She shivered occasionally—from the lingering aftereffects of Cruciatus or from simply reliving those horrid moments, he didn’t know. Her muscles would quiver and her skin twitch, but her eyes remained open, staring into nothing. Otherwise his wife was unresponsive to any outward stimulus. Neither his voice nor his touch earned any kind of response, his concerns and troubled thoughts going unappeased with each passing day. For a mind as bright as Hermione’s, Severus could think of nothing worse than the bleak inactivity she (though by no fault of her own) subjected herself to. So, he set to work doing what little he could.
Some days he would simply lie in bed with her, propped up against the headboard grading essays, keeping Hermione’s silent form abreast of all the inanities brought forth by dunderheaded students that were forced to pass through his brain. Other times he would pull back the carefully placed duvet and gently pick her up, one arm around her back and the other hooked around her knees. He would loop her arm around his neck and carry her into the small sitting room and over to a short couch where she would be gingerly set on top of the worn black leather and covered with a soft throw before Severus would sit down next to his wife and pull her close. He would then crack open a book and read aloud to her, careful to choose a subject that might normally strike her fancy. She had always been privy to the Muggle fictional work of Jane Austen, and so even though the subject matter tended to be out of his normal realm of interest, they had made it through a whole three novels before Severus decided to intersperse the abundance of Regency-era romance with a few magical academic journals he believed Hermione would appreciate.
When it was time for meals she fed herself, though her movements were slow and her portions small, and when nature called she answered in private. But she was immobile during the other hours of the day, and the toll it had begun to take on Severus was long and hard. The point finally came when he found himself sinking low enough to reach out to Potter and Weasley, if only as a last resort to bring his wife out of her catatonic state. The visit had been short, though, as she had shown no sign acknowledging their presence. Severus had sent them packing when the gangly redhead had begun mouthing off to him in a fit of frustrated impatience at Hermione’s unchanged condition, as if it were somehow her husband’s fault, and if Hermione was disheartened at her friends’ departure she made Severus none the wiser.
That night he laid her in bed, as was their new norm, and kneeled beside the bed to try and catch her gaze. Even as he rested his palm on her cheek and stroked the pale but soft skin with the pad of his thumb, her toffee brown eyes stared right through him. His throat suddenly felt full.
“I would give anything, my dearest Hermione, if you would come back to me,” he beseeched, his voice sounding scratchy even to his own ears. “Anything.”
Her eyelids shuttered closed and slowly opened, but her face showed no sign that she registered his heartfelt plea. He heaved a great shuddering sigh and leaned forward to touch his forehead to hers before pulling back just enough to press his lips to the hair just above her crown. He lingered a moment and stood up.
The opposite side of the bed dipped down as he pulled himself in and under the covers, switching off the small lamp on the nightstand. He turned over to settle himself facing his wife’s back, but was instead met with a pair of large toffee eyes looking at him intently, coupled with a slightly troubled expression. His breath caught in his throat.
“Will you hold me tonight, Severus?” Hermione asked just above a whisper, her voice raspy from disuse.
The sound of the simple question from his wife’s lips left him momentarily breathless, and Severus found himself speaking around a large knot in his throat as he gently gathered her to his chest.
“Of course,” he murmured into her hair. One hand rested atop her head, carding through her deep chestnut locks, his other arm wrapped securely around her back. Her heart beat against his chest, and the wetness seeping through the collar of his nightshirt to his skin matched the stinging tears fighting to escape his eyes.
“Of course I will, my darling girl. From now until my last breath.”