For the next month, I saw Miss Granger less than usual. She continues to visit nearly every other day, but the visits were much shorter. Each time, she would apologize for leaving so soon and blame her mysterious project for taking up so much of her time.
As for the project itself, she speaks not a word--except to mention in an offhand manner that it wasn't going well. I have no idea whatsoever exactly what she was working on. It puzzles me greatly. Why was the chit so tight-lipped when speaking to a man who could tell no one of her plans? Miss Granger could tell me every minute detail and her secret would be safe with me.
There has been no change in my condition. The St. Mungo's staff is pleasant to me, thanks to Miss Granger, but I remain completely paralyzed. I cannot even open my eyes. I had hoped that time would lessen the unfortunate antidote's effect, but that does not seem to be the case. Once a week, a healer comes to talk to me about my condition. It's a depressing and one-sided conversation. They have no idea what has happened to me and even less what to do about it. Their entire plan of action is to take care of my body while they wait for the paralysis to wear off naturally.
They refrain from mentioning how unlikely a possibility this is.
They mean to be kind…I know that. They will kindly take care of my body for the next several decades, if that's what it takes. By that time I will, of course, be stark raving mad.
It's inevitable. No matter how hard I try to keep my mind active, the lack of stimulus from being trapped in my own head is going to have consequences. It has already had a negative effect. I do not quite feel myself. Oh, it will be some time before I become daft as a brush, but I cannot shake the feeling that I am not the same man that I was before Nagini bit me.
I do my best to keep my mental facilities from deteriorating. I have tried to figure out on my own what exactly happened with my antidote and how it can be reversed, but it's a herculean task. To have any chance at all, I would need my notes and my preserved samples of both the antivenin and the poison itself. A fat lot of good either would do me in my present state.
Perhaps it's for the best. To know the answer to my problem and to not be able to tell anyone might drive me mad sooner than anticipated.
I have mentally concocted no less than a dozen potions for one George Weasley. Each has its own ridiculous and sometimes gruesome effect, yet each is inherently harmless. Young George would be quite pleased with them, I am certain. If I ever do get out of this bed I'll write them down for him.
Of all the people who have survived that final battle, I believe George Weasley may be the only one who is as badly off as I am.
It's quiet in the hospital. Even without the use of my eyes, I know it's the middle of the night. A hush falls over the entire building and I rarely hear the sound of footsteps in the hallway outside my room. All the rooms in St. Mungo's have magical wards to alert the staff if there is a change in a patient's condition. There's no reason for anyone to enter my room at night. Through my closed eyelids, I can tell that even the lights are dimmed.
I hate being awake at night. There's no chance of any outside force to stimulate my mind, and I am alone with my own head. I try to go back to sleep, but I am completely rested. I must have fallen asleep far too early the past evening, but with no clock, it's a difficult thing to judge.
In the middle of the hushed and mind-numbingly boring night, I mentally concoct the thirteenth potion for young Weasley's ridiculous shop. It will turn the drinker into a hawk for one hour, with the reflexes of the beast but while retaining the mental facilities of the drinker. It will have to be combined with a potion that slows a fall, of course. Can't have young witches and wizards plummeting to the earth when the potion wears off. Should be quite a moneymaker despite the danger. The spells that allow a wizard to fly unassisted are extremely difficult to learn, as I well know.
My musings are interrupted by hurried footsteps and the sound of someone flopping into the chair near my bed. Miss granger by the smell, but what is she doing here at this hour?
Sniffling? No, she's crying, but the sound is muffled as if she does not want to disturb me with her unusual display of emotion.
Why is she crying?
I am not particularly surprised that I am upset at hearing the young woman cry. Miss Granger has been uncommonly kind to me. She has been both my defender and my advocate, and she reads me the most ridiculously erotic literature simply to keep me entertained. In my confinement, I have grown enormously fond of her, and I am genuinely fond of very few people in this world.
Never, since the moment I was bitten by that cursed snake, have I been more furious at my infirmary. I want nothing more than to comfort the woman crying by my bedside. I have some limited experience in dealing with weeping young women from my position as head of Slytherin House, but this situation is different. I find that I no longer think of Miss Granger as one of my students. How could I? The type of literature she reads me, her intelligent and fierce defense on my behalf, and the patience and loyalty she proves by her frequent visits have forced me to see her as an adult. A young adult, certainly, but this is no schoolgirl.
And I am no saint. I'm a Slytherin, through and through. No Slytherin worth his salt would balk at an age difference between himself and someone he cares for. Especially not one so much in his favor. Why should I? I am free of Voldemort and the Death Eaters, forgiven of my crimes, and a medal winning war hero. The only thing stopping me from pursuing Miss Granger and dragging her away from that snot-nosed Weasley is this thrice-damned sickbed.
Slytherins are quite adept at getting what they want. It was not something I was good at while I was at school, but I am no schoolboy now.
A final sniff, and Hermione speaks for the first time. "I'm so sorry to disturb you, Professor. I shouldn't have come so early in the morning. I didn't know where else to go. I didn't want to go to my parent's house. They've had their memories restored, and their back at home, but they are still a bit out of sorts."
That's right. The girl obliviated them to save them from the dangers of the war. A brutally clever plan.
"Harry will ask a million questions, and the Weasley house is obviously out."
What's this? Is there trouble in paradise? How perfect.
"I can't believe Ron is being so stubborn. How dare he try to tell me what to do with my life."
Wonderful. Oh, I have nothing against the sod except that he had something I want. If the boy has, through his own stupidity, removed himself from my way, then I feel my opinion of him shall improve greatly.
That is, if I ever get out of this bed. I will not give up. I have more to live for now than I have had in my entire life. I swear this bed will not be the end of me.
"First, he's been complaining about the time I'm spending on my project. Then, he had the audacity to suggest it wasn't proper for me to spend so much time alone with you. Can you imagine? Even if you were not in your present condition, how dare he try to dictate to me who I can be friends with."
So, she thinks of her scary old Potions Professor as her friend, does she? Excellent.
She pauses for a moment in her diatribe against all things Ronald Weasley. I wait patiently, knowing she will continue. All Slytherins know the value of listening over speaking. I have found through my forced silence that people who are in my company cannot seem to stop talking in an effort to fill in the silence. I now know far more about my visitors than they ever intended.
Even Neville Longbottom.
"Then he had the nerve to tell me that I should drop everything I do so that he can marry me and we can have a bunch of children right away. Well, I'll tell you something, I am nobody's brood mare. I would love to have a child or two at some point, but there is simply too much to do now that the war is over. I don't plan to have children for at least ten years, and I told him so."
This should be good. The Weasleys have long been in the habit of large families.
"He said that if I didn't want children, why were we even together? I said, honestly, I have no idea. And I broke up with him. I broke up with him and I'm glad!"
Her crying seems to belie that statement.
"I am glad," she says as if she can hear my thoughts. "I'm just so disappointed. He's not the person I thought he was."
Ah, disappointment that the relationship did not work out is far better than weeping over the boy's loss.
"I should go. I'm sorry to bother you with all of this."
It was my pleasure, Hermione.
"I've got to go. I've got to go deal with Harry and then try to get a few hours of sleep. Big day tomorrow for my project. Merlin, but Ron had horrible timing, as per usual."
"Harry and I will be by in the morning. I need to get a little sleep first. Goodnight, Professor."
I am left with the startling realization that I am Hermione's big project.
Many thanks for all of the kind comments. Now, things are going to get interesting! I'm so excited to write the next chapter, I think I'll write it tonight. Oh, it won't all be smooth sailing, but things are going to start happening. Severus is very excited.
Big thanks for everyone who has nominated my paranormal mystery, Wyrd House, on Kindle Scout. If you want to check it out, you can find it at Amazon[dot]Kindlescout[dot]com. Look under mysteries and you'll find me. It's a fun book that has magic and romance, so I think my readers will like it. If you nominate it, and it gets selected, you get a free advance copy of the eBook. My campaign is not going great, so I can use all the help I can get!
I'm working without a beta, so any mistakes are my own.