All characters belong to the brilliant J. K. Rowling.

This is what I think happened...

Chapter 10

Severus watched as Hermione made her way towards Hagrid's place, with a big barn owl perching on her shoulder.

It was a week ago when the poor bird stumbled upon the kitchen window of the Snapes' seaside cottage. Neither one of them could understand why the half-giant from Hogwarts would send an owl across the ocean to deliver a simple postcard. It was a cheerful note, sharing Hagrid's summer adventure during his visit with Madam Maxine. However, either the gamekeeper had forgotten the new location of the Snapes' new residence, or he had overlooked the challenges presented by the journey, he unknowingly sent the poor owl onto a trip that nearly ended the creature's delivery career prematurely.

"What was he thinking!" Hermione gasped as she cradled the exhausted bird.

"Obviously," Severus snarled, "he wasn't."

"I wish he dropped the postcard in the mail and had it delivered to us the muggle way." Hermione stroked the owl's brownish grey feathers as the bird panting in her arms.

Severus watched in silence as Hermione took care of the bird. Her compassion never ceased to amuse him.

When the owl finally recovered, Hermione announced her trip to Hogwarts.

"I can't let him fly all the way back again. I'm going to bring him home." Hermione told Severus one day, "I'll be back soon. You don't have to come along is you don't feel like it." She knew her husband well. Severus was never keen on unnecessary social gathering.

To her surprised however, he answered quickly, "I'll go with you." He said simply, "I have someone that I need to visit."

Hermione blinked at her husband, wanting to ask him who he had in mind to see. But his silent stares told her that it would be wise for her to hold back the question, and wait for him to volunteer his answers when he was ready.

Turning away from the view of his wife, Severus quietly made his way to the black lake. The summer was approaching its end. And the journey of time was subtly displayed by the turning leaves hovering over the black water.

In a small clearing, Severus found his destination: the white tomb.

It had been a long time since he last visited Dumbledore's resting place. The company of Hermione and the extended friendship she brought along into their relationship seemed to have driven away his lonely days. It became an empty spot that was temporarily filled. And Severus purposely neglected the urge to discover it again, until when Hermione finally showed him the "secret mission" given by the former headmaster, the hidden note in the old fairytale book that Dumbledore left with Hermione, the gift that was intended only, for Severus Snape.

Severus still remembered how his breath caught in his throat when he saw the familiar handwriting in the last page of the old copy of The Tales of Beedle the Bard. Up until that moment, he was still ambivalent about Dumbledore. He thought he would always regard the old wizard as the greatest strategist in their time, a skilled manipulator, and a successful commander in a war, leading countless soldiers fighting for the right cause. Up until that moment, Severus considered himself a reluctant follower of Dumbledore's, who happened to be content with that arrangements.

Reading Dumbledore's secret note however, had proved to Severus that he had indeed missed something, and that he just might have drawn the conclusions too soon. Tracing the white marble tomb stone with his pale long fingers, Severus remembered the note.

Dear Miss Granger,

I trust that this note will not present itself until you return from your interesting journey. I want to let you know that it had been a great pleasure meeting you during your unexpected visit. Thank you for dropping the hint before your departure. It has given me great comfort knowing that you will use the book well.

Humbly I write this note today, asking you for a personal favor. There is one man in this world to whom I need to, but cannot, properly express my gratitude before I have to leave you with this book. I will not name him in this note, for the sensitivity of the matter. Yet we both know who he is. I wonder, Miss Granger, if you could deliver a personal thank you to him in an unconventional way?

I do not know where to begin to thank him for what he's done for our cause. He may still think that I manipulated him into doing the right things. How I want to prove him wrong! It has been, always, him, who possessed the virtue that he himself does not recognize. I am simply an old man tagging along for the ride.

I wish he could accept the friendship I would like to offer him. Yet our past created unnecessary complications. He might still think that I accepted his assistance as part of the bargain. The truth is, there was never a bargain. It was his own choice. It has always been.

For years I have watched him suffer. While friendship could have eased his pain, he never accepted it. Alas, he is such a private man! But you, Miss Granger, are my only hope. He loves you, even though he was too stubborn to say it to you when you left. I could see it in his eyes when he was with you. If there was anyone in this world from whom he would accept the much needed assistance, it would have to be you.

With you I will leave the two ancient spells that will enable you to visit him when he needed you the most. You are a clever girl. I will say no more. The only thing I want to add is that I have faith in the bond between you two. And I know I will be smiling knowing what the future holds for you.

Sincerely yours,

Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore

Severus smiled as he recalled the his many meetings with the old headmaster in his office, going over their plans against the dark lord, discussing the politics among the wizarding world and the muggle world, or simply enjoying the muggle treats that Dumbledore acquired during his many trips. How he missed those lemon drops! And of course, it was all clear to him now. Just as Hermione had always told him, friendship began with trust. And there was no one else that Severus Snape trusted more than Dumbledore during those trying years.

Quietly Hermione found her husband and came to his side. "He knew everything, didn't he." She said softly as she laced her fingers through his.

Severus pulled her into his arms and kissed her on her forehead. "Yes he did." He sighed, "he knew just what I needed."

Hermione looked up searchingly at her husband's face, "do you still blame him for giving me the spells to go back in time?" She asked quietly.

Severus shook his head but didn't say a word. Slowly he released Hermione, holding her hand gently in his, he led her away towards the castle grounds.

As they slowly walked away from the lake, Severus murmured quietly, "Who would have guessed, that I would find a friend in Albus Dumbledore, and a lover in Hermione Granger!"

Hermione turned her head and beamed at Severus, "I would have expected you referring to me as your wife, or best friend maybe. But... lover huh?"

Severus raised his eyebrows and asked, "Does that title not work for you? What can I say? I do love you."

Hermione couldn't hide her widening grin, "I love it when you say you love me."

Severus stopped and took both of her hands in his. He frowned slightly and looked down at her, "Hermione," He began, "You do know how much I love you, don't you? Why do you need me to tell you again and again? Are words really that important?"

"Yes Severus. Those words are, indeed, quite important. But if you have to disagree," Hermione smiled mischievously at the dark-hair wizard, "you will have to prove that an alternative would convey the same feelings just as well."

Severus broke into a smile and shook his head in defeat, "Fine. Come with me, and I will prove it to you."

With a soft pop, the two love birds disappeared from the place that held their bitter sweet memories, and back to a place of their own, a place they called, home.





The End...

Okay my friends, this is how I'm going to stop for this story. Thanks for reading and for making it such an enjoyable journey for me. From the very beginning, it had been my plan to explore Severus' feelings and his personal flaws, which turned out to be quite lovable. I do realize the rhythm of this story is significantly slower than The Final Forgiveness. I can only hope that it worked for you.