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A Serious Jest

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Chapter 1: Which Both Parties Agree


Hermione Granger sat in her tiny flat, reading the latest article in the Daily Prophet on the new marriage law. There had been a lot of outrage, but also a lot of acceptance. Hermione hated the fact that those single wizards and witches under thirty were being required to marry, in an attempt to rebuild some of the population, after everyone who had died during the war.

She had been avoiding the social parties that had sprung up in the aftermath of the law. There was no one in her age group that she wanted to marry. She’d actually been thinking of how to get out of it. Fortunately, she did have a deadline to work with, and for once the Ministry had been marginally realistic, but two years didn’t really feel like enough time to find a spouse, given that the only man she’d dated for a while as an adult was now married to someone else. She could marry a Muggle, she’d supposed, but she wasn’t sure if she wanted to deal with the consequences of that. A husband who didn’t know her world, and who would have to learn to accept it.

With a sigh, she put down her paper and picked up the letter from Albus Dumbledore. The week before, he had written to offer her a position as an instructor at Hogwarts. He was trying something new, he’d explained. He was offering her years 1-3 in Defense Against the Dark Arts, and years 1-4 in Potions. Severus Snape would be taking 4-7 in DADA and 5-7 in Potions. Hermione, mindful of her inexperience, thought this was not a bad idea. Remembering Snape’s teaching style, she thought he worked better with the older students anyway.

She had written immediately to accept the job, and now she was due up at Hogwarts this afternoon at 3 to discuss her job description. She would be moving in later this week. Most of her things were already packed.

She decided to head down to Diagon Alley to pick up extra Potions ingredients for her own personal store. She flung on a robe, made sure her hair was marginally tidy, and Apparated.

She wandered over to the Apothecary, list in hand, and began to make her purchases. Then she heard a familiar voice. “Miss Granger?”

She turned around to find Severus Snape behind her. “Professor,” she said. “Hello.”

He gestured at her assortment of ingredients. “We will be sharing a Potions cupboard, Miss Granger.”

“Will we?” she asked, truly surprised.

“Albus suggested that, in order for us to keep track of our stores more accurately.”

She smiled, able to tell that Dumbledore’s high-handedness irked him. “It’s not as if it’ll hurt to have extra. None of these are quickly perishable ingredients.”

His mouth quirked in what might have been a smile. “Fair enough. I see some things there that wouldn’t be appropriate for the younger students.”

“There are a few things I was hoping to work on,” she said, “and as I didn’t know that we would be sharing supplies, I felt it appropriate to purchase my own.”

He nodded, and turned to the apothecary, who was already bringing out a number of packages. “Your order is ready, Professor Snape,” he said.

“Mr. Tortelle, this is Professor Granger,” said Snape, gesturing to Hermione. “She will be teaching lower-level Potions at Hogwarts. I would appreciate it if you gave her the same consideration as you do me.”

The apothecary smiled at Hermione. “Splendid to meet you, Professor,” he said. “Let me get those things packed up for you.”

As they left the apothecary’s, packages in hand, Hermione noted that Snape seemed to be uncertain of what to do next. “I have to be up at Hogwarts by 3 this afternoon for a meeting with Dumbledore,” she said. “Did you want to have lunch and discuss our classes?”

He looked surprised, but agreed, and they found a quiet restaurant and talked about curriculum for their classes. Hermione was intrigued that he was not the sardonic man she’d remembered. She saw flashes of that man, but the one she was talking to was quieter, thoughtful, more at peace with the world.

Eventually, as conversations do, it turned more personal. “I would have thought you would be out searching for a husband,” said Snape conversationally when the marriage law came up.

Hermione groaned. “This new law is idiotic,” she said. “All of the available men in my age group are stupid, and I can’t marry a stupid man. I’d go mad, or want to strangle him within the first few days.”

Snape smirked at her. “Well, if you married and then became a widow, you’d be exempt. It’s something to consider.”

Her smile had a bit of wistfulness about it. “There’s the Professor Snape I remember,” she said. “You’ve changed.”

“The Dark Lord is unequivocally dead,” said Snape, deciding to be honest. “I’m free, for once in my life. I appreciate my work more, especially since I’ll be dealing with only older students.” He raised his glass to her. “I have you to thank for that, Miss Granger.”

She shrugged. “I might have to leave if I can’t find a husband before the deadline,” she said. “I’ll be damned if I’ll just let them pair me up with a random man.”

“Good girl,” he said. Then he folded his hands, tapping his fingers against his lips, thinking. His brow furrowed in a way that she didn’t recognize, since it wasn’t in anger or frustration.

She sipped her water, waiting for him to speak. When he did, what he had to say was quite unexpected.

“You could always marry me,” he offered.

Hermione’s brow furrowed now. She told herself that she should be disgusted at the offer. This was Professor Snape. She’d heard Harry ranting about him since they were eleven, although Harry had changed his mind about him somewhat in the last few years. But at the same time...he was intelligent. On those grounds alone, they were equals. Their discussions today had shown her that he respected her opinions. He was, she knew, brave, and one of the most scrupulously honourable men she had ever met. This would allow her to live her life without worrying further about the marriage law. She looked at him, surveying him, and saw that he was waiting patiently for her response. He didn’t repulse her, she reflected. He never had. Being married to him would be...tolerable. Perhaps more than.

“That could work,” she said slowly. “But why would you marry me?”

His eyebrows went up. “I would prefer it if you worked at Hogwarts for the time being. Introductory courses have never been my strong suit, and I dislike them. I know that you will be an extremely conscientious instructor. Should you choose to alter your career in the future, that would be something we could arrange for. As for marriage...I have grown discontent with being entirely alone. You are highly intelligent, as am I. You need a husband. You only have a year and a half before the deadline, Hermione. Do you really think that you will find a man to meet your needs in that time?”

“No,” she said. “I highly doubt it. But does a pragmatic marriage appeal to you?”

“I would not have offered if I had not meant it,” he replied, eyes solemn. “Could you live with this? With me?”

Hermione nodded. “I could.”

“Then will you marry me?” The note in his voice—was it nervousness?

She took a deep breath. “I will.”

They stared at each other across the table. Then he offered her his hand, and she took it. His eyes glittered, and her breath caught in her throat.

“When did you wish to...?”

“Soon,” she said. “We’ll be working together, we might as well.”

“Agreed,” he said. “We should speak to Albus first. Did you want a wedding, or is a Ministry ceremony acceptable?”

She shuddered. “I hate weddings. Too much of a fuss. We can just go by the Ministry and get married.”

“We could do that tomorrow—you’re moving to Hogwarts this week anyway,” he said diffidently.

“Yes,” she said. “I think I’d like that.” Her hand tightened around his. He glanced down, unsure of how to respond to her words.

“Fine,” he said. Then he glanced at his watch. “We should go. It’s nearly 2:30.”

“Have we been here that long?” said Hermione. They gathered their things, and Snape insisted on paying the bill.

When they got outside, he offered her his arm, she took it, and he Apparated them to Hogwarts. She followed him down to the potions lab, where they left their purchases, and then they went to the Headmaster’s office.

Dumbledore didn’t look surprised to see Snape with Hermione. “Ah, good, you’ve gotten reacquainted,” he said. “Splendid. You’ll need to coordinate your curricula.”

“Yes,” said Hermione. “Ah, Professor Dumbledore, I need to apprise you of a change in my situation.”

“Oh?” he said.

“Hermione and I have agreed to marry,” said Severus, glancing apprehensively at her, almost as if he were worried she might change her mind.

“Yes,” she said. “Is that a problem?” she asked the Headmaster.

“Not at all,” said Dumbledore, “although it’s a little sudden. How did you come to this conclusion?”

“It made sense,” Hermione said shortly. “I have to marry, and we suit.”

He nodded. “Very well. Have you set a date?”

“We’re getting married tomorrow, at the Ministry,” said Severus. “I will help Hermione move her things here after that, and we’ll settle in.”

“Were you planning on a honeymoon?”

Hermione and Severus exchanged glances. “Ah, not at the moment,” said Hermione. “With moving, and planning courses, it’s probably better to wait a while for that.”

“I see,” he said. “Well, Hermione, we need to talk over your job description, salary, benefits, and so on, and there’s a contract to be signed. Were you planning on taking Severus’ last name?”

“Um, I don’t know,” she said. “It might be confusing to have two Professor Snapes. Perhaps I had better be Professor Granger. Unless you object, Severus?” Hermione realized that this was the first time she had called him by name.

“No, I agree with you,” he said. “Although the name Snape does work to quell the students.”

She smiled at that. “If I need extra quelling power, I’ll remember that.”

“Good,” he said. “I should put those potions ingredients away. I’ll see at you at supper in the Great Hall?”

She nodded. “See you then.”

Dumbledore’s eyes glinted with amusement as Severus left the room. “I never thought I’d see the day,” he commented. “How ever did you get him to agree?”

“It was his idea,” Hermione said.

Dumbledore’s eyebrows swooped up at that. “How very singular! Well, I wish you both very happy. Now, here’s the contract for teaching. Read over it, and let me know if you have any questions.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 2: And Both Ope Their Eyes

Hermione sat next to Severus at supper, feeling grateful that most of the teaching staff was still on holiday. Professor Sprout was there, chatting with Dumbledore, and didn’t seem surprised to see Hermione and Severus talking with each other. When they finished eating, they looked at each other, uncertain of what to do.

“We should talk,” Severus said decisively. “Tea?”

“All right,” said Hermione, nervously following him down to the dungeons. He opened a door and gestured her in.

She looked around the sitting room. It was neat and simply furnished, but felt cozy. Bookshelves lined most of the walls, and there was a fireplace. Severus aimed his wand at the fireplace, and a non-verbal charm started the fire.

“Did you want the tour?” he asked.

She nodded. He slid a panel back, leaving it open. “This is a kitchen of sorts. The times when I prefer not to go to hall, I eat here. And I keep tea things, and such. Ah, bathroom, over here. This is my study—I have an office, but I tend to use this for any private projects I happen to be working on. We can share, or if you’d prefer, I can see if another room can be connected to the suite. And the bedroom’s over there.” He didn’t open that door. Instead he went to the kitchen, filled the kettle with water, and went to hang it over the fire.

Hermione sat down on the sofa as he busied himself with measuring tea leaves into the teapot and finding cups, milk, and sugar. He set the tray down on the table by the sofa and sank into the armchair across from her. They waited in silence until the kettle boiled. He poured the hot water over the tea leaves, put a quilted tea cosy over the pot and then realized that he had to wait several minutes for the leaves to steep.

“I thought we should talk about our expectations,” he said.

Hermione smiled at him. “I agree.” She stopped. “I’m not entirely certain what my expectations are. Did you want to go first?”
He turned to add a log to the fire. “I suppose. I realize that this is pragmatic, rather than romantic, and so I don’t expect your love. If we should grow to love each other, I should not object.”

She stifled a smile at that, realizing that he was attempting to be diplomatic. “That’s good to know,” she said. “I wouldn’t object either. Are we to sleep together?”

“To make the marriage legal, we’ll have to,” he said. “Is that objectionable?”

She looked at him, at the harsh expression on his face, wanting to reassure him. “No, Severus. It isn’t. Not at all.”

His face relaxed somewhat. “I don’t know what you would far as...well...”

“I don’t object to a physical relationship with you,” she said, trying to be as blunt as she could without being crass. She started to blush. “I think I would like it, actually. But if you don’t...”

“No, I wouldn’t object, either. Forgive me, Hermione. I’ve never been married, nor have I ever had what you would call a real relationship. This is altogether unfamiliar.” He looked down at the teapot, grateful to have dealt with the subject. “How do you take your tea?”

“Just with milk for now,” she said, watching as he poured the tea, realizing how graceful his hands were.

He handed the cup to her, and she wrapped her hands around it, relishing the warmth of the tea. She took a sip. “I would expect you to be faithful,” she said.

A faint smile crossed his face. “I would expect nothing less of myself,” he said. “Naturally, I will be. May I make the same request of you?”

“Of course,” she said.

He drank some of his tea, and he seemed to have relaxed, now that the major questions were out of the way. “I am unused to sharing my quarters,” he began. “I know that will be a change.”

“I’ve been living alone for the last few years,” she told him. “I may not be so set in my ways as you, but I am aware that we will both have to make adjustments. Do you mind cats?”

“I’d forgotten you had a cat. He’s still around?”

She nodded. “He’s getting older, but he’s gotten somewhat more well-behaved in his later years. I have some good charms for getting rid of cat hair, so him shedding isn’t really a problem.”

“That’s fine,” he said. “As long as he doesn’t decide to sharpen his claws on my robes.”

She laughed. “I broke him of that very quickly,” she assured Severus. “Other thoughts?”

He frowned. “I’ve never been what people call a nice person, Hermione. I may be less...difficult...than I used to be, but I’m not an easy man to get along with. I have no illusions about that.”

“Nor do I,” she said. “And it’s not as if I have a reputation for being sweet. I’m known for being bossy and driven, and so focused on my work that I have little time for fun.”

“I would venture to suggest that your version of ‘fun’ is perhaps not the same as most people’s,” he said drily. “You read.”

“I do,” she said. “As do you, obviously.” She waved a hand at the books. “I have a lot of books. We’ll have to integrate our libraries.”

He glanced around the very crowded shelves. “There are more shelves in the study and in the bedroom, and some of them are mostly empty. I think there may be room to add more shelving as well.”

They talked for several hours, until Hermione, exhausted, fell asleep. Severus carefully took her empty teacup from her hands, put an afghan over her, and damped down the fire.
He stood over her for a moment, watching her sleep. He was so uncertain of her regard for him—and he didn’t dare tell her that he cared about her, that after the war had ended, he had developed feelings for her. That every time he saw her, he felt a little more at risk. Then today, he had taken his chance. Miraculously, she had said yes.

Quickly, before he could convince himself not to, he bent and kissed her temple. Then he exited the room, shutting the door of the bedroom firmly. That night, he lay in bed, thinking. He heard her stir in the sitting room, and the glinting of light beneath the door told him that she had built the fire back up. He heard her wandering around—the bathroom door shut—a few minutes later, it opened again—then he heard her walk the perimeter of the room, and realized she was looking at books. Then he heard the creak of the sofa again, and wondered if she was reading.

Comforted by the knowledge of her on the other side of the door, he fell asleep.

Chapter Text

Chapter 3: To Perform Hand in Hand

When Severus woke the next morning, he could smell toast. He got up, putting on a dressing gown, and discovered that Hermione had made tea and was toasting bread over the fire.

“I found bread in the kitchen,” she said. “I thought we could skip breakfast in hall this morning.”

“Thank you,” he said, genuinely surprised.

“It’ll be ready in a few minutes, if you want to get dressed.”

He went to clean his teeth, and then back to the bedroom. When he emerged, dressed in trousers and a buttoned shirt with a robe draped across his arm, Hermione had set toast on the table and had found the butter and marmalade in the cold store.

She had obviously used a smoothing spell on her robes to deal with the creases. She looked tired—there were shadows beneath her eyes.

“Did you sleep well?” he asked.

“Not very,” she said. “I have insomnia quite frequently. I got up and read.” The book on the table was The Canterbury Tales.

“I see,” he said. “Why Chaucer?”

“I like the language,” she said. “Ancient Runes was one of my favourite classes here, and once you get used to studying other languages...”

“You can’t stop,” he said. “I know the feeling.”

She smiled at him, grateful for the point of connection. They ate breakfast together, and then left to go to the Ministry.

The binding ceremony at the Ministry was short, and simple. Before they realized it, the Bonder was saying, “You may kiss.”

Severus bent and quickly brushed Hermione’s lips with his own. Then he drew back, not wanting to pressure her. She slipped her hand into his, and squeezed it. She didn’t know how to react to the tingle that had run through her when they kissed, and didn’t realize that he had felt the same sensation. But he did look nervous, and she wanted to reassure him.

The Bonder looked bored. “Sign here,” he said, pointing to the places on the parchment. Hermione took up the quill, signed, and then handed it off to Severus, who signed with a flourish. “Thank you,” he said gravely.

“You’re welcome. Congratulations,” he said. “Did you have rings?”

“We’re getting those later today,” he said. “Were they necessary for the ceremony?”

“No,” said the man. He tapped the parchment certificate with his wand, duplicating it. “This is your copy.”

“Thank you,” said Hermione, taking the parchment and putting it into a folder she had brought with her, and putting the folder into one of her robe pockets.

They apparated from the Ministry to Diagon Alley. “I suppose we should have gotten rings first,” said Severus.

“I don’t mind,” Hermione told him. “I don’t think the Bonder at the Ministry cared.”

“He probably marries at least a dozen couples a day,” said Severus. “I doubt it occurs to him to care. Shall we look for rings here?”

The shop was one of the smaller, quieter jewelry stores in Diagon Alley. They entered, were greeted by the proprietor, and looked at the rings. Hermione wasn’t sure what she wanted, and it was Severus who found their rings. “What about these?” he asked.

She looked at the wedding bands, and thought they were perfect. The jeweler took out the white gold bands, both engraved with a pattern of Celtic knots. They were simple, but not entirely unadorned. They bought the rings, the jeweler sized them, and Severus slipped Hermione’s onto her finger. Then she took his and put it on his finger. They stared at each other for a moment, her hands wrapped around his. He swallowed, looking down at her, realizing that they were actually married to each other.

Then the moment passed. Hermione let go of his hands. Severus turned to thank the jeweler, and they left the shop. “We should merge our accounts at the bank,” said Hermione suddenly.

“I’d forgotten about that,” he said. “You don’t mind?”

“Should I?” she asked. “It’ll be simpler—we won’t be doing the ‘who pays?’ thing every time we’re out then.”

“Then to Gringotts we go,” he said, offering her his arm. The business at the bank took very little time in itself, but they had to wait for a while. It was a busy day at Gringotts. Hermione exchanged her key for a new one to their now-shared vault, and once they left, it was nearly lunchtime.

“Did you want to have lunch here, before we go to your flat for your things?” Severus inquired.

“How would you feel about lunch in Muggle London?” Hermione asked. “It might be nice. More...private. We’re not exactly anonymous around here.”

“True,” he said. “Lunch without an audience would be pleasant.” They left Diagon Alley through the Leaky Cauldron, transfiguring their robes into light jackets.

Hermione glanced down at her clothes, realizing all of a sudden that she’d gotten married in jeans. They were nice jeans, but not what one usually chose for a wedding. She giggled.

He glanced at her. She gestured to her outfit. “Not exactly bridal, am I?”

The corner of his mouth quirked up in a half-smile. “You are lovely whatever the occasion, Hermione,” he said.

Her smile was radiant. “Thank you. I think that’s one of the nicest things anyone’s ever said to me.”

“You are welcome. I was being honest. I would prefer it if you wouldn’t spread the news that I can be nice.”

She took his arm. “Your secret’s safe with me.”

Over lunch, Severus brought up the topic of announcing their marriage. “Did you want to?”

“We could,” she said. “I didn’t want to advertise it, mostly because we’re both so well-known. I don’t want a stir.”

“Would a delayed announcement suffice? In a month or two, put a very brief announcement in the Prophet? I assume you will want to tell your friends.”

“Yes,” she said. “I should. Molly will want to throw us a party.”

“You are still on good terms with the Weasley?"

“Yes,” Hermione answered. “Ron and I agreed to stay friends when we broke up, and we’ve actually made that work. It helps that he got married to Demelza a couple years ago. Molly and Arthur usually invite me to family gatherings. I think Molly feels sorry for me.”

He reached for her hand, almost automatically. “You are fortunate, to still have some sort of family.”

“I know,” she said.

They went to her flat after that. “What goes?” he asked, startled by the tiny size of the flat, and the limited number of belongings she had. Most were books.

“The boxes,” she said. “The furniture stays, because it goes with the flat. I sold my bookcases because they were cheap, and I wouldn’t need them at Hogwarts. I have a few things that I hadn’t finished packing.”

Severus carefully started stacking the boxes so they could apparate with them, while Hermione put her toiletries in a box, then the rest of her clothes. He helped her with her last few things, and then she ran downstairs to turn in her keys while Severus used a few cleaning spells. Hermione then coaxed Crookshanks into his carrier, and they apparated back to the gates of Hogwarts with her things. Crookshanks yowled. He hated apparating.

Severus neatly levitated her boxes, and they headed for the castle. When they got to his rooms—their rooms—Hermione had to forcibly remind herself—Severus directed the boxes into the study, where there was room. “I’ll go clear space in the closet for you,” he said. “If you want to start unpacking books, there’s some shelf space in here, and we can re-organize later.”

Hermione started opening boxes and putting books on the shelves. When Severus came back, he found her with a photograph in her hand. Tears trickled down her cheeks. It was a wizarding photo, but it was of her and her parents. They beamed with pride, arms around their daughter. It had been taken a year before their deaths.

Severus knelt beside her and offered a handkerchief. “I’m sorry,” he said quietly. “You must miss them very much.”

Her parents had died shortly before the last battle where Harry had at last defeated Voldemort. Although her parents had been under Auror protection, their guards had been overwhelmed, and they had been killed. Hermione had been devastated, but at the end of the war, she was almost mechanically dealing with tragedy. She had dealt with the funerals, managed the execution of their will, and sold their house and dentistry practice. She had donated a chunk of her inheritance to those who had lost a great deal during the war. It wasn’t until after that that she began to react to her loss. Harry and Ginny had been her support during that time, but it was then that the whispers of the Marriage Act had started, and she and Ron had broken up, depriving her for a while of the comfort one of her oldest friends could offer.

“I always thought my dad would give me away at my wedding,” she said. “And that Mum would help me plan it. I never thought they wouldn’t be here for this day.”

Severus cautiously put an arm around her, drawing her against him in an attempt to soothe her. His own parents had died when he was much the same age, but his
relationship with them had not been loving. He had felt a sense of loss and bewilderment, but also relief. Hermione’s grief was far different. She clung to the fronts of his robes, tears still trickling down her cheeks.

He held her now, letting her cry, burying his face in her hair. He gently stroked her back, uncertain of what to say or do. When she stopped crying, she blew her nose, and then wrapped her arms around him. “Thank you,” she whispered, looking up at him.

Severus tenderly wiped the last few tears from the corners of her eyes. Their gazes locked, and he bent to kiss her. She slid her hands up his back, pressing him closer, letting her mouth open so he could insinuate his tongue between her lips. She moaned into his mouth and he buried his free hand in her hair, the other arm wrapped around her waist.

He pulled back several moments later. “Hermione,” he murmured.

“Don’t stop, Severus,” she pleaded, clinging to him.

“If we keep going, it’ll go much further than this,” he warned. “I don’t want to take advantage of you when you’re upset.”

“You won’t,” she said, kissing his neck. “Please. I want you.”

He hadn’t realized his desire for her would increase exponentially if she expressed desire in return. Unable to resist, Severus pulled her up into his arms and stood, unsteadily, and, kissing her again, staggered towards the door, making for the bedroom. She wrapped her hands in his hair, running her fingers through it.

Hermione had never felt like this with anyone before, although she had to admit that her experience was limited to Ron and Viktor. Something about Severus, the way he kissed and touched her, aroused her like nothing else ever had. She’d spoken the truth: she wanted him. She was a little nervous, but she had always trusted him, and she saw no reason for that to change.

When they reached the bedroom, he put her down, and stood there, kissing her, running his hands up and down her body, feeling the curve of waist and hip. She slid her hands down his back and farther, and he groaned. Then she was unbuttoning his shirt, stroking her hands across the planes of his chest. He gently slipped his fingers under the edge of her shirt, and she pulled back to let him draw it over her head. He slipped out of his own shirt, and pulled her close again. She started to unbutton his trousers and slide them off, and he found himself doing the same with her jeans.

His heart turned over in his chest as he saw the way she looked at him. Then she turned her back to him and lifted her hair out of the way. He reached for the fastenings of her bra and, hands shaking, undid them. She slipped out of it and turned around to face him, and the garment dropped from his fingers. He picked her up, pressing his lips to hers once more, and her legs wrapped around his waist.

Leaving their clothing scattered on the floor, he carried Hermione to the bed, and gently eased her down. He lay beside her, eyes avidly drinking her in. He had dreamt of her this way, and the reality far out-stripped his imaginings.

Hermione traced a finger around his face, putting it on his chin to pull his mouth back against hers. He gently stroked her breast, and she arched against him. Encouraged by this, and by the way her hands roamed across his body, he wrenched his mouth from hers, and placed it against her other breast. Her cries of pleasure and the way she moved against him made him swell even more with desire for her. With his other hand, he slowly pulled her knickers down and slipped his hand between her legs.

“Severus!” she gasped as he touched her. He lifted his head to smile wickedly at her.

Then he pulled back for a moment to look at her. “You’re so beautiful,” he whispered in awe.

She reached for his pants and started to pull them off. He wriggled out of them, and she stroked her hand along his length. His low moan made her do it again. He reached his hand between her legs again, feeling how ready she was.

“Hermione?” he asked.

“Yes, Severus,” she pleaded. “Please.” She wrapped her legs around his waist, drawing him closer.

He cupped her face in his hands, and pressed a kiss to her lips. His black eyes stared into her brown ones, glowing with longing. With one quick thrust he entered her, and her gasp of shock at the new sensation startled him. He froze.

“Hermione, love, what is it?”

She glanced away from him and he realized. “I didn’t know,” he murmured in her ear. “I’m sorry, I should have asked.” He kissed her again, not moving within her yet, but letting her acclimate to the feel of him inside her. His kisses deepened, and one of his hands found one of her breasts, bringing her back to arousal, and when she timidly moved against him, he slowly began to thrust. She started to respond, matching his rhythm, and soon she was gasping, on the edge of the brink. He thrust deeper, and she teetered over the edge, clenching around him and bringing him to his climax.

“Severus!” she moaned, legs tightening around his waist, drawing him closer.

“Hermione!” he gasped, collapsing on top of her. He rolled to one side, taking her with him, reluctant to let go of her.

She snuggled closer to him, pillowing her head on his chest.

“I’m sorry I didn’t ask,” he said when he could speak.

“I was embarrassed,” she replied. “I’m in my twenties, and I’m still—I was still a virgin. That’s weird.”

“Why should it be strange?” he asked, running his fingers through her hair. “I couldn’t remember the last time I had sex, it was so long ago.”

“That is surprising,” she said, looking up at him. “I thought the women would be all over you. You’re a war hero.”

“That doesn’t mean I cared for their advances,” he said. “I had a few...encounters in my twenties, but I grew to dislike the meaninglessness of it. It was easier to avoid any attachments, even superficial ones.”

“And yet you married me, nearly on the spur of the moment?”

His eyes were solemn, and she sensed as he replied that he wasn’t telling her everything. “My life is safer now that I am no longer obliged to be a spy. I had time to think about how I wanted to live the rest of my life. I realized I did not wish to be alone.” He bent to kiss her.

“Why me, though? Why should you wish to marry me?”

He turned the question back on her. “Why would you marry me?”

“Because we seem far better suited to each other than anyone else I considered,” said Hermione.

“Then you have your answer,” he said succinctly.

“Thank you,” she said.

“For what?”

“For earlier,” she said with a sleepy smile. “And for marrying me.” She dozed off in his arms, exhausted by her sleepless night and the energy just expended. He pulled a blanket over both of them—even in the summer, the dungeons could be chilly.

Severus held Hermione, idly stroking her hair, reluctant to sleep. Her breathing deepened as she slept, and she relaxed completely against him. “Severus,” she mumbled, snuggling her head against his chest, above his heart.

“Hermione,” he said, gently stroking her cheek.

Chapter Text

Chapter 4: A Leap in the Dark

When Hermione woke up, she was still in bed, still wrapped around Severus. Her husband, she reminded herself. He had dozed off, but when he felt her stir, he woke up. “Hello,” he said.

“Hi,” she answered, stretching and sitting up. Realizing that she was naked, she pulled the blanket up around her chest, blushing.

He smiled at her. “Did you sleep well?”

“I did,” she said. “How long was I out?”

“An hour or two. I dozed off a few times, so I’m not entirely certain.”

“And you just stayed here, with me?”

He ran a gentle hand around the curve of her cheek. “You looked so peaceful, I hated to disturb you.”

“I’ve never seen this side of you before,” she said, settling herself in his arms.

“I’m not sure if anyone has,” he admitted. “I think Dumbledore suspects that it exists, but he’s a Legilimens.”

“I thought you were a skilled Occlumens.”

“I’ve let Dumbledore read my mind before, to prove my intentions when I switched sides. He knows me perhaps better than anyone.” His mouth twisted in a sardonic sneer. “Little of me that is worth knowing.”

“Don’t say that,” said Hermione, pressing a hand to his heart. “I may not know you as well as I will, but there is a great deal of you worth knowing.”

“You are the first to say so,” he informed her.

Hermione smiled at him. “That’s nice to hear. For me, not for you, obviously.” She leaned in and kissed him. Then she slid out of his lap. “I think I may need a shower,” she said, grabbing a sheet and wrapping it around herself.

“Take your time,” he said. “I’ll move your boxes of clothes in here so you can decide where you want them, and then search out some food.”

“Thanks, Severus,” she replied.

He got himself tidied up after she disappeared into the bathroom, and carried her clothes into his—their—room. He looked around at the rumpled bed and the clothes scattered on the floor and a triumphant smile spread across his face. She had wanted him. Really wanted him.

Crookshanks prowled into the room and meowed at Severus. He had seen a bag of cat food in one of Hermione’s boxes, so he poured a bowl of food for the cat, and then a bowl of water, placing them at the far end of the kitchen on the floor, out of the way. Crookshanks rubbed himself against Severus’ legs in appreciation, leaving fur all over his trousers, and then went to the food.

He threw on a robe and headed for the main kitchen. The house elves provided him with what he asked for, and he carried the food back to his—their—rooms. He could hear the shower still running when he came in, so he built up the fire, made sure the room was lit, and went to tidy their bedroom.

He tapped the sheets with his wand, saying “Tergeo,” and then made the bed. Their discarded clothing went into the laundry hamper. He opened up her boxes, impressed with how neatly she had folded everything.

“Severus?” Hermione stood in the door, wrapped in a towel, with another wrapped around her hair.

“I moved things around,” he said, opening the cupboard door, where he had slid his robes and shirts to one side, and conjured some extra hangers from a nearby supply closet. The chest of drawers had needed little clearing out, because it was so large that he didn’t use all of it. He had moved his socks all into one drawer, and some of his shirts, but other than that, he hadn’t had much to change over.

“Thanks,” said Hermione. She went to one of the boxes and fished out a shirt. Severus politely removed himself, shutting the door behind him.

Hermione emerged a few minutes later, wearing clean jeans and a t-shirt, rubbing her hair with a towel. “Where’d the box with my toiletries go?” she asked.

“I just put it on the counter in the bathroom,” he said. “There’s sandwiches if you’re hungry.”

“Great,” said Hermione. “Be there in a minute.” She went into the bathroom, leaving the door open, and rummaged through the box, extracting a hairbrush. She brushed her hair out and pulled it back into a ponytail.

Severus was placing another sandwich on the plate when Hermione wrapped her arms around his waist. He turned to her, surprised by her action. “Hello,” he said, slipping his arms around her.

“Hi,” she said, resting her head against his chest.

“Not that I don’t appreciate this,” he said, “but there’s no need to feel obligated to...”

She looked up at him with a raised eyebrow. “Obligation? I wanted to hug you, so I did. I’m not going to hug you just because I feel obligated. Last time I checked, we did agree to have a physical relationship, or need I remind you what we did a few hours ago?”

“You don’t need to remind me,” he said, tucking a loose strand of hair behind her ear. “I just don’t want you to feel pressured at all.”

“I don’t,” she said. “Do you?”

“No,” he said, kissing her. She kissed him back, fiercely, trying to make her point. He pulled away. “Hermione,” he said, “we shouldn’t get carried away again tonight. You’re not used it and I don’t want you getting unnecessarily sore just because neither of us is thinking.”

She sighed. “I suppose you’re right. It was so much better than what I’d been expecting, though.”

“I’m glad,” he said. “I wish you’d told me beforehand, though. It might have made it a little easier. I would have gone a little slower, at least.”

“It’s fine,” she assured him. “I was going to tell you, but I wasn’t thinking very much there.”

“Nor was I,” he said with a grin. “Now, we should eat. I’ll make some tea.” He handed her the plate of sandwiches, which she carried to the coffee table. The kettle was already on the fire, starting to steam, and Crookshanks had sprawled out on the hearthrug.

Hermione rubbed the cat’s belly before she settled on the sofa and picked up a sandwich. Severus joined her, putting the teapot on the table. He spooned in tea leaves and when the kettle boiled, Hermione jumped up to fetch the water.

He looked startled.

“You’ve been getting the food ready,” she said. “Let me do something.” She took the kettle off the fire, and poured water over the tea leaves. “I should knit another teacosy,” she said. “This one doesn’t fit the pot very well.”

“It works,” he said in protest. “Minerva gave it to me for Christmas years ago.”

Hermione looked at him. “Wouldn’t it be nice to have one that fits properly?”

He shrugged. She sighed and returned to the sofa. She took another bite of her sandwich. “Is it all right if we tell Harry and Ginny first?”

Severus sighed. “If we must.”

“He’s not that bad,” said Hermione.

“I know,” said Severus. “I am not stupid. Harry’s insistence on befriending me, once he knew the whole story, has been irritating.”

“I’m glad he did,” said Hermione. “And Ginny’s great.”

“Yes, she has been very kind.” Severus hesitated. “I don’t wish to cause a rift between you and your friends.”

“You won’t,” said Hermione. “I won’t let that happen.” She checked the tea, and poured cups for each of them. “I’ll Floo Ginny tonight and see if we can go over for supper sometime this week. I should tell them in person. Then we can tell the Weasleys. Was there anyone you wanted to let know?”

“There’s the teachers here,” said Severus. “Other than that, not really. Do you have no family that should know?”

“I suppose my aunt and uncle should hear about it,” said Hermione. “I can send them an announcement. Do you have any family?”

He looked at her and realized yet again how little they really knew about each other. “No,” he said. “My mother had no siblings, and my father’s family would not acknowledge him. I don’t know if any of them are alive or if they would care to hear from me. I certainly don’t wish for reminders of my father.”

Hermione’s eyes filled with compassion, and she did not ask further on the subject. “Is it all right, if we go see the Potters?”

“Yes,” he agreed, reasoning that he did need to make a concession here. And it wasn’t as if he had never been to dinner at the Potters’. He simply did not prefer Harry’s company, even if the boy had changed his mind about him.

Hermione finished eating and went to the fireplace, tossing a pinch of Floo powder in from the jar on the mantel. “Number 12, Grimmauld Place,” she said, sticking her head into the grate. This was not her favourite method of conversing, but it worked. “Hello?” she called.

“Hermione?” said Ginny, who fortunately happened to be in the kitchen. “Hi, what is it?”

“I was wondering if I could come by this week sometime.”

“For dinner?” said Ginny. “We’d like to see you. You want to come on Friday?”

“Friday would work. Um, can I bring a guest?”

“A guest?” said Ginny, grinning at her. “Is it a male guest?”

“Yes,” said Hermione. “And that’s all I’m saying for now.”

“Great,” said Ginny. “See you around 6:30?”

“Okay,” Hermione agreed. “See you then. Bye!” She pulled her head out of the fire and ended the spell.

Ginny went dashing through the kitchen to the sitting room, where Harry was. “Hermione just Floo’ed!” she said. “She’s coming for dinner on Friday and she’s bringing a date!”

Harry smiled at his wife. “That’s great, Gin. I’ve been worried about her.”

“Me, too,” Ginny said.

“Did she say who it was?”

“No,” said Ginny. “She wouldn’t tell me. Maybe it’s someone we don’t know.”

Back at Hogwarts, Hermione looked at her new husband. “Friday. 6.30.”

“Fine,” he agreed. “I notice you didn’t tell them who you were bringing.”

She went back to the sofa and picked up her tea again. “It’ll be enough of a shock that I’ve married you,” she said. “I need to tell them in person.” Then she leaned her head against his shoulder, startling herself at such ease in this man’s presence. Perhaps it was because they had slept together.

He had never anticipated this from her, either. He had thought she would be far more standoffish, but instead, she seemed to be taking nearly every opportunity to touch him. He lifted his arm and slid it around her, bringing her closer to him.

It was Wednesday, he realized. He had had no idea on Monday that it would be such a life-changing week.

They were both exhausted by the events of the day, and when Hermione started yawning after Severus had read her a section of the Canterbury Tales, he suggested going to bed. “Probably more comfortable than the sofa,” she agreed, getting up and heading for the bedroom. He took a few minutes to deal with the fire, and to put their dishes in the kitchen, wishing to give her a moment to change.

He entered their room, book in hand. Hermione had changed into pajamas, and was struggling to braid her hair so it wouldn’t tangle during the night. “I thought you might like to have this on the nightstand,” he said, offering her the book. “In case you woke during the night.”

“Thanks, Severus,” she said, taking the book and putting it on the small table next to her wand. “If I do wake up, would some light bother you?”

“It shouldn’t,” he said. “I don’t know for certain.” He opened a drawer and took out his own pajamas.

Hermione climbed into bed and closed her eyes. “I’m so tired, even after that nap,” she said.

He changed quickly, not wanting to inconvenience her. As he got into bed on the other side, she gravitated towards him.

“It’s been a long day,” he said. “We got married, remember?”

A smile played around her lips. “How could I forget?”

He deluminated the lamp, and the room fell dark. Hermione moved closer to him. “Good night, Severus,” she said.

“Good night, Hermione.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 5: To Give Patience a Test

The next morning, Hermione started putting her clothing away. Severus, in the other room, heard her humming to herself. She drifted into the bathroom, and put her toiletries away. Then she went to the study to put her books away. She vanished her boxes and then wandered back into the sitting room with a basket of wool and needles.

She set it in a corner and tapped it with her wand, putting a shield charm over the top of the basket to keep Crookshanks out. Severus watched her over the edge of his book as she went to the kitchen and went through the cupboards to learn where everything was kept. She had a few dishes that she put away there, and she almost automatically did the washing up. Then she settled down in the armchair with the first-year potions text, a notebook, and a self-inking quill. She started reading and making notes.

Severus went back to the text on counter-curses that he was using as a supplement for DADA that year.

A while later, Hermione looked up from her book and said, “Severus?”


“Why does this author introduce Calming Potions before Sleeping Potions?”

“The compositions are similar, but a basic Calming Potion is actually easier to create than an effective Sleeping Potion.”

“I thought it would be more difficult; calming is more subtle than sleep.”

His eyes lightened with amusement. “The advanced versions are more difficult, but they don’t start learning those until fourth year.”

Hermione made a note. “Thanks,” she said, going back to her reading. When the clock over the mantelpiece chimed one o’clock, Hermione went to the kitchen, made a few sandwiches, and brought the plate out to the coffee table.

“Thank you,” said Severus. “You didn’t have to do that.”

She smiled. “You can stop telling me I don’t have to do things,” she said. “It’s okay.”

When she had finished going through the textbook, she went to the study, where there was a calendar of course times. She started writing out a schedule for her first-year course in Potions.

Around five, Severus went to the study. “Hermione, did you want to have dinner in the hall?” he asked.

She looked up from the schedule. “One moment, I’m almost done here.” She wrote a few more things, then set her quill aside. “Well, that’s the first-year Potions,” she said.

“I’m impressed,” he said.

She shrugged, and went to the bedroom to take out a robe. Putting on her shoes, she said, “I like scheduling things. It’s interesting, making it all fit together.” She smiled in reminiscence. “It used to drive my friends mad.”

They entered the Great Hall to find that Flitwick and McGonagall had returned. Minerva gave them an appraising look; it was clear from the reactions of the teachers that Dumbledore had alerted them to the situation. Flitwick wished them congratulations, and as they sat down to dinner, he started a conversation with Hermione about charms. The academic subject was a safe one for dinner, and Severus allowed Pomona Sprout to draw him into discussion about herbs.

When they finished eating, Minerva said, “Hermione, could I have a word?”

Hermione let Minerva draw her aside. “Are you quite well, Hermione?” the woman asked.

She nodded. “I’m fine, Minerva,” she assured her. “I’m not crazy.”


“It was his idea,” said Hermione, “and upon reflection, I decided that it was not such a bad one.” She looked at her mentor, trying to find the words to reassure her. “We are better suited for each other than any of the other men I’ve met over the last few months. We have no illusions about this being a love-match, and I think that will be helpful. We’ve talked through our expectations, and we haven’t killed each other yet, and we’ve been married for over twenty-four hours now.”

Minerva saw Hermione glance over at Severus, who looked back. Minerva had known Severus for decades, and she had never seen his gaze soften like that. She was still worried about Hermione.

“But are you sure?” she asked.

“I was sure yesterday,” said Hermione. “I think we will be content together, at the very least. Possibly even happy.” She smiled. “We both love books, and that’s an improvement over every man I’ve been introduced to lately.”

Minerva sighed. “True. The man could be happy living in a library.”

“As could I,” said Hermione. “We’ll be fine. Don’t worry.” She went over to Severus, who was talking with Dumbledore.

Minerva watched as the couple excused themselves and left the hall, noticing that Hermione took his arm, and he moved closer to her as she did so. Dumbledore smiled at them. “What do you think, Minerva?”

She frowned. “I’m not sure. They may be insane.”

“They may be, but I know that Severus at least has had a preference for Hermione for some time. Don’t worry, I didn’t hire her to throw the two of them together,” he assured her. “However, I never thought I’d see him in love like that.”

“In love?”

“I don’t think he’s quite realized it yet,” said Dumbledore. “And I rather think she’s on her way to falling in love with him.”

Hermione settled at one end of the sofa with her knitting, and Severus at the other, with Canterbury Tales. He started where they had left off the night before. Hermione listened contentedly, thinking that she hadn’t expected her first few days at Hogwarts to be like this. She was well-aware that they would have conflict—some of their earlier discussions revealed that quite clearly—but for now they were both trying to accomodate each other, and the result was very peaceful.

Someone knocked on their door. “Come in,” said Severus.

Poppy Pomfrey rushed in. “I just got back, and Pomona told me,” she said. “Is it true?”

“As you see,” said Severus, gesturing at his wife.

She pulled Hermione to her feet and gave her a hug. “Congratulations,” she said.

“Thanks, Madam Pomfrey,” said Hermione.

“It’s Poppy, dear girl. And Severus,” she said, turning to him and shaking his hand. “I never thought I’d see the day. I’m glad for both of you. I’m sorry to barge in on you like this, but I just had to see you. I’ll leave you now—see you tomorrow. Oh, and Hermione, here,” she said, handing her a bottle. “Good night!”

The matron disappeared out the door, leaving Hermione blinking slightly.

“She’s frequently like that,” said Severus. “You’ll get used to it. What did she give you?”

Hermione held out the bottle. Severus’ eyebrow went up. “Ah.”

“I should have thought of it earlier,” said Hermione. “I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me.”

“Do you know where you are in your cycle?” he inquired.

“Yes,” she said. “We’re fine. I’ll start taking this tonight, though.”

He realized what she meant. That she actually intended...he hid his elation, and said, instead, “That’s one topic we didn’t discuss.” The Ministry had not bothered to legislate childbearing, assuming that throwing couples together would result in offspring.

Hermione bit her lip. “I would rather...that we figure out what our marriage is going to look like, before we settle things one way or the other.”

“That sounds reasonable,” he agreed.

Hermione went to the bathroom, took a dose of the potion, and then put the bottle away. She rejoined her husband, and let him start reading again.

Eventually, it seemed late enough for them to go to bed, and Hermione went to change into her pajamas. She brushed her teeth, and then watched Severus brush his while she braided her hair. The domestic-ness of the moment made her want to giggle.

She didn’t know what to do or say, but when she moved up against him, once they were in bed, his response made her decision for her. She kissed him, and he kissed her back, and so it went.

Afterward, Hermione felt reassured. “That was even better than last time,” she said.

“I should hope so,” he told her, pressing his lips to her neck. “Go to sleep, love.”

“Mmm-hmm. Good night, Severus,” she said, closing her eyes and settling herself against his warmth.

Chapter Text

Chapter 6: When His Wit Is Suspended

The next day, she started working on the schedule for second-year Potions, and Severus had a meeting with Dumbledore and the other heads of Houses. Hermione joined them in the Great Hall for lunch, and then went back to work. At five-thirty, she stopped and started going through her clothes, trying to figure out what to wear. She eventually settled on something, and went to call Severus out of the study, where he was trying to plan NEWT classes. “We have to leave in about twenty minutes,” she said.

He looked up. “Oh, right,” he said. “Just a moment, I’ll get changed.”

Hermione settled into the armchair, nervously trying to read. She didn’t know how to explain this to Harry and Ginny, and she was terrified of what their reactions might be. Severus emerged from their bedroom and immediately noticed her agitation.

“What is it?” he asked.

“What if they’re mad at me?”

He drew her to her feet and into his arms. “It will be fine. And if they’re mad at you, I’ll hex them until they apologize.”

She laughed at that. “Thanks.” She looked up at him, realizing that the last few days had changed everything in more ways than the obvious. She kissed him. “Ready to face the Potters?”

“For you, my dear, I would face a Hungarian Horntail,” he said mockingly.

Her smile brought an answering gleam from his eyes. Then she went to the fireplace, took a pinch of Floo Powder, and tossed it in. She stepped into the green flames. “Number 12, Grimmauld Place,” she said, and vanished. Severus stepped in and repeated the address.

Hermione tumbled out of the fireplace, and then stepped aside to catch Severus as he landed.

She turned to face Harry and Ginny, who were staring at the couple with open mouths. “Hi,” she said. “Harry, Ginny, we have some news.”

Harry blinked and managed to shut his mouth. “ Professor Snape?”

She took a deep breath. “He’s not my date,” she said.

“Oh,” said Harry, starting to look relieved.

“He’s my husband.”

“Really, Potter, if I’d known you were going to have an attack of the vapours, I would have brought smelling salts,” said Severus.

Harry downed a shot of Firewhiskey. “Thanks, Professor,” he said. “I really appreciate the thought.”

Ginny put an hand on Harry’s arm to calm him. “So, when did this happen? How did this happen?”

“Well, we got married on Wednesday,” said Hermione.

“Okay, but why didn’t you tell us?” Ginny asked. “We would’ve come to the wedding.”

“We just had a Ministry ceremony. And we didn’t make a lot of time to tell anyone.”

“When did you get engaged?”


Harry choked. Severus glared at him.

Hermione spread her hands in entreaty. “Look, I needed to find a husband, and you know all the available men my age are prats. Severus isn’t.”

“No, he’s just the world’s biggest git,” muttered Harry.

“Harry!” said Ginny. “They’re married. It’s done. No matter how strange you think it is, Hermione’s your best friend. And last time I checked, you counted Severus as a friend, too.”

Harry groaned. “I know. I’m sorry, it just takes some getting used to. So you decided to marry Severus?”

“Well, he asked me,” she said. “I said yes.” She reached for Severus’ hand, and he wrapped his fingers around hers.

Strangely, that single gesture was what convinced Harry. “Fine,” he said. Then he held out his hand to Severus. “You’d better be good to her, or I will come after you.”

Severus shook Harry’s hand. “Thank you.”

“So,” said Ginny. “We should have dinner.”

The conversation over their meal was only slightly awkward, but on the whole, their reception of the news went far better than Hermione had hoped. Then she asked, “How do you think I should tell your family, Ginny?”

“That’s a question,” said Ginny. “Ron’s going to be upset, guaranteed.”

“He’s been married to Demelza for two years,” said Hermione. “He has no right to be upset with me.”

“Maybe so,” said Ginny. “But that doesn’t mean he’ll remember that.”

The flames in the fireplace turned green, and Ron’s head popped into the grate. “Hey, Harry, can Demelza and I drop by?”

“Speak of the devil,” Severus murmured. Hermione snorted.

“Just a sec, Ron,” said Harry. “Yes, no?”

“Why not?” said Hermione. “Let’s rip the band-aid off.”

“What’s a band-aid?” Ginny asked as Harry went to tell Ron that they could come over.

Hermione started explaining it to her and then Ron, followed by Demelza, stepped out of the fireplace.

“Hey, Hermione!” said Ron. “I didn’t know you were here.” Then he saw Severus. “Hi, Professor,” he said, with a brief nod.

“Hello, Mr. Weasley,” said Severus.

“You want a drink, Ron?” asked Harry.

“Sure, whatever you’ve got,” said Ron.

Harry, considering, poured him a measure of Firewhiskey. Demelza helped herself to coffee. “What are you doing here, Professor?” she asked.

“I came with Hermione,” he said simply.

“Oh, that’s right, aren’t you two working together this year?” Ron said, taking a sip of the Firewhiskey.

“We are,” said Hermione. “And actually, I’ve got some news. We’ve got some news.”

“What’s that?” asked Ron.

Hermione took her husband’s hand. “Severus and I got married the day before yesterday.”

Ron sprayed Firewhiskey across the table in a fit of laughter. Severus blinked. Hermione pulled out a handkerchief and offered it to him.

“Thank you,” he said, mopping his face.

“This has to be a joke, right?” said Ron.

“Do you see either of us laughing, Mr. Weasley?” Severus snapped.

“Oh, come on!” said Ron. “Really? Why would you do that, Hermione?” He noticed the rings on their hands. “Seriously? You actually got married?”

“Congratulations,” said Demelza, ignoring her husband’s spluttering. “Well done, Hermione.”

“Well done?” Ron protested. “Well done?”

“In case you haven’t noticed, Professor Snape is considered one of the most eligible bachelors in wizarding England,” she pointed out. “Hermione’s managed to marry him.”

“I proposed to her,” Severus said grumpily.

Demelza grinned. “Good for you. Nice and assertive.”

That night, after they got home, Severus sat in his study, staring at the wall, deep in thought.

“Severus, are you coming to bed?” Hermione asked.

He started. “What?”

“Bed. Sleep.”

“Oh, yes,” he said. “Sorry.” He got up and followed her to the bedroom. She put out the lights when it became apparent that he was still distracted. She pressed a quick kiss to his cheek, then curled up and tried to fall asleep.

But it was one of those nights when she couldn’t sleep. She rolled over, trying to sleep on her other side. Then she tried falling asleep on her back. Eventually she gave up, slipped out of bed, and grabbed her wand. She tiptoed to the bedroom door and headed for the sitting room.

She curled up in the armchair and tried reading something dull, but that didn’t help.

Severus, unable to sleep first because of his own restlessness, and then because she was gone, gave up, and left the bedroom.

She looked up, surprised. “Sorry, did I wake you?”

“No, I wasn’t asleep,” he said. “You slept last night. And the night before.”

“It comes in waves,” she said. “Some nights I sleep like a normal person, and the rest of the time, well, I don’t.”

“You haven’t tried Dreamless Sleep?”

“It works when I take it, but then the next night, it’s worse. I can’t take Dreamless Sleep every night.”

Intrigued by the problem, his academic mind working, he wandered around the room, looking for a specific book. “How long have you suffered from insomnia?”

“Since the war,” she said. “I’ve tried Muggle remedies, and magic ones, and nothing works for very long.”

“On the nights when you do sleep, do you sleep well?” he inquired, leafing through a book he had found.

“Sometimes. Last night I slept well, and the night before. I tend to have nightmares, but I only had one last night that I can remember.” She smiled faintly. “That counts as a good night’s sleep these days.”

His mouth twisted in sympathy. Well he could believe it. His own dreams sometimes kept him awake at night, too tense to sleep.

He started quizzing her about the various remedies she had tried, and they spent the rest of the night talking with each other.

Over the next few weeks, they settled into a routine together. Hermione was intrigued by her own growing affection for him, but decided to wait to say anything. There were still moments of strangeness—moments where it hit her that she had married someone she knew in a very different sort of arena than the one required for marriage. But there were moments when she relaxed utterly with him, becoming for an instant the woman she might have been had she not lived through the war when so many others died.

They usually had breakfast in their rooms, and then lunch and dinner in the hall. As the days went by, and more of the staff returned, they found themselves having to explain their marriage repeatedly. Most of them took the news in stride, but it was still quite the shock for the professors, who had known Severus for years, and who had been looking forward to working with Hermione, to learn that the two had married, apparently spontaneously.

They worked out their class schedules, bickered about the advisability of teaching certain topics to different years, and managed to spend time simply being together without working. The nights when Hermione couldn’t sleep usually resulted in him reading to her until she finally managed to rest for a few hours. More than once, one of them woke from a nightmare, voice hoarse with shouting, to realize that the other was there.

The first time Severus woke, shaking from a dream, to find Hermione holding him close, another wave of realization hit him about his feelings for her. He was falling headlong into something entirely new, and it terrified him.

Chapter Text

Chapter 7: A Comical, Tragical, Fiery Ordeal

Ginny came up for a visit and she and Hermione went to have coffee in Hogsmeade. Ginny looked at her friend appraisingly. “You look happy,” she pronounced.

“Thanks,” said Hermione shyly. “You really think so?”

“Yeah,” said Ginny. “I mean, seriously, do you have any idea how you looked a few months ago? You look way better now.”

Hermione snorted at that. “Thanks ever so. How’s work?” she asked, changing the subject.

“Good,” said Ginny. “We think we have a strong season coming up. Now, back to you.”

Hermione winced. “Do you have to?”

“You’re one of my best friends,” Ginny said firmly. “Plus, Harry made me promise to find out for sure how you’re doing. I need more specifics than ‘she looks happy.’ So, are you getting along with each other?”

“Most of the time,” said Hermione. “The main problem is we’re both very strong-willed. We’ve had a few fights, but so far, nothing big.”

“Don’t worry, give it time,” said Ginny. “You’ve only been married three weeks. So he’s nice to you? Wait, can he be nice?”

“Yes, he can be nice, but don’t spread it around,” said Hermione. “He’s been...surprisingly kind.” A smile spread across her face. “I think he likes me more than he’s able to admit right now.”

“Oh?” said Ginny. “I must admit, I am curious. Why did he propose to you?”

Hermione shook her head. “I’m not entirely certain anymore. He said he’d grown tired of being alone, and pointed out a few of the points where we match well. We suit each other. And I was so tired of searching and finding out that the man I’d been set up with wasn’t interested in anything I like. It just seemed like the perfect solution. It still feels unreal sometimes. I’m getting used to being around him, but some moments, I look up and realize all over again that we’re actually married. Then there’s moments where it seems exactly right.”

“So, are you, you know?” Ginny’s voice lowered as she spoke. Hermione crimsoned slightly and nodded. “And?”

“It’s good,” said Hermione. At Ginny’s questioning look, she said, “No, really. It is. That part hasn’t been so difficult. It’s the being reminded that, even though we’ve known each other for years, it’s never been in this way, and that we have so much to learn about each other. He’s a very private person, and I don’t mind that, but it does mean that there are times when we’re talking and he suddenly needs to change the subject, because he’s not ready to tell me something about himself. And that’s fine. Like you said, we’ve only been married three weeks.”

Ginny looked at her friend. “You like him, don’t you?”

“I should hope so,” Hermione said. “I’m married to the man, after all.”

“No, I mean you really like him,” Ginny said, insisting.

“Fine,” said Hermione. “Yes, I really like him. I think I might be falling in love with him.”


“I still haven’t gotten a clear line on how he feels about me,” said Hermione. “So I haven’t said anything yet. We’ve got time, after all.”

Ginny nodded. “True.”

Divorce was quite rare in the wizarding world; the marriage laws were drawn up so as to make it fairly challenging to obtain a divorce. From Hermione and Severus’ perspective, they were in this for life.

Hermione sipped her coffee and thought about this, that she had married a man whom she barely knew outside of his work and the war (although that had revealed his character far more clearly than social events would), knowing full well that it was a life commitment. Funny how she could do this, in spite of the romantic notions she’d held as a teenager. She smiled.


“Just at sixteen would die of shock if she saw me now.”

Ginny laughed at that. “Probably. But you at sixteen would never imagine everything that’s happened since.”

“No, I doubt it,” she said. “I worried about my parents’ safety, but it never occurred to me that they would be casualties. If anything, I thought that I would die instead.”

“So did I,” said Ginny. “Me, not you. I didn’t think we’d lose Fred.” Her face faded into sorrow for a moment. Then she remembered something. “Mum and Dad are having a family party on Saturday and they want you to come. Might be a good time to let them know.” They had been over in France with Bill and Fleur and their children, visiting Fleur’s family for the last few weeks, so Hermione had been waiting to talk with them.

“Right,” said Hermione. “Term’s starting next week, and we won’t have a lot of time. We were talking about putting the announcement in the paper once term starts, so if any reporters come calling, we can tell them we’re too busy with work.”

Ginny grinned. “Slytherins do have an advantage when it comes to this sort of thing, don’t they?”

Hermione’s mouth curved in a twisted smile, remembering some of Severus’ recent tart comments about an article they’d been discussing. “Yes, they do,” she said. “They also have rather wicked senses of humour. I’ll check with Severus, and then send you an owl tonight. Could you tell your mum for me?”

“Of course,” said Ginny. “Don’t worry, I’m sure they’ll be happy for you.”

Hermione woke up on Saturday, feeling like there were pixies in her stomach. She was terrified of telling Arthur and Molly—they’d been like parents to her ever since hers had died. She climbed out of bed and headed for the bathroom. Severus was already up and making breakfast. He caught her for a quick morning kiss before she stumbled into the bathroom, still sleepy, and turned on the shower.

She washed her hair and let the hot water wake her up. She roughly dried her hair with a towel—past experience had taught her that using magic to dry her hair frequently did not end well—and brushed it out. Wrapped in a towel, she went to the cupboard in the bedroom and stared at her clothes.

It was late August, the weather was warm and sunny, and they were going to a party. Hermione eventually selected a light blue sundress she hadn’t wore in years. When she pulled it on, she remembered when she had bought it, on a shopping expedition with her mother the summer before seventh year. Less than a year before her parents were murdered. She hadn’t worn it since, but something made her want to remember the shopping trip with fondness, rather than regret. She was struggling with reaching the last few inches of the zipper when Severus came in and gave her a hand.

She looked at herself in the mirror and realized that the dress no longer fit properly. She had lost weight since that summer. She turned around, looking for her wand.

“Let me,” said Severus. “It’s easier when someone else does it.” He started taking it in using a sizing charm, stopping when the dress fit. “Is that right?”

“Thank you,” she said. He slid his arms around her waist and leaned his head against her shoulder. She relaxed against him, feeling more at peace. He smiled at their reflections.

“It’s a good colour on you,” he said. “You look lovely.”

“Thanks,” she said. “Mum insisted on buying it for me, before seventh year. That was the last time we did something fun together. After that the war started in earnest.”

He turned his head to breathe in the scent of her freshly washed hair. She turned to meet his lips and kissed him. “You know, for someone who rants about foolish wand waving, you’re really quite accomplished,” she said wickedly.

“Simply because I find wandless magic infinitely more subtle and intriguing does not mean that I eschew the use of wand-based magic,” he said. “Now, time for breakfast before this dress ends up on the floor.”

She smiled ruefully. “We can do that later,” she promised. She picked up her wand from her nightstand, and dropped it into the narrow pocket she had installed in the dress when she’d first bought it.

She sat down with a cup of fresh tea and ate her toast. Severus went to get dressed, and then came back, pouring himself more tea. Hermione smiled at him. “You’re not wearing black,” she said.

“You are aware that not everything I own is black,” he pointed out.

The Slytherin green collared shirt contrasted nicely with the khaki trousers. He looked impressively casual.

“I know, but I’d yet to see you wear anything with colour outside of these rooms,” she said.

“You ready to face the Weasley clan?” he asked.

She looked at the clock. “How did it get so late?”

“You actually slept last night, Hermione. I didn’t want to wake you.” The look in his eyes seemed somewhat akin to tenderness, and she smiled timidly at him.

“I’m terrified, but I keep telling myself that Harry and Ginny are okay with us, so Molly and Arthur should be fine.”

“If they’re aren’t, we can always come home,” he promised.

They walked down to the Apparition point in front of Hogwarts, and Hermione took his arm so she could appparate them. They landed a distance away from the Burrow, and she slid her hand down his arm so she could interlace her fingers with his.

He looked down at her, gratified by her need to hold onto him. “You don’t have to walk in there holding my hand,” he said softly. “I would fully understand if you did not wish to.”

She glared up at him. “You’re my husband, Severus,” she said. “I’m not ashamed of you. Why do you keep insinuating that I might be?”

“Because no one has ever been willing to be seen in public like this with me,” he replied simply.

She sighed, compassion lighting her eyes. “We’ll talk about this later,” she said. “For now, just remember—I’m yours. I’m not letting anything get in the way of that.”

He was shocked to his core by her words. So easily she said them, he thought to himself. And yet he knew her well enough by now to know that she did not say them lightly.

They turned and headed down the slope towards the house, united.

Harry and Ginny met them, and then Molly Weasley heard that Hermione was there, and hurried over. “Hermione, we haven’t seen you in months!” she said, enveloping the young woman in a hug. “How have you been?”

“Not bad,” said Hermione.

“And Ginny tells me that you brought someone with you. Where is he?”

Hermione grabbed Severus’ arm and pulled him over from where he had been lurking behind Harry and Ginny. “Well, you already know Severus,” she said.

Molly looked baffled. “It’s nice to see you, but I thought Hermione was bringing, well, a date.”

“That would be me,” said Severus.

“Molly, I know this is probably going to come as a bit of a surprise, but Severus and I were married a few weeks ago,” Hermione explained. “We’ve been waiting until we could tell you in person.”

Molly’s face fell. “Married. Really, Hermione, who came up with that ludicrous idea of a joke?”

“It’s not a joke,” said Hermione, taking Severus’ hand. He felt the tension in her and knew instantly that this was not going to go well.

Molly’s face grew even more concerned. “What else could it be? Hermione, you’re actually married to him?”

“Did you want to see the certificate?” said Hermione, growing irritated. “It was all perfectly legal.”

“How could you?” Molly asked. “How could you do something so foolish? Marriage means something, and you just decided to marry someone twice your age on a whim?” She turned to Severus. “I know there are plenty of marriages like that in our world, but I thought you were better than that, Severus Snape.”

Hermione flinched. “Please don’t say that about my husband, Molly.”

Arthur arrived a moment later. “Hermione, how are you?” he asked. “Severus, great to see you, but what are you doing here?”

“They’ve gone and gotten married, that’s why he’s here,” snapped Molly.

“Oh,” said Arthur, blinking for a moment. “Congratulations?”

Molly stared at her husband. “That’s what you have to say? ‘Congratulations?’ Do you really think this is a good idea?”

Arthur cleared his throat. “Good idea or not, it’s done, Molly. Why don’t you go check on the roast?” Molly glared at him, but went. He turned back to Hermione and Severus. “I’m sorry, I think she’s just surprised. As am I. When did you get married?”

“Three weeks ago,” said Severus. “Hermione wanted to tell you in person, and I concurred, but perhaps we should have given you warning.” He wrapped an arm around Hermione’s shoulders and she leaned into him.

Arthur shook his head. “Molly might have been so upset she would have sent you a Howler,” he said. “She doesn’t take these kinds of surprises well.” He paused for a moment. “You both look well.”

“Thanks,” said Hermione. She looked like she might cry, but she appreciated Arthur saying so.

“And you’re happy?”

“We are,” said Hermione. “We did get married less out of romance and more out of practicality, but so far it’s going well.”

“Good,” said Arthur. “I know this marriage law business is making more than one person just marry the first person who comes along, but I know you both. You wouldn’t do that.”

“Of course not,” said Severus. “We both considered our options and didn’t do this for our own amusement.”

Arthur smiled. “Glad to hear it.” He offered Severus his hand. They shook hands. “Congratulations to you both. I’ll go talk Molly down a bit. She’ll come around. I’m sorry she didn’t react well.”

“Your youngest son sprayed me in the face with Firewhiskey when he found out. Molly’s reaction is almost preferable.”

Arthur laughed and headed back up to the house.

Severus pulled Hermione into an embrace. “I must confess that I wasn’t expecting that reaction from Molly,” he said.

“She probably thinks you’re taking advantage of my youth and inexperience,” Hermione mumbled into his shoulder.

“Why not you taking advantage of my maturity and potential wealth?” he asked.

“Are you wealthy?” Hermione asked, pulling back to make eye contact.

He snorted. “Hardly. You’ve seen our joint account statement. I do have some savings, but I’m a teacher. Even including the room and board, and the chance to do some research, it’s not the most highly paid job in the world.”

She smiled. “One can hope,” she said. “Shall we see if Molly’s calmed down yet?”

Molly had not calmed down. She had escalated to shouting at Ginny and Harry for not telling her about Hermione’s marriage, and was refusing to listen to anything anyone had to say. Hermione looked at the scene and groaned inwardly.

“Molly,” she began.

She whirled to point at Hermione and Severus. “No. You. Out.”

Hermione flinched as if Molly had just slapped her. “Fine,” she said, turning towards the fireplace.

“No, I meant him. If he’s going to take advantage of you like this, he’s not welcome here,” Molly said. “You can stay.”

Hermione answered before Severus could. “If my husband is not welcome in your home, then neither am I,” she said clearly. “I’m sorry you feel this way, but this was my choice. Our choice. He is not at fault here. Goodbye, Molly.”

She turned towards the fireplace, pulling Severus with her. He realized quickly that she was on the brink of breaking down, so he tossed the Floo powder into the grate. “The Snapes’ sitting room, Hogwarts,” he said as they stepped in.

He had time for a brief view of Molly’s shocked face and Ginny and Harry’s anguished ones.

When they stumbled into their sitting room, Hermione started to sob. She wept for hours, clinging to him. He settled her on the sofa in his arms, conjuring handkerchiefs from the bedroom. He detached himself to make tea and to fetch food several times, but returned to her immediately.

His urgent desire to hex Molly Weasley was held in check by the even stronger imperative to look after Hermione. Eventually she fell asleep, spent by her weeping. He held her, and when she woke, she began to cry again when she remembered what had transpired. It was as though she had lost her parents all over again.

Later that evening, someone knocked on their door. Severus got up to open it, and was surprised to see Albus Dumbledore. “Sir, to what do we owe the honour?” he asked.

Hermione got up. “Pardon me, Albus,” she said, retreating to the bedroom.

The Headmaster watched her go, and noticed Severus’ reaction. “Is everything well?”

Severus closed the door behind him. “No. We were asked to leave the Weasleys’ party this afternoon.”

“Ah. That explains the owl I received from Molly, then,” said Albus. He surveyed the scene—the afghan lying rumpled on the sofa, the half-full teacups, and the pile of crumpled handkerchiefs.

“Hermione is upset,” said Severus stiffly, beginning to tidy the room.

“Understandably so,” said Albus. “Molly says that you just dragged Hermione out of there?”

“She was hurting Hermione!” Severus exploded. “She demanded that I leave and Hermione stay, and Hermione made herself clear that she did not feel welcome there and we left. How could that bloody woman do such a thing? She claims Hermione is like a daughter, but would she really treat her own daughter like that!”

“Calm yourself, Severus,” said Albus. “I also received an owl from Arthur. He says that, regardless of what Molly has to say, you were in the right. In fact, I believe I received owls from most of the Weasley clan. They are unequivocally in support of you and Hermione.”

He dropped his head, looking defeated. “I shouldn’t have put her through this,” he said. “I should have thought...was it a mistake, Albus?”

The old man watched him through surprisingly severe eyes. “Those of us who know you both—even those who have had reservations—cannot see this as a mistake. It has transformed you, and I don’t think anyone has seen Hermione this happy in years. You may have an unconventional marriage, but that does not mean it was not the right choice. For both of you.”

“I was selfish, when I asked her,” he admitted. “I wanted her so badly I did not think about what the consequences might be for her.”

“Bravo, Severus,” said Albus. “You took a chance. She did not have to respond the way she did, but the fact remains that she wanted to marry you. You know her—she would not fail to consider the ramifications, and she still chose you. Think on that.”

“She was magnificent today,” said Severus. “She...stood up for me. When Molly told me to leave, Hermione refused to stay.”

Albus smiled at the man. “I think you two suit quite well.” He stood, extracting a bundle of letters from his robe pocket. “These arrived for you this afternoon. There is only one which appears to be problematic.” He left.

The bright red envelope on top was addressed to “Severus Snape,” in Molly’s decisive handwriting. He stared at the letters, fanning through the stack. The rest were addressed to “Severus and Hermione Snape” and bore the return addresses of the various members of the Weasley family, as well as a number of Order members. He opened one at random. It was a card, congratulating them on their marriage.

He set those aside, staring at the Howler. He took a deep breath, and opened it. When the letter burst into flames at the end, Hermione emerged from the bedroom, face stricken.

“Severus, I’m so sorry—I never wanted to let you in for that—I should have thought about you—I’m sorry—I’ll go,” she stammered, heading for the door.

He went and caught her. “No, Hermione, I should have thought. I never wished to hurt you.”

“You didn’t,” she said. “I’ve hurt you.” She started to cry. “I never wanted it to be like that—I thought she’d be upset and then come around, like Harry—I didn’t think—I didn’t think!”

He held her, rocking her back and forth. “You haven’t hurt me, love,” he said. “Don’t go. Please. Stay with me.”

“I don’t want to leave,” she said. “I just don’t want you to be unhappy.”

“I am far happier than I ever thought to be, Hermione,” he said. “And it is because of you.”

She smiled through her tears. “Really?”

“I would not lie to you about such a thing,” he said, letting his feelings show on his face.

She kissed him. “Thank you,” she told him. “I hate that Molly’s unhappy with us, but if you still want me, I’m not giving you up.”

“Then we are in agreement,” he said. They stood together in silence for a time, neither certain of where to proceed after this.

Then he drew her over to the sofa. “Albus brought us these,” he said, handing the letters to her, the open one on top.

As she started looking through the letters, her eyes teared up, this time with gladness. At least most of the people they knew were happy for them.

Chapter Text

Chapter 8: Walking Through Mines

The first day of term arrived, and Hermione sat nervously at the head table in the Great Hall, watching as the new students were sorted. Severus found her hand beneath the table and his hawk-like gaze softened as he looked at her.

She smiled at him. “Don’t know why I’m so scared,” she said.

“You’ll be fine,” he told her. “Just don’t be afraid to be strict. Especially in Potions. Or they’ll blow up the school and themselves with it.”

“Would that get rid of the pixies in my stomach?” she asked.

“Probably.” They fell silent as Dumbledore began his welcoming speech.

“...and we would like to welcome Professor Hermione Granger, who will be teaching years one to three in Defense Against the Dark Arts, and years one to four in Potions. Professor Severus Snape will be teaching the remaining years for both subjects. Now, I believe it is time to eat!”

Hermione dug into her food and started to relax once she realized that most of the students weren’t interested in staring at their new teacher. Septima Vector, who was sitting on her other side, nudged her. “I didn’t realize you weren’t taking Severus’ last name,” she said.

“Oh, I am, just not for work. We thought the students would appreciate it if they didn’t have two Professor Snapes to deal with,” Hermione explained.

“You thought that, my dear,” said Severus. “I was simply not opposed to the idea.”

Septima laughed. “That’ll be the day—you showing consideration for your students’ feelings.”

Hermione rolled her eyes. “He’s really nicer than he lets on,” she confided.

“Are you trying to ruin my reputation, woman?” he asked.

“No, just trying to improve it,” Hermione replied. “Governing by fear may be effective, but the Macchiavellian approach would suggest trying for a combination of fear and love.”

“Macchiavelli was firmly an advocate of being the power behind the throne, Hermione,” he said.

“Exactly,” she said. “So learn to govern with more than fear, and I’ll give you a hand with it.”

He sneered at her. “Who knows, perhaps I’ll convert you to realizing that governing with fear may be the only way to get through to the little hellions who call themselves students?”

Hermione snorted. “Of course, because the last time I checked, the best way to banish a hellion was not to use intimidation.”

Septima watched their interactions with a raised eyebrow, impressed. Severus was not only sparring with his wife—she wasn’t doing so badly. Perhaps they were better suited than she had initially thought.

Hermione nearly threw up before her first class, but she made it through Potions with first-year Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws, and then with Slytherins and Gryffindors. Then she headed out of the Potions lab to the DADA classroom, where Severus had just finished a lecture to the seventh years. As they left the classroom, she came in and started setting up for the second-year course.

“How did it go?” Severus asked.

“Not too badly, once I got started. I’m a little worried about next class, because that’s when we actually start brewing.”

“Just remember to drill safety rules into their heads.”

“Are you off to Potions now?” Hermione asked.

“Fifth years,” he said. “Time to put the fear of God into them about OWLs.” He smirked. “Should be delightful.”

She laughed, kissed him on the cheek, and then he was gone. She put up the slide projector and lit it with a Lumos.

A group of second-year Ravenclaws hurried in, followed by a gaggle of Gryffindors. She lectured on their first topic of the year: Grindylows.

With a sigh of relief, she saw that it was lunch-time. She set things up for her next class—third year Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs—and headed for the Great Hall. She sat down with a grateful sigh and poured herself a steaming cup of tea.

“How was your first morning, Hermione?” Minerva asked.

“Not bad,” she said. “I’m still alive, and I think I may have actually communicated some knowledge to the students.”

Severus slid into the seat next to Hermione. “Excellent,” he said. “Wait until next class to see just how many recall it.”

“They’re students, not monkeys, Severus,” said Minerva.

He cast an eye over to the Hufflepuff table. “The monkeys are starting a food fight, Minerva,” he said. The Deputy Headmistress stormed over to the Hufflepuffs, wand in hand.

Hermione was laughing silently, hardly able to breathe. “Oh, I needed that,” she said when she was finally able to stop. “Can you pass the soup?”

He handed her the tureen. “How was class?”

“Fine,” she said, ladling soup into her bowl, “though I’m beginning to see why the Gryffindors irritate you so much. Are they always that cheeky?”

“Usually,” he said. “You’ll have to put up with more from the Slytherins, but I can make it clear to them that they are not to disrespect you.”

“I’ll let you know if I need you to do that,” she replied gently. “But I’d like to see if I can earn their respect on my own.”

“Good luck,” he said. “You may need it.”

The first weeks of the school year sped by, and before they knew it, October was nearly upon them. With a slight shock, Hermione realized that they had been so busy that they had forgotten to send off the announcement of their marriage to the Daily Prophet. She mentioned it one evening.

“What did we want to say?” he asked, taking a piece of parchment and a quill out.

“Nothing splashy,” she said. “The less it’s commented on, the better. I don’t want to deal with someone like Rita Skeeter showing up to badger us.”

“How’s this?” he asked, pushing the parchment over to her. They had settled for placing another desk in the study, facing his, to make better use of the space.

She scanned it. August 5th-Professor Severus Snape to Professor Hermione Granger. “Perfect,” she said. “I’ll mail it off tomorrow.” She put the paper into an envelope and addressed to the Daily Prophet, Marriage Announcements.

Someone knocked on their door. Severus got up to answer it, since Hermione was finishing writing the direction on the envelope. He opened the door to see a nervous first-year standing there.

“Yes?” he said.

“Um, sorry, Professor Snape, someone told me that this is where Professor Granger lived,” she gulped.

“Hermione,” he called.

She emerged from the study. “Oh, Miss Morrison. Did you have a question?”

The girl nodded. “About the essay due on Friday,” she said. “I’m confused about a couple things.”

Hermione talked with the girl and explained what she wanted in the essay. “Is that it?”

The girl nodded. “I didn’t know you lived with Professor Snape, ma’am,” she said.

“We’re married,” said Hermione. “Generally married couples live together. I just go by Professor Granger so it’s less confusing.”

“Oh,” said the girl. “Thanks for your help, Professor.”

Hermione watched the girl dart off. “Well, all of Hufflepuff will know we’re marrried by tomorrow,” she remarked.

“Is that such a bad thing?”

“No, of course not,” said Hermione. “I’m just curious to see what the school-wide reaction will be.”

“Probably shock and disgust that professors actually do such normal things as get married and live together,” said Severus.

Hermione went to him. “At least she didn’t see us snogging,” she teased.

He groaned. “That would be unfortunate.”

“I know. How would you keep up your reputation if that happened?”

Hermione was surprised when there wasn’t a kerfuffle over the next few days. Miss Morrison appeared to be less gossipy than most Hufflepuffs, or the news simply didn’t mean much. They got a few letters when the announcement appeared in the paper, but fortunately it coincided with announcements about the marriages of several well-known people in wizarding society who saw fit to accompany their announcements with pictures.

Chapter Text

Chapter 9: To Envelop Her Weakness

As autumn cooled rapidly, their quarters in the dungeons grew colder, as early as late September. Hermione took to casting a Warming Charm on the floor before getting up in the morning, and adding a heavy dressing gown and warm slippers. Severus did the same, in spite of being used to the chill.

“I don’t know how you stand it down here,” Hermione said, teeth chattering as she built up the fire.

“I’ve grown used to it,” he said, tapping the kettle to heat the water right away. “Besides, it’s wonderful in the summer.”

“True,” she agreed, adding another log to the fire. “But I need to find a more effective Warming Charm.”

He poured water over the tea leaves, leaving the brew to steep, and went to kiss her. “How’s that?” he asked.

“Hmm, not bad,” she said. “But is it long lasting?”

He chuckled. “Perhaps. But you should have your tea. Isn’t there a staff meeting this morning?”

She sighed. “Yes.” She took her tea into the bathroom where she put her hair up. Severus got dressed and made toast. It was easier to eat here than to hurry to the Great Hall, eat, and then rush to the staff meeting.

Hermione put on heavier robes than usual. The chill in the dungeons was starting to spread to the rest of the school, like it always did.

During the staff meeting, teachers were assigned to patrol corridors for the next month, and the chaperones for the upcoming Hogsmeade weekend were chosen. Hermione and Severus drew the short straw. “Drat, I was hoping to visit Ginny that weekend,” said Hermione. “Oh well.”

That evening, Hermione stretched and rubbed her neck when she finished marking papers, wincing at the knots in it.

Severus, reading Potions Monthly, saw her grimace. “Come here,” he said, putting the journal aside. She sat down at his feet and he carefully felt her neck. “What have you been doing with yourself?” he asked, starting to work on one of the knots.

She hissed softly at the pain. “Just normal work,” she said.

“How’s the rest of your back?” he asked.

“Achy, but not bad,” she said. “The usual.”

“When was the last time you saw a Healer about this?” he inquired.

“April, I think,” said Hermione, arching into his hands. “Bloody hell,” she gasped.

“This one’s very bad,” he said. “Breathe. I need you to relax.” He carefully worked the knot out and then moved to massaging her temples. “You have a headache, too, don’t you?”

“Of course,” she said. “But this is helping.”

“What did the Healer say?”

“Hmm? Oh, just the same as usual. After-effects from Cruciatus, exacerbated by stress, overwork, weather, or illness, they can relieve symptoms but not the cause. Muscle relaxants, pain reliever, and massage. Mine’s unusually bad, et cetera, et cetera.”

He sighed. “You’d think they’d come up with something better, given all the people who suffered during the war. Here, lie down on the floor, and I’ll see to your back.”

“Thank you,” she mumbled into the rug.

“You were doing this two nights ago for me,” he said sternly. “I’m only repaying the favour.”

“Bollocks,” said Hermione. “I don’t think repaying favours works so well when you’re married.”

“Depends on the favours,” he said.

“True that,” Hermione replied, then fell silent as he slowly worked his way down her back, dealing with knotted muscles.

Severus was remembering how Hermione had acquired this particular problem. His was a result of having been tortured by Voldemort numerous times to prove his loyalty. Hermione had been tortured, too.

At the beginning of the Easter break during Hermione’s seventh year, she had gone home to visit her parents, who were under guard. When word came that she had never arrived, Dumbledore had immediately summoned Severus.

“I think it quite likely that she has been captured by Death-Eaters, Severus,” he said. “I need you to get her back, at any cost. She knows too much for us to leave her in his hands.”

Severus had agreed. They were planning their last offensive, the attack that would hopefully destroy Voldemort once and for all. They were too close to fail now. “At any cost, sir?”

“Even if you expose yourself as a double-agent,” said Albus. “Please.”

He felt the Dark Mark on his arm begin to burn. “I am being summoned. I would guess that Miss Granger has been delivered to the Dark Lord.”

He left, arriving at the headquarters to find Voldemort very pleased. “We have Potter’s Mudblood whore,” he informed Severus. “Once we have what we want from her, I want you to return her to the school. The old fool must not know that we have the upper hand.”

Severus bowed his head. “As my Master wishes,” he said, realizing that this was the perfect opportunity to get the girl out without tipping his hand. Hermione’s wand was handed to him, and he pocketed it.

One of the Death-Eaters flung Hermione onto the floor in front of Voldemort. He paced around her, watching, waiting to strike. Eventually he did. “Crucio!”

Hermione screamed and writhed on the ground. When he let up, he said, “Welcome, Miss Granger. I suppose you know why you are here?”

She didn’t respond. “Ah, you are going to be troublesome, aren’t you?” He looked at her appraisingly. “Bellatrix!” he snapped.

“Here, Master,” she said, making her way through the crowd.

“Interrogate the girl,” he said, with a wave of his hand, returning to his seat. “I want to know Potter’s plans.”

Bellatrix’s mad face flushed. “With pleasure, my lord,” she said. Gleefully, she aimed her wand at Hermione and shrieked, “Crucio!”

Severus kept his face impassive as he watched. Fervently he hoped that Hermione would not break. If she did, the entire Order would be in grave danger. After an hour, Hermione passed out.

“Severus, revive her!” Voldemort snapped.

He went to her, knelt, and said, “Rennervate.”

Hermione’s eyes opened. She saw him, and her expression was suddenly filled with relief. She didn’t say anything, but as Bellatrix roughly shoved him aside to continue torturing her, she appeared to be even more determined.

Two hours later, after she had been revived several more times, she screamed, “All right, I’ll talk!”

Severus felt a chill fall over him until he heard her babbling one of the most outlandish plans he had ever heard. Voldemort listened, a cold smile playing about his face.

“Severus, check to see that she tells the truth. I won’t sully myself by performing Legilimency on a Mudblood.”

Enormously relieved, he took Hermione by the shoulder, and said, “Legilimens!” As he entered her mind, he saw that she had been studying. At the forefront of her mind was a conversation of months ago between her, Weasley, Potter, and Dumbledore, discussing the intricacies of the plan she had just related. It was one, he recalled, that had been quickly discarded. Good girl, he thought to her.

Thank you, sir, she replied, her mental voice somewhat faint after what she had just endured.

He released his hold on her as if sickened, and turned to Voldemort. “She speaks the truth, my lord. She has memories of conversations with Potter, Dumbledore, and others, making these plans.”

“Good,” said Voldemort shortly. He nodded to Bellatrix, who cast Crucio again. “Severus, take the Mudblood back. Make certain, by any means necessary, that she will not reveal what has happened here tonight. Bellatrix!”

The witch reluctantly dropped her wand. Severus pulled Hermione to her feet. She couldn’t stand, and he made a show of distaste at having to support her. As they left the room, Bellatrix shot one last curse at Hermione, who screamed and stumbled.

Severus turned. “Bellatrix, I would prefer to be able to deliver the chit back to Dumbledore in one piece, so that I could continue to make myself useful.”

“Enough, Bellatrix,” said Voldemort. “You have done very well tonight.”

Severus knew, as they left the house, that Hermione would not be able to go straight back to the school without everyone knowing what had happened. Nor would she be able to easily endure Apparating the long distance back to the school. She was swaying already. “Miss Granger, I need you to stay conscious for just a few more minutes. Miss Granger!” He groaned with frustration. “Hermione!” Her eyes focused on his face. “Stay awake!” He took a deep breath, and apparated them to Spinner’s End, which was much closer.

They arrived in his sitting room, and then she fainted. He carefully placed her on the sofa, draping the afghan across the back of it over her prone body. Then he went to the fireplace, starting a fire and adding a pinch of Floo powder, then murmuring another spell. This one made the Floo undetectable to outside watchers.

“Albus, I need you at my home immediately,” he said once he had contacted the Headmaster. He pulled out of the fireplace to let Albus step through.

He took one look at Hermione and asked, “How long?”

“Three hours,” said Severus. “She told them a plan that had been discarded ages ago, but that still sounded somewhat plausible.”

Dumbledore looked shaken. “After three hours of torture? I never thought she would be able to...”

“No, nor did I. It seems we have underestimated Miss Granger. She will take several days to recuperate from this.”

“Yes,” said Albus, thinking. “She isn’t supposed to be back at school right now anyway—it’s the holidays. Severus, can I trouble you?”

He sighed, but he had already had a good idea that this would happen. “I’ll look after her,” he said. “She shouldn’t be moved right now.”

“Do you have everything you need?”

“I’ll make a list,” said Severus, going to a nearby table.

Hermione stirred and opened her eyes. “Professor?” she said, seeing Dumbledore.

“Miss Granger,” he said. “It is good to see you alive.”

A faint smile touched her face. “ Snape.”

“He will be looking after you here until you are well enough to return to Hogwarts. You should be back by the end of the holiday.”

“My parents?”

“They’re fine. I had them moved. They are safe. I will assure them that you are well.”

Severus handed Dumbledore the list. “Make sure to send food, too,” he said. “I hadn’t planned on being here for several days.”

“Of course,” he said. “Miss Granger, I hope you feel well soon.” He stepped back into the fire and vanished.

Hermione winced as her muscles spasmed. “I never thought about...after the Cruciatus curse.”

“The after-effects can be quite severe, Miss Granger,” he said. “I’ll go fetch a potion that will help a bit.”

He brought a phial of a muscle relaxant, and made sure she drank it. Then he made tea, propped her up with a few pillows, and gave her a cup of ink-black tea, well-sweetened. “It will help with the shock,” he said.

She sipped slowly, hands shaking slightly. “Thank you, sir. Thank you for getting me out of there.”

His expression was bleak. “Don’t thank me. I didn’t get you away before you were tortured.”

“I knew you wouldn’t be able to,” she said. “I heard him—telling you to take me back to the school. I knew that meant I would get out alive, so I knew I could make it through anything else.”

He was stunned by her response. It was what he would expect of a trained soldier, not a young woman of Hermione’s years.

She fell asleep shortly after that, but woke later when her muscles began to spasm again. “Breathe through the pain, Miss Granger,” said Severus. “Breathe, slowly, in and out. It will help you relax.”

She closed her eyes and did as he bade her, and eventually her shaking ceased. “Why is it so bad?”

“Several reasons,” he said. “You have never been tortured before.”

“Unless you count my parents making me wear braces on my teeth,” she said.

He raised an eyebrow. “Was that a joke, Miss Granger?”

“Even dark humour helps,” she said. “What else?”

“You are unused to torture, and most people’s first encounter with Cruciatus is relatively short. You withstood three hours of it. Additionally, the Dark Lord had Bellatrix torture you because she is far more skilled with the curse than even he is.”

“How so?”

“The curse does not depend only on the strength of the wielder, but also how much pleasure they derive from causing pain. While the Dark Lord enjoys causing pain to others, especially if they are Muggle-born, Bellatrix is unique in her ability to relish suffering. That causes any torture done by her to be far worse. She is far less interested in the goal of the torture, only in causing pain.”

Hermione closed her eyes. “I wondered why it was worse from her than it was from him.” She sighed, wincing slightly at all the aches in her body. “I didn’t read much about the after-effects of Cruciatus, just about coping with it while it was happening.”

“You read up on it?” Severus told himself that he shouldn’t be surprised—this was Granger after all.

“I knew I was a target,” she explained. “I knew it would be easier for them to catch me than Harry, so I decided I should be prepared. I read about Legilimency and Occlumency, and how to do those, and then figured out what I would tell them if I was captured. And I read about the Cruciatus curse, and I read some Muggle books about torture techniques and how to endure them.”

Severus stared at Hermione. He had never seen anyone more able to put theory into practice in a difficult situation than her. “You are undoubtedly worth at least ten of both Potter and Weasley,” he murmured.

She smiled weakly. “They aren’t that bad, Professor. You just never get to see their good sides. But thank you for the compliment.”

“You are a remarkable young woman, Hermione,” he said. “You did far better than someone with more experience might have. Now, you should sleep again.” He handed her a phial of Dreamless Sleep.

During the last battle, Harry reached Voldemort more swiftly than he had planned, and it was over quickly. Hermione, seeking out fleeing Death Eaters, was cornered by Bellatrix Lestrange, who was furious.

Severus heard Bellatrix’s shrieks and Hermione’s screams. He raced across the battlefield, hexing anyone in his way.

Hermione, caught in pain, heard a familiar voice snarl the killing curse. The pain stopped. Severus was stooping over her, and lifting her to her feet.

“Are you all right, Miss Granger?” he asked. She bent over to pick up her wand and put it into her pocket and nearly toppled over. He wrapped an arm around her. “Come on, let’s get you to the infirmary.”

“That was worse than last time,” said Hermione. “She was more upset.”

His mouth curved in a grim smile. “She’ll never torture anyone again,” he said.

They made their way slowly towards the castle. Hermione had to stop every few minutes to breathe and relax to keep her body from tensing and convulsing. Harry and Ron were waiting.

“What happened, Hermione?” Ron asked.

“Bellatrix Lestrange,” she said as Severus handed her over to the boys. “Professor Snape saved me.”

“Thank you for allowing me to dispose of Madam Lestrange,” he said. “I had been longing to deal with her for quite some time.”

Hermione smiled. “I aim to please, Professor.”

He looked down at Hermione. “Feeling better?” he asked. She sat up and stretched.

“Yes, Severus. Thanks.” She pulled him close for a kiss. When she pulled back, an odd smile played about her lips.

“What?” he asked.

“Just thinking how funny it is that we decided to marry for pragmatic reasons—and given the way we are together, I don’t think anyone would guess that.”

“Well, I can think of a few pragmatic reasons for something,” he said, kissing her.

“Oh really?” she asked when he released her.

“Yes, I believe so.” He stood, and scooped her up into his arms, heading for the bedroom. “Pragmatically speaking, I believe our bed is a better place for this discussion.”

“I would have to concur,” she said.

Later, as they lay tangled together, relaxed and happy, Severus, without thinking, said the words that had been on his mind for some time. “I love you.”

Hermione moved closer to him. “I know. I love you, too.”

His arms tightened around her, and he found that neither of them needed to say anything else for the moment.

Chapter Text

Chapter 10: Brandish a Taper

One morning over breakfast, after the owls had delivered the morning post, Hermione opened a letter that had been addressed to the post-office box in Hogsmeade. “It’s from my aunt and uncle,” she said. “I haven’t heard from them in ages.”

“What is it about?” Severus asked.

“I sent them a marriage announcement after we had the announcement in the Prophet,” Hermione said. “I wasn’t really expecting them to write back.” She read over the letter. “They want us to visit,” she said, sounding surprised. “This weekend, if possible.”

“We don’t have Hogsmeade duty until the last weekend of the month,” said Severus. “And I don’t have any detentions scheduled for Saturday. Did you want to go?”

“I think we should,” she said. “I don’t have much family left, after all.” Hermione went down to Hogsmeade around lunchtime to the phone box there and called her aunt.

“Hello, Susan Granger,” said her aunt’s voice.

“Aunt Susan? It’s Hermione.”

“Oh, hello, dear,” said her aunt. “I take it you got my letter.”

“I did,” said Hermione. “Severus and I are free this weekend, so we can take the train down and have lunch with you on Saturday or Sunday, if you like.”

“I think Saturday would do,” said Susan. “I know Paul’s interested in meeting the man you ended up with. I’m surprised you didn’t invite us to the wedding.”

“Well, we just had a registry office ceremony and didn’t invite anyone. Neither of us really wanted a wedding proper,” Hermione explained.

“Hmmm,” said Susan. “Do you really think your parents would have wanted you to do that?”

“Probably not, but I couldn’t really face the idea of a wedding without them,” Hermione said. “Will Jim and Sara be around?”

“No, they’re both off at university,” said Susan. “But perhaps we could all get together around Christmas. We’ll see you around noon on Saturday then?”

“Yes, see you then,” said Hermione. “Have a good week.”

“Bye!” Her aunt rung off, and Hermione put the receiver back in its cradle. Maybe this was a chance to reconnect with them.

“We’re having lunch and spending some of the afternoon with them,” she told Severus when she got back. “Then we’re off again. They think we’re taking the train. They live in Blackpool so it’s not too much of a stretch.”

The Grangers lived walking distance from the train station, so Hermione apparated with Severus to a quiet corner near their home. She smoothed her skirt, straightened her collar, and took a deep breath.

Severus took her arm. “It’ll be fine,” he told her. “You’re an adult, remember?”

“I know, but they’ve known me all my life,” said Hermione. “And I don’t know what they’ll think of you.”

They walked to her aunt and uncle’s door, and Hermione pressed the buzzer. Her uncle answered. Hermione, with a shock, realized just how much he and her dad had looked alike.

“Good to see you, Hermione,” he said. “And this must be Severus. That’s quite a name.”

Severus shook his hand. “Thanks,” he said. “And you’re Paul, right?”

“Yes,” he said, pulling them into the living room. “Have a drink? I’ve just opened a bottle of wine, and Susan’s getting lunch on the table.” He poured each of them a glass and then guided them into the dining room.

Susan hugged Hermione, introduced herself to Severus, and then got them all seated around the table.

“Now, how did you two meet?” Susan asked. “I was so surprised to find out you’d gotten married. I mean, last time we saw you, you were dating, oh, what’s-his-name. Don?”

“Ron,” said Hermione. “It didn’t work out. He actually got married to someone else about two years ago. They’re really happy together. Anyway, Severus and I met through work. We’re both instructors at a boarding school. I teach lower-level sciences, and he teaches the upper levels.”

“Teaching, eh?” said Paul. “I always thought that’d suit you. Been a problem, the whole workplace romance thing?”

“Not really,” said Hermione. “The headmaster wasn’t bothered, and nor were the rest of the staff. Most of the students haven’t even noticed that we’re married.”

Paul laughed. “Typical of kids. Now, you’re a bit older than Hermione, yes?”

“Yes,” said Severus evenly. “That a problem?”

Hermione smiled and squeezed his arm. “But we get along very well,” she said. “And really, Uncle Paul, can you see me settling down with a guy my age who just wants to play Xbox and watch sport?”

“Not really,” he agreed. “Susan and I here, she’s about eight years younger than me, and we’ve always gotten along well.”

“Most of the time,” said Susan. “You still watch sport all the time.”

“Someone has to,” said Paul affably. “Severus, you follow football?”

“I’m afraid not,” he said. “I did when I was younger, but I lost interest after a while. Same with cricket. I’m more interested in reading and music.”

“Then you and Hermione suit,” said Susan. “She’s always had her nose in a book.” She smiled at her niece. “It’s good to see you looking happy. Last time we saw you, after your parents...”

“I know,” said Hermione. “It was awful. I kept telling myself I should have been there, that I should have been able to do something.”

“It was a car crash, Hermione,” said Susan. “Not like you could have done much. I’m sorry we weren’t there for you as much as we could have been.”

Hermione shook her head. “Not a problem, Aunt Susan. I wasn’t really interested in spending time with people after that. But it’s good to see you now.”

“Yes,” said Paul. “I wish your dad was here, see his little girl happily married. So, where did you go on your honeymoon?”

“We didn’t actually,” said Severus. “We got married a few weeks before term started and we had a great deal of reorganizing to do with our curriculum. There wasn’t really time. We’re talking about going somewhere next summer, for our anniversary.”

Hermione smiled. “If we can ever agree, that is,” she said. “I think we’ve argued more about that than anything else so far.”

“That and your tendency to forget about breakfast,” Severus said. “Honestly, woman, a cup of tea in the morning is not enough when you’re teaching eleven-year-olds.”

“And I told you I was fine,” she retorted. “This from the man who forgets that he’s eating whenever he brings a book to the table.”

Susan and Paul watched the couple bicker with each other. Susan started to giggle and Paul chuckled.

“What?” said Hermione, looking at her aunt and uncle.

“Nothing,” said Susan. “It’s just—you reminded me so much of your parents when they were first together, the way they’d argue. Told me how happy they were, how comfortable they were together.”

“They’d be pleased, I think,” said Paul.

When Hermione and Severus left, they had promised to visit over the Christmas holidays. Hermione sagged with relief when they arrived back in Hogsmeade.

“Fancy a drink, love?” said Severus.

Hermione nodded and followed him to the Three Broomsticks. She sank into a booth in one corner of the room, and Severus went to the bar to get their drinks. He slid in beside her and handed her a glass.

“Thank you,” she said devoutly. “I’m so glad they didn’t panic.”

“They don’t know me at all,” he pointed out. “They trust your judgement. Which must be flawed, since you did marry me.”

Hermione lightly punched his shoulder. “Stop denigrating yourself,” she said. “I love you, you git.”

“Ah, the sounds of the happily married couple,” said a familiar voice. Hermione looked up to see Ginny and Harry standing there.

“Can we sit down?” Harry asked.

“Of course,” said Hermione. “What are you doing here?”

“We came up for the afternoon,” said Ginny, dropping into the seat across from Hermione. “We were going to drop in on you two, actually, but since you weren’t there, we visited Dumbledore and McGonagall.”

“Where’d you disappear off to?” Harry asked.

“We were visiting my aunt and uncle in Blackpool,” said Hermione. “They approve.” She smiled happily at her husband. He smiled back, and slipped an arm around her shoulders.

“Made a nice change,” he said. “No screaming.”

Ginny grimaced. “I’m still trying to talk Mum round. She’s been really odd about this. I don’t quite get it. Dad doesn’t get it either.”

“But the rest of us are happy for you,” said Harry. “It was just a surprise, is all. Not the first thing you think of, you know.”

“I know,” said Hermione. “But he’s way more interesting than any of the men you and Ginny tried to set me up with.”

“Thanks, dear,” said Severus. “And you are far more intelligent than any other woman I was introduced to.”

“So how’s teaching going this year?” Harry asked. “Anyone blown up the Potions lab yet?”

“Thankfully, no,” said Hermione. “At least not in my classes. Severus?”

“Not yet, but we will be moving on to more explosive ingredients in a few weeks, so it’s probably only a matter of time.”

Later in the evening, Ron showed up. “Hi,” he said. “Do you guys mind?”

“Not at all,” said Harry. “Where’s Demelza?”

“Out with her girlfriends,” said Ron. “Kreacher told me you were in Hogsmeade.” He pulled up a chair and sat down with a pint. Hermione leaned her head against Severus’ shoulder, and sighed.

“Long day?” Ron inquired.

“We visited my aunt and uncle,” said Hermione. “It was a little weird but they seemed to approve.”

“Good for them,” said Ron. He stared gloomily into his beer. “I don’t think Mum’s too fond of Demelza,” he remarked.

“What makes you say that?” said Hermione. “I thought she liked Demelza.”

“Yeah, I guess so, but that was before you got married. Now she’s kind of unhappy with both of us and I don’t know why.”

“Mum really wanted Hermione as a daughter-in-law,” said Ginny. “I think she was hoping Charlie would take to her.”

“Charlie?” said Hermione. “Really?”

“I can’t see that happening,” said Severus. “From what I remember about him when he was at school, he wasn’t terribly interested in girls.”

“Not exactly,” said Ginny. “Mum hasn’t really realized that. Or if she has, she’s in denial.”

“Wait, Charlie’s gay?” said Ron. “Is that why he’s never brought a girlfriend home?”

“How could you not know this, Ron?” said Harry. “I mean, even I knew about it.”

“I dunno. I guess I wasn’t paying much attention.”

Hermione laughed. “Sounds like. Is that why Charlie moved to Romania?”

“That and the dragons,” said Ginny.

“Huh. Charlie’s gay.” Ron stared off into space, trying to absorb the idea.

“Are you going to be repeating that all night?” Severus inquired.

Hermione squeezed his arm. “Probably he will,” she said. “And then he’ll go home and repeat it to Demelza, who will then say, ‘Of course, why didn’t you know?’ and then he’ll repeat it a few more times, hopefully in front of Molly, and then she’ll move on to being upset about that.”

“I’m not saying that in front of Mum,” said Ron. “I’m not suicidal.”

“Nor am I,” said Ginny. “I love Mum, and she’s great, but sometimes she’s a little too stubborn about things.”

“Like us,” said Hermione.

“Like you,” Harry agreed. “But you’re good for each other. I haven’t seen Severus sneer at anyone yet, and you’re actually happy. You haven’t voluntarily visited your aunt and uncle in years, Mione.”


“You said once, when you were drunk, that it was because your uncle looks too much like your dad.”

“Oh,” said Hermione.

Severus smiled compassionately at her. “Love, it’s all right. We’re seeing them again at Christmas, remember?”

“Oh, Christmas,” said Ginny. “Right. Order Christmas party at Grimmauld Place on the nineteenth of December. You’ll both be there, won’t you?”

“That’s the day all the students leave,” said Hermione. “Yes, we can be there.”

“You sure?” said Severus.

She raised an eyebrow. “Dumbledore always lets the former Order members go. We should go. Chance to show off how revoltingly happy we are.”

He groaned. “As long as you don’t wish to resort to snogging on the dance floor.”

“Now that I would pay money to see,” said Ron.

Hermione fell asleep before Severus came to bed that night, but she moved closer to him once he’d crawled in beside her. She mumbled his name, and snuggled her head against his chest. He closed his eyes and drifted to sleep, content.

He woke later in the night to Hermione’s shrieks, and, sitting up, gently shook her awake. “It’s all right,” he said. “It’s just a dream.”

She reached out and tried to grab her wand, but it fell on the floor. He reached for his, non-verbally lighting the lamp. Hermione’s face was drained of colour and she was shaking.

“You’re safe,” he said. “It was only a dream.”

Hermione flung her arms around his neck, clinging so tightly he could barely breathe. “It was the day they died,” she said. “The week after the Easter holidays.”

He remembered, graphically.

After he had rescued Hermione, she spent several days in his home, recuperating from her ordeal. They had established something of a rapport—both were quieter people who enjoyed books, and on that basis alone, they got along. After they had returned to Hogwarts, Hermione would smile at him, or say hello when she saw him in the corridors. He was surprised by her thoughtfulness, but touched.

She had come by his office to return a book he had lent her the day it happened. They were talking about the book when Dumbledore showed up. “Ah, Miss Granger,” he said. “I need to speak with you.” His face told them both that something was wrong.

“What is it?” she wanted to know.

“I think you should sit down,” he said. “Severus, you can stay. Don’t leave.” Severus watched Hermione slowly sit. Unasked, he stirred up the fire and hung a kettle over it.

“What’s wrong?” she said.

“My dear, I’m afraid I have bad news. Your parents were driving to work this morning, and their protective detail was following. There was a car crash. We’re fairly certain that Death Eaters were involved, but only one of the Aurors survived and he’s at St. Mungo’s and hasn’t woken up yet.”

“What about my mum and dad?” Hermione asked in a low voice, hands clenched into fists.

“They did not survive,” he said.

Hermione gave a low cry and buried her face in her hands. Severus went and put a gentle hand on her shoulder.

Dumbledore went to the steaming kettle and poured it into the teapot that Severus kept in his office. He made tea quietly, and then gave Hermione a scalding cup of sweet tea.

“Why them?” she asked, when she had drunk half the tea.

“They’re striking anywhere they can,” said Severus. “He may have been taken in, quite well, by your false information, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to not do other things as well. We’re going to have to act soon.”

“It’s planned,” said Dumbledore. “You know that.”

“I do,” he said. He stared down at Hermione’s ashen face. “It can’t come soon enough for me.”

“Would you send for Potter and Weasley?” he asked. “Send a Patronus. Just ask them to come here.”

Severus nodded, and cast his Patronus. He was startled to see that his Patronus had changed shape. No longer a doe, it was now a smaller creature that he recognized as an otter. He was bewildered for a moment, wondering why on earth it would change to that. He shook his head, and sent it off with his message.

Dumbledore furrowed his brow. “That was interesting,” he murmured. “Who has an otter Patronus?”

Severus suddenly remembered hearing the Order members discuss Patronuses. Hermione’s was an otter. The shock made him draw further into himself. Then he heard Hermione sob, and turned to her, offering her his handkerchief.

“I remember,” he said.

She was starting to calm down. “I remember how kind you were,” she said. “Why?”

“I wasn’t quite sure then,” he said. “But I had a bit of a surprise when I cast a Patronus to send for Harry and Ron.”

“Why?” she asked. Her hold on him had loosened, and she let him reposition her so it was more comfortable for both of them.

“For many years, my Patronus was a doe, like that of Lily Evans. Lily Potter.”

Hermione nodded. “I knew that. What is it now?”

“It’s an otter.”

She froze. “Like mine. You mean—you liked me then?”

“Loved you then,” he corrected. “A change in a Patronus is rather more extreme than mere liking. I think it started when I saw what you were capable of when you were captured, and then when Albus told you of your parents’ deaths, all I could think of was what this war was costing you.” He sighed. “I didn’t realize then, not really, even when I saw my changed Patronus, what was happening.”

She kissed him. “Thank you. I cared about you then, too, even though I didn’t love you yet.”

“But you do now?”

“I do,” she said. “So you didn’t just ask me to marry you out of pity?”

“I asked because I desperately wanted to marry you,” he said. “I could hardly believe it when you said yes.”

“I’m glad I did,” she said, drawing him back for another kiss.

Chapter Text

Chapter 11: Which Reason Calls Madness

Hermione was marking papers in the sitting room when the fireplace flared green and Ginny’s voice came through. “Hermione, are you there?”

“Yes, one second,” said Hermione. She set aside the essay she’d been covering with red ink and sat down in front of the fireplace. “What is it?”

“I just got a letter from Charlie,” said Ginny. “It’s a fascinating read. He’s coming for Christmas, and he’ll be here in time for the Order party, and get this: he’s bringing someone.”

“Charlie’s bringing someone with him?” Hermione asked. “Is this a partner-someone?”

Ginny grinned. “It is! He’s wanted to introduce Andrei for a while, apparently, but wasn’t sure about what the right timing would be, and finally they decided that putting it off wasn’t helping. So if we’re right, and Mum’s just upset about you and Severus because she wanted you to marry Charlie, this should take care of that.”

“Aren’t you worried about the scene that might result?” Hermione asked. “I mean, your mum’s not exactly known for restraint when it comes to reacting to sensitive topics in public.”

“Does it matter?” said Ginny. “I don’t know what she’s going to say, since I’ve never really heard her opinion on the topic, surprisingly, but she’s probably going to read him the riot act for not telling them sooner. He knows it. There’s a reason he and Andrei are staying with us, and not at the Burrow.”

Hermione winced. “Good move on their part. Do you guys need a hand with anything?”

Ginny shook her head. “Kreacher loves doing food for parties, so he’s handling all of that, and decorating’s easy enough. How are classes going?”

“The students are getting more disruptive the closer we get to Christmas. Severus is out supervising detentions right now. I think he has at least half a dozen students slicing up spleens for Potions classes.” She grinned at the slightly green cast that Ginny’s face developed. “It’s not that bad. He’s better at making detention feel like a punishment than I am, so he’s doing that and I’m marking essays. We should really add a writing class to the curriculum. Not many of them know how to structure an essay and too many rely on Spell-Checking quills. And the penmanship is appalling.”

“Trust you to think of another class to add on top of everything else,” said Ginny. “Though I suppose you have a point. We’ll see you next weekend?”

“Absolutely. We were planning on being there anyway, and now Severus will want to come just to watch your mother’s reaction. Say hi to Harry for me.”

“Of course,” Ginny replied. The fire returned to normal as she ended the call and Hermione went back to marking her essays.

When Severus came back from detention, he went straight to the bathroom for a shower. He’d just been supervising, but he reeked of preserved spleens. When he emerged, Hermione was just finishing her grading. “Do we need to fumigate the classroom?” she asked.

“No, I took care of it,” he said, falling into his favourite chair. “Air-Freshening Charm. It became rather necessary after Mr. Dobson vomited.”

Hermione raised an eyebrow at the smirk on his face. “So, you didn’t manage to make anyone cry, but you did make someone vomit?”

“It’s not my fault he can’t handle the smell of spleens,” said Severus. “He should have thought of that before he decided to set off a firework during Minerva’s class.”

“Ginny called earlier,” said Hermione, changing the subject. “Charlie’s coming for Christmas and he’s bringing his boyfriend.”

“Is he?” said Severus, eyes lighting with interest. “Will they be at the Burrow?”

“No, they’re staying with Harry and Ginny. But they will both be at the Order Christmas party.”

“I suppose this means that you have finally persuaded me to attend,” he said.

“You already said you’d come,” Hermione pointed out.

“Yes, but now there will be entertainment,” he replied.

Hermione and Severus arrived at Grimmauld Place before Molly and Arthur Weasley. Charlie and Andrei were in the kitchen and greeted them.

“Nice to see you again, Hermione,” said Charlie. “And Professor, uh, congratulations on your marriage.”

“Thank you, Mr. Weasley,” said Severus. “I understand you have some news of your own.”

Charlie grinned sheepishly. “Yeah. This is Andrei. We met at work, and well, I guess things are looking sort of permanent.”

Andrei rolled his eyes. “I believe so, although if you keep adding ‘sort of’ to that statement, you may have trouble. And this is the famous Severus Snape.” He offered his hand, and Severus shook it.

“I have heard much about you,” Andrei continued. “Charlie received a very interesting letter from his mother when you and your wife announced your marriage.”

Hermione snorted. “I’m guessing ‘interesting’ is an understatement,” she said. “It’s lovely to meet you. I’m Hermione, Severus’ wife.”

“Pleased to meet you,” said Andrei.

“How many people are aware of the situation?” Severus asked. “I’m curious.”

“Oh, all of my siblings know,” said Charlie. “I think Andrei’s been introduced to all of them. He and Dad haven’t met, but I got Bill to let Dad know who I was bringing. So it’s just Mum we’re worried about, really. It’s not like the rest of the Order is going to care.”

“Probably not,” Hermione agreed. “Severus has been eagerly anticipated Molly’s reaction.”

“So have we,” said Andrei. “Although perhaps not eagerly. At least she may stop trying to tell Charlie he needs to meet a nice girl and settle down.”

Someone shouted down the stairs into the kitchen, “Molly and Arthur are here!” and the four of them exchanged glances.

“Showtime,” Hermione commented. “Us first, do you think?”

“Agreed,” said Severus. “We’ll get in position, let Molly start haranguing me, and then you two can interrupt.” He offered Hermione his arm. “Ready, my dear?”

“I think so,” she replied. She turned to Charlie and Andrei. “Good luck.”

Severus had not underestimated Molly. She was still upset with him, and was starting into what promised to be a truly impressive monologue about his morals and sense of propriety, when Charlie tapped her on the shoulder.

“Mum?” he said.

She whirled. “Charlie!” She hugged. “Why on earth didn’t you tell me when you were getting here? I didn’t even know you were coming to this party. You’ll have to come and stay at the Burrow, and since Hermione is taken”—she shot a glance at Severus—“I think I know another girl who might be perfect for you.”

“Well, I did bring someone with me, actually,” said Charlie. “Mum, Dad, this is Andrei.”

“Oh, a friend from work?” said Molly, shaking hands with Andrei.

“Not exactly, although we did meet at work,” said Charlie. “He’s my fiancé.”

Arthur came forward. “Great to meet you at last, Andrei,” he said. “How was the trip over here?”

“Oh, it was fine, Mr. Weasley,” said Andrei. “It’s nice to meet you as well.”

“Call me Arthur,” he said. “I’m going to be your father-in-law; we might as well be on first-name terms.” He glanced at his wife. “Molly?”

She was frozen, staring at her son.

“Molly?” Arthur repeated.

She blinked. “How long has this been going on?” she asked quietly.

“Well, Andrei and I have been together for a few years now,” said Charlie.

“A few years? And you never thought to tell me, or to bring him over so we could meet him until now?”

Charlie glanced at the floor. “Well, I didn’t exactly know how you’d react. You keep telling me to meet a nice girl, and you went ballistic when Hermione married Professor Snape...I didn’t really want you sending me Howlers over Andrei.”

“I wouldn’t have done that!” Molly protested. “I want you to be happy!”

Hermione took her husband’s hand and pulled him out of the room. “Fireworks over,” she murmured.

Severus followed her back to the kitchen and then drew her into an embrace. “She may come to her senses,” he said quietly.

“No. She just doesn’t care enough about me to respect my choices. I know they say I’m part of the family, but I’m not, really. Not enough for her to realize that we’re happy together, or for her to want me to be happy even if I didn’t do what she planned for me.” Hermione wasn’t crying, but she was upset.

Severus kissed the top of her head.

“Are you guys okay?” Ginny asked as she slipped into the kitchen.

“We will be,” said Severus.

“Mum’s still processing Charlie’s news,” said Ginny. “She may realize later just how awful she’s been. And if she doesn’t, we’ll let her know.”

“Thanks,” said Hermione. “I think I just want to go home, if you don’t mind.”

“Not at all,” said Ginny.

Severus and Hermione quickly stepped through the Floo into their rooms at Hogwarts. “You do have a family, Hermione,” said Severus, putting a hand on her shoulder before she could walk away from him. “I know I’m not much...”

Hermione smiled, blinking back tears. “But you’re enough.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 12: But Custom Delight

The morning after the disastrous Order Party, Ginny showed up unexpectedly. “Are you okay?” she asked, once Hermione had made tea and ordered some biscuits from the kitchen.

“I don’t know,” said Hermione. “I’m sorry we just left—I just couldn’t be there anymore.”

“Were you hoping Mum would come to her senses about you and Severus the moment Charlie told her about him and Andrei?” Ginny asked.

“Not exactly,” said Hermione. “Maybe. You know how she said that I was part of your family, that I was like another daughter to her? After my parents died, remember? Molly said that I still had a family, and it was all of you. But when confronted with something I chose that she didn’t like, she went berserk. And with Charlie, with him telling her about something he’s kept mostly a secret for years, which is something that you’d expect her to explode about, her reaction was that she wanted him to be happy. I guess it just hit me that I’m not really part of your family. Not in your mum’s eyes, at least.”

Ginny sighed. She’d wondered if that was what Hermione had taken away from the night before. “You are for the rest of us. You know that. You and Severus were unexpected, but it’s pretty obvious that he makes you happy. He’s never going to be my favourite person, or Harry’s for that matter, but you two are good together. And I believe we reserved judgement.”

“You did. You were surprised but you handled it well. Your mum didn’t.” Hermione stared into her teacup.

“It’ll get better,” said Ginny. “Mum will calm down about it eventually, even if we can’t talk her into apologizing. I think Charlie’s actually planning to have a word with her. He’s pretty appalled about what she said to you before he managed to get a word in. I’m not sure what it is, but my working theory right now is that she really wanted you for a daughter-in-law, so you’d officially be part of the family, and that didn’t happen, so she’s in a snit. I don’t know why it’s worse than usual.”

“Maybe she’s going through menopause,” Hermione said hopefully.

Ginny laughed. “Could be,” she replied. “Anyway, now that Charlie’s out, we’re hoping to get Mum to calm down about you.”

“I’ll believe it when I see it,” Hermione said, picking a biscuit up from the tray the house elf had dropped off and biting into it. “How was the rest of the party?”

“As you might expect,” said Ginny. “George spiked the punch and it all went downhill from there.”

Several weeks later, Hermione received a letter from Molly Weasley. It was an awkward apology, one that apologized for the screaming and the Howler but not for the sentiments screamed, that attempted to make amends while retaining a position of rightness. Hermione sighed, and accepted it in a short, brief letter. This was the best she was going to get. Molly was convinced that Severus was wrong for her, and nothing she could say or do would change the woman’s mind. It was time to let go.

Molly behaved herself at family gatherings, limiting her reactions to a few muttered comments, but things would never be the same. Hermione felt like she was grieving for her parents all over again, even though the rest of the Weasley family, even Harry, welcomed Severus with open arms.

Months and then years went by, and Hermione and Severus started trying for a family. Hermione had just given birth to their first child, a daughter, when the Marriage Law was repealed by the newest Minister for Magic in an effort to boost his popularity. Molly, to her credit, didn’t say a word, but a few distant acquaintances hinted that Hermione might want to divorce Severus now that she could. She rolled her eyes at one letter she’d received from a former schoolmate.

“Apparently Lisa thinks I only married you because of the law, and that I’ll be leaving you any day,” she remarked.

Severus, sitting and holding their daughter in the comfortable rocking chair that had become crucial to peace in their home snorted. “Because the prospect of single motherhood with this one is so attractive?”

Rowan stirred slightly but stayed asleep. The two held their breaths for a moment, and then Hermione answered, “She’s not so bad like this, is she?”

“No, but when she’s awake...”

“She’s your daughter, love,” said Hermione. “No wonder she’s insufferable.”

He smirked. “Well, other than the demands for our constant attention, she is perfect. I’d say she has a right to be insufferable.”

“Maybe we should try for another one next year,” said Hermione. “Teach her how to share. If we continue like this, she’ll be spoiled beyond measure.”

“Perhaps,” he agreed. “Or perhaps one is enough. I doubt you wish to emulate Molly.”

Hermione shook her head. “Heavens, no. I’m not going through pregnancy more than twice.” Then she smiled. “Molly sent us something today. You were asleep when I arrived.” She got up and found the box Molly had posted and lifted out a brightly coloured knit blanket. “Another blanket. And she sent some sort of biscuits. I think she had James and Albus helping her with those. They’re shaped a little weird but they taste fine.” She draped the blanket over the edge of the sofa. “I think she’s finally okay with us.”

“It’s about time,” Severus murmured, pausing in his rocking for a moment. The baby yawned suddenly and he immediately started rocking the chair again. “You go have a shower while she’s still asleep. Once she wakes up, she’ll be hungry again.”

Hermione leaned over and kissed her husband’s cheek. “Thanks. Love you.” She paused at the door, looking at her family. Severus looked as exhausted as she was, but happy. Hermione remembered the letter from her friend and wanted to laugh all over again. Perhaps they were an unconventional pair, but that didn’t matter. It never had.