Hermione woke in St. Mungo’s slowly. Her head felt sluggish and her bed was surrounded with a white divider, blocking her view of the rest of the room. She groaned.
“I think we’ve got another one,” Hermione heard an unfamiliar female voice outside her confines.
The curtain was whipped back and Hermione saw a wide-faced blonde healer standing by her bed. Hermione smiled weakly.
“Don’t try to move, dear,” said the healer, taking Hermiones wrist and feeling her pulse.
“Where is - what is – how?” Hermione whispered out of her lips. Her mouth felt dry, as if she hadn’t talked in awhile.
“Don’t you worry, now.” The healer fluffed Hermione’s pillow under her head gently. “Just save your strength. You’ve had quite the adventure.”
Hermione rested her head on the pillow behind her and closed her eyes.
“Am I a widow?” she asked, her stomach churning.
The healer was silent. Hermione opened her eyes and looked at her.
The healer glanced quickly behind her. She shuddered.
“No dear,” she said as if she felt very sorry for her. “He woke last week and has been waiting by you. He must have stepped out for lunch.”
Hermione let out her held breath and smiled contently. How long had she been here? She found she didn’t care. He had been waiting for her.
“He is a good man,” she said as she relaxed. She closed her eyes so she couldn’t see the healers’ expression. The healer obviously had been one of his former students.
A short while later she recognized the tone of his voice on the other side of the door. There were other beds in her room. She wondered who was in them.
Severus opened the door to the ward and Hermione’s eyes were open. She was smiling weakly at him.
“Hello, love,” she croaked at him. Her bottom lip was split open and greenish fluid seeped from the wound. Her skin tone looked slightly green.
He took three large steps that covered the distance between them and took her hand in his. His eyes looked like they were tearing up. He pressed her hand to his forehead as he knelt by her bed and she felt it becoming moist. He gently dabbed at his eyes with her sleeve and when his eyes rose to hers they were dry.
“I thought I might die without you,” Severus said hoarsely, pressing her hand to his chest. She reached up with her other hand and caressed his cheek. She pulled him to her and he kissed her gently on the lips, afterwards taking both her hands and kissing each of her knuckles carefully.
There was a loud sniffle behind Severus and he turned to see the blonde healer and a new brown haired healer near her sniffling behind their charts. He frowned at them sternly. The blonde healer busied herself by scuttling to one of the covered beds and the other all but ran out of the room.
“I’ve really got to learn how you do that,” said Hermione softly and trying not to laugh. It hurt too much.
He dipped his head so only she could see his face and smiled at her.
“No,” he said. “You’ll do it to me.”
“Smart boy,” Hermione said closing her eyes and resting back on her pillow.
Severus smiled down at her and shook his head. He hadn’t been called a boy for years and didn’t really mind when she did it. He hoped no one else heard it. He heard a small noise behind him and turned around quickly. The blonde nurse quickly darted back behind the partition, silently wiping her nose.
Brainless twit. Hufflepuff. Class of ’90. Hopeless romantic. Severus hoped his name wouldn’t be tacked onto a propaganda article on the Marriage Law. Hopefully with the Ministry trying to piece itself together they’d drop the whole thing.
No one knew what happened deep in the bowels of the Ministry when Harry and Voldemort did battle. The backlash knocked people unconscious for miles. The Ministry was working closely with the British authorities to cover it up. Some nonsense about a chemical leak, whatever that was.
Most muggles had physical damage and were quickly healed and their things repaired before they were brought to. Their memories were easily modified.
Voldemorts lifeless body was found near Harry unconscious form. It was in storage in Gringotts. Severus had no idea the goblins possessed that type of storage facility. It made him wonder what else they had. He would rather not think about it.
Harry had yet to regain consciousness, but the staff at St. Mungo’s were in a state of dismay. Harry now possessed slitted eyes and his scar had spread, getting longer and wider, splitting his face and coming to rest on the top of one cheekbone. No one had a clue as to the cause or the meaning.
Harry was in a padded room surrounded by aurors, bound to the table he rested on.
Ginny was missing her
little finger on her right hand. She had gained a blue scar on one arm in the
Fudge and many members of the Ministry were killed in the attack.
Mrs. Weasley had managed to keep Percy, Fred, George and Arthur busy trying to subdue her and they didn’t even become involved in the combat. She would look back in her later years and be terribly pleased with herself.
Ron had gained consciousness the same day as the attack and had been waiting in St. Mungo’s for them to wake for weeks. He knew their marriage had been consummated, but had weeks to think and his arguments were weak and unenthusiastic at best when he confronted Severus.
Neville was still unconscious. His grandmother sat by his side every day telling him how proud of him she was with tears in her eyes.
Bellatrix LeStrange had lost her mind. She was placed in the same ward as the Longbottoms and for the first time, Alice Longbottom raised one finger, pointed, and laughed. Her healers said it was the most progress she had made in years.
The captured Deatheaters were being kept in a secret location so they could be tried and convicted later.
The amazons had lost thirteen girls. Alexandra had boasted she had encapsulated seven Deatheaters and drove four more to death by dragon.
The Jotun had asked for the unclaimed dead. The few Ministry that were left had granted them their request and asked no questions.
The black skinned warrior with hair of adders gave Alexandra a pendant to give to Hermione. He said it would assist her in her journey and it was hers by birthright. Alexandra had been glad when they retreated into their mountain and the door had disappeared and knew better than to open a box not meant for her.
Ron and Severus had sorted out their differences waiting for her to wake and Ron waited on the other side of the door, probably dancing by now, waiting for Severus to get him.
Severus had talked to him like a normal human for a change, while waiting for her to wake. Severus loved Hermione. Loved her more than life and didn’t think she knew.
Ron watched Severus waiting in the leather chair near her bed, holding her hand, talking to her each day, looking lost and bleak without her, and Ron just – let go. If she wanted Severus it was fine. He had more to offer her anyway, Ron thought bleakly.
Ron walked into the ward, not willing to wait anymore and saw Hermione’s face light up at him. She winced.
“Don’t hurt yourself,” he said, sitting on the other side of the bed and taking her other hand. “You look a right wreck.”
“I’ve been here for weeks,” Hermione said. “At least it sounds like it. Why haven’t I been healed?”
“You got hit with an experimental potion,” said Ron excitedly. “They didn’t know if healing would complicate things.”
Hermione frowned at this and turned to look at Severus.
“We’ll save a bit of money on food,” said Severus, smirking.
Obviously it was funny and not harmful. They both looked like they were trying not to snicker.
“It was for the Aurors, when they have to go on long trips,” said Ron. “I wish Neville could see you.”
“Neville?” Hermione frowned and looked at Severus.
“You can now photosynthesize,” said Severus. “It’ll wear off eventually, but you got hit with the full supply. It’s only supposed to be taken a few drops at a time and glass from the bottle cut you. It got directly in your bloodstream.”
“You looked really cute a few weeks ago,” said Ron. “You were really green and your eyebrows looked like grass. Wish I’d thought to have Colin take a picture.”
Severus couldn’t believe Ron was joking at a thing like this, but Hermione chuckled and Severus relaxed a bit.
“I hope they were smart enough to observe me and gather more test results,” said Hermione weakly.
“I ran the tests myself,” Severus said, wiping the tears trying to seep out of his eyes. Weasley had seen him break down in the last week, but he didn’t want Hermione to see him like this. “I kept careful notes. You’d find them very interesting.”
A brown haired healer with a thick German accent bustled in and told them it was time for Hermione to rest. She should not overtax herself. Severus tried to protest but the healer finally shooed him and Ron from the room.
Hermione recovered within the week and found herself back in Severus’ quarters at Hogwarts after a weekend visit to her parents. She found herself feeling refreshed if she got a good amount of sunlight, but she was told the feeling would pass.
She had lost so much time she found herself a few weeks before the start of term before she knew it.
Hermione found herself facing Helga Hufflepuff one morning as she walked into the receiving room in Severus’ quarters. Her powder blue witch’s hat was in her hands and her hair looked slightly untidy in a loose bun.
“Your friend has awakened,” Helga said gravely. Helga’s mirror had been returned to Severus’ quarters, but an empty black canvas had been placed in Dumbledore’s office so she could take her place with the other portraits if she so chose.
“Which friend?” Hermione said thinking of both Harry and Neville.
“The Potter boy,” said Helga.
“How is he?” Hermione asked nervously.
“Alive,” said Helga grimly. “Phineas is reporting to Dumbledore as he finds out information.”
“How does it look?” said Hermione nervously.
“I’m really not sure,” said Helga. “I wish I had more to tell you, but Phineas hasn’t come back yet. The boy is fairly groggy.”
“We’ll meet you in the office,” said Hermione as she turned to get Severus.
Severus and Hermione practically ran through the halls of Hogwarts, including through several hidden passages not included on the Marauders Map.
“Key-Lime Truffle,” Severus boomed at the gryphon guarding Dumbledore’s office.
Dumbledore sat in his office, the frame of Phineas Nigellus levitated near his desk so he may talk to him with ease. His fingers were steepled and glasses rested on the end of his nose. His eyes moved as Hermione and Severus entered his room, but he didn’t turn from the empty frame.
Severus sat down in a chair in front of the desk and Hermione chose the one next to him. They sat in silence. Hermione stared at her hands, folded in her lap and just wished someone would say something.
Phineas appeared in the mirror and gave a distasteful look to Dumbledore.
“The boy seems to be, in fact, the boy,” said Phineas with a sniff. “I don’t think anyone would stop you from going. They’re a pretty rag-tag group.”
“Thank you, Phineas,” said Dumbledore.
It was the best he was going to get from the painting. It was best they go to see it first hand. The Ministry needed all the help it could get.
“Hermione,” Harry said smiling.
Hermione smiled weakly at him. Severus stood behind her with a hand on her shoulder.
Harry looked frightful. His scar cleaved his face in two. His slitted eyes stared out in the same bright green they had always been, at her from sockets that crinkled at the corners in a familiar way. Hermione couldn’t help but think back on the prophecy.
When the mark of
thunder shines upon one
And Darkness retreats into the night to rest
The midnight sun shines bright in the sky
One with fathers taken
twice shall rise into the light
Plunging darkness into he will fall
Within him power will grow
Two paths here are laid
Light and Dark will be inside
Cleaving one into two
The answer lies with
the givers of life
To show the path
Under the sea
How are you feeling?” said Hermione tentatively as she approached the bed. The bonds she had heard about were gone, but Aurors still stood guard out of the room.
“Really tired,” said Harry. “My brain feels slow.”
Hermione sat next to the bed nervously. Severus stood near the door, arms folded watching them.
“Has anyone told you anything?” asked Hermione, hoping that was a vague enough question.
“I killed him,” said Harry, letting his head fall back on his pillow. His eyes closed and he looked serene. “Voldemort is dead.”
Hermione reached out and took his hand. It was easier with his eyes closed.
“Now you’re really a hero, Harry,” said Hermione, quirking a corner of her mouth at him. He barely lifted his eyelids at her and grinned cynically.
“Guess I am,” said Harry. “Nice to be able to live up to it for a change.”
Severus snorted from the doorway.
“Well, you’ll always have people to keep your head from swelling,” said Hermione shooting Severus a look. He made a face at her.
“Now, what’s so funny?” asked Hermione gently, as she brushed a wild lock of hair out of his eyes.
“I heard you two fancied each other, but this is funny,” Harry said. “I never would have guessed.”
“How did everyone find out?” Hermione demanded. “I mean-,” she spluttered.
“The elves told Charlie,” said Harry.
“Charlie was spreading gossip about our marriage?” Severus frowned.
“Well, he had to tell Mundungus,” said Harry, beginning to chuckle. Severus saw where this was going quickly and his cheeks flushed in both embarrassment and anger.
“Mundungus?” Hermione said confused.
“Well, he was the one running the pool,” said Harry, laughing and suddenly regretting it as his body was wracked with pain.
Hermione gasped, obviously appalled. If Harry wasn’t in such a state she would have been shaking him.
“There was a pool?” Hermione managed to squeak out.
“Who won?” asked Severus curiously. Hermione was obviously upset enough for the both of them and any curses she threw would probably be overlooked.
“Fred and George,” said Harry.
“You’re all disgusting,” said Hermione, folding her arms.
“I didn’t bet,” said Harry. “And Ron didn’t even know about it until the end.”
Hermione relaxed a little but would be having a word with both Mundungus and the twins later. She shivered at the thought of having to marry the dirty little wizard. What would he have pulled if she was his wife?
“What do you remember, Potter?” Severus said evenly.
Harry took a breath and acted like he was trying the best way to word things.
“We locked wands and Voldemort tried to get in my head,” said Harry. “We fought.”
Harry was silent for a time.
Severus knew what had happened. Harry had seen the life of Tom Riddle and they had exchanged memories. Severus could only imagine what horrors he had seen, but a part of him vaguely worried about what Harry had learned about him.
“I believe I won,” said Harry.
Severus knew they’d never get much more of an explanation than that. He nodded at Hermione and she closed her mouth before she could persist with any questions.
“Potter, have you seen a mirror?” asked Severus.
“A mirror?” said Harry, confused. “Why would anyone give me a mirror?”
“Your scar has gotten quite a bit larger,” said Severus. “I’m guessing it was because of the level of the melding.”
“Well, I’m a hero,” said Harry, feeling like he could rest for the first time in years. Feeling exceptionally brave enough to be snarky to Snape. “I don’t have to be pretty.” Harry secretly hoped it made him look cool.
“And your eyes, Harry,” said Hermione trepedatiously. “They look serpentine.”
Harry reached up to realize he wasn’t wearing his glasses.
“What happened?” said Harry. His face went blank for a moment. “Oh, that makes sense.”
“What makes sense?” Severus asked warily, taking a step forward.
“The knowledge of Abraxas would change my appearance and I am a parselmouth, aren’t I?” said Harry.
This made almost no sense to Severus and he shifted uncomfortably.
“Knowledge would be enough to change your appearance?” Severus said heavily.
“This knowledge would,” said Harry placing his hand on the side of his head.
The door to Harrys ward opened and Dumbledore walked in, followed by Arthur Weasley and Kingsley Shackelbolt.
Arthur tried not to show anything in his face, but a muscle in his jaw twitched. Kingsley had been there when Harry woke up so he didn’t have a reaction to Harry’s appearance.
“Hello,” said Harry, sitting up. “Where’s Ron?”
“In the waiting room with the rest of the family,” said Dumbledore, trying to look cheerful although worry lines creased his forehead. “We wanted to see how you were before Molly- had vapors over you.”
“I feel a little tired,” said Harry. “Really groggy.”
“I think the family reunion can wait for another day,” said Arthur. “You’ve really been through a lot, Harry.”
“I really think he’s right,” Hermione said before Harry could protest. “Tomorrow will come before you know it and you’ll feel a little better.”
Harry scrunched his face at her and laid his head back onto his pillow.
“You’ll thank them later,” said Kingsley, thinking of Molly’s reaction without being warned gently about Harry’s appearance.
A dark haired healer walked into the room with a gold potion bottle. Severus stopped him and sniffed the contents of the bottle. The healer seemed taken aback but allowed the intrusion. Severus nodded and the healer gave Harry the potion. He fell into a relaxed, dopy state and the healer told them he would need more rest.
“That’s fine,” said Dumbledore, smiling through a strained expression. “Thank you.”
“We’ll see you tomorrow, Harry,” said Hermione, smiling at him in a way she hoped looked normal.
“I promise to be more awake tomorrow,” said Harry sleepily.
“Of course you will,” said Hermione.
Molly Weasley spooned chowder into the long line of bowls running along the counter in 12 Grimmauld place. She had been silent since Arthur and Dumbledore took her into a quiet room to talk to her about Harry.
Since the destruction of the Ministry, Grimmauld Place had been used as a place for aurors to gather information, rest, eat, and plan reconstruction of their department.
The aurors had been a great help in finally getting the place clean and the dark objects removed or destroyed. Some of the items were in observation where the Department of Mysteries had been temporarily located.
“I’ll serve them, Molly,” Remus Lupin said, taking two of the bowls from the counter. “You sit down. You’ve already done more than your share.”
It was a sign that not all was right with Mrs. Weasley when she sat down wordlessly, not even bothering to protest. When Lupin put her bowl in front of her she ate without making a sound.
Tonks slipped into the room and took a seat beside Molly.
“How’s Harry?” Lupin asked.
“Awake and talking to Dumbledore,” said Tonks. “Harry’s seen what he looks like.”
“And?” Lupin asked, raising an eyebrow as he placed a bowl in front of Tonks.
“He seemed to take it well,” said Tonks shrugging. “But you never can tell.”
Lupin nodded as he laid a basket of bread on the table and other aurors filed into the room.
Hermione and Severus walked through the fireplace with a whoosh of green flame. Molly looked up at them and shook her head at Severus. He frowned at her. How dare the woman insinuate he seduced Hermione? He had kissed her, he admitted that much, but Hermione had returned it and she was a perfectly capable, logical young lady. Severus decided not to voice his opinion. Molly had enough stress and Severus didn’t want to be her target when she finally snapped.
“Harry’s really awake now,” said Tonks to Hermione and Severus. Hermione seemed to be happy in her marriage and frankly, Tonks had other things to worry about. Severus had an attitude but he was mostly bark, Tonks knew that. Hermione could handle him.
“How is he?” said Hermione as a witch in bright green robes bustled her way past to get her meal.
“Feeling much better,” said Tonks, waving to a handsome middle-aged blonde wizard in dark blue robes as he grabbed a bowl and left the room. “He’s up and talking to Dumbledore.”
“Any insight to what happened to him?” asked Severus, getting jostled by an ancient little wizard in orange robes trying to balance four bowls of chowder on a tray for people elsewhere in the house.
“As far as we can tell Voldemorts brain collapsed during battle,” said Tonks. “Harry got all his memories and knowledge.”
“What?” whispered Molly, looking up from her chowder.
“Voldemorts not hiding in there,” said Tonks. “Dumbledore examined him extensively. Harry said it was like watching a movie in fast-forward.”
“My God,” Hermione said, collapsing onto the bench across from Molly and Tonks. The green robed witch sat beside her and started eating quickly.
“He’ll be alright,” said the auror between mouthfuls of food. “Listened to some of the interviews. Very informative. We’ll learn a lot from him.”
Molly sighed and stirred her chowder absent-mindedly.
“He was born to do this, Molly,” said Lupin, handing her a hunk of bread. “Nothing we could have done. We did try, you know.”
Molly nodded and nibbled at the bread. Hermione reached across the table and squeezed Molly’s hand. Molly didn’t look up but clutched Hermiones hand.
Green flames leapt in the hearth and all of them turned to look at Dumbledore as he entered the kitchen. No one said a word.
“I’ve never seen all of you so glum,” said Dumbledore, a tired smile playing around his lips. “Harry will recover, although he’s been through more than anyone should ever have to.”
“He’d been through more than anyone should by the end of his fourth year,” said Severus under his breath. Only Dumbledore heard him.
“He can see visitors tomorrow,” said Dumbledore looking at Molly. “Although it is advised he not be excited.”
“I’m sure we can manage to hold it together,” said Hermione before anyone else could say anything.
Molly sighed resignedly, but nodded in agreement.
Hermione, Severus and Ron sat in a waiting room at St. Mungo’s. The room had two doors, one going into the hospital and the other was the only door to Harry’s room. Both doors had two aurors guarding it. The aurors in the hospital hall stood erect on either side of the door, impressive looking and grim. The aurors in the waiting room were playing cards on a small table. Some of the aurors had been called back, but six were on duty at all times, standing guard on the other side of the walls without doors.
The Ministry was taking Harrys condition very seriously.
Molly, Arthur and Dumbledore were in Harry’s room. They had been in there nearly 30 minutes and Ron was beginning to fidget.
Hermione had paled, but still possessed a slight greenish tinge to her skin.
The door swung open. Molly looked slightly pale, but had a tired smile on her face.
“He’s going to be all right,” she said. “Considering.”
Hermione nodded and took a deep breath.
“You can go in and see him now,” said Dumbledore. “I’m sure he’d appreciate seeing someone normal, for a change.”
Molly gave him a look but Hermione and Ron practically leapt to their feet and ran to Harry’s door.
Hermione stopped Ron with a hand on his arm before he flung open the door. He stopped in his tracks. She looked at him and he took a deep breath before opening the door calmly.
Severus watched as Hermione and Ron quietly entered the room.
“Hello, Harry,” Severus heard Hermione say as the door closed softly behind them.
“Well?” asked Severus, steeling himself for anything.
“Are you familiar with the idea of mind-melding?” Dumbledore asked.
“Its part of a muggle fable, is it not?” Severus asked.
“Not such a fable any more,” said Arthur running a hand through his light red hair. It seemed to have gotten much whiter then Hermione could have imagined possible in the last few weeks.
“He has all the Dark Lords knowledge?” Severus asked.
“All of it,” said Molly, brusquely. “He’s lucky to be alive.”
“Indeed,” said Severus nodding, his eyebrows raised. He was surprised the boy wasn’t mad. He wondered what depraved knowledge he had been exposed to.
“But apparently it is Harry,” said Arthur shaking his head. “Horrible burden for a boy to have to bear.”
“Harry has done more in 18 years than most lifetimes ever see,” said Dumbledore. “If he travels the right path he’ll become a very wise man.”
No one could think of anything to say.
“Wow, Harry,” said Ron.
“The healers say they’re working on it,” said Harry. “But I wouldn’t hold your breath.”
“You thought people stared at you before,” Ron mused.
“Ron!” Hermione said sharply.
“He’s right, you know,” said Harry quietly as he set down the hand mirror he had been holding. His light blue pajamas looked rumpled and a stack of Ron’s comic books sat near the bed. Molly had brought them to keep Harry busy and away from the Daily Prophet.
Hermione didn’t know what to say to Harry. She had a stint as a cat once and felt deep sympathy for him. She had recovered from the polyjuice potion. He probably would never recover.
“Well, look at the bright side, Harry,” said Ron. “You’ll probably never have to wait in line for anything ever again.”
Hermione and Harry both looked at Ron in bewilderment.
“Never mind,” muttered Ron.
“You’ll probably never be able to return to the muggle world,” said Hermione softly.
“I know,” said Harry. “I don’t know if that upsets me or not.”
“Wouldn’t be that upset if I was you,” snorted Ron.
“Why is that?” Hermione asked curiously.
“A scout for the Hornets was in the Ministry the day of the attack trying to get a floo connection for his new house,” said Ron excitedly. “Saw you on your broom, Harry. He was really impressed.”
“What did you do on your broom?” Hermione asked.
“Well there was a bit of air battle getting in,” said Harry, shrugging.
“Bit of air battle?” asked Ron incredulously. “It was some of the best flying I’ve ever seen. You should have seen it, Hermione!”
“You’re lucky you’re such a good flyer,” said Hermione, finally snapping. “I can’t believe you just ran off to do this yourselves. It was stupid and thoughtless of you!” Her stern tone had risen in pitch and was approaching a screech. She had finally snapped.
Dumbledore opened the door to Harry’s room to see what the commotion was. Hermione shot him a look and he backed out.
Ron began to worry.
“Hermione-,” Harry began.
“Don’t you start!” Hermione boomed. “You could have gotten killed, or worse. You should have waited for the others.”
“They never would have let us go,” protested Ron.
“With good reason!” yelled Hermione. “What if the Deatheaters had gotten hold of Harry?”
“Well, they didn’t,” said Harry, raising the eyebrows over those green serpentine eyes of his.
“Well, isn’t that convenient,” Hermione said testily. “Just because it worked this time total chaos is justified!”
Ron threw his hands up behind her and she wheeled around on him. He stepped back and stumbled into a chair.
“And you,” Hermione began. In Ron’s eyes she seemed to get bigger than she really was. Her nostrils flared. “You should have known better. Of all people.”
“What, ‘of all people?’” Ron exploded back at her. His fingers were white clenching the arms of his chair. “You weren’t here, Hermione. It was pandemonium! No one could organize, the Ministry was in pieces, Dumbledore was missing-,” Ron rattled out.
“I know,” said Hermione. “I had to go get him.”
“You knew where he was?” breathed Ron. “Everyone’s been really secretive about it.”
Harry was politely silent. He knew nothing about this, Hermione could tell, but was curious.
“I-I don’t know if it’s something he really wants everyone to know,” said Hermione. “I really wish I could tell you.”
Harry nodded, but Rons face screwed up at her.
“Oh come on, Hermione,” Ron persisted. “It’s all over now.”
“It may not be,” said Hermione. “The Amazons have an obscure prophecy that might apply.”
“How many prophecies can one person have about them?” Ron asked, looking at Harry.
“If it makes you feel better, I’d rather there are no prophecies about me at all,” said Harry, sounding tired.
“I’m sorry, Harry,” Hermione said. “But you idiots had me so worried and I was so far away…” Hermione trailed off.
“How was Russia?” asked Harry.
“Oh, you don’t want to hear about my trip,” said Hermione.
“Of course I do,” said Harry. “It will be a normal subject for a change. Maybe you’ll even stop yelling.” He quirked a corner of his mouth at her. It made him look sinister.
She made a face at him and told him about her trip.
“His mother sounds desperate for grandchildren,” laughed Harry. “Be careful if you don’t want a brood.”
Hermione blushed furiously. Ron didn’t look deliriously happy, but he managed to shake his head at her and give her a small smile. Ron kept repeating to himself Severus could offer her more and she loved him. The pain would pass. Percy could council him that much.
“Come on, Hermione,” said Ron awkwardly patting her on the shoulder. Hermione felt a pang of regret.
“I don’t think it would be a practical time to start a family,” said Hermione. “I mean, if one were to happen.”
“You haven’t even gotten that far, have you?” Harry asked, laughing.
“Well, it’s not as if we’ve had a lot of time to talk about it,” Hermione said, flustered.
“You haven’t even talked about it?” Ron asked, incredulously.
“We haven’t been … intimate for that long,” Hermione said, annoyed. She could not believe she was having this conversation. “I’ve known you for years and I don’t know how many kids you want.”
“None,” Ron said.
“None?” Hermione and Harry echoed.
“I’m sure I’ll have plenty of nice nieces and nephews to entertain me,” said Ron. “Then I can give them back and go far away.”
“You’ll change your mind when you meet the right girl,” said Hermione. “That’s the same thing Viktor said and look at him and Tristan.”
Ron scowled at being compared to the Quidditch player. Hermione ignored his look.
“I’d like a couple, maybe,” said Harry thoughtfully. “Although I’m not sure who’d be with me now.”
“Don’t say that, Harry,” said Hermione. “And that’s stupid. I can think of someone.”
“Yea,” said Ron. “If you aren’t married to Ginny by the time you’re 30, the Ministry’ll make you pair up and you’ll get a wife. She might even be nice.”
“Ron!” Hermione said, shocked.
“I’m sure that’s going to be one of the first things to go,” Harry laughed. “A lot of things at the Ministry are going to change.”
“I don’t doubt that,” Hermione said. “Mr. Weasley has been working really hard. There’s talk he may become Minister of Magic.”
“My dad?” Ron asked, stunned. “Minister of Magic?”
“Well there’s not many from the Ministry left, are there?” Hermione asked. “Many remember Fudge trying to discredit your father when he wanted to get prepared for the Dark Lord.”
“Your dad’s a hero, Ron,” said Harry.
“Wow,” said Ron, looking surprised and a little proud. “Might get a little respect out of this after all.”
“We’ve always respected you, Ron,” said Hermione softly. He grinned at her and hugged her back when she flung herself in his lap and threw her arms around him. It was good to have her back.
“I leave for two minutes and I find you in the arms of another,” came a cold voice from the doorway. Ron felt the color drain from his face. Hermione looked at his expression and burst out laughing.
“Stop doing that!” Hermione demanded. “They’re not your pupils anymore.”
“I am aware of that, wife,” said Severus sneering at her.
She blew a raspberry at him. Harry was fine. Ron wasn’t mad at her. She was in a fine mood.
Severus felt his lips tremble and finally let out a small chuckle.
“How am I ever to keep up my reputation if you keep amusing me, so?” Severus asked, placing his hands on his hips.
“Not my fault your façade was so easily shattered,” Hermione said. Ron wrapped his arms around her, feeling her weight in his lap. He firmly nodded in agreement.
“Just don’t let it get out,” Severus sighed.
“Mums the word,” said Harry. Severus looked at the slitted green eyes and shivered. The boy truly looked frightful.
“I would hope so,” said Severus hoping it would have some meaning for Harry.
“Hermione, Ron, can you please leave us for a moment?” Harry said. “Severus and I have a bit to talk about.”
“Of course,” said Hermione, realizing what knowledge Harry possessed. Severus’ Deatheater days. She imagined they would have a bit to talk about.
Hermione and Ron rose to leave the room.
“Want us to smuggle you anything, Harry?” Ron asked.
“Chocolate frogs, if they have any,” said Harry. “There should be some money in my pouch. It’s in the drawer over there. Get whatever you want, as well.”
Ron rustled a bit in the drawer and came up with a heavy purse that jingled.
“Thanks, Harry,” said Hermione. “We’ll be back in a bit.”
Ron and Hermione left with a soft click of the door.
Severus turned and looked at the face split by a lightning scar. The slitted green eyes narrowed at him.
Severus looked into the eyes of his two greatest fears rolled into one. He could do a number of things. He chose the honest way for the sake of his wife. He told the truth.
“I love her,” said Severus softly.
Severus’ facial muscles relaxed and Harry looked at Severus as if for the first time. Severus looked very tired and worn.
“You must,” said Harry. He paused. “I do remember everything that ever happened in Tom’s life.”
Severus looked at Harry quizzically and sat down in the chair next to the bed.
“Tom?” Severus asked.
“Well, no matter how much power he got and what titles he gave himself he always thought of himself as Tom,” said Harry rubbing his forehead and the area between his eyes. “He hated himself for it.”
Severus felt sorry for the boy. Historians would be bothering him for the rest of his life.
“It-,” Severus started. “Your knowledge must be-“
“Incredible,” said Harry. “You have no idea.”
“I have a small idea,” said Severus.
“You-,” began Harry fumbling for words that he didn’t ever think he would hear himself say. They had a difficult time coming out of his mouth. “Are an incredibly brave man.”
“Thank you,” said Severus sincerely.
“Take care of Hermione,” Harry said. “If you don’t I will be most displeased.”
Severus shivered for the second time that day.
“I will,” said Severus.
“What do you think they’re talking about?” Ron asked Hermione. They were walking back from the cafeteria clutching bags full of vending machine candy and sandwiches.
“Probably about Severus’ time as a Deatheater,” said Hermione. “I wonder if Harry can activate the Dark Mark.”
“Do you know about Severus’ past?” Ron asked.
“Not a lot,” Hermione admitted. “He tells me in bits and pieces. I think he’s more embarrassed about it than anything.”
“Aren’t you curious?” Ron asked.
“I’m not sure I want to know,” Hermione said with a shrug. “I’ve already seen his library.”
Ron suddenly stopped in front of a door. Hermione stopped and looked through the window in the door to see what he was staring at.
A stuffed vulture perched on a witch’s hat. It bobbed slightly as the witch talked. It didn’t look as if anyone was sitting up and talking back to her. Hermione looked at Ron and he looked at her guiltily.
Hermione pushed the door open and the witch turned around.
“Hello, Mrs. Longbottom,” said Ron as he and Hermione walked into the room.
“Hello, children,” said Mrs. Longbottom. Hermione mused they’d be grandparents and Mrs. Longbottom would still be calling them children.
“How’s Neville?” Ron asked and was instantly sorry. He winced slightly.
“Still sleeping,” said Mrs. Longbottom. “He did have a bit of a shock. It will probably take him a bit longer than you did to come around.”
“Probably,” Hermione said forcing herself to smile.
“They say he can hear people when they talk to him,” said Mrs. Longbottom. “You should say hello.”
Hermione forced Ron to walk forward and go around to the foot of the bed. Neville lay motionless on white sheets. His face looked thinner than she remembered it ever being. His blue pajamas looked crisp and new and his hair was freshly combed.
“Heya, Neville,” Hermione said cheerfully. “We miss you terribly.”
“We sure do,” said Ron. “Harry beat you in waking up. You need to catch up.”
Mrs. Longbottom beamed at them.
“I keep telling him he managed to avenge his parents,” said Mrs. Longbottom. “I don’t know if he understands yet.”
“I’m sure he does,” Hermione said softly. “I was there when the wave hit.”
Mrs. Longbottoms smile seemed frozen for a second, but she nodded at Hermione.
“Good,” Mrs. Longbottom said. “He was very fond of you. If he’d been of age he’d have petitioned for you himself.”
Hermione blushed slightly and Ron stiffened beside her. How much competition had he been up against, anyway?
“He’s always thoughtful of others,” said Hermione a bit awkwardly.
“That’s our boy,” said Mrs. Longbottom proudly. “Just like his father.”
Ron smiled and nodded politely, a smile frozen on his face.
“Look at the time!” Mrs. Longbottom exclaimed. “If I want to see Frank and Alice I have to get going.”
Hermione and Ron said their good-byes to Mrs. Longbottom and Neville; then quickly left the ward.
“Well, that was creepy,” muttered Ron walking quickly along a corridor. Hermione had to quicken her pace to keep up.
“Most of her family is here, Ron,” said Hermione. “I can’t imagine how she holds it together.”
Ron was quiet while they made their way back to Harry’s ward. His walking had slowed down a bit.