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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.

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