AN: Thank you all so much for the support! I am deeply appreciative!
There was something different about St. Mungo's.
Rose crept down the darkened corridor. At first, the light from the room at the end was dim, but with each step it grew brighter. Still, what was lacking was more jarring than what she saw. The odor of the disinfectant potions was absent, as were the mutterings of the healers. Come to think of, she was the only person in the hospital.
Rose paused. She opened her mouth to speak, but not a word came out. She cleared her throat and tried to speak again.
The room at the end of the hallway shone brighter. Rose gulped and continued her trek.
Upon reaching the illuminated room, she pressed her hand against the oaken door, but she did not go inside.
I should not be here. It would be best if I turn around and pretend that I have never been here.
"Please come in."
Rose gripped the door tighter.
The man's voice continued, "Don't be scared. Come inside."
Rose obeyed. It took a moment for her eyes to adjust to the light.
The walls were stark white, and the floor was crystalline. In the center of the room was the shadow of a hospital bed. The outline of a woman's body was visible, but there was an aqua-green blanket over it.
It was a mistake to come here.
"You're wasting time."
She spun around. The man before her was wearing translucent scrubs, which only accentuated the paleness of his skin. His black hair was tussled, as if he had just returned from playing in a Quidditch match. What captured Rose's attention most though was his eyes. Even through his broken glasses, they were a piercing emerald.
The man was too foreign, yet too familiar.
"You need to stop wasting time," he repeated in a firm yet gentle voice.
"How am I wasting time?" Rose asked.
The man cocked his head.
"Do not play games with me," Rose snapped. "How am I wasting time?"
He maintained his expression.
"Who are you anyway?" Rose demanded.
"A close friend."
"How can you be a close friend if I have never seen you before?"
The second the words escaped from Rose's mouth, she knew there was no truth to them This man was known to her, though for the life of her she could not place him.
The man chuckled. "You don't always need to see someone to befriend them."
"I suppose that is fair enough. Pen pals do exist after all."
"Believe me, I am far more than a pen pal."
Rose shook her head and turned to the body on the bed. "Fine you refuse to tell me who you are. The least you can do is tell me who is under those blankets."
The man frowned. "Do you want me to say the answer aloud?"
Rose stepped towards the body. Although the blanket covered the patient's body, she could see a few tufts of brown, bushy hair.
"What, what happened to her?" Rose asked
"What do you think happened to her?" The man asked.
Rose didn't dare speak.
The man put a hand on her shoulder. "I understand how confused you are. Several times during my life, I was confused as to who I truly was. Still, you cannot forsake those who love you in order to find yourself."
"I am not forsaking anyone," Rose argued.
He squeezed her shoulder.
"Perhaps, perhaps I am," Rose admitted.
"They love you, Rose," the man began. "Your parents love you very much."
"They lied to me," Rose choked. "Mum and Dad lied to me about my biological father."
The man hummed. "They acted out of love."
"That is true."
"You need to begin accepting their love again. If you don't, you will regret it."
Rose glanced back at the person in the bed. Now, there was a ring beside the strand of hair. It was silver with a glistening emerald.
"I do not want Mum to die," Rose whispered. "As furious as I am with her, I do not want Mum dead."
"Then fight for her," the man replied.
She gazed into his emerald eyes. There was a sereneness about them, which relaxed her muscles.
"Life is too short, Rose," he continued. "There is no time for bitterness. We need to cherish the time we have. It can all end too soon, something I am all too aware of."
"What experiences have you had with death?" Rose asked.
Once again, she suspected that she knew the answer.
"My parents died when I was very young," he replied. "Every day I wish I'd known them."
"I am very sorry to hear that," she answered.
"You have two parents who love you. That is something your dad never had."
"No, he did not have loving parents."
"Your dad wanted you to have two parents who loved you. He never wanted you to experience the pain of abandonment that he felt as a child. Maybe his methods were flawed, but his intentions were good."
"I understand that," a tear came to Rose's eye. "He does make me feel loved and wanted. Instead of appreciating him, I am being a git to him and Mum."
"Well, you wouldn't be the first Snape to be a git anyway."
Rose's lip twitched up.
"Your parents love you. You need to appreciate that gift. Don't squander it because you're throwing a bloody temper tantrum," he concluded.
Silence fell between them.
Rose choked out, "How much time does Mum have?"
The man frowned. "I cannot tell you."
"Why not?" She demanded.
He removed his hand from his shoulder.
"Why can you not tell me?"
He folded his hands.
"Fine, you will not tell me how long Mum will be alive," Rose replied. "Could you at least tell me your name?"
The man's smile returned. "You've done the research. You know who I am."
"Clearly I do not if I am asking you for your name."
He burst out laughing. Rose scowled.
He caught his breath. "You are just like your father. Even your scowl is the same as his."
"I suppose that is a complement."
"In this case, it is."
Rose couldn't help but smile.
The man straightened his posture. "Please, don't make the same mistakes your father made."
Rose quirked an eyebrow.
"I knew your father when he was at his bitterest. He made life miserable for everyone, especially himself. For almost three decades he knew nothing but anger and disappointment," the man continued.
"I know," Rose whispered. "He told me."
"You have the chance not to be like him in that regard. You have a chance to experience love, and to return that love to others," the man continued. "I would strongly suggest you not waste the chances you have. The last thing you want is to live with regrets."
"True," Rose choked. "Thank you Mr..."
He gave her a boyish grin.
"I apologize, but I genuinely do not know your name."
"In your heart, you know exactly who I am."
With that, the man's scrubs were as bright as a nova. Rose shielded her eyes.
All went black.
"Hopefully with our latest discovery, we can return everyone's attention to where it should be directed," Severus began.
"Indeed," Hermione answered.
Hermione watched Severus button his nightshirt. When she did not believe he was looking, she scratched her arm.
"I would imagine that Percy will find some way to drag our names through the mud, but…" Severus turned around.
Hermione stopped mid-scratch.
His complete attention was on her arm.
"I don't think there's anything to worry about," Hermione whispered. "It just itches sometimes."
Severus scooped her into his arms and captured her lips.
Neither noticed the wispy man in the corner, shaking his head, wishing he could do more to help.