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To Sir...With Love

Chapter Text

He ignored the first three letters that arrived.

They were too pertinent a reminder of that time. The penmanship was too familiar, the tone of the note so similar to the voice he still sometimes heard in his head. It reminded him of interruptions to his lectures, questions too insightful for a person of her age, eyes too deep with knowledge and sadness learned too brutally and too young.

He ignored the first three letters that arrived, but he didn’t throw them away.

They sat on his mantle, emitting a siren call until he opened them and read them one dreary afternoon in early October.

For the attention of Severus Snape.

Dear Sir,

Forgive the tone of my initial address. I have called you Professor for so many years that I was unsure of what title to give you, and each one I tried sounded alien.

I hope this letter finds you well. We have heard nothing from you in over a year, but Minerva said you were much improved when she called to visit. I am glad you are recovered. Your brave actions during the battle at Hogwarts helped us to victory and I am glad that you did not  pay the ultimate price for your heroism. I know you have no wish to discuss such things with any of us, but I could not write to you without saying thank you at least once.  Henceforth you can trust I will be silent on the matter.

The reason for my correspondence, sir, is professional. I am hoping you will be able to assist me with several questions I have. You are probably aware that I have now completed my apprenticeship and Minerva has asked me to take on the role of Potions Mistress at Hogwarts from September. Whilst I am certain I will find my own feet in the role, I was hoping you might be able to provide some insight into best practice within the classroom.  I must admit now that the thought of first years and some of the more volatile potions ingredients in the syllabus fills me with dread. You held the role of Potions Master for many years and your teaching was always effective if, forgive me, a little terse on occasion. If you would be willing to offer any advice on the subject then I would gratefully receive it.

You may reach me by the return address provided or directly to Hogwarts.

My thanks in advance for your assistance.

Yours faithfully, Hermione Granger.

 

For the attention of Severus Snape

Dear Sir,

I do hope my first letter reached you however, in case it was misdirected, I would like to make my request to you once more.

I am now in post as Potions Mistress at Hogwarts and I have some understanding now why your face always appeared so apprehensive whenever certain students walked into the room. Children and Potions do not mix well.

Whilst discipline is not so much of an issue, I am struggling when it comes to managing the students who find the subject a little more challenging than others. We had to replace the ceiling following an accident with the third years the other day and I feel like I am sending students to Madame Pomfrey on a daily basis.

Any advice you could offer me would be greatly appreciated and I eagerly await you response.

Yours faithfully (and in mild desperation),

Hermione Granger.

 

For the attention of Severus Snape

Dear Sir,

I have not heard from you in response to my letters so I am making the assumption that you have no wish to answer them. I accept that we were never on good terms during our acquaintance and I understand that you may have no wish to correspond with me, especially on matters regarding Hogwarts.

I had not intended to write again but I could not bring this to an end without at least saying thank you once more. Thank you for your teaching, thank you for your bravery, and thank you for your sacrifice. Because of you, my students are able to attend school and learn in a climate of change and renewal. They are able to heal. I hope that you are able to as well.

As for me, I shall remember what you taught me and I shall muddle through. I will worthy of my students sir, I assure you. It will just take some time.

I send you all my best wishes and I hope that your future is peaceful and restful and everything you wish it to be. I hope we meet again but if not, farewell and thank you once more.

Yours faithfully and in gratitude,

Hermione Granger.

Chapter Text

Hermione looked out over the sea of students before her. She had always wondered what it would have been like to have a seat at the teachers’ table when she had been a school girl herself, wondering if there was a sense of power that came with the elevated position but she found the term childish when she finally took her seat as Potions Mistress.

Control was a better word.

From her position with her colleagues, she could see every exchange, every argument, every longing look between house tables. She knew the control was an illusion though, for her at least. She was sure the Headmistress and the more experienced professors felt no disquiet in their position but for Hermione it seemed as though she had been elevated well above her station.

It had been seven weeks since the start of term, seven weeks since she realised that putting the word Professor before her name meant nothing to the children she had been charged to teach. It had only been four years since the end of the war and her seventh years had been third years when she had been off hunting Horcruxes. The age gap not as wide as she would have liked it but Minerva had been in desperation to fill the post when Slughorn had resigned and Hermione had thought returning to Hogwarts would have been a good choice.

She had thought old prejudice would have died alongside Voldemort but she had been wrong and her seventh year Slytherins made certain she knew their thoughts on having a muggle-born Potions Mistress. Her eyes strayed to their particular table and her heart sank, knowing the afternoon would bring another lesson with them and their pranks.

The volume of the room swelled as the air above them was filled by the fluttering wings of the mail owls, each of them dropping their packages with precision as gasps, giggles and groans came from the children that received them. Several flew over the teachers’ table, depositing letters and copies of the Daily Prophet in front of several of her colleagues.

She was surprised when a sealed letter tumbled face down onto the table before her, her friend’s preferring to use the floo system rather than write. Their letters still too often intercepted by those keen to know the latest goings on between the publicly named Golden Trio.

She looked to either side of her, Professor Vector to her right and Professor Flitwick to her left, but neither of them seemed to identify the letter as theirs. She picked it up, turning it over in her hand and almost dropping it as she recognised the handwriting on the front.

The spiky, black script had covered so many of her essays in corrections and criticisms and, though the insights had hurt her pride at the time, she had always learned from them.

It had been so long since she had last written to her former professor that she had all but given up hoping for a response. She allowed hope to flow through her veins though as she took in the direction he had written on the envelope, a small sense of pride turning her cheeks rosy as she saw he had addressed her as Professor H Granger.

Her hands trembled but she could not put a finger on why. All she knew was she had no wish to read the letter with others present. With a brief word of farewell, she abandoned her colleagues and her breakfast, hurrying out of the door behind the table and following the quiet corridors back to her office in the dungeons.

A quick lumos chased away the shadows from the room as she took a seat behind her desk, rolls of parchment still awaiting marking but she would look at them later in the day. She broke the seal on the envelope and withdrew the thin sheet of paper, a frown furrowing her brow as she wondered what advice he could give her on little more than notepaper.

Still, she read it all the same, her heart sinking as the words she had hoped for were slowly replaced by those she should have expected.

Dear Miss Granger

I wonder at the thought process behind employing someone so young in a position of authority but of all Minerva’s young protégés, you at least have some grasp upon the subject that you are now engaged to teach.

I can offer little advice to you, Miss Granger, other than this. If you wish for your students to learn and refrain from damaging themselves, the school or indeed your own person then I suggest that you impart to them the one lesson you and your former band of miscreants never quite understood. You must teach them that you are absolute and that failure will not be tolerated.

Those with skill will apply themselves and should at least present you with something passable by the end of the lesson. Those without will be too afraid to make the attempt and you will be left with empty cauldrons that warrant detention rather than the services of a medi-witch.

I would suggest as well that you might wish to become proficient in charming your clothing to be resistant to fire and anything corrosive lest you have a wish to be purchasing new robes on a weekly basis. I believe there is a particularly well used tome that Pomona Sprout would be able to direct you to.

I trust the above will be of assistance but, if not, you may best entreat Minerva to assist you in relieving you of your duties.

Sincerely yours,

 S. Snape.

Chapter Text

Hermione stormed into her office behind the Potions classroom, hastily throwing off her still smoking teaching robe before attacking the buttons of the jacket beneath where the lurid yellow potion she had been hit by began to eat through the garments. She cursed the seventh year Slytherins, almost certain the act had been deliberate and aimed but she had not seen enough to prove it.

Still, she had given the entire class detention the following lunchtime for good measure. The Slytherins for their disruptive behaviour and the Gryffindors for their crowing when she had first handed the punishment to Slytherin alone. She had hated teachers favouring their own houses when she had been in school and she strived never to show favouritism to her former house despite their expectations that she would. It pained her though that the incident had cost both houses almost forty points each.

She groaned at the smouldering pile that had once been her robes, knowing she would have to be placing yet another order in with Madame Malkin to replace what she had lost since the beginning of term. She knew they were beyond repair though and at least she no longer had to pay out for a home now her permanent lodgings were within the school. Her money now seemingly spent on fresh teaching robes every week.

She was grateful that it was her last lesson of the day and she could hide away in her office and her rooms until morning if she so wished, the prospect of dinner in the Great Hall leaving her with little appetite. She flopped down in her chair, rubbing her brow with a sigh but her eyes caught sight of the open letter still on the desk and any tension that had been leaving her returned four-fold.

She was certain, should her former Potions Master have been in the vicinity to witness the incident, he would have laughed at her predicament. His words proving themselves almost prophetic and she wondered if he had predicted the end of her career as well, unsure of how long she would last before she had to beg Minerva to release her from her post.

Anger flooded her veins at the thought and she took up the letter, reading its contents once more before she balled it in her fist and chucked it back down on the tabletop. She reached for a piece of parchment and her quill, not pausing to consider her words as she wrote.

For the attention of Severus Snape.

Sir,

It would have done us both more good if you had continued to ignore my letters rather than responding in the manner you did.

If you think I have any wish to run my classroom as you once did then you are sorely mistaken. I have no wish to be feared nor to frighten my students into submission. I had hoped that now the time for all masks and artifice had been put aside, you would be able to assist me as any other former professor here would but I see you are intent on continuing to be the same mean spirited creature that you ever were.

Trust me, sir, when I say that I will succeed in this role without your frankly poor advice and I will make a success of it without making myself the most hated teacher in this school.

You may also trust that you will not be hearing from me again. I will direct any further entreaties for help towards those who have proven themselves both competent AND compassionate.

Hermione Granger.

She didn’t pause to reread the letter, rolling and sealing it before she was even certain the ink had dried. With a huff of frustration and a quickness born of anger, she left her office, intent upon reaching the owlery and sending her response to her former teacher without delay.

Chapter Text

The incessant tap, tap, tap on his bedroom window roused Severus from his slumber. He reached up, his limbs still heavy with sleep, and pushed the fall of his hair back from his eyes. He could make out the shape of an owl through the thin curtains of his bedroom window, the sun barely up behind it. He cursed, wondering who could be writing to him at such a time in the morning and he considered ignoring the bird but it began to tap once more and he knew he would not be able to get back to sleep.

He threw off the covers and dragged on a heavy black dressing gown, the autumn chill permeating the aging stones of his home. He opened the curtains and threw up the sash of the window, recognising one of the school owls as it dropped its burden on the ledge before it flew away.

He immediately recognised the handwriting and felt a small knot form inexplicably in his stomach as he picked up the letter and closed the window once more. He looked over to the fireplace where the embers still smouldered from the night before and he was tempted to toss the letter into them and let them erase all evidence of its existence. Instead, he turned away from the fire, setting the letter down on his nightstand and leaving the room.

When he returned, bathed and fresh for the day, he set about dressing, still favouring black even when his solitude required little formality. It was only when the last button was fastened that he allowed his eyes to stray once more to the letter. He crossed the room, picking it up and heading to the door. He did not reach beyond the foot of the bed though, when he sat down heavily on the mattress, breaking the seal with one long finger and revealing the letter within.

The words were as he had expected the moment he had seen who the letter was from but where he had originally thought they would anger him, he instead felt a pang of regret, reading Hermione’s response twice before he sighed. Frustration, anger and annoyance warred with an odd sense of trepidation and a necessity to be better understood. A similar sense to that which had compelled him to write back in response to her first letters.

He got to his feet, heading to the stairs and his study below but he paused at the balustrade, wondering at the logic in writing to her when she had dismissed everything he had previously said to her but he carried on regardless, intent at least on having the last word in the matter.

He set the letter on his desk, a wave of his hand conjuring a cup of steaming tea as he drew parchment and a quill from their neatly assigned places. The tea had grown cold and the once empty paper bin full by the time he finally had a letter he deemed passable to send to his former student. He signed his name with a flourish before he picked up the letter to read it through once more.

Miss Granger,

Please rest assured, Madam, that this letter serves to offer no further advice as to how to run your classroom. You have made it quite clear that, despite your initial request, that such information is no longer welcome.

I will however remind you that it was you that made the request for my advice and I cannot believe that you laboured under any apprehension as to what my reply would be. You speak of masks and artifice and yes I shall admit that some of my behaviour during our acquaintance was out of necessity to my role as a spy but please do not fool yourself that the majority of my teaching practice would have been altered should I not have been so.

I stand by my assertions, Miss Granger, that you should leave your students in no doubt who is the ultimate power in your classroom. For you this is all the more pertinent as you are full young to be in such a role and some of your students were once your younger classmates. I know the burden of being a young professor as I was not much older than you are now when I took on the role and discipline was the only way I was able to maintain control.

Though I own it sounds a cruel practice to insight a measure of fear in your students, you are dealing with ingredients and potions that can be fatal if prepared or used improperly and therefore a fear both of the subject and the teacher breeds focus and care. Do you truly believe Neville Longbottom would have survived even his first term in my classroom had I turned a blind eye to every error he made? He would have been carried out of the classroom on a stretcher borne for St Mungo’s by Halloween had I not watched over him like a hawk. My teaching was not so poor for the young man, as I understand that he is now pursuing a career in Herbology with particular focus on improving fertilisers for some of our rarer plants, a job that involves potion making skills and one that I hear he now excels at. Where, Miss Granger, did I fail him in my teaching if he is now doing so well?

As for your comments on my character, I am indeed mean-spirited and make no illusions otherwise. I would have thought you, having learned the finer details of my life from Mr Potter, would at least allow that it has led to some of my demeanour being understandable if not palatable. I make no apologies for my character, Miss Granger, the same way you do not make apologies for the flaws in yours.

I wonder how you judge compassion when your judgement of competence is so skewed. Did I not give up my life to save your friend? Did I not protect him despite him representing much of what I rightfully despised? Would you judge me so harshly if I had not survived Voldemort’s attempt to end me? Somehow, I doubt it. You are quite the Gryffindor still and I have little doubt I would have been your hero had I shuffled conveniently off the mortal coil that day.

There is much more I would say to you but I fear all should fall upon deaf ears and I have no wish to take up anymore of your time. I trust that you will succeed in your role but I truly believe that you need to speak with teachers who are more experienced. If my advice is not acceptable then Horace Slughorn, though prone to favouritism, did manage the Potions classroom effectively for many years. Minerva and Pomona as well have teaching styles that inspire discipline but may be more suitable to your sensibilities.

I doubt that you will ever find yourself the most hated teacher in the school, even if you emulated me in the fullest; however, I feel an odd sense of pride in being given the title when we both suffered a year under the tenure of Dolores Umbridge. I must have been truly, truly despicable.

Though I doubt they will be accepted, I send my best wishes for your success at Hogwarts and trust that, in time, you may heed at least some of my words.

Sincerely,

S.Snape.

 

Chapter Text

Chilly October mornings at Hogwarts had always been Hermione’s favourite. The cold, crisp air and the scent of the fallen leaves hinting at the winter yet to come whilst also offering the promise of bright, clear days that still clung to summer on occasions. She had always taken it as a time for introspection, the quiet and the solitude allowing her to organise her thoughts but even the familiar path around the lake could not give her command over her warring thoughts.

It had been Friday lunchtime when an owl had arrived, dropping its letter into her lap at the teachers’ table and causing several heads to turn to her at the odd time of the letter’s arrival. Her heart had turned to lead in her chest as she recognised the handwriting, certain after her letter that she would never have heard from her former teacher again but he seemed intent on proving her wrong.

She had hastily turned the conversation away from her note, engaging Filius in a discussion on a particular complex charm that soon had him distracted. She had folded the letter into her robes and she wondered at whether the author had charmed it, as it seemed to sear her even through her clothes, begging to be read.

She had cursed when Minerva cut her off from heading to her study before afternoon lessons, the kindly headmistress calling her into her office to discuss her progress in her role. The letter seemed only to grow in potency as she was quizzed on how she was finding handling a classroom, especially the older students, and she wondered if it would contain further advice on how to hector them into submission.

By the time she had escaped Minerva’s clutches she had had to hurry to her lessons, her classes back to back and as disastrous as it seemed possible for them to be without requiring her immediate dismissal. She had all but forgotten the letter when she had dragged herself into her chambers, leaving a pile of ruined robes in her wake and it had only been the gentle clatter of the wax seal as it had tumbled from her pocket that reminded her of it. She had picked it up but her courage had fled her, unwilling to read any cruel words after the day she had had.

The letter had sat on her desk throughout the night and well into the morning but it would not be ignored and Hermione cursed that there was no Quidditch to further distract her. She had resisted its pull into the early evening but curiosity and need won out, her fingers almost ripping the page as she tore open the seal.

The content had been so wholly unexpected that she had read it three times before she had truly taken it in. Disbelief had been her first reaction and she had woven every charm she could think of over the letter to prove its authenticity. Her spells had left her in little doubt that it had been written by Severus’ hand and her thoughts then turned to whether he had been confunded into writing it. The letter was too coherent to have the thought proved true though and he had never been taken by such a spell during the war and was highly unlikely to have been taken so afterwards.

She had read the letter several more times and each had elicited a different emotion; anger, hatred, embarrassment and empathy confusing her until she was unsure what she truly felt. She had only realised she was crying when the tears dropped onto the letter, smudging the ink but once she knew the dam had opened she could not bring it to a halt. She had taken to her bed, sobbing into the pillow until a fitful and restless sleep had claimed her.

She had woken early and taken up the letter, reading it once more before she had folded it reverently and tucked it into her pocket. The words she now knew almost by heart accompanying her as she set about her walk in the grounds.

Her ruminations on the contents were bearing little fruit and, as the cold set into her bones, she returned to the castle as unsure as when she left it.

The potions classroom was silent as she entered it, the light low and playing over the many jars and bottles that lined the wall. She had intended to merely pass through it, the route the shortest distance to her chambers but instead she sat down at the desk that had once been her own. She looked up at the raised platform that housed the blackboard and the teacher’s desk but her imagination placed something else there, the figure of a man who had once seemed so huge and intimidating she had feared that she would always be terrified of him.

Memories assailed her, every cruel word, every belittlement but others bled in as well. She saw a parchment set before her on the desk, spiky black writing at the top of the page marking her an O and informing her that the work was competent. A book thrown onto the desk when she had completed a potion in only half the time required, her instructions to turn to a page and complete the work within. The potion had been beyond even NEWT level but he had left her to it, returning to his other students. She had thought him inattentive at the time but on reflection, it had been trust in her competence that had turned his attention to those less able.

Other memories were more potent, grand events that inscribed themselves on her memory. The sight and feel of heavy black robes as she was shoved behind him, his body between her and the werewolf form of Remus Lupin, risking his life. His life. Hermione’s breath stuttered in her chest as she remembered the sight of him, bloody and lifeless, on the floor of the Shrieking Shack after Voldemort had sought to end him.

She was certain he was dead and had been so relieved to hear that he had been revived, his words in his letter regarding his death therefore offering the most potent sting. She brushed away an errant tear, taking his letter from her pocket and reading it once more.

Steeling her courage, she willed a parchment and quill to her, her hand moving swiftly over the page before her in a short missive.

Dear Sir,

You have given me much to think on and much to act on.

I am sorry if I have ever led you to believe that your death would have been preferable to your life. Even if we have vastly different opinions on the world, I rejoice that you are still part of it.

And you are in no way as deplorable as Umbridge. For that year, at least, you were certainly not the most hated professor in the school.

Please forgive my foolish words.

With Gratitude,

Hermione.

She rolled the thin strip of parchment, heading to the small, low window and summoning a bird from the owlery with a wordless charm. She tied the note to its leg, her finger stroking the soft brown feathers before it took flight once more. She watched it leave until it faded on the horizon, a long journey before it, closing the window and heading to the door with a fresh purpose in her steps.

She headed through the corridors, several students bidding her a good morning but she replied only with a tight smile. She finally reached the steps to Minerva’s office, glad to find them already extended and she climbed them without pause.

She stepped into the large office, her former house head looking up from her work at the sound of her footsteps.

“Hermione, dear,” she said, getting to her feet, “To what do I owe the pleasure?”

“I needed to speak to you,” said Hermione, wringing her hands in front of her before she took a galvanising breath, “I need your advice regarding discipline in my classroom.”

Minerva regarded her over glasses, her sharp eyes appraising her before she conjured a tea tray, “Take a seat my dear,” she said, “Whatever advice you need, I will happily give.”

“Thank you Headmistress,” said Hermione, “I appreciate it.”

Chapter Text

Three weeks.

Three long, silent weeks.

Three long, silent, infuriating weeks that he wished he didn’t have the compulsion to count as he waited.

He had written to her, she had written back but where he had expected some passionate diatribe, instead he had received a short missive and he had felt a disappointment in it that he could not recall having felt before. He was a wizard that forewent society, preferred his own company but the exchanges he had engaged in with Hermione Granger had awoken something in him. He would have preferred her accusations than the short note that had had no follow up.

Her words had initially given him hope that she had taken some of his advice on board and he had even chuckled, the sound alien in his home, when she had owned that he had not been as deplorable as Umbridge.

He had anticipated an owl for the two following days, though he would not admit it to himself, waiting to hear where the thoughts he had given her had taken her. By the third day he had apparated from his home in disgust at himself but his mood had not improved at his destination when he realised he had selected the Three Broomsticks, the silhouette of Hogwarts Castle made all the more prominent by the late autumn light. He had prowled around the establishment until Rosmerta had forced him to either buy a drink or leave. He had chosen the former, if only to avoid any questions, glad that it was a weekday and therefore unlikely that he should bump into anyone from the school.

He had escaped without incident and had spent the evening glaring into the fire, chastising his own behaviour and resolving to look no longer for an owl bearing a note from Professor Granger.

In three weeks, he had not kept the promise he made himself once and his mood was irksome for it.

He scowled as the cauldron before him bubbled and spat; reminding him that he had lost himself in his thoughts and neglected his work. He cursed as he realised the potion was beyond saving but a brief look at the calendar told him he still had several days reprieve. His monthly delivery to his clients not needed for another few days, the business of wolfsbane sadly booming after the war.

He vanished the ruined potion, intent on starting afresh but as he took stock of the jars before him, he realised that he did not have enough monkshood to brew a sufficient amount. He frowned, usually preferring to order the ingredient for delivery but it could take several days and he did not have enough time to wait for the arrival, nothing he could buy in a street apothecary would be strong enough for his needs.

He looked up at the clock, the hour not too late for a house call and the particular witch he had in mind was always useful for the rarer and more potent ingredients. He pulled on his coat before apparating from the house, reappearing in the middle of a cold, wind-blown field where one single house stood. The view was eclectic if he were being polite but he had a developed a fondness for the young witch that lived there and could always guarantee that she would have suitably potent ingredients on hand.

He headed up the steps, avoiding the dirigible plums, and knocking on the door. He heard footsteps within before it opened a crack, a familiar bright blonde head and wide eyes poking out before it was thrown wide.

“Hello Severus,” came the silvery voice, “You usually owl.”

“Forgive the intrusion, Miss Lovegood,” he responded with a bow, “But I am working on a potion and have run out of Monkshood. You have a far superior stock to any trader and I was wondering if I might impose on you for some.”

“Of course,” said Luna, “Do come in. I was just making tea if you would like a cup?”

“Real tea or that strange concoction of your father’s?” said Severus, hesitating on the doorstep despite the cold.

“Real tea,” said Luna, “Dad isn’t home. Come in, you’re letting the frost sprites in.”

Severus shook his head at the notion but stepping inside all the same, following her instructions to head up the stairs to the floor above. He was just approaching the landing when he heard footsteps, wondering who else could be in residence after Luna’s assertion that her father was out. He groaned inwardly at the thought of bumping into one of the house elves she had taken a fondness to, never sure of how to interact with them outside of Hogwarts.

He had just about prepared himself for an encounter when he reached the floor, shock freezing him at the top of the stairs as he regarded the source of the noise. He cursed serendipity as a fickle bitch, wondering if Hermione’s letter had conjured the situation he had now found himself in.

He heard the sharp intake of breath and knew that he had been seen, his moment of pause leaving him unable to escape the encounter. He steeled his resolve, reminding himself that he had cheated death and survived the Dark Lord and therefore, the situation before him should be no challenge.

“Mr Longbottom,” he said, meeting the eyes of his companion, “I did not realise Miss Lovegood had a guest or I would have come at another time.”

“Pro…Professor Snape,” stuttered the younger man before he drew himself a little taller, clearly remembering his own worth in the war, “How are you?”

“Very well, I thank you,” said Severus, stepping further into the room, “And yourself? I hear that you have made some impressive discoveries in the fertilisation of tentacular plants.”

Neville smiled slightly before he schooled his features, “The results are promising, sir,” he said, relief flooding his face as Luna rattled her way up the stairs with a tea tray.

“This is like a school reunion,” said Luna, “I should have invited the others.”

“I am not one for parties,” said Severus, “Forgive me, Miss Lovegood, I do not mean to impose upon your evening. If you have the monkshood I shall be on my way, you may name your price as always.”

Luna gave him a knowing smile as she set the tray on the table, “My price is that you take tea with us,” she said, “You lock yourself away too much, Severus. That’s my price or no monkshood.”

Severus flicked his gaze to Neville, seeing his hand twitch near his pocket in anticipation of defending Luna and he allowed himself a small smile at the gesture.

“You drive a hard bargain Miss Lovegood,” said Severus, “But I am compelled to accept, if Mr Longbottom is amenable to the company as well?”

Neville nodded slowly, “I don’t…don’t mind sir,” he said, all but falling into his own chair as Luna and Severus took theirs.

What began as uncomfortable silences slowly changed into easier, if formal conversation and by the time Luna skipped up the next flight upstairs to collect the ingredient he required, the air was not as charged as it had been.

“You know,” said Severus, when the silence had dragged on a little too long, “There are some interesting passages in the Eighteen-fifty Herbologist’s Almanac that may be of interest to your work Mr Longbottom. It’s currently out of print but I happen to have a copy, I could drop it in to Miss Lovegood the next time I visit or you are welcome to come and collect it.”

“I…I’ve been looking for that book for months,” said Neville, “Could I really…that is to say, I would only borrow it for as long as it took to read. When would be convenient for me to collect it?”

Severus spread his hands, “I work from the house so any time is convenient,” he said, “And do not consider it a loan. I have read it and copied the pages that would be useful to me; the rest of the book is not really within my field of interest.”

“Seriously?” cried Neville before he recovered himself, “Thank you Professor Snape.”

“Severus,” he replied, getting to his feet as he heard Luna returning to their floor, “I am no longer your professor.”

“Here you are Severus,” said Luna, handing him a neatly wrapped package as she reached the bottom of the stairs, “There’s enough there for a few cycles.”

“Thank you Miss Lovegood. I shall see myself out,” he said, “Forgive me for interrupting your evening.”

“Not at all,” said Luna, “You’re always welcome. Goodnight.”

“Goodnight,” he replied with a bow before he turned to Neville, “Mr Longbottom. Please collect the book at your convenience.”

With another brief nod, he headed down the stairs to the ground floor, letting himself out of the house before he turned on the spot, reappearing in his study with a thought. He set the package on the table before he shrugged off his coat, tossing it onto the back of his desk chair before he sat down on the threadbare wingback.

A frown furrowed his brow as he thought back on the evening, the conversation dry but the company had been appreciated for a brief time. He looked over at his desk, Hermione’s letters folded neatly in a cubby near to his quill. He wondered at the content of them and whether, had he never received her scathing response to his initial advice, he would have offered Neville Longbottom the book. He had never found apologies easy, those he had attempted being thrown back in his face, but the book had been an attempt at least.

He wondered whether she would hear of it and what her opinion on the matter would be before he wondered why he cared. He looked over at the clock, the hour too late to begin brewing but too early for him to take to his bed. His gaze moved to his books, his eyes lighting on the tome that would soon be Neville’s before he continued to peruse the titles but none of them caught his interest.

His concentration strayed once more to the little bundle of letters, their siren call once more ringing out in the silence of the room. He resisted admirably for a full ten minutes before he headed to his desk, pausing only a moment before he began to write.

Dear Professor Granger

I hope that this letter finds you in a stronger position in your teaching role or have you had cause to take up shares in Madam Malkins’?

I was gladdened to learn from your last letter that I was not always your most hated teacher. I wonder if I would ever have been, had there not been the misfortune of you being sorted into Gryffindor but I would hope we are beyond our house loyalties now.

I find myself often thinking of the actions your letter brought into sharp relief. I make no excuse for how I acted, I did as I thought best at the time but perhaps, in hindsight, things could have been handled differently. I cannot change the past nor do I believe words make amends but could a vow to endeavour to have better future be accepted as an attempt to put things right?

I hope that the remainder of the term ends better than it began and that the holidays are restful.

Sincerely yours,

 S. Snape.

Chapter Text

Hermione kept her gaze firmly on her plate as the mail owls circled the great hall, dropping their parcels into the laps and in some cases, the cereal bowls of the students. It had been over three weeks since she had written to Severus and received no response. She told herself it was because she had given him nothing to respond too, her words short if heartfelt but there was nothing for him to answer or bite back on.

Several times, she had put pen to paper with the view of writing to him once more but her bravery fled her even before she had written the first line. She didn’t want to bother the man if he had no wish to correspond with her further, knowing he had suffered enough in his life and not wanting to add to any burdens but at the same time she knew there was still so much that needed to be said.

“Hermione? Hermione dear,” said Pomona beside her, “Do you not want to read your letter?”

“Hmm?” said Hermione as she lifted her head from the study of her breakfast.

“Your letter dear,” said the Herbology professor, “The owl dropped it almost five minutes ago and you’ve not even acknowledged it.”

“Oh? I didn’t notice,” said Hermione, fighting to keep the smile from her face as she recognised the envelope and the colour of the seal, “Thank you.”

She bit back a curse as the bell sounded to call the students to class and she was forced to pocket the letter until she reached the lunchtime break. Her classes were, thankfully, her easiest for the day, the first and second year Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw groups far less volatile than the Slytherin and Gryffindor mix she was forced to endure. Still, despite the improvement of discipline since she had sought Minerva and Severus’ advice, she struggled to balance the needs of both her strongest and her weakest students. If she played to the strengths in the room, the weaker ones struggled to the point of failure but if she kept the class at an easier level then the stronger grew bored and gave her trouble.

Finally, she closed the door on the last of her morning students, frowning at the slightly singed edge of her robe but the mark was easily hidden amongst the folds and she was grateful that the charm she had put on it had held.

She locked the classroom door and headed to her desk, pulling the letter from her pocket and breaking the seal as she sat down. She smiled at the sight of his handwriting, her thumb tracing his signature as she read. She set the letter on the desk before her when she had finished, her hands resting on the arms of her chair as her fingers stroked the well-worn wood. She wondered how often his hands had traced the same planes, the furniture unchanged from his time as professor. She smiled at the connection, their worlds so separate and yet so connected at the same time.

Concentration furrowed her brow as she wondered what it would have been like had she not been a member of Gryffindor house or friends with Harry Potter. She often wondered if she had been miss-sorted, so many of her traits more common to Ravenclaw but the Hat had spoken and her fate bound by its whim.

Before she was even aware of what she was doing, she found herself with her quill in her hand, words flowing as easily as the ink as she replied to him.

Dear Sir,

I was glad to receive your letter and can happily report that things are improving in my classroom. Your advice, whilst a little difficult to process at the beginning, was useful and with Minerva’s help I have gained some control although I have a feeling that it will take me a little longer with some of the older students. You will be pleased to hear that I have become quite proficient at charming my robes, though I still need a little practice.

I am however, finding managing the abilities of my students a little difficult. Would you be amenable in assisting me further if I put some questions to you?

I would like to think we are beyond house loyalties as well but I wonder what you believe would have happened had I not been in Gryffindor. Would you have disliked me as much if I had been in Ravenclaw? It is still a matter of some consternation to me that I was never good enough in your classes. If we are truly beyond house loyalties now, please tell me, was my work insufficient or was your attitude towards me borne purely from your dislike of my house?

Please don’t think I am asking to start an argument, I am merely curious. I wish we could somehow see how our paths could have gone differently but I guess so does everyone who has seen what we have seen.

I am sorry if the words in my previous letter caused you pain but I do not regret them if they caused you to reflect. Some of your words have done the same for me and I feel like I have learned from my own reflections. It is easy for us to fall into the roles society seeks to place us in and we soon begin to perceive ourselves as others do. Perhaps, if people such as you and I can hold mirrors up to one another, we may be able to become more rounded individuals. It seems that you may be on the right track and I will endeavour to do the same, I will endeavour to have a better future.

I will be spending my holidays at Hogwarts; I think it will give me some time to further improve my research into teaching. Besides, Australia is a long way away and my parents have not fully recovered from the obliviate that I used on them so family meals can be a little difficult.

I hope you enjoy the best of the season as well but I hope I will hear from you again before it is upon us.

With Warmest Regards

Hermione.

 

 

Chapter Text

Severus put aside his book as a tentative knock came at his door, swiftly followed by a far more determined one and he was left in little doubt that his anticipated visitor had come with company. He got to his feet, making the short journey to the door and releasing the wards from the frame, still cautious even with peace having been settled over the wizarding world for several years.

He threw the bolt and opened the door, doing his best to keep the amusement from his face as Neville almost sprang back into the road whilst Luna merely rolled her eyes at him.

“I hope we’re not too early,” she said, with a warm smile as she reached back and dragged Neville onto the doorstep, “And I hope you don’t mind me coming, he swore blind he’d get lost.”

Severus returned her smile, realising he had further startled the man at her side with the unfamiliar expression, “Not too early at all,” he replied, “And you are always welcome Miss Lovegood. Come in out of the cold.”

He stepped back, allowing them both to step into the corridor before he waved Luna onwards into the living room, locking and warding the door when she had led Neville into the warmer room. He found Luna had already made herself comfortable in his preferred chair when he joined them but Neville still stood as though awaiting his executioner. Taking pity on the younger man, Severus waved a hand, the promised book floating from the shelf and hovering before Neville’s face.

“Though it isn’t much of a task for my magic, Mr Longbottom, could you please consider taking the book before I expire from old age?” he drawled, a small chuckle escaping his lips as Neville snatched the book from the air as though to disobey would mean a month’s worth of detention, “And do realise that you are my guest and more than welcome here. Please take a seat.”

“Thank you, Professor…Severus,” said Neville, perching on the edge of the sofa before he ran a reverent hand over the front of the book, “This is in wonderful condition.”

“It was in my mother’s family for several generations I believe but never put to much use,” said Severus, “I trust that it may be better used now.”

“I can’t wait to read it,” said Neville.

“Indeed, but first, might I suggest some tea?”

“Tea would be wonderful, Severus,” said Luna, getting to her feet, “I’ll help you.”

“There’s no need,” said Severus, heading the short distance to the small kitchen.

“Oh I insist,” said Luna as she followed him, leaving Neville alone with the book now open on his lap.

“Am I to be chastened for intimidating Mr Longbottom?” said Severus once they were out of earshot of the man in question.

“Not at all,” said Luna, setting about preparing the tea as though she were mistress of the house, “He needs to learn not to be afraid of you anymore. You would never believe that he had faced down Voldemort and killed Nagini…oh, I’m sorry Severus.”

Severus pulled his hand from his collar, not realising it had unconsciously moved there until her apology, “Don’t be,” he said, “Just as your Neville needs to learn not to fear me, I must learn to no longer allow shadows from my past to effect me.”

Luna smiled, the look whimsical even for her, “It is funny that you should refer to him as my Neville,” she said.

“Was I incorrect?” said Severus, “It was my belief that you and Mr Longbottom have been something of an item since the battle at Hogwarts.”

“Gossip, Severus? I never took you for the type,” said Luna, before a larger smile broke prettily across her face, “But you are right, even more so than you believe.”

“Luna you have my congratulations,” said Severus, taking the hand she extended to him, the pale light from the kitchen window playing against the elegant ring upon her finger, “When did this occur?”

“Just after you visited the other night,” said Luna, “I believe managing to take tea with you and not faint gave Neville the courage to take on the less terrifying task of asking for my hand.”

Severus laughed before he raised her hand and pressed a kiss to the back of it, “Well, you have my best wishes for a long and happy future together,” he said, summoning several cups and saucers from the cupboard and settling them on a tray.

“Please promise me you won’t say a word to anyone though,” begged Luna as he released her hand, “Even so long after things have settled The Prophet won’t leave us alone and I would hate for this to be on the front page.”

Severus frowned, “You can be assured of my discretion of course and if the editors at the prophet are bothering you…”

“You needn’t rise to defend my honour,” she said, “I’m pretty good at doing that myself. Oh…you have a letter.”

She reached over and flipped the catch on the window, opening it far enough to allow the owl to drop the note onto the countertop. She picked it up and handed it to him before she set the now steeped teapot on the tray and picking it up.

“Shall we?” she said, heading back towards the living room.

Severus moved to set the letter back on the counter to read later but paused, instead he opened several buttons on his coat before slipping it into the concealed pocket next to his chest. He buttoned his coat before he returned to the young people waiting in his sitting room, unsure as to when it had become almost normal for him to receive visitors.

He was glad that Neville stood bravely and proudly when he offered him congratulations on his engagement to Luna, convinced that his young friend would be happy and well suited to her partner. They shared the tea that Luna had prepared, their conversation far less strained and alternating between the book Neville now held as though it were a small child and their yet unplanned nuptials.

Severus tried to be as hospitable as he could but the letter in his breast pocket emitted the same siren song as all the others he had received. Neville seemed none the wiser but Luna was far more perceptive, getting to her feet almost as soon as she had drained her cup and set it back upon the tray.

“Come on Neville,” she said, “Severus has plenty to do without us here.”

Neville followed her to his feet, “Yes of course,” he said, “Thank you again for the book, Pro…Severus.”

“You’re more than welcome,” said Severus, following them to the door as Luna took the lead, “And congratulations again to you both. You can trust in my discretion, I will not say a word until I am given leave to.”

“Thank you Severus,” said Luna, stepping back to his side and pressing a kiss to his cheek, “You’re a good friend. Enjoy your letter.”

With several more farewells, Severus finally closed the door behind the retreating couple, warding it swiftly before he returned to the living room. He opened his jacket, popping a button loose in his haste before he pulled out the letter. He ran a slim finger beneath the seal, breaking it in two before he opened the letter, a small smile touching his lips as he sat back in his chair to read the words that had been sent to him.

Chapter Text

It had grown dark by the time Severus roused himself from his chair, Hermione’s letter clutched with reverence in his hand. Her words, mature and eloquent, reminded him of the essays and exams he could only now own had been a joy to mark. It had been her question regarding her house and what would have happened had she been in another that had given him such significant pause though.

He had shuddered when he had thought of her in Slytherin; a muggle-born witch easy pray to every pureblood despite her intelligence and Severus would have been unable to protect her even in his own house. Hufflepuff would have appealed to her kindness but she would have craved more. Her question had regarded Ravenclaw though and he could have seen her happily settled in that house. He wondered if he would have put voice to the thoughts he had kept private. Praised her as he could not when she wore the colours of Gryffindor. Supported her into greater things in his field had she not been a friend of Harry Potter.

He lit several candles with a wave of his hand before he summoned a quill and parchment, his magic causing it to follow him as he headed into the kitchen. He was infinitely glad for his magic as he set the kettle to boil and the tea to prepare with little more than a thought before he sat down to compose his reply to her.

Dear Professor Granger

I was pleased to hear that you are finding it easier to manage discipline within your classes and rest assured that further success and confidence will come with age. I do not say this to patronise, only to reassure that it will become easier as the age gap between yourself and your students grows. You must remember that those now in your charge were once your younger classmates and that will be difficult on both sides.

You fame will not help either, your name no doubt being mentioned in the homes of both friend and foe both during and after the war. Your elder Slytherin students, some of whom I believe had older siblings in your year, may well still harbour feelings better associated with the past than the future and keeping them in check will be a great challenge for you. I am more than confident though that you will manage to earn their respect in time but you will need to be patient.

It is always a challenge for any teacher to make their lessons informative and accessible for all their students. I had learned such long before you arrived at the school but your appearance in a class alongside those less capable was certainly a challenge. I do hope, however, that you found the work I gave you in addition to the other students challenging enough?

In my time as Potions Master, I kept detailed lesson plans and, unless they have been moved or destroyed since my tenure there, you should still be able to locate them in the second drawer of the cabinet in the classroom potions store. It is locked but it should open for you, as the castle should now recognise you as Potions Mistress. You are welcome to review the notes therein and utilise what may suit you. If you have any more questions after reading them then feel free to ask them and I will answer as best I can.

In regards to your parents and the after effects of the obliviate you were forced to place them under, I may be able to offer some assistance there as it was often my duty to restore the memories of those Death Eaters who had been subjected to the spell. Before I offer any advice or guidance there though, you must know that the spells are not entirely of the light and as such carry a greater risk than any restorative charms you may know. I will take no offence, therefore, if you do not wish to discuss further but if you do, you need only ask and I will assist where I may.

I do hope there are others staying at the castle over the holidays, it can be a vast and lonely place in the winter once the students are gone. I am spending the season at home so, if you wish to send a letter during that time, I will be able to receive it.

Please let me know if the notes were of any use to you.

With Regards,

Severus Snape.

P.S. In the notes you will find observations on students that I did not give public voice to in the classroom for varying reasons but, for one witch in particular, I could not give the slightest hint to the content of my thoughts due to both her house and her friendships. Miss Granger, if I were to take on the whimsy that you speak of and imagine you were sorted elsewhere, if things had truly been different, then the comments you will read would have been more publicly acclaimed. Despite any words I may have said on the contrary to you or to others, you were and you remain the most gifted student I ever taught and had you been sorted into Ravenclaw then I believe that things could have been very different. I am sorry that circumstances were as they were and I find myself truly sorry that you never knew the contents of the books you will read when you should have done. I pray you will forgive me in time.

Severus sat back as he finished the letter, his hand hovering over it in question as to whether it was fit to be sent or destroyed. He knew the words were true though and, if he were to have any hope to restore one of the many bridges he had burned in the world, then truth was the most necessary tool.

He folded the letter and sealed it, not bothering to summon a coat to ward off the chill and he apparated to Diagon Alley and procured the use of an owl to send the letter at such a late hour. When the bird had finally flown out of sight, he apparated home, fear that he would receive no reply warring against the hope that he would.

xxxx

 

‘…a keen mind with a talent for recalling facts with speed and accuracy…’

‘…ability far beyond her age…’

‘… a skilled maker of potions with an ability to formulate superior methods of execution when given the correct guidance…’

‘…a truly remarkable witch with talents far surpassing the skills of students far older and more experienced than her…’

‘…an excellent candidate for acceleration and an apprenticeship. A strong and patient teacher would be required but with sufficient guidance Miss Granger has the potential to be a truly skilled Potions Mistress both inside and outside the walls of the school…’

‘…an OWL score far exceeding any who had sat the exam before and a well written presentation of her theoretical knowledge despite the challenges of the past year…’

Hermione was not sure when the tears had begun but as she sat at her desk in the quiet of the weekend, surrounded by the books Severus had told her of in his last letter, she could not help the sobs that escaped her. She wept for every cruel word he had uttered to her. She wept for fate and its fickle hand. She wept for her teacher whose hand had been so forced and the cruelty of his life that had left him so bitter. She wept for the student she had been, craving the attention of her professor and never able to achieve even one word of acknowledgement or encouragement from his lips.

She had long since forgotten the lesson plans she was meant to be studying, instead searching page after page of the daily teaching journals for the sight of her name or her initials. The words were at once a dagger and a balm to her soul, wishing so much that the words had been said to her but grateful that she was finally privy to the truth.

She scrubbed at her eyes with her sleeve as a tear spilled onto the page, smudging the familiar spiky writing. She closed the book, her fingers stroking the cover with a reverence she usually kept for the most precious of things. She felt a tremulous smile touch her lips, wondering what had prompted such revelations from her former teacher.

Pulling a piece of parchment from the drawer, she smoothed it out on the table before her, her touch similar to that she had used on the books.

Dear Professor Snape

I could give you no other title in reply to your letter. It seems, sir, that there is still so much I have to learn from you.

Your books and the words in them have both humbled and elated me but they have also filled me with such sadness. What did we both do to deserve the life we have been given? I curse houses and prophecies and Dark Lords. So many wounds to heal but first they must be opened afresh so that they can heal more cleanly. The wounds you inflicted upon me were painful but the words you have shared with me now will help me to heal. I only wish I could help you to heal yours. If my forgiveness can do anything though, then you have it completely and from my whole heart. I forgive you.

You have given me much to study and reflect on in sharing these with me and I am sure, when I am beyond the vanity of reading some of your words about me, I will find much of use for my classes come the new term.

As for the subject of my parents, might I have more time to consider your offer? I must reflect with both my head and my heart, both of which have been known to be rash, so I will take my time here if I may.

And of course I will write to you over the holidays. I enjoy hearing from you and anticipate your letters. I do not hear from some of the others as much as I would like and it can be very lonely here with or without the students and my colleagues. I sometimes feel as though I am in some strange sort of limbo and you have given me a grounding that I was sorely in need of.

Please write soon, I will be here waiting to hear from you.

Warmest Regards

Hermione.

 

Chapter Text

Dear Professor Granger,

I must confess that I was quite shocked, gladly so, to hear that my letters are now welcome rather than mere tools to assist your learning. I will happily continue to correspond with you and of course continue to answer any questions you have in regards to your lessons. I am, in that extent at least, at your disposal.

I fully appreciate your wish to reflect on my offer regarding your parents and will not bring the subject up again unless you request it of me. I trust that in the meantime things are not too strained between you.

You have my thanks as well for allowing me to apologise for our shared past and for offering me your forgiveness. I hope we can start afresh from here on in as your correspondence is as anticipated here as mine is at Hogwarts it seems. I have been often told by a mutual acquaintance of ours that I am too solitary but it is a state I previously enjoyed. Over the past year or so though what began as a comforting stillness and silence has grown stale and I am trying to engage myself with the world once more. The endeavour however is not always easy.

Are any other staff members remaining on site over the holidays to keep you company? I was surprised when you said you were remaining there as I had assumed you would be visiting with your friends. From the tone of your last letter though it seems as though there may be more behind it. I heard through our shared acquaintances that things went amiss with Mr Weasley but I hope that is not the reason for any ill feeling between you and your other friends. It is none of my business of course so please don’t feel the need to give any explanation if you have no wish to. I can promise you my discretion however in regards to anything that passes between us in these letters.

It is strange that you have finally given me a word to explain the way the world feels now. Limbo is indeed accurate. I often feel as though I am without purpose or aim and I have never known such a sensation but it is not such a potent sting now that I know someone else understands.

If you are indeed alone at the castle over the winter let me impart a bit of little known information. There is a room, just beyond the tapestry of Rowena Ravenclaw in the library. It is not visible on any special maps or well known even amongst the staff but you will find the door, if you seek it, and beyond, books that will challenge even your great head for reading. I spent a summer there and barely made a dent in the collection. Enjoy.

With Best Regards,

Severus Snape.

 

xxxx

 

Dear Sir,

I have been reviewing your lesson plans with great interest and goodness the detail you put into them certainly puts my work to shame. I have a great many questions but I have more to look into so I will send them all too you in my next letter if I may? You are very kind to continue to help me, I feel far more confident for next term after corresponding with you.

The children leave for home in a few days and I will have more time then to sit and plan, no doubt leading to more questions. I hope you are quite prepared for the torrent I will release upon you but then you know me well enough by now I’m sure.

Things between my parents and I are sadly still quite strained, they know I am their daughter and they recall the memories of our lives but the emotion has been lost. My parents know me but they do not love me and that is very hard to accept. Besides, Christmas in the middle of the summer seems contrary to the natural order of things after so many spent at Hogwarts.

Relationships are more than a little strained as well with my friends. I do not take offence to you asking; indeed, I am surprised you are not aware, as it seemed the Prophet decided it would sell papers for them for several long weeks. Ronald and I were never going to be a good match, I realised as much very early on and broke it off as soon as I could after. He took it well enough but Molly did not. I am still very dear friends with Harry, Ginny, George and the others but Molly makes things difficult for them if she hears that they have seen me so I stay away and make things easier for them.

It seems we have both been forced to become quite solitary creatures since the war. I too enjoyed the solitude for a while but I now long for an acquaintance I can converse with on all matters. My colleagues are very kind to me of course but they have known one another a long time and still see me as their student rather than a member of their peer group. It has been lovely therefore to be able to correspond with you in this way. I hope that one day I may call you my friend.

I am most excited about this room you have promised I will find. I tried to search for it the other day but Madame Pince was in the library with Professor Vector and they gave me the most curious look when I started poking around by the tapestry so I will keep my patience until everyone is gone home. If you wish, I could send you any books you would like from there or I’m sure Minerva would not be adverse to allowing you to visit the school on occasion to peruse them.

Given that I will probably be without my students the next time you write to me, might I request that you dispense with my title and call me by my given name?

With Fond Regards

Hermione.

 

xxxx

 

Dear Hermione,

Please reassure me that I will not need to purchase a larger house to allow space for the many sheets of parchment your questions will be written upon. I trust at least that answering them will prove a welcome challenge and I am quite prepared to answer as many questions as necessary. I want help you make a success of your career wherever I can.

I am sorry to hear that things are so difficult between you and your friends. Though Mr Potter and I never saw eye to eye, he was a good friend to you and I only wish things had not been made difficult between you and he. I was aware of your separation from Mr Weasley but I did not realise his mother had chosen to be so difficult. I do not read The Prophet more than once in a while, they value sensationalism over real news and cause such damage where they should have mercy. I hope in time that things will heal and that they will leave you in peace.

Though I am ill practised in the art, I would gladly stand as a friend in the meanwhile. I have often found myself thinking of you as such recently. Your letters are a joy to receive now and I find great comfort in our correspondence.

As for your thoughts on me returning to Hogwarts, it would be a delight for the sake of those books but alas, I find myself unwilling to set foot in the school and I doubt that will ever change. That place was a prison and a torture chamber for many years and I died many deaths there, not just to one that Minerva and the others saved me from in the Shrieking Shack. If you would send me a book or two though, I would be grateful and would return them so they were not missed by anyone aware of them.

Given that I have obliged you at the beginning of this letter, Hermione, might I request that the next time you write, you give me my name also.

With Best Wishes

Severus.

 

 

Chapter Text

Severus was grateful that the crowds had been chased away by the bitter winter weather than had descended upon the country in the week running up to Christmas. Now, two days before the day itself, Diagon Alley should have been heaving with shoppers and merry makers but instead it was all but silent with only a few people dodging the freezing sleet as they ran from shop to shop.

Severus opened the large black umbrella he had brought with him as he exited Madam Malkin’s Shop, a package tucked underneath his arm, and headed to the apothecary across the way. He had barely gone a few steps when he questioned his intent once more, nearly turning back to return the parcel but impulse spurred him on and he crossed the street as swiftly as he could to avoid the weather.

He swiftly purchased the items he needed to work on a few potions over the holiday period before he headed off to hire an owl to bear the gift he carried to its new home. He was grateful the Madam Malkin offered a gift-wrapping service during the festive season, the parcel beneath the simple brown paper far more exquisite than anything he could muster. The witch had of course given him a strange look when he had requested it but she soon amended her expression when he had given her a well-patented look of his own.

When he reached the shop, he found one of the side benches and set the parcel down. He drew an envelope from his coat pocket and slipped it inside the parcel before he drew the strings tightly around it once more. With a wave of his wand, the recipient’s name and location appeared on the brown paper in his own spiky writing, certain that it would have reached her even without it but wanting to make doubly sure it arrived.

Content all was ready; he joined the short queue and soon found himself at the counter, an owl swiftly dispatched to Hogwarts with its cargo. He turned as soon as the transaction was complete, intent on heading outside and finding a suitable spot from which to apparate home but his path was blocked as he saw the door open to admit two very familiar figures.

He briefly considered apparating away from the spot he stood in but he knew he had been seen when a pair of painfully familiar eyes met his. He had met with Harry several times since the end of the war, the boy unfailingly noble and full of forgiveness in light of the memories he had given to him. Forgiveness he had never sought or felt he deserved but he had not the words to deny the younger man who had decided that he would be in his company.

“Snape,” said Harry, his smile bright, “How are you?”

“Well, Potter, I thank you,” said Severus, before he nodded to the woman beside him, “Miss Weasley.”

“Professor Snape,” she said, her smile a little more tentative but there all the same, “We seem to be bumping into a lot of old faces today, must be the season.”

“You mean everyone has forgotten to buy Christmas presents,” said Harry, “Including us. We made a list but still forgot Charlie so we’re having to send something to Romania in the hope it will get there for Christmas day.”

“Carrying on as you did at school then,” said Severus, “You always succeeded in arriving to my lessons with at least one item of your required equipment missing.”

Harry laughed, “If it wasn’t for Hermione I’d have forgotten what classes I had regardless of whether I had the right equipment or not,” he said, “Did you hear that she has taken on the role of Potions Mistress there?”

“I am aware,” said Severus, unsure why it jarred him so that she had not confided in her friends about their letters, “Minerva’s powers of persuasion remain strong it seems.”

“Well at least she looks happier than she did at the beginning of term,” said Ginny, “I felt sure she was going to give it up when we saw her in September but she looked happier than I’ve seen her in a long time today.”

“I thought Miss Granger was remaining at the school for the holidays?” said Severus, realising he had said too much when he received almost identical looks from the pair before him, “Minerva mentioned it in a letter.”

“She is, technically,” said Harry, clearly accepting his excuse, “But she said she needed to get a few things from Flourish and Blotts today. We just left her actually; she was heading to see George at his shop.”

“Well,” said Severus, hoping his tone was more measured then it seemed as an emotion he dared not name but that felt vaguely akin to ho[e swelled through his veins, “I must not keep you. Seasons greetings to you both.”

He offered them both a small bow before he moved passed them too the door, cursing silently as Harry called out to him once more.

“Snape…Severus,” said the boy, “Come for Christmas, unless you have plans.”

“I have to work,” said Severus, barely turning but still meeting Harry’s gaze, “But if it is convenient…I will call on you before the New Year.”

“We’ll look forward to it,” said Ginny, taking Harry’s arm, “Merry Christmas, sir.”

“Merry Christmas,” said Severus, turning away and heading to the door.

He prided himself that he kept his pace measured until he was out of sight of the shop, not caring for the sleet as he hurried through the streets once he was sure he would not be seen. He had never been to the Weasley shop but he knew where it was. The garish colours and cartoonish decorations standing out in stark contrast to the dark traditionalism of the Alley.

The shop was almost in view when he slowed his pace, reality and reason catching up with him. Hermione wrote to him and received his letters with pleasure but she had not expressly asked to meet with him. She had invited him to the castle in a way but he was certain it was more in view of the books than to be company for her, the invite to have come through Minerva if it was truly issued.

He came to a dead stop, caring nothing for the sleet that began to seep through his coat. He was an acquaintance, an advisor. She called him friend in her letters but it was an easy enough word for her to write upon the page. He had no right to force his presence upon her without her invitation, especially not in the middle of the street where propriety would demand she speak to him even if she had no wish to.

He gave thought to his home, preparing to apparate there but stopped, necessity urging his feet on where his reason wanted him to stop. Finally, the shop came into view and with it, a sight he had not seen in person since the night he thought his life had ended.

Hermione stood on the doorstep of the strange little shop, George Weasley before her holding an umbrella over them both. They were speaking but he could not here their words. He knew he should leave but he also wanted to be seen, an accidental meeting so much easier to explain away. He took several steps closer but realised he had left it too long as he watched her hug her friend briefly before she raised her wand and disappeared from view.

His eyes fell closed, cursing a missed opportunity and feeling a leaden weight replace the flicker of hope than had been within him. He opened his eyes, meeting the curious stare of George Weasley before the younger man nodded in recognition, turning back into his shop as Severus returned the gesture.

With no purpose to remain in the Alley, Severus conjured thoughts of his home once more. The crack of apparition and the boot prints in the snow the only thing to indicate that he had been there at all.

Chapter Text

Hermione stretched languidly, the smell of cinnamon and wood smoke filling her senses before she opened her eyes. She smiled at the sight of the elegant arrangement of holly over the small fireplace in her bedroom, the dungeon rooms brightened by the festive cheer.

Despite the fact that there were none but her and the school elves in the castle, she still rose at her usual time but indulged in the luxury of wrapping a warm robe around herself instead of dressing as she padded into the small living room.

She had always wondered about the teacher’s accommodations in the school when she had been a student but she had been happy to find them cosy and warm rather than the great cavernous rooms that made up the rest of the school. When she had been first told she would be taking Severus’ old rooms in the dungeons she had been worried that she would find them cold and damp but instead they were dry and airy, the windows small and only on one side but they let in enough light to be comfortable. Of course, all evidence of their former resident had long since been erased, either moved to the rooms he had taken as Headmaster or by the elves when they had made room for the new resident. Some of the furniture however remained the same and Hermione hoped that it brought her a little kinship with the man she was coming to call a friend.

She smiled at the sight of breakfast already laid out on the small table beside the fire, the money she had left there in payment for the elves taken in its place. She had made it a rule when she had taken the position of Potions Mistress that any meals she took outside of those in the Great Hall would be paid for by her own purse and it had been accepted, the elves who did not wish for money giving it to those who did.

She brushed aside several sprigs of holly that had decorated the tray and began to select a plate from the food on the table before her. She waved her hand, the muggle radio that sat on the mantle springing into life with a familiar Christmas tune. The music was jolly but it saddened her as it reminded her of her childhood and Christmas mornings spent with her parents. She glanced over at the small decorated tree in the corner of the room, enchanted lights twinkling in the branches but there were no gifts beneath it, nothing sent from Australia for her to open.

She shook off her upset, determined to spend the day curled up with a good book, with perhaps a walk around the grounds if the weather remained fair enough. She smiled brightly as another familiar song came on the radio, a popular tune from her youth that had her singing along with it in between bites of her breakfast.

So loud was her own voice that it was only by chance that she spotted the owl outside her window. She picked up several scraps from her plate and carried them over with her, opening the latch before she opened it on the bird.

“Merry Christmas to you my lovely one,” she said, placing the scraps on the mantle and smiling as they were happily pecked at, “And what have you brought me today of all days?”

She took up the parcel it had set on the ledge, smiling at the familiar handwriting on the bindings.

“Severus,” she said, a finger tracing the elegant hand before she looked up at the owl once more, “Thank you for this. Go and rest in our owlery before you go home. There is food, water and lots of warmth there for you.”

The bird inclined its head before it took wing, heading off for a long sleep in the great tower that housed the school birds. Once it had gone, Hermione closed the window and carried her package to the sofa beside the fire, excitement humming through her veins at the gift.

She opened the strings and moved aside the brown paper packaging, revealing an elegantly wrapped bundle and a thick envelope beneath. Despite the temptation, she put aside the present and instead slid a finger beneath the seal, pulling the neatly folded papers from the envelope and settling back to read.

Dear Hermione,

You will find enclosed the answer to every question you posed to me in your most recent letter. You truly do have the most enquiring mind and, I’ll admit, you even challenged me on occasion but I hope the answers provided are of use to you.

Given the timing of our recent letters though, I realised that this one would arrive on Christmas day and that it would seem somewhat outside of the spirit of the season to send you a work related missive alone. I therefore took the liberty of purchasing a little something for you to celebrate the day. I thought, as you had mentioned you had not yet perfected a task you gave yourself, I would assist until you had become more polished in your efforts. I only hope they fit.

My thanks again for the books from the hidden library that you enclosed with your long, LONG list of enquiries. They are titles I have not yet encountered so they will be amusing to read.

I wish you a very Happy Christmas and I hope that it is peaceful at the castle for you. If you grow lonely, I do believe that Rosmerta opens for a few hours in the evening on Christmas day so you may find some company there.

I hope I will hear from you again before New Year.

Sincerely yours,

Severus.

Hermione smiled at the tone of the letter, somehow easily imagining his voice as she read though it had never uttered such kind words to her. She laid the letter down on the table before she took up the parcel, her fingers desperate to rip the paper but instead she opened it delicately. She unknotted the ribbons before she parted the sheets of paper that hid his gift from her view.

She frowned prettily as a swathe of a deep indigo material was revealed, the garment heavy as she drew it from its wrappings. What began as a frown turned into a bright smile as she realised that she held a new set of teaching robes in her hands, a small note pinned to the folds.

Charmed to repel even the most noxious of substances your students can concoct. I hope they serve you well until your own charms become strong enough. I hope I made the correct guess when it came to size. Severus.

The joyful laugh that bubbled from her was happier than anything she could recall for a very long time as she stood and shucked off her dressing gown. She swept the robes around her, marvelling that they fit her perfectly as she ran her hands over the fine weave.

She sat back down, drawing the warm robes about herself as she turned her mind to the man who had sent them, wondering what he was doing at the same moment and if he was opening the gift she had thought to send him.

Chapter Text

Christmas Day was the one day of the year when Severus didn’t rise with the alarm clock or the dawn. It had always been a horrific day in his childhood, more than usual descending into tense silence at best or violence at its worse depending on how much alcohol his father managed to imbibe. The first couple of years at Hogwarts had been more enjoyable, staying behind when the majority of the other students went home and all but left to his own devices. The best year being when Lily had stayed as well, the two of them bashing happily around the castle without anyone to tell them other wise.

It had been two years later when he had not even received a card from his former best friend, each Christmas Day for there on in becoming blacker and blacker until Severus had found himself unwilling to even acknowledge the day.

Still, he was not a man to languish in bed all day so, once midday rolled around he pulled himself from his mattress, washed and dressed in his familiar black clothes and headed downstairs into the silent kitchen. He was so used to spending the day in solitude that he was shocked to see the owl perched on his window ledge, its feathers puffed up around him as it all but glared at him through the glass.

He let the bird in, watching it hop around the warmth of the kitchen once it had deposited its burden on the small breakfast table. It was all he could do to set the kettle on to boil and prepare himself something to eat, sparing a couple of scraps for the now warmer looking owl, as the package bearing Hermione’s handwriting emitted a siren call far louder than even her letters did.

It was only when the tea was steeping in the pot and the owl had finally decided it was warm enough to leave him that he took up the package and carried it with him into the living room, the tea tray following behind with a wave of his hand. He settled himself in his chair, ignoring the slight tremble to his hands and he opened the package, wondering if it would be merely another book from the library for him to borrow or a gift for the day as he had sent her.

He paused, wondering if she had opened the gift he sent and hoping that she had received it with pleasure. He cursed that it would be several days until he knew for sure, owl mail taking a while to track between them. He did not even begin to entertain the notion that she would take his advice and head to the Three Broomsticks, his intention to be there wavering at the thought of having to meet with her face to face.

He shook off the thought, concentrating once again on the package before him as he opened it. He felt the odd pull of a smile form on his lips as he realised the item inside was indeed a book, its shape and weight giving it away, but it was gaily wrapped in seasonal paper and clearly intended as a gift rather than a loan.

He picked up the envelope that had come with it, realising that it was muggle in design as he opened it. He drew out the card, the image on the front an old muggle painting showing a Victorian Christmas scene, the mark on the back showing its origin as one of the large galleries in London. It was a charming scene, of the season but without either the saccharine sweetness or poor humour that was so common in muggle greetings and he was glad she had thought to send it, his mantle bare of any other greetings.

He opened the card, glad that it was not just a simple greeting but that both sides were filled with her familiar writing. He looked over at the tea tray settled on the table beside him but even the thought of fixing a cup felt like too time consuming a task, instead sitting back against the chair and turning his attention to his friend’s words.

Dear Severus,

Here’s wishing you a very Merry Christmas my friend.

Don’t worry, I’ve not sent you a journal filled with pages of questions though I am sorely tempted. I have an enquiring mind, you have a brilliant one, and I am determined to learn all that I can from you.

The gift I have sent you is a title I am sure that you will probably already own but I located this copy by chance and I understand it to be quite rare. I therefore thought it most suitable as a gift for the rare friend that I have found in you. I hope you like it.

I hope it isn’t too presumptuous to have sent you a gift and please don’t think that I expect anything in return. It was a joy to be able to shop for someone this year. I haven’t exchanged gifts with my friends since the war by mutual agreement and it is hard to buy anything for my parents these days so the pleasure I took in buying this for you is a gift itself.

With New Year approaching I find myself indulging in the old muggle tradition of putting the old year to sleep and making resolutions for the coming one and you feature in one. I fear if I don’t make the request then we will find ourselves in another limbo almost as hopeless as the one we both spoke of before we began to write.

I appreciate it has not been long since we started corresponding but it is not as though we do not know one another and I wonder if you would consider meeting with me? It does not have to be soon but I would so like to see you again. I carry a memory of my teacher in his heavy black robes, stood at the front of the class in my first potions lesson, looming and intimidating. Your words to me now though are so contrary to that image, though you remain a teacher to me still in some ways for I do not think I will ever stop having things to learn from you. However, I would like to see you again so that I can see the man you are now.

I do have other memories of you of course, but that and another I wish to forget more than anything in the world, are the two that are strongest in my mind. I’m still haunted by the latter though and I find, as our acquaintance continues, it grows more rather than less powerful and I long to see you again purely to know that you are safe and whole.

Forgive me, I do not mean to be so melancholy on such a day and this began as such a happy letter. You often said I thought too much and I think you were right.

I will not be offended if you do not wish to meet with me. I appreciate the safety and perceived anonymity in our letters. Please though, even if you have no wish to see me, please continue to write to me. I would miss your letters if they were to cease.

I will think about you today and I hope you enjoy some peace if you are alone or good company if you find yourself with friends.

Write soon my friend. Merry Christmas again.

With affection,

Hermione.

Chapter Text

Dear Severus,

I do hope you had a lovely Christmas and that you liked the gift I sent.

Thank you so much for the robes that you sent me, they fit me perfectly and it was so thoughtful of you to send them. I know I shall not feel half the intimidation I felt before when it comes to facing my classes in the new term, as I am certain my new robes will bring me luck. Perhaps I will even be able to channel a little of your strength and poise in the classroom.

I had intended to spend today entirely alone with perhaps a trip to Rosmerta’s as you suggested but Minerva kindly surprised me with a visit (I don’t think she wanted to be alone today either) and we spent a lovely afternoon and evening together in her chambers.

It was lovely to have her to spend the day with and she has decided to return to the school to get ahead of herself with some paperwork so I won’t be bashing around this place on my own with only the elves for company. I have enjoyed the peace and quiet of my rooms though. I did think when they first told me that I would take these rooms that they would be cold and dreary but instead they are quite homely.

Well, it is nearly midnight here and soon it will be Boxing Day and I wanted you to have this letter as soon as possible with my thanks for your kindness.

I meant what I said in my letter to you, I would like for us to meet if you are amenable to the idea. I know that Hogwarts is not appealing to you but if you would like to name a place, I will gladly come to you. Apologies if I seem a little forward but you know what I am like once I have an idea in my head. Besides, I think I have had too much wine today and I’m not probably making too much sense.

I will write again in a few days.

Take care, dear friend,

Hermione

Severus had read the words over and over, taking some comfort at least that she had not been alone but still the loss of another meeting with her would not leave him. After reading her letter the day before he had headed to Rosmerta’s for the evening, hoping that his young friend would read between the lines of his letter in light of the wishes of her own, and join him there.

He had waited until Rosmerta had had to evict him herself and he had stood in the street outside the Three Broomsticks, looking up at the looming silhouette of Hogwarts and fighting a war with himself as to whether he should call on her or not.

He had not and he had returned home, spending the night sat in the silence of his home watching the fire slowly burn away to nothing in the grate. Sleep had claimed him at some point and he had woken in the dreary light of dawn to a stiff neck and more regret than he had known in a long time.

It was only when he received her letter that he took some comfort, glad that at least she had been occupied and with a friend. He only wished that he had had the courage to go to her, to share the warmth of the castle and to meet with her on friendlier terms.

He read the letter through once more before he picked up his own quill, shaking off any melancholy as he resolved to write back to her.

Dear Hermione,

You are more than welcome to the robes and if they give you confidence to…

He growled as a knocking on the door roused him from his work, the sound coming again when it was not immediately answered. He was tempted to ignore the caller, dreading either muggle charity workers that seemed to prowl the streets during the festive season or worse an uninvited guest from the wizarding world intent on checking up on him.

The third knock got him to his feet and to the door regardless, the bolt thrown back and the door opened with a force he hoped would at least startle the interloper. He was suitably chastened therefore when he found Luna on his doorstep, her bright eyes wide in alarm at the violence of his appearance.

“I’ve come at a bad time Severus, I’m sorry,” she said turning away.

“No, I’m sorry,” said Severus, “You are always welcome Miss Lovegood. Come in out of the cold.”

“Thank you,” said the young woman, her tone far more subdued than he had ever heard it as she passed him and entered the living room.

“Luna?” he said following her, “Is something wrong?”

“You’ve not seen The Prophet yet then?” she asked, sitting primly on the small sofa, “You’re one of the few. Well, without making too much of it, my father managed to let slip about my engagement to Neville and now our names are considered fair game. Every perceived former lover or questionable action is being laid out for commentary and appraisal when all we wanted was a little peace.”

Severus frowned, his own hatred of the publication deepened by the look it had put on the face of the young woman before him.

“I’m sorry Luna,” he said, “If there is anything I can do to help stop these tales…”

“Oh they are out there already,” said Luna, “And nothing either of us can say will stop it. Neville and I have found a way to counter it though, as best we can but we need your help.”

“Name it,” said Severus, “I will help however I can.”

Luna smiled, “Come and be witness for us,” she said, “We have managed to get special dispensation from the Ministry to marry today but we require two witnesses. Father is away and Neville’s grandmother is too ill to come to the Ministry itself. I want you to be there. Please say you’ll come.”

“If it is what you want but do not allow the Ministry to chase you into this decision prematurely, marriage is…”

“A legality,” said Luna, “Neville and I are already committed to one another but this gives us strength. If we’re married then The Prophet will have nothing more to print as they will not be able to force us apart.”

Severus shook his head, “They can damage your marriage as easily as they could your betrothal if you let them,” he said.

“Let them try,” said Luna defiantly, “Our minds are made up Severus and we will do this with or without your blessing but you have been a good friend to me and I want to know you support me.”

“You have my full support in whatever you do,” he said honestly, “And if you are certain this is what you want then I will of course be honoured to bear witness to it. When do we need to leave?”

“The ceremony is in half an hour,” said Luna with a rueful smile, “I didn’t even have time transfigure myself a dress. It’s not my strongest suit so it would take too long.”

“I may be able to assist there,” said Severus, as a thought came to him, “I won’t be a moment.”

He left her sat in the living room, hurrying up the stairs to the top of the house before he tugged open the hatchway to the loft. Years of dust formed a cloud as it creaked open but he swiftly dispelled it with a wave of his hand. With a thought, he summoned a long forgotten box to him, hoping that the contents had weathered the years it had spent in storage. He carried it down the stairs, finding Luna idly perusing the book Hermione had sent him when he entered the living room.

“What do you have there?” she said, setting down the book as he laid the box on the table.

“Something you may use if you choose to,” he said, taking off the lid and pushing aside the paper within, “My mother’s marriage did not end a happy one but when she married my father she was happy and she was in love. Neville is a far better man than he ever was and so I believe your happiness will endure. Besides, I have no belief in objects bringing bad luck so this is yours, if you want it.”

He drew out the elegant white gown, content that it had been well preserved despite years of neglect. Luna smiled brightly as she reached out, her fingers brushing against the lacy collar of the dress.

“This is too precious to give to me,” she said.

“Well it will not suit me,” said Severus, “And I have no daughter to pass it on to. The style is a little old fashioned but I believe it would suit. Please.”

Luna nodded, taking the dress from his hands, “Thank you, dear friend,” she said, “May I use the bathroom to change in?”

Severus nodded, “Of course but one moment,” he said, taking out his wand and muttering a spell over the gown, “That will adjust it to fit you once you put it on. Now hurry, we don’t have long to get to the Ministry and your groom is known to be a little nervous.”

Luna hurried from the room, returning swiftly in the gown that suited her far better than Severus could have imagined and he was glad that he had thought to give it to her. He led her from the house and she took his arm as they apparated to a safe place outside of the Ministry. He led her to the phone box that marked the visitors’ entrance, glad that they did not have to use the entrance the workers were forced too.

The great halls had been fully repaired after the war but they seemed far more cavernous with only one or two people in attendance. He saw the pompous looking official wave to Luna, the girl dragging him a little faster until they came face to face with him.

“Miss Lovegood,” said the official, his face paling as he took in Severus’ familiar appearance, “Is this one of your witnesses?”

“Severus has been my friend for many years,” said Luna, “And he has kindly agreed to stand as witness for me.”

“And your other?” said the official, clearly wanting to protest but finding no clear reason to do so.

“Neville was finding someone,” said Luna, “I hope he managed it.”

“I’m sure all will be well,” said Severus, “There is still time.”

“Sorry we’re late!” came Neville’s voice from across the room and Severus couldn’t help but smile at the relieved expression on Luna’s face.

“My fault I’m afraid, I was nowhere near fit to leave Hogwarts when Neville came for me, I…”

Severus turned as the voice that he had not heard save for in his head for over four years rang out around him. If her letters had been an irresistible siren song then her voice was something even more powerful and he found himself all but frozen as his gaze fell upon her before her words broke the spell.

“Hello Severus…”

Chapter Text

Hermione frowned as she stared at her wobbly reflection in the window of the lift that was carrying them down into the Ministry. She had tamed her wild hair back into a band when her brush had almost lurched from her hand in fright at the state of it. Her face was bare, her haste giving her little time for make up, but at least she had been able to find a clean dress in her wardrobe, the plain burgundy knit elegant enough over thick winter tights and knee-high heeled boots.

She had been shocked to say the least when one of the house elves had come to her rooms and told her that Neville was at the gate of the castle and asking for her. She had asked the elf to bring him to her, knowing she was more than welcome to receive visitors when the students were away, and assumed that he was merely calling on her for advice after she had seen the headlines The Prophet had been running about him and Luna that morning. Her own relationship and subsequent separation from Ron Weasley having been fair game for months after the event and therefore she was well placed to offer advice on how to handle them.

She had not expected him to insist she accompany him that moment to witness their marriage but she had agreed all the same. When he had told her the time constraints though she had abandoned him in her living room and hurried into her bedroom to change out of the pyjamas that she had spent the day languishing in. She had emerged as put together as she could be considering the time and she was glad it would be only an intimate ceremony with very few people to see her.

She roused herself from her reflections as the lift finally stopped its descent, noticing Neville all but hopping from foot to foot as he waited for the doors to open.

“Hey, calm down,” she said gently, “You two are made for each other. Marriage is just a formality.”

“I just don’t want to be late,” said Neville, “We only just managed to swing the ceremony for today and we had to do a lot of name dropping.”

“Always useful being heroes of the battle when you need some wiggle room with the Ministry,” mused Hermione, “And it’s not quite four yet, we won’t be late.”

“Still,” said Neville, a sigh of relief escaping him as the doors opened.

Hermione laughed as she took hold of his arm in an effort to keep pace with him, glad for the distraction from the looming halls that she had had no wish to set foot in again. She felt Neville pick up the pace as he spotted several figures near the large monument in the centre of the hall, thankfully no longer showing muggles being crushed beneath the power of wizards.

She smiled as she caught sight of Luna in a beautiful vintage dress but it was the man beside her that almost stopped her in her tracks.

She had longed to see her former teacher again, even before they had begun their funny little friendship of letters, but the sight of him real and solid before her so soon was not something she had expected. He was tall as she remembered and slender still, his black hair streaked here and there with bolts of silver but not too make him look old, his early forties clearly more agreeable to him than they were to others. He was still dressed in his customary black but the jacket was a less stoic cut to the one she remembered from her school days, the hem skimming at his mid thigh and the collar more open, leaving the white shirt and black cravat beneath on view.

She felt a smile form on her lips, the horrifying memory of him bloody and beaten by Voldemort and Nagini chased away by the sight of him looking well and happy as he spoke to Luna.

He had not seen her, his attention on the conversation, and Hermione wondered how she would feel when the long remembered dark eyes met hers when she trembled at just the sight of him standing metres away. She contented herself though that she had at least a few moments to prepare as they approached, Neville’s pace unrelenting in the desire to reach his bride.

“Sorry we’re late!” he called out as they approached, the pompous looking Ministry official looking up first with a grumpy expression before Luna smiled with relief.

“My fault I’m afraid,” said Hermione, hoping to ease some of Neville’s worry, “I was nowhere near fit to leave Hogwarts when Neville came for me, I only just remembered to change into something fit for the public.”

Severus turned as she spoke, his face inscrutable but she saw the slight flinch in his features that even years of hiding his emotions could not mask. She met his gaze, barely keeping herself in check as he remained silent but she knew she would have to be the first to speak.

“Hello Severus,” she said, pausing a few feet from him, “It’s…it’s good to see you.”

“Miss Granger,” he said, his voice as measured as she remembered it, “Good afternoon.”

“Hermione!” said Luna, taking hold of her hand, “I’m so glad Neville asked you to come. You look so well.”

“And you look beautiful,” said Hermione, unable to be angry at her friend for breaking the connection she knew nothing about, “That’s a wonderful dress.”

Luna smiled widely, “It was Severus’ mother’s,” she said, turning to look up at the wizard beside her, “He kindly leant it to me.”

“Kind indeed,” said Hermione, meeting Severus’ dark eyes once more.

“Shall we go in?” said the official, hurriedly ushering Neville and Luna in front of him and towards the door.

Hermione fell into step beside Severus as they followed the small party, stealing a glance up at the man beside her as she fought for the words she wanted to say to him.

“Perhaps,” came his deep drawl in the silence, “I should have thought to bring some paper. We seem to communicate better through that medium.”

Hermione laughed, looking up once more to see a quirk at his lips also, “Perhaps,” she said, “I thought we’d have a bit more time to prepare for this moment when I said I wanted to meet you. It is good to see you though. You look well.”

“As do you,” said Severus, “You’re taller than when I saw you last.”

“Grew a couple of inches when we were off hunting,” said Hermione, “I think it was all the fresh air. That and I’m allowed to wear shoes with heels on now I’m not a student anymore.”

Severus spared a glance to her feet as they passed through the door the official had ushered Neville and Luna through, hanging back to let her precede him.

“I do hope, Professor Granger, that you’re not risking such heels as those when teaching,” he said, “No charm could save you from the disaster that could cause.”

Hermione looked back over her shoulder, catching the small smile on his face before returning it with her own, “I assure you, I wear nothing but fur lined boots in that drafty old classroom.”

“Just wait until January starts howling about the castle,” said Severus, “You may wish to practice your warming charms.”

“I’ll bear that in mind,” said Hermione as they entered a small office, the Ministry Official, waving them into two chairs as Neville and Luna took their places before him at the desk.

They fell silent as the ceremony began but Hermione did not hear the words being recited by the couple before them, instead she kept stealing glances at the man beside her, certain that he was a hallucination and about to disappear if she turned her gaze away for too long.

On one such glance, her eyes did not meet his profile but his dark gaze instead, his face unmasked and seemingly puzzled as he regarded her. She smiled shyly, glad when he returned it but she was surprised when she saw him move, holding his hand open to her. She took it, grasping it tightly in the semblance of a handshake but neither of them moved. She released him after a moment, wanting to prolong the contact but content with the brief gesture that marked their transition to friends.

Content at last that he would not disappear, she returned her attention to the couple before them. Severus’ presence warm and reassuring at her side.

Chapter Text

Hermione Granger.

Severus Snape.

Severus looked down at their signatures side by side on the document that confirmed Luna and Neville’s marriage, so used to seeing them separate on the letters they sent that the sight of them in such close proximity made the day feel even more surreal.

The official droned on behind him, telling the newly weds that they would need to vacate the Ministry swiftly as they were only permitted a certain amount of time on an unofficial day. Severus was glad that he would not be called upon to remain in the place any longer than necessary but he resented the fact that his friend and her new husband were being treated as nothing more than a tick box exercise.

His ire was somewhat distracted though, his attention taken with the young woman at his side who had signed her name above his. They had sat side by side in silence throughout the ceremony, occasionally catching each other’s gaze and each time she had given him the same soft smile that he could not fathom out.

When she had not been looking at him though he had taken the opportunity to study her. She still wore the same features she had as a child but her face was slimmer, more sculpted, all evidence of her childhood erased to leave a beautiful young woman. Her hair was as wild as he remembered but she had tamed it into some sort of messy style for the day and he found himself missing the tumble of curls he remembered from her school days.

She had always been slim but she looked even slighter than he remembered, her frame too small as though she did not eat as often as she should. He had turned his gaze away when he began mentally composing a letter to Minerva, intent on insisting she kept a better eye on her newest teacher, wondering why he should be so concerned if the woman beside him was thinner than she should be. He had shaken away the thought of intervening, having been in charge of teenage girls long enough to know that some fought to be as skinny as possible but the woman beside him had never shown such propensity in her youth and he was unsure if that was the reason now.

“Thank you both so much for coming,” said Luna, breaking through Severus’ thoughts as she left the official and returned to them, Neville beaming proudly at her side.

“It was my pleasure,” said Hermione, enveloping them both in a hug, “I can’t believe you two are married.”

“It may take a little while to sink in,” said Luna, “But we’re going to go away for a while in the hope that The Prophet leaves us alone, so we’ve got time to get used to it.”

“Just be sure to travel as anonymously as you can then,” said Severus, “Muggle means might be more conducive to an easy getaway.”

“We’ve got arrangements in hand,” said Neville, shaking his hand with a new found confidence, “But we need to leave shortly if we’re to make it.”

“I’ll come and visit when we get back,” said Luna, raising herself on her toes and pressing a kiss to Severus’ cheek, “Thank you again for the dress, I’ll return it when we’re home.”

“Keep it,” said Severus, “Like I said, it would hardly suit me.”

Luna hugged him briefly, stepping back with a warm smile, “Take care the both of you,” she said her gaze flicking between him and Hermione, “Thank you again.”

They said their final goodbyes; Neville hurrying Luna away to whatever adventures awaited them and leaving Severus and Hermione alone in the little office. He searched for the words to say to her but they would not come as they did on the page and he was glad when she finally broke the silence.

“Well that was definitely one way to spend a Boxing Day afternoon,” said Hermione, smiling up at him once more.

Severus felt his lips quirk upwards in response to the openness on her face, “I was planning on spending the day with the book you gave me,” he said, “You were right, I did own the title but a first edition, signed and annotated by the author himself is quite a treat. All in all though, this was not an unpleasant way to spend the day.”

“And I got my wish as well,” said Hermione, “It’s so good to see you again.”

“Not sentiments you would have expressed when we first started writing to one another,” said Severus, leaning his hip against the desk as he turned to face her properly.

“I think we’ve moved on from that,” said Hermione, “And even when we were at odds, I did want to see you.”

“I’m surprised,” said Severus, “I would have thought I would be the last person you would want to be in the company of.”

Hermione smiled once again, the look somewhat wistful as she regarded him with curious eyes, “Then there is still a lot you need to learn about me it seems,” she said, “The question is do we do that face to face or do we return to our letters? This wasn’t exactly a meeting we planned on.”

Severus felt an odd twist within him as he thought of returning to the safety of their letters, the idea comforting in a way but he felt a strange sense of fear that if they backed out now they would never again think of meeting with one another.

“It just so happens,” he said before his bravery had a chance to flee him, “That I was writing to you before Luna arrived with the intent of inviting you to join me for tea before the New Year. It’s a little late in the day for tea but we could amend that to dinner, if you’re amenable?”

Hermione smiled brightly, “Dinner would be wonderful,” she said, “Do you want to go somewhere our side of town or are you happy to slum it in muggle London?”

Severus felt a small laugh escape him before he could contain it, “I’d hardly call muggle London slumming it but I’m not adverse to leaving our world behind for a while,” he said, “I want to be able to talk to you without people feeling the need to give either one of us their opinion on it.”

“Muggle London it is then,” said Hermione, “Anywhere you would prefer?”

Severus shook his head, not quite believing that they were making such arrangements when they had barely begun to call themselves friends, “I am entirely in your hands,” he said, offering her his arm, “Shall we?”

Hermione slipped her small hand into the crook of his arm, her fingers curling around the warm fabric of his jacket, “I think I have an idea of somewhere you might like,” she said as he led her from the office and into the grand corridors of the Ministry.

They spoke on safe topics as they exited the building, Severus asking about changes at the school and Hermione more than happy to tell him stories of the areas that had been redesigned since he left and the changes to the subjects that were taught.

Silence descended though as they left the Ministry and Hermione hailed them a cab to take them into the more popular areas of London. What began as a comfortable lull in conversation though soon turned into something awkward, the both of them staring silently out of the window as the city raced by.

Severus felt his mood grow dimmer by the moment, wondering how he could return to the easy camaraderie they had found in their letters and then briefly at the Ministry but every idea died before it reached his tongue. The short distance between their seats seemed like a great chasm that screamed of old worries and fears, of house loyalties and blood status and everything else that had ever stood between them.

He had all but given the endeavour up when her soft voice cut through the silence, her words so bizarre that he had to ask her to repeat them for fear he had misheard her.

“If you had to be any animal for the rest of your life, what would you be?” said Hermione again, her face shadowed and only illuminated as the taxi passed below the streetlights.

Severus frowned, “What sort of question is that?” he said, unsure whether to be perturbed or concerned by it.

“No idea,” said Hermione, beneath a nervous giggle, “I needed to break the silence before one of us crawled out of the window and that was the first thing that came into my head.”

“Then I worry that you may have taken leave of your senses,” said Severus, though there was no cruelty in his words, “But at least one of us thought of something to say.”

“I suppose it is easier via letter,” said Hermione, “I have time to think of what I want to say rather than pray I don’t sound like an idiot when I speak.”

“I think it would be difficult for you to sound like an idiot,” said Severus, “You are an intelligent woman.”

“With all the social skills of a jar of beetle eyes,” she replied, “To be honest conversation is an art I’ve lost. My colleagues talk shop and my students talk of Quidditch and homework. It doesn’t help that the majority of the other teachers still see Miss Granger. I might as well be head girl rather than a teacher to some of them.”

“I remember the feeling well,” said Severus, “I was twenty-one when I started teaching and every one of my colleagues had taught me for the majority of my school career. It took a very long time for me to be accepted as part of the staff, even then I think most thought it best to avoid me. It should not take so long for you though; you have a far easier personality than I.”

“Well I’m hardly dealing with what you had to deal with back then,” she said, “Though I do wish it was easier to integrate myself. I suppose I must give it time.”

“You will get there,” said Severus, as the taxi pulled up to the kerb, “You’ve brought us to Soho?”

Hermione giggled, “Don’t be scandalised,” she said, waving him off as she handed the driver the fare through the small window before they exited the cab, “There’s a little jazz bar around the corner that has a nice menu. I thought it might be a good atmosphere. We can talk if we like but there’s music if we can’t find the words. We don’t have to go if I’m being too presumptuous though.”

Severus took her hand, guiding it back to his arm once more, “It sounds like a very good idea,” he said, “Shall we put it to the test?”

She smiled up at him, her eyes bright in the lamplight before she tugged on his arm, pulling him down the street to the bar in question and further into the unknown of their friendship.

 

Chapter Text

The smooth tones of the double bass weaved through the air, mingling with the swirling cigarette smoke and the low conversation. The atmosphere in the bar was relaxed and comfortable, providing ample distraction when they needed it but not intrusive to their conversation when they chose to be communicative.

Hermione had been glad of the venue, enjoying to opportunity to see her former teacher relaxed in a setting that was a world away from their own. They had kept to safe topics throughout dinner but the conversation had been easier than when they were in the cab, both of them determined to push through any awkwardness. The bottle of deep, red wine they had ordered had assisted in the ease between them, the warming buzz flowing through Hermione’s veins and leaving her less nervous around the man at her side.

After they had eaten, they had alternated between light conversation and comfortable silence, sat closer to one another when they had moved their chairs to better see the stage. It was in one such moment of quiet that Hermione turned her attention to Severus, taking his distraction by the music as an opportunity to study him.

She had always thought him striking but her fear and loathing of his actions had kept any other feeling for him at bay. After the revelations of his past and his kindness in his letters, though, she found herself amending her thoughts on his appearance. He wasn’t classically handsome, his looks a world away from the young men she had found attractive in her youth, but his features bore an elegance and a fineness that she could not deny she found appealing. He was pale, made even more so by his raven wing hair, the silver only highlighting the long strands where it weaved between the black.

He was tall and looked strong still, his tailored clothes far less morbid than he had once worn around the halls of Hogwarts. Hermione kept her eyes upon him as he watched the musicians on the stage, his fingers drumming idly against the stem of his wine glass. She wanted nothing more than to reach over and take his hand, the brief moments of contact between them more than she had truly felt with any other person for so long. She hugged her friends on the rare occasions she saw them, receiving the odd kiss on the cheek from several of them but the gentle, almost reverent touches she had received from Severus meant more when a man such as him freely gave them.

“Are you determined to stare a hole right through me?” came Severus’ low drawl, pulling Hermione from her study of him.

She raised her gaze from his hand, meeting his dark eyes with a blush, “Sorry,” she said, “It’s just a little surreal being somewhere like this with you. I’m not quite sure I believe it.”

“I must admit that I’ve been required to remind myself that I am not in some sort of parallel universe,” said Severus, “I have enjoyed our evening though, despite the oddness of it all.”

Hermione smiled, “I have too, so very much,” she said, her hand moving across the expanse of the table until it rested beside his, her fingers open to him, “I’m so glad we got to have this time.”

Severus’ hand twitched beside his glass but it didn’t move to hers as he spoke, “You speak as though this is the only time we will meet,” he said.

Hermione lowered her gaze, concentrating on a small spot of wine that had trickled from her glass onto the tabletop, “I don’t wish to presume.”

“Why not?” said Severus, “You were once so sure and forthright, you still are in your letters but here you have seemed so unsure of yourself.”

“It is easy to maintain some bravado when we have half a country between us,” said Hermione, “But here, you are very real and very much my former teacher and I am not sure how to behave.”

She startled as long, sure fingers tucked beneath her chin, raising her gaze once more.

“Be yourself,” he said, his words carrying far more weight than his tone gave merit too, “Despite our past and all the things I once said, be yourself. I assure you, you are quite charming enough that way and I hope you will grace me with your presence on many more occasions.”

Hermione smiled, “I would love to spend more time with you,” she said, as his hand left her chin taking the one she had left outstretched on the table, “After all, it was my Christmas wish.”

“Then we shall endeavour to make sure we meet regularly,” said Severus, “It will be strange going back to letters after tonight.”

Hermione’s face fell, “Oh please don’t stop writing,” she begged, “I adore your letters.”

“Of course I will still write,” said Severus, “All I mean is that I enjoy a true conversation with you as well and waiting a day for an owl to return your reply will be a little more difficult after tonight.”

“Then we must find another way,” said Hermione as last orders were called at the bar, “I didn’t realise it was so late. We should really make a start back to Diagon Alley if we hope to get there at a decent hour.”

Severus nodded, getting to his feet before helping her to stand, his hand once more pulling hers into the crook of his arm. Hermione admonished him gently as he caught the attention of their server; paying the bill for them both and waving off her protest when he did so.

They headed out into the night, the streets still busy but not so much that the crowds were intrusive. The night was chill but easily countered with wordless warming charms, the pair of them deciding to walk back to the alley rather than take any form of transport. Hermione was glad of it, his presence solid and comforting beside her as they made slow, steady progress through the streets. Her heart grew heavy though as they grew closer and closer to the Leaky Cauldron and the apparition point just beyond, knowing that as soon as they were within their own streets they would separate once more.

They were silent by the time they found themselves in the deserted alley, neither of them wishing to break it with the words that would end their evening.

“You must allow me to escort you to Hogwarts,” said Severus when they could go no further, “The apparition point is outside of the wards and I would feel better if I were to at least see you to the gates at this hour of the night.”

Hermione smiled up at him, “I’ll be fine but if you insist, then I would be grateful,” she said.

“Well then,” said Severus, taking a firmer hold of her arm before he spirited them through the ether to the great gates that marked the boundary of the school.

Hermione looked up at the silhouette of Hogwarts once she felt steady enough to do so, still not keen on apparition even after the number of times she had performed the magic. She felt the tension in Severus’ arm and turned her attention to him, seeing the barely masked anxiety on his face as he too regarded the castle. She longed to ask him inside but she knew it would be met with refusal, too many bad memories tied to the castle for him.

“Thank you,” she said, breaking through his reverie, glad when he looked down on her with a far softer expression, “For bringing me home, for tonight and for your letters. Please write to me soon.”

Severus smiled, the expression still so new to Hermione’s eyes that she could not help but respond with her own.

“I will send something first thing tomorrow but you must promise to do the same,” he said, “Now you should get inside, it’s cold and it’s time for all good former little Gryffindors to be in bed.”

Hermione laughed, “I could say the same about former professors,” she said, her laughter ceasing as he took hold of her hand and raised it to his lips.

“Good night, Hermione,” he said, pressing a fleeting kiss to her knuckles, “Sleep well.”

“You too,” said Hermione, fighting the blush from her cheeks as she forced herself to step away.

She opened the gates, the wards recognising her and letting her through. She turned back as the gate closed, wanting to return to him but knowing that they both had much to think on. With a final smile and a wave of farewell, she turned back to the path that led to the castle, looking back one last time before she reached the bend in the road to see him still standing there. It was only when she had rounded the corner that she heard the crack of apparition that spirited him from her side.

Chapter Text

Severus rolled over with a groan as the alarm sounded on his nightstand, silencing the offending clock with a thump before he buried his face back in the pillow. His body screamed out for sleep but he knew he would not let himself succumb again, regardless of how much he wanted to. Too much of a creature of habit to lie in bed once morning had come.

He had returned home to find it well past one in the morning, the dismal old building even colder and darker than usual for his absence. Even with the fires and candles lit he still felt restless, his mind turning over the day and evening he had spent with Hermione again and again. It had been the most surreal day he had ever spent, he was sure, an odd mix of awkwardness and ease that was hard to fathom out. All he was certain of was that he was determined to ensure he met with her again.

It had been near to five in the morning when he had finally fallen asleep, only two hours before his inconsiderate alarm cut through the hazy dream that faded the moment he woke. Despite his weariness, he dragged himself from his bed, moving automatically through his morning routine before he ventured downstairs dressed for the day.

He was roused from his tea and the book Hermione had given him for Christmas when a light tapping came on his window. He swallowed back the odd sense of excitement that leapt into his throat at the sight of the owl outside, certain it would be a note from Minerva telling him she was coming to visit or a summons from Harry to remind him of his promise to call at Grimmauld Place.

He put the tremble in his hand down to fatigue as he opened the window and took the letter the owl dropped into his hand. The bird wasted no time in leaving him, soon becoming a black dot on the horizon but Severus had recognised it all the same, one of the owls kept by Hogwarts to convey messages from he school. He turned the letter over, a smile coming unbidden to his face as he recognised his friend’s now familiar writing.

He wasted no time in shutting the window and hurrying from the kitchen into the more welcoming warmth of the living room, the seal on the letter broken before he had even sat down to read.

My Dear Severus,

It’s barely thirty minutes since we said goodbye but already it feels like hours. Thank you so much for this evening, I know it was completely unplanned and a little awkward at times but I enjoyed spending time with you. I can’t remember when I last had such an enjoyable night.

I never once thought when I wrote to you before the beginning of term that we would find ourselves here but I am so glad we are.

There’s so much more that I want to write but I fear that it will be incoherent as my thoughts are so muddled at the moment. I couldn’t sleep without writing to you though. I’m still not sure that I will be able to anyway if I own the truth.

Please write to me when you can, even if you have no desire to meet with me again then please continue to write. Receiving your words on the page is such a joy to me.

I would say goodnight again but it will be morning by the time this arrives so it comes with my wishes that you have a wonderful day.

With affection,

Hermione.

Severus ran a thumb absently over her signature, wondering if she had indeed found rest after writing to him. His mind threw up images of his former chambers, the ones he had once inhabited, wondering what changes she had made. The once dreary rooms transformed in his head to something bright and vibrant, the light from the lake no longer eerie but ethereal and lovely. He wondered if she had retained any of the old furniture he had had there, if her letters were written at the worn desk with the chip in the corner from where he had absently dropped a cauldron in his first term as potions master.

He shook away any further thoughts, unwilling to let his mind wander into other rooms when it was in consideration of his young friend. Instead, he read the letter through once more, feeling each word as though they were etching themselves upon his very being.

He moved to his desk, placing her letter in the almost full cubby that held all the others she had sent to him, not a single one having been left anywhere where he could not account for it. He paused only a moment when he had picked up his quill, the parchment already in place as had become his custom since their letter became almost a daily occurrence, before he began to write.

Dear Hermione,

I was happily surprised to find your letter this morning; I feared I would have to wait a day or so to hear from you again. However unplanned our evening was, I am glad it came to pass. I enjoyed your company and your conversation, even when you were asking me what animal I would wish to be.

I too would never have believed that you and I could have formed the bond we have in such a short time but now it is there I have no wish to give it up. I will write to you as often as I may but I hope we can meet again as well and soon. I fear letters will no longer be enough now that I have had the privilege to spend time with you in person again.

I challenged you last night in regards to your forthrightness but maybe I should heed my own words and in the spirit of that, I have question. If you have no other plans, would you consent to spending New Year’s Eve with me? I would leave the details to you if you don’t mind though, I am not well practiced in evenings such as last night but you seem quite successful at picking a venue for us. I have no preference over magical or muggle, all I would ask is that it be somewhere we can converse and where you would be comfortable spending time with me. I imagine you will have plans already though so if we cannot meet then, maybe we can arrange sometime before term starts if you can spare the time.

I hope this letter finds you rested and happy and I hope to hear from you soon.

Fondly,

Severus.

Chapter Text

Severus was sure there had never been a longer twenty-four hours than he had experienced since he had written to Hermione inviting her to spend New Year’s Eve with him. He had begun to wish that he had apparated to the gates of Hogwarts and delivered his letter himself, relying on owls adding too long to the letters’ journeys. He knew the period of time between their letters was no more than usual but he had never anticipated an answer so much despite his attempts at nonchalance as he had set about his day.

Sleep had at least brought some respite from the anticipation, the lack thereof the night before meaning he had fallen asleep within moments but it was then that his subconscious had decided to be treacherous. Throughout the night, his dreams had been filled with his previous encounters with his former student, each one thrown into harsh relief as the image of her as a child was changed to that of her as a woman. He saw himself tearing her down, belittling her intelligence and her questions, even teasing her about her appearance and each time he saw the beautiful woman he had come to admire crumple and fall beneath the cruelty of his words.

He had woken with a start, darkness still hanging over the house and for several moments the dream refused to leave him and it took him a moment to remember he was no longer a teacher and his relationship with Hermione had changed from the forced enmity of the past. He had risen early, unwilling to fall back to sleep and risk the disturbing dreams but it had made the morning over long, the feeling not helped when the time Hermione’s owl normally arrived came and went.

He cursed the weather outside, the howling sleet enough to slow the bird’s progress he was sure and he decided to distract himself with work until it pushed through, several potions orders waiting to be filled. He had no need to offer brewing services, having enough money saved after spending the majority of his life at Hogwarts but the work gave him a small sense of purpose, his few clients not bothered by his past when his prices were cheaper than the majority of people who used the art of potion making for their own gain.

The work held his attention for a while but every so often, he would glance towards the window in the kitchen, hoping to see one of the familiar school owls outside. He thought he had finally taken leave of his senses when he heard a knock echo through the house but the window remained empty and it was only when the sound came again that he realised it was the door.

He pushed aside any thought that it would be Hermione; certain she would let him know her intentions before visiting. He drew his wand, unwilling to be taken by surprise if it was anyone of ill intent at the door, lowering the wards before he opened it and taken aback by the witch standing there.

“Minerva?” he said in confusion, the witch never one to arrive unannounced.

“Apologies for being late, Severus,” she said, “I got absorbed in my paperwork.”

Severus gave her a blank look, the exasperated one he received in return letting him know that he had forgotten something.

“It is the twenty-eighth is it not?” said Minerva, “Last time we met you invited me for tea today.”

The conversation suddenly replayed itself in his memory and he stepped aside with a sigh, “You must accept my apologies Minerva,” he said, “It completely slipped my mind. I always lose track over the holidays these days.”

“If it’s inconvenient…”

“No, no, please come in,” said Severus stepping aside and letting her pass, helping her with her cloak as he did so.

“You’ve been working,” said Minerva, as she headed towards the kitchen, “Though you normally do so in your study.”

“The…light was a little poor in there,” said Severus, not wishing to admit that he had moved there in the view that it would be easier to see a mail owl arrive, “It won’t take me a moment to clear.”

“No need,” said the witch, “There’s still space on the counter to make tea and I would prefer to sit in the parlour anyway.”

Severus laughed a little bitterly, “Even a hundred years ago this dreary old place wouldn’t have had a room referred to as a parlour but go and make yourself comfortable, I’ll bring the tea through in a moment.”

Minerva gave him an indulgent smile before she left him, making her way through the house with an ease that spoke of the time she had spent there. It had been she who had spent the first few months of his recovery as his self-appointed nursemaid, her wrath terrible despite his injuries when she had discovered he had discharged himself from St Mungo’s. Despite his protests at the time he was glad she had come, certain he would have perished from either his still critical wounds or his own hand in the state he had been in. She had been a patient nurse, putting up with his tantrums and his tears and he had slowly recovered, his emotional wounds healing alongside the physical ones but, like the scars upon his body, he still bore the evidence of his trauma on his soul.

Minerva knew that better than anyone, he was sure, and her visits were as much to check up on him as to take tea with an old friend. He was grateful to her though, her perseverance with him bringing him into the world anew and giving him the chance to find the life he was emerging into.

He carried the tea tray into the living room when it was prepared, finding Minerva happily settled in her customary seat and they swiftly fell into familiar conversation. He was soon up to speed on the news regarding his former colleagues and the developments at the school before Minerva moved on to the works she was planning to implement there.

“Which reminds me…” said the witch as she finished laying out her plans for expanding the classroom space in the dungeons, “My new Potions Mistress asked me to bring you this.”

Severus felt the familiar frisson of anticipation as Minerva reached into her pocket and drew out a letter bearing Hermione’s familiar writing.

“I bumped into her on the way to the owlery this morning and mentioned I was coming to visit you,” she said as he took the letter from her hand, “I did not realise you were still corresponding. She mentioned you had offered some advice in regards to her teaching. I’m glad she has you as a mentor, she needs a strong father figure in her life.”

The words were enough to douse any happy feeling the receipt of Hermione’s letter had induced in Severus, his eyes moving from the study of his name in her elegant hand to the witch before him, “Father figure?” he said, the words catching in his throat.

“Oh I know your history is less than stellar with her,” said Minerva with a wave of her hand, “But I believe she of all people understands why you behaved as you did back then and she will see beyond it. She has lost her own father in the ways that truly count and I believe you could step into that role. Give her someone strong and intelligent to look up to. She was very keen to have me pass on her best wishes to you.”

“We are…acquaintances,” said Severus, feeling a knot within his gut at her words, “But I hardly think I would be suitable to be thought of as a father.”

“Nonsense,” said Minerva, “You are the right age, you’re very similar in mind set and intelligence and you both know the horrors of war. She could do far worse than to look to you for guidance. Just be gentle with her, for one so young she has been through so much and the situation with Mr Weasley was very hard on her. I know you of all people will treat her honourably though. She needs someone to protect and nurture her now.”

Any upset over his own feelings was swiftly pushed aside as he heard the genuine concern in Minerva’s words, “I am not aware of the particulars,” he said, “Only what was callously reported in The Prophet and the brief details Miss Granger has alluded to in her letters. Were things far worse than I believe them to be?”

Minerva gave him a quizzical look and he realised the concern in his voice was far more pronounced than she had ever heard before.

“I will leave Hermione to tell you all the details in her own time,” she said, “It is her story to share but I think you will help her. Give her someone to look up to again. I think she could revitalise you too. I always thought you would make a good father.”

“Being headmistress has addled your brain old friend,” said Severus, hoping to deflect her from voicing her thoughts on his potential as a father, “Perhaps you should defer to Hagrid and accept your retirement.”

“Insolent boy!” said Minerva though there was only humour in her words, “I’ll have you know that I am in my prime and a good few years away from retirement.”

The words were enough it seemed to divert her and soon she had described several more plans she had for the school during what she planned to be a long tenure as headmistress. The conversation remained on a similar theme until the clock on the mantle chimed the hour, Minerva looking up in surprise before she set down her teacup.

“Goodness me, I didn’t realise it was so late,” she said, “I promised Hermione we could have dinner together this evening and I’d hate to leave her on her own. You could come too if you like; you’re always welcome at the school.”

Severus wanted beyond anything to say yes, the treacherous word nearly wrenching itself from his throat without his consent but he beat it back, too many bad memories of the castle and the years he had spent there weighing him down and he had no wish to present himself to Hermione with such a crisis upon him.

“I thank you but no,” he said, “My time at Hogwarts is long since over. Do pass on my regards to Miss Granger though.”

“Of course,” said Minerva, getting to her feet, “I do so wish you’d at least allow me to connect your fireplace to the floo network. It would make it easier to get here, apparating is a pain. I could make it secure, just between here and Hogwarts.”

“I will think about it,” said Severus, following her into the hallway and helping her into her cape before he pressed a fond kiss to her cheek, “Safe home, old friend.”

“Take care of yourself,” she said, “Let’s not leave so long between meetings next time, I miss your conversation at the castle.”

“I’ll write and we can put something in the diary,” he said as she opened the door, “Good luck for the start of the new term, hopefully the little hellions won’t give you too much bother.”

“Let’s hope,” said Minerva, “Good evening Severus.”

“Goodbye,” said Severus as she stepped out into the street.

He closed and warded the door, knowing she would find a safe space to apparate from and that she was more than capable of defending herself against any muggle with nefarious intent.

It was only when she had left that her earlier words hit home once more. He turned his gaze through to door to the living room and saw Hermione’s letter sat on the arm of his chair, the unopened note calling out to him as it always did but, for the first time in a long time, he feared to open it. Would it contain a denial of his request to spend time with him? Or even if it didn’t, would her sentiments begin to reflect those Minerva spoke of?

The greatest question to bother him however was why the thought of her seeing him as a father figure brought so much pain to what he secretly suspected was his heart?

Chapter Text

He was miserable and misery loved company that made it even more miserable, or so Severus decided when he found himself standing outside Grimmauld Place. He had woken late that morning having taken to his bed early when Hermione’s unread letter had proved too much of a distraction. His dreams had been as haunted as the night before only now he saw himself as part of her life, cast in the role of protector and mentor, forced to the side lines as he watched her life play out with every act as it should be.

He had woken in a darker mood than he remembered being in for a long time and the house had felt too claustrophobic for him to remain there. He hadn’t given much thought to his destination when he had apparated away but his senses had come to him when he found himself outside the house he had not seen since before the end of the war.

He had contemplated leaving but he recalled the promise he had made Harry before Christmas and he was not about to go back on his word. He climbed the few steps, the slush that passed for snow in London sliding beneath his boots, before he rapped sharply on the door.

At first, he thought no one was home but then the locks were thrown back and the door opened, revealing the familiar face that had gone from a perceived enemy to an accepted acquaintance.

“Severus?” said Harry, opening the door wider, “Come in, we were just talking about you this morning.”

“And like the proverbial devil I appear,” said Severus.

Harry laughed, the sound alien when Severus had only ever heard it distantly, the boy never having had cause to do so in his presence. It was no boy that stood before him now though, he was a man as battered and battle hardened as Severus was, and it gave them a kinship that went beyond the connection Severus had once had to his mother.

“Nothing so bad,” said Harry, “We were just hoping you’d come by.”

Harry stepped back, letting him step inside. The house retained some of its morbid façade but it had been vastly improved by the work Harry and Ginny had done to it, the Christmas lights adding a degree of cheer where they were strung throughout the house.

“Is Miss Weasley home?” said Severus as he followed Harry down the familiar path into the kitchen, the long, thin room still the most homely it seemed.

Harry nodded, “She was using the floo but she could be anywhere now,” he said, “I swear one of us can wander off in this place and we’ll lose each other for the rest of the day. It’s worse than Hogwarts. She’ll come nosing when she hears another voice though.”

“Did you have a pleasant Christmas?” said Severus, the small talk making him cringe inside as he took his once customary place at the table.

“It was busy,” said Harry, “We spent it at the Burrow and all but Charlie were there. Molly likes to have everyone nearby at Christmas. It was nice to come home to some quiet yesterday. How about you?”

“Quite the opposite,” said Severus, “I spent the day alone, no familial ruckus for me.”

“You would have been welcome,” said Harry, frowning as he realised his own words, “Well…Ginny and I would have tried to make you welcome and Arthur asks after you often.”

“Two out of how many of the Weasley clan?” said Severus, “I thank you, as always, for the offer Harry but it was right for me to decline. Besides, I got to spend time with a wonderful book and that suited me very well.”

Harry shook his head, “I wouldn’t have the patience to read all day,” he said, “But then, we’re quite different people. That reminds me though; Tonks’ parents brought me a load of things that they found amongst Remus’ possessions a while ago. Most of it was stuff of my Dad’s but there were some of Mum’s things there too and there’s something I wanted you to have.”

Harry crossed to the tall welsh dresser, taking an envelope from one of the drawers and handing it to Severus.

“He looked like you,” he said by way of explanation as Severus opened the envelope and drew out the photograph from within, “It’s muggle though so I wasn’t sure.”

Severus felt torn between a smile and a bitter sob as he looked down at the long forgotten picture, taken on the platform at Kings Cross before he and Lily boarded the train to Hogwarts for the first time.

“Your grandfather took this,” he said, “My parents didn’t come that day so he and your grandmother took me with them. I didn’t even remember he’d taken this before now. We were so young.”

“Keep it,” said Harry, “It’s as much yours…”

“No,” said Severus, placing the picture before him on the table, “I can’t imagine you have all that many images of your mother from that time. It’s yours Harry, you keep it and before you argue, know that I will not bend. My history with your mother and the memories of that, much I will always carry them with me, are my past. I need to build a new life but this…she is so much a part of you and you I will not take anything from the few things you have of her.”

Harry looked down at the image on the table between them, a small half smile on his face, “Well if you ever want me to get a copy done then let me know,” he said, looking up as footsteps echoed in the hallway, “Ginny! We’ve got a visitor.”

“I thought I heard voices,” said the young woman as she appeared in the doorway, a small smudge of soot on her cheek showing that she had just come from using the floo, “Hello Professor.”

“Good afternoon Miss Weasley,” he replied, “I trust we didn’t interrupt your conversation.”

“Not at all, I was just starting to say goodbye when you arrived,” said Ginny looking at the table between him and Harry with a tut, “You could at least have been hospitable, Harry. Hermione sends her regards by the way; she refused to come for New Year though.”

Severus feigned interest in the grain of the table at the mention of Hermione’s name as Ginny moved passed him to the stove and set the kettle to boil.

“Oh really, why?” said Harry, “You did tell her that it would just be you, me, George and Angelina right?”

“Of course,” said Ginny, “She said she had other plans, seemed rather excited about them too. I haven’t heard her this happy in a long time. She was pretty cagey about it all but when I asked what she was doing she said she was waiting to hear back from a mysterious him.”

“A him?” said Harry, “You don’t think…”

“Well she sounded a bit whimsical and she’s not been that way for a long time,” said Ginny, “Whoever this man is, he’s got my vote for getting her smiling. All she said was he had invited her to spend New Year with him and she was waiting to hear back from him on the details. She said he was a friend but I don’t know anymore. Sorry Professor Snape, doubt you’ve got much interest in gossip about your former students."

Severus heard his name mentioned but it took him a moment to realise he was actually being addressed, Ginny’s words unravelling the knot that had been forming in his stomach since Minerva’s visit the day before.

“No need for apologies, Ginny,” he said, seeing the shock on the young woman’s face at his use of her first name, “But you mentioning New Year has put me in mind of an engagement I had quite forgotten. If you’ll excuse me, I must cut this visit short. I will visit again in early January if I am welcome too.”

Harry followed him to his feet, concern and confusion on his face, “Of course,” he said, “But what’s so pressing that you have to leave so suddenly?”

“A private matter I must attend to,” said Severus heading towards the door, his hurried steps enough to wake up Mrs Black, her noise from upstairs still audible despite the numerous enchantments that had quieted the painting’s ramblings.

“Promise you’ll come again,” said Harry, stopping him at the door, “I swear I won’t talk about mum if you don’t want me to.”

Severus shook his head, “I’m not leaving because of that,” he said, “And you are welcome to talk about your mother as much as you want and I will answer what questions I can in the absence of those who knew her better when she was older. I will see you in the New Year you have my word. Apologise to Miss Weasley again for me.”

He opened the door, hearing Harry call out a farewell as he hurried down the steps and around the corner to the alleyway that had always proved to be a safe apparition point. He made a cursory glance around himself, happy there were no muggles nearby before he turned on the spot, opening his eyes as he found himself in the place he always chose near to his home.

If it not for the wish to avoid drawing attention to himself he would have run the short distance to his house, his mind focused on the letter that he had left unopened. He felt the wards to his home grow stronger as he approached and he soon realised that someone had been there, the pattern slightly changed but not so much that they had been broken. He increased his pace, reaching the door in moments to notice the shimmer of a charm beneath the knocker.

He set a hand where he saw the magic, a piece of parchment revealing itself at his touch. He opened it, surprise at seeing the familiar writing that changed to disappointment that he had missed her calling on him. He smiled though as he read her hurried words, the penmanship wobbly where she had been forced to lean against the door.

Severus,

I wish you’d been in. I’m sorry I came without word but I had to see you. I was wondering why you had not replied to me and then I spoke to Minerva. She said she had spoken to you about me when she visited and she told me what she said.

Please, please don’t think I’m looking for you to replace my father or act in such a way with me. I have much to learn from you I know but I need a friend. I want you to be my friend.

I hope I’m just being silly and anxious because you haven’t written back. I feel silly and anxious standing on your doorstep and writing this but please believe me that I didn’t just reach out because of what happened with my parents.

I’ll stop now, I’m rambling terribly and you probably think me utterly witless. Just write soon, please.

Hermione.

Severus folded the letter with a reverence that far outweighed the value of the paper. The words though were far too precious just to be crumpled in a pocket, the strange sense of hope fluttering once more because of it though he refused to acknowledge it further than the thought of finding a friend in the writer.

He swiftly lowered the wards and entered the house, smiling at the sight of her other letter still on the arm of his chair and he wasted no time in picking it up and breaking the seal on it.

My Dear Severus,

I would be honoured to spend New Year’s Eve with you. I have no other plans but even if I did, I can think of no one else I would rather spend the time with.

I worry I will not pick well in regards to a venue though; I do not know your likes and dislikes enough to make a good judgement. I believe I got lucky with the bar the other night. I would prefer that we went somewhere muggle rather than magical though, if you do not mind. My name is still fair game in the opinion of many journalists and I’d rather them not make assumptions about you if you are seen with me.

Tell me some of the things you enjoy, other than what I can try to guess at from our past, and I will do my best to find somewhere suitable. I know all I too want is to spend time in a place where I can enjoy your conversation and I promise to think of far more pertinent questions this time. As for my comfort though, I am quite content in your company wherever we may be.

Write soon, dear friend, and let me know. I wait to hear from you.

Affectionately,

Hermione.

Severus looked over to his desk as he read the last line; parchment, ink and quill ready for his reply but it would be early morning at best when she would receive anything by owl and he needed more than words on a page to make sense of everything that had taken up residence in his mind. Minerva and Ginny’s contradicting words and Hermione’s letters leaving him only certain of the thought that he needed to hear her voice and watch her expression as she spoke to him. To work out if he would truly be father or friend to her.

Without a second thought, he pocketed both letters and headed back to the front door, the heavy slam echoing through the house as he headed back out into the chill of the December afternoon.

Chapter Text

Hermione stared morosely into the flames in her fireplace, the usual peace of her chambers beneath the lake having fled, leaving behind a sense of wretchedness and dread. She cursed her foolishness for having gone to Severus’ house without invitation and even more so for leaving a hastily scribbled note under the doorknocker when she had found no one home.

She had been relieved, in a sense, that he had not been there, unprepared as she was to speak to him in anyway that would be coherent but she worried that her note would have sounded too desperate.

She had not stopped to think when Minerva had told her of discussion with Severus and the words she had used to describe their relationship. The older witch clearly acting out of what she believed were the best interests of the pair, keen to see her best student and now youngest teacher take counsel and seek learning from her former professor but in declaring him a father, Hermione had worried what damage she had done to her blossoming friendship with the man.

She knew Severus hated to be forced into roles and to call him a father figure would serve no purpose save to distance them in age and experience even further than they were already aware of. She had no desire to think of him in such a way. She had much to learn from him she knew, both on the subject they shared and in other areas as well, but she knew he could learn from her too though it would only be possible if they were equals.

With a huff, she got to her feet once more, worrying a nail between her teeth as she paced in front of the fireplace. She wanted to summon her cloak and head back out into the snow. Return to his house and retrieve the letter she had pinned to the door but she had no wish to risk seeing him if he had returned home. If he arrived when she was in the process of removing the note he would no doubt think her strange and desperate, if she arrived after he had read it then she dreaded to think of the words he would say to her.

She felt tears burn her eyes, panic rising in her throat at the thought of him thinking ill of her. The familiar crushing feeling his acquaintance had been slowly lifting returned to her, the emptiness she had felt since the end of the war reasserting itself in the wake of her misstep. She was tempted to crawl into her bed and weep until she fell asleep but she galvanised herself against it, needing her strength if she had to carry on alone again.

“Professor Granger?”

Hermione gave a squeal of surprise as she span to face the voice addressing her, dropping her gaze to the little house elf that stood before her.

“Oh you gave me a fright,” she said, covering her racing heart with her hand as it slowed, “I’m sorry. What can I do for you?”

“Professor Granger has a visitor at the gates,” said the elf.

Any pace Hermione’s heart had lost picked up once more, “And who is this visitor?” she said, hope and trepidation warring in her chest beneath the racing organ.

“Professor…former… Professor Snape,” said the elf, “He’s says he does not want to come inside but promises not to keep Professor Granger out in the cold for too long.”

Hermione’s cloak was in her hand within a moment and she pulled it on as she tried to steady her nerves, “Could you take me to him?” she asked, “Please? It will take me forever to get there from here.”

“Misty is at Professor Granger’s service,” said the little elf, taking Hermione’s hand and speeding her through the ether to the gates.

Hermione opened her eyes once more as Misty tugged on her hand, finding the fog heavy around the castle grounds as the afternoon slowly gave way to evening. Still, despite the gloom, she could make out the tall, black-clad figure a short distance from her at the gates.

“Thank you,” she said to the elf, “You can leave us now. I’ll make my own way back.”

Misty nodded before she blinked away, leaving Hermione alone to find her courage. She drew her cloak around her, wishing she were dressed in something more refined than jeans and a moth eaten black jumper that had seen better days, and headed towards the gates, knowing that he had seen her when he approached the bars as close as the wards would allow.

It was his smile, the gentle quirk of his lips that seemed only for her, that buoyed her confidence and she hurried her footsteps to the gate, throwing it open and stepping out into the crisp snow to meet him.

“Severus,” she said, her voice catching in the chill of the air, “What are you doing here?”

“How could I have stayed home?” he said, reaching for her hand, “I could not justly answer either of your letters on the page and I…”

“I needed to see you too,” said Hermione covering his hand with her own even as she lowered her gaze from his, “I’m sorry I came to your house like that but when Minerva told me what she said to you, I had to put it right. Please tell me you didn’t believe a word of it? She meant well of course but for her to even think that I needed you to replace my father, it couldn’t be further from the truth and I…”

“Hermione,” said Severus, cutting her off and pulling her attention back to him, “Your note made Minerva’s misunderstanding quite clear. I can see how easily she came to the conclusion though. I am old enough to be your father.”

“Barely,” said Hermione with a smile, “You would have been hardly more than a boy yourself.”

“Harry’s parents would be my age were they living,” said Severus.

“And I’m nearly a full year older than him,” answered Hermione, “Biologically and socially, yes you are old enough to have been my father but that does not mean, whatever spin my employer wishes to place on it now, that that is the relationship I seek with you. I asked you to be my friend Severus and that’s still what I want from you. Surely you do not see me as a daughter?”

“Not in the slightest, you’re far too becoming to be any of mine,” said Severus before his smile turned mocking, “Besides, I would never own to a Gryffindor.”

His words broke the tension between them and Hermione laughed in a way she could not remember having done in several long years, delighting as she heard his yet reserved laughter in return.

“Well I would never own to a Slytherin either, you wicked man,” she said as she recovered herself, “Oh I was dreading this conversation but I should know us better by now.”

“Do not ever feel like you cannot talk to me,” said Severus, “No more silly letters pinned to the door knocker proclaiming yourself anxious to speak to me. From now on, let us make a promise that neither of us will feel unable to speak with the other, be as candid with me as you wish and I will do the same. We are friends and I like us to be very good friends one day.”

Hermione smiled, “I do believe we are very firmly on that path already,” she said, “And I will make the promise you ask for. No more notes pinned to the door.”

“No, you will knock and come in for tea,” said Severus.

“That had been my intent earlier today except you weren’t home,” said Hermione, “I will make sure to arrange a time that you’re in for my next panic attack.”

“A good idea,” replied Severus, as Hermione shivered, “Forgive me, I’m keeping you in this awful weather.”

“Nothing a warming charm can’t fix. Or a walk,” she said, “Would you accompany me? We still have an hour until sundown.”

“It would be my pleasure,” said Severus, guiding her hand into the crook of his arm, “Lead the way.”

Hermione turned them towards the mountains, leading them around the border of the school grounds but away from the direction of Hogsmeade, having no wish to encounter anyone they might know as they walked. They were silent for a few moments, content in each other’s presence and the understanding between them. Hermione though could not keep silent for long as she raised her gaze to his familiar features, happy to see them set in a far more relaxed expression than the scowls she had grown used to as his student.

“We’ve addressed the content of one of my letters. The silliest one,” she said, “But the other had far more pertinent questions in it. I worry I do not know you well enough to find a suitable outing for us on New Years Eve. I wouldn’t want to disappoint you.”

“I sincerely doubt you could disappoint me but I also doubt you can learn enough in this next hour to make the judgement you wish to,” said Severus, “But, if you please, ask what you think you need to know about me and I will answer.”

“Oh,” said Hermione, stopping them in their tracks, “I hadn’t given particular questions much thought. I haven’t a clue what to ask you. If you were muggleborn, I’d ask you about your favourite films and music and what you were like in primary school but for you, they seem foolish questions.”

“Not foolish at all. Though I cannot offer any comment on primary school as the only experience I had of that was walking passed the wretched building and wondering what the other children did there all day,” said Severus, covering her hand where it rested on his arm, “As for my preference for the mediums you suggested, I am not so restricted to our world that I know nothing of them though I sincerely doubt my tastes would appeal.”

“Why don’t you try me and see?” said Hermione, “Come now, we promised to be honest and candid with one another.”

“And if I were to mention the name Lon Chaney to you?”

Hermione smiled, “Then I would tell you that I love The Unknown,” she answered, clinging to his arm a little tighter as she saw the surprise upon his face, “See, maybe we have more in common than a shared classroom.”

“Maybe we do,” said Severus, keeping her close as they continued to walk through the snow.

Chapter Text

S,

Meet you at the gates of Hogwarts at 6pm. Smart, casual muggle dress and bring a coat.

Can’t wait to see what you make of what I have planned.

H xx

Severus regarded the note on his nightstand, the small clock next to it counting down the minutes until he could leave to meet with her. They had parted at Hogwarts two nights before, Hermione promising to have an evening planned that would suit them both on the thirty-first. He had received her note the evening before, the short missive bringing with it a frisson of anticipation as his thumb had traced against the small marks next to her initial.

He had worried that he would have no muggle dress suitable, only owning one or two pieces for when he was required to mingle amongst the people of his hometown. He had found something that he thought suitable but now, standing in front of the long, age mottled mirror in the door of his closet, he considered throwing the entire outfit off and finding something else.

A brief glance at the clock again told him he didn’t have long enough to change and he reached up with a low growl to adjust the grey paisley cravat at his throat. He worried it looked too old fashioned, despite the muggle shirt he wore, but it was necessary to hide the scar at his throat. He was not proud when it came to his looks, far too used to being referred to as pale and ugly throughout his life, but the jagged pink scar that wrapped his throat from his right ear to beneath his jaw on the left was too much of a reminder of the life he had nearly lost.

It had been Luna’s gentle sympathy the first time she had seen it that had prompted him to always where high collars and neckties when he was to be seen in public, unable to see the pity in the eyes of those who made the scar the focal point of his suffering. He dreaded the thought of Hermione ever wearing the same look as Luna had, the idea of appearing weak before her making him almost long to send an owl cancelling their outing.

He pushed the thought aside the moment it came to him, knowing that the evening before them, whatever she had planned, would no doubt be one of the best he would know. He had found a friend and a confidante in Hermione that he had not even realised he needed. Her conversation and her wit enough to challenge and inspire him when they spoke but he valued the quiet times just as much, enjoying to chance merely to be in the presence of the young woman who had come to mean so much to him in such a short time.

Deciding there was little more he could do to approve his appearance, he pulled on the grey-wool jacket he had dug out of the back of the wardrobe, the black collar and turn-back cuffs a contrast to the white of his shirt. It was as close to as he could come to muggle dress and he hoped it was suitable for what Hermione had planned for them. He pocketed his wand before dragging on a heavy outer coat, unsure of their destination or the level of cold they would be facing.

With a brief glance at her note once more, he left his bedroom and hurried down the stairs to the front door. The weather outside was bitterly cold but the night was clear as he hurried through the streets dotted with people heading out for the evening’s festivities. A few greeted him and he nodded gruffly in return, finding he felt less ill humour for the people he dwelt with than he had previously but he gave it no more than a passing thought as he found his preferred place to apparate from.

He checked around him, glad to find the streets deserted before he called Hogwarts to his mind, spinning on the spot and feeling the familiar tug as he was pulled into the spell. He opened his eyes as he felt the magic leave him, meeting the bright eyes of his friend as she stepped away from the closed gates, her hands taking hold of his as she beamed up at him.

“Hello Severus,” she said, her voice catching in the chill of the air, “Are you ready?”

“I am in your hands,” he said, “Where are we headed?”

“London,” said Hermione, “Covent Garden to start. Do you know anywhere other than Diagon Alley we can apparate to? It’s going to be stupidly packed there.”

“There is a place not far from Covent Garden that is usually devoid of muggles if you want to risk it?” said Severus.

Hermione smiled, “We’ll convince them they’ve had too much Christmas cheer if they see us,” she said, loosing his hand in favour of taking hold of his arm and pressing herself to his side, “Ready whenever you are.”

Severus pushed away the sensation of her pressed so tightly against him, summoning his magic once more and transporting them both. She kept tight hold of his arm as they reappeared in the shadows of an ill-lit alley in Holborn, the sounds of the city swirling around them but they found themselves thankfully alone.

“I suggest you don’t come to this part of town alone,” said Severus, “Despite your skill with hexes, Diagon Alley is safer if you are alone.”

Hermione smiled at the concern in his voice, looking up at him as they headed towards the main street and the lamplight, “I promise I won’t come here unless you’re by my side,” she said, glad she knew where she was going once they reached the road, “I hope you like what I have planned for this evening.”

“I told you that all I required was your company,” said Severus, “Anything else is acceptable if that remains constant.”

Hermione blushed, “Even so, I want you to enjoy yourself,” she said, “I thought it best we start with dinner then we’ll head to the main event.”

“And does this main event have a title or do I need to wait and see?” asked Severus.

“It’s a surprise,” said Hermione, “But I think you’ll enjoy it.”

“Keep your secrets then,” said Severus though there was no reproach in his tone, “I trust you.”

“Thank you,” said Hermione holding his arm a little tighter, “From you that is a very great compliment and I promise I will never give you cause to regret it.”

They continued in companionable silence, the other people out enjoying the evening fading into nothing but background noise as they walked through the crowded streets. They finally reached the small restaurant that Hermione had chosen for them, a quiet muggle place down several flights of stairs from the main square but it was still busy on such an evening. Hermione, however, had had the foresight to book a table for them and they were soon led to a small table set for two in the corner.

Severus tried not to let his displeasure show on his face when it was the waiter and not he that pulled the chair out for her to sit on but any emotion was replaced by awed surprise as the young waiter helped her off with her heavy winter coat. Gone were the school robes, the casual jeans or even the modest dress that she had worn to Luna’s wedding; replaced by an elegant, sleeveless cocktail dress in the deepest indigo save for the band of white at the hem. He had only seen her look so becoming twice before, once when she had been too young to capture more than his brief glance at the Yule Ball in her fourth year and then again when she had held his gaze for slightly longer at Slughorn’s party in her sixth when propriety and preoccupation had pulled his attention away. Now though, he was free to gaze and free to admire.

“You look quite beautiful, Hermione,” he said, the words out of his mouth before he had time to check them but the sudden blush and shy smile that came to his companion chased away any regret for the unguarded remark.

“Thank you,” she said raising her gaze, “You look quite well yourself. I never pictured you in muggle clothes but they suit you."

Severus was certain his expression matched hers as he handed off his own coat to the waiter, the both of them trying in vain to play at nonchalance as they took their seats. It was Hermione who finally broke the sudden silence upon them, her smile teasing as she addressed him.

“So tell me Severus, did you ever envision yourself at dinner with the bushy-haired, insufferable Gryffindor know-it-all?”

Severus laughed, “I don’t recall referring to you as bushy-haired,” he said, “Either way though, I would never have envisioned this but then, I never imagined I would live to see you at an age where this would be acceptable.”

Hermione laid her hand over his on the table as she heard the change in his tone, “Well I’m glad you did,” she said, before she smiled teasingly, “Now, what do you say to champagne? I’m old enough now you know.”

“Don’t be cheeky,” said Severus, turning his hand until her palm rested in his, “I think I preferred it when you were terrified of me.”

“Now we both know that isn’t true,” said Hermione, turning her attention to the menu laid out on the table before her, neither of them passing comment on the fact that their hands remained joined as they did so.

Chapter Text

“No! No! No! Stop it!” cried Hermione in dismay, “I’m going to be sick. Flitwick? Seriously?”

“Upon my honour as a reformed Death Eater, Professor Granger, I tell you no lies,” said Severus with a wicked smile. “Minerva was witness to the event also, if you need verification.”

“You do realise I have to work with him,” said Hermione dropping her face into her hands. “I’ll never be able to look him in the eye again.”

“It’s a good job he barely comes higher than your waist then,” said Severus.

“Considering the story you’ve just told me that is ten times worse than having to make eye contact,” groaned Hermione. “You’re a wicked man, Severus.”

“Did you ever think otherwise?” he said, picking up the champagne bottle from the ice bucket beside the table and making to pour it into her empty glass, frowning as nothing came out. “We appear to have run dry on the libations. Shall I order another?”

Hermione raised her head and glanced at the watch on her wrist. “Best not,” she said, “The night is yet young and we have somewhere to be soon. If I drink much more right now, I won’t make it to midnight. If you’re done I can call for the bill.”

Severus smiled, picking up his own glass and draining the contents. “I am, as always, at your command, my dear,” he said. “And I am too intrigued to what you have in store for us next and, if this prelude is anything to go by, I’m sure it will be most enjoyable.”

“I’ve always liked the food here and they didn’t disappoint tonight,” said Hermione, catching the attention of the waiter over his shoulder and communicating in the accepted sign language her request for the bill. “Did you enjoy your meal?”

“Very much so,” he said. “I can’t remember when I have last eaten so well. When it is just me at home, it seems a little pointless to make any effort.”

“Then I will just have to take you out more often,” said Hermione. “I do know what you mean though. Before I returned to Hogwarts, when I was living alone after everything happened with Ron, it always seemed pointless to cook. Some nights I forgot to altogether.”

“Hermione?” he said, reaching across the table to take her hand as he heard the catch in her voice. “What…”

“Not now,” she said, shaking her head and forcing a smile,. “Tonight is for us and I don’t intend to have a single melancholy thought. If I could maybe confide in you one day though?”

“Of course,” said Severus, intercepting the bill as the waiter set it down on the table and holding it out of her reach as she tried to take it from him. “Not a chance, my dear.”

“But you paid last time,” said Hermione. “This was supposed to be my turn to treat you.”

“I have your company, I’m treated enough,” said Severus. “Without you, I would be at home with a book and in bed long before midnight. Let me, Hermione, please?”

She nodded with a small smile, allowing him to proceed. He had soon paid for their meal and the waiter returned with their coats, Severus taking them both from his grip. He held Hermione’s open for her, his hands smoothing the sleeves down her arms before she turned to face him once more. He had only just pulled on his own coat when she took hold of the lapels, raising herself on her toes and pressing a kiss to his cheek.

“Thank you,” she said, a blush staining her cheeks as she lowered herself back down. “Are you ready for your surprise now?”

“You mean that wasn’t it?” teased Severus, offering her his arm and laughing as she pressed her face to his sleeve to hide her darkening blush.

“I shan’t ever be impulsive around you again,” she said, as he led her from the restaurant.

She bit back a gasp of surprise as she felt the fleeting brush of his lips against the crown of her head. “Why ever not?” he said, “I like your impulsiveness. Now, you’ll have to lead me from here, I’ve no idea where we’re going after all.”

“Not far,” said Hermione as they climbed the stairs back up onto the street.

They found the place far busier than it had been before, everyone in high spirits as they moved from place to place in search of the best party to celebrate the coming of the New Year. Hermione led them from Covent Garden, her pace relaxed, and Severus wasn’t sure that he wanted to reach their destination when the cold meant she walked as close to him as was possible in the pursuit of warmth.

They were silent as they walked but it was companionable, the pair of them knowing there was much they could say to one another but choosing instead to be content in their shared company. Severus wondered what their destination would be, hoping that they wouldn’t end up somewhere over crowded with too many people of his companion’s age to throw into sharp relief the years between them.

They soon found themselves in Leicester Square, the bars surrounding them spilling their patrons out onto the pavements, but Hermione bypassed every one. She turned a corner near to the casino, leading them down a darker side road and Severus looked up at the decorations above them in confusion.

“We’re going to China Town?” he asked.

“Nearly, but no,” said Hermione, pulling him to a halt outside the building on the corner. “We’re going here.”

“A cinema?” asked Severus, regarding the dark façade that he would have walked past unaware without Hermione stopping him.

“Not just any cinema,” said Hermione, reaching into her purse and pulling out two tickets. “One that, tonight, is showing a very particular type of film.”

Severus laughed. “That is a dangerous statement to make this close to Soho, Miss Granger,” he said, as he took the ticket she handed him. He bit back a cry of surprise as he read it. “You are joking?”

Hermione grinned widely, bouncing on her toes in pleasure at the look on his face. “Not at all,” she said. “You and me, a traditional cinema, and a triple bill of Lon Chaney movies.”

“How on earth did you manage this?” said Severus. “I only told you two days ago and this…it can’t be coincidence.”

“I told you, I love his movies too,” said Hermione. “There’s a shop nearby that sells loads of silent movies and rare ones too. I’ve been going there for as long as I can remember and I know the man who owns it. He told me about this months ago but I didn’t want to come alone. I guess it might have coloured the questions I asked you the other day slightly. The moment you mentioned Chaney’s name I knew I would do anything to bring you here tonight.”

“I’ve never had the chance to see them on a proper cinema screen,” said Severus, his gaze still on the ticket in his hand as though it were made of gold. “What films are they showing?”

“Sadly not The Unknown,” said Hermione. “Instead we’ve got The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Unholy Three, and one I can’t quite remember the title of. I imagine it’s one of his lesser known ones. Now what was it…London something? Ah, yes, I remember, the final film, shown when we’ve see the New Year in, is London After Midnight.”

Severus looked down at her, seeing the teasing smile she wore but also the glint of excitement in her eyes. “You…you can’t be serious,” he said. “That film was lost when I was a baby. It was destroyed in a fire.”

Hermione’s smile widened. “So they thought,” she said. “A copy was found a year ago and they’ve been cleaning it up and preparing it for release in secret. My friend is one of the people who has been helping. Tonight is the test screening of the restored film, very hush hush and quite exclusive. Do you think I chose our activity well?”

“Ten points to Gryffindor, my dear Miss Granger,” he said. “And the bloody house cup.”

Hermione giggled, holding out her hand to him with a smile. “Shall we then?” she asked. “Think of it, Severus, you and me, viewing history.”

He nodded, his grip tightening on her hand as he led her up the steps to the open door and the secret little cinema behind.

Chapter Text

The lights in the cinema came up as the credits began to roll on the screen. Hermione reached up to wipe away a tear from her cheek, smiling as a crisp white handkerchief was swept into view before her.

“Thank you,” she said as she took it, “That one always makes me cry.”

“It is a rather tragic tale,” said Severus, “Patsy Miller certainly adds to the melancholy of it all. She was a beautiful actress.”

“Did you have her poster on your wall when you were younger?” said Hermione with a teasing smile as she dabbed at her eyes with the handkerchief.

“Maybe,” said Severus, as several of the other patrons in the small cinema headed towards the bar at the back of the room, “It must be getting near to midnight.”

“Fifteen minutes,” said Hermione sparing a glance at her watch, “We see in the New Year and then we get to witness history.”

Severus smiled, “I can’t think of a better way to start the year,” he said, “Do you want to get a drink?”

Hermione nodded as Severus got to his feet, taking his hand as he helped her to hers. She kept hold of his hand as they headed towards the bar, the other patrons talking happily amongst themselves as they anticipated the film yet to be shown. It didn’t take long for their drinks to arrive, Hermione finally able to fight her companion off to pay for them herself.

The clock ticked steadily down towards the New Year but Hermione paid little mind to the time, focused instead on the strong, sure arm that had come about her waist as they stood side by side at the bar. She let her head rest against Severus’ shoulder, half listening to the conversations of those surrounding them even as they remained silent. As the countdown began, she turned her head slightly, regarding his striking profile in the low light of the bar.

“Dear Severus,” she said quietly but he heard her all the same as he looked down at her, “Happy New Year.”

“Happy New Year,” he echoed before he bent just far enough to brush a soft, chaste kiss against her lips, his cheeks colouring as he realised his actions.

Hermione laid her hand against his cheek, keeping his gaze on hers as the others in the bar cheered the coming of the year, “They say it’s good luck to see the new year in with a kiss,” she said softly, “Especially with someone dear to you and you have become so very dear to me. What a funny turn of things. I felt certain when I received your first letter back in October that you and I would never exchange a kind word, let alone be here now but…”

Severus smiled ruefully, “I know,” he said as he watched her struggle to find the right words, “Anything like that is far too soon and I have no intention to pursue it…well, not right now. Forgive me if the presence of a beautiful woman and a little too much champagne brought out my impulsive side.”

Hermione giggled as he echoed her words from earlier, “I like your impulsive side,” she said, “But you’re right, it’s far too soon. We’ve both had our hearts broken and we’re both worth far more than just a fling. Would you…” she began, taking her hand from his cheek to take hold of his instead, “That is to say, can we take this one day at a time? I need a friend, Severus, for the time but maybe…oh this is so hard to put into words.”

“Then let me do it for you,” said Severus, “I am your friend and you are mine and I shan’t kiss you again…at least until you ask me to.”

Hermione smiled tentatively, “This isn’t going to make things awkward is it?” she asked, “I’m rather a dab hand at obliviates if it is.”

Severus shook his head, “We are both adults and shall put it down to champagne and the evening,” he said, “I wouldn’t toss aside our friendship over so simple a thing.”

“Thank you,” said Hermione, as one of the ushers called out that they had ten minutes until the next film was to be run, “Saved by the bell it seems. I need to go and powder my nose. Shall I find you back in our seats?”

Severus nodded, releasing his grip on her hand and Hermione immediately missed the grounding touch as she stepped away from him. She made her way through the meagre crowd and headed into the small bathroom just outside the auditorium. Her actions were performed on autopilot as she let her mind wander back onto moments before. The kiss had been entirely unexpected but she was more surprised that not one part of her found it unwelcome. She had had to stamp on the desire to return it with more force than she would have thought necessary, certain he should have been able to hear the hammering of her heart even over the cheers of the other patrons.

She could not deny the attraction she felt to her former teacher, his striking features far from the accepted view of a handsome face but she already thought him one of the finest looking men she knew. He had an elegance and an agelessness that appealed to her, at once old fashioned and completely of their shared time.

Were he any other man she knew they would end the night in quite a different way to how they planned but she knew they were worth far more than a nameless hotel and a shy goodbye at dawn.

She caught her own reflection as the water from the tap came out too hot and reawakened her to the world around her. She saw the blush on her cheeks but also the smile on her lips and she hoped that, given time, she would not be fearful of changing the relationship they had. She double checked her make up before she left, knowing such vanity was unnecessary given her assertions that they should only be friends but she couldn’t help wanting to catch his glance as she had done for most of the evening.

She returned to the auditorium, the lights still up though the majority of the patrons were already in their seats, anticipation almost tangible in the air for the film yet to come. She felt the same excitement herself, glad to be sharing it with someone she knew understood her passion far better than anyone else did. Severus looked up as she slipped into their row, his smile relaxed as she took her seat beside him. She was about to speak when she saw three younger men from several rows in front give an enthusiastic thumbs up in their direction before they turned back to the screen as the lights went down.

“What was all that about?” asked Hermione, her confusion deepening as she saw Severus’ answering smile.

“I appear to have made some new friends,” whispered Severus, “They saw our moment earlier on and chose to congratulate me on finding a woman who appreciates classic cinema. I was informed that I should marry you as quickly as possible as people like you only come around once in a millennia.”

Hermione giggled at the humour in his voice, “And what did you tell them?”

“I told them that a woman who was so discerning in her cinematic choices would be certain to choose her own partner,” said Severus, before his voice lost its mirth to be replaced by something far gentler, “And that I considered myself lucky to even be graced by your presence.”

Hermione smiled softly, “Well I am very lucky too,” she said, taking his hand as the screen before them showed the familiar old fashioned countdown, “And there is no one I would prefer to share this with.”

It was nearly two hours later when the screen darkened once more; silence greeting the lights as they came up but it was soon replaced with applause. Hermione joined in on the enthusiasm, adding her voice to those calling for more. Her companion was more reserved in his appreciation, sitting quietly with his fingers steepled against his lips but the look in his dark eyes showed Hermione the joy he felt at having been witness to the long lost film.

“Well?” said Hermione as the cheers finally died down though the voices were still loud as people fell into discussion on what they had witnessed, “What did you think?”

“That you and I are mere frauds and charlatans,” said Severus, before a small smile graced his lips, “For that was the true magic of this world.”

“I think you’re quite right,” said Hermione, stifling a yawn, “That was so wonderful, if a little disturbing in parts.”

“All great horrors are,” said Severus, “Are you certain you’ll sleep tonight?”

“Not much of the night left, it’s gone two,” said Hermione, “Besides, I think we’ve both seen our fair share of scarier things. Do you want to go on anywhere from here? We might be able to get in somewhere.”

Severus shook his head, “You look a heartbeat from your bed and if I go on much longer I won’t be able to apparate,” he said, before he leant towards her with a conspiratorial whisper, “I am rather old you know.”

“Hardly,” said Hermione, covering another yawn, “And you do not appear to be the one who is fading fast.”

“Would you like me to see you home?” said Severus, “We can leave from Holborn again.”

“Would you mind?” she replied, “Just to the gates and then I can have an elf accompany me to the castle.”

Severus nodded, getting to his feet and picking up Hermione’s coat, helping her into it when she stood. They were soon both buttoned up against the cold, politely refusing requests to stay from the other members of the audience as they headed to the door.

The streets outside were still busy with revellers but once more they were content with only each other for company, Hermione holding onto his arm as they fell into an easy conversation about the film they had seen. They reached Holborn not long after, happily finding the alleyway deserted and Hermione stepped easily into Severus’ arms as his magic carried them away from London once more.

The weather was far colder when they reappeared at the gates of Hogwarts, the ground covered with a low-lying mist that bit at Hermione’s bare ankles. She paid it no mind though, too focused on her friend as he released the tight hold he had had on her for their journey.

“Here we are then,” she said a little sadly, laying a hand on his chest, “I guess this is goodnight. I’ve had such a wonderful night, Severus, thank you.”

“It is I who should be thanking you,” said Severus, “I never once thought I would do some of the things I’ve done tonight. I have a lot to live up to if I hope to surprise you as you did me this evening.”

“You already surprise me, my friend,” said Hermione as she shivered, “Won’t you come inside for some tea?”

Severus shook his head, “I can’t,” he said, with a rueful smile, “For several reasons, including the usual one. I should say goodnight but would you do something for me?”

“Anything,” said Hermione as he reached into his pocket and pressed a letter into her hands.

“Give this to Minerva for me,” he said, “It’s permission to connect Hogwarts to Spinner’s End via the floo network. I thought that it would not only make it easier for us to send letters to one another but also, if you wanted to visit, you would not need to risk apparating.”

Hermione smiled, feeling tears prick at her eyes at the gesture from someone she knew valued his privacy above all else, “I will of course,” she said, “And I’ll write as soon as it’s connected.”

“And I hope you’ll visit,” said Severus, “For much as I value and adore every letter you send me, I value your company more.”

“Then I will come as soon as I can,” said Hermione, letting her fingers brush the wards and sending out a command for one of the castle elves to come to the gate, “I should go, though I don’t want to. Goodnight, dear Severus.”

“Goodnight Hermione,” said Severus, pressing a kiss to the back of her hand that lingered far longer than the gesture required but it still ended too soon for Hermione’s liking.

She heard the elf appear behind her and turned reluctantly away, opening the gates and stepping inside. She looked back as the elf took hold of her hand, raising her free one to her lips before blowing a kiss to the man watching her. His eyes the last thing she saw as the elf spirited her back to the castle.

Chapter Text

My dearest Severus,

Apologies this has come to you by owl mail. Minerva went away for the day and was long gone by the time I finally woke. The elves inform me that she will return by nightfall and I will pass her your letter regarding the floo then.

I hope you got home safely and that you slept well. I admit I struggled to sleep for a while after I reached my rooms despite how tired I felt. My mind wouldn’t stop turning over everything that happened.

It was such a wonderful night and it was such a treat to spend it with someone who appreciated the films as much as I did. You are a unique man, Severus, and I feel very honoured that you see me as someone worthy of your time. I never thought, especially in recent years, that I would find a friend like you. I meant what I said last night; you have become so very dear to me.

I know I said that I needed a friend after our kiss but I need you to know that it was not unwelcome. I only wish that I were in better place to appreciate your attentions. I want to get to know you properly, as the man you are now. I know that I am beginning to do so but there is so much more I want to know.

Dearest Severus, please promise me that we can always be open and honest with each other. I care for you and I think you care for me. One day I believe we could be something far more than friends but I want to know you entirely. We’ve both been through too much to risk being hurt again.

I hope I’m not completely misguided in my thoughts. I know we called it the responsibility of the champagne but I hope it was more. I feel as though I am sending the most terrible mixed signals, which was not my intention. As luck would have it, my confidante is now the person I need to talk about as well; do you think you can endure it?

Please write to me soon and please let us meet again. I need to see you.

With affection,

Hermione

Severus folded the letter as he came to the end of it once more, the paper thinning in places where he had read and re-read it. It had been four days since the turn of the year and many letters had passed between them since, the majority of them sent via the newly connected floo network. The volume of Hermione’s letters had surpassed the capacity of the space he had given them in his desk and they now had their own locked box that rested on his nightstand.

The letter in his hand, regardless of those that came after, was the one he read the most. . Her words gave him hope that he had not felt in more years than he dared to count. He had responded within moments of first reading it, assuring her that his feelings and wishes matched hers. They had reached an understanding that had left him feeling far more at ease in their communications.

They had not met in person since the night she spoke of in her letter, Minerva having taken her attention the day after she returned. Soon after, duty had won out for Hermione and she had dedicated herself to her lesson planning. She had written to him throughout the days though, and he had replied almost immediately to each one, the access to the floo making their exchanges more like conversations than letters.

Still he had longed for her company and he had invited her to the house, offering to help her better plan her lessons. He didn’t think either one of them truly believed the pretence. He had been awake since before dawn anticipating her arrival despite their mutual agreement that she would come via the floo after lunch. He had worked as best he could, his orders low for the potions he made, but he did not have the space to expand into a more profitable business in the little house he had grown up in. The work had kept his attention for a while but he cursed that he had no more to do when he still found himself with several hours to spare.

When he found himself contemplating rearranging the bookcases, he had dragged himself to his room and had pulled out her letters to read once more, selecting his favourites. It was the one sent on New Years Day though that he knew word for word without having to read it.

Finally, the clock took pity on him and he returned the letter to the box, checking his appearance in the mirror before he headed downstairs to await her arrival. The clock had just struck two when the flames changed colour in the fireplace and he heard the familiar whoosh of the network activating. Whilst he had grown used to a letter appearing with only a few dots of soot marring the envelope, the sight of Hermione tumbling out onto the hearth rug had him casting a wandless cleaning spell as he helped her to her feet.

“Ugh! I hate floo travel,” she groaned before she collected herself and smiled up at him shyly. “But it’s worth it. Hello.”

“Hello,” said Severus, taking her bag from her as she brushed the remaining soot off her clothes. “And welcome, at least you made it inside this time.”

“I certainly did,” she said, taking in the room around her. “Goodness, you weren’t exaggerating about the books. I could lose myself in here for a good few weeks and not be done.”

“You’re more than welcome to try,” said Severus, seeing her smile brighten.

“Are you sure you could put up with me for that long?” she said, her hand straying to his shoulder as she brushed off the soot that had landed on his elegant black coat.

“I’m more than willing to try,” he said, “Make yourself at home. Would you like some tea?”

“Tea sounds wonderful,” said Hermione, stepping back and settling herself down on the sofa. “You really don’t mind helping me with all this planning do you?”

“Not at all,” said Severus, setting her bag down beside the coffee table. “I won’t be a moment.”

Hermione watched him leave, eager to follow and explore, but she knew it was a great privilege to be invited into the house by someone as private as the man she was coming to know. She had no wish to impose on him further. She contented herself instead with the room she was in, taking in the book-lined walls, the shelves sagging beneath the weight of some of them. The tiny window let in very little light and she imagined he would always need to have the lamps lit, even in the summer. It was grey and wholly unloved but still, there were little marks that showed his presence and the deeper parts of his personality. Her eyes fell on his desk, wondering if that was where he sat when he wrote to her and if he glanced at the fireplace opposite as often as she did in anticipation of a reply.

She tore her thoughts from such musings and focused once more on the bookshelves. Her fingers itched to run along the spines of some of the books on display, hoping that she might find the courage to ask to borrow one or two at some point. She had little doubt her friend guarded his books as a dragon guarded its clutch. She reached down and began pulling her books from her bag, glad she thought to use the invisible extension charm as it allowed her to carry all the books she needed without requiring a carriage half the size of the room. She selected only her notebook and the textbooks for her sixth and seventh years, their requirements far more in need of Severus’ attention than the lower years.

She heard the rattle of the tea tray and looked up with a smile as her companion returned, setting it down on the table before her before he hovered above the wingback chair across the room.

“I don’t bite you know,” she said, patting the seat beside her. “And you spent a good few hours sat next to me in a dark theatre not too long ago. Easier to work when you can see the pages as well.”

Severus changed his direction and settled next to her, the small space leaving them in close proximity, but neither of them minded as he set about preparing their tea.

“Thank you for offering to help me today,” said Hermione, reaching for one of the textbooks and clutching it in her hands. “Doesn’t seem five minutes since I learned all this and now I have to teach it. I keep second guessing myself.”

“You are far more capable than you realise,” said Severus. “But if any guidance from me helps buoy your confidence then I am more than happy to help. Besides, it gave me a chance to spend time with you.”

“You don’t need an excuse to spend time with me,” said Hermione, resting her hand briefly against his knee. “If you want to see me, just send me word and I’ll come to you if Minerva isn’t keeping me busy. Even when the students come back, unless I have marking or some evening sessions to cover the school, then we can meet.”

Severus smiled as he covered her hand with his. “I know I do not need a reason,” he said, “But you may need to indulge me making excuses for a while longer. I am not well practiced in inviting pretty young women to spend time with me.”

“Then make as many excuses as you wish if it means I get to see you,” replied Hermione. “Seeing as I hefted every book on the potions curriculum here today, we can at least manage a couple of hours putting right my dreadful lesson plans. I thought we’d start with the seventh years and go from there if you’re happy with that.”

“Advanced Potions Making, oh how I’ve missed it,” said Severus, his dour tone made a lie of as he picked up another copy of the book. “Which potion were you hoping to begin with?”

It was proof of both their studious natures that they soon fell deep into their work, Hermione outlining her plans for the classes and Severus offering improvements and corrections wherever he thought necessary.. Hermione was certain that if they had attempt such a conversation several weeks before they would have spent the majority of the time butting heads. Now their closeness only fostered cooperation and beneficial debate, Severus bowing to her choices even when they didn’t quite match his own.

It was only the sound of the letterbox rattling that dragged them from their discussion, Severus gently moving aside several books in order to get to his feet.

“Did you set your wards against me alone?” asked Hermione as he headed to the door. “I bounced off the bloody things when I tried to put my letter through the door the other day.”

“They’re designed to repel those with magic,” called Severus from the hallway. “This is a muggle street so I can’t have everyone sent flying by them. I am therefore required to receive the usual junk foisted through everyone’s door.”

“There’s the grumpy man I remember,” said Hermione, frowning as he failed to either respond or reappear. “Severus? Oh come on now dear, I was joking. Severus? Severus, are you alright?”

She pushed aside her books and got to her feet, pulling her wand from her pocket as she headed towards the hallway. She rounded the door, a hex already on her lips but she stilled her hand as she saw nothing but the hallway, the door and her friend leaning back against the wall, a letter open in his hand.

“Severus?” she said, seeing the pinched and desolate expression on his face. “My darling, what’s wrong?”

“A change in situation,” said Severus. “One I’ve been expecting but I didn’t anticipate it would feel like this. You may read it if you like.”

Hermione took the letter he held out to her, quickly reading the words before her and her heart broke as she realised the contents. “I’m so sorry,” she said. “Is there anything to be done?”

“Plenty,” said Severus. “But nothing that will change the outcome.”

Hermione let the letter fall from her hand onto the threadbare rug before she turned to him and reached up to wrap her arms around him. She felt him flinch at the unexpected touch but then he relaxed slightly, his arms coming around her waist and holding onto her as though she were the only tangible thing left in the world.

Chapter Text

Hermione looked across the kitchen table at Severus, his countenance far more grim than she had ever seen him even in the darkest time at Hogwarts. One of his hands rested in hers, his grip the only thing to let her know that he was still aware she was with him. His other hand rested over the letter, his fingers poised as though unsure whether to strike it or reduce it to ashes with his magic.

She wasn’t sure how long they had sat in silence in the little kitchen. It was long enough to have memorised the number of ceiling and floor tiles along with the number of cracks in the wood of the drawer nearest to her. It was a sorry looking room, tired and outdated, but she knew there were many emotions written into the scars of the room.

“I suppose I will have to make arrangements and soon,” said Severus, his voice cutting through the silence. “I will have to work out how one goes about acquiring lodgings.”

“We could fight it,” said Hermione. “I’m sure there is a solicitor already working on the case for others on the street and…”

“Hermione,” said Severus, cutting her off. “Any attempt might delay things for a short while but this is inevitable and I have already fought enough battles. I must cut any losses and start again.”

“But this is your home,” said Hermione. “They don’t have the right to tell you to leave and for so little compensation.”

Severus shook his head, “It’s a compulsory purchase order. They have the legal right to do as they wish,” he said, his hand leaving the letter to rub wearily across his eyes. “To be honest with you I’m surprised it didn’t come sooner. These are worker’s cottages, built years ago to house the people employed at the cotton mill. That closed forty years ago, when I was two years old. Leaving every family along this street on the welfare and in need of work. Work that was never given to people who lived in these parts. Year after year, this entire neighbourhood has fallen into disrepair and people have left. Now the houses are condemned to be bulldozed and rebuilt and I can’t say that I blame them. I am shocked and a little concerned how I will manage everything but I can’t say I’ll be sorry to leave this place.”

“You’re not upset about leaving?” asked Hermione.

Severus shook his head, “This house is falling apart around me and I can’t even be bothered to use magic to set it right,” he said. “I’ve known very little joy here and there are so many bad memories I’d like to leave behind. My only concern is that this and Hogwarts is all I’ve ever known. I have no significant income and the money I will get from the house, as you’ve seen, will be minimal. I had intended to try to expand my business but I fear any property I can afford will be too small to accommodate working at more than one cauldron at a time. It is what it is and I must be practical. It will be strange to leave though, I’ve never…”

“It’s your home,” said Hermione, covering their joined hands with her free one. “Even with the bad memories it contains. You’ve lived here all your life.”

Severus finally met her gaze, a look halfway between confusion and amazement on his face. “You see right through me; it’s uncanny,” he said. “I would accuse you of using Legilimency if it were possible for such a skill to be used on me. I hate this house but I love it too. For all the bad memories, there was the occasional good one, too. Maybe they were never perfect moments but there were triumphs and brief interludes of joy. I feel as though I’ll leave them in cracked tiles and the peeling wallpaper.”

“I wish I could understand how you feel,” said Hermione. “But I moved four times before I went to Hogwarts so there’s not really any house that holds so much for me. I’ll help however I can to make this move easier for you.”

“At least there’s only me to worry about,” said Severus. “There are no other claims on the house.”

Hermione smiled sadly. “I didn’t want to ask but I made the assumption that your parents were…”

“Dead. Yes,” said Severus, matter-of-factly. “My father died when I was fifteen and my mother five years ago, though I hadn’t seen her since I was twenty-one. By then she was thoroughly ashamed of me.”

“Oh Severus,” said Hermione but she couldn’t find any words to continue, knowing there was little she could say to comfort him for his past mistakes.

“I’m sorry,” he said, forcing a smile. “You didn’t come here to listen to me be maudlin and lament over what was. My past is what it is and I cannot change it. What I can change is my future, so let’s focus on that.”

“If that’s what you want,” said Hermione. “And seeing as it nearly six o’clock let’s start with dinner. If you don’t mind me staying I could send a message to Hogwarts. The elves always make far too much food and Minerva would not mind if they brought some here.”

“You are always welcome here, though I cannot promise I will be the best company,” he warned as Hermione released his hand and got to her feet.

“I’m sure I can manage if you choose to be a bit grumpy,” said Hermione, as she moved to beside his chair and bent to press a kiss to his cheek. “May I use the floo to call Hogwarts?”

“Be my guest,” he said, his smile far more genuine then it had been before. She gently squeezed his shoulder as she headed towards the living room.

It wasn’t long until she returned ,followed soon after by two of the elves he recognised from the kitchens, both of them bearing far more food than he was sure had ever graced his meagre kitchen table before. It was soon set before them and the house elves took their leave, both of them somewhat wary of Severus but at ease with Hermione. They spoke of housing options as they ate, weighing up the choice between muggle or wizarding communities but it didn’t take them long to agree, despite the limitations it presented, that the muggle world would be safer for Severus.

They retired to the living room once dinner was finished, settling side by side on the small sofa as they fell into a comfortable silence. The rain had begun to fall outside, hammering against the single glazed windows. However, any chill was chased away by the fire and several warming charms. Hermione wasn’t sure when she let her head fall onto Severus’ shoulder or when his arm had moved around her back to rest at her waist, but neither of them felt the need to speak of it. They were content merely in the quiet and the peace of the late evening.

“I killed my father,” said Severus, his words breaking the silence and taking a moment to register in Hermione’s mind.

“What?” she asked, every muscle in her body stiffening.

“Not directly,” said Severus, his voice hollow. “But I’m the reason he’s dead.”

“You said he died when you were fifteen?” asked Hermione. “You were only a boy.”

“That was the day I realised I had to be a man,” said Severus grimly. “I came home for the Christmas holidays. No one met me at Kings Cross and I had to get the Knight Bus back home. I arrived to find the door almost off its hinges and my mother sat in this room, her eye blackened and her wrist dislocated. My father was drunk which wasn’t unusual but he was in a particular violent rage that night. When he saw me trying to help my mother he went for me. I can’t remember hitting him but one minute he was up and the next he was on the carpet. He left that night. Three days later, they pulled him out of the river. The autopsy couldn’t say what killed him but my mother blamed me. Despite all she had suffered at his hands, she loved him and she blamed me for his death. Don’t think she ever looked at me with affection after that day.”

“They fuck you up, your mum and dad. They may not mean to, but they do,” quoted Hermione, her voice quiet though she knew he heard her.

“Larkin,” said Severus. “I always thought that poem rather apt.”

Hermione brushed the tears from her eyes as she heard the catch in his voice, “I’m so sorry Severus but you mustn’t blame yourself,” she said. “There were so many things that could have killed him; for all you know he did it himself. You were a frightened child and you defended yourself. If there is one memory you must leave behind in this house then it is that one. Promise me Severus.”

“I will try,” he promised, his lips moving the curls on her head as he spoke into her hair. “I’ve never told anyone that story before.”

“Never feel like you must hide anything,” said Hermione. “I won’t judge you and I won’t run away. You’re stuck with me.”

Severus was silent for a moment, his hand at her waist moving to her shoulder to press her a little closer to his side. “I’m glad,” he said quietly, the two of them falling silent once more as the rain continued to fall outside.

Chapter Text

Hermione stepped out of the fireplace, the candles in her living room lighting without the need for a command, illuminating the heavily laden bookshelves and sparse furnishings that were not too dissimilar from those she had just left. She took comfort in it though, feeling closer to the man she had left behind when the hour had grown too late for her to stay without things becoming awkward.

She pressed her fingers to her cheek, the sensation of Severus’ lips still there from the farewell kiss his had given her before she had entered the fireplace to floo home. His confession of his perceived guilt over his father’s death had pained her deeply but she could hold no blame at his door. The scars of the abuse he suffered all too visible even if he did not wear them on his skin. She could only hope that leaving his home, however painful it would be for him, would bring him some peace. The only issue she foresaw was finding something safe and affordable for him, the salary he could earn in the wizarding world not enough to procure a decent house in the muggle one.

She had questioned him, as delicately as she could, on why he did not have more put aside when he owned the house and he had been given his lodgings at Hogwarts in the many years he had been teaching. She had silently cursed his father’s name when Severus spoke of the mountain of debt and the high remortgage payments that had buoyed the elder man’s love of both spirits and gambling only to be left at his son’s door after his death and then his wife’s several years later.

She wanted nothing more than to have stayed at his side after the secrets he had shared with her but with the hour growing late, propriety and the newness of their friendship weighed down upon them both and she had taken her leave with promises to write as soon as it was morning.

She shook off her musings, tiredness weighing heavily on her as she tossed her bag down on the table. She had turned towards her bedroom when she heard a knock at her door, groaning as she realised that the elves would not bother her so late at night and there was only one other person resident in the castle. She contemplated ignoring the knock but she knew she could not do so in good conscience so she changed her course, hurrying to open the door.

“Minerva,” she said as cheerily as she could, “What can I do for you?”

The old witch in the doorway returned her smile but Hermione had known her long enough to see the tightness in the lines around her mouth and eyes, “The elves told me you had come back,” she said, stepping into the room and sitting down on the sofa in front of the fire, “I trust your day was productive?”

“Severus was kind enough to help me make sure my plans for the next terms were effective,” said Hermione, unsure whether to join her or not, “Though we only managed the sixth and seventh years. I think I have a stronger grasp on things now though and should manage the rest alone. It’s nice to have his expertise to rely on though.”

Minerva frowned, “It is rather late for you to only have planned two year groups,” she said, “Hermione, dear, do sit down. I want to talk to you.”

Hermione wanted to protest but the woman before her had been her house head for too many years and she complied, Minerva taking hold of her hand in a motherly grasp as she did so.

“Hermione, you’re still so young and you’ve been through so much,” said the Headmistress, “I know that those wretched journalists at The Prophet hounded you with ridiculous stories about your relationship with Mr Weasley and it will not take them long to start up with…well, they will create nonsense over anything. Whilst your relationship with Severus is purely a professional one they will twist it and neither of you need that sort of attention. Perhaps it would be more prudent for Severus to come and advise you here and for you not to keep such late hours together, people could think…”

“People can think as they please,” said Hermione, trying to keep her voice level, “And I will spend my time with Severus as and when I see fit. Minerva, you have always looked out for me, especially since Ron and I went our separate ways but I’m not a child anymore. I’m a grown woman and if I want to spend time with someone then I have every right to, regardless of the hour. I don’t want Severus to have to face the idiots at that damned newspaper either but we’ve become friends, good friends, and there is no one I would prefer to spend my time with.”

“Oh?” said Minerva, a small smile breaking onto her face as Hermione took her hand from hers only to wring them in her lap, “I fear then that I might have spoken out of turn when I visited Severus the other day.”

Hermione chuckled, the headmistress’ tone easing some of her apprehension, “Yes, slightly,” she said, “But we’ve spoken about that and we both know what we are to one another and what we…”

“Yes dear?” said Minerva.

Hermione felt her cheeks heat, getting to her feet as she realised the weight of the words she had been about to say. She and Severus had agreed to be friends and she could not think of anyone who matched her more perfectly in wit and intelligence. She had allowed her mind to wander, however briefly, onto what could be between them but she had never felt it as deeply as she did in that moment. She couldn’t deny the flutter of her heart when she thought of him, the need to press closer to him whenever he was at her side, the wish that he was more than just her friend.

The realisation made her knees weak and she gripped onto the mantle as she spoke, “We are dear friends,” she said, “But, given time, we could be so much more. He is so very unique. Minerva please don’t say a word. It’s all so new and we are taking things slowly. We don’t ask for anyone’s blessing, far from it, but at the same time I fear any censure, especially from someone Severus’ respects as much as he does you, could send him back into his solitude and I could not bear to lose him.”

She heard Minerva rise behind her and braced herself for the words of caution but none came, instead two careworn hands settled themselves on her shoulders before the voice she knew well spoke in far softer tones than she had ever heard it.

“You may not need my blessing but you have it anyway my dear,” she said, “I may have once perceived your relationship with Severus differently but hearing you speak just then tells me all I need to know. I trust that the two of you are clever enough and mature enough to handle this relationship and all its challenges, of which there may yet be many, and find yourselves all the stronger. Does Severus return you feelings?”

Hermione nodded, turning to the woman behind her, “Yes I think he does,” she said, “But we have been through so much and we want to take this a day at a time. It’s not even been two weeks since we met again.”

“These things do not always need the grand procession of time but I am glad you are taking the chance to know one another,” said Minerva, “You have your whole lives ahead of you. I might have been an old widow for many years now but I know the joy of finding the one person who means everything to you. I believe you and Severus may prove to be a very good match indeed.”

Hermione let out a small, relieved sob, “You don’t know how much it means to me to be able to speak to someone about all this,” she said, “I was scared you were going to tell me off…to warn me off. Logic would say anything between he and I would be unthinkable, we both have more baggage than the luggage car of the Hogwarts Express, but when I am with him we just fit.”

“Then embrace it my girl. Seize it with both hands and don’t let go,” said Minerva, “By all means take your time and get to know one another but do not waste time pondering the what ifs. You both deserve the happiness this can give you. There is nothing worse than an empty home.”

Hermione paused as an idea struck her, the thought bringing a smile to her face, “I’ll keep you updated as to how things progress,” she said, before she frowned, “You won’t speak to Severus yet will you?”

Minerva shook her head, “I will leave you two to find your own way but if you feel the need to talk, my door is always open for more than just academic questions,” she said, “I don’t think I need remind you though that non faculty members are not allowed in teacher’s quarters after…”

“I am aware of the school rules, Minerva,” said Hermione, holding up a hand as she felt her cheeks flame at the implication, “Besides, Severus has left me in little doubt he has no wish to visit Hogwarts even if I’m part of the equation.”

“That is understandable,” said Minerva before she looked towards the door, “Well it is very late and you need your rest, it isn’t long until the start of term. Goodnight Professor Granger and good luck. Give Severus my best when you see him again.”

“I will,” said Hermione, “Goodnight Headmistress.”

The older witch headed to the door, giving Hermione one last indulgent smile before she headed out into the corridor. Hermione closed the door behind her, locking it before she hesitated, Minerva’s words about an empty home springing once more to her mind. She knew the step she wanted to take was risky but she also knew that it would solve several problems that might otherwise prove difficult to overcome. With a smile, she let her heart lead her and hurried across the room, intent on her bedroom and the contents of her jewellery box.

Chapter Text

S,

Have an idea. Can I come over at 10am?

Hx

 

H,

You are welcome whenever you please. Arrive after eight on any day of the week and I will be fit to receive company.

As for today, I will see you at ten.

S

 

Hermione smiled as the reply to her early morning letter came back on the reverse of the parchment she had written on, the edges blackened by soot from its two trips. She propped it on the mantle as she readied herself for the day, telling herself that she would make as much effort on her appearance for any of her friends. She knew it was a lie as she twisted a curl around her finger in the attempt to make it hang better from the messy bun she had pulled it into, certain she had spent more time on looking casual than she ever had in preparation for an important event.

She shook her head in despair at herself, realising that she was behaving more like one of her teenage students than a grown woman but she couldn’t help it. Instead, she relished the fact that there was someone in her life again that she wanted to look attractive for. She finally settled herself with a book, allowing the time to pass until she had told him she would arrive despite the temptation to leave earlier.

The clock finally chimed the hour and she extinguished the flames in the fireplace, stepping inside with a handful of floo powder before she threw it down and called out his address. She bit back a scream as she rushed through the network; glad the journey was not too long as she felt the familiar nausea take hold of her. She finally hit the fireplace at Spinner’s End, tumbling out of it and onto the hearth rug but there was no strong hand to help her to her feet.

She cleared the majority of the soot with a brief, wandless spell, patting her jeans pocket to make sure her reason for visiting was still in place. Satisfied all was as it should be, she looked around the room for sight of her friend, instead finding a note stuck to the mirror above the hearth bearing his familiar handwriting.

Attic. Come up.

She followed the instructions, hesitating only briefly at the hallway door before she crossed the short distance to the stairway. She climbed the creaky staircase, the wallpaper even more drab and unkempt than the rooms downstairs and it did not improve when she reached the landing. She saw two doors, one closed and the other open showing a neatly made bed beyond, the pale light from the tiny window spilling over the dark sheets and rough-spun blankets.

She turned her attention and her curiosity from the room, focusing instead on the wooden ladder leading up into the space above her head, a faint light and the occasional rustle the only thing to let her know that there was any life above.

“Are you going to come up or do you prefer the first floor?” came Severus’ voice.

“Just working out if this thing is safe,” said Hermione, as she started to climb the ladder, “I’m not sure I entirely trust it not to collapse underneath me.”

“If it can bear me it can more than certainly bear you,” said Severus.

Hermione pulled herself through the hatch in the ceiling, finding herself in the cramped, beamed loft space that ran the length of the small house. An old oil lamp shed light on the piles of old boxes, shimmering off cobwebs and the dust motes that filled the air. She smiled as she saw Severus amongst the boxes, seated cross-legged on the chipboard floor, clad in his usual black but a woollen jumper that looked well loved had replaced the smart coat and it made her smile to see him in something other than the usual buttoned up façade he showed to the world.

“Watch your step,” said Severus, “I’ve charmed the floor but it’s not all boarded and I don’t want you to fall.”

“Is there a reason we’re up here?” said Hermione, heaving herself up onto a suitable perch and crawling through the small space to his side, “Or did you just fancy a change of scene?”

“I thought I might as well start sorting through some things seeing as a move is somewhat imminent,” said Severus, “I didn’t realise there was so much rubbish up here that could have been thrown away years ago. I found a box full of my mother’s schoolbooks, all horribly out of date and not something I have any need to take with me…wherever I end up. It hasn’t been the most pleasant experience but it’s necessary and now I’ve started I feel the need to get it finished. I’m glad you’re here though.”

Hermione leaned over and pressed a kiss to his cheek, “And I’m glad to be here,” she said, “And if you want me to help then I’m more than happy to but I was hoping I could talk to you about something first.”

“Of course,” said Severus, a frown creasing his brow as she shivered, “Sorry, not the warmest of places. I forget that I’m a bit more used to it. Here.”

Hermione smiled as he reached into a box at his side and drew out a scarf in familiar colours, wrapping it around her neck with a gentleness she was coming to adore.

“I hope I’m not offending any house sensibilities,” he said.

“Not at all,” said Hermione, barely resisting the urge to stroke the wool around her neck, “Just don’t ever tell Harry I wore Slytherin colours, he’d never speak to me again.”

“You have my solemn vow,” said Severus, “Warmer?”

“A little,” said Hermione, tugging her wand from her pocket and chasing away the rest of the chill with a warming charm, “There, now I’m perfect.”

“What was it you wanted to speak to me about?” asked Severus, putting aside another set of dog-eared papers.

“Your situation,” she answered, “I think I can help. Now I won’t be offended if you don’t want to accept, I know it’s hardly the most logical of steps but it came to me last night when I was talking to Minerva. I was going to come back last night but I didn’t want to disturb you and I…”

“Hermione, does this have a point?” said Severus, his smile chasing away any sting from his words, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you quite so skittish, even when I was teaching you in Dark Arts.”

“God you terrified me that year,” said Hermione before she looked pained at her own words, “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be,” said Severus, “The past is the past and you’re no longer afraid of me.”

“Far from it,” said Hermione, “So far from it that I want more than anything to help you and that’s why I want to give you this.”

She reached into her pocket, drawing out a key before she took his hand and placed it in his palm.

“What’s this?” he said.

“My house,” said Hermione, “The one I bought when I found myself no longer welcome at any house containing a Weasley. It’s rather tired and run down. I meant to do it up, make a life there but Minerva came round three days after I bought it and offered me the role at Hogwarts so I didn’t get much done. It’s stood empty since and I thought perhaps you might want to live there, at least until you found something else more appropriate. I always stay at the school so I wouldn’t be in your way or under your feet and it’s big enough for you to have your own lab and…I’m sorry this was a silly idea.”

“What? Hermione?” said Severus as she turned suddenly, hurrying back to the hatch as quickly as she could within the cramped space, “What’s the matter?”

“I’m sorry Severus, I…”

“Hermione stop,” said Severus, his tone once more that of her teacher, “Can we go back about half a minute and start this conversation again as you seem to be having a different one to me.”

Hermione sat on the beam beside the hatch, hugging her knees to her chest as she stared down at her shoes.

“Sorry,” she mumbled, “I promised myself I’d be completely factual and level headed about this when I had this conversation with you in my head but in that scenario you weren’t sitting in lamplight and letting me wear your school scarf. Don’t look at me like that.”

“Like what my dear?” said Severus.

“Like I’m amusing you,” said Hermione though she felt the quirk of her own lips as she fought a smile, “Stop it Severus.”

“No,” he said, moving over to her side with far more dignity than she had managed, “Now then, how about we start that discussion again? I’ll paraphrase the beginning so we don’t have to visit old ground. You have a house, I’m about to be homeless and you offering me the choice to perhaps live in that house whilst you are resident at Hogwarts, am I correct?”

Hermione nodded, “You are,” she said, “But like I said I won’t be offended if you don’t accept, I know…”

“Stop right there,” said Severus, “Because I fear you’re about to make assumptions about my response, then you will defend every argument before it’s made and we will sit here and go in circles. So let me tell you my thoughts before you run away with your own. Let me see this house and then let us discuss, as the friends we are, the terms I may live there by but let us also be sensible and talk about the implications of you and I essentially living under the same roof. You surely know how I am starting to feel about you?”

Hermione smiled as she looked up at him, “Yes I do,” she said, “And I think I feel the same which is why I’m so afraid of something going wrong and ruining this before it has a chance to begin. I don’t know what we are Severus but I do know that I can’t bear to lose you.”

“I’m not going anywhere,” said Severus, his large hand gently cupping her cheek, his thumb catching the tear she didn’t know had escaped her eye, “My dear Hermione, I promise you that.”

She covered his hand with her own, pressing into the touch as best she could, “I may just hold you to that,” she said, swallowing back the tears that wanted to fall at his words but she knew he saw her upset as he frowned.

“Please tell me what happened to you?” he said, “I hate seeing this fear in your face that I, of all people, would leave you. You have come to mean so much to me and I want to see you smile without hesitation, without this sadness. Please talk to me, my darling girl. Please tell me what I can do?”

Before she could check her own actions, Hermione found herself in his arms, his embrace as sure and strong as she needed it to be as she buried her face in the fall of his hair. One strong hand rested firmly at her waist whilst the other cradled her head, keeping her close as she gave in to the tears she hadn’t yet allowed herself to cry.

She wasn’t sure how long he held her for or how long she cried but his strength never once failed her, bearing all her tears with a quietness that comforted her more than hollow words could. Finally, she raised her head enough to meet his gaze, the softness of his eyes enough to bring a small smile to her face.

“Could we go somewhere a bit more comfortable?” she asked, “Charming as your attic is, it’s still a little drafty and this may take a while.”

“Hold onto me then,” said Severus, tightening his grip at her waist.

Hermione did as he asked, feeling his magic surround her and trusting that no harm would come to her as it pulled them from the attic to wherever he had chosen to hear her story.

Chapter Text

The fire crackled in the hearth as Hermione pressed her face once more into the fall of Severus’ hair, taking comfort in his solid presence and the quiet that surrounded them. It hadn’t been long since they had apparated into his living room from the attic but Hermione could feel the silence pressing in on her. Still she struggled to find the words to tell her story. She was grateful for Severus’ patience as she warred with her own thoughts, his only movement the gentle track of his fingers through her hair as he held her close.

“It was never going to work, Ron and I,” she said finally.

The only indication that Severus had heard was the brief cessation of his caress before he resumed the gentle stroking.

“Harry had Ginny and it seemed the logical move for he and I to come together, kept everything in a nice, neat little package. It all started in our sixth year; everything was so confusing and frightening. Harry and his meetings with Dumbledore, the Death Eater attacks, suspicions over what was happening with Draco. I felt so alone and anxious and I had no one I could talk to,” she said, “My parents didn’t understand so all I had was Harry and Ron, but they seemed to be moving on without me. I got jealous over Ron’s relationship with Lavender and, when I thought he had started to like me instead, I swooned like the stupid little girl I was. Then everything happened with Dumbledore…I’m sorry…”

“Don’t,” said Severus, “Don’t apologise for bringing it up. I can only imagine how terrible that was for you all.”

“For us? What about you? Forced to kill him to give us even half a chance,” said Hermione.

“We all did what we had to do in the war,” said Severus. “I was a man; you were still a child for all the maturity you had even then. Regardless of what that moment means to me, what’s important right now is what it meant to you because it shaped you and your actions. Dumbledore died at the hand of your teacher whose allegiance you had questioned for years.”

“Felt like we’d lost the only light guiding us,” said Hermione. “And on the back of that, Harry began talking about hunting down the horcruxes and suddenly we became this odd little band of freedom fighters without one bloody clue what we were doing. Everything was panic and fear from the moment we left the Burrow. We were locked in Grimmauld Place together for what felt like forever and then in a bloody tent with Ron sick and each of us taking it in turns to wear that horcrux. You’ve worked with teenagers long enough to understand what happens when three young people are kept in confined spaces for too long and with Harry still pining for Ginny, well…”

“I can imagine things were intense,” said Severus, his dry tone causing Hermione to chuckle.

“Nothing happened between us until after we reached Hogwarts and then we didn’t know if we’d survive the night. When we did…relief and then more uncertainty, it made sense, logically, for us to stay together. Damn my logic for all it’s worth, I knew from day one we were doomed. You know I went to back school, don’t you?”

“To take your NEWTs,” said Severus. “Minerva told me. I hardly think you needed to but I understand why you needed to. Your results were brilliant, of course.”

“You knew my results?” said Hermione, moving enough to look up at him.

“I kept a brief eye on things when I could,” said Severus, the pride in her apparent in his face. “Besides, with Minerva as my nurse as well as her overseeing everything at Hogwarts, I could hardly be expected to not to hear about the pride of Gryffindor. Despite outward appearances, I was so proud of you even then.”

Hermione smiled sadly, resting her head back on his shoulder as her arm tightened around his waist. “How I wanted someone like you back then,” she said softly. “Despite it all, I felt like a failure. My parents were still gone. I had yet to master the reversal of the obliviate I’d put on them and the Ministry said I had to be the one to undo it. My other family, the Weasleys and Harry, they made all the right noises of course but I knew they didn’t understand why I went back. Harry had been immediately accepted on Auror training after the war and along went Ron on his coat tails as always. They were working whilst I remained a schoolgirl and no one got that. Even Ginny didn’t understand. I felt as though they were indulging me. I even remember Arthur saying after all the stress sometimes things crack. That was what they thought, that I’d gone a bit batty after everything and I needed Hogwarts as some sort of prop. Maybe I did. They weren’t being cruel, they just didn’t understand. It got worse after I left though.”

She felt Severus’ arms tighten as she fought back another sob, the soft touch of his lips against her forehead drawing a sigh from her as she let her eyes fall shut.

“You don’t have to tell me anything you don’t want to,” he said when she stayed silent.

“I’m just worried it will sound foolish,” said Hermione, sadly. “Given my present company and everything you’ve been through.”

“You should not measure your pain against mine,” said Severus. “We are completely different people, made of everything we’ve experienced. My past is mine and yours is yours and it’s caused you pain. You should not feel foolish if telling me will relieve you of some of that.”

Hermione opened her eyes as he tucked a finger beneath her chin, his hand moving to caress her cheek with the backs of his fingers. “Being here with you helps more than I can say,” she said. “I didn’t realise how lonely I was until I found you again.”

Severus smiled. “I knew I was lonely,” he said, “I just didn’t know that you would be the one to chase that away. You barrelled back into my life like a beautiful, broken dream and I won’t rest until I see you smile without one hint of sadness in your eyes. Tell me what hurt you so I can heal it.”

“My apprenticeship,” said Hermione, resting her head back on his shoulder. “After Hogwarts I sat down with Minerva and we discussed my future. She suggested, given that Potions had become my speciality, that I apprentice at the Ministry and then look to a role in specialist research. I agreed whole-heartedly that that very path would be perfect for me, constant learning. So I asked her to find me a position which she duly did within a day. I was living at the Burrow and the owl came there just before dinner but I waited until everyone was seated and then I told them. I thought I’d be congratulated. I thought Arthur would tell me this, that and the other about the Ministry and all its foibles, but instead all I heard was Molly asking me what about Ron and our children. I was so confused, it took me a moment to realise she meant the children we were yet to have. I wasn’t yet twenty and Ron…dear, stupid Ron, tried his best to calm things, said we were nowhere near ready for marriage or children though I could hear the lie in his voice. He wanted exactly what his mother did and there I was defying that.”

“As is your right,” said Severus, his arms releasing her as she pushed up to her feet in favour of pacing the carpet. “Half the reason you fought the battles you did was for the right to determine your own future.”

“Tell that to my former would-be mother in law,” said Hermione, wringing her hands in front of her as she paced. “I should have ended things then but I was frightened of what would come after if I did. I started my apprenticeship, my mentor was a very gentle and quiet man who let me make so many mistakes, you would have hated him, but he never became more than a teacher and potions making is such a singular pursuit that I didn’t make many friends. Once I mastered the spell to revert the obliviate I went to Australia, found my parents, and undid what I had done only it didn’t work to its fullest. I restored their memories but I couldn’t restore their love for me. They knew me but they didn’t care, much as we all tried to pretend it wasn’t happening. My parents no longer loved me and I…I…”

“I know,” said Severus, the depth of his voice making Hermione’s heart break for them both.

“I came home,” continued Hermione. “Looked for solace in the other family I had. Ron then took to the rather stupid idea of proposing as a way to comfort me. If he’d done it privately maybe things would have been different but no, he did it in front of everyone. I hesitated and then I ran. He followed me into the garden, and that’s where we finally talked, really talked, and realised that we were going nowhere. He was gracious and I was so relieved. We agreed to remain friends and I finally felt free. Sadly, Molly didn’t take the news so well. She lectured me for almost an hour on how I was ruining everyone’s hopes and dreams, that the wedding had been planned. She had even been restoring the crib she had kept her children in. It didn’t matter what I wanted at all, the contents of my womb was far more important to her than anything in my head. I left that night, went to stay with Harry and Ginny at Grimmauld Place, Molly followed the morning after, and the rest is history. She made things so difficult for them all is she knew they were spending time with me and all I could do to help them was to leave them be.”

Severus rose, stepping behind her and placing his hands on her shoulders. “They should have fought harder for you,” he said, the anger barely contained in his voice.

“And lost their own family too?” said Hermione. “No, my darling, they did the best they could for themselves and I don’t blame them. Harry was taken in by Molly and the others when he had no one and I can’t blame any of her children. I just wish I hadn’t been left so alone for so long. I lost everyone, Severus, and it felt like I was eleven years old again, thrust into a world I didn’t understand. It all sounds so silly now that I’ve said it out loud.”

“It doesn’t sound silly at all,” said Severus. “You’ve been hurt so badly through no fault of your own.”

Hermione laughed but there was little mirth in it. “I did obliviate my own parents,” she said.

“To save their lives,” said Severus. “You can’t really be blamed for that. Can I do anything to help? I could talk to Harry or even Molly if you want me to.”

Hermione turned, slipping her arms around his waist as she pressed her forehead to his chest. “Just having you listen is helping,” she said. “I think what hurts the most is the fact that I was considered worth no more than marrying and producing children. All I’ve ever wanted to do was learn and keep learning. It isn’t even as if she is consistent. Ginny is happily living in sin with Harry without Molly pushing anything about marriage or children, but heaven forbid that anything interrupt Ginny’s sporting career.”

Severus chuckled. “Consistency has never been Molly Weasley’s strong point,” he said. “I’m so sorry this happened to you.”

“But if it hadn’t, I wouldn’t take on the role of Potions Mistress and then I wouldn’t have you and this wonderful thing that’s starting between us,” she said, turning her face up to his. “Can you see why I’m frightened though? Every I care for seems to leave.”

“Well I won’t,” said Severus. “Even if we stay just as we are now. I will always be your friend.”

“And you’ll always be my friend,” said Hermione. “Whatever we become. Even if The Prophet tries its damnedest to tear us apart. According to them I had a foursome with Victor, Fleur, and Harry during the Tri-Wizard Tournament, did you know?”

“Indeed,” chuckled Severus, pressing a kiss to her forehead. “Let the bloody Prophet print what it likes. Their opinion and the opinion of those who read it will never sway me. How are you feeling?”

“Lighter,” said Hermione with a soft sigh. “But I must look an utter fright.”

Severus’ hands left her waist to frame her face, his thumbs rubbing the tear tracks that lingered there. “I think you look beautiful,” he said, honesty filling every word with a weight that Hermione felt settle around her like a blanket.

“You’re very sweet,” she said, then blushed as her stomach growled loudly.

“And you’re very hungry,” said Severus, his smile at her mortified expression chasing away some of her embarrassment as she stepped from his embrace, rubbing her stomach to silence it.

“There I go, killing the mood,” she said.

“When did you last eat?” asked Severus.

“Last night,” said Hermione, smiling sheepishly as he frowned. “I was too anxious about the house to eat breakfast.”

“Well then, I shall go and find us some lunch,” he said. “And then we can go and see this house of yours. Is that acceptable to you?”

“Sounds like a plan,” said Hermione, happily tucking herself against his side as he led them both into the small kitchen beyond.

Chapter Text

Hermione looked up from her place on the sofa in Severus’ small living room, smiling at the sight of him stood in the doorway in his familiar black frock coat, the man determined he would not stir from inside the house in the warm jumper she had spent the majority of the morning cuddled up to. As much as she loathed the loss of his more casual look, she couldn’t help but admire the silhouette the well tailored coat gave him, his form slim and elegant and more than pleasing to the eye.

The quirk of one dark eyebrow told her that he had noticed her scrutiny but rather than blush and look away she let her gaze wander over him once more, seeing instead the slight colouring in his cheeks at her boldness.

“Are you fit to be seen now then?” said Hermione.

“I’ll allow you to be the judge on that score,” said Severus as she got to her feet and crossed the room to him.

“I think,” said Hermione, as she smoothed her hands over the fine material that covered his shoulders, “That you are more than fit to be seen. Are you ready to go? We’ll need to apparate as the house isn’t on the floo network.”

“Shall we then?” said Severus, gesturing to the door.

Hermione nodded, bypassing his arm as he offered it to her and instead taking his hand, lacing their fingers together as he led her to the front door. They had soon walked the short distance to the point Severus favoured to apparate from, the river behind the houses a fetid, lifeless affair that had Hermione pressing closer to the man at her side.

“It’s not pleasant I know but few people come down here and there’s less risk of being seen,” said Severus, as they paused beneath a rickety looking iron bridge, “I shan’t miss it when I leave though.”

“Are you ready?” said Hermione, “Would you like me to take us both or…”

“I think I trust you enough,” said Severus, taking hold of her hands, “Let’s go.”

Hermione held onto him firmly, calling the image of her home to mind before she took them both to the destination. She opened her eyes a moment later, a relieved smile coming to her face as she realised they were both in one piece. She noticed Severus looking around the small building they stood in, the bemused expression on his face that made her giggle.

“Before you panic, this isn’t the house,” she said, “It’s the summer house. It was already in the garden when I bought the place but it is secluded enough to serve as a good apparition point outside of the wards on the house. Come on.”

She tightened her grip on his hand, as she reached for the latch on the glass door, opening it onto the garden beyond. The small patch of grass they stepped out onto was hidden from view by several large evergreens and the wintry skeletons of other trees. There was a small, overgrown kitchen garden fenced off to their right and a metal archway entwined with the remnants of a climbing rose to their left. Hermione led him through the archway, pulling him to a halt not far beyond where the lawn led up to the house.

“Well,” she said, not daring to look up at him, “This is it.”

“I expected smaller,” said Severus, as he took in the sight before him, “The garden alone…the potential.”

Hermione smiled as she turned her attention to him, “I thought about having a potions garden where the old owners had the kitchen garden,” she said, “And there’s room enough at the bottom of the garden to build a fire pit for the potions that need to be brewed outside. There’s oak, ash and pear trees already established and with some cultivation they could probably be useful all year round.”

“I see you’ve already given this some thought,” said Severus.

“Well, you know me,” said Hermione, “Would you like to see inside?”

Severus nodded, letting her lead him towards the patio that led to the back door of the house. They paused before the brickwork, Hermione taking up her wand and lowering the wards before they approached the back door. She pulled a key identical to the one she had given Severus from her pocket and unlocked the door, leading him into the small room beyond.

“Kitchen,” she said, waving a hand to her right, “And this way is the living room. Like I say, it needs some updating.”

“I can see that,” said Severus, his hand trailing along the dusty pink wallpaper, “It makes my house look modern.”

“I won’t take long to put right, the building at least is sound,” said Hermione as they stepped into the long living room, “I want to put bookcases all along this wall. I have a few and if you…”

“We may require more than one wall,” said Severus, “Why don’t you show me the rest?”

Hermione did as he asked, the tour not taking too long though every moment felt like an eternity as she waited for Severus to give some indication on his answer. She felt the blush on her cheeks as she showed him the three bedrooms upstairs, indicating the one she had taken as her own, boxes of the things she hadn’t taken to Hogwarts piled up along the walls. The other was bare other than a few smaller boxes but the third was the most lived in, several cauldrons already set up in what looked to be the beginnings of a laboratory.

She smiled as her former teacher paid the most attention to the workroom, moving things this way and that and looking at the play of light from the window over all the surfaces.

“You’ve made quite a start here,” said Severus, turning back to her, “It could be a very fine place to work.”

“Will you take it then?” said Hermione grasping his hand.

Severus covered her hand with his, “I can’t make a decision that quickly,” he said, “We need to talk first. Shall we go back downstairs?”

Hermione nodded, leading him back down the staircase and through the hall into the living room. He helped her to remove the dustsheet from the small sofa she had managed to purchase before her move to Hogwarts, the pair of them sitting in close proximity as Severus took hold of her hand.

“You have a lovely home here,” he said, as his free hand enclosed their joined ones, “And you are very kind to offer me a place in it but there are hurdles we need to overcome if I am to consider accepting. Can we agree to speak plainly and honestly with each other?”

Hermione nodded, her fingers tracing the fine tracery of veins on the back of his pale hand, “I thought that was a given between us,” she said, “I want you to always be honest with me, even if you think you will hurt me. We’ve both spent too long surrounded by artifice. Talk to me about your concerns and I will try my best to assuage them.”

“Well, first and foremost, I am twenty years your senior, formerly your teacher and, despite everything, I still bear the Dark Mark,” said Severus, his expression waiving between regret and self loathing, “These things may be over looked were we merely friends but for you to have me under your roof, you risk your name and your reputation.”

“My reputation can only be improved by having a hero of the war in my house,” said Hermione, with a passion that bordered on anger, “You look so poorly upon yourself and you shouldn’t, Severus. I care nothing for your age; you’re still a young man in terms of wizarding kind anyway, and as for being my teacher, that doesn’t matter. You were my teacher but that role ceased many years ago and I’m no longer anyone’s student. I’m a woman, not a little girl and I can keep whatever company I choose. Besides, the only opinions I value right now are yours and my own. Anyone who wishes to say anything against you and I can hang for all I care.”

Severus smiled ruefully, loosing one hand to brush the backs of his fingers against her cheek, “You and I,” he said, softly, “Therein lays my greatest concern. If I were to live here then the very nature of our relationship will be altered, imbalanced. I’m a difficult man at the best of times my dear, as well you know, and I am not sure I can happily play tenant to a woman I intend to court.”

Hermione fought the bright smile that took her as best she could but to no avail, knowing that a blush was staining her cheeks at his words, “I didn’t think people referred to it as courting anymore,” she said, “But coming from you it sounds wonderfully romantic. Is it truly your intent? You want me that way?”

“I have done so for far longer than I think I have even been aware,” said Severus, “This understanding between us, what we both know can grow from here, I don’t know how to lead it and if I were to be your tenant I fear I would step back too far for this ever to be an equal partnership.”

“But don’t you see, you won’t be my tenant,” said Hermione, “I don’t want anything from you, I just want you to have a home. I’m not expecting anything from you, the house is paid for thanks to the stupid amount of money the Ministry threw at me with my Order of Merlin. I just want you safe and happy somewhere where you can work and build the life you want. I want this to be your home and then, if we work, I want this to be our home.”

“Our home?” said Severus, his forehead coming to rest against hers, “That is so very tempting.”

“Then be tempted,” said Hermione, “Severus I want you to be here whether we are together or not. I owe you so much more than you will ever allow yourself to believe I’m sure. You were the reason we achieved what we did in the war and, in more recent history, you have saved me from the deepest loneliness and given me a reason to wake up every day whether it be to read your letters or to see you. It has been such a short time I know and I have been reluctant but I cannot deny that you are essential to me.”

“As always you give me the word I have been struggling to find,” said Severus, his hands once more cradling her head as he met her gaze, “You are essential.”

The look in his eyes broke the thin grasp Hermione had on her control and she closed the small distance between them, her lips meeting his in a kiss that was far more chaste than anything she had ever known but the emotion behind it brought tears to her eyes. The touch was only brief, as fleeting as the one they had shared at the turn of the year but Hermione knew it meant far more.

They did not part further than an inch or so and Hermione found herself gripping onto the sleeves of his coat as she tried to steady the rapid beat of her heart.

“Does that count as asking you to kiss me?” she asked breathlessly.

“If you wish it to,” said Severus, a small smile gracing his lips.

Hermione mirrored his smile, “Kiss me?” she said, phrasing it as a question but they both knew it was closer to a command.

He obliged immediately, the kiss once again the same shivery, almost tentative touch but Hermione’s heart raced all the same.

“Are you certain this is what you want?” said Severus as they parted once more, “I want you to be sure after all that has happened to you.”

“That alone makes me certain,” said Hermione, “I’m yours if you’ll have me but can we take things slowly? We still have so much to learn about one another.”

Severus nodded, his hands leaving her head to pull her into his arms, “I will follow your lead,” he said as Hermione’s head found its now favoured place on his shoulder.

“And the house?” she asked.

“I will give it some thought,” said Severus, “Can I beg a few days indulgence on my answer?”

Hermione nodded, lifting her head enough to press a kiss to his cheek before she curled herself into him, “Take all the time you need,” she said, feeling his answering smile against the crown of her head as his arms tightened around her once more.

 

Chapter Text

Hermione smiled as she watched Severus pick his way through the overgrown kitchen garden from the patio windows, the paths long since obliterated by the weeds but several practised sweeps with his wand had them clearing for him. She raised her fingers to her lips, smiling as she still felt the soft touch of his kisses there.

They had roused themselves from the sofa not long before, parting with the same chaste kisses they had begun with. The decision to part had been driven by necessity more than anything else. Their embrace teetering on a knife-edge before the plunge into something more than either of them was ready for.

Severus had asked to look around the house once more and Hermione had sent him off to explore as he pleased. She had filled her time by sorting through several of the boxes that littered the living room, letting her mind conjure images of how the house could look when they had changed it to suit them. Despite him not having given her an answer about the house she allowed herself to hope, unable to keep the smile from her face as she thought about the life they could have there.

She had headed to the patio window when she had heard him call out that he was heading into the garden, watching as he wandered around the grounds. She took up her wand as Severus continued his explorations, a brief spell rending the old-fashioned wallpaper from the wall to reveal the plaster beneath. The majority of the living room walls were clear by the time Severus re-entered the house and she heard him stop in the doorway, knowing he was surveying her handiwork.

“I see you’ve gone at this poor place with that old Granger gusto of yours,” he said as she turned to him.

Hermione shrugged, “Seemed foolish to wait when it could be done today,” she said, vanishing what remained of the stripped paper from the floor, “And thankfully magic means I don’t have to contend with those horrible steam things my dad used to…my dad used to use.”

“Are you alright?” said Severus, his eyes filling with concern at the catch in her voice.

Hermione nodded though she couldn’t force a smile, “I’m fine,” she said, “Just forget sometimes and then I say something and it hurts.”

“Come here,” said Severus, opening his arms to her and hugging her tightly as she pressed herself against him, “Will you let me list some spells that might be of use in restoring your parents? I know you were reluctant but at least begin some research. If we put our heads together maybe we can come up with something that needn’t utilise dark magic.”

Hermione nodded, “Please,” she said, “I’m terrified to try but I hate not trying.”

“I’ll get to it,” said Severus, “But first, I’m going to take you out to dinner, see if I can’t make you smile.”

Hermione frowned, “Dinner sounds lovely but I can’t really do this evening. The children return in three days and I still have to plan out the lessons for the first and second years,” she said, “Plus I have some potions to make up for Poppy and I need to go to the apothecary for some supplies. I’d much prefer to spend the evening with you though.”

“I’m not giving you up that easily,” said Severus, “So how about a compromise? I could do with replenishing my own supplies and I would normally go to Diagon Alley but I can go to the apothecary in Hogsmeade. We could make the trip together and then have supper at the Three Broomsticks before you return to Hogwarts.”

“Are you certain you want to go to Hogsmeade with me?” said Hermione, “We’ll be noticed and I know how much you value your privacy.”

“I value you far more,” said Severus, “And if you have no qualms of being seen with me then I say let those who wish to have their opinions about us have them whilst we enjoy each other’s company. If anyone asks, we can tell them anything we please. We can simply be professor and former professor discussing the merits of teaching first years to brew pepper-up potions. We can be friends meeting for a simple meal or, if we wish to be honest, we can admit to being two people who hold each other in very high regard and wish for nothing more to be with each other.”

Hermione smiled up at him, her fingers gently brushing a lock of black and silver hair back from his face as he looked down at her, “You are becoming quite unfailingly romantic and I am going to end up very spoiled,” she said, raising herself on her toes to kiss him, “Hogsmeade it is, my darling.”

“I promise we won’t be out too late,” said Severus, “And forgive me for being selfish and wanting to keep you for the evening.”

“I think I can forgive you that,” said Hermione, “Do you want to go now or is there more you’d like to look at in the house?”

“I think I have seen enough to make a sensible decision,” he said, “And I promise to give you an answer soon.”

Hermione nodded, “Take your time,” she said, “Shall we head to Hogsmeade then? We can apparate from the garden or I could take you to a safe point I’ve found nearby, give you a chance to get the lay of the land.”

“It would be nice to have an idea of where we are,” said Severus, “As charming as the house is, I have absolutely no idea where I am.”

Hermione giggled, “Guess I was too nervous about showing you the place to think about anything else,” she said, leaving his arms and heading back through the small dining room to the back door, “We’re in Hertfordshire, about forty minutes outside of London.”

“Home counties?” said Severus, leaning in the doorframe as Hermione locked and warded the back door, “A little south of the Watford Gap for someone like me.”

“A decidedly muggle reference,” giggled Hermione, “Am I offending socialist sensibilities by bringing you into the commuter belt?”

“I’m sure I will manage,” said Severus, following her through the hallway to the front door, “Anything is an improvement on my old neighbourhood anyway.”

Hermione unlocked the door, winding his Slytherin scarf back around her neck as she opened it, glad to see the small smile on Severus’ face as she did so. They stepped out onto the driveway, Hermione locking and warding the door behind her before Severus took hold of her hand, long fingers entwining with hers.

She led him out into the street and then down a small alley, a field and a children’s play park just beyond that led down to a level crossing over the two-track railway line, the service bridge providing adequate cover to apparate from.

“Do you want to go home and get a thicker coat?” said Hermione, opening her bag and reaching deeper inside than it should have physically been possible to, drawing out a long woollen cape, “It will be colder in Scotland.”

“I’ll manage with a warming charm,” said Severus, helping her with the clasp on her cape before he drew her into his arms, “Shall we?”

“By all means,” said Hermione, pressing her hands against his back before she gripped onto the material of his coat as his magic surrounded them.

She didn’t move as she felt the crunch of snow beneath her feet and the deeper chill in the air and Severus also seemed less than inclined to release her as one large hand came up to stroke her hair. She could happily have stayed in his embrace but the chilly wind bit easily through her cape and the warming charms they had both cast, causing her to shiver despite his arms around her.

They separated but Severus pulled her hand into the crook of his arm, escorting her from the place they had apparated to and into the little village. Several heads turned their way but they paid them no mind, making their way to the apothecary and then moving on to Honeydukes at Hermione’s request, the bag she left with nearly as big as the one she had carried from the apothecary.

They had finally headed to the Three Broomsticks, finding a table despite the curious glances they received from Rosmerta and the few patrons who were already in residence. They ignored every look, deliberately to start with and then without thought as they fell into easy conversation. The only other person they spoke to being Rosmerta when she came to take their order and when she returned briefly to bring them their meal but she offered no comment despite the look on her face telling them that she wished too.

Hermione was glad at how relaxed Severus was despite the eyes on them, his conversation as easy and jovial as it had been when they had been out together in the muggle world. By the time they had eaten and darkness had fallen beyond the windows of the little pub though, she found her own mood sinking, knowing she was duty bound to return to the castle to prepare for her incoming students.

She knew the moment Severus sensed the change in her mood as his fingers stroked gently over hers where they rested beside her glass of butterbeer.

“You’ve gone very quiet my dear,” he said, “It is somewhat disconcerting.”

Hermione forced a smile, “I’m sorry,” she said, “It’s just getting late and I know I have to go but I don’t want to.”

“But you have to and know that I understand that,” said Severus, “It is not as though we will never see one another again.”

“I know but I will miss being able to write to you when I please or come and visit.”

“We can write in the evenings,” said Severus, “And you aren’t a head of house so, with Minerva’s consent there is no reason you could not come to visit on the weekends. I think you already have that in your mind though and that is not what is truly bothering you.”

Hermione smiled sadly, “You know me too well,” she said before she raised her gaze to his, “Do you really think I can do this?”

Severus nodded, “Yes my wondrous girl, I do,” he said, “You are clever and talented and more than capable of becoming a great teacher. This year will be hard and you will have much to overcome but you are capable Hermione. I know you are.”

“I will try,” she said, “But if I’m to make any real go of it then I really should go and do some work. Would you walk me home?”

“As if I would do anything less,” said Severus, helping her to her feet before they collected up their bags, shrinking them until he could fit his own in his coat pocket and Hermione’s into her purse.

Hermione nudged him out of the way once they reached the bar, forcing Rosmerta to give her the bill despite her companion’s protests.

“Nice to see you here with company Snape,” said the barmaid as she returned with a handful of sickles that made up Hermione’s change, “Better than you propping the bar up and scaring off half my customers with your miserable face like you did on Christmas night.”

Hermione bit back her surprise as she turned to see the dark scowl on Severus’ face, the look one she remembered well from her childhood but had not seen since they had been reunited and it chilled her.

“Professor Granger, if you are quite ready,” said Severus, ignoring Rosmerta as he turned to the door.

“Goodnight,” said Hermione as brightly as she could before she hurried after him, spotting him already half way down the path towards Hogwarts as she exited the pub.

She had to run to catch him, grabbing his arm to pulling him into a more sedate pace as they continued along the path.

“Severus?” she questioned, frowning when he didn’t look at her, “You were here, Christmas night…in your letter you said…and I didn’t come.”

“It doesn’t matter,” said Severus, though he kept his eyes downcast.

“It does matter,” said Hermione, moving around to face him, walking backwards in the snow as she tried to catch his gaze, “I would have come if I’d known. I just thought you were offering me advice not…Severus I’m sorry. I wanted so desperately to see you that night. You were here, you were so close and I wish I’d known.”

“I should have been more explicit with my wishes,” said Severus, “I wanted to see you so much that I nearly came to the castle.”

“Even then?” said Hermione with a smile, “Oh Severus. Please my darling, look at me before I fall over and embarrass myself.”

He did as she asked and she was glad to see the small smile on his lips, returning it with ease before she returned to his side.

“You must think me quite the old fool,” he said.

“And you must think me terribly dense not to have realised you were there,” said Hermione, “I promise you will not be alone next Christmas though, or any thereafter.”

He didn’t answer her but his hand came up to cover hers where it rested in the crook of his arm as they continued down the snowy path. It wasn’t long until they reached the gates of Hogwarts, the castle looming above them once more as though prepared to step between them at any moment.

“I will write tomorrow,” promised Hermione, before she smiled shyly, “Truth be told, I will probably write tonight.”

“Am I to expect letters from your bedchamber?” said Severus with a smirk, the backs of his fingers brushing her cheek as she blushed, “Oh that is entirely too becoming on you, my dear. May I kiss you goodnight?”

Hermione nodded, “You don’t have to ask you know,” she said moments before his lips met hers, lingering longer than they had previously but still holding an uncertainty that had her heart hammering at the newness of it all.

“Goodnight, my dearest girl,” said Severus as he released her.

Hermione wanted nothing more than to beg him to let her stay with him but duty called to her as well and she pressed one more fleeting kiss to his lips before she stepped out of his arms, “Goodnight my darling,” she said, breaking through the wards and opening the gate to the castle, “I’ll see you very soon.”

It was with reluctance that she turned away from him and headed along the path towards the castle, turning back as she reached the bend in the road in time to see his figure disappear from view.

Chapter Text

Darling Severus,

It seems so strange to be writing to you again but I must be disciplined and resist the urge just to step into the floo and kiss you good morning.

You’ll be pleased to know that I made good headway on my second years last night in between our letters and I will have them finished by mid morning today I am sure.

I miss you desperately today, more so in the knowledge that in two days there will be classrooms full of children between us and I will not be able to see you when I please. I know it must sound terribly ungrateful though, I have a good job and I should be happy about that but I wish we had more time together.

How is the packing going? I dread to think of all the boxes you will go through in an attempt to pack all your books. Please make sure that you keep warm if you are working in that drafty old attic. I swear I would have caught my death up there were it not for your scarf. I never knew I could grow so fond of silver and green.

I keep pinching myself to be certain these past few days have been reality. You have made me so happy and, for the first time in a very long time, I feel so hopeful for the future. I feel so very lucky to have been given the chance to get to know you, to know the man beneath the mask I knew when I was young. I thought you had so many layers even then but I realise now I only saw one small part of your character. I never would have believed the man I now know was waiting for me to find him.

Darling I miss you and I long for the moment I get to see you again. Write to me when you can today, if I cannot have you with me then I will have you fine writing and your wonderful words.

With deepest affection,

Hermione

PS I hope the chocolates survived the floo journey. I meant to give them to you yesterday. Enjoy x

 

 

Dearest Hermione,

Waking to find a letter from you on the hearthrug was certainly a far better way to start the day than I have known before but the temptation of a kiss leaves me once again in want of your presence. Perhaps one day I will know what it is to greet the morning with a kiss from a beautiful woman.

I content myself that our separation will only be of a short duration and I understand the necessity of it. I want you to succeed in all your endeavours and if I must tolerate the loss of your presence for a short time then I will bear it and celebrate your victories when they are achieved. Our relationship has merely chosen to arise with the inconvenience of time upon it but we will learn to adapt around what we must do. I will count the moments to every weekend and every holiday though.

The packing is tedious and dull but I am making headway. It is amazing how much junk I have accumulated over the years despite my belief that I have lived quite simply. The exercise has been cathartic though and I have put a few old ghosts to rest. I think perhaps I kept even the most minor things because they were all that I had to make memories with. Now, I see for the first time in a very long time, the hope of a future with far better memories to be made then I ever thought possible. You have given me hope Hermione and I did not no how desperately I needed that. I have been existing since I awoke from the battle, a battle I did not intend to survive but did. That survival was a lonely thing until those first letters you sent me, those letters that I callously replied to because the sensation I felt when I saw your writing on the page terrified me. I can only be utterly grateful that you did not give up on me because of it.

I did not think I could ever feel the happiness that you have brought to me. I feel as though I have lived more in these two short weeks than I have in what seemed to be interminable years on this planet.

Dearest I too am counting the moments until I see you again. Even in reading your letters, I can hear your voice but it is not enough. I miss you.

Severus.

 

Darling,

It is almost impossible to sit here and not come to you. It’s not even noon and already the hours have dragged. My second years at least are planned out and I am going to work on my first years in the hope that maybe by tomorrow I might have a few hours free. I cannot face the new term without seeing you again. You have become my strength and I need you. I’m so scared.

Severus, do you really believe I can do this? Last term was such a disaster and I fear I am doomed to repeat so many mistakes even with your guidance. I question every decision I make, even if I copied your lessons plans to the letter, I would question them. I am too young and inexperienced to be effective. I’m terrified of my seventh years and at least a foot shorter than most of them.

I cannot do this. When I’m with you, talking to you, I feel so strong but when I’m alone I constantly question and second guess myself. I want to succeed but I don’t know how to.

Would you be ashamed of me if I gave up?

I’m sorry, I did not mean for this to be such a desperate note. Sometimes I am still a foolish little girl.

Tell me what to do. Please. I need my teacher.

Hermione.

 

My Dear Little Lioness,

There is no one in this world more capable than you. You are brilliant and I say that as your former teacher not as…well, we have not quite named what we are to one another.

If you require me to list all your achievements then I will do so but to save the several small forests I would require for the parchment, I will say the following. The entire wizarding world lives in freedom because of you. Hermione Granger is a name that will go down in history and will forever be synonymous with bravery, valour and intelligence far beyond your years. You should not be scared of any student even if they were three foot taller than you.

My angel I have been where you are, I have been that terrified young teacher standing before the class without any understanding of why I am there and not still in uniform. You are young and you are inexperienced, that cannot be denied, but you are fiercely intelligent and brilliant at the subject you have been engaged to teach.

If you seek my advice then I will repeat what I said to you in October. Own your classroom and remember who is in control. If you are indeed feeling intimidated then speak with Minerva and have one of the more experienced staff members sit in on a few classes. This can be easily covered as a faculty move and would by no means look poorly on you. Your colleagues are there to help you learn.

As for you asking if I would be ashamed of you, that answer is simple. Never. Never Hermione, I can swear that now. If you walked out of there today, I would not be ashamed. I will stand by any decision you make but I would caution you not to make a one based on your nerves. You are anxious and that is natural. Believe me; I had my fair share of pre-term jitters, even when I was far older than you are now. Your fears are not foolish but I do believe they are ungrounded.

Give this time and I believe you will see that I am right but I am here to see you through every trial. If you need me then come to the house, any time day or night. I would prefer you wake me at three in the morning than sit alone in your room and worry yourself.

Dearest you can do this. I believe in you.

Severus.

Chapter Text

Severus stood as his letter sailed off through the floo network; hopefully straight into Hermione’s hand as he felt her desperation for reassurance almost as though it were his own. He cursed his own cowardice for not going to the castle himself but there were too many demons and bad memories in the place for him to be of any use to her if he had gone. He hoped instead that she took his invitation and came to him, knowing that he would happily put aside any other task in favour of comforting her.

He had been surprised at his words upon the page, endearments and encouragement flowing easily through the quill despite them being such alien things to him. He had meant every word though, wanting her to know not only the depth of his feelings for her but also his belief in her abilities. He had been loathed to push aside her talents when she had been his student, the only balm being her ability to thrive and achieve despite the belittlements he threw her way. He knew he would spend his life trying to make up for his cruelty though.

He turned back to the boxes he had taken to packing downstairs when he had realised that she would be in need of more immediate responses. The bookshelves before him were bowed and worn, all the more noticeable now that they were devoid of the books that had rested on them. He knew they would remain at the house rather than move with him, the wood too old to transport without it disintegrating. He wondered how much weight the walls at Hermione’s house could take, trying to mentally recreate the room and imagine it with shelves built in to the walls or bookcases lining them.

He shook off the thought, still unsure if he was certain about accepting her offer, the ramifications of doing so far deeper than even he was keen to entertain. Any further rumination was cut short as he heard the frantic knock at the door, frowning at the fireplace before he headed to answer it, knowing that Hermione would have come by floo if she wanted him.

On instinct, he drew his wand from his pocket as he unlocked the door, opening it cautiously before he caught sight of the person beyond.

“Harry?” he said, “What are you doing here?”

“Needed to talk to you,” said Harry, moving into the house before an invitation could pass Severus’ lips.

“Manners escape you on your way over?” said Severus, as he followed him into the living room, “Do come in Mr Potter.”

“I didn’t come over to be polite,” said Harry, “This isn’t a social call.”

Severus’ eyes narrowed as he regarded him, “You’re here as an auror?” he said, feeling the familiar creeping chill spread through him, “Harry?”

The boy shook his head, “No not as an auror,” he said, reaching into his pocket and drawing out a clipping from a paper, “Do you want to explain this?”

Severus took the proffered clipping, his eyes closing in exasperation as he barely caught the headline but noticed the photo beneath despite not being aware it had been taken, “Bloody reporters never know when to stop,” he said, “Can’t they just leave her alone?”

“I’m not bothered about them,” snapped Harry, “What the hell are you doing to her in that picture?”

Severus’ eyes snapped open to meet Harry’s, the anger in the younger man’s fuelling his own, “Well I realise you are still quite young Potter but even you should be able to recognise a kiss when you see it,” he sneered.

“Don’t give me that, I know what it is but it’s you and Hermione,” said Harry, “My best friend, Hermione Granger.”

Severus huffed out a humourless laugh, “And I suppose you’ve come all the way here to defend her honour have you?” he said, “Riding in on your white charger to rescue the fair maiden from the clutches of the evil sorcerer. Sit down and shut up Potter before you think too hard and hurt yourself.”

“No I don’t think…”

“I said sit down, Potter,” snapped Severus, the wing back chair sailing easily across the room to hit the boy behind the knees, forcing him to sit down.

Severus didn’t give him a moment to recover, slamming his hands down on the arms of the chair as he loomed over his former charge, biting back the small smirk of triumph as he saw the flash of fear in the boy’s eyes.

“You are the last person on earth who has the right to question me when it comes to my association with Miss Granger,” he said, “You, who have essentially abandoned her for months but rush in here when she perhaps finds herself in a relationship you find abhorrent.”

“I haven’t abandoned her,” said Harry, “What are talking about?”

“I’m talking about you and the rest of your band of miscreants letting that poor young woman lock herself away because you’re afraid of Molly Weasley,” said Severus, “And don’t you dare deny it.”

“Hermione chose to stay away because of what happened with Ron,” said Harry, pressing himself back in his chair, “She didn’t want to make things difficult for everyone but it was her choice, she…”

“No!” said Severus, “No it was not her choice, not truly. You should have fought harder for her. You know what she’s like. So unfailingly, ridiculously practical to the point where she will isolate herself because it is the logical thing to do. Are you that terrified of your would be mother-in-law that you stood so easily by and let her?”

“We tried to see her,” said Harry, “We tried…”

“Well you didn’t try hard enough!” shouted Severus, “You didn’t fight. Now I might not have been your parents’ friend at the end but I’m the last one left standing and I’m damned if I am going to let you behave in any way they would not approve of. Your mother would have wanted you to fight for your friend and, for all his many faults; your father knew the value of friendship more than anything. You should have stood up to Molly when she tried to drive Hermione out. You should have stood up for the woman who you wouldn’t have lasted two minutes without.”

Harry’s eyes flashed briefly as he opened his mouth to argue but then he dropped his gaze, “Do you know how much I hate it when you’re right?” he said, his voice small, “It was easier…I was a prat.”

“A family trait in the paternal line,” said Severus stepping back from the chair before taking a seat on the sofa, exhaustion washing over him as the adrenaline left him, “Do you have any idea how much you’ve hurt her?”

“You really care about her don’t you?” said Harry, confusion warring with shock on his face, “I never would have thought...you’re the mysterious him, aren’t you? The man Hermione was talking about before the New Year. I can’t believe it, she…”

“Potter, is this a private conversation or may I join at some point?” said Severus, earning himself a scowl from the boy, “Yes it was me she was talking about before New Year and, though I would not change that evening for anything, it is testament to the gulf between you that she chose me over you. Harry, you need to fix it.”

Harry frowned, “I don’t think she would have chosen us over you even if we were still close,” he said, before he shook his head, “I miss her a lot.”

“And she misses you, believe me,” said Severus, with a sigh, “Harry for heaven’s sake you stood up to Voldemort.”

“I know,” said the boy, “It’s a real mess but I don’t know how to make it right.”

“Floo, owl, apparate to Hogwarts and walk up to the door,” Severus replied, “Look, your parents aren’t here and neither are the people they would have chosen to stand in their place but I am. We might not have seen eye to eye for many years but in recent history I like to think we’ve come to an understanding and I would hope that, in lieu of anyone else, you would take my advice. Go to her and for sanity’s sake tell Molly Weasley to mind her own business.”

“We’ve tried contacting her,” said Harry, “And aside from New Year nights out with you, which still makes my head ache, she makes excuses and brushes us off. What am I meant to do, kidnap her?”

Severus let his head fall back on the sofa as he groaned, “Why is it always like pulling bloody teeth with you?” he groused, “You were like this is class. January ninth, are you and Miss Weasley free?”

“I guess,” said Harry in confusion, “Why?”

“I’m planning on asking Hermione to accompany me to dinner,” said Severus, “If you and Ginny met us there then you would have time to talk in a setting that avoids Molly’s interference.”

Harry frowned before he gave a small laugh, “That is probably the most surreal picture I could imagine,” he said, “You and Hermione. You’re serious?”

Severus nodded, “I think so,” he said, “It’s new though. Are you going to hex me? You certainly seemed intent on it earlier.”

“Well it was certainly not what I was expecting to see on the front page of the newspaper when I went down to breakfast this morning,” said Harry, “But much as I wasn’t happy when I saw it, you and Hermione, you kind of make sense.”

“I would have thought you’d have been warning me off in favour of your Mr Weasley.”

Harry snorted, “We all saw that heading for a reef from the word go,” he said, “George even had a book going. Only people who didn’t see it were Ron and Hermione, though I think they did secretly, and Molly. Hermione could never have been happy with someone like Ron, she’d have been bored.”

“Is that your grudging approval?” asked Severus.

“More my belief that Hermione knows her own mind and can chose who she wants to be with,” said Harry before his eyes hardened, “Hurt her though…”

“No intention to, believe me,” said Severus honestly, “I wonder if you truly trust her judgement though, given your earlier behaviour.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well your initial reaction to seeing the picture you presented me with was to come over here all guns blazing,” replied Severus, “If you believe what you say about trusting Hermione’s judgement then you would instead have realised that the aftermath of that kiss would either be a happy young witch or me receiving a hex to rival the best of them.”

Harry sighed, “I guess,” he said, “I suppose it was easier to come over here than to try and speak to her. You’re right about the hex though. If she were unhappy about anything, you would have known about it. As you’re sitting there in one piece though I guess she doesn’t need me fighting any battles for her. Are you sure you want Ginny and I there if you two are going out?”

Severus nodded, “Hermione and I have many evenings ahead of us, I hope, but if this one brings her friends back to her then I am happy to accommodate that. Will you come?”

“I want to see her and we have no plans,” said Harry, “Where shall we meet?”

“Leaky Cauldron, seven o’clock,” said Severus, “We can head on to muggle London after that and avoid The Prophet. If you have any ideas I’m happy for you to pick a venue for dinner, my knowledge of the muggle world is fairly limited.”

Harry smiled, “I’m sure I can find something,” he said, “Thank you, I know helping us out probably isn’t the way you’d prefer to spend your time.”

“Helping Hermione means a great deal to me,” said Severus, his voice far gentler than he had ever allowed it to be in front of the young man before him but he shook it off quickly, getting to his feet, “But I am being remiss in my hospitality. Tea?”

“Please,” said Harry, his attention moving to the fireplace as Severus got to his feet, “What’s that on the rug?”

Severus smiled before he caught himself and forced it away, “A letter from Hermione,” he said, “The floo is cheaper and quicker than an owl.”

“Then forget the tea and I’ll leave you to it,” said Harry getting to his feet, “Guess I’ll see you on the ninth.”

Severus nodded, the letter already in his hand as Harry headed towards the door, “Strangely, I am looking forward to it.”

Harry smiled, “See you then. I’ll see myself out.”

The boy was gone before Severus could answer. The letter in his hand called to him but he paused in opening it, thinking instead of the bridges he was building with Harry and hoping that the foundations would last.

Chapter Text

Dearest Hermione,

Do not worry about The Prophet.

Do not panic about school.

Do not question your abilities.

If you are able to, pick up your books and come to mine. You can work at my desk and I can reassure you when you find yourself questioning your lesson plans. Besides, I want to see you. I hate reading your words when they are so distressed. Come to me and let me help you.

Severus.

Hermione felt a small smile grace her face as she read Severus’ note, the swiftness of its return having comforted her.

It had not been long since Minerva, her face grim with concern, had appeared at her chamber door with a copy of The Daily Prophet and shown her the article on the front page. Hermione had blushed when she had seen the moving image of her and Severus engaging in the sweet goodnight kiss they had shared the night before but the initial embarrassment had turned swiftly to dread. She knew Severus valued his privacy and kept himself away from the limelight as best he could but there was no escaping the revelation of their relationship. She had cursed the paper and its editors for publicising something so new but her concern was more that the publicity would spell doom for them.

Minerva had left her with offers of a shoulder to cry on if it was needed and Hermione had seen the elder woman’s trepidation as she closed the door. She had contemplated going to Severus but she had feared to see his face when he saw the article and instead, she had torn the front cover from the paper and sent it to him wrapped him in a brief note begging him not to be angry.

The letter in her hand had been his response and the weight within her had lifted considerably. She frowned though as she looked down at her clothes, the frayed flannel pyjama bottoms and ratty sweater she wore testament to her day spent trying to ward off the cold of the dungeon as she worked. She contemplated changing but she didn’t want to arrive looking too put together, Ron often having berated her for not looking perfect everyday and she wanted Severus to accept her on her off days as much as he did when she made an effort.

She flipped the parchment over, adding her response to the back before she sent it through the floo, his response sailing back to her within moments on the same paper.

S,

I am practically in my pyjamas and not fit to be seen by mankind.

H.

 

Beautiful,

You could wear a burlap sack and I would still think you the loveliest thing in my dreary old home. I am currently sporting several shades of dust and cobwebs that I am sure will happily complement your attire anyway.

S.

 

Hermione had giggled at the response, summoning all her notes to her and stuffing them into her bag, hefting it onto her shoulder as she extinguished the flames and stepped into the fire grate. She took up a handful of floo powder and tossed it down to her feet as she called out his address, shrieking as she was pulled into the rushing network.

She all but rolled out onto the hearthrug at Spinner’s End, dignity impossible to muster as she struggled to her feet with a pained cough. Familiar, strong hands came to steady her, a muttered charm clearing the soot from her skin and helping her to breath a little easier. Before she could thank him, he had tilted her face to his, warm lips capturing her own in a gentle, reassuring kiss. She smiled softly as he released her, his forehead coming to rest against hers as he spoke.

“Does that disabuse you of the notion that I am even the slightest bit angered that the Prophet chose to run that article about us?” he asked.

Hermione nodded, knotting her fingers into his hair where it fell against his shoulder and her other hand resting over his heart, “I just wish I realised someone had followed us,” she said, “That was our moment; I didn’t want to share it with anyone else.”

“We will have many more goodnight kisses, I’m sure,” said Severus, “And the world was going to find out sooner or later. I’m sure I am the envy of many to be seen with you in my arms.”

Hermione blushed but smiled all the same, “I’ve hardly been fighting off the suitors,” she said, “Not that anyone would stand in comparison to you. Thank you for taking this so well.”

Severus stepped back from her arms, taking hold of her hands in his, “I was angry at them,” he said, “But never at you. I just hate that they won’t allow you some space. I was little more prepared to respond when I got your note though; I’d seen the article before you sent it. I had a visit this morning from a certain Mr Potter who was intent on defending your honour.”

“Harry was here,” said Hermione before her face fell, “He doesn’t visit me. You two didn’t argue did you? He can be so stubborn and you can be too.”

Severus shook his head, “We had words but we parted as friends,” he said, “We…”

He turned abruptly from her arms as one of the bookshelves beside the fireplace gave an almighty crack, only a very swift spell from him keeping the books from tumbling to the ground as the wooden splintered in two.

“This is what I get for moving things,” he muttered, a wave of his wand sending the books through the air into the waiting box beside the sofa before he took hold of the most precarious piece of wood and tugged it from its fixings, “I swear this place is staying up by force of will alone.”

“Can I help?” said Hermione.

Severus shook his head, “You have your own work to do,” he said, a brief spell reducing the shelf in his hand to kindling before he set some of it on the fire and the rest in the basket beside it, “I meant what I said about you being able to get things done here. Instead of writing to me every time you feel anxious, you can just speak to me and I can help you with whatever is bothering you. You will be fine though, I know you will.”

Hermione smiled, “I wonder if Minerva realises she has you to thank for the fact she still has a Potions Mistress,” she said, “Without your support I would have chucked this in by now.”

“Well I’m glad you haven’t,” said Severus, leaving the shelves to nudge her gently in the back towards his desk, “Now, on you get and we’ll see what needs addressing when you come to it. I’ll make you some tea.”

Hermione watched him as he headed towards the small kitchen, feeling an odd little twist in her heart that had the smile on her face softening to something more akin to adoration but she pushed it aside, scared to entertain the notion of how much she already felt for him. She took her books from her bag in an effort to distract herself, arranging them on his desk and turning to her work as she heard him busying himself in the kitchen.

The tea he brought her was cold by the time she even realised he had even placed it at her elbow but it was only a passing realisation as she slammed her quill down on her parchment with a groan, rubbing the heels of her hands into her eyes.

“I am not qualified to teach this subject,” she groused.

“What’s bothering you?” said Severus, leaving the books he was still neatly packing and coming to her side, his hand resting on the desk to lean over her.

“I can’t remember the correct method for the hiccoughing potion,” said Hermione, “It’s a bloody first year potion and I can’t remember how to brew it. How can I possibly teach it?”

Severus was silent and Hermione looked up at him, seeing his dark eyes scanning the page she had been writing on before he met her gaze with a frown.

“When did you last sleep?” he asked, tucking a finger to underneath her chin to better examine her face.

“I got an hour or two last night,” said Hermione, “I just had so much to do…”

“You are so unfailingly Gryffindor,” said Severus though there was no venom in his words, “And you have no sense of self preservation. You need to sleep or you will be of no use to anyone. You cannot recall a basic potion because you are exhausted. You’ve even spelt the name of your subject wrong twice on this paper.”

“What?” said Hermione, flushing as she noticed the errors on the page, “How could I…?”

“You are tired,” said Severus, “And the only remedy is sleep.”

Hermione shook her head, “I can’t,” she said, “I have to plan the lessons and then Poppy needs some potions made up for the infirmary.”

“Then write me a list and I will begin them,” said Severus, “I’m rather well practised as I provided them for many years myself. Before you argue with me, I will say this. We may not have yet decided how we a defining ourselves in relation to one another but whilst you and I are together as we are, I am your partner and I will always be the first in line to help you. Now, upstairs with you, I will wake you in a few hours.”

Hermione smiled as she glanced towards the doorway and then back up to him, “Are you inviting me into your bed, my darling?” she said, giggling as she saw the colour heighten in his cheeks.

“It will lack my presence for the time being though,” he said, before his smile grew wicked, “For the purpose is for you to rest and should I join you…”

“Tease,” admonished Hermione as he failed to finish his sentence, “I doubt I’d be much use to you now anyway. I feel like I could sleep for a week.”

“Then away with you,” said Severus, pressing a kiss to her cheek before stepping back to allow her to get to her feet, “I’ll come and wake you in a while.”

“Thank you,” said Hermione, “There’s a list of the potions Poppy needs in my notebook but don’t let it take you away from anything else you need to do.”

“It’s that or packing, so it’s a welcome break,” he said, “Now go or I will come with you purely to make sure you do sleep.”

Hermione was tempted to ask him to do just that but her courage fled her. Instead, she kissed him quickly before turning to the door, not daring to look back at him as she headed to the stairs and the bedrooms above.

Chapter Text

Severus wasn’t sure how long he had stood at the foot of his own bed, the sight of Hermione asleep there leaving him wavering between a great sense of joy and a deeper one of melancholy as he realised how lonely his life had been until she had tumbled back into it. She looked so peaceful, curled up beneath the dark sheets that he wanted nothing more than to join her merely to rest and enjoy the fact that he was no longer alone. He wondered if the day would ever come when he would be privileged to sleep beside her, wondering how it would be to feel her weight on the mattress beside him, to have her rest against him, to wake to the soft, sweet kisses he was coming to treasure for fear no more would be granted to him.

Tearing himself from his vigil, he made his way to the side of the bed she wasn’t occupying, sitting down on the mattress as he reached out to squeeze her shoulder. She stirred briefly before burrowing back into her pillow with a soft sigh of contentment, her breathing evening out once she’d settled.

“Hermione?” he said, smiling at the petulant noise that greeted him as he squeezed her shoulder once more, “Do you want me to go away again?”

“Hmm? What?” said Hermione, her eyes fluttering open as she smiled up at him, “Hello.”

“Are you feeling better?” asked Severus, smoothing his hand over the blankets that covered her.

“Much,” said Hermione, rubbing her eyes, “What time is it?”

“A little after five,” said Severus, hushing her as she tried to sit up in protest, “I’ve tried to wake you twice before now. The first time you were far too deeply asleep, the second time you told me to make myself scarce in rather artistic terms.”

Hermione blushed, “A habit I picked up when I was away with Ron and Harry,” she said, “I’m sorry if I was coarse.”

“I think you’re utterly charming when you curse,” said Severus, “Needless to say I did as you asked but I thought you might be getting hungry by now.”

“A little,” she said before she dropped her eyes to the covers, “How were my lesson plans? I know you would have looked.”

“I did indeed and they are well thought out, astute and well structured,” he said, “You need not worry about the new term. I know things were shaky for you before the holidays but step up and own that room and you will be fine. Trust me. You know me well enough to realise that I wouldn’t say that if I did not believe it.”

“I have little doubt you would have told me if you found fault,” said Hermione, with a sigh, “I hate these blasted nerves. I know I have the knowledge to teach this but I just keep questioning myself.”

“You’ve always strived for perfection and you have been through an awful lot in a very short space of time,” said Severus, “It’s natural to be nervous but I want you to try to put that aside. You will be fine and I’ll be right here whenever you need me, well for as long as this place is standing. Afterwards, well…”

“Well what?” said Hermione, a frown creasing her forehead as she watched him reach into the pocket of his jacket, pausing there a moment as he met her gaze.

“I made a start on the potions you had listed in your notebook,” said Severus, “But something tumbled out of the back pages.”

“They’re just for ideas,” said Hermione hastily as he removed the bunch of wallpaper scraps from his pocket.

“Living room,” said Severus, reading the writing on the back of each piece, “Dining room. Hallway…we need to discuss that one, it’s hideous. My room, though of course there we read Hermione’s room as it’s your writing. Then there’s this one that just says Severus. It’s a nice colour, not something I would necessarily have chosen but I like it. I think you missed something though, something else written on the paper.”

Hermione took the scrap he held out to her, reading the fresh ink beneath where she had frivolously scribbled Severus’ name the night before. She bit her bottom lip to cease its quiver as she realised the meaning of the word, looking up at him through the tears that gathered in her eyes.

“Yes?” she asked, “You mean it. You’ll live in the house.”

Severus nodded, “I can’t get it out of my head,” he said, “And when I saw these I could imagine them on the walls. If the offer is still there then I accept, so long as we can negotiate on the hallway wallpaper. I refuse to indulge florals in any capacity.”

Hermione giggled, sitting up and hugging him tightly, “You can paint every wall black for all I care,” she said, “Oh Severus, I’m so glad. I know we can make this work.”

“I’ve still got three months until I have to leave here,” said Severus, moving back from her embrace to meet her gaze, “And I’ll keep this as my address until then. In the meanwhile, we can work on the house and we can get a better idea of where we’re going. We have time to make this work for us but first, will join me downstairs for dinner?”

Hermione nodded, “I am rather hungry,” she said but she did not attempt to move from his arms, “Severus, is this truly what you want?”

“Truly,” he replied, “The thought of living anywhere else just didn’t sit right. Perhaps it’s a backwards way of doing things but the thought of not being near to you is abhorrent. I may prove to be a silly old fool but I’ve lived in fear for too long and now I’m finding my own future and my own happiness.”

“I will do everything I can to make you happy,” said Hermione, mimicking the touch he often gave her as she drew the backs of her fingers over his cheek, feeling the slight roughness there that was testament to the late hour of the day. “Your smile is a gift you don’t often bestow but I want it to be mine as often as I can make it.”

“There are not many others that can inspire such a thing from me,” said Severus, kissing her softly, “But you are unique.”

Hermione knelt up on the bed, wrapping her arms around his neck as she captured his lips with her own. The shivery softness they had known deserted them, replaced by surety and need as Severus wrapped one arm around her slim waist as he cradled her head with his other hand, fingers teasing the loose curls of her hair.

“You are utter temptation,” murmured Severus when he finally released her, feeling her answering smile against his skin as she pressed a lingering kiss against the line of his jaw.

“Well you inspire me too,” she said nuzzling against the silk of his cravat, “We’d have got kicked out of the theatre had you kissed me like that at New Year.”

“Perhaps we should go back sometime and test the theory,” said Severus, “Isn’t the back row of a cinema a muggle tradition?”

Hermione giggled, “If my younger self could see us now,” she said, “Necking in the back row of a cinema with my former Potions Master was not on the good little girls’ to do list. Good job I stopped being a good girl a long time ago.”

Severus groaned, “You are doing nothing to help my resolve my dear,” he said, “Come on with you now before you tempt me into something I shouldn’t yet be contemplating.”

Hermione kept tight hold of him for a moment before she pressed a soft kiss to his cheek, “Teasing you is just too tempting,” she said, before she slipped from his arms, sliding from the bed and to her feet.

“Living with you is going to be a challenge, I can see it already,” said Severus, “Are you ready for something to eat?”

Hermione nodded, glad for the change of topic as she let her heart settle, “Please,” she said, “Do you want me to send for something from Hogwarts?”

Severus shook his head, “No need,” he said, “I can’t promise it will be anything sensational as I only ever cook for myself but it’s already on the stove.”

Hermione smiled, “You’re cooking for me as well?” she said, “You’re spoiling me.”

“Reserve judgement on its merits until you eat it,” said Severus, “It’s a famed dish from around here called find a pot and chuck whatever you have in it.”

“I became quite the connoisseur of such fare when we were of hunting,” said Hermione, taking his hand as they headed to the stairs, “Next time you see Harry ask him to tell you the story about the rabbit, he tells it better than I can.”

“Perhaps you can tell it together,” said Severus, letting her precede him down the narrow staircase, “I meant to tell you earlier before that bloody book shelf fell down and distracted me. When Harry came over we didn’t just talk about the article in the paper, we spoke about your situation as well and I have a solution to at least allow you to talk without interference from Molly Weasley. How are you fixed for the evening of January ninth?”

Hermione looked back at him as they reached the bottom of the stairs, “The ninth? That’s in three days time and the children will be back. I’ll be at the school.”

“Could you ask Minerva to grant you a reprieve for the evening?” said Severus, stepping into the hallway beside her and taking her hands, “I’ve asked Harry if he and Miss Weasley would meet us both for dinner. That way, you can talk, and if Molly chooses to make trouble for any of you then she can bring her complaint to me.”

“You have a rather scheming mind, my darling,” said Hermione, “And you are so sweet to do this but why the ninth? Minerva is strict about teachers leaving school in the first week of term. Couldn’t we postpone till the weekend?”

Severus dropped his gaze to their joined hands, his thumbs rubbing across her knuckles, “The ninth…the ninth is a day I’ve not recognised for many years but this year…it’s my birthday and I want to spend it with my…with you.”

“Your birthday?” said Hermione, squeezing his hands, “Then of course I’ll be there, even if I have to climb out of the window and swim the lake to escape the wards. You’re a bugger for not telling me sooner though, I don’t have time to go out and get you anything.”

“I don’t want anything,” said Severus, “Just you with me.”

“Then I promise I will be there,” said Hermione, “I’m sure Minerva will be more than happy if I explain things. Do you really want to give up your own celebration so that I can talk to Harry and Ginny though?”

Severus nodded, “If I can see to it that you are happy again then that will be better than any gift,” he said, “So long as you do want to see them of course?”

“I do,” said Hermione, “Even if I’m a little apprehensive but at least it will give me something other than school to worry about. There is something you need to know though.”

“What’s that?” said Severus as Hermione stepped closer to him, wrapping her arms around his waist.

“That whilst seeing Harry and Ginny again will make me very glad,” she said, looking up at him, “I’m already so very happy and that is all down to you.”

Severus stroked back her hair from her eyes, pushing a stray lock behind her ear. He struggled for a moment to find the words to answer her but none came, instead he kissed her softly, the touch a promise for the future that seemed all the surer for them.

Chapter Text

Hermione took a breath, trying her best to let the tension leave her shoulders as she looked out over the sea of students before her. Breakfast in the Great Hall at Hogwarts was always a raucous affair but the first day back after the Christmas break dawned several decibels louder than any other. The staff had arrived the day before, the students soon following in the evening, and Hermione had longed for the solitude of the castle when it had been vacant as the sheer volume of people felt like a great weight upon her shoulders.

Her only solace came from the letters Severus sent her through the floo, time too short for them to see one another but they wrote all the same. Her confidence was higher than it had been though, her lessons plans prepared and her classroom ready to receive her students. She had busied herself finishing the potions for the hospital wing that Severus had not had a chance to begin, those he had made already in store and Hermione had made sure that the headmistress was aware of whose work they had been.

She had gone to bed that night with his letters tucked under her pillow and the old school scarf he had given her held to her like a child’s blanket. When she had risen she had dressed as smartly as she could, completing her outfit by pulling on the deep indigo teaching robes that Severus’ had sent her for Christmas. They settled warmly around her and she allowed herself to pretend for a moment that it was his embrace that surrounded her before she had steeled her resolve and headed to the door. She had spared a brief glance to the fireplace, longing to head through it and see him before she took up her role as professor once more but she knew she didn’t have time. She contented herself that she would be able to write to him in the evening and she promised herself it would be a positive note as she headed to the hall.

Hermione looked up as the food finally appeared on the table before them, the breakfast as lavish as she remembered if from her school days but she ignored it all in favour of the cup of tea in her hand, her stomach to busy with butterflies to allow much more. She was glad of the distraction when Professor Sprout chose to engage her in a conversation about the various plants she would soon be able to make available for her potions classroom, the older woman happily extolling the virtues of each one to the young Potions Mistress.

She looked up as the flurry of owls entered the room, dropping their parcels and letters on the students who reacted with a mixture of joy and despair at what their parents had sent them. She frowned as she realised that one large, tawny owl was heading directly towards the table she shared with her colleagues, a flower clutched in its talons.

She felt a blush creep onto her cheeks as it hovered above her for a moment before it dropped its burden into her waiting hands. She smiled as she looked down at the beautiful red rose she held, the thorns stripped from the stem so it could be wrapped with a slim sheet of parchment. She unwound the twine that bound it in place, feeling several eyes on her as she opened the letter, the rose still held in her fingers.

My dearest Lioness,

You are braver than you know.

I am proud of you Professor Granger and I know I can make your students proud of you too.

Counting the hours,

Severus.

She traced the fine penmanship of his name with her thumb, barely aware that she had the bloom of the rose held to her lips as she did so. It was only the nudge on her shoulder from Professor Sprout that brought her back to reality and she turned to see the indulgent smile on the older woman’s face.

“From your young man?” she asked, before she lowered her voice to a conspiratorial whisper, “I saw the Prophet dear.”

Hermione was surprised when a laugh rather than a groan passed her lips at her words, “I think everyone saw that particular edition,” she said, letting her eyes fall back to the letter, “Severus just wanted to wish me luck.”

“There’s more than luck in that flower, dear,” said Pomona, “I think you make a very fine match even if it was unexpected. I think you will be very good for him.”

“Well I know he’s very good for me,” said Hermione, feeling lighter at the witch’s easy acceptance of her relationship, “He has been helping me prepare for this term.”

“And love blossomed over the cauldrons,” said Pomona, with a chuckle, “How romantic.”

Hermione felt her blush deepen at her colleague’s words, fear and elation setting her heart fluttering against her chest as she wondered how close they were to such an emotion. She knew it was far too soon to even be entertaining the notion of love between them but she also knew that she could not imagine her future without him in it. She looked down at the rose in her hand, unsure as to whether the language of flowers was the same in the wizarding world as it was in the muggle one but she decided to take it purely as a gesture of affection and nothing more.

She folded the letter, slipping it into the pocket of her robes before she wove a charm over the rose, fashioning it so she could fix it into her hair and keep it close for the day.

“Of course it was a bit of a shock to see you two as you were in the paper,” continued the older witch, without a need for a response, “After everything came out about him, Dumbledore and the Potters, we thought he’d never move on. I’m surprised none of us realised the poor man was still utterly besotted with Lily, he was always on her heels like a pup when they were at school but then he went off with that other lot and things changed. It’s nice to see he has someone in his life again. Minerva was dreadfully worried for a time. Would you like any bacon dear? You haven’t had a morsel to eat this morning and you’ll need your strength to keep up with this lot today.”

Hermione shook her head, the knot that had been in her stomach about the coming school day now replaced by one all the heavier. She had known the story of Severus and Harry’s mother, the information imparted to her first by Harry himself and then reported in nearly every wizarding publication when it had been shared with the Ministry in the effort Harry had made to clear Severus’ name. She cursed herself that she had not given it any thought once her relationship with him had begun to change but she could not keep it at bay any longer, wondering how much of his heart Severus would ever be able to give to her when so much of it was taken up with the memory of Lily Potter.

She felt tears sting her eyes but she forced them away, calling to mind instead the beautifully written letters she kept like treasures and then loving embraces that he so freely gave. She reached up to her hair, letting her fingers brush against the rose that he had sent her with the intention to wish her luck, the note in her pocket telling her how much he wanted to see her.

She reached into her pocket, her fingers brushing the parchment before they settled on something thinner, drawing it out but she kept it beneath the table as she opened it. She looked down at the moving photo on the torn page of the Prophet and smiled as she saw the kiss that had revealed them to the world. Regardless of what had gone before she could not deny the brief moment before their kiss that the picture showed, the affection clear on both their faces, as they remained oblivious to everything but each other.

She folded the page once more as the bell sounded to call them to class and she returned it to her pocket, getting to her feet and heading to the door behind the teachers’ table. She squared her shoulders as she followed the now familiar path to her classroom, determined not only to succeed in her teaching but also to embrace whatever future she could find with Severus as she realised that Pomona’s words on the emotion that was growing between them were more accurate than she had ever realised.

 

Chapter Text

Severus looked up at the clock over the mantle, the hour one he was more than familiar with from years in the teaching profession. He hoped that Hermione was meeting her first class with confidence, certain that she was more than ready to face the challenge before her.

It had been a whim when he woken that morning and decided to wish her luck with more than a letter through the floo, finding himself in Hogsmeade before he had even given it proper consideration. He had ignored the looks he received when he purchased the single red rose, certain that every witch and wizard in the vicinity knew whom he intended it for but he could not bring himself to care about their opinions. He had wrapped the stem with the note he had written before purchasing an owl to take it the short distance to the castle, pressing a kiss to the bloom before he sent it on its way to her.

He had returned home but had forgone the packing that awaited him in favour of settling in his chair with the book Hermione had sent him, happy to pass the morning in quiet study rather than crates and newspaper. He knew if he did not occupy his mind he would spend the day watching the clock, waiting for the time when he hoped Hermione would write to him about her day.

He lost himself in the pages of his book, barely aware of anything but the words on the page before a knocking at his door roused him once more. He looked up; realising only an hour had passed so there was no chance it was Hermione at his door. He groaned as he thought of all manner of muggle interlopers that could be knocking, salesmen and their similar ilk unmolested by the wards that protected his home from magical ill intent. Unable to ignore the knocking though he got to his feet, content to send whoever was there away with a flea in their ear as he fixed his best scowl, once reserved for Gryffindor students, upon his face as he opened the door.

The scowl melted into a small smile though as he recognised the woman stood on his doorstep, her answering smile far sunnier than he was sure he could ever achieve.

“Mrs Longbottom,” he said fondly, stepping aside to let her in, “I didn’t know you were back.”

“We got home yesterday,” said Luna, patting his cheek as she passed him, “What was with the look you had on your face before you realised it was me?”

“Thought you were here to sell me something,” said Severus, “This time of year seems to bring them out of the woodwork.”

Luna shook her head with a chuckle but it was cut short as she stopped in the doorway of the living room, “What happened here?”

“A few changes have occurred since last we spoke,” answered Severus, nudging her into the room before he picked up his wand from the desk, a quick spell moving the boxes from the sofa so she could sit down, “I’m moving soon.”

“Moving?” said Luna, “Where?”

“Hertfordshire, for my sins,” said Severus, “With…it’s a long story.”

“Then tell it,” said Luna, with a small smile, “It didn’t come all this way just to say a brief hello. Funny though, I could have sworn Hermione mentioned a house in Hertfordshire.”

Severus shook his head in mock despair, “You’ve seen the Prophet,” he said, “And don’t you deny it, artifice doesn’t suit you.”

Luna laughed, “I may or may not have seen the article Neville’s grandmother waved in our faces in scandalous outrage,” she said, her grin quelling any unease her words brought to Severus, “Really though, I thought we were friends yet you go public in that old rag rather than in The Quibbler? Especially after Neville and I brought you together.”

Severus barked out a laugh as he sat down in his own chair, an indulgent smile on his face, “You knew and you made sure we were at your wedding,” he said, “Oh you have a devious streak my friend.”

“You made it all too easy, all but cuddling that letter she sent you the day we came to collect the book,” said Luna, “I recognised her writing. When we decided to get married as quickly as we did it seemed logical to ask you both to be witnesses. I figured that either you would smile politely and say goodbye once we’d gone or you’d take another road. From the photo in the Prophet, I’d say you decided on the latter and I’m very pleased for you both. You’re choosing to live together so soon though?”

“Not romantically as such,” said Severus, “I’ve been forced into a situation by muggle law that means I will lose this house and Hermione has kindly offered me a place in hers whilst she is at the school. Right now, I will be her guest but I hope…we hope that one day it will be more.”

Luna smiled, “I’m so happy for you Severus, you deserve some joy in your life,” she said, “Are you angry that I set you up the way I did though?”

Severus shook his head, “Not in the slightest,” he said, “Without you and your scheming we may well have never met again and may have even given up writing to one another. Instead, I receive her letters daily and eagerly anticipate our next meeting. I am very lucky she has chosen me when she could quite easily…”

“Stop right there,” said Luna holding a hand up, “No running yourself down in front of me. Hermione is lucky to have you and you are lucky to have her, you are equal in that regard. I’m just glad Neville and I helped bring you together. Promise me that should any other announcements be forthcoming you will use The Quibbler as your publication of choice though.”

Severus laughed, “Well that I can promise,” he said, “Thank you for giving us the chance to meet again, especially on a day so important to you.”

Luna shrugged, “That day was a formality,” she said, “Signing a bit of paper hardly confirmed our love but I was glad we shared it with two people who are very dear to us and I did get to feel very lovely in the dress you gave me.”

“You looked beautiful in it, my friend,” said Severus, “And I’m glad it found a use. With everything as it is now it probably would have been consigned to the scrap heap.”

“Are you certain you don’t want it back?” said Luna, “Things have changed since you gave it to me with a view of never having a daughter of your own.”

“Yes, I suppose they have,” said Severus, his tone softening before he smiled ruefully, “I’m not sure if children are as yet in my future though. It’s hardly something we’ve discussed.”

“Well if you ever want it back, for whatever reason, then all you need to do is ask,” offered Luna, her gaze leaving him to take in the room, “This poor old place looks so dilapidated now. Do you want some help packing? We’ve got so much to catch up on but we can work and talk if you prefer. We went to Holland when we ran away on honeymoon and you wouldn’t believe some of the plants we found in the Lowlands, Neville was in his element and some of the creatures were utterly fascinating.”

Severus cocked a dark eyebrow in amusement, “Aren’t you meant to be preoccupied with other pursuits when on honeymoon?” he said with a chuckle, “You and Neville are quite well suited it seems and I am looking forward to hearing about your discoveries. Shall I put the kettle on?”

Luna nodded, “An excellent idea,” she said, “And when I’ve told you about our trip you can tell me how you won Hermione’s heart.”

Severus got to his feet, “I’m not sure I’ve managed that just yet.”

Luna hummed happily, picking up one of the books that hadn’t yet made it to the crates, “That picture in the Prophet would say otherwise,” she said, opening it to a random page, “No sugar in my tea please, I’m trying to cut down.”

Severus nodded absently as he made his way to the kitchen, his thoughts drifting back to the night and the kiss Luna was referring to. He recalled Hermione’s blush when he asked if she would write to him from her bedchamber, the desire the look on her face had sparked being something he couldn’t remember having felt before. It had been the need to remain with her though, that hit him the hardest, wanting nothing more than to keep himself in her presence even if it were only to have her company and conversation.

He had wondered from that moment if her feelings mirrored his or if he would be merely a passing fancy to her. He had suspected the former but did not want to trust the thought. Luna’s words though gave him a far greater hope and he knew the night of their next meeting couldn’t come soon enough, longing to see again the woman who had reminded him that he did have a heart. All he needed to discover was if he also had hers.

Chapter Text

Hermione tumbled out of the fireplace onto Severus’ hearthrug, casting a charm to remove the soot from her clothes as she hurried to her feet. She looked around the room, smiling at the stacked up boxes that were waiting to be moved to her house. The sight making the thought of him living in her home all the more real.

“Severus?” she called out when she realised the man himself was missing.

“Upstairs,” came the response, “I’ll only be a minute.”

“Not waiting a minute,” said Hermione, throwing her coat onto the sofa and heading for the stairs, “I haven’t seen you in three days so if you’re not decent I’m not bothered.”

She heard his answering laugh as she hurried up the rickety stairs, knowing her intrusion wasn’t at all unwelcome. She soon reached the landing, pausing only briefly at the open door to his bedroom as she took in the sight of him. Her heart beat wildly against her rib cage as he stood before her in black trousers and a crisp white shirt, the dove grey cravat at his throat reminiscent of the colours he had worn at New Year. His clothes mattered little though in comparison to his open arms and the naked affection on his face and she hurried to his embrace without any further delay.

He lifted her off her feet as he took hold of her, hugging her tightly before he set her down once more and capturing her lips before she could say a word. Hermione fisted a hand into his hair, her other hand splayed against his back to hold herself up as her knees went weak at the pleasure of his kiss.

“These have been the longest three days of my life,” he said breathlessly when he released her, his forehead resting against hers, “Hello.”

“Hello yourself,” said Hermione, a giggle of pure joy escaping her lips, “Happy Birthday.”

“Bloody well is now,” said Severus, one hand rising to cup her cheek as he leaned back to take in her appearance, “You look absolutely beautiful. I have missed you.”

“And I you,” she answered, “Your letters have been wonderful but I wanted you.”

“Well I am yours for tonight.”

“Have you forgotten you made dinner arrangements with Harry?” said Hermione, “By your own design I’ve got to share you with two other people.”

“Actually, it’s four other people,” said Severus sheepishly, “I asked Luna and Neville to join us as well.”

Hermione laughed, “You’ve arranged yourself quite a party,” she said, “Shall I head back to Hogwarts and invite all your old colleagues too?”

“We’ll save them for your birthday,” said Severus, holding her face in his hands, “Say the word and I’ll cancel it all though.”

Hermione kissed him softly, “So very very tempting,” she said, “But you and I both know that we won’t. Another night though and I will keep you all to myself.”

Severus leaned in, boldly pressing a kiss to her neck just below her ear, letting her feel his smile against her skin as she shivered, “Till morning?” he asked.

Hermione whimpered at his tone, her fingers digging into his shoulders through the thin cotton of his shirt, “Yes,” she said softly, “Soon my darling. I might have to go away for a fortnight if this is what I get after only three days though.”

“I’d come after you after a week alone,” said Severus, capturing her lips with a brief, searing kiss, “The hours have dragged today. I swear I was a heartbeat from heading to the gates and sending a house elf to summon you for some made up emergency.”

“I wish you had done,” said Hermione, “I had my first class back with my seventh years this afternoon.”

“And how did that go?” said Severus, stroking his hands along the small of her back, “You appear to be singe free and in possession of all your limbs so it can’t have been too bad.”

Hermione giggled, “It wasn’t too bad. I kept the room under control at least and some of the students produced passable potions,” she said, “I had to stop four Gryffindor girls from trying to brew amortentia that they intended for several male members of the Quidditch team. It resulted in a few tears. Of course, that then gave two of the Slytherin boys an opportunity to create merry hell the other side of the room. Luckily, I’d kept half an eye of them and stopped them blowing a hole in the wall but they kicked off when I gave them detention for it. I am not looking forward to tomorrow lunchtime.”

“You handled it though,” said Severus, “And that is a victory. Let them rant and rave, they’ll soon pipe down when they realise it’s getting them nowhere.”

Hermione smiled before she rested her cheek against his chest, her arms wrapping tightly around his waist, “How long until we have to leave?” she said after a few moments of silence.

“About twenty minutes,” said Severus, his voice low in the quiet of the room, “I told Harry we would meet him in the Leaky Cauldron at seven.”

“I’d better let you finish getting ready then,” said Hermione, her fingers plucking at one of the buttons on his shirt.

Severus kept hold of her, “I only need to pull on a coat,” he said, “I’m afraid this is as put together as I get.”

Hermione smiled up at him, “I think you look very handsome,” she said, gently adjusting the knot in his cravat, frowning as she saw him flinch slightly at her touch, “What’s the matter?”

“Nothing,” he said, capturing her hands in his own and pressing a kiss to her fingers, “I have something for you by the way.”

He sat her down on the bed, heading to his nightstand and picking up a folded piece of paper from on top of the book Hermione had given him for Christmas.

“These are just starting points, I’m not suggesting you use them at all as they are Dark Magic,” said Severus handing the paper to her, “But these are spells that might help your parents. At least they give you a basis to work from anyway.”

“Thank you,” said Hermione scanning the list, her eyes widening at some of the spells before her, “Though I see what you mean about not using them. Most of them carry about ten years in Azkaban if used on wizards, let alone muggles. Even researching these though, I don’t think I’ll be good enough at making much headway into finding a cure. Would you help me?”

“Of course I will,” said Severus as he opened the closet and drew out the same dark grey jacket he had worn on New Year, “I’ll do all that I can. I already have a few ideas but I think we should start on the same page before I jump ahead.”

“Do you think we can do this?” said Hermione, looking down at the list once more.

Severus sat down on the mattress beside her, brushing a length of her hair back behind her shoulder, “We can do anything,” he said, “But it may take some time.”

“Thank you,” said Hermione, “And you’re right. Between the two of us there isn’t much we can’t manage.”

Severus pressed a kiss to her hair before he got to his feet, offering her his hand, “But first, you have a long overdue meeting with your friends,” he said, helping her to stand, “Are you alright with us meeting Harry at the Leaky Cauldron? There’s nothing to say we won’t be seen by people who will happily sell the information to the Prophet.”

“Well then,” said Hermione, pressing her palms to her chest, “We’d best ensure that we make sure they have something worthy of the price to sell. I’m not about to deny to anyone that we’re together, Severus, you mean too much to me for me to care about anyone else’s opinion. Besides, they’re probably going to be more interested about you being seen in public with Harry.”

Severus asked, “Sadly, I think you are probably right,” he said taking hold of one of her hands before he led her to the stairs, “So long as they don’t imply that there is anything between him and me.”

Hermione giggled, “He’d have to fight me for you and I always beat him at stunning spells,” she said, preceding him down the stairs and back into the living room, “Where are we going tonight? You never said.”

“I’m not sure as yet,” said Severus, picking up her coat and helping her into it, “I asked Harry to find something suitable and muggle for us.”

Hermione cocked an eyebrow as she bit back a laugh, “You asked Harry Potter to find a venue for us tonight?” she said, “You’re going to be lucky if you don’t spend your birthday in a fast food outlet.”

“He doesn’t know it’s my birthday,” said Severus, “And I don’t want a fuss about it. I’ve got all I need in being able to spend time with you, even if it does involve fast food.”

“You might have to stand by that statement,” said Hermione as they headed into the hallway, Severus taking his coat down from the peg on the wall and pulling it on over his thinner jacket.

He paused before he opened the door, patting his pocket with a frown, “I think I’m getting senile in my old age,” he said in mock despair, “I had something I wanted to give to Harry but I must have left it upstairs. I’ll only be a moment.”

“I’m sure I can bear a few moments separation,” said Hermione, unable to keep the smile from her face as he pressed a kiss to her lips before he returned to the stairs.

“Just in case,” came his voice as he disappeared upwards and Hermione giggled, leaning back against the pealing wallpaper of the hallway.

It wasn’t long until he returned, lacing his fingers with hers as they exited the house, Hermione glad she had chosen a pair of flat boots over heels as her feet met with the crunch of newly fallen snow. She held onto Severus’ arm with her free hand, keeping close to his side as they navigated the icy path to the apparition point beside the river. She stepped happily into his arms, letting him carry them both to Diagon Alley, only opening her eyes once she heard the familiar hustle and bustle of the street.

She heard several people remark on their presence, Harry Potter’s best friend and once villain turned hero of the Second Wizarding War enough to garner attention from every corner with or without the help of the Prophet. She pressed a kiss to his cheek before she shot a look that would have rivalled one of his best scowls at the nearest bystander, hearing his chuckle as he guided her hand into the crook of his elbow.

“Now now, little lioness,” he said, “No need to frighten everyone off.”

“They need to mind their own,” groused Hermione, “Too nosey for their own good.”

“Sadly, my dearest, you and I are public property, in their eyes at least,” said Severus, “And now we are together we are both intriguing and scandalous. I wonder how many have wagers on whether we began an affair during your school days.”

Hermione giggled, “With me being the bushy haired know-it-all and you the grumpy, Slytherin house head who would much prefer to take house points than look at me with an admiring eye,” she said, “We never would have suited one another back then. Though that detention in my sixth year would have been more interesting. You were cruel that day, I only misread one word in the passage you had me read in class and yet you still gave me detention.”

Severus sighed as he led her towards the wall that separated them from the Leaky Cauldron, “Might I make a confession in regards to that day?” he said, placing his free hand over hers where it rested at his elbow, “I would not normally have given you that detention but I needed to hear your voice. When you read out in class, you were so measured in your tone and it was most calming. When you stumbled on the word though I took my chance to keep that calm with me for a little longer.”

Hermione frowned, “I’m not sure I understand,” she said, “You always described my voice as grating when I was a child.”

“By that point you were no longer a child,” said Severus, “And I knew what lay before you and your friends. It was that day that I found out from Dumbledore what I was expected to do and what Harry would have to endure. You had no idea and stood before me so calmly. When I made you continue reading aloud in your detention it was to help me distance myself from the hell that was to come.”

Hermione smiled up at him, tears pricking at her eyes at his words, “I will read to you every day from now on if you want me to,” she said, “And I’m glad I could comfort you even when we were at odds.”

Severus said nothing but his fingers tightened briefly over hers as he drew out his wand and deftly opened the portal in the wall before them. They crossed the small courtyard into the pub, finding the place busy but not too crowded that they could not move easily within. As in Diagon Alley, heads swivelled their way but this time they ignored them though Hermione pressed a little tighter to Severus’ side as she heard several exclamations of surprise at their appearance.

The crowds were forgotten though as she saw two faces she had missed far more than she had let herself believe. Severus released his hold on her, pressing a hand to her back as Harry and Ginny both got to their feet, willing her over to them with a gentle push. She found herself wrapped in a too tight embrace, both of her friends holding onto her with a desperation that spoke of the months they had spent apart.

She heard their muffled apologies as she responded with her own, knowing in that moment all was forgiven despite the past. They only released one another as Severus gave a pointed cough behind them, Hermione turning back to him and taking hold of his arm once more.

“You may be facing another front page at this rate,” he said to her before he turned his attention to the two people before him, “How are you both?”

“Well, thank you,” said Ginny, “And very grateful to you for arranging this.”

“You all just needed a push in the right direction,” said Severus, “And if your mother asks, this was all my idea and you did not know who else you were meeting.”

Ginny shook her head, “No, we will tell her we knew,” she said, “It’s about time we proved the bravery we’re meant to have.”

“Even if it means we get ear ache,” said Harry, “Have you seen Luna and Neville yet, your owl said they were meeting us?”

Severus shook his head, “They’ll be along shortly I’m sure,” he said, “Should we sit down and have a drink?”

“Let us get them,” said Ginny, grabbing Harry’s hand and dragging him to the bar before he had a chance to protest.

“As they didn’t ask for what you wanted you can assume you’re getting fire whiskey,” said Hermione as Severus led her to the table Harry and Ginny had occupied, sitting them down on the two other chairs.

“They keep a fine cask here so I’m sure I won’t mind,” he said, “Are you happy though?”

Hermione smiled, caring nothing for anyone else in the room as she closed the small distance between them to kiss him, “I am now my darling,” she said, lacing their fingers together atop the table, “Very happy.”

Chapter Text

Severus looked around the bright, noisy restaurant Harry had led them all too once Luna and Neville had joined them at the Leaky Cauldron. As per his request, it was muggle and far enough away from Diagon Alley that they might be lucky enough to avoid any interference for the evening. It was far more alien to him though, than any of the muggle places he had been to throughout his life. He was well read enough to recognise the Mexican décor, despite the fact that it was highly commercialised, but their were some aspects so far removed from the aesthetic that he gave up trying to fathom out the reasoning behind it.

The food at least was good and the conversation far less stilted than he had anticipated, Hermione helping to bridge the gap between him, Harry and Ginny though he had been glad to find he needed no such assistance with Luna and Neville. He spent the majority of the evening speaking with the latter party, allowing Hermione a chance to reconnect with her long absent friends, as the night wore on however the conversations became more inclusive of them all. Any anxiety Severus had felt about spending time amongst a party of his former students put to rest as he felt far less alienation from them than he had ever expected too. He was certain that Hermione’s presence was one of the main reasons he felt so at ease, her affectionate gestures unchanged in front of her friends and she constantly sought contact with him, her hand either held in his or resting upon his leg as they sat side by side at the table.

As their dinner plates were cleared, he became aware of someone at his shoulder, looking up to see another waiter set a tray laden with glasses down on the table but it was Hermione’s voice that truly brought attention to what was before him.

“Thank you so much,” she said, though her words were addressed to the waiter.

He heard the pop of a cork before a bottle joined the glasses on the table and he turned his attention to the woman beside him.

“Champagne?” he asked.

Hermione smiled, pressing a brief kiss to his cheek, “You could hardly expect me not to acknowledge today,” she said, taking hold of his hand atop the table, “If you don’t mind?”

“A bit late for any protests and we appear to have the attention of the table anyway,” said Severus, noticing the eyes upon them both, “But I would prefer if I were not required to own my age.”

Hermione laughed, “Very well, though I can’t see why you won’t,” she said before she turned her attention back to their friends, “For those who haven’t already guessed. Tonight’s dinner isn’t just about us mending a few fences, it’s Severus’ birthday and we should celebrate that.”

“Oh why didn’t you say anything!” exclaimed Luna, “It’s one date I’ve never been able to get out of you.”

“She’s not joking,” said Neville, “She always gripes about not knowing at home.”

“I don’t usually celebrate,” said Severus, as Neville received a playful punch from his wife, “But some people have decided otherwise this year.”

Hermione grinned as he pressed a brief kiss to her cheek, “You’re welcome my darling,” she said, seeing him blush at the familiar term of endearment when it was used before their friends.

“I wish we’d known Severus,” said Ginny, picking up the bottle and pouring a measure of the fizzy champagne into each of the glasses, “I feel awful we didn’t even come with a card.”

“Think nothing of it,” he replied, “As I said to Harry when we originally arranged this, tonight is about the three of you having some time together without interference, the date wasn’t important.”

“Even so,” said Harry, picking up a glass and encouraging the others to follow suit, “Happy birthday and be aware that from now on you will be required to celebrate it and we will be planning something suitably awful for your fiftieth.”

“I could easily go off you again, Potter,” said Severus, over the sound of the others at the table echoing Harry’s initial sentiment and the delicate clink of glassware as they met above the table they shared.

“I think you’ll find you’re stuck with me, Professor,” said Harry, “And now I have a year to think of the most perfectly aggravating present to give you next year.”

“I’m sure you will excel at aggravating me, you always did,” said Severus good-naturedly.

“Speaking of presents,” said Hermione, taking a sip of her champagne as she rested her arm on the chair behind his shoulders, “Didn’t you say you had something for Harry before we left?”

“Ah yes,” said Severus, reaching into the pocket of his coat where it hung on the back of his chair, “Not a present as such but something that I think should be yours.”

He handed over a tatty old envelope, the edges darkened with age and the paper thinning in places. Harry took it with a curious look, opening it and smiling as he withdrew the contents.

“That’s…”

“Your mum,” said Severus, “She was ten when those were taken. I can’t recall why I had them, they’re muggle so your grandfather must have taken them, but I found them when I was sorting through some things in the attic the other day. Your grandparents took us to Whitby for the weekend the year before we went to Hogwarts. It was the first time I ever saw the sea.”

Harry smiled as he flicked through the collection of pictures, “These are brilliant,” he said, “I like this one. Is that Petunia in the background?”

He returned one of the photos to Severus, the image showing him and Lily in the foreground before Whitby Cathedral, a slightly older girl set off to the right of them with a sour expression on her face.

“Yes that’s her,” said Severus, “She wasn’t best pleased that I had been brought along. I suppose you’ve never seen what I looked like back then, have you?”

He turned and offered the photo to Hermione, smiling at the frown she wore as she regarded it.

“I was a scrawny thing back then and short, I didn’t gain any sort of height until I was fourteen,” he said, before Luna reached across the table and claimed the picture for herself.

“You were very sweet,” she said, showing the picture to Neville, “Who knew it was possible?”

“You are entirely too cheeky Mrs Longbottom,” he admonished, “I need only ask your father for images of your infancy, most of which will be animated, and I can thoroughly embarrass you.”

“All of her baby pictures are lovely,” said Neville, earning himself a smile from Luna.

“Ginny’s aren’t,” said Harry, receiving a smack from the redhead, “Couldn’t tell the difference between her and Ron in them.”

Severus laughed as the couple before him descended into playful bickering, Neville egging them on as he had clearly done before in their years of friendship. He turned to look at Hermione, expecting to see her laughing at the antics of her friends and even preparing herself to participate. What he saw however was a pensive expression on her face, her bottom lip caught in her teeth and her eyes lowered to the table as her fingers toyed with the stem of her half empty champagne glass.

“Hermione?” he said, leaning in to her so she could hear him over the noise of her friends.

She jumped as though he had caught her passing notes in class, her dark eyes wavering between upset and determination but it was the former that won out as she got to her feet.

“Excuse me,” she said, hurriedly, “I need some air. The champagne has gone to my head. No, no, stay there.”

She pressed a hand to his shoulder as he made to rise with her, keeping him in his chair as she left the table and headed through the crowded restaurant to the door.

“I don’t…” he began but the sentence failed him as he watched her step out into the evening beyond.

“What’s wrong with Hermione?” said Ginny with a frown as she turned in her seat to view the door.

“I’m not sure,” said Severus, pulling on his coat before he caught up Hermione’s from the back of her chair, “I’ll be back in a moment.”

He didn’t wait for any of them to speak, following the path Hermione had made through the tables before he too reached the door. He buttoned up his coat as he stepped outside, the chill of the January evening making him glad he had thought to pick it up and even more so that he had picked up Hermione’s. He located her quickly; glad she had not gone far as she sat on one of the vacant benches outside, her arms wrapped around herself to ward off the cold.

“Here,” he said, handing her coat to her as he sat down on the bench beside her, “What’s the matter? You barely touched your champagne and I know you can handle far more than that so do not try that line with me again.”

Hermione pulled on her coat with a sigh before she dropped her head onto his shoulder, taking hold of his hand in hers, “I am just being very foolish,” she said, “And I needed a moment to pull myself together.”

“Miss Granger that is hardly a satisfactory answer,” he said, glad when she laughed though it lacked her usual joy, “I thought we had agreed to always be truthful. What has upset you?”

Hermione rubbed her thumb over the back of his hand, “I am unsure how to phrase it and I am afraid…afraid you’ll be angry if I give voice to it,” she said, “Severus I…when we started writing to one another I never once thought we would find ourselves where we are and it has all happened so quickly. I have been so happy and so caught up in this whirlwind of ours that I never thought to ask about…about her.”

“Ah,” said Severus, though there was no anger in his tone, “And by her, you mean Lily I suppose.”

Hermione nodded against his shoulder, “You loved her,” she said, her voice small.

“I did,” he said, “And if I am honest, I still do and I always will. To say anything different to that would be a dishonour to her, to myself and indeed to you, my dear one. The question is though, what is the nature of that love and how does it effect us?”

“I know no one can ever replace her,” said Hermione, “And I know…”

“No, dearest, you think you know,” said Severus, his tone firm before he continued in a far gentler tone, “It’s funny you know, everyone seems to have a great and deep understanding of my life and relationship with Lily Evans though no one ever speaks to me about it. As a populace, the wizarding world has chosen to write my history based solely on memories I, rather hastily, passed on to her son. Harry needed information and understanding very swiftly that day and so, needless to say, he got the somewhat abridged version events. Unless you have committed your mind to any further research on the subject, I would imagine your understanding of it all is from the memories I shared as well.”

Hermione nodded once more but she remained silent, her tight grip on his hand giving away her anxiety.

Severus sighed, “I don’t do well talking about myself but with you, I have no fear about being honest. You have known the worst of me and you’re still here,” he said, “So I will tell you this. When I met Lily, I had long since forgotten what kindness and gentleness was. She showed both in the way only children can, without artifice or agenda, and her family welcomed me as well. In them, Petunia the exception of course, I found that which I was lacking at home. Her father never solved problems with his fists and her mother never hid herself away; that in itself was so alien to me. What could I do but love them? All of them. They were kind and until you have known a life without kindness, you cannot know how addictive finding that can be. Lily gave me the chance to find that.

“Hogwarts played out for us as you understand it. I was a fool and she was right to walk away from me. I’ve never denied that and I’ve never resented it. I was hurt, painfully so, and I made some awful choices off the back of that but I would have made awful choices anyway. By then the claws were deep and I was, unwittingly to begin with, already in Voldemort’s ranks before I even left school. I became a Death Eater because I was angry and full of hate for a world that had treated me poorly and I sought a new order. I was stupid and I was naïve but I did it. Lily on the other hand, found happiness. Yes, I hated whom it was with but I wanted her to be happy above everything else. You can imagine my pain then when no sooner had I delivered an overheard prophecy to the Dark Lord, I discovered that she was pregnant and her child due when the prophecy stated. I condemned her to death and that point is where so much of my history with her becomes confused.

“When Lily died love became mixed with anger and hate and guilt and so many horrific emotions that knotted into this horrendous ball within me and it consumed me. Her death hung like a millstone around my neck and it didn’t grow any lighter over the years. Only when I had fulfilled the obligation my guilt placed upon me, the obligation to save the boy she had died for, could I even begin to understand everything I had once felt. I loved her but I loved her as I had when I was a ten-year-old boy and she was kind to me. I won’t call her sister but I cannot call her the woman I was in love with either, not truly. I think I’m beginning to understand why.”

He raised his free hand to Hermione’s cheek, lifting her head from his shoulder and turning to face her, resting his forehead against hers.

“It is too soon for such words,” he said softly, “But what I feel for you is so different to what I knew with her and I find, if I try to imagine my life without you in it, I would prefer to be once more on the floor of the Shrieking Shack waiting for the end to come. I will carry Lily and the love I had for her always but, as I wanted her happiness, I do believe she would want mine. That happiness I find in you, Hermione. No one else makes me feel what I feel when I am with you. Her memory is no threat to you and no threat to us. I want you. I want my future with you.”

“Severus,” said Hermione, her voice shaky but determined, “Darling. I feel the same about you. I don’t want to know a life where you’re not there. I’m sorry I made you talk about that. I know how painful it must be.”

“They were words that needed to be said,” replied Severus, “Never feel like you can’t ask me about my past. I will lay it all before you in any detail you desire if you ask it of me. I am with you and you can have all that I am, broken and ridiculous and old as I may be.”

Hermione choked out a laugh through her tears, “If you call yourself old one more time Severus Snape, I’m going to hex you,” she said, “And I want you, all of you, for the rest of my life.”

“We appear to be in agreement then,” said Severus, stroking her hair, “Might I claim a kiss now?”

Hermione nodded, moving to capture his lips with a gentle kiss but it quickly deepened as her confidence returned to her. Severus slid his fingers into the fall of her hair as he released his other hand from her grip to take hold of her waist. Hermione mimicked his touch, pressing as close to him as she could without climbing into his lap.

The people passing by in the street faded to obscurity as did the noise from the restaurant as the door opened and closed as customers came and went. It was only when they heard the door open once more followed swiftly by a familiar voice uttering a surprised curse that they remembered where they were.

“Stand down the troops,” shouted Harry, clearly trying to raise his voice above the noise of the restaurant, “They’re just snogging. Put me right off ordering anything for dessert. When you two are quite finished…there are things I really don’t need to see. Gonna need an obliviate after that…”

Hermione broke from Severus with a laugh, the pair of them looking to the door to see it close once more as their friend retreated inside.

“Well if I hadn’t succeeded in scarring him for life before now…” said Severus, turning his attention back to the woman beside him, “I think we have given them some cause for concern. Perhaps we should go back in.”

“If you want to,” said Hermione, “There’s still a bottle of champagne and dessert to go. I’m sorry I brought the party to a bit of a halt.”

“Don’t be,” said Severus, “I’m glad we talked about this before it became something we couldn’t overcome. You do understand though, whatever my feelings were for Lily, my feelings for you are true and real and the only ones I am concerned with from now on. That’s why I gave the pictures to Harry. He needs them far more than I do now.”

Hermione smiled, her hand coming up to stroke against his cheek, “If you ever want to talk about her though, don’t feel like you can’t around me,” she said, “She is important to you but I’m very glad that I am too. You mean the world to me Severus.”

He turned his head to press a kiss into her palm before he covered her hand with his own, holding it against him for a moment longer, “Then I am a lucky man,” he said, “Now come, before Harry bravely sends Ginny out to retrieve us.”

He got to his feet, taking hold of her hand and lacing their fingers together as they headed back towards the door to the restaurant and their friends waiting within.

Chapter Text

“So…” said Ginny, taking Hermione’s arm as they walked through the streets back towards the Leaky Cauldron, “You and Severus were looking all cosy once you came back in the restaurant. I thought you were going to end up sitting on his knee by the end of dessert.”

Hermione blushed, her eyes straying to Severus and Harry was they walked ahead of them, lost in a conversation about Harry’s work at the Auror’s Office that had them both enthralled and oblivious to the others around them. Luna and Neville walked even further ahead of them, recognisably newly-weds and duly given their space as the late hour brought them closer together.

“We have become very close,” she said, smiling at the memory of all that had passed between them, “He is…wonderful.”

“Merlin, you’re smitten,” giggled Ginny, even as Hermione hushed her with a laugh of her own, “Who’d have thought you and Professor Severus Snape… is it serious?”

Hermione nodded, unable to keep the smile from her lips, “I think so…I hope so,” she said, “It’s all very new but every moment with him is better than the last. I didn’t think I could be this happy with anyone.”

“Well he looked happy enough next to you all night,” said Ginny, “And I never thought I’d say this but you suit each other. Seeing him smile is still pretty alien though.”

“I’m used to it now,” said Hermione, “Though I still love it when he does. I’m glad you and Harry get along with him too.”

“He’s changed a lot since school,” said Ginny, before she dropped her voice to a conspiratorial whisper, “So tell me, are you spending tonight at Hogwarts or…”

“Hogwarts,” giggled Hermione, “We’ve only been together a short while though I am…”

“Tempted?”

Their laughter was loud enough this time to catch the attention of the men before them and Hermione couldn’t help the blush that darkened on her cheeks as she caught Severus’ gaze.

“And what, pray tell, are you ladies discussing that promotes such hilarity?” asked Severus, holding out his hand to her as they closed the distance between them.

“Nothing you need concern yourself with,” said Hermione, as Severus’ large hand enveloped hers, “Have you managed to speak to Neville about the garden like you wanted?”

“Mr Longbottom is quite rightly preoccupied with his new bride,” said Severus, “I will owl him at a more appropriate time.”

“What garden is this?” asked Harry, “I thought your house was one of those back to back things. They don’t have gardens, do they?”

Severus looked down at Hermione, the question apparent in his eyes but she smiled in response to the trepidation she saw in them as well. She squeezed the hand that held hers before she addressed her friends.

“It’s my garden,” she said, “Well, I should say our garden. Severus is coming to live in the house and we were hoping to turn the old kitchen garden into a potions one. We thought Neville might be able to help with some planting schedules.”

“You’re planning to live together?” said Harry, his eyes widening in surprise at her words.

“Yes,” said Hermione, her voice taking on a less jovial turn as she took hold of Severus’ arm, her demeanour challenging her friend to question her.

To the surprise of all but Harry, he did not direct his question to Hermione but to Severus, his face serious as he regarded him.

“You’re moving in with Hermione?” he said, his voice low, “Have you got any idea what you are letting yourself in for? We were in the wilderness, miles from civilisation, on the run from Snatchers and she had a chore chart. Are you really prepared for this Severus?”

It took a moment and the twitch of Harry’s lips to break the tension that had formed at his first question, Severus and Ginny the first to laugh with Hermione following as his words finally sank in.

“I am sure I will manage,” said Severus, releasing Hermione’s hand in favour of wrapping an arm around her waist, “I’m not adverse to a little order.”

“I wasn’t that bad,” said Hermione, “I only did it because you boys would have happily slept in a pigsty surrounded by your own filth back then.”

“He still would if I gave him half a chance,” said Ginny, receiving a playful scowl from the boy in question.

It was only Luna’s voice calling back to them from further down the path that saved them from another round of playful bickering between Harry and Ginny, the four of them hurrying to catch up with their friends. Before too long they found themselves in Diagon Alley, the last part of their journey passed swiftly in conversation between the six of them. They bid one another goodbye, Neville and Luna the first to leave them before Harry and Ginny apparated away, all four of them begging promises that they would meet again soon.

With the majority of the shops closed there were only a few people left in the street but Hermione felt their eyes on them all the same and she couldn’t help but wonder what would be printed about them all the next morning, especially when Harry and Severus had said a friendly goodbye to one another before the younger man had left them.

“You need to cease worrying about what people are thinking of us, my dear,” said Severus, his fingers tracing a soothing path across her back, “They are of no consequence.”

“Are you reading my mind?” said Hermione, looking back up at him.

Severus shook his head, “Never without your permission,” he said, “And not needed in this instance, the suspicion coming from you is tangible.”

“Sorry,” said Hermione, “I just hate having to second guess everyone in case they’re going to the Prophet.”

Severus tucked a finger beneath her chin, tilting her face up to his and pressing a brief kiss to her lips, “Let them print what they please,” he said, “We’ve had a wonderful evening with people who are important to us and only their opinions should matter. Now, would you like me to see you back to Hogwarts or do you want to go on somewhere from here?”

Hermione smiled up at him, “Can we go back to your house for a while?” she asked, “I’m not ready to go home just yet.”

Severus nodded, wrapping his arms more securely around her waist before his magic dragged them away from the street and back to the point beneath the bridge that he preferred to apparate to and from. The lack of any street lighting had Hermione holding a little tighter to his arm with one hand whilst the other slipped into her pocket to take hold of her wand. She only relaxed her grip when they reached the peeling front door, Severus quickly lowering the wards and letting them into the chilly house.

Hermione headed into the living room and slipped off her coat, setting it down over the back of the chair as Severus cast a warming charm on the room, the fire leaping into life in the grate. She smiled as he took hold of her hand, turning her to face him before he took hold of her hips, his thumbs rubbing absently against the silk of her blouse where it met the waistband of her jeans.

“Charming as this evening has been,” he said, “I much prefer when it is the two of us. I’m glad you came back with me.”

“Well I find myself in agreement with you,” said Hermione, wrapping her arms around his neck, “It was lovely seeing everyone but…”

Instead of finishing her sentence, she moved her hand to the back of his neck, drawing him down into a kiss that said far more than her words could. He needed little persuasion to deepen the kiss, pulling her closer to him until she was pressed flush against his solid frame.

Hermione shivered with delight when his lips left hers, drifting along her jaw and down onto her throat as his caresses grew in confidence. Her own hands became greedy in response, one hand tangling in his hair whilst the other moved from his shoulder to the silk of his cravat, eager to untie it and feel more of his skin.

Had he not flinched from her before she would have thought it romantic when he took her hand from his neck to press over his wildly beating heart but memories of earlier in the evening came to her and she could not help but feel the tension in him even as his kiss remained gentle.

“Severus, stop,” she said, pulling back and seeing the concern on his face.

“I do not mean to rush you,” he said, his hands swiftly dropping from her as though she had burned him, “I just…I heard you say to Ginny that you were tempted and I…Forgive me, I know it’s too soon.”

“No, it’s not that,” she said quickly, catching his hands before he could step away from her, “Well, it is too soon. Not that I’m not tempted, I am, it’s just…you keep flinching when I touch you and I don’t know why.”

She watched as his eyes closed, mortification rather than anger upon his face and her heart broke at the sight. She reached up, capturing his cheek in her small hand and feeling him press into it as though he expected to never feel the touch again.

“Darling, tell me, please?” she begged, before her eyes drifted to the cravat around his neck, realising that it was only when her hand drifted there that he had flinched from her, “That’s where Voldemort…”

“The wound never truly healed,” said Severus, his eyes opening though they remained downcast, “The curse and Nagini’s venom…I cannot bear to look at it and I could not bear for you to see it and be repulsed.”

If Hermione had believed that her heart had broken before, she felt it shatter as she took in the naked hurt and shame on the face of the man before her.

“I would never…” she began, her voice catching in her throat as she felt a tear escape her eye, “Severus I think every inch of you is beautiful, scars and all. Not a single mark upon your body could repulse me and I mean that to its fullest extent, be the mark put there by someone who wanted to end your life or by your own choices.”

She let her free hand come to rest over his left forearm as her other encouraged him to meet her gaze.

“We both have scars my darling,” she continued, “On our bodies and our souls. Would you be repulsed by me if I bore every wound I have upon my skin rather than in my heart?”

Severus shook his head, “You could never be anything other than beautiful,” he said.

“I think exactly the same about you,” said Hermione, her hand leaving his arm to rest over his heart, “And that won’t change because of your scar but I want you to be comfortable enough to bear it to me and you aren’t right now, so how about we slow things down? You need to be as ready as me whenever we choose to take this further. Your company and your kiss is all I need to content me until we’re both ready for more.”

“Well a kiss I can happily provide,” said Severus, leaning down to press his lips briefly to hers, “Will you forgive my vanity in this? It’s ridiculous I know but I’m…”

“There’s no need to explain,” said Hermione, “But I will say this once more for the record. I think you are beautiful, outside and in, with a few rough edges of course but that makes you real. Besides, you make a very fine cup of tea and that is very hard to come by even when the majority of the people I know have magic at their disposal.”

Severus smiled, “It’s nice to know I have my uses,” he said, kissing her once more before he stepped back, “How about I put them to use now and then we can discuss how many cauldron stations we should set up in the lab at the house?”

Hermione drew her wand from her pocket, flicking it towards the kitchen before she smiled up at him, “Or we could rely on the tea making skills of my magic,” she said, taking his hand and leading him over to the sofa, “And you can content me with your kiss and your company?”

“Brightest witch of your age as I understand it,” he replied, sitting down beside her.

“So I’ve heard,” said Hermione, “I’ll defer to your judgement on that though, Professor Snape.”

His response required no words but Hermione understood it all the same, happily giving herself up to his kiss as she settled once more into his arms.

Chapter Text

January 15th

 

My Darling Severus,

I hope you managed to get some work done today and that packing didn’t take up too much of your time. I concur with your idea from your letter this morning that getting the lab up and running at the house would be beneficial. It would at least give you more space to work than fighting through the chaos at yours. You’re more than welcome to make the most of the house whenever you please.

I’m going to make arrangements with some muggle workmen to replace the kitchen and the bathroom as, while both are serviceable, they are not ideal and I would rather get the work done with the least amount of inconvenience to us. I don’t want anyone from our own world poking around though so would prefer muggle workers. Would you be able to place some masking charms in place to guard against them seeing anything they shouldn’t?

I’ve spoken to Minerva and I have no duties this weekend so I will be free. I will come to you directly if that suits and we can transport some of your things to the house together. I’m hoping we can at least make the place liveable over the two days I have free as I am aware of the short time frame we have to make it suitable for you to live in.

Goodness but I miss you. Your letters and one single floo call a day isn’t enough. I want your arms around me and your kiss. Even to be in the same room with you would be better than trying to sense you through the page. Saturday morning cannot come soon enough, my darling, and I will count the hours until I am able to come to you.

Affectionately yours,

Hermione.

 

My dearest Hermione,

Do you know the joy it gives me when I hear the floo activate every evening, knowing that you are done for the day and free to correspond with me? I hope the school day was productive and drama free though I recall you were brewing pepper-up with your third years so maybe I should amend to injury free.

My own day was surprisingly productive and I have completed several orders, two of those for new customers so I am hoping once I have room to expand I may be able to attract further business. Currently I merely trade under my own name but perhaps a company name might be in order though I may be reliant on you to assist with choosing one. I believe that, out of the two of us, you are the more imaginative, though might I request in advance we avoid such disasters as your famed S.P.E.W?

I have little knowledge of muggle workmanship to offer comment on your choice however, I would prefer no one from the magical community be involved as well. I’m happy to be in residence if necessary to provide them with access and to offer supervision. If it is your wish for the work to be completed then it would indeed be better for it to be finished before it becomes a permanent residence but do not feel the need to make such efforts for my benefit. Both rooms are more than adequate for my needs and far superior to anything I currently have at my disposal.

We can discuss the above and the rest of the house in more detail on the weekend if you wish it. I am pleased that you will be free, I’ve never known the weeks to be so long and I dread the day you tell me your weekend will be occupied at the school. I appreciate that it will happen and it is only right that you fulfil your obligations but I will miss the chance to be with you.

I am happy to work on the house, to your specifications of course, alone if it means I can spend more time with you. We are both perfectionists and can easily be described as obsessive over our work and I fear it will be a day lost if we spend it in wallpaper and paint rather than conversation. Time with you is precious to me and I would hate to waste it.

I imagine this letter will reach you whilst you are at dinner so I do not anticipate an immediate response. I am working in the living room this evening so will be close to the floo. If you are free, could we speak over the connection even if only briefly?

Missing you,

Severus.

 

Darling,

Do you know how painful it was not to be able to come through to you when we were speaking earlier? I know I said it earlier but a floo call is just a tease when I could so easily step through but I know if I were to come to yours, I would neglect my work entirely. Though should you tease me about S.P.E.W again as you did I shall rethink our relationship entirely, sir!

I already have a few ideas for your company name but nothing is jumping out at me as yet. Perhaps it will come to me in a dream (though if I am to dream of you I doubt it would be of a company name.)

I will write to you in the morning my darling but now it is nearly midnight so I should say goodnight. Do not stay up too late and sleep well when you do retire. Only a few days until we are together again.

Sweet dreams,

Hermione.

 

January 21st

 

Dearest,

I thought I’d take advantage of the new floo network connection to send a brief note to let you know that the work on the kitchen has commenced and I promise that I was on my best behaviour. However, one of them is rather testing and I swear if I’m referred to as ‘mate’ one more time I may not be responsible for my actions. They appear to be competent though and much work has been completed already so the four-day timescale specified will be easily met.

I have given some thought to the lab upstairs and, whilst it is well appointed, it is still somewhat small for little more than a hobby. I was wondering if you might consider us adapting the garage to accommodate a larger working space? I have no desire to ever own one of those dreadful, fume spewing, machines of death that muggles so covet when I can easily apparate so, unless you want to make use of the space in another way, it would seem the logical course. Let me know your thoughts.

As I’m here to supervise I have not been idle and I have completed the book shelves in the living room and the dining room. I fear we will look like the British Library when we populate the shelves but I have charmed them to withstand any weight so at least we have no fear of them collapsing. If you have anything else you want me to turn my attention to then let me know as I am confining myself to working on any potions when the house is empty in case anything goes awry.

Will I be able to see you this weekend? I know it was uncertain when we last spoke. If you are free, shall we get the lay of the land around the house and find somewhere to eat in town?

Write to me when you can and I hope the day is treating you well.

Severus

 

Darling Severus,

I am so sorry this letter is so late, Professor Vector was taken ill today so I was called upon to cover her classes. It was not as bad as I anticipated but it was by no means a picnic and I am hoping she is recovered by tomorrow. It pushed my marking back as well so I have had to catch up on that since dinner. I’m assuming you will have headed home so have sent this accordingly but apologies if you are not yet back.

Your note about the workmen made me chuckle. Believe me you’d best get used to being called ‘mate’ if you are pursuing a friendship with Harry. I hope the work continued to progress as well as it began and that it is completed as quickly as possible. I remember once when my parents had a conservatory built, I hated the dust it caused but luckily, there are spells to counter that this time around.

Your idea about converting the garage is excellent. I’m not best keen on cars myself (though really dear, must you be so dramatic in your description of one?) so the garage would be surplus to requirements and better suited to a lab if you want to use it as such. Feel free to make any changes you want. I believe the previous owner did use it for some sort of hobby room as well as storage so there is running water and electricity available if you need it. The space is adequate for you to run quite a lucrative business if you so wish and we will definitely have to dream up a name for it soon.

You’re working so hard on the house, it’s putting me to shame but I appreciate everything you are doing. Whenever things get to me here I just think about you being there, building our home, and it makes me smile. I must sound like a ridiculous old romantic but I cannot help it. I can’t wait for the day when you are finally there permanently. I hope we can build our future there.

There are Quidditch trials this weekend so I will not be able to leave the school. I’m sure you recall all too well the many injuries that occur at such things and Poppy requires my help. I’m sorry darling. I would much prefer to be with you and it would be wonderful to explore the town with you. I admit I bought the house without looking around much. I think it was more of a knee jerk reaction given my situation at the time. I will ask Minerva if I can perhaps guarantee next weekend off as I know I will miss you.

If I don’t hear from you before I head to bed, goodnight my darling, I know you will be in my dreams, as you are in my thoughts every day.

Sending a kiss,

Hermione.

 

Dear One,

You are no doubt asleep by now but I wanted you to have this when you woke. I returned home late so I did not receive your letter until now and I am sorry to have missed the chance to correspond with you. I think perhaps from now on I shall inform you when I move from house to house so that we don’t miss one another.

I am disappointed that I will not see you this weekend but your duties must be seen to. Instead, I will work on building our home, as you so wonderfully put it, so that it is ready for the next time you are there. I can see our future in that house and it is far greater than anything I could have imagined for myself.

I wonder, my angel, if your dreams are similar to those I have. I know you will be in mine tonight as well.

Affectionately,

Severus.

 

January 23rd

 

Severus,

Have you heard the news? I’m sure Harry must have sent you an owl as well.

Hermione.

 

Dearest,

Yes I have heard and I have already written back offering them my congratulations.

I do wonder how Harry will manage with Molly Weasley as an official mother-in-law in the very near future.

Have you received any indication of the date of the wedding?

Severus.

 

Darling Severus,

Apologies for the delay, I’ve had back-to-back classes until now but I have a free period after lunch so I have some time to myself at last.

You are a wicked man Severus Snape and I have little doubt you are sitting there chuckling about Harry’s fate. I can only imagine the horror of Molly as a mother-in-law. Did I tell you that Ron wrote to me about her after we went out with Harry and Ginny on your birthday? She saw that ridiculous article in the Prophet and, needless to say, she was not best pleased. Ron himself made no comment on the news but he congratulated me on infuriating his mother in a spectacular fashion. It upset him how she treated me when we went our separate ways even if he failed to stand up for me. At least he did not take her side.

I’ve not been told a date for the wedding, one may not yet be set but I’m sure it will be soon. If I’m honest I’m surprised it has taken them this long but I am happy for them all the same.

It will be quite the wedding I’m sure. Will you be my plus one?

Hermione

 

Dear Hermione,

As you asked so nicely, I would gladly be your plus one.

That is, if either of us is invited. Perhaps you will be bridesmaid.

Perhaps you will catch the bouquet.

Severus

 

Darling,

And if I were to catch the bouquet?

H

 

Dearest,

I suppose that would depend in how much stock you put in muggle folklore.

It is a superstition I have become to think of as quite charming though.

Affectionately,

Severus.

 

 

Darling Severus,

Me too.

With Love,

Hermione.

 

 

Chapter Text

The swirling steam above the cauldron faded from flaming red to a deep, sapphire blue as scorpion venom dropped slowly into the bubbling contents of the small copper cauldron. The roiling surface quieted to a simmer as the smoke once again changed to a rich emerald green, the reaction signalling the charms that controlled the fire beneath.

Severus wove a quick cleansing charm over the pipette he had been using to deposit the venom, even the smallest drop capable of leaving anyone near paralysed for several hours but a potent and useful ingredient despite the risk. Once he was sure everything was safe once more, he stretched, hearing several abused joints pop in relief after being hunched over his work for so long. He smiled as he thought of the growing lab he was building in the garage of the house he would share with Hermione, the arrangement of it more like the space he had had at Hogwarts and giving him ample room to work rather than having to hunch over his desk or kitchen table as he was currently forced to.

He knew he could have brewed the potion in the original potions lab at the house but, with the bathroom in pieces since Hermione had sent in people to work on it once the kitchen was completed, it did not accommodate long term habitation and the potion would require several hours to simmer before it could be bottled for his client. He would have preferred to stay in the large, comfortable house that was to be his own, so little of his possessions remaining at the one he had grown up in that it felt even colder and sparser than it had ever done. He contented himself that it was only a matter of a few weeks before he left the small terraced house for good, neither he nor Hermione wanting to drag the process out to the three months he was allowed on the Compulsory Order.

He double checked the potion before he began altering a few of his notes with improvements he had found on the method. He heard the floo activate behind him, smiling at the thought of a letter from Hermione awaiting him on the hearthrug but he turned in surprise as he heard the familiar cough that always accompanied the young woman when she came to him by floo.

He got to his feet, turning to see her brushing the soot from her teaching robes before she looked up to meet his gaze. He had no time to question the expression on her face as she crossed the room to him in only a few strides, her arms coming around him as she buried her face in his shoulder. He was struck dumb for a moment as she held him tightly, the tension tangible in her slim frame as she clung to him. He wrapped one arm around her waist as the other came up to stroke the back of her neck, her hair pinned out of the way as though anticipating the need for his touch.

“What’s the matter?” he asked, hushing her as her grip tightened once more and spiking the concern that her appearance had already conjured, “Sweetheart, what happened?”

“Bloody awful day,” she said finally, her voice muffled against his shirt, “I’m sorry I came unannounced but I needed you.”

“You’re welcome here whenever you please,” said Severus, “This is your home for as long as it is mine even if it isn’t much. Tell me what happened.”

Hermione sighed, her embrace relaxing as she pressed a kiss to his shoulder, “Usual stuff, exploding cauldrons, crying children, homework not done, houses fighting. You know the drill,” she said, “Just seemed to happen all at once. I was missing you like crazy as well. Sunday seems like months ago.”

“I have to admit it has been four, long, long days,” said Severus, his hand moving from her neck to her cheek, his thumb wiping away the track of a single tear as he raised her face to his, “Are you sure that’s all that happened?”

Hermione nodded, raising herself on her toes to kiss him, “I’ve been craving that all day,” she said when they parted before she noticed the cauldron behind him, “I haven’t interrupted you have I?”

Severus shook his head, “No, I finished a few moments before you arrived but it needs four hours on the flames before I can add the final ingredients,” he said, “It’s for an order but I’ve had to adapt it due to an intolerance of some of the common ingredients on the part of my client. It’s been quite a challenge.”

“That, from the look on your face, you’ve more than enjoyed,” said Hermione, running her hands over the hard planes of his back, pressing her fingers here and there to ease the tension from the muscles, “I can tell you’ve been bent over that thing for a while though. You’re all knotted up.”

“That’s just my age,” said Severus, smiling as she scowled up at him, “Can you stay or is this just a flying visit?”

“I have no duties,” answered Hermione, “And Minerva knows I’m here so I can stay for a while. I’m afraid I’m not dressed for much, I came straight from work.”

Severus stepped back, holding her at arms length as he ran his gaze over her attire, “Well I can say this Professor Granger. Staff meetings would have been far more enjoyable had I had the pleasure of your company there,” he said, “I tried to picture you in those robes when I bought them but they never fit you quite so well in my mind. Can I make one adjustment though?”

Hermione nodded, her curious expression melting to a smile as Severus reached up and pulled out the comb that was holding her hair up, leaving it to tumble free in a riot of unruly curls.

“There,” he said, wrapping a ringlet around his finger, “Perfect. I’m so glad I got to see you tonight even if you were upset when you arrived.”

“Seeing you has cheered me up,” said Hermione though her smile faltered a little, “Are you sure I won’t be in your way if I hang around for a bit?”

Severus shook his head, “Not at all,” he said, “I’ll have to head down the road and get us something to eat though. I’ve got little more than a can of soup in the house I think.”

“I could get something from Hogwarts,” said Hermione but Severus waved the offer away.

“No need,” he said, “There is a decent Chinese takeaway only ten minutes walk away if you’re happy with that?”

Hermione smiled, “No complaints from me,” she said, slipping off her teaching robes and laying them on the threadbare sofa, “Could I come with you? Unless you need me to keep watch on the potion.”

“The potion will be fine on its own,” said Severus, “And if you’re willing to brave the snow then I’ll be happy for the company.”

Hermione picked up the hem of her long burgundy skirts, fur-lined boots revealed beneath that were more than suited to the weather.

“Courtesy of teaching in that bloody dungeon otherwise I wouldn’t be able to feel my feet,” she said, taking her wand from her sleeve and waving it over the rest of her clothes, “Being a witch has its uses and, if I’m still cold, I have you to snuggle up to.”

Severus smiled, “You won’t hear me complaining,” he said holding out a hand to her, “Shall we go?”

Hermione slipped her small hand into his and he led her out into the hallway, grabbing his coat before they stepped out into the night beyond.

It was several hours later when Severus looked over at the woman sitting on his sofa, from his place beside the bubbling cauldron he was working at. Hermione had been happy and chatty all the way through the dinner they had brought home, talking on every subject that came to her head from the new bathroom being installed at the house to potential names for the business Severus hoped to build there. She had diligently avoided all mention of Hogwarts though and Severus had indulged her, knowing from experience how time away from even the thought of the job could be beneficial.

It was when she had fallen silent that he had begun to worry. At first he had enjoyed sitting with her settled snugly in his arms, only the crackle of the fire and the occasional passing car breaking the silence but as it wore on he knew there was something more in her head than she had first come to him with that evening. He had been close to questioning her when the timing charm he had placed on the cauldron had sounded, pulling him over to his work. She had smiled when she had moved to let him up, commenting how much she was looking forward to watching him work but her attention had soon left him.

He was glad that the final stages of the potion were less complex than the previous ones had been, allowing him to work almost on autopilot as he watched Hermione lose herself in the flames of the fire. He added the final ingredient, the smoke changing as it should again before the cauldron settled for its final simmer. He crossed the room, sitting beside her on the sofa once more though he was unsure if she even registered his presence.

“Hermione?” he said gently, laying a hand on her back, “Sweetheart, please tell me what’s wrong.”

He felt her stiffen beneath his hand, her shuddering breath an obvious prelude to her tears.

“I had my seventh years today,” she whispered, “Best class of the day or so it seemed. Every one got their heads down and got on with their work. Then one of the Slytherin boys dropped his ladle into his cauldron and splattered the boy next to him with the potion. Luckily it wasn’t anything that could do harm but I cautioned him on the care that was needed when brewing in case it had been anything noxious. I didn’t phrase it unkindly or take any house points but he took offence. He got to his feet and he…he’s so much taller than me…he called me a mudblood.”

The last words were too low to even be called a whisper but Severus heard them all the same, the pain that lanced through him at the word swiftly replaced by an anger he had not known in so long that it felt almost alien to him but it burned him all the same. It was only the small body that turned to curl into his that kept him seated rather than heading to the door in pursuit of the young wizard who had marked his own card with a single word.

“Hush my love,” he said against her hair as she gave into her tears against his chest, “It’s a word. A stupid, horrible, pointless word. You are worth so much more.”

Hermione fisted the back of his shirt as she fought to stop her tears, the soft hiccups against his chest proof of her flimsy victory, “It was not the word as such,” she said, her voice heavy, “It was the memory it brought with it. I haven’t been called that directly since…since her.”

Severus tightened his arms around her, knowing exactly what she was speaking of despite it never truly having been mentioned between them, “She is dead,” he said, knowing the words would do little to chase off the memory but saying them all the same, “She can never hurt you again. No one will ever hurt you again, not whilst I breathe. What was done with the student?”

“Detention I believe,” said Hermione, “Minerva is dealing with it. He backed down once he realised what he had said. I kept it together in the classroom but once the students had gone…I hate that she still has power over me.”

“I know that feeling all too well,” said Severus, stroking her hair, “Is there anything I can do to make you feel better?”

“Hold me a while longer?” answered Hermione, “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you earlier but I just wanted to enjoy your company. I know that that word is painful for you too.”

“It is indeed but do not feel you have to spare my feelings on such things,” he said, “I want to share your trials and your pain if it will help to ease it.”

Hermione smiled up at him, “You’re a good man, Severus,” she said, her expression softening further as he brought up a hand to brush away the tear tracks on her face, “I don’t know what I would have done without you these past months.”

“You would have managed quite well, I’m sure. You are a talented, brilliant and resourceful young woman but I am glad I have been here with you,” said Severus, rubbing a hand along her arm as she shivered, “Your emotions are running riot, it’s too warm in here for you to be cold. Can I get you anything to soothe you? I have several potions that can calm nerves already prepared or failing that, I have a bottle of Ogden’s stashed for such necessities.”

Hermione laughed, “The finest potions are brewed in oak casks rather than cauldrons they say,” she said before she glanced at the clock on the mantle, “But I should go. It’s late and I need to head back to Hogwarts and pick up some things.”

“Pick up some things?” questioned Severus.

“I don’t particularly want to sleep there tonight,” said Hermione, “I was planning to head to the house instead.”

“There’s no bathroom and I believe they had too turn the water off until tomorrow,” said Severus, “You could use magic of course or, if you are truly intent on spending the night away from the school, you could stay here.”

“With you?”

“Well, for the remaining few weeks, it is my house, so it would make sense for me to reside in it,” said Severus, “But, it is at your disposal and much as I would like to make some grand, romantic overture in this moment, I am required to stay up until gone two with this potion so I would not disturb your rest.”

Hermione giggled, “Well that’s the most roundabout way someone’s ever told me that I’m going to bed alone,” she said, kissing him briefly, “Will you come to bed when you’re done though? The thought of waking up beside you…well there are certain dreams where I’ve done just that and it would be nice to know the reality of them.”

“Then when my work is done I will gladly oblige,” said Severus, “Though I fear I may not live up to any fantasy.”

“Maybe I’ll whisper a few to you in the dark and then we will see,” said Hermione, taking hold of his hand and pressing a kiss to his knuckles, “If you don’t mind me borrowing something to sleep in and transfiguring a few things that I need, I wouldn’t need to return to the school.”

“You may help yourself to whatever you wish,” said Severus, “I fear I might struggle to let you go in the morning though.”

“You won’t be the only one,” said Hermione, “Now, I think you mentioned something about Ogden’s.”

“Indeed I did,” said Severus, getting to his feet, “I won’t be a moment.”

Hermione smiled warmly, “See that you aren’t, my darling,” she said as she watched him leave the room.

Chapter Text

Severus rubbed his eyes as the page before him blurred, tiredness making reading such fine print an impossible task and he closed his book with a sigh. He glanced at the clock, glad there were only a few more minutes until the potion he was brewing was ready to come off the heat and left to cool until the morning. It had taken all his resolve to remain awake, the evening not having run as calmly as he had planned it after Hermione had finally confessed what had brought her to the house unannounced. Despite the disturbance, he was glad of the chance to see her and happy that she felt able to confide in him when she was upset.

He cast an absent glance towards the door, knowing it would take a matter of mere moments to ascend the stairs beyond and join her as she slept in his bed. He smiled as he saw the hand on the clock move another notch onwards, another minute closer to when he could join her.

He reached up, fingering the silk tie around his throat, the elegant mask that hid the scars Voldemort had given him from the world. He hesitated a moment before he tugged the knot loose, pulling it from around his neck and feeling the chill of the air as it hit the raw nerve endings that were exposed. He ran a hand over the jagged scar, the skin puckered in places and smooth in others, but every inch was pink and raw, the venom and the curse leaving a permanent reminder that refused to properly heal. He hated the sight of it but he hated the thought of hiding it to the woman who had bared her soul to him even more.

They had neither of them said the words but he knew that her feelings ran as deep as his, the pair of them sharing a bond far stronger than he had ever known with anyone else. He knew if anyone could love the hideous marks upon his skin, it would be the person he knew already loved him in spite of the scars he bore on his soul.

Finally, the clock reached the hour and he extinguished the flames beneath the cauldron with a flick of his wand. He decanted the potion into the waiting bottles, leaving them lined up on the desk to cool until the morning, content that the work was some of his best despite the distractions of the evening. Despite the temptation to ignore the remnants of his work until the morning he knew it was poor practice to do so and he tidied what he could in far quicker time than he had ever done before.

Once the worktable was clear of all that it could be, he extinguished the lights, leaving only the charmed fire crackling in the hearth to keep the house warm. He left the room, mounting the stairs to the floor above and pausing in the doorway to his room as he had done the first time Hermione had taken her rest there weeks before.

Moonlight filtered weakly through the thin curtains, casting a faint light upon the bed and the young woman that slept there. Severus smiled at the sight before him, her hair wild against the pillows and the sleeves of the shirt she wore far too long in the arms for her. She whimpered softly in her sleep, rolling onto her side before she settled once more.

Severus turned from the sight; certain he would stand watching her until morning if he did not. He headed to the bathroom, quickly washing away the remnants of the day before changing into the nightclothes he kept there. He frowned as he caught his reflection, his face tired and drawn from the trials of the day and his scar on display where the neck of his nightshirt didn’t reach high enough to mask it.

He had no further time to contemplate his anxieties though as he heard a faint cry echo from the bedroom, the sound followed swiftly by a piercing scream that froze the very blood in his veins. He called his wand to his hand, hurrying the short distance back to his room. He saw Hermione still on the bed but the sight did not comfort him, the contortion of her body and the pitiful cries from her lips manifesting the desperate nightmare that had her in thrall.

“Hermione,” he called, sitting down beside her on the bed but careful not to touch her in case he wrenched her too painfully from the dream.

Her cries reached a crescendo before she sat up so abruptly Severus had to take hold of her arms for fear of her toppling off the bed. She took several panicked breaths, her eyes wide and unseeing before she finally focused on him. Relief filled her gaze before she threw her arms around him, pressing herself as close as she could.

“I’m sorry,” she said brokenly, her voice hoarse from her cries.

“Sorry?” said Severus, returning her embrace, “What have you to be sorry for?”

“Didn’t I wake you?” said Hermione.

Severus shook his head, rubbing a hand along her back as she shivered, “No, I was only just coming to bed,” he said, pressing a kiss to her hair, “What did you dream that made you cry out like that?”

“Bellatrix,” replied Hermione, “And what happened when she…”

“It’s alright. You don’t have to tell me. I have had the story from several sources already and I have no wish to make you relive it.”

Hermione sighed, “Thank you,” she said, “I don’t like to think about it if I don’t have to… despite the permanent reminder.”

She pulled back just enough to present her left forearm to him, pulling back the sleeve of the shirt to reveal the word etched into her skin. Severus gently ran a finger over the scar before he took gentle hold of her arm, guiding it to his lips and brushing a soft kiss over the raised marks.

“If I had the power to erase this and the memories I would because it gives you pain but you should find pride in this as well. You survived where many others would have succumbed,” he said, “From now on though, whenever I can I’ll be beside you to help you through any nightmare and perhaps you’ll save me from a few of my own. Can I do anything to help you feel better?”

Hermione shook her head, smiling up at him despite her tears, “Just join me and stay with me?” she said, “I’ll sleep easier with you near.”

Severus ran his fingers softly along her cheek, “Are you sure?” he said, “I don’t want to move things along too quickly if you’re not ready. I can sleep downstairs if you’d rather.”

“I want nothing more than you beside me,” said Hermione, wrapping her arms around his neck, “And I’ve wanted it for far longer than I should have.”

“Seems only right that I oblige you then,” said Severus, lying her back down against the pillows before he moved around to the other side of the bed, pulling back the covers and slipping in beside her.

He had thought there would be a moment of awkwardness as they tried to find a comfortable position beside one another but Hermione immediately rolled over into his arms, her head pillowed against his chest as though she had always slept that way.

“Ok?” she asked, her voice quiet in the darkness.

“Perfect,” said Severus, dragging the covers up over them both before he settled his arms around her, “Though I fear I will become easily addicted.”

“Me too,” said Hermione, around a yawn, “Goodnight, my darling.”

Severus felt the fatigue of the evening take hold of him as Hermione’s warmth soothed him, her even breathing lulling him as her trust in him was made all too apparent by how easily she rested in his arms. Pressing a kiss to her forehead, he closed his eyes, sleep already teasing at his consciousness as he whispered softly into the dark.

“Goodnight my love.”

xxxx

Hermione stirred as familiar fingers eased through the strands of her, brushing it back from her face before warm lips pressed to her forehead. She opened her eyes, reaching a hand up to rub away the remnants of sleep before her vision focused on the man above her. She smiled, realising that she had slept far easier than she had in a long time without any dreams to plague her. Her happiness faltered though as she took in not only his attire but also the wintery sunlight that filled the room.

“What…what time is it?” she said, blushing as her voice came out as little more than a croak.

“A little after nine-thirty,” said Severus, “You needed your rest.”

“Nine-thirty? But I have a class to teach,” said Hermione pushing aside the covers and sitting up, her eyes wide with panic, “Minerva doesn’t even know that I wasn’t at the school last night and I…”

“Hush, everything has been sorted,” said Severus, gently pressing her back against the pillows, “Don’t upset yourself.”

“But how,” said Hermione, yielding to his persuasion to lie down but frowning up at him.

Severus smiled, “I tried to wake you earlier but you were having none of it once again,” he said, “You needed sleep so I took it upon myself to see to it that Minerva knew your whereabouts. I apparated to Hogwarts and spoke to her at the gates. She has given you today and the rest of the weekend off to recuperate. Before you argue, she is perfectly aware that you would have been more than capable of teaching today had you put your mind to it and she has little doubt you will excel as usual, as she put it, when you return on Monday. The teaching staff and the students will be informed that you are visiting a sick muggle relative so that nothing is related to yesterday’s incident. The student in question, I believe, is receiving suitable punishment…in the eyes of the school at least.”

“Are you certain Minerva was alright with me being away?” said Hermione, “She’s usually so strict.”

“I think she was indulging me as much as she was looking out for you,” said Severus, “Needless to say she was clucking like a maiden aunt when she realised where you have been all night. She was happy for us despite her bluster that, had I been a gentleman, I would have sent you home.”

Hermione giggled, “You were a perfect gentleman, as always,” she said, taking hold of his hand and pressing a kiss to the back of it, “And I would sleep every night beside you if I could.”

“Perhaps then, you might consent to spending the weekend here?” said Severus, “I have the potion from last night to deliver and then I was going to head to the house to keep an eye on the workman as they should be done with the bathroom today. We could get some things done in the other rooms and have a look around the town, then come back here when we’re done.”

“You’ve given this some thought,” said Hermione, “But could I maybe make one alteration? If they’re done in the bathroom today and the house is liveable, maybe we could stay there. My room is close to finished and, given the circumstances, perhaps we don’t need to consider having two, now or in the future.”

“So we would be living together properly rather than…”

“Improperly?” giggled Hermione, “Depending on your moral reasoning it could be considered very improper but from now on, if I am in the same house as you then I want to be in the same bed and it would seem foolish to have two when one would be unused by either one of us. What do you think?”

“That you’ve given that some thought,” said Severus, echoing her words, “But I can offer no objection to it. I thought I was still dreaming when I woke to find you beside me this morning.”

“Even if I swore at you?”

“You know I find you charming when you curse,” said Severus, as she tugged on his hand and coaxed him to lie down beside her, “What are you doing my dear?”

Hermione smiled, moving over in the bed so he had space beside her to recline against the pillow she had been resting on, “Well, you said it was nine-thirty, that means we have an hour until the workmen are on site and they have keys,” she said, “Unless you are in a rush to be anywhere?”

“Not particularly and considering the appeal of the alternative…” he replied, lying down on his side to face her, “Your hair is quite the revelation at this time in the morning though.”

Hermione scowled at him, “Says the man in bed in his frock coat and shoes,” she teased, fingering the length of buttons from his collar to his waist.

“Easily remedied,” said Severus, sitting up once more and ridding himself of his boots and his coat, dumping them without ceremony onto the floor beside the bed.

He pulled his wand from his sleeve, flicking it towards the window, which darkened considerably, leaving the room in something resembling twilight. Hermione watched as he reached up, his fingers hesitating on the silk of his cravat before he pulled it loose, letting it fall to join the other items on the floor beside the bed. He pulled back the covers and joined her once more but Hermione sensed the tension in him that she had not felt in the darkness of the night before.

She knew why, her eyes unable to miss the scar that stood out in stark relief against the skin of throat, and she knew she had to move quickly to keep him from allowing his fears to overwhelm him. Deciding that actions spoke louder than words she rolled onto her side, resting her hand over his heart before she pressed her lips against the ragged scar, hearing the shocked exhalation of his breath as she did so. His hand took hold of her arm, the grip almost punishingly tight but she knew it was only to anchor himself, certain the poorly healed skin would be sensitive especially when it was always kept hidden.

She pressed a kiss to the line of his jaw, tracking her lips on a soft, steady path to his. She planted a brief kiss there, not giving him a moment to respond before she moved once more, her lips finally coming to rest beside his ear.

“My darling,” she whispered softly, “Never be ashamed and never be frightened to share every bit of yourself with me.”

“How can you stand…” Severus began but Hermione moved too swiftly, raising herself up again to silence his lips with her own.

“Because it is part of you,” she said, meeting his dark eyes as she pulled back from him just far enough to do so, “And I love you.”

Severus released her arm before capturing her face in his hands, “Say that again,” he begged, “Please. Say that again.”

Hermione smiled, blinking back the tears that sprang to her eyes at the sight of the hope in his, “I love you,” she repeated, “I know it’s so very soon but I do all the same. It’s in every word I write to you and in every moment I’m with you. You are precious to me and my life would be a shadow of itself without you.”

He pulled her gently down to him, kissing her softly and Hermione was uncertain whether it was her tears or his that wet their cheeks. His kiss was gentle but searching, answering her professions with his own without the need for words.

“Hermione,” he said, his voice low and content as he stroked her hair, “It’s not too soon. I’ve been waiting for the right moment to declare my own feelings and they mirror your own. I love you so very dearly. I never thought I would feel this way about anyone, I didn’t think I was capable but with you, it’s so easy. We fit perfectly and I am so grateful that it was me that you reached out to when you began at Hogwarts again.”

“Some would say destiny,” said Hermione, smoothing her hand over his shirt, “But whether it was or it wasn’t, I’m glad I’m here.”

“Me too,” said Severus, “Come here.”

Hermione lay down against him, her head resting on his chest as his arms moved to hold her securely against him. She was certain that there were many more words they could say to each other but none of them were important enough to be uttered when their silence spoke volumes. She felt the brush of his lips against her forehead, the brief kiss making her smile as she snuggled closer to his warm body, content in the quiet twilight of the room and his arms.

Chapter Text

The slushy snow squished beneath their boots as they trudged their way up to the house, the warmer southern climes slowly melting it whilst it was still fresh and crisp outside Severus’ house further north. They would normally have taken the floo to the house, Hermione having had it connected to both Spinners End and Hogwarts when she had decided to make it their home, but they had left it too late to risk using it when the muggle workmen would be in residence. They had thought to apparate to the summerhouse in the garden but with no back gate, they felt it would raise too many questions if they arrived through the back door. Instead, they had apparated to a point in the fields behind that Hermione knew would be safe, the pair of them heading towards the house on foot and arm in arm.

When they reached the front door Severus pulled his keys from his pocket, opening the door before he waved Hermione inside. She smiled, pressing a kiss to his cheek stepping into the hallway and tossing the overnight bag she carried onto the bench beside the shoe rack before she toed off her boots. She had been shocked when they had finally dragged themselves from their little cocoon in his bedroom to find a bag already prepared for her, Minerva having sent one of the house elves that knew Hermione well to gather her things before giving it to Severus to take back with him.

She could have happily spent the day in the quiet of his room but neither of them did well being idle even when in each other’s company and the decision had been made to make the house liveable so they could spend the rest of the weekend there. She watched him as he shrugged off his heavy overcoat, hanging it on the rack with a precision borne of familiarity and she smiled at the thought that he was already so comfortable in what would be their home.

He turned and helped her to remove her coat, hanging it beside his own before he took hold of her hand, raising it to his lips and pressing a kiss to the back of it.

“Why does this feel much more like a homecoming than it should?” he asked, holding the back of her hand against his cheek.

Hermione smiled, “I know what you mean,” she said, the faint sound of a radio playing upstairs reminding her that they weren’t alone, “I should go up and see if the guys want a cup of tea. Shall we see about getting some more of the new lab finished with what’s left of this morning? At least we’ll be out of their way.”

“My aim for the next few days is to be in your company so whatever we do is fine by me,” said Severus, “But it would be beneficial to get the lab up and working. My customer this morning mentioned that they were planning to refer several friends to me for work they needed doing so I will need space. I hope you don’t mind that I gave them this address.”

Hermione shook her head, “Not at all,” she said, “Half the initial aim of offering you this place was to allow you to expand your business and I’m pleased you’ll have the chance. It will be nice for people to have a reliably confidential potions service, the gossip out of St Mungo’s is always so rife that people need somewhere else to go.”

“You don’t mind that I keep the names from you do I?” asked Severus, “It’s part of the contract I offer them.”

“Not at all,” said Hermione, as she headed to the stairs, “It’s only right that you do so. I’m not part of the business.”

“Would you like to be?” said Severus to her back as she began to climb.

Hermione paused, looking back over the banister with a smile, “You trust my potion making skills enough to put your name to them?”

“Well there would need to be a formal interview process?” said Severus, with a teasing smile, “But I’m sure you’ll be found to be…adequate.”

Hermione scowled at him as he chuckled and headed to the door that led to the kitchen, “I could rethink our sleeping arrangements,” she called before she shook her head with a laugh of her own, wondering when they had fallen into such easy banter with one another.

She ascended the last of the stairs, several voices greeting her and enquiring after Severus when she rounded the door to the bathroom. She was glad to find the bathroom coming on at a good pace and she was happily assured that it would be completed and serviceable by the end of the day. She had headed back downstairs with a smile and an order for tea in her head, certain that they would be able to spend the entire weekend learning what it would be like to truly live with one another.

The morning and most of the afternoon saw them working on the potions lab that Severus had already begun in the garage, warming charms helping to keep the room at a comfortable temperature as they worked. By the time the workmen finally took their leave, the bathroom completed, the lab was all but finished, several stations set up and room for more should they need them. Several spaces were left, ready to receive the well-loved desk from Severus’ house and the new ingredients cabinet he intended to build.

Once they were alone, they made a start on organising the master bedroom to accommodate them both, happily able to use magic to speed the process along as they emptied the gathered suitcases into the wardrobes and the boxes onto dressers and shelves. Hermione had smiled as she took in the sight of their things side by side, some of the items looking as though they belonged together and had been for longer than a few moments. They had shared a kiss on the threshold of the room, the moment captured in the emotion they felt as the reality of their lives entwining was laid out before them.

With the night drawing in they had retired to the living room, Hermione searching out the number for a local restaurant that offered deliveries as she lamented the lack of proper groceries in the house that she vowed to rectify early the following morning. The evening had been a pleasant and quiet, an ease falling over the house as they found an easy rhythm as they had in all other aspects of their relationship.

They fell into an easy pattern over the weekend, working together on the house until it was at a suitable state for Severus to move into permanently. They decided that, should Hermione be free from duties the weekend following, that he would make the final move then. The majority of his possessions were already at the new house but several larger pieces needed to be moved, Severus taking it upon himself to find adequate transport and assistance when Hermione was back at the school.

As Sunday night began to descend upon them, they grew quieter than they had been for the entire weekend, the separation Monday morning would bring hanging over them both. They had even resorted to switching on the television Hermione had kept stored in the house, Severus unused to the muggle invention but the background noise it gave them enough to chase away at least some of the discomfort in their silence. When Hermione had begun to doze against Severus’ shoulder they retired to bed, seeking the familiar embrace they had fallen into every night with Hermione’s head pillowed on Severus’ chest as he cradled her close.

They had both worried when they had gone to bed on their first night in the house that being in such close proximity would have them swiftly tumbling down the path they were not yet ready for but the intimacy of their embrace alone was more than enough. Swift to fall asleep every night in the security of each other’s arms.

Hermione cursed as she heard her alarm sound on the night stand beside her, reaching out to silence it even as she felt Severus’ arms tighten around her waist, his body pressed against her back as he remained curled around her.

“What is that dreadful racket?” he complained, his voice far deeper than usual as he struggled past the barriers of sleep.

“It’s my alarm,” said Hermione, around a yawn, “I’ve got to head back to the school before breakfast. Go back to sleep darling, it’s still early.”

“I can’t possibly sleep if the wonderfully warm woman in my arms is planning on leaving me all alone,” said Severus, pressing a kiss to her neck, “What time is it?”

“A little before five,” said Hermione, giggling as he groaned.

“Woman that is ungodly,” he muttered, “Has Minerva lost her wits and moved breakfast to three hours earlier?”

“I have a lot to do before breakfast,” said Hermione, “I need to review my lesson plans and pre set my classroom for my fourth years first thing. You know I’d stay if I could.”

She rolled onto her back, still within the circle of his arms, smiling as the fall of his black hair offered them a curtain against the world as he kissed her.

“I want to ask you to stay,” he said when they parted, “But I know you can’t.”

“As soon as I reach Hogwarts I’ll check if I have duties this weekend,” she said, “I don’t recall being scheduled but given that Minerva granted me leave this weekend I may have been shuffled around. If you want to go ahead with the move without me, do so. I’m not much use when it comes to hefting furniture anyway.”

“We’ll make that decision when we know,” said Severus, “I do hope you will be home though.”

Hermione smiled sadly, “Perhaps I should hand in my notice and come work with you, given that I’m now a sleeping partner,” she said.

“There is not enough work to support us both yet,” said Severus, “Though I would love you at my side if it were possible. A year or maybe two, then this nameless entity of ours might be fruitful enough to allow us both to work on it.”

“It’s not so nameless,” said Hermione, “That is, if you like the one that came to me last night.”

“Well now I’m intrigued, you said nothing last night.”

“Well by the time I thought of it you were asleep,” said Hermione, brushing his hair back and threading her fingers into the long strands, “You looked too peaceful to wake. I thought about all that we’ve shared, everything we have in common. Our relationship truly began to change on New Year’s Eve, when you kissed me in the cinema; the cinema where we were watching old Lon Chaney movies. Movies I love but, I could go back further, to the first ever films he did. Those magical films where people moving on a screen was both elating and terrifying. There’s one I love and I hope you might consent to us using the name. The Gilded Spider, a bespoke and confidential potions company. Is it bad?”

Severus shook his head with a smile, “No it’s perfect,” he said, “The Gilded Spider. It works. We have a company name, now all I have to do is build a company.”

“There’s no one more capable than you,” said Hermione, “You will make a success of it, I know you will.”

“For you…for us,” said Severus, before he frowned, “Hermione, surely you can’t be considering resigning from your teaching role, not really?”

Hermione sighed, “It was a throwaway remark,” she said, “But sometimes I do think…In light of what’s been happening…”

Severus shook his head, “Pranks, errors, mishaps and one horrible boy,” he said, “Believe me my love, you are facing the same trials every new teacher faces. My first year teaching I sent more pupils to the hospital wing than I care to recall. I forgot methods of the simplest of potions standing up before a group of first years and I was called every name they could think of, something that continued well beyond my first year. Don’t throw the chance away because these first couple of terms are proving difficult. You are a good teacher and you can be a great one but it will take time. This is more than memorising teaching methods and facts, this is experience and, brilliant as you are my angel, you can only learn that in the fullness of time. I would love for us to work together but only if it’s a choice you have given a great deal of thought to.”

“You’re right, I know you are,” said Hermione, “And I wouldn’t throw my career away that easily, even if the alternative is very appealing. I think the thought was borne more from the fact that, should we be working together, I wouldn’t have to leave you.”

“We will be together again before you know it,” he said, “And we can write and speak over the floo as we have done before. Just remember that I’m always here if you need me though.”

Hermione drew him down towards her, her lips brushing his as she spoke, “I always need you,” she said, kissing him soundly.

His body blanketed hers, his warmth making her resolve waver, and she gave herself up to him, allowing him to deepen the kiss. She sighed as his lips left hers, trailing down to her neck and worrying the soft skin beneath her ear. The hand that was in his hair held him in place whilst the other ran across his back, cursing the nightshirt he wore as her hand craved the feel of his skin. His own hands were equally greedy but hesitant as his fingers stroked down her side until they reached the hem of her nightgown.

It was only the insistent sound of Hermione’s alarm that pulled them from one another and she giggled as Severus groaned miserably against her neck.

“I hate your bloody alarm,” he groused but there was no venom to his words, “It’s intent on stealing you from me.”

“A harbinger for my employer,” said Hermione, “And trust me, the alarm is better than her walking in here in search of me.”

Severus laughed ruefully, “I have little doubt she would as well,” he said, “And I dread to think what she’d try and hex if she caught us in this manner.”

“And for that risk alone, I should go,” said Hermione, pressing one more fleeting kiss to his lips, missing his weight as he moved to let her rise, “You should try to get back to sleep darling.”

“And miss the chance to kiss you goodbye?” said Severus, propping his head on his hand as he watched her pull on her dressing gown.

Hermione smiled at him over her shoulder as she headed to the door, “I won’t be long,” she promised, heading to the bathroom to prepare for the day.

She returned to the bedroom to find him absent but there was a cup of tea awaiting her on the dresser and she smiled at the simple gesture. She readied for the day, packing the overnight bag that had been brought from Hogwarts, before she headed down to the ground floor.

She set her bag beside the fireplace in the living room, heading to the kitchen as the sound of the radio chattering away lured her towards it. She smiled at the sight of Severus at the small breakfast table, a pot of tea already set up on the table and warm toast waiting in the rack.

“You spoil me,” she said, setting her empty teacup down on the table as she sat down opposite him.

Severus picked up the pot, refilling her cup before he pushed the rack of toast towards her, “It is a while yet until breakfast is served at Hogwarts and I won’t have you working without anything to eat,” he said, “Besides, it keeps you with me a while longer.”

Hermione smiled sadly as she took a piece of toast even though her appetite did not call for it, “What do you plan to do today?” she asked.

“I have no fixed plans,” said Severus, “But I think I shall work here for a while and then return to the old house and finalise the packing. I need to make enquiries into someone who can transport the items that cannot be taken via floo or apparated with.”

“Let me know where you will be so that I can write when I get a break,” said Hermione, “As always, if I can’t have you then I want your letters.”

“Of course,” said Severus, “Won’t you try to eat?”

Hermione shook her head, “I can’t,” she said, rubbing a fist against her stomach, “Too many butterflies in there to manage food. I’ll be alright in a while but I should go. Everything I have to do is weighing on me.”

Severus covered her hand with his own, squeezing it gently before he got to his feet, “I know the feeling, believe me,” he said as Hermione stood.

“Will you see me off?” she asked, smiling as he nodded and led her back towards the fireplace in the living room.

She was grateful that they did not linger over saying goodbye, knowing the separation would be hard on them both. She knew the feel of his kiss would stay with her throughout the day though, knowing that in it she would find the strength to face any challenge the week could bring to her.

Chapter Text

Severus stood surveying the remnants of what once had been his home. Every shelf was now bare, the books and few possessions he wanted to keep with him having been already packed and sent away to the new house. Any furniture that had been salvageable from the age-old pieces had already left on the back of a van to some charity Hermione had given him a leaflet for, Severus certain the majority of it would find its way to a tip but he was happy to get rid of the memories along with the items.

He knew that the upstairs was equally barren, the house a shell that was grey, damp and sagging from age and poor upkeep. The sight of it only threw into stark relief the sorrow that seemed to radiate from the very walls, sorrow that had been brought into the house when he was little more than two years old and his father had lost his job and had never left it. It was the polar opposite to the house he now took as his home where light seemed to pour through every window and nothing felt oppressive or dark. He knew he would not look back once he closed the door to Spinner’s End for the last time.

The only items remaining were his desk, a large trunk filled with potions ingredients that were too volatile to transport via floo or apparition, and another smaller trunk filled with the few possessions he treasured, the small case containing all of Hermione’s letters taking pride of place inside.

He was pulled from his musings as the knock he had been expecting sounded at his front door. He lowered the weak wards that still surrounded the house, opening the door and surprising himself with the smile he greeted his visitor with.

“Harry, right on time,” he said, stepping aside to let him into the house, “I would offer you tea but there’s nothing to make it with.”

“Hopefully we won’t be here too long,” replied the younger man, “I’m assuming I’m the first here.”

“Well unless you’re mystery man with a van is invisible then I would say you are,” said Severus, closing the door against the chill February wind, “Who are we waiting on?”

Harry smirked, leaning back against the peeling paper that lined the hallway wall, “Not telling yet,” he said, “I know you well enough by now to know you’ll refuse to use them if I tell you.”

Severus cocked an eyebrow, “You are not filling me with confidence Mr Potter,” he drawled before he pulled a watch from his pocket to check the time, “And neither are they if their time keeping is to be considered.”

“The roads are bloody horrible out there,” said Harry, “Give him time.”

Severus frowned but said nothing, leaning against the opposite wall as they waited for the third of their party to arrive.

“Oh, whilst we’ve got a minute,” said Harry, reaching into his pocket, “We addressed it to you and Hermione. It’s an invite to our engagement party and both Ginny and I would be honoured if you’d both come.”

Severus opened the envelope, pulling out the card within and regarding the date, “I cannot comment for Hermione without speaking with her but I believe that is on her weekend off. I doubt Minerva would force her to miss it either way,” he said, “We will reply formally of course but I imagine we will be able to make it. Are you certain you want me there though?”

Harry smiled, “Of course I do…of course we do,” he said, “You’re our friend. The past is long gone. Besides, Hermione is one of our best friends and you’re her partner. You’ll always be welcome at Grimmauld Place.”

“A view not held by some of your future family in regards to either me or Hermione,” said Severus, with a frown, “I do not want to create unnecessary drama on a night of celebration.”

“Molly has been informed of the guest list and told if she doesn’t like it then she can stay away, not the other way around,” said Harry, “She is not impressed but Gin and I don’t plan on budging. Don’t let thoughts of her stop either of you and make sure you tell Hermione that too.”

“I will, thank you Harry,” said Severus, “I had feared that my relationship with Hermione would drive her further from you all so I am grateful for the support you’ve shown us both.”

“You make her happy,” said Harry as a knock sounded at the door, “Ah, that’ll be him.”

Severus frowned as Harry reached for the door, opening it to reveal a young man of similar age, the slight sag of the flesh around his cheeks showing a great weight loss in a short amount of time. The two men clasped hands, the gesture heartfelt, before Harry turned back to Severus.

“Dudley, might I introduce Severus Snape,” he said, “Severus, this is my cousin Dudley.”

Severus cocked an eyebrow, “Mr Dursley,” he said, hesitating for only a moment before he offered him his hand, “Quite the surprise. I knew your mother when we were children.”

“Yeah, Harry said.” replied Dudley, “She didn’t like you.”

“Believe me, the feeling was quite mutual.” said Severus, “Are you to be the one helping us today? Some of the items you will be transporting are quite volatile and very dangerous in muggle hands.”

“Harry explained that,” said Dudley, “I’ve helped other wizards and those Ministry blokes have given me enough talks. If you want to charm anything, you can. So long as I can keep the motor running in the cab then I am happy for you to do as you please.”

“I’m a dangerous wizard to say such things to,” said Severus, “But at least I am confident you have more sense than I would have previously given you credit for from former reports.”

Harry rubbed the back of his head as he cast an embarrassed glance at his cousin, “I think both Dudley and I said things about each other that were less than polite at times,” he said, “But we’re over that now. Shall we get started?”

“I think that would be prudent,” said Severus, taking pity on him, “Mr Dursley, if you would kindly show me the transportation.”

Dudley turned back to the van parked beside the kerb, the livery on the side proclaiming that it was a for hire delivery business. Severus frowned at the sight of it, contemplating the virtues of transporting the items on the knight bus before Harry spoke quietly behind him.

“He has done this before I promise,” he said, “He’s helped several of my colleagues from the aurors’ office and they had several volatile items as well. We’ll get it there safely once you’ve put any charms you want in place.”

“I’ll take you at your word,” said Severus as Dudley opened the large sliding door, revealing the space within.

It wasn’t long before Severus had woven the charms he needed to protect the items that would be transported, glad that there was no one around to witness him crouching within the vehicle to do so to avoid any muggles witnessing it. Between the three of them they managed to heft the items into the van, the desk and the large trunk made lighter by magic but still being have to be moved into place by hand.

Severus sealed the charms before Dudley pulled the door closed, the younger man climbing up into the cab and starting the engine. Harry moved to climb in beside him but he paused as his eyes strayed to the doorway and the smaller trunk left there.

“Did we miss one?” he asked.

Severus shook his head, “No, that one comes with me.”

“Well get it then and come on, it’ll have to go in the foot well though as there’s no room on the seats between you and me,” said Harry.

“I’m not coming with you,” said Severus, “I need to finalise handing the house over to the muggle council and these things always take time. I will meet you at the house.”

Harry smirked, “That’s one way of getting out of a four and a half hour drive.”

“I do not do well in muggle vehicles,” admitted Severus, “And I trust you and Mr Dursley to manage without me.”

“Good luck with it then,” said Harry, “We’ll see you there. Will you be…”

“I will be fine Potter,” said Severus, his tone similar to the teacher he had once been but there was no venom in it, “I’m leaving nothing in this shell but bad memories, believe me.”

Harry nodded, a moment of understanding registering in his eyes before he climbed up beside his cousin and closed the door. He gave a short wave through the window before he tapped the dashboard, the van pulling away from the kerb and out into the street.

Severus watched them go, waiting until they rounded the corner and disappeared from sight before he turned back to the open door. He stepped inside pausing a moment in the hallway as he tried to recall any good memory to associate with the building. At first all that came to him was suffering, the horror of his father’s drinking and his mother’s apathy, then nothing but abject loneliness. Nights spent in utter silence with nothing but the dull grey walls for company, the absence of laughter and light almost a tangible thing.

It was as though someone had thrown open a set of heavy curtains onto a brilliant dawn as other memories chased away the dark ones. He smiled as he recalled a bushy haired young woman tumbling from the fireplace, a bag full of books in her arms as she sought his help to prepare for her second term. The day he remembered the same one he had received news that the house would be taken from him. He had thought himself once more out of luck when he had read the words in the letter but it had only taken a day for that luck to change, Hermione coming to him with the offer of a place in her home. Their home as it now was.

He gave the hallway one final glance before he picked up the small chest, shrinking it to fit into his pocket. He turned to the door, stepping out into the dim February light and pulling it shut with a final bang. He set the key in the lock, turning it for the last time before a wand less spell removed every ward he had set on the place, feeling no need to protect the building from wizarding threats any longer.

He returned the key to his pocket, hearing it clash against the other set in his pocket, the sound reminding him that he had somewhere far more welcoming to go to. The thought hurried his steps, carrying him down the road and towards the town where he would make the final transaction to relinquish his former home.

xxxx

Hermione stepped out of the floo, waving a swift charm to rid herself of the soot on her blouse, before she headed further into the house.

“Severus?” she called, when she didn’t catch sight of him in the living room, “Sorry I’m late, the homework session over ran and then I had to sort some things with Pomona.”

She wasn’t sure if she had been heard but carried on all the same, smiling as she rounded the corner to the dining room to see the door to the lab ajar. She crossed the room, opening the door to reveal the lab within and the man busily working away inside. She leaned against the doorframe, watching as Severus carefully set the jars and bottles from the trunk before him into the newly built cabinet in the wall. She waited until his hands were empty before she spoke, not wanting to startle him and cause him to drop any of the volatile ingredients.

“I take it the move went well,” she said, her smile widening as he looked up at her in a moment of alarm before his expression softened, “Sorry I startled you. I did call out when I arrived.”

“No matter,” he said, “I was beginning to think you wouldn’t get home tonight.”

“Work over ran, Saturdays never go to plan,” said Hermione, “But now I am all yours until tomorrow evening.”

“All mine indeed,” said Severus, crossing the room to her and taking her into his arms, “Whatever am I going to do with you?”

Hermione smiled, “I can’t possibly think,” she answered before his lips covered hers, the week they had spent apart more than made up for in the touch.

“I’ve missed you,” he said, between kisses, “Letters aren’t enough.”

“I know,” said Hermione, “And I’m sorry I haven’t got more time this weekend but we can make the most of the time we have. Did today go well?”

Severus nodded, “Harry arranged for his cousin of all people to transport everything but he did a fine job and they managed to get here in under five hours,” he said, “I handed everything over to the council’s legal people and got this in return.”

He reached into his pocket, pulling out a contract of sale clearly detailing the money he had received in return for giving up his claim on the house.

“I still think they paid you too little,” said Hermione, as she regarded the words before her, “But at least you can build your business with it. How do you feel?”

“Content,” said Severus, returning the document to his pocket, “And ready for whatever the future brings us. I never once dreamt that my life would be like this.”

“Well I’m glad that it has gone the way it has done now and that I get to be a part of it,” she said, “Who knows what will come next.”

“Well immediate plans involve dinner and a night in your company,” said Severus, “If that is acceptable to you?”

“Sounds wonderful,” said Hermione, “Let me go and change. Time to put Professor Granger away for a few hours at least.”

Severus laughed, “Away with you then,” he said, “Come back to me when you are Hermione again. I’ve got a few more things to do in here but dinner is already underway so you don’t need to worry about that.”

Hermione kissed him once more, “My wonderful man,” she said, “I won’t be long.”

She parted reluctantly from him, heading towards the door to the hallway. She climbed the stairs, the bathroom her first port of call as she swiftly disrobed, a brief spell carrying her work clothes into the basket in the corner. She stepped into the shower, grateful for the hot water that not only washed away the day but also eased the tight muscles in her neck as she stood beneath the spray. She emerged not long after, pulling on her robe that hung on the hook behind the door before she headed to their bedroom.

She was about to cross to the wardrobe to find something to wear when her eyes fell upon a box laid on her pillow. She frowned, not recognising the packaging and wandering if Severus had misplaced it when he was unpacking.

“It’s for you,” came the voice behind her, making her jump before two strong hands settled on her shoulders to steady her, “If you want it.”

“What is it?” she asked, reaching for the box.

“Open it and see,” said Severus, “I thought it only right that I get something to say thank you for giving me a home now that I have sold my old one.”

Hermione opened the box, her free hand covering a gasp as she took in the sight of the necklace in the soft black velvet. Two silver chains holding small, baguette cut emeralds glittered up at her and she couldn’t resist touching a gentle finger to the elegant stones.

“Severus…” she said, her voice catching in her throat, “This is…it’s beautiful.”

“Does that mean you’ll accept it?” he asked, his hands leaving her shoulders to instead find a familiar place around her waist as he pressed a kiss to the side of her head, “For as charming as my old school scarf looks when you wear it, it will soon be too warm for that and it’s only right I give you something to replace it.”

“Then it’s only right that I accept,” she said, carefully taking the necklace from the box, “Will you fasten it for me?”

Severus took the necklace from her hands and fastened it around her neck, coaxing her to turn to face him when he had done so. Hermione blushed at the adoration she saw on his face, reaching up to fiddle with the collar of her robe until Severus’ hand stilled hers.

“Beautiful,” he said, his fingers tracing the line of the necklace where it rested against her skin, “As usual you do it far more justice than I could have ever imagined.”

“It’s so lovely Severus,” said Hermione, “I’ll have to find an occasion to wear it out. It’s too beautiful to risk wearing everyday, I’d worry it would get damaged.”

“Well then it is a good job we have an engagement party to go to,” said Severus, “Harry and Ginny have kindly invited us to attend a fortnight hence and I was hoping you’d wear this.”

Hermione’s blush deepened as she looked up at him even as her gaze grew wicked, “Just this?” she said, “Darling, I would cause quite the scandal.”

Severus’ eyes darkened, his hands running down from her shoulders to grip her slim waist, pulling her against him, “Then maybe, my love,” he said, “You can dress it up with something socially acceptable for the party and then wear this alone for me when we return home.”

Hermione wrapped her arms around his neck, a delighted shiver passing through her at the promise in the low purr of his voice, “You, sir, have yourself a deal.” she said, moving a hand from his shoulder to press over his heart and smiling at the elevated beat against her palm, “I have a feeling it will be the shortest public appearance in history.”

Severus smirked, covering her hand with his own as he leaned down to brush his lips against hers, “Indeed. I am quite counting on the fact,” he said, his kiss negating the need for any further words.

Chapter Text

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.

xxxx

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.

xxxx

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.

Chapter Text

“Well, what do you think?”

Severus turned his attention from the long mirror before him, the black cravat he was trying to tie hanging open over his waistcoat as his eyes fell on the woman in the doorway. For a moment he was certain he had been struck dumb, unable to force any words any words passed his lips.

Compliments, expressions of surprise and declarations of love warred for dominance but none were spoken as he took in the sight of Hermione stood before him in a black, floor-length cocktail dress. The bodice was boned, highlighting her figure and negating the need for straps to hold it up, but the skirt was soft and flowing, fluttering around her ankles as she swayed slightly under his gaze. Her hair was twisted up into an elegant French knot with only the occasional curl tumbling free to brush against the bare skin of her neck and shoulders.

“You look absolutely beautiful,” he said finally, moving around the bed as she stepped further into the room.

He took her hand, pressing a kiss to the back of it and smiling as she blushed, “My angel, you will put every other woman in that place to shame tonight,” he said, “But you appear to be missing something.”

Hermione smiled, “I was hoping you’d fasten it for me,” she said, “Are you sure it isn’t too much? It’s hard to tell what to wear when it’s being held at Harry’s house but it is a party.”

“You look perfect,” said Severus, “And I am not about to let you change into anything else for the world. May I?”

He led her over to the dresser chair, sitting her down before he reached for the box containing the necklace he had bought her. He withdrew it from the box, the stones glittering in the lamplight, before he fastened it around her neck. He felt her shiver as his fingers brushed against her soft skin as he secured the clasp, leaning down to press his lips to her throat and feeling the answering leap of her pulse against them.

“I spoke prematurely earlier,” he said, meeting her gaze in the looking glass before them, “Now you look perfect.”

“I think you are wearing a rather fine pair of rose tinted glasses there my darling,” said Hermione, a sigh escaping her lips as he kissed her pulse point once more.

Severus smiled, continuing the path of his lips across her shoulder as he spoke, “Not at all,” he said, “It is true that my feelings for you make me more susceptible to your charms but even if I were not in love with you, I would see the same. I am a lucky man.”

Hermione reached up, her fingers sliding into the fall of his hair as he focused his attention just beneath the string of emeralds at her throat. Severus took hold of her shoulders, smoothing his hands over her warm skin as she inclined her head to offer more of her neck to his touch.

“We…” she began, her fingers tightening in his hair as she sighed, “We don’t have to go tonight you know. There will be people there that don’t want to see us and…”

Severus laughed, teasing his lips up to her ear, “Miss Granger, are you suggesting that we blow off the engagement party of two of your best friends in order to undertake…other pursuits?” he asked.

“Are you not tempted my darling?” said Hermione.

“Very,” he replied, pressing one last kiss to her neck, “But we will be missed and they are our friends.”

Hermione sighed, “You’re right of course,” she said, catching his gaze in the mirror once more, “Though I wish you weren’t for once.”

Severus chuckled, helping her to her feet, “Me too,” he said, smoothing his hands down her bare arms once more, “In the past I would have been selfish enough to keep you to myself but these are our friends and we need to be there. I will be so proud to walk into that house with you on my arm.”

“And I you,” said Hermione, reaching up and fastening the cravat at his neck, her fingers caressing the silk as she straightened it, “You look very handsome.”

She raised herself up on her toes, pressing a kiss to his lips, giggling as she settled back on her feet.

“And what, my dear, is so amusing?” asked Severus, as she reached up and ran her thumb along his lips.

“That shade really doesn’t suit you,” she said, turning her hand so he could see the faint smear of pink lipstick on her skin, “And people would definitely talk if you turned up like that.”

“Let them,” said Severus, “Perhaps we’ll make the front page.”

Hermione smiled, “Then we’d better look our best,” she said, “And try not to be too late.”

“You distracted me,” said Severus, reluctantly dragging himself away from her and picking up the frock coat he had left on the bed, pulling it on as he watched her slip her feet into a pair of elegant heels.

He had fastened half of the buttons on the coat by the time her hands brushed his aside, finishing the line before she flattened her palms against his chest.

“There, all done,” she said, her fingers fidgeting with the top button, “Ready to go?”

Severus smiled, “You make it sound like a battle rather than a party,” he said, covering one of her hands with his own, “I’ll be by your side all night, I promise. There’s no need to be nervous.”

“I just hope Molly behaves,” said Hermione, “I don’t want to cause Harry and Ginny any trouble.”

“You won’t,” said Severus, “Molly knows we’re coming and that we are there by invitation. She won’t say anything and if she does, we will deal with it calmly and quietly. If she wishes to have an opinion about us then she can do as she pleases, it will not affect us. Now come on or we will be late.”

Hermione nodded, lacing her fingers with his as she led him from the bedroom and down the stairs to the hallway below. He picked up the long cape she had left on the banister, setting it around her shoulders before she picked up the present as he offered her his free arm, leading her towards the backdoor. It took a matter of moments for them to reach the summerhouse at the bottom of the garden, stepping inside to shield themselves from the eyes of their neighbours before they apparated away.

The park outside Grimmauld Place was always deserted after dark, giving them a safe place to apparate into but Severus weaved a disillusionment charm over them all the same. As soon as they were sure there was no one around to witness there arrival he lifted the charm, offering his arm to the woman beside him and covering her hand with his own when she took it.

They crossed to the wrought iron gate and stepped out into the street, the electric lights above them lighting their way as they headed towards the row of terraced houses before them. The end of the war had negated the need for the property to remain hidden so it took its place amongst the muggle houses either side, electric lights and televisions reflected in the windows surrounding it whilst candlelight and the shadows of people moving within separated it from the norm.

Severus felt Hermione’s hand tighten slightly on his arm as they mounted the steps and flexed his fingers in return, glad when she smiled and drew herself up a little taller at his side. The door opened with any command, the sound of the partygoers meeting them as they stepped inside. Severus smirked at the sight of hand written signs on several of the doors, directing the guests to a room to leave their coats, the way to the party and other facilities, leaving him wondering if anyone was yet inebriated enough to have confused them.

“May I?” he said, reaching for the clasp of Hermione’s cloak and unfastening it when she nodded, “I won’t be long.”

“I’ll wait for you,” she said after him as he headed into the room already bearing several racks of cloaks and coats.

He swiftly located a hanger, deciding to shuck off his own black coat in the heat of the house and hanging it up alongside Hermione’s, leaving him in crisp white shirt sleeves and a black waistcoat, the colour only broken by thin pinstripes of dark grey that ran the length of the garment. He returned to the hallway, unable to keep the slight colour from his cheeks as Hermione did nothing to hide her approval of his attire.

“I doubt anyone in there has ever seen you look so…relaxed,” she said with a smile as she took hold of his hand, “Ready?”

“As I’ll ever be,” he said as they headed towards the sound of the voices, music joining them as they made there way into one of the larger reception rooms.

“Hermione! Severus!” came Harry’s voice over the din as they stepped into the crowded room.

The younger man’s call turned the attention of several groups of people towards them and Severus tightened his grip on Hermione’s hand as Harry quickly sought out his fiancée before heading towards them.

“Relax darling,” said Hermione quietly beside him, “We’re amongst friends here.”

“You might be,” said Severus as he noticed several reproachful glances, “I’m here with a woman half my age who used to be my student and I think some people don’t approve.”

Hermione leaned up and pressed a kiss against his cheek, “They can bugger off then,” she said quietly, before she turned to greet their friends, “Congratulations you guys.”

“Took him long enough don’t you think,” said Ginny, drawing Hermione into a hug, “Thank you for coming.”

“It’s a pleasure to,” said Severus, “I just hope we don’t cause a disturbance.”

“Party needed livening up anyway,” said Harry, shaking his hand, “Just enjoy yourselves, there’s more food than we know what to do with.”

“Some things don’t change,” said Hermione, as Ginny released her, allowing her to hold the neatly wrapped gift out to them, “From the both of us.”

“Couples’ presents; must be serious,” teased Ginny, “Thank you though, just having you guys here is enough but we appreciate it.”

“I left it to Hermione to choose so she can take full responsibility,” said Severus, chuckling as the back of Hermione’s hand connected soundly with his chest.

“What Severus meant is, you’re welcome,” said Hermione, earning a laugh from both of her friends.

“Come on,” said Harry, “Drinks are this way.”

They followed his lead, a large drinks table laid out on the far side of the room with every beverage that could be expected at such an affair. Champagne was the only option for toasting their friends however though the moment was brief when another party of guests arrived, calling the couple away. Severus would have been content to remain separate from the crowd and he was sure Hermione held similar thoughts as she remained close to his side, her hand keeping tight hold of his. Others though seemed intent on drawing them into conversation, people from the Order, Ministry officials or old school friends of Hermione seemingly never ending. The conversations did prove beneficial though, word of Severus’ growing company having spread and several people happily asking for further details and promising to visit in the coming week.

It was only when Molly’s voice echoed through the room that Severus felt the young woman beside him stiffen in alarm, the both of them waiting for the moment that they encountered her. It was another voice however that pulled their attention to the other side of the room, the sound a far more welcome one.

“Well now,” said Minerva, crossing the room to them, “I’ve seen the both of you separately many times but never together since we were last all at Hogwarts. You do make a handsome couple. I’m glad you both came.”

“It’s good to see you Minerva,” said Severus, pressing a friendly kiss to her cheek, “Hermione said you would be here.”

“It was touch and go,” said the headmistress, “Our little adventurers made another getaway about an hour after I sent you and Filius off duty, Hermione. Needless to say they are spending the majority of their weekend in detention.”

“Little buggers,” said Hermione, with a frown, “I’m sorry I wasn’t there to help.”

Minerva shook her head, “It’s no matter,” she said, “You made me aware you were leaving and you had done more than your share beforehand. I’m sure Severus will tell you that we both dealt with far worse in our time.”

“Most involving the names Potter, Weasley and Granger,” said Severus, earning himself a playful scowl from the woman beside him.

“Usually chasing after the antics of someone called Malfoy or Snape,” Hermione countered.

“Well she certainly matches you for wit,” said Minerva with a laugh, “It’s wonderful to see you getting along so well.”

“I would have her no other way,” said Severus, amazed by his own honesty before he raised Hermione to his lips and pressed a kiss to the back of it.

Minerva smiled, an elegant grey eyebrow cocked in amusement, “What have you done to him?” she asked, “It is quite the transformation.”

“Oh the credit is all his,” said Hermione, “I’m just forcing him to be more sociable.”

“Well you are succeeding,” said Minerva, “And I hear tell that you are making your potions company an official entity, Severus.”

“Already done,” he replied, “I’m already seeing double the orders I saw previously and I have the space to accommodate them.”

“Then perhaps you and I should have a discussion,” said the older witch, “Hermione and I have discussed the idea of outsourcing some of the medical potions we keep at the school and I’m sure she won’t mind me saying that we have both agreed that it is a lot for us to expect a new teacher to take on alongside the tasks required by the teaching role. Would you maybe be interested in a contract if I can get it approved? Your skills are well proven in the field.”

Severus looked down at the young woman at his side, seeing nothing but approval in her gaze but he needed it spoken all the same, “Only if you would be with happy with me doing so, my dear,” he said, “I don’t want to intrude.”

“I will be glad of the opportunity to have more time to spend on my students,” said Hermione, “If you want to take it on, then I am more than happy to let you.”

Severus smiled, absently stroking a loose curl back from her forehead with a finger, “Then will you forgive me if I spend a little while discussing business tonight?”

Hermione shook her head, “Not at all,” she said, “I’ll leave you both to it, if you’ll excuse me. I should go and speak to a few people anyway. Don’t be too long though.”

“I promise I won’t be,” said Severus, reluctantly letting go of her hand as she stepped away, turning his attention to the witch before him, “Well then Minerva, I’m all yours it seems.”

“For the moment maybe,” said Minerva, with a smile as she took his arm, “Now how about you name some outrageous prices you want to charge me and I’ll talk you down until we’re on the same page.”

Severus laughed, letting his former colleague lead him away from the hubbub of the party, certain they would soon happily settle on a situation that suited them both.

Chapter Text

Hermione waved Katie Bell off as her former classmate headed back into the party. She had spent a good half an hour since she had left Severus with Minerva circulating around the room and catching up with familiar faces that in some instances she hadn’t seen since her school days. The conversation was always the same, focused on her role at Hogwarts and the truth behind her relationship with Severus, but she answered everything with a smile. She saw the distaste on some faces when she commented how happy she was with the new direction her life had taken but she paid them no mind, her hand brushing against the emeralds at her throat whenever someone questioned her choice of partner.

She occasionally caught a glimpse of him, smiling at the sight of him in deep conversation with his former colleague and she hoped the outcome would be good for both him and the school. Even being able to see him though did not make up for the absence of him at her side and she wanted nothing more than the drag him away from Minerva and the party altogether and return to the sanctuary that was their home.

She was so distracted by her thoughts of inventing some emergency to get them home that she jumped in surprise when an arm laced into hers, pulling her attention from Severus to the woman that had appeared beside her.

“You’ve not taken your eyes off him all night,” said Ginny with a grin, “You do know there are other people in the room don’t you?”

“I’ve been talking to other people,” said Hermione even as her eyes sought out Severus’ presence once more.

“Come on,” said Ginny, “We need some girl talk. Harry can deal with this lot for a bit whilst you give me all the gory details.”

“There are no gory details,” whispered Hermione, “Not yet any way.”

“Oh but you have plans,” said Ginny, dragging her out of the room and towards the kitchen at the back of the house, “You’ve not just been keeping him in your sights all night and don’t try to deny it. You couldn’t be any more obvious and neither could he.”

Hermione blushed at her words, glad they were alone as she pressed a hand to her burning cheek, “Are we really that obvious?” she said, her blush deepening as Ginny laughed.

“Perhaps not but I know you a bit better than most people,” said Ginny, “Are you seriously telling me you two have been living together for two whole weeks and you’ve not jumped him? I’m not sure whether to admire your restraint or wonder if there’s something wrong with you.”

“I’ve been at Hogwarts,” said Hermione, “And we haven’t been together long.”

“But you’re besotted either way,” said Ginny, “I don’t know how you’ve resisted.”

Hermione couldn’t help the giggle that escaped her, “You almost sound like you fancy him. Should I be worried?”

“I don’t have a thing for my former teachers,” said Ginny, “But I can see why he appeals to you and he’s not bad looking I suppose. He certainly improves when he isn’t scowling across classrooms.”

Hermione sighed, flopping down into one of the worn wooden chairs, “I think he’s very handsome.”

Ginny snorted inelegantly, “I can see that,” dropping into a seat beside her, her voice taking on a more serious tone, “Is it love?”

“Completely,” said Hermione with a smile, “I think it has been for far longer than either of us cared to admit it. I’ll never forget the day I saw him again. I swear I knew even then that my life would be empty if he wasn’t a part of it.”

“Wow,” said Ginny, “I never thought…you and Professor Snape. We’d have laughed at something like that a few years back but now… does he make you happy though?”

“Very,” said Hermione, her hand drifting to the emeralds around her neck, “Every moment I’m with him makes me happy.”

Ginny smiled, “I’m so glad you found him,” she said, “Even that floo call we had before New Year where you were talking about him but wouldn’t say who he was, I knew then that you’d found someone special. I was so worried for a while and I know Harry and I didn’t help behaving the way we did.”

“Water under the bridge,” said Hermione, “I’m just glad we’re able to see each other again.”

Ginny grinned, “Me too,” she said, “If only for the fact that I want all the details of what a certain former potions professor is like in the sack.”

Hermione giggled, “Ginny! Is nothing sacred with you?”

“Nope,” said the redhead unrepentantly, “You’re one of my best friends and I am entitled to know. Especially when your boyfriend is somewhat on the intense side and a bit of a perfectionist”

Hermione shared a conspiratorial grin with her friend before they both descended into giggles better suited to the teenagers they had been rather than the women they were.

“We nearly didn’t make it here tonight,” she confessed when they had finally calmed, glad to have someone to confide in, “No one has ever made me feel the way he does.”

“I should be offended on my brother’s behalf at that statement but it doesn’t surprise me,” said Ginny, “You never looked at him the way you look at Severus. I swear the entire room could have turned into dragons and you wouldn’t have noticed when I found you.”

“I can’t help it,” said Hermione, “He’s addictive. I swear I was almost getting jealous of Minerva talking to him.”

“You’ve got it bad,” said Ginny, picking up a glass on the table and frowning as she found it empty, “We need more to drink.”

“Not for me,” said Hermione, holding up a hand, “I want to be able to remember everything that happens tonight.”

“Planning on keeping count of how many times he yells your name?”

Hermione got to her feet before helping her friend to hers, “And how many times he makes me scream his,” she said, not caring any longer for the colour that came to her cheeks at the thought, “We better get back before we’re missed.”

“You do realise that I expect you to floo me and report all details first thing tomorrow morning don’t you?” said Ginny.

“I’m going to be busy tomorrow morning,” said Hermione, “And the majority of the day until I go back to Hogwarts.”

Ginny grinned widely as they headed to the door, “I can imagine what you intend to be occupied with,” she said, “But you must promise to floo when you get back to Hogwarts.”

“I promise,” said Hermione, as the voices of the rooms beyond began to grow louder the closer they got, “I should probably find Severus.”

“I won’t be offended if you two want to sneak off and neither would Harry,” said Ginny as they stepped into the corridor, “And I doubt many people would notice.”

“Perhaps we will,” said Hermione, determined to leave as soon as she located Severus, “I’ll…”

“Hermione?”

Surprise, trepidation and an expected feeling of fate swept through Hermione as she heard her name spoken from the stairs above them. She caught Ginny’s apologetic look before she moved her gaze upwards, forcing a smile to her lips as she spoke.

“Hello Ron,” she said, “It’s been a long time.”

“Just a bit,” he replied, descending the stairs, “You look amazing.”

“Thank you,” said Hermione, “You’re looking well too. How’s the Aurors’ office treating you?”

“It’s alright,” he answered, “It has its moments. How’s Hogwarts? Any of the kids blown up your classroom yet?”

“They’ve tried,” said Hermione, as he came to a stop before her, “But it’s going well and I’m starting to find my feet. Everyone has been really supportive and my colleagues help where they can.”

Ron frowned but forced it away quickly, “And Snape or so I heard.”

“Ron,” warned Ginny but Hermione held up a hand to still anything further.

“Severus has been a great help,” she said, “And let’s not dance around the fact that you know that he has come to mean a great deal to me personally too. Everyone has seen the report in the Prophet and Severus and I have not tried to hide our relationship from anyone. I don’t ask for your blessing but I would hope you can be happy for me.”

Ron reached out and took hold of her hand, “I am,” he said, “It’s just…Snape, he’s old and…”

“He’s forty-three years old, Ronald,” said Hermione, “And his age doesn’t matter to me one bit so it shouldn’t matter to you. You said in your letter that you understood.”

“I do,” said Ron, “And I’m glad you’re happy. Just find it a bit difficult to accept that Snape can be nice like you say he is.”

Ginny rolled her eyes, “Just trust her,” she said, “And get to know Severus. School was a long time ago and let’s face it; he had his reasons for being a git.”

Hermione smiled, “Just a bit,” she said, “But he’s different now, at least to people he likes. Come and say hello. You never know, he might decide to be pleasant to you.”

“Or hex me into next week,” said Ron, “He is never going to like me.”

“Five months ago I thought the same,” said Hermione, “The first exchange of letters between us was less than kind. Let me reintroduce you. He’s going to be a part of my life from now on so you might as well get to know him.”

Ron smiled, “Maybe another day,” he said, “I’m not quite brave enough yet. I do wish you both all the best though. I want you to be happy.”

“Thank you Ron,” said Hermione, hugging him, the gesture so reminiscent of their younger days when their cares had been far simpler, “That means a lot.”

She at first thought that it was Ginny’s hand that landed on her shoulder but she knew it couldn’t be as the grip tightened to the point of pain before she was pulled away from Ron, the force of it sending her stumbling into the banister of the stairs.

“Don’t think you can come here and try and worm your way back into his life,” came Molly’s voice as Hermione recovered herself, “I told you inviting her would cause a drama.”

“The only person causing a drama is you Mum,” said Ginny, stepping into Molly’s path.

“She broke your brother’s heart,” said the older witch, “And then she comes here, flirting about with her teacher all night and then I come out here to find this.”

“Mum we were just talking,” said Ron, “And Snape isn’t her teacher anymore. He isn’t even at Hogwarts anymore.”

“Still…”

“Still nothing, Molly,” said Hermione, gently pressing Ginny aside, “This has got to stop. Ron and I made the decision to split together, better that than marry and end up hating one another for it. It’s ancient history either way but we are still friends and the only reason we’ve not seen each other is you but I’m not going to let continue. As for your opinion on my relationship with Severus, you can think what you please but I am an adult and so is he so our choices do not require your consent. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’d best say my goodbyes because I have no plans to ruin Harry and Ginny’s evening. Perhaps you should focus your attention on the people who are in your family, not on the one’s who no longer are. Ron, Ginny, I hope both Severus and I have the pleasure of seeing you soon. I’ll floo and make some arrangements. I’m only sorry I can’t stay longer tonight.”

Ginny smiled, hugging her despite the exasperated noise from Molly, “I understand,” she said, “Thank you for coming anyway and thank Severus for us as well.”

“I will,” she said, “Ron I…”

“How about I help you find him?” he said, “I should at least say hello after all.”

Hermione nodded, her expression wavering between tears and a smile at the gesture of support that had been a long time coming from her friend, “Thank you,” she said, preceding him back into the room she had left Severus in with Minerva, hearing Ginny already arguing with her mother in the hallway behind.

It didn’t take them long to locate the man they were looking for, aided by the fact that he appeared to be looking for her as well, his face set in a grim expression that only relaxed minutely when he saw her.

“I heard raised voices,” said Severus, taking her hands and drawing her to him, his expression darkening again as he took in Ron’s presence, “Are you alright?”

“I’m fine,” she reassured him, setting her hand in its familiar place on his chest, “A run in with Molly but it was brief. Ron kindly agreed to help me find you and he wanted to say hello.”

She smiled at the sceptical look on Severus’ face but was glad when he inclined his head slightly to the younger man.

“Mr Weasley,” he said, a small smirk gracing his features as Ron flinched before he returned the small bow.

“Professor,” he replied, “You’re looking well.”

“Well in comparison to when you last saw me, I believe I probably look in the peak of health,” said Severus, “I hope your mother doesn’t see fit to censure you too much for helping Hermione to locate me.”

“Hopefully she’ll blow herself out on Ginny,” said Ron, turning his gaze to Hermione, “I’m sorry she had a go but good on you for giving out to her. Maybe she’ll back off a bit.”

Hermione smiled, “Even if she doesn’t, you mustn’t be a stranger,” she said, “You’ll always be one of my best friends Ron and I have missed you.”

“Me too,” said Ron, casting a glance back over his shoulder, “I’d best go and rescue Gin.”

“Don’t worry about us; we’ll see ourselves out,” said Hermione, “Take care now.”

“You too,” said Ron, standing awkwardly before them for a brief moment before he turned back to the hallway.

Hermione let out a sigh as he left, feeling Severus’ hand come to rest at the base of her spine as she leaned back against him, “Please take me home darling,” she said, “I think we’ve out stayed our welcome.”

“Are you sure?” said Severus, “Don’t let Molly be the one to chase you away.”

Hermione smiled up at him, “I was coming to find you before I bumped into Ronald anyway,” she said, “If you’ve finished talking to Minerva then I’m ready to go. The only company I need is you.”

Severus tucked a finger beneath her chin, tilting her face up to his and pressing a kiss to her lips, “Then let’s go home,” he said, “I’ve been as sociable as I’m capable of being anyway and I doubt I would remain as calm as you seem to have been should I encounter Molly Weasley.”

“Come on then,” said Hermione, “For the sake of our friends, if nothing else.”

She took hold of his hand, smiling as she realised that several gazes were turned to them but she didn’t care. She avoided the door to the hall that she had left Molly and Ginny in, leading Severus instead through the rooms to an exit further down, glad that none of the party were in sight as they stepped out. Severus left her only briefly to retrieve their coats, returning with his already on and fastened, leaving his hands free to help with hers before he led her back out into the night.

Chapter Text

They had barely descended the steps from Grimmauld Place when Hermione pulled them to a halt, her grip on his arm tightening as she took a deep breath.

“What’s the matter?” asked Severus, “Did you forget something?”

Hermione shook her head, “No,” she said with a smile, “It’s just…I did it. I told her to back off like I should have done ages ago but I was brave enough to tonight because you were there and because you’ve taught me to believe in myself.”

“I can hardly take the credit,” said Severus, “Your bravery was always there but you needed to be reminded that it was. I’m glad you found the strength to stand your ground tonight though. I’m proud of you.”

“I’m proud of me too,” said Hermione, resting her head against his shoulder as they began walking towards the park once more, “How did things go with Minerva?”

“Barring any problems with the governors, I should have a contract with the school within a few weeks,” said Severus, “At least it will be a constant income and the ingredients needed for the basic stock potions are easy to store. It will keep me busy even when I don’t have private orders.”

“I’m glad,” said Hermione, a brief spell opening the gateway to the park as they stepped into the darkness, “Things are starting to go in the right direction.”

Severus pulled them into the darkest shadows, drawing her into his arms, “Maybe I will have enough together by the summer to take us away,” he said, “Though I think I will just be content to have seven weeks at home with you.”

Hermione turned her face up to his, “Seven weeks alone with you sounds like bliss,” she said, slipping her fingers into his hair and drawing him down into a kiss, “Take me home, Severus.”

Severus tightened his grip, his magic pulling them both from the park and propelling them back to the cover of the summerhouse in their garden. Hermione had barely realised that her feet were back on solid ground when warm lips covered hers, strong hands keeping tight hold of her waist as she teetered on her heels. She wrapped her arms around his neck, answering his kiss before she allowed him to deepen it.

It was only the need to breathe that separated them, though Hermione tightened her arms so he couldn’t move back from her, their breaths mingling in the scant space between them as Severus rested his forehead against hers.

“You’ve been driving me to distraction half the night,” he said as his hands moved around to her back, pressing her closer to him, “You look so utterly beautiful.”

Hermione smiled, certain he would be able to feel her heart as it hammered against her chest, “I certainly feel that way when you look at me,” she said, “I swear everyone in that room knew where we would have preferred to be tonight.”

She shivered as she heard him chuckle, his hand growing bolder as it stroked the soft material of her dress over the curve of her backside, the surety in his touch making her pulse leap once more.

“And where, Miss Granger, would we have preferred to spend the evening?” he asked, his lips teasing against hers as he spoke but denying her a kiss.

“Our bed,” she said, unable to keep the catch from her voice as he abandoned her lips in favour of chasing the flutter of her pulse at her throat, “Every time I’ve slept beside you it’s been more and more difficult to resist you and when I’m alone you’re all I can think about.”

“I might have to insist you tell me what you do when you’re alone and thinking about me,” he said, his voice coming to rest beside her ear, “Or show me.”

Hermione slipped her fingers once more into his hair, dragging his lips back to hers and kissing him fiercely, revelling in his brief murmur of surprise before she captured him fully.

“We need to get inside,” she said as she finally released him, “Or we’re going to end up on the floor in here.”

Severus smiled, his hands coming up to frame her face, “On warmer nights that wouldn’t be so bad,” he said, pressing a kiss to her forehead, “But tonight I want all the time in the world and this place isn’t at all suitable. I want to lay you back in our bed and let you prove every dream I’ve had of doing the same.”

Hermione smiled, feeling a blush heighten in her cheeks, “I only hope I live up to expectations,” she said.

“You already exceed them, my angel,” said Severus, kissing her gently before he took hold of her hand, “Come on.”

Hermione held onto his arm as he led her from the summerhouse, the clear night making the air outside chill, the sensation all the more prominent after the heat of their embrace. It didn’t take them long to reach the house, Severus briefly breaking the wards to allow them inside before he closed them up all the tighter, making sure that nothing could possibly disturb them.

Hermione took a step towards the stairs but her momentum was halted by his strong hand in hers that tugged her back towards him. She anticipated another kiss but instead she found herself lifted into his arms, feeling almost weightless as it seemed to take little effort on his part. She heard the twin thud of her shoes hitting the carpet as the momentum of being lifted shifted them loose from her feet but she paid them no mind. Instead, she wrapped her arms around his neck, laying her head against his shoulder as he carried her towards the stairs and then up them, the journey steady rather than hurried and she revelled in the anticipation each step seemed to bring.

Finally, they crested the top of the stairs, crossing the short distance to their bedroom as Hermione heard him mutter a soft spell. It was the faint glow that first made her raise her head from the firm pillow of his shoulder, a small smile coming to her lips as she took in the sight of the candles lit upon the windowsill and the dresser.

“Someone could accuse you of being romantic,” she said, pressing a kiss to his cheek.

“The electric light is too harsh,” said Severus, setting her back on her feet and taking her face into his hands, “But I need to see you.”

Hermione sighed as he captured her lips once more, the passion from the gardens cooled but not extinguished, the gentleness he had come to show with her all the more apparent in his touch. His hands left her face, smoothing down the slim column of her neck before they came to rest on the clasp of her cloak. She felt him hesitate, smiling against his lips as she brought her hand up to cover his, encouraging him to release the simple buckle, the fabric falling to pool around her feet.

His fingers traced almost absently against the string of emeralds around her neck, his kisses softening to teasing brushes of his lips before he pulled back from her. His eyes were far darker than Hermione had ever seen them and she felt a tremor rip through her at the promise in his gaze as he raked it without apology over her figure.

“I recall a promise you made me,” he said, his fingers tracking the path of the necklace once more, “To wear this alone for me.”

“That I did,” said Hermione, her own hands leaving their place at his waist to pluck at the buttons of his coat, “But first…”

She didn’t bother to finish the sentence, her fingers making her intentions all too apparent as she began undoing each tiny button from his collar to his waist. Severus let her continue, his hands resting gently on her shoulders but the slight hitch of his breathing gave away the effect she was having on him. Finally, she reached the last of the buttons, reaching up once more to push the coat to the floor behind him, giving him no chance to take control again as she pulled the knot of his cravat loose.

She prepared herself for the usual flinch that normally came when she exposed his neck, despite the fact that he wasn’t as concerned with the scar being on display as he was before, but the only reaction she received was a soft sigh of contentment as her fingers brushed against his skin when she pulled the silk away. She leaned into him, pressing her lips to the sharp angle of his jaw before she traced the crimson line of the scar with her lips, starting at the thin jagged edge and onto the deeper, more pronounced marks.

She smiled as she heard him almost whimper, his large hands leaving her shoulders to grab her waist, pulling her flush against him and allowing her to feel the stirring hardness against her belly. She forced her hands between them once more, going to work on the buttons of his shirt before it too joined the pile of clothes at their feet. Her lips left his neck, worrying the skin over the hard line of his collarbone as his hand came to her hair, tugging at the pins that bound it and pulling them loose so it tumbled free.

“Let me look at you,” he said, raising her face to his, stroking back her hair where it had fallen over her face, “I can’t even begin to tell you how long I’ve dreamed about this moment, to be with you this way.”

“Me either,” said Hermione, her hands fanning out like stars against the pale skin of his chest, “Far longer than I can tell but I’m glad we waited until now. I’m just so glad that I found you again. It frightens me what we could have lost had either one of us given up when we began writing.”

“We would have found one another,” said Severus, his hands moving to her shoulders, “Whilst I shan’t call it fate, I do believe we would have been brought together somehow. You were made to be mine, just as I was made to be yours.”

Hermione pulled his lips back to hers, proving his words as she kissed him. She felt his fingers move to the top of her dress, easily locating the fastening before he edged it slowly down. His hands flattened against her back, stroking softly over the skin he had revealed as the dress fell to her feet. She smiled against his lips as she felt his breath hitch in surprise at finding nothing but her bare skin beneath the bodice of the dress.

“How scandalous, Miss Granger,” he said, “Wandering around all night with this little secret beneath that slip of a dress.”

“Do you not approve my love?” she asked, the colour in her cheeks heightening in anticipation rather than embarrassment as he moved back enough to allow his gaze to fall onto her bare breasts.

“On the contrary,” said Severus, his fingers tracing slowly round from her back, brushing against her ribs teasingly, “I want you to wear that dress as often as you can so that I and I alone know that this is how you look beneath it.”

“I’ll wear it every day if you keep looking at me like that,” said Hermione, biting back a whimper as his hand closed over the soft mound of her breast.

“Oh no, my dear,” he said, his caress maddeningly light, “No holding back from me, not ever. I want to hear everything.”

Hermione sighed as he bent to tease his lips down her neck, his touch becoming bolder as he guided her back towards the bed. His hands left her and she whimpered at the loss, the sound turning to a cry of surprise as she found herself scooped up in his arms once more before he lay her down on the bed. She waited to feel his body come to rest over hers but instead she watched him as he drew back, his dark eyes taking in the sight of her figure laid out against the sheets.

She fought the urge to cover herself, feeling exposed in little more than a necklace and panties but she kept her arms beside her, seeing the soft smile that came to his features as he noticed her struggle. The mattress dipped as he sat down beside her, his fingers moving lightly across her body as his dark eyes continued to take in every inch of her figure.

“I am unworthy of a woman such as you, my love,” he said, “But whilst I have your favour I want to do all that I can to please you, to love you well enough that you will never doubt that you mean everything to me.”

“I could never doubt it,” said Hermione, “It’s in everything you do for me. I’ve never loved anyone the way I love you. Come here, please, you’re too far away.”

She watched him rise from the bed, the candlelight reflected against his pale skin, and she allowed her gaze to copy his, taking in the sight of his slim frame. His body did nothing to disguise his age or the years of suffering he had faced and she wanted to weep at the criss-crossed pattern of scars that covered his back. She forced back the pain though, instead enjoying the sight of her lover finally revealed to her as he made short work of his remaining clothes before he returned to lie beside her, his skin almost painfully hot where it pressed against her touch starved form.

She drew him to her, the weight of his body as it settled over her stilling some of her nerves as his embrace brought with it the safety she always felt when she was in his arms. She moaned as she felt him pressed hard against her thigh, feeling the answering flutter at her centre as his hand curled over her hip to draw her tighter to him. He smiled against her lips, pulling back until his lips just brushed hers as he spoke.

“Every sound you make is beautiful,” he said, “But I’m a selfish beast at heart and I want more from you, my dear. I shan’t be content until you scream.”

Hermione shuddered at the promise she heard beneath the deep, soft tones of his voice, a whimper escaping her as his kisses dropped to her neck, worrying the soft skin he found there with both his lips and his teeth. She fisted a hand into his hair, guiding his ministrations as much as he would allow her, the desperate sounds she made as he let his teeth tease at her collarbone turning to words as she pleaded with him to both remain where he was and move on further at the same time.

He answered her body’s plea, moving downwards until his lips closed over one begging nipple and she could do little but cry out unabashedly at the sensation that raced from her breast to her core. She felt his answering smile before he increased his attentions, drawing her deeper before he released her completely, the chill air of the room a shock after the heat of his mouth that cause her to cry out once more.

“Close,” he murmured, his lips settling in the valley of her breasts, “But not enough yet.”

Hermione stroked his hair as he kissed his way down her chest and onto the soft planes of her abdomen. She tensed, feminine fears of the inadequacy of her figure making her conscious of every part that didn’t stand up to a publicised standard of beauty but he soon calmed her, his lips and hands leaving her in little doubt that she was more than perfect in his eyes. She knew he sensed her unease though, his kisses halting in favour of raising his head to meet her gaze. He drew himself up her body once more, pressing fleeting kisses to her chest and neck before he met her lips.

“Too fast?” he asked, supporting himself on one arm as he brushed back her hair with his free hand.

“No, not at all,” said Hermione, wrapping her arms around him as she drew a leg up around his, pressing him against her, “Just a little overwhelming. This has been a dream for so long and I…I just…”

Severus smiled, “I know my love,” he said, kissing her, “Tonight is ours though and this goes how you want it to go.”

Hermione tightened her grip on him, losing herself for a moment in his dark eyes before answered his smile with one of her own, “Well then,” she said, running her nails lightly down his back, “I do believe you were getting to something when I interrupted you so perhaps…”

His eyes darkened further as he captured her lips in a swift, sure kiss, “Indeed,” he said, dropping a kiss against her neck, “I must see to it that I live up to these dreams of yours.”

She didn’t hold back her cries as he kissed his way down her body once more, fears a forgotten thing beneath his touch, as she gave herself up to the longing that had been her constant companion since she had found him again.

Chapter Text

Severus stroked back the bushy mass of hair that rested against his chest as Hermione stirred in his arms, the pale light of dawn filtering through the curtains and playing over her skin where it was bared from the blankets. He knew she had woken fully when warm lips pressed against his chest, her contented sigh fluttering across his skin as she stretched like a cat at his side.

“I fell asleep again,” she said, smiling up at him, “What time is it?”

Severus moved his free arm, reaching blindly for the watch on his nightstand before he held it up before him, “Eleven,” he said, “We seem to have slept the morning away but considering we were up half the night…”

“Not forgetting the somewhat unorthodox way you decided to wake me up earlier,” giggled Hermione, “No wonder we slept for so long.”

“Complaints?” asked Severus, running his fingers down the soft skin of her back.

Hermione smiled, “Not a single one,” she said, “I wish I could wake up that way every single day.”

Severus pressed a kiss to her forehead, “One day,” he said, “But for the time being shall we make the most of the hours remaining and head downstairs for breakfast. Delightful as sleeping beside you is, I would like some conversation with you before I’m forced to lose you to the school once again.”

Hermione sighed, “I’m sorry I have to go back this evening,” she said, “But I can’t miss the staff meeting.”

Severus tightened his arm around her, “Nor do I expect you to and I understand your commitments,” he said, “I’m glad for the time we have. Now come on, breakfast before it becomes entirely indecent to call it such.”

Hermione leaned up, pressing a kiss to his lips before she slipped from his arms and out of the bed, “Aren’t you coming?” she said, looking back over her shoulder before she reached for the robe on the back of her dresser chair.

“In a moment,” he said, raking his eyes over her figure before she covered it with the gown, “I challenge you to find any man that would miss an opportunity to watch the woman he loves leave his bed without a stitch on her. You are quite glorious my angel.”

Hermione smiled, crawling back onto the bed to kiss him, “You are rather well put together yourself, sir,” she said, leaving his side once more, picking up a brush from her dresser and running it through her hair, “I feel it only right that you return the favour.”

“Oh I do not cut quite the same figure in the light, I assure you,” he said.

“You forget it was light enough to see you this morning,” said Hermione, “And the sight of you underneath me is going to carry me through every lonely night at Hogwarts I can assure you.”

Severus smirked, “Will it indeed,” he said, sweeping back the covers and getting to his feet, taking time to reach for his own dressing gown as he felt her eyes upon him, “There are quite a few images from last night that will sustain me through your absence as well.”

He had barely finished tying the sash around his waist when his arms were filled with her once more, her hands knotting into his hair before she dragged him down for a kiss.

“How about…” she said against his lips, “We skip breakfast altogether. The shower in the bathroom is so large and it feels very lonely in there all on my own.”

Severus smiled, “Well it would be unbecoming of a gentleman to leave a young woman so lonely,” he said, “I am at your disposal as always, my dear Miss Granger.”

He watched her eyes darken, the look familiar after the night they had spent together but he still felt the thrill race through him at the sight of it. He let her take his hands in her smaller ones, her grip soft but demanding as she walked backwards towards the door, pulling him with her to the bathroom beyond.

xxxx

Hermione hurried down the echoing corridors of the school, her robes billowing out behind her as she passed several groups of students that were taking advantage of the weekend without lessons. Finally, she reached the staff room, opening the heavy door and stepping inside, glad to see that she wasn’t the last of her colleagues to arrive. Even so, she saw the look of amusement on the headmistress’ face as she hastily made her way to her chair at the large table in the centre of the room.

She pulled her notebook, quill and ink from the charmed pocket of her robe, setting them on the table before her, arranging them neatly as she felt the unmistakeable sensation of McGonagall’s eyes upon her still. When she could resist no longer, she looked up, surprised to see the elder witch at her side rather than across the room from her.

“Minerva,” she said, managing a small smile, “How are you?”

“Quite well,” she replied, “I was beginning to think you wouldn’t be joining us today.”

Hermione blushed, “I was a little late leaving home,” she said, her colour deepening at the knowing look in Minerva’s eye.

“Young love,” sighed the headmistress, “You and Severus made such a striking couple last night. I never would have thought it but you looked quite the handsome pair and I have never seen him look so happy. Love suits the both of you.”

Hermione smiled at her words, Severus’ face conjured easily to her mind and she saw in her memory the softer, gentler expression he had worn since they had grown closer to one another, “It suits him certainly,” she said, “And I was so proud to be at his side last night. He tells me that his discussions with you were productive.”

Minerva took a seat beside her as the other teachers began to settle into their own chairs. “I’m hoping the governors come back with a positive response when I speak to them tomorrow,” she said, “I think we will be in a position to offer him quite a large amount of work though by all accounts he seems to be making vast in roads to a business of his own with or without our input.”

“His reputation is spreading,” said Hermione proudly, “And he has the opportunity at home to work on larger orders and his own experiments. He was planning to work on some improvements to the Wolfsbane potion this week if he has the time.”

“I am glad to see him doing so well,” said Minerva, “In work and in love. You both deserve so much happiness. I hope your professional life continues to improve alongside his. Your young Slytherin hell raiser seems to have settled down since your last run in at least.”

Hermione frowned, “We shall see,” she said, “I hope he and I can find a way to work together. When he isn’t mucking about he is very competent at potions.”

“Just remain patient, there is hope yet that he will improve,” said Minerva, patting her hand, “You may be the teacher to help turn his life around. Now, shall we get this meeting started?”

Hermione nodded, her ears half-listening as the headmistress began speaking to the other teachers gathered about the table but her mind was turned to her previous words, wondering if she could indeed help her troubled young student back onto a positive path to the future.

xxxx

Beloved Angel,

The hours have dragged since you left our home and I long for you in every passing moment. I have endeavoured to keep my mind occupied though and I have begun work on several custom orders that require several hours of experimentation. Even so, I miss your company and look forward to when we are together again.

Write to me when you have time and floo whenever you can. As ever, I want your words when I cannot have you.

I love you.

Severus

 

Granger,

Details.

Ginny.

 

Hermione smiled at the letters in her hands, one filled with the same love and affection she had come to expect from Severus and the other managing to convey the playful cheek of her friend in only a few words.

She wanted to answer Severus’ letter first but the need to confide in her friend about the events of the night before was too tempting to resist and she knelt down before the hearth in her chambers, using the floo network to enable her to speak to Ginny face to face without the need to leave her room.

The first face she saw was Harry’s but he soon made himself scarce when she asked for Ginny, the grimace on his face making it more than obvious that he was aware of what they would be discussing. Ginny’s face soon came into view and whilst Harry’s expression had amused her, his fiancée’s made her laugh out loud.

“Well you don’t look totally shagged out,” said Ginny by way of a greeting, “So either last night didn’t go well or you’ve had a few hours recovery time.”

Hermione smirked, “I’ve had a dull staff meeting to allow me to recover,” she said, “And I can safely say that last night exceeded expectations.”

Ginny giggled, “Did it indeed?” she said, “Who’d have thought the old man had it in him?”

“Oi! He’s not old,” said Hermione, though there was little reproach in her tone, “He’s a man in his prime.”

“Alright, alright don’t get your wand in a knot, I’m teasing,” said Ginny, “He’s not my cup of tea but I can understand what you see in him. So how was it then? Did the earth move?”

Hermione felt her cheeks heat but smiled all the same, “It was wonderful,” she said, “He was wonderful. I didn’t think I could love him anymore than I did but finally being with him that way…I’ve never felt this way about anyone in my life. It was all I could do to leave him this afternoon.”

“You’re disgustingly besotted,” said Ginny, “But I’m pleased for you and for him, he deserves some happiness too. Did you manage to get any sleep at all last night?”

“Some,” said Hermione, “I think we finally fell asleep about three but he woke me again at six…”

“An early morning round two, good boy Severus,” chuckled Ginny.

“Round three actually,” said Hermione, “After that we managed to sleep until eleven and then…”

“Seriously?” exclaimed Ginny, “Can you walk? Hermione marry the man for Merlin’s sake. I don’t think Harry’s ever woken me up for sex and then managed to go again only a few hours later and yet our dear former professor is revealed to be a sex god.”

Hermione couldn’t hold back the laughter that exploded from her, joy and amusement equal partners as her friend giggled along with her, “Oh Ginny I’m glad I have you to talk to again,” she said, “You can always make me smile. I shall have to let Severus know the new title you’ve given him.”

“Don’t you dare! I’d never be able to look him in the eye again if you did,” said Ginny, “I am bloody jealous though. When do you get to see him again?”

“Sunday, I hope,” said Hermione, “There’s Quidditch on Saturday and then I am on the evening shift. It’s not ideal but hopefully I will be able to stay with him until Monday morning. I miss him when we’re not together.”

Ginny frowned, “Can you make arrangements with McGonagall to let you go home every night?”

Hermione shook her head, “It wouldn’t be fair. I’m paid and contracted to give my time to the school and when I signed that it wasn’t a problem but now…I know absence makes the heart grow fonder and that things will become easier when it’s not all so new but I miss him. The problem is, much as it has been difficult to start off with, I do love teaching. There are some days when this is the most wonderful job in the world and others where it is the worst but I do love it.”

“I wish there was something I could say but you just need to give it time,” said Ginny, “At least Severus knows the pressures of being at the school, probably more than most as he was a house head. You’ll find a way. I saw the way he was looking at you last night and it is going to take more than the separation Hogwarts will cause to turn him away. Just make the most of the time you had and I don’t just mean in the bedroom.”

Hermione smiled, “Despite it being very tempting to only be in the bedroom from now on, we will make the best of every moment we have together,” she said, “I never would have thought the first time that I wrote to him, that this would be the outcome. I can’t remember my life without him in it.”

Ginny sighed, “Why do I have a feeling you and he won’t be far behind me and Harry when it comes to tying the knot?” she said, “Hermione Snape has a ring to it.”

“Oh Gin don’t,” said Hermione, “I’d like to hear that name for real one day but I can’t start thinking that way yet. I just want to be with him, marriage is just a formality.”

Ginny snorted, “Tell that to my mother,” she said, “I thought I’d got away with it. She never mentioned weddings to me throughout the whole time Harry and I were just living together but since he proposed, she’s trying to take over. We want something simple and soon while she wants to plan something lavish and far too expensive.”

“Well don’t you dare let her,” said Hermione, “I know she’s your mum, Gin, but she needs to realise when she’s out of line and that day needs to be for you and Harry, not her. Did I get you into trouble with her last night?”

“She wasn’t happy but I think she’s beginning to realise that she’s being ridiculous when it comes to you, especially when Ron defended your relationship with Severus,” said Ginny, “Besides, she, like everyone else, saw how you looked together. Anyone that thinks you were better suited to my brother needs their eyes tested. I hope that she’ll start backing off now that she realises she can’t do anything to upset you anymore. I don’t really know why she got the way she did anyway. It’s probably something to do with Fred, she’s not been right since he died. I’m not excusing her but…”

“No I get it,” said Hermione, “I know that she threw herself into planning things for me and Ron after the war to find something positive but I wish she’d just accepted our choice when we went our separate ways.”

“I think she’s finally getting round to it,” said Ginny, “Just don’t let it bother you anymore, she can’t upset your relationship with Severus so it’s just hot air. Look I’d better go, Harry is cooking and I can already smell smoke that has nothing to do with the fireplace. Give Severus my best won’t you and just remember to enjoy your time together. I’ll call in a few days and we can arrange to get together again, I’ve got lots to discuss with my Maid of Honour after all. Bye.”

“Maid of Honour? Gin…” said Hermione even as her friend’s face disappeared with a giggle and a puff of green smoke.

She laughed to herself as she pulled back from the fireplace, loving the mischief of her friend after the seriousness of her staff meeting. She smiled at the thought of being able to stand beside her friend on her wedding day, hoping that Molly wouldn’t offer too much trouble with the choice but knowing that Ginny would already be more than prepared to deal with any backlash.

She got to her feet, brushing off her robes and heading to her bedroom, changing into her nightwear before she returned to the fireplace. She knew Severus would be expecting a letter in response to his but her heart longed for more as she knelt down, picking up a handful of floo powder as she anticipated his surprise at being able to talk to her through the flames.

 

Chapter Text

Mid March

Darling Severus,

Oh my love, congratulations! Minerva has told me that she saw you this morning and that the school contract is yours. I know the potions are simple but at least it will be regular work and income. Plus it will free up my time for the dreaded marking rather than struggling to keep up with the requirements for the infirmary, meaning we can hopefully spend some more evenings together rather than me having to seclude myself in my chamber marking essays.

I had a free session this afternoon so I took myself off to Hogsmeade and purchased the enclosed for you. There is a new artisan shop that has opened where the wizard can pull a design as you imagine it from your mind (sort of how you would pull a memory for a pensieve) and turn it into a piece of artwork. I thought this would look wonderful on the wall beside the front door to advertise the business. I went with a more muted gold on the gilding as I didn’t think you’d appreciate anything too garish. I might not contribute much to the business just yet but I can at least provide the sign.

I have to go now, lessons are calling and then I am supervising the homework session after school hours so I will have to write to you after dinner.

Congratulations again. I’ll speak to you later.

All my love,

Hermione.

PS Did you speak to Harry about the incident in Flourish and Blotts on the weekend?

 

Dearest,

I thought it a little odd when your letter thumped into the living room but assumed that I had been sent one of your wondrous lists of questions. Imagine my surprise then to find a metallic arachnid hidden amongst the packaging alongside your letter.

It is a wonderful gift and more than fitting for the business. As soon as I have signed off this letter, I will hang it beside the door and I’ll try to replicate the design onto the paperwork as well. He shall of course have to be called Boris from now on.

Minerva has already provided me with a list of potions that need to be completed for the school so I am going to begin work on those this evening. I’ve made arrangements to deliver to the main gate of the school rather than having to come inside. Perhaps, if I can time my arrival when you are free we could head into Hogsmeade and spend some time together. I imagine the Three Broomsticks would be inappropriate if you are on duty so, for fear of my soul to be surrounded by more chintz than once populated Umbridge’s torture chamber of an office, we could always take tea at Madam Puddifoots.

I will be working in the lab for the majority of the evening but I have charmed the fireplace to send your letters directly to me so I will be able to respond whenever you are free.

I hope your lessons go well and that the homework session isn’t too tedious.

And yes, I spoke to Harry and the Aurors’ office are looking into things. I will update you when there is news.

With Love,

Severus

 

Darling,

I am so sorry I didn’t get a chance to write last night, by the time I returned to my chambers it was too late and I had no wish to disturb you if you had already gone to bed.

It was a strange evening to say the least but I think it was a positive one. I was just finishing off the homework session when Minerva came to find me to tell me that Professor Armitage, he’s the current Dark Arts teacher and Head of Slytherin, wanted to have a meeting with me. Vector took over and I went with Minerva to her office.

Armitage was there but so was Ernest Calcraft, the Slytherin student I’ve been having the most trouble with. Anyway, without going into endless detail what began as an apology from Mr Calcraft, prompted by Armitage it seems, turned into something that none of us were expecting. What began as an apology turned swiftly to tears from the boy and it took a long while to calm him down and get any sense out of him.

To cut a long story short, his father was involved with the Death Eaters and is now in Azkaban for crimes committed during the war. Ernest, whilst not bearing the mark, was brought up as a Death Eater and of course, someone like me could only be seen as the enemy. Whilst I do not know much about his history at the school as I purposefully asked Minerva to allow me to draw my own conclusions, it seems that Potions was a favoured subject of his but muggle born teachers were not. Throw me in as the new teacher and he acted out but it appears this was more to save face amongst his peers than in genuine hatred of me. On top of everything, the poor boy has been abandoned by his mother and spent the whole of Christmas alone in what was his home. Is it any wonder he’s been acting out?

I was sceptical at first, I’ve known and seen many crocodile tears from those who would want to do me harm, but he seemed genuinely distressed at his behaviour and I believe he does want to make amends. Minerva has hope that, with understanding, he may yet be a promising student, I believe she and Armitage had had discussions in advance as she mentioned something in passing to me at our staff meeting. I am going to endeavour to work with him as best I can and time will tell I suppose. He does not have long until his NEWTs but I hope that we can make progress in the time that remains. Here’s hoping I am not proved wrong. We will be having weekly meetings, Calcraft, Armitage and I to review things but I trust that the boy is genuine.

Apologies if that was a bit of an essay but I wanted you to know, especially as I know you were angry he had upset me a while ago. I hope the next time I see you face to face I will have something positive to report. Perhaps over tea at Madam Puddifoots – if you can stand it that is? Your description certainly made me giggle and I would never force you to endure the place. The Three Broomsticks is more than acceptable so long as I avoid the alcohol and I much prefer the atmosphere there to the tearooms. Let me know when you will be making a delivery and I will let you know if I am free, it will certainly feel decadent to see you in the middle of a school day.

I’m glad you liked the spider, it was certainly an amazing thing to see what I had imagined turned into metal and I look forward to seeing it on the wall when I get home. Why on earth do you feel the need to call him Boris though? I swear I think I understand you and then you say something to confuse me all over again.

I hope you have a good day.

Love you,

Hermione.

 

My dear Hermione,

I wish I could offer a positive response to your news but I’m afraid it only causes me concern. I had no idea that the young man you had issues with was a Calcraft. I knew his father and that man is well deserving of his sojourn in Azkaban. He is cruel and has always been against muggle borns and even half bloods. I can only imagine the vile doctrine his son would have been raised with.

Concern comes as well in regards to his maternal connections. His mother, before her marriage was a MacNair and I doubt you need me to fill in any history there.

Angel take care, please, and never let yourself be found alone with that boy. He will know spells that even you would struggle to counter. Do not allow him the chance to harm you.

Can you come home this weekend? I need to see you.

I love you,

Severus

 

Darling,

Please don’t be worried. I firmly believe if Calcraft intended me any harm other than a few choice words, he would have found many opportunities before now.

I am not ignorant of any familial connections and I am aware of how harrowing an upbringing such as his would have been. He has without doubt, entertained notions of pure blood supremacy and other horrific ideals that Voldemort chose to peddle to his followers but I will not give him up because of something that forced onto him.

I will be cautious of course but it would make a liar of me if I didn’t give him a chance. Surely, you can see the parallels I draw between him and you. You may not have been brought up with such strong beliefs but you had a peer group that influenced you similarly. People gave up on you when you took a wrong turn and you suffered so much for that. I will not repeat those mistakes.

Before you say it, this isn’t some heroic quest to right the wrongs of the past but I can’t sit by and let a boy of not yet eighteen be tainted by his upbringing. Trust me that I will be cautious and, if I am proved wrong, I can at least say I tried.

Promise me you won’t allow this to bother you but if it does make you feel better then I will be home this Sunday as promised and I will be able to stay until Monday morning. I will have to do all I can to take your mind off your concerns.

With love,

Hermione

 

Dearest Hermione,

I trust your judgement of course and I will put my faith in your instincts as well. If you are willing to give your young charge a chance then I wish you all the best with the endeavour. I hope you prove to be right and he has the chance to be more than the son of a Death Eater.

I am looking forward to seeing you on Sunday, much as I keep myself busy, I miss your company.

As for your previous question as to why Boris is named as such, surely you have heard of the song Boris the Spider. If not then dinner this Sunday evening will be accompanied by the classics of The Who. I will probably wind up feeling very old when you have no clue who they are but I am determined to give you a musical education my love.

I imagine you are already at breakfast now so I will wish you a pleasant day and I look forward to hearing from you when you are free again.

Love you,

Severus

 

March 21st

 

My love,

A brief note to let you know I will be away from home for a few days. I have received a request for a potion that requires some difficult to acquire ingredients from abroad. As the items need to be fresh, there are no suppliers I trust to procure them for me so I will instead make the journey myself.

As you are not due to be home this weekend I will tighten the wards around the house when I leave so, if you need to come back, make sure you do so by the floo as I will add several charms of my own design that I have not yet taught you. I hope you don’t think it too heavy handed to have done so but I want to keep us safe as best I can and, as the floo connects directly with your chambers, I have no wish for anyone to be able to reach it by entering the house.

I have arranged a portkey to take me directly to Peru and will spend several days in the rainforest collecting ingredients before I return. I won’t be able to write until I return to England but I will think of you often and miss you dearly.

Sending a kiss,

Severus

 

S,

Peru ! You don’t do things by half do you?

Be safe and I hope your trip is successful.

Do I get a present as you are abandoning me for several days?

I love you,

H

 

March 28th

 

Darling Severus,

I know it’s only half an hour since I left you but I could not get back to sleep in my chambers, despite the early hour and the chores I set myself being done. I missed your warmth next to me despite the best endeavours of my new Paddington Bear to keep me snug without you.

I think I’m still running on the excitement of you arriving at the gates the way you did last night. It was such a wonderful surprise to see you and you looked so handsome, time away in the sun definitely suited you. I think I was the envy of several of my colleagues as they sat down to dinner in the Great Hall whilst I was whisked away to London for the night.

I loved going back to the jazz bar. It was wonderful to be back where we began to grow closer, in person at least. It seems so long since that first evening we spent together and I struggle to remember a time when I wouldn’t have just leaned across the table to kiss you or when you wouldn’t have dared to ask me to dance. I would never have thought we would be where we are now, I was so terrified that I would offend you or bore you and you would walk away from me. Little did I realise that from that one unplanned night we would find ourselves in love and sharing a home. I knew then I could be your friend but I didn’t have a clue just how much I could love you.

It was such a wrench to leave you earlier. I wish I could have woken up at the sunrise to a lazy morning with you rather than running away at 5am so I could prep my class and not be late for breakfast. One day I know we will wake every morning together and we have the rest of our lives to enjoy each other.

It seems such a long time until I get to see you again though I know it is only a matter of days. Still, I cannot wait to be able to see you. I feel like something is missing whenever you’re not near me. I love every moment we spend together be it working in the lab, reading together in the living room or making love in our bed. I feel complete when I am with you.

I should go, I have to get ready to go to breakfast but I will be thinking only of you. I will be thinking of you until I see you again.

With all my heart,

Hermione.

 

My Angel,

If I had had my way I would have kept you with me when that beastly alarm sounded. I couldn’t sleep when you left so I have been busying myself in the lab. I have so many ideas that came to me in Peru, ideas I would have begun working on the second I had returned were it not for you. You have given me the chance to find so much more to my life than solitude and work.

It will not be long until we are together again my love. Until then, I too will keep you in my thoughts.

With love,

Severus.

 

March 31st

 

H,

Imagine you are aware given your status as Maid of Honour but we have received an invite to Harry and Ginny’s wedding. Saturday May 27th is the date and I trust that I will be able to steal you for the Sunday as well. Would you like me to reply formally for the both of us?

S

 

S,

I received a note from Ginny last night informing me that the formal invites were being sent out for today. There are enough staff members at the school who are not friends of Harry and Ginny so Minerva agreed this morning that those invited could take the whole weekend. We can attend the wedding together and then escape home as soon as it’s polite to do so and spend the rest of the weekend locked away together.

Please respond for us both if you have time to.

I’m going late night dress shopping with Ginny on Tuesday so I’m having to make sure I am completely up to date with my marking to give myself time. Luckily, I think she already has something in mind so it won’t take too long.

I will call you later this evening.

Hx

 

April 6th

 

Angel,

Is there any possibility you can come home tonight?

I don’t want to give you false hope but I am as certain as I can be though I want your opinion on my methods as I fear my hopes may have made me miss something.

I think, in theory at least, I have found a way to reawaken the full extent of your parents’ memories.

Please, if you can come to me, do so. I need your eyes on these theories before I trust them but I am hopeful.

With all my love,

Severus

Chapter Text

Hermione had barely recovered from her tumble from the fireplace when strong, familiar hands took hold of her and warm lips pressed firmly to hers, soon coaxing her into a deeper kiss as she recovered and wrapped her arms around the man before her. She sighed as he finally released her, smiling up at him as his large hand stroked down the flyaway strands of her hair that had been made all the worse by her journey through the floo.

“Hello to you,” she said breathlessly.

“Hello to you too,” said Severus, capturing her lips once more, “I’ve missed you.”

Hermione giggled, “You saw me last night my darling,” she said, leaving his arms and bending to retrieve her bag from where she had dropped it on the rug.

“For the best part of five minutes when you swiped my notebook and then headed straight back to school,” said Severus, “Did you manage to read through my theory?”

“I did and I can’t wait to get working on it,” said Hermione, “Do you have a cauldron free? I just need to change and then we can…”

“Or…” said Severus, cutting off her tirade, “You can take a couple of hours to relax after a whole week at school. There’s a bath waiting for you upstairs and dinner will be ready in about half an hour. After that, we can talk through the theory and see if we can make something of it. I think it has promise though. I know you’re keen to get started but a few hours delay won’t harm the process.”

Hermione smiled, “You take such good care of me,” she said, “I’m just keen to get started. I haven’t told my parents about you yet and it would be wonderful if I could do so with them feeling something for me again.”

“Hermione, my love, don’t get ahead of yourself,” said Severus, taking hold of her free hand and enclosing it in both of his, “The theory has promise but this isn’t proven and I don’t know if it will work. Please don’t put all your faith in it, not yet. I have hope but I won’t make this a promise to you. I don’t know if it can be done.”

“I know,” she said, “But if anyone can do it, it’s you. I promise that will look at this as scientifically as I can though.”

“Good. Now upstairs with you and try to relax, I’ll call you when dinner is ready,” said Severus, ushering her towards the stairs.

Hermione turned back briefly, kissing him before she headed up the stairs, stopping briefly to drop her bag off in their bedroom and collect her robe as she headed towards the bathroom.

She smiled at the sight of the bath already drawn for her, the care and love in the simple act making her heart still briefly in her chest as she realised once more how fortunate she had been to reconnect with him. She discarded her clothes from the day, drawing her wand from her pocket of her robe and flicking it towards the radio, turning it on as she slipped into the warm water.

It didn’t take long for her to relax, the warmth of the bath and fatigue from a week of teaching making her eyes heavy as she relaxed back against the rim of the tub. She heard the sound of familiar footsteps before the door clicked open. She opened her eyes, cocking an eyebrow as she saw Severus run his gaze over her form.

“Knew you had an ulterior motive,” she said, “You just wanted to see me naked.”

“Well it’s an added bonus of getting you to relax at the end of the week,” he said, holding up the cup in his hand, “I come bearing tea if that lessens the betrayal.”

Hermione smiled, “Well then you’re more than welcome,” she said, accepting the cup before she tilted her face up to his, glad when he bent to kiss her, “Stay a while?”

Severus nodded, kneeling down on the rug beside the tub with his fingers trailing absently in the water, “Gladly,” he said, “Seeing you last night so briefly was an awful tease and today has dragged.”

“I’m here for the whole weekend now,” said Hermione, reaching up to capture a lock of his black hair between her fingers, “And much as I am keen to work on the potion for my parents, I will be yours for the majority, I promise.”

“However I get to spend time with you is a blessing,” said Severus, “Even if we spend all weekend bent over the cauldrons. I trust school went well this week, you sounded very positive in all your letters.”

“Everything went perfectly,” said Hermione with a smile, “Classes went well, the children behaved bar a few brief moments, the homework is improving and my seventh years were wonderful. Seems all it really took was time. I finally feel like a teacher now.”

“I told you it would come in time,” said Severus, “You are a wonderful teacher and will continue to grow in confidence as you go. How is young Mr Calcraft behaving?”

“Well,” said Hermione, “After everything he has settled and is proving to be a very promising student. I’ve already predicted him an E for his NEWTs and, if he applies himself, then he could achieve an O. There was another student I wanted to talk to you about though, one of my seventh year Ravenclaws. She excels at Potions, truly excels and she would be a prime candidate for an apprenticeship.”

Severus frowned, “I don’t tend to communicate with many others in my field but I’m sure I can recommend a few people…”

“But for her I only want the best because she’s one of the best,” said Hermione, “I was wondering if maybe you would consider…”

“Oh no Professor Granger, you stop right there,” said Severus getting to his feet, “I was a teacher out of necessity, not out of choice and I am not about reprise the role anytime soon even if it is with an apprentice. The only person I would even considering taking as an apprentice would be one of my own.”

Hermione saw the moment his words dawned on him, raising a hand to draw him back to her but he gave her a small, pained smile before he turned to the door.

“I’d best get dinner on the table,” he said, “Don’t stay in there too long or you’ll turn into a prune.”

“Severus…”

“Ten minutes, my angel,” he called back over his shoulder, before he left the room.

Hermione frowned, knowing that the simple throwaway phrase had struck a chord and brought up a subject that had yet to broach. She recalled her words when she had told him how her relationship with Ron had ended, especially her opinions on her role as a potential mother.

She finished bathing as quickly as she could, pulling on a robe and pinning up her hair before she grabbed her cooling tea and headed down the stairs. She heard the familiar chatter of the radio in the kitchen but she was certain that Severus was paying it little mind. Her thoughts proved accurate as she stopped in the doorway, the smells of their dinner filling the room but he was far from doing anything to see it onto the table. Instead, he stood in front of the large window that overlooked the garden, long arms crossed low against his chest and his brow furrowed in thought.

She leant against the doorframe, taking in his tall, elegant figure, knowing that beneath was someone more loving and loyal than she would ever have thought to give him credit for in her youth. She smiled, setting down her cup on the counter before she padded over to him, knowing he was too lost in thought to hear her approach. She wrapped her arms around his waist, hushing him gently as he startled before she pressed a kiss to the back of his shoulder.

“You will make a wonderful father someday,” she said softly, “If that is what you want.”

“Only with you,” said Severus, his eyes meeting hers in their faint reflection in the window as she rested her chin on his shoulder, “But if you don’t want that future then I will be content. I will happily spend my life with you and you alone, my angel.”

Hermione smiled, “If you had asked me before we found one another again then I would have happily said that children were never in my future,” she said, “I’m not ready yet but, if I am to be anyone’s mother, I would only be happy if those children were yours. I think we could have a beautiful little family one day.”

“They would need to take after their mother then,” said Severus, turning in her arms and resting one large hand against her cheek, “You always seemed so against the idea of children.”

“I was against the idea of being a brood mare for three hundred Weasleys,” said Hermione, “To Molly and Ron my only function was to produce the next generation. With you, it’s different. You see my worth in other fields. I wouldn’t just be a mother in your eyes. I know if we were to ever have children then we would meet that responsibility equally and when we were both ready. I love you Severus and one day I would happily be the mother of your children.”

“So long as I can be selfish and keep you all to myself for a few years at least,” he said, bending down to kiss her, “You are truly a remarkable woman, Hermione Granger.”

“Indeed,” she replied, “It’s why I chose myself such a remarkable man as well. Now, you mentioned dinner and then a nice long discussion on potion theory before we got distracted. Shall we get to it?”

Severus smiled, kissing her once more before he turned her back towards the door to the dining room, “Go and sit yourself down and I’ll bring it through,” he said, “You might as well grab my notes and those I’m sure you’ll have made. We might as well have everything to hand.”

She did as he asked, hurrying to collect both his notebook and hers before she returned to the table, waiting barely a few moments before he joined her. They talked through his theory as they ate, Hermione questioning processes and ingredients as they worked through every step he had come up with.

It was late when they had finally made their way through every detail of Severus’ proposed potion, Hermione having picked apart every step and added ideas of her own wherever she could until they were confident they had a basis to work from that could prove fruitful.

“We’ll need to test it,” she said, sitting back in her chair as she set the notebook down, “And I’d prefer if Mum and Dad weren’t the guinea pigs. Do you think St Mungo’s would help us? They have several cases of people being effected by obliviates and might be able to help us with clinical trials, with familial consent of course.”

“We can ask,” he said, “It’s that or the riskier move of one of us casting a strong obliviate on the other and hoping the potion does what it should and I don’t relish that idea.”

Hermione shook her head, “Me either,” she said, “If we can get help at the hospital then at least our patients will have already been damaged and we can do no more harm. It sounds dreadfully coarse to speak of them as such but they are our best chance of seeing if things work.”

“As in muggle medicine, these things must be approached without emotion,” said Severus, “Though I think we have a way to go to work on the potion practically first, right now all we have is theory. It might fly out of the window the second we actually try to brew it.”

Hermione nodded, “The method is sound though,” she said, “How on earth did you dream it up in the first place? We were originally looking at charm based cures when we last spoke of it.”

“I was inspired whilst I was away,” said Severus, “I stumbled upon a tribe in the rainforest, their culture barely touched by the outside world but they were welcoming. Unlike our oh so civilised world, they don’t separate the muggle and magical amongst them, so those born with magical ability become the shamans and the witch doctors. One of them spoke English enough for us to understand one another, taught to him by some missionary of some sort, and we somehow drew on the topic of memory. The root at the basis for this potion is one they give to their people to help them to bring clarity to their minds after they have made a beneficial discovery, a good water source or place for hunting, something significant to the tribe. He could not explain the reason behind it but recollection proved to be higher with the use of the root than without it. Luckily the plant is in abundance and they were more than happy for me to take as much as I required once the idea came to me to use it as a basis for a potion.”

Hermione smiled as she reached up to run her fingers through his hair, “My man,” she said proudly, “A bloody genius who clearly runs around like Indiana Jones when I’m not looking. If anyone is going to make this potion work it’s you.”

“With your help, maybe,” he replied, “But not tonight. It’s too late to begin brewing anything right now. We can do a test run first thing in the morning if you want to though.”

“Morning sounds good,” said Hermione as he helped her to her feet, wrapping her arms around his neck before he had a chance to leave her side, “Whilst it’s too late for brewing, I trust it’s not too late for other pursuits.”

“I’m sure I could muster the energy with the right level of inspiration,” said Severus, his hands moving between them to work on the tie of her robe, “If I may, my love?”

Hermione giggled, her hands moving to cover his, “Asks the man who wandered into the bathroom without pausing to ask permission earlier,” she said, loosening the tie and letting her robe fall to her feet, “Inspired, Professor Snape?”

“Utterly, my dear Miss Granger,” he replied, his eyes darkening before he swept her up into his arms, carrying her effortlessly towards the stairs and the room that awaited them above.

Chapter Text

Hermione looked up from her study of the potion before her as the grandfather clock in the hallway struck eleven. They had been working solidly on the potion since dawn on Saturday morning, only necessity dragging them to bed in the small hours but they were both up again as the sun rose on Sunday.

The memory potion had been tweaked and altered every time they had brewed it but the same issue always arose at the end, the potion too unstable and reacting violently when the final ingredient was added.

They had struggled to find the root cause, trying to counter it with both ingredients and charms but nothing seemed to prevail. They had both begun to lose faith in the theory that they had put so much hope in but they had agreed to try it once more, Severus deciding to suspend the root in a liquid solution rather than adding it in solid form as a way to counter the reaction.

“Ok, it’s ready,” said Hermione, stirring it once more as the surface shimmered with an opalescent purple hue, “Let’s hope this works.”

“Stand back,” said Severus, holding the phial at arm’s length, “I don’t want to risk you getting hit, you were lucky the last time.”

“You be careful too,” said Hermione stepping back, her whole body stiffening in anticipation as he tipped the contents of the phial into the bubbling potion.

She took hold of his arm as he stepped back to her side, the two of them watching the potion as the surface roiled and leapt in the cauldron. It spat once, twice and Hermione felt hope leave her as Severus’ hand came up to better cover her but they both paused as the potion settled rather than exploding violently as it had done before.

“Could it…?”

“Stay back,” said Severus as Hermione made to step towards it, “I’ll go.”

“Be careful,” said Hermione, loosening her hold on his arm as he headed towards the cauldron, “Severus?”

“It’s stable,” he said, peering down into the cauldron, “I can’t believe it. It’s stable. We did it.”

“You did it,” said Hermione, hurrying to his side and pressing a kiss to his cheek before she looked down at the potion, the surface smoking but stable, “I would have never have thought to do that with the root.”

“A technique I developed long ago,” he said, stirring the potion, “I should have remembered it sooner though. This will need to rest for a few hours before it can be bottled. I’ll put a charm around it in case it flares up again but I’m confident it won’t. You head up to bed and I’ll clean up here.”

“Quicker if we work together,” said Hermione frowning as Severus shook his head.

“But you have to teach in the morning and you’ve worked hard all weekend on this,” he said, “I won’t be long; we’re both too disciplined to make too much mess. By the time you’re ready for bed I’ll be on my way up too.”

Hermione turned his face to hers, pressing a kiss to his lips before she stepped away from him, “Don’t be too long,” she said, “I want to fall asleep in your arms.”

“That’s reason enough for me to be swift,” he said, “Don’t wait up for me though. You need your rest, my love.”

Hermione kissed him once more, leaving the lab and heading towards the stairs. Her body ached with the fatigue of the weekend as she climbed upwards, tempted to use her magic to apparate straight to their bedroom but she knew it would only exhaust her further.

She readied herself for bed as quickly as her tired body would allow, constantly straining her hearing for the sound of Severus coming up the stairs. She climbed into bed, reaching for the book on her nightstand in an effort to remain awake but the words blurred before her and she soon gave up, returning the book and sinking deeper into the bed.

She realised she had been dozing when warm arms wrapped around her from behind, a familiar long, lean body pressing against the length of her own.

“I didn’t mean to fall asleep,” she said groggily, covering the hand that came to rest against her stomach with her own.

“I told you not to wait up for me,” said Severus, pressing a kiss to her shoulder, “Go back to sleep angel.”

“Is the potion still ok?” she said, hearing the small chuckle that escaped him before he spoke.

“The potion is fine,” said Severus, “And hopefully it will prove useful.”

“When will you take it to St Mungo’s?” asked Hermione, rolling over in his arms and pushing him onto his back so she could lie against his chest, his skin warm beneath her cheek.

“A day or two,” he replied, “I need to run some tests and write everything up tomorrow and then I’ll go to the hospital unless you want me to wait until you can come along.”

Hermione shook her head, pressing a kiss over his heart before she lay down against him once more, “The sooner you go, the sooner we know if it works. Keep me posted though.”

“Of course,” said Severus, around a yawn, “Now go to sleep. I intend to wake you early and send you off for the week in a good mood.”

Hermione giggled, “Promises, promises,” she said, his yawn inspiring one of her own, “Goodnight my darling.”

A kiss to her hair was her answer, the last thing she felt before sleep claimed her and the man at her side.

xxxx

“Well?” said Hermione as Severus’ face appeared in the flames before her.

“Hello to you too,” he said with a familiar smirk, “If you’re determined to be impolite Miss Granger then I shan’t impart a jot of news.”

“Oh Severus don’t tease,” said Hermione, shifting restlessly on the cushion she had settled on the floor beside the fire before she had called him through the floo, “How did it go at the hospital? Did it work?”

Severus smiled, “It worked,” he said, “And the results are promising. They tested the potion on two individuals with mild damage from obliviates and both are showing promising signs of recovery. We should know by tomorrow if their memories and everything associated with them are restored. The doctors are happy that, if the results are good, we can move on to more complex cases. Gilderoy Lockhart’s name has been mentioned. I’m confident that if we can work with him then we are more than certain to be able to help your parents. You might want to start making arrangements.”

Hermione smiled, “You have no idea how desperate I am to kiss you right now,” she said, “I can’t believe you’ve managed this…”

“We’ve managed this,” said Severus, “Your help and guidance in the development was vital and you’re as much a part of this project as I am. I’m taking no credit for this without your name beside mine. I only wish you were here, watching it in action is fascinating.”

“You sound like a kid at Christmas,” said Hermione, “I so wish I could be there too. I can’t wait to read all your notes on it.”

“I promise they are numerous,” said Severus, “I’ve been writing them up since I got in and I’m only about a quarter of the way through but I want to make sure everything is ready in case anyone wants to review them. Can I send them to you to read through? You are far better with words than I am. There are passages that are so dry I think even the most dedicated academic would fall asleep.”

Hermione frowned, “Don’t sell yourself short like that,” she said, “Everything I’ve ever read of yours is factual and well written but if you want me to, I’ll gladly read through and send you any amendments though. Do you really think I should start making arrangements to see Mum and Dad?”

“If you want to,” said Severus, “I should be certain in the next week, so time frame is up to you.”

Hermione bit her lip with a sigh, “I want to go as soon as possible but…Severus, what if they don’t…they could refuse to take it,” she said, “When I’m with them, they don’t even seem to want to love me and it almost feels like we’re forcing them to. I don’t know if I can bear it if they refused.”

“We can only know their response if we provide them with the question,” said Severus, “But this decision is yours sweetheart. If you don’t want to take the risk then the work stays at St Mungo’s and we help those that we can. The question you must ask yourself though is whether you want to spend your life knowing that the solution is in your hands and you never tried it. I promise to be at your side if you do go though and I’ll be there for you whatever the outcome.”

“I know I will need you,” said Hermione, “And I want them to meet you. You’re my family too and I want them to know about you.”

Severus frowned, “Perhaps I should only go in the capacity of having worked on the potion with you,” he said, “I’m sure most fathers would not take kindly to a man twenty years his daughter’s senior and her former teacher to boot when you tell him what we are to one another.”

“Who I share my life with is my choice,” said Hermione, “Once they get to know you, they will accept you…if they care enough to do so. I’m afraid, Severus.”

“I know,” he said, “But you’re also ridiculously brave my little lioness. You don’t need to make any decisions yet. Take some time to think about things. I will support you in whatever you decide to do.”

“I love you,” said Hermione, wanting nothing more than to speed her way through the flames to his side but she knew she did not have long until she needed to be in the hall for dinner, “I need to go now but can you let me know tomorrow as soon as you have any results. I don’t think I can really make any big decisions until I’m sure we have one to make.”

Severus nodded, “I’ll write as soon as I know,” he said, “Say hello to Minerva for me when you see her and remember the three AM rule ok? If you need me, come and wake me. I don’t you fretting about this needlessly, understood?”

Hermione smiled, “Yes sir,” she said, “Good luck tomorrow and if you do work with Professor Lockhart tell him the lesson with the Cornish pixies is now legend.”

“I’ll be sure to do so,” said Severus, “Goodnight my love.”

“Goodnight,” said Hermione, sitting back as the flames receded before they returned to nothing more than a common blaze in the hearth.

She raised her gaze to the mantelpiece, the surface covered with framed photos. There were plenty from her school days and now a happy few with Severus that Ginny had managed to take when they were out in London. One though caught her attention more than all the others, the image a still Muggle photograph showing her as a bushy haired eleven year old sat between her parents. They had had it taken as a keepsake when they had learned she would be heading to Hogwarts, the pride on their faces apparent even in the still photograph.

She wanted nothing more to see that look on their faces again but she feared she never would, the prospect of them rejecting even the attempt to restore their full memories of her filling her with more dread than she could remember feeling for the longest time.

She turned her attention away from their picture, instead picking up her favourite in her collection. She couldn’t recall the moment Ginny had taken it, neither her or Severus had been looking at the camera at the time but the image captured them far better than any posed picture could. They sat side by side at the table, Severus’ hand resting on the chair behind her whilst his other had clasped hers on the tabletop. They were leant into one another, the smiles on their faces letting everyone know that their conversation was a happy one and Hermione was certain they were barely moments from a kiss even though she couldn’t recall it.

She smiled as she returned the picture to the mantle, knowing that regardless of what happened with her parents, she had a family with Severus. Certain that his love would help her through the outcome of any decision she made.

Chapter Text

Severus stretched before rubbing the heels of his hands against his eyes, fatigue straining them after so long bent over his notes. He was finally happy with them though, Hermione having sent through her own corrections and amendments the night before and he had spent the day making them fit for publication.

He was glad the week was finally drawing to the close, not recalling when he had ever been so busy, even his teaching days having some respite in comparison to working at St Mungo’s as he had been. When the initial tests had proved fruitful with those mildly afflicted by complications from obliviates, they had moved on to more complex cases which had required changes in dosage and potency that had had him working day and night at the cauldrons both at the hospital and at home.

Every hour had proved fruitful though and not only did they have a potion that could help those mildly affected but also those who had suffered both severe and total memory loss as a result of the spell and those related to it. He had watched people reunited with family members that had been locked away for years without memory and, in many cases, reason. In the darker years of his life, he would have had little care for the scenes he had witnessed and he would have found the spectacle of Gilderoy Lockhart waking from the prison of his own mind amusing rather than inspiring.

Where before he would have left the ward with disdain, he left it with hope and that hope had remained even when his still insufferable former colleague had bounded after him with the same aggravating temperament he had had before his obliviate had gone awry. Severus had endured, with far more patience than he would have claimed to have, Lockhart’s assertions that he would have been able to find just such a cure if he had been allowed to. He also entertained the wild claims that Lockhart was certain that he had deliberately caused his memory loss as he was more than confident Harry Potter could handle himself and that he would prove a risk if taken by the heir of Slytherin with his faculties intact.

He had left the hospital with the potion’s results proven and an exclusive contract to continue reproducing it as and when St Mungo’s required it. He had pushed such thoughts to the back of his mind though, focusing instead on what was to come with Hermione and her parents.

When the results had begun to prove positive, Hermione had taken the decision to take it to her parents as soon as possible. Severus could read the desperation in her face even through the floo and he hoped for her sake that they would be receptive to the idea when they arrived. As per his promise, he had decided to travel with her to Australia and had arranged the international portkey the very same night Hermione had decided that she wanted to go.

He glanced at the clock above his desk, realising there was still several hours before he needed to meet her in Diagon Alley before they began their journey. He had already packed for them both; the pair of them deciding it would be swifter for her to head directly to London rather than coming home from the school.

He frowned as he thought of what lay ahead for them, Hermione having told her parents she was visiting with a friend but not the purpose of her visit or the nature of her relationship with Severus. Whilst he did not fear rejection from her parents, more than confident in their love for each other even if it met with opposition, he did fear their rejection of her, either in refusing to take the potion altogether or taking it and the anger they could feel over her taking their memories overcoming any love they were reminded of.

He pushed aside all negative thoughts, knowing he would need to be positive for Hermione’s sake. He tidied his notes before he got to his feet, leaving the lab and heading towards the kitchen, flicking on the kettle and finding himself grateful once more for the muggle conveniences the house provided.

The kettle was singing when he felt the wards around the house ripple before a knock came at the back door. He peered through the window, smiling at the figure he saw outside before he headed to the door and opened it.

“Luna?” he said, “I wasn’t expecting you.”

“I’m sorry for the unannounced visit,” she said, “Am I intruding?”

“Not at all,” said Severus, stepping back to let her in, “But I don’t have much time. Hermione and I are off to Australia to see her parents this evening. We think we have developed a potion that can help restore their full memories but it promises to be a difficult conversation.”

“I had heard rumours that you were working on something to do with obliviates and I wondered if it was because of Hermione,” said Luna, following him into the kitchen, “It will be nice if they can remember her properly.”

“And tell her off for carrying on with her teacher,” said Severus, “Tea?”

“Please,” she replied, “And I wouldn’t worry too much about that. They’ll accept you, I’m sure. I suppose dads are always possessive over their daughters though so you never know.”

Severus chuckled, “Fill me with confidence why don’t you,” he said, heading to the fridge and retrieving the milk, “Remind me not to rely on you to be my cheer leader, you do a lousy job.”

Luna grinned, “I promise to give you a glowing reference if asked,” she said, “No milk for me please, I’ve gone right off the stuff, makes me sick.”

Severus cocked an eyebrow, abandoning the tea and turning to face her as he leaned back against the counter, “This is quite sudden,” he said, smiling as the young woman before him tried and failed to keep her face neutral, “Are congratulations in order?”

Luna blushed but smiled as she nodded, “It’s very early on and we’re not telling many people but I need your help,” she said, “I’m so dreadfully ill in the mornings and whenever I eat certain things. I’d make the potion myself but I can’t bear to be in front of a cauldron. You’re the only person I trust not to go gossiping and was wondering if it isn’t an imposition…”

“It just so happens I had another request for a client quiet recently and have some surplus in stock,” said Severus, crossing the room and pressing a kiss to her cheek, “Congratulations my dear, you will make a wonderful mother. You must pass on my congratulations to Neville as well, he must be very proud.”

“A little overwhelmed I think is a better description,” said Luna, “But we are very excited. What do I owe you for the potion?”

“Nothing,” said Severus, “And anything else you need, you only have to ask. Have you told anyone else?”

“Dad of course and Neville’s grandmother,” said Luna, “She was very excited which surprised us both. We told Neville’s parents but I don’t… hmm.”

“Hmm, what?” said Severus, returning to the opposite counter and finishing their drinks.

“Neville’s parents,” said Luna, “Your potion restores memory, do you think it could help them?”

Severus frowned, “I don’t think it could,” he said, “The damage done to them… the mental scars are more due to key memory functions shutting down to protect them from their torture. I’ve been on the receiving end of a cruciatus curse from Bellatrix and, whilst my experience was brief, I can understand what prolonged exposure could have done. I can look into it when we experiment further but I wonder if it wouldn’t be a disservice to restore them. If they are protected from the memories in the state they are in would we not cause more pain to restore them? I will help if I can but such things are beyond my skills. Torture is an altogether different beast to what I have been focusing on.”

Luna nodded, “I understand but I would appreciate it if you would keep it in mind,” she said, “I know there’s no one else Neville would trust if it came to any experimentation. I don’t think they even really understand who I am.”

“You may be surprised what lies beneath the surface,” said Severus, picking up their cups, “Shall we head through to the living room? Far less drafty in there.”

Luna nodded, “You can tell me all about your work,” she said, “You know how curious I am about such things.”

“Indeed I do,” said Severus, following her as she left the kitchen and headed towards the living room, glad for the distraction her presence would provide before the journey ahead of him.

xxxx

“For homework I want three rolls of parchment on the uses of dragons’ blood in healing potions with specifics as to the brewing techniques required depending on the blood used,” said Hermione, the instructions appearing behind her on the dusty chalk board as the class before her hurriedly noted it down, “You have until next Thursday so I want your best work, full citations and a complete bibliography. I will be checking your referencing.”

“Professor Granger?” came a voice from the back of the classroom, “Can we have access to the restricted section for this?”

Hermione smiled, hearing the excitement in the question, “If you have a specific text you require in that section then apply to your house heads for permission to access it. I will however be instructing Madame Pince that all students should be supervised if researching this subject, there are some references inappropriate for fifth years in those books,” she said, holding back a laugh at the general groan that echoed through the classroom, “Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. I will see you next Thursday. Professor McGonagall and Professor Vector will be covering my lessons until then and I expect to hear nothing but exemplary reports from the both of them. Enjoy your weekend.”

Several calls of farewell echoed over the sound of chairs scraping and bags being hastily stuffed as her students made good their Friday afternoon escape. She busied herself with clearing down her desk, glad she had already planned to work on theory rather than anything practical in her class that day.

Finally, the class emptied and she sat down at her desk, pulling a notebook from her drawer and opening it to the last entry. As though on cue she heard a knock on the door, looking up and smiling as she saw Professor Armitage standing in the doorway.

“Erasmus,” she said happily, “Come in. How was your afternoon?”

“Very entertaining,” he said, crossing the room to her and taking a seat opposite, “Third years, riddikulus, hilarity always ensues.”

“I can imagine,” said Hermione, “A nice way to end the week I imagine.”

Erasmus pushed a lock of auburn hair away from his forehead with a finger as he sat back in his chair, one foot coming to rest against his knee, “I don’t like to send the children away on anything too dark,” he said, “Merlin knows my subject is dark enough.”

Hermione laughed, “Well there is a bit of a give away in the job title,” she said, “Saying that, my subject can be gloomy enough. I really wish the Draught of Living Death wasn’t on the syllabus for the sixth years, it’s rather beastly.”

“Snape used to threaten to dunk our heads in it when I was a student,” said Erasmus before he blushed, “No offence meant of course.”

“None taken,” she said, “I’d never sit here and pretend I agreed with all his methods. He could be terrible at times and I happily tell him that too. To be honest though, there are times I’m more than tempted to repeat such threats. I caught two of my fourth years trying to brew gigglewater in class yesterday. They’re spending their weekend helping Hagrid muck out the thestrals, what could be more fun than invisible poo?”

“You’re a wicked woman Hermione Granger,” he said, looking back over his shoulder, “Where is Mr Calcraft? He is well aware we moved the meeting time today.”

“He has Astronomy last thing, I checked the timetable at lunch,” said Hermione, “He’ll be here soon. I have to say his progress has been amazing these passed few weeks. I’m so glad we got to the cause of everything. How is he getting on elsewhere?”

“Well I believe,” said Erasmus, “I hear no negative reports. He is still somewhat distant in Muggle Studies but to be honest, at that age I was. Bad Slytherin I know.”

“You’re far from a bad one, my friend,” said Hermione, “Are you going to Pomona’s birthday drinks next weekend? I’m hoping, if all goes well, I’ll be back by Thursday so I’ll be able to attend. At least with a port key I won’t have to fight the jet lag.”

“I’ll be there but I have the night patrol so my visit will be brief and non alcoholic,” he said, “How are you feeling about seeing your parents? It must be nerve wracking.”

Hermione nodded, “Very but I’m determined to see it through and I will have Severus with me so at least I have a hand to hold.”

Erasmus laughed, “I still cannot get my head around the notion of you and Professor Snape,” he said, “He was such a grumpy thing when he was teaching me.”

“He’s changed a lot,” said Hermione, with a soft smile, “I hope I get to reintroduce you to each other one day. I think you’d get along well.”

“Professor Granger?” came a voice from the door, “Professor Armitage, can I come in?”

“Of course Mr Calcraft,” said Hermione getting to her feet, “This is your meeting after all. We were merely passing the time of day until you arrived. How was Astronomy?”

“I’ve got four rolls of parchment to write for Monday,” said Ernest with a frown.

“You’re more than capable of managing that,” said Erasmus, “Apply yourself to that rather than forcing your Head of House out to round you up from Hogsmeade this weekend and you’ll succeed. Come and sit down Ernest.”

The boy did as instructed, taking his customary seat next to his House Head and managing a small smile at his Potions Mistress that Hermione returned happily.

“Well seeing as you have quite a bit of homework ahead of you we should get started and make this brief,” she said, “Would you like to begin Ernest?”

“Umm…how?” said the boy, “You usually start.”

Hermione smiled, realising she had caught him off guard, “Alright,” she said, “Well, your homework was a good standard this week. Average to high Es as I’ve come to expect but you could manage an O with a bit more attention to detail. I seemed to lose you in class on Wednesday though. Whilst I appreciate that we didn’t have the disruption of old, I was concerned by your lack of participation. Was there anything in particular that troubled you about the lesson?”

Ernest shrugged, “Was a bit boring,” he said though there was little conviction in his tone.

Hermione frowned, “What in particular? If memory serves, I set you all a task to find improvements for several poison antidotes. I would have thought that level of experimentation would have suited you?” she asked.

Ernest shrugged again by way of response prompting a frown to mirror Hermione’s from his Head of House.

“Ernest, if there was an issue in the lesson then please address it,” said Erasmus, “Professor Granger can help guide you if you are having difficulties. The whole purpose of these sessions is to ensure that you get the most out of your classes.”

“We are not looking to judge you if you are having difficulties Ernest,” said Hermione, “And anything you say will remain between the three of us.”

The boy dropped his gaze to the desk before him, “I wrote to my mother and she replied,” he said after a moment, “She said she didn’t want to see me again.”

Hermione met her colleague’s gaze, seeing the concern on his face that she was sure she wore as openly.

“I’m so sorry to hear that Ernest,” said Hermione, “If there is anything we can do? Perhaps, Professor Armitage can write to her on your behalf and…”

Ernest shook his head, “No point,” he said, “She wouldn’t read it.”

“Are there any other family members we could contact for you?” asked Erasmus, “You may be of age but we still have a duty of care towards you.”

“I’ll be alright,” said Ernest, “Once I’ve done my exams I can get an apprenticeship or something and take care of myself. I promise to concentrate in the rest of my lessons Professor Granger.”

Hermione smiled, hating the look of resignation on the face of the young man before her, “My primary concern is your welfare,” she said, “And you must promise to tell me if anything is distracting you in class.”

“I promise,” said Ernest, “Would you…do you mind going over the lesson? I missed loads.”

Hermione smiled, “Of course,” she said, “If Professor Armitage doesn’t mind?”

Erasmus shook his head, “Not at all,” he said, as Hermione reached for her lesson notes, “You might even teach me something.”

“I highly doubt that,” said Hermione, before she turned her attention back to her student, “Now then, poison antidotes…”

Chapter Text

Hermione laughed as Severus caught her gaze through the crowd in Diagon Alley, his expression an attempt at the stern teacher she once knew but she could see the slight quirk at the corner of his thin lips that hinted at a smile and she knew there was no real anger in his gaze. Even so, she quickened her step, hurrying through the sea of bodies to his side and taking hold of his hand as he held it out to her.

“Cutting it fine my dear,” said Severus, as he headed further down the bustling street, “The portkey is scheduled for six on the dot.”

“We still have ten minutes,” said Hermione, skipping along to keep up with his long strides, “I had a meeting with Calcraft and Armitage and things took a turn. I couldn’t just leave him when he was upset and he wanted to review a lesson he struggled with during the week. I kept one eye on the clock though. Please don’t be grumpy with me.”

Severus couldn’t keep the smirk from his face as he looked down at her, “You’re lucky I love you,” he said, “I was certain you weren’t going to make it.”

“Have I ever missed a deadline you set me, my darling?” said Hermione, “And I had no intention of missing this one. What time will it be when we get to Perth, I forget if they’re eight or nine hours ahead?”

“Three in the morning,” he said, “We’ll be met at our destination by one of their Muggle Relations Officers and taken to our hotel. We can get a few hours sleep at least and then we have our meeting with the Potions Control Committee. I’ve already sent them my notes though so they should be up to date with what we have and I’m hoping it won’t be too long a meeting. They can’t prevent us from passing the potion on to your parents but the formalities need to be observed.”

Hermione nodded, following him up the stairs and into a building she didn’t recognise but she trusted him all the same, knowing from his stride that he knew exactly where they were going. She was surprised when he had informed her that they would be travelling by portkey, having assumed they would apparate despite never having tried to go such a distance. Severus had informed her, whilst the distance was possible, it was both tiring and dangerous, splinching or errors in reappearing in the wrong place increasing with the distance. She had happily bowed to his knowledge, glad that he was able to spare the time to make the necessary arrangements for them.

“How was Lockhart this morning?” she asked as they joined a short queue, the sign ahead of them advertising portkeys, “Did he get his memory back fully?”

“Completely,” said Severus, “Though of course with Lockhart it is difficult to know what is real and what are his own tall tales but he has his memory and rather persistent personality back.”

Hermione giggled, “You sound almost fond of him,” she said, “You’re going soft.”

“Well some dratted girl barrelled into my life and made a lover out of me. I find it difficult to be quite so…”

“Cruel? Vicious? Difficult? Grumpy?” said Hermione playfully, “I think this gentler man was always inside you, you just pressed him down so hard it took a long time for him to get back out.”

Severus squeezed her hand, “Without you I doubt would have managed on my own,” he said, “You let me see myself for what I could be.”

“I feel exactly the same,” said Hermione as they finally stepped up to the desk.

Severus gave their names and they were taken towards a small room that hand nothing inside except for a table with a small carriage clock on top. The door closed behind them, leaving them alone in the room and Severus tugged her over to the table.

“Are you sure you’re ready for this?” he asked as the minute hand ticked down on the clock before them.

Hermione nodded, “The longer I leave it the worse it will be,” she said, “I’m glad you’re with me though. I couldn’t do this alone.”

Severus pulled her closer to his side, letting go of her hand in favour of wrapping an arm around her shoulders, “For as long as I live, I promise you won’t ever be alone,” he said, “And whatever happens with your parents, I’ll be at your side, even if your father tries to chase me away.”

“You’re going to get on fine with them,” she said, “Well, hopefully, if all goes well.”

The little clock rang out in front of them and Severus tightened his grip on her arm, righting the bag over his shoulder before he extended his hand towards the clock.

“Time to go,” he said, as Hermione brought her hand alongside his.

They both took hold of the clock and Hermione felt the familiar pull as the portkey tugged them from the room and through the ether to their destination. She was glad for Severus’ tight hold on her as the extended duration of the journey made her head spin. She let go of the clock when he called for her to do so, tucking closer to his side as they tumbled their way out of the vortex. It was only Severus’ sure step that kept them upright and Hermione yelped as she hit the ground a little too hard, hating her inexperience that made her so clumsy.

She had barely recovered herself when they were greeted by the Muggle Liaison Officer that Severus had spoken of, hastily taken from their arrival point and out into the quiet, dark streets to a nearby hotel. They were both glad that the hotel was wizard run, happy to not be forced to mind themselves when they were within its walls. They were checked in and taken to their room by a bleary eyed concierge, the pair of them sharing the small supper that had been left for them before they had retired to bed in the pursuit of a few hours sleep.

When morning dawned, they were collected by another official and hurried to a meeting room in the hotel, Severus taking the lead as they were quizzed on the potion and its uses. It didn’t take long for them the be left once more with a certificate allowing the Gilded Spider to trade the potion they had created within the country though they assured their hosts that any commercial trade would occur a lot further down the line.

With the formalities of their visit complete, they headed into the communal areas of the hotel for breakfast but neither of them ate much, the knowledge that they were only a few hours from meeting with Hermione’s parents weighing heavily upon them both.

“You look beautiful my love,” said Severus, meeting Hermione’s gaze in the mirror on the dresser as she finished teasing her wild hair into a loose bun.

Hermione smiled though there was still apprehension in her gaze, “At least it’s not too hot here at this time of year,” she said, “My hair hates the heat.”

Severus pressed a kiss to her cheek, “Sleeping next to you in the summer is going to prove interesting,” he said, trying to lighten her mood, “Are you ready to go?”

“As I’ll ever be,” said Hermione, putting aside her brush and getting to her feet, “You look very handsome.”

“Well I thought it best to make the best impression I could,” he said as she reached up and straightened the slim black tie he wore, “I wish we didn’t have to wear Muggle clothes though, I don’t think I’ll ever get used to them.”

“We need to blend in as best we can,” said Hermione, smoothing her hands over his crisp white shirt, “Magical stuff makes Mum and Dad a bit edgy as well so it will make things easier. Much as they know who they were before the obliviate they still prefer the alias names I gave them so they’re Monica and Wendell Wilkins so best we stick to that.”

“And are we telling them about us or not?” said Severus, “You seemed quite uncertain last night.”

Hermione raised herself up on her toes and pressed a kiss to his lips, “I love you,” she said, “And they need to know that, regardless of what happens today. I don’t think we’d be able to keep it from them anyway, we already had that lovely old wizard at breakfast compliment us on what a lovely couple we made.”

Severus smiled, “If I recall, his compliment was more focused on the lovely young witch I had at my side rather than the couple we made,” he said, “It was you who had his attention my angel, not us but even so, I don’t think I could easily disguise my regard for you. We should get moving we don’t want to be late.”

Hermione nodded, stepping away from him and sitting down on the edge of the bed to pull on her shoes, “Do you have the potion?”

“Two doses,” said Severus, patting the pocket of his jacket before he fastened it, “We might need a top up if they are not fully restored first time but I have enough with me to cover that. I will let you take the lead with broaching the subject with them though.”

Hermione got to her feet, taking his hand and letting him lead her from the room. It was a matter of moments before they were out in the street, the building they had left inconspicuous amongst the muggle buildings despite its magical clientele. They quickly hailed a taxi, Hermione giving the address as they moved away from the kerb. She had agreed to meet with her parents at a quiet restaurant that promised them enough privacy whilst being on neutral territory for them all, wanting to have as equal a footing as they could when she addressed the delicate matter of their memories.

They were silent as they drove, Hermione grateful for Severus’ hand in hers that offered her a small amount of comfort as her head and her heart scrambled for the monopoly on her anxiety. She turned her head to face him as he rubbed a thumb over the back of her hand, forcing a smile to her lips as his dark eyes met hers in concern. He lifted her hand to his lips, pressing a kiss to the back of it before he returned his attention to the scenery passing by them.

After what seemed both a second and the span of eternity, the driver announced that they had reached their destination and Hermione hastily brushed Severus aside before he could even attempt to pay the fare. She followed him out of the taxi, taking hold of his proffered arm as they crossed the street to the restaurant opposite.

Hermione paused as they headed to the door, turning to lay a hand on his chest as she looked up at him, “I have you,” she said, “Whatever happens in there. I have you…don’t I?”

“For the rest of my life,” said Severus, tucking a stray lock of her hair back behind her ear, “Or however long you want me for.”

“Forever,” said Hermione as her eyes fell shut for a moment, “Let’s get inside before I make a run for it.”

Severus took hold of the door, opening it for her and ushering her inside, staying close to her side as she scanned the room for the faces she was looking for. It took her only a moment to find her parents, the restaurant quiet but not so much to be off putting. She smiled as brightly as she could as she caught her mother’s eye, raising a hand to wave at her and trying not to let it upset her as it was returned half-heartedly before her mother alerted her father to her presence.

“Be brave, lioness,” said Severus quietly at her side, urging her across the room to the table.

Hermione stopped short of reaching out to the people before her as they both stood, knowing from previous visits that her hugs were not welcome however much they were endured.

“Mum, Dad,” she said as brightly as she could, “It’s great to see you.”

“You’re looking well,” said her mother, “Not as pale as you were when we saw you in July.”

Hermione smiled, “Not so worried about taking on my job at the school anymore,” she said, before she turned enough to pull Severus closer to her side, “Let me introduce you all. This is Severus. Severus, this is my mother…Monica and my dad, Wendell.”

“A pleasure to meet you both,” he said, reaching out to shake them both by the hand, “I’m sorry to intrude upon a family meeting but Hermione asked me to come along.”

“She told us you’d be coming in her letter,” said Wendell, “You were her teacher before, were you not?”

Severus nodded, “And she was an exceptional student, I can assure you.”

“Shall we sit down?” said Hermione a little too brightly, hoping to dissuade any further talk of their former relationship.

She caught Severus’ grateful gaze as he pulled out a chair for her, the atmosphere at the table thick with a tension that spoke of how little her presence was required by her parents. She felt more like an outsider invited to a party out of courtesy where everyone was too polite to ignore her but in no rush to make her feel welcome otherwise and she was certain the man beside her felt the same.

She reached out and covered Severus’ hand with her own where it rested against the table, taking strength from the familiarity of it, “How have you both been?” she asked, “Did you open up that new practice you were thinking about?”

Monica nodded, “We did,” she said, “It’s going well. Wen…your father has had to employ two new staff members.”

“That’s great,” said Hermione, “It’s nice to hear things are going so well. Severus has just opened a new business of his own and he’s doing very well. I help from time to time but I don’t get much time with all the work from the school. It’s sort of a joint venture though.”

“More than that,” said Severus, “You gave me the means and the shove in the right direction to get things moving.”

“So it’s a…well, your sort of business then?” asked Monica, looking over at the patrons on the table behind them.

Hermione nodded, “Yes,” she said, hating the cagey nature of her mother’s words, “Same field as I teach in but a private business. Bespoke orders and such.”

“And there is a large demand for such things?” asked Monica, “We didn’t really have much to do with those kind of people other than when we went to get Hermione’s school things.”

“A large enough demand to keep us in business comfortably well,” said Severus, “We’re gaining a good reputation.”

Monica frowned, “And I take it you both are…” she said, waving towards their joined hands.

“We’re a couple, yes,” said Hermione, squeezing Severus’ hand, “We got to know one another again at the end of last year and I couldn’t be happier.”

Monica smiled though little reached her eyes and Hermione felt it as keenly as she would have done had she rejected the notion of her relationship with her former teacher. The lack of concern or enthusiasm from either of her parents testament to their lack of feeling towards her.

“We should order something to eat,” said Wendell as an uncomfortable silence descended on the table.

The discomfort continued once the food arrived and throughout the meal, Monica and Hermione carrying the conversation as best they could and Severus joining in whenever he was able but Wendell remained quiet, only answering when questioned directly. The only comfort Hermione took was from Severus’ occasional glances that spoke of his patience and his understanding, the near painful silences easier to endure with him at her side.

When the silence promised to continue throughout the entirety of their time together though, Hermione steeled her courage, straightening a little in her seat as she tried to still the tremor in her voice.

“I think I mentioned in my letter that there was a reason for Severus and I wanting to see you,” she said.

“Are you getting married?” asked Monica, “We’d need enough notice to get cover for the practice if you needed us to come over.”

Hermione blushed, “No, we’re not getting married,” she said, stealing a glance at Severus as he took hold of her hand once more, glad that he wasn’t at all put out by the question, “We have developed something, a curative for the…oh I can’t put this is normal terms and no one is listening. Severus developed a potion that can cure the effects of damage done by obliviate spells. He’s been testing it at our hospital and everyone Severus has worked with has been almost fully restored to their former selves. People who have even worse damage than you. I know you don’t feel anything for me despite knowing who I am and that’s because of the spell I used. If you take the potion then that could be reversed. You’d remember me properly.”

Silence reigned once more and Hermione tightened her grip on Severus’ hand, feeling a tension in him that spoke of anticipation as well as concern.

“How can you promise us it will work?” said her father, his voice almost alien after having been so absent at dinner, “You promised us the spell you did when you gave us back our memories would work and it didn’t, not properly. Your mother is always questioning herself about what she should be saying to you and I don’t want her to have anymore uncertainty.”

“I can assure you the potion will work,” said Severus, “I would not have agreed for Hermione to offer it to you if I didn’t have faith in it. It has cured individuals with a great deal more damage than the pair of you have. In fact, in the time we’ve spent together, I have quite safely come to the conclusion that with a single dose you would both be fully restored. Your memories are sound in terms of recollection but they are not connecting to your emotions. I’ve already worked with a patient on a similar case and she recovered very swiftly, a matter of hours. I wouldn’t give you my assurances if I wasn’t sure, especially given your connection to Hermione.”

“I’ve never known Severus’ work to be anything but sound Dad,” said Hermione, hating the slight flinch she saw in him at the name, “And this is my field too. We worked on this together and the results are so promising. Please try. I want you both back.”

Wendell sighed, “It isn’t as simple as that,” he said, “We have been victims of your magic and we have had our lives turned upside down. You took our memories without our consent and then returned us to this limbo despite promises that you would cure us. We can’t take that risk again. I won’t allow you to ruin our lives anymore.”

Hermione felt her heart twist in her chest as she saw the conviction in his eyes, “Mum?” she asked, hating the tremor in her voice, “Is that…do you feel the same?”

Monica hesitated a moment before she nodded, “I’m sorry Hermione but we…you don’t know how difficult this has been,” she said, “This obligation you’ve put upon us. We can’t go through it again.”

Hermione nodded, “I understand.”

“Hermione…” began Severus but she shook her head.

“Don’t, darling, please,” she begged, squeezing his hand in thanks as he offered no further protest before she reached into her bag, drawing out a card from the hotel, “This is where we’re staying. The concierge office is muggle facing, give our names and they’ll let you in. We’re in room one hundred and forty-nine, second floor. If you change your mind, we’ll be here for a few more days. We should go Severus.”

She got to her feet, not waiting to see if he followed but glad when she heard his footsteps behind her in place of the raised voices she had feared. She spoke only briefly to the waiter as they passed his station, swiftly paying for their half of the dinner they had barely eaten before she continued out into the street.

She kept walking even as a familiar arm wrapped around her shoulders, his pace slowing hers but he did not attempt to stop her or speak and she realised how well he knew her in the simple gesture. She wasn’t sure how far they had gone before she felt something give inside her and she stopped abruptly, turning into his waiting arms and giving in to her tears against his shoulder.

“It’s alright my love,” he said, wrapping his arms around her as he pressed a kiss to her hair, “Give them time. We’re not going to give up yet.”

She nodded wordlessly, hoping he would be proved right but fearing that for once he would be wrong.

Chapter Text

Severus stared out of the window of the hotel, twilight and then night itself falling on the streets beyond. He was glad of the quiet it brought. For hours after they had left the Grangers, they had walked the streets aimlessly, Hermione all but silent at his side and he quiet at hers as words seemed to lose all meaning when they could bring her little comfort.

When they had finally returned to the hotel he had been able to persuade her to eat a little but she picked aimlessly at the rest, her expression wavering between sadness and resignation as she kept her silence. He had followed her back to their room, prepared for yet more silence but as soon as the door closed, it was though a dam had finally broken inside her. He had borne her tears and her pleas as best he could, desperate to help but finding neither word nor action that could bring her comfort.

He had offered to speak to her parents on her behalf but she had begged him not to, determined to respect their decision and he vowed to respect hers. Even so, it had caused him almost physical pain as she wept in his arms, her small body shuddering with every deep sob that seemed to be the culmination of every stroke of pain the years had visited upon her.

He tried to persuade her to rest but her distress made sleep almost impossible for her. Glad that he never travelled anywhere unprepared, he drew a phial of dreamless sleep from his bag, invisible extension charms meaning he could bring far more than any muggle could carry in such a small space. Hermione had taken the potion gratefully, falling asleep within minutes at his side and he had sat with her for a long while but he had grown restless, choosing his place by the window to help ease his mind.

He was startled from his reverie by a knock at the door, quietly cursing as Hermione stirred on the bed but the potion kept its hold on her and she settled back against the pillows once more. He got to his feet, crossing the dark room and opening the door to find one of the uniformed staff members waiting outside.

“I’m sorry to disturb you sir,” said the young man, “But Miss Granger has a visitor downstairs and I have come to bring her down.”

“And the name?” asked Severus, ignoring the small flash of hope in his heart.

“Wilkins,” said the attendant, “Mrs Wilkins.”

Severus nodded, “Very well,” he said, “Miss Granger is indisposed right now but I will see her visitor in her place. You can tell Mrs Wilkins that I will be down shortly.”

The young man bowed slightly before he left down the corridor. Severus closed the door and flicked on the lamp on the dresser table, fastening the top few buttons of his shirt before he drew the same black tie he had worn to lunch around his neck. Content he was at least presentable; he pulled on his jacket, the potion phials jingling together in his pocket. He contemplated leaving them behind but the small voice of hope that her arrival brought made him keep them there.

He moved to the bed, settling the covers better over Hermione before he pressed a kiss to her tangle of curls, “I won’t be long,” he said softly, “If I can make it right I will.”

He left the room, hoping that whatever the outcome of the meeting with Hermione’s mother, he would not make things worse for the young woman he was leaving behind. It was a short journey to the lobby but he would have preferred it to be far longer as he took in the straight back and pinched face of Monica Wilkins as she sat in one of the large, wing backed chairs. Her expression grew apprehensive as she met his gaze and he half expected her to bolt from the room but instead she got to her feet and held out her hand to him.

“Mr Snape,” she said shakily, “The receptionist told me I should expect you in Hermione’s place.”

“She’s asleep,” said Severus shaking her hand, “And I’m afraid it would be difficult to wake her. She took a potion to aid her rest and she will probably sleep deeply until morning. And please call me Severus, formality isn’t necessary.”

Monica nodded, sitting back down in her chair as she indicated the one opposite her. A similar silence to the one in the restaurant descended upon them but Severus did not let it linger.

“I appreciate that you came to see Hermione but can I help with anything?” he asked, “If you have questions about the potion, I can answer them and maybe assuage any fears that you have.”

“I remember who you are,” said Monica, not meeting his gaze, “I remember Hermione’s letters. She never liked you and then it was your name attached to the death of the Headmaster. She told us the truth behind it all as well.”

Severus tried desperately not to let his anxiety show as her words brought back memories he would rather forget, “I am not proud of my past,” he said, “But I am a different man now. I don’t deny what I did, good or bad, but I am not the man Hermione knew when she was a child. She has drawn her own conclusions and found me worthy despite everything, even if I can never believe myself deserving of that.”

Monica smiled sadly, “Pretty words,” she said, “And they should affect me. I should be terrified that my little girl is sharing her life with a man who has taken a life. I should be questioning her choice of a man twenty years her senior. I should care about my daughter but I don’t. I don’t care about her choices. I don’t care about her past or her future. I don’t care about who she loves. I don’t care if I never see her again.”

“There is very little I can say to that,” said Severus, keeping his tone neutral despite the anger her words brought, knowing that the woman before him could not help the way she felt, “Only that I’m glad she didn’t hear it.”

“The horrific thing is that I would say it to her,” said Monica, “Not to be cruel but it’s how I feel. I’m her mother. I should care but something is broken and I don’t. It’s like that life, the life I remember, is something from a book. I know of it but I didn’t live it. I know how a mother should feel for her child. I know that she should be the beginning and the end of my life but she isn’t. The only feelings I have for her are resentment and anger for this half-life she’s given us. We were happy before she arrived and convinced us that magic was real. We let her perform the spell and our memories returned but at such a cost. I hate it. I hate that I feel obligated to a child I don’t love.”

“I think you and your husband made those thoughts quite plain at the restaurant earlier,” said Severus, “She’s already grieving for you but she respects any decision you make. If I may make one request of you now though, don’t hurt her anymore and don’t say to her what you just said to me. When she took your memories, she did it to save you. You wouldn’t have just been killed had the Death Eaters found you, you would have been tortured to the fullest extent in an effort to find out information pertaining to your daughter and her friends. She saved you from a fate worse than death and had she realised it was beyond her phenomenal skill to remove the effects of the obliviate fully then I truly believe she would have left you as you were, without any memory of her. She loves you and I hear her sorrow of what happened every time she speaks of you.”

Monica smiled sadly, “You really love her,” she said, “That’s good.”

“And I will do so for as long as she allows me to,” he said, “But I know there will always be a part of her heart that will be closed to all but you and her father. I could sit here and try to trick you into taking the potion. Merlin knows as well I am more than capable of forcing you. This decision needs to be yours though. When we left today, Hermione took the lead and I followed but not now. I can’t say anything to you that will change your mind and I’m not about to waste our time doing so. I promise you that for the rest of her life your daughter will be loved but I know she will miss you even so. Take these. One dose for you and one for your husband. It won’t harm you though you may experience a headache whilst your memory restores. We’re here until Wednesday. Take it and remember her, or pour it away and know that I will take care of her.”

Severus got to his feet, taking the two potion phials from his pocket and setting them on the table in front of her.

“What will you tell her?” said Monica.

“The truth, in its entirety,” said Severus, “Though I will try to spare her feelings as best I can. Unless there is anything else, I will say goodnight Mrs Wilkins.”

He offered her a small bow, unsurprised when she didn’t acknowledge it, her attention taken by the potion on the table before her. He contemplated staying, arguing with her until he had persuaded her to see sense but he knew it was not what Hermione wanted and so he refrained. He headed back towards the stairs, looking back only briefly and allowing himself a small smile as he saw Monica reach out and place the phials into her purse before she got to her feet and left the hotel.

He knew the situation was no longer in his hands and he could only hope that the decision went their way.

xxxx

Severus stirred as he felt warm lips press against his neck, chasing the line of his collarbone before they came to a pause over his heart. He smiled, raising a hand to stroke through Hermione’s wild hair as he felt her cheek replace her lips against his chest.

“Good morning my love,” he said, his free hand tracing a path up and down the bare skin of her arm, “How are you feeling?”

Hermione settled her arm around his waist, “The same,” she said, “Did I wake you?”

“I couldn’t ask for a more wonderful way to be woken,” he said, looking over to her shoulder to see a faint glimmer of light beneath the curtain, “And it’s morning anyway. Do you have anything you want to do today?”

“I want to go home,” said Hermione quietly.

Severus frowned as he heard the sincerity in her voice. He tucked a finger beneath her chin, raising her face to his and seeing the resignation in her eyes, “You mean that don’t you?”

Hermione nodded, pressing her face into his hand as he cupped her cheek, “I really do,” she said, “It’s been over a day since you saw Mum downstairs and she hasn’t come back or sent us any word. If they intended to take the potion, they would have done so by now. I’m only hurting myself staying here. Can we go home Severus? Please?”

“If that’s what you want,” he said, “It is only Monday though and I told your mother we would be here until Wednesday.”

Hermione sighed, “They have our address if they want us,” she said, “I can’t just keep sitting here praying for a miracle.”

“Then we’ll go home,” said Severus, “I’ll go and make arrangements for a portkey.”

Hermione tightened his grip on him, “Not yet,” she said, “It’s still early and I need you.”

Severus caught the tear that broke from her eye with his thumb, “I’m here my love,” he said, his heart breaking at the sadness he saw on her face, “And I promise I always will be.”

Hermione tucked herself tight to his side and he felt her shudder as she cried quietly against his chest. He tugged the covers up over their heads, protecting them from the world beyond as he wrapped his arms tighter around her, knowing he could do little more than comfort her as she mourned for what she had lost.

It was several hours later when they emerged from the bed, Hermione quiet but resigned as they gathered their things and dressed for their return journey. Severus longed to try to do something to make the situation right but all avenues were closed to him. Instead, he bore her tears and her silence, standing by her side as best he could as she prepared to leave part of her life behind.

He only questioned her choice once more as they went to leave the room, receiving the same heartbroken affirmation that had him both admiring her strength and hating the invisible wounds she still carried from the war. He kept tight hold of her hand as they descended towards the lobby, intent on making sure she ate before they arranged to return to England. He was glad at least that she was on leave from the school until Thursday, hoping that a couple of days in the familiar surroundings of their home would at least soothe her somewhat.

They were crossing to the breakfast room when they heard a quiet voice call out to them from the lobby. They both turned, peering through the bodies that milled about wearing both wizarding and muggle clothes, until they saw two figures they recognised beside the doors. Severus felt Hermione’s grip tighten on his hand as she stiffened behind him, her breath catching in her throat.

“Hermione?” said her mother, her eyes far brighter than they had been when Severus had last seen her, “Hermione, darling?”

Hermione sobbed as her mother held out her arms, the gesture enough to tell them the truth of the situation and Severus swiftly let go of her hand as she crossed the distance that separated her from her parents. He looked on as she all but leapt into the arms that awaited her, the potion clearly having restored both of their memories as they held onto one another and wept.

He knew there would be much they needed to discuss and, with the emotional display already catching the attention of the other patrons, he headed towards the desk to arrange a room where they could all talk quietly. The concierge was more than happy to oblige them and Severus was soon heading towards the family with a key in his hand.

He stood by, not wanting to break the scene before him as Hermione spoke quietly with her parents, her face tear stained but happy. It didn’t take long for her to realise that he was there though, her smile bright as she turned her attention to him. She stepped away from her parents, reaching up to take his face in her hands before she drew him down into a soft, swift kiss.

“Thank you,” she said, “You did this.”

He shook his head, “I merely gave you the means to achieve it,” he said, “I’ve arranged a private room for you, so you can talk without people listening in. They’ll bring through tea and breakfast in a little while.”

“You think of everything,” said Hermione, staying close to his side but turning back to face her parents.

“And you should take more credit for what you’ve done,” said her mother, “It was your words the other night that helped change my mind.”

Severus offered her a small bow, “It was the least I could do, for Hermione and for you,” he said, “I’m only glad you made the choice you did. Let me take you to the room and then I can leave you three to talk.”

“You need to stay,” said Hermione’s father, his tone brokering little argument, “It’s time we got to know you properly too. We were not in the best place to do so a few days ago and we should be properly introduced. Jonathan Granger.”

Severus smiled, shaking his hand as it was extended to him, “A pleasure sir,” he said, “It truly is.”

“And you may call me Karen,” said Hermione’s mother, “Although I won’t hold it against you if you call me Monica, you have grown used to it. We all have a lot to talk about.”

“Should I be worried?” said Severus, looking down at Hermione as she giggled beside him.

“Well it is Dad’s job to decide if you’re good enough for me,” she said though there was only humour in her words, “Shall we?”

Her parents nodded, their smiles not fading as Hermione took hold of his arm before he led them towards the privacy of the room, knowing that many long and difficult conversations lay ahead of them all but that they would be faced with love rather than obligation.

Chapter Text

Hermione was certain it had been the both the longest and the shortest day of her life. There had been tears, arguments and screaming but then there had been forgiveness, tears of anger had turned to tears of relief, and she had once more felt like a daughter.

She had been certain, at the beginning of her conversations with her parents, that there would be little but anger between them. The initial elation they had all felt at being properly reunited had dissolved into questions of trust and consent and every other ill feeling that had brewed during their time as Monica and Wendell. If it had not been for Severus standing in as referee, Hermione was sure they would have parted on bad terms but instead they had aired every grievance, finding themselves stronger if emotionally drained by the end.

The hotel was more than accommodating. Severus having left briefly with one of the staff when they had come to enquire as to how long they would require the room, returning alone with a fresh pot of tea and a promise that they could use the room for as long as they pleased without charge. Hermione had been grateful for his support; certain she would not have had the strength to face it without him at her side.

She looked over at him as he sat to the side of the room, his concentration seemingly on the small window in the door and the lobby beyond but she knew he was far more attuned to the conversation she had been having with her parents, waiting to step in if he was needed. She left her parents with a smile, the pair of them turning to their own conversation, and crossed to room to his side. He smiled up at her as she laid a hand on his shoulder, squeezing gently.

“Is everything ok?” he asked, casting a brief look over to her parents before he turned his attention back to her.

Hermione nodded, “Everything’s wonderful,” she said, “Thank you for being here today. You’ve helped so much.”

“I could not have done otherwise,” he said, “You needed me.”

“I love you,” said Hermione, leaning down to kiss him.

“Careful,” he admonished playfully as she released him, “Your father might not approve.”

Hermione giggled, “Not frightened are you my darling?” she asked.

“I think maybe it would be best that we don’t court anymore anxiety or high feeling today,” said Severus seriously, “Things have been fraught enough don’t you think?”

“They are aware that we’re together,” said Hermione, “And they’ve seen how we are with each other . Mum’s been singing your praises already. If you hadn’t have spoken to her we might not be here.”

Severus shook his head, “She had already made her decision I think,” he said, “She just required some validation.”

“Well perhaps we shall agree to disagree there,” she replied, “We were thinking about heading out somewhere for dinner. It’s growing late and we’ve been locked in here all day. It’ll be a chance for them to get to know you properly.”

Severus gave her an arch look, “Are we sure that’s a good thing?”

Hermione giggled, leaning down to kiss him once more, “You’re always telling me to be brave,” she said, “You’ve faced worse than dinner with my parents. Come on.”

She took his hand as he got to his feet, lacing their fingers together and feeling the tightness of his grip that spoke of his true anxiety at spending time with her parents. It amazed her that someone who had faced as much as he had would be apprehensive about dinner with two people that he surpassed in power without any effort but it also spoke loudly of his regard for her and his desire to ensure her happiness on all sides. She was grateful, therefore, when her parents met their approach with open smiles, getting to their feet without hesitation.

They headed straight out to a restaurant her parents knew nearby, the four of them falling into polite conversation though the subject matter was light, barely touching on the wizarding world and deftly avoiding any talk of their relationship. Hermione refused to hide from it though, keeping hold of Severus’ hand and remaining close to his side throughout the meal.

It was only when they reached dessert that her mother seemed more willing to touch on the subject, her question about the Gilded Spider opening the doors for them to discuss their shared home.

“So do you travel home from the school every night now?” asked Karen, “I recall you writing and saying that Hogwarts would be your address for the majority of the year.”

“I come home whenever I can but my duties keep me there most of the week and some weekends,” said Hermione, “Severus is home all the time though so I do try and get back whenever I can. I think Minerva indulges us somewhat, she’s the Headmistress at Hogwarts now and has given me far more leeway then I think she would give most others.”

“She was your House Head wasn’t she?” said Jonathan, “I recall she wrote to us when we first found out about you being selected for the school.”

“She was Deputy Headmistress then so she wrote to everyone,” said Hermione, “She became my House Head when I was sorted into Gryffindor. She was also my Transfiguration Professor.”

“And you were her Potions Professor if I recall?” said Jonathan, turning his attention to Severus.

Hermione dropped a hand to Severus’ thigh beneath the table, hoping the touch comforted him somewhat as the question she was certain he had been dreading came once more to the fore.

“For the first five years,” said Severus, “I became the Dark Arts Professor in Hermione’s sixth year. Whilst I never made her aware of it during that time, Hermione was always one of my best students. I knew she would make a career from potion making if she wished to.”

“She didn’t like you.”

“Dad,” warned Hermione, “This isn’t necessary.”

“She wasn’t supposed to like me,” said Severus, “From the beginning of her schooling we were already aware that something was brewing that involved Voldemort in some way, even though everyone believed him dead. I had been a spy for the Order in the first war and I knew I would have to be one again should the need arise. I could not afford to like or be liked by any Gryffindor but especially not by one who was friends with Harry Potter. I know you will have reservations about our relationship now and they justly based in my past behaviour and actions. I am not proud of what I did but I endeavoured to do it for the greater good if you can believe it.”

“We all did things during the war that we’re not proud of,” said Hermione, “Believe me, Severus and I have discussed our pasts and everything that happened. Please don’t force us to rake over it all again. For a long time I don’t think either of us thought we had a future, before or after Voldemort’s defeat, but now we do. Together. I’m not going to ask your permission to build the life I want, as much as I love you both, my life is my own. It would mean the world to us though, if we were to have your blessing.”

Karen laid a hand on her husband’s arm as he went to speak, “My darling girl,” she said, “If you are happy then we are happy. I might not have been myself when Severus and I spoke together the other night but I was left in little doubt about how much he loves you. Forgive us, Severus, if we have given you cause to believe that we would not be accepting of you. Hermione is our only child and as such, we want to make sure she’s safe, but I know you would fight for her. You’ve already done so.”

“I could do little else,” said Severus, “She came into my life when I was more isolated than I would care to admit and I could not be without her. You can rest assured, whatever it takes; I will ensure that she is loved and safe for the rest of my life and beyond if I can manage it.”

Hermione couldn’t help the smile or the blush that came to her face as she heard the emotion in his words, “I could say exactly the same, my darling,” she said, before she looked over to her father once more, “Dad?”

Jonathan smiled, “Wizard or not, he hurts you, I kill him,” he said, his voice breaking to a chuckle at the end, “But you don’t need to doubt that you have our blessing sweetheart.”

“Thank you,” said Hermione, “It means a lot to both of us and maybe now Severus can relax a little.”

Severus scowled playfully at her but she felt the tension drain from him, the pair of them relaxing into far easier conversation with their parents as the evening continued.

The evening was a welcome prelude to the next two days, Hermione spending her time reconnecting with her parents as they reminisced about old memories and talked about her plans for the future. Severus remained at her side at some points but he also happily took himself off to explore the wizarding community they were in, knowing that she needed time with her family to help heal the still raw wounds. Still, she was happy when they were finally alone in their hotel room every evening, knowing he was as much a part of her family as anyone of her blood.

It was with a few tears and many more smiles that they left her parents late on the Wednesday evening, the Grangers seeing them to the site of their port key in the company of the same Muggle Liaison Officer that had first collected them. Hermione had laughed at the awkward handshake that passed as a farewell between Severus and her father and her hilarity had only increased at the desperately uncomfortable look on Severus’ face when her mother had insisted on hugging him. She had said her own farewell when Severus had finally been released, glad that magic would allow her to see her parents far more frequently than muggle means would, and she left them with promises that they would return once the summer holidays had arrived.

The journey back to England via the port key was a matter of moments though Hermione cursed it all the same, her head spinning by the time they finally hit solid ground once more. Despite it having been dark when they had left Perth, they reached Diagon Alley in the day. Deciding not to waste the quiet of the weekday streets, they visited several of the shops and spent their longest amount of time restocking at the apothecary.

They apparated home when the streets began to fill for the evening, soon finding themselves in the small summerhouse at the bottom of the garden and stepping out into the growing twilight of the evening.

“Shall we order something in for dinner?” said Hermione, “It’s later than I thought it was and I don’t think I have the energy to cook, plus I need to get up at the crack of dawn to head back to Hogwarts.”

“No washing up and an early night,” said Severus, dragging her back into his arms as she headed for the door to the garden, “What could I possibly have to complain about?”

Hermione giggled, turning her face up to his as he bent to kiss her, “Making assumptions there sir,” she said, “I need my beauty sleep.”

“You’ll look utterly radiant when I’m done with you,” said Severus, stroking back her hair, “Are you happy my angel?”

“Very,” said Hermione, “I was so certain we wouldn’t be able to restore Mum and Dad and now look where we are. It does feel good to be home though, just you and me. I feel like I’ve been on a rollercoaster this week.”

“I know,” said Severus, “You were so strong and you deserve a rest, even if it’s only for one night, unless you want me to speak to Minerva?”

Hermione shook her head, “No, I need to get back to normality, though it is very tempting,” she said, “It will do me good to get back in the classroom and you’ve neglected your work in favour of supporting me. Come on, the sooner we’re inside, the sooner we can eat. I’m starving, the time zones have sent me all back to front.”

Severus laughed, opening the door and stepping out into the most secluded part of the garden, “Says the woman who spent a school year using a time turner to get to double the number of classes,” he said, “At least we didn’t have to fly.”

“Indeed,” said Hermione, “Much as I love you, my darling, I can think of nothing worse than being cooped up on a plane full of muggles with you. It’d be worse than having a toddler with me.”

Severus placed a hand over his heart in mock pain, “You wound me,” he said, “How dare you say something so true.”

Hermione giggled, taking hold of his arm as they rounded the corner to the main part of the lawn, “You’re daft,” she said, “I… what’s that?”

She squinted in the growing twilight, seeing an odd lump in the lawn near the steps to the patio, cast in deep shadow.

“Perhaps Neville left something,” said Severus, “He said he would drop some bits off for the potions garden but I would have thought he’d have left it by the shed.”

“Moles?” said Hermione, “They can dig up earth and leave mounds.”

“Not that large,” said Severus, pulling his wand from his pocket, “I don’t like it. Stay back.”

Hermione shook her head, retrieving her own wand, “Not a chance,” she said, earning a scowl from the man beside her though he didn’t offer further protest.

They crossed the distance to the shadow, Hermione cursing his longer legs as she had to all but run to keep up with him but he still outstripped her. She nearly tumbled as he turned suddenly, shoving her backwards with such force that she would have lost her footing if it hadn’t been for the grip he had on her arms.

“Back now,” he commanded, “I don’t want you to see it.”

“What?” she said, seeing the horror and disgust etched onto his face.

“I need to send for the Aurors,” said Severus, “Close your eyes and then I’ll get you inside, you’ll be safer there.”

“Safer?” she said, “Severus what the hell is going on, what is that thing?”

She slipped beneath his arm, hearing his curse as he tried to grab for her once more and she wished he had succeeded as her eyes fell upon to pour creature laid out before her.

The lion cub lay dead on its side, facing the house. Its throat bore a thick dark line that Hermione was certain would be crimson if the light were brighter, the rest of its fur flecked striped here and there with the same dark markings. She felt her skin grow cold and her heart leap as she took in the sight of it, laid barely an inch from the wards that protected their home. The only thing that kept her from fainting was the strong arm that came about her, tugging her stiffened form until her face was pressed against the crisp cotton of his shirt.

“Inside,” said Severus, his voice soft and low, “Now. I’ll call the Aurors.”

Hermione wanted to follow him, his voice coaxing her to do so but her body would not follow. She barely squeaked as she found herself lifted, carried with urgency past the barrier of their wards as Severus muttered the spells that dispelled the more complex ones he had placed to fully protect the house but not the garden in their absence.

She kept her face pressed to his chest as she heard the door open and close behind them, the house dark and silent, Severus’ footsteps sounding loudly through the gloom. He set her down upon the sofa, his hand brushing gently over her hair as she finally looked up at him, seeing his face still set in the grim mask. She watched as he headed to the fireplace and activated the floo but she paid his words no mind, her head filled with the image of the poor dead creature that lay out on her lawn and the threat it surely came with.

Chapter Text

Severus frowned as he saw the haunted look in Hermione’s eyes, her arms wrapped around herself as she sat stiffly on the sofa in their living room.

“Here,” he said, catching her attention and handing her a cup of tea, “How are you feeling?”

Hermione shrugged, “Not quite sure how I’m supposed to feel,” she said, “That poor creature. What’s happening?”

“The Aurors are still poking about,” said Severus, sitting down beside her, “They wouldn’t let me outside to see what was going on.”

Hermione cradled the cup in her hands, “Why did we have to come home to this?” she said, “I was…”

“I know,” said Severus wrapping an arm around her shoulders and pulling her closer to him, “You’re safe my love, I promise you.”

Hermione set her cup down, turning so that she was pressed against him, sliding her arms around his neck and pressing her face into the high collar of his familiar black frock coat, glad that the cooler British weather had forced him back into it. Severus stroked her back, not even attempting to voice words over comfort when he knew they would be hollow.

It was only the sound of someone clearing their throat that made them look up, finding Harry stood before them in his robes, wand still in hand.

“And?” said Severus, seeing the younger man’s pensive face.

“Dark magic killed it,” said Harry, “A female lion cub covered in mud and…”

“Blood,” finished Hermione, despite the tremor in her voice, “I guess we know who the threat was against then.”

Harry sighed, “It would seem that way,” he said, “Have either of you had any threats made against you in any other way? Severus, anything since the incident in Diagon Alley?”

Severus shook his head, “It has been quiet,” he said, “But that doesn’t mean there aren’t still people baying for my blood and the recent work I’ve been doing has attracted attention. We’ve hardly kept our situation quiet either…”

“Stop it,” said Hermione, tugging sharply on a lock of his black hair, “I already know where you’re headed and it’s not your fault. I’ve got just as many enemies as you have. Harry do you know who could have done this?”

Harry shook his head, “We’re taking the body away and the Department of Mysteries will analyse what they can,” he said, “We can get you both to a safe house if you prefer, involve a secret keeper…”

Severus held up a hand, “I’d prefer if we didn’t,” he said, “Threats never chased me from Spinner’s End and they’re not about to chase me from here.”

“Hermione?” questioned Harry.

“I agree with Severus,” she said, “This is our home and no one is going to scare me away. The wards are strong on the building and we can extend them to the garden. Besides, horrific as it is, I would rather it be here than at Hogwarts. I would hate for the children to see it and if they’re determined to make a threat they will do it wherever they know they can find me.”

Harry frowned, “You were having issues with some of your students weren’t you?” he said, “Could they…?”

Hermione shook her head, “No,” she said, “That’s all passed now and they were children acting out. They were cruel at times but it wasn’t malicious, not to this extent. It’s more likely that it is a Death Eater with a grudge against Severus. Only adds insult to injury that he’s with me now, in their eyes at least. The Gryffindor mudblood.”

“Do not call yourself that,” said Severus, his voice low and far darker than she had heard it in a long time, “If anyone is looking to threaten you, whether it be because of your own actions or because of your association with me, they will have me to answer to.”

“Don’t go looking for trouble though,” said Harry, “Let us prove this. I don’t want to be having to keep you out of Azkaban if you go chasing down the wrong person. If you have names, or even suspicions, tell me and I will deal with them personally.”

“Nominating yourself as my bodyguard?” said Severus, a little humour managing to creep into his voice despite the situation.

“Saving myself the paperwork,” replied the younger man, “Severus, the war is over. If you are in danger, by all means you may defend yourself, but please leave the rest to us. Are you sure you don’t want me to arrange a safe house? Even just for tonight.”

Hermione shook her head, “No, thank you,” she said, “I’d rather just lock the doors, throw up the wards and try to get some sleep.”

Harry nodded, “If you change your mind then just let me know and I’ll make the arrangements,” he said, “And I want to check in with you over the next few days, if that’s ok?”

Severus nodded, “Hermione will be at Hogwarts from tomorrow but you’re welcome whenever you want to come by,” he said, hesitating a moment before he continued, “I would be glad of the company.”

Hermione squeezed his hand, “I can contact Minerva…”

Severus shook his head, cutting her off, “I will be fine and returning to normality would be better than hiding away,” he said, “Whoever left that poor creature is clearly a coward, hiding behind petty barbarity rather than facing us wand to wand. I won’t bow to an enemy I can’t see.”

Harry snorted, “You wouldn’t bow even if you could see them,” he said, “If you two are certain then we’ll leave you in peace. I suggest you increase your wards to include the garden from now on and please contact me with anything, even the slightest concerns. We’ll be in touch if we make any discoveries.”

“Thank you again for coming so quickly Harry,” said Hermione, getting to her feet and hugging him tightly, “This has all been so horrible but I’m glad we have you to rely on. I promise we’ll be cautious going forward.”

“Just glad I was on duty when Severus called on us,” said Harry, “Let’s just hope this is a one off and not something bigger.”

“We’ll see,” said Severus, doubting his words would prove true but hoping they would all the same, “Let me see you out. Will you be alright for a moment Hermione?”

She nodded, “I’ll be fine.”

Severus heard the lie in her words but he knew she would not appreciate him hovering; instead he rested his hand on Harry’s shoulder, guiding him towards the back door. They made the short journey in silence, both of them longing to search for names and meaning to the incident but neither of them could.

He was glad that the cub’s body was nowhere to be seen, though the sense of both dark magic and the magic used by the Aurors to investigate it still lingered, the unease of it all hard to push aside. The last remaining Aurors were busily packing a bag on the patio, the two of them looking up briefly but they only offered a nod when they saw Severus at Harry’s side, his reputation softened in recent months but memories still proved longer.

“Are you sure you’ll be alright?” said Harry, as they stepped down onto the lawn.

“We will be,” said Severus, “Though I confess that I’m glad she’ll be back in the safety of Hogwarts tomorrow.”

“We both know Hogwarts isn’t entirely safe,” said the younger man.

“But the wards are stronger there than anything we can manage here,” said Severus, “Though I intend to weave far tighter ones around us from now on. Concentrate your resources on keeping her safe. I can take care of myself.”

Harry frowned, “I will worry about you both and I will do everything I can keep you equally safe,” he said, “And I mean it Severus. If you know anything, tell us, don’t run off and take matters into your own hands. I can’t keep you out of Azkaban if you do something contrary to the law.”

“I will do what I can but I will make no promises,” replied Severus, his tone darkening as he looked out across the shadowed garden, “They can make threats against me all they like, I have had a life of it. This threat was made against the woman I love and that goes beyond. I will not have her put at risk and if I have to kill to protect her Harry, then I will.”

“I will pretend I didn’t hear that,” said Harry, cutting his eyes at the two Aurors and sighing when he realised that they were not paying them any mind, “If I don’t see it, you didn’t do it. Keep her safe but keep yourself safe too. She will never forgive me if I let you put yourself in a position where you could wind up in Azkaban. Just…take care. At least promise me that.”

Severus smiled weakly, “I promise,” he said, “It’s getting late. You will need to apparate to the point at the bottom of the hill and walk up tomorrow, I’m going to place wards all around the garden once you’ve gone.”

Harry turned and gave instruction to his colleagues to leave ahead of him, the crack of apparition echoing round the garden and announcing that they were truly alone.

“If you don’t need me for anything else then I’ll be on my way too,” said Harry, “Weave the wards tight and then get inside. I hope you can both get some rest and we’ll catch up with you in more informal settings soon. You need to catch us up on everything that went on with the Grangers.”

“I’ll ask Hermione to make arrangements with Ginny, her diary is unpredictable and I’ll probably get it wrong,” said Severus, “I hope we will have time to see you before the wedding though.”

“Definitely,” said Harry, shaking his hand, “Take care. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Goodnight,” said Severus, watching him turn on the spot before he disappeared.

He tightened his grip on his wand, shaking off the worry that had been settling steadily onto his shoulders so that he could better concentrate on the wards he began to weave around the large garden. Despite the chill of the air, he soon found himself too warm beneath the heavy black frock coat, shucking it off and continuing in his shirtsleeves but he was still breathing heavily when he closed the last silvery string of magic around them.

He picked up the coat from where he had dropped it on the floor, raising his head to see Hermione stood in the doorway watching him. She looked too small without her shoes, wrapped in one of the thin blankets they kept on the sofas that was always on hand for when they had a moment to settle down with a good book. He felt the worry grip him once more that she had been so close to danger despite the ability he knew she had to defend herself and he longed for a way to erase the hours that had passed since their return home.

“We spend so much time just being a couple whenever I’m with you,” said Hermione, breaking the silence, “That I sometimes forget what an extraordinary wizard you are. I know I’m safe when I’m with you.”

Severus didn’t answer, crossing the short distance between them in only a few strides, pocketing his wand and tossing his coat onto the doorstep before he took her into his arms, feeling her tremble despite her words.

“I will do everything I can to protect you,” he promised, “And I know you’d do the same for me. We’re safe for tonight and tomorrow I will begin to try to get to the bottom of this.”

Hermione looked up at him, her eyes glittering with tears in the light from the doorway, “So long as you don’t put yourself at risk,” she said, reaching up a hand to capture a strand of his hair, “Thank you for seeing to the wards, I don’t think I can concentrate enough to get even the simplest spell right at the moment.”

“It gave me something to focus on,” said Severus, following her lead as she sat down on the doorstep, drawing her knees up beneath her and hugging her arms around them.

He wrapped an arm around her shoulders, mimicking their pose from the living room, resting his head atop hers as they looked over the stillness of the garden. He was certain he could almost hear her mind working, ruminating over their situation and the questions he was sure mirrored his own. Part of him wanted to act immediately, throw everything aside in pursuit of what had threatened them but his life had taught him patience and he knew he was better placed at her side, knowing he would be able to see things far more clearly when the dust had settled.

“Did you receive a lot of threats?” said Hermione, finally breaking the silence, “Before, at Spinners End. The way you and Harry were speaking made it seemed like it was a regular thing and I hate that I never thought to ask.”

“I was no stranger to people voicing their opinions regarding my actions during the war,” said Severus, “Some were more explicit than others and I chose to report them as, at that point, I was still convalescing and I was concerned I might not be able to handle defending myself. They tailed off after a while bar the occasional one and, should I bump into certain individuals, threats were made in person but no one has ever braved seeing it through. Don’t worry about not asking though, I prefer not to talk of it. If you would feel better about knowing the details though, I will share them.”

“Only if you think anything is pertinent to what’s happening right now,” said Hermione, freeing a hand to lay it against his thigh, “I had a few threats myself but nothing…I’m tired of asking why this happened.”

Severus sighed, feeling the tremble of her slim shoulders beneath his hand, “I must say, this was more dramatic than what I am used to,” he said, “As to why, time will out. The best we can do is carry on as normal and wait for whomever this is to show their hand. So to that end, let us see if we can find somewhere that is still delivering dinner. We can eat, close up the house and head to bed. I think I’m ready for today to be over.”

“Me too,” said Hermione, “Can we just lock ourselves away and ignore everyone forever?”

Severus chuckled, tucking a finger beneath her chin and tilting her gaze up to his. He took in the genuine look of want in her eyes, knowing he would happily shut the rest of the world away to spend time with only her. He caught her bottom lip with the pad of his thumb, teasing slowly over it before he leaned down to kiss her. He heard her soft moan at the touch, her lips parting beneath his and he took the invitation willingly, deepening the kiss as she turned into his arms.

He could sense her desperation as her fingers knotted into the length of his hair and he did all he could to pour comfort into his kiss. He wondered at their situation once more, unsure when his touch had become something for a beautiful young woman to crave but he shook off the thought, allowing himself instead to revel in the closeness he had found and the love that continued to grow between them.

He smiled as she broke from him to nuzzle against his neck, his body no longer recoiling as she nudged aside the collar of his shirt and pressed soft, fleeting kisses against both the scarred and the unmarked skin she found there. It was only when she shivered more in cold than pleasure that he rubbed a hand over her arm, missing the gentle press of her lips but smiling all the same.

“Come on,” he said, “I’m sure that pizza place with the silly name will still be delivering, and then I promise to lock us away until morning.”

Hermione smiled brightly, “Perfect,” she said, as she stood, holding a hand out to him to pull him to his feet.

He ushered her into the house, looking back briefly at the place where the lion cub’s body had lain before he followed her inside, closing the door firmly behind him.

Chapter Text

Dearest love,

Apologies for not writing until now, I began working on a new project in the lab and lost track of time. I hope your day has gone well and no first years blew up your cauldrons.

I saw Harry again today and he finally had the report from the Department of Mysteries. It has taken them six days to find exactly nothing so we are back to square one. I truly believe a first year could have written a better report than those dunderheads presented but alas, we can go no further there. Harry is keeping the investigation open from the point of view of the Aurors, though I believe that is more of a personal favour to us than a departmental decision.

My own investigations so far have proved fruitless, I even met with Draco the other day as we previously discussed but he has cut all ties with our former associates and cannot offer much help. He has offered to let us know if he hears anything though.

I have received two written threats, one against myself alone and one against us both. I’m not certain that either are attached to the incident the other day but I have passed them on to Harry all the same. I trust you have had no issues at the school. If you do receive anything, however small, please report it. I know you don’t want me to worry but I can’t help but do so.

I don’t think I shall truly rest until you are in my arms once more.

I love you,

Severus.

 

My Darling,

Please try to relax. I am safe here Severus, I promise you. I don’t want you worrying and making yourself unwell. I am more worried for you receiving threats at the house, please make sure you secure the wards fully at night. I know you will but I have to say that all the same.

I hate having this shadow hanging over us. I had a nightmare about that poor creature again last night. I wish we had more leads just so that we can find the culprits and make them pay for their cruelty. That poor beast did not deserve to be drawn into this. I only hope Harry has more success than the Department of Mysteries.

Speaking of Harry, Ginny has finally decided on the colours for the bridesmaids dresses and you can relax. She didn’t want house colours so all the girls will be in lilac so no need for you to match with any ‘beastly Gryffindor red’ as you would have it. I’m glad we have their wedding to focus on, seems like something happy despite everything. I feel silly that all I’ve worried about for so long is managing to control my classroom and this was just around the corner.

Anyway, I refuse to let it pull me down. We have overcome far worse and we can manage whatever this is together, I know we can. I’ve been thinking, it’s only a few months until the summer break and I know we spoke about just spending the time at home with maybe a visit to see Mum and Dad but perhaps we should go away somewhere. Is there anywhere you’ve ever wanted to go? We don’t have to go for long but a few days away from everything might be nice. What do you think?

Longing for the weekend.

Hermione.

 

My Angel,

Shall we agree to no longer speak of certain issues until we have further information? I think between our letters and floo calls we are in very real danger of winding each other up into a frenzy of worry that will do neither of us any good. I promise to keep as safe as I can and I know you will do the same.

As for the Potter/Weasley wedding, I was only joking when I made that comment about the red though I am glad I won’t be subjected to a barrage of it. I am sure you will look lovely in whatever colour is chosen and I will be very proud to be at your side. I do hope we will be able to sneak away from the festivities at a decent hour though. Much as I am looking forward to celebrating with our friends, the opportunity to have time alone at home with you is far more appealing.

If you do wish to spend some of the summer holidays away then I am more than happy to. I have no particular desire to visit any specific country so the choice is yours. Send me some ideas and I will do some research.

I did receive an interesting letter in the last post today. I asked the muggle solicitors I dealt with when I was selling the house to let me know when anything occurred with the redevelopment. They have honoured their promise to do so and have informed me that Spinners End, in its entirety, will be brought down in the middle of next week. I have not given the house much thought since I moved to live with you but it is an odd notion to know that it will no longer be standing. I think I will go and watch, the solicitors said that there would be several other former residents and I think it could out some old ghosts to rest at last. If nothing else, I will be able to close that chapter of my life though the last few months there were not so dark. The times I spent there with you were all wonderful and it is those memories that I will carry forward from now on.

I love you, my angel.

Severus.

 

Darling,

Until anything further comes to light, I agree that we shall not speak of certain things.

I’m sure we will be able to sneak away from the wedding at a suitable time though we are going to end up with a reputation my love, we never seem to manage to stay anywhere with company for long. I’m quite willing to become completely anti-social if it means I can spend more time alone with you though.

As for our little holiday, I would like to get out and about and see some sights but I don’t want anything too busy. Perhaps we can find somewhere that gives us some time alone and things to see. I’ll have a think and we can discuss when I’m next at home.

I have to admit your news about Spinners End did make me feel a little sad; we did have some lovely times there. I think it is a good idea for you to go, I know we don’t talk much about what happened there but I know there are some memories that you need to put to bed. Would you like me to see if I can come with you? I’ll have to see if someone will cover my classes but I’ll be there if you need me.

I’m off to run the homework session now and then we have a staff meeting after dinner. I’ll write this evening once I’m back.

Sending a kiss,

Hermione.

 

Dearest Hermione,

There’s no need to take time off to accompany me to Spinners End. I think even Minerva’s indulgence of us would be pushed if I pulled you away from work again. I will be fine and I think this is something that I need to do alone. I will watch the street come down and then I was thinking I might pay a visit to my parents. Despite everything, they are buried side by side and I have neglected visiting for too long now.

For a long time I haven’t been able to forgive what happened between us in the past, my father never lived up to the name and my mother hid herself away even when I begged her not to. Those days and that house are shrouded in darkness and the memories are painful but I need to address them and move on. I will not allow my past to remain a millstone around my neck any longer.

Even before I received the letter from the solicitors, I have been thinking of ways to put things to rest. Seeing you reconcile, albeit on different terms, with your parents and our brief discussion about one day being parents ourselves made me think that I needed to address my relationship with mine.

There are things I want to say to them, questions I want to ask but I can’t. I know I will never truly come to terms with the life we once shared but I can do the best I can and seeing the demolishing of Spinners End will help that.

Apologies for such a maudlin tone, events have made me reflective. Call me when you return from your meeting, I want to hear your voice.

I love you,

Severus.

 

Dear Severus,

I hope today went well at Spinners End. I’ve kept you in my thoughts all of today as best I could and I hope you found some peace.

Darling, I wanted to be able to give you today with just the demolition to deal with but I have to tell you what’s happened. Harry may have already appraised you if he gets to you before this letter does.

This morning, at breakfast, I received a letter by owl. Its contents were wildly distressing, a catalogue of threats against me and against everyone associated with me. You were mentioned by name, as was Harry, the majority of the Weasleys, my own parents and it also mentioned blood traitors. I made the incorrect assumption that that name referred to those of wizarding blood that had already been mentioned. I was so wrong.

I had just finished a class this afternoon when the Bloody Baron came for me. He tends to avoid me so I knew he was under Minerva’s orders. He told me I was needed in the infirmary as a matter of urgency and so I went.

Blood traitors the letter said and that didn’t mean the people in the letter, it meant one of my students. Ernest Calcraft was lured from the school, to Hogsmeade, by a promise of reconciliation with his mother but that was never the intent it seems. The poor boy was set upon, both by magic and physically it appears, so much so that he was barely recognisable when I got to the infirmary. I assisted Poppy in healing him as best we could but he will bear scars from the attack for several years.

 We thought at first it was other children behind it but when he finally spoke to us, he told us it was his mother and other Death Eaters (I refuse to use the word former) that were responsible.

It seems that word has reached them that he is receiving assistance from me and they have taken exception to that. The boy was made an example to other Slytherin students to remind them of what is expected of them. Minerva is understandably worried and I am as well. Yesterday I was worrying that the threat against us was unique to just us two but I now worry it is a far greater threat.

Severus, could there still be an active unit of Death Eaters? I’m worried now that more than just you and I are in danger. I would rather it be me than that poor young man and others like him. I feel utterly bereft. With Voldemort I knew what I was up against, this is unpredictable and it scares me.

Please be careful my love. I shan’t relax until I hear from you that you are safe.

I love you so much my darling.

Hermione.

 

 

Hermione,

Severus has been hurt. You’re needed at St Mungo’s.

Will explain more when you’re here.

Harry.

Chapter Text

Hermione hurried down the corridors of St Mungo’s, her deep indigo teaching robes flaring out around her as she increased her pace, scanning every sign for the room she wanted. She clutched Harry’s note in her hand, the words having been brought to her by Argus Filch during a class with her second years. She had left the caretaker in charge of her students without a second thought, despite his blustering protests, pausing only to summon the Bloody Baron to get him to impart the news of her departure to Minerva.

She would normally have waited for permission to leave the school but she was outside of the gates before she had even time to comprehend asking for leave. Certain the Headmistress would not find fault, she had apparated to a safe spot near to the wizarding hospital, hurrying inside to Severus and ascertain the nature of his injuries.

She tried to push aside her panic, reminding herself that he was both powerful and resourceful, but Harry’s note had her worried. Her mind kept throwing up images of Ernest Calcraft but they soon twisted until it was Severus lying pale and beaten against the stark white sheets of the Hogwarts infirmary bed. She reached up and brushed aside a tear that had fallen from her lashes, unwilling to appear beaten even as she hurried to his side.

Finally, she saw the sign for the room the receptionist had directed her to, increasing her pace until she was almost at a run. She finally rounded the corner, seeing the familiar robes and flyaway hair of her friend as he stood away from the attendants that stood beside the bed. She was about to speak when another voice stopped her and her heart leapt in relief at the sound of it.

“For the love of my sanity Potter, I told you not to send for her,” came Severus’ voice, “I said I was fine.”

“In the second before you collapsed and I had to pick you back up off the floor,” retorted Harry before he turned to face Hermione, “Sorry I sounded so urgent in my note, I didn’t realise how quickly this one would bounce back. He was in a bad way when we brought him in but now he’s mithering I think we can say he’s on the mend.”

“He’s still in the room,” grumbled Severus, before he caught Hermione’s gaze, “I’m sorry you were dragged over here my love.”

Hermione stood, dumbfounded by the exchange between the two men when she had expected to be greeted by Severus unconscious or close to it in the bed. Though he was in a better state than she had expected, she was still heartbroken by the injuries she could see. One side of his face was heavily bruised, a bloody cut near his left temple that was covered with a crude dressing in need of attention. The loose hospital gown she was sure he hated was open enough at the chest to show the bruising there as well, the scar he usually hid barely visible beneath the deep black-blue markings.

It took barely a second for her to register his appearance before uncontrollable tears leapt to her eyes, spilling down her cheeks and she crossed the small distance to his bed. It was only the last vestiges of self-control that held her back from throwing herself into his arms, knowing she would only hurt him further. Instead, she lowered herself onto the bed, embracing him as gently as she could before her tears overcame her.

“What happened to you?” she hiccupped through her tears, barely registering Harry sending the attendants away from the room, “Who did this to you?”

“I’m alright sweetheart,” said Severus, one arm coming up to stroke her back, his other heavily bandaged and resting on the bed, “I’m alright.”

Hermione laughed mirthlessly, pulling back enough to regard him as she trailed a finger gently against a dark bruise across his cheekbone, “Could have fooled me?” she said, “Oh Severus…I can’t… tell me what happened, please?”

Severus brushed her hair back from her eyes before he moved his gaze to Harry, “Is it confidential or not?”

Harry shook his head, “Not from her but let’s keep it in this room for the time being ok?” he said, “I don’t want anything harming the investigation.”

Hermione bit back the questions she wanted to ask and she saw Severus’ indulgent smile as he realised exactly what she was doing.

“I shall tell you what happened to me,” he said, “And then I will let Harry catch you up on everything else. Ok?”

Hermione nodded, laying her head against his shoulder as he coaxed her to do so and the familiarity of the position brought her comfort as she continued to fight against the tears that wanted to fall. Her hand sought its favoured position over his heart, glad that the loose gown meant she could press against the warmth of his skin.

“I went to watch Spinners End come down as I planned to and then I went to see my parents,” he began, his fingers tracing aimless patterns across the back of her robes, “It was…difficult but cathartic as I expected. I decided that I needed some semblance of company so I headed to Diagon Alley and stock up on some ingredients before heading home. I had just left the shop when I heard someone call my name, I turned, saw no one and that’s when the hex hit me. I knew there were several assailants…”

“Eight,” offered Harry, “There were eight.”

“Well at the time I wasn’t sure so it took a while for me to realise what was happening and I received this for good measure,” continued Severus, raising the hand that wasn’t holding Hermione to point at the bruise over his eye, “Once I got my bearings I fought back but one of them hit me with the cruciatus curse and it nearly knocked me down. I didn’t think I was going to survive it much longer, or manage to dodge a killing curse if one was sent my way. Luckily, the aurors arrived and my assailants were soon outnumbered.”

“You make it sound like it was a simple skirmish,” said Harry, “When we arrived it was a full blown battle and there wasn’t just one of them using the cruciatus on you. I was shocked you were still standing for as long as you did after we arrived or that you were revived so quickly once we got here. I honestly thought I was bringing you here to say goodbye for a moment Hermione and that isn’t an exaggeration.”

Severus scoffed, his grip tightening around her, “Much as it was not a pleasant experience, even all eight of them wouldn’t have had the power to finish me off that way,” he said, “It’s hardly the greatest badge of honour but I have been tortured by far better than a bunch of sub par death eaters.”

“I don’t doubt it,” said Harry.

“You were so lucky nothing worse happened though,” said Hermione, struggling to bite back her tears once more, “God, Severus if something had happened…”

“But it didn’t my love,” he said, “These injuries will heal in time. Voldemort couldn’t finish me off so no one else stands a chance. You are stuck with me. Besides, my assailants are now all in the custody of the Ministry and I believe we have more than enough evidence to secure a conviction with my testimony alone which will only be augmented by your young Mr Calcraft’s.”

“Ernest?” said Hermione, raising her head from his chest, “I don’t understand. What has he got to do with this?”

“It was the same people,” said Harry, “Word came in from the school about the attack on Calcraft and we mobilised a team to search for them. They were spotted in Diagon Alley and we were called, sadly not soon enough to stop the attack on Severus but there were at least enough of us on hand to apprehend all of them.”

“You mean the people that attacked you were the same that hurt Ernest?” said Hermione, “His mother included?”

“Sadly yes,” said Severus, “They were all low levels members of Voldemort’s forces but several of them had ambition to become more involved, especially those related to MacNair. Although we have no proof of the fact, I would bet that they are the ones behind the threats we’ve received. They take issue with me because I betrayed Voldemort, they take issue with you because you are muggleborn and one of the heroes of the war, and they take issue with Calcraft because he is not conforming to type and is instead flourishing in a world that is accepting to all. I only hope this draws an end to everything, for him and for us.”

“We’ll know more when we’ve questioned them,” said Harry, “But I hope this is the last we’ll know of the issue. I’m going to probably need to get statements from you both, especially you Severus in light of today but that can wait for now. I need to head back and report in, this investigation is well beyond me now so I’ve got to hand over to the senior team.”

“Just make sure they remember that you led the team that apprehended them,” said Severus, “Your superiors will be more than happy to take all your glory given half a chance. You’ve spear headed this investigation and you need to be recognised for that.”

Harry smiled, “Just doing my job,” he said, “And helping out my friends.”

Hermione smiled, moving with some reluctance from Severus’ arms but reaching out for her friend and taking hold of his hand all the same, “We’re very grateful,” she said, “Just wish no one had to be hurt. Horrible people.”

“They’ll be dealt with,” said Severus, “And I’m glad that if anyone had to be hurt, it was me rather than you. I’m only sorry the boy was hurt as well.”

“I have no intention of letting them wriggle out of things,” said Harry, squeezing Hermione’s hand in return, “I need to go. Send for me if you need anything and make sure you get some rest, both of you.”

“We will,” promised Hermione, letting go of his hand as he headed to the door.

“Harry,” called Severus, “Thank you. Much as I put a brave face on things, I was fortunate that you and your team arrived when you did.”

“Well I think I owe you one or two,” said Harry, “I’ll speak to you tomorrow.”

Hermione laid back down against the warm pillow of Severus’ chest as Harry stepped outside of the room. She closed her eyes as his hand came up to trail once more through her hair.

“It’s over now,” he said after several long moments of silence, “I promise you.”

“I could have lost you,” said Hermione, hating the tremor in her voice, “Severus, what would I have done? One curse is all it would have taken and I… I can’t bear the thought of losing you.”

“Don’t,” said Severus, pressing a kiss to her forehead, “I will recover soon enough and then you are stuck with me. Forever if you’ll have me?”

“With all my heart,” said Hermione raising her head to kiss him, “I just hope forever comes without scenes like this.”

Severus smiled, “This scene has its merits,” he said, capturing her lips once more, “When do you have to head back to the school?”

Hermione sighed, “Soon,” she said, “I didn’t exactly ask for leave to come here but I couldn’t stay there when I got Harry’s message. I’ll have a lot of explaining to do to Minerva.”

“I’m sure she will understand,” said Severus, “She knows what we’ve been facing.”

“Even so, I should talk to her,” said Hermione, “I don’t think there’s much chance of them letting you out of here tonight with the state you’re in.”

“Do I look that bad?” he said, wincing as he flexed his bandaged hand, “Truth be told, I think it will be at least a couple of days until I’m fit to leave. I’d like to put a brave face on it but, much as they did far less harm than they intended, they still managed to cause some damage and I’d be foolish to try to secure a discharge until I’m fit to defend myself.”

Hermione paled, “Do you believe you’ll need to?” she said, “Harry said they had apprehended them all.”

“And I am certain they have done,” said Severus, “But that does not mean that I am without enemies in this world and I am not presenting an easy target. When I leave here I want to be ready for anything.”

“Would you prefer if I stayed?” said Hermione, “I could…”

“Get a sore neck from sleeping in a chair and an even worse night’s sleep than you’ve been having recently,” said Severus, “Hospital beds aren’t exactly built for two.”

Hermione looked down at their position, her robe covering the bed sheets like an extra blanket but her legs were twisted awkwardly in her attempt to keep the majority of her weight off him, “I guess you’re right,” she said, “Do you want me to head home and get you some things? Might make your stay a bit more comfortable at least.”

Severus smiled, “That would be nice,” he said, “But only if you have time.”

“Lessons will be over by now anyway,” said Hermione, “It won’t take me long to apparate home and back. Anything particular you want?”

“Clothes that don’t itch and a book…or three,” said Severus, “I always meant to read Dostoyevsky again.”

Hermione shook her head with a laugh, “Well we have at least two copies in the house,” she said, kissing him before she got to her feet, “Are you sure you’ll be alright?”

“I will be absolutely fine.”

“I’ll be back soon,” said Hermione, “I’m just so relieved you’re ok but then I should know by now how strong you are.”

“A few days in here might test that strength,” said Severus, “Get along with you then. Sooner you go; sooner you’re back and then you can head back to the school and get some proper sleep.”

“That won’t happen until I’m in your arms again,” said Hermione, “But I will sleep better. I love you.”

“I love you too,” said Severus as a knock sounded at the door, one of the orderlies gingerly poking a head around the frame when it opened.

“I was just going,” said Hermione with a smile at the woman pushing the tea tray before she turned back to Severus, “Try to be nice to everyone.”

Severus smirked, “No promises.”

Hermione giggled, passing the orderly and pausing at the door. She looked back, her heart stuttering at the sight of his injuries but his small smile calmed her and she finally dragged herself from his presence, intent on hurrying back to him as quickly as she could.

Chapter Text

“Well…what’s the verdict?” asked Hermione, pausing in the living room and opening her hands in an expectation of scrutiny.

She watched the newspaper flick down, Severus appearing over the top of it. He quickly masked the amused smirk that appeared on his face but the humour still danced in his eyes.

“Well…” he drawled, “It’s a unique look. Did you blow up something in the lab or did you just decide to bathe in glitter?”

Hermione tried to look put out but she soon giggled, glitter twinkling down towards the carpet as she moved the plastic and nylon wings strapped to her back, “It was Ginny’s idea,” she said, “She wants a proper, traditional, muggle hen night…complete with glitter. Do I look ridiculous?”

Severus smiled and shook his head, “You look very sweet,” he said, “And very shiny and decidedly without a skirt.”

Hermione scowled playfully, “It’s there,” she said, tugging at the small sequined skirt that fell just barely to her mid thigh, “Don’t you like it?”

“Oh I didn’t say that,” said Severus, setting aside his paper, “I’m just upset that I don’t get to see you in it all evening.”

Hermione smiled, feeling a blush come to her cheeks at the look in his eyes, “Well at least I might be able to stay at the party for more than two hours,” she said but there was no reproach in her tone, “You’re always too keen to take me home.”

“That’s because I know what’s beneath that scrap of a dress,” he said, “And I am a firm believer that things of beauty should be admired.”

Hermione groaned, slipping her hand into his as he offered it to her and not resisting as he pulled her onto his lap, “You don’t play fair,” she said, settling with her knees either side of his legs, “I’m not going to even make it out of the house if you don’t stop looking at me like that.”

Severus’ fingers drew light, teasing patterns against the high hem of her skirt, “You say that as though it’s a bad thing,” he said, raising one hand to tilt her face up to his, “Shall I convince you to stay?”

“You can try,” said Hermione, smiling as the pad of his thumb brushed against her lips.

“I could succeed,” he replied, before he sat back in his chair, “Or I could send you out with the anticipation that I will be waiting for you to come home and then we’ll see just how long you’ll last.”

“And if I stay out all night?” said Hermione, seeing the calculating look in his eyes, giggling as he merely cocked an eyebrow in lieu of an answer, “You know that look used to intimidate me.”

“And now?” asked Severus, his expression softening and losing its teasing edge.

Hermione slid her hands over his shoulders, feeling the warmth of his skin through the cotton of his shirt, “Now I know the man underneath and I know, with me at least, you’re only ever playing,” she said, leaning forward to press a kiss to his lips before she rested her forehead against his, “I actually do want to stay home now.”

“You need to go out and have a wonderful time,” said Severus, running his fingers through the length of her hair, “You look far too beautiful to stay home with an old man like me and I’ll be here when you get back, even if it’s only to keep your hangover at bay.”

“You joke but that may well be the case,” said Hermione, “The last time I went out on a girls’ night with Ginny I have no memory of events past ten. You may well benefit if I come home plastered though.”

Severus cupped her cheek in his hand, “Tipsy I will accept,” he said, “Completely lost, then I’m tucking you in bed and sending you to sleep. If you’re with me my love, then I want you completely in the moment. We have many other nights ahead of us. Just have fun with your friends tonight.”

Hermione smiled, kissing him once more, “I will,” she said, slipping from his arms and adjusting the wings on her back once more, “What are you planning on doing this evening whilst I’m making a fool of myself in some bar?”

Severus got to his feet, absently brushing glitter from his clothes, “I have some commissions to work on and a paper to finish for the hospital,” he said, “Then I shall see where the mood takes me. A book and a firewhiskey or I find something interesting to watch on the idiot box and make a dent in a bottle of red.”

“You’re turning muggle on me,” said Hermione, “But you sound like you have all the bases covered. I need to get going. If I’m home late I’ll try not to wake you.”

Severus tilted her face to his and pressed a swift kiss to her lips, “The three AM rule still applies even for hen nights,” he said, “Now go. Have fun, enjoy the night but stay safe. Do you have somewhere to store your wand in that get up?”

Hermione looked pointedly down at the corseted top of her dress, “They come in handy,” she said, “And I promise to stay safe but we should be fine. The entire unit that threatened us is in custody and awaiting trial and we’ve heard nothing from anyone else since.”

“Even so,” said Severus, “Be cautious. You are rather precious to me my love and I want you and your glittery fairy wings safe.”

“Me and my glittery wings promise to be cautious,” she said, as he led her to the fireplace and extinguished the flames before helping her to step inside, “I won’t be too late.”

“Be as late as you like,” he said, raising her hand to his lips, this kiss lingering on her skin as he stepped away.

Hermione took up a handful of floo powder, keeping her eyes on the man before her as she cast it down into the flames and gave the direction for Grimmauld Place. Promising herself that she would enjoy the evening but knowing that she would miss him all the same.

xxxx

It was the ripple of the wards that first alerted Severus to a visitor to the house but the uniqueness of the charm he had created meant he knew who the visitor was long before the sound of the doorbell drew him from the laboratory. He wiped his hands off on a rag as he made his way to the door, opening it with a frown at the lateness of the visit.

“Harry?” he said, “Is something wrong?”

“You don’t answer your bloody floo,” said the boy with a smile, “I’ve been calling on and off for the last hour and you’ve not answered.”

“I’ve been in the laboratory,” answered Severus, “Is everything alright? The ladies…”

“Are fine,” said Harry, “Probably terrorising half of London by now. George, Ron, Bill and Neville are at mine, just cards, wizard chess and a few drinks. I was wondering if you wanted to join us seeing as Hermione was out as well.”

“I would have thought you would have been at more exotic pursuits,” said Severus, “You’re rather suited to a stag party after all.”

Harry laughed, “Is the world coming to an end or something? You’re making far too many jokes recently,” he said, “This is my stag party, sort of. I’ve drawn the short straw with work and I’m on call on the weekends right up until the wedding so I can’t drink too much. Besides, Ron is my best man and if I gave him free rein on a stag night Merlin only know what I’d have to face. This suits me better, not so much a reminder that there are too many faces not present that should be.”

Severus frowned, “Events like this always bring reminders of those who are lost,” he said, “Given such thoughts do you really think it wise for me to be there? Neville and I might have put aside our differences but the Weasleys…”

“…Were more than happy for me to invite you, well, George and Bill were and Ron is just about grown up enough to deal with it,” said Harry, “Come on. If you hate it then you can leave as soon as you like but you never know.”

“I’m hardly dressed for socialising,” said Severus, casting a brief glance down at the stained apron covering plain black trousers and a white shirt with the sleeves creased from being turned up to his elbows.

Harry laughed, “Even like that you look far smarter than any of us,” he said, “We’re all in scruffs so if that’s what count as them for you then you’ll fit right in.”

Severus shook his head in resignation, “I’m not going to win this argument, am I?”

“Not a chance,” said Harry, stepping into the house, “We can floo back to mine whenever you’re ready.”

“Five minutes then,” said Severus, ushering him towards the living room, “I just need to sort some stasis charms and then I’ll be ready. Make yourself at home.”

He left Harry, heading into the laboratory and quickly making sure that everything was stable and safe to leave unattended. He took off his apron and contemplated heading upstairs to change into more appropriate clothing, the absence of a necktie in public not something he was used to, though Hermione had persuaded him to at least attempt not wearing one in their muggle surrounds and he knew he would soon need to brave the wizarding world as well.

He settled on simply fastening the buttons bar the very top, steeling himself against the inevitable stares from those who hadn’t seen the scar but contenting himself that his was little worse than the one Bill Weasley bore after his run in with Greyback.

Leaving the laboratory, he headed into the kitchen, placing the cork back in the wine he had left to breathe before he picked it up to take with him to the impromptu evening.

He found Harry stood before the bookcase, a small smile on his face as he perused the myriad of titles laid out on the shelves.

“Between you and Hermione I’m surprised you didn’t open a library rather than a potions business,” he said, turning to face him.

“I doubt either of us could stand to be parted with the titles long enough to lend them out,” said Severus, “Even the one’s we have double of. Shall we go?”

Harry nodded, “If you’re ready,” he said, stepping into the fireplace and taking up the floo powder, throwing it down as he gave the direction to his house.

Severus followed him a moment later, hitting the grate at Grimmauld Place just as Harry stepped out into the room. He felt a twinge of apprehension as he heard voices in the adjoining room, wondering if he had indeed made the right decision in coming. He knew that Harry had seen the thought cross his face as the younger man smiled, nodding his head towards the door.

“Come on,” he said, “Or George will have found a way stack the deck to either give him a constant winning hand or to explode when someone else gets one.”

“Why do I feel as though I’ve walked into something I’m unprepared for?” said Severus, memories of Weasley high jinx racing to the forefront of his mind before he pushed them away, “I imagine I’ve dealt with worse.”

“That’s the spirit,” said Harry, opening the door and leading him into corridor beyond.

xxxx

“This is getting too rich for me. I’m out.”

“Neville we’re playing for matchsticks,” said Ron, rolling his eyes, “You’re not losing anything.”

“Even so,” said Neville, “If I fold now I’ll still have enough to play later.”

“I can stand you a few matches if you need them Neville,” said George.

“But that’s not the game,” said Neville, “We said we’d play like we were playing for real.”

“Are you going to sit there talking about playing cards or are you actually going to play cards?” said Bill, “I am not losing another round to Severus.”

“I’ve only beaten you twice,” said Severus, “And the second one was on luck alone.”

“Well I’ll have a bit of that luck if it’s going,” said Harry, frowning at the cards in his hand, “Because I’m out.”

“Wimp,” said Ron, refilling his glass from the rapidly dwindling bottle of firewhiskey by his elbow, “Any one else looking to chicken out?”

“Just shut up and play,” said George, placing his own impressive collection of cards on the table, “Beat that if you can.”

Severus groaned, “That luck of mine just ran out,” he said, setting down a losing hand, “I’m done for on that one.”

“You’re stacking the deck again,” groused Ron, throwing down his cards in frustration.

“I’m not…this time,” said George.

“If he was, he’d have won,” said Bill, setting down his cards, “But this one is mine.”

A collective groan went up from the table at the eldest Weasley brother’s near perfect hand. He was soon collecting his pile of matches from the centre of the table, drinks being poured as he did so whilst conversation turned towards changing the game or abandoning the cards entirely. Any plans however were halted as the front door opened, high female voices filling the building with loud, off-key singing.

“I didn’t realise it was so late,” said Harry, glancing at his watch, “They sound hammered.”

Ginny was first through the door, festooned in the trappings of a bride to be though everything was faded and wilted after what had clearly been a heavy night. Fleur and Angelina staggered in behind her, both of them clutching their shoes in their hands as they toppled towards the table with the graceless strides only made possible by alcohol. Luna followed next, her costume and make up still in place, the dress she wore doing nothing to hide the slight swell of her stomach. Her serene state of sobriety stood out in sharp contrast to her friends’ inebriation but she still wore the same expression of mirth at whatever shared mischief they had got up to throughout the night.

Severus paid little mind to the conversations that grew around him, worrying that Hermione had not yet appeared. He hoped she hadn’t returned home alone, the state of the other women making apparition a bad idea, and they were limited in their floo connections so she could not have returned that way. His concerns proved unfounded though as she finally slid around the doorframe, her eyes a little unfocused and her walk unsteady as she headed into the room. He smiled as he saw her eyes narrow in confusion at the sight of him before she smiled in return, her excitement almost tangible as she wobbled across the room towards him.

“This is not where I left you earlier,” she said, her words slightly slurred as she rounded the table and plonked herself with little ceremony onto his lap, “Why are you here? You were home and now you’re here.”

“Indeed I am here,” chuckled Severus, steadying her with an arm around her waist, “Harry kindly asked me to join in on a far quieter celebration than you ladies appear to have enjoyed. Did you have fun?”

“Lots,” said Hermione with a giggle that was closely followed by a hiccup, “I’ve drunk too much.”

“I noticed,” said Severus, as her head came to rest on his shoulder.

“I kept my glittery wings safe,” whispered Hermione in his ear, “Just like I promised. I thought about you lots tonight. I missed you even though it was fun.”

“I’ve missed you too,” said Severus, pressing a kiss to her hair as she grew a little heavier against his shoulder, “Do you want me to take you home or do you want to stay with your friends a little longer?”

For several longer heartbeats her only answer was deep, even breathing and he thought for a moment she had succumbed to a drunken sleep but then she sighed, draping her free arm around him, “I don’t think I can apparate,” she said, “And the floo makes me sick at the best of times.”

“Well luckily for you I’m nowhere near what could be considered intoxicated so I can bear you home,” he said, “Unless you want to get home by muggle means and try and race for the last train?”

Hermione wrinkled her nose in distaste, “The last train is full of drunk people.”

Severus bit back the retort that she would find herself quite at home there, her slight body almost a dead wait as she slumped in his arms, “Do you want to say goodbye then?”

“Soon,” she sighed, “I’m too comfy to move. I thought about you lots tonight.”

Severus smiled, “You’ve told me that,” he said gently, “My sweet little drunkard. You are going to have one hell of a headache in the morning.”

“No I won’t,” she murmured around a yawn, “My gorgeous boyfriend is a potions master.”

“I hate the man already,” said Severus, feeling her smile as she pressed her face into his neck, “I didn’t realise I had a rival for your affections.”

“I meant you and you know it,” said Hermione, “I don’t ever want anyone else.”

“Glad to hear it,” said Severus, looking up as two steaming mugs of coffee were set on the table before him, Luna offering him a small smile as she continued to hand out the drinks to the more inebriated in the room.

He didn’t get a chance to reach for either cup though as he heard the telltale snore against his neck, Hermione’s breathing deep as she slept against him. He contemplated waking her but decided against it, glad for her slight weight as he shifted her into a more comfortable position in his arms before he got to his feet.

“I think I’d better get this one home,” he said as the attention of the room fell on him, “Thank you for inviting me Harry, it’s been a very pleasant evening.”

“You could stay if you want,” said Harry, “There’s a couple of spare rooms on the top floor.”

Severus shook his head, “Thank you for the offer but I think she’ll do better in her own bed,” he said as Hermione shifted in her sleep, her hands tightening their grip on him, “I’ve a stock of hangover cure at the house if anyone needs it tomorrow. Just stop by.”

Harry smiled, casting a glance over to where Ginny, Angelina and Fleur were sitting in a giggling group by the fireside, Ron’s bottle of firewhiskey being passed back and forth between them, “I’m sure one of us will be in touch.”

Severus quickly said his goodnights, even Ron managing to be pleasant in his farewell. He lingered a little longer with Luna and Neville, the pair of them far more sober than anyone else, but soon he was heading to the back door with Harry behind him to see him off from the familiar apparition point.

He tightened his grip on Hermione, hoping that she would stay asleep for the journey home, apparition far from her favourite form of travel even in a far more sober state. With a thought of home, he turned on the spot, his magic pulling him to his destination. He cursed as he reached the summerhouse, the jolt of it loosening his grip slightly on the woman in his arms but he recovered quickly; glad to find that she hadn’t woken.

He carried her towards the house, dropping the wards with a wandless spell before he let them close once more behind them. He carried Hermione into the house and up the stairs, holding back a laugh at the petulant noise she made as he set her down on the bed.

“Don’t let go,” she murmured, “You’re warm.”

“I’m not going far, just making you a bit more comfortable,” he said, propping her against the pillows.

He removed her shoes before he unwound the fastenings for the fairy wings she wore. His hands scraped against the sequins on her dress and he decided she would sleep far more comfortably without it. He struggled for a moment with the tight fabric but soon the dress joined the wings and the shoes on the floor beside their bed whilst her wand was set on the bedside table once he had retrieved it from its unique hiding place.

Hermione giggled as he lifted her once more, her hands gripping onto his shirt as he tried to settle her beneath the covers, “I thought I was meant to be going without tonight if I got too tipsy.”

“Oh you are my angel,” said Severus, gently removing her hands from his shoulders, “I promise to make it you to you when you’re sober though. Now, I’m going downstairs to get something to make sure you don’t have too much of a headache come the morning. I won’t be long.”

Hermione nodded sleepily, lying back on the pillows with little protest as Severus pushed the discarded clothes aside with his foot to allow him access to the door. He made his way quickly down the stairs and to the laboratory, glad he always kept good stocks of all basic potions on hand as he retrieved a couple of phials of hangover curative.

He returned to the bedroom, hearing the sound of Hermione’s even and deep breathing once more. He sat down on the mattress beside her, rousing her gently until she blinked sleepily up at him.

“I’ll let you rest in a moment my love,” he said, placing a hand under her shoulders to support her, holding one of the phials to her lips, “Just drink this then you won’t feel so bad in the morning.”

He helped her to drink, lying her back down once the phial was empty and smiling as she fell back to sleep almost immediately. He headed into the bathroom, readying himself for bed before extinguishing the lights and double-checking the wards around the house before he returned to the bedroom and climbed beneath the covers.

He had just closed his own eyes when he heard the bed shift beside him, hearing Hermione’s soft sigh as she settled but it was the sound of her voice that made him open them once more, only the outline of her figure visible in darkness.

“I did think about you a lot tonight,” she said quietly, her voice slurred by both alcohol and sleep, “Talked about you a lot too.”

“All good I hope,” he answered, hearing only her deep breathing in response.

He closed his eyes once more, sleep beginning to claim him and it was only chance that he was on the right side of consciousness when he soft voice rang out once more.

“I want to marry you,” murmured Hermione, “I’d marry you tomorrow if you asked me.”

Severus smiled, “I’ll take that under advisement,” he said, moving until he was pressed up against her back, hooking an arm around her waist, “Now sleep, my darling girl.”

Even and deep breathing was her response, sleep finally having claimed her and it did not take long for him to follow her.

Chapter Text

Hermione smiled as she passed Professor Vector, the older witch rolling her eyes as she nodded towards a group of students trying to pass notes inconspicuously between them across the table they sat at. Hermione shook her head, knowing she had once been part of such endeavours, little realising how easily such actions could seen by the teachers that paced the hall in the homework sessions. She wondered how often Severus had witnessed her and her friends doing so in the past and made a mental note to ask him when they were finally reunited that evening.

Her thoughts were dragged from home when she saw a familiar hand rise into the air at the end of the Slytherin table. She quickened her step, hastily hiding a frown as she realised Ernest sat a fair distance from his group of friends and hoping it was only a temporary separation due to the boy’s desire to work rather than anything more serious. She noticed several faces turn her way as she approached the table but they soon returned to their work, uninterested in her since she had proven that any sort of barb or action failed to gain a reaction from her any longer.

“Ernest,” she said, setting her hand on his shoulder and returning his smile as he looked up at her, “Anything I can help with?”

He nodded, “It’s Charms though, is that ok?”

Hermione sat down beside him, peering at the set of books laid out on the table, “Well it’s been a while since I looked at a NEWT level charms book but I’m more than willing to give it a try,” she said, “What are you stuck on?”

“Counter curses,” said Ernest, running a hand through his flyaway hair, “It’s an extra credit thing. They think I’m nuts for working on it but I was thinking… it’s stupid…”

Hermione cast another glance to the others at the table before she returned her attention to Ernest, “If you want to work on it, it’s not nuts,” she said, “And what were you thinking that is suddenly so stupid?”

Ernest frowned, “Professor Armitage mentioned that other day that my predicted results would make me eligible to become an auror,” he said, “Would they…do you think they’d take someone from Slytherin? Especially given who I’m related to?”

Hermione smiled sadly, “Ernest, believe me when I say that the auror office is far beyond house prejudice,” she said, “And as for your family, I think they’ve demonstrated in the worst possible way that you are nothing like them. Do not sell yourself short because of them or because you think the entire wizarding world sees Slytherin house as the creator of only dark wizards. Many a noble wizard has come from your house and who’s to say you shouldn’t be amongst their number.”

Ernest shrugged, “I’m hardly Harry Potter,” he said.

Hermione laughed, “No indeed, you’re concentrating on your Charms homework for one,” she said, “Harry is exceptional at his job but he went through a lot to get there and he’s still learning. If you want, I could ask him to come and talk to you, maybe give you a few pointers of what to look at if you were genuinely interested in the Auror program.”

“I’d like that,” said Ernest, “Are you going to his wedding tomorrow? Sorry, I shouldn’t ask, it’s none of my business.”

“That’s ok,” said Hermione, “And yes I’ll be there. I’m Maid of Honour so no doubt it will be in The Prophet before they’ve even headed off on honeymoon. Now then, shall we have a look at these counter curses of yours, the stronger the better if you plan on being an auror after all. Anything higher than NEWT level though, I will be referring back to Professor Flitwick.”

Ernest smiled, enthusiasm in his gaze as he dragged the textbook over to him, “Can we start with this one?” he asked, “It’s tricky as anything and I can’t get the theory behind the incantation.”

“Well theory I can definitely work with,” said Hermione, “I find the best way is to start with the individual words to work out what they bring to the spell, would you like to work that way?”

Ernest nodded, “That’s sounds good.”

“Alright, I’ll do the first one with you and then I’ll leave you to try the rest on your own,” said Hermione, “We wouldn’t want the other students thinking I’m picking favourites.”

“Thank you Professor,” said Ernest brightly, leaving Hermione glad that whatever trials he faced were being put behind him as he strived for his future.

xxxx

Hermione gasped as she felt the familiar nip of teeth at her throat, loosening her grip on Severus’ hair as reality finally returned around her. She stroked her free hand along the bare skin of his back, enjoying the warm weight of his body atop hers as their breathing returned to normal. She tightened her grip as he tried to move off her, nuzzling against his throat as she resumed the path of her fingers across his skin.

“Stay,” she said, allowing him enough room to meet her gaze, smiling at the dishevelled fall of his hair and the fact that she was responsible for the state of it, “Can you wake me up like that every day?”

Severus smiled, “I think your employer might take issue with me making you late for class every morning,” he said, kissing her, “But I would certainly look forward to the dawn. I could think of so many ways to wake you up.”

Hermione laughed, “I bet you could,” she said before she gave a gentle shove against his shoulder, “You’re getting heavy.”

Severus kissed her once more before he moved to lie on the bed beside her, drawing her into his arms as she threw a leg over both of his and rested her head on his chest, “What time do you need to be at the Weasley’s?” he asked, his fingers knotting into the wild curls of her hair.

“Eleven,” said Hermione, with a sigh, “Fleur is handling everyone’s hair and then it’s just a case of getting dressed and following Ginny down the aisle. I hope the flowers don’t make me sneeze.”

“You’ll be fine,” said Severus, “And you’re going to look beautiful. I will be jealous of any man within ten feet of you until you are at my side again.”

“I won’t have eyes for anyone but you though,” said Hermione, “I can’t wait to show you off. I know we’ve been to public events together before but this is by far the biggest.”

“Well I’m hoping that the attention of the press will be more on the happy couple rather than us,” said Severus, “Though I know we’ll be under the scrutiny of my former colleagues.”

Hermione smiled, pressing a kiss to his chest, “Pomona is always asking after you,” she said, “She’s such a gossip. Every time we have the weekend rotas read out and I’m off, she winks at me.”

Severus laughed, “I can’t say that I’m surprised,” he said, “She was always on at me to find someone when we were working together. I doubt she ever imagined that I would find you though.”

“Well I’m very glad you did,” said Hermione, reaching over him and picking up his watch from the nightstand before she returned it with a smile, “You woke me up early again. There’s still a good couple of hours before I need to leave. Do you think you can entertain me for that long?”

“I’m sure I’m more than up to the challenge,” said Severus, pushing her back onto the bed, “Where would you like me to start?”

Hermione cocked an eyebrow, mimicking his usual sardonic gaze, though the smile on her lips took away any effect it could have had to intimidate, “Surprise me,” she said, her giggle changing to a sigh as he drew the covers up over their heads and answered her request.

xxxx

Severus laughed as he watched the comically choreographed moves that, it seemed, every person under the age of thirty knew whilst those any older just looked on with bemusement. His eyes however were never far from the young woman in the midst of the foray as she danced with her friends.

It had been several hours since he had watched her follow Ginny down the makeshift aisle that had been set up in the large marquee in the grounds of the Burrow. He had briefly been able to appreciate how becoming the youngest Weasley had looked as she had passed him by but Hermione had soon caught his eye. She had told him that the dress Ginny had picked for her would be lilac and he had envisioned the generic fluffy, candy coloured dresses that could not be missed on the fronts of the plethora of bridal magazines on sale in every muggle newsagent. What he saw however, was a beautiful fitted gown in the lightest lilac, the bodice strapless and the skirt tight until it flared at the base with a tasteful split that reached her mid-thigh.

He had gone from outfit to outfit throughout their acquaintance, believing that he could never see her more beautiful but the sophisticated elegance of her gown combined with the grace she always bore astounded him. He knew his expression had given away his thoughts as Hermione turned her attention to him briefly as she passed, the bright smile that came to her face at once bashful and proud before she returned her attention to her task.

His attention had not wavered from her for the rest of the service, barely registering the words passing between Harry and Ginny. He longed for the day, months before, when he had sat at her side as they watched another pair of friends marry. He recalled the tentative reunion, the way they had clasped hands briefly during the Official’s opening words before he had sat with only awareness of her warmth beside him throughout the service.

He loathed the distance between them as Harry and Ginny exchanged their vows, wanting her at his side once more now that he had the confidence to hold her hand throughout rather than only briefly. He was certain Hermione’s thoughts were the same, more often than not catching her gaze whenever she dared to seek him out in the crowd.

It had seemed like eternity before the couple before them were declared husband and wife, the crowd hurrying to congratulate them separating them further. He had finally fought his way to her side, feeling her relax into him as he slipped an arm around her waist, the pair of them joining the crowd of well-wishers together. The irony had not been lost on him when they reached the couple and he had taken in the sight of the young bride before him, her flame red hair covered by a soft lace veil. It was with a touch of melancholy that he had kissed her cheek and wished her every happiness as Mrs Potter. He had seen the understanding on Harry’s face, old wounds being healed by the new beginnings before them all, and the younger man had pulled him into an unexpected hug rather than shaking his hand, the embrace lingering a beat longer than normal but it spoke volumes of forgiveness and hope.

He held Hermione close once they had moved on from the couple, knowing in her silence that she too had understood what the brief moment had meant, her warm smile letting him know that she felt no upset or jealousy over his thoughts. They had remained side by side throughout the meal and the speeches, gladly sharing a table with Luna and Neville as well as Minerva, Filius and Pomona but their attention had been focused on each other than their company.

Once the music had started though, it had not taken long for people to move towards the dance floor, the music clearly familiar to those who had been in Harry and Ginny’s peer group even if it confused some of the older guests. Severus had waved Hermione away once she had begun bouncing in her seat in time to the music, taking pleasure in watching her dance with her friends even when the moves became the comical choreography that had them all in stitches as they moved around the floor.

He shook his head as she finally returned to his side, her faced flushed with the exertion of the dance and her eyes bright in the light from the candles that floated around the room.

“That was…intriguing,” he said, as she settled in the chair beside him, “Was that spectacle planned in advance or is there something in the wine that has yet to take effect with those of us over the age of forty?”

Hermione giggled, “That was the Macarena,” she said, “It’s a muggle thing and it was adopted by Gryffindor house one night and we’ve not shaken it off since. I forgot how long it went on for though.”

“Well it has kept all of us entertained,” said Severus, reaching out to brush a stray curl back behind her ear where it had broken from the French knot she had fashioned it into.

“Glad I amused you,” she replied, the pair of them turning as they heard a sigh from across the table to see Pomona watching them with a wistful smile on her face.

“Oh don’t mind me you two,” she said, “You really do make a charming couple.”

Severus pushed aside the age-old urge to tell her to mind her own business, Hermione’s warm presence beside him instead making him smile as he covered her hand with his, “Well one of us at least is charming,” he said, “And her light throws me into a better one.”

“I’d argue you’ve both improved each other,” said Minerva, moving seamlessly to join their conversation from the one she had been sharing with Filius, “I would not have believed this time last year that I would be seeing either of you so settled and happy. I am glad that you found one another again.”

“So am I,” said Hermione, pressing a kiss to his cheek before she turned her attention to the dance floor and the more sedate music that had begun to play, “Can I steal you for a dance?”

A year before, as Minerva had stated, he would have refused any offer to dance, the thought of being so close to another person, especially in a room full of people abhorrent to him. He felt entirely transformed from that man and with an ease he never knew he could possess, he rose to his feet and offered her his hand, smiling at his former colleagues as he caught the look of whimsy on their faces.

“I have been waiting all night for you to ask,” he said, following her to the floor.

He knew they were being watched and was certain that several stares were disapproving but he paid them no mind as he wrapped a hand around Hermione’s satin clad waist, his other taking gentle hold of hers as they stepped into the dance. The music was soft and slow, the lighting dimming to mimic it and giving the large marquee a far more intimate feel, chasing away the sensation of anyone watching them.

“I didn’t think I’d get you up here,” said Hermione, her head coming to rest on his shoulder.

“I’ve been waiting for a chance to dance with you all evening,” he said, his lips brushing her forehead, “You look so utterly stunning.”

“You haven’t done too badly yourself,” said Hermione, her hand leaving his shoulder to brush against the elegant black cravat that was shot throw with thin, pinstripes of lilac around his neck, the silk moving beneath her fingertips, “Very handsome. I was worried I was going to have to fight to be the one taking you home.”

Severus chuckled, “Even if I were capable of attracting the attention of anyone else there is only one woman I’m going home with tonight,” he said, “And it just so happens she’s the most beautiful woman in the room. It’s really quite cruel of you to upstage the bride.”

“Well I know I won’t win if I argue but I don’t think I’ve quite managed to upstage her,” said Hermione, “But I’m glad I have in your eyes. It’s so wonderful to get out like this, nothing hanging over us.”

“Apart from the threat of your former would-be mother in law,” said Severus, “I’m surprised I haven’t been ripped from your arms already.”

Hermione giggled, “George and Ron have been placed on intercept duty on that score,” she said, “And I have it on good authority that she will be leaving us well alone tonight.”

“Then I can do this without fear of reprisal,” said Severus, his hand leaving her waist to tilt her face up to his.

He felt her smile against his lips as he kissed her before she gave herself up to it, the dance forgotten as she wrapped both her arms around his neck.

“If anyone doubted we were a couple there’s no way they would now,” she said as he released her, “Professor Snape snogging the Gryffindor know-it-all in a room full of people.”

“And I’d do it again in a heartbeat,” said Severus as the song ended and he raised her hand to his lips to press a demure kiss to her knuckles, “But let’s not provoke Madame Weasley, if only for the sake of your friends.”

Hermione smiled, “I think that’s wise,” she said, the pair of them turning as the sound of a glass being struck for attention.

“I think you’re the one needed for this process,” said Severus as Ginny ordered every single lady to join her as Harry helped her up onto a chair, “You’ve always mentioned something about catching a bouquet.”

“And if I do?” she asked.

Severus smiled, “We’ll only know if you catch it,” he said, “I believe the rule is no magic though.”

“I’d better go try then,” said Hermione heading over to the group.

Those not involved drew around to watch the group of young women jostle for space on the dance floor but Severus kept his eyes on Hermione alone as she kept to the periphery of the group. With a countdown, Ginny turned her back on them before tossing the small bouquet over her shoulder, the girls soon falling over one another in an attempt to reach it. Hermione however made a token grasp for it as it flew overhead but she kept out of the battle that had soon commenced amongst the others she stood with.

Severus watched her pause before the crowd, determination setting into her stance before she turned towards him and walked back over. She took his hand without a word, leading him out into the garden beyond the marquee, the light dimmer than inside but still bright enough for them to see by.

“Is everything ok?” asked Severus, concern pricking at him as he felt the tightness of her grip, “Angel, I didn’t expect you to throw yourself into that mess you know, even if you weren’t in that dress.”

Hermione smiled up at him, “I know,” she said, “It’s not that. I just realised when I was standing there that we’ve been tripping over a subject for too long when we’ve always addressed things head on. Marry me, Severus. Let’s not play at bouquets and veiled requests, it doesn’t suit us. Marry me?”

Severus took her hand, watching the nerves flick over her face at her bold request as he reached into his pocket, “A simple question, with a very simple answer,” he said, “And one I was prepared for, albeit I expected to be the one asking.”

He watched her nerves fade to a smile as he slid the simple diamond ring onto her finger before he pressed a kiss to the back of a hand.

“For the avoidance of doubt, my love,” he said, “That’s a yes.”

“Thought as much,” said Hermione, a tear breaking from her eye as she stared down at the ring for a moment before she captured his face in her hands, “I love you.”

“I love you too,” he replied, glad for the privacy the garden afforded as he pulled her to him, pouring his affection into a kiss far deeper than the one they had shared on the dance floor moments before, “For the rest of my life.”

Chapter Text

“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.

xxxx

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.

xxxx

“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.”

Chapter Text

My Darling Hermione,

 

I hope this letter finds you well and not too overwhelmed with your workload. I understand how busy these last few weeks of preparation before the examinations are so I will not be put out if I don’t hear back from you. That being said I hope you are taking enough time to rest, I know you will be trying to burn the candle at both ends but take care of yourself.

 

Is everyone there still reeling from the news of our engagement at your end? Every customer I have dealt with keeps asking if it is indeed the truth despite it being in print. I’m not sure whether to be amused or offended but I am choosing amused though I think that is mainly due to the fact that I am in better humour than I have ever been in my life. To use the cliché, you have made me the happiest man alive and I cannot wait for the day we are married.

 

Speaking of our engagement, I have received instruction from our dear Luna that we need to celebrate formally prior to the wedding. I was thinking, as you will be home from Hogwarts next Friday evening, we could do something that night. The weather is due to be fine and the light will be adequate to enjoy the garden for a while. We can keep it intimate, Luna and Neville as a given alongside Harry and Ginny and, unless you think otherwise, the other Weasleys. I will leave the guest list to you but I would prefer to keep the numbers limited. I can make all the necessary arrangements here.

 

Let me know your thoughts whenever you have the chance.

 

I love you,

 

Severus.

 

 

Dearest Severus,

 

Sorry it’s taken so long to reply. I know you said it didn’t matter but I miss communicating with you and I hate that I don’t have time even for a floo call. As it stands, it is two AM as I write and I am missing you so terribly. Though we’ve never shared my bed here, I still miss your presence in it. I wish you were here. When I am restless at home, I can just listen to you breathing and it relaxes me. You’re warmth and presence are always such a comfort to me and I think sometimes I try to stay awake just a little longer purely so that I can indulge in being beside you a little more.

 

I fear I am quite addicted to you my love, though I believe that is apparent considering that I asked for your hand. My colleagues are still in some measure of shock at the revelation of our engagement but the majority are more than happy for us. I am praised for having convinced you into romance and Minerva grows quite misty eyed whenever we speak of the wedding. Pomona is more mischievous than misty eyed, she keeps asking if there is a reason for such a swift wedding whilst looking pointedly at my stomach. I know she is only playing and I have assured her that we are marrying out of love and not necessity but I think there is some secret hope, especially amongst the older female staff, that we make some sort of announcement soon after the wedding. Whilst I still believe we should wait until the time feels right, it is nice in a way that they are so supportive of us starting a family together. I imagine there is not only a betting pool on a pregnancy but also on their future house. Perhaps we should have a guess.

 

The only person who seems to not approve, not that his approval is needed, is Erasmus. I’m not sure why he appears to have taken offence to our engagement. I know it is swift in terms of most relationships but we were hardly strangers and, if we are making an error in moving so quickly, it is our error to make. Can you recall any particular event that passed between you when he was younger that could make him so reluctant to accept that you are indeed different from your days when you were teaching? I do not ask to accuse, merely to understand if there is a reason to his odd behaviour. He has been aware of our relationship and has offered no indication that he is against it before but he is clearly against the thought of our marriage. I am worried it is going to affect our dealings with Ernest and I do not wish to derail what has been such wonderful progress throughout the year. I hope he can remain professional when we are working together though it still troubles me as I did consider him a friend.

 

Anyway, I will not give that subject any more thought. You and I are getting married and I am very pleased that our friends want to help us celebrate. A little party would be nice and I don’t think any alterations are needed to the guest list you proposed. I know Mum and Dad won’t be able to come but I may ask Minerva to attend if that is alright with you? If you are happy to make the arrangements then I will leave them in your hands.

 

I should get to sleep, I have so much to do tomorrow but I knew I would not sleep until I had written to you.

 

I love you my darling. I know I will think of you before I sleep and dream of you when it finally claims me.

 

Sending a kiss and all my love,

 

Hermione

 

 

My Love,

 

How I wish I had heard the floo when your letter arrived. I was restless myself last night and, had I known you too were wakeful, I could have called you but then I doubt I would have slept any easier as talking with you so far away makes me want nothing more than to be with you in person. I fear reading your words makes that ache even more tangible, I want nothing more than to be with you.

 

We are lucky that the majority of our acquaintances are supportive of us. I am not surprised that Pomona is clucking over you, whenever anyone showed even the slightest hint of a romantic entanglement she was demanding details of weddings and offspring even, at times, before she knew the name of the man or woman in question. Sadly, it is the way of things at Hogwarts that so many of those in its employment end up alone in the world. In Minerva’s case, she came as a widow and others are kept single by the restrictions of their role. I truly did believe, young as I was when I took up my own teaching role, that I too would find myself alone for the rest of my life. A life I once believed, for one reason or another would be short but I am now hopeful will be as long as possible.

 

You are quite the rarity to be in a relationship and they will all fuss and fawn over you but it is all meant with affection, I assure you. It will settle down soon.

 

As for Professor Armitage, my darling there is a very logical reason as to why he may be against our match. He is only a few years older than you and you are so very beautiful, bright, and kind, so much so that I challenge any young man not to be attracted to you. Darling, there is every chance that it is jealousy that promotes him to react negatively to our engagement. When we were merely a couple, in his eyes at least as I do not believe the words ‘merely a couple’ could even be applied to us, there was still a chance that you may one day be free but now we are proving our commitment fully and his reaction is as it is.

 

I hope he comes around though, especially as you are called upon to work together not only in your general roles but also in your specific commitments to Mr Calcraft. If he decides to be difficult to an extent that it affects your work then you would be best placed to relate things to Minerva. His personal feelings should not affect his work ethic (and yes, I am more than aware that I should have taken my own advice many times there). I hope things do resolve quickly for you and that you can recover your friendship.

 

I will make all the arrangements for our little gathering for Friday next week. All you need to do is floo home when you are finished with work for the day.

 

Wishing you as restful a day as possible.

 

With all my love,

 

Severus

 

 

Good Morning Darling,

 

Your letter all but met me as I got up this morning and I am glad that I had already decided to take breakfast in my room so I had time to read it and reply to it.

 

I have to admit though that I nearly choked on my tea when I read the part about your belief that Erasmus is in love with me. Seriously? Severus, he has never given any indication that he thinks of me as anything other than a colleague but, given his behaviour, I suppose your explanation is as valid as any other. It does put me in a wretched position though. I have never invited his attentions and would not think to do so even if you and I were not together. I do hope you are mistaken, my love.

 

I shall look forward to the party but please help me avoid drinking too much, especially if Ginny is there, as I will have to bring some work home with me to go through over the weekend. There’s still so much to be done in preparations for the exams and I will have mock test papers to mark for both my OWL and NEWT students. I knew these would be some of the most difficult weeks of the year but I never imagined I would feel the pressure as keenly. I think I am more nervous for these than I ever was for my own exams.

 

I’m counting the days until I see you.

 

With a kiss,

 

Hermione.

 

 

Angel,

 

Please stop worrying about the exams. Your students will do fine and will be grateful for all your hard work when they get their results.

 

As for Armitage, perhaps I am right, perhaps I am wrong. I am basing my judgement on memories I have of him from his youth so I cannot account for any changes the years have made. Time will give you your answer there I think but again, if things do not improve then seek assistance from Minerva.

 

We will keep the party low key, as always I am keen to avoid spending too much time with other people when I could be alone with you. I intend to have everyone out of the house by midnight at the very latest and then I have plans to make sure you begin the weekend as relaxed as you can be.

 

I love you,

 

Severus.

 

 

My Darling,

 

Are you intent on sending me to class wearing a blush? I have to go and teach now and I will have to do all I can to keep certain images out of my head. You are a wicked man Severus Snape.

 

Please don’t ever change.

 

In desperate anticipation,

 

Hermione

 

 

Dearest love,

 

My statement was nothing but innocent. I intend to help you rest and relax. Any additional material was provided by your own depraved mind.

 

Don’t you go changing either.

 

In innocent affection…and equally desperate anticipation,

 

Severus.

 

 

My Darling Severus,

 

I am so sorry I’ve not been in contact for so long. It has been so crazy here. Luckily, I pushed through and was on top of all the exam work as I’ve had poor Ernest to deal with. I’m not sure what has happened, he still is not forthcoming with the information but he has requested a private meeting with me every evening after class. He talks about his Potions NEWT but then he just grows very quiet and I swear I have seen a few tears. He refuses to let me call Professor Armitage into the meetings but I have spoken with Erasmus and he cannot think of anything that would have turned the young man against him. It does not help that things are still difficult between Erasmus and me and I find it increasingly difficult to talk to the man without him managing some veiled barb that has nothing to do with Ernest.

 

I know the Ernest is struggling with what happened with his family but I am concerned that there is something in addition to that that I am missing. He seems fine amidst his peer group and his other teachers report nothing out of the ordinary in his behaviour or his marks. I fear something deeper is harming the boy and I am at a loss what to do.

 

It is so long since I asked for advice but I need to now my love. You were not only a teacher but also a head of house and whilst I know you will maintain that you were not exactly the best at the pastoral care side of your role, you must have had some instances when you had to be counsellor to those in Slytherin. I also need to ask on a much more personal level and forgive me if it causes any pain. This young man has been at the heart of the Death Eater doctrine and whilst his story does not mirror yours, it does have similarities and I wonder if there is anything I could be missing that you could point me towards? Is there anything you can think of that I can do to help this young man? Again, I am sorry if my question causes pain but I could not in good conscience avoid asking you. Please let me know any thoughts by return if you can.

 

My darling, I love you so very much.

 

Hermione.

 

 

Dearest Angel,

 

First of all, do not ever apologise or feel that you cannot ask anything about my past. I may not want to discuss it every day but I intend to be an open book to you. There is nothing you cannot ask me. Yes, sometimes thoughts of the past do cause pain but that does not mean that I do not wish to share that pain with you, not when you have helped to heal so much of the hurt.

 

As for young Calcraft, you are right, our stories do not mirror but that does not mean that I cannot offer some insight. Indeed his story does play more to that of Draco’s however, Calcraft has broken from his family and their demands rather than fall victim to them as Draco did. I believe that Calcraft’s choices have been helped by the fact that his teachers have been supportive of him and neither Voldemort nor impending war hang over him.

 

I can offer no specific advice, all I can say is be there and listen. Had I had someone like you to rely upon, a teacher I could look up to and confide in then perhaps there may have been a slim chance of a difference being made to my life. Listen, advise where you can and we can both hold out hope that maybe his path will continue towards a positive future.

 

If you are concerned that more professional help may be needed I can make discreet enquiries when I am next at St Mungos, there are several people that are developing practices to rehabilitate and counsel those who were followers of Voldemort and they may be able to offer some help. I cannot speak of their efficacy but I have read several published studies and the results, as far as I can understand them, are promising.

 

Please let me know how you get on, without breaking any confidences of course, and if I can help or I think of anything then I will endeavour to send word. I do believe however much he is hurting now, he will find his way with your guidance and these troubles will pass for him.

 

As an aside, you may wish to tell Armitage to pull his head from a certain part of his own anatomy and grow up. Alternatively, invite him to our engagement party. I think I know which would rile him more.

 

Call me if you need me my love. I am here to help you wherever I can but I do believe you have this in hand already.

 

All my love, for all my life,

 

Severus

Chapter Text

Severus looked out onto the garden from the kitchen window, glad to see the sun finally drying up the rain that had fallen for the majority of the morning. There were still a few hours before he expected his guests to arrive, his plan for them all to be in place before Hermione returned from the school so they called all be there to welcome her. He felt his nerves spike once more, knowing that they were all coming to celebrate with them but it was still a very public demonstration of their intentions and he feared any sense of disapproval.

He shook away the thought, leaving the last of the dishes he had been washing on the rack before he dried his hands and headed to the door. He contemplated apparating to Diagon Alley for the supplies he needed but he knew the small muggle shops up the hill from the house had a pleasant enough butchers shop and grocers amongst them. He had tried to integrate himself into his new community far more than he ever had done in Cokeworth, the anonymity it afforded far more appealing than the stares in the wizarding world and he found he was beginning to make at least casual acquaintances with his neighbours and people nearby.

He collected up several shopping bags from the cupboard beneath the stairs before opening the door, pausing as he saw Luna at the top of the driveway. He reached quickly for his watch, frowning at the early hour it showed before he looked back up to the woman approaching the house.

“Either time has changed or you are rather early my dear,” said Severus, taking Luna’s outstretched hand before pressing a friendly kiss to her cheek.

“I thought you might appreciate a bit of help getting things sorted,” she replied, “Neville is working all day and I have encountered a bit of a block on an article so I decided a change of scene would suit me.”

“Well I think I’m on top of everything but your help is always appreciated,” said Severus, “I was about to head up the hill to the shops, the climb won’t be…”

Luna narrowed her eyes in mock annoyance, “I’m pregnant not incapable,” she said, absently running her hand over the slight swell of her abdomen, “And I don’t need you fussing. The exercise will do me the world of good. Thank you for the concern though, I do get tired now and then I admit but I feel fine today.”

Severus smiled, “At least humour an old man and take my arm,” he said, locking the door before he began walking at her side, “You are looking very well. Has the sickness subsided?”

Luna nodded, taking his arm, “Instead I have to endure being kicked every so often,” she said, “It’s not too pronounced as yet but I’m sure it will grow quite uncomfortable as things progress.”

“But worth it no doubt,” said Severus, “I look forward to meeting them but I warn you I have little practice with children under the age of eleven.”

Luna laughed, “Well I shall make sure we visit often so you can become proficient,” she said, “I am hoping that you and Hermione would agree to be godparents. You were our witnesses after all.”

Severus paused, taking a moment to make sure he had heard her request correctly. For so long he had thought he would never even be given the name friend by anyone but in the years since the war he had found more and more people willing to give him the chances he had not been given in his youth. Luna had been a constant from the moment of his recovery, the bond that had developed a friendship he knew he would treasure for as long as he lived and he knew he would want nothing more than to feature in her child’s life as well.

“Well I cannot speak for Hermione but I doubt she would refuse and I most certainly would not,” he said, “I would be very honoured to be godfather to your child.”

“That’s what I was hoping you’d say,” said Luna, tugging on his arm to get him walking again, “And I hope Hermione feels the same.”

“I’m sure she will,” answered Severus, “Now then, can I run the menu for this evening passed you and then you can correct every single error I have made.”

Luna laughed, “It would be my pleasure,” she said, holding his arm a little tighter as they cross the street towards the shops they needed.

xxxx

The pop of a champagne cork preceded the sound of laughter and the clink of glasses that attempted to catch the alcohol as it spilled from the bottle.

“Why do I have a feeling that this evening is not going to be the quiet affair I hoped for?” asked Severus as Harry handed him a glass.

“Because you invited us,” said Harry, taking a sip from the glass in his own hand, “We won’t get too plastered, I promise. Gin and I had far too much to drink on honeymoon anyway. We need to take it easy before we end up pickled. As for the rest of them though…”

Severus laughed, “I’ll have to start adding water to everything,” he said, “Hermione isn’t even here yet.”

“She’ll catch up,” said Harry, “I’m glad we were back in time to be here.”

“Strangely enough, I picked the date to make sure you were,” said Severus, “Neither Hermione or I would have wanted to celebrate without you both.”

“There was a time that statement would have been the most unbelievable thing either of us could have heard,” said Harry, “But I’m glad it isn’t now. I reckon Mum would have been happy to see that we’re friends.”

Severus felt an odd twist in his heart that had been absent for a long time but the ache did not last as it once had, the sorrow no longer as acute though the memory of his lost friend still brought pain. He knew Harry had seen the emotion cross his face, familiar green eyes sharing a similar sorrow but it too was tempered by the prospect of a future far happier than the past.

“I think she would have been too,” said Severus, “Though she probably would have slapped me six ways to Sunday for various aspects of our past. She was all fire that one.”

“So I’ve heard,” said Harry, “Would have paid good money to see her give you that slap. You should watch Hermione’s right hook as well. Third year she nearly knocked Malfoy cold.”

Severus smirked, “He tried to convince me and the majority of Slytherin that he had taken on a centaur in the forest,” he said, “No one really believed him.”

“No one really believed who?” asked Ginny, joining them from the larger group still fussing with the bottle of champagne.

“Draco,” said Harry, “When Hermione punched him.”

Ginny grinned, “Ron was terrified of her for about a year after that,” she said, “Legend within Gryffindor. Speaking of Hermione, what time are we expecting her?”

“Imminently I hope,” said Severus, checking his watch and frowning at the time, “She should have finished teaching an hour ago and she said she had a brief meeting to attend before she came home. With any luck, she’ll be able to get away as soon as it’s finished. She’s been working far too hard.”

“She always does,” said Harry, “At least you’ve got the weekend.”

“Where she intends to mark OWL and NEWT mock papers,” said Severus, “And no doubt worry herself into the ground.”

Ginny frowned, “Is she very stressed?” she asked, “She doesn’t know when to stop.”

“Ridiculously so,” said Severus, “She tries to keep it hidden but I can read it between the lines of her letters and in every call. It was all I could do not to floo there last night.”

“Why didn’t you?” said Harry, “She needs someone to drag her head out of her books.”

Severus frowned, “I…I’ve not made it beyond the gates since the war,” he said, “I don’t even like going as near as Hogsmeade, too many memories.”

Ginny reached out and laid a hand on his arm, “I can understand that,” she said, “I’ve not really gone back often myself. Reminds me of Fred.”

“We’re in danger of this getting maudlin,” said Severus, quickly, “And I won’t have Hermione arriving to miserable faces not when she has to put up with mine all weekend.”

“Oi!” came Ron’s voice from across the garden, “When are we going to eat? I’m starving. Can someone go and tell Hermione to hurry up?”

“God you just don’t have any patience do you?” admonished Ginny, “You can wait until she gets here.”

“Yes mum,” came the childish response though there was no venom in the tone, the ridiculous faces that passed between the Weasley siblings making it apparent that such exchanges were common.

“Let’s hope Hermione does get here soon,” said Harry, “You don’t want to give George the chance to decide he wants to play party games.”

“Why do I feel like I would never recover from such things?” said Severus, absently checking his watch, “She had her seventh years last thing, I imagine she’s been waylaid by Ernest, he seems particularly anxious at present or so Hermione tells me.”

“Do you want me to apparate to Hogwarts and hurry her up?” said Harry, “It won’t take me a moment.”

Severus shook his head, despite the temptation, “No, thank you,” he said, “She’ll be here when she’s ready. Drag her away from a project and she’ll be distracted anyway. You can go ahead and tell everyone to eat. I’ll go and check in case she’s sent word through the floo.”

He left his drink on the small table set up on the patio, heading back into the house and treading the familiar path to the living room. He frowned as the rug was devoid of any note or envelope, the fireplace dark with no signs of the floo network being active. He crossed to it and laid his hand on the mantle, staring down into the grate. He took up a handful of floo powder, the command that would take him to her chambers on his lips but he let the powder slip through his fingers as the all too familiar fear filled him. He knew the fear was irrational but it kept its grip all the same, the memories of his time at Hogwarts still too painful for him to face.

He took hold of the notepad he kept on the mantle, quickly jotting down a short missive asking her whereabouts before he sent that through the floo in his place, hoping that the reply would come as Hermione’s presence rather than a letter. With one last glance at the fireplace, he headed back to the garden and his guests.

It was half an hour later when he heard the crack of someone apparating at the bottom of the garden, concern knotting his brow as to why Hermione would choose to apparate when she could easily floo from her chambers. His concern multiplied as it was not Hermione but the house elf that had often summoned her to the gates at his request and had brought them dinner at his small house so many months before.

“Misty?” he said, barely registering the conversations around him halting, “It is Misty isn’t it?”

“Yes Professor Snape, sir,” said the elf, her small hands wringing before her, “Is Professor Granger here? Headmistress McGonagall called Misty half an hour ago and asked her to look for Professor Granger.”

Severus shook his head, “No she’s not been here at all and I’ve heard nothing from her,” he said, the knot in his gut that had been slowly forming throughout the afternoon tightening at Misty’s words, “Have you checked her chambers and her classroom?”

“Everywhere Misty could think of and then Misty came here,” she said, “Professor Granger is never late, sir.”

“No she isn’t,” said Severus, “Harry?”

“What’s the matter? What’s wrong?” said the younger man, hurrying to his side.

“Hermione didn’t make it to her meeting,” said Severus, “She…”

Another crack echoed from the location of the summerhouse and Severus hurried further into the garden, passing beneath the fragrant arch of roses that separated the main garden from the apparition point. His heart sank as he saw Minerva stood where he wished to see Hermione, the Headmistress’ face pinched with concern.

“Oh Severus,” she began, “I had to come myself. I have everyone out searching but I had to come. We need all the help we can get.”

“What’s happened Minerva?” he asked, knowing that his tone was beyond desperate but he didn’t care, “Where’s Hermione?”

“We don’t know,” she said, “A pair of second years came to me about ten minutes ago and told me they saw him lead her through the dungeons at wandpoint but no one has seen her since. She told me she had a meeting with him so I knew she would be a bit late for ours but I never thought…I thought they were friends. I thought he could be trusted. I’m sorry Severus.”

“Who are you talking about?” said Harry, the others close at his back as they pushed their way into the smaller part of the garden.

“Erasmus Armitage,” said Severus, “He’s been on at Hermione since our engagement. I just thought he had a crush on her but now it seems he won’t take no for an answer. She has put her faith in him for everything. She’s too trusting. She…”

“Severus,” said Minerva, cutting him short, “Erasmus has nothing to do with this. He’s out looking the same as anyone. Her meeting was with Ernest Calcraft. I got to the dungeons as soon as I was made aware of what was happening but they were long gone. There had been a struggle. It seems we may have misjudged the character of the boy.”

Severus fought back the shudder that ran through him, his eyes falling shut as too many puzzle pieces fell into place. The game that had been too well played finally revealed. Fear and panic welled inside him but years of self-taught control wrestled for dominance as he turned back to his friends.

“Fleur, Bill,” he said to the gathered group, “Stay here. If she gets away, she may come home for safety. Luna, if you’d prefer…”

“I’m coming to look for her,” said Luna, “She’s my friend.”

“As you wish. The rest of you…”

“We’re coming,” said Ron, “All of us.”

“Thank you,” said Severus, “We’ll need to split up. Search where we can. Harry, Ron, I want you with me. If I meet with him and he has hurt her you’re the only two strong enough to hold me back.”

Harry nodded grimly, “Of course,” he said, “Though you may have to do the same.”

They quickly sorted themselves into groups, each of them picking an area to search. The few moments’ delay it afforded them felt like an eternity to Severus, every second one that allowed the panic within him to grow. He hated that he had been persuaded from his initial distrust of the young man Hermione had taken under her wing. He hoped that their search would prove his thoughts wrong but he knew in his heart that they enemies he and Hermione shared had played a long and sophisticated game with them. The life of the woman they saw as an outsider and unworthy of magic now within their power.

As the others finally settled on the areas they would search, Minerva took it upon herself to send them off group by group with instructions of how they could communicate any findings in the quickest way possible. Severus didn’t wait for any of them to leave, barely giving Harry and Ron any indication that he was going before he turned and apparated towards the school, fear clawing at him that his arrival would be too late.

Chapter Text

“Severus wait! Going off without a plan isn’t going to help anyone. Severus!”

Severus paused just beyond the line of the trees that marked the edge of the Forest, fear, trepidation and years of suppressed terror clawing at him but his worry for Hermione outweighed them all.

He turned, seeing Harry and Ron hurrying to catch him, barely having paused for breath after apparating from his home.

“We’re meant to be searching the forest,” he snapped, “This is the forest.”

“Don’t be an arse,” said Harry, “This place is huge and the centaurs will not take kindly to us just invading, especially if we tumble into their territory.”

“Hang the centaurs,” said Severus, “If Hermione is in there even an army of them isn’t going to stop me reaching her.”

Harry frowned, reaching out and setting a hand on the older man’s shoulder, “You need to calm down,” he said, “I know it’s hard but you need to be like you were back in the war. You are no use to Hermione if you panic. We need to keep clear heads.”

Severus nodded, knowing he was right despite the desire to merely run and shout Hermione’s name until she answered, “You’re right,” he said, “I’m sorry.”

“We’re all worried,” said Ron, “But we need to think. What are the most likely places he’d take her, if he has brought her here?”

“He’s a child with delusions of grandeur,” said Severus, “Or so we need to assume. Mimicry will be all he is capable of.”

He watched as Harry paled slightly before he squared his shoulders, “Mimicking Voldemort?” he said, “You’d better follow me.”

Severus nodded, sharing a brief look of concern with Ron at the determined stride that took Harry into the woods, all of them being forced to face demons that they longed to lay to rest. They followed at a pace borne of need and fear, occasionally calling Hermione’s name or pausing to take a closer look at a slightly beaten path or a scrap that could be material from a robe in the hope it would lead them to her.

Silence echoed back at them from the woods. The only sounds they heard were those that always accompanied a forest in early summer, nothing providing them clues as to where they should look. Harry kept the point, leading them through the winding and overgrown paths, the pace causing them to stumble over tree roots and fallen branches but they didn’t slow.

They tried calling out for Hermione once more, the brush growing denser around them as they went but still no answer was forthcoming. Severus cursed as a rustling caught his ears, causing him to turn only to see the coloured feathers of a pheasant disturbed from its rest. The distraction was enough though for him to lose sight of his path and he tripped on the raised root that Harry had just vaulted. He caught himself easily, his hands taking the brunt of his fall but he swore as something sharp dug into his palm.

“Are you alright?” asked Ron, stopping at his side and offering an arm to help him up, his voice drawing Harry to a stop.

“I’ll live,” said Severus, getting to his feet and looking down at his hand, seeing the small, black stone imbedded there, “This is not going to like coming out.”

He reached his free hand towards the stone, positioning his fingers to pinch it as best he could to tug it loose from the growing pool of blood it had created. He was just about to grasp it when a strong hand closed around his wrist, holding his hand away from his wound.

“Wait,” said Harry, “Careful when you take that out.”

“I’ve had worse,” said Severus with a frown.

“It’s the Resurrection Stone,” said Harry, “Don’t turn it or…”

Severus looked down at the non-descript stone in his hand, a rolling sense of both panic and anticipation whirling through him, “I really don’t need a meeting with my parents right now.”

Harry moved Severus’ hand out of the way, his own fingers taking hold of the stone and pulling it free, “I’ve done this before,” he said, “Wasn’t so bad for me.”

Fate had other plans though, the bloodied stone slipping from Harry’s fingers as he tried to retrieve it and tumbling through the air towards the ground. It was instinct that made Severus reach out a hand to catch it, his blood suddenly running cold it landed in his undamaged palm. He saw a movement to his left, away from where both Harry and Ron stood but for a moment, he didn’t dare turn. His mind threw up images of his father’s drunken sneer or the absent, dejected eyes of his mother, images he had long since pushed to the back of his consciousness in want of some peace from the recollections.

“Severus.”

The sound of such a long forgotten voice hit him with both pain and relief in equal measure but it still took all his strength to raise his head and take in the appearance of the figure beside him.

“You came to me?” he said, “Of all people, you came to me?”

“Of course I did. I forgave you long ago, my dear old friend.”

“Lily,” he said, his voice barely a whisper as he feared anything louder would break whatever spell had brought her to him, “I never thought I’d see you again. Harry, can you see…”

“No,” said Harry with a smile as Severus managed to spare him a moment’s glance, before turning his attention back to the figure of his lost friend, “But from the look on your face I know she’s there.”

Severus took a moment to take in the figure before him, the image one he knew only from pictures rather than the teenager he had parted ways with at school, her hair longer and the colour dulled by the strange power that kept her in the mortal realm but she was recognisable all the same. Though a hundred emotions ran through him at the sight one still overwhelmed them all and proved what he had known was in his heart for the longest time and, rather than speak of the past, he focused only on his future.

“Lily, I need your help,” he said, “Can you see beyond what we can? If you can, please, I need your help to find someone. A woman, my Hermione, she’s been taken and we can’t find her. She could be hurt. Please, if you can help, I beg you to do so. I know I don’t deserve to ask you for anything but she… she deserves everything.”

The wispy form of Lily Potter smiled with the same childlike glint in her eyes that had been his first window in a realm called kindness and he wanted to weep at the memories that came to him with the simple expression.

“Yes I know her,” she said, “And I can help you find her. It isn’t clear but I can see a room…an abandoned room.”

“What’s she saying?” asked Harry, hushing Ron as he tried to question what was occurring.

“She can help us find Hermione,” said Severus, “But it’s not clear. She’s in a room, something abandoned.”

“If Calcraft can apparate that could be anywhere,” said Harry.

“Can you tell if she’s nearby Lily?” asked Severus, “We’re in the forest near Hogwarts. Is she inside the school?”

“It’s not the school,” said Lily, turning from the group as she stepped further into the trees, “But it’s near.”

“Describe what you can see,” said Severus, “I spent years in these surrounds. I know them better than most. God is in the detail.”

A small, breathy laugh escaped the woman at his side, “You used to say that when we were children,” she said, “You look different grown up. Steadier.”

“A recent development,” said Severus, “Is there anything you can see that could give us a clue?”

“The room is small, abandoned, dusty. Something large is broken,” said Lily as they continued at a pace through the woods, Severus uncaring if Harry and Ron followed behind as he kept tight hold of the stone in his hand, “There’s something dark on the floor, a stain. It’s like blood but it’s not fresh, it’s not hers.”

“Blood? On the floor,” said Severus to himself, “Mimicry…what could be better? Harry, Ron. Shrieking Shack. He’s got her at the Shrieking Shack.”

“Is that where Mum saw her?” asked Harry, staring at the place beside Severus as though trying to discern the figure he was told was there.

“The description would fit and if he is aiming to mimic Voldemort’s actions then it would make sense for him to take her to where I should have died,” said Severus, “It’s the best lead we have.”

Harry nodded, “Ron?”

“Better than hunting round here and finding nothing,” he said, “Even though I can’t believe your mum is helping us, if Severus is confident that it will lead us to Hermione then let’s go.”

“Keep me with you,” said Lily, pulling Severus’ attention from the two younger men, “Keep me with you in case I’m wrong and we need to find somewhere else. I want to help you save her.”

Severus nodded, the ethereal presence of his friend still jarring but oddly accepted when he had lived through the surreal twists and turns of the wizarding world, “We’ll apparate to the outside,” he said to Harry and Ron, “Inside and we might cause more harm than good if Hermione is being held at wandpoint.”

“Usual procedure?” asked Ron, his attention on Harry rather than Severus.

“Yes,” said Harry, “And Severus, if Hermione is in trouble your job is to get her out and to safety. Don’t get involved in a fight if you don’t have to. Ron and I have the authority to do a lot more than you do.”

“Noted,” said Severus, “You’ve warned me and fulfilled your obligation to your employers. Hermione is of course my priority but I will act as I see fit with her attacker.”

Harry frowned but nodded, tugging on his sleeve until they all stood back to back, prepared for any ambush when they arrived.

“Is Mum…” he began.

“Right here,” said Severus, tightening his grip on the stone, “And coming along too.”

“If only to try and help my son keep you out of Azkaban,” said Lily, “You’re as headstrong as ever.”

“Says she,” responded Severus, ignoring Harry’s laugh despite not hearing his mother’s words, “Let’s go.”

He allowed Harry to count them down, apparating the moment he was able to and quickly finding his feet. He frowned for a moment as Lily’s wispy figure was nowhere to be seen but she soon reappeared at his side. Concern took him though as she appeared thinner and more fragile, the strong apparition he had seen in the woods far less substantial now.

“Lily?” he questioned, knowing she had seen his concern.

“I do not belong in this world,” she said by way of explanation, “But I will be well for a while. She’s here. It’s clearer now, she’s inside.”

“Then we need to part for a while,” said Severus, “I can’t keep hold of the stone.”

Lily nodded, “Good luck.”

He didn’t pause to exchange any further words, farewells an unnecessary luxury when he needed to reach the young woman held inside. He tucked the stone into his pocket, Lily’s image fading from view but he barely noticed it as he turned his attention to the building before him.

His heart stuttered in his chest as he looked up at the twisted, tumbledown silhouette of the Shrieking Shack. Though several years had gone by since he had set foot in the creaking building, a journey he was certain was going to be his last, it felt like only five minutes. As he had done then, he squared his shoulders, taking comfort in the fact that he at least had support with him as he headed to the door.

He allowed Harry to precede him inside, knowing that if he did not he would be too tempted to rush ahead and put Hermione at risk even in his attempt to aide her. The floorboards attempted to give them away as soon as they passed the threshold and they softened their steps to compensate.

Any attempt at secrecy though evaporated as a scream echoed from above, the sound cutting through Severus and pushing aside any fear brought on by the memories that lingered. He pushed his way passed Harry, not caring for the calls to stop as he raced up the stairs, leaping over those that were broken and taking them two at a time. Even the sound of Hermione’s voice did nothing to slow him, hearing the desperation as she called out each spell.

Finally, he rounded the doorway, barely pausing to take in the scene before he jumped into the fray. He counted six in the room, four of them turned on a bloodied and bruised Hermione as she fought to defend herself, whilst Ernest Calcraft stood to the side, fear written across his features. He heard Harry and Ron arrive, the pair of them joining the fight with more precision than he had shown but any finesse was lost as the men they were facing turned on them as well.

He recognised all four of the attackers, all of them former low level Death Eaters who had happily followed on the coat tails of Voldemort and his more successful followers. He fought his way across the room, avoiding hexes and curses that would easily incapacitate him if they hit, focused only on reaching Hermione and helping her bear the brunt of the onslaught.

He pressed the advantage as Harry and Ron briefly stunned two of the attackers, forcing his way through to Hermione’s side and blocking a hex that was aimed straight for her. There was little respite though as the Death Eaters regrouped, doubling their efforts as they realised they had three more prized names in their midst.

“Thank Merlin you’re here,” said Hermione, over the din, her words punctuated by counter spells and curses of her own, “I wasn’t going to hold out much longer.”

“We’re lucky we found you,” he said, “We need to give ourselves long enough to apparate out.”

Hermione shook her head, “Not without Ernest.”

“That boy is the reason you’re in this mess,” said Severus, blocking another curse but failing to avoid the slicing hex that tore through his shirt sleeve, the white cotton soon sodden with blood.

“Look at him,” said Hermione, “He’s terrified. He might have used the Imperious to get me here but it was more due to fear of the repercussions rather than his own convictions. He needs our help.”

Severus frowned but one glance at her face told him that, despite the risk, there was no way he was getting her out without taking the boy with them.

“Then we need to get over to him,” he said, grateful when Harry finally knocked one of the Death Eaters unconscious.

Two of the attackers turned their attention to Harry and Ron, intent on avenging their injured comrade, leaving just one focused on Hermione and Severus. Communication was unnecessary as Severus let fly several curses that only just bordered on legal, forcing the remaining Death Eater’s focus onto him and allowing Hermione to cross the room to where Ernest was now cowering away from the firefight.

He bit back a cry of pain as he was hit by the Cruciatus curse, shaking it off quickly as it paled in comparison to those he had received from Voldemort. He hit back with a curse of his own, watching his opponent topple but his victory was short lived as a voice rang out over everything else in the room.

“Stop! Stop or I’ll kill her.”

His heart sank as he saw Ernest, the boy Hermione had tried so hard to save, now stood with one hand fisted in her wild curls whilst the other held his wand at her throat. He lowered his wand but kept his grip on it, unwilling to antagonise the boy when he held Hermione in such a vulnerable position despite the anger that was flowing through his veins.

“Ernest,” came Harry’s voice from across the room, “There’s no need for this. Let Professor Granger go and we can talk about what is upsetting you. Everyone gets a voice Ernest but not like this.”

“Kill her Ernest,” snapped one of the Death Eaters as he recovered himself from the floor, “Kill the Mudblood. Her life for the lives of the Purebloods she killed in the War.”

“Ernest please,” said Hermione, pain lacing her voice as his grip tightened on her hair, “This isn’t you. I know you’re frightened but I can help you. Please let me help you.”

The boy waivered, his face torn even as he further tightened his grip on her hair. Silence reigned, the only noise in the room the ragged breathing of every person gathered their as they recovered from the battle.

Ernest’s grip began to loosen and Severus thought for a moment that Hermione’s words had broken through whatever hold was spurring him towards such actions. With barely a pause though, his face hardened once more and, in an all too familiar swirl of black, the young man dragged Hermione with him out of the building. Her cry of alarm echoing long after they had disappeared from view.

Chapter Text

He hadn’t flown in such a way since he had fled Hogwarts in the final battle. He had studiously avoided anything that reminded him of Voldemort and his forced servitude as a Death Eater but now he needed the speed and dexterity that the method allowed him over the traditional form of apparition.

Severus hurried through the air, following the black trail of Ernest Calcraft and the woman he had taken flight with. Hermione’s initial scream had faded into the roar of the wind that whipped around him but he could tell from Ernest’s erratic flight that she was still fighting for her freedom. He forced himself to resist the urge to bring the boy down, the risk of hitting Hermione all too apparent as she struggled in Ernest’s grip.

His focus on their fleeing figures made him blind to all else and it was only his quick reflexes that kept him in the air as a curse struck him from behind. He fought back as best he could, hoping that he wouldn’t lose sight of Ernest and Hermione as he did so. He hoped that Harry and Ron were alright, certain that the two Death Eaters that now pursued him were the same as the ones from the Shrieking Shack. With both firing on him, he had no choice but to turn his full attention to them, the attacks coming in such quick succession that he could only counter some of them whilst he endeavoured to dodge the rest.

He dodged one particularly vicious curse, countering with several of his own before a cry dragged his attention back to Ernest and Hermione. He almost lost control over his own flight as he saw two figures falling from the air and towards the inky waters of the lake. He landed on the shore, hurrying into the water as he watched Hermione and Ernest hit it almost simultaneously.

He heard fighting behind him but paid it no mind, intent on finding Hermione as the water grew higher around him. He watched Ernest surface to his right, immediately casting a spell that had the boy bound and propelled towards the shoreline, unwilling to take any risks when it hadn’t been proven if the boy was friend or foe. As soon as he landed on the pebbles, Severus turned his attention back to the water, desperately scanning for signs of Hermione. He cursed as she failed to break the surface, hurrying deeper and deeper until the water grew too deep for him to be able to put his feet down on the floor.

The surface rolled and slapped as he moved through it, his growing panic making his movements erratic as he called out for her. It was only by chance that he spotted the bubbles to his right, diving down beneath the churning waters, the illumination from his wand barely enough to help him see. He caught the flash of dark robes and groped for them, not caring for the searing pain in his lungs as he fought against the impulse to rise for air.

His hand finally closed around the heavy, sodden material, yanking upwards until he felt something more substantial than cloth. Holding tightly onto Hermione’s arm, he kicked to the surface, gasping in air as he finally broke through. His own breath though brought little comfort when he realised that Hermione was silent in his arms. He dragged her from the water with a strength borne from panic, keeping his focus on the shoreline rather than the small body that lolled like a ragdoll in his arms. He only allowed his gaze to drop to her when his legs gave out beneath him as he hit the shore, using the last of his strength to keep her from falling heavily before he laid her down gently on the shingled beach.

His heart sank as he saw the bloody cut on her forehead but it was the absence of her breath that caused him the most concern. He fumbled with his wand before finally casting a reviving charm, biting back a sob of relief as she took a sudden breath, her body expelling the water she had swallowed but she did not wake.

His attention was pulled from her as running feet approached him and it was only his own control that stopped him hexing Ginny and Minerva as they stopped before them.

“Is she hurt?” said the headmistress.

“I can’t wake her,” said Severus, his voice thin and raspy, “The Death Eaters…?”

“Being dealt with,” said Ginny, falling to her knees beside her friend and pressing her fingers to her neck, “She’s weak.”

“Misty,” called Minerva, the familiar elf appearing at her side in an instant, “Take Professor Granger to the hospital wing. You may use any magic necessary to assist her reaching there as swiftly as possible.”

Misty nodded, bending down and gently taking hold of Hermione’s arm.

“Take Severus with you as well,” said the headmistress.

Severus looked around, finally taking in the scene beyond, seeing Harry and Ron struggling to put down the last of the Death Eaters, one other lying unconscious near to the still bound Calcraft, “I should…”

“Go with her,” said Ginny, quickly, “You can’t get involved with that now. Harry and Ron will handle it. One false step and they’ll end up having to arrest you too. She needs you more. You know that Severus.”

He fought to push aside the anger and need to act against Hermione’s attackers, the effort made all the easier as he looked down at the woman unconscious before him, his love for her chasing out every other emotion as he gathered her hand in his and pressed a kiss to the back of it.

“Let’s go,” he said before he turned his attention quickly to Minerva, “But I want to be updated on every development. I don’t want any of them getting away with this.”

“I promise,” said Minerva, “Misty, go.”

The elf’s magic enveloped Severus quickly once the command was given, the sensation one he was unused to but nothing mattered save for the woman’s hand held tightly in his.

xxxx

“Will she be alright Poppy?” asked Severus, hovering over the medi-witch’s shoulder as she tended to the young woman in the bed before them.

Misty had transported them directly to the hospital wing, Poppy already on standby to assist them. She had gone to work straight away, diagnostic and healing spells soon filling the air around them. It had been the unexpected hex that had sent Severus from his position all but hanging on her arm as he demanded update after update on Hermione’s condition.

Even with his arm stinging from her hex, he continued to wait at the end of the bed, his eyes never leaving Hermione as worry and fatigue wracked his body with shivers as the adrenaline finished coursing through his veins. He felt useless as he stood looking down at her, wanting to assist but knowing he was better placed to allow Poppy to do her job. It did nothing to ease his nerves though as the medi-witch tutted and hummed as she worked.

Soon Hermione’s bloody head injury was bound but Poppy still stood over her with concern written over her face. It was only when she sighed deeply and brushed away a tear that Severus returned to standing close at her side with his question as to her diagnosis.

“She will be alright but it will take time,” said Poppy, “She was lucky you got her out of the water when you did. The fall did most of the damage. Her back is broken and her right hip. The break was severe and the bone fragments caused extensive damage but she got here soon enough for me to put it right. She will need to remain in bed for several weeks at least though.”

Severus staggered back, grateful for the bed behind him as his legs refused to hold him up any longer. He dropped his face into his hands, not caring for Poppy’s presence as he sobbed. He felt a warm hand come to rest on his shoulder and he forced himself to calm down, scrubbing a hand across his face before he looked up at her.

“It has been quite the day,” he said, “I’m just so relieved that she will be alright. When can we wake her?”

“She’ll sleep until morning,” said Poppy, “You should get some rest too.”

Severus shook his head, “I should stay with her and if there’s news…”

“Severus…” said his former colleague, her tone a warning, “You are soaked to the bone, you are hurt and you have been to hell and back in a few short hours. At least take a few moments to take care of yourself. You are no use to her…”

“I know,” he sighed, having grown used to the phrase since Misty had first come to find him, “My clothes are a matter of a simple spell, I am not leaving Hermione’s side even for the time it would take to change. As for my injuries, if you wouldn’t mind obliging me here?”

Poppy frowned but did as he asked, tending to the injuries he had sustained during his battle with the Death Eaters as he sat in the chair he had dragged up to Hermione’s bedside. He had dried his clothes with a swift spell but it left them scratchy and uncomfortable. He didn’t mind the irritation though, the discomfort his own self imposed penance for not finding her sooner when she could have been kept from harm.

The medi-witch moved in and out of the main room of the hospital wing, occasionally checking on her patient but rest was Hermione’s main need and there was little to be done except to let her body recover. Every footstep made Severus raise his head though, anxious for news on both the attackers and the friends he had left out in the field when Misty had transported him with Hermione. He took comfort that no one else was brought into the hospital wing for treatment but he couldn’t relax until he was certain that all were well and that the enemies had been taken into custody.

He was lost in the study of Hermione’s hand in his when a footstep came that did not match the cadence that he had been hearing since his arrival. The addition of several more treads also confirmed that it was not Poppy come to haunt her ward once more. He got to his feet as Minerva entered the room, closely followed by Harry and Ron, the voices from the hallway beyond letting Severus know that many others awaited outside.

“How is she?” asked the headmistress.

“Injured but already on the mend,” said Severus, not leaving Hermione’s side even as he stood, “She will wake when she is ready.”

“Her injuries?” said Minerva.

“A broken back and hip from the fall,” said Severus, his voice catching on the description, “The breakages did damage to the internal tissues but Poppy has healed them. What happened with Calcraft and his band?”

“In custody,” said Harry, “All of them. We will need statements off you and Hermione but they can wait. I can’t imagine they will avoid Azkaban after this though. Calcraft at least came quietly.”

“He was lucky I didn’t get my hands on him,” growled Severus, “Hermione trusted him and he…”

“I know,” said Harry, “But he will be dealt with as fairly as we have any other accused of such things. I’m just glad Hermione is going to be alright.”

Ron snorted, “I wish Severus had at least managed to get one or two curses in, little git deserved a hiding for taking her into an ambush.”

“And there is a sign of how the world has changed,” said Minerva, with a smile, “Come along gentlemen, time to leave Hermione to rest and reassure her friends that she is well. Severus, I have instructed the house elves to attend to any needs you have so feel free to call on them if you wish to. Hogwarts is at your disposal.”

“Thank you Minerva,” he answered, before he turned his gaze back to Harry and Ron, “And thank you to the both of you, I don’t know what I would have done without your help.”

“It was the least we could do,” said Harry, with a smile, “Get some rest. We’ll come back in the morning.”

Severus nodded, all too happy to turn his attention back to Hermione as Minerva ushered the younger men from the room. He traced the shapes of the bones in her hand, losing himself in the soft skin that gave him joy at the warmth it still held. He wasn’t sure how long passed in his study of her hand and the ring that glittered on her finger but a sudden breeze roused him and he found that his eyes had fallen shut.

He shifted in the hard wooden chair he had drawn up to her bedside, his free hand rubbing against his thigh in an attempt to restore feeling in his leg. He frowned as he felt something catch on his palm through the cloth, reaching into his pocket and drawing out the sharp stone that had imbedded itself in his palm in the forest.

As before, he felt the stir in the air before he raised his head, realising that he had slept through the night in the chair as he saw the dawn light spilling through the tall windows between the beds. The golden light cast waves of red through Hermione’s wild hair where it splayed across the pillow but it was a different red that caught his attention, billowing out in a breeze that was not of a natural occurrence.

“Forgive me,” he said, “I forgot that I had you with me.”

The woman stood before the window smiled wistfully, her eyes on the scenery outside, “You had more important things than me on your mind,” she said, “And do not argue the point old friend. I am glad that I was not at the forefront of your thoughts.”

“I cannot thank you enough for helping me to find her,” said Severus, “I do not know what I would have done had we arrived too late.”

“But you didn’t and she will recover,” said Lily, looking down at the woman in the bed, “I am glad that you found her. It will give me so much peace to see you happy and in love.”

Severus frowned as he took in his friend’s figure, wispy and pale in the sunlight, “You looked more substantial in the forest,” he said, sadly, “I could easily have forgotten…”

“That I am dead,” said Lily with a small laugh, “What you are seeing is only fragments but they, like a mist, must fade. I have lingered too long but I am glad we had this time again, however brief. We never got to say goodbye before.”

“We should never have had to but I have learned over the years that what ifs cause nothing but pain,” said Severus sadly, “I hope you know though, how sorry I am for my actions back then.”

Lily smiled, “And I hope you know that they are all forgiven,” she said, “It is good we have both been able to say what we needed though. Now you need to move forward with your Hermione and enjoy your life. You have spent too long in the dark old friend.”

“I know,” said Severus, “But she has brought me out of it. I love her more than I can say and I have never been happier.”

“I know,” said Lily with a tired sigh, “I cannot stay Severus, please let me go. I don’t belong in this world.”

Severus got to his feet, moving to stand beside her, realising as he did so that she was indeed as insubstantial as the mist she described herself as. He looked out over the dawn highlighting the grounds, the symbolism not lost on him of a new day and the beginnings it brought.

“I’m going to give the Stone to Harry so it can be looked after properly at the Ministry,” he said, “Will you be able to come to him again?”

Lily shook her head, “We have said the words we need to say,” she said, “Though do tell him that I love him and I am proud of him.”

“I promise,” said Severus, holding out his hand, palm up, the Stone stark against the paleness of his skin, “I will never forget you.”

“Nor I you,” she replied, “Goodbye old friend.”

“Goodbye,” he said, keeping his eyes on the view rather than her as he reached out a placed the Stone down reverently on the window ledge, “Until we meet again my dear Lily.”

Chapter Text

Severus blinked open his eyes as a firm hand took hold of his shoulder, shaking him to wakefulness. He looked up into the round, beaming face of Pomona Sprout, the Herbology Mistress nodding in satisfaction as she moved back from him.

“Finally got you back into the land of the living then,” she said, “Thought I was going to have to hex you to wake you.”

He rubbed a hand over his eyes before he took in his surroundings, frowning as he realised that darkness hung on the windows, the light in the room coming from a few small candles that gave them just enough light to see by.

“What time is it?” he asked.

“A little after ten,” said Pomona, “I came in to relieve Poppy and brought you some supper as well. Can’t have you wasting away even if you are intending to keep vigil here.”

“I’ve slept for more than a day?”

Pomona shook her head, “Only a few hours,” she said, “We wouldn’t have let you sleep so long. Did someone hit you with a Confundus out there?”

Severus frowned, “But it was dawn when…” he began, his eyes drifting to the window ledge and seeing nothing there. He reached into his pocket, finding nothing but grit from the lake but he smiled to himself all the same, “A different kind of magic.”

“Sorry dear, I didn’t quite hear that,” said Pomona, “I’m getting a little hard of hearing these days, must be the mandrakes.”

Severus shook his head, knowing that whatever he had witnessed had been more than just a dream, the peace in his heart enough to confirm the reality of the experience even if it was not quite as he recalled it, “Not important,” he said, looking down at the woman in the bed before him, “Did Poppy give you any updates?”

“No more than you know,” said Pomona, “She needs sleep now and will wake when she’s ready. She doubted that anything would change tonight but wanted someone to watch over her all the same.”

“And what of the Death Eaters?”

“I don’t know anything on that score. Minerva is handling things from the point of view of the school. I know several older students have been interviewed but I don’t think they are suspected of anything. I’m sure you’ll know more before I do. It is such a terrible affair though. My heart broke when I heard the news; she has fought so hard for that boy.”

Severus growled, “That boy,” he hissed, “He was lucky I was more concerned with Hermione. If I’d got my hands on him… well, let’s just say he can be glad of Azkaban.”

Pomona frowned, “He will be tried but let them get to the bottom of his actions first,” she said, “You must remember my dear that he is not the first young man to have fallen in with the wrong crowd and he won’t be the last. We must allow people far more qualified than us to judge him. Now, eat your supper and then try to get some proper rest. I’ll watch over Hermione for you. She’ll need you fresh and strong for the morning.”

The Herbology mistress got to her feet once more, moving to stand by one of the large windows that looked out over the grounds. He was tempted to argue with her but he knew her chastisement of him was justified and, despite his actions thereafter, his own youth had been one of darkness and misdeeds.

He picked up the bowl from the table at the end of the bed, the familiar smell of one of the warming stews that were always available in the castle kitchens bringing back memory alongside the deep hunger that reminded him that it had been a long time since he had last eaten. He pushed aside the rising fear that came to him as his thoughts turned once more to his surroundings, his concern over Hermione’s condition until that point having chased away the anxiety over being back at the one place he had vowed never to return to.

He glanced back down to the sleeping woman on the bed, her features relaxed and calm as though her sleep was merely a natural slumber rather than anything brought on by trauma and healing potions. He forced himself to imagine the room around her was not the ancient, vaulted halls of Hogwarts but instead the cosy surrounds of their suburban, muggle house, Hermione asleep after returning from a busy week at the school.

With his panic calmed a little, he swiftly sated his hunger, half-smiling as he heard Pomona’s pleased cluck from across the room even as she feigned interest in one of the dull still life paintings on the far wall. Weariness overtook him despite his previous slumber and he snagged a pillow from the next-door bed, unwilling to relinquish his chair despite knowing that a bed would prove more comfortable.

He leaned down and pressed a kiss to Hermione’s forehead, returning to his chair and settling himself against the feathered pillow. He offered his former colleague a quiet goodnight before the sound of her measured footsteps as she paced the room sent him once more into slumber.

xxxx

Her head was swimming, focus seemingly impossible as she willed her eyes to open, glad for the dim light as she failed to slip back into the comfort of sleep. Panic took her as her limbs failed to respond to her properly, her arms sluggish whilst her legs remained numb. She moaned, the ache in her head changing swiftly from a dull throb to piercing pain.

She felt a warm hand on her brow before a deep voice bid her calm before calling out a little louder, the words refusing to make sense in her mind. The voice and the presence at her side were comforting though and she forced herself to waken if only to know whom it was at her side.

She opened her eyes once more, the light still dim candlelight that stung but she found she could bear it as the room came into focus around her. The light dimmed further as a figure moved above her, large and looming, framed in black hair and she smiled as she realised who was at her side.

“Sev…Severus…” she croaked, her throat parched and raw with the effort it took, “Where...?”

“Hush my love,” he said softly, “Don’t tax yourself. You are safe. Poppy is here, she wants to look you over so lie still. We’ll explain everything soon.”

“Poppy?” she asked, confusion making her headache worse as she noticed the figure of the medi-witch the other side of the bed.

“All in good time dear,” she replied, “Let me take a look at you and then I’ll give you something for the pain. Keep hold of Severus’ hand. I can’t promise this won’t be a little uncomfortable.”

Hermione nodded, knowing her colleague well enough that no more answers would be forthcoming until she had completed her examination. She turned her attention to Severus, glad that he had folded her hand in between his larger ones, the familiar work-calloused grip acting as both comforter and anchor as Poppy poked and prodded her with both fingers and spells.

Each time she flinched, Severus’ hands tightened around hers, offering her comfort but she wished she could do the same for him, seeing the worry etched into the lines of his face. She knew their cause as her memory returned to her, images of the battle in the Shrieking Shack and then tumbling through the air in Calcraft’s grip. She flinched as Poppy’s probing finger examined a bruise on her shoulder, the pain giving a physical hurt to the mental one as she remembered the hex that hit her and then nothing until she had awoken in the hospital wing.

Despite the probing being uncomfortable whilst Poppy tended to the injuries on her head and shoulder, Hermione wished for it once more as she realised that the medi-witch was examining injuries to her hips and legs but she felt nothing even as she touched her.

“My…my…” she began, her throat catching on the words.

“I know dear,” said Poppy, “But you will be well. Give me a moment more and then we can talk about what’s happening.”

“Can she drink Poppy?” asked Severus.

The medi-witch nodded, continuing her examination as Severus reached for the jug on the nightstand, pouring out a glass of water before he extricated his other hand from Hermione’s grip. He supported the back of her head, raising the glass to her lips and helping her to drink.

She was grateful for the cool water as it soothed her parched throat, Severus’ strong hand beneath her hair giving her a sense of safety even as her mind ran away at high speed. She met his dark eyes, seeing the tears that wanted to fall but she knew he would fight them back with everything he had in him. She realised that her own had broken loose though when he set the glass down once more, his hand returning to brush away the moisture on her cheeks.

“You’re safe my angel,” he said, “You’re safe and you mustn’t worry. Poppy?”

“She’s healing well,” she replied, moving back to the head of the bed, “But it will take time. How are you feeling Hermione?”

“Sore, confused and I…it’s like I can’t feel my legs,” she said, her voice still a little scratchy and she coughed to clear it, “I can’t feel anything.”

Poppy nodded, “And you won’t for a week at least, maybe two,” she said, “You fell and, from the abrasions on your limbs, you hit something in the water. You have broken your back and your right hip. There was a lot of internal damage but I have healed everything and you will be restored to full health soon. You need to be patient and rest though; you cannot put stress on the injuries for a while yet.”

“My back?” said Hermione, fear and adrenaline coursing through her veins and leaving her cold, “I broke my back. If I’d been muggle…”

“But you’re not,” said Severus, “And you got to Poppy in time. You’re going to be alright my love.”

“I remember falling,” said Hermione, grateful for the extra blanket Poppy laid over her as she shivered again, “Something hit me.”

“A hex, meant for me,” said Severus sadly, “I was chasing you and Calcraft, the Death Eaters were chasing me. You hit the water before I could stop you. I thought I was going to lose you beneath the water but I managed to drag you out. I don’t know if I caused any of the damage you sustained and I’m sorry if I did.”

“Oh shut up,” said Hermione though there was no venom in her tone, “You saved me. I was so relieved when you, Harry and Ron arrived at the shack. I didn’t think I could hang on much longer. How did you know where to find me?”

Poppy clucked her tongue and settle the blankets a little neater over her patient, “Stories can wait for later. You need to rest,” she said, “It’s not yet six in the morning and it will be a while before breakfast. It would do Severus well to head home now he has seen you waken.”

“I’m not leaving her,” said Severus, his hand gripping hers once more.

Hermione shook her head, “And I can’t rest,” she said, “Please Poppy. I promise we won’t be a nuisance and I don’t have much choice but to stay in bed anyway. You rest if you need to.”

Poppy frowned but nodded before she shot a warning look at Severus, “Be sure she doesn’t exhaust herself, she needs her strength to heal and I’ve no doubt there will be questions to answer. Call for me if you need me.”

“We will,” promised Severus.

Hermione waited until the medi-witch had left the room, closing the heavy doors to the ward behind her; before she tugged on Severus’ hand, glad when he immediately leaned down to hold her tightly. Her restricted movements meant it was not the most comfortable embrace they had ever shared but the closeness brought her comfort despite the awkwardness. She tried to bite back a sob but the effort was in vain and she pressed her face into Severus’ shirt as she cried. He hushed her softly, his words gentle nonsense but the familiar tones helped her to calm herself.

“I was so frightened,” she said finally, pulling back from his arms only slightly as he moved to sit on the bed, his body looming tall over her and acting like a sentinel against the world beyond.

“So was I,” he admitted, “I’ve never known fear like it. It settled in my heart the second the alarm was raised and it has only faded since you woke. I thought for a while that I would not find you alive.”

“How did you find me?” she said, “I swear I thought I was going to die there.”

“Don’t think that way anymore,” he said, “You’re safe now. We were searching, all of us from the party. I stayed with Ron and Harry, or more to the point they stayed with me, they quite rightly worried about what I might do should I find your assailants without them. We were searching the forest, we were losing help and then fate, or whatever you wish to call it, came to our aid. I stumbled and a stone got stuck in my hand. I didn’t realise what it was but Harry did. The Resurrection Stone. I turned it and, through means I cannot understand or explain, Lily came to me and she led me to you. Without her, I think we would have been too late. She led me to you.”

“Lily?” said Hermione, her tone hushed, “I remember Harry mentioning her being summoned by the Stone on the night of the Battle. Were you…was it alright? Seeing her? I…”

Severus smiled, “I was more concerned with finding you to give the reality of it much thought,” he said, his fingers carding an easy path through her hair, “Though it was somewhat surreal but it was comforting as well. We had a chance to make our peace. Not that I required it of her, or anyone, but she gave us her blessing. It was good to have a chance to say goodbye.”

Hermione smiled, “I’m glad,” she said, “You needed that and I’m glad there was a way for you to speak to her. Where is the stone now?”

Severus shrugged, “No idea,” he said, “I had it in this room. I saw my own hand leave it upon the window ledge but it was dawn when dawn had not yet come. Whatever magic brought her to me for the last time spirited the stone away with it.”

Hermione frowned, “The original story said… maybe Death was near yesterday but it was not time for either of us to greet him.”

“And it won’t be for a long time,” said Severus before his face darkened, “If I am fair, his quarry was more likely one of your attackers than you or I. Had I not been held back by our friends, I may easily have given Calcraft the end he sought to bring you.”

“Don’t say that,” said Hermione, “Not least because I don’t want you to act in such a way, even in defence of me, but also because I’m not entirely sure if Ernest meant for me to get hurt.”

“Dragging you into a waiting ambush of Death Eaters wouldn’t exactly suggest otherwise,” said Severus, his tone regaining that of the strict professor she had known in her youth, “Dearest, I know you have sought to help the boy but he nearly got you killed.”

Hermione forced her way onto her elbows, hating the weakness in her lower body but unwilling to remain laid against the pillows of her bed, “It’s true he led me there,” she said, “But there was something that didn’t feel right. He was so silent in class yesterday and then when he came up to me, he was shaking like a leaf. He was nearly in tears when he cast the Imperious curse over me. I remember him telling me when we were going to the shack that it was the right thing to do, that Muggleborns shouldn’t be allowed to attend or teach at Hogwarts but it was like he was convincing himself, not me. When we reached the others, they told him to keep me under the curse but as soon as they raised their wands against me, he released the spell. Never once did he cast against me and sometimes it seemed as though he was deliberately placing himself between them and me. Even when he flew off with me it felt as though he was trying to take me away from danger.”

“But you were fighting him.”

“I was frightened and his flying was awful,” she said, “I’ve never liked flying at the best of times.”

Severus frowned, “Even if what you believe is true, he still led you into mortal danger Hermione,” he said, “You were safe within Hogwarts, if he was being forced into action then he could have let you know, goodness knows you would have protected him and he would have known that. My love, I know you want him absolved of everything but he nearly got you killed.”

“He would not be the first young man to have made a serious error,” she replied, pointedly, hating the flinch in Severus’ features but knowing as well that he would not begrudge her her words, “Is he in custody?”

Severus nodded, “As far as I am aware.”

“Then they will have the truth from him,” she said, “I will not give him up yet. I will not give up hope. Promise me that you will allow this to go as it should and not hand out judgement where neither you nor I are qualified to do so.”

“As you wish,” said Severus, his tone wary but accepting as he laid her down against the pillows once more, “You have too soft a heart at times though.”

“Lucky for you I do,” she said, reaching up to caress his cheek, “Can we not talk about this now? I have relived it enough already and there is a more pressing matter to attend to.”

“And what is that?” asked Severus, lacing their fingers together against the coverlet of the bed.

“Why my beloved fiancé, who has sworn blind for many months now, he would never return to the halls of Hogwarts, is sat within those very walls long after any danger has passed.”

Severus raised their joined hands to his lips, pressing a kiss just above the diamond ring on her finger, “Well the answer is simple,” he said, “As afraid as I was of returning to these halls, I found something that frightened me far more when you were stolen from them, my angel.”

Hermione smiled, feeling tears well in her eyes, as her heart seemed to ache with the weight of the love she felt for the man beside her. Without word, she reached up and drew him down to her, glad for the strength of his embrace even in the safety of the castle walls.

Chapter Text

“Thank you for your help today Severus,” said Kingsley, rising from behind his desk and offering his hand, “I’m only sorry that you had to go through the experience at all. Rest assured we are treating the incident with the gravity that it deserves.”

“Indeed,” said Severus taking his offered hand, “I have to admit that I was surprised to find you at the helm of this. I would have thought quite a minor event in the grand scheme of things would have warranted the attention of a lesser mortal than the Minister for Magic.”

“The fact that the security of Hogwarts was compromised is only one of the issues,” said Kingsley, the mask of the Minister falling away completely to reveal the man beneath, “I honestly thought this threat had been extinguished.”

Severus smiled ruefully, “There will always be those who seek to challenge the status quo for their own ends and we are not so far from the war that it is so easily forgotten.”

“I know but perhaps we have been too complacent,” said Kingsley honestly, “With Voldemort gone it was too easy to believe that everything would fall back in line. I’m sorry that Hermione had to be hurt before we took notice.”

Severus held up a hand, “Don’t apologise to me for the fact that it was Hermione that was hurt. Yes I am upset on her behalf and I wish she had not been injured but this would have been as serious had it been any muggleborn,” he said, “And I cannot fault the response we had to the incidents before this. Harry led his team admirably with the information they had and I don’t want to hear that there has been any negativity passed his or Ron’s way for their handling of this.”

“Trust me, there will only be praise for their team,” said Kingsley, leading Severus to the door, “If it is still your wish to see Ernest Calcraft I can arrange for Harry to escort you to the cells. I doubt you’ll get much from him though, none of our agents could.”

“Having had experience of the Ministry’s idea of effective interrogation he is more likely to be afraid of those he could betray,” said Severus, “Are you sure you are happy with me speaking to the boy?”

Kingsley cocked an eyebrow as they stepped out into the corridor beyond, “I do not believe you are foolish enough to attempt any sort of revenge within Ministry walls and besides, Harry will be present outside the cell and in possession of your wand throughout the duration,” he said, “Though I still don’t know why you wish to speak to him.”

“I have my reasons,” said Severus, the pair of them falling silent as they headed down the long corridor, the black polished tiles echoing their footsteps back to them.

Harry got to his feet as they rounded the corner to meet them, his face tired and more careworn than Severus had seen it but he smiled all the same.

“Minister,” he said with a nod of greeting towards Kingsley, “Ready to go down Severus?”

“With the anticipation that it may be an exercise in futility, I am,” he replied, “Lead the way.”

“Be sure to send me an invite to the wedding Severus,” called Kingsley to his back, “I cannot believe that Hermione has softened your tough old heart until then.”

“Neither can I at times,” said Severus as Harry led them away from the Minister and deeper into the underground tunnels.

“How’s Hermione doing?” asked Harry after several more turns, “I’m hoping to visit her after my shift is over but I still don’t know when I’m going to get off.”

“She was bright enough when I left Hogwarts,” said Severus, “The potions Poppy is giving her make her sleepy but better that than the pain she’d be in otherwise. I can’t believe it’s less than a day since it happened. Feels like the world has spun around more than once.”

Harry laid a hand on his shoulder, his glasses doing little to hide the dark circles under his eyes, “I know what you mean,” he said, “I’m sorry we had to drag you away so quickly but these things are better done when it’s fresh. I did try to convince them to interview you at Hogwarts along with Hermione but they said they couldn’t as you were capable of coming here.”

“To be fair it made me go home and change,” said Severus, “Poppy would have been booting me out later on today otherwise. Besides, having had a chance to think things over, I need to speak with Calcraft.”

Harry frowned, “I’m still not sure what you think you’ll get out of him.”

“Neither am I,” said Severus, “But Hermione… she won’t give up on him.”

Harry came to a halt before a door, taking his wand from his pocket and releasing the charms that kept it locked, “Well don’t blame me when he doesn’t say a word,” he said, holding out his hand, “I need to take your wand. Protocol I’m afraid.”

Severus pulled his wand from the sleeve of his black frock coat and placed it in Harry’s hand, “I’m entrusting this to you,” he said as the younger man closed his hand around it, “No one else.”

Harry nodded, “Understood,” he said, opening the door, “All yours.”

Severus didn’t hesitate as he stepped through the door, Harry closing it behind him but he knew he would not move from the other side until Severus chose to leave. He turned his attention to the cell before him, glad to find it a world away from what he had known in his brief stint in Azkaban. The room was sparsely furnished but comfortable, with a low bed in the corner and a small table bearing a goblet of water and a plate of uneaten food, the young man in custody clearly not interested in eating.

Ernest Calcraft cut a small, lonely figure on the bed. His school uniform replaced by a plain, dark blue set of robes that were clearly Ministry issue, the outfit several sizes too large for him and making him look more like a first year than a seventh. His eyes were unfocused as he stared down at the tiled floor, his concentration too far away to realise that he was no longer alone in the room.

Leaning against the doorframe, Severus made certain that the toe of his boot made enough noise to rouse the young man as he crossed one leg over the other, his posture far more relaxed than he would ever have been seen at Hogwarts. He kept his face impassive as Ernest looked up, unmoving as the boy all but threw himself back against the farthest wall.

“Don’t kill me,” he begged, “How…how did you get in here?”

“They let me in,” said Severus, “And as for killing you boy, if I had wanted to do that you wouldn’t have lasted long enough to beg me not to.”

Ernest shuddered, pressing further back against the wall, “If you’re not going to kill me, why are you here?”

“I came to talk.”

“To…talk?” squeaked Ernest, before he cleared his throat, “I have nothing to say to you.”

“I did not say that I required you to talk,” said Severus, crossing his arms over his chest, “At this point in time, you need to sit, or cower if you so prefer, and listen.”

Ernest’s face hardened and for a moment Severus expected him to argue back but instead he just sat up a little straighter, trying to stare him down. Severus bit back a smirk at the sight, knowing that despite the bravado the boy was far more terrified than he thought he was letting on.

“I’m not about to rehash what happened,” said Severus, “But I must to admit that I do not understand why it occurred. Of all your teachers, unless she has been reporting something different to me, Professor Granger has championed you, despite the way your relationship began. She has wanted you to succeed, she has pushed for you to succeed, and she has given up her time to make sure you succeed. She may have been in a different house from you in her school days and she fought against your family in the war but she has never let that influence how she has treated you or her other students. Despite this, you took it upon yourself to lead her into danger, to place her into the hands of people who would do her harm and then, when she was assured of rescue, you carried her off. The resulting fall has caused her injuries that have only been healed by the virtue of speed and the skill of Madame Pomfrey. You have hurt the one person who has fought tooth and nail for you but even now she wants to see the good in you.”

Ernest sniffed, shrugging his shoulders as he stared petulantly at the wall opposite him, “More fool her,” he said, “The stupid Mudblood deserves more than just injuries. She isn’t fit to be called a witch.”

Though he felt the familiar bristle rush beneath his skin at the word that had cost him the first friend he had ever known, Severus couldn’t help but feel his lips twitch into a rueful smile, a mirthless laugh escaping him as he reached a hand up to pinch the bridge of his nose.

“Those words would carry a lot more weight if there was actually some conviction in them,” he said, “Tell me, Calcraft, how long have you been rehearsing lines such as that in the mirror? Do you insult your bedposts in the hope that one day people will believe your words when you actually direct them at someone?”

“I don’t have to answer to you,” snapped Calcraft, “You’re nothing but a blood traitor.”

“Yes indeed,” said Severus, “I am quite the traitor, to both sides at one time or another. You are hardly insulting me by pointing out the fact. I’m sure you could run off several other insults if I gave you the chance but I do not wish to waste my time. Instead, I intend to leave you here to whatever fate the Ministry decides for you. I will give you a little advice before I leave though. Your family don’t always want what’s best for you and friends that promise you the world if you go against your own ethics are fair-weather at best. You’re young and you have people, whether you deserve them or not, who would support you if you choose to do the right thing. Make the right choice Ernest.”

He didn’t wait for an answer, not truly believing that he would receive one either way as Ernest continued to stare sullenly at the wall, his legs drawn up to his chest and his arms wrapped around them. He tapped on the door, the hinges creaking as it opened, before he stepped outside without looking back.

He sighed as Harry closed and locked the door behind him, weaving several spells over it before he turned to him with a quizzical look.

“Well I didn’t hear any screaming,” he said, handing Severus his wand, “And he looked as though he was still breathing.”

Severus sighed, leaning back against the wall, “I’m not it the business of harming individuals in custody, however tempting,” he said, “It was a wasted trip.”

“What exactly did you hope to achieve?”

“I don’t know,” said Severus, before he straightened up, shaking off the dark feeling that had settled over him, “Hermione is determined not to give up on him and I thought…well, it is in his hands now. I just hope Hermione comes to terms with it. Anyway, I should let you get back to work and I should get back to Hermione.”

“Others have turned back when they have been far deeper in,” said Harry, “Tell Hermione I’ll come to see her when I get off. Do you want me to walk you out?”

Severus shook his head, “I’ll find my way. See you later.”

Harry waved him off, heading deeper into the catacombs whilst Severus turned towards the exit. He was glad when he finally emerged into the great vaulted halls of the main entrance, finding it quiet enough that he did not have to wait for a fireplace to come free before he flooed back to Hogwarts, straight into Minerva’s office.

He had not expected her there to greet him but he had wished she had been, the familiar sight of the large study that had been his during his time as Headmaster oppressive despite the vastness of the space. He suppressed a shudder as he felt the eyes of his many predecessors upon him, not pausing to look up as he resisted the urge to hurry to the sanctuary of his home and instead took the familiar path to the hospital wing.

When he had left for home and then the Ministry it had been early, the students not yet risen for their breakfast but now the school was busy. The weekend meaning the halls were crowded with idle children, Hogsmeade forbidden following the incident with Calcraft and Hermione. He could not blame Minerva for being cautious, the likelihood of their being more Death Eaters intent on disturbing the tentative peace that had surrounded them since the fall of Voldemort too much of a risk. Despite his understanding though, he wished that he had an easier path through to the hospital wing, the mutterings of his name and the sharp looks he received from some of the older students reminding him once more of the ambiguity of his legacy.

He was grateful for the sight of the doors that led to the ward, one of them standing open and he stepped through without bothering to knock, smiling at the sight before him.

Hermione was propped up on several pillows, her clothes changed from the hospital gown she had been in that morning to a more familiar set of pyjamas she had worn several times at home. Her hair was pulled back into a messy bun and she wore a small smile as she conversed with the Headmistress, looking a world away from the distress of the day before but Severus could see the faint lines of strain around her eyes that spoke of her frustration at being bedridden.

“Am I interrupting?” he asked, feeling the morning and his time at the Ministry lift as Hermione’s smile brightened at the sight of him.

“Not at all,” she said reaching out a hand to beckon him over, “I was starting to worry you weren’t coming back.”

“You’re not getting rid of me now,” he replied, quickening his step and taking her hand as he sat down in the spare chair next to the bed.

“Never thought I’d see you so sentimental Severus,” said Minerva, “How was your trip to the Ministry?”

“Somewhat arduous,” he said, “Kingsley interviewed me himself so it is clearly being taken very seriously. I just hope they can get to the bottom of everything and that no one else gets hurt. How was it here?”

Hermione shrugged, “I couldn’t tell them an awful lot more than they already knew,” she said, with a frown, “This whole situation is just heartbreaking, not least for all the other students as well.”

“Don’t you worry about that dear,” said Minerva, “I will find someone. You just focus on getting better and come back to us when you’re ready.”

Severus looked between the two, confusion marring his brow, “What’s the matter?”

“Poppy has said it will be at least two weeks until I can even feel my legs again and then another two or three before I can think about going back to work,” said Hermione, biting back a sob, “That would take me to the end of term. I won’t be around to help them through their exams and I feel terrible.”

“You have prepared them well enough already my dear,” said Minerva gently, “And I will arrange to get someone in to cover your classes. Horace may yet be amenable to coming back if he knows it’s only for a few weeks.”

Severus tightened his grip on Hermione’s hand, seeing the heartbreak on her face despite Minerva’s reassurances. The fingers on his free hand plucked absently at a thread on the blanket covering her legs before he reached up to capture a few strands of her hair that had broken loose from their band, pushing them back behind her ear.

“If it would ease your mind a little,” he said, barely believing his own words, “I…as a temporary measure…I could… step in. It’s not as though I don’t know the subject.”

If it hadn’t been for the battle between determination and fear that was raging in his gut, he would have laughed at the opened mouth astonishment on the faces of the women before him. It was Hermione who regained herself first, tears springing to her eyes anew, but this time it was pride rather than sorrow in her gaze.

“You would do that?” she said, “For me? But you…”

“Question me and I might change my mind,” said Severus, glad when she laughed before he turned his attention to Minerva, “My intentions are only half of it though. The final decision remains with the headmistress.”

Minerva nodded, her own smile brightening, “Well it would certainly solve several problems but only if you are certain,” she said, sobering slightly, “I know things were trying for you when you were here before and I don’t want to risk your health by bringing you back here if it will bring up too many old memories.”

“Perhaps it will create some better ones,” said Severus, “And I’m intent on remaining at the school to aide Hermione’s recovery anyway so I may as well be of use. I fear she may do me an injury if I’m hovering here all day, every day.”

Hermione gave him an arch look, “You’re quite right there,” she said, “I will however also do you injury if you scare my students, my dearest love. You will have to be a nice professor.”

“I will endeavour to meet the challenge,” he said, feeling her hand tighten around his in support, “My reputation may precede me though.”

“Then you will be assured of at least your first few classes being very well behaved,” said Minerva, getting to her feet, “I will have to speak to the governors but I can’t see them offering much opposition, your name was cleared almost as soon as the final battle was won.”

“Well then, Professor Snape,” said Hermione, “I’d best get someone to bring me my lesson plans for you to look over, as my substitute I will require you to follow my teaching methods for the rest of the year.”

Minerva laughed, “I’ll leave you two to hash it out,” she said, heading to the door, “But do not exhaust yourself Hermione, Poppy would have my head if I let staffing requirements interrupt your healing.”

She left the room with a swish of long robes, her chuckle still echoing back to them even as she passed the threshold of the door. Her absence brought fear to the fore but Hermione reached up, her fingers brushing against his cheek as she turned his attention to her.

“You’re very brave my love,” she said, “Very brave.”

“Says the woman in her hospital bed,” said Severus, “The governors may yet refuse.”

“They wouldn’t dare,” said Hermione, “Minerva approves so you’re in my dear. Until it is set in stone though, let’s talk about other things. We still have a wedding to plan don’t you forget.”

Severus smiled, capturing her lips with a quick kiss, “I could never forget that,” he said, “Though occasionally I have to remind myself it’s real.”

Hermione shook her head with a smile, “Foolish man,” she said, “Now how about a proper kiss. No teachers about to tell us off for it.”

“Well then,” said Severus, “We must take advantage of the situation, Professor Granger.”

“Couldn’t agree more, Professor Snape.”

Chapter Text

My Dear Professor Snape

Wishing you lots of luck with your ‘first’ day in the Potions classroom. Don’t let the little ankle biters get to you and do make sure you charm your robes.

In all seriousness though my darling, I am so proud of you for taking on this challenge. I hope the day goes well and that everything goes to plan. It makes me feel so much better to know my students are in such capable hands. I know that you are not completely comfortable with some of the methods that I have developed but I’m grateful that you are willing to incorporate them as best you can.

Come and see me at lunchtime if you have time. I know I will have you in my thoughts every moment – not that I do not already.

This whole situation would have been unbearable were it not for you unwavering support. To know you are by my side will help me through the difficult days I know lie ahead. I know I will have much to endure even with magical help but I can get through it with your hand to hold. You are the best friend I have ever had and the soul mate I believed I would never find but little did I know how close you always were.

I can’t wait until we can begin the new chapter of our lives but, whilst we are forced to wait a little longer for our wedding day, I am glad that we are at least under the same roof.

Enjoy today as best you can. You will be wonderful, I have no doubt in that.

With all my heart, I love you.

Hermione xx

Severus smiled as he folded the heavy paper and slid it into the breast pocket of his frock coat. He had been surprised to find it upon the teacher’s desk when he had entered the Potions classroom, wondering when Hermione had managed to get an elf to take it there 

It had been late on the Sunday evening when Minerva had come to the hospital wing to inform them that the governors had approved his role as cover teacher for Hermione. It had taken all his resolve not to ask her to find someone else but he nodded and accepted the role, the smile on Hermione’s face reward enough despite his fears.

Hermione had immediately sent Misty to fetch her lesson plans and she had spent what was left of the evening instructing him on her expectations. Her passion had been infectious and he found himself almost looking forward to the morning despite his trepidation. His fears took on a new form as Poppy informed him that he would not be able to spend the night in the hospital ward, the rules having been stretched to accommodate him after Hermione’s initial admittance but the medi-witch would be unmoved on her rules now his residence at Hogwarts was becoming more permanent. 

He had left Hermione’s side with a heavy heart, heading home briefly to pack a case of things he would need before he returned to the school, finding a brief moment of amusement when Minerva escorted him to the dungeons and the chambers that had been his for more years than he dared to count. He was glad for her presence though, the necessary bravado he felt the need to display in front of his former colleague meaning that he did not hesitate at the threshold, stepping inside with a few brief words of goodnight before he shut the door on the castle beyond. 

His chambers were similar to how he had left them, the furniture mostly in the same places but there were subtle differences that marked out Hermione’s presence. The rooms were more homely, pictures and ornaments where there had been nothing on display, evidence of a life where he had had an existence. It comforted him, reminding him of their shared home, familiar sights and scents that spoke of love and companionship.

He made short work of unpacking, hanging his clothes beside hers in the closet and deliberately taking the side of the bed that he took at home. It was only when he turned in for the night that the reality of the situation hit him, fears and memories leaving him restless and unable to sleep.

He was certain that he had managed only a few moments sleep when the hour came for him to rise for the day. He dressed in his customary black, the clothes feeling odd when he had grown used to muggle fashions, the cravat feeling more like a shackle than a necktie as he fastened it. The long black robe that had long been his silhouette in the school was left in the closet however, the imposing mantle not something he wanted to bring to his classroom anew.

Hermione had been awake and waiting for him when he had arrived at the hospital wing, Minerva having agreed for him to take his meals there rather than facing the multitude of faces in the great hall. They had not discussed his fears but her gentle touches and reassuring smiles had brought him some comfort even as he imagined the gasps that would be echoing around the Great Hall as his position as temporary Potions Master was announced.

Severus shook off his reverie, flicking his wand towards the board and allowing the instructions for the Potion to write themselves as he kept his attention on the door. Slowly, several anxious young faces appeared around the door, the first years he was to teach having never shared the school with him but his reputation was such that they still feared him.

He beckoned them in, suppressing a smile as it was two small but stubborn Gryffindor girls that led the procession inside, their attitude and gait reminding him of Hermione when she had grown determined never to cower in fear of his classroom. Where before he would have sneered or even mocked their confidence, he instead gave them the briefest nod as they took the seats directly in front of them, turning his attention to the list of names before him and scanning it as the rest filtered into their seats.

When the room finally settled he looked up, the miniscule movements of children trying to sit still stirring many memories as he set about calling out the names listed before him, matching them to the faces that would be in his charge until Hermione was fit to return. The class answered the call with meek voices and the quietude continued throughout the lesson, which he was pleased to find relatively disaster free, the young students well drilled in following the instructions laid before them. 

He didn’t award any house points for the work completed but neither did he take any away, simply declaring the work adequate before setting the homework Hermione had listed and dismissing the class. He had anticipated the screech of stools and the frantic scamper for the door but instead he was met with silence, the youngsters before him staring at him in bewilderment before several began whispering to each other.

“Is something the matter?” he asked, arching one dark eyebrow, as one particular Slytherin boy seemed to be coaxed to speak by those on his table.

“Please, sir,” he finally muttered, “We…we usually do the Potions song before we leave.”

“The Potions song?” said Severus, “I’m not sure I follow.”

“We wrote it with Professor Granger to help us remember ingredients and she lets us sing it before we leave,” the boy answered before he dropped his head, “We don’t need to though.”

The voice inside Severus’ head agreed with him but rather than vocalise it, he stamped it down, seeing the nervous anticipation on the faces of the students before him.

“I’m not well versed in musical teaching nor am I particularly proficient at the art of singing but, if you have no need for me to accompany you, I cannot see why you can’t sing this Potions song before you leave,” he said, wondering at how his younger self would have reacted to such a situation and finding himself grateful that he had mellowed with age and circumstance, “You may wish to begin unless it is of unusually short duration, I doubt Professor Vector would be pleased that you were kept from your next class because of a song.”

At first he thought the shy faces would merely give up and exit the room but then a voice began to sing, the sound so soft that it was barely audible but it gave the others courage and soon the room was filled with an off key but well put together tune.

Though it was no great masterpiece it was coherent and factual, reminding him of old music hall tunes. It finished with a raucous crescendo, the children giggling as they applauded themselves and Severus felt an answering smile tug at his lips as he realised he’d never heard such a sound in his classroom.

“Well I do not believe any of you are destined for a singing career but I have heard worse,” he said, “Now get along with you and try not to deafen anymore of your professors.”

The class filed out swiftly, heading to their next class but instead of the relief Severus always felt whenever he had his classroom alone, he instead found himself anticipating what his next would bring. He shook his head with a smile, once more wondering what his younger self would have thought of his behaviour but he pushed away the thought. Instead, he swept his wand around the room, resetting for the incoming class of fifth years, hoping that they proved as tolerant of their new professor as their younger classmates had been.

xxxx

Hermione opened her eyes as she felt warm lips press against her forehead, blinking in the steady sunlight that streamed through the high windows of the hospital wing. She smiled, reaching a hand up to Severus’ cheek and drawing him down into a kiss.

“Well you appear to be in one piece,” she said as she released him, “How was it?”

“Three words,” said Severus, his tone stern but she could see the smile that played at the corner of his lips, “The Potions song.”

Hermione tried to fight back the giggle but it bubbled past her lips all the same, “Oh dear,” she said, “I didn’t think they would be brave enough to tell you about that. I appear to have underestimated them.”

“Indeed,” said Severus, taking his now customary seat at her bedside, “I did not realise that the curriculum had been set to music in the intervening years.”

Hermione grinned, “Did they make you join in?”

“I was spared that horror, thank goodness,” he replied, “And don’t you dare send out any clandestine messages persuading them to do so, Professor Granger.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it, Professor Snape,” said Hermione before she took his hand in both of hers, “How was it? Truly? We can laugh about potions songs all lunchtime but I need the truth. Can you bear it? I don’t want you hurting yourself on my account.”

“It was…difficult at times,” said Severus honestly, “There are a lot of memories in that room, in this school and there are very few of them that are positive. It was easier having the first years, they know me by reputation alone, but I have to say it was a struggle. The old me had one or two thoughts on teaching that I don’t really want to own any more but it is hard to stamp down old habits.”

Hermione frowned, “You don’t have to do this my love,” she said, “I know you want to do it for me but I don’t want you to hurt yourself, I don’t want to lose you to the memories of this place.”

“And you won’t,” said Severus, “This will not be an easy road but I have made it through the worst and each lesson…each lesson where I am different to the man I was, is proof to me that I am worthy of all the happiness you have brought me.”

“Severus…” sighed Hermione, “You are worthy.”

“Maybe in your eyes but there are many who would say I still have much to atone for,” he said before he pressed a kiss to the back of her hand, “But enough, we could argue this until we are in our dotage. I want to know how you’re faring.”

Hermione shrugged, “No change,” she said, “To be fair, I’m not sure whether the lack of sensation is to do with the injury or the potions Poppy is feeding me. I have a feeling I am going to be extremely frustrated before too long.”

“I wouldn’t be surprised if you were,” said Severus, “You could spend your time on research, no need for your mind to be inactive just because your body has to be. I have plenty of projects I began prior to you being injured that I intended to ask your opinion on, I’d be only too happy to leave them in your hands in their entirety.”

“It would be preferable to staring at the walls,” said Hermione with a smile, “And as soon as Poppy lets me up from the bed I can put theories into action.”

“One step at a time my angel,” chuckled Severus, “Though it may place me at the wrong end of your temper I am going to make sure you get the rest you need.”

Hermione scowled but it faded as swiftly as it came, her expression softening as she reached up to capture a few strands of his hair, tugging them gently, “You know I can’t stay mad at you for long,” she said, “Can you stay for lunch?”

Severus nodded, “Minerva has spared me the trials of dinner at the teachers’ table,” he said, “I think she fears I will scare the children a little too much.”

“Well whatever the reason, I am glad I get to have your company,” said Hermione, “Shall I call for Misty?”

Severus nodded, contenting himself that so long as he could share his free time with the woman before him, his brief return to teaching would not be such a trial.

xxxx

“Misty is sorry to interrupt Professor Granger when she is resting but Misty thought that Professor Granger would like her letter right away.”

Hermione raised her head from her pillow, cursing once more the potions Poppy had been giving her to keep the pain of her injuries at bay, “No need to apologise Misty,” she said, “You’re always welcome, please sit down.”

Misty smiled brightly, scrambling into the chair before she held out the envelope, “From the Ministry.”

Hermione frowned at the familiar seal, turning the envelope over to see Harry’s writing on the front. She broke the seal with a finger, her mind running over the potential contents before she had even unfolded it.

Dear Hermione  

Hope you’re healing well and that you’re not trying to escape the hospital wing just yet.

You will probably receive official confirmation but, knowing how long things take here, I thought I would let you know in advance. Ernest has chosen to cooperate with us in our investigations to the point where he has given us vital information not only on his co-conspirators in your case but also the network behind it. As such, whilst he still must face charges for his actions, those judging him have leave to be more lenient.

The reason I am writing to tell you this now is that your testimony and your wishes will be taken into account at his trial. The Ministry will no doubt want your decision as soon as they ask for it but I want you to have time to consider everything.

I’ll come to see you as soon as I can.

Harry.

PS Is it true that Severus is covering your lessons?’

Hermione read the letter over twice, rubbing her hand absently over her stomach as it seemed to twist as memories of the attack resurfaced against those of the young man she had been helping throughout the school year.

She finally lowered the letter, seeing Misty’s concerned expression as the little elf leaned almost to toppling point on her chair.

“Is Professor Granger alright?” she asked, “Should Misty fetch Madame Pomfrey?”

Hermione forced a smile, “No thank you Misty,” she said, “But if you wouldn’t mind asking Professor Snape to come and see me. His class should finish in about fifteen minutes so don’t disturb him until then and be sure to tell him that I am fine and not to rush.”

Misty nodded, “Misty will do so,” she replied, “Misty likes Professor Snape.”

“I’m sure he likes you too,” said Hermione, as Misty disappeared from her place in her chair.

She picked up the letter once more, scanning Harry’s words as her thoughts turned to how she should act, knowing it was a decision she would have to make alone but wanting nothing more than the support of her partner as she did so.

Chapter Text

Hermione sighed, scrubbing her hand over her eyes as she set her letter down on the table beside her. Her attention was caught by the scurrying figures of the students in the courtyard below the hospital wing, heading to their next lessons with a haste prompted only by the rain that had been falling steadily outside for most of the day rather than desperation to get to class.

She reached down, rubbing a hand against her leg, the sensation one she could only liken to the limb awakening from pins and needles, there but not fully responding to her touch. She tried to wriggle her toes but they barely moved and she cursed before trying again but they still did not respond.

She picked up the letter once again, the now familiar stuffy formality of the Ministry apparent in every line as it listed the date and time for Ernest Calcraft’s sentencing. She had already provided all the evidence they needed from her, her statement requesting clemency following his cooperation with the investigation, but she had asked to attend all the same.

She placed the letter back into the file she had put together, withdrawing another written in a more familiar hand. She had been surprised when Harry had paid her a surprise visit a little over a week after he had written to tell her that Ernest had chosen to cooperate with the investigation and even more so when he had produced a letter from the boy himself.

It was a short missive, an apology for his actions and the hurt she had suffered but he never gave excuses, accepting the responsibility for his choices. She had shed happy tears to receive it, hoping that it was the first step in his rehabilitation. She had been even happier when Severus had joined her and Harry after class, his approval of the contents of the letter making her hope even stronger.

Thoughts of her partner seemed almost to conjure him, the door opening behind her and she turned in her chair with a smile at the sound of the familiar footfalls.

“How was it?” she asked, turning her face up to his as he greeted her with a kiss.

“Well the paper had some tricky questions but I have faith in them all,” said Severus, “I think we can anticipate some promising OWL results in the summer. You taught them well.”

Hermione smiled, “And you helped them over the final hurdle,” she said, “Did you bring a copy of the paper with you?”

“I left it in the office,” he said, “We have an appointment to keep if you still want to go?”

“I do but I don’t at the same time,” she said with a sigh, “It’s not going to be an enjoyable afternoon.”

“We can leave whenever you want to,” said Severus, crouching in front of her and helping her feet into her shoes, “And I will be at your side throughout. Are you sure you’re feeling strong enough?”

“In body yes,” said Hermione, “I think my legs are going to ache after sitting up for so long. I shouldn’t complain though, any sensation is good after the last couple of weeks.”

Severus frowned, “Not to the point of pain my love,” he said, “You’re still recovering and you shouldn’t be putting yourself under undue stress.”

Hermione forced a smile, “I will be fine and I will rest as best I can tomorrow,” she said, “The stress will be worse if I sit here worrying about what’s happening at the Ministry.”

“If you’re sure then,” said Severus, moving behind her chair, “If I may?”

Hermione nodded, forcing down the irritation that came from being pushed around in her chair despite knowing it put too much of a tax on her magic to propel it herself. Severus’ own words of reproach from several days before when she had bemoaned the contraption ringing in her mind as her reminded her that she was lucky enough to only be confined for a matter of weeks.

She was thankful that the halls were relatively quiet, most of the students in class whilst those on study leave were hidden away in either their common rooms or the library. She had received plenty of cards and gifts with wishes for her recovery but her visitors had been limited to the staff and friends, not wanting to see the students’ reactions to her injuries.

They made swift progress to the gate, Hermione looking back over her shoulder at the looming sight of the castle in trepidation at leaving, the safety of the walls reminding her of the threats that could still linger beyond them. She smiled as she felt Severus’ strong hand on her shoulder, the touch reassuring her that her fears were understood but at the same time, guarded against.

As soon as they reached a safe point to apparate, she felt Severus’ magic surround them both, swiftly transporting them to a safe point near the Ministry. She had hoped to floo directly into the main atrium but the violence of the journey was too dangerous for her still healing body and so they were required to use the visitors’ entrance.

Part of her wanted to protest about being carried into the red telephone box, her chair easily shrunk and placed into Severus’ pocket, but the fact that it was Severus’ arms holding her eased the annoyance at her own inability. She allowed herself a brief moment to tighten the embrace, their time alone together being limited to his visits to the hospital wing with the pair of them always on alert for Poppy or Minerva walking in unannounced. She didn’t get long to indulge though as they arrived in the Ministry and Severus returned her once more to her chair.

They hurried down to the basement floors, not wanting to be caught by anyone who would waylay them. She steeled her resolve as she realised they were heading to the same courtroom where they had faced down Umbridge during the war, the memories still fresh despite the intervening years.

The unease deepened as she saw the number of people who had turned out for the sentencing of such a young man, the faces those not of support but of morbid curiosity. She saw Harry and Ron, seated with the other Aurors, but they both offered small waves as they saw them and Hermione was glad that their would be some friendly faces to focus on if she needed to.

“Are you alright?” said Severus, taking a seat beside her.

She nodded, “I just wasn’t expecting this to be such a circus,” she murmured, not wanting to attract the attention of those around them, “He’s just a boy.”

“And the mob are just the mob,” said Severus, “They will come to a show regardless of the players if they believe it will bring some sort of amusement or, in this case, a sense of superiority I would imagine. If you want to leave we can, Harry can owl us the outcome.”

Hermione shook her head, “No,” she said, “No I need to be here.”

Severus took her hand, his fingers lacing with hers, the strength flowing through the strong grip and she relaxed at his side, tuning out the room around them and focussing only on the scene before them as a group of Ministry officials began to filter in. The crowd settled within moments and one of the officials stood to speak. Hermione had to avoid rolling her eyes as the war was dragged up and the horrors laid bare as though they hadn’t all lived through it, Severus’ description of the mob wanting a show proved true as they gasped at the words as though they were new.

The finally reached the incident in question and Hermione tightened her grip on Severus’ hand to keep from correcting them as the event was over dramatised once more and her fear grew that Ernest would be held up as a scapegoat for far more than he was responsible for.

The boy himself was brought out, looking far smaller than Hermione remembered now he was in such a vast room. At first, he kept his head down but slowly he raised it as the speaker began to list the ways in which he had assisted in their investigation. It was only moments before his gaze met hers and the look of sadness and horror that crossed his face broke her heart. Despite the ever-present ache in her limbs from the ill-thought flight from the Shrieking Shack, Hermione knew she held no hostility towards him and she offered him a small smile.

Shock and then relief flooded Ernest’s face and he stood a little taller than before, bravery settling around him even as the details of Hermione’s injuries were noted before those gathered and the guilty verdict reaffirmed. He sought her gaze once more as the room speaker fell silent for a moment, only the rustle of his papers breaking through the stillness of the room.

Hermione smiled, knowing that the exchange hadn’t been lost on the man beside her as Severus’ hand tightened in hers. His other hand came over to cover them both as the speaker got to his feet, the tension in the room becoming almost a palpable thing but Hermione was glad to see that Ernest did not bow beneath it, meeting his fate with his head held high.

“Although your actions on the day in question were abhorrent, Mr Calcraft,” said the speaker, “You have since cooperated fully and indeed, help this Ministry to identify and disable several factions still loyal to the now deceased Tom Riddle. The injured party from your actions, Professor Hermione Granger, has expressed clearly that she believes any sort of custodial sentence would not be of benefit to either you or the wizarding society as a whole however, it is not her position to judge and such decisions instead have been made by those who have had experience handling dark wizards throughout the years.”

“Don’t…” came Severus’ low voice beside her even before she was aware she wished to speak, “Let this play and then we fight it if we must.”

“You have the potential and the training to be a truly dangerous individual,” continued the speaker, “However, your actions, it appears, were not born out of the desire to cause harm yourself but rather to fulfil the expectations visited upon you by your family. It is their influence that has led you down this path and it is our hope that the cessation of this will in fact steer you onto a more beneficial one. As such, it is our decision that you not receive a custodial sentence at this time however, you will be monitored and your education finalised by the Ministry. A benefactor who wishes to remain anonymous has volunteered funds to both house and privately educate you under the Ministry’s care. If you are found after this period of rehabilitation to be suitably repentant of your actions and willing to make an honest way in this world then you will be allowed to do so. If you choose to continue down a path of darkness however, a custodial sentence in Azkaban may yet be sought by the Ministry. Am I understood?”

“Ye…Yes sir,” muttered Ernest, his face a picture of confusion, his hands gripping the brass rail before him until his knuckles were white with exertion.

Several voices called out for tougher sentences but they were swiftly quieted by the Aurors positioned amongst the crowd. Hermione found words fleeing her though, relieved that Ernest would be spared Azkaban but wondering what he would face under the tutelage of the Ministry.

“Are you alright?” asked Severus, his voice quiet but still able to catch her attention over the din of the crowd.

“I think so,” she said, leaning in to avoid her words being heard by anyone around her, “Does this mean he’s free?”

“Of sorts,” said Severus, “At least in a better place than Azkaban but with better support than I had once I was freed on the back of Dumbledore’s testimony. He’ll be alright.”

Hermione frowned, “That’s more than a platitude,” she said, “What do you know?”

“Not here,” said Severus, “Trust me.”

“Severus?” she asked but his grip on her hand stilled her questions.

She turned her attention back to the room before her, watching as Ernest was led away, the boy following almost mindlessly as shock still registered on his face. Harry and Ron looked up at her from their place amongst the Aurors, questions on both their faces and Hermione nodded, letting them know that she was as happy as she could be with the result. Harry returned her gesture but Ron looked less convinced, his opinions on anyone even tempted to the darkness still harsher than hers despite the changes in the wizarding world since the war.

“The crowd’s thinning out,” said Severus, getting to his feet and moving behind her, “Shall we go?”

“Do you think we can avoid the journalists?” said Hermione, “I don’t fancy being mobbed.”

“We’ll avoid them,” said Severus, pushing her in the opposite direction to the door they had entered from.

“Where are we going?”

“Emergency exit,” whispered Severus, leaning down so that only she could hear him, “Harry gave me the nod about it the other day. He’s arranged for us to use it so we avoid the crowds.”

Hermione smiled, “You’ve been busy.”

“Purely selfish reasons. Seeing as we have some time, I want to spend as much of it as I can with you alone,” he said, as they reached what appeared to be little more than a wall.

He reached over and knocked, barely a moment passing before an opening appeared and they ushered through. The Auror who was leading them down the narrow corridor was one who had accompanied Harry to their home when they had found the murdered lion cub in their garden but Hermione had been too distraught to catch his name. She didn’t break the silence by asking for it now, instead she kept her focus on their path, cursing her position in the chair which meant she could not see Severus’ face to better understand what he knew about Ernest’s future.

The corridor finally ended and another door opened, the young Auror bowing them in before closing it behind them. Hermione had expected to see Harry or Ron waiting for them but frowned as she recognised another figure that she had not been expecting. She glanced back over her shoulder at Severus, his face relaxed as though he had expected the encounter rather than been surprised by it.

“Draco?” she said turning her attention back to the man she had not been expecting to see, “I don’t understand. What brings you here?”

“Ernest,” he answered, “And any others like him who were forced into situations beyond their control by people in a position of influence over them.”

Hermione smiled, “You’re the benefactor?” she said, unable to hide the surprise in her voice.

Draco nodded, “Even after the fines imposed on my family by the Ministry after the war I still have a significant fortune at my disposal,” he said, “I wanted to put it to good use. When I heard what had happened and then heard about your testimony, I finally found something to support. I wrote to Severus and he assured me in your belief that Ernest was a victim of his family, so I approached the Ministry with an offer to rehabilitate him.”

Severus stepped around her chair, crouching to meet her eye line before he spoke, “We didn’t know if the Ministry would agree until today so I didn’t want to get your hopes up that Ernest would be released,” he said, “I’m only glad we got the result we were hoping for.”

“I’m just glad that he has a chance,” she said, “Thank you Draco. I know if anyone can understand him, you will.”

“I’m not the only one,” he answered, casting a brief look at his former house head, “I’ll make sure he has the guidance he needs and I’ll keep you both updated if you like.”

“I would like that,” said Hermione, “And I’d like to be able to see him when he has had time to find himself again.”

“You’ll be more than welcome, whenever you wish,” said Draco, “But please focus on getting well first.”

“I don’t have much of a choice with this one hovering over me,” said Hermione, “But I am not complaining, I feel stronger every day having rested.”

“Rest and that stubborn streak of yours combined,” said Severus, “If you need any help with this endeavour Draco, let me know. I cannot promise I will be of much use but I will offer what I can.”

“We both will,” said Hermione, her hand covering Severus’ where it rested on the arm of her chair, “For Ernest and any other young person you can help. We’ve all suffered enough with the effects of the war.”

“Well hopefully not for much longer,” said Draco, “I should go. I need to get Ernest settled before anyone decides he’d be better off being shipped to Azkaban. I’ll write with any updates I can share, with his permission of course.”

“Thank you Draco,” said Severus, shaking his hand before Draco turned to the door, letting himself out of the small room and into the noise of the exiting crowd beyond.

Hermione smiled as he turned back to her, extending her hands to him and drawing him down into a kiss, “I think I can finally put this to rest now,” she said, “And I hope…for you?”

“It may be several generations too late but yes, if all goes well and Ernest benefits from this then it is a step towards healing,” said Severus, “And now you can focus on yourself entirely, beginning with tonight. You are now faced with a choice Professor Granger. Poppy has informed me that she no longer believes you in need of the hospital wing as you are more than capable on this set of wheels of yours so you are duly released back to your chambers. I believe you currently have a squatter passing himself off as a substitute potions professor though.”

Hermione laughed, “Well he can have the couch maybe,” she said, before she frowned, “Minerva’s not going to move you out is she? I’ve never heard of two teachers living in the same chambers.”

Severus smirked, “Not with the current staff but several individuals during my time there ending up pairing off,” he said, “Minerva will not mind so long as we are discreet.”

“So are we heading home then?” asked Hermione, “I’ve missed being able to sleep beside you.”

“Well therein lays the choice before you my love,” said Severus, “We can leave here and sequester ourselves away in our chambers for the evening or we could amble on down to the South Bank where I understand one of our mutual passions is being indulged in the open air. They are showing Chaplin rather than Chaney but I’m sure it will be enjoyable and there is a live accompaniment and champagne available.”

Hermione smiled, “Well you’ve clearly done your research so I suggest the best course of action is a brief sojourn to the South Bank for one or two or three films and then back to our chambers for the rest of the night,” she said, “If that suits you of course, Professor Snape, you do have classes to take in the morning.”

“I’m sure I will be fine,” he said, heading to the door and opening it just enough to glance at the room beyond, “Majority of the crowd has gone so I think we’ll be safe. Are you ready?”

“Definitely,” she said brightly, “I’d rather not see the inside of this place again for a good long while.”

“Me neither,” said Severus, stepping back behind her chair, “Chaplin awaits us as do the City Lights.”

Hermione laughed, “Better than The Circus,” she answered, hearing him chuckle behind her as they made their way to the door.

Chapter Text

“Any numbness? Tingling? Instability when you stand?”

“Not at all.”

“No headaches or nausea when you have been on your feet for long periods of time?”

“Poppy I’m fine,” said Hermione as the medi-witch fussed around her, “I feel better than I have done for a long time and my legs feel as strong as they ever were before the accident.”

Poppy sighed and patted her hand, “Well, try not to exert yourself too much for a little longer at least,” she said, “Magic may have healed you faster than muggle means but it still isn’t a miracle cure.”

“I know,” said Hermione, “And I promise to take it easy but I won’t stay cooped up in my chambers. Being able to at least be in a classroom these last few days has been wonderful, even if Severus is the one technically taking the class.”

“I think you’ll have to body bind him to wrestle back control of your classroom,” said Poppy, “Dare I say he seems to be enjoying it?”

Hermione smiled, “Not that he’d admit it but I think he is too,” she said, “I suppose now he does not have any appearances to maintain it is easier for him.”

“It's good to see him so relaxed and the students seem so at ease with him,” said Poppy, “I almost have to double take when I see him openly talking to them in the halls. At best he used to only deduct house points for loitering.”

“I think he's being deliberately conservative when it comes to house points,” said Hermione, “Though I saw him struggle not to take points off a couple of Gryffindor boys the other day. To be fair I wouldn't have blamed him if he had done, little buggers were out for mischief that day.”

Poppy smirked, “I remember three certain young Gryffindors who were often out for mischief back in the day.”

“And Severus doesn't let me forget it,” said Hermione, hopping down off the bed and slipping her feet back into her shoes, “Am I allowed to go a join my classes now?”

Poppy nodded, “Just remember to take it easy.”

“I will,” said Hermione, “Thank you Poppy.”

“You're welcome my dear,” said the medi-witch as Hermione turned to the door.

The corridors were quiet, lessons in progress and those in the seventh year who had completed their exams were happily spending the last few days of the term out in the sunshine. The light called to Hermione and she was tempted to head outside herself but instead she turned towards the dungeons, intent on joining Severus and the class of third years he was currently in charge of.

Despite still being officially on sick leave she had taken to joining him in the classroom for one or two lessons a day. Most of the time she would sit at the back and enjoy the chance to watch him teach, the layers that had made up his past character peeled away to reveal the excellent educator beneath, but occasionally he would invite her to join him in demonstrating a potion and she would be reminded of working beside him at home when they brewed together.

She adored how the children responded to him, their questions uncensored and offered without fear of being laughed at and belittled. The sight sometimes brought with it a tinge of regret though, the memory of her own lessons with him not nearly as happy and she wondered how much she would have loved the class had she had him teaching her now. The feeling was fleeting though, reason weighing out against melancholy as she watched him answer his students with patience and care.

She reached the dungeons, the cool air causing her to shiver in her light summer cardigan and she hoped her robes were still on the hook beside the teacher's desk so she could bundle up until she grew used to the temperature. So intent was she on the pursuit of her robes that she had already taken several steps into the classroom before she realised that it stood empty.

She frowned, certain that it was still only the second period of the morning, a brief spell assuring her that she was correct but it did not tell her why the class that should be in the room was absent. She headed to the desk, looking over the paperwork there and seeing nothing that would show Severus had been summoned from his duties or the class rescheduled.

“Baron?” she called, “Baron? Are you about?”

“Professor Granger?” came the low, cultured voice of the dungeon's resident ghost.

Hermione turned around, smiling at the translucent figure despite knowing that it would not be returned, “Good morning,” she said, “I don't suppose you know where Severus is do you? He's meant to have a class at the moment.”

“I believe he chose to take the lesson outside,” said the Baron, “Down by the lake. Was there anything else?”

“No thank you,” said Hermione, used to not receiving a farewell from the morose ghost as he headed through the nearest wall, the slow drag of his chains the only sound in the room as she fathomed over what he had told her.

Curiosity swiftly turned her feet to the door and she hurried back up the stairs and out into the grounds. The sun chased away the chill of the dungeon and by the time the lake came in sight she was glad that she hadn't had a chance to grab her robe. It took several more minutes until she found the missing class, the majority of the students knee deep in the water whilst the remaining few sat on the grass with their professor.

Hermione smiled as she watched Severus hold up a jar, pointing to the contents as he answered questions from the faces in front of him. Their attention was caught as another student waded out of the lake, a jar held gingerly in their hands as they headed over to the seated group. Severus took the jar, examining the contents before he turned it to his students, clearly posing a question as several hands shot up to answer him.

If the sight of the once unapproachable Potions Master, happily conversing with his students wasn't alien enough though, the fact that he was doing so clad only in white shirt sleeves rather than the formidable layers of both frock coat and robe spoke volumes of the change that had come over him.

She continued her path towards him, waving as several of the students noticed her first, the movement attracting Severus' attention and he looked up with a smile, beckoning her over.

“Good morning Professor,” he said, ignoring the giggles of one or two of the students seated nearest to them.

“Good morning,” she replied, “May I join you? Looks like a fascinating discussion.”

“We decided that the properties of water based potion ingredients and their uses would be a suitable subject for today,” said Severus, “Apologies for not leaving you a note.”

“The Baron told me where to find you,” said Hermione, “So what were you all looking at so intently?”

“We found a newt,” said one of the Ravenclaw boys, holding up the jar they had been studying once more, “Professor Snape was telling us about the uses for the eyes and the skin.”

“More accurately, you were all telling me,” Severus replied, “I am merely here to fill in the gaps. Perhaps you can bring Professor Granger up to speed with what you've been looking at whilst I go and make sure the others aren't about to run afoul of the giant squid.”

The students surrounding her all clamoured for her attention as Severus got to his feet and headed towards the lake edge. She listened to their explanations and answered their questions but kept one eye on him at the same time, smiling as she saw the ease with which he interacted with the students, soon crouched down by the water's edge as he pointed out the various creatures skating across the surface.

She was surprised just how much time had passed when a chime rang out to signal the end of the class. The students however seemed reluctant to head off to their lunch break, lingering over collecting up their belongings from the floor. She stepped back, biting back a surprised sob as first one and then another of their shared pupils stepped forward to shake Severus by the hand, thanking him for teaching them. Several came to her afterwards but it was with less solemnity as they knew they would see her again when they returned from their holidays.

Severus soon shooed them off with a promise to see them all at the final feast that evening and Hermione smiled sadly as she saw the melancholy look on his face. She waited until the children were a good distance away from them before she closed the gap between them, slipping her hand into his.

“You can always see if Minerva has any vacancies,” she said, stroking his arm with her free hand as he chuckled at her words.

“Much as I have enjoyed it, I don't think a permanent role here would be suitable,” said Severus, “I do have a company of my own to run.”

“You are a good teacher though Severus,” said Hermione.

“Maybe I am now,” he answered, “Which would make returning to such a role even more painful. So many regrets over what happened in the past and the brilliant students that I couldn't praise. No, teaching is no longer for me though I shan't deny that I have enjoyed these passed weeks. Besides, I have a new venture to pursue.”

Hermione smiled, “Then I shall spend my summer helping you to build The Gilded Spider.”

Severus patted her hand where it rested on his arm, “That is not the only project I will be working on,” he said, bending down to retrieve his jacket from the floor and shaking off the grass.

“What else are you planning?” she asked, falling into step beside him as they headed back towards the school.

“Well my experiences back here have changed my opinion in one area at least,” said Severus, “If you have no objections, then I intend to take on an apprentice after the summer.”

“I could never object to that,” said Hermione, skipping along a little beside him, “I think it will be wonderful. You'll have to be quick though, all the seventh years have been sending out letters for months and most have secured provisional positions depending on their NEWT results.”

“I have a meeting after lunch with a potential student and I would like it if you joined me for the interview,” said Severus, “She was your suggestion after all, unless the young Ravenclaw you spoke of wasn't Lucy Summers.”

Hermione smiled, pulling him to a halt, “She was,” she said happily, “And she would be perfect, she's very bright and insightful, she'll certainly challenge you.”

“I noticed her talents before I even knew her name,” said Severus, “And I vaguely recall her from her early days but, I'm afraid my concentration was on other things back then. I take it you approve of the choice?”

“Wholeheartedly,” answered Hermione, “If she is in agreement then I have no argument. What terms do you plan to offer her?”

“A standard contract, full time position with paid hours alongside the training ones,” said Severus, “As we have both floo access and a safe apparition point she will be able to live at home.”

Hermione bit her lip, seeing Severus' answering smirk letting her know he had read her mind without the need of Legilimency.

“I think, given our inability to take certain things to the bedroom at times, we need to avoid having any house guests...especially former pupils,” she said, “And I'd hate to turn up at three AM and forget there's company in the house.”

Severus laughed, “The sight of you in your fluffy winter pyjamas is enough to traumatise even the hardiest person,” he said, feigning pain as she swiped at his arm, “So will you sit in on the interview?”

Hermione nodded, “I'd love to, though I think you've already made up your mind.”

“I'd say the choice is hers indeed,” he said, “But I hope she agrees. You were right though, my love, and you may remind me of that when I next take too long to take your advice.”

“Dangerous words there my darling,” said Hermione, “And I shall be using them for the rest of our lives.”

“I can live with that,” he answered, as they reached the entrance to the school and stepped inside.

xxxx

“I can't thank you enough for helping us out of a hole these last few weeks Severus,” said Minerva, “I'm sincerely sad to see you go.”

Severus laughed, “You act as though the parting is forever,” he said, “Are you not planning to attend our party tomorrow evening?”

“I wouldn't dare,” said Minerva, before she leaned across her desk as though in conspiracy with him, “Let's just hope it's a little less dramatic than the last one turned out to be.”

“Well I have left the planning to Harry and Ginny,” said Severus, “So we'll have to wait and see on the drama scale. It will be nice to see Hermione able to relax amongst her friends again though, we've only really seen most of them in a professional capacity recently.”

“I think this summer break will be good for you both, some time for perspective and some calm. You've hardly had a quiet year.”

“You can say that again,” said Severus, “I'm looking forward to finding out what is normal is for us.”

It was Minerva's turn to laugh, “Your intended is best friends with Harry Potter, my dear,” she said, “I don't think you will ever quite find your way to normal. Are you certain I can't persuade you to stay on the staff in some capacity, Severus? You have been such an asset to the school these last few weeks.”

Severus shook his head, “Have you and Hermione been conspiring?” he said, before his tone turned serious, “I came back out of necessity but my life needs to be away from here now plus Miss Summers has agreed to come onboard as my apprentice and I would hate to back track on her now. Besides, there are one or two members of staff who aren't keen on me being here.”

Minerva cocked her head in question, “As far as I am aware everyone is very happy to have you back. Septima is difficult of course but you know what she can be like.”

“I'm used to Septima,” said Severus, “Armitage on the other hand will be very glad to see the back of me. He can't get out of a room quick enough when I walk into it. He seems to have taken my engagement to Hermione as some sort of personal affront and takes every opportunity even now to ask her if she is certain of her choice. I have no wish to create any drama, Hermione is more than able to handle herself but I think removing myself from the situation will ease tensions. He will need to get over his infatuation with her sooner or later.”

Minerva bit her lip, stifling a laugh before she picked up her tea cup in a vain attempt to cover her smile, “You think Erasmus is infatuated with Hermione?”

“Why else would he be so vehemently opposed to her decision?” said Severus, “Whilst many may question aspects of my conduct during the war, if she does not he should not take issue with it.”

“I can safely say that, having known Erasmus for many years, his reasons for opposing your engagement is definitely not due to any infatuation with Hermione,” she said, “It is likely that his attraction is towards another in the party.”

Severus paused, frowning before he pointed to himself, “Me?” he said, “Come on Minerva, be sensible.”

“Oh I am,” she said, with a laugh, “But don't tell him I told you, it's currently an open secret but I would hate him to think I was gossiping about it. I believe the crush started when you were his house head and it hardly wavered even during the war.”

“Well I feel for the lad, I really do but he surely realises that there is no hope,” said Severus, before he shook his head, “Me of all people? I can barely understand what Hermione sees in me.”

Minerva shrugged, “You still look like the same skinny eleven year old to me at times despite the many years since you first came here,” she said, “The heart puts a different perspective on things.”

“Indeed, perhaps I made the right choice in leaving either way then,” said Severus, “I hope Professor Armitage finds someone more suitable soon.”

“He will I'm sure,” said Minerva, “And probably in the least way he expected to. Now then, we need to get the formalities sorted to confirm that you are leaving us once more and then I can return you to Hermione for the feast.”

“My last one. It feels good to finally get to say that goodbye,” he replied, pulling the paperwork Minerva had laid before her towards him, “Time to say farewell at last to Professor Snape.”

Minerva smiled, handing him a quill, “In this capacity at least, old friend,” she said, “But he'll always be here, in some shape or form.”

Severus cast one last look around the office that had once been his own, the building around it holding too many memories to make sense of in one go. With a flourish he signed his name at the bottom of the document that released him from his temporary post, knowing that one day he would only look back and see the good memories he had finally had a chance to make there.

Chapter Text

“I still don't see why we can't just apparate into the summerhouse,” said Hermione as they headed up the hill towards their home.

“Harry's orders,” answered Severus, “I am assuming, given the weather, that the party will be in the garden and he will be wanting to surprise us.”

Hermione laughed, taking hold of his arm. “I still can't believe we trusted him to do this,” she said,