AN: My dearest readers, another story for you to hopefully enjoy. I do not own these characters, but they are mine just for this story to do with what I wish. And so I hope you enjoy all the pairings and the twists on the way. Reviews are always most welcome and much appreciated.
Her limbs were aching, head pounding and all she wanted was for sleep to claim her once more. A groan left her lips as she tried to pry her eyes open, only to be met by a dark shadow looming over her. Any thought of screaming left her as she felt a long cool finger press to her lips.
"It is but I, Miss Granger." the voice of the resident Potions Master sounded softly close to her ear and she recognised it instantly, and her shoulders relaxed slightly. She had always trusted the man, she did not see reason why not do so now. And even if she did not trust him, what could she possibly do to defend herself in her current injured state?
She turned her head further towards him and blinked a few times until his harsh face became clear in the little light provided by the candles. The night swallowed his figure as if he were a part of the darkness, only the flickering of the candle flame illuminating his sharp jaw. And while he could perhaps not be called handsome by most, his eyes always fascinated her, even when his words and taunts hurt her confidence. "I have been asked to administer the sleeping draught to you and Mister Potter. But I believe you need to hear the conversation that is about to take place at your bedside. I have already spoken to Mister Potter of this and he agreed to trust me on this matter. Stay quiet and pretend to sleep." he said softly just as the door to the infirmary opened.
Hermione closed her eyes on instinct, trusting the man, even when curiosity was gnawing at her insides. She heard several sets of feet making their way closer, and an almost imperceptible brush of Snape's knuckles against her forearm as he stood. Was it an accidental touch? One to warn her from the people at her bedside? Or a simply gesture of strength against the conversation she saw about to hear? And if so, why would the man of such strong morals touch his student in such a manner, even if it was to comfort? She had no answer to her questions, so instead focused on the steady rise of her chest and closed eyes.
"They are asleep?" the voice of their omniscient headmaster sounded just at the foot of her bed. Why would Snape possibly warn them against the headmaster? They all knew he was an old man full of secrets, but it was all for the greater good, right?
"Yes Albus, as you requested." Severus replied and came to stand at his side.
"I hope that ugly scar doesn't become permanent. It don't hurt Harry's bank account but I would hardly want to look at a scared face for the rest of my married life." Ginny's voice was almost unrecognisable. Hermione remained quiet and still even though all she wanted to do was smack the redhead over the head. Where was the kind, passionate and loyal friend she had in Ginny? And who was this vain girl, speaking of Harry's money? Hermione could not believe her own ears. This must be a dream. Some twisted, surreal dream. Was she hit by a curse from Dolohov or Avery during the fight? Was Ginny under Imperius to be saying such things? Or was Snape playing games with them?
"Don't worry Ginny dear. You will be Lady Potter some day soon and Harry will be your handsome young groom." Hermione wanted to scream as further disbelief pierced at her heart like the hottest of hellfires. Mrs Weasley? What was happening?
Albus hummed. "Of course. But first, he needs to recover and defeat Voldemort. This was only the first battle. In the mean time, I shall try to access his vaults again before he turns 17. As Black is dead, it should be less trouble now. Once your marriage is official, I am sure you will see to the Order's funding, Miss Weasley?"
"Of course, headmaster. As was agreed upon. But are you sure he will survive the last battle? I mean, look at him now, all weak and injured. What if he dies before we get married?" Ginny asked, the pout clear in her voice. Hermione was processing with the speed of light as usual, or at least trying to under the circumstances, surprised Harry had not yet stopped pretending to sleep. She knew him to be always so tempered in such situations. Or did he fall back to sleep even without the sleeping draught? Or worse, did all fight finally leave him after the years of fighting murderous curses and betrayal? Perhaps he was just as shocked as Hermione herself. Arranged marriage? Getting into his vaults? Who were these people?
"That is up to you Miss Weasley. You must keep his interest, and you Molly continue to keep his trust and treat him as your own. Even in case of death, he would surely leave his money to the one family he ever knew, and the girl he loves. But let us not be hasty with such dark predictions. If all fails, we may yet rely on Miss Granger here. She has managed to keep him alive so far, perhaps she shall continue to do so." Dumbledore said pleasantly, as if they were discussing the weather.
"Do I have to keep pretending I like the mudblood?" Hermione tensed suddenly at both the voice and the harsh words. Ron..no, not Ron. He was in on this as well? And did he just call her a mudblood?
"Language, Mr. Weasley. But to answer your question, yes. And no more stunts with Miss Brown or any other girls. You must keep appearances and pretend to support your two best friends. The wizarding world must continue to see the Golden Trio as their saving grace. If we are in good favour, no one will question our actions, public or private." Dumbledore said a bit more sternly, to which the redhead remained quiet.
"Is there anything else you require of me, Albus? Otherwise, I have more potions to administer to these two, as Poppy is busy with healing the others in the Great Hall." Severus drawled, still standing close to her side.
"Very well, my boy. We will leave you now. And do let us know how these two are doing. I shall send Mr and Miss Weasley to keep them company in waking moments." Dumbledore said and their steps became quieter with every foot of distance they put between themselves and the infirmary.
"They are gone." The dour man said softly and Hermione's eyes flew open immediately, turning to look at Harry.
He was looking at her as well, betrayal and anger clear in his gaze. In that moment, her heart broke for the young man before her. Harry had only ever known loss and suffering. The Weasleys and their friendship were the only thing that kept him going most days, she knew. Now, even that was taken from him and she could feel the same loss that was creating a wide open wound in her heart. She tried to rise but grunted in pain as her tender ribs protested any movement. Severus stepped closer and pressed upon her shoulders. "You need to rest, do not try to move or my healing will go to waste." he said with a hint of impatience in his voice.
Harry seemed to understand her intent however and slowly got out of bed instead, taking measured steps towards her. She could see it pained him to walk, a curse must have hit his abdomen as it was completely bandaged up from hips to breastbone, an angry red scar on his cheek healing slowly as well. A memory of blood and screaming entered her mind for a moment before she shook it off as quickly as it appeared. She allowed for the Potions Master to press her back down but shuffled over in the bed to allow Harry to lie down with her.
The young man sat beside her and leaned tiredly against the headboard, his gaze lifting to the Potions Master who remained standing by her bedside. "Why?" he asked softly, his voice still slightly raw.
Severus raised an imperious eyebrow. "Why what? Why is Albus trying to gain access to your vault? Why does Miss Weasley think you shall marry her? Why does it come as no surprise that Mr Weasley is not truly loyal to you?" he drawled almost sarcastically, but his eyes no longer held any vitriol towards the Potter heir.
"Why did you let us hear this?" Hermione asked, squeezing Harry's hand. It seemed like he was the only thing in her life left that was true, constant. She had once thought Ron was the same, but she should have seen it coming really after his jealous stunt during the Triwizard Tournament two years ago. Harry was a brother to her, she could not imagine having a better one as an only child, and she would stand by his side in all things. He was her only real family it seemed, and best friend, so they needed answers to deal with this situation. Good, her logical thinking was finally coming back to her, she thought with relief.
"Always assuming I have ulterior motives, Miss Granger." Severus drawled, his dark eyes unreadable.
"With all due respect sir, you have been a double spy for almost two decades. Forgive me if I know enough of magical society to presume every person comes with strings attached. Even if my judgement has been wrong on the account of several people.." she added softly, some of the pain she felt at the betrayal of the Weasleys showing in her eyes.
Harry rubbed his thumb over her knuckles kindly and watched the man intently. Severus nodded after a moment. "You assume well. Let me however tell you something, before you make any judgements on my person, and the offer I have for you. I have been a spy for both the light and the dark side of this war for many years, before realising that there is no such think as separating the light from dark. Only magic, power and the consequences of one's intent are the forces of the magical world. And the sooner you realise this, the less you will let judgement cloud your minds in the question of allegiances. I have offered you to hear the true nature of those you consider the light side. Perhaps now you will be more inclined to hear the story of the supposed dark side." he said and handed Harry a letter, sealed with dark green wax and a familiar crest.
"The House of Malfoy." Hermione recognised it instantly, having studied the history of British Magical families.
Severus nodded. "Read it, I will approach you in a few days' time to hear your response. Do not be rash in your decision." he said almost dispassionately and strode out of the infirmary, his cloak billowing ominously like the great bat of the dungeons that he was.
Hermione lied there silently for a moment, her mind swiftly processing everything they have learnt tonight. It has been six years since they were thrown into this world of magic, six years since they knew Dumbledore and the Weasleys. And unfortunately, six years of an illusion it seemed.
Dumbledore was using them as chess pieces to win this war, the Weasleys only put on an act of affection and inclusion, and apparently a marriage was arranged for Harry and Ginny. Snape was unreadable as always, and all she had left was to rely on herself, and Harry. Hasn't it been that way always though, she wondered...
Their sixth year has been as they were all. At least no more toads for the DADA, but nonetheless stressful with the darkness looming over their heads. And Voldemort attacking the castle with the ferret's help was just the cherry on top. They fought side by side, until the dark forces had to retreat. Quite a few students were dead, along with Hagrid and professor Sprout. She could only remember a few names, and was sure the dead count was not over before they have finally passed out from the exhaustion and injuries after the battle. But they have survived. They were injured, but alive.
The main question however remained. What would they do now? Harry couldn't possibly return to Privet Drive, the blood wards would disappear anyway in only a month, and she didn't want to return to her parents. As muggles, they were a sure target, and she would not have their blood on her hands. What would they do? Where would they go? And most importantly, where did they stand in this damn war?
It seemed Harry was echoing her thoughts, surprising her with his words. "You know I've always thought there was good and evil in everything. In people, in magic, in all our lives. Light and dark, like a balance. Like in one of Dudley's favourite cartoons. And that the good always wins." he said softly, still holding her hand tightly. "But now...I just don't know what to think anymore. Who can we trust, Hermione? Who is our true friend?" he asked, his voice but a whisper.
The brunette sighed and played with his fingers while she voiced her thoughts. "I wish I knew. It seems however that Professor Snape is the only one who doesn't wish us any harm for the moment."
"And we should just trust him? What if this was just an illusion? An act? Some sort of...effect of a hallucination potion?" he asked, but she could clearly hear the hint of desperation in his voice. She knew Harry wanted it to be false, wanted his friend and the ones he considered his adoptive family to be true and loyal to him. But they both knew that could not be the case after tonight. They both knew that what they have heard was very real, even if the mere admission of the fact pained them.
She looked up at him and tried to offer at least a small smile, but could not make her lips curl upwards. "If all fails, we have each other. I will always stand by your side Harry, no matter what side, or what path you choose. You are my best friend, my brother. The only one I know to trust." she said softly.
Harry nodded. "You are the only family I have anymore. I would not be alive without you." he chuckled humourlessly.
She managed to smile a little and pulled him down to lie with her, their voices soft as they spoke into the early hours of the morning. Betrayal and hurt were still on their minds, but they now had a plan. Their lives have changed dramatically only a few hours ago, but they would find their own path in this world filled with so many shades of grey...
AN: Just a little prologue, let me know what you think xx