A/N: Sorry this has taken so long. My trip was prolonged by a death in the family. I hope it was worth waiting for!
Hermione woke before sunrise the next day. She stood watching the fog settle over the lake. There would likely be a thunderstorm before the day was out. She could only hope it would hold off until after the ceremony. She stayed at the window, staring and thinking, until the sun came up.
Her friends came to say goodbye for the week around 9 a.m. Ginny must not have mentioned her suspicions to the boys as they seemed as oblivious and not at all curious why Hermione was not seeing them off from the station. As usual, the conversation almost immediately turned to how much time they would have to practice Quidditch over the hols. Ron attempted to show Harry a new roll move he had been working on. This would have been all well and good if he hadn’t bashed into her, sending her stumbling backwards into her dressing table. She took that opportunity to usher them out the door while he apologized profusely. As they were leaving, Ginny squeezed her hand and gave her a consoling smile.
She hated not being able to tell them. She knew it was for the best but that didn’t take away the guilt. The only thing that made it easier was putting off the inevitable a bit longer. She did not look forward to the day when all would be revealed. While she knew Ginny would be hurt that she hadn’t told her, she was confident that she’d accept their relationship since she already suspected Hermione’s feelings. She was decidedly not so optimistic about everyone else. Ron and Harry wouldn’t understand, even though they knew he was a good man. George would be furious that she would be with the man who hexed his ear off. Neville may very well never speak to her again. No one would understand why they had gotten married so quickly, instead of just waiting until after graduation. She was certain they would assume she’d gotten pregnant by her professor, at least at first. In one of her favorite Muggle movies, one main character told the other that when you realize who you want to spend the rest of your life with, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible. She felt that summed up their situation. Severus had missed out on and sacrificed so much over the years that she wanted the rest of his new life to begin immediately. She knew her own mind. He would always be her choice. She knew that. He knew that. Everyone else would be a different story.
Various revelation scenarios ran through her head, all ending disastrously. An hour later, she realized she’d been staring out the window since Harry, Ron and Ginny left. She shook herself and began getting ready. It was her wedding day and she wasn’t going to waste her energy thinking about how things could be different. After a quick shower, she got dressed.
She wanted their wedding to be reflective of all the things they were, both together and separately. He was half-blood; she was Muggle-born. He’d been a spy; she’d been part of the Golden Trio. They’d stood and faced death for what they thought was right. They were building a life together—finally separated from all the death and war. Their wedding would be as simple and straightforward as they were.
She wanted Muggle traditions as well as Wizarding because they were both. Her dress was white, long and flowing. She wore no make-up or shoes as was the norm for witches. She pulled her hair up loosely and secured it with his mother’s comb. She quickly shrank her luggage and slipped into her pocket. Just before she went down to meet the Headmistress, she added cushioning and protective charms to her bare feet and removed the Notice-Me-Not from her ring.
McGonagall escorted her out of the castle at half-past eleven. The air was crisp against her thin gown but her nerves kept her warm enough. She wondered had anyone seen the two of them entering the Forbidden Forest if they would’ve guessed where she was going. They made their way to the clearing where she and Severus had gathered the salvia what seemed like ages ago. He stood waiting for them in its center. Her heart was pounding by the time they reached him. When he turned around to face them, her breath caught in her throat. His face was as unguarded and full of emotion as she had ever seen. She crossed to him in a haze.
Later, she would watch her memories in the Pensieve. Later, she’d need to see exactly what Minerva had said during the ceremony. Later, she’d notice how the flowers in the clearing seemed to glow in the magic that surrounded them. Later, she’d be glad that they were alone, that no one else was there, that they’d had that time to themselves.
At that moment, however, all she saw was him. She couldn’t tear her gaze from his face where the tears stinging her eyes were reflected in his. She answered Minerva’s questions without thought or hesitation, and only half-heard his responses over the pounding of her heart. She felt like she was floating, only grounded by the weight of his hand in hers.
She didn’t fully realize it was over until he leaned in to kiss her. The corner of her mouth tipped up when his eyes flickered uncomfortably to the Headmistress. Her smile was forgotten when their lips met. A delicious warmth spread from her mouth down and out through her body. A moan caught in her throat when the sensation caused her to instinctively deepen the kiss. She pulled back with a gasp as the warmth intensified to an almost painful burning in her hand. From Severus’s reaction, he seemed to be experiencing the same thing. She stared in confusion at their still-joined left hands.
The silver threads of magic were still wound around their hands from the binding ceremony. Golden light had begun snaking its way around them as well, weaving in and out of the silver and through their fingers. The light grew and enveloped their hands and then, with a flash of searing pain, it was gone. They immediately stepped away from each other, breathing heavily and clutching their hands where rings of light hand formed. She tentatively touched the band of silver and gold magic, surprised when all she felt was warmth.
“I can’t believe it,” McGonagall, whispered, finally breaking the stunned silence.
“What just happened?” Hermione asked, still breathless.
“It appears that you and Severus are, in fact, soulmates.”
“What?” she gasped. “I thought that was a legend.”
“It’s so rare, it may has well be,” Severus said. She turned to him at the wary tone of his voice. The warmth left in the wake of the magic had settled low in her stomach. She could not look away from her husband.
When McGonagall cleared her throat, Hermione struggled to break eye contact with him long enough to look at her.
“Well, I must return to the castle and you two will need to be…leaving quite soon, I’d wager.” She pulled Hermione into a hug. “Congratulations, my dear. And to you Severus,” she said, laying a hand on his shoulder. “I can only cover for her until Wednesday so be back by then and make sure you aren’t seen until Friday.” When he nodded, she stepped back and Disapparated.
“Show off,” he muttered, shaking his head. He pulled a Muggle Coin from the pocket of his robe.
“Come,” he said, reaching out to her. She winced at the pulling behind her navel that portkeying always brought. She stumbled when they arrived in the entry of a small cottage. When he steadied her, she wrapped her arms around him and laid her head on his chest. They pulled apart when the contact caused the warmth encircling their fingers to flare again.
“How long will that keep up?”
“I would think that you would be aware. Wizarding bindings aren’t complete until—”
“Yes, Severus, I know that,” she said with an eye roll. “I only wondered if I had a few minutes to let things settle in, you know...before.”
“Of course,” he said a little too formally and stepped away from her.
“I think I’ll go just have a look around outside. Could you light a fire? I’ll only be a moment.” He nodded once and looked at her for a long moment before turning to enter the sitting room.
As soon as she was outside, with the door closed behind her, she let out a breath she didn’t notice she’d been holding. She followed a path through a small garden towards the cliffs overlooking the sea. Minerva had gotten them use of a friend’s cottage for their short honeymoon in Ireland. The sea air was brisk, sending her dress billowing out behind her. It was much too chilly to be standing outside in such thin apparel but she hardly noticed amidst the whirlwind of emotions and thoughts.
The words swirled in her head again. Married, a wife, Madam Snape. Others had joined them. Soulmate, bonded, forever. It was a dizzying thought. She’d just been secretly wed to her Potions Professor, who was also her soulmate, a concept she had relegated as fairytale. Not that she was having any doubts. It was just that feeling like they were meant to be together and actually being bonded soulmates were very different. She’d read about soulmates like she’d read about everything else, even if she had just considered it a legend. She knew what it would entail.
They would be bound in every way two people could be bound. Their near-death experiences had left them bound by blood. Their love and marriage had bound them in spirit. As soon as they consummated their relationship, their magic would also be bound. This kind of tri-bond was even more unheard of than soulmates. She wasn’t even positive that it had ever happened before. She made a mental note to check the library when they returned to school.
She considered what she knew about it offhand. Even if they hadn’t already shared a link, they would’ve been able to sense what the other was feeling. She wondered if it would affect their own mental connection as well. Soulmates were almost physically unable to be unfaithful as the magic would make it intensely painful. Once joined, soulmates usually experienced an increase in power. She had read somewhere that their magic could even be joined to do exceptionally powerful things. She shivered and pushed away the thought of two dark wizards having such an ability. Soulmates were destined to have a happy life together, thriving off each other. If separated for long periods of time, however, their magic could start to wane. One followed the other in death fairly quickly. They literally couldn’t live without each other. Instead of being frightening, the thought was a comfort to her.
She looked down at the light encircling her finger, smiled and shook her head. Dumbledore probably knew all along.
She found Severus sitting on the sofa staring into the fire. When he finally looked up at her, there was resignation and sadness in his eyes.
“Hermione, I know you are aware of exactly what this means. If you aren’t sure or need more time, it isn’t too late...” His voice trailed off when she murmured something. A heartbeat later, her clothes were bunched around her feet. He said nothing, only stared at her in the flickering firelight. She smirked slightly at his eyes fighting to stay on her face. He finally lost the battle when she stepped closer and his eyes travelled slowly down her body. The magic that was pulsating in her body kept her from the self-conscious feelings she would normally be having. She couldn’t think of anything except the dark man in front of her.
“Come, husband,” she said, pulling him up by the hand and leading him into the bedroom.
She kissed him softly on the mouth, causing the rings to burn again. It was stronger, more insistent. “It seems the magic and I have both run out of patience,” she said with a smile and pushed him back on to the bed. She vanished his clothes and almost laughed at his shocked expression. She leaned over him and kissed him again, roughly this time, only becoming more demanding when the heat built on her finger. Without breaking the kiss, she settled over him, arms braced on either side of his head. She pulled back to look in his eyes as she hovered over him.
“I love you, Severus. You are my soulmate,” she whispered.
“And you are mine,” he said, gasping, when lowered herself on to him.
She stilled when he was all the way inside her. Though she was prepared for it, her body still stung with the intrusion. She leaned forward to kiss him again while she adjusted to his size. After a few moments, she began to move again, fueled by some combination of love, lust and the searing pain that was spreading from her hand. The invisible flames moved up her arm and through her shoulder. She felt Severus’s left hand clench her hip and knew he was feeling the fire too. She wondered if she could handle much more when it settled in her chest for a moment before continuing down. She kept riding him almost in a frenzy as she fought the pain that was threatening to overtake her.
She rose over him, sitting upright, when her arm couldn’t take both her weight and the pain radiating from it. She would’ve noticed that he was gripping her hips hard enough to bruise, if she’d been able to feel anything but the fire and this body under her. When the magic finally reached its goal, she came screaming in both pain and pleasure. At Severus’s shout an instant later, she opened her eyes to the sight of his head thrown back but his eyes still on her. It seemed to go on and on until her vision darkened around the edges and unconsciousness claimed her.