Continuing Tales

Heart Over Mind

A Harry Potter Story
by Regann

Part 19 of 27

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Heart Over Mind

When she'd finally dragged herself to bed in the early morning hours of November 1st, Hermione prayed for a little peace.

None came.

Not two hours later, she jerked out of her restless sleep, gripped by a fiery pain that filled her with the utter certainty that she was going to die.

The pain -- piercing, feverish -- started in her lower back, quickly spreading up and around her body until it choked the breath from her burning lungs, leaving her gasping as she flung herself into a sitting position, dimly aware of a woman's scream fading from her ears. She clutched at her sides, panting, dazed as she realized that the scream had come from her own ragged throat.

She glanced wildly into the darkened corners of her small bedroom, one hand groping for her wand as her mind flew through the last images she recalled: Death Eaters, thick trees, unmoving bodies, fire and smoke.then the horrible pain and darkness...

A dream, she suddenly realized.

Hermione let out a shaky breath and relaxed her tense muscles, wincing at the ache still echoing in her sides and back. She carefully released her wand to let it fall to the tangled bed sheets at her side before burying her face in her hands, shuddering inhalations working to stem the tears gathering behind her eyelids.

It had just been a dream -- a vivid one -- but simply a dream.

Dream or not, Hermione's sides still stung with remembered agony and her hands still shook from the overpowering rush of adrenaline that had coursed through her system, just as the ghostly images -- already losing their visceral edge in her mind's eye -- still called tears to her eyes, made her shudder at the thought.

In the awful quiet that followed, Hermione discerned the sounds of footsteps scurrying in her direction, quickly moving closer until the bedroom door was opened. Marisol's shadowed shape was silhouetted in the doorway by lamplight from the sitting room pouring into the darkness of her bedroom.

"Hermione?" came Marisol's sleep-laden voice, concerned. "What's wrong? Are you alright?"

She squinted against the light, raising a hand to shield her eyes. "I'm fine, Marisol. Everything's fine."

"I heard your scream," she ventured in veiled disagreement.

Hermione sighed. "It was just a bad dream. Nothing to worry yourself over." She pushed her wild hair away from her face in exasperation. "Although I think it's quite likely that I won't be getting any sleep tonight."

Marisol's tawny eyes were bright with concern as she nodded cajolingly. "Come in here and I'll make us something and we can talk about it. There's no need for you to suffer alone."


The young woman shook her head to stave off any arguments. "Consider it a return of the favor when you lost sleep over Carlos and his serenata. Come, I'll make you some of that tea you drink." Without giving her friend a chance to disagree, Marisol headed back toward the small kitchenette.

Defeated, Hermione pushed away the coverlet and stood up, moving gingerly as she abandoned her bedroom and any pretense of resting that night. With her wand tucked into the pocket of her loose pajamas, she lumbered into the kitchenette, limbs heavy with fatigue and thoughts equally leaden. She took a seat at the narrow table which served as a dining surface while Marisol filled the kettle and collected mugs and tea bags and powdered cocoa. A few minutes later, Hermione had a steaming mug of chamomile tea while her bungalow-mate sipped thick, hot chocolate.

"Would you like to talk about the dream?" Marisol asked softly after a few moments of absolute stillness. Her English was heavily accented but quite articulate and the combination reminded Hermione achingly of her grandmother's way of speech.

"It was just a dream," she finally managed to answer, swallowing against another rush of watery emotions. She rolled her shoulders and winced. "And that's the last time that I let Joao or Robert talk me into going hiking with them. I hurt all over. Days off are supposed to be for rest. I feel like I've been trampled by a hippogriff."

"That is why I stayed here and rested," the other girl smiled slightly. "I spent the day writing to my Carlos and my sister, Esperanza."

Hermione answered with an anemic smile of her own. "Smart girl."

Marisol sobered. "You should tell Seņora Luisa that you are having such problems sleeping. She will help you, I'm sure." More softly, she added. "Everyone understands, mi amiga."

She snorted in good-natured impatience. "I don't want to be understood," she told the other apprentice. "I want to be able to do my job as well as anyone else without any considerations. I don't want to need to be understood."

The black-haired girl squeezed her arm in sympathy. Marisol looked as if she were about to say something more when a loud thunderous knock sounded on the front door to their cottage, both young witches jumping in surprise.

Hermione was on her feet with wand in hand before Marisol, a hand pressed to her heart, called out, "Who's there?"

"Marisol? Hermione?" Though muffled by the wood of the door, the female voice was unmistakable. It was Carmen, one of Nazca's fully trained Healers. "Open the door."

Hermione, already standing, rushed over to comply, unlocking the door and opening it so that the plump, middle-aged Healer could enter, her bright blue robe -- the symbol of Nazca Healers -- wrapped tightly around her round body. Carmen's face was troubled and she glanced uneasily over at Hermione as Marisol rose from her seat.

"You were both awake, yes?" Carmen asked as she examined them, noting the mugs on the table.

Hermione nodded. "My fault," she said. "I couldn't sleep."

Carmen narrowed her eyes appraisingly. "Have you already heard the news, then? About your home?"

Hermione could feel the blood draining from her face as she shook her head in silent horror. "No," she forced her lips to reply, fingers bone-crushingly tight around her wand. "I haven't heard anything."

"What's happened, Seņora Carmen?" Marisol asked impatiently.

The elder witch remained focused on Hermione. "Luisa sent me for you," she explained tersely. "A message has arrived for you -- very urgent."

"Message? When did it arrive?" she demanded, trying to remain calm.

"The messenger arrived just in these few moments," Carmen assured her. She gestured toward the bedroom with her long ebony wand. "Go, quickly. Get dressed and I will take you to the hospital where he waits for you."

While Hermione had little desire to waste time in getting dressed, she obeyed the Healer's command, shrugging out of her pajamas and into whatever clean clothes she could find in the dim light. A few minutes later, she emerged from her room in a faded denim skirt, pulling an oversized sweatshirt over the tank-top she'd been wearing. Her hair, tangled and un-brushed, had been hastily tied up in a ponytail.

Carmen nodded, collecting Hermione's Nazca Healing robes from the peg where she and Marisol kept them near their front door. "We will go now," she told her, handing her the robes and nodding good-night to Marisol.

"It will be fine," Marisol tried to assure her fellow apprentice as they watched their teacher stride out into the chilly darkness.

Hermione nodded and scurried after the fast-moving Healer, almost running to match her gait as they approached the main complex of the institution. Instead of turning into the hospital area, the witches ducked down another winding corridor until they came to a cozy, threadbare room which acted as a sort of lounge area for the Healers and the apprentices. Luisa was already there, looking as if she, too, had been roused from a sound sleep, as bleary-eyed and disheveled as Carmen or Marisol. There with her was a burly young man with striking blue eyes who managed a wan smile at the sight of Hermione even though his whole air exuded grim news.

"Hermione..." he said by way of greeting, his voice gravely quiet.

"Craig!" she exclaimed in astonishment that quickly melted into uncontrollable panic. "Oh my god!" She threw herself at him in frenzied horror, clawing at him in need to hold onto something. "You promised me that you'd come if --"

"If something happened," he finished, gently taking her by the arms. "That I did, old girl. And something's happened, all right. It's Hogwarts, Hermione. It's been attacked."

From wherever Hermione had managed lock away her fear, grief and worry, it flooded over her, as if Craig's words had broken the dam that had held back the tide. She dug her nails deeper into the skin of his arms. "What happened? Who --- won?"

"That I dunna know," he admitted roughly. "Just as I promised ye, I came as soon I heard. Angus let me go to bring ye back with me to Ireland." He paused, eyes dropping with fatigue. "I've been traveling for hours just to get here. I forget to ask Angus for a portkey and so I had to take the long route."

Hermione remembered her own long journey from Britain to Peru, the litany of International Apparition Points and Intercontinental Floo Systems through which she'd traveled and felt a surge of affection well in her for the Irish Auror. "How long ago did the battle start?"

"I think, about four hours ago," he revealed. "There's still no word from anyone about what's happening, so we won't know until we get back to Ireland. If Angus is still in his offices, he'll know."

Hermione turned to her mentor, expression stricken. "Luisa...please, I..."

"Of course you may go," the Spanish witch assured her, a soft expression on her gentle features. "In fact, if you and Seņor Shannon will allow me a few moments, I will be pleased to construct a portkey for your return trip. It is one of the privileges of being a mediwitch, you see."

While Luisa and Carmen hurried to get things in order for Hermione to leave, Craig filled her in on the little information that he had about the attack on Hogwarts. "It started in the middle of the night," he explained. "Sometime between 2AM and 3AM -- from the early reports it was a huge group of Death Eaters, in hoods and masks, that attacked. They stormed Hogwarts proper after making a quick run through Hogsmeade."

"What else?" Hermione questioned, noticing the hesitant look on Craig's face as he paused in his narrative. Though she had stopped her assault on his arm by her nails, she grabbed one of his hands in hers and clutched at it. It was the only lingering sign of chaotic emotional and mental state, all traces of panic willed away until she was left pale and haggard but composed. "Tell me, Craig."

"The rumor is that Harry Potter was at Hogwarts this evening for some reason," he told her, sadly. "There's a good chance that he was the target, or one of the targets. But it would have had to have been planned for a good long time, for them to think they could take Hogwarts."

"So maybe he was there because he knew that Hogwarts was being targeted," Hermione offered softly. "It would be just like him. If he thought You-Know-Who was going to be there." She thought of Snape's letter and knew that it was no coincidence that the attack came on the same date as deadline. With a dawning horror, she realized that Craig's news meant that Snape was probably dead already; but she refused to give into that pain just then. Instead, she pushed it out of her mind and focused on her concern for Harry.

"Mayhap," Craig echoed quietly. "But there was something about the report...Angus looked at us and told us, "This is it, lads. It ends tonight." I don't know what old Dumbledore's told him but that's what he told us."

Time crawled while they waited for Luisa to arrange for a portkey, but it took less than an hour to procure it. Soon enough, Craig and Hermione were holding tightly onto coffee mug Luisa had charmed, the familiar effects of a portkey sweeping over her as she landed with sickening disorientation in Angus O'Malley's Ireland headquarters. She staggered but Craig kept her upright and the ceramic mug crashed and splintered against the floor where it had been dropped.

It had been in the middle of the night when they'd left Peru; however, the portkey had brought them not only through space but through several time zones as well, so the morning sun was brightly visible through a window on the building's eastern face.

"Well, if you two don't have timing to beat all!"

Hermione, steadying herself, glanced in the direction of the heavily accented statement to see Angus O'Malley watching them, in the same wrinkled gray robes she'd remembered, his eyes still blood-shot and his thick lips a twisted line across his florid face.

"Have you heard something, then, sir?" Craig asked him.

The Irishman nodded. "Aye, I did." It was then Hermione noticed that his expression was not nearly as grave as it had been the night she'd first met him and her heart leaped with hope. "In fact, I just got off the hearth with a lady you might know, Miss Granger -- Minnie McGonagall -- and she tells me that everything's been done." Suddenly, he smiled, a disarming flash of white teeth against his ruddy jowls. "The Dark Lord has been defeated again -- for good this time."

Craig let out a surprised gasp that choked into a shaky laugh while the burst of relief rushing over her body made Hermione weak in the knees. "How you heard about Harry?" she hastened to ask, glad that Craig still had a reassuring grip on her arm. "Is he alright?"

"Harry Potter?" Angus clarified, continuing when Hermione nodded. "Aye, Minnie says that he's a bit banged-up but he'll recover. Blimey, that's twice the boy has survived to see the Dark Lord's fall -- it's nigh on a miracle!"

Another, more forceful wave of relief swept over her, even as she turned anxiously to the elder Auror. "Mr. O'Malley, is there anyway I go to Hogwarts, right now? I have a great many friends who might be there ---" and might not be, she added silently. Even if Harry was safe and Voldemort was dead, there were such a thing as causalities, even for the victorious side.

Snape, again, ghosted over her thoughts, but she still pushed it again. I'm not ready yet, for that, she told herself sternly. Later.

Angus pursed his lips. "Well, not everybody can just walk up to this place right now," he told her. "It's swarming with Aurors -- some of our boys, too, actually -- and there's got to be healers on the scene and the injured and..."


"But," Angus went on determinedly. "I happen to be on my way there now, and with me and Shannon at yer side, ain't nobody goin' t' stop you. Come on, lass. I'll take ye to see yer friends."

She threw her arms around the old wizard in thanks.

A few minutes later, the three of them had Apparated -- Hermione was ever thankful for having her license, finally -- to a safe distance from the venerable boarding school. Hermione fought the urge to push pass the numerous Aurors and Ministry officials who stopped them on their way to the castle, each demanding reasons for their presence. O'Malley acted as if he were as impatient with them as Hermione was, shouting and waving his arms wildly every time one of them asked who he was and why he was there.

"The name's Angus O'Malley, you eejit!" he hollered at the latest in the line of Aurors. "I'm the head of the Irish Ministry's Auror division and I've bloody well got business here! Now, if you don't let us through, I swear I'll --"

The timely arrival of Arthur Weasley saved the young Auror from Angus's wrath and the three of them were ushered without preamble up to the castle, where still more officials milled about, along with various participants of the fighting -- many singed and bleeding -- as well as shell-shocked students who seemed dazed by what they must have witnessed. Hermione was about to ask Arthur, who had been in deep discussion with O'Malley, where she could find Harry when one of the many bloodied and battered broke away from the throng and rushed at her, the red hair unmistakable even underneath dirt and grime.


"Oi! Hermione!" Before she could say anything more, she was swept up in a fierce hug that she returned enthusiastically before pulling away to grin up into her friend's lively face. The sight made tears prickle in her eyes but, this time, from sheer happiness.

Ron's cheerful words reflected her joy. "Oh, are you a sight for sore eyes, even if you are as bright as a bloody peacock."

She laughed, having forgotten that she wore her distinctively colored Nazca robes. "Same to you, Ron. Oh, I'm so glad that you're safe! Have you seen Harry?"

"Not since I carted him off to the hospital wing," he admitted. "But Professor McGonagall said he was going to be fine."

She nodded, relief so overwhelming that it was like a pain. "How about any others? Have you heard?"

His opened expression shuttered slightly. "There have been some -- deaths," he admitted. "Mostly, that I know of, are people I knew from the Auror ranks, not so many from school." He looked decidedly pained as he added, "Lupin's unaccounted for, at last I heard. He went after that mad LeStrange woman by himself and..."

She nodded in understanding and allowed him to leave the sentence unfinished. He quickly pressed onward. "I've got to stay out here at my post," he told her, "but you should go on up to the hospital wing and see Harry. Report back to me in a bit, okay?"

Hermione promised to do just that before she strode purposefully into the entrance halls of Hogwarts castle, her head held high as she dodged the harried looks of the officials working around her. She refused to let them question her about why she was there, luck having it that most of them were too busy to notice. For the first time, as she headed from the main hall up toward the hospital wing, she saw captured Death Eaters, many of them hunched over, clutching their left arm as if it caused them a great deal of pain. She thought she saw a flash of pale hair in the group, but she didn't look back, even though she felt that Lucius Malfoy -- if it were he -- would be the most logical person to confront if she wanted to know what had happened to Snape.

Later, she vowed.

Hermione climbed the crooking staircases, slightly winded, unused to the size and height of the Hogwarts castle after spending months prowling around the low-level buildings of the Nazca institute. Almost convinced that she'd taken a wrong turn and that she'd never reach the hospital wing, Hermione trotted up another flight and followed the turn of the stairs, only to come upon a slouching figure huddled against the wall with one hand cradling his right shoulder. As quickly as she registered his presence, Hermione also noticed the short, pale hair and gray eyes half-hidden behind lids sliding closed in pain.


Draco Malfoy started in surprise, head whipping up at the sound of his name. He raked his eyes over Hermione. "Granger," he grated, throat hoarse. Hermione realized that he had no wand that she could see.

She, by instinct, held hers tightly in her hand.

"What are you doing here?"

"Writhing in pain, what does it look like?"

She nodded, eyes appraising the bloodied gash and burnt flesh of his upper arm where the sleeve had torn away. She recognized the symptoms and knew that the injury had been caused by a very nasty curse.

"Here," she said, kneeling at his side. "Let me look at it."

"What?" Malfoy scoffed, managing to sneer through his pain. "You, help me? For all you know I'm a big, bad Death Eater. You not afraid?"

She snorted. "Malfoy, really. I have a wand; you don't appear to and even if you did, we're in a building full of Aurors and I doubt you could pull a wand on me before I could hex you six ways to Sunday. I'm fairly safe, I think."

"Well, aren't you the brave little Gryffindor," he intoned sarcastically, though he did not argue with her assertions. Taking his sulky silence as permission, she removed his hand from the wound and examined it gently. He flinched at her touch and she sourly realized that she couldn't be certain if he flinched in pain at her probing fingers or in disgust at the idea of being touched by someone he considered so filthy.

The wound was messy, but not life-threatening and Hermione knew exactly how to treat it. She felt herself slipping into "healer-mode," her professional skills taking over as she sterilized the wound, cast a sequence of three spells that would begin the healing process, and finally ending with a gentle numbing charm which would ease the pain until a more effective potion could be administered. Even as she wrapped the wound in bandages she'd transfigured from the torn fabric of his destroyed shirt sleeve, Malfoy's aristocratic features had become softer in response to the pain's decrease.

"That should do it, Malfoy," Hermione told him stiffly as she rose to her feet. "You might want to get some kind of pain-killing potion in the next few hours, though."

Without waiting for a response, she spun on her heel and continued up the stairs, sweeping past him. She was almost out of his sight when he called out. "Granger!"

She stopped, peaked over her shoulder. "Yes?"

"Why did you help me?" he asked her, his tone insulted as if he accused her of doing something despicable.

She rolled her eyes and straightened her spine. "I'm not you, Malfoy," she retorted as if it explained everything.

In Hermione's mind, it did.

She left him sitting dazedly on the stairs, his eyes gone hollow with something other than physical pain.

After all of the distractions -- and stairs -- Hermione finally reached the hospital wing, the infirmary overflowing with injured students and young people, so many that sometimes two and three patients perched on one cot. Amidst the frenzy, Hermione's eyes found Madam Pomfrey as she hurried from one bed to the other, looking as stressed as the girl had ever seen her.

She did not, however, see Harry.

"Madam Pomfrey!" she called, stepping over and around the patients clogging the space.

The mediwitch looked up, surprised. "Hermione, what are you doing here?"

"I came to see Harry," she admitted. "But I can also offer you my services as an apprenticed mediwitch."

The lines in Pomfrey's face eased a fraction. "Mr. Potter is behind that curtain," she explained, pointing toward the one little area blocked from view by screens. "After you assured yourself that he'll be fine -- which he will -- come back out here and get to work. These fancy Healers from St. Mungo's have no bedside manner and no idea how to manage children." It was then that Hermione spotted the two figures in the room wearing horrible lime-green robes.

She didn't need to be told twice; she quickly crossed the crowded room and quietly skirted around privacy screens until she was looking down into the sleep-slackened face of her best friend in the world. Hermione fought the urge to gather him into a bone-crushing hug; Harry had always been shy of such physical affection and she certainly didn't want to wake him.

He looked so much younger than his nineteen years, she noted, dark lashes against his ashen cheeks, glasses having been removed from his face. His hair was as messy as ever and Hermione couldn't deny the impulse to run her hands lightly over his forehead and through that fringe of hair which fell into his eyes, much as a mother would soothe a feverish child. Though her touch was light, Harry's lids slid open and she beamed down at him as he struggled to wake.

"Hey," he greeted her softly, obviously groggy.

"Hey yourself," she answered back, still smiling as she perched on the edge of his hospital bed as she had so many times before.

"What are you doing here? Thought you were in Peru."

"I was," she told him, running a hand over him to make sure he didn't try and sit up. "But how could I stay away when I heard that you were going up against Voldemort?" She said the word with no fear, now that her friend had defeated him.

"I did it," he told her, suddenly fierce. "He's gone forever, 'Mione."

"I know," she soothed. "You were brilliant." He smiled sleepily. "Thanks." He seemed to want to say more, but Hermione dissuaded him.

"You rest now, Harry," she advised, holding his hand in hers. "Don't worry; I'll be here when you wake up and we'll talk. Me, you and Ron. Like old times, okay?"

He nodded, at ease and already half-asleep again. Hermione surmised that Madam Pomfrey must have given a very strong sleeping draught to keep him quiet while he healed. Hermione didn't see any outward injuries other than a few cuts and scrapes on his skin, but she could only imagine the raw power he had utilized in defeating the Dark Lord. She released his hand, and tucked the covers more snugly around his sleeping form before she left his side to help Pomfrey tend the other wounded.

Just as she had numerous times at Nazca, Hermione allowed her mind to compartmentalize her worry into a forgotten little corner so that she could concentrate on helping those who needed her. She started with the younger students, mostly first and second years, who had been injured not in actual fighting but from structural damage and other effects-of-war. Their injuries were minor, but they were very shaken up; Hermione spent more time with them than strictly necessary, trying to soothe their frazzled nerves before moving on to help the older students who waited with stoic patience to be tended.

Hermione wasn't certain how long she'd been working in the hospital wing, but the number of unattended patients slowly dwindled between the combined efforts of Madam Pomfrey, the two St. Mungo's healers and herself.

Still, even as they worked, newly injured arrived, most of them upperclassmen who had fought in the last battle. One young Ravenclaw whom Hermione had remembered from her own days at Hogwarts was carried into the hospital wing by her two classmates, her leg as badly burned as if it had been held in a roaring fire and roasted. Hermione choked down her own disgust at the sight of the charred flesh and quickly assessed the damage, after directing the Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw to settle their injured friend one of the now-empty cots.

"I'll be right back," she assured the girl who was gamely trying to control her pain. "There are some potions I need."

Hermione was searching the Potions cabinet when Madam Pomfrey came up beside her to grab a few more doses of basic healing draughts.

"Do you have any of that burn paste?" she asked the older witch, hands still buried deeply as she sorted through the neatly labeled bottles in the cabinet. She suppressed the ache she felt at the sight of the familiar handwriting. "I've got a bad burn on Clarissa's leg and I need to get the heat down quickly as possible."

Pomfrey shook her head. "I've run out of it already. I would have had some more on hand if not that Severus..."

Hermione's heart contracted. "Has anyone heard from him since he left?"

Pomfrey shook his head, sadly. "I haven't and no one has mentioned it to me if they had." As if it were too painful to bear, the mediwitch bustled off, her hands heavy with bottles.

Hermione sighed shakily and gathered her thoughts. She reached for two less effective potions she hoped would closely enough mimic the effects she needed, her hands spasmodically tightening around the neck of the aloe-based cooling salve container.

It was difficult, but Hermione managed to pull the magically-induced heat from Clarrissa's blistered and bloody leg and slowly smothered it in the aloe-cool gel she had once helped Snape prepare in his private laboratory. By now, Hermione had shed the sweatshirt she'd worn under her blue robes and even they were left unclasped and hanging from her shoulders as the temperature seemed to rise in the room from the number of bodies packed into the area.

Finally, the aloe cooled the burning pain and Clarissa's eyes became more focused. She smiled timidly at Hermione, her blue eyes watching Hermione's hands as they worked. "Thanks, Hermione."

"You're welcome; I'm just glad that the aloe is finally starting to do its job," Hermione returned. "How's the pain?"

"Manageable," she confided. "I'm no longer begging Jacob to cut it off, at least."

"Like I was going to listen to your nattering anyway," Jacob, the other Ravenclaw, told her. Hermione noted that he looked relieved by his friend's progress.

"Just rest for now," she advised as she wiped her hands on the hem of her robe. "Try not to put any pressure on those blisters because we don't want them bursting." At Clarissa's pinched expression, she added. "Yes,'s not a fun thing."

By now, the noise in the infirmary had settled to a dull roar as the uninjured prefects had come and escorted those relatively healthy students back to their common rooms. Only those who were in need of extended hospital time were still in the wing, and most of them, like Clarissa and Harry, were not in the mood for long conversations.

With no more patients left to treat within the hospital wing, the St. Mungo's healers excused themselves to join the remainder of their colleagues who were still out around the castle grounds working triage, leaving Madam Pomfrey and Hermione alone in the infirmary. The resident mediwitch patted Hermione's hand as she hurried by, still busy with the administrative tasks of records and files while Hermione found an empty visitor's chair and pulled it up to Harry's side. Her friend was still sleeping, but Pomfrey had moved the screens away from his bed now that the wing had reached an manageable, if not usual, level of activity.

As soon as she sank into the cushions of the squashy, orange chair, the exhaustion that had haunted Hermione came upon her and she couldn't have kept her eyes opened if she'd wanted to. With her bright blue robes as a blanket and her sweatshirt balled up under her head as a pillow, she finally was able to sleep without any phantom enemies to chase her through her dreams.

It seemed as soon as she closed her eyes that Hermione became aware of someone gently shaking her but as she struggled to wake, she noticed that the sun was coming through the windows of the hospital wing at an more advanced angle than it had been when she had decided to rest. She raised bleary eyes to the person shaking her, only to see Craig's blue eyes smiling down at her.

"Craig," she murmured, still not quite awake.

"Yes, Craig," he teased. "The bloke that brought you here and who you abandoned at the first hint of someone better."

She suddenly remembered leaving him with Mr. Weasley and Mr. O'Malley as soon as she had seen Ron. "I'm sorry about that. I---"

He waved away her apology with his free hand, the occupied one balancing a tray of sandwiches and a pitcher of iced pumpkin juice. "That red headed guy -- Ron, right? -- he told me to tell you that he couldn't get away right now but as soon as Moody was through with him, he'd be back to check on Harry." He paused to point toward his burden. "And that bossy little healer in the mob cap told me to bring you something to eat, because she assumed you'd need it. Who is she, anyway?"

"Madam Pomfrey," she informed as she took the tray from him, settling it on Harry's unused nightstand. Craig grabbed himself a chair and pulled it alongside Hermione's. "And thank you, for the food. Now that I think about it, I am rather hungry."

As the two of them -- apparently, Craig was as hungry as she -- made quick work on the sandwiches and juice, the young Auror told Hermione all of the details he'd gleaned while going about his business with O'Malley. "There was a surprisingly small number of causalities," Craig told her. "I'd wager that Dumbledore had to have some kind of warning ahead of time, judging by the way this all turned out." Craig gulped down the last of his juice. "I've heard rumors that Dumbledore's Order had a spy working for them, someone with a real inside with the Death Eaters. You know anything about that?" The calm mood Hermione had cultivated so carefully quickly crumbled, the blood draining from her face. "I can't say that I do," she told him faintly. Not now...I can't do this now.

There was an awkward silence, as if Craig realized -- too late -- that his question had hurt Hermione in some way. He cleared this throat nervously as she made an elaborate production of straightening the empty plates and glassware on the tray.

The uneasy silence stretched between them so long that Craig looked relieved when he heard the sounds of approaching feet and two male voices talking, loud enough to be discernible as noise but too quiet for any more distinction to be made.

Hermione had stood up and moved the empty tray away from Harry's bedside before she began to busy herself with changing the linen on one of the empty beds left in the infirmary. She was bent over, doing straightening the sheet over the mattress when Dumbledore sauntered into the infirmary, looking as hale and happy as he always did. She was about to smile at that constant -- old wise Dumbledore looking both supremely and serenely in command of the universe -- when his companion stepped completely into the wing behind him, the two of them conferring in low tones.

Though his robes were ragged and torn, his face streaked with dirt and dried blood, and his defeated posture radiated exhaustion, he was the most glorious sight Hermione had ever seen because he was wonderfully, inexplicably alive.

She must have made a noise of surprise because he cut his eyes in her direction as if to see who was guilty of distracting him from his obviously important conversation; but when they landed on her, as she stood motionless with shock, Snape's eyes stilled, his whole frame tense as he watched her with an intensity that was almost frightening. He went absolutely quiet.

Suddenly, no one else in the room mattered to Hermione; Dumbledore, Pomfrey, Craig and even Harry faded away as her whole attention focused on Snape, on the fact that he was mere meters away from her, that he was breathing, that he lived despite all evidence to the contrary. In that first second, she'd been paralyzed, but then she was moving, hurtling herself toward at the precise moment he stepped toward her and they met somewhere in the middle of the room, Hermione flinging her arms around his neck and holding on as tightly as she could, unconcerned that there were tears running silently down her face, only aware of the fact that Snape was returning her desperate embrace, that his arms were wrapped around her waist, his face buried against neck, murmuring soft words she couldn't hear over the fast-paced beating of her own heart.

What she felt in that moment eclipsed any of the relief she had felt at knowing that Harry was alive or that Voldemort had been defeated. There was such a sense of haven -- of heaven -- of the organic rightness of his arms around her, of him being alive that Hermione wanted to laugh as well as cry, to hold on until she could absorb something of him into herself so that she could never miss him again.

Snape pulled back a little from the embrace, just enough so that he could look into her eyes as he spoke, "Hermione...I thought you were -- in -- I thought you were safe."

"I was," she told him, voice strangled with overemotion. "But I came, when I heard, oh..." She blinked, tears still sliding down her cheeks. Snape touched one hand to her wet face, gently wiping at the tears on her cheeks, his intensely dark eyes looking at her questionably. Hermione shook her head, fighting to explain. "I thought you were dead," she whispered and her bottom lip trembled, every ounce of anguish she'd felt since his last ominous letter pouring out in that one, feared word.

It was Snape, this time, that reached for her, crushing her desperately to him for a brief moment. "No," he said softly, against her skin, his breath hot against her neck. "Not dead."

Hermione raised a trembling hand to touch an ugly-looking cut flecked with dried blood which slashed its way across the sallow skin of his forehead. "No," she agreed. "You're right here."

"Alive if not in perfect condition," Dumbledore warmly teased, his old face creased from the knowing smile which stretched his lips. The old wizard's interjection brought Hermione and Snape back to themselves and they pulled away guiltily, putting the proper amount of space between them, reminded reality and supposed propriety. Snape was still distinctly uncomfortable and Hermione shifted her weight nervously from foot to foot. "I'm sure he could use one or two of his own healing concoctions."

"Albus," Snape began warningly, but the headmaster cut him off with a wave of his hand as he turned his twinkling eyes to Hermione.

"Miss Granger," he said gently. "I didn't realize that you'd be here but I think it must be a stroke of good fortune. I had come for Madam Pomfrey's assistance but I daresay that you are most likely more of an expert in the matters at hand. As much as I detest having to draw you away from..." Dumbledore quickly glanced around the room, eyes touching on the sleeping Harry and the surprised Craig, "...hmmm...yes...Harry's side, but I must beg use of your healing skills on a most important person."

"Oh, yes. Of course," she nodded, hand patting the skirt pocket where she'd stuffed her wand. "Of course, I'll help."

"Good," he nodded, placing a gnarled hand on her shoulder. "Come with me, then, Miss Granger. I'm afraid our patient isn't well enough to move at this particular moment." He drew Hermione toward the door and Snape swayed slightly as he wanted to follow them. "No, Severus," Dumbledore ordered him firmly. "You stay here and have the Madam look you over. You were hit by a very nasty curse. Madam Pomfrey!"

Snape obeyed and moved no further as Dumbledore gave the mediwitch the strict instructions of examining Snape and making him rest. Before she was pulled from the infirmary, Hermione had one more glance of Snape's unfathomable black eyes watching her departure and she just caught the strange expression of curiosity with which Craig watched her watching Snape.

When she and Dumbledore were alone in the corridor, he apologized again. "I am sorry," he said. "Not only am I sorry that I didn't allow you a proper moment with Severus," -- Hermione turned crimson but said nothing -- "but that I didn't communicate with you about Severus and his last mission. I had assumed...well, I had hoped that he had left you with some assurance of his success and, at the end, I was as uncertain of his state as you have been. Until yesterday, I feared that he had died as well."

The headmaster patted her shoulder reassuringly and the guided her down the stairs, through the castle until they had reached one of the empty classrooms -- empty except for one figure laying prone and another kneeling beside it. The latter looked up at the sound of Hermione and Dumbledore's approach.

"Hermione!" exclaimed Ginny in surprise. "What are you doing here?"

"Everyone keeps asking me that," Hermione smiled tiredly. "Right now, I'm here to help."

"Hermione?" The voice was hoarse, quiet with pain, but she instantly recognized it and knelt at his side, Ginny moving over to give her room.

"Remus," she breathed in relief, smiling down into his sweaty, ashen face. It was obvious that he was in a great deal of pain, but -- he was alive. "How are you feeling?"

"If you must know, terrible," he told her quietly. He waved toward a painful-looking wound in his side, the bloodied skin exposed by where his shirt had been torn away. "Poisoned dagger. Silver. I was on my way to see Pomfrey but I couldn't make it any farther. Thank heavens, Ginny found me."

Hermione didn't like the way the skin was blackening around the wound, a sign of the silver working retroactively in Lupin's system. He recoiled from her hand as she touched the swollen area but he made no sound of protest at her expert exploration.

"Miss Granger, do you believe that you may be able to help him?" Dumbledore, who had remained at the classroom's door, asked of her.

She turned back to look at him as she answered. "I believe so. I should be able to help him enough that he can be moved, anyway."

Dumbledore nodded. "If you do not require my presence, I admit that I have a great deal to do."

"If Ginny doesn't mind helping me..." Ginny nodded her assent and Hermione waved the headmaster away. "We'll be fine, sir. Thank you."

The old wizard nodded and quietly left the two young women to their silently suffering patient. Hermione returned her attention to Remus whose pallor was worsening at an alarming rate. "How long has it been since you received this?"

"About -- an hour," he answered, breathing heavily as if it were becoming more difficult to do so. "I...can't be sure."

The healer-in-training glanced at her red-haired friend. Ginny herself looked to be in much better shape than anyone Hermione had seen yet, though even she, too, looked worn and tired. "Ginny, I need you to go up to Pomfrey and tell her what's wrong. Have her send back down something to burn out the silver and a vial of that panacea potion that Snape makes. And the wound needs to be cleaned! Tell her that and she'll know what else to send."

"Okay," she nodded, rising. "Good luck, Professor Lupin," she said to him as a farewell before scurrying from the room, robes and red hair streaming behind her.

"Good luck, she says. As if I have any," Remus teased, earning himself a reproving look from his companion.

Hermione made a disparaging noise. "This is no time for gallow's humor," she told him. Without hesitation, she ripped the shirt fabric more, until the whole of the swollen, blackened area around the wound was visible to her eyes and accessible to her fingers. It was too deep and delicate for Hermione to use a sterilizing charm on it as she had Malfoy's, and she didn't want to risk pushing any trace of silver deeper into the wound. The silver, she surmised, was just as dangerous to the werewolf as the poison and anything -- including the jostle of a stretcher -- could allow the silver contamination to spread.

"So?" Lupin managed to ask lightly, watching the train of thought flicker across her face. He licked his dry lips and tried to keep himself from shivering.

"You'll live," she assured him. "Maybe not painlessly, but you'll survive."

"And here I was worried," he mumbled, closing his eyes. Hermione ran a gentle hand over his damp forehead, much as she had done with Harry hours earlier.

"Once I get it cleaned, we can move you to the hospital wing," she said. "You'll be more comfortable there."

Remus didn't seem to be listening to Hermione. He opened his eyes. "Have you seen Harry?"

"Yes," she told him. "He's fine. Asleep, and resting -- but fine."

"Good," he remarked, visibly relieved. "I saw Ron take him and I wasn't..." He shook his head, kind eyes searching Hermione's face. "Hermione...I'm sorry about -- about Severus. I don't know what..."

"No, Snape's fine," Hermione told him, gripping the hand which lay near her. "I saw him myself, just before I came down to see you."

"Really?" Lupin actually looked pleased at the news that Snape was alive. "We're weren't certain, you see, or else...when Ginny asked..."

"I know, Remus." She squeezed his hand. "Now, you rest and stop talking. Ginny will be here soon and then everything will be alright."

For once, Hermione didn't consider the platitude to be an empty one.


By the time Hermione and Ginny had tended Lupin and gotten him settled in the infirmary, it was early in the evening and Harry had awoken. The Boy-Who-Lived was plainly glad to see both she and Ginny, glad to be surrounded by old friends. There was still a sadness about him, Hermione noticed, but he seemed relaxed, as if the burden of the world's problems no longer weighed down on his narrow shoulders. After a while, she took the subtle hint that her friends wanted to be alone and she took her leave, stating loudly that she was retiring for the evening. Neither Ginny nor Harry paid her much attention as she departed and Hermione laughingly left the infirmary after checking with Madam Pomfrey about Remus's condition. Assured that she would not be needed in the hospital wing for the remainder of the evening, Hermione eschewed her original intent of sleep and headed down into the dungeons.

She was pleased, though surprised, that Snape's wards still answered to her commands; Hermione had thought that he would have changed them after she'd left for the summer. However, she took advantage of his oversight and let herself in to his office -- where he wasn't -- and quietly stepped into his private laboratory. She wasn't surprised to find him there, skillfully managing a half-dozen bubbling cauldrons.

So absorbed in his work, Snape didn't seem to notice her as she entered. Hermione took that moment of freedom to watch him engaged in the familiar, hypnotic movements of potions-making and allowed her heart to warm from the sight. He had obviously made use of the time since they'd parted because he was no longer dirty or ragged, but well-scrubbed and dressed plainly in a white shirt and dark trousers. His hair looked damp, not oily, and the cut on his forehead was no longer bleeding or raw. Medical attention, she surmised, as well as a bath.

"I should have known that I'd find you here," she observed aloud, leaning lazily against the entrance with her arms crossed. He paused in mid-motion, head snapping up to look at her. She smiled at him. "Although, Madam Pomfrey is under the distinct impression that you're resting in your chambers."

Snape glanced back to his workbench, arching an eyebrow at her statement even while he intently watched his hands' work. "And Madam Pomfrey is also in dire need of medicinal potions," he informed her. "As you should know, since you had quite a hand in their depletion."

"All for a good cause," Hermione assured him. "And, I'll have you know, that Pomfrey had already run through a great deal of inventory before I arrived to help her." She moved to the closest workbench and leaned across it, also watching Snape's hands as he worked the knife with minute precision over a bunch of green herbs -- thyme, she decided from the smell.

"Yes," Snape said absently, still focused on his task. "You never explained exactly how you came to be here when, at last I had heard, you were in Peru in mediwizardry training."

His tone was as it always had been between them, just as Hermione's casual but shuttered movements were. Gone were those moments -- unguarded ones, propelled by overwhelming emotions -- that they'd experienced in the infirmary, both tightly contained again within the bounds of what they perceived as correct behavior. They had slipped easily back into the familiar and easy roles, abandoning the more difficult ones that might better reveal their true feelings.

Hermione knew this to be true of herself but could only speculate for Snape; however, she accepted it and was glad to have it, if it were all she could have of him. "Well, I was in Peru," she explained. "But when news that Hogwarts had been attacked reached me, I felt that I had to come back, so I procured a portkey and came here. Well, I ended up in Ireland but then Mr. Malley -- with the Aurors. You know him? -- well, I came up to Howarts with him."

"I see," Snape returned, pausing in his work. He leaned against the workbench in a manner which mimicked hers and regarded her fixedly. "So you thought that your presence for demanded by current events -- one might think that you'd have thought the reverse more logical."

He was teasing and she knew it. Hermione rolled her eyes. "I was in no danger," she said to the faint reproach in his sly comment. "By the time we arrived in Ireland, it was over anyway and I knew that Voldemort was dead."

"We?" Snape echoed questioningly.

"Craig and I, I mean. He came to Peru to fetch me back," she told him.

Snape gave an abrupt but quickly aborted movement, as if he meant to react and thought better of it. "Ah, yes. Your Auror...friend." Suddenly, his cauldrons called for attention and he busied himself checking them.

"I asked him to," Hermione elaborated. "To let me know as soon as something happened. Being an Auror, he was in a good position to do that." When Snape made no attempt to reply, she glanced down into one of the cauldrons closest to her. "Is this what I think it is?"

Snape looked up from the cauldron he was stirring. "If you think it is a variation of de Lancy's burn salve, then yes."

"I could have used this for Clarissa's leg this afternoon," Hermione mused, watching the white cream bubble. "She'll definitely want for it tomorrow. That leg of hers will be aching for weeks."

"Many of us will," Snape informed her, one hand going to rub gingerly at the base of his spine. "It is one of the many legacies of Dark spells -- their effects tend to linger."

"I know," Hermione admitted grimly. She nodded toward his back, remembering Dumbledore's words in the infirmary. "Is that where you took your...ah, nasty curse?"

Snape removed his hand from his back, his face dark with restrained savagery. "Yes," he answered, the darkness in his voice. "...Someone that I had thought incapacitated hit me with some curse as I turned away. I didn't realize that it was otherwise until I felt it hit me. I'm not even certain what curse it was, actually."

"Rather a coward's way, wasn't it?" Hermione observed dispassionately.

Snape shrugged, an elegant motion even without his robes. "Some might simply say it was the most opportune way," he told her.

"A Slytherin?" she asked, eyebrow raised.

"A Slytherin might, yes," he acknowledged, measuring a powdered herb in the palm of his hand before tossing it into one of the cauldrons.

"Yes, but still..." she half-argued, letting the rest of her sentence trail away.

"Are you implying that all Slytherins are cowards, Miss Granger?" Snape asked, glancing at her before looking back to his cauldron.

"I know better than that," Hermione retorted in her defense.

"Then, at least I've managed to teach you something in our acquaintance," Snape told her approvingly.

"Surely you realized that I've learned more than that from you," Hermione laughed, idly watching the cauldron of burn salve at her elbow as it frothed and swirled from the heat applied to it.

"Sometimes, I wonder," Snape murmured under his breath.

She laughed again, although she was quickly distracted by the cauldron she watched. She frowned, peering down at the white substance in concentration. "So, this is a derivative of the de Lancy burn salve, yes?"

"Yes, Miss Granger, since it hasn't changed since last you asked me," Snape told her sardonically.

She looked at him skeptically. "Then shouldn't you have added the pumpkin seed paste by now?"

Snape gave her a look that said that he did not appreciate her telling him how to make potions, taking a few steps to look into the cauldron himself. "Of course not, I..." he trailed off before snarling, "Damn!"

"Calm down," she told him soothingly, shrugging out of her blue robes and tossing them over an unused bench. "Now, budge up."

Snape looked at her disbelievingly, as if she were speaking a different language -- one he didn't understand. "I beg your pardon?"

Hermione pushed up the sleeves of her sweatshirt and rolled her eyes as she circled around the workbench until she was standing at his side. "I said budge up so that I may help you -- starting with this cream. I can salvage it."

He watched as the young woman elbowed her way into his space and began reaching across the tabletop for his marble mortar with its matching pestle and a glass jar of seeds. "I didn't realize that you'd gained a mastership in potions-making since last I saw you," Snape observed coolly, watching as she poured the seeds into the mortar.

"I didn't," she admitted, using her wand to lower the heat under the burn salve before she grabbed the pestle. "However, I have become an adept at medicinal potions which is, after all, my specialty." She glanced at him slyly, waving the pestle for emphasis. "You'd be surprised how much one can learn studying under a good potions teacher."

His eyes gleamed with that light she remembered from her last year of classes as he looked down at her, an enigmatic expression on his face. "I'm not certain how I'm supposed to take that," he said, voice deep with humor.

"Take it how you like," she told him briskly, finally placing the pestle in the mortar to grind the seeds, "as long as you get out of my way and add that thyme to that other cauldron before you ruin that batch, too."

"Of course, Madam," he playfully conceded, shaking his head as he moved to do as she instructed. A few minutes later, he looked up from his latest task to watch as Hermione added the paste to the cauldron. "Troublesome creature," he muttered under his breath. Hermione simlpy grinned, keeping her focus on her task.

Though they were both tired, aching and emotionally spent after the long day they had had, both Hermione and Snape were reticent to leave the laboratory or the warm presence of the other. So, the pair passed the half the night together, content with making potions and trading barbs as long as they had each other for company.

Heart Over Mind

A Harry Potter Story
by Regann

Part 19 of 27

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