Final Author's Note: Is it bad that I'm quite pleased that I made so many people cry? Anyway, my friends, this is it, the end of this story. I want to thank all of you for the overwhelming response I've had; you don't know what it means to me to read all your comments about my work and to see how many people really enjoy it. This is the end of this story, but it's not the last you've seen of me; I have plenty of other Severus/Hermione stories on the way and I hope to start uploading a new fic within a few weeks. Once again, thank you all so much, and just remember when you watch Deathly Hallows Part Two that Severus isn't really dead and the epilogue is a poison-induced hallucination!
"Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity."
– Henry Van Dyke.
THE TRUTH PUBLISHED AT LAST?
Surprising Literary Collaboration Relating the Truth of the War?
A new book is to be published, purporting to tell the full story of the war against Voldemort from the point of view of those who were there. Many members of the Order of the Phoenix have contributed – including Harry Potter (42) and the portrait of Albus Dumbledore – but the book itself was co-written by Hermione Granger (43), currently Deputy Headmistress and Muggle Studies teacher at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and Severus Snape (63), Head of Slytherin House and Potions professor. This unlikely partnership, consisting of one of the highest standing Order members and a notorious former Death Eater, does at least promise to provide answers to some of the hundreds of questions that the official accounts of the war have left unanswered.
The book is titled 'The Wars of the Phoenix: The Rise and Fall of Voldemort'; it is due to be published at the beginning of next month, and Headmistress Minerva McGonagall (98) has stated that it will be required reading for every first-year Hogwarts student.
Professor Granger was not available for comment, and it seems that none of our reporters were brave enough to try and find Professor Snape, who is still somewhat reluctant to speak to the Prophet despite our best efforts and has an unfortunate tendency to express this reluctance rather emphatically. Professor Luna Lovegood (40), Head of Ravenclaw House and Charms teacher at Hogwarts, member of the Order of the Phoenix and also editor of the publication The Quibbler magazine, tells us that when the book is published she will be interviewing the authors exclusively.
We were unable to obtain an official statement, but Harry Potter has provided us with the following excerpt from the introduction, where Professors Snape and Granger explain their reasons for writing this book and offer some tantalising hints of the contents:
'For some years following the war, there was no official account given, only what the Ministry knew (which truthfully wasn't much) and what individual members of the Order felt able to relate publicly. Many of us were rather traumatised and reluctant to speak of what we went through and why. In hindsight, this was a mistake; when Professor Snape returned to teaching at Hogwarts we discovered that many of the current students were alarmingly ignorant of just what happened even though the events took place within their lifetimes.
'The decision was made to drastically overhaul the teaching of History of Magic to incorporate accounts of the war from several willing members of the Order of the Phoenix, and a short booklet was published from the Ministry of Magic based on our testimonies. This helped, but the two of us decided that a full disclosure was needed, and began planning this book.
'It has taken many years to put it all together in as unbiased and accurate a way as possible. Many of the events described are distressing, but all are truthful and we feel that it is necessary to relate them. The truth of the war was ugly and painful, and this book shows that, without going into the gory details merely for shock value.
'The first part of the book deals with the rise of Voldemort, born Tom Marvolo Riddle, descended from Salazar Slytherin's heir and a Muggle family. It also tells of the prophecy made by Sybill Trelawney, of the seven Horcruxes he made, and the unintentional eighth. This information comes mainly from Albus Dumbledore, who spent some years researching Riddle's life and obtaining memories from many people. Those memories still exist and have been personally viewed by both of us, and are in the keeping of Harry Potter.
'The second part of the book speaks of the development of the Death Eaters, of how their organisation came to be, and relates how Voldemort recruited and interacted with his followers. How the Dark Mark was invented and used, what exactly happened among the Death Eaters, and as much as is known of the reasons that the most famous – or infamous – of them turned to Voldemort and their actions. This includes the defection of Barty Crouch Junior, who later infiltrated Hogwarts, the Lestranges' horrific torture of the Aurors Frank and Alice Longbottom, Peter Pettigrew's betrayal of James and Lily Potter and his framing of Sirius Black, and the story of the Malfoy family.
'Severus Snape has written much of this material himself, and also reveals some of his own story, of why he became a Death Eater and why he changed sides, and how he managed to successfully betray Voldemort – the only one ever to do so – as well as what he endured as a spy. We hope that this will finally put an end to the speculation and clear his name.
'The third part of the book covers the creation of the Order of the Phoenix, as told to us by Albus Dumbledore's portrait, with information from senior Order members including Minerva McGonagall, Filius Flitwick and Arthur and Molly Weasley. This section covers the events of the first war up until Halloween 1981 and ends with Voldemort's ill-fated attack on The Boy Who Lived.
'The fourth part of the book speaks of Harry Potter himself, relating much of his early story and the events of his schooldays, including his early encounters with fragments of Voldemort's soul and the tale of Voldemort's return, and describes the events of the war up until the death of Albus Dumbledore, which Severus Snape explains in full at last.
'The final year of the war is covered from several points of view; Hermione Granger tells the story of how she, Harry Potter and Ronald Weasley roamed the country, tracking down and destroying the remaining Horcruxes, before Harry Potter explains the events of the Final Battle. Severus Snape speaks of his time as Headmaster, of what he was forced to do by Voldemort and of what he managed to achieve behind the scenes despite nobody knowing of his true allegiance, ending with Voldemort's apparently successful attempt to kill him and how he managed to survive. Albus Dumbledore's portrait explains the tale of the Deathly Hallows, and Minerva McGonagall and Kingsley Shacklebolt relate what the Order of the Phoenix were doing during that time, including George Weasley's account of the origins of Potterwatch.
'There are many hard and unpleasant truths revealed in this book, and the writing of it was a long and often painful process. We both feel that the prices we paid in reliving these events were necessary and that it is imperative that future generations of children learn from the events of the past so that they may perhaps be prevented from happening again. Every word in this book is true, and we invite you to journey with us now, keeping an open mind and remembering that things are rarely if ever what they seem to be. It is not an easy road.'
The Prophet understands that the members of the Order of the Phoenix collectively approved the book before the final manuscript was sent for publication and that they all possess copies of a special edition, but nobody we spoke to is willing to comment before the book is published publicly next month.
(The Daily Prophet, 2023)
HOGWARTS HEADMISTRESS DIES
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry regret to inform us that Headmistress Minerva McGonagall passed away in her sleep last night aged 106. We understand that the Headmistress was in reasonably good health but that the rigours of the war against Voldemort appear to have shortened her life expectancy. Her passing has been declared by Healers to be the result of natural causes and details of the funeral arrangements will be announced next week.
Minerva McGonagall was born in 1925 and attended Hogwarts from 1937 until 1944, a period that encompassed the Muggle Second World War. After graduation she joined the Order of the Phoenix and attained a Mastery in Transfiguration, and when Albus Dumbledore became Headmaster she returned to Hogwarts and replaced him as Transfiguration professor and Head of Gryffindor House in 1956. She became Deputy Headmistress in the 1960s. Upon Albus Dumbledore's death in 1997 she became the leader of the Order of the Phoenix, and she succeeded Professor Severus Snape (71) as Head of Hogwarts in 1998; following the end of the war against Voldemort (now commonly known as the War of the Phoenix following publication of the book of the same name) she was awarded the Order of Merlin, First Class, and was later given the Gold Phoenix. She will be sadly missed.
Her passing has led to a number of changes to the Hogwarts staff. Nothing is official yet, and all changes must be ratified by both the Ministry and the Board of Governors following the funeral, but we are told that Deputy Headmistress Hermione Granger (51) will succeed her as Head of Hogwarts. The new deputy is almost certain to be Charms professor Luna Lovegood (49), who will hand over her duties as Head of Ravenclaw House to Astronomy professor Aurora Sinistra (87). Professor Granger's accession to Headmistress presumably leaves a vacancy on staff for the position of Muggle Studies teacher; more details are sure to follow.
(The Daily Prophet, 2031)
Hermione stood on the walltops and looked out over the Hogwarts grounds, her hands resting lightly on the worn stone of the castle battlements. It was a calm, clear night, and the moonlight caught her otter ring, glittering on her wedding finger; it wasn't technically a wedding ring, since she and Severus never had officially bothered to get married, but both of them had moved their rings to their left ring fingers a few years ago, after she had accidentally revealed their relationship to the entire Order of the Phoenix by forgetting herself and kissing him in front of everyone at their annual summer gathering. Admittedly, all their friends had known for years before, but he could still embarrass her by reminding her of the incident even after all this time.
She heard footsteps behind her and smiled; she'd felt him coming a few moments before. He had helped her to grow accustomed to sensing presences within Hogwarts by in effect challenging her to the most insane game of hide and seek she had ever participated in, over several days during the Easter holidays after Minerva's passing, and she was attuned to him more than any other person in the castle. Now she turned eagerly to watch him walking towards her; he still wasn't handsome, he was still too thin and he still had slightly greasy hair and crooked teeth and an oversized hooked nose and too many scars and he still walked with a slight limp, but even after all this time, her heart still skipped when she saw him.
Severus was almost eighty now, but he certainly didn't look it. His limp was a little worse in the winters, and his reading glasses had progressed from occasional to permanent, but he was remarkably unchanged from the man she had bumped into in Waterloo Station nearly thirty years ago. There were a few more lines at the corners of his eyes, and his thick black hair was slowly but steadily turning a distinguished silvery iron-grey that she personally thought looked wonderful, but overall he was showing very few signs of ageing. So was she, so her friends claimed; considering that her sixtieth birthday was only a week away, Hermione conceded that she too was ageing slowly. A few lines on her face, and her hair was beginning to turn white at the temples, but that was about it.
She always joked that love kept them young; Severus always smiled when she said it and told her that it was far more likely to be sheer stubborn bloody-mindedness. His black eyes were as keen as ever as they softened into his usual almost-smile on seeing her; smiling back at him, she turned back to the walltops and her contemplation of the grounds. He moved up behind her with all his old grace, sliding his arms around her waist and resting his chin on her shoulder – a habit he had never lost – and she leaned back against him contentedly.
They didn't need to worry about being seen; their relationship was Hogwarts' worst-kept secret – or, looking at it another way, the best-kept secret. Certainly the students all knew, but if any of them had told their parents, the story had gone no further; the wizarding world as a whole still remained blissfully ignorant. Not that it would have mattered if the story went public; these days, Hermione Granger and Severus Snape were both known as war heroes, teachers and successful authors, and few people would have batted an eyelash. The secrecy was more habit than anything else now.
Every student learned by the end of their first week that the Headmistress and the Head of Slytherin were lovers; that could have caused a lot of problems, except that the older students took care to assure their younger housemates that it didn't make any difference. There was no favouritism – to the dismay of more than one ambitious young Slytherin over the years – and no question of bias; both teachers were available when they were needed and both acted in the best interests of the students they were responsible for, even if that brought them into conflict with one another, as it occasionally did. Enough of the older students approved that they could suppress any discontent among the younger pupils, and the rest of the staff were known to be very harsh with anyone caught complaining or gossiping. The system worked.
Severus nuzzled her neck, his breath warm on her ear as he murmured softly, "Is there a reason you are out here, Headmistress, instead of in bed?"
Leaning back against his chest, Hermione smiled, resting her arms on top of his at her waist and linking her fingers through his. "I was just thinking, that's all."
"That's a dangerous habit," he observed quietly. "What were you thinking about?"
"All sorts of things... you, the school, life in general."
"In that order, I would hope."
"Did you come up here just to get your ego stroked?"
"No, I came up here to drag you back to my lair," he growled playfully, smiling and resting his cheek against hers. "I actually came to remind you that you're meeting with the school board tomorrow and shouldn't stay up too late."
"That's a little hypocritical, Severus," she scolded him gently. "You're usually the one who keeps me up late." In that regard, too, age seemed to be immaterial – their mutual passion was as strong as ever and he was still more than capable of spending most of a night wearing them both out if given half a chance.
"And yet, you still don't argue," he retorted affectionately, tightening his arms around her.
Knowing better than to give him the satisfaction of trying to respond to that, she leaned her head back against his shoulder, her eyes lazily following the curve of the drive down through the trees towards the distant gates. Life had been good to them, she reflected. The most dangerous time had been when Harry's firstborn had started at Hogwarts, followed over the next few years by his sister and by the children of their other friends; she had been very worried about Severus during that time because she knew that no matter his intentions, he would not be able to look past the history, especially since James was identical to his namesake and Lily almost so.
In fact, Severus had surpassed her wildest hopes by managing to almost completely ignore them all. He had never had much contact with the children anyway – there was certainly no chance of his ever becoming Uncle Severus the way she had become Aunt Hermione – so at least they weren't expecting it; adjusting to her lessons had been something of a shock to them until they each realised that while they were at school they were just ordinary students. They had no such expectations with Severus, but she had made sure they all knew enough history to realise that their Potions master wasn't going to be friendly and they shouldn't take it personally.
Those years had been very uncomfortable, but not as unpleasant as they could have been. Admittedly she and Severus had had some memorable fights – his levels of stress had been almost high enough to rival the war, and she was still the only real outlet he had – but he had always managed to draw the line and stick to it. They had come through the rockiest time, and once the last of them had graduated and they had at least a decade before having to deal with the next generation, things had calmed and their relationship had grown stronger than ever.
Not only theirs, either, she reflected with a wry smile; they weren't the only couple among the staff now. Luna and Neville had caught everyone by surprise; even Severus hadn't quite spotted that one ahead of time, although he had still been the first one to work it out, well in advance of everyone else. He had been quite smug about it, too, she recalled, and had gleefully proceeded to embarrass Neville more or less constantly for weeks until she finally managed to persuade him to leave them alone.
There had been other painful times too, of course, in particular the loss of Crookshanks a few years ago – even half-Kneazles didn't live for ever. He had been very old even for a pure Kneazle, but his death had been painless, and his ashes rested in an urn in their quarters; there was no question of replacing him. She still missed him, and so did Severus, although he seldom admitted it – even now, he didn't talk about his feelings much. Given that she usually knew what he was thinking anyway, there was no real need.
And there would be more painful times ahead, because that was life. Her parents were well into their eighties now, long since retired and now living in England once more, down in the New Forest; she and Severus visited a few times a year, but it was hard to watch her parents ageing, knowing that sooner or later she had to lose them. It was also at the back of her mind that eventually she would lose Severus, as well, but she rarely thought about it – barring accidents, they still had many decades ahead of them. That thought made her smile now, as she relaxed into his embrace and he nuzzled at her neck.
"You're thinking very hard," he murmured, with the faintest hint of a question in his voice.
"Mm," she agreed, turning her head to smile at him.
"Mostly, yes." Turning in the circle of his arms, she wound her arms around his waist and rested her head on his chest, listening to the familiar steady rhythm of his heartbeat. "Just thinking about everything we've survived." She laughed softly. "I don't think anyone expected us to last this long. I know I never dared to be that optimistic."
His answering laugh rumbled in his chest. "You can't get rid of me that easily, Hermione. I never had any intention of going anywhere. I don't do things lightly. When I commit to someone, it's for ever. Save for the occasional moment of stupid temper, anyway," he added as an afterthought.
"Once you stop being stubborn long enough to make the commitment, yes," she agreed, tilting her head back to smile up at him. "But you know what I meant. You're just being awkward as usual."
"True." He smiled at her with no trace of apology. "Yes, I do know what you meant. We've certainly come a long way."
"I never thought I'd be standing here," she commented, turning to gesture vaguely towards the castle. "It still seems insane. Me, Headmistress."
Severus snorted quietly. "I don't know, I think it was always rather inevitable, really. I think Minerva and Albus had their eyes on you as potential staff material from about half way through your second year. You would have been Head Girl without a doubt had your final year been normal, and I'll wager the whole school budget that the only reason Minerva didn't poach you immediately after your NEWTs was that she wanted to give you a chance to recover from the war first. You always did stand out, Hermione, in more ways than one."
"As an insufferable know-it-all?" she teased, knowing better than to acknowledge the compliment. This too was a long-established habit – Severus would occasionally allow himself to do or say something very sweet, and she was permitted to enjoy it as long as she didn't draw attention to it.
"There are worse things to be remembered for," he observed, and she smiled, remembering a time when those words would have been coloured with bitterness and self-loathing. Almost all his psychological scars had healed over the years – more or less, at least.
"I never thought I'd be standing here with you, either."
"I have to admit I never imagined it," he drawled with soft irony in his voice, his eyes glittering with faint amusement as he looked at her. "We are not exactly conventional soul mates."
"Neither of us have ever been remotely conventional in anything," she pointed out, resting a hand on his chest and leaning up to kiss him lightly. "Unconventional soul mates have more fun, I've decided."
"Indeed." He returned her kiss lightly before stepping away, his hand trailing lightly down her arm until he twined his fingers through hers. "Come; it's late. No rest for the wicked."
"Is that a promise, Severus?" she asked archly.
He smiled slowly. "Ah, Hermione, I promised you everything a long time ago." Lifting her hand to his lips, he kissed her knuckles gently before turning away; taking a last look over the Hogwarts grounds, she followed him inside, smiling.