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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.

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