Disclaimer: It isn't mine, and it never will be, to my everlasting sorrow.

Please review - this is my first one-shot.

NOTE: I wasn't at all sure what year they would be graduating. The HP Lexicon said Year 16 (16 years of life, 6 years at Hogwarts) was 1996. I simply added another year.


To Forgive and Love

Hermione stood before her fellow peers, soon to be graduates of the Wizarding World. She was dressed plainly, yet tastefully, in a simple blue robe embroidered with silver. Her hair was tied back in a french twist, and she wore no makeup or jewelry. Everyone was sitting quietly, politely waiting for McGonagall to end her speech. After that, Hermione was up. Then they handed out the diplomas and it was over - they were graduates.

The war had raged and lives had been lost. Harry had struck that final blow, killing Voldemort and causing his Death Eaters to scatter. Severus Snape had been put on trial, but new evidence, provided by a mysterious source, proved his innocence. While Dumbledore really was dead, Snape had acted on Dumbledore's orders, despite any misgivings. It had taken awhile, but Harry had done the right thing and forgave Snape. Ron quickly followed, and although Snape and the two young men would never be friends, they had reached an understanding.

Hermione, of course, had forgave him long ago. The minute Severus Snape went on trial, she was there, protesting his innocence and proclaiming her feelings. She publically announced that she forgave Severus Snape, much to people's disgust and disbelief. Most Order members even stopped speaking to her, but she stood by her announcement and never missed a court date. She never declared herself a friend and he never thanked her or approached her in any way, but she was there for him.

After being aquitted, Snape earned even more public approval for immediately offering his services in tracking down the Death Eaters that had mangaged to escape and avoid being caught. He received his Order of Merlin, First Class six months after his aquittal. A picture in the Daily Prophet showed Snape standing before Albus Dumbledore's grave. He had his back to the camera and his head was bowed. He had turned around and looked directly at the camera to find a picture of himself being snapped. To his everlasting embarassment the camera had caught the single tear sliding down his face.

It seemed that there wasn't a person left that hadn't lost somebody to Voldemort and his followers. The funerals had followed, with many people showing up (especially at the heroes funerals). Through all the mourning, however, was an almost palpable sense of relief and freedom.

Most of the seventh years returned from fighting to complete their final year, and not one of them complained about Snape returning. Most had nodded in recognition and thanks, but never approached. Even after the public acknowledgement of his deeds he wasn't approachable.

Which is really too bad, as I would love to get to know him better. In more ways than one, Hermione thought. Hermione watched as Snape settled in his customary seat at the end of the table, looking just as disagreeable as ever. His hair, while still oily, was nowhere near as bad. His skin was still very pale, but you could no longer say he looked sallow. He dressed in his usual black, billowing robes and all.

The clapping of the student body brought Hermione out of her thoughts. Smiling brightly and a little sadly, she moved to the podium in the center of the stage. Behind her, the teachers at the Professor's Table went quiet. The rest of the people in the room soon followed. Hermione was a hero in her own right - she faced down Death Eaters and stood by the Great Harry Potter's side when he defeated Voldemort, and many were in awe. They stared and whispered, and even asked for autographs (sometimes not on paper, either). This was a source of discomfort for the girl, but she dealt with it.

"I promise not to make this very long, as I'm sure you just want to get everything over with.

"Today is the beginning of the rest of our lives. We're entering the world of bills, jobs, and other hassles. We'll make mistakes, we're bound to. But we must learn from those mistakes and try again. What we do from now on is our own responsibility - no longer can teachers or people of authority be blamed for our actions. Unless we royally screw up." There was a titter of laughter from the audience at that.

"We've had to learn fairly quickly that life isn't fair, or easy. It's terrifying, and it can be full of loss and pain. Some would say knowing this so soon in life can't be good, but I disagree. It shapes who we are and prepares us for whatever is coming. I'd say we're the most prepared graduates so far. We know what to expect from life, and we know how to deal with devastating blows. We know how to pick up the pieces of our lives and attempt to assemble them in the way they were before - after all, it's the only thing you can do. As much as we'd love to sit and cry, life goes on.

"There are good things, of course. Love, friendship, marriage, and even children. We must always remember the good before the bad, or we'll end up being miserable. Never forget the bad though, because it allows us to appreciate the good so much more. Keep your friends and family close, remember those we lost, and enjoy life to its fullest. You never know when it might end, and I know I would much rather leave those close to me with happy memories. Forgive those who have done you ill, because otherwise the feelings will fester. Not to mention, you might come out of the deal with a new friend.

"So when you leave Hogwarts, remember who you've lost. Remember the bad as well as the good. Forgive and make new friends, and be happy. We are hardworking, intelligent, prepared people. The wizarding world better watch out, because here comes the class of 1997!" Cheers erupted, and people leaped to their feet. Hermione flushed with pleasure at how well her speech was recieved and floated down the stairs and to her seat. She was thumped on her back by several of her friends, and she couldn't seem to keep the ridiculous grin off her face.

She risked a glance at Snape, only to find him watching her. He gave an unreadable look before give a short, sharp nod. Then he turned his attention to the Headmistress, who was calling for the teachers to join her. They stood in a line and waited for McGonagall to begin reading off the names. Snape was at the end of the line, closest to Hermione's side. He didn't look at her again, and Hermione couldn't seem to look away.

I'm going to do it. The worst that can happen is that he says no. Once her mind was made up, Hermione didn't bother thinking about it any longer. She watched the people walk up the stairs and onto the platform before receiving their diploma. Then they made their way down the teacher assembly line, shaking hands, hugging, and exchanging brief words. Nobody shied away from Snape, but everyone kept it brief. From what everyone could see, he was polite, but impersonal.

"Granger, Hermione." Hermione's heart sped up as McGonagall said her name and then rattled off her accomplishments, ending with Valedictorian. Hermione smiled at everyone as she made her way up. She surprised McGonagall with a hug, and then made her way down the line of teachers.

"Wonderful job, Miss Granger!" Tiny Professor Flitwick squeaked, quivering with excitement. Hagrid cried and squeezed the breath out of Hermione with the force of his hug. Professor Sprout offered congratulations and some kind compliments, which Hermione accepted with an embarassed smile.

Down the line she went, getting nearer and nearer the wizard she was more and more convinced she was meant to be with. She hugged when appropriate and shook hands, exchanged words and murmured thanks. But most of her concentration was centered on the man at the end of the line.

Finally she was there, standing before the man she loved. She met his eyes squarely, neither shying away or staring balatantly. She gave him a warm smile, and thanked him for everything he had done. She leaned forward and brushed her lips against his cheek, while at the same time slipping her arms around him for a quick hug. Before he could react, Hermione was walking down the stairs and joining her friends.

She could feel his eyes boring into her, and she longed to turn around and wrap him up in her arms and snog him senseless. But she wouldn't - she'd wait until the after party was in full force before approaching him. The last thing he'd want would be an audience.

Snape had recovered enough to make polite thanks to the graduate who was enthusiastically thanking him. He didn't know what Granger was up to, but he knew that whatever it was, it was would happen tonight. He was already tiring of the round of thanks and hand shaking he was getting. He longed to be back in his rooms, alone with a bottle of brandy.

The Headmistress cleared her throat, and said in a surprisingly loud (and teary) voice, "I present the class of 1997! Congratulations, all of you!" The air was suddenly filled with hats as people tossed theirs up. Everyone was hugging, some were crying, but everyone was happy. It was totally chaos, and it took a half hour for people to calm down and begin to eat and talk. Hermione searched for Severus - she permitted herself to call him that now that she was no longer his student - and found him half hidden in a corner, far from everyone. Nobody would notice if she approached, except for him.

She slowly made her way across the room to him. She felt his eyes on her, and she could feel her stomach twist and knot with nerves. I'll be okay, I'll be okay. Just breathe, make complete sentences, and don't make a fool of yourself.

"Professor." She nodded cooly, and he returned the action. He stood with a cup of punch in one hand, his other hanging loose, free to grab his wand if needed. He looked paradoxically relaxed and tense, and Hermione wondered if he ever did completely relax. But she had come here for a reason, and she was determined to see it through.

"Miss Granger. To what do I owe the unexpected pleasure of your company?" He said. Hermione smiled at him warmly, not bothering to hid her care.

"I just wanted to spend some time with you before I had to leave. I'll miss you, you know." She stated baldly. Severus looked at her sharply, wondering if it was some cruel joke. But no, Hermione Granger would never play a joke on someone. At least, he hoped so.

"Will you? I do find that hard to believe. I have given you no reason to care at all whether or not I'm around."

"Perhaps. But sometimes, you don't need a reason to feel something for a person. You just do." He shook his head in disagreement.

"There's a reason for every feeling, whether you know it or not." He studied her. "I wonder what yours is."

She smiled and deftly changed the subject. She knew doing so would only increase his curiousity, and make him more susceptible to her advances. He narrowed his eyes at her when she did so, but she pretended not to notice.

"What do you plan on doing, now that another year of teaching has passed?"

"What I always do. Stay at Hogwarts and do research." He replied. He seemed in parts curious and wary of her. Like she was an exotic animal that he longed to study, but was afraid of her sharp claws.

"Ah. Sounds exciting." Hermione replied dryly. He simply blinked at her, not responding. He had relaxed enough to lean against the wall, arms folded, still holding the cup containing the punch.

"What do you plan on doing, Miss Granger?" He inquired. You, was Hermione's immediate response, but she didn't want to scare him off.

"I plan to forgive and move on. I want to apprentice to Professor McGonagall, and perhaps attain the man I love." Severus snorted.

"How ridiculous. Forgive and move on? Attain the man you love? Forgive and love have always been just words. I do not see people as forgiving or as loving. People say they forgive, but they don't really. They'll always remember the burn they received before they remember anything else. As for love...it's a disgusting emotion that I could do without. It turns idiots into fools of epic proportions." Severus sneered, watching Hermione for her reaction.

But she didn't give him one. She looked back, not stepping down from the challange of proving him wrong.

"What you've said is what's ridiculous. I've forgiven you, and I'll always remember the way you defended me during the Final Battle before I remember you killing the Headmaster." Severus' eyes flickered with emotion when she said the first part. The small, unidentifyable emotions shining through was completely gone at the mention of the Headmaster.

"You always were shockingly naive. Wait a few years...you'll see. People rarely forgive." Severus said confidently. Hermione shook her head slowly and smiled.

"Oh no, sir. I believe you're the one in the wrong here. But lets move on. You said love turns idiots into fools. That may be true for puppy love or obsession, but not for true love. True love is different. You don't need to write poems or send stupid looks across the table at them. True love is felt with a touch, a glance. Poems aren't needed, and neither are speeches or anything like it." Hermione replied earnestly.

Snape briefly wondered why she seemed so intent on making him believe her. He was surprised, shocked really. Here he was at a graduation party, talking about love to one of his most annoying ex-students. Best friend to a Potter, no less. Before he could think about that some more, Hermione continued.

"True love is caring about the person. It's about sharing everything, making them happy. It's about the little things - smiles, waking up next to them every morning, laughing together...making memories." Hermione spoke softly, her eyes far away. How she longed for the man before her to laugh and smile with her.

"Maybe. But I'll never know. I had no prospects before - I certainly have none now. An ex-death eater-turned-spy isn't husband material. One-night stand material maybe, but marriage? Nobody wants to be tied down to someone like me. Nobody ever has." Severus said bitterly. Hermione frowned.

"Ever?" She questioned.

"Ever." Severus replied flatly. Well that explains part of his bitterness towards love.

"Do you want a family, Professor? Kids, a wife...all of that?" Hermione asked one final question.

"I did. I do. But what's the point of wishing or wanting, when you'll never get it?"

"What would you do if somebody did offer you love like I described? Would you take it?" Hermione asked. Severus opened his mouth to reply, but shut it. He was actually thinking about his answer, not snapping out a resounding no.

"I suppose...I would. It depends on the person offering, of course. I would not want to be married to some dunderhead after money, no matter how pretty or well formed," Severus replied slowly. Hermione saw her chance now, and she was going to take it. She stepped closer, her body inches from his. Severus' eyes widened and his mouth opened slightly, but no sound came out. He couldn't seem to look away from her. He clutched the cup of punch like it was his lifeline, forcing the cup to bend in. Some punch splashed out, but neither noticed.

"Miss...Miss Granger, what are you doing?" He sounded slightly panicked and afraid.

"Severus Snape, I love you. I have for awhile now, and I've wanted to tell you since the moment I realized how I felt. I don't care about our age difference, that you were until recently my professor, what people would say, or that you're an ex-death eater. I'm determined to have you. I'll keep working at it until you love me too, and then we can get married and have a family. I want you, and nobody else." Hermione spoke softly but commandingly, letting Severus know that she was perfectly serious. He still seemed to doubt her. He closed his mouth and began to move away. Hermione grabbed his sleeve and tugged him back.

"If you don't believe me, take a look." She stared right up into his eyes, trusting him to enter her mind and view her most private thoughts. His eyes widened yet again. Studying her again for a moment, he murmured the spell and swiftly entered her mind.

It was a sunny place, with no shadows or subterfuge. It was a warm, comforting place, and Severus wished he'd never have to leave. The second he entered he could tell she was telling the truth. His heart had swelled and he felt tears sting his eyes. He exited as gently as he had entered and stared in wonder at the young woman before him.

"I know you may not have feelings for me yet. I did spring this on you suddenly. But you have no idea how happy it would make me if you were to attend the Ministry Ball this weekend with me. As my date...and significant other. Please Severus, just give me a try. I promise it'll be worth it." She reached up and brushed the back of her hand against his face.

"I would never hurt you." Hermione said softly. Severus closed his eyes and enjoyed her gentle touch, something he hadn't experienced since his mother died years before. He was going to give in, he knew he would. And he was happy about it. He trusted her, he realized. He truly believed she wouldn't hurt him. Severus opened his eyes to find her face inches from his. She brushed her lips against his as gently as she had her hand against his face. Severus' arms slid around her and pulled her closer, much to Hermione's obvious happiness.

She kissed him again, this time with more force. He kissed back, enjoying the feeling of someone who cared wrapped in his arms. Hermione was in heaven. She loved the taste of the Fruit Punch on his tongue, the feel of his arms around her, and the smell of him. She had been waiting for this for so long.

Time slowed and everything dimmed until it was just the two of them. Neither wanted their first kiss to end, but the necessity of air eventually pulled them apart. Severus rested his forehead against hers and thanked every god he had ever heard of, and then thanked them in every language he knew.

"I love you, Severus. You'll never be alone again." Hermione murmured in his ear. He tightened his hold on her and breathed deeply. Her hair smelled of her shampoo. Hermione finally pulled back and smiled up at him, love written all over her face. He pulled back sharply, suddenly concerned. His arms dropped back to his sides, and his hair swung down to partially hide his face.

"What of Potter and Weasley? I know you say you don't care what people think, but they are your friends, Hermione." He said. Hermione's smile didn't disappear and neither did her look of love.

"They know. I told them and everybody else a long time ago, so they've had time to adjust to the idea. And if they don't like it...well, they respect me enough to not bring it up." She slid her arm around his waist and pulled him close. Now that she had him, she couldn't seem to stop touching him. He stared down at her, wondering how he got so lucky as to have this beautiful young woman confess her love for him. He reached up and tucked a curly lock of hair back behind her ear. His hand brushed her face as he pulled it away.

"Perhaps I can learn to forgive and love." He murmured down at her. Hermione smiled and planted a kiss on his cheek.

"I have no doubt you can."


THE END

I don't know where this idea came from. I was writing a songfic, and it just sort of came to me. I rather like it, and I'm proud of it as well. Of course, I've probably just jinxed myself - now everybody else will hate it, and I'll end up taking it off the site in shame.

It's 3:30 in the morning here. That would explain why the words are blurring in front of me.

Again, please review and tell me what you think. But don't be too harsh, please! It's my first one-shot.