The moonlight streamed through the large windows, illuminating Hermione's way down the corridor. Once again she had awakened after a few hours restless sleep. Once again she found herself wandering the deserted halls of the old school, rather than toss and turn for the rest of the night. Once again she knew where she would eventually end up. No matter which part of the castle she decided to walk she always found herself back in the same place.

Her breath caught in her throat as she rounded the corner and there he was. His dark hair framing his pale face, his black robes pooling at his feet. Taking the last few steps she stopped in front of him, looking up into his eyes. She reached up her hand, fingers drawing down his cheek the feel of paint on canvas rough beneath her touch.

Standing in front of the magical portrait she had never felt so alone. Dumbledore had commissioned the portrait before his death and it had been kept in storage until after the war. After Severus's death and his subsequent status of war hero it had been placed on the wall of the castle. Hermione had spent many hours in front of the magical portrait since she had returned to Hogwarts, wiling him to move or talk to her. The thing was the painting had never worked, no one could offer an explanation why it didn't, it just didn't.

She stepped back finding her usual spot on the windowsill, she sat and studied the painting. She had seen many first years run past without looking up, they claimed it was too stern for them. Hermione had never thought so; in fact she thought that the artist had caught a softer Severus. There was a gentleness in his eyes that few people had seen when he was alive.

She had been one of the lucky few to see the better side of him that he kept hidden from public view. It had started on the long nights they had spent holed up in Grimauld Place. At first when they had both wanted to use the library they had each been too stubborn to be the one to leave, reading their books in uncomfortable silence. Their relationship had started slowly, with mutual greetings when each entered the room. It then moved on to comments on what each other was reading and suggestions as to what would be a recommended read next. Eventually they had begun to discuss methods and theories they had read about. Then comfortable with each other they could spend hours in heated discussions over differences of opinions.

It had been during one of these exchanges that Severus had called her insufferable and that she loved to argue just for the sake of arguing. Hermione hated being called that word, it had taken her straight back to the classroom. She had rounded on Severus exclaiming that they were not arguing just that they were involved in a vigorous exchange of opinions. He had then done something that took her by surprise, he had broken out into laughter. Not a snort or a derisory sneer, it was an all out laugh and Hermione thought it was the most beautiful sound she had ever heard.

She had not realized until later that that was the moment when her feelings towards him had changed to love. She only came to that realization when she had been informed that Severus had died. She had tried to help him as he lay on that dusty floor, desperately searching to find anything that may keep him alive. She had administered anti venom and a blood replenisher, hoping that it would keep him alive until help could be sent. It had not been until the battle was over that Hermione had been told that Severus' body had been found and he had not survived.

The news had hit her hard, so hard that it had made her realize that she had actually fallen in love with him. She had withdrawn into herself not wanting to see anyone, locking herself away in her room. The only people she would let in had been Harry and Ron but it soon became clear they did not understand why she mourned the Professor's loss so deeply. After a few months of visiting her they had told her that they were going away to play international Quidditch but that they would still visit often. Gradually the gaps between visits had gotten longer until they were virtually non-existent. It had not bothered her at all, lost in her hopeless grief.

Nearly a year had gone by when she had received a letter from Professor McGonagall asking if she would be interested in a post at Hogwarts. They had hired a wizard to fill the post of potions master but due to the large amounts of fatalities in the war the one they had was not of the standard that they were used to. It was felt that if he had help it might give him support through the first few years. Hermione liked the idea of going back to the school. Being surrounded by the things that Severus had used every day had appealed to her and she had accepted the offer. Eventually it had become clear that the new potions master was struggling and he decided to resign. Hermione had stepped in to temporarily cover until Minerva had found a replacement but that had been two years ago and Hermione was still in the job.

Hermione sighed, three years on and she was still in the same place emotionally, she couldn't move on. Keeping herself busy during the day was easy but it was the nights that she found herself struggling. She had gotten used to a couple of hours sleep, it was the long hours waiting for the sun to come up that Hermione hated. She would read and mark papers but she knew that it was inevitable that she would be drawn to Severus's portrait every night.

Hermione had never felt so alone and lost; she felt the tears stinging behind her eyes.

"Why did you have to leave me Severus? I don't think I can bear being without you any longer." Her voice was ragged and full of emotion. "I love you so much my heart aches." She bent her head covering her face with her hands and allowed the tears to flow.

"Please, don't cry, Hermione." The rich, deep tones that had been haunting her for months sounded in her ears. For a second she thought that she had imagined the voice she had been longing to hear. She dropped her hands and looked up to the painting and straight into the eyes of Severus looking down at her.

"My god! It's working!" she stood up and stepped toward the portrait. "What happened? How is this possible?"

"The painting has always worked." Severus answered. "It was I who chose not to communicate with people."

"All the nights I have sat here willing for you to talk to me and all that time you could have spoken to me." She balled her hands into fists as she felt the anger rising in her. "Why would you do that to me Severus?"

"I wanted to say something so many times but I thought you were pining for the Weasley boy. " He replied. "I was unaware of your feelings for me. I could never dare hope that you would care for me as I do for you"

"No, it's you Severus. It's always been you." She took a small step toward his image. "I didn't realize until it was too late and every day I have struggled to come to terms with your death."

" I had no idea, Hermione."

"I miss you Severus, I miss talking to you when I find something interesting. I miss seeing you every day around the school. I miss sitting with you while we read in silence. I just miss you all the time, I thought it would get easier over time but it just gets harder."

"What if I told you that you didn't have to live like that anymore.'" He gave her a slight smile. "That we could be together."

"How would that be possible? You died Severus."

"Technically."" He paused, eyebrow raised, "That is not entirely correct."

"What! How? I saw the snake bite you. I watched as they brought your body back to the castle." Her voice cracked with emotion. "I went to your funeral, Severus."

"You tried to help me, Hermione as I lay on that floor, you administered potions and anti venom. Well, that bought me time."

"Time? Time to do what?" she asked.

"Time to put a spell in place that I had been working on. A spell that placed my body into deep stasis while it had chance to heal." He explained. "To all outside examinations I would have appeared to have died. A spell that would stay in place until I decided whether to come back"

"But you didn't." She said sadly, thinking of all the months she had suffered through.

"I had no reason to come back." His eyes searched hers. "Do I have one now?"

"I can't think of anything I would want more." Hermione's heart leapt in her chest at the thought of him coming back. "Is it possible?"

"Yes, if everything I put in place works I can't see why it wouldn't be possible." He hesitated before continuing "I can't do this alone so there are a couple of things that you should be aware of before we do this."

"I'll do anything, Severus." She replied.

"Firstly we must join our magic together. Mine will have to latch on to your core for it to be a strong enough bond to pull me back." He frowned down at her. "It will be very painful, Hermione."

"I don't care how much it hurts me, if it means I get you back." She said.

"Also, once the connection is made it can never be broken. If successful we would have to spend the rest of our lives together." Severus studied her face as he explained. "To begin with we would have to be constantly in each others company. Eventually, over time we will be able to be parted but it will never be for more than a few days at a time."

Hermione stared up at him, she couldn't think of anything she wanted more than to be with him.

"So, what do you think?" he asked. His eyes searching hers as she stood silently in front of him.