A/N: I own nothing, simply a love for the characters and a yearning to envision a story beyond what we have been given.

36 year-old Hermione Granger clutched the black cloak to her face, her fingers long since white from the strength of her grasp. She breathed in the scent she loved so much – parchment and ink and dirt from the garden – and stared numbly out the frosted church window. The past few days had flown by and the events played out in her mind even as her body began aching from her motionless position and her nose grew cold from the draft around the window.

It had come on so suddenly. They had celebrated Thanksgiving as usual, with their children and close friends, and only a few days into the month of December they received the news of his illness. There was nothing to be done. The illness was too advanced.

Severus had made it his mission to live out his days enjoying time with his family, and as such, both he and Hermione left their teaching positions before exams and took their children, Elizabeth (15 years old), Oliver (12), Alexandria (9) and Benjamin (5) on a vacation in France. Most of their days there were filled with picnics by the waterside, and Hermione would watch Severus with his children with pure love in her heart. He had become so much softer as a father. He was strict still of course, but he almost always had upturned lips and a warmth in his eyes that any student of his would doubt could exist. From time to time, he would look up from the game he was playing with the children and meet Hermione's misted eyes. The smile he would give her before returning to the game was one full of sadness, and love.

They returned home in time for Christmas and Severus surprised Hermione with the most wonderful holiday they had ever had. He decorated everything, a fire was always crackling away cheerfully, the scent of fresh pine in the air and their friends with mulled cider in their hands talking and laughing away. Harry, Ginny, Ron, Lavender, Luna, Neville, Minerva, Hagrid, Kingsley, Hermione's parents, all the children and the Weasley Clan fit comfortably in their living room and spent a few days in a magically expanded wing of the house. She would never forget the joy of all the kids opening gift after gift, the love and warmth in the air, and Severus's hand firmly holding her own as though it were a lifeline.

It wasn't until the beginning of January that she really noticed his health declining. He grew somehow even more pale, winced often as though he were in pain (though he would never admit to it), was frequently out of breath and had little to no appetite. The children went back to Hogwarts on the 10th of January and immediately after their departure, he turned and gave her a look that said everything. It wouldn't be long now.

Molly came over to help Hermione care for him. Both Alexandria and Benjamin were staying with the Potters, and the eldest two remained at school. Hermione had told Minerva, of course, that she didn't know when she'd be returning and had been assured she should take her time and her position would be waiting for her when she was able to return.

Their days were filled with tea and sitting together by the fireside reading, talking or napping leisurely. Every time Severus would begin telling her what to do once he was gone, she would shush him with a small, sad smile and shake her head. "None of that, now." She'd say, trying her best to keep the tremors out of her voice. His eyes would bore into hers, vaguely resembling the old professor she once knew, pitying a student for their lack of knowledge. However, he would allow her to change the subject with a simple nod and not speak about it again for a length of time.

Sometime in the wee hours of the morning a few days later, he passed on peacefully with Hermione curled up beside him. She lay there crying silently until Molly arrived after sunrise and helped Hermione begin to make arrangements. She had also called Ron, Harry and Ginny and they had all arrived by the afternoon. Ginny gently took Hermione upstairs and bathed her, dressing her afterwards in warm flannel pajamas and taking her downstairs to find the others gathered around a table filled with Molly's delicious cooking. The four of them spent the evening curled up together talking of everything and nothing.

The days that followed were repetitive. The children came back home, Ginny helped Hermione with even the most mundane of tasks and Molly cooked every meal while Harry and Ron entertained all of the children. Minerva had contacted her, inviting her to visit Severus's portrait, but it was still too soon, too fresh.

Sunday had come much too fast and now there she stood, clutching his cloak to her face, feeling the coarse material and breathing in his scent while staring out the window of the Parish Church of St. Clementine at the graveyard where he was buried. She had insisted he be buried in the cemetery in Godric's Hollow, along with Harry's parents. The snow blew gently in the cold, still air but the children didn't move. They had made a sort of half circle around the headstone, all holding one another and saying their goodbyes. Hermione could just make out the words etched on the dark grey stone.


1.9.1960 - 1.14.2016


"And then he greeted Death as an old friend, and went with him gladly, and, equals, they departed this life*"

A few days later she would find his last words to her – a scrap of parchment tucked between the pages of "Little Women".

My dearest Hermione,

I cannot be long for this world now and I need desperately to say my peace, if only on parchment.

The words I have been wanting to say to you for weeks are simple. Thank you. You have given me everything I had dared not hope for. Love, children, happiness, joy, security, patience and so much more. I need not tell you how to go on with the children because you are already the best mother they could ever hope for. I need not say you must go on for them because, of course, you are already well aware of this. You are, after all, still an insufferable know-it-all…but also one I couldn't possibly hold more love in my heart for.

While I abhor the thought of leaving you, simply enough because I am selfish and would wish to be present for all of your days, know that I am not frightened or regretful. You have taught me to value my life in a way I never thought possible and I depart this life knowing I have indeed lived a much more full life than I probably deserve. I am a lucky man.

I remember you reading this book whilst curled up on the armchair in my sitting room all those years ago. You looked so serene, so peaceful. The sun shone upon your face and I recall being utterly unhinged by your beauty. I knew I loved you even then, I am only sorry I did not say those words to you sooner.

There will never be enough words to say goodbye to you or to thank you enough for our wonderful life together, so I will instead leave you with these: "I'm not afraid, but it seems as if I should be homesick for you even in heaven**."

I love you, my dear. Always.

Hermione would return to Hogwarts the following autumn along with her two eldest children. She found herself more than once in Severus's old office, grazing her fingertips along the vials of potions and the rough wood of his desk. It didn't take her long to make her way to the Headmistress's office to visit his portrait. The immediate warmth in his eyes once she entered melted her heart and gave her strength. She would continue to visit his portrait often, along with their children, keeping their father updated on their lives and dreams and hopes.

On Severus's birthday the following year, Hermione made her way to the dungeons with a single red rose in her hands. Minerva had kept his quarters empty out of respect and she had decided to leave her late husband one last symbol of her love. She stopped short when she rounded the corner to see Harry standing in front of his door, tears in his eyes. Hermione rushed forward to comfort him, but all he could do was gesture in front of him. Turning slowly, Hermione was overcome with emotion to find the wooden door covered with bits of parchment, marked vials of potions, and dozens of single flowers in memory of the potions master. In the center lie the white lily that Harry had brought.

Together they stood, holding each other and thinking about the man they had lost. How different he had truly been to the man they had once thought him. Far from the harsh, unforgiving, traitorous man he seemed, he truly was one of the strongest people they had known – and one of the bravest.

RIP Alan Rickman, you truly brought the complex character of Severus Snape to life and into all of our hearts. Thank you for your artistry.

*Direct quote from Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

**Direct quote from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott