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finally

Finally Author: Mary Rating: PG Summary: A sequel to Final Moments and Final Goodbye, for everyone who asked for a happy ending. Can be read as a standalone. *** You take a deep breath as you enter the gate, trying to get rid of the butterflies (or possibly giant eagles) that seem to have taken up residence in your stomach. It's been almost eight years since you last him. Eight long years. So much has changed since the day you left. You went on dates. Those curves you'd been wondering about finally appeared. You went to a wizarding institute and studied everything they could throw at you, all as the war against Voldemort raged on around you. And most of all, you grew up. Then the final battle happened. You were there, and you know he was as well, but you never saw him. Harry later told you that he came to St. Mungo's once, only once, to find out if you were alright. But he didn't stay long enough for you to wake and see him. That was three years ago. Miraculously, there were few casualties on the Order's side. Voldemort's side, however... When the Dark Lord died, many of his followers had been killed by some sort of magical backlash. When Harry told you that Severus was alive and well enough to look in on you, you cried with relief. But you didn't go to see him. You wrote dozens of letters, but never sent them, much to the annoyance of the owls forced to endure your debates. Should you send it? Would he welcome it? Would it come back unopened? In the end, the owls had all been sent away. Letters, however sincere, weren't right for what you needed to tell him. And now here you are. Eight years gone by. So many changes, and still one thing the same. You love him. You're here at Professor Dumbledore's request, excited about being in the place you once called home, and terrified about seeing him. The last time excitement and terror mingled in your heart was the day you left. You suppose it's only fitting that you feel the same emotional mix on your return. You make your way to the dungeons, not stopping to see Albus first. Your thoughts flit from one thing to another without pause, though the clearest one is wondering if Severus knew you were coming. It feels like forever, and yet it's all too soon, before you're in front of his door. You stand with your hand raised, ready to knock, but you can't do it. You need to knock, and you need to turn and run. You need a million things, but most of all, you need him. As if on cue, the door opens. *** It's been a long time since you last saw her. Even when Albus waves a photograph in your direction, you never look. You can't bear to see her face, even as you greedily take in every detail the others mention about her. Yes, you followed her career after she left. Even if you'd wanted to forget completely, you wouldn't have been able to. Albus is in regular contact with Potter, who of course hears from her almost daily, and the old man casually mentions the latest news about her whenever he gets the chance. Were you a different sort of man, your heart would break with every mention of her name. But you're not someone else, and you learned long ago how to close off your most painful emotions from everyone, including yourself. That isn't to say that you're immune to a sharp pang in your chest when her face comes unbidden into your mind. You remember her as the eighteen year old girl she was. And try as you might, you can't help but wonder about the woman she has become. The smallest of things cause your musings. Does she still take her tea with one sugar? Does that lock of hair still fall out of every attempt to pull it back? Do her eyes still sparkle when she gets into a debate she knows she can win? Despite your best efforts, she is the one thing that occupies your mind most often. After she left, you threw yourself into the fight against Voldemort with a daring, almost reckless abandon. With her absent, your only options seemed to be either nonstop work, or drunken introspection. Physical pain, pain received in Voldemort's service, you could handle easily. But emotional pain was unwanted. You never thought to wonder what would happen when the fight was over. When you heard she'd been hurt in the final battle, your resolve to not see her was sorely tested. But you held strong. You stood outside her room, and spoke quietly with her nurse while Potter watched you with an appraising eye. You weren't sure what it meant then, and you're not sure now. After the war, you settled into a comfortable routine. During the week you would teach the students, though with less malice than in her years here. The weekends were reserved for Albus, who had made his best attempts to draw you out of your dungeons. Tentative friendships with Hagrid, Minerva, and, to everyone's surprise, Remus Lupin, were formed, and your solitary behavior soon became a thing of the past. But despite the things about you that changed, one thing remains the same. You still love her. You know someone is coming to the school this weekend. Minerva has been going on about it for several weeks, but she won't tell you who it is. Admittedly, you're curious, so you decide to wander towards Albus' office to try and catch a glimpse of the arrival. Pulling on a fresh robe, you open the door. *** Had anyone the pleasure of witnessing the moment, they would no doubt find it amusing. She stands, mouth open in a small 'o' of surprise, with her hand raised to knock on a door that is wide open. He mirrors her expression in the doorway, shock evident on his normally expressionless features. For several minutes, neither speaks. She takes the time to study his appearance, to take stock of the changes he has made in their time apart. His hair isn't as lank as she remembers, his nose less hawk-like. He appears calmer, more relaxed than he used to be. She quite likes it. He, on the other hand, is unable to do anything more than stare at her face. She's older, more mature, but it is still the face of the woman he loves. Her hand slowly moves, reaching to nervously brush an errant lock of hair out of her face. He stills that hand, and takes it in his own, brushing the hair away for her. She's really here, and neither of them can quite believe it. He doesn't need words to know what she's feeling, he never has, and neither does she. So she does the only sensible thing she can think of. Standing on her toes, she reaches up and gives him a soft kiss. Something so simple, but filled with a thousand emotions. The kiss itself is no different from the final one she gave him so many years ago. But the meaning is completely different. This kiss is a hello. They break apart, but neither moves far. He gazes into her eyes, sparkling like he remembers, and gives her the smile she loves so much. "Hello, Hermione." She returns the smile, and pulls him into a tight embrace. "Hello, Severus." It is more than a hello. It's a beginning. **** Fin

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