AN: Merry Christmas Eve to all who celebrate it! May your day be filled with joy and peace!
Thank you for all the support! It is very deeply appreciated!
Severus yawned and stretched his arms. He smacked his lips together and opened his eyes. The sun filtered through the cream curtains, casting a shadow on the glass table lamp. From the kitchen he could hear tables clanking onto the table and the muffled voices of his in-laws.
His lower lip twitched upwards. The plan could not have worked out any more perfectly.
He turned to his right. His heart stopped.
Hermione wife was shivering. Her forehead was caked in sweat while her face lacked any color. Jerkily, her gaze met his. Her once caramel eyes were now beige. The spark to which he'd become accustomed was gone.
"Hermione," he put a hand on her forehead. The last time it had ever felt that warm was a few years ago when she developed strep throat. Merlin what was happening to her?
"Good morning," she croaked.
He removed his hand from her. "How long have you been awake?"
She moaned. "For only about an hour."
"Oh Love." He pressed her against him.
"Did Mum turn up the air conditioner again?"
"No, she did not."
"We're taking you to St. Mungo's," Severus continued.
He ran his fingers through her hair. A few strands clung to his hand. He did his best not to dwell on the fact that more hair was bound to fall out soon. "How long have you been like this?"
"I woke up like this," she admitted.
He released her. She sagged like a discarded rag.
"Why did you not get yourself to St. Mungo's immediately?" Severus asked.
She looked into his eyes, her voice barely above a whisper, "How could I leave you to wake up alone?"
"You could have written a note," he argued.
Hermione shook her head. "There was no guarantee you would have found it."
"Perhaps, but you could have persuaded a healer to cast a Patronus."
Severus kissed her forehead. Tears welled in his eyes. "Why would you allow yourself to get in this condition?"
"Because you are the only person I can cling to right now, and I did not want to leave you," she croaked.
A tear fell from his eye.
"It's selfish and reckless I know, but I needed to touch you, to feel your arms wrapped around me. I needed you last night, so I remained with you even though I knew I was getting sicker," she explained.
"I am right here now, Love."
"I will always be with you."
"I know you will be."
"That being said, you need to go to St. Mungo's."
"What about you?"
"I will remain here until I know it is past dawn in Britain."
She shook. "I don't want to be alone."
He kissed the top of her head. "I don't want you to be alone either."
"Yet," she sighed. "You cannot come."
"I wish I could, Love. I truly wish I could."
"Still, you do not need to go to St. Mungo's alone."
"What are you planning?"
He pulled away from her. "Victor may still be awake."
"No," she grabbed him. "You cannot wake up one of the children for me."
"Who else do you have in mind to take you to St. Mungo's then?" he asked.
Hermione released him. "I suppose Victor would be the safest bet given that Rose needs to defend Hogwarts and Violet has a strictly enforced curfew."
"Indeed," Severus mused. "I wonder how they are faring, especially in light of the epidemic."
"I don't know," Hermione whispered. "I suppose we will find out in a few hours."
"I suppose we will," Severus broke away from his wife. "In the meantime, we should both get dressed."
"Fine," Hermione whispered.
Severus stood, but Hermione did not move. He extended his hand. Hermione glanced up at him, smiled, and took it. For one long moment, they stared at each other, as if they were trying to absorb strength from each other and assure themselves that all would be well.
Finally, Hermione slid towards the end of the bed. Severus helped steady her as she rose. After another long moment, they released each other and readied themselves for the day.
"I will be with you around roughly six," Severus began.
"Do you mean six St. Mungo's time?" Hermione asked.
"Yes," he answered.
Muriel rushed to her daughter's side and embraced her. "I'm so sorry you are so sick, baby girl. I wish I could make it all go away."
Hermione coughed. "I will recover. This isn't the worst thing I've faced."
"I know, but it scares us nonetheless."
Wilford approached her and wrapped her in his arms as well. "Please see us when you get better. It will do us good to see you well again."
"I promise I will." Hermione squeezed her parents tighter.
Severus moved closer to Victor and whispered in his ear, "Are you certain that you can handle the healers at St. Mungo's?"
"I'm positive," Victor answered in a low voice. "Honestly, I'm more worried about Mum's compliance. We both know the second she is cleared to leave she will return here."
"I know," Severus choked. "She refuses to leave my side even when it's to her detriment. She's always been a loyal Gryffindor that way."
"No, I don't think her house has anything to do it. I think she's a loving wife who needs her husband."
"I have no idea what I've done to deserve such devotion."
"You proposed to her."
Severus smirked. "I suppose I did do that, didn't I?"
Victor grinned. "You did, and we're all happier for it."
"What are you two discussing?"
They turned their attention to Hermione. Although some color had returned to her face, her forehead was still moist.
"I was simply giving him some last minute instructions," Severus replied.
"Trust me, Dad, I have everything under control," Victor promised.
"I know you do," Severus gave him a quick hug.
"I love you, Dad," Victor replied.
"I love you too," Severus then whispered. "Do your best to ensure that your mother remains compliant and does not leave too soon."
"I will," Victor answered.
Hermione reached for her son. He took her hand and led her to the fireplace.
"I love all of you," Hermione called as her son took a handful of floo powder.
"We love you too," Wilford replied.
"Indeed, we do," Severus answered.
Victor threw the floo powder into the fireplace. "St. Mungo's!"
She gave her husband one last long look before disappearing into the flames.
Severus' heart cracked within his chest.
What would become of Hermione now?