A/N: This is the last chapter folks sniff. Actually, it's two chapters put together as I thought it would be better this way. I hope you will like it!

BethAnn - Yes, you get to see the statues at last!

Fairmaiden & JobBob1329 - Thanks for liking my story, though I'm not sure if there will be a sequel.

Mara456 - All will be answered here!

Svenny - Thanks for your nice comments.

Part 17

As the feast went on, Dumbledore and some of the other teachers nodded off in their chairs, a peaceful expression on their faces as if they had finally allowed themselves to relax after years of being on constant alert. Professor McGonagall was tipsy from sipping too much wine and was giggling at an (unfunny) story Professor Sprout was relating.

The hall was filled with the drone of students lounging on their benches and relating tall tales, while many of the younger students (in high spirits) slipped away from the hall.

Filch the caretaker stood apart from the celebrations, a disgusted look on his seamed face as he stroked a wild-eyed, spitting Mrs Norris in his arms (his cat had been splattered with pink paint with Filch vowing to catch those responsible and string them up, yes sir!). "I miss the old days already, fear kept everyone in line, they did!" he muttered sourly. Professor Snape getting it on with one of them Gryffindor brats - it didn't seem right.

The portrait people had their own celebration, several of them wandering tipsily from one picture to the next.

Feeling a desperate need for fresh air Hermione made polite excuses to Mr Weasley (who was regaling her with the "fascinating accounts" of his experiences with Muggle washing machines) and quietly got up out of her chair. When Severus turned a sharply inquiring face to her she smiled ruefully and mouthing, "Need some air" she walked to the door that was behind the High Table and opening it slipped into the narrow passage behind it.

Torches set upon the walls lighted the passage and Hermione had only gone a few yards when she heard the door open and close behind her. Turning, she saw Severus walking towards her, a glower on his face.

"What's wrong?!" they both said to each other and then paused.

"Where are you going, Hermione?" Severus said abruptly.

"Out for some fresh air", Hermione replied, wondering why he was in a bad mood.

Severus folded his arms across his chest and tilted his dark head as he stared down at her.

"Do you want to be an Auror?" he asked, his tone deliberately casual but Hermione heard bleakness behind his words. [He's afraid of losing me] she realised, moving closer to him.

"I'd rather be a teacher" she told him frankly and saw him relax slightly though he looked at her with slightly narrowed, curious eyes.

"You do? The hours are long, the pay is minimal, you are never appreciated.and the students talk back."

"Yes, I want to teach" Hermione said seriously, then found herself yawning.

"Boring you am I?" Severus murmured, drawing her near and folding his cloak around her.

"No, I'm just tired" Hermione sighed and laid her head against his chest, feeling as though she could fall asleep in his embrace.

When she yawned again (apologising) he gently brushed a stray lock of hair away from her face.

"There are quite a few years of study involved in becoming a teacher, you know," Severus mused, his breath warm against her hair. "Hardly any time will be available for plotting.and other things, Miss Granger." There was a faint, wistful note to his voice. Perhaps this was the closest he could come to say that he would miss her when she left Hogwarts.

"There's always the weekends" Hermione said with determined cheerfulness. "If I study hard enough I will probably be able to finish a few years before the other students.and then I will come back here."

A long, deep kiss from him indicated his approval at that statement.

"Clearly it's my duty to escort you back to your room since you obviously would fall asleep before you got there" he murmured afterwards when she yawned again, Severus continuing to gently caress her hair.

"I would not!" she said waspishly but she didn't argue when he reluctantly drew away from her and they started walking along the passage. Once they approached the main passageways filled with young students milling about Severus drew his wand and murmured a charm to deflect people's eyes away from them. Hermione nodded in relief - the last thing she wanted now was people staring at them again like they were Saviours of the World (or for a posse of Snape Groupies descending upon them en masse).

Students were running excitedly through the corridors, casting spells to produce confetti, sparkling glitter of all shades and translucent globes of silvery light that drifted gently through the air (for once, faculty members were turning a blind, indulgent eye to this).

Once they reached the entrance to the Gryffindor rooms, Severus gazed soberly into Hermione's face.

"Do you have a potion for Dreamless Sleep at hand in your quarters?" he said intently. "After what happened today you would be well advised to drink it.."

Hermione nodded. "I do, and yes, I will. I want you to drink some as well!" she added in an insistent tone. "After what you've been through, you don't want any nightmares."

His dark eyes warmed. "If you insist. Certainly I will hoping that any dreams that occur will be of more pleasant matters. But if I do not leave now Hermione, I may choose not to leave you at all tonight."

As Hermione blushed to the roots of her hair Severus laughed softly and after dropping a gentle kiss on her forehead turned and swept away.

"What are you staring at?" Hermione grumbled to the Fat Lady, who had been unashamedly eavesdropping. The Fat Lady tittered, hiccupped and bade Hermione enter without asking for a password for once.

Snores from the boys quarters indicated that Neville at least had had an early night, but the girls quarters were empty, and after drinking the Dreamless Sleep Hermione was asleep before her head hit the pillow.

A restful sleep without nightmares was granted her, while Severus knew a deep, unbroken sleep for the first time in a while. The dark presence of Voldemort no longer stalked his sleeping mind, and only once did a brief dream (or was it a vision?) intrude - the faces of the other Deatheaters, their blank, dead eyes staring at him accusingly. But they could be, and were, easily dismissed.

* * * * * The Next Day

Reporter Rita Skeeter (who used so much Muggle hairspray that any flies in her vicinity immediately dropped dead) approached hot stories the way a hunter approached potential prey - something that as to be pursued and successfully brought down.

Perhaps these days there was less blood spilt in the process (for her humiliation at Hermione's hands a few years ago had grudgingly taught Rita to temper her style) and kept the ah, 'creative enhancing' of her stories to a minimum. However, she still went after stories with her usual fanatic zeal.

When news broke through the wizarding world of Voldemort's final defeat - not at Harry's hands as had long been expected - but by the unlikely pair and couple Professor Snape and Hermione Granger, Rita had licked her crimsoned lips with relish as possible headlines unfolded in her mind. 'Professor in Student in Steamy School Tryst'. Hadn't Hermione and Harry been interested in each other at one point? Hmm. 'Steamy Gryffindor/Slytherin Love Triangle'.

Surely the truth she would uncover would be more salacious than any 'enhanced' story that she could come up with. It would serve that Hermione right, too.

As the new day broke at Hogwarts, Rita was there. However, only a few people were about, for most of them were sleeping off the night before, while house elves scurried around unobtrusively, cleaning up piles of rubbish and glitter. In anticipatory patience Rita found a corner and waited.

The last person Harry wished to be greeted by when he came down from Gryffindor Tower was Rita, though for once her presence was not as annoying as usual. Resentment still simmered quietly inside him when he thought of Hermione. She was asleep still, a deep, exhausted slumber that was apparently shared by Professor Snape.

Let them sleep undisturbed, Dumbledore had advised. For their valour today's sleep in would be overlooked, not reprimanded. And so Harry had been receptive to Rita's oily offer to 'share his thoughts' despite Ron's wide eyed, hissed appeal of "what do you think you are *doing* Harry? She's poison!"

"Of course" he had told Rita when asked whether he was happy Voldemort was dead at last. Had agreed when Rita suggested that perhaps Hermione and Snape had been seeing each other for a while. He had paused when asked if he felt that those two had overshadowed his 'deserved limelight'. He had always felt uncomfortable being in the limelight but now that its focus had left him he found that he had grown accustomed to it. Rita had merely smiled and her quill had busily scribbled away.

Harry had had the grace though to feel some shame afterwards when Ron had upbraided him, but the deed had been done.

Rita had less success with Draco, to her disappointment, for he had been a ready source of information in the past. The scarred Slytherin student had glared at her and said if he saw any unkind word against Professor Snape and Hermione in 'The Daily Prophet' (even if she was a mud-blood Gryffindor) then any quill or pen Rita ever picked up in the future would snap in her hands.

Rita would have stayed and waited for Hermione and Professor Snape to awaken, but she had been escorted from Hogwarts by a politely smiling Dumbledore. When she returned to her office she found her notes had been mysteriously erased from her parchment. Fuming but taking the hint, Rita grimly wrote a story that praised the efforts of Hermione and Professor Snape in ridding the world of Voldemort. However, she hinted at an upcoming engagement - if they were to be the new golden couple of the wizard world, who better than Rita to ensure that 'The Daily Prophet' made as many galleons as possible from stories about them? One had to always consider the bottom line of course, Rita thought cheerfully.

When Hermione woke, the sun was shining at an odd angle through the windows. On checking her bedside clock she was startled to see it was 11.45. What.then memories of yesterday came to her - rescuing Severus from Voldemort, the cruel expression on Voldemort's face as he called the killing curse on her.the curse rebounding..the feel of warm lean arms of Severus around her as he kissed her with passion.the cold expression on Harry's face..the banquet. Severus.a warm glow filled her heart and in the empty room no one else was there to see the un- Hermione goofy smile on her face.

Then she sobered. She had been acclaimed as a heroine, but would gratitude extend to allowing her to go without detention for sleeping through her classes? She had missed Potions class, and she doubted that Severus would show her favouritism; although the detention might be a light one. Perhaps the best idea would be to use a time turner to attend her classes - she would go and see Professor McGonagall.

When she got up her body had that slightly drowsy, boneless feel one has after an exceptionally long sleep. There was panic on her part when she saw that she could no longer see the chain of light between her and Severus. Had it been severed? She reached out blindly with her senses but relaxed when she sensed it there still. All that had happened was that the spell that gave othersight to her by Fawkes had faded, Hermione thought.

After showering and dressing she descended to the empty common room and found a breakfast tray of scrambled eggs that was protected by a Stay Hot! Spell. Touched, Hermione sat down to eat and after she finished and rested briefly she left the common room and went to Professor McGonagall's office.

Cautiously knocking on the door she opened it when she heard the brisk command to enter. When Hermione entered the office, apologies and explanations ready to spill from her mouth Professor McGonagall smiled at her with fondness.

"Hello my dear - awake at last I see. Why, I checked up on you a while ago and you were sleeping like a baby." Hermione blinked uneasily at that but the Professor went on cheerfully. "The latest news is that the Deatheaters were all found dead, apparently by some mysterious means for there was not a scratch on them...don't worry about your missed classes - I have the notes from them that you can refer to later, but come with me quickly now. Professor Snape is still asleep at the moment, which does not surprise me, but you can be measured first. Mr Litmos is not good at waiting, clever though he may be."

"Um.what?" Hermione ventured, trying to get a word in.

Professor McGonagall raised her eyebrows. "Why, for your joint statues of course!"

Hermione quickly pasted a smile on her face. "Oh, that."

Minerva's face softened suddenly. "Your modesty does you credit, my dear, but think of how great an honour this is. Also, people need something tangible to remember a battle by, something that later generations of wizard will look at and say 'these people put aside their differences and made a stand against evil' " she said kindly.

Feeling humbled, Hermione nodded. "All right, I'll come."

Professor McGonagall smiled approvingly and then there was an impish glint in her eyes. "Before we go there's one thing I must know.is Severus a good kisser?"

* * * * *

When Hermione was introduced to Mr Litmos (Statue Maker of Quality!!) it was in an airy room with a high ceiling in one of the towers of Hogwarts. He was a sturdily built man with a head of untidy brown hair, cheerful blue eyes and a constant air of manic energy.

"So this is the gel!" Mr Litmos ("call me Geoffrey, can't stand my name - dreadful thing) said to Hermione when she was introduced by Professor McGonagall. "Such looks - I will make sure your statue in particular will be admired for a thousand years."

"We were thinking of a sculpture in white Italian marble." Minerva ventured, but Geoffrey shook his head impatiently in negation. "No, no, white marble will not do. Use it for garden ornaments but not for this! Marble will make Miss Hermione look insipid, while bronze will make her look magnificent. And as for Professor Snape - white marble for the Head of Slytherin would not do. He would probably jinx my hairbrush out of spite!"

Professor McGonagall looked taken aback. "Well, Dumbledore did have bronze in mind.I suppose."

"Good!" Geoffrey said briskly, rubbing his hands together. "Then it's all decided. Now where's that Professor of yours, hmm? He can't be still asleep, surely - I can't wait all day, things to do, you know! Just throw some water on his face, I say."

"That will not be necessary!" replied Professor Snape as he swept into the room, in a tone of voice that could have froze said water. He stared at Geoffrey down his nose with his patented 'you're a bug' look and by his irate mood and untidy hair Hermione guessed that Dumbledore had probably bullied him out of bed.

"This had better not take a long time as I'm a busy man" Severus said, his voice dangerously low, casting a glower Professor McGonagall's way. However, his temper abated slightly when his eyes rested on Hermione and he gave her a look that said 'let's think of a nasty revenge for Dumbledore and McGonagall later, shall we?'

"Well, let's get on with it" Geoffrey said in a voice that was a shade too hearty, his bluff manner intimidated by the darkly malevolent Professor whom Geoffrey knew as 'someone you did not cross and get away with it'.

"Er, would you both stand over there in that ring?" Geoffrey asked pointing to an area on the stone floor where some bronze powder had been scattered in a wide ring on the stone floor. Hermione peered at the powder warily and Professor Snape's mouth curled slightly but they both obeyed.

"Do you want us to pose?" Severus asked sardonically.

"No, no, just relax" Geoffrey said hastily, and pointing his wand at them both he uttered a few words. The powder on the floor glowed and rose upwards, swiftly spinning around them and when the grains were above their head they abruptly dropped back to the ground, looking as if they had never moved in the first place.

"Excellent.now if you would just both move out of the circle, please."

After they had obeyed, the powder glowed again and rose, but this time it swiftly resolved itself into two brown, statue-like replicas of Hermione and Severus as they had been standing before. A big snake that was to obviously indicate Voldemort writhed around their feet. Hermione stared at her image, it was just like her, she thought. Severus frowned at his image. "My nose isn't that big, surely!" he grumbled.

Geoffrey smiled encouragingly. "Your nose is ah, very distinctive, Professor!

Severus narrowed his eyes suspiciously at this upstart man but failed to detect any insolence.

Geoffrey went on. "Now we must have a dramatic look - hmm, what about this one?"

He pointed his wand at the images and their postures changed.

"Certainly not!" Severus barked and Hermione tried and failed to hide a snicker. Severus glowered at her. "I'll get you for that!" he said in a dangerous purr. The images were in a pose reminiscent of a cheap kung fu movie, with 'Severus' looking as if he was going to karate chop the snake into little pieces.

Geoffrey looked disappointed. "Why, that's one of my favourite poses. Very popular, too."

"Change it!" Severus said through gritted teeth.

Geoffrey sighed and pointed his wand. Now the images stood back-to-back, smirking, their wands raised like a pose from a James Bond movie.

"No!" Hermione and Severus said in mutual horror.

"Dear me!" Geoffrey muttered. "Let's try this pose, shall we?"

The pose changed again.

"Why, yes!" Professor McGonagall said approvingly.

Hermione frowned thoughtfully. It looked better this time. The images were holding their wands up in attack mode but in a more natural way, while their expressions were of grim resolution, the kind where you were determined to carry out a task even if you died in the attempt. Their robes were flowing in a graceful yet natural looking way. Hermione was happy with the way 'she' looked and as for the image of Severus.well, if the Snape groupies saw this, they'd probably want photos taken beside their drooling selves. Or try and steal it.

Severus frowned at it but could not find anything to complain about. "Yes, I could live with that" he murmured, absently smoothing his untidy hair so it matched the other images flowing hair. Why, he didn't realise he could look that.good. Realising that the others were smirking at him he coughed and looked dismissive. "It will do, I suppose."

Geoffrey beamed. "Splendid! Then it's all settled. I'll send the bill later by owl." Pointing his wand at the images he spoke a word, there was a bright flash of light and then their images were there in polished bronze splendour. They were standing on a bronze base, the snake writhing around their feet in dying, defiant anger while a simple inscription on the base read 'Evil often triumphs, but never conquers' with their names and yesterdays date underneath. It was a work of art, Geoffrey thought proudly.

"An excellent job!" Professor McGonagall gushed while Severus and Hermione stared at it in silent amazement. "Ah, how will you transport this out of the room?"

Geoffrey looked smug. "Easily enough, dear lady." He went up to the statues and tapping it smartly with his wand three times and uttering a word it rapidly shrunk until it was only a few inches high. "Now, you wished it to be placed in one of the courtyards?" Geoffrey inquired of Professor McGonagall.

"Yes, come this way," Professor McGonagall said briskly, "Dumbledore is awaiting us."

She and Geoffrey went out of the room and Hermione stared mutely at each other. "I feel I'm in a dream but it seems too surreal to be one of my dreams" Severus mused.

"If this is a dream then I'm sharing it too!" Hermione sighed. "Well, we'd better go after them."

"Not yet!" Severus frowned at her and lightly grabbed her wrist. When Hermione looked at him in surprise then relaxed when his eyes gleamed at her.

"Morning kiss first, my dear" he explained.

"Oh, that!" Hermione grinned as they reached for each other. However, their happily amorous kisses were interrupted by an impatient Professor McGonagall who huffed at them to "do that later, you've got a ceremony to attend!". Smiling, they followed.

It was agreed later by people that the sculpture looked very dramatic after it was unveiled in a ceremony by Dumbledore, and seemed to belong in the courtyard it was placed in. Hermione and Professor Snape were both awarded the Order of Merlin at the ceremony as well, a brooch in the shape of a star that glowed royal blue. Many noticed that they both seem to make a fine couple after all, and didn't Professor Snape look nice when he smiled for once?

After the ceremony it was noticed that several girls fought for the right to be photographed by the statues.

It was also noticed that Harry seemed to have an ill expression on his face at the time, but perhaps he was coming down with something. There was a nasty 'flu going around, after all.

Yes, people agreed, this was as close to a fairy-tale ending as it got.


A/N: Yes, that was the end sniff. It was sad to finish it but hey, it had to happen. I couldn't have done it without all the wonderful support from you guys (you know who you are!) all the way through. I'm not sure if there will be a sequel as I have a few ideas for some other stories cooking in my mind (I'm not sure if they will be as long as this one though!). Thanks again, and roll on the next movie, where we can all see Sevvy in all his sneering, smirking glory.