Disclaimer: The infamous JKR, Scholastic, etc. own the copyrighted characters mentioned in the following fic. I am just a fan girl with an overactive imagination.

Author's Note: The following warnings are as follows: Character Death, HBP Spoilers, Suicide, and all around sadness with a dash of hope. If any of this offends, please read no further.


Hermione Granger had come to terms with being alone.

It was one of those things of life she had learned to accept.

Her hair was unmanageable.

Her parents would never accept her magic.

Ron and Harry were gone.

Every morning she would wake and dress and neglect eating breakfast. Every day she would report to the Ministry to work on another case regarding some dark witch or wizard. The last surviving member of the "Golden Trio" had to continue the work her friends hadn't finished.

That isn't to say that Voldemort wasn't dead. The abomination was gone forever, the destruction of all the Horcruxes had ensured this. Hermione remembered the night her friend and lover had died; Harry and Voldemort had killed one another with their wands, whilst Ron, in all of his anguish, had his back turned to Lucius Malfoy.

Hermione had been one of the Aurors who recaptured Malfoy and sent him back to Azkaban. She was not one bent on revenge, but she let the anger blaze through her being when she had shoved the bastard into his jail cell and final resting place.

Malfoy had died the night before.

Having received an overnight owl from the Ministry, Hermione shrugged on her cloak and fastened it. She left a cup of coffee still steaming on her kitchen table and Apparated to Azkaban.

The Great Battle, the Final Onslaught, the Big Bloody Fucking War – whatever the new editions of the History of Magic textbooks called it – was over. Because of that, security was horribly lax at Azkaban. Dementors no longer sucked the souls of prisoners there; new Auror recruits now had guard duty. Even the type of prisoners in the jail had changed; mostly drunk wizards who had failed a sobriety test while riding a broomstick stayed the night there, or other petty criminals faced imprisonment. Murderers, rapists, and the like were housed in a small section of the prison.

Hermione approached the empty cell. There wasn't much left in there; only a small bed, a toilet, and a picture of the Malfoy family.

Another pure-blood family had disappeared into the annals of history.

Hermione was on her way out of the prison to oversee the burial when she heard a noise to her left.

"Miss? Miss? Over 'ere, miss. My cell mate Downey isn't 'ere. I could've sworn 'e was 'ere las' night. Was 'e let out?" An old man stretched his skinny arm through the bars.

Hermione ran out of the prison, never stopping until she reached Azkaban's gates.

"Where is he?" Hermione yelled, out of breath.

"Prisoner 1141-M, Lucius Malfoy?" The rookie continued once Hermione nodded. "He won't be buried here. His service will take place on the grounds of Malfoy Manor."

With an audible CRACK, Hermione Disapparated.

"Lucius Malfoy achieved many feats in his lifetime…"

"MOVE OUT OF THE WAY!" Hermione pushed through the small group of mourners and approached the coffin.

"Miss, what are you doing? This is desecration!" the wizard officiating the service said, but she ignored him and pried open the coffin.

There was a body in the coffin; a wizard lay there with silvery-blond hair fanning the pillow he rested on.

A Fixing Charm had the translucent strands stick to the strange wizard's head.

The office was cold. Hermione wrapped her cloak tighter around herself as she waited for Kingsley Shacklebolt to say something about the escape, but he remained silent.

"How did security let this happen?" Hermione finally spoke up.

"I don't know. I have to ask Bingham Davenport, the head of security."

"This is despicable! Someone killed a prisoner and helped another one escape!"

"We have no evidence-"

"Shacklebolt, we have evidence that a man poorly disguised as Lucius Malfoy was going to be buried in his place this morning, and no one was the wiser."

"Don't be rash, Granger. Continue the Arbin Investigation, and Tonks can handle this case. Don't give me that look. Do you know how dangerous it is to go into a case with emotions in the way?"

"I have to do this. I have to make things right. I have to bring justice to Ron-"

"Enough!" He stood from his chair and pointed to the door. "Go home, Granger. I don't want to hear anything about you looking for Malfoy. Do you understand me?"

"Yes." Hermione said, averting her gaze. She didn't want Shacklebolt to see the lie in them.

Hermione looked through her records of Lucius Malfoy. She didn't have to make a copy of them that afternoon; she already had one from her personal files. She had gone over the records many times in the past, but it would be best to refresh her memory. She scanned through the long list of his crimes and the shorter list of relatives – all of whom were dead. Hermione knew her next destination as she poured through the Emergency Contact list.

It was time to go back to Spinner's End.

She Apparated there immediately and knocked on the door, despite the throbbing in her head that coincided with the pain in her stomach. Food could wait – she had a murderer to find.

"Auror Granger."

"Professor Snape."

"Am I needed for questioning?"

"Yes, we don't need to go," she added as he looked for his cloak. "I'll conduct it here."

Hermione had interviewed Snape many times on behalf of the Order, and then later on for the Ministry. At first, her interrogations had consisted of cool comments that barely hid her anger over Dumbledore's death. As the years had passed and Snape's name had been cleared, her questioning had taken on a more familiar approach. Snape proved to be useful in criminal profiling for many suspected Death Eater crimes.

Hermione's face had taken on a dispassionate appearance, so similar to her first interrogation ten years before.

She shook away all the feelings of confusion and pain from the past. Shacklebolt was right – if she let her emotions get the best of her, she would never apprehend Malfoy, even though she wasn't allowed to do so.

"Where's the file?" Snape asked, sitting in an armchair and inviting Hermione to follow suit.

Hermione declined the offer. "I believe that you're well acquainted with the person in question."

Snape looked on, his face betraying no understanding of Hermione's statement.

"Lucius Malfoy." Hermione crossed her arms, waiting for a response.

"Do you want more detailed information about his past activities as a Death Eater?"

"No. I want information on his current activities."

"He escaped?" Snap

Hermione nodded. "Do you have anything to say about this?"

"Pertaining to what, exactly?"

"His escape. Where he could be. Anything at all." Hermione finally relented and sat in the armchair across from Snape, holding her face in her hands. "Please, Severus." She felt tears prick the corners of her eyes.

Snape let Hermione cry. He watched her, waiting for the sobs to cease.

She wiped her eyes. "Do you have any information on the whereabouts of Lucius Malfoy?" Her voice croaked with every word.

He leaned forward. "Are you willing to wait?"

"For what? We need to bring Malfoy back-"

"No, Hermione." Snape grabbed her hands. "If you want Malfoy to have justice, stay here. Wait with me until tomorrow morning."

She swallowed; his hands were warming the cold that had been invading her body, his fingers drawing lazy circles on her palms. Hermione couldn't wait… she had to move now. Hesitation was what caused Ron's death, but it wouldn't bring about the end of her.

Hermione shivered. "No. We apprehend him tonight. I'll bring him justice. He did so many-"

"horrible things? Yes. But if you want justice, you must trust me. Stay with me."

Her eyes watered again. "It's too soon."

"Ten years is too soon? How long will you be alone?"

She could have retorted with his thirty years of pain. She could have stormed away from the old house and continued her search elsewhere.

But alone… alone… she heard the word that made her let go.

Hermione didn't want to be alone.

Severus Snape had come to terms with being alone. It was one of those bits and parts of life he had come to accept.

His hair was greasy.

He had killed to survive.

Hermione would never love him.

He never held a deep hope for this, but as years passed by and more cases were solved together, he'd occasionally wonder – did she care?

They were both emotionally scarred after the War. Snape had learned how to lock away the many moments of pain in his life, but Hermione bore the brunt of the suffering of war in a few days time during the aftermath of the Battle.

He remembered the first time Hermione had visited him; the vision of death still fresh in his mind as he sat in a cell in Azkaban. She had come representing the Order, the only one willing to conduct an objective investigation without killing him on sight.

But Merlin, she had come close.

When the truth had finally come through and enough evidence in Snape's defence was produced, Hermione visited his jail cell once more.

"You're free."

She opened the cell door and collapsed into his arms, crying. He stared at her, aghast at her emotional display. He unconsciously embraced her and gently rubbed her back. After some minutes, she pulled away from him and ran from the prison.

He learned to never console her when she cried.

Hermione opened her eyes. It was early in the morning, the sky still dark. She felt tired, and her back ached from the stress of the day before.

But she was warm again, ensconced in the comfort of Snape's arms.

"Hermione, wake up." She felt a warm hand stroke her cheek. Snape was standing above her, his hand now hovering above her face.

She reached for it, but he pulled away. Hermione stood and faced him.

"Stay with me," she whispered, pressing her lips to his.

He leaned in to her, his arm gripping her around the waist. Their kiss became more insistent, more forceful. Hermione parted her lips and moaned. Her arms wrapped themselves around his neck, bringing him closer to her.

He pulled away and rested his forehead against hers.

"Before we can continue, you must finish your case. You must, Hermione; otherwise, you'll never want me." He reached for her cloak and fastened it for her. "Are you ready?"

She nodded and kissed his cheek. Snape held onto her and Side-long Apparated them away.

Hermione gasped as she acquainted herself with her surroundings.

"Malfoy Manor?" The man had been there when she went to his funeral.

"All he told me on my last visit to Azkaban was that he would come back here soon." He said no more and led her through the long corridors.

Hermione followed him in astonishment. She couldn't believe Snape could break through the security spells of the manor, unless…

Snape stopped in front of an ornately carved door and took out his wand.

"Alohamora," he whispered. Once the lock clicked open, Snape led Hermione in.

The real Lucius Malfoy lay on a four poster bed with the curtains tied back. The remains of a shattered ceiling mirror surrounded his body. He was clad in forest green burial robes instead of an Azkaban prisoner uniform.

Hermione carefully walked to the bed, avoiding the shards of glass that had fallen to the floor. She looked at the scene for a closer inspection.

His wand, its halves flawlessly attached to one another, had rolled to the floor, lying amidst the shattered glass.

Malfoy's face looked peaceful. His hair was shorn off, leaving a fine layer of downy white-blond hair on his hand. The absence of his long hair exposed the firm line of his jaw, still prominent in death.

A folded piece of parchment caught Hermione's eye. She picked it up from its place in Malfoy's cold hand. Hermione shivered and presented the note to Snape. He had remained in the doorway, his head bowed as if in prayer. He looked at her and took the note.

He opened it and gave it back to her.

"It's for you."

She opened it and began to read.

To the Ministry of Magic:

The purpose of this letter is to explain my actions as of late – a confession of sorts. The only reason I would bother with such a matter is to prevent other free and uninvolved parties from being falsely accused on my account.

The first question that should be answered concerns the acquisition of my wand. The details of my escape must also be explained, for both issues go hand in hand.

I had come to befriend a young Auror – one of those ineffective children you claim to be "security." He was a son of one of my old acquaintances, and we began to form a rapport with one another.

One day I complained of the poor meals given at Azkaban, and I requested a richer meal. He obliged, and from there he and I began a mutual exchange. He would do me small favours, and I would teach him aspects of Dark Magic.

Mind you, none of the information I gave him was particularly harmful. The lackeys in your government allow some tomes of the Dark Arts to be readily accessible to the public.

At any rate, he was the one who retrieved and repaired my wand. Merlin only knows why you keep the remains of wands of the imprisoned. He also helped me escape and cut off my hair, using it as adequate disguise for a prisoner named Andrew Downes.

The Auror helped me fake my death and exchanged my body with Downes' – the Auror had killed and hidden his body away for my "funeral" hours earlier. I took the opportunity at that point to escape then, but first I had to take care of one last problem.

The body of Auror Jeremy Harris is buried a few metres away from the cliffs on the western side of Azkaban.

The next item I must address is why I will commit suicide in a few minutes.

The whole motive of escaping was my approaching suicide. I wanted to die on my own terms, and not by rotting away in a jail cell. The Manor had the tools necessary for my task, and I have a right to die in the place where my wife and son were slaughtered – in their beds by Ministry forces.

My wand is at the ready, and my lips are practicing the Avada Kedavra I will cast once this letter is signed.

- Lucius Malfoy.

Hermione shivered under the covers. She had left the note where she had found it and removed all traces, magical and otherwise, that showed Snape and she had visited Malfoy Manor. Yet her overactive mind still found ways to keep her nervous and cold.

She felt a warm body shift toward her. "Whatever spells you used to ensure our 'lack of involvement' in the situation, I had employed five more."

Hermione relaxed into Snape's arms. "True. But I still wonder…"

"Will you stay with me?" he asked suddenly and raised a tentative hand to her cheek.

"Yes." She reached for him as he caressed her face.

Both had come to terms with being with each other.

Another Author's Note: Thanks to Mollie Snape for beta-ing this.