His obsidian eyes scanned the grounds, watching the quiet movement of trees and birds like a hawk. A shadow began to crawl over the hill at the base of the castle, and his eyes honed in on the new addition to the scenery. A beautiful young woman climbed up the hill and stopped at the entrance, placing her hand on the cast iron gate. A wide smile spread across her face; she was obviously fond of the old castle. She looked familiar, but he couldn't quite place her. And then it hit him. Hermione Granger. Minerva had told him she had been hired and would be the new librarian. He had forgotten until now.
There was something different about her. She showed her age; one could tell by looking at her that she had lived, not just coasted through life. He knew how it was to coast through life. It wasn't a life at all.
This year was going to be different. He would make sure of that.
She walked through the front gate of Hogwarts. Taking a deep breath, a slow smile spread across her face. No matter what she had to deal with in her life, whether it was the drama of Harry and Ginny's explosive relationship, Ron's inability to maintain a girlfriend for longer than a minute, or even Luna's random announcements of a herd of Crumple-Horned Snorkacks heading towards Surrey, this place would always be her safe haven, her place of escape. Glancing around, she took in the sights of the repaired parts of the castle and released a sigh of contentment.
"I'm home," she whispered to no one in particular.
And indeed she was. After the war she had followed Ron and Harry to the Ministry of Magic. Their plan had been to fix what was severely broken. And they had. She had worked in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures for three years, changing the way many treated house-elves, Centaurs and other magical creatures. The boys had become Aurors, two of the best the Ministry had. They helped track down the last of the Death Eaters, capturing them and placing them in Azkaban under maximum security.
One day she had gone into the High End District in Diagon Alley to look for some new robes. When she had walked into one store she had been asked to leave due to their choice not to serve "her kind."
Hermione had been so disturbed that she had asked to speak to the manager. The snooty sales witch had sauntered to the back of the shop and called out to a man. He came around the corner and his hawkish eyes zoned in on Hermione's face.
"We do not serve your type here. I reserve the right to serve who I want and I refuse to serve anyone of tainted blood. Leave my shop."
This incident had led to her deciding on a career change. She had transferred to The Department of Magical Law Enforcement so that she could abolish the prejudices that Voldemort's death should have destroyed. It had only taken her two years to completely turn the Wizarding World around in its old prejudicial views.
She'd left the Ministry after that, knowing it was in capable hands with Kingsley as Minister and Harry and Ron as Aurors. In the back of her mind she had always longed to return to the place she had left entirely too soon, Hogwarts. Now, she had that opportunity.
One day when having tea with Minerva, the older lady had brought up the sad and joyful news that Madame Pince would be retiring. Hermione was ecstatic. She had asked the Headmistress if the job had been filled and Minerva had given her a knowing look.
"Of course not, Hermione. I wouldn't even think of hiring someone else until I had consulted you. Would you be interested in taking the position?" The words had barely left her mouth before Hermione shrieked a definite yes at her.
After the battle had ended, the Trio had gone back to the Shrieking Shack to rescue the body of Severus Snape and bring it into the Great Hall with the rest of the casualties of Voldemort's war of prejudice. When they had crawled through the tunnel and shoved the boxes aside, they were shocked to see him sitting up on the sawdust-covered floor, looking about as if scared to even move out of the ramshackle building. In his lap sat Fawkes and the puzzle pieces clicked together. She'd taken the next step, and the creak of a floorboard drew his attention away from the beautiful phoenix in his lap and to the three Gryffindors standing before him. His obsidian eyes met her misty brown ones. Her tears over Fred, Tonks, Remus, and all the other unnecessary deaths reflected in her eyes.
At first the adjustment to the truth behind everything in his life was difficult for Harry. He had to come to terms with the truth about Severus, about his mom, about his dad, and about Dumbledore's deception and human weakness. After all, everyone has at least one weakness; no one was perfect. But he got through the heavy weight of deception and emotion.
Severus Snape had been exonerated, that had been the first action that the trio had taken in their abolishment of corruption in the Ministry. He had returned to Hogwarts, but stepped down as Headmaster, returning to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts, his true passion. He had always longed to teach it so that he could teach the students what was really out there and what the real world was like; a lesson he had learned all too early on. This choice had shocked all; after all, being Headmaster was quite an honor. But when questioned about his choice, he simply stated that, "Minerva deserves it and will do a much better job than I ever could." The truth of it, though, was that he had been doing so many things for the past twenty years, all he really wanted was to sit back and relax, not have a large pile of responsibilities resting on his shoulders. And now, he only had to deal with dunderheads every day. Sometimes he questioned if that was worse than what his life had been like before.
She walked through the enormous front doors of the castle. Her heels clicked on the ancient stone, and her hand danced down the walls of the long hall leading to the library. She had sent a message to Minerva telling her that she was on her way and would be in the library if she was needed. A loud cackling bounced off the walls, flowing down the hall. Recognizing the familiar sound, she hid in an alcove. A few seconds after she was covered in dark, the haunting figure of Peeves flew by, a water balloon in one hand and a burlap sack in the other. She could only assume that the sack contained more water balloons. Hermione let out a breath, thankful that he hadn't noticed her.
When she was sure he was gone, she stepped back out into the hall, continuing her walk down memory lane.
Hermione reached the end of the hall, facing the doors of her beloved library. Her small hands rested on the door, all the memories of entering this sacred place flooding back to her. She gently pushed the heavy doors open. When she stepped inside, she paused. The doors shut with a familiar thud, and she took a deep breath of the familiar scent of old books.
She was brought out of her reverie by the feeling of something dropping on her head, quickly followed by the sensation of her clothing soaking up a liquid.
"Peeves. One, that balloon had better have been filled with water, or else I will figure out some way to kill you. Two, I'm assuming you don't remember me, otherwise I know you would not have done what you just did."
"Ooooh, Missy thinks she so scary. I'm terrified. Who be you, girly that I should be scared of what you consider threat?"
Hermione slowly turned around, looking up into the rafters of the library. The look on her face spoke of a retaliation so strong that Peeves gave an involuntary shudder.
"Peeves sorry. He didn't recognize you, Missy Granger. Peeves will leave you alone. He promises." And with that pronouncement, Peeves fled the library, leaving behind the sack of balloons and a soaking wet Hermione.
"Well, look on the bright side, at least no one saw that happen," Hermione said to herself, stepping further into the library.
The sound of clapping came from behind one of the shelves, and she closed her eyes in horror.
"I wouldn't be so sure about that, Miss Granger," an oh so familiar snarky voice replied, followed by the owner of said voice stepping out from behind the bookshelf. Severus Snape looked like he always had, coated in black, buttons up to his throat, the only difference being the scar across his throat and up to his ear. Fawkes had been unable to keep the skin from scarring.
He gave her a once over, that familiar smirk in place, before leaving the library, a rather large tome cradled in his arm.
She ungracefully collapsed into the chair behind her new desk and released a heavy sigh. She was still glad to be back, for the most part anyway.