"Scars remind us where we've been. They don't have to dictate where we're going"
Agent David Rossi in Criminal Minds
It had been a busy and a harrowing few days for both of them, Hermione thought as she went through the routine of Severus' wound care. Somehow, within the space of four days, her and Harry's statements were written, the potions for Severus were brewed, dress robes and a few other clothes were bought, and they had attended Fred, Remus & Tonks' funerals. Harry was intent on attending them all. Hermione wasn't sure if she could've handled that even had she able to attend, and was somewhat glad that her current responsibilities kept her from making the attempt.
Professor McGonagall had come by for a visit to see them and to check on Severus. She was really miffed at Dumbledore, whose portrait had apparently been getting an earful, for what he'd forced Severus to do and most especially for not letting her in on the plan. She was determined to make amends and to help Severus, and like Hermione, she planned to do this whether he wanted it or not. Also, she had sent an additional two house elves to care for him while Hermione attended the three funerals that were most important to her.
As the time drew near to release the healing sleep spell, Hermione was increasingly glad to have Professor McGonagall and Poppy Pomfrey as kindred spirits in this thing. Caring for and worrying over Professor Snape had given her a familiarity and regard for him that he was little likely to return, seeing as he had been unaware all of that time. "Start as you mean to go on" was a mantra she kept repeating to herself, and "Whatever comes, just carry on." Hermione was a bit nervous about how his awakening would play out, but mostly she was exhausted, physically and mentally, and she suspected the same of Harry.
Many terrible things had happened in the war...too many to count...but to Hermione...Remus, Tonks, and Fred were the most inconsolable losses. Yesterday had been hard. No matter how you try to make it about a celebration of life, however much you try to cling to the good memories, the hole left in your life is gaping and raw. Harry had learned a lot about losing loved ones, and his words brought the most comfort: "The ones you love never really leave you. You carry them with you, and when your turn comes to embark on the next great adventure, you'll find them there, waiting on you." It still nearly shut her down to think of George without Fred, to think of Teddy growing up without experiencing the wonderful people that Remus and Tonks were.
Harry looked haggard when he returned from his visit at the Weasleys. Hermione didn't have to ask why.
"Alright, Harry?" she queried instead. It was a stupid question. Of course he wasn't alright. But it was their way of greeting and checking up on each other. They'd learned to be honest. If they couldn't tell each other the truth, who could they tell? Too much was waiting to catch up with them already, why add to it by holding more in?
"Not so much," Harry answered. "As good as it is to see them, it's still horrible. I don't think it's helping George that every time Molly sees him after stepping away for a bit, she loses it all over again, or that everyone is both trying to remember Fred and not say his name in front of Molly and George. I've asked Ron and George to come stay. A bit of a break without leaving George on his own would be good, I think."
Hermione agreed. "That's a great idea, Harry. More company would be nice...and speaking of...it's time to lift the healing sleep spell. Poppy said it might take a day or so for him to come around, but just in case...I waited till you came home. Shall I?
Harry looked a little nervous at first and then resolved. He nodded at her. As she released the spell he asked, "Wonder if he'll choose to remain dead in the eyes of the world or shock them all by making a comeback?"
"I've been wondering the same thing. Which would you do?" Hermione asked as she ran a diagnostic spell and waited for signs of awakening.
"Not sure," Harry said. "I had the choice already...could've stayed wherever it was when I met Dumbledore...could've moved on, he said, but I came back for you guys and there was Riddle still to deal with...would've been a hard call otherwise. What about you?"
"I don't know," Hermione admitted.
They talked for a while more as they watched Severus, but no movement was forthcoming, and they eventually headed to bed. Hermione noticed small movements and sounds as she checked on her patient in the night, but Poppy had been right, and Severus slumbered on, unaware.
Nothingness had come to an end. There were pains and a full body ache, but fiendfyre no longer raced through his veins. The visions that swam across the darkness were chaotic, strange and sometimes terrible, and the sounds that reached him were just as distorted and bewildering. Severus was at a loss to determine if the sensory input meant he was, in fact, alive, or if his consciousness had found its way to some schizophrenic circle of hell.
Just as the input reached a level that was alarming, another sensation was added to the mix. He felt something on his neck, and before a thought even registered, his body reacted to the pain and perceived danger. The sudden movement of his body and the opening of his eyes startled Severus and made him conclude that yes, he must be alive.
"It's alright, sir, you're safe. Let her go," a voice said.
Severus blinked and tried to process through his befuddlement.
"Severus, let her go," the voice said with more command.
He finally realized that his hands were closed with a brutal grasp around someone's wrists...whose? The Granger girl...and terror was clear in her ragged breaths and wide brown eyes. Severus released his grasp as soon as this registered. She stumbled away, consumed still by blind panic, and Severus' questions regarding his own situation were forestalled by worry over what had happened. Had he done something besides grab her wrists? That level of fear suggested something terrible. Not that he hadn't ever seen or done terrible things before, but he never relished being the cause of them, and thus his worry.
Severus tried to rise but was held down by a firm hand on his shoulder. He turned and saw he was being held down by Harry Potter whose worried eyes were fixed on Miss Granger.
"Hermione?" the boy called.
Her eyes were still haunted and she didn't respond.
Potter swore under his breath. "Sir, I'm going to let you go, but don't try to move or sit up," Severus looked at him in question and opened his mouth to protest angrily, but the boy cut him short. "Don't try to talk either. You've got wounds that might reopen if you do, and there's no more antivenin or phoenix tears. Try to swallow if you don't believe me." And at that, he walked around the bed and headed for the girl.
Severus tried to swallow and wished he hadn't. If pain of that type awaited movement he would heed Mr. Potter's warning to lie still. He watched the scene before him as he took stock of his situation. Right off, Severus could tell his occlumency shields were half strength at best. Anger, bewilderment, lingering fear, and gratitude all swirled inside him with an alarming emotional amplitude. He struggled for passive and tried to focus.
"Hermione?" Harry asked again.
Miss Granger startled and took a step back, but her eyes began to look a little more present.
Severus thought this a particularly stupid question. The answer was obviously no. The boy was every bit as blind and/or idiotic as ever. Unaccountably, the query seemed to relax Miss Granger to some degree. She responded with a subdued but fond smirk.
"Not so much, Harry."
"I know," he responded with a slight grin. "You back with us?"
"Kind of. Mind if I go down to the kitchen, pull myself together a bit? You can handle...?" she nodded her head toward Severus.
"Of course," Harry said, and when Hermione departed the room, he returned to Severus' side. "I'd better finish changing your dressings and fill you in, yeah?"
Severus supposed information, even from this source, was better than no information at all, and seeing as he was in no position to pursue other options, he looked down at his bandage riddled torso and nodded his consent.
By the end of Harry "filling him in," Severus' head felt ready to explode. For one thing, he discovered that he was completely in the care of people he didn't trust and who had more reason to hate him than most. It was alarming…and confusing. Even had he tried to imagine the most outlandish scenario, he'd have never conjured Harry as his nursemaid, nor imagined the boy competent at such a thing. Severus didn't know what to make of the situation at all.
For another thing, it was alarming how severely he'd miscalculated the depths of Albus' and the Dark Lord's respective madness, and the extent of the boy's idiotic exploits. He'd only had a partial measure of any of them as it turned out.
Severus was still trying to get his head around it all when he heard a familiar, deep voice call out.
"Harry, Hermione?" Kingsley Shacklebolt called out. "Ah! Hello, Severus. Good to see you awake again." Shacklebolt held out his hand and Severus shook it and gave him a nod.
"Is Hermione about, Harry?" Kingsley asked. "I've got something for her."
"She went down to the kitchen. I'll go and fetch her," Potter said.
When Harry had gone, Kingsley turned to Severus. "Has Harry had a chance to fill you in yet?"
"Warps the brain, doesn't it? Utter madness, all around. You and I and Neville Longbottom are the only ones the Trio disclosed the full details to. We've worked together to create an edited version for the official record and public disclosure. The Horcruxes and Hallows are undocumented and classified. Minerva, Poppy, Neville and the Weasleys are aware you're alive, but that's the extent of it. You're presumed dead otherwise and, therefore, safe from both the Ministry, as trials don't start till next week and we haven't officially exonerated you, and from the few Death Eaters still at large. Thought we'd leave it up to you if you wanted to remain dead to the world or make a shocking comeback."
Severus pondered the fact that the trio, as Kingsley had called them, had chosen to trust him with full disclosure and had chosen to save and protect him. This was incongruous with all their previous interactions. He questioned their motives and wondered what their endgame was.
"Kingsley," Hermione called. Severus noted she looked better but for the haunted look in the depths of her eyes that remained despite the warm smile on her face. She carried a tray of muffins and Harry carried a tray with coffee and what looked like a milkshake. "Good to see you again. What brings you here this morning?" she asked.
"I have something for you," Kingsley answered and he held up a wand drawn from his robes.
"Is that...my wand? How did you...where?" she gasped.
"We've been sorting out all the misplaced wands. This was found...well, after the battle. Ollivander identified it as yours. Care to duel me for it?" Kingsley asked.
Hermione flicked an altogether too familiar dark wand and the other wand came soaring to her out of Kingsley's hand. "Oh! I think it missed me," she said, transfiguring a couch cushion into a dog and back again. "A little sluggish, but we'll get there, I think," she assessed. "Here you go." Hermione handed Bellatrix's wand to Kingsley and sighed with apparent relief when it was relinquished.
"A bit nasty, isn't it?" Kingsley asked, looking at the dark, bent wand.
"Yes. Can't thank you enough," Hermione said clutching her wand a bit before stowing it and offering the muffins and coffee.
"How many funerals today?" she asked when Harry and Kingsley had finished eating and got up to leave.
"Seven," they answered in unison.
Harry walked up to Hermione and looked at her over with concern.
Severus noted that his hearing was every bit as good as it had been. He caught every word of their quiet conversation. He could tell by the uneasy look on Kingsley's face, that he heard it as well.
"It is what it is, Harry," Hermione told him. "I'll worry about you and you'll worry about me. Nothing I say will keep you from trying to carry the weight of it all on your shoulders until you accept that none of it was your fault. I'll either keep it together or I'll fall apart and embarrass myself even more today." She paused. "It's getting worse and not better, isn't it? We're going to have to let it catch us up and deal with it, aren't we?"
They both heaved huge sighs and Harry nodded. Hermione patted him on the cheek and turned to Kingsley. "Come to dinner if you can...tonight or any time."