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After Life by Unicorn_Charm

Format: Novella
Chapters: 11
Word Count: 26,043
Status: WIP

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Contains profanity, Strong violence, Scenes of a sexual nature, Sensitive topic/issue/theme

Genres: Romance, Angst, AU
Characters: Hermione, Lupin, Snape, James, Lily, Tonks, Sirius, Regulus, Fred, OtherCanon
Pairings: Hermione/OC, James/Lily, Remus/Tonks, Snape/OC

First Published: 11/30/2017
Last Chapter: 04/24/2018
Last Updated: 04/24/2018

Summary:

Amazing banner by beyond the rain@tda
Featured Story December 2017
H P F T - F.R.O.G.S. 3rd Place for Best HP Major Character - Hermione Granger




Hermoine's death had certainly been unexpected.
Severus Snape being the one to help her cope in the Afterlife, with the sadness of leaving behind nearly everyone she cared for?
Also unexpected.



Hermione/Severus


Chapter 1: Strange.
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Strange had not been the word to describe it. For the first time in Hermione Granger’s life, she had not been able to search the vast index of her mind to come up with the proper word to describe the feeling of boarding the Hogwarts Express without her two closest friends, Harry Potter and Ron Weasley.

Although the war was won, and the threat of Voldemort no longer hung over their heads, the atmosphere on the train was much more subdued than she could ever remember it being. The last time many of the students had been inside the walls of the castle, it had been mostly blown apart, with many — too many, casualties accompanying the wreckage. People were still very much in mourning

As she sat down in a compartment with Ginny Weasley and Luna Lovegood, the three girls knew better than to try to attempt small talk. It wasn’t as if they hadn’t seen one another throughout the summer holidays. There were more than enough funerals for them all to attend.

As always, when facing something you’d rather not face, their arrival to Hogsmeade station arrived much sooner than Hermione would have liked. It wasn’t that she hadn’t wanted to go back to school. Merlin knew that the structure and routine of it was what she craved to get her back to feeling somewhat human again. It was more that, she wasn’t exactly sure how entering Hogwarts again would affect her.

Hermione rose slowly from her seat, once the train came to a complete stop. She stretched out her stiff muscles, with a few audible cracks in her back, then queued up the rest of the students to exit.

Hagrid’s booming voice called out to the first years, yet she couldn’t help but to have noticed it lacked its usual jovial tone.

She raised a hand in his direction to say hello, but he hadn’t noticed her in the sea of incoming students. Perhaps over the weekend she would call at his hut for some tea, and choke down his rock cakes, she thought.

Would Hagrid’s hut still have been there, she wondered? So much had gone up in flames, or was blasted clear away. Even with magic, how much could have possibly been repaired in such a short amount of time?

The pressing silence that surrounded her broke her from her thoughts. Dozens of students stood frozen, as they stared at the black skeletal, winged horse-like creatures that pulled the school carriages. Hermione understood the reaction; it was the first time she had seen the Thestrals as well.

Slowly, almost one at a time, the students began whispering to one another. The low hiss of it all seemed to confuse the animals, who began stomping impatiently at the ground.

“I hadn’t realized…” Ginny trailed off, her eyes glimmering with unshed tears.

Luna placed her hand on Ginny’s shoulder to comfort her. Uncharacteristically, Hermione hadn’t known what to say.

As the carriage brought them up to the castle, Hermione hadn’t realized she’d been holding her breath, waiting for Hogwarts to come into view. Slowly it appeared, gently arising from beyond the horizon, like the early morning sun. The towers and turrets, once a source of comfort and refuge, now brought with it some of the worst memories she was sure she would have for the rest of her life. Almost as if she were living through it again, she began to hear the shouts of battle, the cries of those who had watched a loved one fall before them, and the thunderous noise of dozens of spells being cast.

Her breathing sped up, coming out in short shallow huffs. Luna spoke up quietly beside her.

“It’ll be alright, Hermione. We’re safe here,” her dreamy voice tried to reassure her. “Try to take some deep breaths through your nose, and out your mouth. It’ll calm you down.”

Hermione nodded, and began to do as she said. Luna had been correct. There wasn’t anyone who would hurt her inside the school now. Voldemort was dead, as well as most of his Death Eaters. Those who survived now rotted away behind the dreary walls of Azkaban.

She was safe.

Ginny and Hermione parted from Luna while entering The Great Hall. The first years, who filed in down the center of the room, would have never known a war had broken out in that very room, just four short months before. The walls had all been spelled back together, the four house tables sat exactly where they had for the six years she originally attended the school, and the high table was filled with the familiar faces of her professors, just as it always had.

With one, notable exception.

Strange… there was that word again. It was strange not seeing the bored, bordering on disdainful sneer of her old Potions professor sat alongside his colleges. The absence of Severus Snape was poignant.

After the war, Harry, Hermione and Ron had been busy telling the entire Wizarding community of what Snape had done for them all. How he had been working for the Order, up until his final breath. For that reason, Hermione suspected, the other professors kept his usual seat empty during the Sorting. Out of respect for the hero, once thought a traitor to them all.

Hermione had not been able to take her eyes away from the vacant chair, as a terrible sadness washed over her. How horrible, she thought, that he had died thinking everyone he had ever considered a friend thought him a monster. Snape would never had had the chance to accept the gratitude he now earned from many in the community after his death. She wondered if he knew. That, wherever peopled ended up when they died, if he knew that he was finally recognized as the hero he had been?

After the Sorting, and the Welcoming Feast, Hermione would have loved to had just been able to head straight to the Gryffindor Common Room, and up to her dormitory, but sadly she could not. Over the summer, as she probably should have expected, a shiny Head Girl badge arrived with her Hogwarts letter. As Head Girl, she was expected to lead the new batch of Gryffindors through the castle, and show them the way to their new home.

It was a funny thing, how much smaller the First Years seemed to become with each passing year. Obviously she had known that was due to the fact that she was continuing to grow, not that children were somehow becoming smaller. However, she did have that moment most older students have, in wondering if she had ever been that tiny.

Like a mother duck, with her ducklings in tow, Hermione led the excited group of Gryffindors through the castle. She smiled to herself as they pointed out the talking portraits, or the random ghosts floating about around them. As customary, Nearly Headless Nick stopped by to welcome them, and make his usual quip about hoping they contributed to winning the House Cup at the end of the year.

They’d done a remarkable job on the castle, she noted to herself as they walked on. Mostly everything had been back to normal, with just a few small exceptions. She’d meant to take a bit of a shortcut up to Gryffindor Tower, yet when she turned left off of a staircase on the third floor, the corridor she’d trekked up and down more times than she could have counted, was blocked off.

Looking down it, her chest felt hollow, seeing the stone and rubble still scattered on the ground. The First Years went momentarily silent, before a low buzz of gossip about the war sounded out between them.

That noise seemed to fill her head again. The screaming, shattering glass, the wailing cries from those witnessing friends die in front of them. She could have almost seen the red and green lights flashing out before her eyes.

Hermione gently shook her head, and tore her eyes from the wreckage, then quickly turned and directed them to a longer route upstairs without saying a word.

After giving the new students a brief tour of the Common Room, Hermione bid them all a goodnight, and suggested they head to bed, to prepare for their first day of lessons in the morning. Sluggishly she dragged herself up the stairs, and into her private room, as Head Girl.

She was thankful to Professor McGonagall for not making her share a room. Even though she was a little more than a year older than her fellow classmates, it seemed to make quite the difference. Between her actual age apart from them, the amount of times she used the time-turner during her third year, and how much being on the run the previous year seemed to age her -- both physically and mentally, she felt as if she would have had nothing in common with her dormmates.

While she laid in bed, attempting to fall asleep, her mind inexplicably traveled back to Professor Snape. Although obviously he hadn’t been the friendliest professor, he was the one teacher who always challenged Hermione. All of the others praised her work, referring to her as brilliant on more occasions than was necessary.

Yet Snape, he always looked for more. Each time she would see one of his red slashes on her assignments, with a scathing comment, it always forced her to work harder, and truly push her intelligence to its limits. She worked more diligently in Potions -- and then Defense Against the Dark Arts during her sixth year, than she had in any of her other classes. She loved it; she thrived on it. A part of her felt lost at the thought of not being pushed that hard this coming year.

Without Snape there, the year was bound to be, well… strange.

A/N - The entire premise of this fic just hit me like whoa the other night, and I had to start writing. If you're one of the people reading my other fic, Saving Severus Snape, I have not abandoned that to work on this, by any means. I'm going to be working on both. Pretty much when my muse isn't cooperating with one, I'll switch over to the other. I have 3 chapters of this already written, and am going to be trying to post them weekly/bi-weekly, until I'm no longer caught up on chapters. I haven't ever seen a fic where Hermione dies and meets/falls in love with Severus in the afterlife, so I thought I would give this a shot. I hope you all like it!


Chapter 2: Uneasy.
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The first day of classes seemed to have flown by. Getting back into the swing of having a set schedule, and sitting through her lessons filled Hermione with a sense of peace that she hadn’t felt in many months.

Meals in The Great Hall with her classmates hadn’t been as comfortable as she hoped they would have been — like they were at a different time in her life. Most of the younger students stared at Hermione, who was one of the most famous heroes of the war. She tried to ignore it the best she could have, but when some of the first years blatantly pointed at her during dinner that evening from across the hall, she hadn’t been able to take it any longer.

Gathering her belongings, she told Ginny she was going to the library, before she had to do her first night of rounds.

As she walked alone through the dark corridors of the castle, only an occasional gas lantern, or the soft silver glow from the moon lighting her way, she felt a bit on edge. She tried not to be alone in the dark much, if she could have helped it.

Over the summer holidays, she hadn’t even slept alone. She either shared a room with Ginny, if she were at The Burrow, or slept on the floor in Harry’s room, the nights she spent at Grimmauld Place. Fewer nightmares happened if she had someone nearby.

She walked briskly, hoping that the exertion would have cleared her head, and melted away the anxiety of so many awed young eyes searing into her. Fame hadn’t ever been something she was comfortable with. She learned that during her fourth year, and it was moreso reinforced over the summer. She hadn’t felt as if she deserved the moniker of hero. She’d only done what she had to in order to have survived.

As she passed the Prefects’ bathroom on the fifth floor, suddenly she was filled with that sense that she was being followed. Hermione turned around quickly, wand at the ready.

No one was there.

Lighting her wand, she aimed it down the hallway behind her, a thin stream of light beamed out in front of her. She remained still, straining her ears for any sign of movement, but all she heard was the sound of her own heart pounding.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” she scolded herself, as she tucked her wand back inside the sleeve of her robes.

Even though she tried to tell herself it was nothing, the rest of the walk to the library, she couldn’t shake that feeling of unease that settled into her chest. Something had just felt off.

As she suspected, she was the only student sat in the library. Most of the student body would still have been in The Great Hall for dinner. Those who were finished, she assumed, were retreating to their common rooms.

Hermione missed her friends, even though it had only been a day since she had seen them. Pulling some parchment from her bag, along with ink and a quill, she’d decided to write to both Harry and Ron, as she promised them each she would.

She kept her letters light and superficial. Telling them each how much she enjoyed being back, but how different it had been without them both with her. She joked about sending some parcels filled with Hagrid’s abysmal cooking, and perhaps one of Professor Sprout’s Venomous Tentacular plants.

Signing the letter with her love, and promises to see each of them during the school’s first Hogsmeade visit, she sealed the letters and placed them into her bag.

There was still a bit of time before she needed to begin rounds, so she figured she would take a walk to the Owlry to send them, with the hopes that that would have meant she’d receive owls back from them more quickly than if she waited until morning.

The entire walk through the castle, and out onto the grounds, she still hadn’t been able to shake that uneasy feeling that she was being followed. If anyone would have seen her, they would have assumed she’d developed some sort of nervous tick from the war, with the amount of times she stopped dead in her tracks to survey the space around her.

After she sent her two letters on their way, Hermione began a slow decent down the stairs of the tower. She trailed her hand along the cold stone beside her, taking care to look out at the scenery before her. She was relieved to find that Hagrid’s hut stood just on the edge of the forest, looking quite the same as the last time she’d seen it. Just a small addition seemed to have been made -- an extra room was added on.

Obviously the Quidditch pitch had been fully restored, since she couldn’t have imagined Professor McGonagall allowing the sport not to have been played, knowing what an avid fan of the game she was. Most of Professor Sprout’s greenhouses had been repaired, only three of them still being either completely obliterated, or partially collapsed. Parts of the castle had magical yellow strips blocking it off, reminding her much of Muggle construction tape. Yet the Muggles hadn’t used anything quite as shimmery, or that levitated on its own.

Her attention was brought back to the Forbidden Forest, when she caught something just in the periphery of her vision. A Thestral bobbed up above the trees, before just as quickly disappearing back into the forest.

Looking up at the sky, she noticed the moon was full that evening, and a wave of sadness came over her, as she thought of poor little Teddy Lupin, another orphan of the war. Just like his godfather. She missed Remus. And Tonks. She hadn’t been as close to Tonks as Ginny became. Truly, the two wild souls seemed to have had much more in common than she and Hermione did. But Remus she always felt was a kindred spirit. It was unfair that they had been taken from the world, just as Remus had finally found love and family, after so many years in solitude.

As she walked through the grounds, and back towards the castle, she heard a ruffling in some bushes behind her. Her breath caught in her throat, as she spun with her wand out and ready once more.

Shining her light on the bushes, she squinted, as she thought she saw the reflection of two eyes looking back at her. Her pulse rushed through her ears while she took a step forward. It was completely silent for a heartbeat, then Hermione yelped as something came bounding out before her.

For a moment, she was completely stunned. She couldn’t move, due to the shock of what stood before her. It couldn’t have been, she thought to herself. She was more than sure he had died.

A squash-faced orange cat trotted towards her, his bushy tail swinging behind him. Hermione felt her throat tighten at the sight. Almost instinctively, as he grew nearer, she opened her arms, and the cat jumped up into her arms.

“Crookshanks!” she cried, with her face buried into his fur. “I thought I’d lost you!”

He purred happily in her arms, not seeming to mind the tears that were now saturating his fur, as Hermione kissed him on top of his head.

After Hermione erased her parents’ memories, and left for the Burrow, she’d brought her feline familiar with her. But when she, Harry and Ron had run off on their hunt for Horcruxes, she was told Crookshanks disappeared as well. Hermione had her suspicions that he had attempted to hunt her down, but was lost along the way. It took several weeks, but she’d finally come to terms that he hadn’t survived. And to now have him nuzzling her cheek, after so much time apart from one another, she was overwhelmed.

Hermione didn’t have the heart to put him down, so she carried him the rest of the way through the grounds, and into the school. Once they were inside, however, it seemed Crookshanks hadn’t thought it dignified to be carried around any longer, and squirmed in her arms to get down, where he happily trotted along beside her. Occasionally, he would brush his body against her leg.

Once they were inside her room, before she had to leave for a few hours, Hermione took a pillow from her bed, and transformed it into a large fluffy cat bed, which she placed next to four-poster bed. She transfigured a glass into a water dish, and knew that there were more than enough mice around the castle to keep him full. Regardless, on her way back from doing rounds that evening, she would stop in the kitchens, and see if she could get the elves to give her some fish to bring back as a treat.

She picked him up once more, to hug him tightly -- which earned an annoyed sneeze from him, then kissed his head before putting him back in his new bed.

“I won’t be long,” she promised over her shoulder, before shutting her door, leaving the common room, and walking out into the drafty corridors of the school.

There was a newfound lightness in her heart, as she made her way around the school, checking for students who may had still been wandering around. After everything that she had lost in the last two years, it had felt nice to have gained something back. Even if it was something as silly as a pet. But to Hermione, Crookshanks hadn’t ever been nearly just a pet. He was family. The only family she had had at the moment, she reminded herself.

It was an uneventful evening, she thought, while she started down to the dungeons to go to the kitchen. There had only been three sixth years -- a mixture of Hufflepuffs and a Ravenclaw, who she had told off for being out after hours. Other than that, her first night of rounds had been dreadfully dull.

When she arrived to the portrait of the bowl of fruit, she tickled the pear, and the scent of roasted chicken assaulted her when the door opened. As always, the small elves fell over themselves in their attempt to help her. She choked back her urge to lecture them on how they deserved more, because to be fair, the elves at Hogwarts lived far better than any of the others she’d encountered. They’d all fought so bravely to help protect the castle the previous spring, that she now understood that they loved their home, and would have been hard pressed to ever have been freed to leave it.

As two of the elves went on their way to fetch Hermione a piece of fish for Crookshanks, a small hand tugged on her robes. Hermione looked down with a smile, and saw a much more sober, and much healthier Winky staring up at her with wide, friendly eyes, and sparkling clean blue robes.

“Winky, you’re looking well,” she said, as she shook her miniature hand.

“Thank you, Miss. Winky is been doing much better,” she squeaked. “Although, Winky is still missing Dobby,” she added softly, with a slight bow of her head.

Hermione felt that tightening in her rib cage again, as she’d felt so many times over the summer, when remembering someone who had fallen in the war. Her eyes prickled as she fought the tears from forming in them.

“As am I, Winky,” Hermione told her, with a gentle pat on the shoulder.

With a package of fish in hand, Hermione said goodnight to Winky and the other elves, then left the kitchen, eager to get back with her surprise for Crookshanks.

She passed the Potions classroom, and Professor Snape’s old office, then stopped for a moment as she peered inside.

Harry had made sure to retrieve Snape’s body from The Shrieking Shack the morning after the battle. He had been determined to have a service for the man, just as grand as the one for Professor Dumbledore. Harry spared no expense. She smirked to herself, thinking of how annoyed Snape would have been, if he’d known that Harry Potter, of all people, had been the one to not only coordinate, but fund the memorial service for him.

She would have paid to have seen his reaction. A small bubble of laughter escaped her, as she thought of the look of pure disdain which would had been plastered on his face.

Hermione was so distracted with her thoughts, that she hadn’t heard the noise of soft footsteps coming up behind her. She stood smiling, her mind moving past the displeased expression of her dead professor, and onto the colorful words he may have chosen for Harry.

Why shouldn’t she have allowed herself a moment of reflection? She was standing in the middle of Hogwarts, after all. Her guard needn’t have been up all of the time.

However, at that moment, it should have been.


Chapter 3: Frozen.
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A/N - This chapter is the reason for the Graphic Violence warning. If that is something you’re not comfortable reading, I would suggest skipping this chapter.

***

Hermione thought she heard someone breathing behind her. When she turned around, she jumped in surprise. There was a boy standing before her; a Slytherin. She vaguely recognized his face, as one of the current seventh years, but she knew that she hadn’t ever spoken to him before. She wasn’t even able to think of his name.

They both stood staring at one another for a moment. Hermione, for some inexplicable reason, felt the hairs on her arms begin to stand straight. That uneasy feeling that she’d felt before finding Crookshanks, earlier that evening, made a shocking reappearance. She went to reach for her wand slowly, and cleared her throat.

“You shouldn’t be out here wandering the corridors. It is way past curfew, Mister…?” she trailed off, hoping he would have given her his name.

He didn’t. Instead, the boy smiled at her. But it wasn’t a friendly smile, by any means. It was a smile that caused goose pimples to form on her skin, and chills to run down her spine. It was a sinister looking smile, that eerily reminded her of Voldemort.

This was not going to end well, she thought.

Hermione straightened her back, attempting to make herself look taller, and more imposing.

“You need to get back to your dormitory, before I take points from Slytherin,” she said, with a conscious attempt to keep her voice from wavering.

The pale, black-haired boy before her hadn’t moved. He snorted at her as he rolled his eyes.

“Oh no, don’t take points from me!” he exclaimed in mock horror.

Hermione’s internal warning bell was blaring inside her. Every instinct she had was telling her to run, yet the logical part of her brain was reminding her that this boy was just a student, and she was at Hogwarts. She was safe.

Her temper began to rise. “Fine. Ten points from Slytherin, then,” she hissed.

The boy shook his head slowly, and Hermione’s heart began beating faster when he took a deliberate step forward. She aimed her wand at his chest.

“Stay away from me,” she warned. She’d fought Death Eaters, so she had been more than confident in her skills against a random seventh year Slytherin.

Still, she hadn’t been foolish enough to think she wasn’t in a dangerous situation. She would have needed to find out his name, so she could have made Professor McGonagall aware of his inappropriate actions.

“I’m not frightened of you, Mudblood,” he spat.

Hermione’s breathing temporarily stopped.

Painful memories of being pinned beneath that lunatic Bellatrix, with her carving that disgusting word into her skin, came unbidden into her mind. Her eyes widened.

What did you call me?” she breathed out. Her hand tightened around her wand.

A humorless laugh expelled from the boy as he took another step towards her.

“Back away. This is the final time I’m going to say it,” she told him firmly.

The Slytherin shook his head at her again. An almost inhumanly evil glare filled his eyes.

“This may very well be the final time you do anything, Granger,” he told her, in a chillingly cool voice. A shiver passed through her at his tone.

Hermione noticed the slight movement of his eyes, fixing themselves just behind her, right before it happened. Someone else had been there, and she hadn’t known. She had just been a second too late; she didn’t have time to react.

Petrificus Totalus!” Another voice called out from behind her. Her entire body went rigid, and she hadn’t been able to move as much as a fingertip.

Now, she was frightened.

The other boy walked out in front of her, and stood next to his friend. His hair as light as his counterpart’s was black, and his cruel blue eyes glared at her frozen body. Hermione silently prayed that someone would have walked by. A professor, a ghost, Mrs. Norris… anyone.

“What should we do to her?” the black-haired boy asked his friend, still with the sick, twisted smile on his face.

The blonde boy lazily twirled his wand between his fingers. “I don’t know, Avery. Perhaps turn her head into a baby’s, as she did my father,” he growled.

Hermione’s panic continued to crescendo. These weren’t just any two Slytherins. They were the sons of Death Eaters. And not just any Death Eaters, ones who had both been killed. She couldn’t exactly remember, but she thought that she even might had been the one who had cast the spell which ended Avery Senior’s life.

Avery placed a long finger across his lips, looking to be very much in deep thought, as he circled Hermione like a shark circles its prey.

“I say we just kill her,” he finally spoke, after an uncomfortably long time.

They wouldn’t kill her, she thought. They couldn’t. Surely they wouldn’t have been so stupid as to actually murder a fellow student in the halls of the school.

“Obviously,” the other said. “But I thought we could maybe have some fun with it first.”

Her eyes began to water. Never again, did she think she would have had to endure being tortured. But seeing the bloodthirsty look in each of their eyes, she knew that the pain had not been far off.

Her eyes, the only part of her that had been able to move, scanned the halls, still hoping that someone would have come by to put a stop to this. But due to the lateness of the hour, she began doubting that anyone would have.

When the two boys pointed their wands at her, she closed her eyes, and pleaded to the heavens that whatever they did to her, it would end quickly.

“Well I can say one thing about that traitorous half-blood, Snape. He did come up with some pretty useful spells…” said Avery, before slashing his wand through the air. “Sectumsempra!” he shouted.

If Hermione could have shouted out, she was sure that she would have screamed so loudly, her throat would have been raw. Her blood sprayed out before her, as the feeling of her flesh being sliced apart, inch by inch, agonizingly covered her body. He slashed at her biceps, her thighs, her chest, rip after rip, all the while seeming to take care not to hit any major veins or arteries. It was clear he intended not for her to have died — yet, but for her to have suffered.

Hermione’s cheeks were soaking wet, with a mixture of her blood, and the tears falling from her eyes. The fact that she hadn’t been able to move as they mutilated her body seemed to have made the assault that much more painful.

Sickenly, the boys laughed as they magically cut away more of her flesh. They circled around, taunting her as the went, calling her Mudblood and asking where the famous Harry Potter was now to have saved her.

When they seemed to have had their fill with that spell, they stopped and admired their work, with grotesque satisfaction in their eyes.

Hermione’s blood pooled beneath their feet, and her head began feeling foggy from the pain and the blood loss. She knew from the spots they had chosen to attack that the hadn’t meant to have killed her at that moment, but the amount of wounds on her body were causing her to lose entirely too much blood. She feared if someone had not intervened soon, she would surely have died.

How mad it was that she had fought more experienced wizards twice their age, was on the run for eight months living off next to nothing, and had faced much more dangerous creatures and situations than these two young men, and survived it all. But a moment of reflection in the halls of Hogwarts could have potentially been the thing that would have costed her her life.

Hermione’s body felt as if it had been on fire, from the air hitting her exposed inner flesh. The two of them continued to say things to her, but from the intense pain, and the amount of blood still leaking from her body, she hadn’t been able to hear a word of it. The one thing she was conscious of, was the fact that still tightly clenched in her hand, was the piece of fish she had intended to bring back to Crookshanks. How terrible it was that she had only just gotten him back, and there was a very real possibility that she would never have seen him again.

Just when she thought that what they had done to her had been enough, through blurry eyes, Hermione watched them raise their wands at her once more. She scrunched her eyes closed tightly, and waited for the second round of pain.

She’d only felt the Cruciatus Curse once before in her lifetime, at Malfoy Manor last spring. It had been the worst pain she’d ever felt in her life, at the time. But now, with the curse being put on her, on top of the dozens of slashes all over her body, she actually prayed for death. It felt as if hundreds of white hot knives where now stabbing into her. Not just her skin, but into her organs, her very brain even. There hadn’t been an inch of her that was unaffected by the inferno.

Again, not being able to move or scream only seemed to intensify the pain. And soon it had come to the point where she hadn’t been able to see her attackers any longer. Her vision began to become spotty, and although the pain was still the most prominent thing she could feel, her other senses began to dull. Slowly, as if someone had been turning down the volume on life, the noise began to fade. Everything around her was starting to look as if it was being covered in black ink, spreading out and down the hallway. She could no longer smell the strong fishy odor, nor the copper scent of her own blood.

Her thoughts travelled to Harry and Ron, and hoped that they wouldn’t have tried to do anything foolish to avenger her. Because, she was acutely aware that she was, in fact, dying.

She thought of her parents, and how even though she was heartbroken to not have been able to find them and restore memories over the summer, she’d been grateful for that fact now. They wouldn’t have had to have ever known the pain of losing their only daughter.

She thought of Ginny and Luna, and only hoped that they would not be the ones to have found her body, since she was more than aware that it must have looked monstrous. She thought of Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, and how sad she was that she never had had the chance to truly thank them for accepting her into their home, just like she had been another daughter, when they’d already had so many of their own children, and Harry, to look after.

She thought of her cat, her companion that she’d just gotten back, and hoped that perhaps he would have found his way to Luna after she was gone. Luna would have been the best person to have looked after him.

Finally the pain began to also subside, and the tears continued to stream down her face. The last thing she saw, and it sickened her to her core, was the gleeful expressions on the two boys’ faces, before jets of green blasted out from the tips of their wands.

Everything went black.


Chapter 4: Gone.
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Hermione came to slowly. Under her face rested something hard as stone, but also sort of soft, like grass in a meadow. It wasn’t exactly cold, yet it wasn’t warm either. It was like it had adjusted itself to the temperature of her body. Or, had she still possessed a body? Where was this place, exactly?

Gently, she placed her hands on the ground and began to push herself into a standing position. The space she found herself in was softly lit, almost reminding her of one of the empty classrooms in the castle. Perhaps it had all been a nightmare, she wondered to herself. But deep down knew that it had not been. The pain she was in, shortly before she’d ended up in the room she currently occupied, had been too vivid to not have been real.

She looked down at herself and noticed she was no longer wearing her Hogwarts robes. White fabric flowed down from her shoulders to her ankles, ruffling softly in a breeze that she hadn’t been able to feel. Her bare feet were exposed beneath the dress, feeling as if they were standing on warm velvet.

To her left she heard what sounded like low whispers. The kind of soft hum you hear when you’re in a church before the sermon begins, and everyone is speaking in hushed voices. She looked and saw it was coming from an ancient stone archway. One that was painfully familiar to her. Hanging from the stone, almost like it was blowing in the wind, yet also gently rippling, like the water on top of the Black Lake on a sunny day, was a dark veil. And that was when she’d known for sure that she had not survived.

A terrible anguish washed over her, as her knees hit the floor beneath her feet. The faces of all of those she had left behind flashed before her eyes. Her parents, Harry, Ron, Ginny, and even Crookshanks, who she had just reunited with… all gone.

Hermione shook her head, which was cradled in the palms of her hands. A slow steady heat of anger began flowing through her.

She couldn’t have been dead. She hadn’t been ready! It wasn’t her time. Hermione Granger, the brightest witch of her age, had had so much potential. She was meant to have gone on to do great things; she wanted to change the world! And now she would have never had the chance.

She wept on the ground for hours, or perhaps it had been merely seconds. It was difficult to tell. Time seemed to have not passed the same as it had in the living world. Her friends were gone, her family had been gone, her life was gone.

She felt painfully alone.

Finally Hermione begun to pull herself together and rose from the ground on shaky legs. She looked around her, and her eyes once again fixed themselves onto the veil. A thought crossed her mind as she stared at the iridescent waves of it. Sirius managed to fall into it while he had been alive. Perhaps it would have been possible to have fallen out of it when you were deceased.

Slowly she walked towards it; the whispers grew louder. If she’d still had a beating heart, she had been sure it would have been pounding. She stretched her arm out towards it, feeling the silky fabric, which also bordered on a water-like consistency. The only thing she’d ever felt that was remotely close had been Harry’s invisibility cloak.

When she went to take a step through it, she found herself suddenly blocked by an invisible barrier, then yelped as an electric current shocked through her, and tossed her away, where she landed on her backside.

“That’s not going to work, sadly,” a woman’s voice said softly from behind her.

Hermione whipped her body around. If she still had needed oxygen to have survived, and required to breathe, she would have been positive that her ability to have done so would have been impossible at that moment.

She hadn’t known the woman personally, but she certainly knew her.

She stood up slowly, and took one step towards the red headed woman, who only looked roughly two or three years older than Hermione had been when she died. The woman’s much too familiar green eyes, however, looked ancient and wise, as they crinkled when she smiled at her.

“Mrs. Potter…?” Hermione said in a voice barely above a whisper.

Lily threw her head back as a tinkling laugh came from her lips.

“Merlin, Hermione. I don’t think anyone has ever called me that,” she said through her laughter. “Except perhaps Sirius, after a few Firewhiskies. When he would make it a point to remind me that he was the original Mrs. Potter.”

Even though the thought of that had been actually quite funny, Hermione was far to stunned to have laughed. Instead, she settled on a twitch of her lips, which was meant to have been a smile.

“Why are you here?” Hermione asked, feeling far too confused for politeness. She noticed the small frown on Lily’s face. “Not that I’m not happy to finally meet you,” she added quickly. “It’s just that… well I’d expected.” She faltered. “I - I’m not quite sure what I expected actually.”

Lily nodded in understanding.

“You expected family?” she prompted.

Hermione nodded. She always assumed that when she would have died, admittedly not quite as soon as she did, that she would have been greeted by her parents — if they had passed on, or grandparents, or even a distant cousin perhaps.

A hint of sadness touched Lily’s eyes.

“So did I,” she said quietly

Hermione waited for her to have explained more, but Lily appeared to be lost in through. Possibly remembering when she’d first crossed over, after being murdered.

Finally, Lily spoke. “This is a magical resting place, my dear. I’m -“ her voice hitched, “I’m sorry. I still don’t understand it, and I may also never come to terms with it, but it seems as if the Muggles are separated from us in death.”

The room suddenly felt as if it had become much smaller. The walls entirely too close. The Muggles are separated from us in death, repeated over and over in her mind. The realization that she would never see her family again, ever, crashed down on her. Her mother, her father, her grandparents, none of them for all of eternity.

Hermione had been surprised that she’d been able to cry as much as she had in the afterlife. She’d always heard that your soul would have been at peace after you died. Never had she anticipated that she would have been able to have still felt such agonizing sadness.

Without hesitation, Lily approached Hermione and enveloped her in a hug, while she stroked her hair, promising her that it would have been alright.

“I know it isn’t entirely the same, but you won’t be alone, Hermione. You have family. You’ll have myself, and I know James cannot wait to meet you. Sirius is here, and Remus, Tonks, and Fred. We may not be blood, but we are your family.” She paused for a moment. “I know you thought of Harry as a brother, and for that, I shall think of you as a daughter,” she whispered into Hermione’s hair as she held her.

As much as Hermione appreciated the sentiment, it wouldn’t have been the same. No one could have compared to your own mother and father.

“I’m g-going to miss them s-so much,” Hermione hiccoughed, clinging to Lily as if she were a life preserver.

Lily squeezed her, before stepping back. She left her hands on Hermione’s shoulders as she tried to give her a comforting smile.

“I know, Hermione. Truly I do. That’s why I was the one who asked to come collect you. I thought it would have been easier to hear from someone who could relate,” she explained.

For a second Hermione was puzzled. She’d only died a few moments ago, or so she thought. How could Lily have already known and wanted to come retrieve her. And another thing that had just hit her, was how Lily mentioned that James had been anxious to meet her. She narrowed her eyes.

“Lily? How long have I been here?” she asked.

Lily fully released Hermione from her hold, and took a small step back. She watched Hermione carefully before she answered.

“I believe it’s been about a fortnight, in the living world,” she paused, looking as if she were giving Hermione a moment to process the information.

Hermione stood in stunned silence. It had only felt as if she’d been in that room for a few hours, not weeks.

“We were waiting for you to come to, before I came here to bring you back,” she further explained.

So she had been...unconscious? Would that have even been the correct word to have described it?

If it had been two full weeks, how come she hadn’t come across any others who have passed over? People died daily -- hourly even. How was it possible that she’d been alone the entire time.

“But… I haven’t seen another soul,” Hermione said.

“When we die, we seem to find ourselves in a very unique place. One that resembles somewhere that had been special to us while we were alive. A place where we wait, alone, for someone to come and help us fully cross over into the Afterlife,” said Lily.

Hermione glanced around her again. It had looked like one of the classrooms at Hogwarts. Which, when she thought about it, made sense. Hogwarts was the place where she’d finally felt as if she belonged. It was where she shined as a brilliant student. Where she made her friends that had eventually become her family. It was where she gained knowledge, that before she was eleven years old, she never would have dreamed of learning. For the place to have resembled that, it seemed fitting.

“Were you...were you afraid when you arrived here?” the question fell from her lips, as if she were a small child.

Hermione had always been fearless, or at least she’d always tried to have been. But truthfully, the thought of venturing into something so foreign, and so unknown frightened her.

The corner of Lily’s mouth turned up into a half smile.

“I was,” she responded.

Hearing that reassured Hermione. Knowing that someone who was widely known throughout the Wizarding World for their bravery, also has been fearful of what awaited them in the afterlife seemed to have calmed her. She squared her shoulders and smiled at Lily.

“I’m ready,” she said.

Lily gestured for Hermione to come along side her, and began walking towards a dark wooden door, which Hermione hadn’t noticed until that moment, at the back of the room. She glanced over her shoulder at the veil one last time, before Lily pulled the doorknob and walked through with Hermione trailing behind.

When the women stepped through, Hermione hadn’t known what to have anticipated, but what she saw certainly hadn’t even come close.

It was as if she’d stepped into the countryside on a warm summer’s day. Grassy hills stretched on for what looked like miles, and tall mountains could be seen in the distance. There was a stone fountain to the right of her, with water gently trickling into it from the mouth of a statue, very much resembling a Cherub. Behind her was the door they had come out of. Just the door, nothing else, suspended in the air.

The sky was mostly clear, with puffs of white clouds floating sporadically. It was strange, she could plainly see what looked like the sun, yet also was able to make out the stars that would have normally only been visible after dark. The shade of it was a mixture of the soft pink and orange of twilight, mixed with a navy blue, reminiscent of the nighttime sky. There was something almost ethereal about it.

A gentle breeze blew around them, throwing off scents of honeysuckle and some sort of spice she couldn’t quite put her finger on. It almost reminded her of ginger with maybe a hint of cinnamon, but not quite. It was something she most definitely had never experienced before while she was alive.

As Hermione stood taking it all in, she hadn’t noticed that Lily was watching her.

“Beautiful, isn’t it?” she asked.

Looking at the blue and purple wildflowers scattered throughout the grass around them, Hermione smiled and nodded in agreement.

Lily pointed to a cobblestone walkway that weaved itself through the hills.

“This way will lead us to the others,” she said, leading Hermione on.

As they walked down the path, Hermione began feeling a little excited at the thought of seeing those who had died during the war again. She had missed Fred quite a bit. Not to mention Sirius, Remus and Tonks. There were others, too, that she wanted to see once more. Professor Dumbledore, who she had many questions for. Perhaps even Dobby again, to thank him for what he’d done for at Malory Manor.

There was also another person for whom she wished to thank, if she could have found him. She felt she needed to thank Severus Snape, for all that he’d done to insure the Order had won the war. And most importantly, for insuring Harry would have gone on to live a happy life.


Chapter 5: Incomplete.
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Finally, after what felt like hours, Hermione and Lily came upon a small village. It hadn’t looked much different than Hogsmeade, she thought. There were small cottages scattered about on grassy hills. A main road that seemed to contain, what looked like pubs and shops, but that couldn’t have been right. Children ran and played in the fields just beyond the road, men and women lined the streets, some carrying newborns or toddlers, whom she knew would never grow. But what really struck Hermione as odd, was out of the dozens of people who were gathered all around, there was no one who looked to have been older than thirty. There hadn’t been a wrinkle or grey hair in sight.

She continued to follow Lily, while some of the people she passed by nodded, or said a quick hello. Hermione searched each and every face, looking for someone, anyone who had been well into late adulthood. How peculiar, she thought to herself.

“Lily?” Hermione asked, after passing another cluster of young adults.

Lily hummed in response next to her.

“This may sound like an odd question, but...why is everyone here so young?” she asked.

Surely not all of the people surrounding her died before their time. There had to have been individuals who passed away of old age. She hadn’t thought anything of it when she’d first met Lily, because Lily and James were murdered when they were twenty-one years old.

“I know, it’s rather strange at first, yeah?” Lily said with a chuckle. “What I always assumed, was what I learned as a small girl. That when we die our souls, when the move on, reflect ourselves at our prime.” Both of their eyes followed a young girl, who couldn’t have been more than six, run by. “Of course, there are exceptions,” she added.

Hermione nodded. Now that she thought about it, when her parents used to bring her to church when she was young, she thought she remembered the priest saying something along those lines. How odd that it turned out to have been true.

While they travelled further down the main road, Hermione was surprised to see that they were small shops and pubs that lined the way. Some had different robes in the windows, others seemed to have had small bits of furniture. People walked in and out of them, with bells ringing in the doors, just as they had when she would have shopped in Hogsmeade or Diagon Alley.

“What in the world would we need shops for in the afterlife?” Hermione asked mostly to herself, but Lily had heard.

“You won’t need money here, if that is something you’re worried about. You just go in, and take what you need. I know it all seems a bit strange at first, but after a while, you won’t even think twice about it,” she explained.

Hermione continued to look around in awe. “Right…” she whispered.

A few moments later, after leaving the main road, and turning right onto a windy, dirt path, Lily pointed to a small, grey, stone cottage, with a brown wooden fence, and flowing willow trees around it. It was a bit off from the busier part of the village, with just four other cottages spread out around it nearby. There was a red roof, and a rounded white door, with just three small steps leading up to it. It was almost exactly how she pictured her dream home when she was a small girl.

“This is you, Hermione,” Lily told her, which caused Hermione’s entire being to bubble with the first bit of excitement since she’d arrived. “It appeared right after you died,” she explained. Hermione’s eyes widened. “The others should all be inside, I’d imagine.” said Lily, gesturing for Hermione to go on ahead of her.

Before she made a move to go in, Hermione turned and reached for Lily’s hand. She gave it a small squeeze of gratitude and smiled. “Thank you for coming to get me, Lily.”

Lily returned the pressure to Hermione’s hand. “After everything you have done for my son, it was the least that I could do.”

Thinking of Harry had been too painful at that moment. She released Lily’s hand, and tried her hardest to keep from crying once again that day.

“Come on, dear. I know that Remus and Sirius are positively bouncing at the thought of seeing you once again,” said Lily, in an attempt to have changed the subject.

Hermione took the steps slowly, nervous about what was awaiting her behind that door. She reached for the handle, and closed her eyes while turning it. When the door pushed opened, she took her first step into her new home.

As she walked into the front room of the cottage, she was amazed to see that it had already been furnished. In front of her had been two large red armchairs, which looked as cozy as the ones in the Gryffindor common room had been. An oversized brown sofa dominated the middle space of the room, facing a stone fireplace, which had a fire blazing away in the hearth. Her walls were lined with bookshelves, containing more books than she had ever owned in her time on earth. There were enough there, she was nearly sure, to have lasted her all of eternity. Which was exactly how much time she had.

To her immediate right was another door, which upon opening it, was a study, and to her utter delight, also was lined with nothing but completely filled bookshelves. Two smaller leather sofas were in that room, with a desk sat on the far side of the room, against a window that looked out into her garden.

To her left was a narrow hallway, with a staircase against the right wall, and a walkway to the left. She heard voices coming from the far end of the hall.

“Lils?” a man’s voice called out. “Is that you? Is she here?”

Hermione hadn’t recognized the voice, yet there was something familiar about it. The voice hadn’t sounded exactly as Harry’s did, but there was definitely enough of a similarity to it for her to have immediately known that must had been James Potter.

“Yes, James!” Lily called back. “We’re both here!”

Lily turned to look at Hermione, reached over and gave a reassuring squeeze to her arm.

“Ready?” she asked.

Was she ready? Of course she hadn’t be ready. She had not expected to meet the people in there again, or for the first time, for many, many years.

She felt sick, in the strangest way. Not as if she were to have vomited, but more like she had been dizzy, or disoriented. It made her uncomfortable that her body — or soul she supposed, no longer had the same physical reactions which used to accompany her emotions. No pounding heart, no nausea, no beads of sweat on her brow, no longer any of those telltale signs of anxiety.

She gave a small shake of her head.

“Not really,” she answered truthfully.

Lily squeezed her arm once more before letting go. The look in her eyes clearly told Hermione that she understood. Lily had her life stolen before her time as well, after all.

Without another word, Hermione summoned up every bit of that Gryffindor courage that she’d once possessed and started down the hallway towards the noise of conversation coming from the other end of her home.

She reached a brown wooden door, with a crystal doorknob and paused briefly to collect herself.

When she turned the handle and opened the door, she found herself in a small kitchen, equipped with a stove, sink, cabinets, and an icebox, with a long oak table in the middle of the room surrounded with a dozen seats. The occupants all quieted when she entered, and looked at her with mixtures of pity since she was with them, yet also happiness at seeing her once again.

Automatically her eyes landed on James, who stood up from his seat at the head of the table. A terrible feeling of bereavement fell over her when she saw for the first time why everyone had always told Harry he looked exactly like his father.

It had been remarkable. Nearly every feature had been the same, from the wind blown black hair, to the lopsided smile. Even the shape of his nose had been the same. The only difference, of course, had been the shape and color of his eyes. Where Harry had inherited his mother’s almond shaped green eyes, James’ were more rounded, and a beautiful shade of hazel.

She hadn’t been able to help herself and immediately smiled at the young man before her. Even though it was the first time she’d seen him, it already felt as if she’d known him a lifetime.

“Hermione Granger,” said James, as he walked to her, not even pausing before wrapping his arms around her and squeezing her firmly.

“I am so sorry for what has happened to you,” he said as he held her. “But I am very happy to finally meet you.”

Hermione hugged him back, hard. It felt so much like having her best friend in her arms. She missed Harry — and Ron, so much already, that it was truly painful.

James released her, and reached down to take both of her hands. He looked into her eyes with intense sincerity.

“Thank you,” he said, as if he’d been waiting eons to have said it.

Hermione hadn’t had to ask him what he was thanking her for. Lily had already said it, for both of them she was sure.

Still, she didn’t feel as if she deserved their thanks, all she’d done was look after a friend. She’d have done that for anyone she cared for.

The moment between them hadn’t lasted long, however. True to his nature, Fred Weasley bounded towards her and stole her away, enveloping her in a hug.

“Sorry for what those fucking—“

“Fred!” scolded Lily from behind them.

A small giggle escaped Hermione.

“I meant, friendly, Lily. My mistake. Friendly Slytherin scums did to you, Granger.”

Only Fred could have made the topic of her death somewhat amusing.

“I am too, Fred,” she responded, unable to stop herself from smiling, still thinking of Lily’s tone with him.

Next she said hello to Remus and Sirius. Their appearances both were quite shocking to see. Both of them appearing to have been only a few years older than Hermione had been, and both far healthier looking than she’d ever seen them in life.

Remus’ face had been completely blemish free, not a scar from his transformations in sight. Sirius, she had to admit, had been rather handsome, even more so than she’d already knew him to have been when she spent the summer at his childhood home. But the most surprising thing to see was just how happy and content they’d both seemed to be in death. She imagined it was due to the fact that both of them had been reunited with their friends, Lily and James. That, and Sirius no longer required to have been in hiding, and Remus no longer had to deal with the pain of his lycanthropy. In death, both of them had finally been freed.

Tonks had looked exactly the same, right down to her studded choker necklace, and bubblegum pink hair. Her eyes, however, mirrored Lily’s in a way. Which Hermione associated with the pain of being separated from your child. A pain only a mother would have been able to understand.

Hermione had known or recognized every person in the room, except for one young man who still sat at the table, opposite of where James had been. There had been something remotely familiar about the man’s eyes, and the way they almost seemed to twinkle up at her.

This man had a long crooked nose, auburn hair, which fell in waves just past his shoulders, and a beard the same color, which was just longer than his chin. She cocked her head to the side as she watched him and began searching a catalog of faces in her mind trying to place him.

Then when he spoke, Hermione’s eyes widened.

“Hello, Miss Granger,” he said in a voice she hadn’t heard in well over a year, with his eyes crinkling as he smiled at her.

Hermione took an automatic step forward.

“Pro- Professor Dumbledore?” she whispered, the shock clearly evident in her voice.

Dumbledore bowed his head and let out a low chuckle.

“Well done, Miss Granger,” he said lightly. “It took our Mister Weasley here nearly two days to finally figure it out.”

“Oi!” Fred yelled out, evidently embarrassed. Everyone in the room laughed, which earned an inappropriate hand gesture from the red head.

“But please, my dear, as I am well far removed from being your professor, I must insist you call me Albus,” he told her.

Hermione began to protest. “Sir, I couldn’t possibly-“

He held his hand up to stop her. “Everyone else does, and I do insist you do as well. We are all equals in death, Miss Granger.”

Feeling as if she should have also extended the courtesy, she said quietly, “You… you can call me, Hermione, Pro- I mean, Albus.”

While Hermione still watched Dumbledore, stunned by his youthful looks, she began feeling quite puzzled.

“Albus, I’m afraid I’m a little confused,” she began.

Dumbledore quirked an eyebrow. “Regarding what, Hermione?”

“Well… Harry told us — Ron and I, I mean, how he saw you, spoke to you when Voldemort used the Killing Curse on him.”

Dumbledore’s smile made it obvious that he knew where Hermione was headed with her question. She didn’t even finish before he had begun to explain.

“When I had appeared to Harry, it had been imperative that it would have had to have been in a form that the boy had known. If I had shown myself like this,” he opened his arms to allow a better view of himself. “Harry might not have believed it was I whom he was speaking with. He might not have believed the words I had spoken. And he might not have found the strength to have gone back and finish Tom Riddle for good,” he told her.

It had made sense, she thought. Knowing Harry’s temperament, and his ability to jump to outlandish conclusions quite quickly, it probably would have been for the best for Dumbledore to appear in a state Harry had been familiar with.

Hermione sat down at her table with her new family, trying to still wrap her head around the fact that this would now be her… not life, exactly, but existence. She couldn’t quite find another word to describe it.

While the others around her chatted merrily, all seeming very at peace with their situations, she wondered if she would ever have reached that point. Where she would have finally accepted that she was no longer part of the mortal world. That she would never again see any Muggle members of her family. That, even though she was surrounded by people who loved and cared for her, a large piece of her would always have felt incomplete.


A/N- No work for me today, so the chapter is being posted a little earlier than normal. :) Hope you all liked it! We'll be getting our first look at a certain former Potions Professor in the following chapter. ;) Thank you for the love and the kind words! I'm thrilled that you're enjoying the story so far!


Chapter 6: Surprised.
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“Tea, Hermione?” Lily asked from near the stove.

Hermione snapped her head up, taken out of her thoughts.

“There’s tea here?” she asked, undeniably confused as to how their spirits still managed to have had some of the comforts of their previous lives.

Lily laughed as she put water on to boil. “Of course,” she answered while taking sugar from a cabinet. “We’re dead, Hermione. Not savages.”

An uncomfortable laugh left her lips, as she felt a bit uneasy at how lightly it seemed they were all able to joke about being deceased.

Hermione made a move to stand. It was her home, after all. She’d felt it rude of her to have let Lily serve everyone.

“I should really be doing that, Lily,” she said while pushing in her chair.

Lily immediately waved her off.

“Don’t be silly. You’re still settling in. Truly, I don’t mind” she assured her as she began pouring the steaming liquid into eight tea cups.

When Lily joined the rest of the guests in Hermione’s home, at the table, Hermione had questions. Because, Hermione always had questions.

“There is something that I’m curious about,” she said to the table. Everyone gave her their attention. “How is it that you all have known and seen what was happening to us all while we were alive. I hadn’t said how I died, yet Fred,” she turned her head in his direction, “you specifically mentioned something about the Slytherins who…” she faltered. She had difficulty actually voicing the words murdered me.

There was an awkward silence that fell over the table. James gave a look to Lily, Dumbledore to Sirius, Remus to Tonks, and Fred suddenly became very interested in the contents of his cup. It seemed as if they were all debating on giving her information, or keeping something from her.

“What is it?” Hermione asked, her voice a tad sharper than she’d intended.

Lily was the one who broke the silence.

“We — we try not to tell people when they’re so…new,” she said softly.

No one else seemed to have been able to look at Hermione at the moment. She began to feel her anger rise. There was nothing that Hermione Granger hated more than being the only person in a room without knowledge of something.

“Tell people what, exactly?” she asked in a measured tone.

When she looked around the table, her frustration only grew as she saw the gentle looks of sympathy echoed in each of their eyes. Just as she were truly about to have lost her temper, and begin shouting at them all, Sirius spoke.

“We might as well tell her now,” he said, then looked to Dumbledore, as if silently awaiting his permission. Dumbledore gave him a single nod. “There’s a place, Hermione,” Sirius began to explain.

“Sirius…” Remus whispered in warning.

“She has a right to know, Moony,” he snapped, causing Remus shake his head in disapproval. Sirius returned his attention back to Hermione. “There’s a place where we can… where we can see the mortal world,” he told her.

Quietly some of the others groaned. Hermione’s interest was piqued. She sat up straight. Even though she wouldn’t have been able to meet her parents again, she could have at least seen them, and would have been able to know if they were okay.

“Where?” she asked, a little too enthusiastically for those around her.

Lily placed her hand on Hermione’s forearm.

“Hermione, I don’t know if it’s a good -“

“Lily, I need to see my parents. I have to know that they’re alright!” she cut her off, pulling her arm out from her grasp.

“Nice one, Sirius.” Hermione heard Tonks mumble under her breath.

Hermione was confused, and still angry. Why was everyone reluctant to not only have told her this, but also, it seemed, to let her go? She hadn’t cared. She wasn’t going to allow them to stop her.

“Where is it, Sirius?” she asked him directly, knowing that if anyone were to have told her, it would have been him.

Sirius reached up and rubbed at the back of his neck. The others all stared at him as intently as Hermione was in that moment. He sputtered for a second, seeming as if he were having second thoughts about giving her the information.

“Sirius,” she nearly growled. “Where. Is. It?”

He dropped his hand back to the table. Hermione refused to break eye contact. His eyes glanced towards Remus once more, before he sighed.

“When you first left the room with the veil, did you notice a fountain?” he asked.

Hermione remembered the stone fountain, that seemed so out of place on its own, directly next to the door she and Lily came out of, with the statue of the Cherub.

She nodded.

“There. The fountain is some sort of window to the living world,” he paused to take a drink from his tea cup. “I was there with him,” he gestured with his thumb to Fred, “when they found you,” he finished quietly.

She hadn’t missed the anger that flashed in his eyes. The same look was mirrored in Fred’s eyes as well.

Hermione half scooted her chair back. She had to go. She had to see her parents. And Harry, and Ron. She had to know what happened after she died, and what happened to the boys who massacred her.

“I have to go,” she said softly, more to herself than anyone else in that room.

As she stood up, Dumbledore gently grasped her wrist.

“Hermione, I do not think it wise to visit there so quickly,” he began. Hermione opened her mouth to argue, yet Dumbledore cut her off. “You still need time to process what has happened to you, and reconcile with the sad truth that you will never again be reunited with your Muggle loved ones. If you go now, would you be able to tear yourself away and return here?”

She removed herself from Dumbledore’s grip and took a step away. Her eyes remained focused on the ground.

“I have to go,” she repeated, more firmly than before.

They didn’t understand. None of them, with the exception of Lily, would have been able to understand. Everyone else at that table had come from magical families. They had people with whom they rejoined, or would again in the future. Hermione had no one. She had to at least have gone to see them. If only for a few hours.

As she began making her way from the table, and towards the hallway out of the kitchen, a mixture of protests came from her guests. She stopped at the doorway and kept her back to them all.

“I have to go,” she said a third and final time.

Before anyone could have physically stopped her, she started walking briskly down the hall. When she exited her house, Hermione began to jog down the path from her home and into the village. When she hit the main road, she full out ran, determined to get to the fountain.

She ran past people on the street, accidentally bumping into a few, and ignoring their shouting when she had. There was no time for apologies. She couldn’t bring herself to give a damn about the people she angered.

As she ran on, the crowds of people began to thin out, until eventually there was no one, or nothing around her, except for the hills and trees. If she had still be alive, she was sure that her muscles would have been screaming in protest, and her lungs would have burned from the exertion of sprinting for as long as she had. The only things on her mind were the thoughts of finally seeing if her parents had survived, and checking to make sure her friends were coping with her gone.

After quite some time, Hermione saw what looked like a floating door in the distance. Right next to it was what she’d been searching for. She had almost felt something reminiscent to butterflies in her stomach, just minus the mild nausea that normally accompanied the sensation.

Hermione picked up speed, now that her destination was in sight, and before she knew it, she was standing right in front of the statue, which had a shimmery, silver, water-like substance coming from its mouth, filling the pool beneath its feet.

She made no motion to move closer, and just stared at the fountain before her. She wasn’t sure how to work it, or how she would summon the window into the mortal world. Hermione reached towards her hip, for where she normally stored her wand. Her hand slid across the smooth fabric of her white dress; no pocket, nor a wand were there.

How strange. It was the first she had realized she no longer had her wand. A terrible feeling of vulnerability came over her.

The longer that she stood there, the more she began having second thoughts. Was Dumbledore correct? If she figured out how to work it, and started to watch her loved ones, would she have had the strength to walk away? She remembered hearing of when Harry found the Mirror of Erised, and how he spent hours in front of it, for days, watching the family he had never known. If it hadn’t been for Dumbledore’s intervention, she wasn’t sure if he would have ever stopped seeking out that mirror. Was she ready for this?

She stood frozen for quite some time. Her hair blowing in the breeze, the only part of her that moved. She became transfixed on the glittering liquid swirling in front of her, as she tried to logically reason out if she should have risked moving forward.

Her Gryffindor hot head led her to this spot, when truthfully, she hadn’t been ready to come. A strong part of her knew that if she did look, she truly wouldn’t have been able to pull herself away. Not yet, at least.

It may had been the most difficult decision she’d ever come to, but with one last parting glance at the fountain, Hermione turned herself around and began a slow walk back towards the village.

“I’ll be back,” she whispered as she walked away.

When she reached the main road that led to her new home, Hermione stopped and looked back towards where she came. As sad as she felt in that moment, she knew deep down that she had made the right decision. She needed time to adjust, and like Dumbledore had said, come to terms to what had happened to her. She wasn’t sure how long that was going to take, but everyone else had appeared to have reached that point. And she knew that eventually she would as well.

Hermione wiped away the tears she hadn’t realized fell down her cheeks, and turned back to return home. As she did, she found herself colliding with someone. She stumbled back, tripping on their long black robes, and landed on the ground.

“I’m so sorry!” she said, as she looked up to see the man she ran into.

His dark eyes, which glared down at her, the shoulder length black hair, and his long nose, were the only things familiar about his face. Even though he appeared much younger, no older than twenty, she assumed, Hermione very much recognized the man she had been hoping to have seen.

She clasped her hand over her mouth.

“Professor Snape,” she whispered through her fingers.

Snape rolled his eyes, yet surprised her by offering his hand to help her from the ground. Once she was standing, he let go of her immediately.

“Miss Granger,” he drawled, yet for a moment, she recognized that brief flash of pity that she had seen earlier from her friends in his expression.

“How - How are you?” she asked, her voice just barely giving away her nerves.

He cocked an eyebrow at her, then snorted.

“Dead, obviously. As are you, it seems,” he said dryly.

She nodded.

“Who did it?” he asked, in a bored sort of tone.

Hermione’s fists balled in anger. “The sons of two Death Eaters,” she told him. “One of them was Avery’s son. I didn’t catch the other’s name, as they were slicing my body apart.”

Her last living memories, being bound by the immobilizing curse, having her flesh torn away, followed by multiple rounds of the Cruciatus Curse flooded her mind. She almost felt the ghost of the pain run through her once again.

A shadow of something that looked like remorse flashed across his pale face.

“They used Sectumsempra?” he asked softly.

She nodded again.

Snape opened his mouth, as if to speak, then quickly closed it again. They both stood in silence for a moment, until he did speak.

“I’m sorry you had to endure that, Miss Granger.”

Hermione was shocked to hear the words come from his lips. He had never been exactly kind to her before. But she reminded herself that while she knew him when they were both alive, he had a role he needed to play. He couldn’t have shown any sort of kindness to the Muggle born best friend of Harry Potter.

The corner of her mouth pulled up into a half-smile. “Hermione, please,” she told him. “And it wasn’t your fault.”

“If I hadn’t invented the spell,” he began.

“Then they just would have found another way to have killed me,” she interrupted.

Her hummed dismissively, staring at her curiously for several seconds, then made a move to turn away from her.

“Wait!” Hermione said more loudly than she’d intended.

Her turned back around, his eyebrows raised in surprise.

“What?” he snapped.

Before she could have stopped herself, she blurted out what she had been wanting to say to him.

“I just felt like I needed to thank you for everything you’ve done. You were far braver than any of us have know,” she said in a rush.

Snape surveyed her for an uncomfortably long time. Hermione began to fidget, twisting her fingers around each other.

“I do not require your thanks, Miss Granger,” he said, not exactly harshly. It was more like he was irritated than anything else.

“But-“

Snape held his hand up to stop her.

“That’s enough,” he faced away from her. “Goodbye,” he said and swiftly walked away.

Hermione stood watching his retreating figure, with his robes billowing out behind him, just as they had in life, feeling disappointed. Of course he deserved her gratitude. He deserved it from everyone, after putting his life on the line, and making the ultimate sacrifice for the good of the Wizarding World. Hadn’t he realized he was a hero?

“See you later,” she corrected him quietly under her breath.


Chapter 7: Alone.
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When Hermione entered her home, she heard the soft buzz of conversation coming from her kitchen. They were still there.

She walked back in to meet them, with her head hanging. She hadn’t been prepared to have admitted they were right.

“You didn’t do it?” James guessed as she lingered in the doorway.

Hermione shook her head, then slowly made her way over to join them.

“I believe you made the right decision, Hermione,” Dumbledore said as she sat down.

Hermione shrugged, as she kept her eyes on the table. He had been right, of course, but that hadn’t meant she wasn’t hurting from her choice to have left.

“So where did you go?” Fred asked.

Hermione sighed heavily.

“Well, I did go to the fountain, but when I got there, I realized it wasn’t the right time. So I came back,” she admitted in a small voice.

Sirius patted her gently on the shoulder, in an attempt to comfort her. It was a kind gesture, but she felt as if nothing could have helped at that moment.

“You were gone an awfully long time, we thought…” Lily trailed off.

Hermione debated on if she should have told them who she ran into. She knew a large majority of that table hadn’t exactly been Snape’s biggest fans. She chewed her lip, and decided she wasn’t going to begin her relationship with the people around her by lying to them.

“I ended up bumping into Snape on my way back,” she told them.

It was silent for a heartbeat, yet she hadn’t missed the small smile that crossed Dumbledore’s lips.

“Oh,” was all Lily managed to say, before taking a drink from her mug.

“Git,” said Sirius under his breath.

Hermione felt a flash of anger run through her at the remark. Sirius didn’t have to like him, but even he couldn’t have denied the important role Snape played in Voldemort’s downfall.

“That’s not fair, Sirius,” she scolded him. “After all that he’s done, couldn’t you just put aside your childish animosity towards the man?”

Sirius leaned back in his chair and let out a loud laugh.

“Prongs, do you hear this? It sounds like she has a soft spot for the greaseball!”

What Hermione would have done to have had her wand on her. If she had, she would have made sure he wouldn’t have been able to have sat down properly in weeks.

James must have noticed Hermione’s growing anger forming on her face.

“Lay off of her, yeah? She’s had a rough day,” he said firmly.

Lily, she noticed still hadn’t looked away from the mug of tea clasped between her hands. Her expression had been unreadable.

Sirius looked highly affronted that James hadn’t immediately been on his side. He leaned back in his chair and muttered something about Snivellus and complete arse.

Hermione, however, took the momentary silence in the group as an opportunity to ask something that she had been wondering about.

“Fred?” she asked. Fred hummed in response. “He,” she inclined her head towards Sirius, “said earlier that the two of you had watched me die.”

Fred lowered his head slightly, his face showing a hint of anger at the memory.

“We did,” he answered in the most serious tone of voice she had ever heard come from the young man.

“What I was wondering was, why?”

He lifted his head and made eye contact with her. His brow was furrowed in confusion.

“What I mean,” Hermione continued, “was why were you watching me at that moment?”

Understanding slowly dawned on his face.

“Oh. Well we weren’t looking for you exactly. I wanted to look in on Ginny, and Sirius came along for the walk. We were watching Hogwarts, and just happened to see when those pieces of scum cornered you.” He stopped and looked towards Sirius.

“I don’t remember the last time I had felt so helpless, Hermione,” Sirius spoke up, seeming to have pushed aside his irritation from a few minutes before.

Even though she had lived — and died, through it, she couldn’t have imagined what it would have felt like to have sat by and witnessed a friend suffer so horribly, and not have been able to have intervened.

“We saw the cottage appear just before they arrived back here,” Remus added. “We knew, since it popped up near all of our homes, that it would belong to someone we knew.”

“And when we all gathered outside, Pads and Fred were coming to tell us,” said James.

He reached for Lily’s hand, which rested between them on the table.

“When they told us it had been you who was killed, immediately I volunteered to go get you,” she said.

“Then we all came inside to wait,” said Tonks.

“We did not wish for you to have felt alone when you arrived,” Dumbledore told her.

Hermione felt overwhelming gratitude as she looked at the faces around her. She was glad that they did wait for her there. It would not have been easy to have faced her death alone.

“Thank you,” she told them, with much weight behind it.

Soon the conversation picked back up around the table, becoming much lighter, and with laughter ringing out between them. Hermione sat back quietly, and smiled when it seemed appropriate, but her thoughts wandered away to Snape.

She wondered who had come to collect him, and lead him into the afterlife. And if there had been a table filled with people he had been friendly with awaiting him once he arrived. Sadly, she figured there probably hadn’t been. Dumbledore, she thought, might had been there for him, but who else?

If he truly was alone, she decided that she would be there for him. Eternity was an awfully long time to spend alone, after all. He hadn’t deserved that. He needed a friend. And, if she were being honest with herself, she needed someone who could really understand what it felt like to be so alone. Yes, she did have the people around her, but they weren’t family. If there was one thing that Hermione was sure she would have been able to relate to Snape with, it was the unparalleled feeling of being painfully alone, even when being surrounded by others.

ooo

Severus sank down in a leather armchair in front of his stone fireplace. The flickering glow from it being the only light in the dark room. A tumbler of whisky he held firmly in his left hand. At least this pitiful excuse of an existence still offered some of the comforts of his former life, he thought, as he brought the drink to his lips and savored the warmth of the amber liquid that slid down his throat. Obviously he hadn’t had the sweet relief of intoxication that used to accompany the drink, but the taste was still somewhat comforting to him.

He closed his eyes. Again that evening the vision of wild brown locks of hair filled his mind. The startled amber eyes, and the full pink lips, parted ever so slightly in surprise, still taking over his thoughts.

She hadn’t deserved what has happened to her, he thought out of nowhere.

His eyes snapped opened, shocked at the words that ran through his head. Why would he have given a damn about the Granger girl? Hadn’t she had been a perpetual thorn in his side for the six years he had the unfortunate luck of teaching her in his classes?

But yet, there was something about the sincerity in her expression when she thanked him, that affected him more than it should have.

You were far braver than any of us have know, she had told him.

He laughed humorlessly. Foolish Gryffindors and their silly obsession with bravery. It had been far more complicated than just a blind act of bravery. He had been cunning, with years of meticulously practicing the art of his deceit. He played a part in that war, and he played it well. As he once told Bellatrix, he had deceived one of the greatest wizards of the age. Of course the insane witch had assumed he had meant Dumbledore, as he intended her to have believed, but what he truly spoke of in that moment, was of his time fooling The Dark Lord into believing his loyalty to him.

Brave, he thought again with a sneer.

But yet, she had been the only person thus far to have truly thanked him. Besides Dumbledore, that was.

Not that he desired her gratitude in any way. So why had she still been on his mind hours after their encounter?

Guilt, perhaps. That it had been two former students from whom he was their Head of House who had murdered her. And the fact that they had tortured her with a spell of his own creation.

That had to have been it, he tried to convince himself, as he took another drink from the glass in hand.

It had been a shame, even he had to have admitted to himself, that she had been killed so young. As irksome as he found her know-it-all ways to have been, he still recognized the limitless potential the girl had. He had graded enough of her essays, and heard enough about her from his colleagues in the staff lounge to have known of her shocking levels of intelligence.

Granger could have gone on to have done great things for the Wizarding World.

Severus stood up from his seat and began pacing his study. His irritation grew with each step that he had taken, due to the fact that the girl would not escape his thoughts.

It must had been due to the fact that he had been so surprised to have seen her. He knew she survived the war, so he hadn’t anticipated her arriving there for a long time to come. And the fact that she had been the first person he had spoken to, in many weeks, more than just a passing hello, also must had been playing a part.

It would pass, he told himself. Perhaps after a good book and a bit of rest, she would no longer invade his mind.

ooo

Sleep had not been something Hermione expected to have been able to still do now that she was dead. Although, sleep was the closest word she could think of to describe what she did after her friends had all left and returned to their homes.

When she finally changed out of the white dress she’d mysterious found herself in when she came to in the veil room, finding a comfortable pair of red flannel pajamas to wear, she laid down in a giant four-poster bed. The bed was much similar to the ones she had during her time at Hogwarts. She closed her eyes, and didn’t exactly fall into a deep sleep, with odd dreams in an unconscious state. It was more like the moments between falling asleep and being awake. Where you’re still somewhat aware of your surroundings, but your thoughts are no longer under your control.

Her thoughts had become disjointed, jumping from Summer Holidays with her parents in France, to Harry and Ron saving her from that Mountain Troll her first year, to late nights chatting with Ginny in her bedroom at The Burrow, to a pair of black unfriendly eyes, glaring at her from the head of the Potions classroom, while she sat with her hand raised waiting to give a correct answer she would have never been called on to give.

For what felt like hours she laid there, her mind circulating through different images and times in her life. But for some inexplicable reason, they always seemed to travel back to Severus Snape.

When the image of him bleeding on the floor of the Shrieking Shack, garbling out his last words played behind her closed eyes, she immediately opened them and sat up straight in her bed.

At least he hadn’t died alone, she thought sadly to herself.

Hermione swung her legs over the side of her bed and sat for a moment, trying to make the terrible image disappear. It had been quite horrible and extremely shocking to experience; watching a man be so brutally murdered right before your eyes. It was one of the experiences from that dreadful night that stayed with her, and contributed to quite a few of her nightmares while she had still been alive.

She had never admitted it to Harry or Ron, but she’d always felt that there had been more to Snape’s story than they had all been aware of. There was always this part of her that had believed he wasn’t the traitor everyone thought he had been. She remembered feeling not quite as surprised by the news that he had been on their side all along, as everyone else had been. There was always that nagging suspicion that there had been some good in him.

Hermione stood from her bed and made her way to the white wardrobe in the corner of her room. She was pleased to find it fully stocked, and pulled out a pair of denims and a cream jumper to wear for the day.

After she was dressed, and sat alone in her kitchen with a mug of coffee in front of her, she wondered what people actually did during the day to pass the time. Would it be rude of her to show up on one of her friends’ doorsteps? Even though she had more than enough books in her home to occupy her, she wasn’t sure if she was ready to spend too much time alone.

Perhaps she would go into the main part of the village, and check out the shops and see what her new home had to offer.

A small thought entered the back of her mind as she made her way out of the front door, when she hoped that perhaps she would have run into Snape again there that day.


Chapter 8: Unexpected.
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Without the abnormal sky, or the fact that everyone had appeared so young, Hermione would have easily been able to forget that she was no longer amongst the living, as she casually strolled down the main road of the village. Couples walked together with linked hands, friend’s spotted one another and stopped to chat, children ran by playing and laughing, and patrons filtered in and out of the shops that lined the street. She imagined that the surroundings manifested in that way in ordered to have made the departed souls feel more comfortable. Still, it was very peculiar.

During her walk, Hermione paused in front of a small pub. A wooden sign hung above the entrance that read The Fallen Broomstick. She wondered, since she’d already had tea after she’d first arrived, and then a coffee that morning, if she would have been able to have a Butterbeer if she entered. Also, she was quite curious as to what a pub would have been like in her new reality.

Tentatively she pushed opened the door and stepped inside. The place was absolutely crowded, with nearly every table filled. It was incredible how much it felt like nothing had changed, and she’d just entered The Leaky Cauldron or The Three Broomsticks. She almost anticipated seeing Madam Rosmerta standing behind the bar when she approached it to order a drink.

“What can I get yeh, Miss?” a squat, brunette man, with a gravelly voice asked her.

“Do you have Butterbeer here?” she yelled over the noise.

The barkeep smiled kindly as he nodded. “‘Course we do,” he said, then left to get her drink.

Hermione turned around while she waited, taking in the scene around her. Everyone appeared so happy. Some people were laughing, others, she could tell from their wild hand gestures and the way they had their tables captivated, seemed to be telling interesting stories. A few people sat alone, some with books, and others looking content with just their drinks keeping them company.

“There yeh are, Miss,” the man said from behind her, placing her drink down.

“Thank you.” She smiled, then grabbed her mug, and scanned the room again looking for somewhere to sit.

Back in the corner of the room, she saw who she thought looked like Sirius sitting alone. There were no empty tables, so she was glad there was at least one familiar face in there that she could have shared a table with.

She weaved her way through the crowd, taking care to not run into anyone, and finally came upon the man, who until just then, she would have sworn was Sirius Black. Although this person was more broad in the shoulders, his nose was a little more rounded, his jaw not quite as squared, and his bottom lip was more full.

He looked up as she stood in front of him. The young man’s eyes filled with recognition, even though Hermione had never met him before. But she had had a pretty good idea of who he was.

“I’m - I’m so sorry,” she said as he watched her. “I thought you were someone else.”

He snorted at her then rolled his eyes. “Sirius and I don’t look that much alike.”

She jumped, nearly spilling her drink, when he kicked the chair out across from him. “For one, I’m much better looking.” Hermione gave a weak laugh. “Have a seat, Hermione,” he told her, pointing at the chair, surprising her that he knew who she was.

“Erm...alright,” she said as she sat down, feeling somewhat uncomfortable. “Regulus, I’m assuming?”

The way he leaned back in his chair, so filled with that same air of confidence as his brother was striking. Even the cocky smirk bore a striking resemblance.

“You assume correctly,” said Regulus.

Hermione’s brow furrowed. “But how did you-“

“Know who you are?” he finished for her.

She huffed, a little annoyed. Hermione hated being interrupted. “Yes,” she said shortly.

He paused to take a drink of what looked and smelled like Firewhiskey, then wiped his mouth with the back of his sleeve.

“I’ve seen you in the fountain,” he explained. That should have been obvious to her, she thought. “When Sirius was still alive. Then after he died, when he’d check in on Harry, and I’d go with him for the walk.”

Hermione gave a small nod, then raised her mug to her lips to have a drink. The sweet butterscotch taste was comforting to her; another thing that made her feel as if she were home.

“I wasn’t aware you and Sirius…well, spoke,” she said. Hermione had been under the impression that the brothers had long been estranged.

“We’re alright now. After…” he trailed off. Hermione assumed he meant after Sirius learned how and why he died. “It was Sirius who told me what happened to you,” he said after a minute or so. “Terrible way to go.”

She shuddered at the memory of her last moments on earth.

“It was,” she said with her jaw clenched.

“Well, either way, it’s nice to have a new face around,” he said with the hint of a smile playing on his lips. “There are only so many times I can hear the same stories about my brother and James.”

Hermione couldn’t help but to laugh at his exasperated tone. She had a feeling that eventually she would feel the same way.

Just as Hermione opened her mouth to ask if he lived anywhere near her, and the rest of the people she had know, Regulus lifted his arm and waved it back and forth. She turned around to see who’s attention he was trying to grab, when Regulus called out.

“Hey Sev!”

Snape’s head turned in their direction. He looked momentarily surprised, she figured due to the fact that she was sitting with someone she assumed had to have been friendly with him. He remained unmoving briefly, then began his way towards the pair.

Hermione felt anxious as she watched him walk over. She had to remind herself that she had hoped that she would have run into him while she was out, but now that he was there, she felt foolish for wishing it. What on earth could she have possibly spoken to him about?

She turned back around as he neared, and occupied herself by taking a long drink of her Butterbeer.

“Regulus,” he said in greeting.

Hermione chanced a glance up at him. He met her gaze, and shockingly had not appeared annoyed to have seen her.

“Miss Granger. How...unexpected,” said Snape, his eyes traveling to Regulus then back to her.

She pitifully tried to sputter out a response, but her quiet words were lost in the ruckus crowd around them.

Why had he caused her to become so nervous, she wondered?

“Where the hell have you been hiding?” Regulus asked him, graciously taking the attention away from her.

Snape grunted and shrugged his shoulders. “Home, where else?”

Hermione jumped again as the chair next to her suddenly pulled itself out. Regulus gestured towards it.

“Well sit down, then,” he said then began to rise from his seat. “Scotch?” he asked Snape, who gave a curt nod, then made his way to the empty chair.

Hermione stiffened when his robes brushed against her back before he sat down.

She sat with her back straight, keeping her eyes locked on the drink between her hands, feeling awkward after Regulus left them alone.

“You can relax, Miss Granger,” he said with a hint of amusement in his tone. “I assure you I am not about to take points from Gryffindor or anything of the like.”

She huffed out a strained laugh then leaned back in her seat in a failed attempt to relax. “You can call me, Hermione,” she told him for the second time, still avoiding looking directly at him.

He didn’t immediately respond; she had felt him looking at her. “Hermione, then,” said Snape after several seconds.

Her mouth twitched as she fought a smile, hearing him address her by her given name. It sounded so alien coming from his lips.

The two sat in an uncomfortable silence, while Hermione twisted her fingers around one another. She looked over at him from the side of her eye, and saw he looked completely at ease; bored even. She couldn’t take the awkward tension any longer.

“So…erm,” she bit her lip, “do you — do you come...here...often?” her words slowed and her voice faded as she realized how horribly cliché her question was.

Snape raised an eyebrow. “Not usually, no,” he told her.

“Oh,” she responded lamely.

The conversation again stilted, and the tension that normally accompanies two acquaintances whom aren’t quite sure what to say to one another mounted higher.

There was something she’d wanted to ask him, however. She wasn’t exactly sure how he would have dealt with her question, but all the same, she had to have asked.

“Professor Snape? I -“

“Hermione, we’re dead. I am certainly no longer anyone’s professor. Severus will do,” he cut her off in an irritated tone, so reminiscent to one she’d heard so many times before.

Still, progress, she thought. He’d given her permission to address him by his first name.

“Sorry, Severus.” The name felt strange and foreign on her tongue. “But, what I was wondering was...how did you do it?”

It was that question that had been eating at her since she’d first had solid confirmation that he had been on their side.

His head tilted slightly to the side. His confusion was plainly evident on his face. “Do what, exactly?” he asked

She turned her body to face him better, and looked earnestly into his deep black eyes. Eyes, which even in death, she realized, were filled with eons of pain and sadness.

“Fool him. Voldemort,” she said in a whisper, but even over the loudness of the patrons in the pub, she knew he’d heard her. She didn’t miss the slight jolt of his body when she’d said Voldemort’s name.

For a moment she feared she overstepped with her question, as his eyes remained locked on hers. Then after the corner of his mouth ticked upwards, he answered. “Not without much skill and practice.”

She couldn’t deny that she wasn’t in awe of him in that moment. The confidence in which he answered, and the fact that he had succeeded with deceiving such a powerful Wizard was immensely impressive.

ooo

Severus was taken off guard by the look of pure respect and wonderment on Hermione’s face after he responded to her. Of course he was annoyed by her inquisitiveness when she initially asked. What a ridiculous question, he scoffed in his head. How else would anyone been able to have deceived The Dark Lord? Unparalleled skill, obviously. Yet the way she watched him with such reverence...he didn’t think anyone ever had looked at him in that way before.

She appeared different, he realized. Gone were her bright eyes, which used to be filled with hope for the future. Now they were clouded with grief, and that hope had been replaced with sorrow and loss.

Hermione Granger was Muggle Born, he remembered. Obviously the girl must have learned there would have been no Muggles from her family coming to join her in the Wizarding resting place.

He was surprised when he’d realized that he’d felt sorry for her. Not that he’d wanted anything to do with his sorry excuse of a father, but he would have enjoyed the chance to have told him what he’d really thought of him. But he would never have had the opportunity. In a way, he was able to relate to her when it came to the Muggles. Neither of them would ever gain closure.

“Hermione...I-“

A glass of scotch was placed roughly in front of him, droplets spilled over the edge and onto the table.

“Don’t say I never do anything for you, Sev,” Regulus shouted with a laugh.

He couldn’t explain why, but he was suddenly filled with a horrible urge hex his old friend for interrupting him. With a small twist of his wrist, he sent a light stinging jinx beneath the table onto Regulus’ knee.

The table shook as Regulus jumped and slammed his leg into it. A small bout of satisfaction ran through Severus as he fought a smile.

“What the hell was that for?” Regulus yelled, rubbing his knee.

“Wait,” said Hermione. “We can do magic?”

No one must have told her yet, he realized, as he saw her furrowed brow. She was clearly puzzled, if not angry at the revelation. He had to admit, he found the expression amusing. Like a kitten who thought itself a lion.

ooo

It was like a light had been switched on inside of her. After everything that she had lost already, to find out that she could still perform magic... Why hadn’t anyone told her? And why was Severus looking at her like that? The way he appeared to be holding back a laugh, he seemed almost amused by her anger.

What?” she snapped, which to her astonishment, he did laugh.

“Hermione.” Her attention was taken away from Severus when Regulus spoke. “You mean you didn’t know?” His lips twitched, as if he also found it highly amusing.

She folded her arms across her chest. If she could have, she would have spat fire.

“Obviously not,” she hissed.

When Severus snorted another laugh, she’d had enough. Now that she’d been made aware that she still had her magic, she realized she should have known that all along. She was able to feel it flowing through her spirit, even more strongly than when she’d been alive. She just assumed since she no longer had her wand, that magic was no longer available to her. Her mouth curled upwards as she flicked her wrist and spilled Regulus’ drink across the table.

“But I know now,” she said smugly.

The look of utter shock on Regulus’ face as he jumped from his chair, to avoid the spilled drink, caused her to full out laugh. Severus, she noticed as she sneaked a glance at him, wore an approving smirk on his face.

“Merlin’s beard, Hermione!” Regulus shouted. “What is with you two?”

He waved his hand and set his glass back upright, and the Firewhiskey crept back inside of it. He picked it up, and wrinkled his nose.

“Well this is no good now,” he grumbled, then made his way back up to the bar.

Once they were left alone again, and her laughter died away, she turned back to face Severus. A sudden feeling of anxiety took over.

“How much do I still not know?” she asked, voicing her concern which caused said anxiety.

For a moment, he appeared to having difficulty answering. He opened and closed his mouth, then his shoulders dropped.

“Perhaps we should have a walk,” he said slowly, as if he were just making his mind up about the decision as the words were leaving his lips.

Hermione was taken aback, but her shock quickly wore off and nervousness soon took its place.

“Oh - okay,” she agreed. That had certainly been unexpected.

Both of them rose from their seats and made their way through the pub. Saying goodbye to Regulus seemed to have been something both of them had overlooked.


Chapter 9: Shocking.
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A/N -Thank you, RoxiMalfoy for beta’ing this chapter for me!! I adore the crap out of you!!

***

Severus held the door to the pub open for Hermione, as she stepped out into the busy little village. She knew she still had much to learn about her new surroundings, and for whatever reason, Lily and the rest of them hadn’t filled her in on much, it seemed. Severus she knew, however, wouldn’t have been worried about sparing her feelings, or shielding her from any harsh realities, which was why she’d agreed to accompany him, without a second thought.

Once they were both outside, he gestured towards the south of the village. The path which led to where most of the cottages she had seen, including her own, had led to. Briefly she wondered if he was taking her to his home, but quickly decided most likely not. Severus was a private man, and the two of them were just barely acquaintances, let alone friends. He must have wanted to travel that way, since it was far less populated than where they were then.

They walked on in a mutual silence, which now that they were out in the open hadn’t felt as uncomfortable as it had when she was sat so closely next to him in The Fallen Broomstick. They passed in front of a shop, which had men’s and women’s robes hanging in the windows, and she looked inside to see Tonks, who’s mouth fell opened into a comical O shape, as she spotted whom Hermione was walking with. The corner of Hermione’s mouth pulled upwards in spite of herself, as she raised her hand to give Tonks a tentative wave.

Obviously, Tonks would say something Remus, which meant she would have to endure more cruel remarks from Sirius regarding Severus, she sourly thought. She would have to nip that immediately, she promised herself.

“So, Miss Gra -- Hermione,” Severus quickly corrected himself. “How much do you know about this... existence?” He seemed to struggle a bit finding a word to adequately describe their afterlife.

They were leaving the main part of town, and soon passed her home. For a split second, she almost considered inviting him in to talk, instead of walking to Merlin knew where. Certainly, it seemed they were headed towards an area she hadn’t been yet. She could just make out a dense forest in the distance.

“I don’t believe I know very much yet,” she admitted with an edge to her voice. Hermione detested not having advanced knowledge of any situation she found herself in. “Basically, I know that I am obviously dead. But apparently I can still taste and feel things. And, as you know, I had only just found out I can still do magic.” She displayed this fact by raising her hand, twisting it through the air, and conjuring a purple wildflower in her palm. “I’ve found out that I can fall into a deep state of rest, but not exactly sleep,” she continued as she dropped the flower to the ground. “And I know I can --” her voice hitched. “I can see my parents in the fountain, when...when I’m ready,” she finished in a whisper. Her throat constricted at that thought.

Severus’s arm raised slowly, about two inches, before it returned back to his side. For a moment, Hermione had the preposterous impression that he was going to touch her; perhaps even attempt to comfort her. Not just because of the movement, but also the subtle softening in his black eyes. A softening that she’d never, ever seen before. He almost looked as though he felt sorry for her.

The two stopped walking, and Hermione wrapped an arm across her torso, where she began to rub the top of her opposite arm. “I suppose there’s much I still don’t know,” she said with a small shrug, just to say something to break the tension that began creeping up between them.

Severus cleared his throat and looked away from her, his expression quickly returning to neutral disinterest. “Let’s keep walking,” he told her in a hoarse voice.

As they continued down the path, Hermione noticed a single cottage to the right, shadowed by the dozens of trees surrounding it. It was quite pretty in its simplicity. With the grey stone, a dark wooden door, and small chimney sat on the roof. It appeared cozy and quiet, and she found herself envious of whomever lived there, since they were so far removed from everyone.

“Something wrong?” Severus drawled, as she was stopped, admiring the small home.

“No,” she answered. “Just wishing that my home popped up alone like this person’s.”

As much as she was glad that she’d had people who cared for her living near her, she did like the idea of having that peace and solitude the small cottage seemed to have offered.

“I find the isolation to be quite beneficial. If not somewhat peaceful at times,” he told her.

Hermione turned around and found him looking at her with his mouth turned up in a half-smirk. For some reason, the expression took her off guard and a unexplainable jolt of nerves gathered at her core.

“This — this is your home?” she asked.

He nodded. “It is,” he simply answered.

She turned back, and now looked at it in a new light. Overwhelming curiosity came over her, and she wished that he would have invited her inside. She was eager to see how Severus lived, what kind of items he would have had in his home, not to mention the books he must have owned. She wondered if it would have been reminiscent to the dungeons that he’d spent so much time dwelling in during his time at Hogwarts, or if it would have potentially been a bit more warm and inviting.

“Another time, perhaps,” he answered her unspoken thoughts. Her curiosity must had been written all over her face. She whipped her head back around, and knew that if she had still been alive, her cheeks would have been flushed. His smirk had grown.

Severus started to walk away, without waiting for Hermione, who jogged to catch up to him. As the path went on, she noticed several more cottages dotted along the hills, until they came upon the edge of the forest she had seen in the distance when they’d begun their walk. She couldn’t explain it, but something about it made her feel extremely uneasy.

“For the most part, there isn’t much left that you have yet to learn about this place,” he told her, after some time spent in silence. “Obviously, I am sure you have noticed, that all of the souls you have seen appear to be much younger than their bodies had been in life.”

Hermione looked up at his young face, with the premature lines from the stress of being a double agent for so long, now missing. His cheeks were more full than they had been in life, and even his hair; which fell to the tops of his shoulders, appeared to be thicker, and not as oily as she had remembered. Long lashes framed his black eyes, and for a small moment she found herself thinking he was somewhat handsome in his youthful looks. Not that she ever thought of him as ugly per se. It was just, she had never given much thought to his appearance at all before then.

She realized she must have been staring for too long, when he raised an eyebrow at her. Not wanting to appear mental, she quickly took her eyes from his face, and nodded. “That was one of the first things I noticed,” she told him.

“Right…” he said.

They’d ended up being just at the edge of the trees, and it had become significantly darker. An icy chill that she couldn’t explain crept up inside of her, and she shuddered reflexively. She wasn’t sure if her mind was playing tricks on her, but she could have sworn she heard the faint sound of people calling out from inside the woods. She couldn’t make out what they were saying, but it sounded as if they needed help.

“Severus?” she asked, taking a small step forward. She almost felt a pull towards the trees. It was like she had to go in.

She took another step forward, then yelped as Severus grasped her arm, and pulled her back to him.

“Do not go in there!” he said sharply, keeping a tight grip on her bicep.

Her head seemed to clear itself, from a trance she hadn’t even realized she was falling into. Her eyes widened.

Between the tone of Severus’ voice, the overall chill inside of her, and that strange pull she’d just felt towards the forest, Hermione was undeniably frightened.

“What...what is this place?” she asked, her voice was shaky.

Severus quietly cursed under his breath, and began to tow her away.

She could still hear the voices coming from inside. Then suddenly she heard a specific one. A voice that had filled her nightmares for many, many months before she died. Her entire body froze, before she slowly brought her right hand to her left forearm. She would have recognized that screech anywhere. It was Bellatrix Lestrange.

“I hadn’t realized… When we were walking — I wasn’t paying attention,” Severus began to explain. “I hadn’t meant to bring you here.”

Hermione felt dizzy. As she had so many times before, she once again saw herself pinned beneath Bellatrix, as the madwoman carved that disgusting slur into her flesh. Everything around her seemed to start spinning. And before she could stop them, tears started streaming from her eyes.

“Hermione?” She vaguely heard Severus’ alarmed voice. It sounded like it was coming from the other end of the universe.

She felt another tug on her arm, this time it was much more gentle, and without even realizing what she was doing, she followed Severus as he led her away from the trees.

“What was that Severus,” she asked again, hoping that he would explain, or just speak, or do anything to distract her from the horrible images playing in her mind.

A part of her was acutely aware that her arm was still held in his hand. The contact slowly began to calm her down. She was glad that she hadn’t stumbled upon that place alone. Who knew what could have happened otherwise.

The spinning started to subside as they walked, and she now felt exhausted. It was as if a giant weight fell over her, and had to stop. She needed to sit down.

Gently she removed her arm from his grip, and sank down on a patch of grass, sitting cross-legged, to take a moment to collect herself.

That voice. That horrible, awful, evil, disgusting voice. Never again did she think she would have heard it.

Severus hesitated, then quietly sat down beside her. Again she noticed a movement that looked as if he were about to touch her, before changing his mind.

“Who did you hear?” he asked softly.

Hermione scrunched her eyes closed, as if she were in physical pain. “Bellatrix,” she breathed out, in a voice barely louder than a whisper.

“I’m sorry,” he said, with none of his usual sarcasm or venom in his tone. “I wasn’t paying attention to where we were headed. You only just arrived. You’re not ready,” he continued, still not telling her what that was.

A slow anger built up inside her, due to once again being left in the dark. “Not ready for what?” she hissed.

He looked away, towards the way they had just come from. A far off look came into his eyes.

The Forest of Lost Souls,” he finally told her.

That coldness began to creep back up inside of her. Something about even the name caused discomfort to wash over her.

“It’s where the foulest of our kind are damned to spend the rest of eternity,” he further elaborated.

That explained why she heard Bellatrix’s shriek, she then realized.

“So, like a Wizarding Hell?” she asked.

He shook his head. “Not in the way I’m sure you are thinking. Fire and brimstone and all of that.”

Hermione’s interest was piqued. If it wasn’t a Hell, in the way she had been brought up to have believed, what exactly was it?

“The rumor is that the souls in that forest are doomed to wander for all of time. Never resting, never finding their way out, never encountering another soul, and eventually going mad,” he explained.

Hermione shivered. Even though Bellatrix more than deserved it, and had already been certifiably insane, that sounded like the worst possible way to spend the rest of your existence.

“But why did I find myself drawn to it?” she wondered out loud.

Had that meant that she’d been a bad person during her lifetime, she began to worry.

“The forest feeds off of the souls it receives. It thrives on them. It does not distinguish between good and evil. If a fresh soul draws near, it will attempt to consume it,” he said, then lowered his head. “Which is why I should have been more careful. You should not have been near it while your soul is new here.”

It was terrifying to think that, if she had been by herself when she’d come across The Forest of Lost Souls, she could have found herself lost forever. Why hadn’t anyone warned her of it?

It was rather far off from where she lived. She was willing to bet that none of her friends would have expected her to go anywhere near it so soon after her arrival.

“How long until it wears off?” she asked. “Until it wouldn’t attempted to draw me in?”

“Several weeks,” he said, still looking at the ground.

Hermione glanced over her shoulder towards the trees once more. It was there. Not quite as strongly as before, but there was a slight urge to walk back there, building inside of her.

She stood up from the ground quickly, before it grew more powerful.

“We should leave,” she said, wanting to put as much distance between herself and that forest as possible.

Their walk back towards the village was much more silent than the walk there. Which meant all conversation was virtually nonexistent. She still felt off after hearing Bellatrix, and learning that she could have been lured to the worst fate imaginable.

When they reached the walkway to her home, a thought hit her.

“Is that where he is? Where Voldemort is?”

Once again, she saw the slight jolt of his body when she said the name.

“No,” he said tersely. “The Dark Lord didn’t have enough of a soul left.”

So that must have meant that Voldemort technically had not even existed in any form? She wondered which would have been worse, to just not have existed at all, or to have spent the rest of your existence wandering that dreadful forest. Perhaps Voldemort had gotten off too easy, she thought.

“That’s a shame,” she said with a sharp, bitter edge in her voice.

Severus looked surprised by her tone.

“I never would have pegged you for the vengeance type,” he said.

Hermione cocked an eyebrow. “Do you remember what happened to Marietta Edgecombe? The boils on her face?”

His eyes widened, as he quickly worked it out. “That was you?

She nodded. “I cursed the parchment everyone signed when joining Dumbledore’s Army,” she explained with a causal shrug. “Just on the chance someone may have outed us.”

Severus snorted. “I must admit, that was quite...devious.” He appeared mildly impressed. Hermione laughed.

“I’ve had my moments,” she joked, a half-smile played on her lips, thinking of the time she had lit Severus on fire, during her first year.

That was a story that would be saved for another time, she decided.

Hermione looked back towards her home, then to Severus. She felt awkward just lingering outside.

“Do you...would you like to come in?” she asked hesitantly.

He didn’t answer immediately, and seemed to be giving it some thought. Then eventually he shook his head. “I better not,” he told her. Hermione felt deflated. “Some other time?” he asked, seemingly in response to the frown that formed on her face.

She could work with that. It wasn’t a flat out dismissal. Just a rain check.

“Sure,” she agreed, yet still filled with a small amount of disappointment.

She’d actually enjoyed his company, she realized. Severus seemed to have been just as content with silence as Hermione was, and he wasn’t one of those people who felt the need to speak just to hear the sound of their own voice. And there was something inside of her that was curious about the man who had shown a much different side of himself that day. She wondered if that’s who Severus truly was; not the man behind the cover of the spy persona that she had known during her time on earth.

She had time to get to know him better, she reminded herself. Neither of them would be going anywhere any time soon, after all.

Hermione dawdled. She wasn’t quite ready to say goodbye for the day, but she knew that it was probably for the best. The fact that he had actually spent that much time with her that day was honestly shocking. She probably shouldn’t have pushed her luck any further.

“Thank you,” she told him sincerely.

Severus narrowed his eyes. “For…?”

“For not treating me like a child,” she answered honestly.

The others seemed as if they were walking on eggshells around her; like they were only giving her enough information to keep her happy for the moment. It wasn’t like that with Severus though. How odd it was that, of all the people she had encountered there so far, that he was the one she felt the most comfortable speaking with about this new world she now found herself in.

His discomfort was palpable. He avoided eye contact and loudly cleared his throat. It was obvious he was struggling with how to respond. He was clearly out of his element, and she found it rather endearing.

“You’re welcome,” he finally said.

She gave him a shy smile, and took a step towards her home. “Perhaps we’ll run into one another again soon?” she asked, unable to keep the hope from her voice.

His lips twitched as he fought a smile. “Perhaps,” he said.

Hermione let out a quiet laugh as she turned and made her way to her front door. “Until next time then, Severus?” she called over her shoulder.

“I suppose so, Hermione,” she heard him say as she opened it and stepped inside.


Chapter 10: Accusatory.
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Hermione prepared tea in her kitchen, walking from one end to the other, gathering sugar, a kettle and a cup, not realizing that she was humming to herself. She was in much higher spirits than she’d been since she arrived, but didn’t consciously acknowledge the reason for the sudden mood change. She was so consumed with her thoughts, that she jumped when she heard a voice behind her.

“Well someone seems to be in a good mood,” said Lily.

Hermione turned around with her hand over her chest, to find Lily leaning against her door frame, watching her with humor in her eyes.

“Sorry.” Lily giggled.

“Merlin, Lily! You scared me half to death!” Hermione half-heartedly scolded her.

Lily laughed as she made her way from the doorway, and took a seat at Hermione’s kitchen table.

“Well that would be quite the accomplishment, considering our current state,” she joked.

Hermione shook her head in amusement, and silently summoned a second cup from her cupboard. “Tea?” she asked.

“I can manage to stay for a bit,” said Lily. “I was only just passing by and thought I would pop in to check on you.”

“That’s sweet of you,” said Hermione, as she sent everything to the table with a wave of her hand. She then sat down to join Lily.

“I see you figured out that we can still use magic,” said Lily, while she dropped a cube of sugar into her cup. “It took James and I about three days to finally realize.”

“Did it really?” Hermione laughed. “I only just found out earlier today,” she said, then took a drink of her tea, with a sudden feeling as if she said too much.

Hermione wasn’t sure, but it felt like Lily was looking at her suspiciously. She wondered if Lily’s visit was more than a mere coincidence, considering she arrived so quickly after she and Severus parted for the day. She began feeling a little uncomfortable, and shifted in her seat.

“Yeah, where were you today? I stopped by earlier, but there was no one home,” she asked a little too casually.

And then Hermione knew that Lily had spotted her with Severus. She took another drink of her tea to stall, then looked up to meet Lily’s eyeline. There was no reason to lie, or to feel guilty about who she had spent her time with, she told herself. Just because Lily may have had unresolved issues with Severus hadn’t meant that Hermione could not have a friendship with the man.

“Well...I met Regulus when I went into The Fallen Broomstick,” she hesitated for a moment. “Then Severus came in, and he and I left to go for a walk together,” she rushed out. She noticed the subtle widening of Lily’s eyes when she referred to him as Severus, instead of Snape, as she did the day before.

Lily looked down at the table. “I thought that was him who I saw leaving, right before I arrived,” she said softly.

Hermione could tell from the tone of her voice that there was still a lot of pain there for Lily, where Severus was concerned. She hoped one day, perhaps, they could make amends.

“I’m sorry, Lily,” said Hermione. She wasn’t even sure why she was apologizing, but she could not think of anything else to say at the time.

Lily lifted her head and smiled at Hermione.

“You have no reason to apologize,” she told her. “What happened between Severus and I is just that, between us.”

“I know, but still I —“

“Hermione really, it’s fine. I’m sure it would do Severus well to have a friend,” Lily cut her off.
Obviously Lily still cared for him, even if she hadn’t completely forgiven him.

“Do you think that maybe one day…” Hermione trailed off.

It really wasn’t any of her business, she knew that, but she wasn’t able to stop the question from coming out of her.

Lily shrugged. “I don’t know.”

I don’t know wasn’t a no, Hermione thought. There was still a chance that they could be friends again one day.

“So,” said Lily in a much brighter tone. “From your humming when I walked in, I take it you had a nice time?”

Hermione didn’t like the knowing smirk on Lily’s face, nor was she pleased with the stupid grin that formed on her own.

“We did, I think,” she admitted sheepishly.

ooo

What was he thinking, asking Hermione Granger to walk with him? And how did he let himself become so distracted, that he led her to that blasted forest? And why, in the name of everything holy, was he not able to get her face out of his head?

He didn’t want to acknowledge that he found her attractive. Loath he was to admit it to himself, he did find her to be quite pretty. But it wasn’t just her physical beauty that he found himself drawn to that day. It was the way that she carried herself, so strong and confident. How she spoke so intelligently, and was undoubtedly wise beyond her years. And also her tenacity, that she showed in surviving the war, and making sure the Wizarding World had become a better place.

She intrigued him, that much was certain. He thought back to the way she looked at him, the moment when they were discussing the youthful appearances of everyone’s souls. Her sad brown eyes scrutinized every inch of his face.

It puzzled him that he hadn’t detected any hint of revulsion as she looked at him. Surely, he would have assumed, that she would have disliked him. It wasn’t as if he was exactly pleasant to her, when they’d known one another while they were both alive. But for some reason, she treated him with the same kindness and respect that he’d witnessed her show so many others in her lifetime. He felt as if he didn’t deserve it.

Severus walked to the table in which he kept his whiskey and poured himself a glass. He downed it quickly, relishing in the burning sensation that traveled down his throat, and wished more than he had since he arrived, that the alcohol would have given him the same release as it once did, so long ago.

He hastily poured himself another glass, and began to pace his study, as he tried to clear his head of the girl.

As much as he tried, and much to his annoyance, he couldn’t rid his thoughts of her. Hermione’s face, after she had heard Bellatrix from the forest was the most prevalent image in his mind. There was undiluted pain, and pure terror in her eyes, and for some inexplicable reason he had felt compelled to hold her in that moment, and shield her from that pain. Of course he stopped himself from acting on the impulse. But it worried him, considering that he had not felt that overwhelming urge to protect someone in quite some time.

Obviously he knew there would have been no way for Bellatrix to have reached her, or harmed her, but he wasn’t thinking clearly at that time. It took every ounce of his restraint to pull his arm back from reaching out to her.

Why did the girl have to die, he thought for the second time in two days. Yet this time the thought was purely selfish. If she hadn’t have died, she wouldn’t have been there affecting him whatsoever. And why was she affecting him at all?

Several loud bangs pulled him back into the present. Severus’ head snapped up. Somebody was pounding on his front door.

His brow furrowed, as he wondered who would have been calling at his home. Surely Hermione wouldn’t have come, he worried. Then he cursed at the small part of himself that hoped that it was her.

He left his study in a hurry, and made his way through his sitting room to the door.

“Severus Snape! You open this door right now, or I swear I will blow it off its hinges!”

He froze. Why was she there? She had made it very clear that she still had not wanted anything to do with him. He suddenly felt ill.

When he gathered the strength to open the door, Lily was stood on the doorstep; there was fire in her eyes.

“Lil —“

She immediately pushed passed him, and invited herself into his home. Severus closed the door behind her, and turned to find Lily staring daggers at him, with her arms folded across her chest.

“What were you playing at, Severus?” she shouted.

He was undoubtedly confused. Normally the only times she ever shouted at him, with that look on her face, were when they were still at school together, and she had found out that he and Potter had a go at one another.

“I’m sorry?” he asked.

Lily took a deliberate step forward. “Hermione,” she said through her teeth. Severus felt like the floor started sinking beneath his feet. “You took her near that forest?” She wasn’t shouting any longer, but the chillingly low volume of her voice was every bit as powerful.

Severus wasn’t afraid of much. He spent nearly half of his life working as a spy for The Order, lying to The Dark Lord, and risked his life daily while doing it. But there was something about Lily’s anger that always caused Severus a small amount of apprehension.

He knew he fucked up. Wasn’t he just thinking about how badly he fucked up by bringing Hermione near the forest right before Lily arrived? He didn’t need Lily to be at his home, shouting at him like they were children once again.

“It was a mistake,” he said cooly. “It will not happen again.”

Lily’s eyes narrowed. “You’re planning on seeing her again?” she asked.

Severus didn’t know how to answer that question. He wasn’t entirely sure if he should have seen her again. They had only been in each other’s company twice, and she was already proving to impact him more than he had been comfortable with. Perhaps it would have been for the best if he stayed away.

“Most likely not,” he admitted.

For some reason, that seemed to anger Lily further.

“Oh? And why not? Hermione made it seem as if you both got on rather well,” she said accusingly.

He didn’t like the feeling that came over him when Lily said that. Avoiding anything that felt like hope or happiness was ingrained in him. It kept him from eventually dealing with disappointment.

A cruel smile came across his lips.

“I think we both know quite well my unfortunate habit of hurting the people I care for,” he said with acid saturating each syllable.

Lily recoiled as if he had swung at her. She then rolled her eyes, and scoffed at him.

“You’re an idiot at times, Sev, you know that, right?”

The sudden change in her tone, and the fact that she had called him by her childhood nickname for him, had Severus taken aback. Normally he would have seethed at the words that had just come from her mouth. And if anyone else had spoken to him in that way, he surely would have cursed them into oblivion. But the way she sounded so tired when she said it, like he was the only person in the room not in on some secret, caused his guard to drop.

“What do you mean?” he asked in earnest.

Lily shook her head sadly.

“If you don’t understand by now, you never will,” she told him.

There was nothing he hated more than when someone couldn’t be straight forward.

“Lily, what the hell do you mean?” he asked again, this time with a hint of anger in his voice.

She sighed and looked him straight in the eyes.

“You have to learn how to let go of this — this,” she threw her hands up in frustration. “This self-hate and anger that you’ve been carrying with you your entire existence! You have to learn to let people in who want to be there, without forcing them away!”

It was like she had slapped him. Severus stepped away from her. He couldn’t look at her in that moment. What would Lily have known? Lily who had loving parents, who was the perfect student, someone whom everyone loved, and a witch who was widely respected and idolized for her bravery in sacrificing herself for her son. How could she have ever known what it felt like to have lived his life.

“I think it’s time for you to leave,” he whispered with his back turned to her.

It was silent for a heartbeat.

“Severus, listen —“

He didn’t want to listen any longer. He shook his head.

“Goodbye, Lily,” he said, then swiftly made his way from the front room, and back towards his study. He heard the front door slam shut just before he threw his glass of whiskey across the room, where it shattered against the wall.

And that was precisely the reason he knew he needed to stay away from Hermione Granger. The last time a woman had shown him kindness, and affected him in the way Hermione was beginning to, it ended too painfully.


Chapter 11: Denial.
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After Lily left, which shockingly was in quite a rush, Hermione decided to explore her study and find something to read, since she’d been rather anxious to check out her vast collection of books. Finally settling on a Muggle novel she had been particularly fond of while she was alive, she sat in front of her fire, and curled up to begin reading. Although, she only made it through about twenty pages before she was interrupted.

“Please tell me Tonks is lying, or mental, or had something in her eye when she saw you,” Sirius groaned from behind Hermione.

She tensed up at his words, and slowly lowered her book to her lap, without turning around.

“Does no one knock when visiting a friend in this place?” she said quietly, then shifted her position to look at Sirius, who stood with his hands in his pockets, staring at her with mild disgust just present in his grey eyes.

Hermione huffed loudly, closed her book, and set it on the small table next to her chair. She rose from her seat, and pinched the bridge of her nose.

“Sirius, I am only going to say this once,” she began in a soft, yet firm voice. “As much as you may not like Severus, you cannot deny that he gave his life to protect all of us, including Harry.”

He snorted, then mumbled something that sounded like he agreed with her, albeit begrudgingly. She rolled her eyes.

“Whom I chose to spend my time with is my business. I’m not asking you to be friendly with him, but I am asking that you respect me enough to not question my judgement, when it comes to the people I wish to be friends with.”

She fixed him with a stern look to rival all others, with her lips pressed in a thin line, and crossed her arms over her chest.

Sirius shook his head slowly, then surprised her when he let out a low chuckle. “Merlin, that sounds familiar,” he said.

Of course, immediately Hermione knew what he meant. She knew that none of Lily’s friends understood her friendship with Severus, while they were at Hogwarts together.

“It’s not the same, Sirius,” she said. Sirius went to argue, yet Hermione quickly interrupted. “He’s not the same person he was at sixteen. And I am not Lily,” she hissed, then attempted to storm passed him. She’d had enough.

She nearly growled when Sirius caught her by the elbow, and gently turned her back around.

What?” she hissed, glaring up at him.

“I know you’re not,” he told her, as he let her go. “I just don’t want the git to hurt you like he hurt her.”

There was none of the usual playfulness in his eyes as he looked down at her. They were sincere, and filled with concern, which caused Hermione’s irritation with him begin to slowly melt away. As misguided as they were, she understood that Sirius’ intentions were in the right place.

“He won’t, Sirius,” she said with certainty.

She wasn’t sure how she knew he wouldn’t, but somehow, she just knew.

Sirius looked like he didn’t believe her, as he cocked a disbelieving eyebrow. He stood silent for a heartbeat, before letting out a loud sigh.

“Alright. I’ll lay off,” he conceded; Hermione smiled. “But only if you promise I don’t ever have to be around him.”

Hermione laughed. She’d sooner enclose two angry dragons together, rather than have Sirius and Severus in the same room.

“You don’t have to worry about that happening. I can promise you that,” said Hermione.

Hermione then returned to her seat, and gestured for Sirius to join her, where he sprawled out on her sofa, making himself rather at home.

“So I heard you met Reg,” he said, changing the subject, looking as if he was holding back a laugh.

“I’m assuming he told you about me spilling his drink?” she asked with a smile, as she remembered the bewildered look on his face.

Sirius threw his head back and let out a loud laugh. “He did.”

Hermione’s shoulders shook with as she giggled. “I didn’t exactly mean to do it. It just sort of happened.”

Just as Sirius went to respond, Hermione’s front door flew opened. A disheveled Remus Lupin came storming into her house.

“Sirius!” he began shouting as soon as one foot was over the threshold. “What did I say about badgering Hermione about…”

Remus trailed off when he spotted the two of them seated comfortably with one another and laughing in her sitting room.

“Oh,” he said, then waved his hand to shut her front door. “Never mind then.”

Sirius rolled his eyes as Hermione stifled a laugh. Sometimes it appeared as if Remus and Sirius were more of a married couple than Remus and Tonks, she thought to herself.

“Relax, Moony.” Sirius stretched out his legs in front of him, and leaned back with both arms tucked behind his head. “Everything is fine,” he told him in a tired tone of voice, that Hermione was sure he had probably used with Remus on many occasions.

Remus began to straighten out the bottom of his shirt, while he stood looking like he wasn’t sure if he should leave or not.

“So you didn’t… you know?” he asked, with a quick glance towards Hermione.

“Oh no,” Hermione spoke up before Sirius could. “He did come here to give me a hard time about spending time with Severus, if that’s what you were wondering.”

She didn’t miss the quiet gag Sirius let out when she had said Severus, but chose to pretend to ignore it.

“And you’re still in one piece?” Remus asked him with a twitch of his lips. “Remarkable.”

Sirius answered with his middle finger aimed in Remus’ direction, causing Hermione to cover her mouth to keep from laughing.

Hermione stood from her seat, shaking her head and began heading towards her kitchen.

“Well, come on, you two. We’ll have some tea,” she called over her shoulder, ignoring the bickering buzzing between the men behind her.

ooo

What a mind fuck of a day, thought Severus angrily, as he slammed the front door of his home behind him. He paced his study for over an hour after Lily had left, then decided he needed to get the hell out of the house and take a walk.

For at least the dozenth time, her words replayed in his head.

You have to learn how to let go of this — this… This self-hate and anger that you’ve been carrying with you your entire existence! You have to learn to let people in who want to be there, without forcing them away!

He snorted in anger. Forcing people away? How dare she come there and say those things to him! She hadn’t spoken to him since the day after he arrived there. When she thanked him — tight lipped — for what he had done for her son. He thought when he had seen her that day, that there may had been some hope in rekindling the friendship they once shared. But she swiftly snuffed that hope out by telling him she still couldn’t find it in herself to forgive him.

Then she had the audacity to lecture him about Hermione — the Granger girl, he quickly corrected himself. It wouldn’t do to even think of her in such familiar terms.

No, he would not allow himself to think of her at all. The girl was already proving to burrow herself under his skin after only two encounters. Never again would he allow something like that to happen.

She’s not Lily, popped into his head unwillingly. He nearly growled at the intruding thought.

Then a different voice; a softer voice played in his head.

Perhaps we’ll run into one another again soon?

Would she have been disappointed if they did not run in to one another again? And why the fuck was the thought of disappointing Hermione Granger causing him a pang of guilt?

Severus stalked down the dirt lane towards town, actively trying to think of anything that wasn’t Granger, or Lily. He counted rocks as he walked, mentally listed the ingredients to the Blood Replenishing potion, and even dissected the lyrics to what was at one time, his favorite song.

Even with the mental distractions, and several circuits around the village, he still couldn’t rid his thoughts of that bushy-haired witch. The look of awe in her amber eyes as she looked at him, the way his name sounded on her tongue, and the respect and gratitude that she’d shown him, all stuck a nerve inside of him. One that he hadn’t allowed anyone to strike in nearly two decades.

Even if he had been beginning to have some sort of peculiar interest in the girl, it wasn’t as if she’d ever reciprocate the interest in any way. He’d spent years being cruel to her, and nearly everyone she cared for. Partly because he had to, due to his position in the war. And also, partly because he absolutely loathed some of those she associated herself with. Black, for instance. An instant sneer formed on his face at the thought of the egotistical prick.

Truth be told, he never disliked the girl, contrary to how it may have appeared. He knew she was brilliant, as he recalled grading her essays being a much needed break from reading the absolute dribble the rest of the dunderheads used to attempt to pass off as acceptable.

Had she annoyed him at times? Absolutely. But not for the reasons he spat at her while they were alive. He didn’t find her to be insufferable, as he’d told her numerous times. She irked him, because she knew so much. He found it challenging to actually teach her anything. And Severus hated being challenged.

But now that they were both dead, and age was no longer a relevant factor, they were equals. And as much as he tried not to admit it to himself, he found her mind to be extremely… attractive.

He shuddered. No. He couldn’t — he wouldn’t entertain any more thoughts of that nature.

He had to avoid her. That was all. He needed to stay away, he told himself.

Yet, if he truly had meant that, what in the fuck was he currently doing standing in front of the gate to her home?

ooo

Sirius and Remus left shortly after their cups of tea, and Hermione was growing restless. She couldn’t quite concentrate on the book she read earlier, and felt like making a trip into the village. Perhaps even visit the pub again, just for something to do.

And maybe run into Severus again, ran through her mind.

Hermione shook her head in a jerky motion, trying to beat back those intruding thoughts.

Remembering the feel of his grip on her arm, and the softening in his eyes, as he clearly worried for her, flashed behind her closed eyes. Something reminiscent to butterflies in her stomach spread throughout her entire being when remembering the twitch of his lips, as he fought a smile, and the sound of his voice as he parted from her.

She really couldn’t explain this… interest, she seemed to be developing in him. Assuming it was only because even though she knew him, she didn’t really know him. With the years he spent undercover as a spy, she wondered if anyone — apart from Dumbledore, truly did know the real Severus Snape.

It was just the lack of knowledge about him that intrigued her. Nothing more, she tried to convince herself. Everyone knew of Hermione’s thirst for knowledge, after all.

That, and the fact that he hadn’t handled her with kid gloves, as the others seemed to. He spoke to her as if she were his equal. She supposed now she was, considering they were both in that place for all of eternity, never changing, and never aging.

But that’s all that it was. She thirsted for knowledge, and demanded to be spoken to like an adult. And Severus could provide her with both of those things. There were no other reasons for her wanting to see him again.

So why, when she opened her front door, and saw him awkwardly standing with his hand on her gate, as if debating to open it or not, was she feeling a giddy excitement bubbling inside of her at the sight of him?

***
A/N - It’s weird to say that this will probably be my last update on HPFF ever. But if you’re following this fic, or any of my other fics, you can find me under the name MegGonagall. That is my name on every other site, and tumblr, besides here. I hope to see you again!! And thank you for the love over the years. I truly appreciate it!! ♥
-Meg



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