Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter, it is the property of the brilliant J.K Rowling. This story is the product of her marvellous characters and world and my imagination.
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"Maybe all one can do is hope to end up with the right regrets."
Three Months After The Final Battle
"Fuck, it's hot here," said Sirius, grimacing as he wiped his brow for the fifth time in a minute, "how long do we have to stay in this hell hole." "Stop complaining Black," Severus snarled, "we'll stay as long as we need to, until we find Rodolphus Lestrange and his little friends."
"Yes but really, why on earth would death eaters on the run pick a run-down little town in Africa, why not Mexico, the bad guys always hide in Mexico."
"You've been watching too many muggle films Sirius, they probably picked this place because its one of the last places they think we'd look, after all Voldemort's movement never gained spread to Africa so they'd probably be safe where no one knows them."
"Do you have to be so clever Mione," Sirius said, grinning playfully, "you just make us all feel inadequate."
The group laughed and Sirius scowled, "I don't appreciate being mocked by a girl who's supposed to be one of my best friends and three sneaky Slytherins."
Said Slytherins smirked and Hermione had to laugh at the identical expression, present on Severus, Rabastan and Draco's faces. She knew Sirius wasn't very pleased at being the only Gryffindor, save Hermione, on their little death eater hunt, especially considering the fact that Hermione's relationship with Severus, not to mention her friendship with Rabastan and Draco, had led to her being hailed as an honorary Slytherin by the three.
He coped with it fairly well though, and Hermione knew he liked the chance to hunt down death eaters since it reminded him of his brief stint as an Auror before his imprisonment in Azkaban, not to mention it gave him plenty of opportunity to annoy Severus, at least while she wasn't around.
Nevertheless, she always tried to make sure he knew that she appreciated him coming to help them, even if he did have an annoying habit of turning up at exactly the right moments to prevent her having some 'alone time' with Severus.
Hermione returned to the mix of Ancient Runes and Arithmancy she was using to try and predict the next moves of the death eaters, while Severus, Rabastan and Draco gathered round piles of parchment, sifting through it and guessing which areas the death eaters were most likely to be found in.
Sirius sat in his chair, rocking it backwards - something Hermione constantly chastised him for - and yawning loudly to convey his boredom. It wasn't like they didn't realise he wanted some action, but they weren't going to justify his silly acts of boredom by talking to him. He wasn't overly helpful when it came to actually tracking the death eaters, being a man of action (shown by his desire to get out of Grimmauld Place during their fifth year) and he tended to get off topic a little by ranting about random death eaters.
Hermione scowled in frustration as she looked at the parchment in front of her, Runes and Arithmancy tended to be fairly accurate, but the desperation of the death eaters made their movements erratic and reduced the possibility of finding patterns. Another half hour's work found her at the same place she had been before, and she was about to give up for the day and try to cool off in a cold bath when Severus came over.
"We think we've found something," he told her, pointing to the map they had, "there's pretty much nothing there but we've heard about an shack that could be where they're hiding and we want to check it out before it gets too dark."
Hermione nodded, watching as Sirius bounded over with a grin on his face, "time for some action then, I'm so looking forward to kicking some ass, I haven't had the chance for a fight since Mione banned our duels."
Hermione rolled her eyes; the tension of the four wizards and one witch staying together in enclosed, cramped and stuffy accommodation had meant dozens of arguments breaking out until someone came up with the idea of duels to relieve the stress. Hermione had thought it was a good idea at first, until of course the duels ended up breaking the few items they had and Hermione found herself ducking for cover as spells whizzed over her head. It wouldn't have been so bad if it had been Gryffindors, Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws fighting together, but adding Slytherins into the mix was just downright dangerous.
They were bad enough on their own, with sneaky tactics and a tendency to cheat, but adding Sirius, who was determined to best every Slytherin he came across, not to mention desperate to cause as many injuries as possible to Severus, just worsened the entire situation. Hermione knew none of them would want to really hurt each other, though she couldn't be quite sure when it came to Severus and Sirius, but she just couldn't work well with the noise and mess that the duels called and so she had promptly called an end to them.
Thankfully her threats of disembowelment had worked (probably because they realised she was perfectly capable of carrying out her threats) and the arguments were at a minimum. However, the heat and exhaustion often got to them and Hermione was just thankful none of the Weasleys had come, the difference between their mother's excellent cooking and the tripe the group had to deal with in Africa would probably have driven them insane.
Rabastan and Draco came up behind the three of them, bags in their hands and smirks on their faces.
"Time to break out the camo-gear then is it?" asked Rabastan, "I love all this muggle camouflage, its so un-wizard like. I think we should get Kingsley to introduce some of these James Bond films into the Auror programme, they might actually be useful."
Hermione laughed, "the real muggle spy agencies aren't like James Bond at all, but if we added magic into the equation then everything they had would all be possible. It might do the Aurors some good, though I reckon all they really need is to learn the value of subtlety."
Severus nodded in agreement, subtlety being a quality Slytherins prized highly, while Sirius had an indignant look plastered all over his face. Hermione shook her head, some people would never be able to let go of Gryffindor brashness, Sirius tended to be as subtle as a screaming baby in a quiet room.
She wouldn't hold it against him of course, it was a Gryffindor trait and every house had their weaknesses; Ravenclaws were often too pompous and self-important, Hufflepuffs tended to let themselves get walked all over and Slytherins had a habit of exhibiting bad behaviour that gained their house its infamous reputation.
No one was perfect, Hermione knew that, but she reckoned that the extended period of time she had spent with Slytherins in Voldemort's headquarters had made her less tolerable to Gryffindor rashness.
They piled on their gear and as Hermione got ready she felt the adrenaline build, as it always did before they raided a possible death eater hideout. It had never really been like that during the war, but she supposed all the fear and panic had suppressed any excitement she might have found in the fight. With Voldemort, and many of the other high threats, now dead she could relax just a little. What they did would always be dangerous - after all they were practically government-sanctioned mercenaries, though they never killed if they could help it - but with the high threat removed and the fact that her friends would always watch her back, Hermione knew they had the upper hand.
The war, especially Ron's death, had taught her that life could be fleeting, and so she intended to enjoy it while she could. Make no mistake, she had no desire to die, especially not when she'd found Severus, but she wasn't about to sit around in a desk job when she could be catching the bad guys.
Molly hadn't been happy when Hermione had announced her intention of going gallivanting off into the wilderness to hunt death eaters with three Slytherins and the Casanova that was Sirius Black, but Hermione wasn't easily swayed and Molly soon had to accept the inevitable.
The group of five were soon on their way to the suspected hideout of Rodolphus and his friends, choosing to head into the area on a couple of motorbikes rather than the more conspicuous modes of transportation like brooms and apparition. Rabastan had told them how paranoid and suspicious his brother could get, exasperated by years in Azkaban, and so they thought there would probably be wards detecting magical activity. If they wanted to stay undetected and get close enough to attack then they'd have to hold off on using magic for as long as possible.
It was strange, seeing Severus on a bike. Sirius, Rabastan and Draco pulled off the bad boy with a bike aura with ease, but Severus was different. Still, she couldn't deny that she liked sitting behind him, with her arms wrapped round his waist and the bike's powerful engine roaring between her legs.
Severus surprised her by driving the bike like a pro, better than Rabastan and Draco, nearly as good as Sirius. She knew he'd at least be familiar with it, after all he was half-blood, but she'd never expected him to be so good - he just kept on surprising her.
By the time they reached their destination, Hermione was a little hot and bothered from the close proximity to Severus, something Sirius must have picked up on, for he gave her a teasing wink as they moved up towards the shack, disillusionment charms in place. Hermione wrinkled her nose as they peered in through the windows, able to smell the stench of dust and death from outside.
The boys had been right, Rodolphus Lestrange was inside the shack with another three wizards, while a body (which looked like it had been there for a few days) lay in a corner. She guessed it had been too risky for them to dump the body, it must have been a damn good reason because it stank like hell - she could only hope it wasn't an innocent civilian who had been caught up in the wizarding fights.
Thankfully, Severus whispered to her a moment later, explaining that they had recognised the wizard as one of the lower level death eaters. Hermione was sorry he had died, she believed that those who weren't in too deep could be rehabilitated, but in a choice between a death eater and an innocent, she would always save the innocent.
She sighed as she saw Rabastan glaring through the window - probably didn't realise that no matter how much you might wish it, glares couldn't kill. She knew he had a lot of issues going on with his older brother, but she didn't want him to do anything rash. She looked to Severus and he nodded, letting her know he understood her worries, and sliding over to his best friend.
They talked quietly in low voices for a few minutes, Rabastan nodding his head occasionally despite the slightly angry look on his face. A few minutes later Severus was signalling to them using the hand code they'd come up with when they first started hunting death eaters and they stormed the building. Hermione had been the one with the sense to put anti-apparition barriers up so none of the fugitives could escape, but it didn't stop them putting up one hell of a fight.
By the time the four dark wizards had been subdued and the body thrown out of the shack (the smell was really getting to them and bodies were one thing that couldn't just be vanished) they were all injured in some way. Hermione was cradling a sprained wrist, Rabastan a broken nose, some of Severus' fingers were broken, Sirius' ankle was sprained and Draco had concussion, while they were also all covered in cuts and bruises. All of their enemies were unconscious, which was probably a good thing because Rabastan had been close to killing Rodolphus after he'd made some rather crude remarks about Hermione during the fight.
They were all exhausted, the skirmish having been both physically and emotionally taxing on them all. Hermione really couldn't wait for the Ministry officials to arrive so they could finally take a portkey back to England, she had missed her home so much.
It was hard to believe that this was the end of their three month mercenary mission, that all the known death eaters who had escaped from the battle had been caught. It had been an action-packed whirlwind, full of excitement, sadness, danger and adrenaline. However, she was ready to go home now, wanted to try and find some of that normalcy someone like Harry had craved for so many years.
She was worried about the fanatics out in the world, those who had never been identified as death eaters, or even as Voldemort's supporters, but who were dangerous all the same. Severus had told her that he worried too, but that it just wasn't their problem any more. They had done their part, acting on behalf of the Order of the Phoenix to remove any immediate dark threats and make wizarding Britain, the whole wizarding world really, a much safer place. They had done their duty and they deserved to go home now.
So they would return and Hermione hoped they would be able to avoid all the pomp and ceremony, though she privately thought that Draco was one of the kind who relished such attention. She just wished to be happy with Severus, and hopefully fate would be kind and she would get her wish.
Hours later, as they sat waiting for the portkey connection that would return them to Britain, Hermione remembered the aftermath of the battle and her decision to join the team that was to take down the remaining death eaters;
Once Voldemort was dead the remaining death eaters decided to show that they did actually possess some semblance of a brain and tried to run for it. Some of them managed it, the clever ones at least, and Hermione knew that there were now a few dangerous death eaters out in the world, Rodolphus Lestrange for one. Rabastan had been most angry that he hadn't managed to get his brother, he knew first hand how cruel the wizard could be and he didn't want him loose in the world, even if he would certainly have to hide for a while. A fair few other death eaters got away too, though no one as high profile as Rodolphus, most of the hard-core death eaters had been killed in the battle and many of the rest taken prisoner.
The Ministry had arrived late as per usual, about ten minutes after Voldemort's death, and were being brought up to speed by Kingsley, who was assisted by Minerva McGonagall and Dumbledore's very talkative portrait. Obviously the Aurors had wanted to arrest Severus, Rabastan and Draco on sight, but since the entire Order had glared and informed them that had they actually been at the battle they would have seen that the three wizards were spies for the light side. The Aurors had taken a step back, and after being informed by Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived-To-Defeat-Voldemort, that the three wizards were indeed good, they had agreed to let them go free.
There would be trials of course, democracy could not flourish without showing that things were being done the proper way, but everyone knew the trials for the three spies were mere formalities. There was overwhelming evidence of their loyalty to the light, mostly in the form of pensieves with memories collected from Hermione and the rest of the Order, along with the discovery of hidden memories Dumbledore had left behind for such use. The trials for the death eaters who had been captured were also quick, though for a completely different reason - the evidence was overwhelming against them in this case, after all they had been seen fighting for Voldemort by over a dozen witnesses, reliable witnesses which included Harry.
Of course, if it had been the old Ministry then there would have undoubtedly been delays and unpleasant interrogations, but Kingsley had been named temporary Minister for Magic and Hermione was confident he would win the support needed when it came to vote in the next actual Minister. Kingsley was excellent Minister material, he had the support of the Aurors and he knew how politics worked, but he was also fair, just and not to be swayed by the bribes and corruption rife in the previous Ministry.
All in all, the reshuffling of the Ministry was quick and effective, with many Order members gaining high positions as Kingsley sought to appoint only those free of corruption.
The aftermath isn't all smooth sailing though, how could it be when Ginny was still struggling to recover from the horrific experience of being raped, while many of the Order are nursing injuries that could take weeks to heal, even with magic. On top of this there was the small issue of the rogue death eaters still scattered around England and the rest of the world. Kingsley wanted to put together a small, powerful team of fighters to go and capture these death eaters and make things safer. If he hadn't been Minister then Kingsley would have wanted to go on such a mission, as an Auror it was the sort of assignment he craved, but he had a job to do at home, he had to sort the Ministry out and he was really the best one for the job. Still, he took a lot of interest in the team, handpicking each one from the Order.
Severus Snape and Rabastan Lestrange insisted on going, their years of being spies meant they had knowledge on the death eaters and were excellent fighters. Not to mention they were determined to rid the world of the remaining death eaters.
Hermione wouldn't hear of Severus going without her, she wasn't to be parted with him, not so soon after the war, and Kingsley agreed to her going, knowing she was an excellent fighter and that she and Severus would work well together.
Draco had been unsure about whether he wanted to go, after all with his father's death he was now head of the Malfoy family and with that came many responsibilities. However, Kingsley assured him he could afford a few months before such work had to begin and so he decided to accompany them on the assignment, if only for a while.
The final member of their team was Sirius Black, who as a reinstated Auror gave the whole thing some semblance of legality, but whose real reason for choosing to go was because he couldn't bear the thought of Hermione travelling with three Slytherin spies all on her own, especially when one of them was Severus Snape.
Severus wasn't exactly pleased about Sirius accompanying them on the mission, but it made Hermione happy to spend some time with a friend she'd barely been able to see since he came back from the veil. Hermione knew the reason Sirius was going with them and while his over protectiveness could be a little annoying, he was only acting in her best interests and she loved him for it. Of course she knew it would be difficult when Sirius realised that she'd had sex - though she thought of it as 'making love' - with Severus, because she did not want to be distracted during the entire mission because the two of them were trying to kill each other. Sirius had tried to persuade some more of the Order members to go, but they all had reasons not to.
Tonks had been fairly badly injured in the battle; she was unconscious for three days and would need to remain in St Mungo's for another two weeks before being released for at least a month of bed rest - Hermione remembered how poor Tonks had been stuck in St Mungo's after the battle at the Department of Mysteries and sighed, poor witch always managed to end up injured. Remus wouldn't leave his wife, there was no question, his werewolf instincts kicked into play and he was barely tolerating the medi-witches and wizards going near her.
Harry had seen enough fighting and couldn't bear to be involved in any more, he was also helping Ginny deal with her horrible experience and didn't want to halt her progress. Bill might have thought about accompanying them, his sense of adventure prominent, but all the Weasleys had opted to stay at the Burrow, helping each other through the difficult times Ron's death caused.
Hermione had found it most amusing when Dumbledore's second portrait, the one Severus had kept, had asked to join them on their search for death eaters. Apparently Dumbledore wanted to keep an eye on things, make sure that Severus and Sirius didn't kill each other most likely, but Severus was emphatically against the idea for numerous reasons he listed in great detail. Hermione knew that Dumbledore, even in portrait form, had a habit of driving Severus up the wall with his eternal optimism, penchant for muggle sweets and constant meddling, but in the end she found herself slipping the portrait into her luggage and hoping Severus wouldn't kill her for it.
It was all a favour for Minerva really; the poor woman, instated as Hogwarts Headmistress, had endured both of Dumbledore's portraits on her office wall for just three days before she had practically begged Hermione to take one of them with her. Apparently the two portraits had no problem with the fact that they were of the same wizard and spent most of the day debating a series of topics which drove poor Minerva quite insane. Hermione had taken pity on her favourite teacher and decided to take one of the portraits with her, though she was certainly not above conjuring a blindfold and gag for him if he started to get too annoying.
The group was going to be leaving as soon as possible, despite the fact that the war had only been over two weeks. Severus had suggested they go as quickly as possible so that the death eaters got as little head start as possible. The longer they delayed the trip, the further underground these death eaters could go. But Hermione wasn't thinking about that right now, she was preoccupied with being back in her parent's house after so long. In the heat of the battle and its aftermath, it was easy to forget that Hermione had lost both her parents on the same terrible day that Ron had been murdered.
Though she wasn't totally proud to admit it, the death of her parents had taken a back seat to Ron's death and the war, but she couldn't help the fact that she didn't feel as guilty as she should at that fact. After so many years of a relationship with her parents that wasn't particularly close or warm, her friends were more dear to her than them and while their deaths angered and hurt her, it was not nearly as difficult when compared with the pain she had felt when she'd heard of Ron's death. The Order had dealt with the formalities involving their deaths, which were down as a burglary gone wrong, but being in the house on her own was still a little creepy.
She'd thought about asking someone to come with her to pack, after all it wasn't just for the trip, but also the things she wanted to keep from the house, but she didn't want to be a burden, nor did she want to admit that she wasn't as strong as many of them thought. She was always supposed to be the one who stopped her friends doing stupid things, the clever one who came up with solutions - few people had seen her truly vulnerable.
So she packed away her boxes alone, choosing to leave many of her parents' things behind. She took the books, she couldn't bear them going to waste, but most of the furniture was left and practically everything belonging to her parents was packed away to be sent either to rubbish or charity. Some might call her heartless, but the truth was that she wasn't particularly sentimental when it came to her parents, they hadn't been there for much of her childhood and there weren't the piles of memories and photos many families had.
She took a couple of pictures of each of them, and the few family portraits they'd had together, her mother's wedding dress and a few trinkets - that was all she really needed. She sank to the floor as she looked through the photographs, finding herself crying as she flicked through them. She had no idea where the tears were coming from, until she realised that perhaps she wasn't just crying for her parents, but for the loss of her muggle life.
There wasn't really anything tying her to the muggle world any longer, her long periods at Hogwarts meant she wasn't close to any of her family, and she cried for the fact that she was leaving a part of herself behind as she entered the wizarding world full time. She didn't know how long she sat there before Severus arrived, an uncharacteristically soft look on his pale face. He gathered her up in his arms and just sat with her, stroking her hair gently as she cried. He knew instinctively what was wrong, something she loved so much about him, and she sat and cried for hours, until there were no tears left at all.
One week later she left with Severus, Sirius, Rabastan and Draco on their mission to find the death eaters. Through countless fights and skirmishes, numerous bruises and injuries, she felt herself slowly detach from the muggle world. But really, she thought, she was getting the better end of the deal - she was getting Severus and her friends.
In the years that passed, Hermione watched with happiness as Harry and Ginny were blessed with three beautiful children; James, Albus and Lily, happy little souls to whom Hermione was a most beloved aunt and to whom even Severus took a shine.
She saw as the Weasley brood grew and grew until there were enough grandchildren to satisfy even Mrs Weasley's maternal desires, though there was always a story about Ron to be told, always making sure the children never forgot their uncle, who had died to help end the war.
Draco had met his match in a Slytherin two years younger than himself: Astoria Greengrass, sister of their year mate Daphne. Draco had pursued her, a first for him since he usually had girls hanging off him, and they had married four years after the Final Battle. Hermione rather liked Astoria, she wasn't cold like many Slytherins, and she had a wicked sense of humour. This was coupled with the all important quality of being able to put Draco firmly in his place (their first serious argument had resulted in Draco walking round with hot pink hair for a week). They had two children, Scorpius and Aurelia, never-ending joys to their grandmother Narcissa, who had so desperately wanted more children after Draco, though she was never blessed with another.
Remus and Tonks had Teddy, Adrienne and Beth in fairly quick succession, the children's often rambunctious personalities (inherited from their mother of course) keeping their parents busy at all times.
Rabastan, Sirius and Kingsley remained bachelors, despite numerous offers from very willing witches. They formed a fairly close friendship, being the only three single wizards in the Order, and that friendship persevered, even through the indignation the other two felt when it was Kingsley who was named as godfather to Hermione and Severus's first child. Hermione had given birth to Adhara Elizabeth Snape at a time when most of her friends were having second or third children. In the wizarding world this didn't matter so much, they lived to more advanced ages than muggles and so it wasn't uncommon for girls to hold off having children.
She hadn't had much time for children beforehand anyway; once their little mission finding and neutralising death eaters was over, Hermione had gone into business with Severus, the pair of them operating their own freelance Potions business. It was small, but incredibly successful with select clientele. By the time they had a routine steady enough to introduce children, Hermione was thirty and an honorary aunt many times over.
Rabastan and Sirius had got their chance to be role models when they were named godfathers of Hermione and Severus' other two children. Rabastan was brilliant with Nicholas, though Hermione did worry what sort of influence the Slytherin was having on her only son, while Rose adored Sirius and loved showing her handsome godfather off to all her friends.
Life certainly wasn't perfect for any of them, but to be honest perfect only existed in fairytales and Hermione would much rather have the flawed, but brilliant, life she had than some cheesy movie. It was ok when someone started crying about Ron or when Severus or Rabastan woke up screaming from a nightmare because they all knew that the past was a huge part of them, shaping them into who they now were.
It had hurt Ginny terribly when she'd heard that the injuries inflicted when Lucius Malfoy had raped her meant there was a high chance she would never have children, but it had increased the joy so much when she'd gone on to defy the medi-wizards and have three children with few complications.
For many of the younger members of the Order there were numerous break-ups and make-ups before they found their special someone, and none of the households were devoid of mischief. It didn't matter how often they all got called to the school by Headmistress McGonagall because Sirius had blown this up, James had set this prank, Adhara had punched this boy or Scorpius had been caught out of hours with this girl, because their parents had done worse things and children would be children.
In the end those who remained from the war lived fulfilling lives, despite potion explosions because the baby food fell in the wolfsbane and near misses when Lily almost fell off her broom at thirty feet. All Hermione knew was that her life was almost perfect, and she didn't think she'd ever have it any other way.
Thanks to all those who reviewed the previous chapter, it was much appreciated; Sheiky81, J., Artemis Decibal, Your sweetest dream and HyperStallion.
I'm afraid this is the end of Fighting the Darkness. I have had interest in a sequel or continuation, but I can't promise anything, and if I do It won't be for a while. I haven't updated 'Rebuilding' in ages and I have plenty of other fics that I'm working on at the moment. I'm sorry if this disappoints you, but I hope you will consider reading the next fics I post. I'm thankful for all your support and brilliant reviews during the course of this story and I hope you have enjoyed reading 'Fighting the Darkness'.