A/N: Welcome to my Severus/Hermione story, everyone! In case you are wondering already, I would like to clarify that this particular tale holds true all books untll the end of HBP, and disregarding DH entirely! Basically, speaking in much simpler and somewhat immodest terms, what you're about to read is my experiment at writing my very own fantasy version of book 7! *muahaha*

First things first, I really do not like the way the first chapter turned out but I decided to leave it as it was. What I recommend you to do is to read it with an open mind and then progress towards the coming chapters as they come – it shall fall more smoothly there (though with an occasional bump on the road nonetheless!)

Enjoy! :)

Ms Velvela XD

DISCLAIMER: The characters and canon situations in the following story belong solely to JK Rowling, Scholastic and WB. I am not making any money from the publishing or writing of this story.

The Return

'I personally think that we have made the right choice by coming back to Hogwarts, Harry,' said Hermione once the last first-year student had been sorted.

The black-haired wizard in question only cast a doubtful glance at Hermione whilst a loud snort from a freckled young man on her right-hand side clearly seconded his friend's notion.

She, however, much to her credit, as always ignored the duo. It was not the first – nor she feared, the last – time the three of them had had this argument. It had continued all summer at the Burrow once she and Harry moved in to spend the rest of the holidays with the Weasley family.

'Look at it this way,' continued a whispering Hermione, refusing to comply with their thickheadedness. 'Where would you have even started your search for the Horcruxes? You have just turned seventeen, for Merlin's sake! No matter how much trouble you have managed to get yourself into in the past, nothing can possibly compare to running off without even knowing what to look for in the first place. Besides, what about your education? I know how eager you are to become an Auror, but even the Boy-Who-Lived wouldn't be taken without the required N.E.W.T.s!'

'I know that. But there's still the small matter of a certain someone who murdered the closest thing I had to a father-figure in my life. Or have you already forgotten about that?' hissed Harry with vehemence.

Hermione regarded her friend for a moment with something akin to anger and despair.

'I fear your mania for justice and revenge will be the end of you some day,' she pronounced.

With a brisk look around him for unwanted eavesdroppers, Harry leaned closer across the dining table and continued with a quieter, yet no less feverish, timbre than before.

'As it is, I can't care less at this point what the Wizarding society thinks of me, as long as I finish him off once and for all. Hogwarts will never be the same without Dumbledore. I have been robbed of too many things for that, Hermione. Once, I thought nothing would ever compare to what I felt when Sirius died...well, I was wrong.'

There was downright nothing Hermione could respond to that. This past year, she could do nothing but gradually transform into a silent witness to the hardness that developed within her dearest friend. Before that, there was a time when she believed that Harry would somehow overcome the death of his godfather, but the blow of Dumbledore's death was too much to contain in grieving acceptance.

Whilst a morsel of Harry's hope for familial content died with Sirius Black, with Albus Dumbledore, nearly all hope for triumph against the approaching abyss perished.

Ron emitted a rough cough with an uneasy glance directed towards his empty plate. However, with a resolute look at Harry, his jaw visibly firmed in determination.

'No one's trying to tell you how to feel, mate. Hell, that's exactly the last thing we will ever do to you! After all you have been through, you are entitled to all this and more. However, I will have to step back and agree with 'Mione on one thing; the last thing Dumbledore would have wished you to do is rush into anything blindfolded, unequipped and risking your scrawny neck in the process. It may be hard to hear, but your life is more important than anyone else's. In the end, even Dumbledore's, and he confessed it to you himself.'

Judging by Harry's rapidly rising colour, he was about to express what he really thought about the two of them and their ideas in vivid detail. Before he had a chance to angrily open his mouth, Hermione leaned over and firmly grabbed his arm with soft pleading shining in her eyes.

'Please, Harry. Let it go for the time being. The important thing is that all three of us are still sitting together and breathing, which means that nothing is lost yet. You will know when the time comes for the next step.'

It appeared for a little while that the young wizard in front of her would say something, but after taking in the faces of his friends, he elected to retreat. With a soothing pat on Hermione's hand, he finally turned towards the countless platters overflowing with food that surrounded them. The start-of-term feast had officially begun without any of them noticing.

'Alright,' sighed Harry a short time later, moodily spearing a roasted potato with his fork. 'As long as nothing unbalances me in the near future, I promise to be more level-headed in my decisions. You are finally starting to rub off on me, Hermione.'

The young witch grinned and playfully slapped his hand, the one still clutching the fork. In consequence, the three of them could only watch as the potato speedily soared across the air and, with an audible, oily plash, smacked Seamus Finnigan's cheek.

Ron burst out laughing, his own bits of half-chewed potato flying out of his mouth. Hermione grimaced in revulsion but was unable to stick to the propriety of a Prefect for long and giggled.

Staring at the scene in front of him, Harry's emerald eyes regained their sparkle behind his glasses just as the corner of his mouth began to twitch.

Before Harry Potter could smile, though, the grand doors of the Great Hall banged open.

In the deafening silence that followed, Hermione was reassured much later on that she was not the only one who stared at the doorway in dumbfounded refusal to believe what she was actually seeing. She was, however, the only one who managed to detach her unsettled gaze from the sight, only for her eyes to fall upon Harry. When they did, she found herself staring at such fury and hatred that she had never even dreamed of seeing in her worst nightmares in those familiar green eyes.

A fury that could slaughter without mercy...

For within the doors stood Severus Snape.