Years living on his wits meant deep sleep was something that often evaded Severus, his senses attuned to any change in his surroundings and even more so as he tried to get used to the still new atmosphere of the house. He opened his eyes, reaching for his wand and straining his ears in an effort to catch the noise that had woken him. He heard the soft pad of feet on the stairs and sat up, glancing at the clock on the bedside table with a frown. A familiar silhouette appeared in the doorway and a bag thumped down on the floor before a whisper cut through the dim light.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to wake you,” said Hermione, pulling back the covers and slipping into the bed beside him.
“I wasn’t expecting you until morning,” said Severus, his voice still rough from sleep, “What are you doing running about at three in the morning?”
Hermione rolled over to face him, her face shadowed but the exhaustion still apparent, “Minerva sent Filius and I off duty after we spent most of the night chasing several adventurous sixth years back from Hogsmeade,” she said, “Little buggers got out and decided to try their luck at Rosmerta’s. She sent for us but they ran before we could get there so we spent four hours rounding them up and finally got them back into their common rooms. Bit different to the usual night patrol until midnight and then safely to bed to wait for any call outs. I thought, as I was coming here first thing anyway, I might as well come over now.”
“Well I’m not complaining,” said Severus, returning his wand to the nightstand before he wrapped his arms around her, “I don’t envy you the difficult night patrols; I remember them well, though I can’t really complain about the outcome of this one.”
“Me either,” said Hermione, cuddling up to him and dragging the comforter up to cover them both frowning as she heard Severus chuckle beside her, “What?”
“You’re like an oversized teddy bear wearing all this fluff, what on earth have you got on?”
“It’s what I have to wear to stay warm in the dungeons,” said Hermione, “Even with the fire blazing all night it’s still freezing. I didn’t think to change before I came.”
Severus stroked a hand along the plush material that covered her, “You can wear what you please,” he said, “I’d think you look beautiful even if you were wearing a sack.”
Hermione yawned, “Charmer,” she said, tightening her arm around his waist as she pillowed her head on his chest, “This is far nicer than just thinking about you back at the school.”
“Do you often lie in your chambers and think about me, Professor Granger?” asked Severus, his hands leaving the soft material of her clothes in favour of slipping beneath the hem to caress the smooth skin of her back.
“Every night,” said Hermione, “I’ve not seen you for nearly a fortnight and let’s just say anticipation has made my thoughts turn to you, particularly you in this bed, quite often.”
Severus moved until they were facing one another, brushing a lock of her hair back behind her ear, “I hope I live up to expectations,” he said, “Between us we have rather built up tomorrow night and I am afraid I may disappoint.”
Hermione kissed him softly, “I could never be disappointed about growing closer to you,” she said, “I love you and the only expectation I have for tomorrow night is to enjoy getting to know you even better than I already do. You won’t ever disappoint me Severus.”
“Still,” he said, his voice quiet in the dark, “I am not well practised in such things.”
“And I have had the grand total of one lover in my whole life,” said Hermione, slipping a hand between them and undoing the first few buttons on his nightshirt until she could rest her palm against the warm skin of his chest, “This is not about comparison or experience. This is about you and I finding out how we fit, what we enjoy. I want to get to know your body and your desires whilst you teach me more about my own. We have the rest of our lives together Severus and that doesn’t hinge on tomorrow. If it does then I should be worried that I will disappoint you.”
“There is not a time or a place on this earth where you would ever disappoint me,” said Severus, “I only hope that I can make you happy.”
Hermione smiled, “You already do so stop worrying,” she said, kissing him, “Now go to sleep or neither of us will be of any use tomorrow and this entire conversation will be for nothing.”
“You’re rather bossy,” said Severus, “And still rather teddy bear like but I love you.”
“Shut up or I’ll rethink tomorrow entirely,” said Hermione, tucking her head beneath his chin, “I love you too.”
Severus closed his eyes but sleep remained elusive as he listened to Hermione’s breathing grow even and deep, the lack of sleep catching up to her swiftly. He pressed his face into the wild fall of her hair, familiar scents assailing him and reminding him of classrooms and teaching robes but any pain was chased away by notes that were unique to the woman in his arms. The warmth of her presence chased away the lingering doubts that had plagued him since his bold request a fortnight before, the feel of her small hand still pressed to the bare skin of his chest a point of focus that comforted him and slowly he succumbed to sleep in the darkness of their room.
Hermione woke as she felt the bed dip beside her, the rattle of crockery being set on the nightstand and the familiar smell of coffee rousing her fully from her slumber. She stretched languidly against the pillows, smiling as she felt the gentle tug of careworn fingers in her hair.
“Well I’m certain my very pretty girlfriend is somewhere under that mane of hair,” said Severus, “What I get for attaching myself to a Gryffindor.”
Hermione rolled onto her back and punched him on the arm, the strike ineffective in achieving anymore than making him laugh, “You’re a wretch,” she said, “And I’m rather surprised to find myself being referred to as your girlfriend when you seem to have been systematically avoiding that word since our first kiss.”
Severus smiled, his fingers still trying to tame the wild curls of her hair, “Well, upon reflection…”
He didn’t finish the sentence, instead he leaned down to kiss her, the touch sure and certain and Hermione couldn’t help but give herself up to it.
“Did you sleep well?” asked Severus as he released her.
“Very well,” said Hermione sitting up, “I always do when I’m with you. I hope I didn’t disturb you too much.”
“Not at all,” said Severus, “I think I said several weeks ago that you were always welcome to wake me at three in the morning if you needed me. You can wake me every night in such a way if you like.”
“If only I could,” said Hermione, reaching for the coffee cup beside her and inhaling the fragrant steam, “The service here is far better than Hogwarts anyway. Why are you up so early though?”
“It’s nearly nine,” said Severus, “But I was awake early and I didn’t want to disturb you. I’m going to Diagon Alley in a while to pick up some potions ingredients, do you want to come along? Perhaps we could stop off for lunch?”
Hermione nodded, “I managed to get most of my marking done before I went student hunting last night so I’ve got nothing to keep me here,” she said, “We still need to get a present for Harry and Ginny as well.”
“Well I shall have to defer to your expertise on that one,” said Severus, “I am not all that good at gift giving at the best of times, especially when it comes to engagements.”
“Well you’ve done very well with the gifts you’ve given me,” said Hermione, “But in this case, I have been friends with Harry and Ginny longer so I’m happy to pick something out. Feels quite the moment, picking out presents together for our friends and attending a party very publicly as a couple.”
“I’m told it’s what normal people do,” said Severus, pressing a kiss to her forehead before he got to his feet, “Breakfast is ready downstairs. I’ll wait for you down there; I’ve had a few letters this morning that I want to look through before we go.”
Hermione smiled, “Is business starting to pick up?” she asked, her smile widening as he nodded, “I’m glad. I told you advertising in the apothecary window would help.”
“Well let’s see what’s in them first,” said Severus, “For all I know it could just be spurious, I’m not exactly well liked.”
“As usual I think you are being too harsh on yourself but, liked or not, you are a well respected potions master,” said Hermione, “One or two may not be what you are after but I have faith that the rest will prove fruitful.”
“We’ll see,” said Severus, heading to the door, “I’ll see you in a while.”
Hermione reached out and caught his fingers as he passed, giving them a quick reassuring squeeze before she let him on his way. She didn’t linger long behind him, hurrying through her morning routine and heading downstairs to find him.
The small breakfast table in the kitchen was already set, letters scattered amongst the plates as Severus focused his concentration on the one in his hand. She planted a small kiss on his cheek before she took the seat opposite him, noting the thoughtful expression on his face and realising that he had found himself a puzzle.
“At least one good one then?” she asked, pouring herself a cup of tea.
“Several actually,” said Severus, “A couple need to speak to whoever their local apothecary is and stop bothering me but there are one or two that could be interesting. Some of them are referrals from my customer a few weeks ago, most with sensitivities to the normal ingredients to the potions they need so they’ll be a challenge at least. A couple of, shall we say, enhancement potions required but they can pay the water bill so I won’t turn them down.”
Hermione grinned over the rim of her cup, “I might have to bribe you to get those names out of you,” she said before a thought came to her and she grimaced, “Then again there are some wizards and witches that just…no.”
Severus smirked, setting aside the letter, “You develop a certain amount of professional detachment with such things,” he said, “At the end of the day the service I’m offering promises discretion so it’s only natural I will get such requests. The potions are easy enough to manufacture as well so they will be profitable.”
“Well if I can help in anyway when I’m here then let me know,” said Hermione, “I’m glad things are taking off.”
“Me too,” said Severus, “I was afraid I was going to exhaust both my books and yours before too long.”
“I’ll bring you some from the library at school,” said Hermione, taking her wand from her pocket and summoning a paper and pen to the table, “Shall we make a list for the apothecary?”
Severus nodded, sitting back in his chair and placing the letters he had decided to take on before him as he began to reel of a list of ingredients to the woman before him.
Hermione took hold of Severus’ arm as they stepped away from Potage’s Cauldron Shop, several new large cauldrons on order to give Severus a chance to make more bulk orders as well as the smaller, personalised potions he already created. The street was busier than it had been in weeks, the early March sunshine calling out those that had hidden away over the winter months.
Despite the number of people, there were fewer eyes on them, their relationship swiftly becoming old news when they had produced little more scandal than what could be taken from their first relationship of student and teacher. Even in the somewhat old-fashioned wizarding world, there was not much to be made from it, their romance clearly having started long after Hermione was of age and out of Severus’ care.
They had already left another order with the apothecary, Hermione glad that they had a secure apparition point in the summerhouse rather than having to rely on owl deliveries for such a large load. The only stop left for them was Flourish and Blott’s, the both of them deciding that the most suitable gift from them to Harry and Ginny would be a book. Hermione was still left with the task picking the subject matter and the title but they were both confident that they would find something suitable.
They spent almost an hour perusing the shelves, too easily distracted by some of the titles that interested them to stay focused on the task, both of them already holding several new purchases to grace their own shelves. It was only when Hermione finally dragged them over to the shelves pertaining to love and romance that Severus had left her side, certain his reputation would not survive being in such an area of the store. The kiss he left on her lips, before he headed off to more suitable tomes, proclaiming to anyone nearby that romance was not something he avoided when in her presence despite his protests.
Hermione took her time looking for a suitable gift for Harry and Ginny, finally settling on a book of wizarding love poems, quotes and short stories that had places for them to add their own stories and pictures as they pleased. She had seen similar things in the muggle world and knew, were they in such a setting, she would buy something similar as an engagement present.
Setting the gift on top of the books she planned to by for herself, she headed in search of Severus, hearing the low timbre of his voice in the quiet shop and following it until she came across him. At first, she could not see the other wizard he was conversing with, Severus’ tall frame blocking him from view. The set of Severus’ shoulders though and the increasing edge to his voice, let her know that the conversation was not a welcome one.
“Severus,” she called, her hand moving to her pocket and hovering there as she could all but feel the tension in the air, “Are you ready?”
“In a moment, my dear,” he replied, his tone softening slightly but the edge remained, becoming pointed once more as he addressed the man before him, “Approach me again and you will regret it.”
Severus turned from the man, Hermione given a brief view of him as he headed back towards her, the other man small and weathered looking. He was not familiar to her but he had a look about him that she would have distrusted even if she had not had Severus’ mood to work from. The man swiftly made himself scarce down another of the aisles as Severus reached her side, taking her hand as he stopped beside her.
“Who was that man?” she asked, hating the dark expression on his face even as it started to fade at the touch of her hand.
“An old…acquaintance,” said Severus, “Seeking to threaten me seeing as my allegiance was never to the cause he supported.”
“A Death Eater?” said Hermione, feeling her heart sink, “Threaten you how? You should tell someone. The Aurors…”
“Have enough work to do,” said Severus, releasing her hand to rest his palm against her cheek as he pressed a kiss to her forehead, “If I reported every threat I had received, from both sides, since my part in the war was revealed, I would be in the Aurors’ office everyday. Don’t worry about me, my angel, I have kept myself safe this far and I will continue to do so.”
“I will worry though,” said Hermione, “Darling, please take these threats seriously. You’re powerful and I’m sure more than a challenge to anyone who would cross you but I cannot help but be afraid for you.”
“Then for your peace of mind I will let Harry know,” he said, “But not tonight. I’m sure it will keep well enough until Monday. Will that comfort you?”
Hermione nodded, “Thank you,” she said, “I don’t mean to be fussy but I can’t help it. You would insist I report any threat against me so I expect the same from you.”
Severus kissed her softly, “You have my word,” he said, “Now, shall we pay for these and then head home? We can try that little restaurant by the river.”
“I’d like that,” said Hermione, sharing the longing she saw in his eyes to leave the wizarding world behind once more.
She took hold of his hand, lacing their fingers tightly together as they headed towards the small till, the both of them on alert for any threat that could be lurking near them.