AN: Thank you for all the support! It is very deeply appreciated!
Should I call Severus to extinguish the light?
Hermione glanced over at illuminated wand. Her body screamed for rest, yet her eyes could not stay open for longer than a few seconds. Even when she turned away from the light, her eyes pried themselves open. Regardless of how many calming thoughts she dwelt upon, he mind refused to stop racing.
She glanced up at the ceiling and twisted her lower lip. Perhaps I should read a book. I doubt I can make sense of the words, but perhaps some mental stimulation will relax me.
The room grew brighter.
Perhaps I just need something to think about other than how exhausted I am.
The temperature of the room rose.
Then again, what would I read? Journals are too complex at the moment, but I'm really not in the mood for a lighthearted novel.
Her heart stopped.
Her throat went dry. She trembled before sitting up and staring straight ahead.
On the edge of her bed was an ethereal glow The humanoid shape was familiar. Its hair was tussled, as if he'd been just finished evading a dragon's flames. His body was relaxed, as if he had not experienced stress in years. What captured her attention was his eyes, just as emerald as they had been the last time she'd seen them.
"H-Harry?" Hermione choked.
He gave her a soft smile. "It's good to see you again."
With a renewed energy, she rushed towards him and attempted to embrace him. She only succeeded in almost collapsing onto the floor.
"I'm sorry," Harry began. "I would hug you, but, well, it's hard to embrace people in this state."
"No, it's fine," Hermione brushed herself off. "It isn't like I haven't interacted with a ghost before except…"
Harry cocked his head "Except what?"
"Well, you are quite warm."
"That's because I'm technically not a ghost."
"What are you then?"
"Let's just call me a spiritual guide."
"A guide to what?"
"I spend my afterlife looking down on my loved ones and helping them out however I can."
"I guide them as best I can."
"Are," She shuddered. "Are you going to help me leave this world and go into the afterlife?"
Harry folded his hands.
"Oh no," she slid back to the pillows. "No please, not now, not without saying goodbye to Severus and the children. Please Harry, please let me do that before I die. Let me at least give them one last decent memory."
"Don't worry," Harry held up his hand. "I'm not here to take you to the afterlife, at least not yet."
The tension in her muscles evaporated.
"I only came because I wanted to talk to you," Harry answered.
"About what?" Hermione asked.
He smiled. "Whatever you want."
"What do you mean 'whatever you want?'"
"Whatever you want to talk about is okay with me. I'm all ears."
"Wait," Hermione shook her head. "Are you trying to tell me that you took time out of the afterlife just to see me and have a casual conversation?"
"Yes," Harry answered.
"Wh-why would you want to see me?" Hermione asked. "Surely you want to spend that time talking to your parents, or Sirius, or Remus, or anyone else."
"I have an eternity to speak with them," Harry answered. "They don't need me right now, but you do."
Hermione's throat constricted. "I've needed you for quite a while."
"I know," he put a hand over hers, though she could not feel his touch. "But I've always been right there watching over you."
"Really?" she asked.
"I suppose," Hermione tapped her chin. "I suppose there were times I could feel you. One of the children would say something which I thought you would find funny, or Severus would do something which I knew would surprise you."
"I was there," Harry replied. "I've been there for all of it. I've seen everything."
"Yes, I've seen every part of your marriage to Professor Snape."
"How," Hermione gulped. "Are you watching me every single moment, or are there times when you turn away?"
Harry gave her a playful frown. "Let's just say that the second you two begin crawling all over each other is the second I turn my attention to one of your children."
"Dunderhead," she muttered.
Harry laughed louder. "Your husband really has rubbed off on you."
Her lips curled up. "I suppose he has."
Harry quieted. "Don't worry about my reactions to your, uh love sessions."
"I love seeing you happy. You're the happiest you've ever been. It warms everyone's heart to see you and Severus so happy together."
She grinned. "It's good to see you happy too. You seem more at peace than I've ever seen you."
"It's very peaceful up there," Harry replied.
"What is up there like?"
"We're all surrounded by love, more love than you could ever imagine."
"We have so much love, and we want to share it all with the living," Harry answered.
"So you sneak down for social calls?"
"Well, I do anyway."
'I didn't come here only to chat," Harry's voice was soft. "I want you to know that I'm here with you through all of this. I'm watching you and your family. No matter what happens, I'm right there."
"Thank you," tears clouded Hermione's vision. "Thank you so much."
Harry's glow intensified. "There is no reason to thank me."
"I know," Hermione wiped her eyes. "Still, I just never thought I'd see you on this earth again."
"I didn't know if I'd see you in this life either," Harry admitted. "Still, when you see a chance to see a loved one, you take it."
"Thank you," Hermione answered.
Harry scooted closer to her. "Now that we've gotten all that out of the way, what do you want to talk about?"
"Well, I do have one question."
She smacked him, but her hand went right through him. Harry snickered. Her face lit up, but then the light in her eyes died.
"What do you want to ask me?" Harry asked.
Hermione took a shaky breath. "How long do I have left in this world?"
Harry's glow dimmed. "I wish I could tell you, but we aren't allowed to discuss time of death with anyone."
"It's against the rules."
"So you don't mind sneaking down to see me, but when it comes to telling me how long I have to put things in order, suddenly you want to follow the rules?"
"In this case, I agree with the rule."
Hermione raised an eyebrow.
"If I told you how much time you had left, you would live your life differently. You may rush to do certain things because you fear death, or begin to take people for granted because you have longer than you thought. We can't risk either of those things happening," Harry replied.
"I suppose you have a point there," Hermione conceded.
"See, I can follow the rules," Harry teased.
Hermione giggled. "When it suits you, I suppose you can."
The room warmed.
"Well," Hermione sighed. "If I must be honest, I'm terrified right now."
"I'd imagine," Harry answered.
"I'm not afraid to die, but I am afraid of leaving my family behind," she admitted. "What will become of them without me? Will they cling to each other or drift apart? Can the children recover from seeing their mother so ill? Will Severus allow himself to be happy without me? What, what will happen to them?"
"I wish I knew," Harry answered.
Hermione exhaled. "I wish I did too."
Harry moved closer to her. "What I can tell you is that you have brought them happiness and love. They will never forget that."
"Maybe," she answered. "But there are days I rolled my eyes at Severus when he was right about something. At times I was too harsh on my children. I have been anything but perfect."
"Nobody ever expected you to be perfect."
"I know. I just hope most of their memories of me will be happy."
"Believe me, their memories of you will be happy."
"I hope so."
"I know they will be," Harry replied. "I also know that when you die, the ones who are left behind will feel your love."
"I hope so," Hermione answered. "I plan to watch over them, just like you watch over us."
"Oh Merlin," Harry grinned. "I can only imagine the running commentary we'd have over your children. I mean, Rose is too much like her dad for her own good. Victor, oh goodness he's as bad as his parents when it comes to admitting he's in love with someone."
Hermione beamed. "He is."
"Violet," Harry's eyes twinkled. "I see myself in her."
"She isn't afraid to follow her own path. The rules are mere suggestions for her half the time. I have to admire that in a person."
"As for Victor, he has made me proud," Harry's voice cracked. "Thank you for naming him after me."
"What else could his middle name be?" Hermione asked. "We didn't want him to think he must be you, but we wanted to honor you somehow."
"It was nice of you to give him my name," Harry answered. "So thank you."
"You're welcome," Hermione replied.
"As for Rose," Harry's expression brightened. "We've had a special relationship through the years."
"You helped save her from Fenrir."
"I didn't do much. Severus and you did all the work."
"I know, but you gave me the strength to get through that night."
"You had that strength in you the whole time," Harry's glow intensified. "You've always had that strength in you."
Hermione's eyes misted.
"Always remember that Hermione," he continued. "Whatever happens, you are strong enough to get through it."
"I hope so," she answered.
"Severus, Rose, Victor, and Violet feed off of that strength. Even when you aren't in the room, they remember your strength and your love."
Hermione allowed the tears to flow. "I don't want to leave them."
"I know," Harry whispered.
"I love them so much," Hermione cried. "I remember when Violet was born. Severus, Rose, and Victor were gathered around the hospital bed while I held her. I'd never felt so complete in my life. It was as if I had everything I would ever need."
"They had everything they would ever need too," Harry replied.
"Please Harry," Hermione sobbed. "Whatever happens to me, please keep watch over them."
The room warmed. "You never need to ask me that."
"I know," Hermione croaked. "Still, oh Merlin it's so good to see you again."
"It's good to see you again too," Harry replied.
"Thank, thank you for coming."
"It's my pleasure."
For one long, comfortable moment, they said in silence, drawing love from the other's presence.
Harry put his hand over hers. "I wish I could speak to you in this form forever, but at some point your family will want to see you."
"You can stay here for that."
"Sadly, I cannot. They can't see me."
"Why can't they see you?" Hermione asked.
"I can only visit one person at a time," Harry answered.
"Why?" Hermione asked.
"It's easier to communicate that way."
Harry gave her a small smile. "Goodbye Hermione. I love you."
"Goodbye Harry," Hermione wiped her eyes. "I love you too."
"Remember, I'm right here." Harry began to fade. "I'm not leaving, just changing forms."
"I know," Hermione whispered. "Goodbye."
The only light in the room came from Severus' wand.
Hermione adjusted herself on the pillows and took a deep breath. Although her body was tired, it felt as if a weight had been lifted from her heart.
She readjusted the blankets until she was under them again. "Yes, Severus?"
He poked his head inside. "I was wondering if you were still awake."
"I am," she replied.
"That is good to know," he swallowed. "Do you still need my wand?"
"No, but I need you and the children to all come in here and tell me goodnight," Hermione answered.
"Love, I do not want to exhaust you," Severus began.
"No," she answered. "It won't exhaust me at all. I simply want to fall asleep with my loved ones nearby."
"You don't think that you're…" He couldn't utter the next words.
"No, I think I will live through the night."
"I simply don't want to waste anymore time telling you all that I love you," Hermione answered. "I want to tell everyone goodnight."
"Very well then," Severus replied.
"Wait," Hermione beckoned him to come closer.
She wrapped her arms around him. "I love you."
He embraced her. "I love you too."
Hermione stared and the spot Harry and been and smirked. Then she captured Severus' lips.
From the corner of her eyes, she could see a dim outline of Harry. He was shielding his eyes, but his lips were curled up.
When she released Severus, she saw Harry uncover his eyes and give her a thumbs up.
The room was warm again.