Chapter 23

Hermione is in the same set of rooms she left a little over two months before. There are no elves hanging wallpaper this time, and no snake. Now the furnishings are bright and there are toys flying through the air as a little blue-haired boy laughs in delight. His pink-haired mother looks up in surprise. "Hermione!"

"Tonks," Hermione gasps, and throws her arms around the woman she last saw staring unseeing at the ceiling of the Great Hall.

"Not that it isn't lovely to see you, but what are you doing at Hogwarts in the middle of the day?"

"Erm," Hermione says. So she doesn't work here.

"I want Daddy!" the little boy says.

"Daddy's teaching, love. I told you that," Tonks tells him.

And Remus is alive. Teaching DADA, presumably, which is why Hermione isn't.

There's a knock at the door and Tonks opens it.

"Severus!" Hermione cries, falling into his arms.

"You act like he's returned from the dead," Tonks says. "You saw him just last Saturday at Fred and Angelina's wedding."

"Fred?" Hermione laughs through her tears. "Severus, we did it! We bloody well did it."

"Let's have Poppy check you out," Severus says, then looks at Tonks over Hermione's shoulder. "Work accident. She'll be fine."

"Is everyone alive?" Hermione asks once the door is closed behind them.

"Every one of them."

"And Riddle stayed dead?"

"Deader than Merlin," Severus assures her.

"How did you find me?"

"I knew you were in one of the rooms close to Minerva's office, so I used Hominem Revelio outside each of the doors till I found you."

"Minerva's office? Albus isn't Headmaster still?" Her eyes go wide. "You didn't kill him, did you?"

"No, I didn't kill him, though there were any number of times I'd have liked to," he says. "The Board forced him into retirement a few years ago. Too many dangerous accidents happening to students over the years. Lucius made it a priority."

"Good." Hermione grins mischievously. "Oh, and Severus? I don't need the hospital wing." Her smile turns predatory. "But I do need to be taken to bed."

"I did some more research on the temporal shift potion after you left," he says, as though he didn't even hear her flirtatious proposition. "None of the Unspeakables had used it as long as you did, and there were side effects we didn't – Hermione!" He catches her as she sways against him.

"I see what you mean," she says, leaning unsteadily against him as he pushes open the door to the hospital wing.

"Hermione, Severus," Poppy says. "What are you both doing here?"

"Hermione's had a little accident," Severus says. "Can you run a full diagnostic?"

"Of course. But—"

"I'll explain, Poppy. But run the diagnostic first, please."

Hermione watches Poppy frown as she waves her wand over Hermione and different parts of her glow different colors.

"You've suffered significant organ damage," Poppy tells her. "You're going to need several potions we don't have on hand, in addition to the usual healing potions we do have. I'll go get those and ask Neville to brew the others."

"Neville?" Hermione gasps. "You're going to ask Neville to brew potions for me? Poppy, are you trying to kill me?"

"Hermione, you know Neville is an excellent Potions Master. How could he not be, training with Severus?"

"She's had some memory loss as well, Poppy," Severus cuts in before Hermione can say anything else.

"You let Neville Longbottom apprentice with you?" Hermione whispers as Poppy heads for her supply cabinet.

"Turns out he was quite brilliant at potions once he got over being terrified of me. He devised a potion that cured his parents' Cruciatus damage for his mastery project."

"Any other bombshells I should know about?"

"Quite a few, actually. Until things start coming back, say as little as possible, and no more outbursts like that one."

"When am I going to start remembering things?"

"Probably within a day or so, but you won't remember everything for several months. Arthur can fill you in enough to get you through in the meantime."

"Arthur?"

"Arthur Weasley, your boss."

"He's still Minister?"

"No."

"I saved the world and now I work in Misuse of Muggle Artifacts? Really?"

"That's exactly the kind of outburst we don't want," Severus says.

"Why can't you fill me in?"

"There's something I need to do. I'll be away for a few months, and then –"

"Severus, no! You can't."

"I have to."

"No. I don't know anything about the last seven years and you're the only one who can tell me and –"

"Arthur can."

"Sod Arthur! I want you to tell me! You're the one I'm in love with."

"Not in this timeline," he says, and glances at her left hand. She follows his eyes. There's an enormous square cut diamond set in platinum on her ring finger. And from the way Severus is looking at her, he's not the one who put it there. He stands up. "Arthur's on his way. He'll explain everything."

"No," she says. "Severus, no, please."

The door opens and Draco comes in. "Hermione, are you all right? Tonks said you'd had an accident." He takes her hand and brings it to his lips.

"Severus," Hermione says, but he's walking out the door. "Severus, don't!"

"What's wrong, love?" Draco asks as her tears fall. "What is it?"

"I don't know," she says, and she doesn't, but she's starting to suspect. She's crying harder when Poppy gets back with her potions, and Malfoy – no, Draco if he's the one who gave her that Malfoy-sized rock – is fussing over her.

"Here you are, dear. Drink these," Poppy says, setting a series of small bottles down on the table next to Hermione's bed.

"When can she come home?" Draco asks.

Where's home? Hermione wonders. Does she live with Draco?

"Oh, not for several days at least," Poppy replies.

Draco frowns.

"What's wrong?" Hermione asks.

"Mother's charity ball tomorrow night. You haven't forgotten?"

"Hermione isn't going to any balls for a while yet, young man," Poppy says sternly, then turns to Hermione and indicates one of the potions. "That one will make you sleep, dear."

Hermione nods and drinks it along with the others that Neville Longbottom the Potions Master brewed for her. She hopes she wakes up again. Draco sits with her, holding her hand, until she falls asleep.