“You know that thing won’t disappear if you stop looking at it long enough to concentrate on your breakfast.”
Hermione smiled up at her fiancé, taking hold of his sleeve as he passed her and pulling him down into a kiss, “I can’t help it, I love it,” she said, “And it’s going to break my heart in an hour or so when I have to take it off for work.”
Severus smiled, “You don’t have to take it off. The charm will hold,” he said, “It will not fall off and it will repel anything that falls upon it. You can wear it even handling the most noxious of substances.”
“I’ll still worry though,” she said, “Besides, I haven’t formally told Minerva yet.”
“Well unless you beat the paper, she’ll know before you walk through the door,” said Severus sitting down opposite her.
Hermione laughed, seeing the sly expression on his face that she was sure she mimicked at the little victory they were certain of sharing, “The editor at The Prophet will be spitting feathers when The Quibbler breaks the news,” she said, “I’m so glad we kept it quiet at the reception. It’s going to make it all the better that those meddling idiots don’t get to tell the world at least something about us.”
“I sort of made a promise to Luna after the first story The Prophet ran about us,” he said, “She made me swear that if any other developments occurred we’d let her announce them.”
“And now she has not only the announcement but also an interview about us and our plans for the business,” said Hermione, “Remind me to send a copy to Mum and Dad.”
Severus reached across the table and took her hand, “I’m glad they gave their blessing,” he said, “Even if it was only over the phone. We’ll have to make arrangements to visit them soon.”
“It’s a shame they don’t want to travel by portkey,” said Hermione, “It’s such a slog to get here by muggle means and I would love them to see the house but at least, if we give them enough notice, they’ll be able to be her for the wedding.”
“I will make certain that they are here for the wedding my love,” he promised, running a finger over the ring she wore, “I want to day to be perfect for you, whenever we choose to have it.”
Hermione smiled, “Soon,” she said, “And I don’t want anything big. You, me and a few friends in the garden to be witnesses. Let Harry and Ginny do the big celebrations. I just want to be your wife and enjoy our future.”
Severus tugged on her hand and she got to her feet, stepping round the small breakfast table until she settled comfortably on his lap. She leaned down and kissed him, her fingers knotting in his hair as she deepened it, certain they had spent the majority of their time since the wedding reception two days before in such a fashion.
“Now that is quite a way to spend the rest of my life,” said Severus when they finally broke apart, “It’s going to be hell sending you off to Hogwarts today.”
“I can come home for a while on Wednesday night and then I have Sunday free,” said Hermione, “Only two more months until the end of term and then I’m all yours. Perhaps…maybe then…the wedding I mean. If we get married at the beginning of the holidays then we have six weeks together before I have to go back to work.”
“If that’s what you want,” said Severus, “It would have to be a small affair as there isn’t much time to plan. Are you sure that’s what you want?”
Hermione nodded with a smile, “So long as I get to legally call myself Mrs Snape afterwards I don’t care how grand it is,” she said.
“Say that again,” said Severus, tightening his arms around her.
“Do you like me referring to myself as Mrs Snape?” said Hermione, enjoying the softness the words brought to his features.
“More than I ever believed I would,” he replied, “I don’t expect you to take my name if you don’t want to though.”
“I might double-barrel professionally,” she said, “But in private I am very much looking forward to taking your name.”
Severus rested his forehead against hers, “As is everything else I own then, my name is yours to do with as you wish,” he said, “I will not be claiming you with it, you will possess me.”
Hermione kissed him once more, knowing how easy it would be to drag him back to the sanctuary of their room but also knowing that she would make herself more than a little late for work if she did so.
“Stop tempting me,” she admonished gently, “I’ve got to go to work.”
“You started it,” said Severus, his hand skimming smoothly over the soft skin of her thigh, “This weekend has gone too quickly.”
“I know but we’ll be together again soon,” said Hermione, smiling as he took hold of her left hand and pressed a kiss to the back of it, “And for the rest of our lives.”
“Sounds perfect,” said Severus before he sighed, “You need to get ready or you will be late and I’ll have Minerva on my back.”
Hermione stood reluctantly; glad to feel his hands just as reluctant to release her, “Back to Professor Granger then.”
“And all the wonderful work you do,” said Severus, “Several people came up to me at the wedding to tell me how well you were received by their children.”
“Well let’s hope it continues and shows in the OWL and NEWT results,” said Hermione, “I’ve still got a lot to prepare the children for.”
“You will manage my love,” said Severus, “You have done so well already.”
Hermione smiled, knowing that she had achieved far more than she had believed herself capable of when she had first written to him for advice. She remembered her fear of not only her role but also in approaching her former professor for advice. She could hardly believe that their icy exchanges would change into the warmth and love they shared, knowing that his support had given her the confidence to grasp both her role and her life in her hands.
She crossed quickly to his side, kissing him once more and giggling at the surprise on his face before she headed to the door to prepare for the day.
As the owls swooped low over the tables, Hermione kept her attention on the book in her hand, her breakfast in the hall consisting of nothing more than a cup of tea after she had shared the meal with Severus before returning to the school. She knew the moment The Quibbler arrived, astonished gasps echoing up from several tables before she heard a cup shatter on the teachers’ table she occupied.
“Hermione?” came Sybil Trelawney’s voice from the far end, “Is this…?”
She raised her head to see the Divination teacher holding up The Quibbler, open to the page that bore an image of her and Severus with the text she knew made up the interview they had given to Luna alone about their engagement. She noticed the quizzical look of her other colleagues, several trying to peer at what Sybil was holding whilst the others looked in her direction.
She smiled happily, holding up her hand and allowing the light from the candles floating above to dance off the diamond on her finger. She couldn’t help but laugh at the muted exclamations as everyone around her tried to maintain a professional level of decorum even as they got to their feet and came to her side. She blushed at the heartfelt congratulations and laughed at the amazement that she found herself engaged to Severus Snape.
She felt tears spring to her eyes as Minerva took hold of her hand, the older witch having stood back whilst her colleagues congratulated her, but now she had her full attention. The Headmistress blinked back tears of her own, the emotion forcing her to clear her throat several times before she spoke.
“My dear girl,” she said, “This is such wonderful news and you have my most sincere congratulations.”
“Thank you,” said Hermione, “We’ve been dancing around it for a while and it seems we both had the same idea the other night. I asked him and he had a ring already on hand.”
Minerva smiled, “Well you two are very well attuned to one another,” she said, “I’m just surprised you managed to keep it quiet at the wedding, though I do recall the both of you beaming throughout the latter part of the evening. I merely attributed that to the wine though. Do you have a date in mind?”
“We’re considering the first week of the summer break,” said Hermione, smiling at the surprise on Minerva’s face, “We just can’t see the point in waiting and neither of us wants a big affair. We’re already committed to one another so this will just be a celebration of that with our friends. I hope you’ll be there.”
“Just try to keep me away,” said Minerva before she pulled her into a warm hug, “I am so very pleased for the both of you and you have all my good wishes for your happiness. I have to arrange a meeting with Severus to discuss some potions we need to stock for the hospital wing so I will pass on my congratulations to him then but please give him my good wishes in advance of that when you speak to him.”
“I will,” replied Hermione, “And thank you. Your support and your guidance have been invaluable to us both for far longer than the duration of our relationship.”
“I’m just glad I finally get to see the both of you settled and happy,” said Minerva as the bell rang out signalling the end of breakfast, “I believe word is spreading throughout your students.”
Hermione looked out over the sea of young faces, seeing a growing percentage trying to get a glance at the ring on her finger. She smiled, her relationship with Severus already common knowledge after the articles printed in The Prophet, and she hoped that their more official union would again strengthen the growing bonds that had been developing since the war; house loyalties and prejudices put aside.
Her eyes fell upon the Slytherin table and she couldn’t miss Ernest as the boy waved shyly at her, his smile and a brief thumbs up letting her know that he was aware of her news. She smiled her thanks at his reaction, moving her attention along as the houses filtered out to begin the day.
“I think you might have broken a few juvenile hearts today,” came a voice from behind her as a strong hand came to rest on her shoulder.
“Hardly,” said Hermione, turning to face her colleague, “I just hope they don’t gossip about it too much.”
Erasmus smiled, a wicked glint in his eyes, “Gossip about a former Hogwarts professor and his most hated former student getting engaged? What is there to gossip about?”
“I think Harry beat me to being Severus’ most hated student,” said Hermione, “But that’s all mended now. We were all very different people back then.”
Erasmus frowned, “I find people never truly change,” he said, “Their characters may evolve but the fundamentals do not alter.”
“Circumstances change though,” said Hermione, heading to the door as Erasmus fell into step beside her, “As do our responses and our wisdom. Severus was a product of his situation and my relationship with him back then was a product of that. He’s even said himself that, had I been in any house other than Gryffindor, our relationship could have been very different.”
“And you don’t hold anything against him? For the things he said and did to you back then?”
Hermione frowned, pausing to turn and face him, “Do you not approve of my engagement Professor Armitage?” she asked coldly, “Or is there another reason behind this negative line of questioning? You are quite aware of my relationship with Severus; our engagement is just a development of that.”
“But a very swift one,” said Erasmus with a sigh, “Hermione, I know we haven’t been friends for long but…”
“No, we haven’t been friends for long,” she interrupted, “And those I have been friends with, those who know me and Severus on a personal level are happy for us. Erasmus, you may have concerns and those concerns are borne from your own experiences with Severus when you were in school but he loves me and I love him. You and I have become close colleagues over the last few months but that does not mean I invite or welcome your opinion on my private life. I am marrying Severus Snape and the opinion of others will not change that. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and teach my class and I suggest you hurry to do the same. I will see you at lunch and, if you wish to have any sort of conversation, you may wish to think of other topics. Good day.”
She didn’t give him a chance to answer, leaving him in the corridor and hurrying towards her own classroom in the dungeons. She had expected some negativity in regards to the news The Quibbler had broken but she had hoped that her colleagues would all be pleased for her, all of them knowing how much of a positive change Severus had brought to her life. She shook off her melancholy as she quickly reminded herself that Erasmus had been the only one to offer any censure, the others having been forthcoming and genuine in their congratulations.
She pushed open the door to her classroom, pausing as she was greeted not by the general hubbub that she usually found but applause instead. With a laugh, she stepped into the room, certain the day would be more than interesting and glad that her news was so welcomed by those that she taught.
“Congratulations again Professor Granger.”
“Thank you Lucy,” said Hermione, handing the young Ravenclaw several pieces of parchment, sealed with the Hogwarts crest, “Here’s the recommendation letters you needed. Hopefully one of them will help you secure an apprenticeship once your NEWTs are done.”
“If I get through them,” said the girl, “I’m nowhere near ready.”
Hermione smiled, “You still have several weeks,” she said, “And you’re more than ready. You’ve got a promising career in potions work ahead of you if that’s what you want.”
Lucy nodded, “I do,” she said, “I’d better get to the owlery and sent these off. Thank you for doing them so quickly.”
“You’re more than welcome,” said Hermione, “Enjoy the rest of your day.”
Her gaze followed her student, smiling quizzically as she saw Minerva stood quietly in the doorway.
“Headmistress?” she said, mindful of the students still vacating the room, “I wasn’t expecting you.”
“No need to be concerned Professor Granger,” said Minerva, “I’ve merely come to tell you that you have a visitor awaiting you in the Great Hall.”
Hermione frowned, knowing that a house elf would normally have been dispatched to bring such a message, “I’m not expecting anyone.”
“Hurry along now Seventh Years,” said Minerva to the stragglers still in the room, “I do not believe Professor Vector reacts well to tardiness and I would hate to see too many names on detention with the house cup due to be awarded soon.”
The final students scurried from the room, even those that towered over the headmistress reduced to first years at her tone. Hermione frowned as Minerva watched them leave before turning back to her, knowing there was more to be said when it was the headmistress delivering the news.
“Minerva who is it that’s come to see me?” she asked before a sickening feeling settled in the pit of her stomach, “Is Severus…”
“Severus is quite well before you tie yourself in knots, or he is as far as I am aware,” said Minerva, “But I wanted to prepare you for your visitor myself. Molly Weasley is here and she’s asking for you. I know things have been difficult between you and I did think to turn her away but she was adamant about being able to speak to you. I can tell her to leave if it is your wish though. I can only imagine she has come with her opinion on your news.”
The sick feeling in Hermione’s stomach altered at her words but did not leave her, “Yes I imagine she has,” she said, “But I am surprised she made the effort to come to deliver it.”
“Like I said, I can send her on her way.”
“No,” said Hermione, “No I should see her. She has come here to see me and it is only polite for me to meet with her. Her opinion cannot alter what is happening.”
Minerva nodded, “Very well,” she said, “I did inform her you had a free period now but that she was not to keep you long as there was work you needed to attend too. Feel free to labour that point if she keeps you longer than you wish her to.”
Hermione smiled, “I will,” she said, “Thank you Minerva, I’ll go and see her now.”
The headmistress nodded, allowing Hermione passed her and into the corridor, the older witch summoning the Bloody Baron to her and striking up a conversation with the dungeon’s resident ghost. Hermione made the journey to the Great Hall almost on autopilot, her feet so used to the path but, as she approached the familiar doors, she slowed, her steps feeling leaden as apprehension knotted in her gut.
She squared her shoulders as she crossed the threshold of the room, her eyes falling easily on the solitary figure who sat at the Gryffindor table, her hands folded before her as she stared into the empty fireplace.
“Molly?” she said quietly, “Minerva said you wanted to see me.”
She heard Molly sigh and paused, waiting for her to move from her place at the table or at least look up and acknowledge her. Finally, the older woman got to her feet, a copy of The Quibbler held in her hand.
“I saw your news,” she said, finally meeting her gaze, “I was surprised I didn’t hear about it the night it happened.”
Hermione felt her spine stiffen before she forced herself to react, “That was Harry and Ginny’s night, we didn’t want to detract from that,” she said, “We didn’t tell anyone until we offered Luna the interview for The Quibbler.”
Molly nodded, “I can’t imagine The Prophet was too happy about that.”
“That was the intent,” said Hermione, “They’ve hardly done us any favours before.”
“The only people they wish to please are their readers,” said Molly, coming to stop before her, “It is a heartfelt interview. The Prophet could never achieve that, even if it was given freely.”
“Luna is a dear friend to me and Severus and she was determined to do things properly for us,” said Hermione, fidgeting as Molly stood regarding her silently, “Why are you here?”
“Because I needed to see you,” said Molly after another drawn out pause, “Because I have much to apologise for. I was wrong. I put too much on you and Ron after the war and when things ended, every part of me fought it because you were mine as much as he was. I behaved poorly, beyond poorly and I understand that it cannot be forgiven but reading this, your words, has made me realise the only person who caused any hurt is me.”
Hermione clasped her hands nervously before her, her finger running over the band of her engagement ring and bringing her comfort, “What you did wasn’t fair Molly,” she said, “If it hadn’t been for Severus I don’t even know if I would even have been at Harry and Ginny’s wedding. I could have understood your upset if I had betrayed Ron or if I had truly broken his heart but even then I would begged for understanding that my heart should not be compromised to appease his. As it was, we parted mutually, as we explained to you when it happened. We parted as friends but you drove a wedge between even that relationship. I lost so much.”
“I know,” said Molly, “And I’m sorry. I know words cannot undo it but I’m sorry. When I read the story I realised that you never spoke about Ron the way you talk about Severus. I have allowed myself to be blinded by my own foolishness and pride and I’ve driven you away when all I wanted to do was keep you in my family.”
Hermione bit back a sob, remembering the loneliness she had felt when she had first made the decision to part from Ron, “I needed you,” she said, “I lost everything in the war. My parents were gone and you and the others were my family and when you took that away I didn’t know what to do.”
Molly nodded, her face even more careworn than even Hermione had seen it as she creased the newspaper within her hands. Silence reigned once more, Hermione dropping her focus to her hands as she fought to find words but finding nothing to say that she hadn’t done so many times before. Pain and sorrow warred for dominance in her heart but so did the need to forgive though she did not know how to voice it.
“Does he make you happy?”
The words were spoken softly but Hermione startled as though it had come as a shout and she was sure the shock showed on her face as she saw the smallest hint of a smile grace Molly’s lips.
“Happier than I ever thought I could be,” she said honestly, “And I hope Ron finds a woman who makes him feel that way too.”
Molly nodded, her expression something akin to peace as she reached out and took Hermione’s hand that bore her ring, “Then I wish you joy,” she said, “Be happy.”
Hermione felt a small smile tease at her own lips even as tears came to her eyes, “I will be,” she promised, “I know I will be.”