A/N: WOW! Thank you all for reading and reviewing and following. I'm so excited you're excited, and I hope this chapter lives up to expectations. As always, thank you to my very lovely beta JadePresley. This story wouldn't be without her. If you haven't already, you should definitely read the fluffiest, funniest little story she wrote: The Letters From Everyone.
"Honestly, Granger. It's been two days," Draco said as he sat at Hermione's bedside, holding her limp hand in both of his. The longer she stayed asleep, the more anxious he became.
Snape made sure she remained on a strict potions schedule. Muppy made sure she was comfortable. And Draco made sure she had a voice to tether her to the physical world. He remembered being told in second year that petrified people could still hear what was going on around them. He hoped it was the same for comatose ones.
He read to her. Shakespeare, "Tales of the Beetle and the Bard" and "Hogwarts: A History," but she never stirred.
"I need you to wake up," Draco admitted with a sigh. "I need you."
He never would've been able to tell her that to her face if she'd been awake. But even though he hoped she could hear him, he felt safe being open and honest with her in this state. She was the only one he felt safe being open and honest with.
When Draco and Snape were summoned for meetings, Muppy watched over the sleeping woman. Draco made regular visits to the manor in an attempt to keep up appearances.
"Draco," his mother squealed (the closest to squealing Draco had ever heard from the dignified woman, anyway) when he entered her gardens one morning. "It seems like ages since I've seen your face."
She hugged his neck and buried her face against his robes. He let himself go limp from the contact, leaning into her as if they could energize each other through osmosis. Voldemort's presence in the manor took a toll on his otherwise effortlessly poised mother. Her face was hollower each time he saw her.
"I've missed you," he replied, finally pulling from the embrace while keeping her small hands encased in his. "How are you holding up today, Mother?"
"Oh, I'm well," she said, sighing, dropping his hands and turning out toward the gardens. She delicately touched the red roses that bloomed next to them. The flowers seemed to stand at attention in her presence. "Worried about you, as always."
"Snape is helping me with a little project. I just came by to check on you and the manor."
A small smile ghosted across Narcissa's face. She brought her hands to her stomach and attempted to flatten out wrinkles in her dress that didn't exist. "I appreciate your thoughtfulness, my dear. I hope you are successful in your endeavors with Severus. He's a brilliant man and a good ally to our family."
It was conversations like this, when Narcissa's eyes would glaze over slightly, that Draco wondered if his mother was simply going through the motions without truly living. She seemed to parrot the same positive lines over and over. Good ally and brilliant man could mean anyone from Snape to Voldemort himself, the latter was also reserved for her husband, though Draco suspected their marriage was far from the dream Narcissa painted with her words.
Hermione sat in the grass which was soft beneath her fingertips, and everything around her had a golden glow. There were exceptionally beautiful trees and flowers growing, birds chirping, deer grazing off in the distance, rabbits chasing each other around. A laugh danced on top of the sounds, filling her with a joy she'd never known before.
She spotted a small child, running with the rabbits, arms flailing about as his nearly shoulder-length platinum blonde hair billowed in the wind. The boy giggled and squealed as he played. A smile pulled her lips at the corners, lighting her face in the same golden glow that surrounded everything she saw. Her toes sunk into the green blades underneath her as she brought her knees up to her chin and wrapped her arms around them. She chuckled to herself as she watched the young boy. Her heart clenched tightly at the sight of him.
A protectiveness coursed through her as he tripped and fell, and Hermione almost stood to run to him. But before she could move, an even more delighted giggle reached her ears. A sense of relief engulfed her, and her muscles relaxed back against the ground. She could see the boy, barely through the tall grass, rolling on the ground as rabbits jumped back and forth around him. The sun beamed brightly against a deep blue sky, lighting the field the witch and child occupied. Hermione's skin radiated with a comforting warmth. She couldn't remember how she got here or what she was doing or who the child was. She couldn't recall what she did yesterday or what she was supposed to do tomorrow. It felt like time didn't exist in this precious part of the world. Hermione was content.
Severus Snape drew in a shaky breath as he held Hermione's head and slowly poured a bright blue liquid between her lips, guiding it down her throat. He was uncomfortable touching the girl — or anyone for that matter. He was used to simply brewing the medications, not administering them and caring for the patient. His lips were pinched into a sneer, finding it ironic that he was caring for this particular girl.
She looked so fragile against the crisp, white bedsheets. Her skin translucent from weeks without the sun's rays. If she didn't wake up soon, she would starve to death. While they kept her fed and hydrated as much as possible, there was only so much they could do for her without the help of professional healers. His sneer deepened as he imagined Draco's reaction to that. After all they'd done to save her from the clutches of dark magic, for something so human to be her final undoing would be devastating. The girl in this bed was a ghost of what she once was — fierce, passionate, obnoxiously anxious to learn. He was equally apathetic about the possibility that she would wake because she undoubtedly would ask every question that popped in her head and would demand to know every detail of what happened to her.
What was worse, he felt he owed it to Lily to do this. What he wouldn't give to have had this kind of chance with her — to save her. His touch was gentle as he brought Hermione's head back to the pillow.
The Dark Lord had, by proxy, announced the girl's death in the Daily Prophet. Potter and Weasley had nearly gotten themselves captured a few days later. Snape presumed it took that long for the news to reach them, wherever they were. He'd tried to contact the Order, but ever since Dumbledore's death, communication with the light had become more dangerous. Voldemort kept a close eye on him, summoning him at least once a day for updates on the various goings on Snape was in charge of keeping up with.
He spared one more look at the girl before leaving her room. Muppy approached her bedside as soon as Snape had stepped away from it. His eyes softened at the picture before him. "I hope, for all our sakes, Ms. Granger, that you find your way back soon," he said softly. "The world could use some good news right about now."
Snape feared that soon the final battle would commence, and the light wouldn't be strong enough to win.
A/N: I've never written Snape before, and quite honestly, it's been a lot of fun. I hope you guys enjoy him in this story as much as I do. I'm horrible about responding to reviews, but I read and squeal over every single one! Find me on tumblr if you want a response at dragonsandotters-dh . tumblr . com. You guys are seriously so awesome.