I wrote this several years ago now, and it's definitely the most successful story I ever posted. It's been translated into several languages, and has won a few fan-voted awards, for which I am still grateful. I have to admit it holds a very special place in my heart because it kept me occupied when I was going through some pretty rough health issues.
This story has a definite soundtrack. I will be posting song titles and links to YouTube (where available) at the end of certain designated chapters. There are 20 chapters in all. Hope anyone reading this for the first time enjoys it, and I hope anyone rediscovering this story after however long isn't disappointed if they reread it.
The story takes place after the defeat of Voldemort, but was written before the 'The Half-Blood Prince' was released, so it's wildly AU. Obviously, the only character in the story I own is Nettie - all else belongs to JK Rowling.
__________________________________________Chapter 1: Nettie
She's been here over a year now, and he comes to see her every day. Rain or shine, I can practically set my watch by him. He always arrives right after dinner. I have come to recognize the sound of his footsteps as he sweeps down the hallway, robes billowing out darkly behind him. I make sure there is a hot cup of tea waiting for him when he arrives. He always sits in the same chair, right beside her bed. He never talks to me – never talks to any of the medi-witches here, really. But sometimes, he'll talk to her.
That first time, I knew he was coming. My sister Poppy had flooed me, to warn me that he was on his way and in a foul temper. I admit, I didn't know a lot about the man, only what I'd read in the paper and what I'd managed to gather from Poppy the few times she had mentioned him.
He was a hero, of course. It seemed there were a lot of heroes running around these days, what with the fall of Voldemort. Harry Potter himself had been here the first day she was brought in, and one didn't get much more heroic than him.
Mr. Potter had asked me if she was in any pain and if she was comfortable. His eyes had been sadder than any I had ever seen, the color of bruised clover, and so full of shadows that I wanted to comfort him. He'd been through a lot, what with the war and losing one best friend to death in the final battle, and the other to some incurable hex that seemed to have robbed her mind. Before he left, he gave me a bottle of some muggle hair product and asked me to spray it on her hair before I brushed it – said it would help with the gnarls and tangles as it grew back.
When I told him that we would be keeping her hair short while she was a resident at our facility he had been devastated. He tried telling me that she wasn't just some patient, she was Hermione, and Hermione had hair – lots of it. He had pulled a picture out of his pocket of a younger Ms. Granger, smiling and laughing and waving in the photo, while he and a young red-headed man I knew to be Ron Weasley kept pushing errant strands of her hair out of their faces. It had obviously been a windy day when the picture had been taken.
I gently but firmly explained to him that I didn't make the rules around here, but was obliged to keep them. As much as I would have liked to make an exception of this rule for him, Dr. Bechtel, the head of St. Mungo's, would never allow it. Mr. Potter was stoic in the face of this news, but I could tell he was devastated. He left shortly afterwards, without so much as a secondary glance in my direction.
I received an emergency floo from Poppy the next day warning me of the imminent arrival of Professor Snape, whom I had never met. I still remember Poppy's words, "He can be a bit disconcerting, Nettie dear. He's not a nice man, but he's been through a lot so do try to keep your tongue in check around him."
As I was used to Poppy treating me like I was still a little witch in pigtails, I ignored her tone as best I could. She was my oldest sister, and by far the one I admired the most, despite the fact that she always treated me like a baby.
So, I knew Professor Snape was coming. I'd like to say forewarned is forearmed, but even though I was expecting him, I still flinched slightly when he apparated out of nowhere right in front of me like some great giant bat.
He glared as a couple of the younger medi-aides jumped at his arrival, before turning his ferocious scowl at me.
"Good day, Pomfrey."
I was a little startled that he even knew who I was, but tried not to show it.
"Professor Snape," I replied.
"Poppy sends her regards." Ah, yes. I guessed the river of knowledge named Poppy flowed both ways.
"Thank you, sir. Please reply to her in kind."
I could hear excited whispering around me as the aides realized who, exactly, was standing outside Ms. Granger's room. One even had the temerity to ask him if he still had his dark mark, now that the war was over, and if he did could she see it?
The man practically bit her head off. Not that I blamed him. Silly chit – she obviously hadn't gone to Hogwarts. I sighed as she ran crying down the hallway, followed quickly by the other aides, before turning back to face him again.
His deep scowl kept the sympathetic look I’d attempted to muster up from appearing on my face. I turned on my heel and led him into Hermione’s room. I did not think he was a man who would like to be kept waiting.
I turned after we entered and saw he was frowning ferociously at my young patient. I was almost glad, for her sake, that she wasn't awake to see it.
"Well, Miss Granger, even incapacitated as you are, you are still causing me trouble," he muttered, gently withdrawing a long white box from inside his cloak and placing it on her bed. He said nothing more for a while, just studied her intently. The flowers – or whatever was in that box – appeared to be as forgotten as I. Finally, after an interminable silence, he cocked an eyebrow at me.
"Are you ever going to leave?" he snapped.
Insufferable man. I tried not to look too cowed as I bustled from the room.
When I returned an hour later he was gone. Ms. Granger lay in her bed, just as I had left her – almost. She was still staring vacantly at the wall, her eyes dull and lifeless, her hands sitting pale and immobile in her lap. But her hair – that short, ragged hair that had so dismayed young Mr. Potter yesterday – was now flowing in uncontrollable curls around her face and well past her shoulders.
I hate to admit this, but I did try cutting it. I hadn't been lying to Mr. Potter when I told him long hair is against our policy. It's a nuisance for the medi-aides to look after. Especially when it curled uncontrollably, as Ms. Granger's appeared to. However, every attempt to cut it was futile. Professor Snape had charmed the curls somehow. I don't know how many scissors simply disintegrated in my hands before I gave up trying. She was a war heroine, after all, and she did look so much better with it long.
Poppy and I had a good long discussion about him later that evening. She had popped over for a spot of tea, and after checking out Ms. Granger for herself had merely quirked an eyebrow at me.
"Charmed it, has he?"
I shrugged, "It appears so. I mean, I can't cut it – the shears keep breaking. And before you ask, I can't magic it short either."
Poppy pursed her lips thoughtfully, tapping them with her index finger, "Did he say anything to you?"
"No. He just showed up, made some of the medi-aides cry, and ordered me out of the room. When I went back later, he was gone." I topped off Poppy's tea, before pouring a fresh cup for myself and taking a sip. "Why would he care about the length of her hair?"
Poppy shrugged, "Mr. Potter was by to visit yesterday at the school. He was quite upset, poor boy. This has all been very hard on him, you know. First Ron is lost to him, and now, for all intents and purposes, Hermione as well. He was most upset about her hair."
"He seemed to be so when he left here," I agreed, "but what does this have to do with Professor Snape?"
"Harry came to the infirmary, you see. I just let Snape leave yesterday evening for the first time since – you know. Anyway, Harry came storming in, practically in tears, demanding to speak to him. There's never been any great love lost between those two, you know, but before I could think of an adequate enough reason to refuse his request, Snape hollered at me that it was alright to let him through."
"And?" I was trying to be patient, truly I was. Poppy did so enjoy telling her stories that I hated to rush her, but I was wondering what the point of all this exposition was. She obviously knew what I was thinking and grinned at me.
"These biscuits are delicious, dear. Might I have another?" She smiled at me as I snorted and pushed the entire plate at her. "Anyway, as I was saying, Harry came to visit Snape. It's not the first time he'd been by the infirmary to see him, mind you, but the last time had been a complete disaster. I'm just grateful Dumbledore was there at the time to prevent Harry from killing the man."
She took a dainty nibble of yet another biscuit, and smiled at my outright fidgeting. "Yes, indeed, if Dumbledore hadn't been there... anyways, that first time, Harry comes storming into the infirmary, intent on cursing Snape to kingdom come. Never mind the poor man was already suffering, Harry was bound and determined to make it worse. You see, Nettie, he blames Snape for what happened to Hermione."
"Hermione was hit with the curse that was meant for Snape. From what we can gather, she saw Lucius as it was cast and managed to get in front of it before it hit Snape. If it wasn't for her, Snape would be the one lying in that bed in St. Mungo's, and he bloody well knows it. Everyone knows it."
"But it's hardly Professor Snape's fault, is it?"
"Exactly what Dumbledore said to Harry when he forcibly took away the boy’s wand. Snape couldn't have known Hermione would do something like that. It was hard for all of us to reconcile – he'd never been particularly nice to her, after all, so why would she sacrifice herself for him? Anyway, the poor man is lying there in bed, wandless, with Harry screaming at him that he didn't deserve Hermione's sacrifice - that it would be no great loss to anyone at all if he just slipped off the face of the earth; no one would miss him. It should be Snape who's dead, like Ron, or caught in some unbreakable curse, like Hermione. He was horribly cruel, Nettie. And do you know what Snape says to him after Harry finally winds down?"
I shook my head no, of course I didn't, but Poppy didn't even notice. She sighed instead.
"He looked Harry straight in the eyes, and says, 'I know.' Can you believe that? 'I know.' Took the wind right out of Harry's sails, let me tell you. He just stood there gaping at Snape for a few minutes before collapsing against Dumbledore in tears. So, you can understand why I didn't want to let him in to see Snape yesterday when he showed up, right? Not that I had much choice in the matter."
"So what happened yesterday?" I asked.
"Harry and Snape talked. No fighting, no yelling – Harry goes and sits by his bed, and they talk like civilized human beings. Harry told Snape about his visit to Hermione, how her hair is all short and uneven, and that she doesn't even look like Hermione anymore. He told Snape that she won't be able to grow it back while she's there and that he didn't think he could take it – seeing her so frail and sickly looking, so not like herself. And the more he talked, the more agitated Snape got – not with Harry, mind, but with the whole situation. I watched him, getting more and more wound up with every word, before he finally bellowed at me that he was leaving the infernal infirmary, and nothing I could do would stop him. And then he looks at Harry and tells him that he 'will be rectifying Ms. Granger's hair situation personally.' And I quote direct."
"But if all this happened yesterday, why didn't he show up until today?"
Poppy shrugged, "I do not know. I just know he wasn't around last night – I thought he was here, actually, until he announced at breakfast this morning with more than his typical ill-humor that he was planning on visiting Hermione at St. Mungo's today to correct a little problem. I flooed you right afterwards. I imagine now that he's done his duty and been to visit, you won't have to worry about seeing him again. He never was one for hospitals of any sort, and he's not the type of man with the disposition to sit at a sick bed for hours on end. Hasn't the patience for it, I daresay."
Little did either of us suspect how wrong Poppy was in this pronouncement. Now, over a year later, he still visits her.
He's the only one that really does.