A/N: A long chapter to make up for my absence. Thanks for your patience!
Returning to the castle was terribly difficult. The couple was just beginning to settle into the rhythm of living together and was loath to be sleeping alone again. The transition back to student and teacher was eased slightly when Minerva gave them a wedding present. While they were gone, she’d connected the Floos in their rooms so they could see each other more often without raising suspicion.
Hermione spent Wednesday and Thursday catching up on her duties and preparing for her day at Shell Cottage. After dinner each night, she Floo’d to Severus’s rooms to spend the evening. He had enjoyed the two days secreted away in his chambers and happily used the time to catch up on his reading and light brewing. When Friday finally arrived, she kissed him goodbye and went to her rooms to gather a few things. She met the Headmistress precisely at 9 a.m. to retrieve her Portkey.
The day at Shell Cottage progressed as most every Weasley event. It was loud, messy, frenzied and absolutely lovely. Teddy had just gotten his first broomstick and was happily buzzing around with Harry and Ron. He was not quite adept enough for Quidditch, however, so Hermione used that excuse to settle him into an afternoon nap.
She laid a blanket on the sand in the shade of a dune and convinced him to lie down and watch the others play. The weather was unseasonably warm for the time of year, but she still summoned another blanket to block the sea breeze. The boy snuggled in next to her, tucking his smaller body into her side.
“An-mi,” he said after a few moments watching the others. “Tell me a story.”
“What kind of story, love?”
“A real one. Tell me about my dad. Papa said he was your professor.”
“He was,” she said quietly. She’d known that they’d always been very honest with him about Remus and Tonks but had not expected the blunt request. She pushed away the wave of sadness that washed over her and pulled him closer. “Your father was the best Defense teacher we ever had. He knew everything.”
“I can’t wait to go to Hogwarts so I can learn everything too!”
“Shhh...close your eyes and I’ll tell you about the time he taught us about boggarts.” The boy settled in and was asleep before she’d even gotten to tell him about Ron’s roller-skating spider.
She lay with her eyes closed, listening to the sounds of the sea until she lost all track of time. Sleep had not quite claimed her, but her mind lingered near the edge of consciousness. Memories blurred into each other, melting into a lovely daydream of a time when she and Severus wouldn’t need to hide anymore and it was their child tucked into her arms.
You’re early. Her eyes were still closed and she made no movement.
How did you know I was here?
I can feel you, love. You have your own gravity.
He snorted and she felt him move towards the cottage. There is a matter to discuss with Arthur and the others. We’ll leave after dinner.
Not as such, but you and I will need to have our own discussion about it this evening.
I don’t like the sound of that.
It will be fine. Enjoy the rest of your lie down. She heard the door open and close in the distance and the sound of his mumbled “Bloody hell” at whatever was waiting inside.
It wasn’t long until Teddy began to stir. She smiled and opened her eyes when he wrapped his arms around her tighter before struggling to sit up.
“I’m hungry, An-Mi.”
“Dinner will be soon, love. Your papa and granddad are having a meeting with Professor Snape.”
“He shouldn’t wear so much black,” he stated firmly.
“I agree,” she laughed. She would be certain to relay his observation.
“He likes you.”
“What makes you say that?” she said, frozen in the middle of folding the blanket.
“He watches you like Papa watches Mum,” he answered with a shrug. He didn’t seem upset by it so she relaxed slightly and finished gathering their items.
“Teddy, I think you’re going to be very smart just like your father.” He smiled brilliantly at her and started to run ahead. He stopped a few feet in front of her and turned to face her again, his hair flushing green.
“You watch him too,” he said with a lop-sided grin before running off.
“And undeniably your mother’s son,” she laughed.
Molly and Arthur had moved into Shell Cottage to help with things until the babies came, which could be any day. Both were in the meeting with Severus, along with Harry, Bill and Kingsley by the look of the cloak hanging near the door. His presence worried Hermione. If Kingsley was there, it was more serious than Severus had implied. To distract herself, she went to the kitchen to start dinner. Molly had already laid out the new recipe they’d decided to try so she got straight to work. She was chopping carrots when Ginny came down from her shower.
“Snape’s here,” she spat. Hermione smiled at her friend’s offense on her behalf.
“I don’t like him perving on you.”
“Kingsley?” she said, finally turning to face her friend in confusion.
“Snape. I saw him when we were playing Quidditch.”
“What are you on about?”
“He was standing near one of the dunes watching you and Teddy sleep. He suddenly turned and walked away like he’d only just realized what a disgusting lecherous git he is.”
“That’s odd,” she said lamely, returning to her cooking to hide her face from her friend.
“He’s married, Hermione,” Ginny said, working herself into a rage. “For less than a week at that, and now here he is, perving on you. Probably just occurred to him that he’s cocked everything up. Married some old hag, I’d wager.”
“Probably,” Hermione agreed, trying not to laugh. Luckily at that moment, Teddy burst through the back door, saving her from further scrutiny.
“I’m still hungry, An-Mi,” he whined.
“Go wash up then. We’ll eat as soon as the meeting is over.” She ruffled his hair before he skipped from the room.
“You’re so good with him. He talks about you all the time.”
“He’s so like Remus and Tonks, it almost hurts sometimes.”
“I know. Bill says the same.”
Shaking off the moment of grief, she finished dinner and placed a stasis charm over everything. She sent Ginny to find her brothers and Claire and had just set the table when Teddy returned. Bracing her hands on her knees, she bent until her face was even with his.
“You’ve got a big choice here, Teddy. Do you want to wait and eat down here with the adults or go keep your mum company and eat now?”
“Ummm...now,” he said, after a thoughtful pause.
“Okay, then go on up and help her get comfortable and I’ll bring it up.”
After she got Fleur and Teddy taken care of, she joined Ginny, Ron, Claire and George at the table. They laughed and chatted until they finally heard the study door open. Kingsley and Arthur filed in first with Molly bustling in close behind them.
“I’m sorry, all! I’ll have dinner ready in just a moment!”
“I’m sure Teddy’s starving. That boy eats almost as Ron,” Bill said, entering the room with Harry and Severus.
“Dinner’s ready. Fleur and Teddy are upstairs eating now,” Hermione said loudly over the bickering that followed Bill’s statement. The room stilled and everyone turned to stare at her.
“You made dinner for thirteen people?” Ron said incredulously, just before Harry smacked the back of his head.
“Just because you can’t make toast on your own...” Harry teased, winking at her. Everyone began moving around again, getting food and drink and talking. They soon settled in, eating and drinking, never stopping their conversations. She flushed with pride every time someone praised her cooking.
I enjoy this domestic side of you.
Because I can cook?
That and watching you with the boy.
Ginny saw, you know. Said you were perving on me.
Perhaps I was.
Dirty old professor ogling his young innocent student?
I’m not that old and, from what I recall this past week, you aren’t that innocent, witch.
My apologies, Professor, she said with false contriteness.
I have the weekend before we have to start that nonsense again. Until then, you are my young, willing bride and we have many more important experiments to do that have little to do with Potions.
She only groaned in response and tried to steady her breathing before anyone noticed how flustered she had become at his words and his tone. He smirked at her from the other end of the table and then continued his conversation with Kingsley. Feeling particularly naughty, she sent him a mental image of the next experiment she wanted to try, one that involved her bent over his desk. She almost laughed out loud at the split second of shock that crossed his face before he covered it by quickly gulping his water. Satisfied with her retribution, she finished her meal.
The group had finished dinner and had begun dessert when Ginny began acting a little odd.
“Gin, what on earth are you doing?” Harry whispered.
“Trying to see if he’s wearing a wedding ring.”
“What?” Hermione said a little too loudly.
“Shhh...I’m trying to figure out if he actually found someone to marry him.”
“She’d have to be a complete lunatic to marry that git,” Ron whispered.
What the hell are you all nattering on about down there?
Ginny’s trying to see if you have a ring on.
Up to you.
After dessert was cleared, coffee, tea and brandy were served. Ginny was still stealing glances at Severus’s hands wrapped around his coffee mug. Finally, her moment came when he toyed with his ring just enough that the Notice-Me-Not flickered.
“There! Did you see it?”
“I did. Can’t believe it,” Ron said, shaking his head.
Hermione had been staring into her own tea and looked up to find Harry watching her intently.
“So what if he did,” he said, finally. “I’m sure he has good reasons to keep it secret.” She could hear the unspoken question. In a move similar to Severus’s, she allowed her own ring to flicker but where only Harry could see.
“I guess,” Ron said. “Maybe he married a bloke and doesn’t want anyone to know he’s gay!” Hermione couldn’t control the bark of laughter that escaped at his unexpected insight.
“I think you’re on to something, mate,” Harry laughed.
“Really?” he asked in disbelief.
“Absolutely,” Hermione agreed, grinning at Harry.
It was getting late so Hermione went to say good night and goodbye to Teddy. They both teared up a bit, but she reassured him summer would be there before they knew it and she’d be able to see him more. He waved to her from the door of the cottage as she and Severus walked to the Apparation point.
“I had some interesting conversations today, mostly about you,” she said as they crossed the sand.
“In short,” she said and took a deep breath. “Teddy thinks you wear too much black and that you like me. Ginny thinks you regret your marriage to an old hag and were perving on me. Ronald, however, thinks that you’ve secretly wed a bloke and don’t want us to find out you’re gay.”
“You cannot be serious,” he said, pulling her to him.
“I am,” she said and quickly kissed his cheek before they Disapparated.
They silently crossed the grounds at a respectable distance, lost their own thoughts. They paused and spoke quietly in the entry way.
“As much as I’d rather spend my evening lost in some delightfully naughty fantasy, I’m quite certain we both have some serious matters to discuss.”
“Indeed,” he said, gravely.
“Right then,” she said with a sharp nod. “I guess I’ll have a shower and be through after?”
“I would prefer to do this as soon as possible. Will you accompany me now?”
“Certainly.” As she followed him to the dungeons, her anxiety grew. The formality of their exchange did not bode well. He led her through to the study where he immediately poured himself a firewhiskey. Another bad sign.
“Severus, you’re scaring me. What’s happened?”
“I received an owl today from Lucius. They want to return from France.” His body was tense as though waiting for an attack.
“He asked that I speak with the Order on his behalf. He does not wish to return without their approval...They have agreed.”
“And…?” He took a sip of his drink to fill the silence.
“He’s sent along a Portkey. He wishes me to go to France for dinner and to make further plans tomorrow evening.”
“Do you trust him?” She kept her voice very even.
“I do,” he said, pacing. “I spoke with him many times before they left the country. He allowed me to use Legilimency on him.” He paused, staring into the fire. “You don’t know what it was like for him that last year. The things he had to do. I was here. I couldn’t help him.” There was silence then, both staring--he into the fire, she at him.
She knew what he expected. That she would yell. That she would be angry that he’d stayed in touch with the Malfoys that had caused her so much pain over the years. That she would demand he not go to France.
“I’ll have to speak to Minerva about leaving again,” she said thoughtfully. “What does one wear to dinner with the Malfoys?”
“What?” he said, turning to face her, expression carefully blank.
“You don’t actually expect me to sit at home on my honeymoon while my husband goes off to a fancy dress dinner in France?” She tilted her head to the side in question and kept her tone light. “Do you think it will be formal?”
“Likely.” He came to sit next to her on the sofa. “You would go with me?” She knew that while they had been complete bastards to her, the Malfoys were really no longer a threat. She knew what this meant to him, her accepting them. She also knew that she just didn’t have the energy anymore to keep hating them.
“He’s your friend. You say he’s changed so I’m willing to try. For you.” She took a deep breath before continuing. “You must understand though, Severus. He and Draco have tried to harm and/or kill me and my friends on numerous occasions.” Her chest tightened at the thought of it. “He watched that woman...” Memories of the night in Malfoy Manor came flooding back to her. She closed her eyes and willed herself to remain calm. He pulled her into his lap.
“You don’t have to go. I cannot ask that.”
“I will go,” she said, sitting up to look him in the eye. “I will see for myself what he’s become. But if I feel at all threatened or uncomfortable—”
“We shall leave immediately and I’ll kill him myself.” He pulled her close again. “You are mine now. No one will hurt you and get away with it.” She stayed curled up in his lap, leaning quietly on his shoulder for some time. She must have dozed off for she woke when he lifted and carried her to the bedroom.
“I meant to talk to you about Harry,” she yawned, “and Teddy.”
Hermione woke alone in the darkness of Severus’s bedroom. She instinctively knew he was not in his chambers so she lingered in bed a bit longer. At some point in the night, he’d changed her clothes. She found herself in a black t-shirt and her plain cotton knickers. She knew the shirt was his because it smelled like him, though she’d certainly never seen him wear such an article of clothing. She assumed he’d transfigured it from something else. Pulling the collar up over her nose, she reveled in the delicious scent that was him. She used to think the smell came from his potions or perhaps aftershave or cologne. The past week had shown her it was, in fact, just the smell of him. It didn’t matter what time of day it was, or if he’d just come from the bath, he always smelled the same. Herbal—like sage perhaps and maybe patchouli; she could never quite identify it. She wondered if the ingredients he worked with had somehow seeped into his skin. In the end, it didn’t matter how it had come about, she simply loved the smell of him.
The world wouldn’t wait forever so she finally dragged herself from bed. She cast cleansing charms on her clothes and began to get dressed. She hated to take the shirt off so instead she shrank it into a more feminine and form fitting style. Just for good measure, she cast a permanent stasis charm on it so it would always smell like her husband. When she made her way into the sitting room, she was shocked to find it almost 10 a.m. She hadn’t slept in that late in years. It had been a rather long and eventful week, however, so she decided it was acceptable. She curled up on the sofa with a cup of tea and wondered if she should at least attempt to revise.
I’ll be back in a moment. She picked up a textbook from the side table and reviewed for a few minutes before he spoke again. Are you dressed?
Minerva is coming through with me. She had just sat up and straightened her clothing when the fireplace flared green and the Headmistress stepped out. A moment later, Severus did the same.
“Good morning, Miss Gra—Madam Snape. Pardon me,” McGonagall, said with a smile.
“Please, Professor, just call me Hermione. Madam Snape feels so...old.” She shrugged apologetically at Severus’s eye roll.
“Of course, my dear girl. Please excuse my interruption of your morning. I just had a few things to discuss with you.”
“In private, Hermione, please call me Minerva. We are too close for such formality,” the older woman said, squeezing her hand. The two shared a glance at the sound of disgust from the other side of the room. “As I was saying, I’ve decided to have another ball this term after Graduation and the leaving feast.”
Merlin’s pants, the bloody things are every other week now.
“Oh, that’s a lovely idea,” she said, ignoring Severus’s mental grumbling. “Then our friends and family can participate as well.”
“My thoughts exactly.”
The two women went on discussing various aspects of the dance while Severus sat in his chair with alternating looks of disgust and boredom. He had tried interjecting snide comments but Hermione had quickly put that to an end.
Or you’ll do what exactly?
It isn’t what I’ll do, but what I’ll not do that you should be concerned with.
He behaved the rest of the meeting. After almost an hour, the Headmistress finally stepped back into the Floo. Hermione went to sit on her husband’s lap and put her arms around his neck. “Why didn’t you wake me?” She laid a kiss on his cheek.
“You looked like you needed the rest. You had a big day.”
“We still need to talk about things.”
“Well, then, let’s have it.”
“Number one: Harry knows about us. I don’t know how he figured it out. We haven’t had a chance to speak privately yet.”
“It was only a matter of time. He is The Boy Who Can’t Mind His Own Business after all. Can the Chosen One keep his mouth shut?”
“Yes, yes. Harry will be discreet. Honestly, Severus, he’s my best friend.”
“Everyone has faults.”
“Yes, well, you’ve gone and married me and my faults. That includes Harry. Please try…For me?” He rolled his eyes, which she accepted as an affirmative answer.
“We haven’t talked much about what happens after graduation. However, at some point during the summer, I’d like Teddy to come stay with us for a couple weeks.”
“I’m sure that can be arranged.”
“Just like that, you’re agreeing?”
“Better him than Potter.”
“I wasn’t sure you would feel that way, given your relationship with Remus.”
“It has come to my attention recently that sons should not be held responsible for their father’s actions.”
“Thank you, love,” she said, taking few moments to give him a proper good morning kiss. “And last, number three.”
“I can hardly wait,” he muttered.
“Tonight,” she stated, ignoring his remark, something she had already gotten quite used to. She did not miss that he had stilled at the mention of the evening’s events. “Have you told them I’m coming?”
“As per your wishes, only that I’d be bringing a guest.”
“I’d rather not tell them immediately about us being married.”
“As you like.”
“I do want this to go well, Severus. I’m just nervous.”
“You really don’t have to go.”
“I really do. Especially if they are returning. He’s your friend. I can’t avoid him forever. I will try very hard to keep the past where it belongs.” They sat quietly for a while, each clearly dwelling on what lay ahead of them. “Severus?” she said finally.
“Yes, Hermione.” He answered in the same resigned tone he used when she raised her hand in class.
“Do you think they’ll like me?”
“Don’t take that tone with me, Severus Snape. They are as close to family as you’ve got. Everything else aside, I still have a right to be nervous about that.”
“It will be fine. Lucius and Narcissa will be perfectly civil and polite.”
“But not Draco?”
“He has changed his ideas about certain things, but...”
“He can still be a complete prat?”
“From what I have heard, you know how to handle him when he runs his mouth.”
“Heard about that, did you?” she said, smiling at the memory.
“The Malfoys don’t get hit by many girls. Yes, I heard.” He pulled her closer to his chest. “Do not worry. I shall be with you the whole time.” Silence again fell on them.
“What, woman, what?”
“What should I wear?” He pinched the bridge of his nose, obviously editing his response. “Kidding,” she said, turning her head just enough to kiss his neck.