Chapter 28

A.N This is the final chapter of this story, it has now gone from being a WIP to a COMPLETE. I would like to thank every reviewer, follower and anyone who has been with me through this piece. Hope you enjoy the final chapter and it is everything you have hoped. I will put a playlist for some of the songs that have inspired me throughout this, and the links so if anyone would like to listen they are welcome.

James Arthur Impossible: Break up scene - watch?v=lJqbaGloVxg

Carrie Underwood: Blown away – Snape's memories watch?v=pJgoHgpsb9I

Kill Bill: Don't let me be misunderstood – Battle scene watch?v=dF-fKECmLQA

Andre Rieu: Irish Washer Woman - watch?v=NZxtOGSJ7lc

Hermione Granger had once been told that being alone was all a state of mind, being on one's own in a crowded room was all relative to how healthy one's psyche was at that moment in time. However, Hermione was readily disinclined to agree with this fallacy to the Nth degree. Loneliness had become an embodiment of her person and whilst she was surrounded by female love and support in the form of a very perceptive Luna, Hermione felt that part of her had been ripped away, not so much in her heart but the intellectual friend her brain once had was now off living Merlin knows where. Although it was nearing the end of May and Severus had been removed from her life for almost two months now, the ache didn't get any easier and neither did the weather, mocking the girl's misery with its endless supply of May rain, the most recent shower was bouncing off her scarlet parker as she sat under a tree at the edge of the Forbidden Forest. The tree was keeping most of the water from hitting Hermione, yet a few drops managed to break through the canopy of leaves and splash onto her hair, resulting in droopy to ringlets...It didn't matter. Hermione didn't have much concern for her own welfare these days, she no longer bothered to dab hints of makeup on her face, as she was crying so often it wasn't worth wasting the pounds on washed away highlighter and lip gloss. She also no longer cared how she was presenting herself, today was another classic outfit of a pink shirt and red parker with green jeans. With her face sore from her tears, she looked like a giant tomato cradling a child. In fact, the item Hermione cradled in her lap was not so much a child but a carved piece of wood; she stroked the strings and wiped a raindrop from her lover's most cherished item.

Hermione had managed to enter Severus's rooms for a final time before the Floo became sealed, the evening the man had left. After summoning the strength to drag her sobbing corpse back the castle after spending an unfathomable amount of time staring at the spot on which her lover had vanished, Hermione had wandered towards the only place she would feel comfort...Severus's Quarters. Stepping through the fireplace she entered the room they had once loved in, to the cold reception only a bare dank space could give, with only the shell of 'their' bed remaining as a reminder of their relationship. Had it not been for the violin lying innocently atop of a stripped mattress, the romance might well have been the dream of young girl just starting out in the world. Hermione had fallen desperately upon the simple instrument the minute she spotted it, in the manner of a homeless person gorging themselves on their only meal. The hunger she felt for the memory of Severus was momentarily sated as she cradled the violin, much like she was today. Before she stepped through the Floo, which sealed itself to her once she had departed.

"Severus's magic," she grumbled aloud and stroked the violin with her index finger.

"Are you going to learn to play it?" Hermione ceased her ministrations and dragged her befuddled mind back to the current day...not that it mattered.

Hermione shrugged her shoulders and moved up slightly to let Luna Lovegood take up the dry patch next to her on the ground.

"It's a beautiful instrument and it suits the Professor, he always was the elegant sort...even if it was in his own quiet way," Luna smiled and attempted to pick up the violin, Hermione didn't relinquish her grip for a moment, then she gave in.

Hermione had been forced to tell her friend about the whole depressing ordeal; Luna had found her friend sobbing in the potions classroom when she had gone to hand homework in to Snape, the following day. The Potion's Master's absence was not noticeable in the first instance, the students had become used to him leaving the castle on a regular basis when he was serving the Dark Lord, however one week later Dumbledore was forced to address the school and make them aware of Severus's departure for the rumours were becoming too rife amongst the houses. Hermione had shut her ears to the taunts and chants and spent her time with a sympathetic Luna who, she slowly spilled her guts too over many evenings sitting under this very tree, away from the rest of the student body.

"I wish I could have seen him play," Luna smiled at the thought, placed the violin under chin and bowed out a few soft notes. Hermione gave a start and clasped her friend's leg in surprise, it was unusual for Luna to be astonished by anything, but she jumped at Hermione's touch once again, due to being lost a reverie.

"You can play the Violin," it wasn't a question that vibrated from Hermione's lips but a definitive statement, a clinging hope that she may once again feel close to her love.

"My mother taught me as a girl before she...joined our ancestors, it's not something I keep up, but I tend to remember how to play a little," Luna said modestly, handing the instrument back to Hermione who cradled it again.

"How are Harry and Ron?" Luna smiled at the thought of Harry's circle spectacles and his tousled hair.

Hermione lifted her head again; it had dropped, when she looked at the violin. "They are actually doing great, completely back to normal. Ginny has just about forgiven me for what I did to Harry...I hope."

"If only Myrtle hadn't tried to make Harry fall for her, you wouldn't be in this mess," Luna looked towards the lake where the Giant Squid was catching raindrops in its tentacles.

"I...beg...your...pardon," Hermione's voice was absolutely reminiscent of Severus's, as her tongue rolled over the words. Luna clapped a hand slowly to her mouth.

"Hermione! I thought you knew? She told me you see, she knew how I felt about Harry and taunted me about it by telling me she had given him a love potion, and she would soon be his girlfriend...not Ginny and certainly not me." It was like Luna had hit the floor with a bump from a enormous height, her voice had lost most of its ethereal quality and she sounded remarkably flat as she endeavoured to get her words out so fast whilst trying not to trip over them.

Hermione's head dropped into her hands and she groaned outwardly, "Ron must have drunk it after Harry if she left it in his dormitory? Anyone would want to drink something that attracts them...oh Merlin, I'm only partly to blame...I'm going to kill Myrtle...again!"

"She's gone Hermione," Luna said beginning to sound like her old self again, now the heat wasn't directly focused on her. "Dumbledore banished her the minute he found out what she did."

"But how did he?" Hermione looked down at the violin again... "Severus knew about her didn't he? He knew I had made the potion, it must have been her that told him about it after she had decanted it to Harry...why didn't he tell me?"

"He loved you Hermione," Luna said seriously "Of that I am certain, never have I seen such a golden match you know?" Hermione rolled her eyes but accepting Luna's beliefs as a friend, she didn't question them.

"Will you go and find him? I will miss you ever so much when you do join him."

"How do I even know where he's gone? He could be anywhere?" Hermione began to sob desperately "Why couldn't he have left me any clues?"

"He left you his violin, that's a clue in itself...I think when he's ready for you, you will find him." Hermione looked at Luna hardly daring to agree with her friends sentiments...Luna spoke no more but instead leaned forward and cradled the head of her sobbing friend as the rain gushed down on top of the hushed girls.

Hermione packed her last tome into her trunk and jumped on it with a sigh, her ultimate day at Hogwarts had come faster than she would ever have dared to imagine, and now as she closed her trunk for a final time she prepared to make her way into the world. Her fellow classmates had been amazed that the 'know it all Granger' had not found herself a profession before she was not as if she had not received offers. Being a War Hero Hermione had been inundated with offers of employment from diminutive corners of the Ministry to apprenticeships at her beloved Hogwarts, yet she had deferred them all... for now. Hermione had something to do before she settled into the mundane workings of adult life...she wanted to see the world, she wanted to travel, she wanted to find Severus. Stroking her...correction Severus's violin...the instrument had become to feel more like her own everyday she had played it. Luna had been giving Hermione lessons in the stringed instrument every evening after class, she had come on leaps and bounds and it helped her ease her sorrow at the loss of her beloved potions master. Now she packed the instrument in its velvet case with care and petted Bobo the pygmy puff who snuggled in against it, "we have a long journey my friend," she said fingering the pink fluff of the tiny creature; Bobo purred in response and shut his tiny eyes at her touch.

Hermione felt the cap on her crown begin to slip as she adjusted the straps on her Mary Jane's, turning to face herself in the mirror she gave her body a physical shake in preparation for the ceremony she would soon be a part of. The robes of Gold and Red embossed with the Gryffindor lion gave her pallid features some colour, with a flick of her wand she gripped her cap in place and for the first time since Severus had abandoned her, she smiled. The beam was not a declaration of happiness, but more a smile of self assurance, today she would graduate and today she would leave Hogwarts as a student forever, and travel across the Europe searching for 'her' Severus.

The bustle of the Gryffindor common room was enough to make even Fred and George Weasley cringe, caps and robes were strewn across every chair and sofa, a couple hung over disgruntled portraits in an attempt by the students to make the creases drop out…these belonged to the boys…no girl would be silly enough would she? Hermione stifled a laugh as she spotted Lavender Brown struggling to remove the creases from her set of robes using a pair of Muggle hair straighteners, she had purchased on her last trip into Muggle London.

"Come here Lavender," she said kindly. Lavender was astonished, as this was the first time Hermione Granger had spoken to her in the past three months. Agog she took a step back and allowed Hermione to charm the creases from the robes with a flick of her wand.

"Thank you Hermione," Lavender gushed nervously, then she enveloped the shocked Hermione into a hug…and to her own surprise Hermione hugged her back. With a simple nod of acceptance to the thanks, Hermione headed away from the noise to find a few quiet moments to think before one of the biggest public appearances of her life. The entrance hall was vacant upon her arrival, so taking the rare opportunity, Hermione sat at the foot of the grand staircase and surveyed her surroundings. Seven years she had been a student in this castle, as she mused she witnessed her eleven year old self, bushy haired and twitchy scurry across the hall with the rest of the first years. Harry and Ron straggled at the back dragging their feet and adjusting their robes. The picture morphed into the second year Hermione running across the hall in an attempt to get to the hospital wing after her first Polyjuice disaster, not wanting to linger on that embarrassment for too long, her mind jumped to her sixth year. The night of Slughorn's Christmas party had been an unmitigated disaster, unable to shake McClaggen he had followed her clicking heels into this area and had once again attempted to place his slavering chops all over her face. Unable to reach her wand at that very moment she had swiftly and graciously kneed McClaggen in the balls, watching him fall to the floor grasping at his crotch and moaning with anguish, had been the high light of her evening and she had skipped off to bed a happy woman…at least she thought she was happy. Happiness had not come properly until her first kiss with Severus. The entrance hall witnessed the scene between Hermione and Severus, the initial time he had hoisted her off her bum from the fall in the snow, the first time they had shared a touch, a laugh, a smile. Hermione watched as the manifestations of herself and her professor paced gaily across the stoned flooring, and evaporated back into her turbulent mind.

"Hermione!" she stopped ruffling her robes through her fingers and spun in reaction to the familiar voice on the staircase…a true smile then became present on her features. Hermione stood up slowly and began to ascend the stair case before breaking into a run. She stumbled over her robes but was caught by two sets of arms in the middle of the steps. Harry Potter and Ron Weasley grasped their friend in a tight hug, the embrace of old friends properly reunited once again.

"I didn't know you would even be here? How are you even graduating?"

"Dumbledore allowed us to take our exams in hospital,"

"Made us more like," Ron chipped in looking a little but queasy at the thought, "we were supposed to be ill and they..."

"Oh stop whinging Ron," Harry and Hermione chided at the same time, before the group corpsed with laughter at Ron's slack expression of dismay.

"Well boys would you like to escort me out of the castle for the very last time?" Hermione offered both of her arms to the only two men in her life, and jumping to attention, they grabbed an elbow each and skipped off to face their final hurdle at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Severus Snape was terribly lonely, solitude had suited him these many ...many years, but now he found the lonely bachelor life suited him no more, thanks to his amore with his Miss Granger. Severus had even found himself...voluntarily, his expression twisted into a sneer as he considered this word, taking on students to tutor in the ways of the violin. Now he stared himself down in the ornate silver mirror he had purchased in a flea market in Verona. Black had been his choice of outfit for this evening besides his mask, that of the plague doctor which had long nose trimmed with gold flashes. Severus had deliberately chosen the mask of a pious obliging man in the times of worry, since the mask he had worn for so many years under the Dark Lord, was one the represented wickedness and terror for all that were unfortunate enough to quake under it.

Severus took one last cursory glance at himself and strode out into the night, it was balmy and humid again, as each night was in Rome during the summer days. With his mask firmly fixed he felt safe in the knowledge of not being recognised as Master Snape, tutor of the violin, by his students who were now chortling raucously in the local tavern. As he strode with purpose through the streets towards the Italian apparition point, he passed a young girl sitting on a blanket twinkling on the flute; her huge skirts were draped extensively to catch coins. The young girl was nothing at all like Hermione, she had golden locks for one and her outfit was distinctively 1950's Italian, a costume he reckoned. Yet, the young woman played sweetly and he found himself tossing the female a coin as he passed. She nodded in thanks and his heart grated against his chest as he considered his Hermione...where was she now?

Hermione Granger danced with mirth, she felt alive when she was invisible...not in the literal sense that Harry's cloak would have provided, but the invisibility that could only be procured by the wearing of a mask. Hermione unlike Severus...although she was unaware of this...had chosen a teal mask representing her own requirement of anonymity. It was not a flashy mask, but simple enough to be effective when the fire light reflected off the bended metal, she wore a matching teal dress picked up on her journey through the Parisian Avenues. Hermione had visited the Capital of France, with a fleeting visit to the French Alps, before visiting St Petersburg and moving down to Rome. She was aware of the oddness of her travel plans but she did not journey to an itinerary, but more to a feeling...where would Severus be likely to be. So far she had had little luck and had chosen to take some rooms in the Trevi Quarter of the city as declared by Pope Benedict XIV, she had learnt this upon her arrival by her proud landlord. The Rioni had split the city in fourteen segments and Hermione with her love of culture wanted to stay right in the thick of it.

This night she had left the city, for tonight was Carnival in Venice, something she had always wanted to visit, her dream of the Santa Maddelena had reinforced this desire and now she was here, swinging around on the arms of various Italians and swigging back Prosecco like the other true natives of Venice. Allowing an exhilarative giggle to escape her lips, Hermione skipped through the crowd and felt her arm being grabbed by a strong source. She stopped in her tracks and turned to face the man, for the strength was obviously that of a male, and winced slightly at the death mask that faced her. Although the mask was fearsome, the eyes behind it were kind and as he bowed, she accepted the dance. The couple danced the next jig together without speaking. Hermione giddy from her intake of Prosecco allowed herself to be pulled closer by the man and spun to and fro amongst the other revelling humans, Muggles and Wizards alike in this throng.

Then he was gone.

Hermione spun back to face her partner and found only empty air space where he had once stood, she craned her neck in an endeavour to search for him to little avail. Her hands burned from the strangers touch, she believed it to be a stranger... but something felt distinctly familiar about his fingers entwining with her as he spun her round to the sounds of the violin. Hermione dropped to the floor and clutched her knees after backing from the dance floor, she had found him, she knew she had found him; he had touched her they had been together all in a moment, but why had he left?

Hermione's desperation to find Severus again had led her to searching the carnival and even to go so far as to search the neighbouring streets and taverns in the hopes he had just gone for some space, yet she found no trace of the potions master. Her jovial mood diminishing back to nothing, she apparated back to her rooms and cried herself to sleep, the tears of one lost after being found.

It had taken all of her positive energy to even bother to drag her body from her bed the morning after the Venice Carnival, if she was to suffer a Dementor attack right now, she would be done for. Her head was fuzzy from the Prosecco, her ears rang from the music and most potent of all, her heart ached from the loss of Severus. It was as if he had been ripped from her in an untimely manner all over again. Pulling on some shorts and a burgundy vest, Hermione top knotted her hair and pulled on some sandshoes. She would walk, and take in the sights of this beautiful city, Hermione popped on a pair of recently acquired Chanel glasses and stepped out into the sunlight squinting slightly. It was almost lunch time and the city was bustling, Hermione headed towards the middle of the metropolis dodging varying tourists like herself, and those out and about for their daily work. She was hungry, yet the lump in her throat was preventing her from eating, therefore she stopped at a Gelato Vendor adjacent to the Spanish steps and requested a Fior di latte gelato from the older man behind the counter. He gave Hermione a sweet smile and as he handed over the ice cream.

"Flower of milk," He said as he handed her the change and she took a lick.

"Gratzi," Hermione smiled as best as she could, and proceeded to walk towards the bustling steps to eat the Gelato and plan her next move. Hermione perched on a step half way up the Spanish steps and took in her surroundings. Tourists with cameras were posing for photos, young girls were hugging with bags branded with designer names, Hermione tipped her glasses, she herself had indulged in this slightly. A couple were chatting happily together as they held hands and pointed at the majestic piece of architecture Hermione was using as a chair, she averted her eyes.

"You do know you're not supposed to eat on the Spanish Steps, don't you Miss Granger?" the voice whispered in her ear as a solid form blocked the sunlight. Hermione lifted her glasses away from her eyes slowly.

"No, but apparently it is ok to sell posters of Bart Simpson smoking weed Professor." Severus Snape looked in the direction of Hermione's glasses at the seller peddling the offending item.

"So it would seem. How are you my love?"

"I knew I would find you... which for all intents and purposes, my darling...makes me the happiest witch alive."

Severus offered Hermione his hand for the second time that week, Hermione took the representation of love and security from her potion's master and allowed herself to be pulled up to stand, before the couple descended the majestic staircase that would seal their future.