Redemption : Chapter 8

Severus had stood in the background, far enough away so as not to be intrusive, but close enough to hear the conversation between Hermione and Draco. He was in awe of the woman standing before him. After all she'd been through, she still found it in her heart to forgive Draco. He knew that he himself would never forgive Draco for what he had done to her. Nonetheless, if forgiveness gave her closure, so be it.

Together, Severus and Hermione Apparated near the back gates of Hogwarts to avoid the media circus awaiting her at the main gates. He quickly ushered Hermione to the dungeons and inside of his private rooms. He was beginning to think of them as "their" rooms, a dangerous thought indeed.

Severus watched as she studied her surroundings, tears in her eyes.

"What is it?" he asked, stepping up behind her and placing a hand on her shoulder.

"It's just, this has been my home for the last month, although it seems like much longer. I feel safe here. I haven't felt safe anywhere since the war began, not even after it ended. But I feel safe here, with you. I know it sounds silly, but I'm kind of afraid of leaving."

"You are welcome to stay in these rooms until the semester begins, Hermione. Beyond that, I'm sure Dumbledore would find rooms for you here in the castle if you so desire. It would not be––appropriate––for an unwed witch and wizard to be sharing quarters during the school year."

Hermione turned to face him. "I can't hide here in your rooms forever, Severus. Even though I'd like to. And you've done more than enough for me already. I believe I've far overstayed my welcome."

"Hermione," Severus said, looking deeply into her eyes, "you will always be welcome here."

She leaned into Severus, sighing against his chest as his arms wrapped around her. "I'm not the same person anymore. I have my identity and my freedom but I feel like I've lost my soul."

Severus shuddered at her words. He had felt that way since the war ended, up until the point she showed up in his potions storeroom that night, giving him a reason to live. "It does gets better, Hermione, trust me. But it is going to take some time."

Hermione pulled out of Severus's embrace and retrieved a cup of tea before sitting on the couch. "So what happens now? Where do I go from here?"

"Anywhere you like, but at the moment, Albus is hosting a surprise party in your honor. He wanted me to bring you straight back to the Great Hall, but I thought it would be kinder to warn your first."

Hermione closed her eyes for a moment and swallowed. "Thank you, I appreciate that."

"You don't have to go."

"I can't hide forever," she said, staring absently out the window.

After a short pause, she took a deep breath and asked the question he had been waiting for in some form or another, "How accurately did the Daily Prophet report what happened?"

Severus considered his answer. He would not lie to her. The Daily Prophet had been there to cover Draco's trial and had gotten an added bonus when Hermione took the stand. They hadn't missed a single piece of her riveting testimony. "Quite accurately, actually."

She shook her head. "I suppose it was sensational enough that they didn't need to exaggerate the facts." She paused before asking, "Do I want to read it?"

"No," he said, removing the cup of tea from her trembling hands.

"I don't know if I can do this, Severus. No one will look at me the same. No one will think of me like they used to."

Severus sat beside her, taking her hands in his. "Hermione, your closest friends are here. They want nothing more than to have you back in their lives. Everyone knows what an intelligent, beautiful, and brave witch you are, and that has not changed. Very few people could have survived what you did. Even fewer would have had the courage and the strength of character to go public with what happened in order to save another's life. I, for one, am honored to have made your acquaintance."

"You are more than an acquaintance, Severus."

He watched as she steeled her shoulders and stood. "Would you be so kind as to escort me to the Great Hall?"

"I would be delighted." He took her arm and led her from his chambers, relieved to see her willingness to face her fears as well as her future.

"The anticipation is the worst part," she said as they entered the corridor leading to the Great Hall.

"Indeed," he murmured. Indeed.

Severus watched from a distance as Hermione's friends greeted her with cheers, tears, and warm embraces. He thought she was handling it all quite well. He would have never agreed to such fanfare. Albus had suggested just such an event in Severus's honor when the war was over, but one glare from Severus was enough to put that thought out of the Headmaster's mind.

Severus surveyed the crowd that had gathered to greet her. Of course Potter and Weasley were there, along with the entire Weasley family, most of the professors and staff at Hogwarts, and numerous Order members. As he leaned against the wall and watched the scene unfolding before him, he knew that he was no longer needed. She was a survivor. She would be leaving soon, most likely to spend the remainder of the summer with the Weasleys and then to move on with her life. As it should be. That didn't stop the gnawing emptiness growing inside of him though.

As he turned to leave, he felt a hand on his shoulder.

"Leaving so soon?"

He turned to face the woman standing before him. "I have work to attend to."

Hermione frowned. "I know this isn't your scene. Thank you for coming though. Thank you for everything, Severus. I could not have done this without you." She kissed him on the cheek before returning to her friends.

"You are very welcome, Hermione," he said, knowing that she couldn't hear him. He closed his eyes at the memory of the day at the lake when he had bid her farewell for what he thought was forever. "Good-bye Miss Granger, I will miss you," he whispered. With that, he pulled his robes around him and swept back through the castle to his chambers, his heart beating to a different rhythm.

A/N: This was supposed to be a romance between Hermione Granger and Severus Snape, but as you've seen, the bond between Hermione and Draco sort of grew up out of nowhere and took over. As such, I will be writing a sequel to this to grow the romantic relationship between Hermione and Severus. Even though Hermione forgave Draco, I think it would be a stretch to put the two of them together after what happened. Perhaps twenty years down the road they could have a relationship, but not now. I hope you enjoyed it.