… had been prepared to be attacked by the Dark Lord or any one of my distinguished colleagues. In fact, I had been preparing for an attempt on my life for years. Why does that always surprise people when I say this? I was a Potions master and a Death-Eater, for Merlin's sake. But every time I tell my story, it's like a Lumos goes off behind their eyes and they are suddenly given to understand the Slytherin instinct for self-preservation.

But you, Granger, should have had more confidence in me. I would have expected you to catch on. Five points from Gryffindor. Do pay closer attention next time.

-o0o-

I have to say, this is the first time anyone's made me laugh over the story of their own near-death experience. Is it because we're corresponding, and I don't have to cower under the dreadful scowl I remember from my school days? Or have you always had a sense of humor and I simply never knew?

Naturally, if anyone has the right to set the narrative tone of their own near-death experience, it is the near-deathee. (Is that a word?) (It is now.) (Right. No more wine after this glass, Hermione, I mean it.)

But I confess it's still difficult to get over the way Minerva stood in front of me and let me believe you were dead. Defend her all you wish, but you don't know what it felt like.

One day, about a month after the final battle, many of us had gathered at Hogwarts for a small ceremony before reconstruction of the castle was to begin. Looking around me, I was suddenly overwhelmed by the memories. Minerva happened by then, and she put her arm around me and we went off to talk for a while. I sat in her office for I don't know how long, and stared at your portrait, and unburdened myself about the whole thing—witnessing your attack, hearing what we had thought were your last words, making the hard choice to leave you because we were running out of time.

She tried to be a comfort that day, and I appreciate it. But now, come to find out she knew you were alive all the time? I love her; she continues in my heart as my first, best mentor, but if she were here right now ...

-o0o-

I'm genuinely sorry, Hermione. Aberforth and I thought the secret of my survival was too volatile to share in those first days. The habits of an old spy die hard; sometimes I forget I don't know everything. Still, if I had known you were hurt, maybe I would have taken a chance. I don't know.

If it makes you feel any better, Minerva had no choice in the matter. Aberforth had made her take a Binding Oath before he would reveal to her that I lived. Then he brought her out to his Secret-kept cottage near Hogsmeade.

I will not attempt to recreate her reaction upon seeing me all bandaged up, eyes open, very much alive. One word can describe her emotions: mixed.

As for the portrait in the Headmasters gallery, I'm glad to hear it fooled you. It was supposed fool any casual observer. Between M. and A., it was a very clever piece of charms work and looked just like me, except it did not snore as loudly as I.

But as for how the charms were applied, I shall leave this story for another day, as it's past your bedtime, young lady.

-o0o-

Very funny. How do you know what time of day I read your letters? You may have your owl deliver at ungodly hours, but I myself am possessed of such rock-solid discipline, I always save your letters for my leisure time.

Did Amelia receive my latest edits? It wouldn't surprise me if she were leaving it to you to keep the client informed, and you were shirking your responsibility by filling our hours with small talk.

-o0o-

My thrilling tale is not small talk, Granger. I'll thank you to keep a civil tongue. Or rather, pen.

Have you had any more thought about multi-lingual charms applications? If you have gotten to Volume III of Marlsburg, you will already know her theorem, which states …

-o0o-

… had not noticed any difference between results when spoken in English (or rather, Latin) and in German. Not that my German accent is all that good—far from it! So I enlisted the help of my classmates. And sure enough, we saw no appreciable difference. It leads me to have more confidence in what you said back in February—the timing of the incantation has to do more with intent and focus, and less on the length of any given spell.

Perhaps my findings will be applicable in various languages. I say, Mister Publisher sir, when can we translate my book into German?

Yes, I'm getting ahead of myself. No, you do not mind, though you'll say you do.

Enclosed are notes from the Concealments and Revealments seminar I attended yesterday, led by Master Augustus Schwimmer. Apparently, he was once a bright young thing at the Wiesbaden Academy. Did you know him when you attended? I boiled down three hours' worth of lecture into a few succinct pages. You may commence with expressions of sincere and boundless gratitude.

-o0o-

Schwimmer was nothing but a windbag back when I attended university with him in Prague. You deserve a medal, not just my sincere and boundless, etc.

Thank you for the notes. Please let me know how I may repay you. And be as creative as you wish.

-o0o-

… he invited me out at last. He says he noticed me at the lecture. Can't imagine why. I was sitting clear in the back. The man must have eyes like an eagle!

Why did you call him a windbag? I find him quite interesting.

See here, once again I have nattered on at you about trivial things. I have half a mind not to send this at all.

Oh! Here is your owl! I shall take it as a sign then, for better or worse. Off you go—

-o0o-

How long have you had your eye on Schwimmer? Is it a professor thing? He taught your class three hours, Granger. I was your professor for six years. I am slightly hurt I'm not in the running.

-o0o-

Ha! You mean my publisher, S.T. Sebastian, the man who made poor Justin cry and then threatened to turn my thesis into a children's book? Is that the professor you believe ought to be in the running?

-o0o-

…Apparently, she has been shopping the thing to every broom-cupboard conspiracy theorist with a printing press. No one would touch it, not even that rag, The Quibbler. Did I mention the Daily Prophet passed on it? Yes, even they have finally gained some common sense. It was one thing to let her print exerpts from her Dumbledore biography; it's quite another to make spurious claims about a living person. One of their attorneys no doubt informed them if they put their masthead above any of the mendacities that comprised her so-called 'biography,' I would sue them for slander. Or libel. Whichever it is.

You may ask how I know for a fact she has written mendacities about me. It is because Skeeter had no luck finding an agency … until she came to the front stoop of Sebastian & Sebalius Publishing.

Who is this Sebastian & Sebalius Publishing, you may ask? Oh, just some one-owl operation with a small shop front in Hyperb Alley. You may not have heard of them. The publisher, an irascible fellow by all accounts, prefers to keep a very low profile—so much so, he made up fictitious "publishers" as a front so he would not have to deal directly with a public that still tends to censure him for his actions during the war. This publisher fellow has only been in business a year, but he has already managed to sign a book contract with an up-and-coming young charms theorist from Switzerland, and three or four others as well …

-o0o-

Oh, Severus, have you signed new clients at last? I'm so glad! Who are the others? Did you relent and pick up Justin's epic trilogy? I do hope so. He promised me an autographed copy…

-o0o-

…S&S probably seemed like a good prospect to Rita Skeeter. It helped that the associate editor, starry-eyed in the presence of such a famous writer, wasted no time in offering her a special contract that very day. (Must remember to give Amelia a bonus for her performance.)

We've stopped production on all other works (including yours—my apologies) long enough to print the book. But just two copies. Unfortunately, one of them will fall into the hands of Severus Snape himself, and the other, his attorney, D. Malfoy, Esq.

The results should be brutal. Draco assures me the contract is iron-clad. Amelia really rushed her through the fine print. In the end, she will have to cede all rights to the injured party, Severus Snape, and the fool book will die a well-deserved death.

We most certainly did not sign Mr. Fletch-Fitchley and his piece of vanity fiction. As for our client list, watch for a catalogue this summer.

-o0o-

You are dangerous to know, Mr. Snape! Remind me to tell you about the time I had occasion to blackmail Rita Skeeter. You and I should start a club. We could be charter members.

It's late, and finals week starts next Monday, but I can't sleep. I used to have a large bottle Dreamless Sleep, which I brought with me from Britain, but unfortunately, it's finally all used up after three years here. I would brew my own (at the tiny little work station I set up here in my dormitory), but for some strange reason the apothecary in Zurich only carries blue asphodel, which I find is not as effective.

Perhaps some common asphodel as a token of your sincere and boundless, etc?

Hoping you are well—and fast asleep, too—

-o0o-

To Hermione Granger

From Slug & Jigger's Apothecary
Diagon Alley, London

Item: Essence of Asphodel, Common – (3 bottles)
Amount due: 0
Note: Why are you having trouble sleeping, Granger?

-o0o-

Thank you so much, Severus. I should have ordered common asphodel from Britain, but somehow I never got around to it.

You ask why I sometimes have trouble sleeping. I suppose it has to do with what happened with my parents. Maybe there's a part of me that feels I deserve to have insomnia.

I wasn't completely honest with you in earlier letters about the fate of Abraham and Jean Granger. I told you they moved to Australia during the war to stay safe. The truth is, I coerced them into moving. They would never have taken themselves out of harm's way if they knew their daughter was resolved to remain in Britain, fighting a war against impossible odds. I knew it just wasn't in them to leave me.

So I used an Obliviate charm to make them forget they ever had a daughter. From there, it was a simple matter to plant a small suggestion in their heads to move out of the country. They'd always wanted to emigrate—they'd dreamed of it for as long as I can remember.

A few months after the war ended, I went to Sydney and found them. But when I tried to reverse the spell, I discovered I could not. Everyone learns Obliviates in sixth year, Severus, but nobody learns how to reverse them.

I threw myself into research. I expect this may be one of the reasons why I enrolled at Zauberberg—to become proficient enough at Charms theory that I could finally devise a way to reverse my parents' amnesia. To date, though, I have had no breakthroughs. My advisors and professors are equally stymied and have been unable to offer any insights.

How do you like that? The most important charm of my life is the one that does not make the cut.

Well, I know they're happy where they are, at least. That will have to be enough, won't it?

H.

P.S. Schwimmer is a windbag.

-o0o-

So this is why you took up the study of Charms theory. Ah, Hermione. Sometimes the happiness of others must come at the expense of our own. I fear you know this better than most. But as we move on after a hard choice, we keep within us the certainty that, faced with the two paths, we would choose the same one again, the one with the best odds of keeping our loved ones safe.

You picked the choice that was best at the time. Don't fall into the trap of second-guessing your choice in light of hardship now.

As you say, they are happy. You've given them a future to look forward to. And you have a bright future ahead of you as well. Look to the future.

S.

-o0o-

Spring lent her gracious charm to the graduation ceremony held on the bright, rolling lawns of Zauberberg. The sun's rays were a benediction all their own, and blue-grey mountains surrounded the little valley, craggy sentinels which had stood for all time.

"Hermione Jean Granger."

Hermione mounted the stage and walked toward the provost. The audience, seated in precise rows, clapped politely. She shook a proffered hand and accepted her diploma, smiling at her professors, arrayed on the dais, before she descended again.

As she made her way back to her seat, she lifted her eyes to the hills again and briefly considered turning left instead of right and skipping the rest of the ceremony. After all, she had her diploma now. But no: her classmates were grinning and beckoning her back to her chair, as if they had sensed her thoughts. Smiling ruefully, she regained her seat on the end of the row, and somebody poked her in the arm good-naturedly.

On the dais, Master Augustus Schwimmer took his place behind the podium, used his wand to magically enhance his voice, and launched into what promised to be a long-winded speech. The whole class suppressed groans. Shaking her head, Hermione looked about and let her mind wander.

For such a small graduating class, attendance was quite large. Every student could boast more than a few friends and family members in attendance, except for Hermione.

None of her friends had been able to make the trip from England. Harry and Ginny had wanted to come, but Ginny was due any day now with their second-born and could not travel. Ron had bowed out too, not wanting to cause trouble with his wife. Hermione didn't know what to think about that, except to hope Lavender's residual jealousy where Hermione was concerned would ease up over time.

And her parents … No, best not to think about them again today. Look to the future, he had said, and she would.

Her advisors and professors had offered her a post-graduate fellowship at Zauberberg, which would enable her to continue her research on Obliviate reversals. It was a generous offer, one she intended to take them up on. But first, an extended visit to London was in order, to visit her friends and perhaps see if there was certain someone who might be waiting for her to find him in Hyperb Alley…

Another poke on the arm, this time from the other side. Hermione turned to see a book nudging her shoulder. It floated into her hands. Surprise and delight welled up in her heart as she admired its beautiful dark blue cover set with silver words—her own name—glinting in the May sunlight.

The front cover flipped open of its own accord—there was her name again upon the flyleaf—and a white quill came floating around to hover near her other hand.

"Pardon me, Miss Granger, may I have your autograph?"

His low, whispered words in her ear made her shiver delightfully. She had thought of him, and he had come. She turned in her seat and beheld Severus Snape sitting behind her.

He was dressed in charcoal-gray linen robes of European cut, trimmed with innumerable silver buttons which she fondly recognized as his hallmark. His hair was tied back in a queue, framing the lined face she remembered with perfect clarity from her youth … except this face seemed new to her, for it wore a self-deprecating smile that made him seem downright sexy, and black eyes that glowed warmly, just for her.

He had come, just for her.

Impulsively, she reached back to touch his cheek, as much to stop him disappearing from sight as to reassure herself he was real. His smile grew tender at her touch; she realized he had been a little unsure of his welcome, and her heart melted.

"Oh, Severus," she whispered, overcome, "I'm so glad to see you." She gently coaxed him nearer to kiss his cheek, but her kiss landed somewhat on his mouth, and she thought she ought to be embarrassed, but he tilted his head and kissed her properly and all thoughts scattered as she breathed him in.

At the sound of his chuckle, she twisted and threw her arms around his neck, knocking her chair aside. He stood and hugged her so tightly about the waist, her feet left the ground. She laughed and he kissed her again, heedless of the murmuring crowd.

"Is that you, Sevvy?" called Master Schwimmer from the stage. "Good to see you, but I must say, you're interrupting my speech."

FIN

-o0o-

A/N: I had a great time writing this story for the SSHG Promptfest, after the following prompt set by tophoenix: "Hermione is writing a book - preferably an academic one, possibly not a silly thing - and Snape is the mysterious editor behind the firm that has signed a contract with her in order to publish it. Correspondence ensues, bickering, bantering and, very slowly, understanding and love, until the deserved HEA. (SSHG or SS/HG)."