Everyone had moved on, it seemed; everyone but her.

Oh, she graduated with top honors, the head of her year, but it was an empty recognition. She completed her assignments and aced her exams, but it was all meaningless to her. Everything was meaningless.

Well, almost everything.

One thing, one person, wasn't meaningless. One person never babied her, never let her carry on, and never demanded she give one iota less than her absolute best.

Her seething hatred for how her Potions professor treated her was the only meaning she had in her life.

She was a listless automaton, performing her daily routine with less thought than a flobberworm, until Potions. Her professor would bully her, tease her, or push other assorted buttons until he got some sort of reaction.

It never rankled him that she hated him with the fire of a thousand hells; it only mattered that she responded. Even though she was not of his House, she was still a student under his care, and her continued apathy worried him. She was a powerful witch, and her apathy rotting away to darkness would bode ill for the wizarding world. It was the only way he knew to keep her afloat.

He had no idea what it was to be the object of someone's unrequited love; he only knew how to be the unrequited lover. He had no clue that his own experience, which gave him clarity of vision to do what had to be done, had blinded him to what was right in front of his eyes.

After the graduation ceremony was over and all the students gone for the summer, he settled into the chair behind his desk and reveled in the silence.

His peace was broken by a huge ball of orange fluff that leaped upon his desk. The creature skidded on the smooth surface and would have fallen to the floor had the Potions Master not caught the beast in his lap. The ginger cat raised his head and stared intently at the human holding him, golden eyes piercing onyx ones.

Here, this is for you.

A neatly-folded parchment dropped into his hands, and for no reason he could identify, his stomach clenched in dread. He opened the parchment and began to read.

My Dearest Severus:

Harry showed me your memories. I know now that I never stood a chance with you; I could never be Her. I never understood before why you hated me so for loving you, but now I do, for I hate Lily with just such a passion. I am free to admit that now, because had I said it before you would have killed me for blasphemy. It doesn't matter anymore.

Crookshanks is yours now. A familiar follows his mistress's heart, and mine belonged to you; the fact that you didn't want it is irrelevant.

May you find peace, Severus; I finally have.

Hermione Granger,

Insufferable Know-It-All

A second piece of parchment was folded in with the letter.

I would have born your life for you

If only you'd planted the seed.

I would have given my life for you

If ever you had the need.

I would have struck the dagger down

Into my waiting chest.

I would have cradled your weeping head

Upon my lifeless breast.

I would have given you Heaven above

Where lilies grow wild and free.

I would have given you all these things,

If only you had loved me.

He couldn't move. His eyes were wide and staring, and his black irises scanned the poem over and over, not quite believing what they read.

He was interrupted by a rude swipe of a velvet paw and irritated golden eyes blocking his vision. Wake up, stupid man! She's still on the Tower! Go get my witch back! I don't want you for a human!

He stood up quickly, dumping the half-cat to the floor in the process; the beast burbled his displeasure. With a quick Vestiti* he was dressed and out the door, his nearly-inherited familiar hot on his heels.

At the Tower, a resigned exhalation was the only clue that she had just jumped. He leaped after her, his cloak billowing out into the darkness, and he caught her just before she landed.

He lowered them the final inches to the ground, catching his breath in the process. He checked her vitals, his hands gentle and sure. She was unconscious, but she was alive, which wasn't what she had intended. He didn't know if she would appreciate his chivalry, but he would be damned if he was going to have one more death on his conscience, especially one off of this accursed tower.

He carried her to Poppy, not wanted to admit to himself that he preferred feeling her heartbeat as opposed to simply floating her along. She stirred once on the short journey, and he crooned her back to sleep using a songspell that was ancient when his mother taught it to him.

*Vestiti: Latin for "clothed."