Hermione had frankly thought that, after staying in her old room at Hogwarts for three days, someone would have found her. It seemed the most obvious place for her to stay – especially given that she had no other home in the Wizarding World. Of course, for all technical purposes, Hogwarts was off limits to students, what with the Elfton educated elves painting intricate, fascinating frescos about their enslavement, and how Dumbledore used them as peons, and made them speak in a strange colloquial dialect, ignoring their intensive Liberal Arts backgrounds. Hermione really felt she ought to be happy about Voldemort commissioning elves to paint the halls of Hogwarts, but she had thought that when they became free they'd be happier, and less likely to brandish paint brushes at her and say that she didn't understand the breadth of their aesthetic intent. As she packed her suitcase she mumbled to herself, "I never would have bothered with SPEW if I had known they'd all turn out to be Narcissa Malfoys."
Not that Hermione would be bothering with SPEW, or indeed with house-elves, ever again. For Hermione was leaving this Wizarding World which had treated her and Harry so brutally. She couldn't live in a world where a dark power like Voldemort reigned. Hermione was not yet ready to deal with the fact that it was really only the lack of safe, legal painkillers for migraine headaches that had lead to Harry's brutal demise. Or, more to the point, the fact that she had begun giving him semi-legal painkillers. Better to blame it on Voldemort.
But as Hermione sat on the end of her bed, cradling her suitcase, she suddenly wondered what she was to do with herself now. Truth be told, she had no skills that would help her in the muggle world; having had no math classes since the age of ten, and thus barely able to do long division, a career in business was ruled out. What, oh, what would she do?
A house-elf walked in, and declared, "I've come to paint this room. I'm going to capture the lewd and filthy acts Dumbledore committed with goats. It'll be done in a kind of Gothic style."
"Go away, elf," said Hermione, "I'm trying to have a poignant moment of silent reverie."
"I don't really like the term elf. I prefer cognizant creature of disadvantaged stature."
"You are an elf," declared Hermione through gritted teeth, before promptly burying her head in her hands and sobbing. What had become of her politically correct instincts?
"Philistine hoyden," muttered the elf, or cognizant creature of disadvantaged stature, depending on how much it matters to you.
Hermione sprawled out on the bed. Suddenly she thought, "Why, I bet I'm quite fetching now, sprawled out on this bed!" She attempted to strike poses in a manner, which, to the untrained eye, made it look as though she was having some kind of spasm. Then she saw her neon pink heels and strange molting outfit still hanging in the closet. "Why," thought Hermione, "with this body and those shoes, I have all I need to become a really seedy prostitute!" Then Hermione remembered that being a prostitute meant having sex with people you didn't like. Really unattractive people that you didn't like. Minerva McGonagall would have been happy to have explained that to her. Minerva McGonagall actually knew a thing or two about it, as she'd once had sex with a man she couldn't stand in the hopes that he would shut up about Arithmancy (it was a dismal failure – he began talking about it again immediately afterwards). She'd found it to be, at the least, very boring and somewhat demeaning. McGonagall would have loved to have explained that to her. But McGonagall couldn't. Because she was dead.
Hermione did know that, if she became a prostitute, inevitably somewhere down the line she probably would end up being rescued from her lifestyle by Professor Snape. But that could take a really long time. She'd probably have syphilis by then. It seemed like it would be easier to be rescued if she just waited in a coffee shop for a while. Certainly it would carry less risk of contracting unfortunate sexually transmitted diseases.
So, then, she stuck her little chin out proudly and vowed not to give into the societal pressures that would lead her to a career in prostitution. She would have to forge off into the wild ravages of the muggle world armed only with two financially secure parents, a genius IQ, and a hell of an idea for a series of children's books. And without even the hope of rescue by Snape to fall back on! How would she bear it?
She would bear it the way Narcissa Malfoy would have told her to bear it, had Narcissa survived. "I will don this obscenely elaborate red dress to depart the Wizarding World," murmured Hermione, pulling on the dress that her beloved Professor Snape had sent her. The elf re-emerged, "Get out," he said, "I really want to paint this room. Honestly, does being commissioned by Voldemort mean nothing to you?"
"I'm going, I'm going," snarled Hermione, "Goodbye old dear Wizarding world…"
"Say goodbye at the bus station," replied the elf, "I've got work to do."
Hermione walked through the rainy streets in her red dress, which, since it was not intended to be rained on, was getting quickly ruined. "God, I can't believe it's raining," thought Hermione, "really, this is such a cliché." All around her she couldn't help noticing the dementors hooked up to I.V.s filled with Serotonin, planting yellow roses along the streets. Periodically, they would swing their I.V.s about in a spontaneous dance of joy. Or else, they would dance with each other, sometimes abandoning their task of planting yellow roses all together to skip along the streets, frightening small children. Some had even spoken of discarding their black robes in favor of tangerine colored ones, to help spread the joy – or at least the chemically induced joy – that El Elegance Elegante had brought to their lives since taking over the Wizarding World. Occasionally In future years, after dementor offspring had forgotten what it was like before Serotonin was pumped into their bodies at all times, a dementor would decide that they wanted to experience life without medication. As they inevitably went on a rampage terrorizing all those in their wake, this would generally be discouraged, and eventually stopped altogether.
Hermione sighed as she finally reached the bus stop. She sat down under a tree – covered with baubles, as had been decreed by Voldemort – and read the inscription which stated that it was the El Elegance Elegante and Bellatrix kissing tree. Hermione spent the next few moments wondering how it had all come to this – dancing dementors and gainfully employed elves, and, if that weren't enough, baubled kissing trees on every block.
A couple who would doubtless have been acceptable under the Narcissa Marriage Law, skipped joyfully across the street. Hermione contemplated ripping ornaments off the tree and throwing them at them, then wondered how it was possible that her time spent in the Wizarding world could have been so disastrous. At the end of her first year she had assumed that by now she'd have created potions to save the world from the terror that was Voldemort, and have had that sexy potion Professor Snape pledge eternal devotion to her. Hell, she thought she'd have had impressively orgasmic sex with Professor Snape at the least. And while she would admit that they had had sex – and that yes, she was in love with him – it hadn't been more orgasmic than the sex of the mass multitude of mere mortals. And he'd never pledged eternal love (and he never would); they weren't even on a first name basis. And yet, it had been nice, in parts, she thought. If she weren't fleeing the Wizarding world never to return, they might have had a very happy life together, reading their books side by side, brushing one another's fingers as they turned the pages. Hermione, who'd been raised on notions of being "madly in love" and who was, by her nature, very sane indeed, didn't recognize that that was as good as most loves ever got. Bellatrix and Voldemort might have surpassed it, but they had more aptitude for, if not madness, at least whimsy.
"I don't care, really," muttered Hermione to herself. "I shall have a perfectly fine life as a receptionist in a dentist's office. A perfectly fine life," she reiterated firmly.
"Mommy, mommy," said a little boy named Tommy across the street, "that lady is talking to herself. Is she Eastern European, too?"
"No," replied Tommy's mother, "I think it's possible that she's just crazy. She's wearing a ball gown in mid-afternoon when she's waiting for a bus. That spells crazy to me, Tommy."
Tommy would require a lot of therapy when he grew up, which Severus, Hermione, and the Death Eaters at large would not graciously offer to pay for. Which was just as well, as eventually he would publish a best selling non-fiction novel entitled, Crazy or only Eastern European: Why Someone from Hungary Would Want to Eat My Ears, and The Woman at the Bus Stop is A Psychopath.
Hermione, had she heard Tommy or his mother would have wished that they were correct. How much easier it would be to be mad! How else would she ever reconcile herself to this brave new world? In her state of sanity it seemed quite impossible.
"Excuse me," said a figure from behind her, "that bus line doesn't run anymore."
"Oh," replied Hermione glumly, "are you sure?"
"Positive," said the man, and Hermione couldn't help noticing the low silky timbre of his voice. She twirled around. "Professor Snape!" she exclaimed.
"Miss Granger," he replied, taking a seat next to her on the bench.
"Well," said Hermione, "I suppose there isn't much to say, really."
"No," said Professor Snape, "I suppose there isn't."
There was a long period of silence as they sat on the bus-stop, watching the cars pass, until Professor Snape finally declared, "You know, Miss Granger, it's rather absurd. I've spent all this time running everywhere looking for you. I even visited the Weasleys, but of course they weren't too thrilled to see me. And I had all these ideas of things that I could say to you, but now, now that we're actually here…"
"I know," replied Hermione, "it's rubbish isn't it? I did have all these ideas of things I could say to you if I ever met you again. I lay awake at night thinking about them, but now, I can't say anything at all."
"Right. Well, you're perhaps a more articulate sort than I am. And you have all that Gryffindor courage. Can you remember anything you thought of saying?"
"Well, I thought of calling you a fucking bastard. And hitting you. I mean, when somebody's friend – somebody's close friend – has died, you don't just sit there and act as though it's not such a big deal. You show a little sympathy as a decent human being." Hermione paused for a second. Then she slapped him and said, "You bastard!" The explanation beforehand and the second delay before the action was carried out robbed the slap of all its dramatic effect.
"My response was going to be quite different," replied Severus, rubbing his cheek.
"Well?" said Hermione.
"No, I don't believe I'll tell you now. I came here in good faith, and you repaid me with cruelty."
"Don't be such an ass," replied Hermione.
"Fine," replied Snape, "I wanted to say that I care about you."
"You care about me," replied Hermione, "you care about me? You care about a cat or a frog you… love… another person."
"I don't know that I'm fully comfortable with that word," replied Severus, and, in truth, he never would be.
"Fine" replied Hermione, "Fine, I think you've made your point. I did care about you, but not now, that I know that you only care about me. So just go away. I'm going to the muggle world."
"I'm sorry," said Severus, and he said it with absolute sincerity. "Miss Granger, I am truly, truly sorry. But can't our lives still go on together? I know it's not perfect, but I don't think it's often perfect. You see, I just like you. I like you and I want to be around you as often as I can. I think this is the most trite I've ever been."
Hermione paused, "Aren't you going to say something sarcastic, just for good measure?" she asked.
"If you honestly feel that way, then I'll just go." And he walked away, receding into the horizon. Hermione buried her head in her hands and she wept. Because she did like him, and she did just want to be around him as much as possible.
"Well, really Miss Granger," sighed Professor Snape, "won't you stop being such a stupid little dunderhead and come get a cup of coffee with me? There's a marvelous Starbucks across the street."
"Oh," sighed Hermione, blowing her nose in her sleeve, "what the hell? But we'd have to talk. Things need to be addressed."
"Very well. We have all the time in the world. If I didn't think it was a cliché to quote T.S. Eliot, I'd say time for you and time for me, before the taking of toast and tea."
"A life measured in coffee spoons. "Prufrock." I like it."
"Very good. I've taught you quite a bit then. And they say I'm a bad teacher."
"Well, some things. This doesn't mean I don't think you're a bastard, you know."
"This doesn't mean I don't think you're a stupid little dunderhead."
"Oh. Alright then. Good we've got that cleared up." And they smiled at each other, and linked arms, and walked off to Starbucks.
And they lived happily, and unhappily, but always together, ever after.
A/N: I hope all my readers have enjoyed this as much as I've enjoyed your lovely reviews and you don't find the ending TOO clichéd. I'm abandoning Harry Potter fan fiction – at least for a while – though, if any of you enjoyed this to the extent that you crave more parodies (I am about to pimp my original fiction shamelessly) I'm in the midst of a novel length parody of the recent college novels (particularly I Am Charlotte Simmons.) I'm afraid it may be more esoteric than this, but if it appeals to you, by all means drop a note at Jennifer. And thanks for reading!