The chilling winds she had noted earlier had by no means abated, but kneeling close to the ground had caused some of the sting to overlook her crouched form. Indeed, she felt warmer at that moment than during the entire brisk walk she had just completed.
Hermione glanced around at her immediate surroundings, both out of a habit borne from her wartime experiences and the desperate struggle to calm herself in the face of memories that continued to haunt her. She could remember his face, both that evening before he had been summoned and even afterwards, when he…
She shook her head, forcefully dispelling the thought before it could fully form in her mind. Forcing a small, sardonic smile, Hermione returned her attention to the stone marker before her.
“I can hear you now,” she said, rolling her eyes. “‘Must you come yet again to torment me with you incessant prattling, you silly girl? Am I to ever be free of you?’ Well, I’m very sorry to disappoint you, Severus, but I am afraid that you are rather stuck with me again.”
Hermione paused for a moment, shifting to allow herself a bit more comfort. Continuing her rather one-sided conversation, she said, “It’s been a rather long year, Severus. Much has happened. Ginny and Harry are due to have twins within the next month or so, which will make me the godmother of three children, instead of one. Little Lily is so excited about being a big sister to two little brothers.” She snorted and laughed slightly. “I rather think her tune will change when she finally begins to see just how much work babies are. Not to mention how they will undoubtedly torment her when she grows older.” She smirked , and added, “You won’t believe the names Ginny has picked out for the boys: Sirius Albus James Potter and Severus Arthur William Potter. Now, don’t snort, Severus! Ginny’s quite serious about this. As her husband quickly found out.”
She stopped for a moment, taking the time to recall Harry’s reaction to the name his wife intended to bestow on his youngest son. He had been shocked, to say the very least. He had begun to protest, his face growing rather red, but one shared glare from his wife and from Hermione had been more than enough to quell him from saying anything that would result in various hexes or curses being thrown in his direction. Especially after Molly Weasley had expressed her delight at the names.
“Here’s something else: Ron finally proposed to Sylvia Piton, and on Christmas Day no less! They were married on Midsummer’s Day. Molly was absolutely beside herself, as I am sure you can imagine. Not only is her youngest son married, but he is finally working full time at the Department of Magical Games and Sports. Everyone says it’s just a matter of time before Ron takes over the Department completely.” Hermione smiled slightly, then continued in a more serious manner. “I am glad to see Ron so happy. He never really dated anyone seriously after our brief stint together during our sixth year. And the looks and glances he sent me for years afterwards were becoming rather unnerving, especially since he knew I had moved on. But Sylvia keeps him on the straight and narrow. She’s good for him, better than I ever could have been. We were just too different. I don‘t think we ever will really understand each other fully, me and Ron.” She paused, but forced herself to continue on cheerfully. “Just imagine their children, Severus. Either another batch of redhead with either brown or violet eyes, or a group of blondes with brown or violet eyes. Not to mention the mixing of their parents’ personalities. Hogwarts may crumble at last.”
Hermione stopped, her breathing having started to become rather hitched. She bit her lip and looked down at her hands that rest in her lap. They had begun to tremble.
She looked up again, her eyesight growing slightly blurred. “You understood, though, didn’t you, Severus? You probably understood me better than any of them, perhaps even better than Minerva.”
A gust of wind abruptly flew through the cemetery, causing the hood of Hermione’s cloak to fall from her head. Her hair, almost as unmanageable as it had been when she was a girl, quickly went everywhere, covering her face. Groaning in frustration, she quickly fought with it and gathered it in one hand. Using her free one, she held her hood and then quickly tucked her hair into it before tugging the hood back tightly into its proper place.
Her eyes had grown even more blurry in the process, though from the stinging wind or from her own emotions, Hermione did not fully know. Wiping at the tears impatiently, she managed a wavering smile.
“I’m sorry, Severus. I know you hate tears, and I promised myself I wouldn’t cry this year. I’ve covered this place in enough of them in the past four years… Did you know that Neville is actually seeing someone? Her name is Ashton Cornilli. Lovely young lady. Quiet, and a bit shy. Just like him. Loves plants too… practically as much as he does…”
Hermione trailed off yet again, tears slipping one by one past her defenses. Shuddering, whispered desolately, “Harry still blames himself, Severus. Even now, there are times he will not look me in the eyes. And if he does, there is something in his own eyes and I know he is just remembering what happened after the battle…”