Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, nor any of the characters from JK Rowling's fantastic books or films, I'm just borrowing and playing with them for a little while and get no monetary reward for doing so
A/N: Obviously this story is AU. If you put aside the fact that in my story Snape didn't die in the final battle, Jo has outlined the jobs the trio did after leaving school and Hermione didn't become a Potions Mistress, although I have tried to keep most things canon-related where possible. Also we know Snape didn't really invent the Wolfsbane potion, either . . . but he probably could have done if he hadn't been too busy being the Dark Lord's right hand man. Enjoy the story! Dx
The older woman sat beside the bed, dozing as she held tightly to the hand of the man who lay there. Around her the young nurses looked at her fondly every so often as they worked, impressed by her devotion. She was no trouble and they were pleased that the man in the bed had company for what were likely to be the final few hours of his life. Suddenly there was a gasping sound from the bed and the machines surrounding the man began to erupt in a clamour of noise. The occupant was having another attack. The lead nurse rapidly left the room to locate and contact Healers as the woman jerked awake at the cacophony around her.
'We need to move you, dear, so we can work on the patient,' one of the nurses told the woman, who had risen from the seat and was leaning over the dying man, stroking his face as tears ran down her cheeks. She was murmuring something but the nurse couldn't hear what she was saying. 'I'm sorry, love,' the nurse continued as she moved the woman away, putting her at the foot of the bed where she could still watch but wasn't in the way.
A moment later the Healers arrived and they worked quickly to get the man stable again. For a moment it seemed to be touch and go, but eventually the Healers were happy that they had done enough and began to drift away, back to whatever they had been doing previously.
'I think it's time she was sent home,' Healer Barnabus told Nurse Tavistock quietly. He indicated the woman who was once again leaning over the man, silent tears dripping from her face.
'But, sir, her husband's dying. You know it's not going to be much longer. Surely there's no problem with her staying here until he does. No one minds her being in here, really they don't.'
The Healer looked at the young nurse. 'He's not her husband, Nurse. Mrs Weasley is merely a former pupil of Professor Snape's, although I understand they were work colleagues for several years. It would be highly irregular to allow her to stay.'
'But he doesn't have anyone else, does he?' Nurse Tavistock asked. 'And she clearly cares for him. I just don't see any harm in it when he has no one else to share his final moments.'
'It's against hospital policy,' the Healer replied stiffly. 'Only family members are allowed to be present at the patient's death. Now, please stop arguing and arrange for her family to come and take her home.'
Nurse Tavistock looked unhappy, but knowing she had no choice after the ultimatum from the Healer she left the room to do as he asked. Healer Barnabus looked at the woman, who was now talking quietly to the patient. He knew she wasn't doing any harm, but rules were rules and Professor Snape deserved a little privacy for his final moments on earth.
'I'm here, Severus,' Hermione crooned as she stroked Snape's forehead gently. 'Can you hear me, my love?' she continued. 'Don't leave me, please.'
The grey-faced man looked at her with rheumy eyes full of pain. He gave what could have been a small smile or a grimace.
'Hermione. . . .' His voice was a deep rasp.
'Shhhh, don't talk, love,' Hermione said. 'You need to get your strength back. You're going to be fine.'
Snape slowly shook his head. 'Please, Hermione . . . let me go.' He closed his eyes for a moment, then with great effort re-opened them.
'No! Please . . . Severus,' Hermione cried in terror. She wrapped her arms around him, holding tightly as she rocked him. 'Don't leave me. Please, Severus, don't die!'
The nurses attempted to pull her away from Snape; his breath rattled and his pulse was thready. Hermione gripped his hand like a vice, refusing to let go despite all attempts to remove her.
'Mrs Weasley, you have to let go and leave the room,' the Staff Nurse said bluntly as she peeled Hermione's hand from Snape's and began to pull her across the room towards the door. 'Professor Snape is dying and you are not a relative. I have to ask you to leave. Please, have some respect for the patient and come quietly.'
'No!' Hermione replied equally forcefully as she glared at the nurse. 'I will not leave him now. He's my lover and I need to be with him. He wants me here.'
Snape called for Hermione, his wrecked voice sounding painful as he begged for her. The Nurse sighed and gave in to the dying man's request, releasing Hermione's arm and allowing her to return to him.
'I'm here, my love,' Hermione said soothingly, knowing that the time left was short. 'I won't leave you again, I promise.' She bent and kissed him gently on the lips.
'Never said I love you,' he whispered, forcing the words out.
'It doesn't matter,' Hermione said, sobbing. 'I knew you did.'
The man nodded. 'More than the world . . . more than life.' He coughed, his chest rattling.
'And I love you, too, Severus,' Hermione told him, her voice breaking with emotion. 'For eternity.'
Snape smiled and his claw-thin hand reached out to grip Hermione's tightly. 'I love you, my beautiful Hermione,' he rasped.
His eyes closed.
The machine he was attached to showed no sign of movement. Severus Snape was dead.
Hermione looked round, tears streaming from her eyes again.
'He's gone,' she told the Staff Nurse, who had come to check the machinery. 'It was time.'
Hermione leant over and gave Snape one final brief but tender kiss on the lips before turning and heading for the door. Her legs went and she felt herself fainting.
'Here, let me help you,' one of the young nurses said worriedly, and she helped Hermione out into the corridor and into a chair. 'Stay here and I'll get you a cup of tea,' she said kindly. Having checked Hermione was all right and intending to leave her alone only briefly, the nurse went to get the drink.
A few minutes later she was back. 'Your husband and children will be here shortly,' she told Hermione, handing her the teacup and saucer. She sat down with the older woman to wait with her.
'The Professor was a good friend of yours?' she asked interestedly once Hermione seemed calmer.
Hermione smiled wistfully. 'He was my teacher at school, a work colleague for many years, and my lover for the last fifty-four.'
The girl looked shocked. 'You were having an affair for over fifty years?'
Hermione nodded, a small smile crossing her lips. 'Yes, I loved him very much.'
'But why didn't you get a divorce? Marry him instead?' the nurse asked with interest.
Hermione gave a sad smile. 'I don't think he would have wanted to get married even if I had been prepared to. I had a husband and family. I couldn't just give them up. I do love them, too, you know.'
'Love is a strange thing,' Hermione told the girl. 'I'm not at all sure we would have been together as long if we had got married.' She laughed wistfully. 'He was such a snarky bastard but I loved him so much.'
'I hope I find someone that special one day,' the girl said honestly.
'I hope you do, too,' Hermione replied, her eyes sparkling with tears again.
'There you are. We've been looking all over for you.' A woman's curt voice rang angrily through the corridor. 'What are you doing here, anyway?'
The nurse saw a smartly dressed middle-aged woman with red hair walking quickly down the corridor, an older man trailing in her wake.
Hermione looked up at her daughter. 'I came to see Severus.'
The woman's mouth pinched into an unhappy line but she didn't say anything. The man sat down next to Hermione and put his arm around her shoulder, pulling her into a hug.
'How is he?' he asked.
'Dead,' Hermione replied tonelessly. 'He died about fifteen minutes ago.'
Ron hugged his wife tighter. 'I'm so sorry, love,' he whispered.
'Shall we go home, then?' Rose's tense voice broke the silence. 'I do have other things to do, you know.'
Ron looked at Hermione. 'Are you ready to go?' he asked gently.
She nodded. 'Yes, he's gone now so there's no point in staying here.'
Ron helped his wife up and the two of them made their way slowly down the corridor with their daughter walking along angrily beside them.
The nurse couldn't help but think that if she had a daughter that rude and ungrateful she would be happy to give her up for love.