1 Disclaimer: Don't own anything, not making any money, no infringement intended. I just love these characters too much to leave them alone.

1.1 Rating: R for language

Summary: Hermione finds comfort from an unexpected source after Ron breaks up with her. Takes place 7th year, two months before the Trio graduate from Hogwarts. Severus/Hermione.

1.1.1 Rebound

by Auror Borealis

Chapter 8

Hermione couldn't keep the happiness from bubbling over inside her, expressing itself in smiles and sighs. She hummed snatches of Muggle love songs, causing others to stare as she walked down the corridors. He loves me back, she thought, over and over. He let me hold his hand. I think… I think he almost kissed me. At the door, when he squeezed my hand. He leaned towards me… if Filch hadn't opened the door just then, damn him…

Exam results were posted, and Hermione got almost perfect scores on every one. She was graduating at the very top of her class. She'd long expected to, but it still felt nice to know for certain. And what's even better, he loves me…

She saw little of Snape over the last week of school. He was immured in his dungeon, grading tests and clearing his stores of potions ingredients that wouldn't keep over the summer. She caught glimpses of him at meals, but he was always gone before everyone else. Once or twice she felt his gaze on her, and would look up to see him regarding her thoughtfully. He has to be discreet, she thought to herself. I'm still a student here, even if I've already taken my last class at Hogwarts.

But by the last full day, she was beginning to doubt what she'd been so sure of, so short a time ago. "Busy" was beginning to look like "avoiding me" in Hermione's mind. He could make time to talk to me, just for a moment, if he wanted to, she thought. Did I read too much into him being nice to me? But why would he let me hold his hand like that? Or am I an idiot for thinking that that meant anything?

Hermione spent most of the week with Harry. Ron and Parvati spent most of it snogging in corners, or sneaking off somewhere more private when snogging wasn't enough. Trunks were filled, the rooms of the 7th years were stripped of every last shred of evidence that they'd ever been there at all. Dean Thomas' famous West Ham poster finally came down, carefully rolled up and packed away. Seamus said that Dean had to blink back a tear or two when he took it down, but Dean told him not to be a prat, and cuffed him affectionately on the head. The celebrations began well before the actual feast that would take place in the evening, if one could call an occasion that involved so much sadness a celebration. Butterbeer and stronger elixirs flowed freely among the older students, and many were feeling very good indeed when it came time to descend to the Great Hall to say goodbye to Hogwarts.

In what seemed no time at all, the sun was setting and the house tables were filled with chattering, emotional students. The teacher's table was just as lively, everyone full of their plans for the long holiday, and the sound of noses being blown into handkerchiefs could be heard. "Won't be the same around here without Potter," "I'm really going to miss young Granger," and "I never thought I'd say this, but Draco Malfoy did provide a bit of life around here" floated down to the students closest to the front of the hall. Hagrid was weeping openly into his pumpkin juice, and mopped his face with a handkerchief the size of a throw rug. Professor Snape arrived late and took the seat next to Remus Lupin.

"You're taking this 'discretion' thing to an extreme, you know," Lupin teased the other man. "Or are you playing hard to get?"

"Your interest in my love life is flattering, but you're growing tiresome on the subject. You said yourself, she will no longer be a student here after the Leaving Feast. That event is still in progress."

"True. You're absolutely right. I can see for myself that it is."

Snape turned an alarmed look on Lupin, wondering where the sudden babbling fit had come from. Lupin winked at him, rose, and walked along the table to where Professor Dumbledore was seated. Snape's alarm grew as Lupin leaned over to whisper in the Headmaster's ear. Dumbledore looked at Snape, nodded inexplicably, and then, to Snape's horror, also winked. Lupin returned to his seat and patted the Potions professor on the shoulder.

"What was that about, or do I not want to know?"

"Just doing you a favor, old chap."

Dumbledore rose, and a hush fell across the noisy hall.

"I declare this Leaving Feast to be at an end. Now please, sit back down, do, and go on with your supper. Dessert and entertainment will be provided shortly. No, where are you going, Mr. Longbottom? I said the Leaving Feast was at an end. I didn't say anyone had to leave. Do sit back down."

"Mad, he is," someone murmured. "Always said so."

"Yep," came another voice. "Brilliant, but barmy. I'm really going to miss him."

Lupin grinned broadly, folded his arms and sat back in his chair, looking triumphantly at Snape.

The dark-haired professor threw down his napkin, seemingly disgusted. "Oh, very well, Lupin, if nothing else will do for you."

Snape rose from his place and made his way around the teacher's table, down to where the students sat. People nudged one another, pointing, as he walked casually in the direction of the Gryffindor table. When he came to a stop beside Hermione, there was dead silence in the Hall.

Hermione looked up at him, her mouth open in surprise. He cleared his throat. The words, now that the time had come, stuck in his throat. He hadn't intended for this to be so – well, so bloody public. On Hermione's other side, Ron Weasley gave him a thumbs-up.

"Miss Granger," he finally got out. "Um… Hermione, it's a lovely evening." He waved unnecessarily at the ceiling, where a blanket of stars twinkled. "Would you care to go for a walk?"

Blushing to the roots of her hair, Hermione nodded, feeling breathless. Oh, thank gods, she thought. I wasn't wrong.

She took his offered hand, and he led her out of the silent Hall. They had just reached the front doors of Hogwarts when thunderous applause erupted, and raucous cheers split the air. He scowled, and she smiled up at him. The applause was still going strong when he cupped her face in his hands and lowered his head to kiss her.

Several minutes later, when they surfaced, both of them breathless and dazed, he wrapped his arm around her waist and led her along the path that circled the lake.

"Now about that movie, and this pizza you mentioned…"

The End