aurors around for the time being," the Minister continued after a swift recovery, "in particular, your room and here. Interestingly enough, neither Ron nor Harry mentioned the headmaster."

Those words immediately put Hermione on the defence and without thinking, she threw herself in front of Severus's bed and adopted a protective stance.

"It's all right, Miss Granger, the headmaster is not in any trouble. Quite the opposite, in fact, but I think it best if we talk about that another time, and definitely when Severus is able to speak for himself."

Hermione's mouth went dry with fear when Shacklebolt's eyes fell and lingered upon Severus's bedridden form. For a fleeting moment she was sure that Aurors were going to flood the room, bind him magically, and demand that he be removed to Azkaban right then. It didn't matter that she had no wand, because Hermione told herself that she'd do whatever was necessary to keep them from taking Severus away, even if it meant flinging herself on top of his body.

Now that she knew for sure Severus was not in trouble, Hermione began to breathe easier. Unfortunately her mouth remained dry and she found it difficult to swallow.

"I think you ought to sit," said Shacklebolt politely, gently grasping her by the arm and steering her back into the chair beside Snape's bed. A flick of his wand made an identical chair appear behind him, and he followed suit. "I understand that you're unable to speak. Harry didn't get a chance to elaborate, or perhaps he merely could not elaborate. But I have an idea that perhaps you were cursed; am I correct?"

Still thrown off kilter by the minister's unexpected visit, Hermione found herself unable to answer right away. Finally she nodded, indicating that she could not explain her forced silence.

"I understand. Not to worry, we'll fix this," Kingsley replied, completely unperturbed. "In the meantime, if there's anything else you need please don't hesitate to let me know."

It wasn't everyday that one was offered the keys to the kingdom by the Minister of Magic. But what could Kingsley Shacklebolt offer, the guarantee of Severus's complete recovery? The return of her speech? Her entire collection of books that had been carefully amassed over the years and was now in a place she couldn't remember?

Unbeknownst to the Minister, he had already given Hermione the gift of Severus's freedom. Beyond that, her mind was too muddled to focus on anything else.

A knock at the door made Hermione and the Minister turn their heads.

"All clear, Minister," a man in brown robes lingering in the doorway told Kingsley. "Everything all right in here?"

"Yes, Rexford, thank you."

"Very good, sir. We'll be out here if you need us."

"Sorry about that," Kingsley apologised to Hermione. "I'm still getting used to travelling with a group of escorts. Odd considering I used to be the escort. Well, I won't take up too much of your time. But I meant it when I said you may call on me whenever you need, day or night."

Hermione nodded to show that she understood, and watched as Kingsley stood up and headed for the door.

"One last thing—does anyone else know that Severus is here?"

Hermione hesitated before slowly shaking her head.

"I thought as much. For now this information shall remain between us. My Aurors are held to high standards of privacy in case you needed to know. But again, please send for me if needed. Until then, Hermione."

The Minister's visit left Hermione somewhat unsettled, and she remained at Severus's side long until the door opened again.

"Oh, you're still in here," said Ursulina, walking over to give Hermione a gentle pat on the shoulder. "Hermione, that's your name? I think that's what the Minister told me."

Hermione nodded, trying to figure where this conversation was headed.

"Nice man, that Shacklebolt. He's different; much nicer than the others I've met. Asked me to look out for you but I told him not to worry, I already had that covered. Argus asked me the same. It must be nice having so many people looking after you. "Ursulina paused, tilting her head and smiling at Hermione. "Are you hungry? I think you missed breakfast."

The mention of food made Hermione suddenly hungry, as she remembered that she hadn't eaten due to not sleeping in her room, followed by the excitement of the Aurors and the Minister of Magic showing up at the hospital.

"Not to worry, I'll bring you something. Are you going back to your room or staying here with your friend?"

It was interesting to hear Severus referred to as her friend, considering his name and the word 'friend' were rarely used together in the same sentence.

Hermione pointed to the floor to indicate that she would remain in Severus's room. Ursulina disappeared and quickly reappeared with a tray holding a sandwich, yoghurt, an orange, and a glass of juice. The sandwich and yoghurt was finished quickly and Hermione was halfway through her orange when the door swung open. In walked a man who had his head buried in a clipboard and he spoke a mile a minute, never looking at anyone yet clearly expecting everyone to keep up with him.

"And this patient came in with severe—excuse me, what are you doing in here? You're not supposed to be in here."

Hermione jumped guiltily at the booming voice but she stayed in place.

"Who let you in here? You need to leave now."

"Cyril, why the bloody hell are you shouting at the patients?" Ursulina interrupted, storming into the room and looking as though she wanted to hex the Healer's mouth shut. "We can hear you from across the corridor!"

"You can't speak to me like that!" the man hissed, an angry flush creeping up past his collar.

"I'll speak to you any way I damn well please," Ursulina shot back. "Now why are you harassing this poor girl? She's not hurting anyone."

"In case you've forgotten, this so-called 'poor girl' tore apart our waiting room when she came in with this man! Without lifting so much as a finger! Speaking of this man, Liggins got a broken nose trying to sedate him just so he could do his damn job, and Odkin was concussed for a week! Obviously they're dangerous and ought not to share a room!"

"How very thespian of you. Good lord, man, you are so dramatic. Honestly you should have become an actor instead of a Healer. Merlin knows the pay is better. Anyway perhaps you need to clean those bifocals because the last I'd checked, the only one causing a scene is you. These two are fine and have been since this morning."

"Yes, but fine for how long?" Cyril spat, jabbing a finger in Hermione's direction without looking at her. "She needs to be in her room!"

"Oh, and who's going to make her leave? You?" Ursulina threw back her head and scoffed. "I'd like to see you try."

"Young lady." Cyril made a great show of ignoring Ursulina. He cleared his throat and peered down his nose at Hermione. "Young lady, I need you to leave now. Please."

The 'please' was an obvious afterthought and sounded thoroughly unconvincing. It didn't matter, because the man's brash attitude had already left Hermione agitated, but being forced to leave Severus had her close to losing her temper. Her empty lunch tray began rattling of its own accord, and the group of Healers-in-Training stood behind Ursulina and Cyril looked frightened.

"See? Now look what you've done," said Ursulina unrepentantly, walking over to Hermione and placing a calming hand on her shoulder. "Her getting riled up is all your fault. She stays, and there's nothing you can do about it. Besides, all she needs to do is call for the Minister of Magic and he'd be here in a flash, and I'm sure he'd have something to say about your horrendous behaviour."

The colour drained from Cyril's face at the threat of being reprimanded by the Minister. He looked as though he wanted to utter some snide reply, but thought better of it.

Ursulina stayed in the room the entire time during Cyril's assessment, staring challengingly at him the entire time. Cyril pointedly ignored those glares and rushed through his examination, and once he was through he harrumphed before making a hasty exit.

"Don't worry about Cyril; he's nothing but a bully. Now you stay here as long as you like, but if you leave let me know, all right? That way we'll know where to send your supper."

It was nice to have one of the staff on her side. With the threat of being caught in Severus's room no longer looming over her head, Hermione stayed with him for a few more hours before returning to her room.

Being abruptly woken that morning and not sleeping in a bed the previous night left Hermione achy and more exhausted than usual. She became drowsy over dinner and nearly face planted right into her shepherd's pie. A hot bath only made matters worse, but that was still no deterrent from her plans of returning to Severus's room later that evening.

The Auror stationed there by Kingsley immediately recognised Hermione and waved her on when she paused in front of him.

Severus was asleep, which was no surprise. Also interesting was the charmed window scene across from her bed, almost identical to the one in her room. This one was a star-filled night sky, much like the view she'd shared with Severus not that long ago on the Astronomy Tower.

It was interesting how such a small thing elicited memories of a night she'd forgotten about. Likely it was coincidence that this specific scene would be chosen, but Hermione didn't mind. Severus had never outright said so, but she knew he'd found some joy in a view like so. She could understand the allure; no matter how bad things were, she could always count on the beauty of the sky if she looked up at night. At times that little wonder had been the only thing to get her though each day when she, Ron, and Harry were on the run.

More memories of the past few month came to Hermione's mind in bits and pieces as she dragged the chair closer to Severus. Just as she was about to sit down, she saw his eyes open and focus on her. His lips parted and she waited for him to speak, but the only thing he let out was an audible exhale.

He wanted something, that much she knew. Hermione just wished she knew what it was. Then his hand jerked beneath the blanket and began moving in her direction.

Thinking he wanted to hold hands, Hermione reached beneath the blanket and laced her fingers through his. Severus lightly squeezed her hand, then gave it a weak tug.

Hermione had a better idea of what he wanted that time, and she rose from the chair and carefully slid into bed next to him.

That was definitely what he wanted, because he found Hermione's hand again and did not let go, even after they both fell asleep.

Hermione left early that morning, not wanting to be caught sleeping next to Severus. Ursulina likely wouldn't have minded but there was no telling who would be making the rounds, and she figured it was better to be safe than sorry.

She returned after breakfast and found that Filch had beat her there. A Mediwitch was also there, standing next to Severus's bed, a towel and clean pyjamas draped over her arm.

"Don't bother getting comfortable," Filch told Hermione, nodding his head in the direction of the Mediwitch. "We're being put out."

"Just for a moment while I'll get you cleaned up, and your guests can return. Is that all right? I'll be quick," the Mediwitch asked Severus.

He didn't look happy at the prospect of being washed and changed as though he were a baby, the Mediwitch was polite and that made him somewhat agreeable. Hermione wasn't pleased about being shooed from the room, but she listened to the Healer and followed behind Filch.

"I told you he was going to be all right," Filch stated, scanning the area for somewhere to sit. The Auror stationed in front of Severus's room noticed Filch looking around and used his wand to produce two chairs.

"Thank you," Filch murmured gratefully, sighing in relief as he settled down. "Even if he's not talking, he's stroppy with the nurse which is a good sign. People who've given up don't tend to get stroppy."

Hermione knew she would continue to worry as long as Severus was at St. Mungo's, but she knew Filch was right and that gave her some peace.

"All finished," the Mediwitch announced as she came out the room, her arms full of dirty clothes and linen. "You can go back in now."

"Would you give me a minute alone with him?" Filch asked Hermione, gesturing to the small bundle in his lap. "I want to have a word with him and give him a shave. Might make him feel a bit more like himself."

Hermione thought that was a good idea, and she nodded. A yawn followed that nod, and Hermione gave Filch a sheepish smile.

"Someone needs a nap," Filch teased. "Those chairs are fine to fit in for a couple hours but not to sleep in, am I right?"

It was still strange for Hermione to hear someone speaking so casually about her relationship with Severus, especially when that someone was Argus Filch. Nevertheless, he was correct about her needing a nap, and Hermione pantomimed that she would rest and come back later.

"Thought you could use a shave," said Filch casually after walking back into the room. He busied himself at the table, unpacking the old-fashioned shaving kit he'd brought with him. Out the corner of his eye he noticed that Severus still looked disinterested with everything but decided to ignore that. "I know, fancy me talking about a shave." Filch chuckled, brushing his knuckles against his own stubbly jaw. "But I'm old and don't give a fart because I have no lady friend to impress. You, on the other hand, need to keep up the effort."

Severus's look of disinterest turned into one of scorn, and Filch was amused and relieved by that. A derisive look from Severus was typical of his usual personality, and that meant he cared enough to get irritated.

"Hold on, I forgot the water."

Filch made quick work of filling a bowl, and Severus watched from the corner of his eye as the man fiddled with a small white towel, dipping it into the steaming water and wringing out the excess moisture.

"If we're going to do this, might as well do it the right way," Filch explained as he carefully pressed the hot cloth to Severus's face. This process was repeated twice more, and Severus stared up at the ceiling as Filch used a small brush to carefully apply liberal amounts of white, fluffy shaving foam to his face.

"All right, my lad, we're going to have a chat," Filch began as he expertly pulled a section of Severus's cheek taut with his thumb before whisking away a small section of stubble with the blade. "And since you won't speak it works in my favour since you have no choice but to listen. I know you're not yourself now, which is to be expected considering all you've been through. But you've got that young lady down the corridor who loves you, and the sooner the pair of you are out of here, the sooner it means she won't have to sneak down here in the middle of the night to sleep in a that fecking hard chair beside your bed."

Severus's eyes remained intently focused on the ceiling.

"I were married before. Don't think I ever told you. Didn't tell much of anyone now that I think about it. Rona were her name. No little ones though, not for lack of trying. Died right before I came to Hogwarts."

That new bit of knowledge was enough to draw Severus's attention away from the ceiling and stare intensely at the older man. Filch, however, didn't return the stare. He kept his eyes on Severus's face, partly because he still found it hard to speak about his wife's passing but mostly because he didn't want his hand with the blade to slip.

"I'm no stranger to love and that sort of thing. I know it when I see it. Still hurts when I think about Rona and there's nothing in this world I wouldn't give to still have her with me. So you mind yourself, lad."

Filch continued with the shave without another word. Severus went back to staring up at the ceiling, and not long after a single tear made a path from his eye to his temple. Filch pretended not to see that, and that same blind eye was also turned to the faint quivering of the younger man's lips.

"There we are, all done," Filch announced when he was finished, using the towel to dab away a bit of stray foam. "Now you can kiss your lady friend without scratching a hole in her cheek with those whiskers."

Filch began laughing at his own joke, which caused the sadness to fade from Severus's eyes. He attempted to scowl at Filch, which only made the man laugh harder.

"I'll sit with ye for a while," Filch continued when he calmed down, still ignoring Severus's continued withering glance. "Wait until Hermione comes back."

Filch pulled out the book he'd been bringing with him to St. Mungo's and used the spare time to read aloud to Snape, finishing off from the last place he'd stopped. It was evident that the man had been burning both sides of the candle for too long, because halfway through he stopped abruptly, dropped the book into his lap and began snoring.

If Snape didn't think it would hurt, he would have laughed at the situation. Filch's cat-hair covered waistcoat had been buttoned unevenly and one side hung longer than the other. The shirt he wore beneath was wrinkled, and his trousers were covered in more cat hair.

Old man, you're a mess, Snape thought fondly as Filch made a loud snuffling sound.

Filch had been right about one thing; he did need a shave. That and the clean sheets and pyjamas made him feel marginally better, but he still wanted to find Hermione and get the hell away from St. Mungo's.

Severus knew he would likely never say it, purely because he hated being sentimental, but he loved Filch and appreciated his daily visits. Seeing the old man's face kept him going and made him feel like someone besides Hermione gave a damn whether he was dead or alive.

Severus decided that it didn't matter whether he said it or not, because Filch knew that he was appreciated. The man wasn't daft, even if he was in a state of blissful slumber, completely unaware of the dark eyes that gratefully lingered upon his sleeping form.

Filch's snoring soon because an annoyance, and Severus attempted to sleep purely to drown out the noise. When he woke later, he had no idea of the time. The only thing he did know was the gentle fingers tracing shapes along the inside of his arm felt comfortingly familiar, as was the sensation of soft lips pressed against his bicep.

He shifted his head slightly and his cheek brushed against curls. The breathing against his ear was rhythmic, as though his companion was asleep even as they continued moving their fingers against his skin.

He wanted to speak. He wanted to say her name, let her know that he knew she was there. But thoughts of scaring her away with what he thought to be wretched sound of a voice left him in a state.

Severus knew that he had the ability to speak. He had tried it himself when he was alone. Yet the sound of what was supposed to be his voice scared him, and the fear made him feel foolish and resentful.

Try anyway, a voice in his head urged. She isn't going anywhere.

Those words did not come from him, but they definitely belonged to the young woman next to him.

Severus dumbly wondered how such a thing was possible. Usually the two could only speak if they were both asleep, and mostly when in close proximity of one another. But they were both awake, even if partially, and this was something new.

Severus turned his head more and his bed mate sat up to peer down at him. He knew that face anywhere, even if the room had poor lighting.


Her name sounded clear in his head but in person, the only thing his ears understood was a harsh, rasping that made him want to shove a searing hot poker into them.

Fuck, you sound awful.

But the look on Hermione's face disagreed, and she lifted his hand and pressed an encouraging kiss against his knuckles.


Severus stopped, frustration making him no longer want to continue. But Hermione squeezed his hand.


Severus still thought his voice sounded terrible, but the wide grin on Hermione's face was almost enough to make him forget about his self-disparaging. He glanced down to the collar of her nightgown and noticed the glowing runes peeking out from beneath.

Hermione noticed Severus staring at her neck, and she look at him questioningly. He beckoned her closer, and weakly brushed his fingertips against her collar.

At first Hermione didn't realise what had him so captivated, then she noticed the glow partially hidden by his pyjamas. Severus watched intently as Hermione leaned over him, slowly opening his pyjamas to reveal his torso. She then sat back and tugged her pyjamas over her head, dropping it next to her.

The identical bonds magically seared into their skin glowed steadily, creating a gentle golden orb of light between their bodies. The sight left both completely entranced, and as Hermione moved to run her fingers over Severus's skin, he attempted to do the same. His limbs were still weak and he was unable to reach, but Hermione rose to her knees and took his hand, placing it upon her skin.

It had been far too long since they'd had this sort of contact, and Hermione felt her breath catch as she helped Severus move his hand toward the underside of her breast.

Considering the circumstances and the bleak surroundings, it seemed outlandish that two people could manage to partake in such an intimate moment. Yet the moment Hermione placed her hands upon the runes on Severus's body, and his on hers, the two forgot about the tiny bed they sat upon. They stared into one another's eyes, forgetting about St. Mungo's and the fact that someone could walk in on them at any moment. The only thing they knew was love, trust, and devotion to one another.

Hermione set Severus's hand back down and moved to lean over him. Taking extra care to carry her weight, she braced her arms on either side of Severus and lowered her face to his. Her breasts brushed against the bandages on Severus's chest as they kissed, and Hermione trembled when she felt fingertips skimming along her side.

The glowing runes became brighter as they kissed, sending a gentle warmth throughout their bodies.

As their lips touch, memories of the night where the two had painted the sacred markings on one another's body immediately came to Severus's mind. It seemed as though their bonding had taken place in another lifetime, but even took place a mere few months ago. So much changed between then and now, and Severus didn't know where that left him. What he did know was the woman currently kissing him was the only thing he cared about at the moment. He was unable to hold her the way he wanted, as much of his chest and neck was still covered in bandages. Then there was the fact that the hospital bed was only made for one. But that hadn't stopped Hermione the night before, as she made a way to fit comfortably at his side.

Hermione hated to end their kiss, but it became difficult to hold herself up in such an awkward position. Looking rather forlorn, she closed Severus's pyjamas and slipped her gown back over her head. And without hesitation, she lay next to Severus and took his hand.

The glow on their bodies were now fading, but the calming warmth remained and left them relaxed and drowsy.

As Severus contentedly drifted off to sleep with Hermione curled against him, a thought occurred to him; he knew he wanted to go home, even though the place he legally owned had never really seemed like home. But being with Hermione felt like home, and he knew his home would be wherever she was for as long as she would have him.