Chapter Fourteen

In which the less than unexpected happens

A week had passed since they, three former students of the deceased and a werewolf not quite comfortable with calling him a friend, laid Severus Snape to rest in his family's sepulcher. It was quite sunny that day and unseasonably warm. The weather was mocking her dead lover and her. Others had been invited, friends and colleagues, but they had shied away from attending the funeral, such that it was, of a convicted murderer. Not all of them believed in his guilt, but nevertheless they did not come. Hermione suspected that Harry and Ron had left their significant others' behind on purpose. And she didn't blame them. It seemed more fitting for them to do the deed alone.

She had kissed him goodnight and good-bye one final time, expecting him to taste like death. It was more like fresh apricots. Remus had pulled her away gently when the tears had started to flow. Maybe that's why he had to be there. To pull her away when the time came and they sealed the crypt again, having laid to rest the last in a great line of powerful wizards. Had Hermione gone into that place alone, she might have sealed herself in as well.

But that was a week ago to the day. And Hermione wasn't sealed in an ancient mausoleum with her dead lover, she was sitting in front of a fire, drinking hot chocolate and wondering what she would do with her life since leaving the legal profession. Remus and Ginny both claimed that they could use some help with their classes. Ron said that she could probably still enter Auror training if she still wanted to work for the Ministry. And Harry? He had generously offered to pay her way for season following the Quidditch team.

That morning as she sat on her couch, listening to the fire crackle, she was still uncertain of where her future would be, or if she even had a future. She felt as though she had lost everything.

"Hermione?" questioned a concerned voice, his head appearing in her fireplace. It was Harry, who checked on her almost everyday.

"Good morning." she said, very nearly managing a smile. She always tried to smile for Harry's sake, but she still couldn't quite do it.

"I don't know how exactly to tell you this, but I figured that I ought to be the one to do it."

"That doesn't sound promising."

"Yeah, well, you know how it goes, right?" said Harry, taking a deep breath. "Someone broke into the Snape family sepulcher last night and took one of the bodies."

"Severus?" she asked, feeling a painful ache as she closed her eyes. Was nothing sacred to these people? She was sure somehow that the Ministry had had a hand in the desecration.

"Yeah." answered Harry. "I'm sorry, Hermione. You want me to come over?"

"No thanks, but I do appreciate the news. Would have been a rotten thing to hear on the street."

"You know where to find me, if you want to talk."

"Of course." she said before his image disappeared. "There's no way I'm letting this one go." Hermione said to herself, putting her cup on the coffee table and starting for the door.

It was a cold and dreary morning, and a fog was just beginning to lift from the area around the sepulcher as Hermione Granger apparated in from London. The sound of someone, a caretaker perhaps, raking the last of the autumn leaves was the only sound carried by the damp air. Purposeful strides took her to the entrance of the tomb where the stone had been broken into two neat pieces. She peered into the darkness.

"Lumos!" she cast, holding her wand aloft. Dust floated in the air around her, sparkling in the light of her wand and the soft gray of the morning that streamed in behind her.

Her eyes drifted to a slab of stone, a magical slab with a thousand incantations against scavengers, tomb robbers, decay, and the elements, where she had left her beloved to sleep the eternal sleep. It was empty. So much for those charms, she thought, walking closer.

"Can I help you, miss?" called a kindly voice from the entrance.

Hermione was startled and turned to find an old, bearded gentleman with a rake standing there. His blue eyes twinkled behind a pair of half-rimmed spectacles.

"My ... friend was here, but they took him." she stammered, wiping her bleary eyes with the back of her free hand.

The old man shook his head and said, "The times we live in. Makes me want to get away from everything ... some days. But are you really sure your friend was taken, as you put it? Unexpected things have been happening in these parts for centuries."

"I only know that he isn't here anymore." she replied, having the strangest feeling that she knew the caretaker. Something about his eyes and voice, the kindness in them both, were familiar, and yet she could not say for certain that she knew him. "Sir, have we met by any chance?" she asked.

"I don't know. There's always a chance, they say. Feel free to stay here as long as you like. Those Ministry of Magic people left quite some time ago." he chuckled, winking at her.

"Thank you." she said as he turned to go.

Hermione sat down on the slab and noticed a small, shiny object for the first time. Lifting it from the thin coat of dust, she recognized it as Severus's Slytherin pin. She had placed it upon his chest herself, just after she had folded his fingers around his wand in lasting tribute to the trust and faith she had had in him since she was just a teenage witch. Remus, strong enough and brave enough to do so, had helped Hermione dress him in his funeral clothes, dark colored and formal things that Severus had always preferred to wear, a sable black frock coat, and his Hogwarts robes. Harry had laid a folded Slytherin banner beneath his head as a pillow, but it was gone too. Only the tiny pin, a sleeping silver serpent in design, remained.

"Where have you gone?" she whispered.

Suddenly she felt two strong and gentle hands upon her shoulders as someone sat down behind her, his breath warm upon her neck, "I always told you that I could put a stopper in death, didn't I?"

"Severus?" she questioned, her eyes filling with confused, but hopeful tears.

"In the flesh." he chuckled, turning her to face him.

Hermione threw her arms around him to prove that he wasn't a ghost or a figment of her grief stricken imagination. He was warm and real, dressed in the same clothes in which she had lovingly arrayed him. He kissed the top of her head and chuckled softly again.

"You're not dead? And you're laughing!" Hermione said as she drew away, crying and punching him in the shoulder. "My God! Do you know what I went through? I mean, why, Severus? No, I know why. But how? And why didn't you tell me?" she babbled.

"It was a very old potion recipe. Induces a death-like state for a number of days. Risky, but not too complicated. They could do it back in the days of Romeo and Juliet, you know. I think it worked rather nicely." he answered, looking a bit smug. "And I couldn't have told you. The Ministry would have been quite suspicious if you weren't sufficiently upset by your 'client's' death."

"But, Severus, you can never show your face in England again! The Aurors would be on you in a second." she said, drying her eyes and accepting his answer, for the moment at least.

"I have had some time to think. My mother's family has this wonderful little place in the Italian Alps. Not so much a castle as a hunting lodge. Secluded and beautiful ... really beautiful. Like you, Hermione. And the commute to Beauxbatons isn't too bad. I've heard ... from an old friend ... that they will need a replacement for their Arithmancy professor come spring time. She's getting married, you know, and doesn't want to teach anymore." said Severus with the most genuine smile she had ever seen. "Married? Now what does that remind me of? Ah, yes." he said, taking the Slytherin pin from her hand and his wand from his pocket. With a tap and a quiet word it turned into a rather lovely diamond ring, the stone popping from the snake's mouth as it changed. "Would you marry me?" he asked Hermione, taking her hand in his.

"It's a bit sudden. I mean, we've really only known each other a few days ..."

"Rubbish. I feel like I've known you my whole life, and yours."

"Well, if that's the case, then I guess I will have to say 'yes'." answered Hermione, finally able to blink away the last of her tears. "Although since you are legally dead ..."

"We'll work around that."

Severus slipped the ring on to her finger and kissed her softly on the lips. They held that kiss for a long time, until the sound of someone raking leaves just outside the crypt made Hermione giggle and pull away.

"What?" he asked.

"You can't possibly tell me that the old man out there isn't Professor Dumbledore."

"Of all the times to be thinking of the headmaster! You were supposed to be kissing me."

"Severus ..."

"He wanted to take a holiday." shrugged Severus.

"Severus!" she practically shouted. "You mean to say that he was here all the time?"

"Ugh! Of course not. This is a my family crypt, not a health spa! I never really knew where he was exactly. I just knew that when the time was right, he would come back. Albus never lets anyone down. I was just as surprised to see him as anybody would have been when I walked out of here last evening. We made a little arrangement regarding the Ministry people who would come to investigate ... and you. He transfigured a bit and put them off the scent, so to speak, and alerted me to your arrival. Neat as neat." explained Severus, making light of the situation. "I imagine he would have broken me out of here if I hadn't had my wand, which is something I suppose I should thank Ron Weasley and company for." he added.

"And Remus for your robes." she chuckled, plucking at his slightly dusty sleeve.

Severus rose and looked rather distastefully at the cold, hard slab where they had been sitting and offered his arm to Hermione.

"Well, off we go then. I am sure that you have some things to pack up before joining me in Italy. But don't be too long, all right, love?" he said as they walked from the tomb and into the morning light outside. The caretaker, it seemed, had vanished ... again.

Hermione realized why Dumbledore had never shown up to save Severus at the inquiry and trial. The Ministry, as soon as their beloved and aged headmaster passed on, would have just gone after Severus again and again, if need be. Some grudges, right or wrong, only die when the object of loathing dies too. Dumbledore was truly wise, though his ways were seldom understood. And after knowing Severus for nearly twenty years, he knew the potions' master could take care of himself, especially with a little help from Miss Granger.

"And I have some good-byes that must be said. I couldn't leave with telling Ron about my intention to take his bride's job. Or letting Remus, Neville, and Ginny know that I'll be teaching at a rival school. Not to mention Harry. He'll turn colors when he finds out I'll be supporting a different Quidditch team from now on." she laughed.

"I would love to see the looks on their faces!"

"I'll bring the Pensieve too." she said, squeezing his arm.

"But we're only going to fill it with good memories from now on, hmm?" he said with a carefree smile.


The End


Author's Notes to follow.