Disclaimer: 'Of Debts and Debt Collection' is a fan fiction based on the characters in the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. No money is made from this work in any way.
Severus Snape staggered towards the light of the only place he knew as home. Staggering was a vast improvement, he thought with revulsion, over the crawling he had done only hours earlier. He had been severely injured by Buckbeak, and his attempts at finding enough healing plants in the forest had only managed to slow his death from the magical creature's attack.
“I’ve become nothing more than a pawn in a dying old man’s game, left to linger between a madman and the Order.”
He had sent Draco on to return to the Dark Lord, telling him that he needed to remain behind to spy on the Order. Keeping track of all of his lies was becoming difficult these days, and the only man who knew him completely was now dead at his hands. With this on his mind, he sent Draco off to an almost certain death. The goal had been reached but it was Draco’s failure. In the mind of a maniac that was an inexcusable offense, pure and simple, and the price would be high.
The bleeding was worsening, and his only hope was to reach his private lab to obtain proper healing potions. Each step caused the wounds on his back and legs to open, allowing more blood to flow at an alarming rate. His torn left thigh refused to flex past a certain point, giving him a lurching motion at best. Severus' robes hung in tatters where the Hippogriff had torn into him relentlessly, even so much as to lift him to the treetops before dropping him and going for Draco in the end. There was a little-known entrance near the greenhouses he used when summoned. Not far for someone in good health, however he knew he was far from that state, and fading. Staggering degraded to listing to one side, and he fell to his knees as the ground rushed up suddenly.
His pride wounded almost as much as his physical form, he submitted to holding himself on his hands and knees, breathing forcibly. Even when near death, he was self-conscious, choosing to fight with every fiber of his being to avoid being found in such a state. His black curtain of hair hung in strings around his face, swaying with each failing breath. A dim part of his mind remembered how the beast grazed his head lightly with its beak, apparently razor sharp enough to slice him open. He watched with disconnected fascination as thin strips of his black hair produced perfect drops of dark red, balancing for a brief moment before falling to the lush grass below.
“After deceiving a diabolical psychopath too many times to count, to fall to a Hippogriff must be life’s pure irony at its best,” he thought, gritting his teeth and refusing to lie down. He started to shake from blood loss, and his eyesight began to lose focus. The ground was becoming more and more welcoming, extending itself to offer rest, possibly forever.
His thoughts drifted to when he’d be found, and by whom. Would anyone care? He had no family, and who at Hogwarts would care for a murderer?
A wave of coldness passed over him, interrupting his thoughts and replacing them with the disturbing realization that he was rocking involuntarily. His heart was beating, it seemed, three times as hard with no effect, and was missing randomly. Breathing had become a conscious effort, and a rising fear that couldn’t be ignored whispered to him softly, telling him that darkness would soon be here.
“This is it. No glorious fall in battle for you. You’re going to die here on the Hogwarts grounds of all places. Did you really believe that returning to Dumbledore would save you from what you deserve?”
The spy in him felt someone’s eyes and he panicked, forcing himself to his feet by sheer adrenaline and searching for his wand. As he looked up at Dumbledore’s office window, the sky slid sideways as if on a ship. By the light from the window, he could make out a face staring down at him with an alarmed expression. Before he could consider who it was, the sky suddenly spun left, then upwards, landing him back on his hands and knees. When his arms gave out and his shoulder hit the ground, the cool grass felt almost refreshing on his face.
As his eyes slid shut, more faces came into the light and he heard someone scream his name.
"How is he, Poppy?" Minerva asked.
The two witches stood in sight of where Severus Snape lay. The pale moonlight shining on him from the adjacent window did nothing to brighten his already pale complexion, now worsened by so much blood loss. Hermione Granger had stationed herself next to his bed, looking down at him as if she was willing him to breathe.
“Not well, I’m afraid.” Taking a deep breath, Poppy continued, “You know that I’ve seen Severus several times after returning from being summoned, but nothing like this. He’s far worse and a Hippogriff’s bite has some properties that prevent quick healing. He has a large cut to his head, four broken ribs, his left thigh has a foot-long slash nearly to the bone and his back has too many cuts to count.”
“Yes, I have heard from Hagrid about that.” Looking closely at the mediwitch, Minerva whispered, “Will he survive this time, Poppy? You can be honest with me.”
“I don’t know. It all depends on his will to live, nothing more.” Tearing up, Poppy looked over at Severus as she said, “I feel torn about all of this. I can’t get out of my mind what’s happened. What kind of life does Severus have to look forward to?”
With a somber smile, Poppy said, “No matter what I say, he'll try to walk out of here as soon as he wakes up, he's so dead set against being doctored. He’s always fighting and won‘t listen to me.”
Smiling slightly, Minerva placed a hand on Poppy’s shoulder and said with hope, “I think I have a remedy for that. Please take a break.”
“Thanks, Minerva. I shall.”
Hermione had watched Severus’ chest rise and fall with a steady rhythm for the past hour. As she stood watch, the moon rose, bathing the room with more light than even the torches could provide. She was the first to reach him as he lay on the lawn, his eyes half-open, seemingly staring directly into her soul. She had never seen him as anything less than imposing, so the sight of him like that shook her deeply.
“No, Severus, listen to me. We need you to stay,” she had pleaded as the others hurried across the lawn. Somehow, using anything other than his given name didn’t seem right. He had looked at her briefly, but made no move to correct her. In a way, his failure to do even that frightened her more than the worst of his injuries.
She had moved his blood soaked hair out of his face and pressed it against his head, trying to console him in some way. She wasn’t sure he had heard her until he looked up and nodded slightly before losing consciousness again. He was so wounded that they had levitated him together to the hospital wing, stunned at the amount of blood. Madam Pomfrey was extremely pale upon seeing him and quickly worked to stop the bleeding. Three hours later, he lay unmoving. Madam Pomfrey said he was stable and there was nothing more to be done except wait.
“He’ll need to stay in bed and rest for quite a while,” she said, “something he’s not talented at in the least bit. I can hurry the healing along a little, but otherwise he‘ll need to heal almost like a Muggle.”
Minerva gazed at Hermione, who was staring intensely at Severus, and considered. Hermione may still be a student, but would soon be eighteen. Even sooner due to her use of the Time-Turner. Contrary to how sickly Severus looked even in good health, he was only thirty-seven, just a child in wizard’s years.
“So much so early in life, Severus,” she thought to herself.
With that, she moved over to Severus’ bed, noting how Hermione stiffened slightly, as if expecting to be sent away.
“I won’t leave him,” Hermione said without looking up from her vigil. “He deserves to have someone here when he wakes up.”
“I have no intention of forcing you to leave, Hermione,” Minerva said quietly. “In fact, I’d like to ask you a favor if I may.”
Sitting by the bed, Minerva took Hermione’s hand in hers. Looking down, she contemplated the young witch’s hand in hers and the contrast of ages. Most of the staff and Order did not know that Albus was much more than a Headmaster to Minerva. They had been very close. Feeling torn about Albus’ death with his murderer beside her, no matter what the circumstances, was more than she could easily bear. Her sorrow was deeper than she had ever felt, yet in her heart she knew he had been slipping away since the time his hand was injured. He wouldn’t share the story even with her, and now she’d never know.
Considering Severus, she felt a different kind of pain. For someone so young, he looked so worn. Something in her felt a need to rectify that injustice. When she looked up she realized Hermione was watching her, expecting her to speak.
“Hermione, Severus is – difficult – to put it nicely. Until now, I’m afraid, you’ve only known him the way he wishes to be seen; strong, unaffected and, above all, unbreakable. I knew Severus as a child here at Hogwarts and he was very much like you.”
At Hermione’s surprised expression, Minerva said with a knowing smile, “Ah yes, he loved, and still loves knowledge. He spent endless hours in the library, tucking himself in the very corners you inhabit so much.”
Minerva stood and gazed out the window with her hands clasped behind her back. “Unfortunately, children are cruel and Severus suffered greatly, teased for being studious and different. One great defense is to instill fear, so Severus moved towards the Dark Arts. He has a great mind, Hermione, just like you. Even at this young age, he is also a very powerful wizard.”
Straightening herself, Minerva continued, “That being said, he is stubborn, nasty, unforgiving and calloused. He values his pride above all else, and will most likely refuse to be taken care of properly. Hermione, Severus has proven that he will not listen to Madam Pomfrey in the least sense. Whether certain members of the Order are ready to admit it, this man has done quite a lot for the war. I do believe he will at least – tolerate you.”
Hermione listened patiently to her words and nodded while looking at Severus. “Yes, I’ll do whatever is needed.”
Minerva smiled, relieved that she accepted. “Of course, she has no idea what she’s getting into,” she thought to herself.
“Excellent. You may stay for a few minutes, but must get yourself something to eat from the kitchens and sleep for a time. Madam Pomfrey will take over for you. I shall leave you now.”
Hermione looked back at her former professor and noted that she’d never seen him in anything but black robes. She looked at his pale chest visible between the bandages, and the bruising starting to form. She placed another blanket on him and then rose to go get some dinner.
“Stubborn, nasty, unforgiving and calloused,” she said aloud while looking down at him.
Smiling slightly to herself, she turned to leave.
The morning sun filtered through the stained glass windows, washing the usually dark room with intense light. One beam was traveling across the floor inch by inch, making its way over to where a four-poster bed stood. After a time, it reached the bed and crept up the sheets moving over a peacefully sleeping body.
“He looks so peaceful when sleeping, doesn’t he?” Hermione said mostly to herself while arranging new bandages on a table for the next changing.
“Yes, I’d say so, although I think we can stop giving him the sleeping potion this morning,” Poppy said. She was checking in on how Hermione was doing after a week with the sleeping patient.
“Just wait until he wakes, you won’t think him so peaceful then,” Poppy thought with an inward grin.
Hermione nodded. “Just the pain potion and changing bandages then?”
“Yes, you’re doing a marvelous job. Keep it up. The wounds look good,” she said with a glance at Severus. “You know where to find me if needed.”
Hermione nodded and walked Madam Pomfrey to the door. Returning to the bedroom, she sighed and looked around the room. She had brightened things up considerably, having the house-elves clear away the clutter and open the drapes. It was such a lovely view and a shame, in her opinion, that he kept it shut out. Hermione glanced at the clock and noticed it was time to change the bandage on his thigh. She hadn’t had a problem with it so far, but began to wonder what could happen should he wake up.
She worried her lip as she moved the bandages to the bed. She surveyed his condition. "Still thin, even with the nourishment potions. How high can his metabolism be? I’ll need to change the wraps soon…"
She grinned, remembering how the girls would whisper in class about what was under all those robes, prompting her to roll her eyes before attempting to concentrate on her work.
His voice was another matter.
It didn't matter what he was saying; he could be reciting the train timetable backwards and it would be pure ecstasy of sound. Something about the depths it could reach, achieving a rolling motion all its own.
"If those girls could see this, they'd just about pass out,” she muttered to herself, humming as she pulled his leg into her lap.
Spreading healing balm on the deep gash that ran from high up near his hip to his knee, Hermione doubted walking was in his immediate future. She concentrated on replacing the bandage perfectly, winding the tape around his leg to ensure it’d stay put.
She failed to notice one thing; her patient was glaring at her.
Sleeping was not a talent Severus possessed, which explained why he roamed the castle most nights, the sport of catching students out after curfew his only pastime. Nightmares of the things he had witnessed and done over the years haunted him mercilessly. He ceased actively seeking sleep long ago, simply allowing exhaustion to dictate when he would rest.
He felt groggy, as if swimming back to the surface through murky waters. He was dimly aware of something touching him, applying something soothing on his leg. No one except Poppy had successfully doctored him, and that was after threatening to hex some important bits off if he continued to refuse. Since then, he’d avoided her whenever returning from the meetings injured, choosing to deal with it himself. Severus attempted to open his eyes, fighting the morning sun to adjust. Looking down to investigate just who at this moment held his leg, he jerked in surprise.
His surprise quickly slid towards horror at who it was.
“Miss Granger, unhand me this instant!” he rasped, his voice raw from disuse. He tried to move away, but found that his body refused all commands without blinding pain.
Startled, Hermione jumped up and dropped his injured leg, causing him to hiss in pain as it fell back on the bed.
“Well, if you hadn’t scared me!” she cried, watching him stare at her with clenched teeth as he waited for the pain to subside.
“Just what in the world do you think you’re doing? Where are my clothes?” he demanded, looking around the room. “And what in Merlin’s beard have you done to my rooms? Close those blasted drapes!” he shouted, squinting against the light with one eye and glaring with the other.
“Prof—, umm,” she sputtered, trying to figure out what to say.
“Ah, back with us are you, Severus?” Minerva said sweetly.
Both Hermione and Severus turned at the same time as Minerva entered the room.
“Minerva, would you explain to me why Miss Granger is here, and why I am almost completely unclothed?” he demanded, clearly out of his element.
“Yes, of course, Severus. But first, let me send for some tea and toast. You must be hungry for real food after all this time and we have much to discuss, yes?” Minerva said evenly.
Remembering recent events, he changed his tone. “Yes, I suppose we do.”
“I insist on some clothes, even a prisoner deserves that much,” he called as Minerva left the room to Floo the kitchens. He gathered up the sheets in an attempt to cover himself and sneered at Hermione as she tried hard to suppress a smile at his modesty.
A house-elf popped in and, upon seeing Severus, squeaked loudly. She quickly placed the tea service and breakfast trays down while never letting her eyes off of him.
“Well now, tuck in," Minerva said. She seated herself by the bed and gestured for Hermione to take a seat as well.
Taking a deep breath she began, “First, let me be clear. You are not a prisoner. We’ve all witnessed your conversation with Albus and what happened on the Astronomy Tower. Tonks has verified the memory as a record of your debt to Albus and you've been cleared.” A deep wave of sadness passed over her and she felt lost at that moment.
Returning to herself, she continued, “Hermione found you on the castle lawn and has been tending to your wounds this past week-”
“Week?” he interrupted with a stunned look on his face. His eyes flew to Hermione.
“Yes, a week,” Minerva repeated, taking a sip of tea and ignoring his reaction. “You’ve been unconscious since then. Hermione has been taking care of you, and quite nicely I see.”
Minerva leaned a little, looking at the bit of his leg still visible. Hermione noticed that she could almost see him blush slightly as he jerked the sheet over further. Luckily, he had yet to notice that she had washed his hair with a flowery shampoo. That, of course, would not last long as the man refused to take care of himself in that respect. Thankfully, she had stopped herself short of braiding it to keep it back, thinking she would like to avoid being hexed into oblivion.
“Now," Minerva continued, “You’ve got quite a lot of healing to do and Hermione will be looking after you. No arguments, Severus. I’ll leave you to rest.”
Minerva stood and regarded him over her glasses.
“Oh, and Severus? If I hear of you giving her trouble, you’ll have me to answer to, understood?”
Severus crossed his arms and while hunching his shoulders answered, “Fine, as long as she keeps quiet and leaves me alone.”
“Agreed. Hermione, you’re doing well, I’ll check in on you later,” Minerva said and turned to leave.
After Hermione smiled and went into the adjacent room to fetch another potion, Severus raised his head and called, “Minerva?”
Minerva stopped and stood in the doorway.
“I don’t know what to say about all of this,” he said quietly, taking time to be able to look at her, "There aren't words to adequately express how sorry I am."
She looked at him there, his soul laid open to her, apologizing.
“Something Severus never does,” she thought to herself.
Trying to think of what Albus would want her to say, she looked him in the eyes and, after thinking for a moment, said simply, “You did what had to be done.”
She nodded slightly as if to affirm her thoughts, and left.
Hermione returned to the bedroom and stood in the doorway, the potion forgotten in her hands.
She watched as Severus faced the window and rubbed his palm across his eyes before running his fingers through his hair.
When he turned to her with the same irritated expression as usual, she was surprisingly relieved. Whatever had just passed between McGonagall and Severus was obviously disturbing. Hermione didn't know if she was ready just yet to address how complex everything had become in recent days. He was watching her reaction, as if determining her motives for even being in the room with him at this point. A long, uncomfortable silence passed; the kind that demanded interruption.
"It’s time for you to take this, sir,” Hermione said, cautiously entering the room.
“And just what is this?” he asked, raising an eyebrow and taking a brief sniff of the bottle’s contents. “Planning to drug me again to have your fun?”
“What?” Hermione gasped, “I was taking care of the wound! And this is for the pain!” She could feel the color rise in her face at the injustice and cursed herself for allowing him to play her so easily.
Severus observed her reaction with growing amusement.
“Sir, you need to take it. The previous potion will wear off soon,” Hermione ventured, hoping he'd just cooperate to get rid of her. “Madam Pomfrey has written this schedule and –”
“You can just discard that right in the lake for all I care; I’m not taking anything,” he stated with an air of finality. “I’m fine."
Angered that he’d disturb her perfect care record, Hermione crossed her arms and glared at him. “Sir, with all due respect, you need to take this. Now, please.”
Severus raised an eyebrow at her attitude and simply responded, “No.”
“Sir, please,” she pleaded.
“Miss Granger,” he began and rolled his eyes with disgust, “I am a fully grown wizard, and can take care of myself just fine without someone hovering over me. Now, if you’ll remove yourself from my sight, I’m going to take a bath.”
Hermione was seething. “Oh, really? Are you now?”
His eyes shot up at her, a look of surprise at her tone was there for a moment, and then was gone.
“Yes, really. Might I suggest you watch your tone? Now, run along, find your little friends, and leave me alone,” he growled as he dragged his leg to the edge of the bed and then began to shove himself up with more effort than he planned. He tried to remain as silent as someone with broken ribs could be out of pride. By the time he was sitting up, he was severely out of breath.
“No, I think I’d like to see this,” she said as she took a seat by the bed and crossed her arms.
"Splendid, now I’m a spectator sport," he thought while gritting his teeth. He'd need to breathe soon and could only hope that a groan wouldn't escape along with the exchange of air. Most of him wanted to shout at her, hurling insults until she left the room, but another part wanted to fight with her. No one had ever hoped to match him word for word, and it looked like she was going to put up an interesting fight at least. Quite entertaining.
“Well? Just when are you planning to go get that bath of yours? We have a schedule to keep, you know?” she said while holding up the clock and tapping the face. “You’re going to eat a full lunch today.”
Hermione was stunned at how she was daring to speak to him, and that he hadn't verbally torn her apart yet. She had forgotten to address him as ‘sir’ too many times to count. Some strange voice in the back of her mind wondered why he was actually tolerating her; obviously he could have thrown a bigger fit. She decided to see just how far she could go.
Muttering under his breath, Severus sat with one leg hanging off of the bed. Gradually, he moved the other leg to the floor and in one motion made to stand.
“See?” he said, trying to breathe and not groan in pain. He was putting all of his weight on his right leg to avoid touching the other.
“Now, the show is over. Go on and leave.”
Severus stared at her incredulously, “What?”
“Well, walk. You don’t think the bath is going to travel out here, do you?” she said, doing a spectacular job at suppressing a grin.
“Miss Granger, I demand that you leave!” he yelled, trying to point at the door and keep his balance at the same time.
“Oh, with all due respect, sir, I will not.” At his look of building rage and wavering balance she continued, “Headmistress McGonagall has tasked me with your care and that’s exactly what I’m going to do, whether you like it or not. If you don’t believe me when I tell you that you’re too weak and injured to walk, then see for yourself.”
With a slight smirk, she settled back into the chair and repeated, “Walk.”
Severus stared at her in disbelief, and then narrowed his eyes as if he was going to literally take hold of her and throw her out. He was even more shocked when Hermione completely ignored him and made a shooing motion with her hands. Her complete audacity both infuriated and fascinated him.
He was losing both his balance and strength to stand, and the bathroom was at least ten feet away. Calculating his stride, that meant either putting weight on the mangled leg about five times, or hopping. That was out of the question as there was no way to perform the motion with any dignity, never mind while wearing nothing but a flimsy robe, night clothes, and bandages.
He took one step and, as predicted, his leg immediately buckled, landing him in an awkward split.
Hermione was there in an instant and caught his upper body, grazing all of the cuts on his back and squeezing his broken ribs together.
This all caused him to do what anyone else would do.
He screamed bloody murder.
Minerva selected a school owl to correspond with the Ministry regarding Severus’ condition and plans to stay at Hogwarts. They had requested a full inquiry into the details of the life debt and the events of that night. She had so far refused to have him appear in person, stating simply he was cleared and was in no condition to be disturbed. Tonks had taken the case, testifying to the life debt and doing an excellent job at placating their need for information. Humming softly to herself, Minerva reached for a large tawny owl to attach her letter.
Suddenly, all of the owls startled and took flight, flying at her in all directions while aiming for the way out. At the same time, she heard a horrible scream filling the air, reverberating off the walls of the owlery, and echoing to the ceiling. Feathers were everywhere, and dust from the droppings clouded her sight. The inhuman sound was coming from the direction of Severus' rooms.
Minerva dropped the note and ran out the door, batting straggling owls out of her way. She ran through the halls, holding her robes up to clear her legs as best she could. She burst into the bedroom and surveyed the arrangement of bodies on the floor.
Hermione was pinned under a sprawled and unconscious Severus while his leg was bent underneath him, the gash reopened and bleeding on the stone floor.
Hermione was in the process of shoving him off of her – and failing.
“Headmistress, I – he was trying to walk and well – fell,” Hermione stuttered, trying her best to explain the state of her patient.
“I can see that, Hermione, now please help me get him back in bed. That’s it, grab him under his arms. Come now, he won’t bite. Now, one-two-three, up and over,” Minerva coached as they dragged the unconscious wizard back onto the bed.
As Hermione worked to stop the flow of blood, she was startled to find him awakening again.
“Insolent girl, can’t you keep your hands off me for one minute!” he yelled as she pressed the cloth into the wound.
Hermione didn't think it possible for someone to yell through clenched teeth like that.
“Now, who would like to explain to me what in the world happened here?” Minerva asked both of them sternly, her hands on her hips.
Severus shifted his eyes in Minerva’s direction and then allowed them to drift up to her hair.
“Minerva, why are there feathers in your hair?” Severus suddenly asked, looking up at her innocently.
Hermione noticed a smirk along with the alternating looks of pain on his face as she worked on his leg.
“Severus! Please!” Minerva cried in frustration, plucking feathers out of her hair and brushing dust from her robes. “The two of you need to come to an agreement and work together, understood?”
Hermione thought it seemed odd to be scolded alongside him, but then realized that he, too, had been a student at one time.
Minerva practically growled in frustration and turned for the door.
Hermione watched her fuming Headmistress leave and then stole a look at Severus.
She was startled to not only find him looking back at her, but that he was suppressing a smirk.
She didn’t know if she should be happy or very, very afraid.
“Miss Granger, are you going to stop staring at me, or is this going to go on all day?” Severus growled, quickly losing the devious grin at Minerva’s frustrated departure.
Hermione was brought out of her thoughts. “Yes, almost done, sir.” She finished up cleaning the wound and stood, still unnerved at seeing that look upon his face and worse yet, in her direction.
“Fine. Now leave me alone. Go find something to do that requires you far from me.”
“Sir, the potion –”
“I told you I’m fine,” he said, gritting his teeth, “now get out!”
“Fine! I’ll see about lunch then!” she shouted, stomping from the room and slamming the door.
“Stubborn, nasty,” she mumbled to herself as she went to Floo the kitchens for lunch.
“Finally, peace,” he muttered and laid back. The pain was coming on with alarming intensity, but he wasn’t about to admit it to anyone, let alone her. He glanced at the potion sitting on the nightstand and for a moment considered taking some.
He’d rather suffer.
Running his hands through his hair he noticed two things. The first that it was not greasy for once in his life, and second, that in the fiasco his head wound had opened and he was bleeding again.
“Damn,” he muttered and glanced at the bathroom door again.
Hermione returned and stated, “Lunch will be here soon, and then you’re scheduled for a nap. No excuses.”
She pointed to a parchment where a schedule was neatly printed.
“First, do not speak to me like a child, Miss Granger, and second –"
“Why is there blood on your hand?” Hermione interrupted with concern on her face and approached the bed. “It’s your head again, isn’t it?” she said, moving to touch him.
“It’ll be fine,” he mumbled and swung his head to avoid her touch.
“Yes, sure and I guess you’d be happy to just bleed all over everything then, right? I’m getting sick of you and your bravery act! Why can’t you just let someone take care of you? I swear Madam Pomfrey was right. You are better knocked out!”
A voice in the back of her brain was screaming at her to stop, that he'd surely go mental on her now.
“Oh really?” He felt strangely calm, considering her outburst.
“Yes, and she was spot on too.”
“Why are you here?” he asked evenly.
Hermione blinked at the sudden, careening turn in the argument. He looked satisfied at her perplexed expression and regarded her with a calculated gaze, awaiting her next move.
“I’ve been asked to take care –"
Severus swiftly interrupted her. “Miss Granger, let’s not insult each other’s intelligence. Why are you here?”
“Because I care and want to help,” Hermione said seriously.
Hermione watched him try to fathom how anyone would care. It was obvious to her that he didn’t completely believe her. When he narrowed his eyes slightly and looked into her eyes she did not look away, almost hoping he’d see that she was telling the truth. It saddened her that he was so suspicious that anyone would care enough to help.
While a heavy curtain of silence fell between them, Hermione waited.
Either he had chosen to no longer fight or ceased to care because Hermione heard him mutter, “Fine.”
She watched him for a moment. Her attention was drawn to his hairline, where a small trickle of blood was starting to travel down his forehead.
“Will you let me clean the wound again, sir?” Hermione asked in an even tone.
Even as he intercepted the trail of blood before it could reach his eyes, he stated, “No.”
When she saw his eyes flick towards the bathroom doubtfully, she ignored his refusal and said, “I think that using water, rather than magic, would be best. I can do it here.”
After considering for a moment, Severus sighed in frustrated defeat, “Fine.”
Hermione brightened as she concentrated on transfiguring the nightstand into a water basin. At first, she thought he would refuse and start up another round of argument, but watched as he leaned over and reached for the water. She could tell that even performing that small movement produced a tremendous amount of pain, not that he would ever admit it.
She set about washing the blood out of his hair as he tried to hold his head over the basin. Grabbing the shampoo, she started massaging it in small circles, starting at his temples, and moving slowly inch by inch along the sides around his ears and meeting in the back. She then started along his forehead, taking care around the cut and paid special attention there to clean the blood away. Using larger circles and adding more of her nails, she worked on the back of his head down near his neck, moving back up and towards the top again.
The motion of running her hands on his head brought her back to when she found him on the lawn, blood coming from just about every major part of his broken body. All she could do was stroke the side of his head and smooth the hair down while the others came to help. At the time, she hadn't realized that she was screaming for them to come faster, to do something. Nothing like that had ever happened to her, and to think that someone was literally dying in her arms tore her world apart. She was a problem-solver at heart, and if she failed it would kill her.
She was lost in those thoughts as she worked the lather more than necessary, repeating the pattern and massaging his scalp, telling herself it was for healing purposes. He was even leaning into her hands slightly as she worked. Something she didn’t think would be possible for him.
Suddenly, she felt him tense under her hands.
In one movement, he pushed her roughly away, somehow managed to lunge for the opposite nightstand, and grabbed his wand.
Hermione saw the murderous look on Severus’ face and followed his line of sight….
Harry Potter was standing in the doorway with his wand raised, and a look of complete rage on his face.