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Hermione Granger and The Curse of the Elder Wand

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The golden three stood there on the bridge looking out. The Highland hills had always been beautiful but at this moment they were beyond exquisite. There was a sense of freedom that felt almost tangible, like nothing any of them had felt in a very long time. A few tears slipped past Hermione’s eyes as they gripped each other’s hands. A weight that had been so heavy and burdensome was lifting, they could all feel it.

"Let's go back" muttered Harry a smile creeping onto his face, it didn't quite reach his eyes and Hermione knew why. They gained so much today, yes but so much had been lost to them as well.

"Yeah" replied Ron placing a heavy arm around Hermione's shoulders.

As they began to turn Hermione stopped there was a buzzing noise in her ear... in the air. "Do you hear that?"

"Yeah..." was Ron's slow response.

Then Hermione felt her stomach drop, shooting from the depths of where it had just vanished was the broken pieces of the discarded Elder Wand encompassed in a bright golden light.

It repaired itself in mid-air and fell at Harry’s feet. Stunned they all looked at each other, then the boys to Hermione.

 “I…” but even she was at a loss as to what had just happened. There was old magic in the Deathly Hallows they all knew it but for it to do this was not exactly expected. A small shower of sparks expelled from the tip of the wand and there on the rubble spelt out four words I must be possessed.

Just then there was a massive crack they all turned toward to school. From what was left of the Great Hall's ceiling shot a giant beam of bright burnt orange light exploding into the sky. They felt the ground vibrate and the air change then the beam disappeared and there was screaming and shouting.

It’s easy to tell you’re in a lighted room, even if your eyes are closed. You can see or sense a kind of pale glow from behind your eyelids. Hermione knew when she awoke there was sunlight streaming in from somewhere. When she was finally able to open her eyes the big window to her left was spilling bright yellow light into the tiny hospital room. That was better than waking up in the dark. It always terrified her as a child when she would occasionally fall asleep reading in her bed with daylight clear outside waking a few hours later to black pitch sky showing from the window. It made her panic like she wasn’t sure how long she had been sleeping.

As her mind and eyes adjusted she gained the courage to turn. Ron’s eyes lit a little when he saw she was awake “Mione” he breathed and sat up straighter.

Until she had seen Ron Hermione had felt light and comfortable but seeing the tired look in his eyes and the clear pain lurking there as well she started to remember things. “Ron… is… how long have I been asleep?”

“Bout five days give or take a few hours… don’t worry you're fine though, they said you'd heal a little quicker with sleeping potions in you” he made an effort to smile and reached out to grasp her hand in his, his eyes were showing tears now.

Hermione gulped beginning to remember she whispered softly “its… that means…” The emotion was choking her she could feel it burning her throat.

Ron’s only response was a nod before hanging his head.

She had hoped it was all a terrible dream, getting back to the great hall finding it filled with people who were supposed to be dead and seeing ones that weren’t falling. As soon as a stunned Voldemort saw Harry he gripped his chest as if searching for something inside him, when it was clear he didn’t find it he was gone and with him went several Deatheaters, some stayed most likely on his orders. Ron saw Fred and dashed off into the fray, whilst Harry holding the elder wand like it was a dead mouse tried to duck his way towards Professor McGonagall.

More Deatheaters began to disperse as wizards banded together seemingly ignoring the strange turn of events. Hermione didn’t know what to do, a group led by Kingsley and Arthur were driving back what was left of the Deatheaters to injured to flee. There were smaller fights happening around and that was when Hermione saw Ginny being driven up stairs where more ramparts were by Alecto Carrow, taking off she followed prepared to aid her friend.

They were moving quickly and it was very hard to see as rubble and bits of stone blasted her face from the force of the spells being cast. Once out under the open sky that used to be ceiling Hermione aimed a stupefy at Alecto. It didn’t meet its mark but it did distract her so Ginny could pelt some of the scattered debris at her opponent. Hermione closed in trying to get a better aim when she heard a shriek, Ginny had misstepped and tripped over the edge barely hanging on to the stone ledge her wand still laying on the flat ground a foot or so from her hand.

Carrow took this moment of distraction to shoot a boulder-sized chunk of the castle at Hermione’s torso, hitting her in the side with such force it knocked her back against more stone. She tried to struggle up as blinding pain shot through her stomach and side, gripping it she felt blood seeping between her fingers. Then she saw Alecto standing over Ginny wand raised.

“Expell…” Hermione tried but wordlessly Bellatrix’s wand ended up in Alecto’s hand. Forcing herself to rise Hermione threw herself at the witch screaming, once again she was thrown back by magic her head knocking hard on the ground. Blinding pain shot through her right ear and for a moment she could not see or hear anything. Soft ringing was penetrating her skull but the next words she heard perfectly, they would resound in her mind for the rest of her life.

“Avada Kadavra.” Alecto Carrow’s voice rang out and there was a soft thud of Ginny’s body hitting the ledge below.

The scream that escaped Hermione’s throat was alien to her ears, she wasn’t even sure how she had the breath to make that scream. Now it was coming in short gasps from the pain in her ribs and the agony in her heart. Alecto turned quickly a smile on her lips, looking pathetically at Hermione’s broken form that was now standing by will alone. A well placed Diffindo came next and with nothing to stop it, Hermione staggered a large gash appearing below her right eye and down her cheek.

She had to think of something she wouldn’t die like this not after everything they had been through.

Another spell blood trickled down her arm.

If I can get out of the line of fire… trying to move quickly she was stopped by another spell that tossed her into the stone wall for what must have been the third or fourth time, Alecto closing in on her. Hermione was pleading in her heart for something, an idea, a thought, anything. She was supposed to be the brilliant one and all she felt was a soft burn in her chest… so she was dying any way then, too much blood loss, internal haemorrhaging, everything was feeling cold and blurry.

Behind Alecto, there was a flash of black swirling smoke and suddenly the form of Professor Snape the man she had seen die only hours before stood pointing his wand at Alecto, in an instant, she was disarmed, unconscious and bound. The world around Hermione was swimming, seeming to go grey and spotty the harder she focused on the intense presence approaching her. The burning in her chest intensified as he came closer. He looked gaunt and tired but he was definitely alive.

She tried to speak lifting a bloody hand to her chest trying to tell him that he chest hurt that she was dying but she couldn’t her mouth tasted of blood and no words would escape.

He lifted her up “don’t try, it will only hurt more.”

The burning in her chest was now scorching and just before the world went dim, whisky eyes met obsidian and the burning turned into warmth.

Ron held her carefully on the hospital bed as she wept for her friend and after he listed more casualties she wept some more. She was now able to feel the pain in her side and the many cuts and bruises that showed over her shockingly pallid skin but the pain in her heart was the worst. It was physical, the ache was real, it wasn’t in her head… it was in her soul, her mind and body. Ron was crying then too, they sat there together sobbing until it seemed like all the water in their bodies had been used up.

“Harry…” she whispered looking up at Ron.

He grimaced “he’s… hasn’t spoken much, Remus and Tonks have been with him but even they can’t get much out of him.”

More tears slipped out as she thought of her best friend.

“Mum’s bedridden, suppose losing Fred then getting him back then… Gin… well, she’s not doing well.”

Hermione could see the distance in Ron’s eyes, a hopelessness that wasn’t going away, they sat there in silence for a long while, only interrupted by a medi-witch that came to check on Hermione’s bandages and inform her that she could go the next morning.

A thought entered Hermione’s mind after a long while, “What happened to Professor Snape? He saved me, didn’t he?” Part of her thought it was a dream.

Ron gave a look of consternation but nodded “yeah he did, as far as I know, the last thing Harry did before hiding himself away was give Kings and the others Snape’s memories. He’s under house arrest at Hogwarts… or home base whatever we are calling it now until they decide what to do with him.”

“But he saved us… well almost did if this mess hadn’t occurred” it all felt for nought now.

“Yeah well, I guess they need to review all the evidence, he was a right git so who cares what happens to him” Ron scoffed looking annoyed.

“I just think that’s not fair.”

“Well life isn’t if you haven’t realized,” he said with such resentment and malice and it sounded so unlike Ron she quieted deciding that this was not the conversation for the moment and they fell back into silence and thought…and hurt.

She didn’t know what had possessed her in all this mess to think about Professor Snape but after what happened on the ramparts that day she couldn’t get him out of her mind. There had been that one moment before she had fallen unconscious when their eyes met and for that one moment, she thought that everything would be okay not to mention that strange burning sensation she felt in her chest. Hermione knew that though he shook it off quickly he had felt it too. Only one thing was very certain in her mind they all had to finish this, through all the unbearable they needed to continue to be strong, if they weren’t united anymore they would lose.

The Wizengamot was in shambles as was most of the wizarding world, meaning that disciplinary action for recently not dead people was difficult. Hogwarts had become a sort of home base, Voldemort was still out there which meant the war wasn’t over. Severus’s most precious memories had been viewed by the majority of the inhabiting populace. This meant that he was either looked at with pity, regret or contempt. Personally, he preferred the later.

Shacklebolt was being looked to as the leader, not surprising and not the worst option they had. One of the few members of the order that Severus didn’t have true animosity for. When Kingsley explained the situation to him, he wasn’t angry when the acting Minister said that for the time being he was to stay under a form of house arrest at Hogwarts. Severus wasn’t angry because he was still dead inside. Well not literally. Unfortunately, he still felt all the anguish that his wretched life warranted, coupled a new ache inside him that he couldn’t place.  

Days, after the initial shock had worn down all, came to the depressing conclusion that Voldemort though less immortal than before was still out there and so were many Deatheaters. His arm would ache and seer with pain, no matter what he tried it wouldn’t be fixed. St. Mungos was nearly in ruin and with so many injuries from either the first battle or the second, it was no surprise that the whole of the rabble gathered were in need of many potions. It was Minerva who suggested it, they hadn’t yet spoken but Severus saw the way she looked at him with so much regret that she shouldn’t feel, he deserved the hatred.

She gleaned that as everyone now had duties of some sort it would be prudent to stock up on not only medical potions but those of the defensive and offensive variety. Of course, he said yes, there really was no point in protesting he had to be here and brewing at least made him feel a little less awful. For the majority of his life that had been the case, losing himself in work. Severus did insist that he had an assistant and as Slughorn had perished he also stated that they needed to be competent and capable of keeping up.

He had checked on the Granger girl once after being the one to deposit her to Poppy. He had been arrested almost instantly but to his slight surprise Potter made quite a fuss in his defence, it seemed to be the last thing he had the strength for, before falling into a state of depression. It was late that night before she had been transferred to St. Mungos. The spell Kingsley and a few others had placed on him wouldn’t allow him to leave and they had taken his wand so him roaming the castle didn’t seem to concern them. Most didn't know the extent of his proficiency with wandless and non-verbal magic.

Severus couldn’t deny the feeling that had brought him to her aid and that only intensified as he got closer. He had been contemplating throwing himself from the highest turret he could find when he felt that she was in danger, how he had felt it at all terrified him. Warily Shaklebolt had informed him of the Elder Wand and the surge of magic that had erupted in its response to being broken. Vaguely hoping that Severus had any knowledge about such things, unfortunately, any that he did was minimal. The Hallows were old, rooted in dark and light magic, it went beyond what most witches and wizards had any inkling of today. Whatever happened must have awakened very aged magic and that coupled with the intense impression he had felt that day and days after concerned Severus greatly.

Hermione bit back a sob as the service concluded. It wasn’t long but had felt like hours they stood there on the grassy hill near the Black Lake in the cool air of morning, the sky a muted grey. Listening to the names being read off, hearing the great and good all had done. Ron had held her so tightly her still very sore body ached, she just let it happen there was no way to assuage his pain, she would do what she was able.

The ceremony thankfully had been postponed until those injured could attend. With dire issues, still very much at the forefront of their minds especially those leading, it was inevitable that a meeting needed to be held after the ceremony had ended. Mrs.Weasley hadn’t been well enough to attend and Harry said nothing during the service or as Kingsley and Professor McGonagall talked of plans and pulling together to end this. The Boy Who Lived just stood there staring at the remembrance paper in his hands.

Hermione looked down at her own parchment and the names it held:

Professor Horace Slughorn

Professor Sybil Trelawney

Lavender Brown

Dean Thomas

Padma Patil

Alicia Spinnet

Cho Chang

Pansy Parkinson

Ginny Weasley

She stopped the tears welling up again there were more names at least a dozen more, fellow students she had sat in class with or saw in the great hall, it all hurt. Turning her face to look at the school, Abeforth and Remus were really doing a decent job of making it usable for its now forced purpose but there were too many scars over its stone walls to hold the warmth and familiarity that she had known it to for so long.

“Come on Mione the meetings over” Ron shook her from thoughts with that voice that seemed so unlike his, harsher.

“What are they doing?” She asked gesturing to some of the others being handed pieces of paper, she tried to ignore Harry’s retreating form, he hadn’t spoken to them in three days and never came to see her in the hospital.

“They’re all getting assignments to help fortify or prepare or whatever” he scrutinized her confused expression, “weren’t you listening? Everyone is pitching in but Kings said we could take a break for a while get ourselves… sorted before we took on anything else.”

“Oh,” she thought for a moment she didn’t want to relax, if she tried to do that she would go mad, “I’ll just see what they need, maybe I can help.”

Ron’s eyes flashed “Hermione just leave it, there’s no need you should take some time”, he sounded angry.

She frowned in return not wanting to hurt him but she had to get her point across, “there is a need Ron, I won’t pick up too much just something to keep me busy” she reassured softly.

“Fine” he countered, then as he began to walk away muttered, “you’d think grief’d keep you busy enough.”

First, she started after him then stopped knowing that he might need some time alone. Instead, she held her head up and walked to the others. After a little persuasion, she was able to convince McGonagall that she was well enough to have a purpose, still sore she was able to do most activities not too strenuous and she could be on her feet if not for very long.

She glanced over the list of occupations that needed to be filled, stilling on one. “Professor Snape needs an assistant?” Her heart clenched a little at the thought, he had been absent at meals and she had been hoping to thank him for not only saving her but everything Harry had shown her.

“Indeed, though we may not have enough help” muttered McGonagall passingly.

“So, he’s been let off then?”

“No, not yet,” said the older witch pausing slightly at the awkward subject, she herself had wanted a moment alone to say something to Severus.

“Well they couldn’t imprison him it wouldn’t be right” stated the curly headed Gryffindor defiantly.

“That will be the new council’s decision”, then looking at Hermione carefully spoke in a hushed voice, “though I don’t know how they could truly lock him up after all he did.”

“I want to take the assistant position” Hermione barely had time to realize she thought the words before they were out of her mouth, a sense of eagerness hanging over her head at the thought of seeing the potions master.

It felt strange to wake up in the same bed so often now. Months of not knowing where or what she would be sleeping on had made her grateful for the luxury but it was disconcerting all the same. With almost everyone from the Order or as Kingsley had been putting it the good side and school being not in the cards for the near future there was no need for dormitories. In their renovations, Ramus, Tonks and some of the others had constructed temporary smaller but full rooms for everyone that wished to stay within the safety of the school… or makeshift magical bomb shelter whatever it was now. 

She hadn’t quite been up to sleeping on her own and apparently neither had Ron after so long hearing each other or Harry breathing close to them. So, as she threw the covers off herself that morning she spotted Ron on the couch. She wasn’t sure if he would be there as they had rowed the night before about her taking on a job right now which inevitably like most arguments recently lead to him bringing up that she wouldn’t let him sleep in the bed with her, amidst other things. Part of her felt bad that she was denying him this comfort from her but it felt wrong to her somehow, she wanted her first time to be special.

Dragging herself to the bathroom, ever the dentist’s daughter she brushed her teeth thoroughly trying her best not to look too hard in the mirror. Bruises and scabs were prevalent on her face and body, they made her feel ugly and weak. She found herself grateful for the first time that she was not blessed in the boob department as her broken ribs and bruised abdomen would not allow an underwire.

Instead, she pulled on a threadbare t-shirt that had belonged to her father, then a pair of faded jeans not tight enough to constrict her already painful movements. Hermione’s hair hadn’t cooperated in weeks but a messy bun took care of it well enough. Guzzling two of the potions she required to keep the pain at bay she headed for the potions lab.

Severus was nearly pacing the room when he should’ve been getting ingredients ready. Instead his mind was whirring with how he was planning to cope with Miss Granger being his assistant. He had become far too intrigued when Minerva first told him and now he was going to actually deal with this issue. He could care less she was there… shouldn’t be too hard to ignore her and whatever had been stirring inside him. No doubt the result of snake bite, death then not death, he could deal with going mad.

There was a tentative knock at the door and he let the impassive mask descend barking out a harsh “come in.”

When she entered, he was grateful for all the years as a spy, he was so close to showing some form of emotions when he saw the bruises and injuries visible on her face and what skin he could see. The discolourations were dark purple and tinged with yellow around the edges, the way she walked made it clear that she was in considerable discomfort and yet his emotionless mask prevailed.

“Good morning Professor” was he mistaken or was there hope in her voice and in the weak smile she gave him. 

“Hmm, begin sorting through those, there is a rather large stock of healing potions needed at St. Mungos” he drawled gesturing to the various mushrooms on a tabletop nearby.

Her shoulders fell a little but she hobbled her way to the place he had indicated and began, “the attack in London, that’s why they need so many isn’t it?” The morning before they had all been notified that Voldemort had struck for the first time since the incident on the 2nd and it was devastating nearly twenty wizards and witches killed… the muggle numbers were even higher.

“Miss Granger is it in your ability to stay silent or shall I need to ascertain new help” he spat out the words with a ferocity that made his insides ache more than they did beforehand.

There may have been moisture that welled for a second in her eyes but it was gone just as fast, instead, she turned back to her task muttering coolly “sorry, Sir.”

Chapter Text

The stone walls of the passage leading to the potions lab felt like they were percolating cold especially at six thirty in the morning. Hermione grumbled why Snape thought brewing this early necessary was beyond her. It had been a week of this and so far, it hadn’t become any easier to get up. Order meetings in the evening as well as trying to make sure Ron was given due attention as not to upset him more she barely managed to get to bed before one am, then she found herself tossing and turning with the never-ceasing nightmares that plagued her sub-conscience. It also didn’t help that whatever hexes Alecto Carrow had used on her were laced with dark magic and her injuries were taking longer than would be normal to recover from.

As it had been every other morning she entered the room without much trouble, he always had the door ajar when he knew she was coming. Probably so he didn’t have to speak to her or look at her when he opened it. Then she began whatever task had been left off the day before generally cutting and preparing ingredients, occasionally stirring but never truly brewing. Every endeavour was spent in silence, after the second day she had realized that trying to speak to him was futile and could only lead to making things worse, so she stayed quiet. She used her time in the lab to ponder and sort through her brain.

Most of the time she thought about how she would try and help Harry that day. It had become habit to go his room with a favourite food or book she thought he might like to help cheer him up. It never worked, he rarely even opened the door anymore and when he did it was clear he wasn’t doing anything but lying staring at the ceiling in misery. But she was nothing if not persistent, unlike Ron, she hadn’t given up on Harry and she wanted him to know that.

She also thought about Ron, he was taking his grief out in a very different way than Harry none less detrimental. Ronald had taken up drinking even though herself and Arthur were trying to convince that it was a bad idea.

Ron would disappear for hours during the day or night with Fred and wouldn’t come back until he was properly pissed, usually leading to premature unconsciousness. Recently it had been making him irritable and somewhat handsy, thus far she had been able to tame him and then when Ron realized his behaviour he would weep in her arms breaking what was left of her heart. it didn't stop him from doing it again the next day, leaving Hermione with no real clue how to begin fixing the situation. 

As the brewing session came to a close she sighed, it always became harder to focus when either the wood bench or standing caused he broken ribs to ache. If it was a good day her hip would only pain but sometimes it would pop out of place. Usually, she could feel it coming on and was able to sit down and adjust but as she was cleaning up it gave out suddenly making her crash into the table. Knocking over a few bottles of ingredients and sending her onto the stone floor.

Severus exhaled slowly, pinching the bridge of his nose before he turned around. This week had been one of the hardest of his life. Miss Granger was haunted it wasn’t hard to tell she clearly barely ate, her skin so pale it rivalled his during the last few months as Headmaster and her injuries were healing at a rate that terrified him. Severus had no understanding of why but all he wished for was to shake her make her understand that she had to take care of herself, that she was worth so much more than rotting away. Instead, he ignored her or snapped at her. It was easier than sorting through whatever it was he felt.

When he turned and saw her sprawled on the floor that heated, magnetizing feeling was back as if drawing him near her, pushing and pulling him to something that he was on the cusp of reaching for. This response to her had only increased during her time working with him in the lab, it was becoming unbearable.

Snape, he screamed at himself you are doing her a favour staying away from any contact this is ridiculous, you are not some soft, feeling person, you are the cold, evil ex-Deatheater responsible for more death than she could imagine.

“Is it within your capability Miss Granger to avoid stupidity and reckless behaviour?” The deep drawl came out cold and unfeeling.

“I fell!” Hermione struggled to her feet wincing and grabbing her side in an effort to cope with the pain.

Severus narrowed his eyes in a practised look of contempt, “if you are too incapacitated to effectively aid me, then perhaps it would be prudent to stop.”

“If you could act like a human being once in a while instead of the cold-hearted git then maybe it wouldn’t be so hard to find more alternatives for your assistant” she stared right back into his cold black eyes projecting all the anger and hurt he had ever made her feel, since she was eleven years old. “I thought perhaps there was something else there after everything I have learned but apparently, that as well was a farce!”

“Get out.”

“Fine!” She shouted then turned and to her absolute humiliation, she stumbled having to grab the doorframe as she exited.

Once the door was safely shut behind her she burst into tears, weeping more than she had since first waking up in St. Mungos to find her friend was dead and the war not over. What had come over her? Every time she was in his presence it was hard to think, he was horrendous but all she could think about was that he saved her and there was that moment where she knew she saw something more in his eyes… clearly, she had imagined it.

Severus stared at the door berating himself for every ill word he had ever uttered against her. Slamming his hand down on the oak brewing table he felt his finger break. What was a digit compared to the things he had felt at the hands of Voldemort. It was more inconvenient that he had to fix it. Waving a hand, the finger was in place with a crack and he downed a pain potion with practised ease.

Ron stumbled into the dark bedroom a little after two in the morning. Hermione spent her days with Snape doing whatever she wanted. He at least deserved to sleep in the bloody bed. So, he pulled off his jeans and clambered in. Hermione jerked awake in fear but quieted when she saw him.

“Ron”, she spoke sleepily, “what are you doing?”

“Hermione, you treat me like some stranger, do you want me or not I am bloody tired of feeling like I mean bloody nothing to you” he slurred pulling her against him hard.

“You mean very much to me but you know that I-.”

Her protest was muffled by his lips crushing hers, he tasted like alcohol and smells like smoke but she also felt hot tears coursing down his cheeks and she couldn’t stop him. If this helped him she would do it but not quite yet.

The next morning, she didn’t go to Snape’s lab, instead, she decided that a conversation with Arthur might be in order. She found him in Professor McGonagall’s office along with Kingsley, Remus and Bill. They all looked up when she entered, she saw a look of sympathy cross McGonagall’s face and tried to hold her chin high.

“Mione, doing alright?” asked Bill gently.

“Yes, thank you, Bill. Is Fleur feeling well?” The couple had announced a few days ago, that they were expecting.

The redhead smiled faintly, “she’s doing alright, I just wish mum felt good enough to talk with her.” He glanced at his father whose face had fallen and quickly quieted.

“Well if she needs anything let me know” she tried to sound positive but it was clear the whole of the Weasley family was having a hard time coping with the loss of their daughter and sister and their wife and mother as she had stowed herself away in grief. “Mr Weasley, I was wondering if I could have a word when you get the chance?”

The ever kind-hearted man nodded trying to smile, “yes, yes we actually just finished up, fancy a walk?”

Hermione nodded and they began to head down the hall to an exit.

“I am sure this has something to do with Ronald?” asked Mr Weasley carefully.

She frowned at being so easy to read, “yes, I am worried about him, I know that there is a lot to worry about and more than just him as well but he… isn’t coping well and neither is Fred.”

Arthur also had a look of discontent plastered on his usually cheery face, “yes the drinking has only just really come to my attention but I was able to sit down and talk with George last night.” He trailed off trying to think about how he could say this without losing control of his emotions. “It seems that Fred somehow has it in his head that if he had… stayed dead that we wouldn’t have lost Ginny…”

“But that’s ridiculous, there’s…”

Arthur held up a hand to silence her, “yes, but he won’t see reason the only thing that gives him relief is sleep and alcohol, neither of which is going to truly help him, George is extremely worried about him.” The older man sighed as they exited Hogwarts, “somehow Ron has taken to wallowing with his brother and knowing Ron’s disposition there is little reason why you shouldn’t be worried, I will do the best I can to try and make them see reason but at this moment it seems like an uphill battle.”

Hermione couldn’t help but agree, it was getting worse day by day and she needed to find a way through to Ron, one that would help him see the potential there was out there and for them. That thought twisted her stomach but why didn’t she want to be with Ron? She loved him, didn’t she?

Severus didn’t brew that morning when he found Miss Granger hadn’t showed up. Instead he and his bottle of Ogden’s best disappeared into his quarters to sulk. Thankfully his request of Minerva to have him placed in rooms not located in the coldest part of the castle had been agreed to and with the roaring fire it was easy to forget the sheets of rain coming down outside but it was not so easy to forget how he had treated Hermione.

She was in his head constantly and when she was in the lab with him he felt like a magnet being pulled to her, sometimes it was as if he could feel a wave of what she was feeling. Like when he lashed out at her, the hurt was almost palpable. This was madness he was raving and if he didn’t figure out what was wrong with him he would end up saying something to her that he regretted... well regretted more.

This had never been a problem when he was teaching her, he felt nothing but the general dislike he felt for other students and then on the occasion that she was being extra pestering, contempt. This had started when he woke up on the floor of the shrieking shack covered in blood but healed of all injury, this happened after whatever power the Hallows had awakened. He needed to consider this further, it almost sounded like… no.

The sun had begun to set when Madam Pince finally kicked him out of the library, muttering something about needing a break and how did anyone read for that long. Why she was still tending to the books with everything in ruin was beyond him. Severus had raided every book he could find on ancient magic, the deathly hallows and magical connections. It was something he had come across years ago, when looking into dark magic and how it can be used with certain potions. It was said that there was magic that had long since been forgotten, that would push two individuals together and connect them through emotions and intuition.

This bond was usually seen as a mere extra connection that depending on the individuals could vary in degrees of severity. The myths and legends behind it were rather vague and clearly had died out but there were some scholars that swore it had been more than simple lore, that the magical world had just lost touch with this ancient magic and would need something formidable to release such power again.

There were similarities to what he had been experiencing but nothing concrete. Generally, those exposed to this could sense danger, fear sometimes joy. A few texts had mentioned a burning or tingling sensation when the two connectors were near one another, whilst others said it was a sense of relief and fullness. The bond was almost always between lovers of some kind.

Severus groaned rubbing his eyes as he scanned the last few pages of a tome the retched librarian had allowed him to remove to his chambers. The Deathly Hallows had done something and it wasn’t hard to guess that they could’ve achieved more than bringing everyone back to life. Really it was a farfetched idea and more than likely a dead end.

It was rare he found similarities enough to engage in conversation with another human, having this extra tie was preposterous. The closest he had ever been to someone understanding him was Lily. Spending his time pining for something he couldn’t have had done him no good then.

He had long since stopped loving Lily. Regretting her death and being in love with her were very different things. Neither unfortunately hurt any less than the other. But a day never went by that he didn’t miss her companionship and understanding. The gag worthy looks he received from people who now had intimate insight into his most private memories nearly made him vomit. He couldn’t love or feel that connected with anyone ever again he was incapable.

Night had fallen outside when Severus retained enough courage to seek out Miss Granger. He knew that she and Weasley shared quarters not too far from his own but the thought of having to deal with the redheaded menace was not a pleasant one so he sulked in the corridor until she came back from dinner blessedly alone.

“Miss Granger” he tried to make his presence known as not to scare her but to little effect she still jumped, clutching a hand to her heart. “Apologies, could I have a word?”

“Yes” she folded her arms across her chest waiting for him to continue, it wasn’t lost on Severus that she looked more sleep deprived than she had even the day before.

He cleared his throat and clasped his hands behind his back, “I find that without an assistant my productivity is somewhat lacking. I believe what I said to you may have been remiss.” He wanted to roll his eyes but he stayed focused, “it is my hope that you might reconsider aiding me.” That was painful.

Hermione was shocked even if it was the worst apology ever, he was still saying he was sorry or trying. She wanted to keep helping him if for no other reason than she felt more peace doing that and… being near him than almost anywhere else in the castle. There had to be more though, she needed more freedom. “Will you allow me to actually brew something?”

His face didn’t change but there was a flare in his eyes at her words, “the potions are ones of great mastery and skill, why should I al-.”

“I brewed Polyjuice Potion my second year and deny it all you want but if I had been able to take my NEWTS my scores would’ve been more than satisfactory for brewing the items in question.”

Severus gritted his teeth, she was acting as if he didn’t know her capability. Of course, she is when you refuse to acknowledge it! “Fine, I can concede that.”

Hermione couldn’t help the small smile of triumph tucking at her lips, it disappeared quickly beneath his sour gaze and she muttered. “I know you think that I only memorize information but I am competent when the situation warrants it.”

Severus watched her face fall, did she think herself unintelligent? He certainly had never thought that, annoying on occasion perhaps but not stupid. His thoughts were interrupted by a piercing pain that coursed over his left forearm, gripping it he bit back a cry. Voldemort was calling followers and Severus wasn’t responding.

Hermione went wide-eyed as Severus started breathing hard through his nose, clenching his jaw, the pain he felt clearly not subsiding. “What…what is it?” she asked hurriedly summoning a chair from further down the corridor so he could sit down. As she got closer to see if she could help the burning sensation was back and for just a second when she felt it, his eyes flew up looking at hers, then the pain seemed to be back. “It’s the mark, isn’t it?” she was talking more to herself but he nodded, “should I get Kingsley?”

Another stiff nod.

She sent her Patronus with a message for the Minister and then quickly ran into her rooms for some water and anything she could find to ease his suffering.

When she came back the pain had lessened slightly and it allowed him to sip the water slowly, she also held out a pain potion which he declined.

“They don’t work.” Severus allowed his head to rest back against the stone wall behind him until the footfalls of the Minister were heard.

“He called?” asked Kingsley a little out of breath from running.

Severus nodded eyes pinched closed.

“And all you feel is pain, no feelings of where he wants to meet?” 

“No, it is only a punishment for not responding to his invitation.”

“I see”, mused the older wizard thoughtfully. “Do you notice any pattern?”

“No.”

Hermione piped up then as she saw Severus looking increasingly more intimidating, “would it be at all possible to monitor when it happens and the symptoms should they change or persist?”

“So, whenever it happens document the occurrence and see if we can make something of it?”

“Yes, I have done some study on magical markings and there could be a lot to go off, not to mention we could find a way to make it stop hurting.”

Kingsley nodded thoughtfully then turned to Severus, “I won’t leave you without choice Severus, you have done so much and I am sorry but unlike Albus, I just can’t condone taking away the rest of a man’s life without his true consent.”

There was silence then Severus looked up, “I want this over as much as the rest of you, I will consent to documenting the occurrences should they arise, if it is Miss Granger that assists.”

Hermione was floored, why in the name of Merlin would he want her to track it, yes it was her idea but he hated her. “I… someone else with more experience would be better suited for the task.”

“I agree with Severus Hermione, you are very intelligent and capable, I have no doubt you can achieve any result possible.” Just then another Patronus appeared summoning Kingsley to McGonagall. “Once you have decided how to proceed, please inform me, excuse me.” Then he disappeared down the hallway.

Hermione was still in a state of shock but when she looked to Professor Snape for confirmation he was standing prepared to leave.

“Will I see you for tomorrow mornings brewing session?”

“Yes,” she squeaked out. Then without another word he was walking swiftly away.

Hermione vaguely wondered if there was any dreamless sleep left next to her bed as she entered her room, exhaustion getting to her.

“So, you are helping Snape with more than just potions now?” asked a slurred voice from inside the dark room.

The lights came on then and not that Hermione couldn’t have told before but Ron was drunk and by the looks of the bottle in his hand growing more so with every gulp. “Kingsley asked me to look into magical markings, so we can better track Professor Snape’s mark hurting.”

He only huffed in response getting up and walking closer to Hermione. The look in his eyes… he wasn’t the Ron the Hermione had known for years, not when he looked at her like that.

“This might help us find Voldemort and put an end to all this, everything that we can do is beneficial” she brushed past him, to get to the loo but he caught her arm pulling her roughly back.

“Fuck all of it” he muttered then began to kiss her sloppily, pressing her back against the wall.

Her first instinct was to push him away from her but that would only cause a fight one she didn’t have the energy to participate in so she endured the messy kiss. Ron’s hands began to fumble under her t-shirt and she sat through that as well, when you love someone and want to help them, you have to make sacrifices right?

Moving lower on her neck she felt his teeth bite a little too hard on the sensitive skin and his fingers dug a little too deep into the flesh of her arm. Eventually he seemed to tire of the shirt altogether and removed it. The room was cold and his body didn’t feel warm against her own but after a few more minutes he seemed to get bored with how minimally she was participating and backed off. She picked her t-shirt up off the floor carefully and tried to smile at him, even though she could feel tears burning in the back of her throat.

Ron looked her up and down then snorted, “I’m going out with Fred, be back later.”

“Oh, don’t go, Ron, it’s late” she pleaded softly.

“And if I stay here what am I gonna do? Sleep? Be like you and pretend like I don’t care?”

She sniffled a little looking up at him, “I do care, Ron, that’s why I am trying to…”

His mirthless laughter cut her off, “oh sure you care, Mione, what about me though do you actually give a shit about me?”

She tried to reply but he didn’t wait, instead, he stormed out slamming the door as he went. Hermione felt the lump in her throat ache some more as she changed into her pyjamas, trying not to look at the deep purple bruises that covered her all to easily seen ribs, or the dark circles under her eyes. She crawled under the covers, wrapping arms around herself she cried until eventually, she fell asleep.

Tumultuous thoughts coursing through his brain or not, Severus was extra careful not to be as harsh on Miss Granger when he saw her the next day. She looked that morning worse than he had ever seen her perhaps. Sleep seemed to be still evading her and eating as well for that matter. It wasn’t until they were standing closer together whilst trying to stir and add ingredients at the same time that he noticed the dark red mark near the place her neck and shoulder connected. At first, it made him want to roll his eyes for whatever reason but on closer inspection, he could tell that was not a love bite.

She was not acting like herself even the somewhat mild subdued version she had been of late. Miss Granger seemed to be lost to her thoughts every so often reaching up and brushing tentative fingers over the mark on her skin and recoiling when she felt it.

The overwhelming urge surfaced in him to go find Weasley and teach him a thing or two about how to treat women. Especially one who seemed so devoted to helping anyone she could. Thankfully he was able to push away that thought and went on with brewing. At the end of the session he couldn’t keep himself from removing a tin of his own bruise paste which he had cultivated over the years of torture.

As she was getting up to leave he placed it on the table in front of her. He saw her grimace but then she looked up into his eyes and he saw a flicker of indecision there. “Hair spell went wrong…thank you.”

His face didn’t change but Severus felt his stomach dip at the statement he had heard it before in varying ways said by none other than his own mother to cover up his father’s recent escapades. “Perhaps doing away with that spell would be prudent.”

Hermione gulped but nodded quickly, “just may need some tinkering with.” She stood quickly gathering her things and heading for the door, only stopped by the sound of Severus’s deep voice behind her.

“Some spells cannot be fixed.”

She didn’t respond only left quickly feeling tears pricking at her eyes.

Chapter Text

“You don’t really think this is a good idea, do you?”

“Hermione”, Arthur stopped walking and turned to look at her, “it has been over a month, clearly being here hasn’t helped them or us for that matter, seeing as they don’t do anything. The point is that this could be very good for them, helping Charlie bring what we need is productive and some time away might be the best thing.”

Hermione hung her head; this discussion had been going on intermittently throughout the last week and it was clear she was being overruled. Ron and Fred would go aid Charlie in retrieving whatever it was Kingsley needed unknown to her, a fact that was also bothering her. “Alright.”

Mr Weasley looked at her with heavy sympathy, “it will be alright soon Ron will be back and hopefully Merlin willing back to normal.”

Hope. A very strong word, she thought but nodded all the same. Reaching up to touch her aching temple she could feel the warmth radiating from her skin. An odd sensation as generally she was cold.

“Are you feeling well?” asked Arthur.

“Yes, fine, worrying about Ronald you know.”

He didn’t look convinced, “maybe you should ask Professor Snape for the day off, you look like you could use a lie in.”

“We have lots of brewing to do, Remus needs Wolfsbane and Poppy needs pain potions, I promise I am alright.” To stop any further inquiry to her health she glanced at her watch and began down the corridor, “speaking of which I need time to get some tea from the kitchens before heading there, I’ll see you later when we send the boys off.”

Once around the corner, she let out a sigh of relief, there was too much going on and though she felt a little under the weather it wasn’t like she hadn’t been uncomfortable every other day anyway.

Her injuries had healed, for the most part, only the occasional twinge in her hip remained. Unfortunately, she didn’t have the excuse of pain for Poppy to administer her more sleeping potion. Now it wasn't the wounds keeping her awake, it was just her mind.

Ever a touch more subdued Ron was still a concern weighing on her, thoughts about Harry were far worse. Still never leaving his room, he refused all visitors except Remus, who would leave with a sombre expression etched across his face and empty sleeping draught bottles in hand. She was the clever one and no matter how hard she tried she was failing at helping the two people who meant most to her. Hermione Granger felt like a failure.

The only respite from the ever-pressing agony of her brain was brewing potions in the lab and researching magical markings. It was more than a little surprising that she felt relief when in the presence of Professor Snape but there was no denying it. They still didn’t speak much but he hadn’t been mean to her either, he was stoic but cordial and if he thought her work inadequate he didn’t say so. Hermione just hoped he wasn’t acting this way out of pity, which she could safely say probably wasn’t the case when the man spent so much time showing that he didn’t care about very much of anything.

Her search for the creation and magic of his mark was going slowly but she had a few good leads. Professor Snape's arm had only pained twice in the last month and both times had been more subdued than ever before. That was either promising or concerning. It could be an indication of Voldemort's weakened state or it could be that he was goading them, trying to get them to make a move.

Voldemort was uncharacteristically quiet, which Kinglsey found more concerning. The Order meetings had been longer and more stressful as the topic of creating more Horcux's was brought up. No one had seen if the Elder wand had given life back to that disgusting snake but if it had Voldemort was just a little bit harder to kill the second go around than they thought.

There was no longer password for the kitchens as Hogwarts was in a way like one big house now. She walked in and was greeted by Winky and a few other elves that were working there. The idea of elves doing all the cooking and cleaning still upset her greatly, she had tried to talk with them, Kingsley and McGonagall accompanied her but all the elves began to weep when freedom was discussed. Insisting that they all felt happy and fulfilled working in the safety that Hogwarts provided.

So instead of freeing them, the elves worked in shifts like any other job. They could take breaks and took turns being off in the evenings. Hermione had been sceptical but whenever she went to the kitchens she was met by happy house elves and that was really what she cared about at the moment.

“Good morning Winky.”

“Very good morning Mist… Hermione.” Hermione smiled at Winky remembering her insistence that she be addressed on a first name basis. “Winky has Hermione’s tea all ready.” The elf beamed proudly, levitating a tray with a teapot and all essentials in place.

“Thank you, Winky”, taking the tray Hermione left the kitchens, making her way to the lab.

When Miss Granger turned her back whilst setting the tea tray on a cleared work bench Severus let his brow furrow in concern. He had become used to seeing Hermione looking gaunt and tired, Merlin help he wanted to make her eat but that was an inappropriate and ridiculous idea. Today he knew there was something else the matter, her normally pale face was flushed in areas and splotchy on her neck. Even though it was now mid-June and whatever summer Scotland allowed had set in, she was dressed in a thick jumper and still she looked cold hugging it to her slight frame.

She turned catching him looking at her. Giving him a quizzical look then handing over a prepared cup of tea. Severus could see her hand shaking. “Thank you” he muttered, face descending into a scowl.

Sipping at her own tea she took a seat beginning on the Wolfsbane potion. Severus also began his work, awhile later noticing her sniffle and soon she conjured a box of tissues.

Later yet soft coughing made him turn, she murmured a sorry, her face now a deeper red from a blush. The result of her speaking caused a much harsher coughing fit, Severus called a house elf for some water, even with Hermione waving him off. Winky appeared looking distressed when she noticed Miss Granger.

“A glass of water Winky and if you will another pot of just hot water, a lemon and pot of honey.”

Winky nodded popping away, only to return with lightning quickness water in hand, then left again to fetch the other requested items.

Only a little begrudgingly Hermione excepted the water drinking slowly, the coolness felt blissful on her raw throat. Winky appeared for a third time with the ingredients Snape had requested and left once he had the tray in hand.

“I’m alright, just swallowed wrong I think” she croaked.

To her surprise, Snape snorted his back to her as he added the lemon and honey into the teapot followed by dried echinacea and ginger. “You are clearly ill Miss Granger, do desist from trying to convince me otherwise and sip your water.”

Thoroughly scolded she was quiet except for the occasional sniff or cough.

“Drink this” he stated passing her the mug. Whilst doing so he could see light perspiration had formed on her forehead even as the rest of her body shivered. Summoning the teaching robes from his office that he had little use for anymore he placed them around her shoulders, ignoring her shocked expression.

“Thanks, but I really think that if I lay down I’ll be fine.”

He ignored her, “I’m going to take your temperature as it appears you are running a fever… if you would prefer I didn’t I will get Madam Pomfrey to assist instead.”

Hermione gulped, the last thing she needed was to be laid up in the hospital wing taking up space, “go ahead and do it.”

He nodded once then intoned the incantation whilst touching his wand to her temple. “39.7 degrees Celsius, definitely a fever, Miss Granger it would be advisable to remove yourself to your chamber and get some rest.” She attempted to protest and he only raised his voice, “I will have a house elf bring you the rest of the herbal concoction and I will go and talk with Poppy Pomfrey to ensure you need nothing more than rest.”

His voice brokered no argument and Hermione found herself a few minutes later walking to her rooms with Professor Snape’s black robes still wrapped around her shoulders and his steady voice tinged ever so slightly with concern ringing in her ears.

The girl must have been running a fever well into the early morning for it to have been that high when he checked it. Did she have no sense of self-preservation? As he stalked toward the school healer’s office he came face to face with the youngest male Weasley… or just the youngest now. “Mr Weasley.”

“Professor” was the return. “isn’t this when you and Mione work on potions.”

Severus tried not to growl at how lightly he referred to the art that was potion making and instead looked at the boy levelly. “Miss Granger was not feeling well, she went to rest, and I am informing Madam Pomfrey of the situation.”

“Oh, well I guess I’ll go check on her before I leave.”

Severus grit his teeth, the nonchalance of someone who supposedly cared for her made his stomach tighten. He knew little of emotional attachment but what he did know was that if he was in the position of Weasley he would already be at her side not having let her leave bed in the first place. “Very well then.”

Ronald brushed past him and as he did Severus’s prominent nose caught a whiff, well more than a whiff of what seemed to be copious amounts of alcohol. So Weasley was drinking…

“Better not get too close, being sick whilst taking a port key sounds bloody awful,” said Ron from a few feet away from where Hermione was propped up in bed looking worse for the wear.

“I agree” her voice was small, “be careful Ron and make sure you and Fred are-.”

Just then Fred stuck his head in the door, “come on mate, we gotta go.”

“Bye Mione,” Ron said with a small wave.

“Bye.”

The door shut as they left, and Hermione was alone.

Poppy was in a tizzy as Severus tried to speak to her about Hermione, because of the safety St. Mungos lacked many patients had been placed at Hogwarts under her care.

“Sounds like the flu but a temperature that high is a little concerning.”  Summoning two vials from a nearby compartment she handed them to him. “This should break her fever within a few hours if there is nothing the matter and this” she indicated the green liquid, “is for the pressure in her head.” The older witch then registered who she was talking to and waved a hand at him, “good Merlin Severus, you know all this.”

Before Snape could reply that she should be the one administering potions to Miss Granger the healer was bustling off in the other direction. Resigned to his fate… which he wasn’t as opposed to as he should be, he set off.

When Hermione heard the quiet knock at the door she groaned aloud. Every time she shifted position her head felt as though it was going to implode, walking to the door was a terrifying notion. The second knock came as she was trying desperately to pull on her dressing gown, head spinning. The third came as she was nearing the door supporting herself with a hand on the wall, her whole body screaming at her. Hermione jerked the door open to see Professor Snape standing foreboding as ever.

“I am sorry to disturb, Madame Pomfrey is otherwise detained… she sent me with potions and instructions.” Severus was half hoping she might force him to go get Poppy because she couldn’t stand to have him aid her. That wasn’t the case.

“Oh, come in then.”

He stepped inside and watched as she tried to run fingers through her wild hair, her face was still hot with fever and it looked as if the very effort of standing was making her weak. “You should sit or lie down it can’t be good to tire yourself by standing.”

“Yes, I....” she glanced around at the scarce room, then gestured awkwardly to the chair just left to the sofa. She sat back on the sofa breathing a sigh of relief as her dizziness eased. “What potions are they?”

“One to drop your temperature as well as a headache potion, the first must be administered every hour and watched for the next three hours to make for certain it takes… that is why I am here.”

Hermione felt her heart beat a little faster, she felt that oh so familiar tug inside her and watched as he fidgeted in his seat, he had to have felt that as well. “Alright, I am sure Madam Pomfrey wouldn’t have left the task to you if she didn’t think you could handle it.” She grimaced, her voice sounded nasally and grating because of her stuffy nose and sore throat.

“I have the qualifications of a healer, there is no need to be concerned on that score but if it makes you uncomfortable I can request that she-.”

“No” she had spoken a little too quickly, “I am sure she is busy with far worse cases than myself, I am…” Pausing she reached to cover her mouth as she coughed the sound was disgusting and she knew it, recovered she continued grateful his face showed no sign of displeasure, “I am sorry if this impedes upon your own time… this can’t be something you wish to do.”

“I set the Wolfbane to simmer and will check it periodically, not having an assistant is an inconvenience and whatever I can do to rectify that will be of use to me.” Could you sound like more of an uncaring arse?

 “Alright then” Hermione touched her head again wincing, “the herbal remedy helped ease the pain in my throat thank you.”

“You are very welcome, here take this”, he handed the headache potion to her, “and you will only sip a third of this one, do you need me to measure it?”

Hermione shook her head excepting the bottles and began to uncap them.

“Would you like me to make more of the herbal tea?”

“Oh, yes I would love that if it isn’t any trouble.”

“It isn’t,” he said firmly. “Those should begin to take effect soon, I must monitor your temperature, so I would recommend resting, I will return shortly.” With that he exited through the door, feeling far comfortable than he should have to spend the evening in Miss Granger's rooms.

Hermione grimaced removing her dressing gown another wave of heat coursing over her, the potion must have melatonin or valerian root in it as well as she was now very sleeping. Before going to her bed, she found a spare bit of parchment and scribbled a quick note to leave on the coffee table, telling him that he could read anything he liked in the room if there was any he hadn’t already read.

Pulling back the covers she sunk blessedly beneath the comforter, her aching muscles appreciating respite from movement and the headache potion seemed to be taking effect. Her eyes fluttered closed and she couldn’t help but think as she drifted into oblivion of the comfort she felt knowing that Professor Snape was going to be right back.

Severus’s lips curled up when he read the note she had left for him then berated himself for letting such a simple gesture make him feel anything. Putting a warming charm over the freshly made herbal tea he began to peruse the books. She had them haphazardly stacked all about the room as there was only one small bookcase in the corner that was barely big enough for less than a fourth of her collection.

Despite what was probably widespread belief, Severus did not just read books on potions, though of course, that did occupy much of his reading. He rather liked a good muggle classic as well as the occasional murder mystery. His mother had taken to liking Agatha Christie, so they were easy to access when he was young, and he found them adequate. Even today after all that he had suffered in his childhood home, he still liked her books. When his hand stilled on Death on the Nile shrugging he picked it up. He was pretty sure this one he had only ever read once.

Stepping ever so carefully toward Miss Grangers bedroom, the door was cracked slightly, he peered inside. Her face was still flushed and by the way one of her legs was sticking ungracefully out of the covers he could assume her fever had not broken. Those chocolate curls of hers were splayed around her on the pillow and though red her face looked relaxed thank Merlin. Severus felt his chest tighten and looked away adjusting the door to its former position. He found her lovely. There he thought it.

Rubbing his face roughly with one hand trying in vain to wipe that confession from his brain. It didn’t take. Sitting down on her sofa he growled in frustration and opened the novel trying to focus on the words there. Severus Snape was doomed to a life of unrequited affections. At least he knew it.

When it was time for Miss Granger to receive the next dose of potion he entered her room carefully as not to startle her and he nearly fled at the sight that found him. She had kicked the covers clean off and lay in a thin vest top and sleep shorts that left little to his at this moment inappropriate imagination.

Trying to ignore her attire he put what he hoped was a gentle hand on her arm to wake her enough to take the next dosage. She stirred then returned to oblivion, so he shook her arm a with a firmer touch. This time her big brown eyes fluttered open at first looking alarmed, then… no. Severus could have sworn that relief and content flashed there.

He checked her temperature again with his wand and tsked a little, it hadn’t gone down, and he could tell by the now frown on her face that she was in pain still. “Another nip is in order.”

“I…” she tried to speak but her voice was nearly gone. Snape summoned a glass of water, she tried to take it, but her arms were just too weak. He brought the glass carefully to her lips and after a few sips, she was able to form scratchy speech.  “Thank you, I am sorry you are having to stay here with me.” He was silent as he administered the next bit of potion.

Setting the glass and potion bottle next to the bed he turned back to her trying to hide any of the emotions he had battled with earlier from her view. “Think nothing of it.”

“Either way it means a lot to me.”

“If I might Miss Granger I think looking after yourself a bit more would be beneficial to your health and then neither of us could waste time being sick or aiding the sick.” His statement though straightforward didn’t come out harsh, to Hermione’s ears it may have had a pleading tone.

“I think we could dispense with titles now” she pointed at herself groggily the potion was taking effect now, “Hermione.”

“If you wish”, Severus allowed his lips to turn up only a little and indicated himself as well, “Severus.”

“Severus…” she murmured drifting off to sleep once more. Leaving him to ponder this new development.

After the third and final dose that Hermione had barely woken up enough to take Severus was a little concerned. Her temperature was still high, the potion usually took care of it in one administering, three was troubling. After checking to make sure she was still settled he left the room heading to the infirmary.

Lupin, his wife who was holding their son and Minerva were in the hall near the hospital wing. He groaned internally as he approached.

“Severus” greeted Lupin “how are you?”

“Well, yourself?” Severus tried his best to be polite, there was no reason to be as cold as before… well, no reason other than he liked it better that way.

“Hanging in there, Harry still isn’t well.”

Thankfully Severus didn’t have to respond to that as Minerva cut in next. “Poppy told me that Hermione wasn’t well and that you were looking after her, I hope you coming down here doesn’t mean something is seriously wrong.” There was a definite gleam in the older witch's eyes.

Severus saw the flash of surprise that flitted over Lupin and his wife’s faces but chose to ignore it. “Yes, Poppy is very busy and without Miss Granger, there was very little I could get done, so I stepped in. She is stable, but the fever reducer hasn’t taken so far, I am just notifying Poppy of that fact.”

“Let me know if you need a break I would be more than willing to sit with the girl.”

“Thank you, Minerva,” Snape turned to Lupin whose mouth was open in surprise, “despite that you look rather like a fish at the moment I can assume you are still at the mercy of another animal,” He somewhat enjoyed the look of fluster that crossed the werewolf’s face. “Your Wolfsbane just needs to be bottled, would picking it up tomorrow be sufficient?” 

“Yes, yes thank you, Severus.”

Snape didn’t respond only stalked off towards the infirmary a smirk well in place.

Reassured by Poppy that the potion was just taking its time Severus made his way back to Hermione’s rooms. Settling himself onto the couch he began to read where he had left off.

He was snatched from the world in his head when a small yawn sounded from across the room, he glanced up. Hermione was standing in the doorway her dressing gown open over her pyjamas, looking pink but not red.

“Good morning.”

“I believe it is evening.”

“Not to me” she shuffled further into the room and sat on the armchair tucking her feet up under herself.

“I suppose not, you are feeling better?” Getting up Severus checked her for a fever.

“Yes, I am.”

“All looks well, the potion seems to have taken care of that.”

“You must be tired.”

“Not really.”

“Oh”, she noticed the book laying on the cushion and smiled faintly. “That’s a good one.”

“Indeed, it is, I am partial to Hercule Poirot as a character.” Severus sat deciding that maybe he could be in her presence a bit longer as she was making conversation.

“That isn’t entirely surprising” she chuckled.

He narrowed his eyes but there wouldn’t have been malice if he tried, that damned burning was back in his chest along with a new ache. “Do tell.”

“Well he is very uptight and…particular” she covered her mouth trying to hide a smile.

“You think I am particular?”

She gestured to his attire, “in more ways than one I believe.” She then pursed her lips as if considering her next words carefully, “he has a brilliant mind, you are also vastly intelligent.”

He was taken aback at that, feeling something very close to pleasure inside at her words, mumbling, “yes, he is an adequate character.”

There was a bit of silence before Hermione asked if he would like to hear about some of the research she had found relating to his mark. Only she would be thinking about academics after being ill all day but he acquiesced and they talked well into the evening.

It was past midnight when Hermione’s eyes began to droop.

“It is time that I take my leave, you are still weak and need rest. Sleep in tomorrow we will resume brewing the day after.” Severus got up moving towards the door, she followed. Was he mistaken or had her eyes fell at his words.

“I am sure that I would be fine to assist you in the morning I am feeling much better.”

“No doubt you are but it seems that lack of self-care placed you in this situation, take tomorrow and rest.” He watched as her face fell again and added without thinking, “I will come around mid-day if you would like and inform you of the brewing I did.”

“Please, I would like that… Severus.”

He felt his heart beat a little faster at her use of his name, that damned smoulder wanting to betray his good sense. “Very well, goodnight Hermione.” He hurried out the door only able to breathe a sigh of relief when he was safely in his own quarters.

Hermione as well breathed thoroughly after he was gone, just then noticing that his black robes were still lying on the arm of her couch.

Chapter Text

It was lunchtime in the great hall. Similarly to when it had housed students, the space was filled with long tables and though perhaps a little less excessive there was plenty of food.

The real differences were the lack of uniforms, house colours and perhaps the most immense change was Hermione Granger and Severus Snape enjoying their lunch next to each other, whilst talking quietly of a potion's book they had both finished reading the day before.

“I cannot agree, the effect of the potion is based upon the amount taken correct?”

Severus nodded, a smirk was beginning to show at her insistence that it was impossible to become completely immune to Veritaserum.

“Then that settles it, you can increase the dose until it is over said person's limits," she looked smugly at her former professor, who in turn smirked back.

“It isn’t commonly known and for good reason as Veritaserum is used often in court proceedings, but the effect can be duped by Occlumency, therefore it isn’t a tolerance to the potion that we need to be concerned about.” He took quite a bit of pleasure seeing her face contort from smugness to a scowl in a matter of seconds.

“That wasn’t even what we were discussing! You tricked me, we were only talking about immunity!”

“On the contrary, I asked if you believed that someone could not be at the mercy of Veritaserum, not if it was possible to be absolved to it”, he was surprised and deep down a little pleased to feel her give him a gentle but firm smack on the arm.

“Slytherins” she huffed.

“Indeed.” Hermione then gifted him with a small smile. In the last two weeks they had spent a great amount of time brewing potions and talking about them, it had seemed only fitting that they use meal time to do so. It meant that Severus could make sure she wasn’t skipping meals and he didn’t feel so isolated, which surprisingly made him feel a little better.

“The idea itself does have merit, make the potion doubly potent without changing the amount or appearance, I believe it is possible.”

This made her grin, she lit up when he complimented her intellect. It made his insides ache a little at the thought of how horrid he had always been to her, never allowing her to know that he found her to be a smart and capable student… and now woman.

Suddenly the doors to the great hall burst open and three red-heads entered. That burning ache in his chest had dissipated over the last weeks, assuaged or perhaps forgotten as he spent time with Hermione but now seeing the youngest Weasley brought it back with full force. Now that red hot feeling seemed to be turning a bit green as the boy sauntered over to them clearly not pleased with what he saw.

Ronald looped an arm around Hermione’s waist and pulled her roughly from the bench and against him. Then crushed his lips to her shocked mouth in a way that Snape was sure looked unpleasant to the recipient of. Hermione finally freed herself and was looking furious, thank Merlin.

“Ronald, what was that?”

“Haven’t you missed me?” He returned looking upset.

Severus watched her face soften a little and he nearly groaned out loud, it was so clear that Mr Weasley was holding his pain over her head. “Of course, I did but…”

Cutting her off Ron wrapped an arm around her shoulders and began pulling towards the large doors, “I’ve got somethin to show you.”

Craning her neck Hermione did try to peer around at Severus but the place where he had been was empty, his retreating black form headed for the old teacher's exit.

Outside in the decimated courtyard Charlie, Fred and Ron led Hermione to a medium sized cage that Hagrid was standing in front of blocking her view of what was inside. As they approached she made out the shape of what was surely a still very young dragon.

It had a deep emerald green belly and scales that shone gold in the sunlight of late afternoon. Its big eyes opened when she came nearer, they were a brilliant yellow like sunflower petals, soft and surprisingly sweet.

“This here is Rosie, she’s a Russian Acidian… in’t she a beau’y” the large Game Keepers voice clearly full of awe.

“This is what Kingsley sent you for?” asked Hermione still gazing at the magnificent creature.

“Yep, he-.”

Charlie cut Ron off quickly, “Kings is going to tell us the details about it at the meeting, now off with you, I’m sure the both of you smell like dragon piss.” Then turning a smirk at Hermione, he caught her in a hug “hello love.”

Hermione returned the warm embrace easily, letting go after a moment to see that despite appearances there was a fair amount of sadness in his blue eyes as well. “We’ll get there Mione, we’ll get there.”

Ron exited the shower with a towel wrapped around his waist. Hermione looked up from her book with a big smile of greeting. “Did you have a good time?”

“Yeah, it was great to see Charlie and Romania has some wicked pubs.”

This made her heart fall a little, she had hoped the taste of fire whiskey on his breath had been only celebratory for being home. “Oh, well I am glad you are home.”

“This isn’t home Mione.”

“I know but for the time being it is, and Hogwarts has been our home before.”

He sighed looking more upset than she had seen since that day she awoke in the hospital; hot tears began to roll down his cheeks and Hermione saw that his time with Charlie hadn’t lessened his pain. “Let’s leave Mione, we can go somewhere, with muggles maybe, you know how they work. When this is all over we could maybe come back.”

She felt her mouth fall open, “Ron, we can’t leave our people…our family.”

“Sometimes there is nothing else to do, you have to make sacrifices. Plus, you can be my family, marry me, Hermione!”

“Wha…what?

“Marry me, we don’t need this or any of them! We did our time and now we should be able to live and don’t worry about details like you always do, we can figure it out… if we are together, you always figure it out.”

Her heart plummeted, what was she supposed to do he was so serious, he wanted her and needed her… “Ron, this is not you.” Then her mind drifted to hunting Horcruxes and him leaving them… was it all just the locket or had it been more?

“Just think about it Mione, please we could be gone tomorrow, free of all this, together!” Reaching out he grabbed her face crushing his lips to hers.

It felt hot and suffocating as he moved his mouth on her own. Everything he said was wrong but maybe he had a point maybe if they left he could be okay and she could convince him to come back.

Between more desperate kisses he began to mutter against her neck and collarbone, “I love you, Mione… I promise this is the right thing… you can fix me… you will.”

Hermione let him lead her to the bed, pushing her back against the comforter. Taking deep breaths, she allowed him to remove her shirt his mouth barely leaving her lips, his fingers dug into her waist’s now bare skin, she felt the pain, but it was alright after this he would be okay, she could talk him down from leaving. It would all be fixed. She was fixing it.

It hurt less than Hermione expected it to and didn’t last long. Ron sweat and swore above her for a few minutes then it was over he rolled off breathing hard and after a moment it turned to snoring. Hermione got up wrapping her arms around her body, covering Ron with a small blanket she went to the shower. Turning it as hot as she could possibly stand she let the water fall over her shaking body tears mingling with the water falling.

As had become custom in the past few months dinner would proceed an Oder meeting should one be called. Severus knew that as much as he wanted to sulk the rest of his day away in his chambers he couldn’t. And, for what purpose? The ginger arse was back, what had he expected? Hermione to never think of that idiot ever again, to come to her senses without himself ever addressing what he feared? Of course not.

Severus had taken to sitting by Hermione at meals but now that would be a distant memory. He sat alone on the side that used to house Ravenclaw students, picking at his food, whilst trying not to look over at the sea of red hair.

Finally, he gave in and snuck a glance through his long hair at the table, what he saw made his stomach knot up inside. Hermione was indeed sat next to Mr Wealsey, hunched over she had clearly pushed her plate away and was toying with the edge of a napkin. Just then her eyes flicked up and met with his. What he saw made his heart ache like it never had before, she paler than she had in at least a week and the look of pure emptiness made him want to run over there remove her from the table and never let her near anything that could cause her pain ever again.

Severus was careful to let none of this show in his features and quickly her gaze dropped once again. What had happened? Was it just the dunderhead or was it more?

“As I know some of you are aware I asked Charlie for assistance and he has pulled through for us.” Kingsley sighed, “it is inevitable, there will be more fighting, Voldemort will not back down and disappear… of course you all know that and is precisely why we must think differently prepare, we have more preparation time this go around, and we will use it to end this once and for all.”

There was a small murmur as he paused and began again. “It will take much of us and I know that we have already suffered much but we must be strong. We must be united. Bill and Charlie had the idea to employ the help of magical creatures as Voldemort does command many creatures himself. They will explain what is taking place.” He gestured to the oldest Weasley children to stand and address the seated populace.

“Thanks, Kings, long story short we have a dragon, her name is Rosie and she is going to help us.” Charlie’s voice rang out strong and unyielding.

“Hagrid and I have taken up plans to recruit more beings to our aid as a kind of reserve should we need it.” Bill nodded to Hagrid with a soft smile. “It is to our mutual benefit as most creatures would be in peril with You Know Who at the head of any system.” With one last nod to Kings, they sat back down.

Severus blew air from his nose carefully, Kingsley was playing this different, but he was a smart man and a good one.

“We also have Severus and Hermione working on many potions that we can use to our advantage, I have discussed what is needed with Severus and he is working his magic.” The wink the makeshift minister sent his way made Severus scowl just a little bit more, the older man ignored it. “If anyone has questions please feel free to speak up now.”

There was a little clarification but really everyone could see the merit in what had been put in motion. Everyone began to mingle before no time and Hermione watched Severus begin to pull back probably wanting to get to his lab or quarters. When he had met her eyes at dinner, they had been hard and emotionless again, watching Ron snog her at lunch had probably crushed any thought he had prior that she wasn’t an immature school girl.

She glanced at Ron who was occupied discussing Rosie with Neville and Remus, more happily than she had seen him in a while… maybe she had helped after all. Slipping away from the group she approached Severus’s retreating form.

“Severus?”

“Yes?”

“I… well…” Oh, Merlin, she hadn’t really had a reason for talking to him, she only felt that she didn’t want him to be out of her sight. How utterly ridiculous she felt thinking something like that, it was all the stress, she just felt so safe with him near her.

“Words rarely escape you, how interesting it is to see such a phenomenon” there was humour in this, that sardonic dark wit of his but it was there, maybe he wasn’t disappointed in her after all.

She smiled sheepishly at him in return, “I can’t be flustered from time to time?”

“Only rarely. Now, what was it you needed?” His response wasn’t cold, but it did have a finality to it that made her stomach turn.

“I only wanted to ask you if we were brewing at the same time tomorrow.” What a stupid excuse, she could kick herself he would see right through that statement, no mistake.

“Yes, same time as always, unless for some reason you need a break” he glanced over her shoulder towards where Weasley was looking at them through narrowed eyes.

“No, no break, I… I’ll see you in the morning.”

“Very well.”

Snape turned then and set off through the doors. Hermione felt a hand grip her arm and Ron pulled her back towards the group.

“What did you want with Snape?”

“Oh, nothing really just wanted to check on a potion we had left under a stasis charm.”

Ron only huffed and continued to steer her.

Severus sunk into an armchair a glass of fire whiskey in hand. Hermione Granger did things with precision and accuracy there was no way that she had forgotten what time they brewed it was preposterous. Could it have been that she wanted to talk to him… that seemed just as unlikely but there had been something in her eyes when she looked at him, relief?

Rubbing a hand over his tired eyes Severus flicked a wrist toward his bathroom and heard the shower begin to run. Hoisting himself up and divesting himself of his clothing magically, he stepped into the steaming shower. A luxury of no longer serving a master was that he could have a decent shower and retire to bed without worrying that a second after he closed his eyes one of them would summon him.

He didn’t know what was going to become of the world now that Voldemort still lived and though he would do almost everything in his power to aid in the defeat of the bloody madman Severus had also concluded that if he was forced to continue living his wretched life it would be on his terms. Not dictated by Tom fucking Riddle or Albus Dumbledore.

This would all have been fine, and he could spend his now freer time assisting where necessary and spend the other alone how he liked it. Now, now something had happened that was unexpected he wanted to allocate his time to Hermione Granger.

 He groaned loudly as what was becoming a familiar ache tore through his chest. Was he simply destined to be without any relief? All he was asking for was a reprieve from pain, his distasteful pathetic life would haunt him until Merlin willing he finally died and stayed in such a state.

Silent tears wet her pillow as she tried to sleep, Ron already fast asleep an hour ago. Hermione missed Ginny dearly, but she also missed Harry and Ron… her Ron. Laying there after Ron had finished, she realised that trying to convince herself that she loved him would never be enough. She just didn’t, not in that way. Marrying him and running away was not possible but explaining that to him terrified her. He needed her, and she was thinking about breaking his heart. Maybe she could put it off awhile longer, convince him to wait.

“Are you alright Severus?” asked Hermione a few days later. They were brewing a flighty potion and Severus seemed to be a little distracted.

“Yes, fine.” He grumbled back. That bloody burning sensation was back, and they were standing so close to each other that he could barely think straight.

Dropping the last ingredient into the cauldron, Hermione cast a stasis charm and touched Severus’s arm to get his attention. She gasped a little when her fingers tingled over the wool of his frock coat. His eyes shot up to hers in surprise and before he could put the mask back into place Hermione had voiced the question that had been swimming in her head for almost three months now. “Why is that happening? The burning sensation, you… you feel it too?”

Severus sighed, “yes, I feel it as well.”

She waited for him to elaborate but when it seemed that wasn’t forthcoming she persisted, “it has something to do with the Elder wand doesn’t it?”

After a long pause, Severus answered, “in truth, I do not know, that does seem to be the logical explanation.”

“How did you find me?”

“What?”

“That day, on the ramparts, how did you know I was there?”

This pause was even longer, and Severus’s insides were knawing uncomfortably at him to shut up because tell the girl that he had just felt she was in danger not only sounded mad but no doubt to her disgusting. “The feeling… drew me to you, I know not how.”

Another break of silence. “Thank you.”

Severus looked up staring at her, he had expected confusion and questions. “Excuse me?”

Her soft smile in return made his heart beat quicken. “Thank you, Severus, for saving me, I would be dead had you not come to my aid and no doubt many of us would be dead without everything you gave.”

There was no pity in her eyes, it was all kindness. He nodded, trying to convey to her through his eyes that what she said had meant something. Then looking back to the cauldron and began to attend to it.

They had just finished brewing when a particularly bright bit of sunlight streamed into the window, catching Hermione’s attention. Her depressive state had lessened incredibly whilst silently brewing with Severus, the comfort he brought her was so surprising but nonetheless wonderful.

“Are you ready for lunch?”

Her shoulders fell a little at his mention of lunch in the great hall… with Ron. “I am not entirely hungry.”

“You should eat.”

“I will get something from the house elves later… would you… would you go for a walk with me?” She bit her lip preparing herself for a harsh rebuff.

Severus tried not to show his shock readily, or his excitement at her statement. “Yes,” then quickly added, “there are some fungi almost touching the forbidden forest that I should like to harvest if that is a welcome reason to walk.”

“Of course,” she couldn’t help the unbidden smile from gracing her face.

Their walk was peaceful and quiet. Everyone else was at lunch so the grounds were silent other than the occasional bird or breeze in the branches of trees. They hadn’t said much but as usual, their silence wasn’t awkward but pleasant, companionable. Hermione appreciated that Severus didn’t talk because he felt a pressure to, he spoke when he had something to say. It felt genuine.

There had, as he had said been mushrooms of assorted variety and many would be useful in their work. She finally decided to break the quiet with a question.

“It’s not dangerous? Whatever it is making us feel this?”

“Not that I am aware I have done some research and haven’t found a reason to suspect that would be the case.” Oh, it was very dangerous indeed, he thought feeling the pang in his chest.

She nodded in return, her own thoughts whirring.

Just then there was a sound, Hermione's ears registered it as an injured sheep. Her grandfather had raised sheep in Scotland from the time she was little and during the summer she and her parents would stay there every so often. She knew that sound.

Severus had also heard it but also knew that something wasn’t right for there would be no such domesticated animals nearby. Before he could call out to Hermione to wait she was running in the direction of the sound. Severus yanked his wand from its place up his sleeve and ran after her.

She capped a hill and disappeared below, deciding he would get there faster if he flew he burst into smoke speeding towards her. Stopping next to her where she herself had halted dead in her track looking just into the forbidden forest. Severus then saw what she was looking at before he knew what was happening he grabbed her arm and yanked her into his chest. It was thoughtless, but he could not stand there and let her look at it, with no comfort at all. He wouldn’t.

On the ground just past the wards were four animals. A lion cub, a small eagle, an equally tiny badger and to Severus’s surprise a snake as well but unlike the others, the snake wasn’t mutilated, bleeding and dead. The snake was feeding on the carcasses of the others.

Chapter Text

The headmaster’s office had always seemed to be a source of comfort to Hermione. As she had rarely, if ever got into real trouble, she was usually there for a more pleasant reason. Dumbledore's presence had aided in that comfort even as the room itself had; she knew more about him now and though she didn’t agree with all his choices, the old headmaster was still a source of light in the gloom.

Sitting there now, this time in the Headmistress’s office; if Merlin willing this was to ever be a school again, she was comforted also by her old head of house’s presence there. And oddly enough from her former potion’s professor who stood on the other side of the room but to her as of late seemed to resonate safety.

“There were traces of dark magic?” McGonagall's voice penetrated her reverie.

“Yes.” Even under stress his smooth voice didn’t change and sounded still lovely as ever. That thought nearly slapped Hermione in the face, she found his voice beautiful truly, there was no sense in trying to deny it as her subconscious had just pushed it to the forefront of her mind. It was a rather nice voice when he wasn't seething at anyone.

“Not within the wards?” McGonagall was looking curiously at Hermione who in turn had been staring rather fixedly at Snape and now averted her eyes, blushing and dropping her gaze back to her hands.

“No, they did try… I checked, the wards seem to still recognize me as staff.”

“Hmm” mused the older woman carefully, “Kingsley is gone on some business in France, left last night. I will try to procure a floo call with the staff at Beauxbatons, perhaps he will be able to speak with me. Until then we will inform the few we need to in order to reinforce the wards.”

Snape nodded in return.

McGonagall peered over her spectacles, “Miss Granger, you look very pale would you like to lie down?”

“Yes, I probably should, and Ron will most likely be worried.”

“Very well, Severus will you please make sure Hermione gets to her chambers without fainting, whilst you are away I should think it was time we made a decision about your status in this group.” The older witch gave him a firm nod followed by a very subtle upturn of her mouth.

“Indeed.” Severus strode to the door, opening it for a shaky Hermione and followed her out.

When he knew that Hermione was safely in her room and contented more so by Mr Weasley’s absence there Severus made his way back to the office he had once occupied. If they decided he wasn’t fit to be here any longer it wouldn’t shock him. There had been so many Order members that hated him even before he had killed Albus. Three months ago, he would’ve been fine with receiving a dementor's kiss, or better yet just finding a way to end his own life. Now he found himself feeling fear. If he was dead or truly imprisoned he would most likely never see Hermione again.

That epiphany hit Severus like a ton of bricks to the chest. He would be devastated. Merlin, he was in deeper than was sane, how could he have done this to himself. What deity thought this funny? Had he not suffered enough? Severus knew the answer to that question. No, he hadn’t. He deserved every bit of this and his interest in Hermione proved that. He was stupid and vile apparently as well. He had been trying his best to dutifully ignore his growing attraction for the girl, but this realization had ruined that. Severus was enraptured by Hermione, in almost all the ways the word applied. Intelligent, mature, private, kind to a fault and beautiful. And Severus Snape was the old dungeon bat.

When he entered the office, Minerva was talking with Kingsley in the floo, “Oh Severus over here,” she motioned him towards her and he prepared himself.

“It is the counsel's decision that you have your wand returned and be fully reinstated to the Order and the wizarding world, exonerated of all that happened in years prior and during the war.”

Severus couldn’t believe what the man was saying, that couldn’t be possible. So he didn’t speak he wouldn’t grovel in gratitude and the selfish part of him certainly wouldn’t refuse this. Minerva smiled and handed him his wand.

“I don’t want to hear any melancholy comments, get yourself down to the wards edge and help the others reinforce them.”

Severus couldn’t help a smirk forming at his mouth, Minerva was exactly the person he needed on occasion. Turning he began for the place he and Hermione had been earlier feeling a little lighter as he went.

After lying down and trying her best to rest Hermione, realised that it was futile and instead plucked up her courage and headed to Harry’s room.

Banging hard on the door she planted her feet there was no way she was moving from this spot until he opened that door. “Harry, open up!” There was no reply, so she rapped again. Nothing. “Harry Potter, I understand that you are suffering but cooping yourself up in here and pretending that there are no more threats being posed to our world is not helping you or anyone else.”

Hermione had barely finished the statement when the door swung in and Harry appeared, looking gaunt and ragged. He held the door frame and looked her over almost to the effect that she felt self-conscience. Finally, he spoke, “you don’t look like you're doing all that well either, Mione."

She snorted trying to keep her expressions in check but him even speaking that many words were a step in the right direction, “I am too busy worrying about you to try and look like a Veela.”

He didn’t smile but his expression wasn’t empty either. “Ron’s being an arse as well isn’t he?”

“He is trying to cope.”

“Remus and Tonks are worried about you.”

Hermione gulped and changed the subject, “is there anything I can do Harry? We need you back, even if it’s just coming to one meal, that's all.Seeing you will make all the difference for everyone.”

There was a very long silence, Hermione thought he may not answer and was about to speak again when he surprised her. “I’ll think about it.”

She nodded as he shut the door and smiled the whole way back to her own rooms. Harry Potter was returning, it may take time, but he would rally. He always did.

The joy that Harry's answer had given her earlier in the day was quickly smothered by Ron, when he finally returned to their quarters, buzzed at the very least.

“Have you made a decision?”

That was the question she had been dreading but knew would come. Ron wasn’t who he used to be. Or maybe he never had been. It all could’ve been her imagination trying its hardest to make something of the hand she had been dealt. “Yes.” She fiddled with her hands in her lap, “Ron, I must stay here, my world needs me.”

Ron snorted standing up rather quietly. Then in a rush hoisted up an end table, lamp and all, tossing it at the wall. Hermione let out a shriek as the wood crashed and splinters rained over the floor. “You hate me, this world is more mine than it is yours and you still care about it more than you do about me.”

“N-no I care about y-you Ron, I do.” She needed to be gentle Hermione thought as she approached, she needed to comfort him and perhaps he would calm.

 His bloodshot eyes were without emotion save for rage. His ragged breathing and the way he pinched his lips together in a tight line made something inside her scream to get out of there.

“Just fucking shut up Hermione! Your excuses only go so far, and I can see through the load of bollocks you try and feed me all the time. No doubt you only needed an excuse to stop this.” He motioned between the two of them, his voice still reverberating off the walls.

Hermione reached out to touch him thinking her touch might soothe, instead his own hand snaked out wrapping tight around her forearm. “Ow! Ron stop this, you know deep down that this is the drinking... please there are ways to feel better, I-I promise.”

She grimaced and when she tried to pull her arm away, he gripped harder twisting her arm towards him and she cried out in pain. Hermione's eyes went wide as she saw his other hand come up, level with her face like he was going to strike her. 

Suddenly he dropped it and her arm all at once, eyes ablaze, “I’m going to find Fred.” He looked at her… looked at her like every terrible thing he felt was her fault, like she was the reason for his pain. “Why aren’t you helping me? What are you good for if you can’t even use that over large brain of yours.”

She wanted to reply but nothing came up save bile in the back of her throat making her gag. Her cheeks were hot with streaming tears, millions of things she wanted to say but nothing came out.

Ron stalked to the door, throwing it open and slamming it behind him. Hermione fell to her knees. This was beyond her, she had tried to deny it, but Ron needed more than just time or her aid.

Hermione’s thoughts were interrupted by a knock. She stayed silent there was no one that she wanted to see right now. Then when the door opened and the tall wizard she had come to understand if only a little more walked in her heart swelled the burning within it more intense than she had felt it so far, screaming for him to make it all go away. Promptly she began to sob again this time harder and more out of relief that she could feel any kind of safety however small, in any capacity.

Severus didn’t say anything. He had heard raised voices and the door slam and with that slam, he was hit in the chest with a massive wave of fear that was not his own mingled with that aching heat that couldn’t be tamed by anything but Hermione. He couldn’t have stayed in his room if he had thrown up every Occlumency shield he had.

Reaching down to her, he carefully helped her to the sofa. Making certain he wasn’t getting to close. She was gripping her arm and Severus could see the harsh outline of a hand mark beneath her fingers. It made him want to vomit. There had been far too much of this in his life. Weasley had been taught better than this but sometimes that didn’t matter.

“May I see?”

Her cries had died down as she bit her lip to stop the body-wracking sobs. Only nodding she removed her hand, looking away. What he must think of her…

Severus retrieved the same paste he had given her once before from his pocket and began to apply it to her skin. He didn’t speak, that was alright the way he attended to her wound without comment and with such meticulous detail that only came with seeing something of this nature before, she knew this wasn’t new for him.

Whatever he used to concoct the paste had an instant soothing effect on her arm… or maybe it was just his hands. There was such measured care in his touch and it had Hermione looking very deeply at the feelings she had been suppressing within herself. Yes, she felt an undeniable comfort when she was near him but there was more. This realisation made Hermione want to weep all over again. What was happening to her?

When he finished and straightened up she thought he might leave without speaking, so she spoke. “I- that is, you won’t say anything about this?”

His black eyes flicked up to hers and stayed there calculating for a long time. “That depends.”

Her brow furrowed.

“You will change the locks on your door and request that Ronald is assigned new quarters.”

“But, I-.”

“I do not wish to see this happen again, the only way that I know with certainty that it will not is removing Mr Weasley from the situation, though I believe it is in your own as well as Mr Weasley's best interest to tell someone of this and begin to resolve it.” There was no change in his face, Hermione had no way of knowing why he was saying these things, if it was concern or just duty of some kind.

Hermione hung her head. “Yes, I believe you are right.”

“Mhm, I will go to Minerva and ascertain how to remove his things to more suitable living quarters.” Severus held up a hand as he saw her try to protest, “I will also make her promise to keep things to herself, but I repeat it would be prudent to tell someone of his behaviour, that is the only way he can receive help.” He had to grit his teeth as the last few words left his mouth, he needed more than help.

This made Hermione stop and think, she didn’t want to break whatever trust she and Ron had formed... was there any trust there? No. There had been so many signs and she had ignored every one of them. Severus was right what other choice did she have. “Will…will you send a Patronus to Minerva, tell her that we need to discuss somethings… Arthur and Remus as well should be contacted.” Then Hermione turned a little pink, “oh I am so sorry, I forgot that…”

She trailed off as Severus pulled his wand from his sleeve casting and sending his Patronus. Hermione hadn’t realised they had returned his wand, that meant he was fully exonerated surely. But Severus wasn’t paying attention to the awe-struck woman next to him, he was staring at the place his Patronus had been… it was a raven.

Arthur wept into his hands as Hermione, aided by the warm arm Tonks held around her shoulders, told him of the recent behaviour Ron was exhibiting. Remus comforted the strained father, the poor man was going through so much, who was there for him? Professor McGonagall nodded and listened intently, whilst Severus stood at a distance, keeping silent.

Once Arthur had calmed a bit he addressed the room, “Hermione I cannot say how sorry I am for my son's behaviour. Ronald will be in rooms adjacent to mine until further notice, I… I must try to do something for my son, though,” he turned to Hermione, “I know he may not deserve it.”

“I want him to get help.” She said simply feeling as if the weight of the world she had been holding was a little lighter.

“I will collect his things and shrink them, so we can be done with this tonight, George and Charlie are already looking for the two of them” Arthur began to rummage around the rooms for obvious Ron items.

Minerva placed a hand on Hermione’s shoulder, “we need this to be a place of safety for us all, telling us this can only aid in making Hogwarts stronger.”

Hermione nodded, and the older witch strolled from the room. As did Severus his eyes meeting Hermione’s but for a second, the last thing he heard before exiting was Tonks speaking lowly to Hermione.

“Whilst Arthur and Remus are finishing up can we have a chat outside?”

Hurriedly Severus made his way to his own chambers but not before casting an easy listening spell on the hall.

“Hermione, I know this might be awkward-.” Tonks started but Hermione cut in quickly.

“Yes, we had sex.”

Severus’s stomach rolled in agonizingly.

“I see, was he... what I mean is did you want to?”

There was a small pause and Severus felt his heart begin to pound, he shouldn’t even be listening to this.

“I… I was trying to help him… he didn’t force me… but.”

“If he hadn’t tried would you have wanted to?” Tonks pressed.

Silence, “probably not, not with Ron… I knew it wasn’t right.” Hermione’s tears could be heard now, “I have known for a l-long-time t-that I didn’t love him… that I was just there because of… I don’t know obligation… oh no…”

Her voice was lost in sobs and Severus cut the spell. Pressing a hand to his chest, trying to assuage the throb there.

Hermione sent a note with Remus the next morning to Severus that she would not be able to help him in the lab that day. After everything had calmed and she was left alone in her room, knowing that Ron was no doubt getting a very rude awakening, something broke. It was as if all of the sudden she couldn’t breathe properly whatever air was entering came in short gasps. Waves of nervous thought poured over her mind and all she could do was sit there and let it happen. Moving wasn’t an option, not until the panic subsided.

It happened twice that night and when she woke having only slept for an hour or so there was no tangible way she could be any help in the potions lab. Remus had informed her of the night before Ron and Fred had left Hogwarts. The enchantments Kingsley and the others had placed on the grounds would not allow them to re-enter without permission. A party was being sent to look for them but there was no real way of knowing where they went.  Ron was gone. Harry was as good as. She was alone.

The note Lupin handed him minutes before incinerated in his hand. Severus had expected this, she wouldn’t want to be here, not after what he saw and what he had all but forced her to do. There was no comfort to be found in a cold potions lab, with only the old bat himself for company.

He was going with Lupin, Arthur, Longbottom and Charlie to try and ascertain the whereabouts of the two missing red-heads. Lupin had looked floored when Severus excepted the offer to join. Frankly he was surprised himself, he had little care for any of the Weasley’s and Ronald in particular but if they found him, Hermione would at least know he was safe. She didn’t need anything more to worry about.

Perhaps the ginger idiot would come to his senses upon being brought back and then she could be truly happy…with him. Severus didn’t have the right to feel sorry about that, he was nothing to her. Whatever this bond was had pushed him to feel far too deeply for her, he could see all the great and good inside her, her mind was an exquisite instrument that deserved so much more opportunity and despite the breaks and bruises she was heart-stoppingly beautiful. He was a fool.

“I found this hair on one of his shirts, is there a way to create a tracking spell with it?” Hermione still felt put out that Minerva had refused to allow her to go with them. She felt responsible for Ron leaving in the first place, the least she could do was help find him.

“In a way, Severus is bringing a potion that he apparently cultivated some years ago, that will allow Arthur to sense Ron’s whereabouts with the use of his DNA.” Remus took the hair carefully from Hermione and wrapped it in a handkerchief.

Hermione had never heard of such a potion; no doubt Severus had used dark magic to create such a thing. To her knowledge, dark magic wasn’t evil, though it was commonly used for evil purposes. Dark and light magic had to work together, that is how most spells are created. She wondered half-heartedly if Severus would tell her how he had done it, she was curious but he would most likely find her questions annoying.

“Are you sure we should not wait for Kingsley, Minerva?”

The older witch shook her head, “I spoke with him this morning, business is detaining him, and we are going to need the help Madame Maxime offers. He must stay and negotiate, for we cannot much longer go without government of some kind.”

Remus nodded in acquiescence.

Arthur and Charlie appeared after a moment, Neville in tow. Hermione had seen very little of Neville, he was one of a few students that decided to stay after the battle and memorial services had concluded. Originally, she had assumed he would want to go with Luna to her father, or back with his own grandmother but he had made it clear that being with the Order was what he wanted.

“Hey, Neville.”

“Hello Hermione,” he gave her an awkward half smile that she returned as best she could.

She was about to ask how his experiments in the greenhouses were going, (he and Professor Sprout were trying out new methods in an attempt to make helpful plants for whatever was to come.) when Severus swept into the room and she lost her train of thought, her immediate attention was on the potion he held.

“The DNA sample,” he stated uncapping the potion and holding open his palm. Remus placed the hair in Severus’s hand and he placed it in the potion. Recorking it immediately and bringing it eye level. The substance bubbled in the vial then after a moment turned from a moss colour to a dark purple. Opening it quickly Severus passed it to Arthur, “drink, now, it has limited operation time when not consumed.”

Spurred by Snape’s direct instruction, Arthur swallowed the plum liquid. After a second, he blinked, “that wasn’t bad.”

Hermione felt lighter as she had to fight not to laugh as Severus rolled his eyes discreetly and drawled, “indeed, it is possible to make potions taste more palatable with the correct amount of skill.”

Remus ignored the slightly sardonic comment, “thank you, Severus.”

“The potion will begin to take effect within minutes, so it would be prudent to be on our way.” Placing his hands behind his back Severus awaited further directions.

Hermione felt her heart skip a little, he was going? He wouldn’t be in the castle?

“Right, shall we? We need to get through the wards before we can begin our search anyway. As we discussed last night, should anything happen…” Remus looked to Professor McGonagall, “you know what to do Minerva?”

“Yes.”

“Good, let’s go find the boys.”

Minerva headed back towards the school, but Hermione waited to see them off. Running to the group, she gave Arthur and Remus large hugs and squeezed Charlie and Neville’s hands.

As they began their dissent, Severus at the rear slightly out of hearing distance from the others she touched his arm to get his attention, when he turned she could’ve sworn there was something pleading in his eyes.

“… be, be careful,” she didn’t release his arm.

Severus nodded unable to form words, then she let go and watched him walk to join the others, a knot forming in her throat.

Chapter Text

“What exactly am I supposed to be feeling?”

“Nothing.”

Mr Weasley looked startled listening to Severus, as they walked through the nearly deserted Hogsmeade.

Snape sighed, “the objective of the potion is to allow a strong enough Legillimens to see the whereabouts of the DNA sample through the mind of someone who is of direct blood relation.”

Remus grimaced, he had left that part out when telling Arthur about this potion. The rest of the group was looking intently between the Weasley patriarch and Professor Snape.

“So, I must allow you have to comb through my mind?

“I will not be combing through anything, I designed the potion I will find the location immediately. Your memories are secure.”

“Fine.” Arthur folded his arms and stopped walking, looking Severus in the eye.

Raising his wand, Snape prepared himself, “Legillimens.”

As he had said getting what they needed wasn’t hard, and soon he was back out of Arthurs mind trying his best not to look smug.

“I have it, they aren’t too far, now unless you want to be side-longed one at a time to the area I will need to put the location in all of your minds.” There was a general noise of dislike, but all stepped forward, and Severus tried hard not to be so amused by their discomfort. Once placed all nodded and popped away.

Hermione sat in the library researching to try and clear her mind. The book she had located was one of the more obscure books on magical markings she had come across. Written in the late 1500s, it was dull even by her standards, and so far nothing seemed promising. Madame Pince was quietly cataloguing a few aisles away muttering to herself, and Hermione pressed fingers to her temples to stop a headache she felt coming on. Ever since they left she could not get it all out of her head, she was flat out terrified that something was going to happen to them and what was worse it wasn’t Ron or even Remus and the others that filled her with this anxiety it was fear for Severus.

About thirty minutes after they had disappeared beyond the gate, Hermione felt an instant cold come over her very akin to the warm one she usually felt near him but just the opposite. It was an emptiness. She was about to give up research as a lost cause at least until they returned when something stuck out to her. At the bottom of the page was an incantation mansurus demolio, a spell created for removing permanent curses that had a physical marking. This was new.

Hermione stood up to find her notebook with such force that the chair she had been sitting on fell to the floor making a large crash echo throughout the library. Madame Pince peaked around looking as if she was about to reprimand her then seemed to remember that they were the only ones in the large room and retreated.

It was very possible that the dark mark was more than just an evil curse, but this was promising! The spell was powerful and challenging to perform without practice, but that could very well be remedied. Careful not to let Madame Pince see her she snatched the book and tucked it beneath her parchment, heading for the door. She may have just found a way to free Severus of the mental and physical pain his mark caused.

Severus was the last to land in the clearing, a feeling of instantly missing something hanging heavy over his heart. They were in a forest and judging by the small time that had passed since the Weasley boys decided to wander off, not all that far from Hogwarts. Both of whom looked very startled sitting on either side of a small campfire. Ronald’s face contorted in rage when he saw the people that had just apparated into his camp, whereas Fred looked sheepish and guilty.

“Boys, what in the name of Merlin were you thinking?” Arthur stomped towards his children looked furious.

“Dad…I… we,” Fred stopped trying and hung his head.

“Your mother is suffering enough what do you think it would do to her if the two of you were lost or killed?” Severus wasn’t sure he had ever seen the usually light-hearted man look so menacing, it might have rivalled some of Severus’s expressions…might have. “You know what I don’t want to know, I have had enough there are Deatheaters all over looking for every excuse to kill any of us, and here the two of you are acting like children!”

Snape saw at that moment how hard Arthur Weasley was trying to keep his family from collapsing; it was tearing the man apart.

The twin stood up as his father finished his tirade, breathless and went to stand next to him. The younger sat on his stump poking at the fire with a stick, before speaking. “Dad, have you ever realised that there is only so much that someone can take?”

Arthur, as well as the others who had been doing their best to pretend to be enjoying the scenery, looked at Ron.

“All this time has been spent for a cause that didn’t even pan out and whose to say that it won't again. Harry Potter got us all thinking that this was going to be for the better, well look at us now, hiding in a castle and the boy who lived himself not showing his face…pathetic. I am done.” He stood up and marched passed his father to the visible trail through the woods around them.

“Ronald, how is this helping you or anyone else?” Arthur’s voice was quiet and urgent, “please son, we all need your help and so do your friends, Harry and Herm-.”

“Don’t give a shit about me! Harry has shown that now and Hermione never has, I’m not stupid enough to believe that she ever loved me, she was just trying to make me content, keep me close. Oh well someone else can deal with her.” Shrugging past Mr Weasley Ron didn’t give a second look to anyone else before apparating away.

Arthur turned to the others trying in vain to find a fast solution; none was forthcoming. Remus was about to speak when Severus’s mark began to sear with such intensity that it nearly buckled his knees. Lupin noticed immediately and went to him.

Gripping his mark, Severus hissed through clenched teeth, “there is something wrong… its… never felt like this before…I…”

There were loud cracks all around as four people apparated into the clearing. Severus fought through the agony to free his wand and stand as best he could at the ready. Faces he wished he didn’t know as well as he did surrounding them, Corban Yaxley, Fenrir Greyback, Rodolphus Lestrange and Bellatrix.

“Can we sit down? I believe that Teddy has rather missed you.” Tonks had Teddy in her arms bouncing him softly.

Hermione smiled looking up from her notes and scooting down the bench to make room for her and the baby, just now noticing that the great hall was empty. Her own food was still in front of her uneaten, nerves and pure distraction keeping her from consuming it.

“Teddy has been grumpy all day, perhaps he will be cheered up by his Mione,” Tonks carefully (thank Merlin thus far her clumsiness hadn’t as of yet affected Teddy) placed her son in Hermione’s waiting arms and his face lit up, big eyes sparkling.

“Well, his dada has been absent, though Remus swears Teddy is more attached to you” then cooing softly to the baby, “I believe there is a daddy’s boy in there yet.”

Tonks laughed rubbing the baby’s tummy. “How is the research coming along?”

Giving her finger over for Teddy to examine curiously, Hermione glanced up at her friend. “Very well actually I have just come across something that may help rid Sev- Professor Snape of his mark. I will need to examine the magical properties of the mark and have more details of its creation but it looks very promising, it might even be possible to track other Deatheaters, but I haven’t gotten that far just yet.”

The purple haired woman beamed, “look at that Hermione, you are exceptional!”

“That is a bit of a stretch I think.”

“I don’t. You are so incredibly clever and talented I’m surprised you haven’t seen it yourself.”

Hermione rolled her eyes at the smirk on Tonk’s face and turned her attention back to stroking Teddy’s wispy hair. “I can’t even keep my friends together.”

“That is a load of bollocks, Hermione Granger! Ronald handled things the way he did by his own choice; it had nothing to do with you and Harry is the same case just a different set of choices.” Reaching out she took Hermione’s free hand and squeezed it, “if we blame ourselves for the choices of others how are we supposed help ourselves and them?”

Hermione stared at her blankly, processing her words. “I have already tried to help them, and they won’t have it.” A tear slid down her cheek, and she hurriedly wiped it away.

“Not everyone is ready for help when you think they are, the best way to support them right now is to give them time. To keep yourself busy keep doing what you can do, utilise the talents you have been given! Look at what you are doing for Snape, and he even seems grateful, I don’t think I have ever seen him look less sour than when he is around you. Not only that but it seems that you do not totally despise him.” 

Hermione was thoughtful, “no, I don’t, not at all.”

“There, do we have an agreement? Real effort to use your gifts to benefit the people they can? And! Remember how much you have to offer as an incredible witch and woman?”

There was a little glimmer of hope in Hermione’s heart that had been trying to break free for a while, and now it was out in the open. “Yes.”

“Good! Now, will you help me put Teddy down for his nap? Sometimes he’s been changing his hair to look like his stuffed octopus; it is quite funny.”

“Well well well look what we have here…” simpered Bellatrix swaying further towards the group.

“Get back; we outnumber you!” Shouted Lupin, if Severus hadn’t been in so much pain, he could’ve told the werewolf to keep his mouth shut.

Bella only laughed manically, “numbers don’t matter to me…or them.” She made a wide gesture with her hands to the men who were slowly closing in on the sides. Then she looked straight at Severus contempt plain as day across her face, “what’s the matter, Snape? Something hurting?”

Thankfully Bella’s actions were always easy to see without the use of Legillimency and Severus saw her cast the curse that came flying at him, even if she didn’t speak it. Blocking it successfully this apparently was an indicator to her cronies that it was time to finish them off. Spells started flying, and the pain in his arm wasn’t lessening. It must be some kind of tracker as well, that was a terrifying thought, outside the wards of Hogwarts it was possible they could find him anywhere.

The fury displayed by all three of the Weasleys men present had Severus and Remus glancing at each other through the fray, they were acting recklessly. Charlie had already taken a good hit from Greyback, and if Fred hadn’t been pushed out of the way by Neville, the Diffindo Lestrange cast would’ve cut him clean open.

Bellatrix’s sole focus was on Snape as the others compounded upon the remaining three Deatheaters. If it hadn’t been for his arm, he would’ve liked to think that finishing the horrid woman would’ve been easy, but he knew she was far more daring and reckless than many other magical persons. Still, methodical thought was something that she didn’t possess, and he had that in spades. As things stood he was trying to keep himself standing; it was not the time to rid the world of Madam Lestrange it was time to get out of here safely. So, he kept anticipating her moves and blocking them at every turn.

Despite being five against two, they were all looking more and more ragged. The odds of incapacitating all four of the Deatheaters, with no significant injury to themselves was slim. Severus saw Lupin from the corner of his eye break away the fight and throw up a protective shield before shouting the party, “back now, to the wards go!"

"What about... Ronald?” yelled Arthur as he ducked a stump that came flying at him.

“We have to find another way!” Remus called blood dripping from his head and into his eye.

Neville surprisingly the most whole of the bunch went first with Remus close behind, Fred and Charlie broke off as well popping away almost just as Greyback was about to claw out at one of them. Severus shoved Bellatrix hard against a tree with an air spell and was about to go when he saw Arthur hadn’t budged and was now taking blows from various sides, losing steam quickly. He wasn’t going to last much longer if he didn’t leave, Severus knew that the Deatheaters had no intention of taking them alive … well apart from perhaps himself. No doubt Voldemort had many tortures in mind for him.

“Arthur now!” Severus was shaking with the effort of holding a shield he had cast and his arm still aching with pain.

No response. Letting down his shield for but a moment Severus charged forward with the intention of apparating Arthur away and dealing with the possibility of splinching later. Bellatrix now on her feet saw this happening and took advantage throwing a nasty curse of her own making that Snape knew all too well. “Cruor Faucibus!”

Teddy had indeed turned his hair turquoise for her before he fell asleep and that coupled with Tonk’s pep talk was making her feel a little bit lighter and braver as well. Severus had given her minimal indication of anything he had learned about this connection they shared; she needed to know more. Entering the potion’s lab which he had given her access to, she began to rummage around the various shelves and his desk area in search of any of the research he had supposedly done on the subject.

There wasn’t much of interest that she found at all, his drawers were relatively bare, with the exception of a spare quill as well as to her surprise muggle pens. It made her wonder if there was anything that brought him joy in the world at all. Potions awarded him some form of productivity and an outlet for his intelligence, but there is only so much academic study someone can take.

When she was sick, he had been reading one of her Agatha Christy novels, but it seemed like that had been the first recreational read he had, had in a while. Running a school for a madman and deceiving everyone into thinking you killed a beloved leader was no doubt time-consuming. At this thought Hermione pressed a hand to her chest, it must have been horrible for him… so lonely.

Sighing she inspected the room to make sure nothing was out of place before resigning that whatever he had spoken of was locked away in his personal quarters. If she could chalk all of these feelings up to some strange connection, it would make everything so much clearer… but did she really want that? Having feelings crop up for Professor Snape sure was unexpected but was it so wrong or bad?

The only time she ever felt honestly without obligation or fear was when they brewed or discussed, and he had been there for her in more times of need than anyone else had. Severus opposed to what she would’ve imagined wasn’t repulsive to her. He always smelled good, like Eucalyptus and something spicy and masculine. His hair wasn’t greasy ever anymore, and he had gained some weight back since the battle filling him out a little making him look less gaunt and pale.

Shaking her head quickly to dispel this odd train of thought, she promptly exited the lab. How was she supposed to go on like this? It was impossible that he would think of her in that way, he liked her well enough to allow her into his presence, but the guy kept his emotions very well hidden. No, it was this thing the deathly hallows stirred up, and Snape had no doubt already begun to find a way to reverse it. He wouldn’t want one of his former students hanging around bothering him with feelings and emotions.

As she was about to head up the stair leading to her rooms, she caught sight of Madame Promfrey rushing for the double doors. They must be back, and someone one was hurt. Her heart was pounding before she had begun to run.

He felt the spell hit him as he gripped Arthur’s arm, disappearing. Both landing in a heap just in front of Hogwarts barred by the wards. Minerva was on the other side with the rest of their party. Arthur groaned in pain, and Severus felt the beginnings of Bella’s curse taking effect. Hoisting a bleeding Arthur up Severus dragged him over the line only to collapse once again. Severus couldn’t tell what part of Arthur was injured as he, himself fell to his side vomiting blood into the grass. It felt like knives were being dragged down his throat and he spit red again, his vision blurring as he heard Poppy Pomfrey’s voice floating nearer.

Snape was coming in and out of consciousness as he was levitated off the ground, to be taken to the infirmary. In a moment of lucidity, he saw a curly head trotting along next to him, her forehead creased in concern. There was a sensation that Severus had yet to feel at any point in his extensive career of injury, someone holding his hand through the pain. Her small hand was clutching his, he could feel it through the fog that clouded his senses. She was whispering something too but that he couldn’t make out, if he died right now it would not be as bleak an end as anticipated.

The sensation of something heavy being draped around her shoulders, caused Hermione to jolt awake. She blinked pulling the wool blanket closer around her and groaning sitting up from her slumped place in the chair. Seeing Severus still lying prone on the infirmary bed next to her seat she tried to get up. “What is going on? I didn’t mean to fall asleep.”

Remus squeezed her shoulder, keeping her from jumping up. “It’s alright; everyone is alright. Fred and Charlie were easily patched up and Arthur is resting in his rooms and Neville was the best off of all of them. Poppy was able to cure Severus of his internal wounds, but there are still tremors in his arm. Sleeping Draught is keeping it as painless as possible.”

Hermione could see his arms shaking whilst the rest of his body lay still on the mattress. Her heart clenched, they needed to try that spell, but she had to have more information about when he received the mark before it could be performed. “How did they find you?”

“We don’t know, but I have a feeling it had to do with Snape’s arm.”

She immediately felt defensive, “you don’t think he did this do you?”

Remus shook his head, “of course not… is there anything you have seen about tracking spells being placed in magical markings?”

“Yes,” she sighed realising, “it is very common.”

They were quiet for awhile Hermione glancing down every moment or so at the man in the bed beside her. “He saved Arthur you know.”

Hermione’s eyes got big, “he did?”

“Yes, the poor man was no doubt thinking about the horrors his family has experienced because of these people, and it made him act on instinct. Had Severus not apparated him away Arthur no doubt wouldn’t be here.”

She didn’t say anything; if Arthur had died, it would’ve been entirely devastating and not just to her.

"We don't know where Ron is, do we?" She should feel more emotional about that.

"No, we don't, but we aren't giving up. Ron made a choice, but once we find him, i'm sure things can be different."

She doubted Ron would come around anytime soon.

“Hermione?”

“Yes?”

“You care for Severus?”

“Well, I suppose we work well together, and he is incredibly smart and much less unpleasant than I formerly knew him to be.” She tried to defend her answer quickly.

“Good, I think that having a friend you can count on would be very good for you.”

“I believe I have found a way to remove his mark, but he has to be conscious, there is some information that I need.”

“That is good news, would you like me to get Poppy? So, we can see what will be possible to do?”

“Please.”

Remus walked down the aisle between beds and out of sight. Hermione looked back at Severus his face was tense even in sleep, and his arm still trembled. Reaching out she lightly brushed her fingers over his hand, she was going to make this easier for him. He had done so much, it was time he had a life worth living, and maybe she could be a part of it.

Chapter Text

A cackle rang through the halls of Malfoy Manor, and everyone present knew that Bellatrix had returned. She bounced into the large sitting room adjusting her cleavage into her top as she went.

“You know, I have to say that my sister's wardrobe is a little too… pretty,” taking a hand, she ripped one of the sleeves of the black dress at the elbow and proceeded to do the same to the other.

Lucius who sat bound in the corner began to weep silently.

“Silence him.” The cold voice wasn’t speaking to anyone in specific, but they all clamoured to comply. “I presume you succeeded Bellatrix?”

“Yes, My Lord, the boy was… easily persuaded,” she screeched again with laughter approaching Voldemort who was beckoning to her.

“That is of little surprise to me,” he pulled Bella roughly into his lap pretending no one else was in the room, she giggled manically. “How long until he will be useful?” He petted her head like you would an animal then withdrew his hand as quickly.

She frowned as he stopped touching her hair, “soon, I need him to… trust me, we have more Polyjuice don’t we?”

“Corbin?”

“Yes, my Lord there is still a good stock.”

“Good, if Bella can…earn his trust then we are closer to what we want… but. The four of you still let Severus Snape slip…” Voldemort shoved Bellatrix from his lap brandishing his wand at her, “Crucio!” He moved on to Rodolphus and Yaxley. Standing slowly and stepping over the deatheaters laying in crumpled heaps on the floor he and Nagini made their way out of the room, “Fenrir will receive the same when he returns.”

“It might hurt, I am not really sure,” Hermione said as she stood taking one last look at the book and notes in front of her. “I am not even sure it will work Severus, and certainly it would be better to have Remus attempt the spell or wait for King-.”

Severus cut her off, ever since he woke up in the infirmary a few days before with her snoozing nearby and she told him about the spell she had found he had been trying to convince her she was indeed capable of performing it. “Please, can we continue? I don’t want Lupin touching me unless under the direst circumstances.”

She snorted trying to produce positive vibes, “and you want me to?” Hermione felt her face and neck turn scarlet as she realised what she had said.

Severus only cleared his throat as he saw her busy herself with the paper and quill in her hand. “As for it hurting, the mark was painful when I received it, so I am expecting no less so now.”

They had spent hours in the infirmary while he recovered preparing for the spell. Severus had recounted his time receiving the mark only as it was necessary to have the bloody thing removed. He had seen the shock and fear that had crossed her face as he spoke about that time, when he was so young and naïve. It made him sick after he had awoken and realised that Bellatrix’s curse had not finished him off he was determined to tell Hermione how he felt. If he kept it inside it would only drive him mad. Severus had mentally prepared himself for when she inevitably told him that she could barely stand him. But when he saw her react like that whatever courage he had gained now failed him, he would keep it inside no need to burden her with more disgust.

“Are you ready?”

“Yes.” He answered calmly and felt that familiar heat and tingle when she placed one hand on the body of the snake, the other held the tip of her wand to the skull that marred his skin.

Hermione closed her eyes trying to focus on nothing but the magic within her, “mansurus demolio.” She nearly let go when she felt the tattoo begin to writhe beneath her fingers like a real snake; she had read this could happen. She held on, and she could hear the softest groan from Severus, felt him tense as his arm turned icy beneath her touch.

It felt as if his arm had been dipped into a bucket of ice, he could feel it in his veins. When the mark had been placed, there had been a searing feeling; he had never felt anything like this before, grinding his teeth together he tried to bear through it.

Suddenly, the sensation was gone, and when Hermione lifted her hand and wand the inky mark lifted up floating the air just in front of his face, Hermione quickly yanked a small chest she had placed for this purpose from the table and closed the lid around the foul symbol.

Severus looked down at his arm; his pale skin was smooth and without blemish where there used to be the hateful black representation of times of pain. He couldn’t help it; he let his lips curve up into almost a real smile.

Hermione replaced the box on the table, looking at it in shock before she glanced up at Severus, “it worked.”

“It did.” He too was looking intently at the box.

“Would you like to do the honours?” Picking up the box she crouched down placing it on the stone floor and stood back.

Smirking he produced his own wand, pointing it at the chest, “Incendio.”

They both watched as the flames encased it until there was nothing left but a pile of ash. Severus waved a hand, and it was cleaned up.

“I want to know those cleaning spells you use.”

After everything that happened in the last few minutes not to mention days, her saying something so utterly ordinary made him throw his head back and laugh out loud.

Hermione was startled when she heard the rich sound explode from the dour man’s throat. It was a marvellous sound, and she wanted to listen to it as often as possible silently she vowed to make him laugh as often as she was able. There was a lightness it not only brought out in him but her as well.

She had helped him remove the mark; she felt proud of her achievement, there was no one here to tear her down or make her feel like she wasn’t worth anything. It was quite the opposite to that she found as Snape composed himself and spoke.

“I am indebted to you Hermione,” he held up a hand to stop her protest. “I didn’t believe it was possible and decided that there was no use in trying to find a counterspell, you did not give up so easily. Thank you.”

His dark eyes expressed all the seriousness that his heartfelt on the matter, Hermione could do nothing but nod pink spreading over her cheeks, “you are very welcome.”

He stood flexing his forearm before pulling his shirt back into place and buttoning the cuffs. “And I will teach you any cleaning spell you desire.”

The Order members crowded themselves into the headmistress’s office, they had lost a few of their associates, and it seemed many were sullen. Kingsley had always said that anyone was free to leave, but it didn’t make it sting any less to see the numbers dwindling. Hermione was comforted by the positive response Severus had received when they informed the others that the spell had been successful. And she was further so contented that Severus wasn’t sulking in the corner and instead had taken a chair next to her a bit farther away from the others but not secluded.

As they waited for Kingsley to floo them all with news, Severus watched Hermione bouncing Lupin’s son carefully in her arms, cooing at him soft, unintelligible things that under normal circumstances would’ve made Severus feel nauseous. At the present moment, whether because of his new sense of freedom or just Hermione looking happier today than he had seen her these past months, he found it endearing. Soon his reverie was broken by the sound of Shacklebolt’s voice coming from the green flames.

“Good evening everyone, I trust you are for the most part well. Minerva has kept me up to date on some of the more intense situations that have been encountered, and with all my heart I hope for the safety of everyone here.” 

There was a collective warm acknowledgement before he continued.

“I can officially say that the French Ministry has opened their borders to any in our country that need refuge.” He went on, “that being said; not everyone can pick up and leave the United Kingdom, because of this there is still a war that we may be facing. Because of this fact I have been discussing many things with Madame Maxime as well as many of Ministry delegates in France, they are not keen to aid in our fight, but I hope to change their minds.” Kingsley sighed, “I was hoping that a some of you that experienced the war would come to France, so we can open the dialogue about what has happened. I have already spoken with Fleur Weasley, and she has agreed to go, I am sure that they are wanting to see Harry… but that will not be possible as you all know.”

The sadness was almost palpable in the room at his words about Harry. Hermione glanced at Severus his face was a mask of stone no different than usual.

“I’ll go, Kingsley,” her voice was confident as she spoke, more confident than she felt but she knew this was the right course of action. “I am not Harry Potter, but perhaps a member of the golden trio would be next best.”

Through the flames you could see the smile that lit the older wizards face, “thank you, Hermione, I think none of us will know exactly what the three of you went through, and I am so grateful for everything that you have done.”

Hermione smiled in response feeling tears pricking at the back of her eyes, cuddling Teddy close to her chest as they waited to see if anyone else would volunteer. Then a deep voice not far from her broke the quiet.

“I will go as well; perhaps it would do good to give them insight into just how Voldemort functions. That is if there are no qualms with me attending.”

This seemed to shock Minerva who stood close to the fire, but she nodded, it was a pleasant surprise.

“Well then, thank you, Severus, I trust that it may be a nice reprieve from the castle as well.” Kingsley had also been taken aback by Severus’s offer, but there was very few as talented as the potions master, and it seemed that Hermione looked more comfortable in his presence. Perhaps the three of them would make the leaders of the French Ministry understand the dire circumstances which the whole of the United Kingdom was currently placed in.

As Kingsley continued with business Hermione only half paid attention and instead snuck a glance at Severus, he stared straight forward. Why had he decided to come? It couldn’t have been her, though part of her wished that was the reason. No, he probably just wanted to leave the castle, now that his mark had been removed he was freer than he probably had been in decades. Either way, he would be there and when he was around it was very rare she felt alone or vulnerable.

As everyone cleared from her office, Minerva called out to Severus before he could exit. “Severus, could I have a word?”

He nodded standing near the desk as the last person left and the door swung shut behind them. “What is it, Minerva?”

She was surprised that though his words were curt, they didn’t hold the malice that had been so readily available for all the years she had known him. “I am happy that you are going to France with Fleur and … Hermione.”

Severus tensed just a little at the mention but nodded mouth a straight line. “yes, well my mark is gone, and I haven’t been outside these godforsaken walls for too long.” He gestured lazily at the surrounding room.

Minerva narrowed her eyes, he was good at hiding it, but there was more than just that, “I have noticed that Hermione seems to be feeling a bit better as of late.”

“Mhmm, it would seem so.”

“I think she appreciates your presence in her life Severus.” The older witch’s blatant honesty finally pushing through.

He didn’t speak for a moment, “she is gifted in potions, and we tolerate each other no doubt.”

Minerva made a noise in the back of her throat, “Severus I know that you more than tolerate each other, you know Hermione had to Obliviate her parents before her time on the run. She doesn’t speak of it, but I know that it weighs on her mind as does everything else. I think it would be good for her to have a father figure to look up to.”

Severus nearly gagged at her words instead coughing he felt a pain in his chest, “no, I mean that isn’t possibly how she could feel about me.”

“Do not think so terrible of yourself, she has taken comfort in your presence I have seen it, and you are not so un-nurturing as you think you may be.”

He knew that Hermione felt something for him, he had assumed it was mild friendship, and though he wished for more, he knew that was ridiculous but this. Did she think of him genuinely as a father, it made his heart sink and his hands feel clammy. “Has she said so?”

“Not in so many words but as I said, her attachment to you is evident.”

Severus needed to leave, “Minerva I think it would be best if I get to the lab, Lupin will need Wolfsbane before I leave for France.”

McGonagall nodded, but before he could get to the door, she added, “don’t hurt her Severus please, I know that you must feel something for the girl.”

A few days later Fleur, Severus and Hermione stood at a portkey. Fleur was saying her final goodbye to Bill, who wasn’t able to come due to he and Charlie’s training of Rosie. Hermione had already seen Tonks, Teddy and Remus as well as the Weasley ’s and anyone else; now she stood watching Fleur kiss her husband and walk closer. She and Severus hadn’t discussed the journey, and she was somewhat grateful it had been some time since she had been around really anyone, but those who inhabited the castle and she was nervous of how she would react. His nearness was of some comfort, but he had been so distant with her since the meeting, it concerned her that she had upset him in some way.

“Are you all ready then?” asked Minerva.

They all nodded, and Minerva pointed her wand at the teapot that sat on the grass muttering a spell then stood back. That was their cue, Hermione hated portkey’s and would be happy when this was over. Still, she looked to Severus and Fleur. They all stepped forward touching the object.

Chapter Text

The whirling began as Hermione always remembered it, spinning and feeling as if her body was being pulled in many directions. In a flash, there was no more spinning, and she landed hard against soil coughing and trying not to expel her lunch.

Severus hurried to Hermione when he saw her laying on the ground a few feet away. She had mentioned hating flying, and it seemed that Portkeys were no different. He helped her to her feet and as soon as he knew she was steady on them, removed his hands. Fleur was already speaking with the officials that had been waiting for them, and Madame Maxime was approaching.

“Bonjour Je crois que vous avez eu un bon voyage?” Madame Maxime boomed, Kingsley trailed close behind followed by two others.

“Oui,” Fleur replied, “c'est tellement bon de te voir!” The last called out as she approached the headmistress and gripped her large hand tightly.

Whilst the two women were caught in a quiet conversation. The others approached Severus and Hermione.

“Monsieur Jan Herve`,” Kingsley gestured to the man on his left and then to the woman on his right, “Madame Eloise Juneau, both of whom lead the French Ministry’s board of directors.” Both individuals smiled and nodded at them. “This is Professor Severus Snape and Miss Hermione Granger.”

Hermione smiled taking the proffered hands but did not trust the very ineloquent French from her childhood, for now, she would listen and see if anyone spoke English, Monsieur Herve` addressed Severus after shaking his hand.

“Bienvenue, Monsieur Snape. J'ai entendu parler de votre travail de potion extraordinaire”

Hermione could tell that he had complemented Snape on his potion work…at least she thought so. Then she was nearly knocked over with surprise when Severus responded in perfect accent.

“Merci Monsieur, peut-être que si nous arrivons à un accord, je pourrai aider la France.”

She couldn’t really tell what he had said, but Kingsley was beaming, so perhaps it had been a good thing. Madame Juneau seemed to see the confusion Hermione held she placed a hand on her arm and spoke to the others in a thick accent, “I think we can dispense with French, for the time being, come let us get you settled so you can rest before dinner.”

Trailing after the others, they entered the school and were promptly met by three ghosts all stood at attention and dressed in servant garb.

Madame Maxime’s voice boomed from above, “zis is Jacque, Ellen and Veronica. Should you need anysing only zet zem know, zey will show you to your rooms and let you know when supper is ready.”

It seemed that Fleur already knew Veronica and followed the ghost away quickly, I suppose she did attend school here, and this seemed to be standard practice. Ellen floated toward Hermione smiling kindly.

“Rest well so that we may speak more freely over dinner,” Kingsley gave Hermione’s arm a soft squeeze and she smiled.

“It was very good to meet you,” she said to both Monsieur Herve` and Madame Juneau.

“And you my dear, an honour to meet a member of the what do they call you? The golden trio?” Monsieur Herve` gave a kind smile that told her he was jesting her, and she returned it before following Ellen who was taking the same path as Jacque and Severus.

Glancing at Severus, she could see he was avoiding her gaze. No doubt wanting to be spared more small talk than necessary, he hated it she knew as he had said many times in passing. She just hoped that she could figure out whatever it was that she had done to upset him so that she could apologise and perhaps he wouldn’t act so coldly. It was very awkward when they had recently become much more comfortable speaking with one another, she needed to find out what she had done before he closed himself off even more.

Before she could speak Ellen stopped at the top of the stair and pointed to what looked to be part of the guest wing. Her door was on the right side of the hall and Severus’s just across on the left. She turned to call out after Severus but saw his door close barely making a sound. Hermione tried to shake it off and turned to the spectre opening her door, “is it common to for ghosts to keep a job in France, pardon me I hope I didn’t offend.”

The woman chuckled and led her inside telling her of the long-standing tradition the school had its ghosts.

Hermione stood looking at the clothes she had laid out on her bed carefully. She had no clue as to the attire that would be expected at dinner that evening, and it had been so long since she had worn something remotely apart from a t-shirt and jeans that she was at a loss. Thankfully Ellen floated into the room at just that moment to tell her it was time for dinner.

“Dinner casual,” the ghost said with a knowing smile and pointed at the royal blue blouse and dark jean ensemble.

“Oh, thank you, I will be done in just a minute… um, Ellen?”

“Yes?”

“Has Professor Snape left for dinner yet?” She was hoping to catch him so they could have a moment alone.

“Yes, he passed me as I came up.”

Hermione tried not to show her disappointment. “Okay, thank you, Ellen.”

Ellen nodded and disappeared through the door.

Hurriedly dressing Hermione took one more look in the mirror and admired that this was the first time she had a little pink in her cheeks, her eyes were not quite so tired, and the blue was a lovely colour. If only Severus might notice, she rolled her eyes at herself and headed for the dining room.

Kingsley, Severus and Monsieur Herve` were already there when she arrived. There was a spot open next to Severus, but she thought that perhaps it would be best if she gave him space before cornering him after dinner.

“Bonjour” she supplied seating herself across the table from him next to Kingsley.

“Bonjour Mademoiselle,” replied Monsieur Herve` with a bright smile, “were you able to rest at all? I could tell upon your arrival that Portkey travel is not your forte.” He winked.

Hermione smiled blushing, “yes, it is not something I try to make habit of Monsieur.”

“Please call me Jan, I already informed Severus of that; I detest unnecessary formality.”

“Hermione then” she replied.

“That is a truly charming name, whether the reference of Greece or of Shakespeare your parents have lovely taste.”

Hermione tried her hardest not to let her face fall at his words, he spoke right her parents were well read and artistic individuals, but the pain of their loss was something that she wished so badly to ignore. “Thank you; my mum loved the name, and my father warmed up to it by the time I was born.”

Jan looked as though he was going to say something else when the doors opened, and the rest of the party filed in. Fleur and Madame Maxime still lost in conversation acting as if they never stopped Madame Juneau followed by someone Hermione had not seen since Fleur and Bill’s wedding over a year ago and very fleetingly.

“Victor!” Hermione could almost cry at seeing his face; she genuinely cared for the tough Bulgarian Seeker. Launching out of her seat she was caught and spun around in his arms.

“Hermiioonee!”

She laughed as he set her down, “I think that was the closest you have ever gotten to saying it!”

He laughed in return and escorted her back to the table where everyone else had begun to converse as dinner was served by more ghosts.

“Why are you here?” She asked as they began to eat.

“I delegate between Beauxbatons and Durmstrang, when the need arises I teach Quidditch at Durmstrang as well,” he said proudly.

“That is fantastic Victor!”

“Hermione? May I call you that?” asked Madame Juneau.

“Of course.”

“Good, feel free to call me Eloise, I was wondering if it would be possible for you and I to meet tomorrow around noon in my office?”

“Yes, I am sure that would be fine.” She was about to ask where her office was located when Eloise cut in politely.

“Ellen know where to take you.”

Hermione nodded in understanding as the woman turned back to her conversation. Victor was now clearly engrossed in his food, so she snuck a glance at Severus. To her surprise, she caught him looking at her with something strange in his eyes but as soon as he noticed her looking at him his gaze turned hard and dropped to his plate. Her chest burned what had she done?

Severus had nearly died when Hermione caught his staring; she seemed to be having such a good time tonight. Being flung all over by the Bulgarian and fawned over by Herve`. She deserved every single second of it, but there was that heat in his chest, coupled with something else making him want… no need to be the source of her joy. Her blouse had been the first thing to catch his attention; she rarely wore anything like it recently, no doubt she didn’t need to. Always she looked beautiful, but the cobalt made her chocolate curls and chestnut eyes shine. Must he be so weak? He felt like a bloody teenager, pining, just like with Lily except this was so much worse. There was a dark part of him that knew his love for Lily in any of its capacities never felt like this.

That is when it struck him hard sitting there reaching for his glass of wine, all the conversations around him blending into a passing buzz. He loved her. Severus felt his stomach roll with nerves at what he just admitted to himself. Being distant from her was how he chose to cope with what Minerva had told him but now, having this knowledge, it was so much more dangerous. He would have to make the distance further, keep all of it very far beneath his surface and if he couldn’t do that… he would have to leave, for her good. His heart twisted at the very thought blazing in his chest as if screaming no. His eyes caught movement and saw Hermione touch a couple of fingers to her heart then looked up at him, seeking confirmation that he had experienced the feeling too. He refused to give any, finding out what this thing inside them was ever more important.

Everyone was ushered into what seemed to be Madame Maxime’s personal sitting room after dinner. Lovely rich coffee and desserts were served, Hermione didn’t think she had eaten so much in a very long time. Hogwarts was well stocked, but indulgences were not exactly present or in her mind while there.

She watched Severus from afar as he conversed quietly with Jan, the official must have more than just a cheery demeanour as Severus seemed truly invested in their conversation. She nearly chuckled as she thought how he kept his feelings well covered unless they were to deter someone from annoying him. As a student, she had found Professor Snape though cruel also fascinating and apparently that had not changed. Except now she wasn’t afraid of him, in fact, he eased her fears and soothed her mind. His voice no longer reminded her of resentment; now it sent a small thrill through her. She blushed without thought and was startled when she Kingsley placed a hand on her arm.

“Forgive me, I did not mean to startle you” the older wizard chuckled, “how are you, Hermione? And please be honest” he added smiling cheekily.

Hermione bit her lip thinking of how to approach this question since Ron had left she had realised that she was much less upset than anticipated. At first, it had made her feel angry with herself, and though that lingered, she knew that if nothing else she felt much better. “I am doing well; the worries don’t quite go away I am afraid but, improvement has absolutely occurred.”

He beamed at her taking a sip of his coffee, “I am very glad to hear it uh, and I heard Jan talking about your parents earlier, I wanted you to know that the second we win this war, I plan on seeing to it personally that they are found, and their memories are restored.”

Tears pricked at her eyes, “I am so grateful Kingsley.” She enveloped him in a hug then stepped back drying her eyes, “I haven’t a clue what I would do without you Arthur, Remus, Tonks and Minerva” she laughed at the long list realizing how blessed she truly was. “You have all acted as though I am your own and it has helped me immensely.”

“I am honoured you think so highly of me, though you would not leave Severus out of that list, would you? It has been told to me that the two of you are quite close” he shrugged taking another sip then chuckled. “I didn’t see that an ounce of him could be fatherly, but apparently you dragged it out of him.”

Hermione paused a berry tart halfway to her lips, what had he just said? “Pardon me?”

The older wizard studied her shocked face and quickly tried to make amends, “I am sorry I thought that it was alright to talk about your relationship with Severus as you seem so close.”

“No, no it is alright”, she waved off his apology trying not to let her face show the distress his comment had caused her. “I had just not thought that Severus felt that way.”

“I probably should’ve kept it to myself; I only thought of it because he and Minerva spoke a few days ago and she seemed to mention to him that you seemed to appreciate his company.”

“Oh,” no wonder he had been acting so different Minerva must have said something that caused him to become uncomfortable. “Do not worry Kingsley, I have the highest regard for Severus and am happy to express that to anyone, though he may not be quite as open in that.”

The wizard snorted, “yes, he is his own breed, isn’t he?”

She nodded smiling now lost in thought; she excused herself claiming that a headache was beginning to affect her. Trotting back to her room she opened the door then decided against it and stood to wait in the dark corridor for Severus to return. She needed to lay somethings to rest and soon.

Severus felt drained as he climbed the stairs leading to his rooms. Talking with Jan had been mostly tolerable, but it was socialising all the same, and that did not come naturally. Not to mention trying to avoid Hermione had proven difficult, she seemed determined to speak with him. Couldn’t she see that he was doing this as not to upset her? That it would break him if he tried to pretend for any longer that his feeling didn’t exist?

He groaned audibly as he reached the corridor and turned to enter his room, he needed a stiff drink, thankfully this school’s guest quarters felt more like an extravagant hotel and there was a well-stocked minibar.

“Severus?”

He braced himself against the door he had been trying to enter, she was right behind him, Merlin had she been laying in wait?

“You would make a rather decent spy Miss Granger,” he muttered barely turning to look at her.

She didn’t look amused, no doubt at his cold way of addressing her. “I needed to speak with you.”

His chest burned. “I am fatigued this evening; perhaps we could talk tomorrow.”

It was a statement, not a question and Hermione wanted to shrink away at his stern words but instead held her chin high, getting right to it. “Why are you avoiding me?”

His mouth didn’t move; he just stared at her.

She faltered in her earlier courage, “I am sorry, If I did something to offend you, Severus, please know that it was in no way my intention, whatever it was.” She decided to leave out for now that she thought she knew exactly what had made him keep his distance.

He sighed and turned to face her fully, keeping one hand on the doorknob. “You haven’t done anything Hermione.”

She waited for him to continue and when he did not, she realised that nothing emotional was ever going to be bridged if she waited on Severus time frame. It seemed he was incapable of doing things that exceeded his comfort zone, at least when it came to her. “Severus, Kingsley told me that you and Minerva had a certain conversation…” Her eyes pleaded with him to help her stop speaking in circles and just get to it; he was uncomfortable that he thought she wanted this familial bond with him. Which she didn’t, not in that way.

He blew a breath out of his nose and sighed again, this wasn’t going to go away. “Nightcap?” he gestured to the door as he opened it.

“Sure.”

Severus’s room looked exactly like hers, except it exuded masculinity where hers the opposite. She had read that the schools quarters adapted to the tastes of the individual that occupied them. That seemed to be correct all of the furniture was made with the use of purpose in mind and the colour scheme held strictly to muted, steely grey and charcoal. To her surprise she didn’t find it unpleasant, it reminded her of him, and that sent a flutter in her belly as she took a seat on the sofa while he got drinks.

“Wine?”

“Oh, yes, thank you.”

“White? Red?”

She bit her lip, Hermione’s drinking experience consisted of Christmas Sherry and the occasional red with dinner when her parents warranted it a special occasion. All she needed at this moment was for Severus to think her more juvenile, so she responded as boldly as she could. “White, please.”

There was a soft grunt in response.

Severus felt his stomach drop as he carried the wine over to her and sat at the other end of the sofa. He had foregone the scotch in favour of wine for the moment; there would be plenty of time for the hard stuff after he made her sad. There was no use pretending he wasn’t going to have to tell her that he didn’t want to be that to her, he just couldn’t it wasn’t right. He would deprive himself of her presence entirely before he was forced to play a role that would only further hurt him.

“I did talk to Minerva.”

“And she mentioned that I am very grateful for your company?”

“Yes… Hermione…”

He stopped when she placed a hand the his where it rested on his knee. “Let me tell you that I in no way feel things towards you as she expressed. I miss my parents terribly, yes but Severus I do not need a father,” she paused saying the word in context with him made her feel ill. “I have no doubt that made you uncomfortable, so when after Kingsley made me aware I knew I had to speak to you.”

Severus could feel his eyebrows raise, without his consent and his face relax. Thank the Gods. “I, I cannot say that I am not pleased to hear that,” to his pride, he kept his voice even, though it wanted to shake.

Hermione’s eyes swam with worry, “Minerva is not wrong in her assessment of my appreciation for your friendship… though I am afraid that I may ruin it with what I am about to admit.”

That was impossible Severus wanted to say, but instead, he just shook his head trying to hide his own worry, as he silently asked her to continue. What could she mean?

Hermione set down her glass on the coffee table and fiddled with her fingers; she could do this. If she told him at least, then she could move on the knowledge of his refusal would help her to stop thinking about this. Looking up into his eyes she said, “Severus, I care for you. Not just as a friend… well I mean yes but really, what I am meaning is that…” Good Merlin there were not words enough to fix this stuttering mess she was creating. Mustering all the Gryffindor courage she had, Hermione bridged the distance between them, bringing herself centimetres from his face she closed her eyes as to avoid seeing his reaction and pressed her warm lips to his stunned ones.

Severus didn’t move a muscle… she was kissing him. He felt his grip the stem of his wine glass loosen and it slipped to the hardwood floor with a crash. He still didn’t move when she pulled back, her face pink. She had kissed him. It wasn’t until he saw her expression go from confused to terrified that he understood that he had been sitting there like a great oaf.

“I am so sorry, I shouldn’t have…” Hermione began to stand covering her face with her hands as Severus regained mobility of his person. Standing abruptly, he reached out almost mechanically, removing her hands from her face. Bending his head down he kissed her, her mouth slightly open in an o of surprise. She responded after a moment, reaching up to drape her arms around his shoulders. Hermione wasn’t sure that anything would feel as comforting as the wool of his frock coat to her ever again.

Chapter Text

Finally, both of them came up for air; it seemed like hours that they stood there in each other’s arms. Severus eventually pulled away as his eyes opened they were trained on Hermione’s, searching for a sign that this was not welcome, that she wanted him to stop. She gave him none, instead reaching up she touched his cheek lovingly. It was like a bucket of cold water was poured over his head, and he stumbled back.

“Why… why are you doing this?”

Hermione looked confused and hurt at his quick change in demeanour. “What do you mean?”

“This is a joke, correct?” he ran a hand through his hair…his hair that had unessisarily warranted his most favoured nickname of greasy git. He watched her face turn to horror at his statement then confusion; her hands came up to brush her chest just under her collarbone.

“The sensation… I don’t feel it anymore.”

Severus felt his heart crumbling at her words; this wasn’t a joke it was that damned feeling in them. He too no longer felt the burning, but his heart still longed for her, ached for her. Balling his fists and staring fixedly at the ground he let the passive mask descend, “Well it seems that we have, by some means attained relief of this assumed connection. Now perhaps both of us can continue on with our lives, unimpeded by such a nuisance.” He wouldn’t look at her; he couldn’t see the disgust she must now feel after realising she had kissed him would be too much.

“What are you talking about?” Her voice didn’t sound horrified it was hurt.

As if reciting from a textbook he replied. “The connection no doubt, these feelings only surfaced due to that, and now that we no longer seem subject to it, I suppose we can go on with things as they were before.”

“I-is that what you want then?”

“Don’t you?”

“That isn’t an answer to my question.” Now she sounded angry.

Severus ignored her and walked over to the spilt wine and broken glass, looking anywhere but at her face. “I had better clean this glass up before someone is hurt.” He had just performed a wandless cleaning spell when she came up behind him and physically turned him to look at her.

“Severus, why are you being such an arse?” Then she raised a hand to stop him from commenting before adding, "more than usual? And directing it at me?" Hermione’s normally big brown eyes were narrowed and full of rage and pain. “Do you think I kissed you because of some stupid feeling or connection that we don't even understand? That I am incapable of knowing the contents of my heart? Am I that shallow? Or is it that my affections are not requited? If the latter is the case, then, by all means, say so, but I stand by what I did Severus. You consume my nearly every thought, you have been there for me in my darkest of times in your own special way and nowhere feels as safe to me as being at your side.” She took a large gulp of air before finishing her cognac eyes hadn't left his ebony ones, “I… I care so deeply for you Severus; my heart is yours if you want it… if you will take care of it.”

Severus stared at her, letting her words wash over him like a wave of warm water. Everything she said was all he had wanted to hear for what seemed like forever but how could it be true? Hermione was squirming uncomfortably beneath his gaze, appearing to retreat further into herself. No doubt it had taken courage on her part to tell him this so boldly.

Looking like the woman he had carried from the rubble only to see slowly decaying because of the circumstances life had treated her to. Severus could not allow that to happen and it seemed at this moment that he was what she needed. He would lay aside all his fear and would let his heart be crushed once more when she undoubtedly tired of his affections but for the moment he would give her what she wanted.

“Hermione, I apologize my reaction was hasty. I struggle with seeing what I can offer someone and felt the need to protect my own heart. I feel as strongly about you… I just couldn’t … cannot comprehend that you would feel for me by your own choice.” He let the smallest of smirks cross his lips at those words, “ I reacted as you so eloquently put it, like an arse.”

This final statement seemed to shake Hermione from her dumbstruck state, and she smiled widely, seeing that he had just declared his feelings and made a Snape apology all in one speech. Picking up her courage again she crossed the space that separated them until she was looking up into his obsidian eyes. The tension that had existed dissipated and was replaced with a new thicker sensation. Hermione reached behind his head tangling her fingers in his hair and pulled his lips down to her mouth.

Severus closed his eyes and allowed himself indulgence, if she wanted him, he would be at her side. She was the true deserver of his loyalty and devotion. Two masters had claimed that by force from him and now he was able to give such things freely, Severus was surprised to find that the cost was much less to bear. She seemed to help shelter the weight that refused to leave his shoulders.

Ron Weasley sat on a pub stool, tracing tiny circles in a couple drops of beer he had spilt on the bar top. She was late. Everyone he had ever known, no doubt hated him now, so he had gone where no one would find him. He had very little in the way of wizard or muggle money, but Fred in his haste to leave with their dad had left his own savings. At first, he had begun to spend it all on alcohol and women, but that felt too cheap to him, he was a member of the Golden Trio and a would-be saviour of the wizarding world. Granted, hardly anyone recognised him no doubt his unshaven grubby appearance saw to that but still he deserved better, and he got it.

One night, late in the pub a woman entered. Long black hair and high cheekbones, dressed seductively in a tight black dress that plunged into a low v, exposing much of her breasts. She was everything that the girls of his life had not been and gods that’s all he wanted. Vivian had recognised him and to his surprise seemed to share his intentions, the first night they spent together had been unlike anything he had ever experienced. It made him feel powerful.

When he awoke to find the pillow beside him empty, he smashed a glass that had been next to his bed before seeing the note placed under his pillow asking him to meet her again in the days to come. This became a pleasurable routine that he found more enticing as it continued.

Vivien didn’t tell him anything about herself, and perhaps that was part of her appeal. She didn’t need anything from him, and that was just what he needed he had spent too much time having to be at either Hermione or Harry’s beckon call, and he was beyond sick of it. They didn’t respect him, and he deserved their respect after everything that he did for them. Hermione, his own girlfriend, had spent more time with their old potions professor than with Ron, that ought to have told him something about her priorities and her so-called love for him.

After weeks of this same charade Ron turned over in bed, his breathing still heavy to look at the woman lying bare next to him.

“Do you want me?”

He chuckled, “something told me that would’ve been obvious," he was trying to be as suave as possible.

She didn’t laugh at his ill-made joke.

“Yes,” he rolled his eyes, “of course I want you.”

“Good, I need you to come with me.”

Small progress had been made in France. Hermione had a lovely chat with Eloise Janeau about why she felt so passionate in helping the wizarding world at such a young age and with so much danger. That had been easy for Hermione to answer, it was Harry and her world, everything she held dear. Voldemort wasn’t a respecter of borders or nations, they were all dispensable and united they could stand stronger.

The woman had beamed at her. Coupled with the new-found joy in Hermione’s heart she felt the blossoming's of purpose. This is what she was born to do, find ways to improve life and circumstance, whilst inspiring people to a vision. They were so close, and all of them could feel it. They could breathe and just in time for a diplomatic event that Beaxbatons was holding for many wizarding nations. A gala that held many country’s futures in their hands… no pressure.

Hermione stared at herself in the mirror. She had spent more time on her appearance since being in France than she had maybe her whole life. The evening gown Kingsley had attained for her, where she had no idea was a dark wine colour, draping delicately over one shoulder and hugging her frame before flowing out ever so slightly after her hips. She had added a bit of tasteful makeup, and now it seemed her work had been worth it. All the months of neglect and abuse seemed to have ebbed away, leaving her looking healthy and glowing.

She brushed tentative fingers over her lips and smiled turning for the door. When she opened it revealed Severus; hand raised about to knock. Hermione’s stomach flipped, and her breath caught, he too it seemed, had put extra effort into his appearance. His hair looked freshly trimmed and his attire though still black had been replaced with new dress robes ever so slightly hemmed with dark green. His cravat the same deep shade, meticulously tied as usual.

His breath came out in a rush, and she waited expectantly for him to speak, “you… look so lovely.”

Crimson stained her cheeks and neck; she could hardly believe that she was in a place to say and do what she was about to, getting on her tiptoes she pressed her lips to his, then pulled only barely away to speak. “You look very handsome, Severus.”

He snorted but mirth was dancing in his eyes, and she leaned in to capture his lips again, this time allowing it to deepen. Then brushing a strand of hair from his face pulled him into the room, they needed to talk.

“Drink?”

“No, I am fine thank you.”

“I know how private you are Severus.” She gave him a small smile, “I understand, and I will take no offence if you should want to keep this a secret for a while.”

“What is this?” it wasn’t harsh, just direct.

Hermione blushed looking down at her hands, “well I suppose we haven’t voiced that, have we? I very much want to be with you, Severus… if of course, that is what you want.”

“I do,” he answered a little quicker than he expected and also blushed ever so slightly.

“That’s settled then,” in a moment of boldness she scooted closer to him on the sofa and picked up his hand in her own.

“But, I have a feeling that this,” he motioned between the two of them, “will not be taken all that well.”

“Oh, that can’t be true” she protested.

Severus shot her a look of feigned irritation, “it is the truth, I do not wish to cause any more heartbreak to you if others deem this to be unfit.”

“So, you think we should keep this a secret for how long? Till the war is over?” Anger rose in her; she didn’t want to have to sneak around.

“No, no I think that some time to find the best way to tell people would be beneficial.”

“I, yes, I understand.”

“That makes you sad?” It was almost disbelief in his tone.

“Yes?”

“I just… well, I am not exactly a catch, I expected that the idea of keeping it from others would be preferable.”

“What? Of course not, don’t talk about yourself so meanly Severus! I am happy, and I would like to show that to others without reservations eventually, but we can do so in your time frame.”

Severus gaped for a moment before he was bestowed yet again with a kiss, this time it was heated and a real burning very unlike that they had both felt before bubbled up inside him. He broke away after a moment his breathing heavy, “we should go.”

Hermione sighed a little disappointed but nodded and accepted his hand to help her up.

The Beaxbatons “Great Hall” was beautifully laid out in dazzling dark blue colour’s, that varied in texture from silk to velvet. Hermione smiled in spite of herself; she had been trying with all her might to keep her excitement in check. These were still dire times, and it didn’t feel right to lose herself in the splendour that France was turning out to be but looking out over the sea of officials and finery, she decided a little indulgence wouldn’t hurt. Severus had entered first some time ago; she had made him feel better in insisting that she needed to use the loo anyway. Now as she descended a flight of broad stairs into the room, she couldn’t see him.  

The idea that this beautiful thing was to be kept a secret put a damper on her mood, she didn’t think that everyone would react as Severus said they would. But she wasn’t going to break his trust, that was something that she had earned no doubt and difficulty. She nearly shuddered at memories of their first few potions sessions months ago; he had been a shell of a person she only barely knew, much like she had felt in her own skin… with Ron.

“Hermione!” Jan stepped forward grinning, “champagne?”

Hermione nodded smiling back at him, “thank you, I was beginning to wonder if I knew anyone here at all.”

“Oh, come now, there is Shacklebolt up a way and… ah Severus,” he pointed to a statue near the far-left wall, next to it stood a stoic-looking Snape, glass in hand.

“I suppose I need to make sure Kingsley knows I am here, thank you for the champagne.”

“Of course, ma cher.” He was quickly in conversation with another man not far away.

As Hermione made her way to Kingsley, she dutifully kept her eyes away from the statue in fear of her reaction to seeing Severus… butterfly’s she could’ve laughed out loud at the thought.

“You look lovely” Kingsley smiled at her holding his own glass.

All this fuss over her appearance was strange, and it was making her ever so slightly uneased. “Thank you and thank you for securing me a dress, I am not sure what I would have done.”

He waved a large hand, “it was no trouble at all.”

Desperate to get subject off of her clothing Hermione leaned in closer, “have we made progress? I have been doing my best and Eloise, and Jan both seem amiable, even excited to work with us.”

“Yes, they are it is them convincing the rest of the governing party that it would be worthwhile to “invest” in our cause.” There was an air of strain in his voice they needed help now and standing around at parties was of no use to them. “Tomorrow they both leave for Paris to meet and have a vote, then we will know, for now, we must wait and hope for the best.”

Hermione nodded taking another sip, “have you heard anything from the castle?”

“Yes, I spoke with Minerva this morning, all is well it seems, whatever happened with those poor animals seems to have been a scare tactic that didn’t work.”

“No news of Ron?”

“No, I am sorry.” The older man’s voice was tender, “I would tell you directly if there was, I hope you know.”

“Thank you.”

“There is something of note though, I was going to tell you later in privacy but perhaps now is just as well.”

She looked at him expectantly.

“Harry has been to the great hall for dinner these past three nights and has been talking deeply with Remus.”

Hermione’s eyes widened, “what? Really? Oh God that is incredible- I cannot- thank Merlin!” Tears had pricked at her eyes, and she had to fight them back before a full water work show happened in the middle of this formal room.

Kingsley chuckled, “I thought that would cheer you up a bit, though you have seemed to be in good spirits… I take it that Ron’s absence has not been too heavy a burden?”

Hermione sighed, though still elated, “he is a very dear friend to me, and because of that I want him to be safe but no, Ron and I will have a trying relationship should he want one in the future, as friends.” Her last words were firm; she knew that Ron and herself would never again enter into a romantic relationship, her being with Severus was just an added reason why not.

Kingsley almost seemed to read her thoughts, though thankfully he didn’t because he glanced over and Severus, “I think that perhaps we should go bother old Snape, he seems a little too happy over there all alone.” Before Hermione could make an excuse, the tall wizard had begun taking long strides toward Severus.

They had almost reached him when Eloise appeared next to the dark-haired wizard a somewhat sly smile planted on her face. She said something to him and then laughed, Severus even turned up his lips, and then Eloise placed a hand on his shoulder, squeezing. Hermione felt a white-hot irritation mounting inside her, not very unlike what Lavender Brown had made her feel when she had been swooning all over Ron. Except this woman was not some flirty school girl, she was a beautiful, powerful woman. As they neared, she could hear what they were saying but didn’t understand most of it.

“Oui, ces fonctions sont ennuyantes. Plus de raison de ne pas excepter l'offre de Lead Potioner pour le ministère français.

Severus didn’t have time to answer before Kingsley boomed (he may have had a little too much Champagne), “Eloise, it seems that you had the same idea and we, invading Snape’s solitude.”

Eloise pulled back a little from Severus, “Oui, I suppose you could say that” she turned to Hermione “how magnifique you look!”

The witch’s comment on her appearance coupled with the fact that she had just been flirty with Hermione’s… what was Severus to her? Made Hermione bite the inside of her cheek before she said something petty to the woman. Instead, she smiled widely in a way that anyone who honestly knew her would’ve caught on as ingenuine and said, “you are quite stunning Eloise.”

The woman waved a hand in mock protest, had Hermione really not noticed how proud this woman was?…maybe it was only the alcohol.

Hermione glanced up at Severus and caught his eye only for a moment his expression unreadable then Kinglsey launched into a conversation of the Wizengamot and how he preferred the French system of lawmaking.

After a moment there was a hand on her shoulder, “Herrrmianee,” Victor held a glass out to her with more Champagne, and she took it grateful for a distraction from her thoughts. Unlike the rest Victor didn’t comment on her appearance, he merely smiled, and for it, she decided she would engage him a conversation of Quidditch even if she hated talking about the sport.

Before she knew it, time had passed, and the wine she had drunk was making her eyelids droop.

“Perhaps, it is time for bed,” Victor smiled and offered his arm.

Hermione looked around for Severus and saw him still with Eloise and Kingsley. He looked annoyed, but Eloise seemed to be holding him firmly in place with the red-nailed hand on his arm. Hermione nodded to Victor and took his arm, following him to the exit.

Severus watched the boy and Hermione take their leave, as much as it boiled his blood to see her arm on the Durmstrang boy he was content that she was going up to bed. He had been studying her for the past fifteen minutes trying to think of a way he could get away with helping her to her room; she had been nearly dead on her feet. At Present, as Eloise had taken in more and more spirits, she was getting looser with her tongue… and hands. Severus knew Hermione had seen, there was hurt in her eyes and all he could think about was going to her and telling that there was no need, that he adored her, worshipped her… loved her. No, he would not tell her that, not yet, he couldn’t take the rejection should she not feel as strongly.

He made a curt excuse to Eloise and Shacklebolt, going straight away before anymore questions could be asked of him, or she could stop him. Then he made his way to the guest quarters, intent on finding Hermione.

When he reached the rooms, Jacque was in the hallway waiting for him. “Mademoiselle Granger asked to wait in your rooms; I hope that it was not remiss of me to allow her to do so.”

“No, thank you,” Severus said to the spectre gratefully, “that is perfectly alright.”

The ghost only nodded and floated away.

Severus opened the door to find the first sight he could ever describe wholeheartedly as adorable. Hermione lay fully clothed on the sofa one arm over her eyes and the other dangling from the side. When the door shut she stirred scrunching her nose, blinking and sitting up.

“Severus?”

He held back for a moment before going and sitting next to her.

“I think the Champagne made me sleepy.”

Severus chuckled she still sounded as if she was half asleep, but after a moment she sat up with a tiny groan and propped her back up against the arm of the chair. “Are you upset with me?”

Hermione looked somewhat startled by his question but shook her head, “no,” then she smirked, “should I be?”

“I don’t believe so, I know we said we would keep this,” he motioned between the two of them, “to ourselves but I couldn’t help but think you seemed worried, or somewhat irritated.”

“Perceptive Professor,” chuckling Hermione reached out and took his hand and began to play with his fingers absentmindedly. “My annoyance though was not to do with you, not directly-.”

He interrupted her, “It was Madame Juneau, was it not?”

Hermione sighed, “not exactly, I mean I didn’t like her flirting with you, but I am not some jealous child until you give me a reason to doubt you I will not.”

Relief flooded him with this statement, he knew Hermione was mature, but this settled his mind all the more.

“It was more that… I suppose its stupid really, but all night the first thing that someone said to me was how beautiful I looked. That is all fine, and I appreciate the sentiment, but I can’t help but fear that as I get older, I will lose some of my intelligence to strangers and acquaintances just because they think I am attractive.” She looked at him a little apologetic for her rant, but Severus only nodded his head to show he was listening intently. “Some of them didn’t mean to demean my intelligence I know that, but it is an adjustment that being on the run I didn’t have to get used to and now being thrust into a world of politics and strategy I feel somewhat useless. When all I have ever wanted is to make a difference in a world like this,” she gestured to the ceiling then dropped her hands back into her lap.

He didn’t speak for a moment, it was uncommon that anyone decided to talk with him so intimately about a problem that was clearly so close to their heart, but he and Hermione were too close now for such reservations, she needed him, his reassurance. “We live in a world that puts a fair amount of stock in physical appearance, in that I do not just mean the wizarding community but the muggle world also. I cannot say that you will never have to fight to prove your intelligence because I would be lying to you. Unfortunately, that is just how people think, but I will say that you have more than the intellect to prove them wrong. You are not just a pretty face Hermione, you are a brilliant, forward-thinking witch, with great potential and innumerable skills that many could not dream of.”

Her fingers had stilled around his, and he gave them a gentle squeeze before continuing. “I cannot and will not deny your beauty, it would be an injustice to you as it is only one of your many qualities, but I will say that the most exquisitely radiant thing you possess is your stunning mind.”

A little sob escaped Hermione’s lips, and he looked up at her eyes in fear of what he had just bared before her. She was smiling widely leaning in she pressed a kiss to his lips before whispering, “thank you.”

Snape cleared his throat trying to lighten the mood and alter the flurry of emotions that were far too exposed on his face. “I do not envy you and am grateful I have never been attractive enough to warrant such a worry.”

She only rolled her eyes and moved closer, so she could poke him In the chest with a finger, “you don’t give yourself enough credit. I find you incredibly handsome and don’t give me some half-arsed comment about me being the only one because Eloise was far too happily dallying with you earlier.”

Avoiding the compliments, she was giving him he raised an elegant dark eyebrow, “not envious then?”

“Only a little,” she smirked and laid her head on his chest sighing when he wrapped an arm around her shoulders, they were quiet for a while, and Severus was beginning to think he might need to carry her back to her room when she spoke. “Where did you learn to speak French?”

“Spy’s need many talents.”

She chuckled but didn’t inquire any further thankfully; he didn’t want to talk about such dark things now. “Isn’t Madame the title for a married woman?”

It was his turn to rumble a deep laugh, “yes, though I believe Madame Juneau is divorced or soon to be… as she was telling me before I made an excuse to leave the party.”

“What else was she speaking to you about? I head potions mentioned, but that was all I got.”

“Mmm, yes, they offered me a job as lead potioneer for the French Ministry, I declined it until further notice.”

“Why would you do that?” She sat up to look at him stunned.

“Shacklebolt believe’s it could sway them to help us and I need to think about what I want for my future before accepting such things, that is a luxury I haven’t had before, and I plan to make the most of it.” He brushed her curl from her face, thinking that she was the most significant reason of all for declining it, he refused to be away from her.

She kissed him softly, “I hope that life brings you many choices from here on.” Hermione settled back down against him and after another moment of silence, “it is quite sexy, you speak French it fits that dark, brooding vibe you’ve always exuded.”

This time the laughed resonated deep in his chest and bubbled from his lips as well, then he leaned in close and whispered in her ear. “Je peux devoir le faire plus souvent, ma douce.”

Chapter Text

“I suppose it’s back to reality then?” Hermione sighed softly shrinking all her luggage and tucking it away into her pocket.

Ellen suddenly appeared through a wall, startling Hermione and causing Snape to raise an eyebrow. This had been habit recently, Hermione had the feeling that Ellen was checking in to make sure Severus was being a gentleman, but it was a bit terrifying, and unnecessary Severus was cautious with her, she might even say too careful.

“Is there anything I can help you with Mademoiselle?”

Hermione shook her head smiling at the friendly ghost, “no thank you, Ellen, I am thrilled we were able to meet.”

The ever-strict ghost allowed for a small smile then moved through a wall.

“To your earlier question,” Severus reached out and tugged Hermione a little closer. He seemed to be feeling a bit more ar ease initiating holding her as she continued not to protest to him doing it. “yes, the reality it is.” Then with only the slightest hesitation, he dropped his face toward hers, so their lips could meet.

When they broke apart Hermione tried to smile, “it will be alright, I know that Voldemort is out there but you’re here, and that is the most comfort I have had access in a long time.”

Severus didn’t speak for a moment and Hermione got the impression that what she said to him wasn’t something he had heard many times or at all in his life. He controlled his features and simply nodded but she knew there was a depth to how he was feeling now, she had seen it flit across those black eyes.

After yet another Portkey journey where Hermione ended looking worse than she had before they were met by many inhabitants of the castle. Too many for Severus's taste. Hermione was quickly whisked away by Lupin and others, leaving Severus alone on the lawns. As he made his way to the dungeons to deposit some of the ingredients he had attained thankfully in France, he debated with himself. Could it have all been just a trick of their circumstances? Now that they were back would she just let him down easy? He had to give her more credit than that, but a lifetime of rejection is more than enough to instil anxiety of such things.

Time grew later, and as he organised the lab and began a few experimental potions that had entered his mind whilst gone, he couldn’t help but feel a sense of sadness creep over him. That blasted connection they had shared had at least allowed him to feel close to Hermione when she wasn’t with him but now there was nothing, he didn’t know how she was feeling. She could be telling Lupin and his wife right now of how she had made a colossal mistake and… His thoughts stopped by the soft sound of footsteps, he turned, and Hermione stood in the doorway.

“You missed dinner.”

Had it been that long? “Oh, I hadn’t looked at the time, though I do not feel hungry.”

“You should still eat,” she came and plopped herself down on the end of an empty worktop.

“Hmmm, yes.” If he was passive perhaps she would find him not so clingy or in need of immediate affection, the latter couldn’t be something any woman would want.

“Should I call for some tea? I could get you some leftovers as well?”

“No, I am fine, do feel free to get anything for yourself, you know I keep a muggle kettle and coffee maker in the shelving area.” He looked back down at his work avoiding her eyes. In the process, he had lost his train of thought and the ingredients he was meant to be chopping turned into a mass of mushed uselessness. Severus growled and lifted his wand to dismiss the remains, but Hermione beat him to it. With the table cleared she stepped between he and it, hands on her hips.

“What is wrong?”

Severus tried to stand, but she placed her hands on his shoulders to keep him in place on the workbench, “tell me what is bothering you, Severus.”

Snape sighed and looked up into her eyes, “I, now that we are back at the castle I thought perhaps you had changed your mind…” he could see her face turn to anger at his words, so he quickly continued. “I…” He didn’t know what else to say.

Hermione’s face altered from sad to somewhat disappointed, “Severus I told you that I wasn’t going to change my mind, I want you I thought I made that clear.”

“You did,” he said quickly, “you did, and it is my own fault choosing not to trust your word.” He allowed his head to droop a little, feeling much more like a sad little boy and less like the powerful wizard he was.

He felt delicate fingers lifting his chin, and when he looked up into Hermione’s eyes, it was easy to wonder how on earth he had attained the chance to care for someone like her and have her care for him in return. He could not waste it. Reservations aside and even if it would inevitably crush his heart later, he had to give it his all now. “I am sorry.”

“Trust me, Severus, I wouldn’t lie to you.” She pressed closer to him and kissed his lips passionately, "you might give me detention." There was a smirk in her voice, and he growled playfully capturing her lips with his own.  

For a while they stayed like that claiming each other’s mouths, beginning to understand between the two of them what they seemed to have been missing for so long. Severus instinctively after a while dropped his hand from its place on the curve of her neck and shoulder to her side brushing her breast. Hermione let out a soft sigh barely detectable, but Severus heard and immediately removed his hands and pulling back, carefully as not to seem abrupt. He knew what she had gone through with the Weasley boy and Severus determined that he would do nothing to make her uncomfortable.

Hermione yawned when he pulled back, “I think that travelling has made you tired, bed.”

To his surprise, she didn’t protest, and the two of them made their way from the lab and towards the wing that held both of their quarters. Just as they were nearing her hall, Minerva appeared. For a moment Severus thought to hide then realised that it wasn’t uncommon to see them coming from the lab with one another and Hermione was no longer his student… thank Merlin.

“Severus, Hermione, I am to guess based upon what Kingsley has told me that the trip seemed promising?”

“Yes, it seems that it was.”

It wasn’t lost on Severus her sly look up at him. Severus only nodded in response to the posed question.

“Hermione, Remus sent me to tell you that Harry is asking for you.”

Any tiredness that had been there immediately fled and Hermione’s eyes lit up. “Truly? I will go there right now!” She glanced at Severus, and he could tell there was something she wanted to say to him but thought better of it with Minerva there.

“I thought that might be the case, I am going that way anyway” the older woman had a rare smile on her lips at Hermione’s enthusiasm.

“Goodnight Severus,” said Minerva.

“Yes.” As they turned away, Severus continued to the solace of his room where he began to think.

Ron’s mouth fell open when he saw the inside of Vivian’s glittering home. It was nothing like he expected, meeting her in one of the more unsavoury locations in the small wizarding town he had assumed she fit in with the same crowd.

“What do you do?” a dumbfounded response to her place.

She chuckled and reached into a drinks cabinet handing him a whiskey then turning her back to him seemed to be making herself a drink, but he couldn’t see. Ron sipped the alcohol and studied the room; the walls were black and white marble and the floors a glossy dark wood. His attention went back to Vivian as he watched her take what looked like a shot of something before turning toward him her own glass of whiskey in hand.

“What I do isn’t truly important, my uncle was rich, I was lucky enough to inherit.”

Ron nodded, and Vivian continued, “my uncle was helping some… business associates and got himself into some trouble, he was found dead, hmmm six months ago now I think.”

“Oh, Viv, I- 'm sorry,” he fidgeted with his hands for a moment a pang that he was trying desperately to suppress every waking moment passed over him… death.

“Don’t be; he was weak.”

“They don’t give you any trouble? Do they?”

“His associates? No, on the contrary, they are very obliging. That is why I brought you here.”

Ron swallowed a little at that, he liked Vivian, and the sex was great, but he was not keen to get mixed in with more people and their inner dealings. "Uh, what exactly am I doing here?”

“From what little you have told me, you are looking for somewhere where you are respected? Am I right?”

“I… suppose.”

“Well, I can offer that, as long as you agree to be loyal… there is much that you can help us with,” she still hadn’t touched the whiskey the glass just stayed clenched in her hand and Ron swallowed hard again.

“I…, what exactly do you need me to do?”

“Nothing as of yet except…” she trailed off lifting the glass to her lips and draining its contents, stepping forward she ran her fingers over his arm and down his chest “kiss me.”

Harry was sitting next to the fireplace in Remus and Tonks room and Hermione nearly burst into tears just by seeing that he looked better. Clean shaven, he had put some weight back on, and his skin had more colour to it. A smile crossed his face as she approached him, and Hermione let out a breath of relief.

“Harry.”

She was quickly enveloped in the arms of her best friend and couldn’t stop the sobs that ripped from her chest. He was okay; they were okay, everything would be okay. She barely noticed Remus leave to give them some space. She finally quieted and slipped from Harry’s grasp to the chair just adjacent to him but kept his hand in hers.

“Hermione… I want to apologise.”

“Harry, don’t!”

“No, please let me finish. I was grieving, and that is okay but abandoning my friends and family is not. You have been there for me through everything, and I couldn’t even keep Ron from making your life hell.”

“Harry, that is not your fault, Ron did what he did, and there was nothing you could do … or I could do.” It was hard to admit that to herself, but with Tonk’s pep talks and the new strength that Severus gave her, she knew it was true.

“Maybe not but I could’ve been there for you, you’ve had barely anyone, and it should’ve been me.”

Hermione squeezed the chosen one’s hand and smiled tears showing again in her eyes, “I am just so happy to have you back, to have my best friend back.”

“So am I.”

They descended into meaningless, comfortable chatter a little about France and some about what happened at the castle. It was so lovely, she felt that a piece of her heart had been righted, her Harry was back.

After a comfortable silence, Harry spoke, and his comment surprised her, “so I hear you have been working with Snape? Even got his dark mark removed?”

“Oh, yes, we have been working on some projects, and I researched to help with his mark. “She wanted desperately to tell Harry but knew it would take more finesse and of course Severus’s consent.

Harry huffed. “Tell me really, has it been awful? I know what he did to help us but that doesn’t make me bloody like him after the years he spent torturing us.”

“It hasn’t been bad at all; I think that he has changed Harry or is trying to. He is still rather grumpy, but he isn’t cruel, not to me anyway and he is truly a genius with magic, potions and nearly everything else.”

Harry looked sceptical but didn’t say any more, “wait so did you tell me that there were ghosts as servants in France?”

“Yes!”

They talked animatedly well into the night before Hermione and Harry finally retired to their rooms.

Hermione awoke the next morning with a renewed vigour for the world and her life. Seeing her best friend doing better was like a balm for one of the cracks in her soul left by this war. Showering and dressing she hummed the whole time and nearly skipped to Severus’s door farther down the corridor from her own. She knocked hoping that he wouldn’t find her clingy for wanting to see him so early in the morning.

When he opened the door, his expression changed from guarded and slightly angry to a very muted Snape-like elation.

“Good morning!” She carefully pushed him into the room looking around a bit as she did. Once inside she got up on tiptoe to kiss him lightly, “I believe I missed you.”

Severus chuckled and looked at her curiously, “I believe it wasn’t that long and someone seems to be in a good mood.”

“I am! Severus, I know that you and Harry are not on the best of terms and I think I understand why… after everything but I am so thrilled he is doing better.”

Severus stiffened a little at the mention of his past that pertained to Harry, they had not broached that subject yet and had avoided it thus far. He seemed to relax after a moment before wrapping a tentative arm around her. “it seems to have lifted your spirits, that I am grateful for.”

She snuggled closer to him, but her eyes noted the half drank coffee sitting on a small side table as well as an empty plate. “Have you had breakfast already?”

“Yes, I want to get to the lab early.”

Hermione had been hoping that they could have breakfast together… would that cause suspicion? “Do you need me? I can bring something or skip breakfast.”

“No, no,” he waved a hand, “come when you are finished it is nothing that I need help with.”

“Alright, I will see you when I am done” once again leaning up she captured his lips with hers, then giving him a smile she headed for the great hall.

“Teddy look who it is!” Tonks smiled holding her infant son, so he could see Hermione.

She grinned at the little boy and reached out to take him in her arms. “Hello handsome,” she pressed a kiss to his cheek, and the baby showed a gummy grin.  

“I don’t think he is ever that happy to see me, Hermione,” chuckled Remus.

“Oh, you know that isn’t true, he’s his daddy’s boy,” winked Hermione, hugging the baby closer, “now Remus please, I want to know what has been happening, Minerva wouldn’t say a word, and I didn’t want to upset Harry last night.”

A little of the light fell behind his hazel eyes, and he sighed, “Voldemort is completely quiet. Since the incident at the wards edge there has been no activity, he has even released whatever hold he had on the giants and other creatures. Hagrid is back there now trying to bargain with them.” Remus glanced from Tonks then back to Hermione, “he’s still there, there isn’t any way that all of those remaining Deatheaters just wandered off and went home, something is brewing and finding out what is the most important thing now. We have to stay ahead of him… we just don’t know how.”

Hermione thought about that for a moment swaying lightly on her feet with Teddy. “Have we tried to send a search party?”

“Minerva was waiting for Kingsley to order the next move,” Tonks replied.  

“But that is the next course of action,” added Remus quietly.

The three of them were silent after a moment Hermione pursed her lips, “has anyone heard word of the Malfoy’s?”

“We don’t know,” Remus said quietly.

“Well I believe it may be good to find out, they deserted there is no way to know where they stand now but either way Voldemort would not be too happy with them, I will mention it to Severus and see what he thinks.” Hermione mused handing Teddy back to his mother and giving Remus’s hand a squeeze, then she headed for the door, missing completely an interested look on Remus Lupin’s face.

The entrance to the lab was slightly ajar when Hermione approached it. She tried to calm the rush of butterflies that fluttered in her abdomen, how had it come to this? Was she really this juvenile? Twenty minutes away from the man and she was a hormonal mess but surprisingly she didn’t feel trapped by it. With Ron is had felt like someone possessed her, that she was his, especially after the locket and then the battle Ron was so scared of losing her that he squashed her identity, goals and sense of self. It wasn’t anything like that with Severus, he made her want to improve, to better herself and he didn’t feel threatened by that, it was actually what brought them together in the first place.

“Severus,” she called as she entered the room. “I brought tea.”

Snape was seated on a bench and seemed to have been studying something in a vial but when he saw her he almost tossed it, in his haste to get a pair of black rimmed glasses from his face.

Looking embarrassed he stood hands behind his back, “yes… that’s fine-good… thank you.”

Hermione tried to hide her smirk whilst placing the tea tray on a clean bench. “So, were you just going to hide them from me?”

“What?”

She gave him a pointed look, and he sighed, “they make me feel old- er.”

Hermione chuckled approaching him and reached around to snatch the glasses from his hand. “I think they are quite becoming on you.”

Severus only snorted desperate to change the subject even at the risk of small talk, “how was breakfast?”

“Good, I was able to see Teddy…” She trailed off wondering how to bring up the bit of business that they had spoken of. Severus didn’t talk about being a Deatheater; he barely talked about anything that happened before the battle. Eventually, things like this would have to come up, it was inevitable.

“Hermione?”

She began to prepare a cup of tea, not looking up at him. “Voldemort has been, well he hasn’t been doing anything, there are no leads, it seems there is a concern of a surprise attack.” Hermione glanced up then to see if he is following, he raises a black eyebrow. “We need leads so that we can search or spy.” She took a deep breath feeling slightly out of her element with all of this, “we need to know where the Malfoy’s are that could be a lead… I thought perhaps you might know.”

Both of the eyebrows were up now, and then they drew together, a dark look passing over Severus’s features. “I have no clue where they may be.”

Hermione could see that his mood had taken a turn down but decided to push anyway, “do you-.”

Severus cut her off, “there may be a way that I can contact Lucius,” his voice was colder than it had been when directed toward her in a long time.

Hermione placed a hand on his arm; he shrugged it off, “Sev-.”

“I will see what I can do,” he turned away from her and went back to the bench. “I don’t believe I have any need of help today, forgive me, but this particular experiment could be harmful, I would feel less strain if I wasn’t worrying that you were here as well.”

He was dismissing her? Hermione felt her throat tighten, she knew these were sensitive things to him but pushing her away was not the answer. “Severus, I had no intention of upse-.”

“Please Hermione, this is a time-sensitive potion.” His back was still facing her, and his shoulders tensed, there was no way getting through to him like this. Biting her lip she glared at his form for a moment before slipping from the room without another word.

Chapter Text

Severus slammed a fist down on the worktop, growling in frustration. Was it within his power to not fuck up everything good in his life? Now he needs to apologise… not one of his strong suits, and then what? Would she except him? Would she realise that this was all a mistake? His past was a sensitive topic, anything having to do with his upbringing, school years and time as a spy was strictly off limits to everyone. The idea of trusting such sensitive things to her was terrifying; there was a genuine chance that she couldn't deal with knowing some of it. He had perhaps never been so emotionally involved with anyone as he was Hermione, save for Lily. Severus knew he had ruined that with his cruel words… and she never forgave him.

“Gods…” he ran a hand through his hair, that could not happen again, it would surely kill him.

“How can one man be so infuriating?” Hermione fumed walking determinedly down the corridor. She chastised herself quickly, she knew the risk when she approached him about a subject like that, and it may be better that it was her and not Remus doing the asking. Severus may have taken a chunk out of the werewolf for such an inquiry. Her torrid thoughts were interrupted by the sound of coming footsteps.

“Hermione, how are you this morning?”

The sound of Arthur Weasley’s voice made her look up, and to her surprise Molly stood next to him, looking pale but out and about a vast improvement. “I am doing well enough, yourself?”

“We are awake and moving” he smiled warmly at his wife, but she only glanced somewhat coldly at Hermione before returning her gaze to a painting on the wall. Arthur winced slightly, “well we are headed for a walk outside, a little sun today, thought it would be lovely time to walk.”

“I am sure that it will be, enjoy it.” Hermione tried to smile at Molly, but the older woman’s eyes were fixed anywhere else.

As they continued away, Hermione couldn’t help but chew on her lip in thought. It wasn’t uncommon for Molly to jump to conclusions, she knew this after the whole Triwizard Tournament fiasco, but perhaps now she honestly blamed Hermione for what happened with Ron… and Ginny? Her thoughts were interrupted by Fred and Charlie running toward her.

Both halted out of breath, “Mione, Harry and Kings need to talk to you.”

Her heart clenched, but she nodded and began to follow the brothers.

Harry was seated in front of Minerva’s desk when Hermione arrived in the headmistress’s office. Kingsley stood near the fireplace, seemingly having just finished a floo call. McGonagall looked nervously over her spectacles at Hermione when she entered.

“Hermione, have a seat next to Potter.”

She did as directed sitting down toying with the hands in her lap. She snuck a glance at Harry, but his eyes were focused on the wall. Kingsley walked over to the desk and ran a tired hand over his face, Hermione couldn’t help but notice the man looked older than he had even a few months ago. A wave of pity overcame her; everyone was still suffering.

“Let us get straight to it; I have as you know sent out Hagrid to the giants, that hasn’t reaped thus far any benefits. He returned this morning. On his way back he found Draco Malfoy hiding in the forest near the castle.”

Kingsley stopped speaking for a moment his eyes tracking Hermione and Harry’s reaction, neither moved a muscle, so he continued. “He… had been badly beaten, it seems that Voldemort did indeed find his family. Draco hasn’t said much since Hagrid brought him to the hospital wing… he has been exposed, it seems to the Crusiatus curse and the Imperious curse in large amounts, we can assume that he must have succeeded in escaping fairly recently. Poppy is confident that he will regain normal function with the proper care and that leads me to why I asked to speak with you. Minerva and I ultimately have the final say in what happens to him, and the council has an influence of course but I trust both of your judgments, and I believe you both know him better than anyone else here… except perhaps Severus.”

There was a long silence; it almost pained Hermione to sit through it, Kingsley’s dark eyes flicked between them and Hermione waited. She couldn’t make this decision it was Harry who should determine this, and she prayed that he would see what must happen.

Finally, Harry cleared his throat, “Draco left the dark lord, we all saw it, and his family defected, I can bet that is why he was treated how he was after. I think he could have information we need, and I think that with time… he could be trusted.”

McGonagall smiled at Harry warmly, clasping her hands together on the desk, “what did I say Kingsley they aren’t stupid and they both have good intentions, the best I might even say.”

Kingsley nodded, “I know that” then he turned to them first looking to Hermione for some confirmation she agreed and she nodded. “This could be exactly what we needed.”

“It could be what Draco needed as well,” Hermione added softly.

The older wizard nodded, “the castle will be informed of his presence, and everything should be handled delicately.”

“Perhaps it would be prudent to ask Severus about speaking with Draco, he was his Head Of House.”

Hermione’s eyebrows flew up at Minerva’s words, it was a good idea, but after the way he had reacted earlier to her, there was no telling how he might if someone else should bring up the past. Thinking quickly, she spoke, “I agree but please let me talk to Severus about it before you mention what you want him to do, it might be more effective.” She could feel Harry’s shocked gaze on her but didn’t look.

“I think that would be a decent plan,” returned Kingsley. “I suppose his past with the Malfoy’s isn’t an exactly friendly conversation.”

Hermione glanced down, “no, it is not.”

A Saturday evening for most of her life would find Hermione one or two ways, reading or studying in Gryffindor common room or participating in the same activities at home. This particular night was not at all like that, instead of curling up with a good book she was pacing her room trying to think of ways to approach Severus. Had she ruined what they had been building? The thought made her sick to her stomach, she didn’t want to lose him, not for anything. The bossy side of her brain argued that his being closed off about his past was not something that could go on. How were they supposed to have a healthy relationship when he wouldn’t talk to her! There were hard things in his past, but she knew that maybe not details but he was good whether he liked to believe it or not. Mustering some courage, Hermione left her room and headed straight for Severus’s.

A rapid knock shook Severus from his sulking, he was reading a tome on ancient Egyptian poisons, though his focus was far from adequate to the task. Groaning he got to his feet, “you are getting old if a few hours in a chair is too much for you now.” Severus muttered whilst massaging his lower back, torture curses weren’t exactly easy on the body even with magical healing. Letting out a large breath, he opened the door.

“Severus, I know that you are upset with me but listen…please, I know that the past isn’t easy for you to talk about, hell! My past isn’t always easy to speak of but there has to be communication between the two of us, and this could help everything if Voldemort is gone...” Severus watched Hermione pause blushing and looking down, “well you and I could perhaps have a normal life, but the point right now is that we have to stop second-guessing and judging each other’s actions without talk with each other.”

It was an entirely inopportune time for Severus to laugh and he did thank Merlin muffle the noise to a soft grunt, but by gods, she was so perfect standing there blustering at him, he hair more frizzy than usual and her hands on her hips, Severus was smitten with her.

Hermione narrowed her eyes at him, “was that a laugh?! Did you just laugh at me?”

Severus neutralised his features, “no.”

“Yes, you did!”

“Did not.” He decided to quit while he was ahead and stop badgering her, “alright, perhaps a small laugh… I am sorry Hermione, and I could not agree more.” Severus waited for another barrage of pointed fingers, and I told you so’s, but instead he felt her small arms wrap around his middle, pulling him into a hug. He was stunned for a moment, then pulled her closer placing a little kiss on the top of her head.

“I am glad we agree,” she spoke after pulling away and taking his hand in hers. “May I come in? Or are you busy?”

Severus shut the door and lead her inside, “far from it, I was trying to read but… there was a lot on my mind.”

She sat on his leather sofa, “so you’ve heard about Draco then?”

“Yes.”

“Did… when I ask a question if you don’t want to answer just tell me, okay? Then we can save some trouble.”

Severus nodded his acquiescence.  

“Did you know Draco well? Outside of school of course.”

“Yes and no. The Malfoy’s were always pressing me, as his Head Of House to be more lenient on him, for the most part, it wasn’t to any great feat. When Voldemort returned,” Severus paused before continuing very slowly. “of course, you know Draco was recruited, and eventually his mother asked me to watch over him… which lead to. “He looked to her, he didn’t have to say it, she knew what he was talking about. “I spent a great deal of time around him but I suppose no I didn’t know him very well at least not personally, but I became very attuned to his disposition and reactions to situations.”

“And his parents?”

“Lucius, I knew fairly well he was a Prefect my first and second years… and later helped in recruiting me to the Deatheaters.” Severus scowled, why would Hermione want to be with someone so vile as he.

To his surprise she made no further comment on his time as a Deatheater, she even scooted closer to him on the couch resting her head on his shoulder. “Do you think that we should allow him to stay?”

Snape’s frown deepened of its own accord, “I am unsure, we cannot be sure until he is fully recovered if he is to be trusted or even… in his right mind.” Severus knew what happened to wizards and witches who defied the dark lord… he knew what would happen to himself should Voldemort find him. Draco undoubtedly suffered much, some don’t ever recover from that.

“I think you are right. Your trust in logic is one of the qualities I find most appealing about you.”

Severus snorted then asked dryly, "it isn't my good looks and sunny disposition?"

Hermione laughed, "I like those too along with that sardonic humour of yours," she winked at him.

They were quiet for a while before she spoke again, “I don’t know what you went through Severus and I am not asking to know right now or ever if you do not wish to tell me but should Draco be able to help us… I think it might be best if it's you he gains trust in.”

This made Severus prickle a little, “I spent a year tracking him every moment, I do not wish to do so again.”

Hermione got onto her knees facing him on the couch, “and no one wants you to, most of all me, I rather prefer that not take up all your time, I need you too much.” She smiled reaching out and brushing a hand through his inky hair, “he just might be more compliant if it's you and not Kingsley or Minerva he’s dealing with, I am sure after all those years he can put some trust in you.”

“Perhaps, I will think about it. There is nothing to be done now anyway, Poppy needs to do her work.”

Hermione beamed at him, allowing her fingers to sink into his hair she pulled him forward for a passionate kiss. When they broke away she smiled mischievously, “besides if it is possible for me to trust you after how very horrid you were to me, there is no doubt Draco can, you weren’t so very awful to the Slytherins.”

Severus raised an eyebrow at her bringing his face closer and rumbling, “horrid I haven’t any idea what you mean, nothing has changed in me at all.” He stole a kiss.

“Oh! Is that so?” Hermione broke away, “I certainly remember crying through a night in the hospital wing after a nasty tooth growing charm, the words ‘I don’t see a difference’ ringing in my ears.”

Severus remembered that and winced, but before he could fall into another self-loathing state, Hermione leaned forward and captured his lips, pressing her chest against his. All was forgiven it seemed, whether he deserved it or not.

Oh, how he wanted to push her down into the sofa cushions with his own body. Gods how he wanted to touch her, kiss every inch of her skin, but he had to stop. He knew what Weasley had done, and he wouldn’t allow her into a situation like that again, not without due time.

He broke away and spoke smirking, “I think it is very good that I didn’t pay attention to your inherent loveliness then, that… may have caused issues.”

Hermione giggled plopping back down, “does that bother you?”

“Hmmm?”

“That I was your student?”

“Yes,” Severus paused and locked her in a piercing gaze. “Though not as much as it should.” He couldn’t help himself leaning in he kissed her mouth, allowing his tongue to slide softly over her bottom lip, begging to be admitted. Hermione was quick to accept, and soon they were lost to the flames of passion and desire.

His control was waning with every movement, when Hermione began to lay back on the couch pulling him with her, he consented following suit. The feeling of her under his body was even better than expected and he fought to suppress the groan that tried to escape. Hermione was breathing hard as his mouth travelled from her lips, over her chin and down her neck. Deftly his fingers pulled the collar of her t-shirt down so he could suckle at her collarbone. His other hand reached hovering over her breast, the voice in the back of his mind finally broke through. Severus made his way back up her neck nearly giving in the entire way back up, before allowing their kiss to dwindle as not to seem too abrupt.

Hermione wined softly as he pulled away and Severus tried not to notice, “I believe a good night’s sleep is in order.” Severus watched as Hermione tried to adjust to reality and internally felt some pride for putting her in that state, then cursed himself for thinking so crassly.

“Severus?” She asked when he stood to walk her back, they probably needed to be more careful when going about the castle, but neither was paying very much attention it seemed.

“Yes?”

“Can I stay here?” She looked at him, big brown eyes hopeful, Merlin she had absolute control of his entire being.

“Hermione… I think that isn’t the most-.”

“Severus, please I am very unused to being on my own and here in the castle all the memories of Ron,” she shuddered, then sighed. “But I suppose that would be intruding on your time, that was unfair of me to ask.”

“You couldn’t possibly intrude upon me…” Severus decided that he could control himself and maybe tonight no nightmares would occur. It was wishful thinking, but he wanted her here as much as she seemed to want it. “Of course, Hermione.”

He had pulled away again, just when they were beginning to get somewhere he stopped it. Was it her? Maybe he just wasn’t ready for that. Hermione wasn’t exactly sure if she was either, Ron had made her wary of everything, but she felt she could trust Severus. Either way, she wasn’t ready to end her time with him, tomorrow was Sunday, and no one would think it unusual for either of them not to be at breakfast. Hermione went back to her room and changed into her pyjamas, a pair of floral sleep trousers and a thin vest top.

She was just about to run down the hall when a voice stopped her.

“Hey, Mione!”

Harry. She desperately tried not to look guilty as she turned to face him, “Hey Harry, what’s going on?”

“Well, I kinda wanted to talk to you about Draco and that sorta thing, but it looks like you are ready for bed, where you goin?”

“Yeah… I am feeling pretty tired could we talk tomorrow maybe?” She did her best to subtly avoid his question, and thankfully it worked, he nodded.

“Yeah, yeah get some sleep.” Harry turned then whipped back around making her heart pound, this was ridiculous she couldn’t go on being secretive for much longer. “Arthur mentioned that Molly was a little cold when you saw her… she's mourning and well you know how protective she can be.”

“I know, I don’t blame her for feeling upset,” she replied softly.

“That said, tell me if something is bothering you, yeah?”

“Okay, goodnight.”

“Goodnight.”

This time she waited until he had turned the corner, went to her door and shut it for good measure then ran fast to Severus’s room.

He allowed her in quickly, and she paused doing a double take at his… pyjamas, how out of character it felt for him to even own such items. He sleeps Hermione, he isn’t a vampire, she thought to herself. It was an immaculate silky black set with of course buttons down the front. Severus didn’t seem to notice her momentary pause.

“Was that Potter I heard in the corridor?”

“Good ears.”

“Years as a spy,” he waved a hand nonchalantly.

“So, I’ve heard and yes that was Harry, he nearly caught me, but I managed to play it off.”

Snape pursed his lips but nodded, “I assumed that when you asked to stay that you meant with me, at least that was the most logical conclusion for your request. However, I can make up a bed for myself on the couch and allow you the bed, if that was what you had in mind.” He spoke with perfect ease and eloquence as usual but there was a touch of instability in his ordinarily smooth voice, he was nervous.

“Oh, I thought we were both sleeping on the floor,” she did her best to look perplexed.

Severus raised an eyebrow and was about to speak when she cut him off.

“I’m kidding, I’ve had enough sleeping on the ground for my whole life, the bed.” Then she added as an afterthought, “both of us.”

Snape rolled his eyes trying his best to look unamused, “very well.” And he led on.

Chapter Text

Severus’s room was exactly how Hermione had pictured it to be, of course, she had been in his quarters since their arrival back but never his bedroom. There was a significant bed with a muted grey comforter and pillows, the walls were just like hers but utterly bare save for two bookcases. He had several cases in the main room as well, but these seemed to be for particular volumes. All the tomes stored there seemed perfectly placed and level. She wandered over looking at the many titles, there were a few she had read, mostly they were texts she had never seen before, but all seemed to be in near perfect condition. The precision he clearly implemented in ensuring they were all taken care of made her smiled to herself, it was the type of fastidiousness she herself would also put into her library.

She felt Severus’s warm breath on her neck as she allowed her fingers to trail reverently over the spines. His closeness made her shiver and gooseflesh to cover her arms with a tingle that thrummed over her whole body.

“I think you are the first person, well save Albus who has seen this collection so close,” his voice rumbled near her ear and it made Hermione want to shut her eyes and just listen. “For a long time, my life has been chaotic, unpredictable and nearly always empty… books have always been a way to fill that void and keep organisation, even in the smallest way.”

He wrapped his arms around her, and she leant back into his chest, “I understand completely, books were always an escape for me. When I went to muggle primary school I was teased relentlessly; the Dean once called my mother because I wouldn’t come out of the lady’s room. I had just been sitting in there reading because it made me feel safe.” 

Severus pressed a kiss to her hair; Hermione heard him breathe in the smell of her shampoo and sigh, softly. “The only thing my mother gave me worth note was my admiration for books and reading.”

“Your mother?" She was shocked to hear him mention her. "You didn’t get along?”

Severus was quiet.

“I am sorry Sever-.”

“We did not get along. Due to many things but in particular her constant defence of my father…” He trailed off, “he was a drunk at the best of times and detested that my mother and I were... different. He didn’t allow her to practice magic, not really unless she was healing herself or me, that is when he permitted it.”

By the way, his voice strained it was clear that this was a very sensitive topic for him and it broke Hermione’s heart; she didn’t have to hear it stated explicitly to know what his father did beyond not allowing magic.

“That is how you knew after Ron… when you gave me the bruise paste.” She felt his arms tighten around her, not painful just protective.

“Yes, I should’ve done more.” His voice was firm again.

“You were the one who made me see reason Severus; you gave me such strength, you still do.” She turned in his arms and placed both hands on his face, kissing him softly. “Thank you for sharing some of your past with me.”

Severus nodded stiffly and reached around her to grab a book. It was a leather-bound copy of The Winters Tale by Shakespeare. Hermione smiled, it was rare for someone to have a single copy of the play that inspired her parents to name her Hermione. Usually, it was only in compilations. As he placed the book back, she thought of how that one gesture meant so much, their shared love for the written word was an unspoken language that connected them so acutely. Gazing into his eyes, she bit her lip and smiled up at him; she needed to kiss him.

 It seemed that he needed the same thing, his fingers embedded in her hair and met her earnestness with his own, getting lost in their connected lips. Finally pulling back and somewhat out of breath Hermione looked into his eyes, “never feel that you cannot be who you are around me. I will never ask something of you that you cannot give nor will I wish to dictate who you are or what you do, I am your partner never a source of resentment, I want you to find peace with me.”

Severus breathed in through his nose sharply and continued to look at her, “and I you, I never wish to hinder your progress or drag you down, I will do everything in my capability to see you succeed, all with happiness.”

Their mouths met again this time more need and fire bubbled to the surface. Hermione locked her hands behind his neck and Severus allowed his hands to explore her back, he could feel the heat of her skin through the thin top and made him want to touch it bare.

Tangling her fingers in his hair, Hermione began to feel more bold, allowing her tongue to explore his mouth as he readily gave her entrance. She had never felt this want with Ron, she needed Severus, to touch him to have him caress her. That had never existed before with anyone, every movement of his hands felt like warm liquid to her belly, they needed each other. She just then realised how terribly grateful she was to whatever unexplained force that had brought him back. To her. It had known when they had not, that this was to be. How hard it was to see a life that Severus didn’t inhabit with her, she wanted to cry at the thought.

Suddenly she couldn’t hold it back, breaking away her hands fell to his shoulders, and she shook slightly the words fell from her lips quickly, with little control. “I love you.”

Severus swallowed. Hermione saw him fighting with something inside; then she saw resolve cross his features. Just for that next moment he indeed allowed her to see more of the tenderness he felt, pulling her toward him into a nearly crushing embrace, “I love you too,” he said into her hair, “I love you, Hermione.”

Severus couldn’t believe he a had admitted it and so willingly at that. This beautiful woman loved him, and he hadn’t any clue why. He certainly didn’t deserve it, not after all he had ever done to her and others but at this moment he couldn’t find the want to care, he just wanted her.

“Hermione?”

“Yes?” her voice was muffled by his chest where she was pressed, peppering kisses over the fabric of his sleep shirt.

“I think that we need to discuss something.”

She pulled away looking at him, “oh?”

Severus gave her a small smile and nodded pulling her toward the chair a few feet away, he sat and pulled her into his lap. A gesture so small but it also felt so intimate and personal, how grateful he was that she merely cuddled closer and didn’t shy away from him. “That night, that Ronald left, I went back to my rooms whilst others were still attending you. Do you remember?”

“Yes?” She said slowly, puzzled.

Severus sighed softly and ran a finger over the curve of her jaw and saw her shiver ever so slightly. Hermione was a woman, but he couldn’t help but feel protective of her, ever since that day when he had awoken there had been an undying urge to see her well and taken care of. “I overheard a conversation you had with Mrs Lupin…” he trailed off hoping she knew what he alluded to.

“You did?” she still seemed confused, then her face changed it turned a bit pink, and she looked down at her hands, “ah yes, I think I know what conversation you are meaning.”

“Hermione, Mr Weasley did not treat you like the intelligent human that you are, and I will not do anything similar.” He paused finding his emotional candour a little disquieting, “as I said I love you… and all that implies," Gods could he have sounded any gruffer and less romantic? Severus thought bitterly. "But I wanted to make it clear before anything else does or does not happen between us that you are in control of any and all timing, fully, no exceptions.”

Hermione stared at him for a moment, perhaps he had been too blunt with it all? Delicacy was not his strong suit. Maybe she didn’t want that with him in the first place? Then he saw tears start to form in her eyes and he panicked. “Hermione- did I- was I too forward in assuming-.”

“No Severus,” her face broke into a watery smile, “I just feel very fortunate to have the love of someone so caring and attentive, thank you… for giving me the choice.”

He knew what it was like not to have options and though it tore at his heart to know that Ronald had not allowed her what should be normal courtesy and care, he wouldn’t dwell on it then. His face just as stoic as ever he knew he couldn’t tame the gleam in his eyes at her thanks, “all I want is to make you happy.”

It was quiet for a moment but not uncomfortably so. Severus thought fleetingly about his time as her teacher, it made him still somewhat uncomfortable, but even that had been a way to get them here, together, where they belonged. How little he knew of her time outside of school and even then, he paid little attention to her other than in passing when keeping track of Potter.

“What did you do during summer holiday, Hermione?”

She looked up a little surprised but grinned, “when I was younger we would spend time with my grandmother near Inverness. My parents had their own private dental practice at that point, and they were able to close it for a few weeks every summer, one of them could’ve stayed, but they didn’t like being apart.” Hermione smiled as if thinking about the happy memory. It made Severus’s heart beat harder in his chest; he wanted her to have more happy memories… hopefully involving himself.

“After my grandmother passed away her sheep and land were sold by my father’s older brother since neither he or my dad had a lot of interest in sheep raising. After that, we took a two-week holiday every summer. We went a few different placed but mostly Sorrento Italy; we loved it there.” Her smile was sad.

“Perhaps I shouldn’t have brought it up, I do not want to make you upset.”

“No, actually I keep thinking that if I don’t talk about them, it will help me not miss them so much, but after telling you this, I feel a bit better.”

“Good. I will always listen, whenever you need it.”

Hermione went on to describe her time at home during the holidays. It made Severus happy to know that she had enjoyed the time before this war. Eventually, they fell into another calm quiet, until Hermione spoke.

“Where are you from Severus?”

He paused, “would you like a drink?” If he was going to be delving into his past, even a barely it was paramount that he first thought about how to approach it, it would need to happen eventually. If Severus wanted he and Hermione to be something more, if he really gave her his trust and she did so to him in return then he needed to dredge up some of his past.

Hermione seemed to sense his need for a moment and smiled, “some tea, please.”

Wrapping his arms around her frame, he slid from beneath her and placed her back on the chair, before exiting to the central space of his rooms. Each of Hogwarts guest and teachers quarters included a small kitchenette inside. Most of the teachers didn’t bother with it as meals in the Great Hall were frequent throughout the day. Severus had always taken full use of his as he tried to attend meals as little as possible when a Professor. Even less so when Voldemort returned, and beatings were frequent, having time to recuperate in isolation of his rooms was a must.

Methodically preparing the tea, he thought of how he felt changed by Hermione’s presence. He so often throughout his life felt that being around other humans for too long made him feel drained, sure generally they were unpleasant and imbecilic, but that was only part of the equation. Hermione did not make him feel that way, she talked and eloquently at that, but she understood silence just as he did. Thought and reflection were vital to her; when she was around, he didn’t have to put up a façade or a wall. She accepted him even with his moods, and he had no clue what he had done to deserve her.

Sucking in a deep breath Severus made his way back to his bedroom with the tea, Hermione was pouring over a book he had been reading earlier that day, her legs tucked up under herself, and she had pulled her hair up into a messy knot atop her head.

“Oh, thank you, tea soothes the soul don’t you think?” she asked accepting the cup and standing so Severus could take his former seat. To his surprise, she replaced herself on his lap snuggling into his chest.

“Tea is very soothing, perhaps not to a spiritual degree,” Severus replied raising a black eyebrow and tilting his head at her in mock disapproval.

She chuckled at his sardonic humour and sent the book back to his oak desk across the room. They didn’t talk for a moment sipping at their tea and Severus enjoying the warmth of her small body against his. He knew that she expected him to answer her earlier question, so he pursed his lips and began, “I grew up in Cokeworth, my father worked in factories… on and off when he was sober enough, and my mother took on seamstress work when she could.”

“Did Harry’s mum grow up in Cokeoworth as well?”

Severus nodded, “yes, though she lived a street over from myself, in the much nicer portion of town. When I met Lily, she treated me so kindly that I assumed she too lived on my street but when she brought me to her home for the first time, I ran away I was so terrified that her parents would be angry that she brought me there.”

Hermione was listening intently, so Severus continued, “eventually she found me and coaxed me to return. Both her mother and father treated me so considerably that I understood how Lily was so kind herself. After that, I spent as much time there as I could and the Evans’s appreciated having someone with at least one magical parent to answer questions when Lily’s and my letters came.”

“Your parents, did they know the Lily and her family?” Hermione was hesitant in her question, not wanting to ruin the candid conversation.

Looking down Severus ran a thumb over a small chip in his cup, “they never met my father thank gods, but my mother did need to find me one day and went to their home. Lily’s mother always suspected that my father would… well, I couldn’t always hide the bruises.”

Taking a deep breath, Hermione placed her hand over Severus’s where it rested on his knee.

“She tried to bring it up with my mother over tea that day and it did not go well, my mother came out of the room angry and demanded with me that it was time to go. After that Mrs Evans did her best to help, but there was only so much she could do when my mother purposefully tried to keep her from interfering.”

“Why would your mother do that? She couldn’t have liked being treated so awfully and even if she did, you were just a child.” Hermione looked a little sheepish at her outburst.

Severus rubbed his jaw thoughtfully, “I wondered that most of my adolescent life and I am not sure of the answer. She was very proud, and perhaps it allowed her to look past my father’s faults,” the word father fell from his mouth like a bad taste. “My grandmother disowned her when she married him, and after that, she had to prove something, or she didn’t care enough to stop it. He treated us like nothing but a waste of space, so maybe she began to believe it.”

It would have been easy for Hermione to go off on all of the wrongs that both his parents had committed against him but that anger that she felt roiling in her stomach for them wouldn’t solve anything. Severus had deep emotional scars from the people that were supposed to teach, nurture and love inherently and without question. She couldn’t fix that, not even if she had a Time Turner, he wouldn’t be who he was today if that hadn’t happened, but she could make sure he felt care and support now. Not just sometimes, when someone felt like it or when he was able to escape to a different environment. No, Hermione could show Severus all the time and she would, it was her own personal goal to tell him and show him as often as possible just what he meant to her and how much he was wanted.

“Severus, I love you.” She said simply smiling up at him, meeting his dark gaze, with warmth.

His jaw tightened, and she saw his Adam's apple bob as he swallowed, clearing emotion from his voice he replied, “I love you as well.”

Chapter Text

Black robes scraped softly against the marble floor, and the drip of liquid hitting a hard surface pierced the eerie quiet. No one spoke, waiting.

“Tell me what happened?” He crooned, looking around the group but allowing those red orbs to settle on Lucius still bound. Blood running from his nose and a gash on the side of his head, puddling onto the floor and staining his light tresses. “No?”

The blonde wizard allowed his head to fall forward, chin to chest. When the curse hit, he fell back, writhing his skull connecting roughly with the floor.

Voldemort stopped and looked to the others, every movement a calm calculation. “Bella has been working so hard, and then you all lose a weak little boy?”

There was an uncomfortable shift in the party of Deatheaters.

“Go. Do what I asked and if there are any mistakes, the consequences will be grim.”

The sound of rain against the window pane was what woke Hermione. She rolled over and rubbed her eyes, it was still dark outside. She released a long breath and blinked a few times. The dream she had been enduring was far from pleasant but waking up there and feeling the weight of Severus’s body on the mattress next to her, emanating heat eased her wildly beating heart. Turning over so she could snuggle closer and put the horrible images far from her mind, she finally saw Severus, and the picture broke her heart.

Lying on his back, a thin layer of sweat covered his brow which was furrowed in pain or fear she could not be sure. The rest of his body shook he was suffering no doubt from a horrible dream as she had been. Carefully she placed a hand on his chest as not to terrify him, gently rubbing and whispering his name. Hermione assumed it would take a few tries to wake him and was not prepared when he jolted upright, his hand snapping out to grab her wrist where it had lain on him. Seemingly realising where he was Severus dropped her hand and brought both of his own hands up running them over his face then through his hair.

“Forgive me,” his voice was deeper than even usual and heavy with sleep.

Hermione only reached out, taking his hand turning it over and kissing his palm. “I woke up from a nightmare and saw you seemed to be having one as well.”

“Aren’t we the pair,” he remarked dryly, settling back against the pillows an arm behind his head. He opened the other, an invitation if she wanted to join him, she did. His dream had given way to a sullen sort of state she could tell. How was it fair that they must be plagued with such horrible visages? No doubt he more than she, her experience with Bellatrix was probably mild compared to what he had seen.

 There were still many things up in the air, no one was genuinely safe yet, but they had found solace in each other. A difference of circumstances made this go around with the unknown a little less daunting, Hermione felt a pure, simple comfort in knowing that Severus would be there. If Harry and her time at Hogwarts had taught her anything it was that love would see everyone through, it might not always be easy, but it would be worth it.

Pushing herself up on an elbow she took a finger and caressed the exposed skin at the top of Severus’s sleep top. His eyes snapped shut, and he inhaled loudly, opening his mouth to speak but Hermione decided that words weren’t needed at the moment. Draping her torso over his chest, she kissed him with everything she had, and he was just as needy, a strong arm around her waist pressing her to him, fighting to keep her as near as possible. As Severus took his kisses further down allowing Hermione a moment to breathe, shallow as it was with his ministrations, she knew this was what she had been waiting for. It hadn’t been about timing with Ron as she always imagined, it was Ron himself, he wasn’t right. Severus was right. His lips on her neck, those skilled hands caressing her sides, all the love that he held bottled up in himself that was never seen unless he allowed it, that was all exactly absolute. Their differences didn’t matter, they were cherished. Past lives unimportant and forgotten. Not even age made a discrepancy.

Severus rolled them, pressing Hermione into the mattress but allowing the weight of his body to hover, she assumed not to scare her, she wasn’t scared, not of him never of him. Their lips met again this time the kiss was deep and slow shooting electricity to Hermione’s lower belly, heat pooling there. Heat she never felt before, not like this.

She felt his hand tremble on her side, sliding up then back down every time. Yearning to explore more of his touch she took his hand in hers and pressed it to her breast, the warmth of his palm made her moan into his mouth and press herself further into his hand. He faltered only momentarily before running his fingers reverently over her thinly covered flesh. This elicited another noise, a whimper this time, she caressed her foot over his calve muscle and up the back of his thigh, pushing him down onto her, she needed to feel his weight.

Complying Severus’s eyes closing momentarily at the feeling of their bodies against one another. In his mind, he knew that whatever Hermione had experienced with the boy was far from what she deserved, and he was determined should she continue to want it Severus would give her the pleasure she so entirely warranted.

Testing the waters, he carefully drug his thumb over her covered nipple, she gasped, eyes fluttering closed at what seemed to be a new sensation. He did it again. She moaned, her eyes flying open seemingly surprised that sound had left her mouth. Continuing to move his hands over her, his mouth sought out her collarbone, nipping so softly then kissing away any sting. If he was honest Severus had never done any of this with a woman he genuinely cared for and never one he loved, he would approach it all with a severe reverence.

Her vest top was riding up, as she squirmed and gasped under his caresses. Reaching down he pulled away to look at her, those brown eyes held his in a heady stare, and she nodded lifting up to allow him more room to remove her shirt. Heat bloomed over her face and neck with Severus looking down at her newly exposed skin, it only added to the effect. Planting kissed from the base of her throat all the way to the valley between her breasts, Severus eventually looked up at her, “is it necessary for me to tell you that you are lovely?” His voice sarcastic but his eyes spoke volumes of how beautiful he found her to be.

Her giggle in response to his ever-present dark humour turned into a long moan when he bent his head, lips closing over her small pink bud, allowing his tongue free reign.

The ache at Hermione’s core was nearly unbearable, how changed she felt by this experience. “Severus…” she gasped out, unable to control her hips they came up off the bed, rocking inadvertently against his. She watched him falter swallowing hard. She did it again. Severus clamped his mouth shut unable to continue his welcome assault on her breast. He closed his eyes, was he trying to hold this back? No, she wouldn’t have it.

This time she prolonged the movement, catching his lips as she did. He released a stuttering breath that turned to a groan when Hermione hooked her leg over his arse, so she could feel his arousal against her heat.

Making quick work of his buttons, she was finally able to feel his skin against her own. As they continued their exploration of each other while a thought kept poking at the corner of her mind. She tried to put it away, worry about it later instead focused on removing the clothing that was still between them until they both lay bare. As Hermione felt Severus’s hand splayed over her hip, she realised she could not delay what her mind kept allowing to resurface.

“Severus…” she said just as his fingers brushed against her warmth.

He stopped abruptly staring at her with evident worry etched into his face.

Hermione shook her head at his unuttered question and kissed him soundly, “I want this,” she reassured. “I just… with everything going on trying to keep you and I a secret is not a burden I want to bear. I need you, not only in private but everywhere.” Her eyes pleaded with him to understand.

Severus allowed his head to fall onto her chest and after a moment nodded, inside, he had a feeling that this could be the end of what they had but he had agreed to trust, and that is what he would adhere to.

“With proper consideration, of course, it will need a certain amount of tact,” she added in reassurance. “I love you, Severus.”

There was a small pause as he placed kisses over her smooth skin, replying “I love you as well.”

No weight of thought bearing her down, she pulled his face up to her own locking lips the hand, not on his cheek caressed his bare back, lightly dragging her nails over the skin. His hand moved down again gently touching her sex, then dipping inside. His movement made Hermione lose focus in the kiss they were sharing and instead her head lolled back against the pillows, eyes closed. Severus only resumed his open-mouthed kisses over her chest and throat.

Hermione’s breathing was coming frantically now as Severus continued to find her more sensitive places. She had never experienced something so pleasurable, and through her haze of lust, she realised how badly she needed him, to be with him in this way. Forcing her hands to move she brought them to his shoulders to get his attention, very nearly losing focus as his thumb began to hit that bundle of nerves.

“Severus…” she breathed conveying precisely what she wanted with her eyes, there was no masking that honest, wanton look.

Pulling his wand from the bedside table Severus pointed it at her abdomen, looking to her for confirmation. Hermione nodded readily, feeling a little stupid that she hadn’t thought to cast a contraceptive charm but grateful that he had. Her mind was lost in feeling not thought, and that was a first nearly for her entire life.

Settling himself between her legs, Severus kissed her caressing the side of her face and embedding his fingers in her hair. Hermione was almost mad with anticipation, but his slow, tender ministrations were beautiful, he genuinely cared, this wasn’t about him or her it was about them together. Slowly still he slid inside her and Hermione couldn’t help but moan in response her eyes fluttering closed as he began to move. This is what she wanted, with someone she loved.

He brushed his thumb over her cheekbone, coaxing her to open her eyes, he wanted to look at her, convey without words all that this meant to him. When she did, it was clear she felt just as much. Soon breathing became ragged, and Severus knew that as much as he wanted it all to go on forever, it was likely not to happen, and he was not going to let it end before he gave Hermione her pleasure. Speeding up his thrusts and returning his fingers to her, he began to rub small circles just above where they were joined.

“God…” Hermione exhaled, reaching her hand out she pulled his face to hers, catching him in an open-mouthed kiss, swallowing his groan of pleasure.

Severus was quickly losing control of his thrusts, but it seemed to be working as Hermione became more vocal, repeating his name over stuttering breaths and twisting her hips against his, before clenching around him almost painfully and going rigid with a long sigh. He couldn’t hold much longer and went crashing over the edge only seconds later, her name on his lips.

He stayed inside her, pressing frantic kisses over her damp skin, that was quickly cooling in the dark of the room and with the blankets thrown off the bed in their show of passion. They stayed like that him nuzzling her neck and she running her fingers over his back for awhile until Hermione shivered. Severus reluctantly moved, and Hermione winced as he did, his brow furrowed in concern.

“I think just a bit sore,” she smiled and wrapped her arms around herself in an attempt at heat.

Severus quickly remedied that grabbing the covers and casting a small warming charm over them, he had mastered many living quite a few years in a dungeon. Crawling back into bed he pulled the warm bedding around them and Hermione against his chest, she sighed in contentment, feeling truly safe for the first time in too long.

Dull grey light woke Severus from his sleep and possibly for the first time in his life a smile was the first expression to spread over his features. He didn’t even have to open his eyes, he could feel Hermione’s small body curled up against his side and her hair brushing his face. Gently he smoothed her tresses out of the way and kissed her brow, this was undoubtedly a splendid dream. Her brown eyes blinked open and a grin spread across her own face when she saw him.

“Good morning.”

He couldn’t help but chuckle, “it is.” He was going to get a cavity if he kept up this sickeningly sweet nonsense. Deciding to distract himself Severus checked the time on his wand and started.

“What is it?”

“We slept in far later than I thought possible, its almost nine o clock.”

Bliss somewhat ebbing away allowed Hermione a clear head, “they might find it odd that I am not at breakfast…” Horror crossed her features, “what if they have checked my room and I haven’t answered? They could be worried!” They had talked about telling everyone the truth, but this was not how she wanted that discussion to go. Leaping from the bed, Hermione began toward the door before turning a shade of pink when she realised she was nude.

Severus a few feet away didn’t seem to mind, propped up on an elbow he was just enjoying the view. “I am sure I would have been alerted if they could not find you.” Smirking he wandlessly levitated her various clothing items to her, and she nodded her thanks as he stood to also change.

Severus had been right, it seemed that no one was any the wiser about what was taking place between the two of them. After speaking with Poppy in the Great Hall, both decided that Draco needed to be paid a visit.

“He’s been in and out of consciousness all night, but he is improving slowly,” Poppy told them as the three of them stood near Draco’s bed. With St. Mungo’s up and running again thanks to Severus and Hermione’s hard work at healing potions as well as new wards, Draco was the only patient in the infirmary.

“Tremors?” Severus asked.

“Yes, in his left leg,” Poppy replied.

Severus nodded, looking thoughtful.

 This trade was a little lost on Hermione until Poppy added, “they are not so bad as yours were near the end, he looks like he will come out of it.”

Severus stiffened, “I had more time to adapt, and Occlumency helps some.”

Before anyone could respond Draco began to mumble in his sleep, tossing and turning. “Warn… it’s a … Potter. It’s a warning.” He fell silent, his body relaxing.

Hermione, Severus and Poppy looked at one another, this was indeed something to be concerned about.

Fred with Angelina in tow burst into the infirmary, “Emergency. Everyone is meeting in McGonagall’s office now.”

“Muggle explosives?” Bill’s voice was incredulous, and he gripped his wife’s hand tightly as he spoke. Fleur looked pale and tired, rubbing her round belly.

Kingsley didn’t look up from the spot on the floor he had been staring at, “it would appear so… 250 muggles dead.”

“Draco kept speaking of a warning…” Hermione said remembering his raving earlier that day. She wished to reach for Severus’s hand but stayed still.

There was a break in conversation the whole room tense.

“He knows Harry and his affinity for peace and safety, as well that he was raised by muggles,” Severus’s next word was forced his tone darkening to something almost akin to his school teaching days. “Voldemort is not foolish far from it, and he can learn from his mistakes of before. I assume this is a way to poke specifically at Harry and his conscience.”

Hermione was surprised that Severus had spoken, usually he kept quiet, apparently, this was something he felt needed to be said.

Harry didn’t speak, but Hermione could tell this weighed heavily on his mind, Severus was right, he was an inherently kind person, and Voldemort knew this.

“Thank you, Severus… there is something else.” Remus added looking to Kingsley who looked like he might be sick. “Ronald was spotted just after the explosion, with a woman that by the photos seems to be Vivian Thickness.”

A collective mumble went up, Hermione’s hand flew to her mouth. Was it possible that Ron could’ve gotten himself involved with Deatheaters? No, there couldn’t, could there?

Molly looked outraged from across the room, holding a firm grip on Arthur’s arm.

“Pius’s niece,” murmured Severus so only he and Hermione could hear, then to the rest of the group, “was Pius seen as well?”

“No,” Kingsley said quietly.

Before he could expand Molly started through her tears, “where exactly are we getting these photos?!”

“Rita Skeeter. It seems the complete chaos is not great for business. After revealing to me a secret talent she processes, she agreed to keep an eye out a few weeks ago.” Kingsley was avoiding Molly’s direction as he spoke, that only seemed to add to her anger.

“How are we supposed to trust that woman?!” she shouted.

“We can’t necessarily Molly,” said Remus tiredly, “but they are photos, at least we know of Ronald’s general whereabouts and perhaps this is all a coincidence, but we have to explore every possibility.”

Severus looked thoughtful, “Pius was under the Imperious Curse, as far as I knew his family immediate or extended had no affiliation with Deatheaters.”

Kingsley looked as though he was about to respond when Molly went off again. “We should trust your word on that? My Ron could be being tortured by people you spent a lot of time with, I don’t think I want to put stock into everything you say!”

Hermione felt her face flush with anger and was about to say something back when Minerva cut in. “Molly, it is not the time to be pointing fingers at each other, that will get us nowhere.” This seemed to calm the room for the moment, and the discussion commenced.

It was well into the evening when everyone decided to disperse, and little had been achieved. Kingsley would meet with the Muggle Prime Minister right away, and everyone else would be on high alert. Hermione couldn’t help but wonder if Ron could know something, perhaps if they found him he and this woman would have seen something. It was unlikely that Voldemort himself had been setting off bombs, he would’ve had the help of muggles or muggle-borns but how? The only clear indicator that it had been Deatheaters behind it was the Dark Mark.

She was broken from her thoughts by Severus gently brushing two fingers down her arm. She had fallen back in the group headed for dinner, and he seemed to think it was safe to make the small advance.

“You look exhausted,” he mumbled so they wouldn’t be overheard.

She felt a smile spread across her lips, “I didn’t get all that much sleep,” sneaking a peek at him she saw a small smirk. “I am surprised you aren’t more tired yourself.”

“Lack of sleep is something I became accustomed to quite a long time ago.”

Hermione was reminded of what Poppy had said in the infirmary, “what happened to Draco… it has happened to you as well.” It was a whisper.

He was looking straight ahead, “yes and no, everyone had punishments if we did not adhere exactly to his wishes, or something went awry, or occasionally when he decided it would amuse him. It was always different circumstance and punishment, so I do not know exactly what Draco suffered, but the Cruciatus Curse was a constant, so I believe I know a bit.”

 She wanted so badly to wrap her arms around his waist and was about to throw caution to the wind when Harry doubled back trotting over to them.

“Mione,” he greeted, then looked at Snape. “Professor.”

Severus tilted his head in acknowledgement.

“I don’t think what Mrs Weasley said was at all appropriate,” Harry started, “and I just- well I would be happy to hear any advice you might have.” He had shoved his hands awkwardly in his pockets, and Hermione almost laughed at the display, how things had changed.

“I will be sure to inform you of anything I deem beneficial.” Curt and to the point as always but not sneering, Hermione decided her Professor perhaps deserved a treat for that.

“Thanks,” Harry replied raising both his eyebrows to Hermione then jogging up to join Neville and George.

Dinner hadn’t really been top of Severus’s list for the evening but being close to Hermione was. Knowing that the danger had just increased set him on edge, he had so much more to lose than even several months before. He watched her teasing and tickling the tiny Lupin, and he realised she deserved so much more than what life was offering right now. She should be going to University and honing her talents … perhaps later she would want a family, but all of those aspirations were overshot by the overwhelming need for survival. It made him sick.

Loathing Tom Riddle had come relatively easy to him, even before he targeted the Potter’s. Joining the Deatheaters he had wanted to belong but finding out what lay beneath hadn’t been something he wanted. The man was an utter lunatic, Severus had known it early on, but now, now he hated the bastard more. Severus was being robbed of what he had always wanted, love, contentment and a normal life. It was all at his fingertips, and yet again Voldemort stood in his way. He couldn’t eat and absently stirred at his stew, thinking.

Teddy was batting at Hermione’s hair when she noticed Severus’s quiet state. It wasn’t abnormal for him to excuse himself from small talk, but it seemed to run deeper than that. She was about to ask when Tonks appeared.

“I’m going to put Teddy down for the night, would you like to join me, Hermione?” She looked to the baby cooing, “you want your Mione to come, don’t you?”

Teddy squealed his hair turning brown and curly like Hermione, she laughed but glanced at Severus who had looked up from his uneaten food.

“Unless you and Severus have more to discuss,” added Tonks.

Severus stood, “no I was about to retire.” He gave a stiff nod and headed for the doors.

The door to his rooms creaked open then shut again, Severus was happy that at least she felt comfortable enough to come in of her own accord and that it didn’t bother him in the slightest. He had been nursing a glass of fire whiskey deep in thought. Hermione appeared in the doorway to his bedroom already dressed for bed and hair tied up in a messy knot on her head. He smiled and sent his glass to an empty place on his desk.

Hermione perched herself on the arm of his chair and leaned down to kiss him, “is it just all this madness that’s bothering you?” She made a broad gesture with her hands.

He grunted, “yes, but it's more that I don’t understand his tactics, I spent-“ he paused looking up into her face, “I spent years of my life to understand how he executes things and this is something entirely different, I just wish to understand it.” He sighed, “I wish to be rid of it all… for it to be just you and I.”

She slid down into his lap brushing hair from his face, “it is us. We cannot stop living because all this is going on, that would defeat what we are trying to achieve.” She kissed him, and he held her tight against him.

“And we stop hiding, you are right, and I am tired of secrets.”

She placed her hands on his shoulders, “that’s settled then, bed?”

He raised an eyebrow, Hermione bit her lip in response, and he allowed his eyes to travel to her mouth. “Bed.”

Chapter Text

The sun rises would soon be icy, but for now, it was just perfect. The smell of pine, morning air and coffee grounds. Closing her eyes, Hermione breathed it all in, peace.

One of the small things she had learned about Severus, he adores coffee, a bit of a snob about it actually. Hermione had only really been exposed to her parent’s generic morning brew and later the over sweet, milky concoctions from various shops.

When she had begun to wander about Severus’s small kitchen a few days before, she found really the only thing kept inside were dozens of brown paper sacks full of a variety of beans or grounds. He chuckled when she questioned it, saying that he acquired a love for finding new coffees. During the last four years, it had been his favourite food.

“It’s a fantastic appetite suppressant, and sometimes you need something more mentally stimulating than an Invigoration Draught to Occlude a powerful wizard every day.”

This made Hermione frown, she hated when he spoke of even the small tortures he had suffered, “and now, I take it you still like it?”

“Very much, I bought some new varieties in France actually.” He pointed to a bag with a crimson label.

He had then proceeded to make her a cup of coffee with no creamer or sugar… she hated it, but after hearing Severus speak of the different notes, he could taste in the drink she began to understand why he loved it, beyond the practical benefits. It was a potion, more or less.

Hermione’s memory was broken by a blanket being placed on her shoulders and Severus walking around to hand her a mug of coffee, milk and sugar added as she requested. He had his own black beverage in hand sitting in the chair directly next to her own. Minerva seemed to have given him an okay to create a balcony when he moved to this room, they could see some of the grounds without being close enough to be seen by anyone.

“Thank you,” she muttered, taking a sip.

He didn’t say anything just brushed his fingertips over hers, tasting his drink.

Hermione scooted her chair closer, they could’ve cast a warming charm but at the moment the blanket was excellent, it felt so utterly typical. “Severus?”

“Yes?” he turned, and Hermione was amazed again at how he could pin her to a spot just with a stare, nothing like she had known in her school years but just as heart-stopping.

“I… am just happy amidst everything, and I wanted you to know that I haven’t felt this happy since … probably when my parents were in my life.” It pained to speak of, but she was no longer scared of that pain, with Severus no hurt was unbearable.

“I am hardly an adequate replacement, but I’m overjoyed that you’re content.”

“More than that,” she leaned over to kiss his lips then settled back to watch the sun continue to rise.

“Where do you wish to live?” It had been several moments, and his voice surprised her in the quiet of the morning. Severus took in her confused expression and added, “in the future if- when this is all over, I assume the ‘know it all’ has a plan.”

Narrowing her eyes playfully at his smirk, she thought, her life had changed so drastically she hadn’t given the future more than a passing thought especially not something so mundane as where she planned on living. “I… honestly I don’t know ha, I always assumed I would do something in the Ministry, but truly I’m not sure that’s what I want anymore. Plus, living in London isn’t something I want I don’t think a busy location is something I can handle, not anymore.”

“Hmm,” he hummed, finishing his coffee and setting the mug down next to his chair.

“What about you? You won’t go back to Cokeworth will you?”

“No.” She thought he might shudder at even the thought.  I have another home, I didn’t want Voldemort to know about it for obvious reasons, so I stayed at Spinner End.”

Hermione almost choked when she heard this, “you do?”

Eyebrow raised, he questioned, “yes? Is that entirely surprising?”

“I suppose not, I just don’t think I could picture you going and picking out property somewhere, meeting a realtor, that sort of thing.”

“I didn’t do that exactly. Minerva helped me find a cottage near Thurso, just before your second year I think.”

Hermione was shocked again, “here? In Scotland? What’s that about an hour or so from Inverness?”

“Yes. It's calm and quiet here, there is solitude, but it isn’t so hard to get to London either, plus these little wizarding villages are in need of a small potions business, nothing fancy I just wanted to do minimal freelance work while spending my time doing what I wished. Not to mention the history here is rich, that was the only thing I was fond of in muggle school.” He shrugged, “that was the plan until I realised I was going to die in the war.”

Hermione sucked in a breath, “you knew?”

“I had a fairly exact idea, after Dumbledore… I knew that the Dark Lord wouldn’t let me live much longer.”

“Luckily that didn’t happen… or well, it did but not for long. Now you can have that, you could have it now if you wished.”

“It has strong wards already, but I would have to find some more extensive ones if I was trying to hide from him, outside of Hogwarts and you wouldn’t go with me now.”

She met his eyes, “you would want me to?”

“Without question.”

“What about all your solitude?” she grinned.

“I think I could handle one other presence if they were as riveting as you my dear.” Leaning over he nipped lightly at her earlobe, “and as tempting.”

A very passionate kiss led Hermione to end up in his lap, and Severus groaned as the sun made its full appearance known.

"We have to go to the lab don't we?" she pouted, they had barely had a moment to themselves. Between brewing potions, Hermione's research and Severus experimenting.

"Yes. Tonight there will be no excuse, the potion order fromd St. Mungos will be fufilled, and perhaps you can stop your research long enough for some time with the Dungeon Bat?" He raised a raven eyebrow.

"Perhaps I could... as long as he quits referring to himself as the Dungeon Bat." She planted another kiss on his lips.

“Any luck trying to contact Lucius?” Minerva poured a cup of tea for Severus and sat back in her chair, her own cuppa in hand.

“No. Every option is either too risky, or there isn’t a strong enough connection to find him. Draco has only been conscience for mere minutes in the past three days, without whatever knowledge he must have I am at a standstill.”

The older witch nodded, “we cannot allow another incident to happen like that, the Muggle Prime Minister is on high alert but really what is there to do?” She sighed, “we just need answers, there are so many unknowns.”

“I agree.”

“You have been such a help, Severus,” she started and narrowed her eyes when he snorted in response. “You can deny it but all of the effort you put in before the war aside, I know that Kingsley is grateful and I certainly am. I assumed you would be long gone the moment you were allowed to leave.”

This made Severus stiffen. “I am not a coward.”

“No, indeed you are not. I only meant that you have suffered enough and owe this world and most of us nothing, in fact, it is the other way around.”

He pursed his lips. He could very easily say that it was for Hermione that he had stayed but that wasn’t entirely truthful. He had continued for her, for them, but it was more. This was his world too, whether he liked to categorise himself with it or not, he was a part of this place and these people.

“Well I am glad that I didn’t disappoint” he drawled noncommittally. 

“Always so cynical, though recently I have seen your spirits lifted, is it the idea of freedom?” she implored, eyeing him innocently over her teacup.

Severus wasn’t fond of others digging into his personal feelings, but he had a delicate trust with Minerva and knew that she would pester him on occasion as she always had. “Perhaps, though being in France was a somewhat refreshing change of scenery.”

“I can imagine so,” she grinned, “Kingsley seemed to think you caught the fancy of Madame Juneau.”

“I can attest to nothing of the sort.”

“Hmph, either way, the French Ministry has agreed to ally with us should an inevitable war happen.”

“I am happy to hear it, they all seemed decently competent, and I believe we could use any help we receive,” he finished his tea and placed the cup down in its saucer.

“Severus… Kingsley and others are already priming the ministry for function again, and with that, should there be a war or not, Hogwarts will be reinstated as a school. It is a way off and should… the worst happen, perhaps this conversation will be all for nought, but I wanted to make it clear that you will always have a position here at Hogwarts, should you want it.”

“Thank you, it is appreciated.” That was somewhat unexpected, and he was decidedly unsure exactly how he felt about her offer.

Minerva simply nodded and looked into her teacup.

"Where do you go every day for hours?"

Vivian pursed her lips after pouring a drink, Ron had just entered the room after hearing her return home. "I told you. just business that my uncle used to do."

"That's shit! We were there when half of London got blown up, and you keep telling me you know nothing about this then you disappear for hours, I need to clear my head Viv I'm leaving." He headed toward the door.

Vivian rushed after him, "stop this, stay come on have a drink, I'll take you with me tomorrow." She led him back to a large armchair pushing him down and kissing him hard and fiercely, allowing her long red nails to rove over his chest.

Slipping away she fixed a drink sliding a small silver vial out of his sight before taking him the drink. After a sip, his complexion relaxed, and he pulled her to him an arm possessively around her waist.

"Thanks, babe!"

...

“Hermione?”

“Yep?”

Harry pushed his glasses up his nose a bit then continued a little uncomfortable, “do you- well do you miss Ron?” He wiped sweaty hands on his jeans uncomfortably, “I know what he did was awful but I just… I miss my best friend.”

Hermione finally looked up from the book on containment spell she had been perusing, “Harry, there is nothing wrong with missing him, to be honest, I miss him too but the Ron I knew before all this got bad… Well on the rare occasions that he was nice to me before that.” She laughed a little remembering, “he was our friend, and I only wish he could deal with his grief better, it would aid him and the people around him. Hopefully, he hasn't got himself into too much trouble out there.”

Harry nodded leaning forward a bit so Madame Pince a few rows away wouldn’t hear. “I think that Mrs Weasley could use the same advice, when I was with the boys earlier it was pretty hard to not tell something is very off, not to mention the way she went off on Snape during that meeting.”

Butterfly’s fluttered in her stomach at the name of her lover, but she kept her face neutral, “It’s not like she’s never overreacted before.” Hermione could still remember the time during fourth year when Molly was all too eager to blame all the publicity on her.

“Grief can change things though.”

“I know, and I am sure that its horrible… to lose a child would be devastating and I certainly don’t want her to suffer. I mostly worry about Arthur he is running himself ragged trying to take care of her and watch over the boys, the whole ordeal with Ronald and…” her voice lost its tempo and got quiet, “he lost Gin too.”

Harry’s face fell, “yeah. Do wizards have therapists?”

Hermione thought she wasn’t really sure, in her reading about the wizarding world she hadn’t come across anything. “I don’t know actually, perhaps Severus might know” she muttered.

“Wasn’t Snape raised in a muggle household though?”

“Yes, though not like you or I necessarily. He just knows more about almost any subject than anyone else I know.” She chuckled at how true that statement was, she had a very certain admiration for how intelligent her wizard was about everything.

“It’s so weird that you are on normal terms with our least favourite teacher,” Harry mocked a shudder and received a slap on the arm.

Hermione stood placing her hands on her hips and using her best know it all voice, “if you recall he was your least favourite, that spot for me had to go to Trelawney.” Her face fell at the mention of their fallen Professor, “she had her moments.”

“And apparently so does Snape, he is just … very very rough around the edges.” Harry’s eyes widened for emphasis.

“He isn’t always so cold and devoid of emotion,” she said innocently flipping through the tome she still held. She didn’t see Harry’s look of surprise.

“I suppose its good that you don’t hate him, since you work so closely with each other, actually you spend quite a bit of time together” his tone made Hermione look up, she and Severus still hadn’t thought of a way to tell the others, and frankly they were both putting it off.

“I think that we all misjudged him, everyone misjudged him in his life…” This was something that she was sour about, he had been dealt an unfair hand in life, it fuelled something inside her to make sure he never felt mistrusted by her again. “But I’ll admit he isn’t pleasant all the time.”

Harry chuckled, “that’s an understatement, but I suppose his loving my mum and her marrying dad would put a bad taste in his mouth towards me.” He shrugged, “I should probably go find Nev he had some plant to show me, later?”

Hermione forced a nod, “yeah, bye.”

She began to gather her own things and started out of the library, she dropped her stuff off in her room and decided a walk in the fresh air would be helpful.

It was drizzling but not pouring, so she began to stroll a little further out when Harry first mentioned Severus’s love of his mother it was off-putting but thankfully Hermione’s logical side kicked in, Severus had made his intentions to herself clear. Expressing his love to her and showing it, Ron had always said it but never meant it, she knew that now.

It was growing somewhat darker, but she could still see the castle lights, and she had cast an umbrella charm of her own making to keep the rain from soaking her through. Perhaps she would pay Hagrid a visit, it had been a long while since they had chatted. But as she looked about seeking the direction of the hut, she wasn’t actually sure where it was. Shrugging she headed back through a thicket of trees toward the castle, it seemed to be a bit further than she initially thought. There was a rustle near her feet, and she jumped her heart racing.

“Hermione…” she muttered to herself shaking her head, “this is a trick of your mind, nothing can harm you here… next time perhaps going inside before it got dark would be clever!” She rolled her eyes at her own idiocy. Hermione shivered, still heading toward the lights in the distance. Though it was summer the air outside in the Scottish Highlands still became chilly in the evenings, and a cup of tea away from the odd sounds of the forest was seeming better and better.

Her logical brain was just relaxing her enough when there was a loud crack that echoed off the tree trunks, gasping she yanked her wand from where she had stashed it, only to find that she had stepped on a twig. Her heartbeat was pounding in her ears, and she was debating on calling out when another rustle was heard before her, and a black shape stepped out, she was ready to bolt.

Then a deep voice she knew well muttered, “Lumos,” and the bright tip of a wand momentarily blinded her.

“Severus!” she tore off not stopping until she collided with his chest. It was utterly irrational for her to be so afraid, but she didn’t care just now about her childishness, not when she could smell his familiar scent and feel his warmth.

Her reverie was only broken by someone clearing their throat. Remus and Arthur stepped out from the tree’s as well, she instantly released Severus looking at his hardened expression, then back to the other two men. Both of whom acted as if they were approaching a skittish animal.

“Hermione, what on earth were you thinking going off alone,” it was Arthur, he was eyeing Snape warily but talking to her.

Hermione was taken aback, “Arthur I appreciate your concern, but I am not incapable of defending myself.” She couldn’t keep the irritant edge from her voice.

“It doesn’t matter how capable you are!” Arthur continued his face reddening.

Severus sighed rolling his eyes, this was what he had been worried about when they left the castle in the first place, he had only wanted to ascertain that she was alright but the other two had panicked. “I told the both of you that it was not necessary to send some kind of search party.”

“Oh?” Arthur turned to face Severus, “what allows you to make a call like that?”

Severus clenched his teeth, this was not going how he wanted it to, and he was ready to give Arthur Weasley a piece of his mind when Hermione stamped her foot and growled.

“Its no one’s call to make assumptions about what I need but me! I am not a child, and I am certainly not incompetent.”

Remus rested a soothing hand on her shoulder, “we were only worried when we didn’t see you return.”

“I appreciate your concern,” she was avoiding Severus and Arthur’s eyes, “I can think for myself, and I am a decent judge of danger.”

Mr Weasley seemed to have quieted a bit and was now looking at his hands, “Hermione you are like my own family… I just fear… I couldn’t have something happen to you.”

She couldn’t help it and pulled the redheaded man into an embrace, “that means so much, it really does, but I am just fine.”

When the two released one another Severus and Remus were making eye contact, some unspoken conversation being had. “I think that Hermione, maybe we should talk privately once we reach the castle.”

It wasn't a question he began forward with determination and Severus's face was like trying to read a stone.

Chapter Text

“I want to know exactly what is going on. I want to know the truth of it, and that means all of the truth.” Remus was leaning against a desk in the old Defence classroom that had become his own study of sorts. All the way back to the castle his mind had been whirring. Hermione had seen it, and now it had reached a boiling point, Arthur seemed to be in a similar state of mind.

Before either Severus or Hermione had spoken Remus continued, shoving off the desk and running a hand through his already messy hair. “I have suspected something for weeks, but I wasn’t sure until tonight. I didn’t think that Snape would be so stupid.”

Severus bristled next to Hermione, “what exactly are you referring to. State my crime before you accuse me of stupidity.”

Arthur cut in, “perhaps we should bring Minerva or Tonks?” he said glancing at Hermione who was boiling with her own anger. Clearly, they thought that maybe the two women would help, little did they know that Hermione was not planning on doing anything less than standing her ground.

Remus nodded, and Arthur tore out in a hurry, Hermione wanted to run after him, none of this was necessary, but leaving these other two men alone could be catastrophic.

“That was not needed,” she shot at Remus and waved a hand in the direction that Arthur went.

“Hermione, I want you to tell me-.”

She cut Remus off, “are you going to keep asking questions or listen? Remus, you are one of the calmest men that I know, this is irrational of you, and you know it!”

He snapped his mouth closed, and Severus’s lips quirked up.

She glared at him as well, “you aren’t helping the situation! If you would speak instead of egging him on we might be somewhere by now.”

Severus's smirk quickly left his face and was replaced by a scowl.

“I don’t know how you got it into your head that there is something amiss with Severus and me, but that is definitely not the case,” Remus tried to speak, but she held up a hand and talked louder. “We are together.” There, it was out, “and no it is not some horrible secret, we were just taking our time before we announced it to the entire castle. We should've known that wouldn't be a feasible possibility.”

Both men looked to Hermione just as the door burst open and Arthur being trailed by Minerva and Tonks appeared.

Hermione looked back at Remus who seemed to go a bit pink looking sheepish at his overreaction.

“What the devil is going on?” it was Minerva.

Hermione looked at Severus, he breathed in heavily but gave a stiff nod, she stepped toward him and took his hand. “Severus and I are in a relationship.”

Minerva’s eyes widened a bit behind her spectacles, but she held her tongue, Arthur looked a bit sick and Tonks’s lips quirked. Hermione and Severus waited, there was silence.

Severus shot a glare at Lupin sneering, “I thought perhaps with all that madness raised, there would be some sort of reaction.”

Hermione tugged a bit on his arm, though she too was a bit disconcerted by the lack of response. Then Tonks started to laugh, “this makes soooo much sense.”

It was everyone plus Hermione and Severus looking shocked.

“Oh, come on! They spend tons of time together, and they like the same things, mostly. I want to smack myself on the forehead for not noticing it sooner!” She was met by confused looks.

“We-well there is the age difference that could have us a bit ignorant of what you find so obvious Nymphadora.” Puffed McGonagall as she adjusted her glasses wiping them furiously on her robes then replacing them to the tip of her nose.

“I am an adult,” Hermione tried.

“Snape,” challenged Arthur, “you were her teacher! Wait how long-.”

Severus cut him off, “do you think I am capable of such a thing?” He paused barking a bitter laugh, “I should not question what you think I am capable of, if you have no trust in my moral compass then perhaps the lack of extra time I had when Hermione was my student would suffice as proof.”

“These are valid questions, Severus.” It was Remus.

“Are they?” questioned Hermione.

“Yes, Hermione! We went through this with Ronald, and none of us had any clue it was happening, Merlin help us for being concerned!” Arthur boomed.

Hermione’s courage was leaving her, she was beginning to wonder if Severus had been right when Tonks piped up. “Is there anything improper that we should be aware of?” The question was directed at Hermione.

“No.”

“Are you happy?”

“Yes,” Hermione sighed.

“There!” Minerva said, “that seems evidence enough.”

“Is it?” grumbled Arthur quietly.

“Do you wish me to go under Veritaserum?” mocked Severus.

“Not a bad idea,” Remus said.

“You cannot be serious?” Hermione was outraged, this was beyond ridiculous.

“Hermione, if that would make this all end with ease I will not protest.” Severus squeezed her hand.

“Do you have it?” Arthur asked.

“Of course, you will have to administer a higher dose, I have built up a fair immunity to it.”

Hermione couldn’t believe they were actually going to do this, Severus had given them no reason to distrust him since the battle. “No!”

Everyone looked at her, “I am sorry, but this is crazy. As I have stated a few times this evening, I am in control of myself, and I am putting my foot down. If we had kept this a secret forever, it wouldn’t matter because… well, frankly it isn’t any of your business! Telling you is a courtesy, that we didn’t have to commit to.”

Tonks grinned, and everyone else kept tight lips. “Inform Kingsley” Hermione waved a hand, “anyone else you bloody wish but that’s the end of it. If you don’t like it very well but keep it to yourself.”

Even Severus looked a little shocked at her outburst, but all were quiet until Minerva cleared her throat, “if you all are quite finished I believe our originally not necessary part," she eyed Arthur and Remus pointedly, disapproving. "Is done here and thank Merlin for that.” She turned to Severus and Hermione, “I support the both of you and in time I believe,” she spoke louder over her shoulder. “Others will feel the same.” The older woman then nodded stiffly and left the room.

Remus and Arthur didn’t look happy they also kept silent under Tonks’s watchful eye, and Hermione and Severus rigidly walked from the room.

“That went…” He paused, “yes, I believe ‘it went’ is a correct description.” Severus was pouring a large glass of whiskey and Hermione had her face in her hands as she leaned against the countertop.

Severus approached and nudged her arm questioning if she wanted a drink as well, Hermione shook her head. “Would you have done it? The Veritaserum?”

“Yes.” He took a long drink, closing his eyes.

“Well, it was ridiculous for them to even think that was a possibility.” She was still mad; how could they think so little of her intelligence? Or assume that Severus was capable of something so horrendous.

As if he had read her mind Severus began, “I do not exactly have a track record of being trustworthy.”

“That’s shit Severus!” she growled. “You were on our side! You may have lied, but it was to save all of us.”

He seemed utterly unphased by her temper, the picture of calm leaning against the counter, drink in hand. “You forget, I was a Deatheater. Not a spy at the point when I found that Lily and her family were to die, I was his follower.”

“Everyone makes mistakes, you shouldn’t be held to them forever.”

“I deserve to be under the shadow of my mistakes as long as I live and far beyond that.” He finished his drink, then rubbed his temples, he had a headache from all of this. She didn’t ask just went to the loo cabinet and returned with a headache potion. His lips turned up in thanks downing it. Severus stretched his arms and heard his back crack and pop very loudly… he was getting old.

“Let’s go to bed.”

He followed her into the bedroom and changed into his sleeping attire with a flick of his wand, he didn’t have the patience at the moment. Hermione saw him and did the same adjusting her t-shirt, she climbed onto the bed kneeling and sitting back on her ankles.

“Come on,” she waved him over patting the mattress in front of her.

He eyed this warily but finally after some coaxing sat in front of her. Hermione first wrapped her arms around his shoulders squeezing a little then began to work at the muscles in his shoulders and back. Massaging with her fingers. Severus couldn’t control the groan that escaped his lips.

“Severus, you are not your past, and I won’t have you thinking that you are past redeemable. It simply isn’t the case.”

He mumbled something, but it was half lost in another sound of pleasure, he was continuously surprised about how easy it had become to listen to another human. Usually, Severus would sulk, and that would be the end of it. He had spent years at the mercy of Albus and his cheery demeanour even in the worst of times, but for some reason, Hermione was very different. He wanted to be better around her, and slowly he was learning that he could be.

“Harry is going to know by morning, don’t you think?” Hermione’s voice sounded distant, and her hands still moved over his back and shoulders.

Severus moaned as she hit a tender spot, “I should imagine… that Potter… will know… yes.”

“Should I go talk to him?”

Severus opened his eyes, trying to focus on her words, “it would be best to talk to him before others did, I would… imagine.” He finally turned and took her hands, “that was divine, but I cannot focus when you administer such ministrations love.”

She blushed a little and Severus couldn’t help but wish to tell her to speak with Potter later, he wanted very badly to have her all to himself the rest of the evening before all hell broke loose the next day. “You should go.”

A nervous smirk passed her lips, “you know you just proved how wonderful you really are with that statement.” She slipped off the bed but paused at the door, “stop selling yourself short.”

She was facing Harry’s door and had been for the past five minutes at least. God, why could she be so assertive with all of her former teachers and mentors, but the thought of facing her best friend was terrifying? The fact that he and their former potions professor, her now partner having a feud for the last seven years shouldn’t be of any consequence to Hermione Jean Granger, she was stronger than this. Squaring her shoulders, she knocked, and the door was opened before she removed her hand.

“I was wondering when you would knock,” Harry looked a little more beat down than he had in a few days but smiled at her weakly, “I have a ward on the door that alerts me when people come up.”

She followed him inside, “you okay Harry?”

“Yeah, some days are harder than others, you know?”

“Mhmm,” she hummed. They were quiet for a moment, Hermione thinking of how to bring up everything that had transpired in the last two hours and Harry just staring at the fire.

“So, you and Professor Snape then?”

Hermione’s head snapped up and saw that Harry was looking at her intently but with a small smile playing on his lips, “I-.”

“I may not be as perceptive as you are, but I’m not oblivious like Ron. I knew there had to be something going on, I am just surprised that no one else noticed until now.”

She chuckled softly feeling relief wash over her, “I think that Tonks was on to us.”

He tugged on a loose piece of thread hanging off his jeans and shrugged, “I wasn’t fully certain until Arthur came tearing down one of the halls looking for McGonagall earlier.” He paused looking up, “I’m not mad. You’re like a whole other person now, more like yourself, without Ron and I hanging all over you for everything. I don’t know a whole lot about love, but I think that if someone adds to your happiness instead of taking some of it, that’s brilliant and … how it should be.” There was a sad look in his eyes, and Hermione knew he was thinking of Ginny.

“You don’t understand how much that means to me, Harry.”

He was silent for a second then he seemed to shake off the sullen mood that had come over him and laughed, “its still weird though and I plan to tease you about…” he pretended to think for a minute, “probably the rest of your life.”

She joined in the laughter now relaxing a little, if Harry was with her she could handle whatever the others had to say.

Yaxley entered the house just as Bella had instructed, it was time to begin another phase of this plan. The kitchen door was unlocked just as she said, and the inside room was dim, lit only by whatever light flooded in from the adjacent room. He stalked towards what looked to be a parlour of some sort, he chuckled. Old Pius certainly had himself a nice place here. Bellatrix was in the room still Polyjuiced as Vivian Thickness. She stood leaning over and whispering in the redheaded boy’s ear, before giggling and placing a beer bottle in his hand. Her eyes flicked up she spotted him.

Giving the boy a sloppy kiss, she slid off his lap, flicking her wand so the radio would begin playing the Quidditch reruns. Then she sauntered to where Yaxley stood.

“Kitchen,” she whispered and followed him in and casting a silencing charm.

“What is taking so long?”

She stuck her tongue out and picked at a nail, “don’t waste any time do ya?”

He ignored her, “We must fulfil duties and we have concerns of what the boy may suspect.”

She walked closer, slipping fingers into her cleavage and retrieving a small silver vial and giving him a seductive smile. “The modified Calming Draught, Snape” she spat the name, “created for the Dark Lord, he,” she gestured to the room where the boy sat. “Doesn’t have the willpower to contend it.” Bellatrix ran a finger over the collar of Yaxley's jacket, and he quickly turned to remove himself from her grip, heading for the door. “This needs to happen soon.”

“The Dark Lord will inform me if I am taking too long,” she sneered.

He didn’t turn around just kept walking.

Chapter Text

The Great Hall was buzzing at lunchtime, the first meal that Severus and Hermione attended since their news had gone "public". Both sat, quietly trying to avoid any eyes that were currently watching them, which were many. Severus had eyes focused on a potions journal whilst taking careful spoonsful of vegetable stew. Hermione was still attentively reading over her tome on ancient imprisonment spells and potions. Neither was paying any attention to the looks of disapproval that were coming very directly from Mrs Weasley, and it seemed anyone else she had spoken to.

The morning after Remus and Arthur cornered them everyone seemed to know. Molly had made it clear in some not so timid words that she thought the whole relationship was absolutely disgusting. She didn't dare to tell either of them directly, of course, just whispered it through the halls of the castle. Thankfully many didn’t contend with the gossip, while others seemed to favour the more childish alternative. A surprising supporter Hermione had found was Neville. He wasn't in a state of mind to actually speak to Severus, but he had voiced his approval to a shocked Hermione.

“Hello!” Harry plopped himself down next to Hermione and immediately took a bite out of a sandwich. Lovely Harry had been making an effort, and Hermione was grateful though… Severus had yet to indeed become used to the idea of a Potter and himself being on friendly terms no matter the circumstances.

In response, Severus only grunted, and Hermione shook her head in amusement. “How’s Hagrid getting on then?” Harry had been with the half-giant all morning taking care of Daisy and the other creatures, still on the property.

“Seems good, he definitely loves having a dragon around... maybe a little too much, Charlie keeps him in check though.”

Severus snorted indignantly, adjusting his book.

“Is he consistently like this?” Harry asked boldly, sticking a thumb at Severus, “I figured he has to be a little bit less … Snape like around you?” Harry was playing with fire, and by the looks of it, that was his goal.

Severus raised an eyebrow over the journal but didn’t say anything.

“Hey, hey," Hermione interjected. "I happen to like his Snapeness, and he made some great progress on a potion this morning. He is allowed more anti-social time for that.” Hermione grinned when Severus scowled at her only partially playfully.

“Really! What was the potion?”

Sighing a little extra dramatically, Severus set down his book and looked at Harry. “More tracking potions. I have come to the realisation that I cannot contact Lucius by ordinary means, it must be another way. Draco has been conscience more and more, if I can get a little more information or even look into his mind effectively, we could perhaps see where Voldemort hides. Then with the aid of a more extensive tracking potion we could find him, even with wards should he have them in place, and I am sure that he does.”

Harry blinked, the potions master had never been one to beat around the bush, and it seemed that now was no exception. “Well, then that’s brilliant right?… That you have a potion coming along?”

“I believe it is an adequate start.”

Harry glanced at Hermione and shrugged as if to say he was trying.

Peering carefully over the cauldron Severus couldn’t help but smirk, it seemed to be working. He had taken a chance altering the procession in which he added the ingredients, but even if it didn’t change the composition of the potion, it had made it stable enough to better experiment with. He tucked his pair of dark-rimmed glasses up on his head and scribbled down his find in a nearby notepad.

“What are you grinning about?” Hermione came over holding out a cup of tea out to him. Milk, no sugar.

“I think, that is if you are prepared to, I am going to be altering my tracking potion.” He pointed to the cauldron that was bubbling steadily.

Hermione leapt a little bit, “this is fantastic Severus! I know exactly what you need to try. After you mentioning making the potion more effective for our needs, I did some research..."

"Of course you did," he chuckled.

 She glared continuing as if there had been no interruption, "AND in one of Nicholas Flamel’s studies he compiled a list of the more intimidating ways to theoretically increase the efficiency of a tracking spell or potion.” She paused to take a breath, “the one that I found most interesting was using an actual memory inside of a potion. To do this, you would need to extract the memory…”

“…And create a potion environment with the correct ingredients and sustainability of a Pensieve.” Severus rubbed his jaw in thought, “I am unsure if I can do such a thing.”

“That is precisely why I picked this one, you could possibly be the only one that has enough knowledge of both the mind and of potions to try and combine something so delicate!”

He hummed, still thinking very hard. Finally, Severus glanced up at Hermione, “your vote of confidence in me is always greatly appreciated but-.”

“But! You will try, there is no reason not to, and can you name a more accomplished Legillimens?” She didn’t allow him to speak before chiming in, “no? I didn’t think so!"

After nearly an hour of debate over allowing Severus into Draco Malfoy’s mind. An argument where Severus himself stayed quiet and listened to Poppy and Kingsley go back and forth about saftey and necessity. They deemed it okay, and Severus was finally allowed to try and enter his mind. With the constant supervision of Poppy, Kingsley and Hermione standing nearby a Pensieve at the ready.

Things were chaotic on first glance, a somewhat unusual thing as Draco had proved in later years to be better than anticipated at organising his mind, but given the circumstances, it wasn’t wholly unexpected. There was an overlying sense of fear in Draco’s mind, that trumped nearly everything else. He was terrified. Through all the mismatched thoughts it wasn’t easy to pinpoint a timeline, and Severus growled internally at the struggle. Sometimes those most in control of their thoughts made his job easier when he accessed them. This was a mess. There was more struggle, but finally, Severus discovered the source of distress or one of the sources.

For many years Severus saw horrible things. As a child, it was his father, and as an adult, it was Tom Riddle and the people surrounding him. As horrific as it seemed he had grown somewhat accustomed to the grisly and learned to if nothing else shut down to it, but the snapshots he saw in Draco’s mind were so unexpected and macabre, he wasn’t prepared. Immediately he tore himself from the young Malfoy’s mind, even stumbling away from the infirmary bed, shutting his eyes tightly.

When he opened them, Hermione was standing in front of him a hand on his shoulder, he hadn’t even felt her place it there.

“What is it?”

Severus looked past her at Draco, despite popular belief Severus was not emotionless, in fact sometimes despite his best efforts he felt very deeply, right now he could still feel Draco’s pain resonating amidst his own discomfort at the vision he had beheld. Swallowing he looked at Hermione, “Narcissa Malfoy is dead.” Poppy made a small noise, he continued. “I will spare you details of what I saw, but it is clear that the spectacle that was made of… killing her was very much a punishment for their abandoning Voldemort. Draco saw, and so did most of the Dark Lord’s inner circle. That, I am sure amongst other things is what causes him such distress. It took place at Malfoy Manor. There are heavy wards on the location exactly all I can recall is what everyone else in the wizarding world knows of the mansion. It is in Wiltshire, but specifics are lost on me, now that I am not allowed access to those wards.”

It was very subtle trying to see Severus’s internal feelings outside in the open. Especially when he shut them down like this when he knew that what he needed to say was necessary, that he did not have the luxury of ignoring it. But Hermione had become a little bit more attuned to her Potions Master and could see that this had shaken him deeply, his connection with the Malfoy family was still a little vague, but it seemed something about this had uprooted more profound emotions.

“Voldemort is at Malfoy Manor?”

Severus nodded at Kingsley’s question. “Yes, unless they have moved since that memory took place, though doubtful. I have seen the protections in place there first hand, it would not be wise of him to leave. If I return to Draco's mind… a piece of that memory should be sufficient to try and add to the potion.” He straightened, tugging on the sleeve of his frock coat.

Hermione watched the display, he was shutting down, it was his defence, but after seeing the reaction, he had to what had been seen she didn’t protest. If it allowed him a way through this horror whole, perhaps it was needed. She stepped back allowing him closer to Draco and waited for him to retrieve the memory and carefully place in inside the Pensieve. Severus immediately took the intricate bowl away from her grip, not even allowing her or the others a glance at the images wispily playing inside.

“Molly looked particularly frightening at dinner tonight,” Hermione called, entering his rooms and shutting the door behind her. She had spent the evening with Tonks and Teddy, allowing Severus some time alone, that she knew he needed.

He chuckled from his spot at the solid oak desk against the wall. “Worse than usual then, if you decided to comment.” He turned giving her a smile and capping his pen, he was doing his best to be light-hearted with her, but she wasn’t fooled, whatever he had seen earlier was very much bothering him. Now was not the time to comment on that though.

“Is that a muggle pen?”

“It is.” He pretended to study the object, “they are far more useful than quills, less easy to charm though so perhaps that is the reason for our use of such medieval writing utensils.”

His deadpan delivery had Hermione laughing, “you didn’t allow us pens in your class! Other teachers were perfectly okay with them!”

He smirked, “I was acclimating you all to the ways of the wizarding world.”

Hermione narrowed her eyes and came closer, “you were being a git.”

“Possibly.” He stood, reaching out for her his face softening. “I appreciate that you have seen past my being a git.” He kissed her lips ardently trying to prove his point. When he stopped, Hermione was a bit short on oxygen.

“Those kisses make it all worth it,” she teased. She was about to turn toward the kitchen in search of a cup of tea, but something inside Severus screamed at him to not let her go, to just keep her close to him a moment longer.

Wrapping arms around her waist he pulled her against him burying his nose in her hair, then kissing her temple. “I love you,” he mumbled, so softly she barely heard it.

She pressed herself against him, accepting and relishing in the closeness until he finally pulled back a bit. Without warning she found herself entirely struck by how much she cared for him and when something troubled him, it troubled her also. Pulling him down for a kiss she allowed it to deepen, welcoming the sensations that it provoked in her. They both needed this intimacy.

Allowing her attention to wander only momentarily, Hermione broke their kiss and removed her jumper over her head, then returned to his lips. Taking the time to begin undoing each button on his coat. With it removed she started on the white shirt that lay beneath, and Severus stole kisses as she went or preoccupied himself with pressing them to the curve of her neck, slowing her progress when she stopped to sigh and close her eyes.

At some point, his shirt lay on the floor, and the bare skin of their upper bodies was finally connected. She pressed tiny kisses across his chest, and Severus allowed his head to tilt back breathing deeply. It was just the two of them right now, and that was how they liked it best, fulfilled in themselves and each other. Severus led her to the bedroom and Hermione went smoothly. She spent so much time in her life being in control, it was something that made her content and happy, but when she relinquished that power to Severus, it didn’t feel scary. He didn’t take from her, he allowed her to breathe.

More clothes were tossed to the floor unheeded. Hermione gasped as Severus allowed his lips to roam over her chest and down her belly. Taking his time, treading lower, giving her pleasure until she cried out his name, wrapping her legs around his waist and pulling his head up wanting to see his eyes and taste his lips. They were lost to each other for just a little while, thinking only of how close they were, how much they cared for the other. It was when life was like this, if even for a moment that Hermione and Severus understood that this all made sense. The two of them worked when everything else didn't. All the opinions aside they fit together, not only in this way but just being together it made them more, never less of who they were.

Hermione gazed up at Severus, his breathing was deep, and laboured like her own having just come down from their mutual ecstasy. For a moment she felt vulnerable, she was dependant on his presence now, she needed it for her own peace of mind.

“Please never go.” It was a plea, one that she couldn’t help but make.

Lowering himself slowly to her side, he pulled her into his arms, “I will do everything in my power to always be with you.”

His thoughts had been buzzing around similar things. Seeing Narcissa killed was horrific, but gruesome sights had become almost natural as sick as it seemed and easy to place in the background.

 It had been Draco’s eyes settling in on Lucius. His face. There was an absolute, permanent agony etched there. Severus had thought long ago that losing Lily was something like that. It had been excruciating knowing her death was his fault, that she had never forgiven him all those things that tormented him unceasingly. Among all the pain he had felt it had been the worst… but now, now he knew that it was nothing compared. If he ever lost Hermione, he would know precisely what Lucius had projected in that memory, exactly and he would never recover. Holding her tightly to him Severus relished in her now familiar smell and warmth.

“Keep that speed exactly.” Severus directed as he removed the memory and began to transfer it into the potion Hermione was stirring counter-clockwise. Dropping the wispy matter inside Severus stepped back, “Alright, stop.” She removed the stirring rod, and they held their breath. The potion emitted a puff of light blue smoke then settled in the cauldron.

Peering over the rim Hermione grinned, “I think it worked! It looks stable.”

Severus could’ve fallen over, it had taken three days to produce the correct formula before they even attempted adding the memory. He went almost mechanically about bottling it, without so much as a word. He had explicitly made enough for three doses, in the case something was to happen to one of them who took the potion.

The night before the order met to devise a plan of going about using the tracking spell should Hermione and Severus be successful. It was decided that Severus and Hermione, along with Arthur, Harry and George would be the ones to follow the potions direction.

Theoretically, the potion worked in such a way that allowed the drinker to know how to travel toward a destination even if that exact location was protected by disguising wards. Severus didn’t mention it but also, in theory, the potion could, with the right memory, possibly be potent enough to locate the likes of Hogwarts, charms or not.

With multiple doses, should something happen there would be others able to lead the group. A precaution Kingsley deemed was very needed.

Apparition was only possible for the distance they could envision, after that, they would all have to travel on foot using protection charms to avoid any unnecessary attention or snatchers should some be lying in wait near the Manor, when they found it. The entire endeavour was a tad more than dangerous and everyone needed to be ready.

When the bottles were carefully placed in a locked and charmed box, Severus turned to Hermione who waited patiently.

"Thank you."

"You did this, love." She emphasised, "you are without a doubt officially the greatest Potions Master alive today at least!" Gripping the collar of his shirt and getting up on her tiptoes Hermione kissed him soundly. "I and the wizarding world for that matter are fortunate."

“I never thought I would be preparing for something like this again,” Hermione noted as she packed the last few items into her bag and pulled it closed.

“I hope that this will be much easier, than your previous search.” Severus exited the bedroom his own bag shrunk to fit inside his pocket.

Hermione’s mouth dropped open. Severus Snape was wearing something other than his standard frock coat or teaching robes. Black trousers and a black jumper replaced them along with a dark forest green cargo jacket, trimmed slightly with grey wool.

“What?”

Hermione shook herself out of a stunned state and countered, “you can’t just walk out here in normal clothes and not expect me to comment or… anything!”

“My clothes are always normal,” he rolled his eyes, unphased.

“Muggle normal,” she tried still looking him up and down. It wasn’t her usual Severus, but it certainly wasn’t unappealing either… she might even like it.

“My average attire may not be suitable in some conditions,” he stated matter of factly, “now are we done discussing my wardrobe?”

“Yes sir," she pretended to salute and followed him to the door, “I can’t wait to see Harry’s face.”

Severus raised a disapproving eyebrow at her, and she almost felt like a student again, until his lips turned up just for her. 

Chapter Text

“Please explain to me again why we cannot just apparate outside their wards?” Harry was frustrated when they began to erect tents after a day of apparating until they finally weren’t able anymore.

Severus who had with ease just finished enlarging a structure for he and Hermione glanced at Harry then away, back to his task. “Do you really think Voldemort would make it just that simple? The Manor is hidden. The potion can direct us, but if we are not careful, he will know we are near. I spent a fair amount of time entering and exiting his wards. He uses his followers for their usefulness or dispensability, and many specialise in wards and traps.”

“And,” began Hermione who was tucking a Muggle map back into her bag. “He very likely, according to Severus, has purposely kept its location hidden from muggles and wizards. As the potion leads us closer we have to take extra precaution when using magic, whoever is watching the wards will be able to sense magical signature.”

“So… We are going to be travelling like muggles?” George asked warily.

“Yeah, how much is precaution?” Harry sounded concerned also.

Severus had already finished setting up and walked over, a little mockingly “don’t fret, our wizard amenities” he waved a hand at their now fully set camp of “bigger on the inside” tents and equipment, “shouldn’t cause a spike in the wards its bigger spells more acute to your own magic. Patronus’s, spells of your own creation, and anything that would take an abundance of your magic. We will need to be crafty when it comes to disguising charms to hide us, they can occasionally be found or show up easier as we get closer to what we are looking for.”

Arthur grinned like a school boy, “might be a bit fun travelling like muggles.”

George rolled his eyes, “I feel like I might pass out standing, let's talk about the joys of no magic life in the morning.”

“We need to set our own wards and charms for the night everyone takes a corner or side, I can do the incantation.”

Severus was surprised and pleased with Hermione’s take-charge attitude. She was more than capable of the task. And the only person in the world he would ever allow to boss him around again, whatever she asked he would do it happily.

Dinner was sandwiches packed by the house elves and as they ate Harry began to eye the tents warily.

“I think that I am finished… how are the sleeping arrangements going… exactly?”

“The middle one is equipment and a portable potions lab should we need it, the one to the left is what Arthur brought and the right. Hermione and my own.” Severus wasn’t pulling punches, he knew Harry was worried he’d have to sleep in a tent with them or perhaps even sleeping that near to his dreaded old Professor left the Boy Who Lived a little to close for comfort.

Arthur piped up a smirk on his face, “that’s the big one boys,” he gestured to the tent that looked like a second hand broken muggle contraption that wouldn’t have fit more than two and a half people. “Should be room enough for us.”

Harry let out a breath relieved.

“Ours is quite roomy Harry, you sure you don’t want to stay in it?” Hermione laughed at the ill look on Harry’s face.

“No?” tried George poking Harry in the ribs.

Harry shoved him off, and George roared nearly falling over, even Severus’s lips quirked at Harry’s somewhat childishly comical behaviour.

“I’m goin to bed,” adjusting his glasses Harry stood to enter the tent.

“I think I’ll do the same,” added Arthur standing and George followed, “should there be any trouble with the wards…”

“It will alert us,” finished Severus, "tomorrow we will go over some more solid details... I will do my best to prepare you for what we may find."

“Right, goodnight.” Arthur gave a nod, and they proceded into the tent.

Left alone, Hermione scooted closer to Severus on the benches they had conjured, the air outside was chilly, but not unbearably cold. Resting her head against his shoulder, the only noises were soft murmurs of the boys in the tent or the nature around them and their own breath. She glanced up to see that Severus had his eyes closed, she had come to know that this wasn’t uncommon when he felt he was in a safe space.

Severus Snape was an avid meditator, even if he wouldn’t call it by that necessarily. Keeping up his Occluding skills took concentration, Hermione had always wondered how exactly Legillimens and Occlumens kept their ability so consistent. Severus explained it as a form of deep breathing, control and clearing of the mind, not only when practising but on a day to day basis. He had become more okay with just doing it in the moment when they were together, and it made Hermione feel a sense of pride. It was a skill he had honed on his own and for the most part kept to himself also, so it was nice to know that he trusted her during some of his most vulnerable times. Even that he was able to relax in her presence, as his breathing told her. During these moments she would think and wait for him to break the moment of tranquillity. 

This particular time, she thought of the actual skill Occlumency was, it had always been an interest of hers, but she never was able to learn it, since her life thus had been predominantly school and trying not to get herself or her friends killed while attending said school. There hadn’t really been time, and who would have taught her? It wasn’t like during her school days she could waltz into Professor Snape’s office and ask for private lessons, she hadn’t even known he was so accomplished in it until sixth year when Harry had to take lessons. She chewed her lip, thinking.

Severus’s voice startled her a bit when he spoke, “shall we retire?”

Nodding they stood up, and Severus slipped a hand in hers, this small gesture of affection made her smile he could be utterly sweet when he wanted to be… or when he was alone with her.

The tent on the outside was made of a rough beige canvas and inside resembled a spacious little studio flat. Furnished with anything they should need. Severus had done his best when creating some of the details to make it comfortable. He knew the conditions the golden trio sometimes had to endure during their Horcrux hunt, and he wasn’t keen to make Hermione repeat that.

They both dressed for bed quickly coming to lay on a low mattress that was surprisingly comfortable and cosy as it was a tad smaller than the one in Severus’s room at Hogwarts. Propping her head up on an elbow she brushed her fingertips over Severus’s bare chest, there were sprinkles of dark hair on his otherwise pale skin.

“Would you… be opposed to teaching me Occlumency?”

Severus glanced up from his own fingers were trailing the scoop of her shirt, where it brushed the tops of her breasts, her question had clearly surprised him. “No, I wouldn’t be opposed.”

“I just thought we do have a long trek ahead and we won’t constantly be travelling, perhaps during some downtime… I think it would be useful to know.” Shrugging her shoulders and nonchalantly drew lines over his collarbone.

Severus snorted softly, “I have found use in the skill yes.”

“You understand what I mean,” she looked into his eyes as he watched her, “would you?”

“If that’s what you want. I already know that you will be a far better student than the last I tried to teach.” Severus rolled his eyes, “what is your experience with either?”

Biting her lip sheepishly she smiled, “books and what Harry told me.”

He used a thumb to caress her lip, and she released it from her teeth sighing at his touch and letting her eyes close. “It is a different feeling having someone enter your mind. I don’t necessarily recommend it and to teach, you will need to understand what its like. I do not wish to invade you-.”

She cut him off, “I trust you, Severus.”

“And of course, I am grateful for that trust, however,” he ran a hand through her hair allowing it to get lodged behind her head where he could cradle it in his hand. “Just because you do trust me doesn’t mean that I wish to subject you to that.”

He apparently looked at his expertise as negative, and Hermione didn’t think that it had to be. He had spent much of his time in the minds of enemies of Voldemort, but she was sure him entering her mind was something entirely different. “How does it work? Can you see a current thought? Or is it more of a glance back at past thought?”

“I suppose it depends. I can see what someone is thinking in the moment, but most people think of many things at once. I can also find past thoughts and memories, sometimes they even come up during current thought if they are triggered. If the mind is well organised and they are… willing it is all much easier.”

Hermione thought about this for a moment, “will I feel you in my mind?”

“If that would make you feel more at ease, I can perform it undetected.”

“I assumed. I think I would like to know you are there.” Hermione adjusted herself, so she lay flat on her back and hand folded together over her stomach, then she looked at him expectantly.

“What? Now?”

“Why not? We are safe we are alone.”

“You should think about this more thoroughly before allowing me to do it,” Severus was startled by just how ardent her trust in him was.

“I have thought about it.”

“Hermione…”

“Severus,” she smiled gently. “It’s alright, I am giving you permission, I know that you won’t do anything to harm me.” Leaning lifting up to where he hovered slightly over her, she captured his lips in a long kiss, then laid back staring into his eyes.

Breathing deeply Severus stared back, not needing his wand or the words he entered her mind smoothly. He wasn’t shocked to find it well organised, it was in her nature, everything inside looked like bookshelves stacked with thoughts, memories and ideas. There was the occasional toppled tome or odd stack on the floor but for the most part, systemized and easily navigated.

He made sure as requested to make his presence known, lightly brushing at her mind as he looked around the library that was her cognisance. As he looked at the shelves, the title of one section stuck out to him, because it was labelled Severus. Carefully pulling the book down he opened it to a random page and was instantly sucked into a memory of them working in the lab from a few weeks before. The feelings attached to this memory were substantial, he could feel it as she watched him in the memory. He was looking over an old potions book and writing furiously, she was flooded with love, admiration and pride for …him. It would be hard to find a more definite evidence of her love for him.

He replaced the book and removed himself gently from her mind, they were in the tent again. Hermione’s eyes fluttered open, amazed and she was instantly enveloped in his arms, her face pressed into his chest, and his chin rested atop her head. It wasn’t in his nature to speak freely about his feelings, and she never expected him to, it was moments like this that even if he said nothing, she knew exactly how he felt. After a moment he loosened his hold and pulled away to see her face, inquiring with a look if she was alright.

“It was strange… but not uncomfortable, Harry always made it seem like a fight, but I suppose that was the point. He was trying to keep you out.” She mused.

Severus snorted pecking her firmly on the forehead, “Mr Potter doesn’t adhere well to skills that require a decent amount of discipline.”

Hermione poked his chest with her forefinger, “hey! He is a very good Seeker, and his magical talent is not insignificant, give him some credit. He just does it all in his own way… a bit messy but-.”

“Extremely messy,” Severus cut in.

“But,” she continued pretending to ignore him, “it seems to have worked fairly well.”

Severus rolled his eyes playfully, “I believe it is time to stop talking about Potter.” Kissing her lips then sinking below the covers Severus lifted her top exposing her lower abdomen where he began to kiss and nip at the skin, making her giggle and sigh as he travelled lower.

“Sev-Severus! They are all right next-door.” Hermione tried to whisper as he continued to tease her.

He raised a hand from the blanket and muttered an incantation against her hip. A silencing spell had been placed around the tent.

Hermione’s head fell back against the pillow with a sigh of defeat.

Chapter Text

Focusing on her book was becoming more and more difficult with the subtle movements happening just to her right. Severus had opted to sit next to her and not across, should Hermione like to rest her head on him as she had earlier in the journey. It was a very sweet thought, and Hermione appreciated his trying, but as the hours puttered on, he seemed to be far from comfortable in his place, fidgeting every few moments or rustling the pages of his book or journal. He hadn’t been able to decide which one he wanted to be looking at.

The fifth time he adjusted his leg in ten minutes Hermione tossed her book down on the other side of the seat. “If you would be more comfortable on the other side, please, by all means, sit there!” It was a request made partially in jest, but there was a sense of desperation in her voice she hadn't been able to hide.

Severus looked up at her outburst, “no that is not it.” Sighing and pinching the bridge of his nose no doubt feeling another headache coming on, he too placed his reading material down. “I am restless-.”

Hermione barked a laugh, “that I did notice.”

“And” he scowled, “we are getting closer, we will need to take the potion when we reach the stop… and make a plan.”

“Yes, we knew that eventually, we would have to go there” placing a hand on his arm as she rubbed some soothing circles. His nightmares had been coming back as they got closer to their destination. Hermione had been worrying for days that he wasn’t alright. “Let me try and fix it.”

Severus warily shook his head.

Over the week they had all been travelling by foot or train, every night Severus had been teaching Hermione Occlumency and Legillimency. Initially, he was prepared for her to struggle with the skills as most did at; first, he had spent years acclimating to the feeling and technique that it commanded. After their second lesson Severus realised that he shouldn’t have suspected from Hermione anything less than near immediate results, she was made to learn. It was her true bread and butter, she lived to soak in information and put it into motion.

With this lack of foresight for her talents, he had allowed himself to be more lax with his own Occlumency, and she had seen more of his past especially his childhood than he had wanted for her. Instead of the reaction he had expected, pity and fear she had reacted much differently. Using her own presence in his mind to soothe his own physique. He had only ever heard of this being done in theories when wizards and witches shared a secure emotional and mental connection. It was unlike anything he had ever experienced, and Hermione felt the same, nearly immediately breaking the link the first time it had happened. After a little practice, he had been able to achieve the same thing when Hermione had woken from a dream of her parents, and a panic attack had ensued, it had been his presence in her mind that calmed her and allowed her to breathe properly again.

This intimacy terrified Severus, he was far from used to others entering his mind, and not at all with the power she seemed to have inside. He trusted her absolutely, but he didn’t feel entirely comfortable with it. His mind was swirling at the very moment with horrible images. Every mile closer to Voldemort was closer to his fears and potential harm to this fragile happiness he had been able to find in one beautiful, intelligent, brown eyed girl.

Yes, his mental state had been suffering but what else was new? She shouldn’t have to step in every time he was feeling a bit sulkier than usual.

“I am alright, thank you, Hermione.” He cleared his throat and reached for the journal.

She grabbed his wrist and moved into his lap, knees on either side of his thighs arms around his neck. “You know it will help, it did for me.”

“There are muggles all over, Potter and the others are in the room over.” His tone brokered no argument.

Sliding from his lap silently, she stood and went to the door. “I’m going to get some tea. Would you like something?”

“A decent red wine, if that is possible on this vehicle.” He grumbled, then gave her the gentlest smile he could muster.

“I’ll send it up. I’m going to spend some time in the dining hall," she summoned her notebook and other items into her hand. Then stepped out before he could utter a word of apology or question.

“Fuck.” He groused, rubbing his forehead and growling in the back of his throat. Why wasn't there a textbook that could teach him not to be an arse? Or how not to piss off the only person that seemed to care about him?

True to her word, Hermione was in the dining area with her cup of tea, and yet again she was struggling to read. This time it was for lack of Severus and his fighting, she was probably unfair. He always was a private person, and she knew that honestly, it was one of the things she actually loved about him when Severus shared you knew he really cared. It was seeing him suffering over the past week that made her upset, he wouldn’t allow her to help.

“When you care for someone it is tough to see them disheartened.” It was Arthur, lost in her thoughts she hadn’t heard him approach.

Clearly, she was not the only one who had noticed Severus and his sour disposition…well more sour than usual.

“Yes, I wish he would just let me help,” she growled in frustration, making an erratic tug on her sleeve, pulling it over her wrist and her hand. IT WAS SO COLD DOWN HERE.

“For some people, help would only make it worse and for others…well maybe it's about not wanting to put anyone else through whatever they have going on.” He shrugged, buttoning up his sweater, “I have a feeling that Severus is the latter. He’s never been one to get too comfortable, and everything I know of him now suggests he cares very much for the ones he loves.” Arthur’s eyes seemed to do a little twinkle, Hermione was baffled again at how the man was able to exude such light even through all the loss he had very recently suffered.

“Thank you,” Hermione gave his hand a squeeze, it felt icy.

“Merlin’s beard its frozen down here,” glancing around the car Mr Weasley saw no one nearby. “Is this how it is without warming charms?” His eyes budged.

 “No, but it certainly is a bit odd, I’m going to find an attendant and ask if the heating is alright.” Hermione stood making her way toward the door, as she turned the handle, the whole thing came off its hinges with a massive crash. Falling backwards, she felt the back of her head hit a chair leg, causing stars and light to dance in her vision. Hand moved for her wand, but the disorientation was far too much, it was nearly impossible to see or feel with the sensory overload.

Suddenly her struggle was stopped by the overwhelming feeling of emptiness, not unlike how she had felt the months after the war but worse. Everything good was gone… or it hadn’t been there in the first place, she didn’t know. It just needed to be over. She would feel anything if it meant this blackness would go away. A bright flash of light illuminated behind her closed eyelids just as she was about to surrender to the void. Emotion and throbbing from her head flooded back, and her head fell back slipping her entirely into unawareness.

Her body felt warm, uncomfortably so. It felt muggy and sticky where she had evidently been sweating under the covers. Covers… she was in sheets… in a bed. Hermione’s eyes opened, brown eyes meeting instantly with the black ones that hovered just over her, relief flooded them almost immediately with her waking.

“Don’t move too quickly,” he muttered stepping back just slightly, as the bedroom on board the train was a bit small.

Sitting straight up Hermione looked around then back to him. “Were those dementors? Did you cast a Patronus? How did you know?” The questions started and she couldn’t stop them, feeling like her younger self as she bombarded him with no room for answers.

Severus rubbed his head, then motioned at her to lay down. “You need to rest for a while.”

“Have I been out long?”

“Do you wish me to answer any of your previous questions? Or should I pause and wait for more to accumulate?” It wasn’t as snide as she knew he could be, but it certainly wasn’t how he usually spoke to her.

It definitely made her shut up really quickly in a bit of shock, snapping her mouth closed and looking at him to continue.

“Dementors made their way onto the train; yes, presumably sent by Voldemort, though we don’t know. Last I knew he had control over all in existence.” Severus’s demeanour seemed to soften ever so slightly as he poured a honey coloured liquid from a tea kettle and handed the cup to Hermione. “I was not the one who cast the Patronus, it was Arthur, and I did not know of the incident until Arthur, and the muggle attendant carried you here. I am not so entuned to your wellbeing as you think clearly…or I thought for that matter.”

There was firm bitterness in his words, Hermione remembered their earlier argument before she had gone to cool off. He was blaming himself for this. At the moment that was going to have to be discussed later as Arthur and Harry came in with George in tow.

“I was able to get a semi-stable connection using the underground floo technique Fred, and I made up.”

Severus and Hermione both looked confused.

Arthur sighed, “illegal, untraceable floo connections… I am so proud.”

“At the moment I don’t think we should be complaining, now should we?” Questioned George with a little smirk.

Mr Weasley threw up his hands in surrender.

“As I was saying, Kings and the others have been really struggling with the wards. Small attempts to break them have been made at least every few days. Voldemort’s cronies are definitely keeping watch near Hogwarts, he must know we aren’t there anymore.”

“That would explain the Dementor, but not how they found us so quickly… we have been so careful, it doesn’t make sense to me.” Severus rubbed his chin, there was a little stubble there, it was bothering him.

“Did it harm any muggles?” Hermione was still a little foggy about the experience as a whole.

“No, they weren’t around. When I went to get help I told them you had fainted,” Arthur seemed a bit proud of his moment of deception. Harry and Hermione shared a look of half exasperation, half humour.

 “Was there only one?”

“Yes.”

Severus growled in the back of his throat and ran a hand through his hair, “is Kingsley the least bit concerned about all of this? Why has he not tried to contact us before about these developments?”

Harry seemed to sense that his old Potions Professors behaviour was not merely caused by this situation and instead an already angered state of mind. “He knew we wanted to keep a low profile, Kings probably didn’t want to cause a problem.”

Hermione found her legs and slid out of bed going over to Severus and placing an arm around his lower back. “Voldemort was bound to find where we were eventually. We knew this, now it's just about pressing on more cautiously.”

"You were hurt.” In his usual way, he did not raise his voice, but his words were articulated in such a clipped and sharp way that it almost felt like he was shouting. It made Hermione step back, this allowed him room to step away from her embrace and touch his head in pain. “I… I am- I apologise, I do not feel like myself at the moment.” He pinched his eyes closed and furrowed his brows together, just in the last few moments the pressing in his head had intensified.      

George continued looking warily at the surly wizard, “Kings is going to be checking in from now on and is sending Neville and Remus to meet us in London.”

Severus nodded, his migraine almost making him unable to form coherent sentences.

“Thank you guys and Arthur I am so grateful you were there tonight,” Hermione said glancing back and forth between the others and Severus a little nervously. Headaches were not uncommon for him to experience but this was the fifth one in six days, and they were worse every time.

“I am pleased I was there as well, come boys lets head back to the room, we can discuss plans in the morning.” Arthur stopped before following the boys out, poking his head In the room, “watch that you set wards in case of any more unfriendly visitors.”  

“Yes, I plan to, thank you.”

With a small nod and another concerned look at Severus still holding his head Mr Weasley left.

Carefully walking near Severus, Hermione touched his shoulder. He looked up face still screwed in pain.

“Hermione, you need to drink that tea- and lay down.”

She shook her head and took his arm walking him over to the bed to sit. “Something is wrong, and you need to let me help. Or it will only get worse.”

"You need not be concerned about me, I have been through worse on my own. If I could just get a handle on these headaches..."

"You aren't alone anymore!" She was a little exasperated, "I am here, and I want to help you, scratch that, I NEED to help you. It causes me physical pain to see you in such agony." Hermione grabbed his hand and pressed it firmly to her chest, over her heart. "Severus, I love you. I still don't quite believe how it was possible that I found a someone so incredibly perfect for me in every way. Especially when I had spent most of my life thinking of him in a very different way. I cannot sit back and ignore it. I know that you are scared to think that we are all going to be near Voldemort."

Severus physically tensed at the mention of his name, as if a headache was intensified just by the mention of this. He clenched his jaw and stared at her, then through gritted teeth said, "I have never known joy like this, what we have. I hate fear, it has consumed my life thus far, but I am terrified of never achieving a normal existence with you. Not having the chance, I cannot get it out of my head and not being there to help earlier..."

"We will have plenty of time together, it is okay to have fears Severus there is nothing wrong in that. We just can't let them control what we do."

Placing her hands on either side of his face, she brushed her lips against his, then looked into his eyes, he gave a small nod, and she was able to enter his mind soothing him, giving him relief while leaving him space.

Pulling out of his mind, she curled up on the bed and opened her arms to him. He raised a hand to flick off the lights and relaxed into her arms. In the dark and the peace of each other's arms, they fell asleep.

Chapter Text

The tossing and turning never ended at night. He could always fall asleep but staying that way was nearly impossible. There were horrible nightmares, but the moment he woke up, he couldn’t remember them. Vivien would usually wake as well and soothe him back to sleep. She would tell him they were just dreams, that there was nothing to be afraid of and he would fall back asleep. When he woke in the morning, she always had a cup of coffee waiting for him, and it was quickly forgotten that the night had been unsettling.

It was the life Ronald Weasley had always dreamed of. He lived in a giant home, surrounded by everything that he loved. Vivien worked well into the day and evening usually, Ron didn’t really know what she did but oddly didn’t care either. It allowed him to do whatever he wanted. The back garden had high fences, and there were all kinds of brooms he could use, but generally, he just sat and listened to the Quidditch. It was hard to remember why he used to like to fly, it seemed like so much work now. A lot of effort for what exactly?

Sometimes right before Vivien would come back he started to feel an itch to go outside or to ask her that question he had pulsing around in his brain, that never quite surfaced. She would enter flashing him that bright white smile and fix him a drink, and anything he had thought about prior disappeared.

People would come and go, but the motivation to go see who it was nearly non-existent.  Why did he care? This was the happiest he’d ever been… that he could remember. He wasn’t forced to remember the bad times anymore, not really. Every few days Vivien would ask him questions about Hogwarts, or maybe Harry… perhaps even Voldemort and Ron would answer her questions. She usually wrote them down, but he couldn’t be exactly sure, she always made him a very strong drink after they talked like that.

One morning he woke up and to his surprise, he wasn’t in the giant bed at the mansion. It was a much smaller bed with dark green bedding. The room was small and had no windows, where was he? Getting up he raised a hand to touch his head, it was sore all over, but his vision seemed to be a little clearer than he remembered it being in a while.

“Bloody hangover times ten…” he grumbled getting up and moving to the door, he tried the handle eager to find Viv and figure out where he was.

The door opened just as he touched the handle. Ron felt his stomach drop, and he closed his eyes tightly before reopening them to make sure he wasn’t dreaming, he began shaking his head from side to side in disbelief. 

Bellatrix Lestrange was standing before him… wearing Vivien’s clothes.

She grinned at him, showing a mouth full of partially rotted teeth, “Ron, aren’t you happy to see me?”

Something soft and cool brushing her collarbone, still a little distant, but getting closer. It made her smile, she knew the sensation even if she couldn’t quite place it in the sleepy haze. Soft murmurs that rolled over her skin just as his breath did. Hermione’s own breath came out in a sigh, the kind that released every ounce of tension that may have been lingering. She willed her eyes open and through a lowered gaze could see Severus's head bent, kissing her chest and shoulders.

This made her smile and gently rest a hand on his head, alerting him of her awakened state.

“Good morning,” he whispered against her skin. Dipping his mouth to meet hers once, then again in greater length.

“What time is it?” Her voice was still thick with sleep, as much as she loved getting woke like this, it also meant that Severus still wasn’t sleeping.

“Seven am. I wish you could have slept a while longer, but we are meant to meet Lupin and Mr Longbottom at nine.” Severus used a hand to brush messy curls away from her face, and she nuzzled his palm, planting a kiss there.

“Let’s go on holiday when this is all done with.” She blurted out.

He chuckled, “what happened to plan of holing up in my home with books and silence or perhaps good conversations between the two of us?” He raised a black eyebrow.

This made her giggle and play with the top button of his nightshirt. “That still sounds very good, but this travelling has me wishing for some more. It would still be quiet of course, maybe go back to France, the countryside? Many books, good conversation, and a pastry or two.”

“I think,” he gave her a kiss, “that” another, “is a wonderful idea,” one more.

“After that, we proceed with earlier plans.” Hermione began to plant kisses over his throat working her way up.

His lips quirked, then he tightened his jaw a little and closed his eyes.

“Let me find a headache potion, love.” Hermione half expected his usual brisk retort, but instead, he nodded rolling onto his back and rubbing his temples. It was easy to see that this was frustrating him, he didn't feel like himself. 

It seemed that every tender or heated moment they shared was now interrupted by pain. No matter what Severus tried the headaches were not going away, instead they came more regularly and sometimes even a potion wouldn’t alleviate it. This made their journey's progress slower and sometimes when it was at its worst, he could barely stand sunlight.

Hermione came back with a potion and a glass of water, he took them both with an unfortunately practised ease.

“Ron always tried to convince Harry and I that you were secretly a vampire.” She joked when he wandlessly shut the curtains of the hotel window.

Severus glowered at her, “I am beyond amused,” he deadpanned.

“It's true!”

“Mr Weasley at top form,” he grumbled.

The mention of Ron made Hermione’s heart twinge a bit, and she gazed at the now covered window. Despite all that he had done she was worried for him, where he was, what company he was keeping. The possible answers to those questions made her shiver. The common factor was seeing him with Vivien Thickness, how odd she had never heard of the girl before when her uncle was so famous in the wizarding world.

“Did you know Pius well?”

Severus opened his eyes again and looked at her a moment, “the version of him at the time, yes. You aren’t exactly yourself when under a curse, so I suppose I never really knew him as who he was prior to that.”

“Did he speak of his family?”

“We didn’t exactly have average conversations at inner circle meetings. Families never came up.” He remarked dryly.

She rolled her eyes and began to chew her bottom lip in thought. “I’m just interested about his niece, how Ronald found her in the midst of all this madness. Where she sits in all of this.”

“Was it exactly certain that was who he was seen with?” Severus drew his eyebrows together in question.

She chewed her lip some more, “I suppose not, that’s what was reported.”

“As I said before, to my knowledge Pius’s family had no affiliation with Deatheaters or Voldemort before his coming back and taking control. I did my best to be informed about everyone that surrounded me in the end. Are you worried about him?”

 His question made her second guess a bit, she even thought about backtracking until Hermione saw Severus’s face, it was a genuine concern for her. Hermione nodded, tucking a brown lock away from her face, “he was my best friend and boyfriend, just because he became a world-class git doesn’t mean that I can turn off all emotion toward him. I am worried, also for his family, they have already been through enough, especially Arthur.”

“I understand.” He thought for a moment then got up and began looking for his clothes before saying over his shoulder, “we are in London for another day, it wouldn’t be the worst idea to go find Miss Skeeter, she was the one who allegedly saw him. From what I know she works freelance now from her home. I am sure you could get her to talk under some kind of duress." He smirked over his shoulder. "That is if you are intent on knowing what she saw and how it relates to Mr Weasley.”

“It’s not a bad idea. If he had anything to do with all those muggles' deaths, maybe it would be good to find out what he is up to, it could lead us somewhere?”

“Possibly.” Now dressed and looking as if the potion had taken an effect Severus placed hands on either of Hermione’s arms, “I hate to say a decent thing about a Weasley… but Arthur… is tolerable.” He gave her a pointed look when she got excited at his words, “under the circumstances, he should not have to worry more than necessary,” he continued.

She grinned cheekily and pressed a kiss to his lips, “compassion looks good on you Professor.”

Severus scowled, “that is a very far stretch don’t you think?” Moving to the door, he tried to act as though nothing had been spoken of, his face descending into its mask of impassivity. “Coffee? Miss Granger?”

Hermione bit the inside of her cheek to keep from laughing and followed him out of the hotel room.

Rain was coming off the window ledge in sheets. They made arrangements to meet at a coffee shop in muggle London. Wizarding areas were becoming too dangerous, especially with more of them. Hermione tugged her jumper closer around her and shivered, the weather outside seemed to have an influence on the whole shop, it was quiet and nearly empty save for her, Severus, George, Arthur and Harry. Even at their table, it was quiet as they waited, the street outside held a sense of foreboding that Hermione couldn’t quite place. Maybe the fact that it was all real. Someone would take the potion tomorrow, and they would be led right to Voldemort. That is where they had been going the whole time, but it felt different knowing that now they were undermining his wards, they were going to be close to him.

The bell attached to the door tinkled, Remus and Neville entered shaking off the rain and strolling over. They also seemed subdued, making small greetings and sitting.

“We should have sent more with you in the first place, we had no idea that Dementors would be sent after any of you.” Remus was shaking his head.

“It’s hard to know what knowledge Voldemort has and does not have,” tried Arthur, “what counts is that we are a few steps closer to finding out and not too much worse for the wear.”

“Why wasn’t the potion taken to begin with? Couldn’t this have all been over with?” Asked Neville.

Severus cleared his throat and rapped his fingers against the tabletop, “the potion has to be close enough to sense a magical ward, Mr Longbottom. We needed to be in the general vicinity and throwing anyone that should decide to clue themselves into this escapade off our trail seemed to be beneficial as well.”

“But the Dementor?”

Hermione was impressed at the way Neville didn’t bat an eyelash at Severus’s curt response. Two years ago, that would’ve been a wishful thought.

“We can’t be sure that it was sent specifically because of this journey, in fact, if it was, I am certain we would have seen more of them. It was meant possibly to find Hermione no matter where she went, so long as it was outside of Hogwarts.” He sounded like ever the Professor as he listed off his reasonings to the group, all those years weren’t going away quickly that was for certain.

Taking a sip of her green tea and holding Severus’s hand beneath the table. Hermione needed to share in that unwavering strength he possessed.

Harry finished his Danish and asked, “you know we haven’t really talked about what we are going to do when we get there.”

“That is most of the point,” mused Remus, “if we know where it is, we can keep tabs on it discreetly, see some of what goes on.”

“So, have someone posted at all times? That seems difficult,” Arthur added.

“It doesn’t have to be, we could even use an all-seeing spell to watch from Hogwarts, it could alert us when there are any changes.” Hermione almost wanted to chuckle at the idea of Kingsley and Minerva gazing into a crystal ball.

Remus turned to Severus, “once we get there, do we need the potion to get back again?”

“I don’t believe so; a memory should be sufficient.”

“So that is our game plan then?” Asked Neville, “get there, remember and go back to Hogwarts?”

“Essentially,” said Severus running his forefinger over the rim of his cup.

“Merlin, this better help us get rid of him for good,” muttered Harry. 

“Why in god’s name would anyone want to live in that?” Severus looked appalled as he and Hermione got out of the cab they had taken to Rita Skeeters townhouse in a more secluded area of Chelsea. No doubt in hopes that muggles wouldn’t notice odd people walking in and out of her home.

The exterior was a pale lavender with dark purple trim. Dozens of magically planted daffodils and carnations lined the window boxes and the fencing. All the flowers were a blaring bright yellow. Hermione had to pinch her lips together in an effort not to laugh at his comment, they had made an appointment with her secretary, and Hermione was determined to act as mature and stoic as possible when facing this woman. Unfortunate she was not so attuned as her beloved to carving her face into stone.

They stopped at the step, and Hermione muttered, “you cannot make me laugh Severus.”

His lips quirked, and he rang the bell. All his years as a teenager he had wondered what a woman would ever see in him, rarely did he find anything worthwhile and certainly it wasn’t his sense of humour. He was lucky indeed to have found Hermione Granger.

A bustling could be heard from behind the door, and then it swung open to reveal the small blonde woman that neither Severus or Hermione had a liking for.

Rita grinned, “well hello there, I was wondering if I’d been tricked after hearing who was joining me this afternoon.” She motioned with a glossy nailed hand for them both to follow her inside. She led them to a parlour a bit further in, the walls were covered in a hideous wallpaper that sported drawings of lemons and limes on a magenta background.

Severus nearly refused when she bid them have a seat on a light pink sofa but begrudgingly sat.

“Tea?”

Hermione nodded, and a tray came floating over, levitating just in front of her.

“Sugar? Milk?”

Swallowing and glancing at Severus, Hermione tried to smile politely. “Both for me, just milk for Severus.” She knew how much he hated social interactions like this, it was enough just to ask him to be here, she would limit his need to speak with this woman... if she could.

Rita’s pencilled eyebrows raised a bit in surprise, and the sugar and milk bowl began making their cups.

“So, the Golden Girl and the wars Dark Saviour? How interesting.”

Severus growled in the back of his throat.

“That isn’t what we came here to discuss. Kingsley said you were the one that saw Ron at the scene of the explosion, I would like to know the details of that.” Hermione sat up straight and addressed Rita head on.

Rita rolled her eyes, “as direct as ever. Why do you want to know? Thinking of getting the Trio back together? How is Harry? Still in ghastly condition no doubt? Or maybe a different story would be better? Savior and perfect Miss Granger Underage Relationship?” The woman was smiling viscously like a cat with a mouse in it’s claws.

Hermione narrowed her eyes. Kingsley had told them that Rita was cooperating with Hogwarts, but she supposed it had been in part wishful thinking to assume Rita would be as giving to just her. “You run your own column again, at whats left of the Prophet?”

“Yes, as well as some work on the side.” Snipped Rita.

Hermione wanted to roll her eyes. “Tell everything you can about that day, and what you saw, then Severus and I will do an interview.”

This caught Snape’s attention, eyes widening he tried his best not to panic.

“Without” added Hermione, “the Quick Quotes Quill.”

Severus then found his voice, “and we can refuse any question you ask, should we not deem it fit. I know our new Minister, once he is elected will only want accurate news.”

Rita had looked like she was about to speak but when he finished, she was nodding her head in irritated agreement. "Yes, yes, fine." Severus Snape was scary even to insects like her, this made Hermione oddly proud.

“Now what did you see?”

Chapter Text

The moment they got back after meeting with Rita and a speedy trip to a nearly unrecognisable Diagon Alley, Hermione had Harry come to the room. Before she breathed a word of what Rita said to Arthur she wanted to make sure Harry knew they needed to speak to him together. Severus ordered up a pot of tea and made himself scarce, not in the mood for company after an afternoon in the worst kind.

“Let me get this straight," Harry said a while later. "Rita thinks that Ron is now working with Deatheaters? Get off Mione, there’s no way he would do that.” Harry couldn’t believe it. “Plus, this Vivien girl isn’t a known Deatheater, Severus said that himself.”

“Your right, but the moment we finished talking with Rita I went to Diagon Alley and did a bit of a search, the best I could on her. Not one of her family members has seen her in months, not since before the war ended and Pius is presumed dead. Isn’t it a little odd that he is with someone that is supposedly as good as dead? Doesn't it seem very convenient even?”

Harry pushed his glasses up his nose, sat back folding his arms across his chest and looked confused, “maybe she just doesn’t like her family? They could bond over that.”

“Rita said that Vivien had clearly known something was going to happen that day, it wasn’t a coincidence.”

“Ron wouldn’t just stand there, that’s not possible!”

“She also told me,” Hermione tried to calm Harry down. “That Vivien was putting something in his coffee cup.”

Harry screwed his face, “Ron doesn’t drink coffee.”

“Exactly!” Hermione threw her hands up in frustration, “none of this makes sense. In fact, that is the only thing that makes sense.”

“What do you mean?”

Hermione sighed trying not to get irritated, she couldn’t expect everyone to converse like Severus. “Harry, everything that Rita said, the reports that came after the attack. None of it sounds like Ron!”

A light seemed to ignite behind Harry’s eyes, “you don’t think it's him?”

She wanted to smack his forehead but restrained herself, “it is him! I just think that maybe they are doing something to him. Whatever she put in his drink probably wasn’t extra creamer.”

Harry thought for a moment, “why would that help anything? Having Ron around.”

“They could be asking him questions about Hogwarts and what we are doing. If he’s on some potion its possible that he wouldn’t realise that he’s spilling his guts to them.”

This seemed to alter Harry’s disposition entirely, he grew grave.

“It’s just a theory, Rita really didn’t have very much information, I don’t know if it was worth it,” Hermione muttered beginning to pack up her clothing into the shrinkable bag.

“What do you mean?”

“We... Severus and I, agreed that if she gave us the information, we would let her interview us.”

“You let Rita Skeeter write an article about yourself and Snape, as a couple?” Harry’s face wasn’t anything less than appalled, as Hermione shoved the last jumper into her bag and shrunk it.

“Yes.”

“Snape let you?”

She turned eyes shooting daggers, “Severus Snape doesn’t LET me do anything Harry. It was a mutual decision.”

Harry looked as if he could start laughing or screaming all at once.

“It was. More or less.” Severus entered the room then, looking refreshed, dressed in an entirely black muggle suit, seemingly ready to travel the last bit before they reached their destination.

“How is your head?” Asked Hermione pointedly.

Severus glanced at Harry then gave a curt nod and said boredly, “fine.”

She was not convinced but at the moment wouldn’t push him. Instead, turning to her best friend, "I think that it may be best to wait and inform Arthur when we know more."

"Agreed."

Yanking on a pair of boots Hermione looked to both of them. “Right then, shall we go?”

The potion tasted pretty bad, Severus had to admit. He spent such time focusing on creating it that making it palatable was the least of his worries. Hermione gagged nearly losing hers all over the cobbled street they stood on in a small village just near the Wiltshire county line.

Arthur, on the other hand, didn’t seem altogether phased by the concoction. “When we were first married Molly wasn’t the cook she is today.” He shrugged and placed hands on his corduroy hips, “well…”

Everyone waited for something to happen.

Finally, Remus spoke, “do you know where it is?”

Severus had his brow furrowed he wasn’t exactly sure how he would see it. Then just like that he could see the Manor in his mind, not unlike when he was going there often for Deatheater meetings. Hermione and Arthur seemed to be in the same boat, as they both looked up at him for some kind of direction or confirmation.

Severus cleared his throat, it had gone dry the moment he saw the place in his mind. “We will need to get a taxi.”

No one standing in that group looked at ease, everyone stood taut and tense at the prospect before them.

“We should find a place to stay and work out the logistics.”

Severus was intrigued by this odd sense of power he felt as he gave direction to the group. Sure, as a teacher he always had some control over his students, probably more than he should have. Seeing as Mr Longbottom had made a Boggart out of him, but they were indeed only children. Outside of that his syllabus and potions classroom, he had been controlled and manipulated by anyone that had use of him. It felt strange indeed to have his words be taken with some form of duty, instead of the other way around. As he mused on this Hermione had been trying to get his attention.

“Severus Snape!”

He was able to focus in on her waving a hand near his face, “yes? Apologies.”

She raised one of those pretty brown eyebrows but didn’t comment on his daydreaming, it had been happening more and more. “I saw a sign earlier about bed and breakfast up the road.”

Remus shoved his hands in the pockets of his tweed jacket and blew out a breath, “I think that is an excellent plan, I need some food and warmth.”

They all made similar noises of agreement and began the trek up a small hill, further into the town. Autumn was definitely beginning to set in, and the air was cool if not a bit chilly. The sky was turning a deep cerulean as the sun set. They walked a further behind, and Hermione pinned herself to Severus’s side. Also, she had to admit really wishing for the return of his dark robes. They would be oh so helpful at a time such as this. The dark suit would have to do, it did smell like him that was a plus she enjoyed.

“Are you sniffing me?” Asked Severus looking down over his nose at her with a raised ebony eyebrow.

Hermione bit back a smile, “no- well sort of, you have a nice smell I like it.”

He allowed his lips to purse in thought, “I wasn't aware I had a specific smell.”

“You do. Some of it I can’t place, but there is always a hint of peppermint and marjoram.”

“Hmmm,” he reached up to the back of his neck and touched one of the many lingering injuries, this one from a nasty hex he had received during Deatheater initiation years and years ago. “The salve I use includes both peppermint and marjoram oils.”

Hermione pulled his hand away from his neck and kissed the palm, “well I love it.”

They walked for a while in silence, until the lights on a flashing sign that read VACANCY came into view just outside a charming white house.

He leaned down and whispered in her ear. “You smell of vanilla and something spicy, like cardamom.”

“My lotion,” she shrugged, and this made him smile. Little things made all the difference, he didn’t think he ever really paid attention to what Lily smelled like if he had it didn’t stick. Hermione’s scent instantly took him to a place of comfort and acceptance that he felt in her presence.

The reservations between them had long gone, what they now had was very much what he had always wanted from a relationship. Severus had never expected to have the privilege of such a relationship. Fate, god, whatever it was that had seen fit to give such an incredible gift, he was now ever indebted to. As he glanced at her through the curtain of his hair, he felt his chest tighten almost uncomfortably with pure feeling.

It was rare that he felt the need to physically express what he felt as other couples did. Generally, it wasn’t necessary. Displays of affection did not come naturally for Severus nor would they ever, but tonight once they were checked in, he couldn’t help but place his hand on Hermione’s thigh under the table as they ate with the others. He even snuck a soft kiss when they got up to get a few pint's for the group. Severus couldn’t get enough of his other half, because he knew what the next day might bring and what could potentially be taken from him should something go wrong. He was afraid.

Patting her face dry with a towel Hermione gripped the counter and stared at herself. For all appearances she looked much better than she had even a month before, that was much in due to Severus, her Severus. She wouldn’t lie, she felt better too. Not constantly plagued by nightmares, or a generally dislikeable and though she hated to admit it emotionally abusive boyfriend. Just relief from those things alone had made an incredible difference in her overall quality of life, and yet she found herself feeling a bit ungrateful. Like it, all wasn’t enough.

They had been skirting about the subject, but Severus’s headaches weren’t just coming from nowhere, they had something to do with his past as a Deatheater, she was sure, but neither of them was owning to that. That would make all of this too real, the fact that tomorrow they were about to see where some of the most horrible things in both of their pasts had taken place was already real enough. Hermione felt tears prick at the back of her eyes. She wanted a normal life, that life that they talked about just the two of them. The kind that others got to enjoy freely and easily, where the worst of their problems was how others viewed their age difference; Or where they might put another bookshelf in their home.

Pushing away from the countertop and throwing an overlarge t-shirt on, she wrapped her freshly washed hair up in a knot and opened the door to the bedroom. Her breath hitched a little as she took in the room. Tiny, white candles were intermittently placed on surfaces, and it gave the rustic little room a warm golden glow. Severus had unbuttoned his black shirt and untucked it from his trousers. He was, back propped against the wrought iron headboard reading a book. In that second, reading glasses and all, he was the sexiest thing Hermione had ever laid eyes on.

“What’s all of this?” she whispered crawling onto the side he wasn’t inhabiting.

He turned slowly, closing the book. “All of this,” he gestured about the room. “Is a bit strong, it’s just a few candles.” He may have sounded nonchalant, but he was smirking, “as a wizard lighting a few candles isn’t difficult at all.” The grin that spread over his face could only be described as mischievous. “Or putting them out.”

Suddenly the whole room as dark, Hermione squeaked when she very quickly found herself pinned on her back and the weight over Severus’s body over hers. As her eyes adjusted, his mouth began to trail over her neck and shoulders. His fingers tugged at the collar of her shirt, then travelled down to its hem, so he could slide a hand beneath it and touch her skin. When his lips reclaimed hers, and his hand rested against her hip, she sighed into his mouth. It always had, since the beginning of this shocked her just how gentle he was with her.

Reaching down she unbuttoned his trousers and pushed them down his legs as far as she could with her hands, and he pulled back to help her. Also taking off his shirt, both items floated off the bed and folded neatly on a chair.

Hermione groaned and allowed her head to fall back on the pillow, Severus started to kiss her ankles and up.

“Organisation is such a turn on!” She was pretty sure she had only meant to say it in her head but bit her lips when Severus lifted his head, eyebrow raised. “What? It's true.”

He smirked and returned to his duties, pressing open-mouthed kisses to her inner thighs whilst holding lightly to her hips. “I have to agree.”

His warm breath made her quicken, and when he found her core, she allowed a long moan to slip past her lips, along with his name.

It had to be the most beautiful way he had ever in his life been addressed by another human and only persuaded him to more meticulously attend to her. Which only lead to Hermione saying his name all the more as her chest rose and fell rapidly, achieving her peak within moments.

The self-satisfied smirk in place he returned to his position, face above hers and dipped his lips to meet hers. Hermione lifted a thumb to his chin, gently brushing over the stubble that was just starting to be prominent there. She craved the connection they had neglected for what seemed at the time more pressing issues.

Spreading her legs open for him, she looked into his eyes, immediately lost to the dark pools. Allowing full access to her body and her mind.

He would never refuse, he didn’t wish. He was equally lost in her, when they came together, physically and mentally.

Allowing her head to fall back against the bedding, she sighed and let herself be lost to the sensations. There was something to say about having the freedom to fully surrender to someone. It wasn’t an easily found or accessed thing. There was no doubt that she could trust Severus with herself more than perhaps anyone else.

She opened her eyes when she felt him place his elbows at either side of her head.

“I love you,” she whispered against his chin, and she gasped as his pace increased.

“And I you.” Voice sounding every bit like velvet to her.

They found release with each other and collapsed into each other’s arms.

...

“I think that I may think about killing for a cup of tea,” she giggled against his chest awhile later.

Severus chuckled. “Is that my cue to go in search of a cuppa?”

Ducking her head, she bit her lip, “if you would be so kind.”

He pressed a quick kiss to her forehead and got up, pulling on his trousers. “I think I may be able to manage that.”

Hermione knelt on the bed adjusting her sleep shirt and smiling sleepily at Severus who climbed on facing her. He kissed her very soundly, then pulling away to look at her, he smoothed hair away from her face, admiring her so relaxed. “I love you very much.”

Hermione smiled broadly at him and was about also profess her love, when the both of their wands began to vibrate loudly on the side table, the tips flashing red. Emergency.

Neither had time to react before the door was blown open.

Severus felt himself hit the wall opposite. Then there was a blinding pain in his head. Completely debilitating, like nothing he had ever before experienced. Even prying his eyes open seemed the most challenging thing he had ever done. When he did, there, slumped against the floral wallpaper his blood ran cold.

Fenrir Greyback had teeth poised at Hermione's throat, one hand lifted shaking a finger in Severus's direction like he was scolding a small child. The other arm was clamped around her waist, holding her against him. Yaxley was positioned just behind him wand raised at Severus.

Pain still radiated Severus tried to stumble to his feet. Almost boredly Yaxley walked forward and kicked Severus in the shoulder. He toppled to the floor again easily. Severus wanted to shout, speak, anything, but through the pounding pain, he couldn't find his throat.

Yaxley was talking but Severus, being crushed below the weight of rushing in his ears, could not make out the words. All his focus was getting up, he had to get up and get to Hermione. He must.

The pain intensified and he gripped his head. Suffering a thousand torture curses would've been less excruciating. So much so that when he felt the hot blood run down his chest and abdomen and he felt the stinging of profoundly abrased skin instead, it was sweet relief.

Hermione's nearly inhuman scream directed him to the gashes that sunk deep into his stomach. His blood pooled, and Severus struggled again to rise this time his palm slipped a bit in his own blood. But her sobbing pushed him. He fell, and this time he couldn't move. The room sunk into darkness. There nothing, he had felt this before.

Chapter Text

There was a ringing in his ears. No longer pounding, just the echo of the pain that had been there. Phantom pain.

Groaning Severus rolled over and instantly regretted it, pain shot through up his torso and he swore, his voice sounding thick, and low to the point that it was barely audible.

“He’s up,” muttered a voice.

Flashes of memory flipped through Severus’s mind. Ivory sheets with lace trim, fields with cows’ grazing, Hermione’s old grey sleep shirt. Hermione. Fear gripped his very soul, allow it to be a dream. “God let it be a dream.”

Severus opened his eyes staring at a ceiling he knew so very well, it was the infirmary at Hogwarts. Now he could feel the bandages wrapped round his chest and abdomen… it hadn’t been a dream. Using a hand to lift himself into a sitting position, however painful it was he needed to speak to someone, now.

Poppy rushed over trying to stop him, but he shot a poisonous glare in her direction and she paled stopping and retreating toward her office. The boy who lived sat at the end of Severus’s bed looking unshaven, exhausted and very wary of Severus.

“Why are we at Hogwarts?” Severus tried to raise his voice but instead, it came out as a harsh, gravelly whisper.

Harry winced at his tone, “we had to get back to safety… and we needed a Medi Witch immediately. We were ambushed… none of us were in good shape.”

Severus closed his eyes, he could feel the emotion climbing his throat and forming a knot. “She’s not here is she.” It wasn’t really a question.

Harry allowed his head to fall, “no, she isn’t.”

“Then. Why in the bloody fuck. Are we?” The entire question was clipped, in a trained tone of indignance and disgust.

“They took her Severus. We had no way of following them, they just disappeared, and you and Arthur were dying!” Harry put his face in his hands, we didn’t know what to do, we had to get you two here, we didn’t think that we had in time honestly.”

Usually Severus would have blown up, sneered, goaded, thrown up a shield to protect his true emotion, but devastation coursed through him and instead, he sobbed, without tears. Gripping the rail of the bed he fought to keep moisture from his eyes. Hermione was with Greyback and Yaxley. He knew exactly how both of them treated prisoners, and that was mild next to what the Dark Lord would do should they take her to him. His Hermione.

“Good God. I have to find her.” Severus began to stand up and like magic Poppy appeared again, but before she had time to intervein Severus had fallen back, having to grip the bed for support. Harry had also gotten to his feet, keeping his distance from Severus but also ready to help if necessary.

“George, Charlie and Neville are trying to find them as we speak. Using a tracking spell to locate Hermione… but last they checked in it wasn’t working very well.”

Severus grit his teeth, “we need to be doing more than trying! Damn it, Potter, she is your best friend! Do you care in the slightest about the unspeakable things that could be happening to her? I have seen them. I know what they do to enemies and is not something I would wish on another soul… especially not-.” He stopped knuckles turning white from gripping the railing so tight and tried to compose himself. If Severus didn't watch himself he would act out rashly and that would get them nowhere. Potter seemed to have a more level head at the moment than he did.

“I do care!” He said stubbornly, “that is why I knew we had to get you back here! We need a fully equipped Severus Snape to find her, not a dead one.”

Severus sat on the edge of the bed, looking at his bandages. “How did you keep me alive long enough to apparate here? I remember my wounds, they had as good as killed me.”

Harry shifted a little uncomfortable on his feet, “the spell you used to help Draco. I remembered it, unfortunately, I am apparently not as adept in healing spells as you. I was only able to help so much.”

Severus nodded with little care, “get me my wand.”

Harry looked uneasy and glanced at Poppy but she nodded and fetched Snape’s black wand for him.

Severus then began to recite the healing spell of his own creation, healing his wounds to the point that they only twinged him slightly. Sharing his Sectumsempra curse with Deatheaters was not one of his more brilliant ideas, clearly illadvised. “I may have a way of locating her more effectively, but I need to speak with Kingsley. Did you say that Arthur was injured also?” Severus stood and was using his wand to alter his muggle attire to his usual dark frock coat and robes. They wanted a sorted Severus Snape and that was what they would receive.

“Yes, he was hit by a nasty curse and we haven’t been able to wake him.”

“Poppy I give you free reign of my stores, personal and communal. Whatever you need to help Arthur Weasley.”

Madame Pomfrey seemed to know better than looking aghast or arguing and instead nodded, hurrying away.

Harry stood there looking confused.

“Kingsley and Minerva, where are they?” It wasn’t the unkind request that Harry had been accustomed to as an adolescent, but it brokered no comment. So, Harry led him toward the headmistress’s office. Severus was about to raise heaven or hell to find Hermione and he was going to use everything and everyone he possibly could and that meant honing in on some of those Slytherin traits he possessed.

She knew she was in a dungeon of some kind. It felt like one, even with her eyes shut tightly the drafty air and mildew scent was enough. It didn’t matter.

Stop that now Hermione! She chastised herself.

Flashes of Greyback yanking her from that room while she screamed for Severus, begging for permission to help him, she hadn’t been yelling to anyone in particular, she wasn't even sure how the sound had made it past her lips it was so involuntary. Her request, of course, had been denied and after thrashing, biting, and screaming the whole way out of the bed and breakfast, Hermione had been unceremoniously knocked prone. Waking up, apparently here.

She assumed it was Malfoy Manor but she hadn’t opened her eyes to even see for certain. She knew Severus was dead. Before they knocked her out, she had seen the chaos that had been left everywhere else, muggle guests had been lying dead in the parlour, on the stairs and Arthur… she saw him also in the near the entry… the killing curse she was sure. Harry and the others were nowhere to be found, likely outside or in other rooms, also dead or perhaps very injured, there had been no movement apart from her own thrashing.

There had been no one left it seemed to help Severus, not that they would have made it up in time anyway, Yaxley had done his very worst. Not to mention she had no idea what had happened when the Deatheaters first attacked, whatever it had been incapacitated Severus instantly. It was unlike any spell she had ever seen, without incantation or source it seemed. 

Rolling onto her back Hermione pinched her eyes tighter and felt tears run out from the corners into her hair. The hair it felt that he had only just tucked behind her ear. That minimal smile that only reached his eyes when he was with her showed in her mind. The feel of his lips on her own.

This was not how things were supposed to go. None of it.

Eleven-year-old Hermione Jean Granger receiving her letter to Hogwarts, feeling as if she finally belonged somewhere. The whole magical and muggle world at her feet. That girl had expected magic and wonder, acceptance and joy. She got it in spades but at a price, there was much more to this world than she had known. Events set into place by fate she supposed. Harry Potters best friend. Constant conflict. Falling for Ron, a mistake to begin with. The world they had been trying so hard to protect crumbling. Then light in the most unexpected, seemingly dark person. Now that was gone as well, along with this world, Voldemort was going to win one way or another, curse or no. Hermione Granger was done.

A voice once silky but now hoarse and tired spoke, "how did the Gryffindor princess come to be here?"

Hermione sat up, across the cement flooring, slumped against a wall was Lucius Malfoy.

His fist connected with the stone wall of the castle, knuckles coming away bloody, he didn't have a care that Potter was just behind him. Damn this! Severus ran a hand over his face and continued to walk. He wanted to leave this very moment and find his Hermione. He needed to get to her and help her, she needed him. Terrified and alone Hermione was no doubt hoping that he or someone was on their way to find her.

Kingsley and Minerva had been expecting him when he came bursting into the office they didn’t look surprised at all. Instead, they simply waited for him to explode. He didn’t. The energy for such a thing was gone, energy for everything but finding Hermione was gone.

“What do we know?” he asked calmly.

Minerva’s eyebrows quirked up in a bit of surprise, but she quickly found herself, “very little. There have been several attempts at the wards and now it has weak spots, along the whole border. Somehow they know where it extends.”

“Voldemort is trying for something, that involves Hogwarts and it seems with someone who has knowledge of it,” Kingsley added, quietly.

“No doubt they are taking her to him, or on their way to do so. I believe I can locate Hermione and whoever is keeping her. She was learning Legilimency and becoming quite proficient, with that she and I have the ability to form a connection in our minds, over a distance I do not know what can be done but I will try,” he was drawling, packing on his mask bit by bit, crushing the emotions that threatened to over power him right there.

“Of course, you must try!” It was Minerva, “Severus we need this to end but we cannot lose anyone else in the process… I don’t believe any of us will be in a position to handle such a thing... you included."

Severus nodded, keeping the true tumult of his feeling buried until he could be properly alone.

“Whatever you need, this has to stop, if it doesn’t I don’t believe any of us will survive. We will begin to secure Hogwarts, we have Hagrid and his creatures as well as our own power, if we have to fight again, we will be as ready as possible.”

The thought of another battle had everyone in the room paling but Severus decided that he would not let it come to that. He wanted a life an actual worthwhile existence and by whatever measures it was going to take he would have it. That meant he had to stop this before a battle could take place. His coursing thoughts were interrupted by a voice that made him bristle.

“Young Mr Malfoy is at the door,” it was Dumbledore, now looking from his portrait at them, peering specifically at Severus over his half-moon spectacles.

Minerva lifted the spell and allowed Draco in.

Draco entered looking a bit skittish but much better than Severus had last seen him. He had though retaining the beaten down look of his father during those last few weeks before the Deatheaters convened on Hogwarts. Severus couldn’t actually say he blamed him, the boy had been through much in his short life and not entirely of his own doing. What Severus had seen of Narcissa’s death in Draco’s mind would haunt him as long as he lived, and it couldn’t be anything but next to horrendous for her son.

“I- Tonks informed by of what… has happened to Granger- Hermione,” he said her first name like it was a foreign language. “I would like to help you locate her, I think I may have an idea of where they took her.” He kept his head low, only looking at them when he had to, he was ashamed, no doubt.

For the first time since he knew him, Severus saw only Lily Evans in her son. Harry stood from the chair he sat in, green eyes softening with understanding, he walked to Draco and placed a hand on his old nemesis’s shoulder.

Draco looked up, and Harry put a hand out. Tentatively they shook hands and with it, a bit of heaviness that had been in Draco’s demeanour seemed to lift.

“If you are willing Mr Malfoy, I believe that Severus would be more than happy to have your help,” Minerva said, she also had noticed the significance of Harry’s gesture and was smiling softly.

This made Draco do a double take, looking from Minerva to Severus, before he stuttered a bit, “ye-yes, whatever you need, sir.”

Snape wanted to be put out by this, wasn’t it this boy that had caused him so much trouble? Something panged in his chest, almost reminding him of a well-delivered elbow from Hermione to his ribs. “Are you prepared to leave immediately Mr Malfoy?"

Chapter Text

Hermione blinked rapidly at Lucius Malfoy, she had definitely been staring at him much longer than could be seen as appropriate and could not deny that he looked wretched. What would’ve once been expensive tailored robes were nearly torn to shreds. Showing bits of his skin and scuffed all over with stains from Merlin knows what. His skin was pasty and ashen, a short unkempt blonde or perhaps grey bread was growing across his jaw. There was dried blood in his hair and on his beard as well as his hands. Bruises and abrasions littered the visible parts of his body, making him look fragile or at the very least beaten.

“Isn’t it a bit rude to stare Miss Granger?”

Hermione's voice was caught in her throat, still shocked at who sat before her.

“I was wondering who else they threw in here with me,” he pointed to the tiny rectangular slits in at the very top of what looked to be a fully cement room.

 At the moment those tiny windows allowed for dull grey light to filter in. Wherever they were it was open to the outside, not a dungeon.

He continued his tone lacking any of its former smugness. “When its night, the whole place is completely dark.”

She still couldn’t think of what to say, the surprise at seeing him coupled with the ache that pressed on her chest had sealed her lips. So she stared at him blankly.

“I knew it had to be someone fairly important. Usually, there aren’t any prisoners and if there are they certainly would not be placed here. This is where they put their long-term captive’s. We are not just here to be played with, he wants us to suffer or whatever else.”

Hermione finally found her voice, “how long have you been here?”

Lucius snorted, but it seemed to turn into a cough that wracked his whole frame. “Here? I am not certain where here is. In possession of the Dark Lord? Since that day at Hogwarts, he found us not long after. Of course, we had no idea originally that anything out of the ordinary had taken place until he did find us.”

There was a vacancy in his eyes as he spoke the words we and us.

“It was a whirlwind.” She commented looking down at her hands, “we all thought it had ended.”

“I am sure you did.” His tone wasn’t facetious, just placid.

They sat in relative silence for a while, intermittently interrupted by Lucius’s coughing. Hermione’s thoughts drifting to her friends, if they knew she was missing? If everyone else had been killed or some of them were also here. Inevitably her thoughts went to Severus laying there, dying in his own blood, before her eyes, again. One way or another at the ends of Voldemort or on his orders. This pushed her thoughts in yet another direction. Why was it that Voldemort had sent them to kill Severus and the others? Had he been there also? If Voldemort was so intent on killing Harry himself as he always had been why would he allow his henchmen to do it for him?

Harry wasn’t dead, he couldn’t be. He must have gotten away. But if that was the case, there was the possibility that someone had gotten to Severus, it was a long shot but perhaps… Them deciding to take her as a prisoner was also confusing, what good would she do them? Help them get to Harry? If Voldemort had been keeping Lucius all this time just to punish him for deserting, why then hadn’t he wanted them to bring Severus and do the same, if not worse. Severus hadn’t just abandoned, he had been lying and deceiving Voldemort for years.

“I see those wheels of yours turning.”

Hermione shrugged, though it seemed Lucius had been beaten down to a mere fragment of what he had formally been, she didn’t necessarily trust him. Not at this point.

“Did any other Deatheaters desert?”

Lucius seemed to flinch a little at the word but nodded. “A few, no one of note.”

“Were they all caught?”

“Yes, and no. Some never made it far enough actually to desert the ranks.”

“I am assuming they didn’t enlighten you with how they found us? Or why they took me?” She sounded cynical, Severus would’ve been proud.

Lucius flipped a hand nonchalantly, a nod to his former grace and poise.

“How is beyond me, but I do know that you were a part of some form of leverage, everyone else was dispensable. Except for Snape, the Dark Lord wanted him too.”

Hermione did her best to keep her face neutral.

“I could hear Yaxley’s punishment all the way from here. I am surprised it didn’t wake you up. Killing Snape got him in deep I would think. The Dark Lord talks more about Severus then he does Potter at this point.”

Hermione felt her heart sink into the pit of her stomach, Severus wasn't alive. 

It wasn’t altogether surprising that Severus was the new Harry. He had fooled Voldemort on purpose, rather than just being the wrong baby at the wrong time as Harry was. If no one else had been captured why on earth would, she would be leverage?

“Wait,” something hit Hermione. “You said you didn’t know where we were?”

Lucius raised both pale eyebrows in confusion. “Yes?”

“Aren’t we at Malfoy Manor? That is what Severus saw in Draco’s mind that is what we were looking for.” The last half was said almost to herself.

Confusion persisted, “no,” then Lucius struggled closer to her a look of fearful longing taking over. “You have seen Draco?”

Hermione snapped out of her thoughtful trance, instantly worried about how much she had shared. Warily she nodded, “Hagrid found him outside of Hogwarts…” she paused, there was no reason not to talk to Lucius about Draco she decided, in fact, it might prove useful. “He is still there, as far as I know, Poppy Pomfrey had him stable and healing.”

Lucius looked like he might cry, touching his chest he muttered, “thank Merlin.” After a moment he seemed to compose himself. “After Draco got away, he moved us from the Manor.”

“Then we wouldn’t have found anything anyway… it was a cover.”

“As far as I know its deserted, I am sure they placed some kind of wards on it.”

“They did, we were all looking for it when they found us.”

Lucius seemed to perk up at this, “how many of you were there?”

“Uh, six. Remus, Harry, Arthur, George, Neville and Severus.” She almost whispered his name.

“On a first name basis with the Potions Professor now?” Lucius snorted, and Hermione stayed silent. “That man had me fully fooled. Did anyone else make it?”

Hermione nodded, “Harry must have if Voldemort thinks that he is alive still. I know,” her voice got very soft. “I know that Arthur and Severus are dead, I didn’t see any of the others nearby.”

“So, there isn’t some valiant rescue party coming to find you?”

“Not that I know of.”

“Shame.”

Quiet once again reigned and the sound of rain pattering at the roof could be heard, wherever they were there were no rooms above them. Hermione glanced back at Lucius and saw that he had dozed off. Scooting herself up against a wall she pulled her knees into her chest and silently allowed the tears to fall.

Hermione wasn't sure how long later she heard footsteps outside the door.

Severus had scoured his personal Pensieve for any indication of where Voldemort had allies. It was clear now that out that Voldemort had been looking for himself and the others long before that first Dementor attack and would’ve immediately abandoned the Manor once they knew that's what the group had been looking for.

 Nothing came up in his old memories, and Severus decided that it was time he went and visited an acquaintance in one of the more unsavoury places he knew.

Draco had been following him around since offering his help like some kind of puppy trying his best to stay out of Severus’s way. At least the boy had learned that much. The whole time he hadn’t asked one question, and Severus was grateful at that point he needed time in his own mind. Very soon he would need Draco and any knowledge he had.

Stashing any potion, he could possibly think of needing and shrinking them, Severus finally addressed Draco.

"I have a friend in Knockturn Alley that may be able to aid us, are you still able to apparate?"

"Yes, sir."

Severus blinked then nodded, turning to leave the dungeons and the safety of Hogwarts so they could apparate to Knockturn Alley.

A bell toned as Severus stepped over the threshold of a store that seemed on first inspection to be empty. Draco was behind him quiet as a mouse and looking nearly as stoic as Severus himself. The little prat he had known for seven years would be whimpering right now, this had all done a number on Draco.

They both waited, and after a moment a woman appeared through a beaded curtain behind the counter. She had long dusky purple hair half tied back, the rest fell over her shoulders, nearly brushing her waist. Bracelets adorned her wrists as well as various rings on her fingers. When she came closer, Severus could see Draco tense ever so slightly with nerves.

Lifting a wand and pointing it at Severus’s face the woman stared at him with a set of overlined, brilliant seafoam eyes, “what is my name?”

Draco was fully alert now, in his peripheral vision Severus could see Draco ready to remove his wand. Holding a hand out to signal that Draco should stand down Severus then turned his attention back to the woman, pursing his lips he answered her question flatly, “Amari Julianna Thickness.”

The woman relaxed dropping her arm to her side, “Severus,” she said softly, “it has been some time.”

“Indeed. I need your help."

Chapter Text

Glancing from Severus to Draco, Amari went to the door of her shop and cast a ward, flipping the open sign to closed for good measure.

“Come back here.” She gestured for them to follow her behind the beaded curtain, she had previously exited. It left them in a small sitting room, velvet sofa and chairs were placed near a fireplace that on the mantle held knick-knacks of all sorts. There was an ebony coffee table also strewn with various things, cards, jars and crystals. The room permeated with the smell of incense and Severus was acutely aware that the term organised chaos fit nicely as a descriptor. The sound of jazz coming from somewhere unknown also added to the atmosphere.

A flick of her midnight blue nails had a tea tray floating toward them. “Sit, please.”

Severus did, and Draco followed his lead.

“I assume that since you have brought him, the Malfoy boy isn’t going to be a problem?” Amari raised a carefully pencilled eyebrow and sat across from them, feet tucked under herself.

“You are correct.”

She nodded, “and there is something wrong, I saw that much.” The tea set began to make up their drinks. Then on saucers, the jade coloured cups glided into both of their hands.

“Yes, I wish it was the opposite, but unfortunately it is not.” Severus took a sip, it was Earl Grey, he far preferred a classic English breakfast, but even the fragrant dessert tea felt good running down his throat. He was certain he hadn’t eaten in the last 48 hours at least. “I am sorry for coming and disrupting your life.”

“Don’t apologise Severus, you haven’t ever before, and now you might actually have something worth disrupting me for.” She sipped her tea with a smile, “I read Rita’s article.”

Scowling he stared at her before saying without feeling, “I have no idea what you mean.”

Amari laughed, “come on. It actually wasn’t the worst article I have ever read of hers, she seemed to get things, accurately didn’t she?”

“After much coercion.”

“You coming here has to do with Hermione? I knew that there was something amiss but nothing substantial, it's all just feelings. You know?” Tapping her forehead at some indication to what she was speaking of. “Lovers quarrels?” Amari smirked at Severus cheekily.

Draco’s silence was finally broken, “wait, what?" He turned, staring at Severus in shock. "Are we still talking about Granger?"

Severus would’ve enjoyed this amusing interaction much more if it wasn’t for the terrible pit in his stomach letting him know that Hermione was not by his side where she should be.

Instead, he set down his teacup and braced hands on either knee. “He has her.” Clenching his jaw, Severus tried to keep it from shaking.

This stunted any of Amari’s prior light heartedness and instead made her sit up straight.

“I know that you do not wish to talk about past circumstance but, I think there is a genuine possibility that Deatheaters have become involved with Vivian, do you have any idea where she would be?”

“She was Pius’s niece, but we got along well i knew her. The thought of her being a Deatheater sympathiser is not very plausible Severus.”

“I thought the same thing, but she keeps cropping up with every lead.” He ran a hand through his hair, “it is possible that there is some coercion happening to get her to help them, that it... always a possibility.”

Pressing her palms together and leaning forward Amari nodded, deep in thought, “the mansion went to Vivian under circumstances that neither Pius nor I could take care of it, or if we both died.”

“There is a mansion?” Severus raised an eyebrow.

“Yes, it didn’t really seem important after… well you know, but I suppose if he found Viv that is where they could be. It is in a wealthy muggle neighbourhood, I am sure they are having to make extra steps to keep it all a secret, especially if they are keeping prisoners there.”

There was a moment of silence before Draco broke it, “what does Vivian look like?”

Amari did her best to describe her niece. The girl seemed to favour less dark makeup than Bellatrix did, but it was still was a fit for the woman Voldemort had Bellatrix impersonating.

“You are certain about this?” Severus asked after Draco presented his theory.

“Yes..." He said quietly, "she wore my mum’s clothes to look whatever part she was playing at.”

Severus rubbed his eyes, “that has to be a powerful batch of Polyjuice Potion.”

“She was always out working on some project for him… I am not sure what exactly.”

“I think it had something to do with Ronald Weasley,” Severus added angrily.

Amari was chewing on her bottom lip, her eyes staring off into an empty distance. “I can take you to the mansion.”

“Are you sure?” Asked Severus, “I won't ask you to do that, telling us where would be sufficient.”

Amari shook her head, “Severus when they Imperiused Pius and I had little idea what would become of me, you saved me, hid me. I have been able to live life whether in hiding or not because of you. I will make sure you get to live a life as well.”

The tears had dried up a long time ago. Before the two thug, Deatheaters even left she and Lucius's prison cell. It was no use to cry, so somehow, she just stopped. The ambiguity of why she was here and not dead hadn’t lessened, they had been sent in to weaken her she supposed. They needn’t have bothered, everything felt hopeless so what use did she have for telling them anything. That had to be why she was here, they needed information, and she was not going to give it.

The Cruciatus Curse was just as horrible as she remembered it being. After they were gone, she still felt the pangs of it in her right leg and shoulder. Lucius had kept very still and quiet whilst they had their fun hexing and beating her. Hermione hadn’t expected him to help, what exactly could he have done anyway?

As she lay there, the light from outside dimming, she thought about Harry. Was this how it had felt when he lost Ginny? Or when Molly lost her daughter? Of course, Hermione had been crushed by her friend’s death, but it wasn’t like Ginny’s mother, or Harry had felt, she knew that now.

It was an uncertain kind of emptiness. Religion had always been something that Hermione didn’t really understand or buy into. Her parents weren’t religious, and that had sort of passed to her. She had done enough reading to somewhat understand the logistics, but nothing concrete had she ever been able to make out of it. She could never understand why people clung to it so fiercely. It wasn’t that she had suddenly seen the light or anything like that, it was that there was the idea in her mind now of just why people might believe something so seemingly illogical. The idea that it might not all be over after death was comforting.

The very thought of never seeing Severus again, listening to him grumble about something or watch him brew a potion, made her ache, physically, deep in her chest. It had been a mere few months that she had grown to know him as she had and yet it felt like years, it felt as though her life would never be full again without him. Hermione could rot in this cell, they could kill her, and it still wouldn’t seem quite as bleak as a life lived without that extra part of herself. The one that existed for a short time outside of her, in someone else who when she really knew him, exuded the best parts of any person she had come across.

It was very late in the night she assumed when she woke to hear Lucius sobbing across the cement floor. The pain he felt was surely unbearable and no matter his past discretion he didn’t deserve it. She pinched her eyes closed and tried to fall back to sleep when she slept she didn’t remember that he was gone, or that she was here.

The next day when footsteps were once again outside the door, the result was not so mild. Hermione was dragged from the room, she was tied at the wrists by some kind of magic altering rope, this time by Greyback. He held her pinned to his side and made her walk down long halls. She was now fully aware that they were in a house of some kind, and one with owners of expensive taste. Hermione tried her best to memorise the turns they made, but it was hard to keep track.

Soon he stood them in front of two large double doors and waited. Hermione could hear voices on the other side, but it was too quiet to really make out what they were saying.

“You know…” Fenrir said in her ear. “After the Dark Lord finishes with you, he offered me the privilege of keeping you company.”

His breath was warm on her neck, and Hermione felt bile bubble up in her throat. She forced it down, she would not give him the satisfaction… she wouldn’t.

“After interrupting your evening, I have first-hand knowledge that you like it rough.”

She swallowed the sour taste.

Greyback chuckled, “I must say that Snape got very lucky… that bastard would’ve spent his last days alone if you hadn’t decided you like Deatheater cock.”

Hermione couldn’t hold it back she gagged, keeling forward. He hoisted her back up pinned her back to his chest with an arm. His other hand rubbed down her waist and over her hip. Hermione shut her eyes tightly, trying to think it all away, none of this could be happening. Just as he was running his hand back up her stomach, a chilling voice amplified through the doors.

“Enter Greyback.”

Shoving her in front of him, Fenrir opened the doors and pushed her inside.

It was a large room, probably once a dining hall or entertaining room of some kind. It resembled now, something far more grotesque. There was dried blood on the rugs that adorned the floor and burn marks covered the walls, this room had been used for god only knew what. There were at least fourteen Deatheaters in the chamber, most of them she didn’t know. There was a long table at which they all sat, now turned to look at her. At the end of the table was Voldemort, the first thing that burned into Hermione’s memory when she caught sight of him was how pale and sickly he looked. That answered the question they had all been wondering since the Elder Wand worked its magic. It was clear that the Horcruxes had not been reactivated like their master.

Voldemort was not at whole.

“Miss Granger…” he crooned, holding out a long-nailed hand. “We are so grateful you have joined us.”

Hermione was afraid. She felt that fear very deep inside her, but she pulled from whatever Godrick Gryffindor had bestowed on her and neutralised her expression.

The wraith of a being licked his lips, “not talking… don’t worry I understand. It always takes some warming up. Bella? Did you have this much trouble with Miss Granger?”

Hermione’s blood ran cold. When she noticed at the table just left of Voldemort cast in shadows was Bellatrix.

The witch cackled, “oh yes! The little mudblood and I had to get very acquainted before she decided to squeal!”

“You see,” Voldemort rose from his place at the end of the table and walked around toward Hermione. “I believe that we could have a much better time, if everyone just cooperates, Yes?”

Hermione swallowed trying her hardest not to cringe as he got closer. Every cell in her body wanted to be as far away from the unnatural thing that he was as possible. She felt Fenrir back away, and for a split second, she wished that he hadn't. Voldemort’s red eyes stared at her, and she did her best not to look away, not to blink, she was supposed to be courageous and strong.

“I find it very interesting the people that chose to associate themselves with Harry Potter. There are so many talents wasted on lost causes. Do you find that to be true Miss Granger?” His voice was irritated now, she could hear the change.

She kept her silence. Then she felt the pain. It wasn't the Cruciatus, it was something else. Feeling like fire was coursing through her veins, white-hot, scalding. As much as she tried it was only a matter of seconds before she fell to the ground, writhing on the floor.

He pulled whatever curse it had been and stared at her from above, “I believe that without you I may never have the ability to find Harry Potter or right this world... we thought there was someone who could help us,” he flicked his wand, and she was thrown from her stomach to her back. Head knocking against the floorboards, pain radiated from her skull. “As it turns out our prior notion was very wrong, but it did lead us to you.”

Suddenly there was a cry and Hermione now pinned to the floor by a force, staring at the ceiling could see that Corban Yaxley was levitated above, just below the ceiling. If it hadn't been that he cried out, Hermione would have assumed he was dead on first inspection.

Voldemort hissed, “Corban how rude of you to interrupt,” there was a loud crack, and another anguished cry, one of Yaxley’s arms hung limp and broken in multiple places. “You see Miss Granger, I sent Yaxley to find you all, after I noticed someone poking around with my wards. What I did not expect was to find that Severus was a part of your hunt... I assumed that being the cunning man he was, he would have left, hiding from me like the rest.”

How wrong he was. “You mistake his cunning for cowardice, which isn't surprising in the least.”

A moment passed then she felt the searing again. When it was ripped away, it was almost just as painful, leaving her skin feeling icy and aching.

“And now that fool is dead.” It was Bellatrix, Hermione could not see her, but she knew that voice.   

“Now that we are speaking Miss Granger I would very much like to know some details about Hogwarts.”

She pinched her lips together.

“No?”

There was no time to react before Voldemort was in her mind, ripping through it, searching. Every door he opened left him looking at a brick wall. Growling he pulled out, spinning around to face the table an aggressive wrench of his wrist hoisted Hermione to her feet.

Voldemort dropped his head and chuckled before looking back at Hermione, “forgive me, I should have known that Severus would teach his whore some tricks.”

“My lord?”

He flexed a scaling hand but faced his followers, “yes Bella.”

“Perhaps if… if I may-.”

She wasn’t able to finish before the doors were thrown open by Voldemort. Ron stumbled out, he had a black eye, but otherwise seemed to be in decent shape. Hermione felt her insides clench in anger.

Ron looked at the floor just past her, refusing to look at her directly. “I’m sorry Mione.”

Chapter Text

Amari had been very right, the residence was in the middle of a very posh Muggle street. Utterly normal on the outside, showing nothing of what lay inside. It would be easy to assume it was the home of a prestigious barrister or physician. Not the hideout of a madman and his followers. Extensive precautions must have been taken to assume no one knew its real purpose. It still seemed to Severus a bit odd that no neighbours had become suspicious of anything.  Disillusioned and in the dark, the three of them stood on the other side of the street as not to trip any wards and alert the inside of the mansion that there were three magical beings nearby. Severus had a mind to burst in, ignoring all reason or sanity, find Hermione and kill everyone who possibly got in his way or even looked at her in a way he didn't like. That was not, of course, the best action to be taken, as much as he wanted to be impulsive, his Slytherin traits would not hear of it. Thankfully, it would do he nor Hermione any good to be rash.

Severus clenched his jaw, how could he not go in there? What could possibly be happening to her at this moment? She needed him. Gods, what was he going to do? Between gritted teeth, Severus growled, “let’s move to somewhere safe.”

Amari and Draco nodded, and they all popped away.

All ending up back in Amari’s shop. Both Draco and Amari eyed Severus warily, no doubt expecting that he might explode at any moment.

“There is a place that I go in Muggle London for breakfast sometimes, it is small and inconspicuous, there is no way anyone would think us different than others.”

Severus checked the time on his wand, it was 6 in the morning, he hadn't even noticed what the hour was and apparently hadn’t for a while, it must have been very late when they arrived at Amari’s place.

She seemed to notice his shock, guessing his unease Amari gave his arm a little squeeze, “it blurs together when something like this is happening, and I stay open late, it isn't your fault you didn't notice."

Severus fought back the urge to snap at her. It was his fault, he was supposed to be alert and attentive at all time no matter the circumstance or tumult he felt in his gut.

"You will be no decent help at all, to anyone if you starve yourself, plus I believe we need to decide what to do.”

Severus nodded, and Draco looked relieved that food was in his future. They both followed Amari out and up the street.

...

The wasn’t just inconspicuous, the place was a hole in the wall.

Even freshly changed into Muggle clothes with the exception of Amari looked like complete outsiders. Both Draco and Severus were dressed far too nicely. It seemed to be the kind of establishment that people went after getting pissed all night and waking up with a bleeding hangover. All the women had smudged eyeliner and more than a few individuals were tossing back handfuls of Tylenol. Soft grunge acoustic played in the background, and all the blinds were dyed a dark blue and pulled, leaving the room muted and a bit dark.

Amari reached across the booth and gave Draco’s hand a little squeeze, “the foods good, I swear, and you both look like you could use a decent meal. Plus no wizard or witch will accidentally wander into this place, we are off the grid for all intents and purposes.”

Severus did not want to be there, he needed to be doing something figuring something out, there was no knowing what was happening to Hermione. Amari to his great frustration was right if he was to be any force to be reckoned with at all he needed strength. Severus glanced over the menu briefly, when the sleepy waitress came over he ordered the first thing he saw and a coffee. God awful coffee was still coffee.

“I think we need Polyjuice,” said Amari after the waitress had gone away.

Severus raised an eyebrow, “why is that?”

“It’s a muggle neighbourhood, and a gated one. I am sure they have to have a way to fool the neighbours. I lived in that house for six years we got called on at least once a week about some block party or someone dropping off cookies.” She leant forward her skin prickled with goose pimples as she said, “I don’t think it's possible that he has murdered every muggle that came to the door. We could learn something if they don't know who we are."

Severus steepled his fingers beneath his chin. “That has merit, but Polyjuice is the wrong way to go."

“What about altering charms? A reconstruction potion?” Draco added.

“Like they have in beauty spell books? A facelift?” Amari asked incredulously.

Draco shook his head, “they aren’t all useless… mum had a bunch, you can look like a whole different person. I must have fooled Madam Rosmerta a few dozen times with it and got a pint or two during fifth…” He trailed off when he saw Severus glaring daggers at him. Draco swallowed but continued, “it doesn’t leave traces like Polyjuice… if it did you or one of the other Professors would have noticed after Hogsmeade weekends."

Severus didn’t comment on that last statment, instead continued to think how that could work to their advantage. With the correct spell, they could even alter some of their magical composition making them unidentifiable for a brief time. Allowing them to get in and out of the wards with more ease than should they just walk in. That did not mean that the idea was foolproof. If they were able to enter they had little to no knowledge of the layout, Amari knew the home but not what it had become. Not to mention there was still the possibility that Hermione wasn't there at all.

Severus did not like this one bit, he wanted a methodical plan, not a half-baked heist.

The waitress returned with their food, through her sleepy hase she still seemed able to refill the coffees, for that Severus was grateful.

Catching Voldemort unsuspecting was probably the only way they could feasibly do this, but this was not the first time they had tried that, and the last had not been successful.

Amari interrupted his thoughts by pushing the coffee cup closer, so it bumped against his interlaced fingers. “This is a dangerous idea… Why is it only you two here to do this?”

Severus sighed and gave into her probing him to eat, sipping his coffee and taking a bite of toast. “Voldemort is planning to do something… Shacklebolt assumes, he has been trying at the wards for some time, they cannot afford to send others, if they are to face another battle. Hermione and I spent a good deal of time in France asking for their help, and as of  yet they are slow to give it, Hogwarts if it is attacked, is not ready for another fight.”

“I hate that's what's become of it… It was my home for so many years, a refuge… until I met Pius, that was the best thing that ever happened to me.” Amari was staring at the table now, tracing the knicks in its surface.

“It was a safe place for me as well… for most of my school years that is.” Severus was a bit surprised to hear her talk so freely of Pius in an emotional aspect, she usually kept those feelings well under the surface.

Severus and Amari had been in the same year at Hogwarts, she had been a Ravenclaw but he being the bookworm that he was always spent a lot of time in the library. She was also there. He wasn’t really sure how they had become friends, he hadn't had many, or if he did, they did not last for long. Both just always seemed to be sitting at the same table, and after a while, they began to talk to each other carefully. Severus was perhaps if only a little, less jaded then and just desperately lonely.

They would sit in companionable silence and read or sometimes they would discuss what they read. He helped Amari with Potions homework, and she helped him with Divination, a subject he never found to be beneficial but that she became quite good at.  She also aided him in not be quite so angry with everyone, for some time.

Once Severus found Amari crying in the hall and in that rare moment he helped her out of sheer kindness. Amari told him about her mother and her constant stream of boyfriends. Amari’s home life seemed to be very much like his own. When all of the trouble with Lily and James picked up, Severus began to attract the foul disposition that now he seemed to be famous for. Amari never stopped trying to help, but he just stopped letting her. After school she went to intern at the ministry when she became a very good Seer, met Pius and Severus became a Deatheater.

It wasn’t until this second war when Pius was Imperioused that he saw her again. Pius in a rare moment of lucidity begged Severus to help her, he had little clue that Snape was a double agent, but he did know they had been friends. Severus went against Dumbledore and hid Amari away. Since then he checked very carefully that she was safe, Pius had not made it out apparently, and then all the madness with Elder Wand happened. Now asking for her help, he was putting her in harm's way, and it didn’t feel right.

Tracing the rim of his cup, Severus said, “I have some very experimental potions that could be useful, a part of what Hermione and I have been working on. I think that if we can get in that house, they will be a sufficient enough distractions.”

“I trust your judgment, Severus,” she had seen the past floating across his eyes he was sure. Since being with Hermione, he was not so guarded with his thoughts as he should be.

Draco nodded, “I do as well.”

Severus was not sure they should, but he nodded, and they finished eating and headed for Amari’s shop to prepare.

 

Ron. The red-headed boy that she had once called friend and boyfriend was a spineless piece of rubbish. He had gotten himself into a terrible situation, and now she was involved as well. He had sat there stuttering apologies to her, whilst a room full of Deatheaters laughed. It made her sick, he had already told them as much as he knew and now they were going to try and get more from her.

Voldemort had waved a hand to the two wizards that were in her cell before, one grabbed Ron and the other her.

“Allow them some time alone… to discuss.” The cold voice chuckled without any humour or emotion.

She and Ron were walked out double doors and into another room, this one probably at one point a parlour of some kind. It seemed to have been a perfectly normal house. The one holding gripping her arm shoved her roughly in the door as did Ron’s before turning and shutting the door behind them.

Hermione scowled at Ron as he approached her like one might approach an aggressive animal. “Mione, I am sorry, but if we just do what they say and tell them they will let us go.” He whispered as if there weren’t a dozen sadistic maniacs probably listening in with a charm.

She grit her teeth, “don’t be stupid.”

“It’s true-.”

“How could you? Your family? Harry? Me?” She was still baffled that he would give in, some Gryffindor. If she hadn’t still been magically bound she would have throttled him.

“I did what I had to! They would have killed me.”

Hermione could feel tears stinging at her eyes, she was not going to cry in front of him or them… she would try not to. “Why is your life so important?” she shook her head, “so many people have died to save our world! To keep that terrible excuse for a man out of power and here you are, thinking that you for some reason you are… what? Better or more important? I don’t even know what to say to you, Ron. I don’t know you.”

“I made sure they didn’t hurt you!” He ran a hand through his hair, “when he knew they had found you; I begged him to not hurt you, I promised…” He trailed off.

“Promised him what? That I would help? That you would? Did you honestly believe that? Your dad and your brothers were there! Remus, Harry!”

"And Snape."

She laughed mirthlessly ignoring him, “all to save your skin.”

“And yours.”

“Clearly mine isn’t nearly as important to me as yours is to you! The information they want, I am sure I do not have in the first place. They have tried to get into Hogwarts and failed, I don’t know how those wards work, and neither do you.” She was so angry, Hermione had never understood the urge some had to hit something out of anger, but now she had an idea. “If we have nothing to give him why would he let us go?”

“We don’t have nothing… I know where Aberforth and McGonagall hid the Elder Wand.”

Hermione stopped her painful pacing and stared at him. “What?”

“I followed them…when they hid and charmed it, I thought maybe if you figured it out we could bring Gin-.”

“Ron, that's insane!”

“No its not! It happened once and it can again, Viv- I mean Bellatrix told me he could do it.” Insisted Ron.

Hermione was stunned, “you can’t be serious. How can you even for a second take her word for anything? We are talking about Bellatrix Lestrange… Please, Ron, you have to see that this is mad… please.” She was terrified now, he held immense power.

“I need to try.”

“Please, Ron, please. You won't be helping anyone or yourself by bringing Ginny back this way. I don’t even believe it is possible.”

“I told them if they brought you here I would tell them.”

Just then the door opened, and the two Deatheaters stalked in grabbing them.

“Ron no. Please.” She tried, but he only shook his head sadly. “Something has to change Mione.”

“Wait!” She said before they entered the hall of Deatheaters again. “Why didn’t he just look for it? Why waste all this time?”

Ron smiled softly, “you know, you and Harry have always thought I am so stupid, but sometimes I can be clever.” As they were marched through the double doors, he said, “I hid the memory at Hogwarts, we are going to go get it and the wand. Then you and I can go get married and live  somewhere nice away from everything, all we wanted.”

Voldemort was looking amused as they were walked in and Hermione knew even if Ron did not believe that this was all a game to him. He wouldn’t let them go, they were only playthings.

Chapter Text

Finally, she woke, back on the floor of the cold room. Her mouth felt thick like she had been sleeping for days. For a moment her body was numb, and Hermione wondered if she was dead. Then the pain came into a sharp focus the entirety of her body was screaming, begging for relief. At the moment, precisely what had taken place to cause her to be in such a state wasn’t surfacing, and she decided that was how she wanted it. The most significant throbbing came from her head, groaning Hermione lifted a hand to touch the back of her head, it stung, and when she brought her fingers before her eyes, they were covered in blood.

“It’s going again,” she heard Lucius say, then there was movement, and he was above her. She tensed as he eased her head up, but to her surprise he was gentle. Slipping a dingy white piece of what must have been part of his shirt under her head and allowing it to rest against the fabric.

Lucius then proceeded to check over her body and as much as she wanted to see what he was doing, lifting her own head seemed near impossible. She felt his fingertips trail over her shoulder, it ached but not so bad as her head. Then her arm… she remembered that. Her mind wouldn’t allow it to be blocked out any longer, Hermione had once again been at the mercy of Bellatrix and her sadistic tendencies.

“It was already scarred?” he asked quietly.

“Yes,” Hermione croaked, the witch had dug the word deeper into her skin.

“Well, the bleeding there has finally stopped. I don’t know much about infection or how long that would take, but it doesn’t seem to be inflamed.”

Hermione wanted to thank him but couldn’t find the words. Instead, she just closed her eyes trying to ignore the pain and not cry. It didn’t work, tears streamed down her cheeks and hit the cement below her.

Lucius tsked softly, “come now little lioness, where is that fighting spirit?” His words were half-hearted.

She only pinched her eyes tighter, rocking sobs making her body ache more. Hermione wanted Severus, she wanted her mum and dad. No respite would come she knew that, and though Lucius knew it as well, he still helped her. At least she would have that to know, that Lucius Malfoy was not all evil. On the contrary, he had contributed more attending to her wounds the best he could than Ron had done the entire time the injuries were being given to her. He had just stood there, fear on his face and his feet rooted to the ground, apparently unable to speak or move.

A creak outside the door alerted them that someone was coming.

"There has been a lot of noise out there, I think many of them are going somewhere," Lucius said quickly in hushed tones.

Bellatrix and Fenrir entered, back from whatever foul errand they had been sent on. She only hoped that they had not gone to Hogwarts yet, there was a part of her that wished to warn her family and friends somehow… though it didn’t seem at all possible.

Lucius was quickly cowering against the wall once again. Hermione knew they wouldn’t like that he had helped her.

“Look at that, she won't cry for me but she will for Luuucccyyy.” Bellatrix drew out the syllables of the nickname dramatically. “I shouldn’t be surprised, once a mudblood whore… and all that.” The deranged woman cackled. “Severus was a far better conquest girl.” Bellatrix pulled her mass of knotted hair over one shoulder and walked so that the tips of her boots met with Hermione’s side, peering down at her with a morbid smile.

Hermione may not have the ability to stop the tears, but she would not beg them to stop she was stronger than that. Hoped she was.

Bellatrix crouched down so their faces were close and Hermione could smell her breath, it was rotting fruit or wine that had been sitting out for too long. “Do you remember the last time we had some girl time?”

Hermione didn’t move a muscle.

“Silly girl, you didn’t want to talk to me then either.” She pressed the pointed toe of her boot into Hermione’s already tender ribs.

The pain in her skull made it hard to even grit her teeth against the jab.

Running a finger over Hermione’s cheekbone she said, “so pretty and perfect aren’t you, well” she lifted Hermione’s newly carved forearm and grinned, “except for this.” Bellatrix pressed into the wound with her thumb and Hermione whimpered. Slipping a small knife from between her breasts Bellatrix touched the metal to Hermione’s arm. “Should we make it deeper?”

Quick as lightning she pulled the blade back and tapped it against her lips, “no, how about that face?” The tip of the knife pressed just under Hermione’s jawbone, Hermione couldn’t help but flinch. The blade was so sharp that she barely felt the puncture instead Hermione felt the dribble of blood run down her neck before she felt the sting. She was pinned to the floor with a spell and couldn’t even struggle.

She could hear Lucius move and the responding growl from Greyback that kept him in his place.

The knife was brought to her lip, splitting into it like it was made out of butter. This time air hit the wound, and Hermione cried out. Causing a deranged laugh from Bellatrix and a quicker less precise slice to Hermione’s exposed upper chest, just under her collarbone. Her eyes watered.

“This is fun.” Standing up Bellatrix pointed her wand at Hermione, “crucio.”

Her whole body convulsed on the floor, rocked with violent shakes and involuntary twitches. It tingled to the point of excruciating discomfort and pained all the way into her bones. Making her teeth rattle together, her body spasming so much that it wasn’t possible to still herself against the pain, only fall entirely to the mercy that it didn’t render.

Bellatrix pulled the curse and Hermione’s restraints. Even through all the agony, panting she rolled to her side and vomited on the floor, there was nothing much left, and she tasted stomach acid in her mouth. Quickly her body only allowed her to dry heave until it stopped entirely and Hermione collapsed on her stomach against the floor. Just to have her head yanked back by her hair and Bellatrix's breath again in her face. “Perhaps Greyback would like a turn.” She let go of Hermione's hair and stepped back. On her side now Hermione could see Lucius in the corner, he looked lost, eyes glazed over, he must have seen the likes of this, thousands of times over.

Hermione tried to see anything else in her mind's eye. Tried to block it out, not breathe in the smell of wet dog that lingered around her as Greyback pawed at her limbs while Bellatrix cackled. Hermione struggled, but he pinned her down, he didn’t need Bellatrix’s magic, Hermione was no match for his strength, especially after all she had been enduring. It made her feel even more powerless and weak.

Lucius’s voice quivered, but he tried to speak up, “Why are you doing this Bellatrix? What can you possibly gain?” He groaned, Hermione couldn't see what happened, but he no doubts paid for his words.

“My amusement you wretched, filthy traitor, if I-” she was cut off by a massive explosion coming from somewhere in the house. She didn’t say anything else, but Hermione through her pain filled haze could hear the door open.

Greyback snapped his jaws near Hermione’s face, and she flinched, he gave her a feral grin and dragging a long nail from just under her chin all the way to the neckline of her dirty top. She couldn’t help it she screamed, her skin burning where a fresh wound opened to air. Suddenly she forgot all about the scratch when there was a loud crunch and pain radiated from her hand.

Her hand, when had he touched her hand everything was clouding she wasn’t sure where Greyback was, black spots dance through her vision. The only thing she could feel was pain, and she was unable to pinpoint where it all came from, it might have been everywhere, everything felt so blurry. There were voices, but she couldn’t make out what they said anymore. She was sinking under water, she hoped that she never surfaced.

The house had been nearly empty, the three of them had been in disguise using the charms Draco had suggested and at the door waiting when Severus sensed that all wards had been removed. That was bad, it meant that they had deserted this place. It became very apparent that perhaps not everyone was gone when they heard someone cry from inside. It was Hermione. Severus didn’t wait, he burst into the house and looked around wildly, on first appearance it was all empty. The place reeked of death, just as Malfoy Manor had when Voldemort used it as a fortress. No doubt they had been here. Amari and Draco had followed tentatively, wondering if what they heard had only been a mistake. Then there were more screams.

Severus began chasing after the noise, every fibre of his being needed to find her and put an end to whatever suffering she was going through. Inside he couldn’t help but thank Merlin that she was even alive. Up a flight of stairs, there was a door cracked, he could hear Bellatrix laugh. He was going to rip that woman apart. He turned briefly to nod at Draco who pulled a potion from his jacket uncapping it he tossed it, and it exploded causing the whole house to tremble. Even the three of them had to grip the wall next to the stairs.

After a moment Bellatrix rounded the corner her eyes narrowing in confusion at the three people she did not recognise.

“Go! I’ll deal with her,” shouted Amari who hit Bellatrix with a hex knocking her back before she even knew what was happening.

Severus wanted badly to stay and murder the bitch himself but another strangled noise came from the room at the end of the hall, and he was running. Bursting in Greyback turned and Severus could see that he had Hermione pinned to the ground. Severus was rarely careless with his magic, but at that moment he had no way of controlling the raw emotion that shoved it’s way up. Without even the use of his wand Fenrir was thrown against a wall so hard the sound of his neck breaking was audible. The werewolf slumped to the ground, his body also covered in deep lacerations.

Rushing to Hermione he forced himself to block out her injuries for the moment he had to get them out of there before dealing with that, he could at least feel her breathing that was enough in that moment. Amari and Draco ran in just as Severus was pulling her into his arms.

“Father!” Draco said, rushing to the other side of the room.

Severus looked to Amari a question on his face, “she’s gone, go Severus get her safe, I will contact you!”

Severus barely had time to see Lucius’s apparent confusion at the strange people that had burst in before he apparated away to the safest place he could think of at the moment.

There was some kind of light behind her eyes, but it didn’t seem like sunlight, her skin was warmed so it must be sunlight. Hermione pried her eyes open and blinked, her lids stuck together with sleep clearingslowly but threatening to close once again. It was light, but not directly from the sun, she stared up at a rectangular skylight. Rain pattered from the roof and hit the overhead window making her view of the sky blurry, the light illuminating barely, was dark and grey.

Slowly she turned her face, furrowing her brow she found the warmth was not from the sun but the quilts that covered her. She was in a bed with plaid sheets and a heavy navy quilt that left a comfortable weight over her body. Hermione smiled still dazed, something felt different about her smile, but she didn’t know what. It was warm and soft in the bed, soon Hermione felt like she was drifting off again when a door creaked open. Her entire body tensed and she wasn’t sure why her eyelids were so heavy she couldn’t open them to see who had entered, she felt the weight of whoever it was on the bed. A deep voice shushed her worry and had her falling back to rest.

When she woke again her eyes opened immediately, hearing a noise at the end of the bed. She sat up. Hermione narrowed her eyes sleepily at the dark figure poking at a fireplace. They turned, and her heart began to race violently.

“Careful, the sleeping draught and pain potions are at a high dose. Lay back down and come to easily or you’ll hurt yourself more.” It was a soft murmur but held an authority that she recognised that even in her sleep heavy state she could only think of one person that could have spoken it but she wasn’t looking at him.

The man had moved from his place crouching at the fireplace and started toward the bed. Hermione coward back against the headboard unsure who this man was and very confused about where she was. Bellatrix and Greyback that was all she remembered the blinding pain and then nothing but waking up here. The man seemed to see her confusion and stopped narrowing his own eyes as if trying to decipher why she would be frightened of him. Then with a quirk of his brows he seemed to realise, making a small sound of irritation in the back of his throat removing a wand, he murmured a spell, and his face changed.  

“Idiot, Severus “ he muttered.

Seeing the image of Severus standing before her made Hermione’s stomach clench with fear and hope. How was this happening? She just stared at him with wide eyes, that were quickly filling with tears she couldn’t stop from coming. “Sev-Severus?” she croaked.

His shoulders slumped as he relaxed, “yes.”

She just started to cry, tears pouring from her eyes and as if it took that to help her come to a bit more. Hermione sucked in a sharp breath and tried to lift hands to her face as discomfort began radiated over most of her body. Her left arm and hand were bandaged and now that she was looking she could see the bandages on her chest as well. It made her sob harder when she felt the pain.

Severus saw this happening and quickly rushed to sit on the edge of the bed, using a hand he slipped it behind her back and smoothed it over her spine, easing her again into a reclined position. “Shhh, Hermione, you are safe… I cannot give you another pain potion now, but soon.” He held her close while still trying to be aware of the too many injuries that littered her small frame. “I will make it go away soon… shhh.”

She was in pain, yes, but even through that, she shook her head swiftly, trying through her tears to voice what she wanted to say. “You- you weren’t-.”

He cut her off, “I wasn’t there I know, you have every right to be upset at me for the time you spent there, I should have been swifter, I am incredibly sorry.” Severus felt his heartbreaking, he was a poor excuse for a wizard, she had suffered because he had been weak at that bed and breakfast and then had not gotten to her quick enough.

Hermione reached her unbandaged but very bruised hand out and took his forearm, she had meant to grab it but didn’t have the strength. “I thought you were dead Severus,” she swallowed trying to make her voice sound less faint, “Voldemort even thinks your dead.”

He stared at her a bit wide-eyed, then leaned to get water from the bedside table, helping her to drink, and trying not to watch as she flinched with the effort.

“All the blood again, and Yaxley was punished because he didn’t bring you back alive,” Her tears that had begun to dry slid down her cheeks. “I thought that the last time I ever saw you would be in that room.”

Stunned he didn’t say anything for a moment, putting the pieces together, he understood that it made sense she would think that. He hadn’t even woke until they were back at Hogwarts. “I am alive,” he murmured in her ear, pressing a kiss to her temple.

Sobs quieted, and her body relaxed against his, her breathing turned deep, and Severus thanked Merlin that she was back in sleep, hopefully, spared from hurt for a while. It was terrible, far worse than he wanted to believe. She was stable, but there was much that she had been through in such a short amount of time.

Severus hadn’t meant to doze off, but it had been so long since he slept adequately and even he had his limits. He awoke to a small voice mumbling his name.

“Severus…”

“Hmmm?” Snape woke fully looking down at Hermione still propped comfortably in his arms. “Yes, I’m here.” He said quickly, she didn’t try to look up at him, apparently able to feel that it would cause her discomfort.

“Can…,” he saw her lip quiver, “can I have another pain potion?” Hermione was fighting back the urge to cry, he could see it.

He checked the time on his wand and gently laid her down so he could get up, his back popped and cracked as he did. “Yes, though not a strong one, they will put you to sleep and I cannot give you more dosage of that.”

She nodded shutting her eyes tightly.

He hurried to the small collection he had and picked out what he needed. Changing her bandages would also need to be done but not until there was more pain relief. Hermione was in a great deal of injury if she was asking for a potion and he not having to force it down her. There was no question when he brought the mixture to her lips, she gulped it down without any encouragement, closing her eyes then opening them, looking a bit less uncomfortable.

“Where are we?” She reached out a good hand and grabbed his wrist, he could tell she had meant to squeeze, but he did not feel it.

Severus sat back on the edge of the bed, smoothing circles over her hand with his thumb. “My cottage.”

“In Scotland?”

“Yes,” he was still unsure if this had been the right course of action. His home was in the middle of nearly nowhere, and it was so heavily guarded with wards of all kinds that the small house may have rivalled Hogwarts itself, but it still, frightened him. “It was the only place that I could apparate us and know for certain that you were safe.”

Hermione nodded, wincing at the movement. She looked weary to his eyes, the amount that she suffered was shown plain and clear. She seemed to catch him staring and looked up at him. “Thank you for finding me.”

He snorted, “It should have been sooner.”

“Severus,” he could hear the tears in her voice again even though he gazed at the wall. “I thought that you were gone, I felt Like a part of my heart had disappeared.”

At that he looked at her, the tears hadn’t spilt over they were only brimming in her chocolate eyes, “I am so sorry,” he murmured.

She rolled her eyes at him, “stop apologising, I need none, you found me, and I now know that you are alive.”

Very carefully Severus leaned down and allowed his lips to press very softly against hers. Keenly aware of the scraps and bruises that could cause discomfort, it still felt like the most treasured show of affection he had ever been presented with.

Chapter Text

Regularly administered pain potions made for a slightly more talkative Hermione. This made Severus somewhat less anxious, he had been very watchful of her, worried that she may at some point panic. It was foolish of him to think so little of her stability, Hermione held a strength that he would never fully comprehend.

Still, there had been no word from Amari, and he grew apprehensive of where Voldemort and his followers had picked up and gone. It wasn’t like them to not have a direct course of action. It made Severus grind his teeth to even think such a thing, but he was also profoundly troubled regarding close contact with the Deatheaters, after how they had incapacitated him so easily in the inn, how that had been achieved he still did not know. Certainly, he was not a man to leave himself in the dark about such things. Now that he knew Hermione was safe, he could put his mind to estimating what had been done to him.

As he mixed a herbal salve to place on Hermione’s wounds, Severus thought about asking her if she knew what Voldemort had been planning to do or perhaps even asking what had happened. Thus far he had been cautious not to bring up too much if it wasn’t absolutely necessary. There was the worry in his mind that the moment he asked there would be memories that she was keeping locked away, that would flood in and only make her miserable, that was the last thing he wanted.

Taking the jar of salve back to the bathroom, where after some coaxing Hermione had gotten into the bath. Now the bubbles were up to her neck, and she was very carefully picking at her fingernails, looking lost in thought. The two of them had settled into calm, quiet sort of conversations over the past couple hours, neither breaching that invisible line. Severus did not want to push her, but with no word from Amari, he grew more worried.

“I brought the salve- I er- let me help you out of the water, and then I suppose I can apply it. If that would be acceptable?”

Hermione nodded, raising her eyebrow a bit at his awkward demeanour.

His face descended into the straight, stoic look of the potions master persona but in his eyes, there was a rawness he couldn't hide from her. “I am trying to respect your space… I cannot understand what happened.”

“Severus,” Hermione started, waiting until he sat the jar down and looked at her. “You very well understand what happened. You lived around these people and were in far worse predicaments yourself many times. It was terrible but, I am alright, or at the very least I will be, and you are safe...alive that is all that I could ask for.” She reached out her good arm to take his hand. “Please do not be distant with me..” Hermione smiled at him, trying to prove her point.

Severus swallowed, the suds moved with her exposing her breast to him and making a fire burn in his belly.

“Where’s the git I fell in love with?”

This made him chuckle, “if you insist I shall make a point to be far less nice, what a relief that will be.”

“Perfect,” she smiled, then she sighed, motioning to the one bandaged arm and hand that was being kept out of the water. “I am not certain that I can wash my hair.”

“Allow me.” With a wave of his hand the frock coat was unbuttoned, laying it over a chair he rolled up the sleeves of his white shirt. Pulling a stool behind the claw foot tub, he waited for Hermione to carefully dunk her head under and resurface. Placing a small amount of shampoo in his hands, he began to lather it through her thick tresses, being very careful of the gash just above the base of her neck.

Hermione thought it felt exquisite, closing her eyes she tried to ignore the odd twinge here or there over her body and tried to relax into Severus’s ministrations. When she rinsed, and he began to apply conditioner a thought struck her.

“How was this place ready to live in? Hasn’t it been a long time since you were here last?”

There was silence, and Hermione knew what the answer was going to be.

“She has time off very regularly, and I pay her.”

“Is she happy?”

“How the bloody hell should I know? She is an elf,” he mumbled grumpily.

“Severus…”

“I believe she is content, she is a free elf, working for me, with pay just like any other creature or wizard that has a career.”

“What is her name?” Hermione quizzed, still slightly unsure.

“Lulu,” he muttered.

This made Hermione smirk, “could you say that again for me? I don’t think that I heard.”

She started when she felt his breath on her neck and that silky voice in her ear, “no. Rinse.” Severus pressed a kiss just under her ear, making her shiver just in time to duck under the hot bath water. When she resurfaced, she could tell he was deep in thought and decided that it wasn’t best to interrupt that, instead she allowed the silence to permeate, letting its safety encircle her as it usually did when in his presence. It was never forced for them. Instead, they welcomed it, basked in the comfortable way they felt with each other. Allowing both parties to delve into their thoughts and extricate what was needed without interruption.  

...

Easing her from the tub, where a dark dressing gown was waiting with warming charm Severus helped her back into the master bedroom. Beginning to apply the salve, it was his own concoction and should take care of most small topical ailments nearly immediately. Hermione released a breath when he spread the cooling substance over the wounds on her chest, but quickly relaxed as the gel-like texture took away any sting rather quickly. As he applied it to her arm, Hermione watched him for a moment. Meticulously taking care of her, such a stern man being so gentle all because he loved her. To her surprise his fingers running over her skin, now applying the mixture to her throat made her belly tighten, and her heart beat faster, even through everything, all the rubbish going on, this man lit a fire in her. Hermione blinked back tears so he wouldn’t see and think she was hurting, he was so worried, and she wasn’t actually feeling much pain at the moment, with the bath and pain potion she was feeling alright. The tears were solely to do with having him beside her, knowing without a doubt that he was alive and well.

Looking out a window, she could see that light was dimming even though the grey sky had been dark, to begin with. That was when it struck her that Deatheaters could be on their way to Hogwarts. No one was out of danger and as much as she wanted to pretend that none of these problems existed and relish in the fact that she had Severus back. Realising that he was alright also made her want to fight for a real life again, where none of this worry was necessary.

“Severus?”

“Hmm?”

“Are you in contact with anyone from Hogwarts?”

“Not at present, I am supposed to be contacted when they reach the school,” he continued to take care of her wounds, not looking up.

“I think that there are Deatheaters and possibly even Voldemort headed there… Ronald… he told them that he knew where the Elder wand is hidden.”

Severus looked up at that, his face blank. “Does he?”

“Yes, I believe he actually knows where it is.”

“I will floo Kingsley. I hope Minerva still has the floo opened to this address,” without another word he swept from the room, the stoic, no funny business demeanour smoothly descending.

Hermione licked her lips and was surprised to feel that where he had applied the mixture to the wound there, it had closed up. There was only a soft bump on her lower lip. A fire was blazing, but the air was a bit cold compared to the bath she had taken, getting carefully to her feet and only swaying slightly she went to a dresser across the room, in search of something warmer to wear. There was a thick navy jumper, she readily found and a black t-shirt. Slipping one on and then the other she crawled back into bed, to cover her legs, just before Severus returned. She would need to ask him about washing the clothing she had been wearing or finding some new pieces.

He stopped in the doorway raising an eyebrow at her change of attire.

“I was cold.”

“Those wounds could still tear open, and that hand of yours needs to heal.” He cleared his throat, “Minerva is now aware of what you told me, they are on high alert.”

“And who were you talking about?”

“Draco and a friend of mine, they were with me at the mansion.”

This made Hermione’s eyes go wide, “someone found Lucius then?”

Another eyebrow raise, “we did, I am surprised you have a care what happens to that slick bastard.”

“He tried to help me when he could. Something awful happened to Narcissa I know you saw it... in Draco's mind, and I don’t know if he will ever recover from that.” Hermione’s hands were in her lap, it made her a bit uncomfortable that Lucius was still suffering inside and she had by some miracle came out of this with Severus alive and well. “So are we going to Hogwarts?”

“No.”

“No? Why?”

“Not yet. You are not healed enough,” Severus saw her about to protest and went to the bed, brushing his knuckles over her cheekbone, where there were far too many bruises. “It will not help anything for anyone to be worried that you are not well enough… should there be a fight.”

“Astute and logical as always,” Hermione grumbled, wincing as she tried to cross her arms over her chest.

“Indeed, and for now nothing has taken place, you need to rest.” As much as Severus wished to believe that they had it handled at Hogwarts, it wasn’t how he honestly felt. It struck him as odd that never before had he felt much for that place other than animosity and annoyance but being with Hermione had changed him. He had her back, and that should make him feel at peace, yet there was something still bothering him. It made him want to tear his hair out.

“You are coming to bed too aren’t you?”

He opened his mouth to say that perhaps he should stay up and make sure there were no strange occurrences in the night but she beat him to it.

“Please, Severus, not only because I want you to but also you look like you haven't slept in a long time.”

“I had that accidental nap.”

“Exactly.” She patted the spot beside her and watched as he sighed trailing fingers down the buttons of his white shirt to undo them. Going to one of the drawers he found a pair of pyjama trousers.

Hermione from the bed observed as he removed his clothes pulling the trousers on. His back muscles tensed as he did so and it made her want to touch him. It had not actually been that long, but it felt like ages. Talked over or not there was still distance and would be until she felt like they entirely belonged to one another again.

“Staring Miss Granger?” he raised an eyebrow at her and Hermione realised that she had continued to stare even once he turned around.

“Come here.”

He hadn’t yet gotten around to find a shirt but acquiesced to her and came to sit on the side she wasn’t inhabiting. He brushed a strand of damp hair from her face and kissed her forehead. Hermione did not allow him to go far before catching his lips in a kiss, a real kiss. She sought entrance to his mouth, and only half waited for acceptance, making her own way.

Severus found himself very quickly lost in her kiss and could have easily continued as it began to incite something that he worried might never be again if he had not found Hermione alive and mostly well. But she was injured, and he was not about to go causing more issues or give in to his selfish male desires. Easing away from her mouth he stared at her lips, they wanted more, he could see it, parted and begging for him to return. he closed his eyes and murmured, “you need to rest.”

Her hand caressed his hair and smoothed down his neck and shoulder. “I rested all day, I need you.”

He growled softly partially in protest but also want.

“Please,” she implored.

His strength to resist her was in fact not that at all, it broke easily, and he pressed his lips again to hers. Careful he still was of her bruises and abrasions, but he continued, enjoying her taste, one that he loved more than any other. Everything could be dealt with later, all of it, right now it was about the two of them. They needed this healing, and then everything could take over, it would be addressed but not just yet.

Hermione slid further down the bed and Severus adjusted coming to hover over her. His forearms framing her face as they continued to explore each other's mouths, relearn everything that could possibly have escaped them in their short time apart. Her good hand caressed his side, trailing down skin and into the waistband of his trousers, gripping his hip. Nearly involuntarily his hips ground against hers, and she wrapped both ankles behind his knees, opening up to him. This made him groan into her mouth, pacing himself was going to be difficult and he must she was fragile at present.

Distracting himself his lips found the soft skin between her neck and shoulder, again avoiding cuts, trying to create good things around such terrible memories. Hermione was breathing hard now and softly encouraging him as she always did. As he descended to her chest, pulling back the material of his jumper. She caught him around the neck and pulled him to her, into an embrace.

“Hermione,” he began, then he heard her sniffle, pulling back he touched her face, eyebrows knitting together in concern. “What is it?”

She felt stupid, but tears pooled in her eyes for not the first time that day, “I- just can’t believe that you are alright, I am so happy. I couldn’t care less about injuries or whatever happened, Ronald. Things heal, with time at least,” grabbing his face she pressed her lips to his again, and he could taste the salt from her tears. “I love you.”

Severus’s face softened, and he shook his head barely fathoming that someone could care that much that he just existed, he had been told all his life that he wasn’t worth anyone’s love and here was a strong, kind, beautiful woman that was weeping for the fact that she was in his arms. For the first time Severus felt his chest tighten with a bit of pride, did he really have something to give? Was he worth more than he had always given himself credit for? In her eyes apparently, that was so.

He kissed her again, this time it was with as much emotion as he could muster. Gently pressing her into the mattress and allowing his hands to roam her body, remember what she felt like against him.

Hermione moaned into his mouth and tugged at the waistband of his sleep pants. Severus smiled against her lips and moved his hand between their bodies, making her gasp as he came in contact with her centre.

“Cheeky witch,” he smirked pulling his head back to watch her, “no knickers?”

Hermione tried to pull a face but as he continued was only able to throw her head back and pant, “I possessed limited clothing choices…”

He chuckled and proceeded to lift the borrowed jumper up and over her head along with the t-shirt. Drawing the thick sheets and comforter up over them to keep her warm, Severus settled his body against hers. Pressing open-mouthed kisses over all available skin he could find, mumbling against her belly, “I will find adequate clothing for you in the morning, but at the moment I believe this is sufficient.” His head disappeared beneath the covers as he began to lavish kisses over her inner thighs tracking his way further up.

Her bruised ribs ached a little with her writhing, but whatever pain she felt was abated by the fire that smouldered in her belly as Severus used his mouth and fingers to pleasure her. Hermione reached her not bandaged hand down to knot her fingers in his hair, barely in time to feel herself catapult over the edge of her ecstasy and cry out.

The display seemed to please Severus as he emerged from the blankets to see her panting and looking at him with a heavy-lidded, lust filled gaze. It wasn’t possible to keep himself from once again meeting her lips with his own, allowing himself to indulge at this moment they were taking just for themselves to be one. Hermione took all he was willing to give, but wanted a bit more, using her heels she dug them into the back of his thighs, making him chuckle against her mouth.

Sitting up long enough to remove his pants, he turned back to Hermione who smiled a bit shyly at him. It made her all the more delectable in his eyes, quickly resuming his previous position. Alining his hips with hers, Severus looked into her eyes.

“You are certain that you are not in pain?”

“Severus, I am fine, I just want you.”

He nodded and brought their bodies together, a collective noise of pleasure escaped them both and Severus set a slow sensual pace with his hips. It was impossible to keep his eyes open no matter how much he wanted to see her, gritting his teeth to keep from coming apart too soon.

Using the tip of her finger, Hermione traced over Severus’s collarbone and down onto his chest. She had always appreciated his chest ever since she had seen it, pale as he was with scars in various places, the expanse of his skin felt safe and right to her. His movements became far too distracting for her to continue her exploration of his skin. Instead, she allowed her eyes to close and her breathing to hasten.

Severus quickened his pace, pressing his face into her neck, nuzzling and nipping at Hermione’s ear. Her hand held the back of his head against her and Severus heard her moan his name when she found release. His signal to also do the same, feeling everything all at once emotional and corporal.

Aside from his heavy breathing, it was quiet in the room, and Severus kept his head in the crook of Hermione’s neck. He could feel her pulse slowing against his lips as she stroked his hair. The sound of rain hitting the roof and the windows came back into focus, beautiful addition to the peaceful atmosphere of the room. In this moment all either cared about was each other, they were relishing in a moment of peace, the drizzle outside and the crackling fire aiding them both into sleep still wrapped in each other's arms.

Chapter Text

There was a slight discomfort but mostly warmth. Hermione snuggled deeper beneath the covers and sighed happily. She would have gladly fallen back into the blissful sleep from which she had only just awakened but the smell of tea entered her nostrils, and her stomach grumbled. Opening her eyes, she nearly screamed but was able to control herself. Hermione was face to face with a very wrinkly elf who was staring at her from the side of the bed. The tiny creature was eye level with Hermione who lay on her stomach face half mushed into the pillow.

Hermione sat up too quickly and her head panged for it. Touching a hand to her forehead she groaned, yanking the sheets up to cover her form. Where was Severus? The other side of the bed was empty.

“Did Lulu frighten Mrs Snape?” Asked the elf who was hurriedly beginning to place an eating tray on Hermione’s lap.

“Wha-what, no- I mean yes you startled me but-.”

Lulu snapped her fingers, and a stool appeared, clambering on she held a spoonful of purple liquid out to Hermione. “Mr Snape gave Lulu, Mrs Snape’s pain potion.”

“I-,” Hermione tried again but found herself with a mouthful of pain potion before she could get a word out. Swallowing the bitter liquid, she blinked at the elf. “Where is Mr Snape? And Lulu is it? I am not Mrs Sna-.”

“Lulu is a very old-fashioned elf,” spoke a deep voice from the doorway. Severus leaned against the frame with a white mug of what could only be assumed to be coffee in his hand. Still to Hermione’s surprise dressed in his pyjamas. He raised an eyebrow to indicate what he meant, and Hermione shut her mouth, also now noticing that her nude form was covered by only a sheet.

Instead of continuing she looked to the food tray which held a cup of steaming tea, what seemed to be muesli and berries. It looked divine.

“Thank you, Lulu, you are welcome to go home.”

Lulu nodded and clapped her hands disappearing into thin air.

Severus rolled his eyes and approached the bed, “I had limited resources, but Lulu was able to get together some form of breakfast and clothing as well.” He gestured with free hand to the armchair where some folded clothing was placed, and some rain boots sat on the floor.

She wanted to scold him once again for having an elf, but she just witnessed him allow her to go home and thanked her, not many people were able to get that kind of fair treatment out of Severus Snape. Plus this breakfast was looking far too appetising to give up. Hermione honestly wasn’t sure when she had eaten last, they had given she and Lucius water and occasionally bread but that was it.

As Severus sat, she started on the food, the pain potion already taking away any discomfort in her hand or head.

“Go slow, you don’t want to cause your stomach to become upset,” he murmured brushing a lock of hair that had fallen near her face over her shoulder.

Hermione nodded around a mouthful of food, continuing to eat with a fervour. After a moment of silent chewing finally taking a sip of her tea and taking a break. She sat back and really looked around the room they were in. The skylights above showed another grey sky, not uncommon for the highlands.

The walls were a made of a light wood maybe cedar with dark, solid beams running in strategic points over the ceiling and walls. The window edging was painted white accenting the cosy and somewhat dark feel of the room. Hermione could see through the big window to her left that they were on ground level, but outside her view was bushes lining just under the window ledge and walls of trees with red and orange leaves.

This caught her attention most, what month was it. Through all that had been going on, even before she had been kidnapped she wasn’t sure what day it was. When she turned to look at Severus, he was watching her intently. “What is the date?”

“October the 12th, I believe.”

Hermione’s mouth gaped open, had that much time really passed?

“Nineteen ninety-eight, of course.” He smirked.

She went back to eating thinking about all that had happened in the months since the battle. Severus allowed her the space to think and sat quietly sipping his coffee when she had finished, he picked up the tray and walked out of the room. Returning a moment later.

“Thank you,” Hermione murmured.

“Of course.” He made his way back to the bed and sat down, he was never in a million years going to admit it to Hermione, but his back was hurting him. Probably from neglect of the injuries he had received from Yaxley and never properly allowed them to heal. It felt good to sit down.

Hermione leaned over and kissed his cheek. “Is this pain potion you keep giving me the standard one?”

“The short answer is yes.”

“Elaborate, please.”

“I have simply altered the brewing process to have longer, and the one I gave you when we first arrived here was mixed with a sleeping draught. I brought much of what I had in my stores from Hogwarts.”

“I thought it tasted a bit different.”

“Hmm, yes…” Severus leaned down and kissed her lips, the way she bit them as she thought on his comments about the potion made his mouth nearly water.

“Severus!”

The sound of Amari’s voice rang out interrupting their moment.

“Severus, are you there?”

He growled and climbed from the bed with a wave of his hand he was fully dressed. In truth hearing

Amari's voice and knowing that she wasn't dead was comforting but the timing not the best. Turning back to Hermione he saw her pouting at his change in clothing.

“I am coming, Amari.” He called, kissing Hermione again and walking from the room. Amari’s face showed in the sitting room fireplace, looking worried.

“Is your floo open? We need to come through.”

“It is. Who is we-.” Severus was cut off and nearly knocked over as Amari charged out into the room with Potter right behind.

“Come right through,” snarked Severus scowling at them both.

“Your floo is secure?”

“No, Potter I wish to have anyone at all infringe upon my time and solitude whenever they wish to, not to mention kill me in my sleep if that is their intent.”

Harry did not seem to be in the mood for sarcasm.

“Yes. Actually, it is not even registered on the floo network, Minerva and I had it set up for Hogwarts only a few years ago.”

“Good. Deatheaters are outside of Hogwarts.”

Snape nodded, “and Voldemort?”

“No bloody idea where he is or Ron.”

Amari cut in at that, “Draco and Lucius are at the school, we barely made it back. There was a group waiting close to the school for us. Harry here and Mr Lupin were the only reason we didn’t die.”

“I am glad you are safe. Have they breached the wards yet?”

“No… actually that is what we don’t understand they haven’t even tried. They are all grouped out there, Kingsley thinks waiting for orders to attack.” Harry said. "Or for some reason they can't."

That was indeed odd, Voldemort wasn’t one to plot out in the open. “Everyone is prepared then?”

“Yes, extra wards are established. If they want in it's going to be tough. France finally pulled through, they have officials at the ready to hold the wards if we need it.”

“Good, I have the potions that Hermione and I were working on in my personal lab in the dungeons. We can set them up at various points where the wards may be vulnerable, and-.” Severus was cut off again, damn it! If there was one thing he despised it was being interrupted, he did not talk unless it was bloody necessary why did people insist on stopping him. Though it was hard to be angry when he saw why he was being disrupted.

“Harry!” Hermione entered the room, dressed in the clothing Lulu had found her.

Potter rushed to Hermione, who though looking better rested was still covered in bruises and cuts. “Oh, Mione, thank God you are okay.”

Hermione sniffed and hugged Harry tighter. “Harry… Ron...I don’t know who he is anymore. I mean at Hogwarts there was... but now this...” She was fully crying then, and Harry helped her to the sofa near the fire.

Severus and Amari shared a glance.

“I feel like there was more we could have done for him, I just don’t know how this happened,” she was sobbing into his shoulder.

“No, Ron chose to do what he did. It isn’t like we hadn’t seen this kind of thing happening before, remember the locket?”

Hermione nodded, pulling away and drying her eyes on her sleeve. Then she looked to Severus, “so what are we going to do then?”

Severus scowled at her, with half the malice he would anyone else. “You are going to rest and get better.”

“Yeah, he’s right Mione.”

“I can’t just sit here!” She said smacking her hand on the couch cushion.

“Throwing a tantrum isn’t exactly going to sway us,” Severus said folding his arms over his chest, “besides at this moment I don’t believe anyone knows what we are going to do.”

“Kingsley and Minerva said they would be in touch shortly, and Hermione?” Amari inquired.

“Yes?” Hermione seemed to finally notice the unknown woman in the room.

“Mr Weasley  was in a fuss he was so happy you are safe, he was wondering if you are up to having visitors.”

“I believe I am,” she shot Severus a look, “though I may have to get permission.”

Rolling his eyes, Severus tapped his foot impatiently.

“I will tell him, oh and my name is Amari Thickness, very nice to meet you, Hermione. Severus and I were friends in school.” Amari put her hand out, and Hermione took it shaking. “Harry we better get back so we can relay any information we have soon. Severus?”

“Yes?”

“May I have access to your stores?”

He nodded and brought out his wand, tapping it against Amari’s wand twice. “You should have full access for forty-eight hours.”

Harry gave Hermione another squeeze and followed Amari back through the fireplace.

“Are you going to speak to me?” Asked Severus.

She glared and him but sighed, “of course I am, even if you insist on treating me like a child, I am not.”

“I apologise but…” he growled in frustration. “I only just found you, I cannot… I only want you to be safe. You know that it is not that I think you incapable, not in the slightest.”

“I know,” she said softly, “I don’t know what help I could be anyway, even with the pain potion I have started to feel like I was hit by the Hogwarts Express.”

“Tea?”

“I am alright, come here,” she patted the sofa next to herself. There was no use being mad about this. Severus was about as stubborn as they come and he never had infringed upon her freedom, he wouldn’t start now. He just wanted her to be safe, she knew that he was right.

He sat, and she took in this other room. The cottage was clearly small, but the whole thing felt incredibly cosy. The same thick dark beams ran the length of the ceiling, and there were barn wood floors covered in thick rugs. A stone fireplace blazed, and all the large windows were surrounded by bookshelves. There was an alcove just behind the sofa which she assumed led to the kitchen.

“It’s a beautiful house,” Hermione was a taken a bit breathless by it actually. It was tiny and quaint and everything she had ever wanted in a home since she was a child. The large window looked out toward more trees and a gravel drive that disappeared into the trees before she could see the road it came from.

Severus snorted still looking a bit grumpy, “I wanted you to see it under better circumstances.”

“Hey,” she moved closer so it was possible to slide onto his lap and her back still rest against the arm of the couch. “The circumstances don’t matter all that much. It is beautiful.”

“I think it is adequate anyway,” he mumbled though a bit less grumpily.

“Adequate? You must have spent tons of time picking this cottage out, it is everything... just everything that’s you. Well except for a lab, you have one don’t you?”

“The garage houses my lab, and I didn’t pick it out. I had it built like this.”

Hermione’s mouth fell open, “really? When?”

“I started it during, probably your third year and finished it right before Voldemort returned.”

“Severus, it is absolutely stunning.”

“You like it then?”

“Yes!” She gave his shoulder a jab for emphasis.

He looked down then straight into her eyes, “then would you consider moving here? If we can manage to fix all this happening at Hogwarts?”

She didn’t need to think about it, “yes.”

Severus smiled, really smiled.

“We will need more bookshelves though.”

A chuckle erupted from his chest, and Severus hugged her to him. “That can be arranged.”

It couldn’t be helped Hermione found herself napping, she had tried and tried not to, but her eyes had finally drooped. When she woke a few hours later back in the bed, she could hear voices in the sitting room. She was accustomed to hear and recognise Severus’s deep drawl but the others she wasn’t able to place. Getting somewhat stiffly to her feet she made her way out of the room.

Minerva and Remus were seated in the living room across from Severus all of them looked stricken. Tonks was also there standing up and bouncing Teddy in her arms.

“Oh, Hermione,” Minerva said noticing her, “dear I cannot tell you how relieved I am to see you.” The older woman was across the room and hugging her before Hermione had a chance to step fully into the room. When she pulled away, Minerva had some tears showing in her eyes but blinked them away quickly. “We were very worried that we lost you.”

Remus had also walked over followed by Tonks, “Hermione, I am so sorry that we were not more help, it was all so-.”

“Stop, Remus really, you're not Superman no matter how often you try to be.” Hermione was so glad to see them it was nearly unbearable.

“Who?” Asked Remus perplexed.

“Nevermind,” Hermione waved a hand and accepted Tonk’s offer to hold Teddy. Taking the baby with her, she went to sit next to Severus. He glanced at the baby sceptically then looked back to the father of said child.

“No one has touched the wards! I just don’t understand, Severus isn’t there something you could think that they may be trying?”

“I haven’t the slightest idea unless there is something Voldemort is waiting for, his stationing Deatheaters to just sit and wait in the open is preposterous.”

Teddy gurgled and reached up for Hermione’s hair. “We are in possession of the Elder Wand? Yes?”

“Absolutely the moment Severus told us about what you heard we locked it away,” Minerva said to Hermione.

“He has no way of finding it then?”

“The chances of that would be outrageous.”

Hermione sighed, “then I just don’t see what he wants.”

“Do you think he believes that he won't win again? If there is a battle? Maybe he wants to keep us there until he thinks he can?” Tonks inquired.

“As far as I could tell he got rid of or drove to insanity every Deatheater that even so much as thought against his ideas. It could be possible that he is faking his numbers.” Hermione shivered at the very thought of what she had seen in the mansion.

Severus leaned back against the couch and Hermione couldn’t help but notice that he looked weary, he needed more sleep and some time to himself. “Even if that was the case why would he try to surround the castle?”

“To find the Elder Wand.” Murmured Hermione gently brushing the wispy strands of Teddy’s hair.

“We hid it again,” Minerva tried once again.

Hermione furrowed her brow, “What if he still believes Ronald?”

“Tom Riddle is a psychotic murderer, but he isn’t stupid,” Severus spoke, “I do not believe for a second that he thinks Ronald Weasley worth anything.”   

“I don’t know Severus, he seemed wholly unhinged. It was like the fact that he couldn’t kill Harry… or you had him completely lost. He seemed to be grasping at straws every time he spoke and don’t think that magical supremacy even came up in on of his rants, it was always you and Harry. I think that he is most concerned about self-preservation than actually doing anything at this moment.”

There was silence.

“I believe that Kingsley will want to hear this.” Standing the Headmistress looked at the gathered group. “I think we need to be prepared for anything, the problem is this not knowing doesn’t allow for much room to prepare.”

Remus also stood he had always had that perpetual look of fatigue, but now it was more than that. “Hermione, we were wondering if you could keep Teddy here with you. We would make sure you have what he needs, and as long as Severus allows it.” He glanced at Severus and then to Tonks. “We want to make sure that if something goes very wrong, he is not in the middle of it.”

“Of course!” Hermione also looked to Severus for permission, half expecting a complaint.

Snape shrugged, “I told you this place is not just mine.”

“Perfect,” whispered Tonks softly taking Teddy back from Hermione and holding him close, “I’ll get his things and be back within the hour.”

Hermione nodded.

“I want to be present for this discussion with Kingsley,” Severus paused looking to Hermione. “Is there anything that I can get you from the school?”

“Actually yes,” she stood with him and walked toward the fireplace where Remus, Tonks and Minerva had just exited. “Before we left I was doing a bit of research, and I think that it might be useful, it should all be in the room or perhaps in your lab. Could you bring it?”

“I will,” he brushed his thumb over her lips. “I know you don’t like being away from the action-.”

“No, I don’t, but you are right, and I am still useful here, someone needed to be with Teddy, and I really think that research might mean something.”

He bent his head and pressed his lips to hers.

Chapter Text

When Severus returned after a long meeting where absolutely nothing at all was solved or accomplished, and still Voldemort had not made any sort of move, he felt distraught. Hermione seated on the couch with a sleeping Teddy in her arms. A book he had sent with Tonk from Hermione's research collection was propped open on a pillow for her multi-tasking use. He greeted her with a lingering kiss on the lips and revelled in the pure pleasure that it brought to him, one that Severus had thought he might not have the ability to experience again.  Summoning a glass and bottle of firewhiskey from a cabinet and sitting on the sofa next to Hermione with perhaps a little more force than necessary.

“Shhh,” Hermione placed a finger to her lips. “gentle, we need sleeping baby voices and movements.” She scolded in a whispered tone, then added: “I will not even ask how that meeting went.”

“Thank the gods for that, I am uncertain if I have the strength to relive it enough to even recite what happened.”

Hermione chuckled and continued to rock the infant. “I feel terrible being here away from all of that, but I also wouldn’t want Teddy near it,” the child made a soft sleepy sigh and turned his face further into Hermione’s arm.

It was true she couldn't stop thinking about just how much she wished she was helping. After all the potions Severus had her taking, not to mention his one of a kind creams and salves she was feeling much better, she might even say good.

Severus looked curiously at the child, “why haven’t you put him in his crib? Didn’t Tonks bring it?”

“She did, it’s in the bedroom, he was having a hard time falling asleep without his mummy. I wanted to make sure he was comfortable.”

Severus’s dark eyes became huge, “in our bedroom?”

“Yes?” Hermione looked at him questioningly, raising a delicate brow.

“Is- is that wise or necessary?”

“He is a baby Severus. I have to be close in case he wakes up, which more than likely he will.”

Groaning he touched his head in lu of a headache coming on at the thought of crying. “You are right I am sure, I apologise, I am simply unused to anything of the sort.”

Hermione leaned over and placed her head on Severus’s shoulder, careful not to disturb Teddy. “I understand, I was a bit shocked you so readily agreed to allow this.”  

“So was I,” he grumbled, taking a sip of his drink. Pretending to be grumpy he could, but it was all a farce, even with looming battle Severus had a problematic time even feigning upset now that Hermione was safe.

“Should we retire? I have a feeling we may need the rest for what is to come.”

“Hmm, yes.”

In the middle of the night, Teddy’s whimpers woke Severus and though he tried to return to his sleep the sound of Hermione awake, feeding Teddy his bottle wouldn’t allow him. Sitting up he leaned on the headboard and interlaced his fingers with Hermione’s free hand. She yawned squinting up at him in the mostly dark.

“Severus?”

“Hmm?”

“Do you ever want kids?” Her voice was small and careful.

His heart clenched tight in his chest, “you aren’t trying to tell me something?” It was meant as a joke, but his voice came out sounding far too serious.

“No, god no. I was just wondering that's all.”

“Thank Merlin for that.” He released a long breath out of his nose. “I do not have an answer for you at this time. I am unsure, I have always thought never in a million years… but I also thought that I could never love someone who loves me in return as I do you, I cannot be so rigid with my future any longer.”

Hermione was quiet, and Severus became worried.

“Did my answer upset you?”

“No, not at all, I am quite happy with your response.” She squeezed his hand. Teddy had drifted off and was snoring softly, making Hermione chuckle and touch a finger to his small nose gently.

As Hermione got up to replace the baby back in his crib, Severus settled under the blankets. When she returned he held her in his arms her head tucked beneath his chin, Severus fell asleep thinking about the idea of a baby with black curly hair.

“My son allowed that.” Pure defeat engulfed Arthur Weasley’s face, and he buried his head in his hands.

Hermione hadn’t wanted to tell him all of what she had learned and seen of Ron... what she now knew him to be. She wished she could spare Arthur from that, but it wasn’t fair to keep it from him either, it just wasn't. She held her mug of tea in one hand, reaching out the other to touch Arthur’s arm forearm lovingly.

“Ronald did what he did, we cannot understand why or how he could, but it is not your fault.”

When he lifted his head Mr Weasley had tears running down his cheeks, “Tom Riddle has done so much more than people realise. To the outside, it is all muggle hatred and killing, but there is more. He has destroyed my family one way or another he has torn it to pieces, not just through the death of my daughter. I have nothing left to fight for.”

“That isn’t true, there is so much left!” Exclaimed Hermione, "your other children, your wife. You have me... you have been so good to me Arthur."

Mr Weasley smiled weakly at her. “We are all kidding ourselves, no doubt he has some kind of sadistic plan, and he is just playing us all for fools, I can’t live with this hanging over my head… knowing,” his voice broke. “Knowing that my son helped…”

Hermione was about say something when the fire lit up, “Hermione?” It was Severus. His voice was stern and unfeeling, that was never a good sign.

“I am here,” she stood to move closer to the fire.

“Voldemort has shown himself, he is requesting to speak with whoever is in charge… Kingsley is going to go… and so am I.”

Her heart stopped, she could feel it. Just as it had seeing Severus covered in blood on the ground twice.

“Severus, he will know you are alive! He- whatever they did to you, they could do it again! Don’t, it isn’t smart.” She was desperate her voice gave her away if her face didn’t.

“Severus, I have to say that I agree with Hermione,” Arthur appeared brow furrowed. ”This isn't decided?”

“No, it is not!” Minerva's shrill cry echoed through the floo, and there was a grunt of what sounded like Severus getting pushed out of the way before the would-be headmistress appeared. “Fleur is coming through to take care of Teddy, we need you here Hermione...if you feel up to it that is… and if you don't perhaps you can at least dissuade him from this ridiculous scheme they have cooked up.”

“Yes!” exclaimed Hermione, "I am coming."

A moment later Fleur was through the floo and Hermione and Arthur were popping out the other side. The headmaster's office looked like the scene of a battlefield at the moment. Severus stood rigidly on one side of the desk, arms folded and glaring at Minerva. Who dressed in her usual dark green robes stared back not looking the least bit intimidated. Kingsley was looking on, his forehead creased in concern but Hermione had to say he looked a bit like he might be enjoying the two professors' standoff.

“I explicitly stated that Hermione was meant to stay away from the castle. He won't expect us to send Potter most especially not myself. Sending Potter is out of the question so what do you think is the next best option? Or must I explain it again.” Severus bit out the words, in pieces as he had when Hermione was a student. Careful severe tones all clipped and dangerous.

Minerva snorted, “then we have used one of our scare tactics all at once, he is obviously frightened of you Severus now that he knows how long you deceived and bested him, as he was of Harry. We can use that to our advantage.”

Hermione brought herself into the conversation then, “Severus you knew the chances of me staying at the house were slim, it just isn’t me. I am fit enough to be here, we can figure out a better way to handle this other than sending you out there. Did you even tell them about what happened before?” Placing her hands on her hips and raising a brow in challenge.

Kingsley continued to watch, looking as if he might enjoy a bag of popcorn and a fizzy drink.

Now the potions professors glare was directed at Hermione. Chilling and not something she had truly been subjected in a while. Thankfully now Hermione was in a place where she knew intimate details of how meticulously the surly Severus Snape folded his underwear she was not frightened.

“What happened before?” Asked Kingsley breaking their staring contest.

“They did something to him, it must have something to do with the dark mark or whatever residue is left. I thought I got it all, but that must not be the case.” Hermione said, moving toward

Severus and standing next to him, even if he refused to look at her, his hands behind his back. “Getting close to Voldemort is a good idea though, I had been doing some research on imprisonment spells before we left. It may be possible if we catch him by surprise to use one on him. We would need enough power behind it though.”

“Those are rarely successful,” stated Severus a bit too harshly.

Hermione's shoulders jerked up defensively at his attitude.

“But it's a possibility!” blustered Minerva, “really Severus, come now there is a better way than just feeding you to the wolves.”

“Perhaps the idea that I must not give up everything for a cause hadn’t occurred to me,” bit out Severus sharply.

A voice that no one had really expected spoke next causing an odd, uncomfortable silence to descend. “That mindset I believe would be my doing,” it was Dumbledore from his portrait.

“Albus… do you really think this is the time?”

“It never is,” the old man rolled his twinkly blue eyes at his former assistant headmistress.

Hermione glanced up at Severus, his jaw clenched and his lips set in a deeper scowl.

Dumbledore cleared his throat, “with enough power the spell that Miss Granger speaks of could very well be effective.” Hermione saw Severus’s eyes flick toward her for a moment. “Severus you will need to wield the Elder Wand.”

Brows descending Severus glowered. “What.”

“It is the most powerful wand in existence.” The old headmaster stated as if that cleared everything up.

“Why. Me.”

“Severus, my boy, you are an incredibly powerful wizard, with immense control over your own mind and others as well. I think it would be a rather obvious choice.”

"Flattery now is it?" Was Snape's sarcastic reply.

Kingsley hummed, sitting down heavily “he isn’t wrong. Perhaps with the element of surprise at seeing you alive Severus, we could have the opportunity the others of us to complete this spell.”

“He should not be bait!” Exclaimed Minerva.

The wheels began to turn in Severus’s head, he hated the idea of using that stupid wand but if he could distract Voldemort for only a second then perhaps, join in the spell this could all be over. His stomach clenched, he had never before felt fear when directed to complete a dangerous task. Years and years had been spent doing just those things, and every time he was never confident that he would live, then it hadn’t mattered, no one would miss him. Now, Hermione would be left, and he wouldn’t have the opportunity to live a life with her if she forgave him for being such a git that is. If he didn’t do this, he would also run that exact same risk, except it could end with her getting hurt again or… that was not going to happen.

“Okay.”

Hermione’s entire body stiffened next to him, then folding her arms over her chest she walked out of the room without saying a word. She didn’t have to he knew.

The library was more or less deserted or at least devoid of activity for the moment. Madam Pince nowhere to be seen and of course, no students studying for exams. Hermione sat at a table for once no book in front of her. Severus had agreed to the genuine possibility of death. She had already thought she saw him die twice. She let her head fall into her hands, she could not lose him, not when they were so close. Or were they? There was no knowing that this spell she had found would work. Scoffing a bit at herself, Hermione you idiot, you thought you got rid of Severus’s mark, and apparently there was something you missed. Self-deprecating doubts ran through her mind.

A few hot tears slipped past her eyes, and she sniffed. All she had been doing for the past two days was resting, and she felt better than she had before, but she would not be 100% for a while, she knew it. Still, it was frustrating, that didn’t help any of this, her feeling useless. Hermione had to think rationally and not be so worked up over her own stupid emotions. Severus had taught her his occlumency technique, she should use it to keep herself from becoming distracted. They all needed to prepare, even if she was close to useless in the state she was in.

The skin on the back of Hermione's neck prickled as she felt fingers brush her hair over her shoulder. They were cold and smooth.

“I know I have been very much in the wrong.” Severus’s voice was rougher than normal a quiet rumble. “Keeping you all cooped up, just for my own selfish sanity. You are so incredibly necessary and keeping you from using your very valid and needed skills to help is utterly pitiful of me…”

Hermione raised her head from her hands but didn’t look at him.

“I know you don’t want me to go, but it may be the only way for us to be successful. Obviously, I would use caution and of course, try my hardest not to… die.”

Her shoulders tensed at his blunt words but softened at his next statement.

“I love you.”

Turning she threw herself at him, into his arms and he caught her, holding the back of her head as she pressed her face into his neck, starting to sob loudly.

“You were the meanest, grumpiest teacher I ever had in my life, did you know that?” She didn’t wait for an affirmation. “I spent all my years at this school trying and failing to get you to even say that something I did in your class was exemplary and it never happened. Then I watched you die, right before my eyes, suddenly I was supposed to just help you create potions, and you were different, never had those sides of you been shown before, and I fell completely and utterly in love with you Severus!”

Hermione pulled away and looked at him sniffing and trying to wipe away the tears that were pouring from her eyes.

“It all feels like a miracle, and yet here we are both of us thinking that we may not get what we want or deserve. I won't bloody have it. If you love me we talk about this we discuss it and come up with a plan, I want to have a chance at a real life with you, we have spent too much time already together but apart, no more.”

His black eyes were soft, and Severus used a finger to brush a rolling tear from her cheek. “Okay.”

They looked at each other for a moment before Hermione once again melted into his arms. Severus pulled her into his lap and rubbed her back. “We will do this together, I won't coddle you, but that goes both ways, I believe that our best chance at ending this will mean I must show myself to him.”

Hermione nods and reaches up to touch his face, he forgot to shave that morning, and her hand grazes the stubble there, her thumb brushing over his lip. “I want to do something.”

Severus raises an eyebrow.

Climbing from his lap but still holding his hand she pulls him to follow.

They both stood in front of the pensieve in Minerva’s office, everyone was about the castle informing and planning. They were alone.

“I want to watch a memory.”

Another eyebrow raise but Severus nods.

Hermione takes her wand to her head, and a stream of white emerges, placing it in the bowl then glancing at Severus. “

“Do you want me to observe?”

Hermione shrugged a bit, “yeah, I think so. It isn’t life altering I am only curious about something.”

They both dunked their head beneath the surface.

The great hall lit and beautiful, in its former glory. Warm candlelight filling the entire space and the happy chatter of students. 11-year-old Hermione is delicately using her knife and fork to produce a bite of potato. Harry sits just to her left.

“Say, Percy, who is that teacher talking to Professor Quirrell?”

Hermione continues to eat but glances at the boys, before looking up at the staff table.

“Oh, that's Professor Snape, Head of Slytherin House.” Percy states.

“What's he teach?” presses Harry. Hermione takes another bite before looking back at the table now interested in the surly professor dressed entirely in black.

“Potions,  but everyone knows it's the Dark Arts he fancies...” Percy’s voice fades out, and young Hermione takes in the sullen Professor.

His black and robes make him look terrifying, and of course, she had heard horror stories from past students, but as he turned and looked at Harry all she can see is an overwhelming sadness in his eyes. As a child, she didn’t know why but now she did. Now she would spend the rest of her days trying to make sure the sadness never stayed for long.

The memory ends, and she is looking at the real-time Snape. They just looked at each other for a long time before Hermione began to laugh. Then so did Severus, reaching out he captured her, encircling her frame in his arms and murmured into her hair. “I am a cradle robber if I ever saw one.”

Hermione smacked his chest, “stop it” she rolled her eyes at him and settled back into his arms, they would do this together.

Chapter Text

“This is unnecessary.” Severus clipped while Hermione finished the protection charms on his frock coat and robes.

Handing them over she raises an eyebrow, “no arguments about the charms, you said.”

Severus rolls his eyes but nods, “yes, I know what I said.”

There was a pregnant pause, neither of them looking at each other. This was it, Severus and Harry were going to speak with Voldemort, and the rest of them had to begin placing themselves at various point on the grounds and castle. Hermione didn't want it to go like this, them alone at first but there just wasn’t a better solution and she had realised it along with everyone else. Now they just needed to hope that Voldemort didn’t have a better plan or see through their own.

The wards around Hogwarts were holding, that meant that he was not so strong as before. At least that was something that none of them were daring to believe or hope for.

Hermione’s body felt much better. They had, after using the pensieve and devising a plan, taken extra care in making sure before she had enough potions and creams, indeed whatever Severus had deemed to be necessary. Some of his medical creations really were beyond fantastic, and Poppy was a master at her craft. Hermione felt good, there was a twinge here or there, but nothing was as it had been. It was more the trauma of what happened that plagued her. Her body was healing quickly.

“This is strange you know?”

“Hmm?” Severus hummed in question.

“You and Harry going to face him like this, finally working together.” Hermione hadn’t been able to get the image of Harry coming back in Hagrid's arms the last time out of her mind. She would try to set her jaw and tell herself it was different, they had the upper hand and Voldemort was a weak fool, there was nothing left for him to achieve, it was a dying ember that had sparked this ridiculous effort to win.

Severus’s lips twitched “It is unusual… isn’t it.”

Wandering closer to him, so her face was tilted up to look at him.

Severus took a lock of stray hair fallen from her bun between two fingers. “There aren’t many things I find to be truly beautiful…”

Hermione refused to let him finish such a cliche statement, and he was grateful for it. Getting up on her tiptoes she pressed a kiss to his lips.

Severus produced the Elder Wand power freely relinquished by Harry and Severus's own wand. Glancing at each other they cast disguising spells, this needed to work.

All knew what they needed to do. Hermione most of all. If this spell was going to accomplish anything they wished it to, everything had to go exactly as planned. The weight in her pocket made her swallow, she needed to get to the Astronomy Tower and prepare. Once they enacted the spell, the wards would come down, and they would only have minutes at most to do what had to be done.

Severus stood before the doors of Hogwarts. In a moment he would leave the confines of the school and come face to face with Voldemort. The man, if he still was allowed that name, who both ruined and subsequently changed his life all without the man himself knowing any of it.

Harry came to stand next to Severus, he too had an air of liberation and acceptance about him.

Minerva and Kingsley stood just to the left and right they would stay behind. Nodding to them Severus and Harry opened the doors walking out into the dimming light.

He could feel the weight of the wand in his hand, and for a mere second allow his eyes to drift up toward where Hermione was in the Astronomy Tower. Grateful once again for her the brilliance of her mind. The only solace he found as they approached the bridge and the edge of the ward's, with Deatheaters seemingly chomping at the bit to get in, was that there was no one he was pretending at. He was Severus Snape, former Deatheater turned spy, turned just a wizard and a man. His strength wasn’t coming from vengeance, anger, jealousy or even regret, it was just himself and the drive he had recovered to live for himself.

The moment they came into view, Voldemort smiled, and even from afar Severus could see what Hermione had been saying. He was a sliver of the personage he had been. Weak and frail looking, but grinning all the same. Using some form of applifying charm, they could hear his voice a bit watery through the wards, adding to the snake-like effect it usually took on.

“Severussss.”

Severus ignored him and took in the crowd that surrounded, it was not as it had been, but they were somewhat of a substantial force. Thank Merlin for the dragon he thought, should they need it. There were a few Deatheaters he recognised all of course sneering at him, but there were also many that seemed to be of no importance, that he had never before encountered. Weasley was absent or dead and Bellatrix also nowhere to be found.

“We don’t want to have to fight,” called Harry. “If you surrender yourselves to the Ministry officials, you will have a fair trial.” It would have little effect, they both knew it was not of much use, but it was worth saying at least to buy time. Severus watched Voldemort close as he laughed maniacally at Harry’s statement, there was no other way to put it, he was manic. There was something terrifyingly unhinged about him. Not cold or calculated as he had been. Voldemort barely gave Harry a second look, instead pinning his dilated gaze on Severus, and not dignifying Harry with a response.

“I hoped that miraculously, you were still alive Severus.”

Snape didn’t say anything, just looked back, face stone. “This is over. Let it be Tom.” Using his first name, his muggle given name was something of a  scare tactic, it only made Voldemort bristle instead.

“I don’t think it is…” allowing his words to trail off and lifting a barefoot he passed through the wards.

Severus and Harry both stepped back, raising their wands. The wards weren't meant to have lowered yet.

Voldemort's eyes glinted as he saw the Elder Wand in Severus's grip. That look said all, he wanted to pry it from Severus's cold dead hands even if it was the last thing he did.

Placing clear quartz about the size of her fist on the floor of the Astronomy Tower Hermione pulled a small knife out of her pocket. Thank god Severus had stuff like large crystals hanging around, his stores. Casting a quick cleansing charm on her forearm and the blade Hermione took the sharp edge and lightly cut herself. Why was it that whenever blood was needed in films and books, they cut their palms? It was so much less obnoxious to deal with a small slice on her arm than on her palm.

She healed her cut with the charm Severus had taught her for the reversal of Sectumsempra. Then with the leftover blood on the knife, she dripped it onto the quartz.

“Apparare,” she murmured, pointing her wand at the stone. The red blood slipped into the crystal, swirling around and then disappearing. Hermione heard a noise on the stairs and looked over her shoulder to see Amari, followed by Draco. They were to help her, the rest of the able-bodied citizens of the castle were positioned in various places on the castle or the grounds to engage in the spell when she finished the preparation. Hermione only hoped that Harry and Severus could keep Voldemort adequately occupied for a bit longer, they were certain Voldemort was unable to get through the wards until they released them...

“I have prepared the stone, and once we do the incantation, we levitate the crystal above him. At that point everyone will attach their own power to it, we can…” She didn’t get to finish when she realised that Amari and Draco had brought their wands up and were not pointing them at the crystal but at herself. Hermione was crouched near the crystal, with at least thankfully her wand out and ready.

Amari was shaking her head and smirking. Draco seemed to be trembling.

“Stupify!” Hermione tried but it was blocked instantly she felt Amari throw up a shield against any other assault she should try immediately.

Waving her wand, the disguise fell away, Hermione could see that she was not, in fact, looking at Amari and Draco but Bellatrix and Ronald.

Bellatrix revealed a row of rotting teeth and Ron looked nervously at her. Thinking as quickly as she could, Hermione shot a protective charm at the crystal, encapsulating it in a nearly impenetrable shield. She was not going to let anything happen to their plans.

Breathe and think.

“Ron, this isn’t you,” she tried even knowing it would have little effect.

This only seemed to make Ron fume and Bellatrix cackle moving in closer. There was a noise outside… fighting? The eredefinite sound of spells being fired entered her register, no. The two of them had messed with the wards. Even if she was to get out of this, how was she supposed to perform the spell and levitate the crystal?

Bellatrix tried a Sectumsempra on her and Hermione blocked it with ease. Ron flinched at that… so he wasn’t entirely without feelings then. Engage Bellatrix in a duel and watch what Ron did. Hermione began to fire spells at Bellatrix, in turn, she blocked the ones that were shot back at her. It went on, Ron helped prevent her spells, but he never sent one at Hermione.

Bellatrix tried another Sectumsempra, this time Hermione only had time to move to the left, and the spell tore into her bicep. Feeling blood trickle down her arm she shook it off, silently cursing Severus for creating such the spell. She had a second, Hermione looked right at Bellatrix and sent a Stupify at Ronald. It hit him square in the chest and sent him flying, crashing into the rail, before crumpling to the floor. For a split second Bellatrix looked shocked and a bit impressed at Hermione's viciousness. That was all Hermione needed. She drenched the witch in a tidal wave of water conjured with such a force that it knocked Bellatrix straight to the ground. With an uttered Expelliarmus, Hermione had Bellatrix’s wand in hand, who was still stunned on the ground surrounded by a bubble of water, she could breathe… barely.

Hermione couldn’t help but smirk then rushed to the stone, she had no one to help her with the spell. It was going to be all her own effort. Waving a hand over her wand, she removed the disguise over it, now unquestionably holding the most powerful wand in existence, the Elder Wand. Voldemort thought it was with Severus, where he could see it and try to take it. That had never been the real intention.

Pointing her wand at the stone, Hermione focused everything she had, sharpening her power, pulling it from the very depths of herself. Murmuring the incantation, a beam of light shot from the tip of her wand and showered over the quartz. The light was so bright it shone out all openings of the Astronomy Tower in the darkening light of day. There was no need for a signal everyone below or surrounding the castle would know.

It was painful! Hermione felt as though something was tearing at her, harshly. Naturally, magic could be draining but using the Elder Wand was more than that, it was uncomfortable and grating. The moment she was able to let go of the spell she collapsed to the ground, breathing heavily. If she hadn’t been able to swallow it back, she knew that the contents of her stomach would be on the floor next to her.

With the last bit of effort she had left, Hermione raised a shaking wand arm up at the stone and sent it out over the bridge where she could only pray Severus and Harry had kept him. She had to help with the spell, but she didn’t know if she was able to stand… They needed the power of the Elder Wand to capture Voldemort.

Hermione had neglected to think about the fact that her water spell had been ended the moment she took her focus away and a second later she was slammed to the ground by a drenched and screaming Bellatrix. Wind was knocked from Hermione’s lungs, and the Elder Wand skittered from her grasp toward one of the balconies.

“You bitch!” Shrieked Bellatrix, with no wand at her disposal she was forced to use other means of violence. Connecting her actual fist with Hermione’s jaw, knocking her head to the side. The world spun, but Hermione was able to see the streaks of light that were attaching to the stone that must be floating in the air. Her mind was hazy, she had to get up… they needed her. Kicking at Bellatrix didn’t do much good, there was no force behind it, Hermione was too weak, and there was blood in her mouth, running from her nose. Severus should have had the wand… They had decided it was best to leave it with her, she knew the spell, and was more than capable of wielding it Kingsley had said… they had been wrong, apparently.

Bellatrix stopped laying into her with rage for a moment, beginning to climb past her when she noticed the wand laying there unattended above Hermione's head. “Stupid little cunt,” she sneered.

With one last pull, Hermione let out a yell and gripped the witch by the waist and pulled her back, having no time to feel guilty Hermione used her fist and hit Bellatrix hard in the stomach. The witch grunted, astonished then looking murderous, it was enough time for Hermione to painfully claw her way toward the wand, grab it and turn still with her arse on the ground. Bellatrix was right there, having yanked a blade from somewhere on her person, Hermione hadn’t been quick enough she was too close. Shutting her eyes, she made a silent plea for the others to win without her. Then nothing happened.

A zing sounded through the air, and a green light flashed outside Hermione’s eyelids, then a thump. Prying open her eyes Hermione saw Bellatrix on the floor eyes wide, and above her stood Ron, his wand clattering to the floor next to his feet, he gazed at Hermione.

“Get up,” he said, then stepped forward grabbing her and pulling her to her feet. Turning her to face the stone in the navy sky. Her vision was blurry.

“I… I can’t.”

Ron shook her a bit harshly, “you can!”

Gritting her teeth so hard she felt her jaw pop, Hermione lifted her hand and put every ounce of effort she had left into it. The light shot forth and connected. Sparks popped around the stone, the entire castle vibrated or shook, she couldn’t tell. Then the crystal went speeding down all the connections were released, Hermione sagged against Ron. The last thing she heard was, “I am so sorry Mione.”

Then everything faded to black.

Blinding light dissipates, and the sky once again darkens, the only light left is the moon and stars shining down. The quartz floats, hovering in front of Snape’s face. Clear crystal was marred by swirling smokey black in the centre. They did it.

Within moments, stunned Deatheaters were bound, Neville and several of the Weasley boys stood watch around them, wands at the ready should they try anything.

The fight had been short, and no one was severely injured that he could tell. They had been far too prepared.

Severus held a tight grip on stone and walked swiftly to where Kingsley and Minerva stood.

“Remus went to fetch Hermione and the others and tell them that it was all accomplished,” the Scottish woman couldn't keep the small smile from her face, everyone around the grounds looked happier than they had in a long time.

Severus could feel his heart slowing a bit, but there was still worry etched on his face. Hermione had taken longer than they expected and he could have sworn he heard something from the Astronomy Tower. There was also the fact that never during the scuffle did he see Bellatrix or Ronald. Suddenly a thought occurred to him about Draco and Amari coming back from the mansion after a run-in with... his blood turned cold. Jerking his head toward the castle and nearly shoving the precious stone prison at Shacklebolt he took off toward the entrance, damn the spells that kept him from apparating.

Just as he reached the doors, they opened, and the youngest Weasley stepped out a bloody, unconscious Hermione in his arms. Remus followed when he saw the absolutely murderous set of Severus’s face he ran forward till he had a hand on his chest stopping him from presumably ripping Ronald to shreds right there.

“Sever- Severus! He was helping her, he is only carrying her here, to you.”

Snape shoved past Lupin stalking toward Ron who looked like he might wet himself but thankfully kept hold of Hermione until Severus reached his arms out and relieved him, swiftly. Pulling her slight frame into his arms and then kneeling on the cement, with her cradled against him.

Stripping his robes he used them to prop her head on and ease the hardness of the ground, he ignored the boy, and Lupin focused solely on making sure she was alright. Doing a once over he could quickly pick out the effects of magical exhaustion, using such a powerful weapon accompanied by an equally difficult spell would make any witch or wizard thus fatigued. She was breathing fine, and as far as he could tell there were no broken bones, the blood seemed to have come from her nose, the consequence of being hit in the face. Further agreeing with his diagnosis was the dark bruise forming on her jaw and cheek. He slumped back a bit realising that she was not in direct danger and that she was going to be alright with the proper care.

Minerva and Kingsley were upon them now, and Severus turned a hard gaze at Ronald.

“Explain.”

Binding him they listened to what Ron had to say, his head bowed, and his shoulders slumped. He had offered up the Elder Wand freely to them. Every now and then during his tale, he would catch a look from his father who had joined them and drop his gaze again. Poppy had been called over and also did a once over Hermione, she came to the same conclusions as Severus.

“Levitate Hermione and any wounded others to the infirmary… injured Deatheaters as well, bound and with a guard per each bed.” Kingsley stated, holding up the crystal he finished, “then to Minerva’s office, we need to make a decision.”

...

Hermione woke not too long after being taken to the infirmary and was thankfully able to stand with help and walk with Severus to the headmistresses office, he knew she would want to be a part of what was being decided.

She had refused to allow him to carry her but did take his offered arm around her. For both stability and comfort.

They hadn't really spoken, much too stunned by the sheer fact that they had done it and both of them were safe. Just before reaching the entrance Hermione stopped and looked up at him. "Gods, its over." She sighed loudly and allowed her body to relax into his embrace.

"Almost, yes."

Hermione could not believe that it had all worked that they had done it.

"You are absolutely brilliant, the brightest witch of your age is far too neglectful a title for how intelligent you are."

She smiled in response. They both turned to the door and braced themselves for the last piece that was left to fit the puzzle.

Chapter Text

Breath catches in her chest, and Hermione can feel a moan pressing at her throat… why? Rousing from sleep Hermione opens her eyes lazily and can clearly see the shape of Severus’s head under the covers… between her legs. Now it is very apparent why. His lips ghost over her inner thighs planting small kisses, occasionally stopping to nibble at her. Reaching down she touches a hand to the back of his head, moaning his name.

“She awakens,” he murmurs against the inside of her leg, before moving up and placing a gentle kiss to the apex of her thighs.

“Oh god...”

“Hmmm,” he hums beginning to lavish attention to her with his mouth.

It is far too quickly for Hermione’s taste that she reaches her peak and goes rushing over the edge of her pleasure.

Severus grins against her belly and placed a kiss on her hip bone before crawling up beside her and kissing her lips while she lays still dazed by the leftover too good ache inside her.

“Happy Christmas,” Severus murmurs, looking down at her from his place arms brace above her head, kissing her once more and coming to rest on his side. She turned to face him.

“A Scrooge no more?” Hermione raised an eyebrow.

“I explained this did I not? A week ago? It wasn’t the idea of a Christmas tree. It was the fact of having a real one, that drops needles.” Severus grumbled folding arms over his bare chest and rolling onto his back to stare at the ceiling in a fake pout.

Rolling her eyes Hermione pried his arms open and snuggled in closer, “I am only kidding. Now I would very much like to reciprocate the wonderful way I was woken.” Hermione winked and moved a hand to the waistband of his sleep trousers. Severus stopped her bringing her palm up and kissing it

“As much as I would love that, I want time to exchange gifts before we must engage in the social requirements of the day.”

Hermione did her own pouting.

“Later this evening though, I plan on thoroughly ravishing you.” Severus kissed her languidly for a moment, nearly having Hermione ready to tell their later plans to piss off. Too soon Severus pulled back and climbed out of bed, calling from the main room that he would be back momentarily.

Hermione sighed happily easing back into the pillows. It was Christmas, she was with Severus, later they were going to be at dinner with all of their most loved and treasured friends, even if he called it a social requirement she knew he had been looking forward to speaking with Kings and even Remus.

True to his words, Kingsley had, once being fully instated as Minister for Magic taken it upon himself to find and restore her parent's memories, along with the dozen other things pressing at his attention. They too would be joining the party.

The past month or so had been a whirlwind, but a happy one. Altogether at the castle, they had made the decision to destroy the stone that held Voldemort. The rest of the Deatheaters were put to trial with a fully renovated and running Wizengamot. Hogwarts would begin its first official term on the 3rd of January.

McGonagall had asked since they now needed a Transfiguration Professor if Hermione would mind sharing teaching duties with the Headmistress and doing independent study to finish her own exams. Hermione had of course accepted with the requirement that she forego the Transfiguration teachers usual rooms near Gryffindor tower and instead inhabit the dungeons with the Potions Professor. Hermione smiled, she was going to be a Professor and the world was beginning to look very much the brighter for everyone.

Severus reappeared in the doorway, levitating a tray onto her lap. A fantastic spread, she had to say, eggs, bacon, toast, beans, the works as well of course as tea and coffee. It had become apparent when they began living in his home and their time was not entirely taken up with plotting and planning, that Severus was actually a decent cook. The idea should not have been so utterly surprising as that was what potioneering essentially was, but it made Hermione incredibly happy all the same, mostly because he enjoyed it.

They tucked into their meal, in silence enjoying the food and the still of the morning. There was a dense layer of snow outside, but the sunlight was shining through clouds here and there. Hermione had been waiting to give Severus his present for weeks, ever since she decided that this was the ultimate gift for a man who had… particular taste in nearly everything, or just bought what he wanted for himself. She had meant to get him a book on Gellert Grindelwald and his rise to power, but the man had bought it for himself without the thought that Christmas was only a week away.

Summoning the package from the closet where she had hidden it and helping him banish the dishes to the sink, Hermione held the giant beautifully wrapped box in her lap. She had taken extra time to find shiny black paper and an ebony bow to wrap it up in. Severus snorted upon seeing the display. Hermione grinned, pushing the box into his hands.

Eyeing her carefully he began to devise the box of its trimmings, revealing after a moment the packaging of a muggle espresso machine with everything a proper coffee connoisseur could ever want. His lips tucked up in a smile, and Severus set the box to the side enveloping the witch next to him in his arms. Hermione really did think of everything that he loved.

He levitated three boxes from the top shelf of the closet and into her lap.

“Aren’t I special.”

“More than you know.” He sat on the edge of the bed. It was rare that he could give a gift and not be concerned that the person receiving it, wouldn’t want it or would think him stupid. Severus certainly had not been able to get over everything that in his life had pushed him to feel the way he did about intimate relationships but he was on the right track. Hermione was coaching him slowly, with love and acceptance.

The first and smallest package was a beautiful quill, the feather a dark red and the tip had gold designs covering it.

“Beautiful,” she said smiling and reaching over to hug him.

“Keep unwrapping witch” he barked with a laugh.

The next was a beautiful leather bound journal that had an HJG embossed in the cover. Hermione had just the other day said how she would like to have a nice place to write down her research and clearly, he had been listening to her, observant as always.

Again Severus was awarded a giant hug before she moved on to the last and largest package. When she lifted the lid, Hermione couldn't help but bring her fingers to her lips in awe. They were teaching robes beautiful ones. A deep dark navy with lovely detailing around the hem. She looked up at him, eyes watering a bit.

“Severus…”

“All utterly worth it, do not suggest otherwise,” he accepted the embrace more readily this time, kissing the top of her head. “There is one more.”

Hermione raised an eyebrow.

He removed a small box from his trouser pocket and looked her in the eyes,  “I know that we only spoke of this briefly and that is precisely why I did not include this item with the others.” Sucking in a deep breath, he opened the box to reveal a practical but beautiful ring. It was a silver band with a small round diamond in the centre.

“Allow me to explain before you say anything. I understand that this is a fairly unromantic, perhaps blunt and unquestionably not the way which properly this is done. That said we are both very logical people. I believe I can say with certainty that this is a serious relationship, but I do not want to be the dictator of how serious... I want your input. If you wish not to be tied as such so soon or even at all I will fully and completely support that, even be content to oblige you. I never thought personally that marriage meant much else than a piece of paper and perhaps shared finance… Now though I want to offer all that I have and the entirety of myself to you… along with that piece of paper, should you want it.” Severus looked down at the box he held and then back at Hermione, swallowing hard before going on.

"The only marriage I was ever pricy to was not, in fact, a good one, but I have come to the conclusion that it does not mean that all are as such." He looked again at her face.

She was gaping at him, and then she began to cry. Not tear up as many women did when being proposed to but fully cry.

Severus was unsure how to proceed…

Hermione quieted enough to sob out, “I- god- Severus… I bloody love you.” Then more sobbing.

Severus raised an eyebrow… what was going on.

“Yes,” she tried to compose herself, “I am just- you understand me, what I need- how I needed something like that to be said, or asked I suppose.”

At the moment Severus felt as though he understood nothing but still accepted her into his arms kissing her soundly and inside feeling a bit giddy that for whatever reason she fancied his bizarre display.

“So what do you think?” Hermione stood fingers pressed to her mouth, in anticipation of his reaction.

Severus took the cup rim from his lips and pursed them in thought, testing his new device. “It is… an outstanding cup of coffee.” He replied soundly.

Hermione grinned, “does that mean I get my first outstanding from Professor Snape?” She asked cheekily, before snagging the cup from his hands to try it for herself.

“Yes, cheeky witch I think you did.”

“It sure is shiny, I didn’t anticipate the brightness it would add to the kitchen” she joked, jabbing him in the ribs, "you sure you can handle it?" Then Hermione shrugged at the coffee, coffee was growing on her, but it still wasn’t exactly the love affair that Severus had with it.

He took his cup back with narrowed eyes and continued to drain the mug. “Thank you,” he said seriously, “it is a thoughtful gift.”

“Not quite so thoughtful as mine,” said Hermione softly looking down at the ring on her finger. “You don’t mind that we wait awhile right?" She asked again after having expressed her wish to wait a bit when they were in the bedroom. "I know I already said it… it is not in the slightest that I don’t want to.”

“Hermione,” Severus placed his cup on the counter and pulled her toward him by the waist. Kissing her chin then lips he murmured, “that is completely fine with me, as I said it is more a formality rather than anything else.”

She smiled gratefully, "I agree, there are so many expectations from others with all that and right now, for a while at least, I want it to be us. Now that we can settle into a normal, less dangerous life."

"Agreed." Severus continued to kiss her neck, moving to where her shoulder met her collarbone.

“Do we need to get ready?” Hermione moaned.

Severus sighed letting his head fall back, “Unfortunately, I suppose we do.”

...

The school was still empty for the time being, so everyone had all made the decision to use the Great Hall for their Christmas dinner festivities. Minerva had lifted the wards to allow Hermione’s parents to join them all. It had been a very interesting trying to get things back to normal with her family. There was a disconnect of time obviously, but the biggest thing was the sheer amount that had taken place in the time that they were not privy of each other or their whereabouts, or in the case of Hermione they didn't even know that they had a daughter.

There was also the added fact that Hermione and Severus were already together and that idea was a bit more difficult for Mr Granger to swallow all at once. They had known during her school years that she had been respectful yet not fond of her Potions Professor. Jane Granger had also received a very distressed owl once in Hermione's third year after a particular class when her daughter was referred to as an Insufferable Know It All. Everyone was hoping that this Christmas could alleviate some of the awkwardness. The good news was everyone was trying their best.

That thought did not mean that Severus was not feeling somewhat nervous about all of it. There was the fact that general muggle tradition was that you should ask a father before a proposal, but Hermione had eased his mind on that respect. It was an old and ridiculous tradition, she was not property that needed to be passed from man to man, and she knew her father would agree with that. In general, Severus had little knowledge of decent and loving parents. How to act around them or conduct himself, it was all new and a bit frightening.

They took the floo to Hogwarts from the cabin and emptied out in the Headmistress office. Severus couldn't be convinced by Hermione to wear anything other than his usual frock coat. A Christmas jumper even in a dark green had him turning his nose up. So Hermione in her fair isle sweater in a bright candy apple red and snowy white and he in his entirely black looked an interesting pair.

Hermione slipped her hand in his and took a moment to appreciate the normality and simple joy of the moment.

“Come on then, there is no way this is worse than my third-year dinner.”

Severus rolled his eyes, “that could not be more true.”

The whole of the hall was decorated in shades of shimmery golds, greens and reds. The large tables were set with all assortments of food and drink, and most everyone was already mingling and eating. Hermione could see Amari near Tonks talking. After the Deatheaters were rounded up, a group was able to go out and found Amari and Draco imprisoned in the forbidden forest. Lucius had healed decently, though he was entirely still skittish, the trial for himself and a few other Deatheaters were coming up in the next months. Unlike them, he was allowed to be under relative house arrest and today able to attend the dinner with his son. Draco it had been decided by the council would not have a trial he was pardoned for his actions as Severus had been.

Molly, Arthur and the other Weasley’s were sat at the end of one table looking to be in the best spirits any of them had been in a long while. Ronald was also awaiting trial, one of the more difficult of the Wizangamot cases. Molly had been surprisingly pleasant to Hermione when they had any interaction, and of course, the others were just as obliging as they always had been. Hermione gave little thought to Ron there at the end he had shown some kind of something perhaps, but it was not enough for him to ever be what he had been to her or Harry. Ron would go to trial, and no doubt spend the rest of his days having to think about his actions in Azkaban.

Severus saw Remus and Harry across the way and touched Hermione’s elbow briefly to make her aware that he was headed in that direction. There was a cautious friendship sparking up their, to Hermione’s delight. The three men seemed to get along decently enough, and they would all be working closely soon as Minerva was giving the DADA position once again to Remus and Harry taking on the apprentice position. Harry was not over Ginny, none of them ever would be, but every day he seemed to be trying harder at living a life she would be proud of him for.

Hermione took a moment to look about the room and appreciate the sense of season around them. It almost felt like all the years she had spent at the school, it was almost like the past few years of hell hadn’t happened at all. Almost.

As nice as it would be to not have such things weighing on the mind, no matter if they were safe or not there was no less heartache when it came to all they lost… who they lost. Her eyes drifted to Severus, Harry and Remus, they all held a glass in hand seeming so very normal. Severus actually had a lift in his lips the hint of a smile. Hermione wouldn’t go back and change it, perhaps they would never have developed the relationship that she now held so dear.

Severus met her gaze raising one eyebrow and excusing himself from the other two, to rejoin her, just as the Grangers looking a bit apprehensive entered. They were soon welcomed just as Hermione knew they would be. The celebration could now be in full swing. Hermione stood closer to Severus, and he didn’t pull away or feel afraid of others seeing him looking vulnerable or more emotional than usual, he merely placed his arm around her, holding her close at his side.