Disclaimer: I do not own any characters or ideas which you recognise as being from JK Rowling's Harry Potter series or any other trademarked or copyrighted work. The plot of this story is my own, but I have no intention of making any money from it.
This is where my story ends. I would just like to say thank you for all of you who came along for the ride, even when I had some obscenely long hiatuses in the middle, frustrating I know. This is by far the longest thing I've written, clocking in at over 57000 words. Well done for making it through! I also owe a debt of gratitude to all of you who write HGSS, for inspiring me to read, write and love this pairing. (And HPDM just seems to fit so naturally too!) There are some truly brilliant fictions out there – go read them! But finish this one first.
The first of Hermione's three letters on the sideboard went undelivered for nearly two weeks. When Minerva McGonagall, feeling much older than she had in years, finally returned to Australia, confident that the clean-up of the Ministry was well under way under the uncompromising eyes of the next generation of the Order of the Phoenix, she carried it with her, giving it to the intended recipients.
Dear Mum and Dad,
Thank you for your letter, which Minerva delivered to me through Seamus. I'm so sorry about what I had to do to your memories, and I'm very glad that Filius was able to restore them for you. I'm glad that you understand that I felt I had no choice. I had to protect you, but I had to protect the Wizarding World as well. I've missed you so much.
I couldn't believe it, when I got your news. A sister! And a witch, too! How I wish that I could meet Ophelia. She sounds wonderful. Is she good at Charms? I always loved Charms. I know, I know, she's only eight, she'll hardly know what she's good at yet. Give her all my love.
Tell Minerva that she definitely did the right thing by getting you to write to me – this has given me hope that not everything in life is connected to this damned war. Thank her for me, would you? And thank Filius for me, for restoring your memories as soon as you realised that Ophelia was a witch.
So many thanks. I don't mean to be morbid, but I'll never be able to thank them in person, you see. I know that I'm not going to make it through tomorrow, you see. I've accepted that now, though I am immeasurably sad that I'm never going to see you two again. The thing is, this Cause, the freedom of my world, I've been fighting for it for so long, that I've forgotten what it is to be at peace. And I would do anything to free the people I love. That doesn't just mean Severus and Harry and Ron and all the rest of the Order – I'm including my new little sister too, the one that I didn't know I had until a week ago, and every other witch and wizard who will hopefully, because of tomorrow, be able to go to Hogwarts as I did, and learn the wonder of magic. Because it's beautiful, really, it is.
Oh Mummy, I'm so scared. But it's worth it.
I love you both so much.
The second letter was given by Severus to Harry within twenty-four hours of the end of the battle. He did not look at the younger man as he did so, just thrust it at him and disapparated again. Harry read the letter, and his face turned stony. He showed it to Draco and Ron. This was the letter which was re-printed many times in later generations' history books, the letter which for many came to define the Second Voldemort War.
The envelope said simply: The Order of the Phoenix.
Dear Harry, and Ron, and everyone else in the Order,
If you are reading this, then all the plans worked as I intended. I am dead, and Voldemort is defeated. Well done, Harry. I always knew you could do it.
I knew as soon as I ran the Arithmancy that first time that the person whose Dark Mark created the resonance would have to die. They would become the central target for all the golems, a flashing neon light saying "DEATH EATER" if you will.
That was why I didn't let anyone look at my calculations that first evening. By the time I let Severus look at it, I'd deliberately added in extraneous elements and symbols from Muggle Particle Physics which had nothing to do with the actual Arithmancy, but muddied the waters just enough that he believed my version of the answer.
I'm not a martyr, but this is the only way. Hopefully, Voldemort was right (never thought I'd write that!) and even with my death, the golems' strength of purpose was enough that they kept going, killing at least a few of the Death Eaters, and buying you time, Harry, to get to him.
My entreaty to you all, though, now. Please, let the killing stop. Somehow, I've found myself sanctioning mass genocide of all the Death Eaters with this plan. When did I stoop to suggesting murder, let alone planning and carrying it out? We didn't take enough care about the Muggles in the room, even. Some of them must have died. I didn't even factor them in, except as possible distractions. Isn't that callous? It's terrible.
We've spent too long fighting, Harry. Hiding, planning every move out. It's not been healthy, Harry, but it was necessary. When you've finally killed him, you'll have to take control. Just be careful, not to cross that line into dictatorship, or all of this will be in vain. That goes for all of you, not just Harry. I know how easy it is to fade into the grey area of morality. That boy...
In a way, maybe it's best that I'm going to die. I can feel myself succumbing more and more to the Dark – to the anger, that my life was this way, that I had to spend the best years of it always on guard, on the run, lying about who I was, plotting and scheming...
Draco, keep him sane. If anyone can, you can. Harry, keep control of the country, keep it together as only you as a figurehead can, but then give it up when you're no longer needed. Oh, who am I kidding – you've always been far more moral than I, you'll be fantastic. Ron, you're going to be the anchor of the new world, I think, when Harry's gone. You'll be brilliant.
There was a noticeable tear-stain at this point in the letter, which was faithfully reproduced in every history, at the insistence of Harry Potter himself.
Now here I am, making prophecies. I hate them so! But at least, by the time you're reading this, it's all over, one way or another. And if you're reading it, then we won.
Please remember me. But some things are worth dying for.
Severus Snape closed the book with a snap. A History of the Second Voldemort War, indeed! Ten years did not make the events far enough removed to call them history, especially not for those who felt every emotion as keenly as though it were yesterday.
She had been right, as usual, in most of her predictions. Harry Potter had become interim minister for the first three years after what was now being called the "Battle of London", re-organising everything, streamlining bureaucracy, but mainly making sure that democracy was restored. He'd spent most of the combined Potter, Malfoy (Lucius had not survived the golems, so everything went to Draco) and Snape money on this, which came to several billion Galleons when added to the Ministry's own assets.
Then, once his three year term was done, despite howls of protest from the entire Wizarding community, he'd resigned to spend more time with his partner, Draco Malfoy. They'd never felt the need to formally marry, though one of the first acts of the new Wizarding Parliament (to replace the old, entrenched Wizengamot – its nickname was "Hermione's Home") had been to legalise such unions.
When Harry had stepped down from his post, Weasley had been voted in with an overwhelming majority. He'd appointed Ernie Macmillan and Neville Longbottom as Deputy and Law Enforcement Ministers respectively, and the cabinet was doing rather well, now half way through its third three-year term.
Severus scowled. Except, of course, that they insisted on having these bloody Victory Balls every year. He had seen the point at the beginning, to raise morale in the broken and beaten community which Voldemort had left behind, but ten years on...
As soon as the Battle ended, Severus had stepped down from the Headmastership of Hogwarts. He'd wanted to go into retirement, but Headmistress McGonagall flatly refused to let him, saying that she needed a competent potions master, since Slughorn had decided to stay on in Australia to run the Institute. It would be a very different place, however, without Filius Flitwick, who had been felled by a rogue killing curse in the battle.
So Severus had stayed. Until now, that was. He surveyed his empty room, meagre belongings packed into one small trunk. It was time to go.
Except he'd been coerced by his godson into attending this bloody ball first.
Severus, as was his wont at these things, stood in a corner and glowered. People who hadn't been anywhere near the battle that day were dancing. Dancing! Dancing to celebrate the death of a megalomaniac. It seemed ridiculous, sacrilegious even.
Draco appeared at his shoulder. "Having fun, Uncle Sevviekins?"
"What do you think?"
Harry had appeared behind them, wont, as ever, to be wherever Draco was.
"I think that this is the last one of these you'll be at for a while."
Severus shrugged. "True enough."
Draco asked, "Where will you go?"
Another shrug. "Does it matter?"
Harry clapped him on the shoulder. "Just be sure to drop by the island once in a while, yes?"
The two of them had bought themselves a small island in the middle of the Carribbean, where they now spent most of their time. Their own little slice of Paradise, Harry called it. They were seen less and less in public, now. Ron had taken over the limelight, and with the clear-up done, they were no longer needed.
Severus smiled thinly. "Perhaps." He did enjoy his visits to their home, but he needed to be alone, now. He'd been stuck at Hogwarts for too long. Like them, now that the rebuilding and restructuring was complete, he was no longer needed.
Seamus Finnegan had materialised out of nowhere. Funny, how this group of ex-students had become his closest friends over the past ten years. Well, they were all he had left of her, said a small voice in his brain, treacherously.
"Be sure to come by the Institute," Seamus said. After the war, he'd settled in Australia, married one of the teachers at the Institute, and now divided his time between teaching Defence Against the Dark Arts and running a Muggle retail empire.
There was a clinking of a glass from the front of the room. The Minister of Magic, Mr. Ronald Weasley, was standing with his wife, Susan Weasley, nee Bones, ready to make their customary speech.
"As you know," said Ron self-importantly. "Today is June the 6th, ten years since the Battle of London, at which the so-called Lord Voldemort was finally defeated. We'd like, on this special anniversary, to have a minute of silence to remember all those who gave their lives for this to be possible."
Susan waved her wand, and all around the walls appeared images of the fallen.
She was speaking, now, but Severus was not listening. He had eyes only for one image. The bushy brown hair was all wrong, it should have been smooth, a short brown bob, but the eyes, the eyes...
He'd stopped listening, but the minister was still droning on, introducing the guest speaker for that night. Severus tuned in again with a start at the name.
"Did you know about this?" he whispered to Draco, shocked.
"Yes," he said. "Now shut up and listen, Uncle. It'll do you good."
"I now present to you," said Susan Weasley, "Miss Ophelia Granger."
Severus' eyes were riveted on her, as she took the stage. Ophelia was not her sister – she was too slender, too young, only eighteen, and the eyes were the wrong colour. Grey, not brown. But there was something of the woman he had loved in the way she walked, her self-confidence as she made her speech.
"I never knew my sister," she began. "She sent our family away for our own protection after the Battle of Hogwarts. But I know of her. And I know our family, and what she would want me to say on this anniversary is, keep the faith. Keep to the entreaty of her last letter, the one that we've all seen. No more killing. Let us not let this happen again..."
Severus was not listening any more. Ophelia was still speaking, and yes, it was a good speech, but nothing that he hadn't heard before. Besides, she was wrong. The letter that everyone saw hadn't been her last. There was a third letter on that dresser. He put that thought aside, the pain still fresh, even after ten years.
The young woman was now coming to her closing remarks. "I only have one more thing to say. Each year, I have attended these balls, and each year we celebrate the same people. The Order of the Phoenix: Harry Potter, Draco Malfoy, Ron Weasley, Susan Bones, Neville Longbottom, Ernie Macmillan, Seamus Finnegan. Those who gave their lives: Hermione, Colin Creevey, and Filius Flitwick, to name but a few.
This year, I have spoken almost exclusively about Hermione. This is not to undervalue the contributions of others, because this was a team effort, but because by sheer virtue of being who I am, there is only one person about whom I am really qualified to speak.
But there is one man who is often forgotten in these Victory Celebrations, usually through his own design. I was lucky enough to have studied Potions under him at Hogwarts until a year ago, when I graduated and began my apprenticeship in Transfiguration.
Severus Snape is an underappreciated hero, ladies and gentlemen. Without him, my sister Hermione would never have perfected the golems which ended up turning the tide of the battle. Without his relentless commitment to the cause of light for thirty years, the Order would not have gleaned most of the information which led to the Dark Lord's defeat.
But most of all, I want to say a personal thank you. Because Severus Snape, ladies and gentlemen, was the love of Hermione's life, and without him, she would not have been able to do what she did. And what she did, saved us all.
So please raise your glasses, ladies and gentlemen, to Severus and Hermione."
She toasted him, raising a glass of champagne straight at his corner. How did she know he was there? Somehow, there was a glass of scotch in his hand (probably Harry, he was nearest). Severus raised the glass in return, then downed it in one. The call was echoed throughout the room. "Severus and Hermione!"
He felt the loss of her more then than he had in years. As the rest of the room went back to their drinking and dancing, forgetting all too soon what had been lost, he indulged himself in memory one last time.
He took a yellowed envelope from his pocket. It was the third letter, the one he had never mentioned to anyone else. It had never needed delivering, since the intended recipient was simply
I'm sorry that I lied. By this point you'll have figured it all out, what I did, how I hid the truth from you. You'll look over the parchment with my Arithmantic calculations, see how I deliberately made it illegible to anyone but myself, and curse me for not telling you the truth.
Please don't curse me.
I had no choice, Severus. You of all people know, that when you can do something for the Cause, even if it means sacrificing something dear, you have to do it. You sacrificed your childhood for this cause, Severus. What is my life compared to that?
So I had to lie. If you'd known what I was going to do, you'd never have let me. You'd never have left that room, and I couldn't lose you, Severus. I only knew one thing – I couldn't lose you. Not to Voldemort, not to my golems, not to anything. I had to get you out of there! Maybe it was unfair, but my heart couldn't have taken losing you. I feel like it's being ripped out of my chest at the mere thought. If you're reading this, it means you made it, and that thought makes me so glad I could practically sing. Only not really, because you know what my voice is like.
I loved you so much.
Scratch that, I do love you so. I don't think that death can take away this feeling, even if there's nothing beyond the grave. Please know that when it's finally your turn, I'll be right there waiting, presuming that there's some kind of afterlife. Which is not to say that I want you to join me soon – far from it. Have a life as you never could while under Voldemort's shadow. Travel. See the world. Much as it pains me to write it, fall in love again. Make some other woman as happy as you've made me. Oh, and make sure that Wizarding Britain survives intact first though, would you? Silly question. I know that you will. You always do what's right.
It seems strange, to have such a surfeit of feeling for you, having only been together for six months. Not even, actually. Especially considering that we spent the first two months of that lying to each other about everything. It seems so silly now. But somehow, we fit, don't we Severus, you and I?
I want you to know that I am happy going to my death. You've made me happier than I ever could have believed, especially considering the fact that we're in the middle of a war. I never thought I'd find a grand passion. Then suddenly, you were there, and perfect.
I love you, Severus Snape. I'm going to die, tomorrow. Know that you will be the last thing I think of. Please be strong.
Always and forever yours,
There was some debate about what happened next. Some onlookers said that Severus Snape, after knocking back one last glass of scotch, simply vanished into thin air, Hogwarts anti-apparition wards notwithstanding. Others swore that the ghost of Hermione Granger came down from above, took his hand, and they walked out together, into the afterlife. There was even one story that he turned into an eagle, and flew out of the window, a spectral dove circling him as he left.
Whatever happened, the fact remains that Severus Snape was never seen or heard of again after the night of the Ministry Ball. I do not know what the truth is, or even if there can be a truth in matters such as these. We can only hope that somewhere, somehow, Severus found his Hermione once more.