The next morning Hermione kissed her husband and Floo’d back to her own rooms, saddened that their honeymoon was officially over, or on hiatus at least. The train was returning that afternoon and with it her responsibilities. NEWTs would begin in six weeks and there was much to be done. Stress, and the illnesses it produced, would be at a high, making more work for everyone. She had to figure out how to revise, perform her duties as Head Girl, help plan a ball, keep her marriage a secret, and try not to neglect her friends or her husband all at the same time. She spent most of the day helping the younger students settle back in their dorms.
She and Severus had decided it best they sleep apart much of the time while school was in session in case either was needed in the night. The prospect was not at all pleasing, but she knew it was for the best. She was talking herself out of popping in to tell him goodnight when there was a knock at her door. Wondering who it could be at nearly midnight, she pulled on a dressing gown and went to the door. She almost opened it immediately, but thought better of it and asked who was there.
“It’s me,” Harry whispered loudly. She opened the door and smiled when Harry peeked out from under the Invisibility Cloak. She motioned him and closed the door behind him. “Sorry, I meant to come round earlier, but we threw together a Quidditch meeting at the last minute.”
“Ready for the big game?”
“The biggest match of the season and it had to be against Slytherin.”
“Bloody Slytherins,” she said, rolling her eyes.
“Um...yeah,” he mumbled, blushing.
“When did you figure it out?”
“Just Friday at the Cottage,” he said, shrugging. Hermione handed him a mug of tea and they each tucked in to a corner of the couch. “Until then, Gin had me convinced you were pining for him and he’d gone and married someone else. She wants to hex him and fix you up with George.”
“Let’s try and avoid that,” she laughed. “So how did you know?”
“Ginny and I saw him watching you sleep with Teddy,” he said, blushing again. “Sometimes I watch her sleep like that. I knew he was in love with you.” He shook his head and looked at her again. “Still can’t believe it though. My Hermione and the Greasy Bat of the Dungeons.”
“Life is funny, isn’t it?” She moved closer to Harry and laid her hand on his. “Harry, you have no idea how much I wanted you to be there. No one at all is supposed to know, McGonagall’s orders. It was just the three of us.”
“Figured it was like that. It’s alright.” He squeezed her hand and she turned to look at him. Growing uncomfortable under her scrutiny, he shifted. “What?”
“When are you asking her?” She laughed at the shocked and somewhat terrified look that washed over him. “Honestly, Harry, you think you’re the only perceptive one around here?”
“Not sure really. Haven’t really gotten that far. Soon, I think.”
“Oh, Harry!” She threw her arms around him and kissed his cheek. “I’m so happy for you.”
They were still holding each other when the fire flared green and Severus stepped out. Harry jumped to his feet, blushing and stammering.
“Professor Snape, I—We were—I wasn’t...”
“Sit down, Potter,” Severus commanded. Harry moved to sit in another chair far from his friend, who was laughing hysterically.
“Sir, I am very sorry—” Harry began.
“I just finished with some errant second years starting trouble already,” Severus said to Hermione, completely ignoring Harry. “I did not realize you would have company at this late hour.”
“Be that as it may,” he said, continuing as though Harry wasn’t speaking, “you left a book in my chambers. I’ve come to return it.” He pulled a book from his robes and laid it on a nearby table. They both knew it was a poor excuse to visit her.
“I have to go,” Harry said, and quickly bolted to the door. “See you tomorrow, Mione...Goodnight Professor.”
“Night, Harry,” she answered happily, looking expectantly at her husband.
“Two points from Gryffindor for being out past curfew.”
“Severus,” she said warningly, staring at him until he rolled his eyes.
“Fine. Three points to Gryffindor for knowing how to keep a secret.”
“I—” Harry began again, but then shook his head and left.
“You need a hobby, husband.”
“I thought that was one.”
Many things had happened to Hermione in the previous two years. She’d lost loved ones, helped defeat a Dark Lord, gotten married and even befriended some Malfoys. Through all this, both her personality and her priorities had changed. One thing had decidedly not changed—the panic-induced frenzy that accompanied upcoming tests. Though she’d been distracted most of the year by her issues with Severus, the single-minded determination and obsessive revising arrived the week following the spring hols.
She carried books with her everywhere she went and was seldom seen out of doors. She had developed insomnia since moving back to her own rooms, so she was often awake revising until the early hours of the morning. For the first time in a very long while, she was the Hermione that her friends had always known so they showed little concern for her erratic behavior. They knew it best to steer clear of her while she was studying and to always confirm their own revising, whether or not it was true. Even if Ron and Ginny had not given up their theories about Snape and his marriage, they at least knew better than to bring it up in her presence, lest she lecture them yet again for their lack of studying.
The weeks leading up to NEWTs were busy for everyone—students and professors alike. Time spent with her husband usually consisted of her reading on the sofa while he marked essays at his desk. Sometimes he would pull her away from her books to make her eat in front of the fire and discuss their plans for the future. There was much to be done and the end of the year was quickly approaching. Severus had sold Spinner’s End after the war so they would need to begin looking for a home. Hermione also desperately wanted to find her parents and attempt to recover their memories. Up until her bond with Severus, she wasn’t sure that they could be recovered at all, but, with the power they now shared, she hoped it would be possible. She tried not to think too hard on her parents, and the possible outcomes of their meeting, and focus on NEWTs as much as possible.
Hermione looked up from her Charms book to see most of the Gryffindor table staring at her. Ginny had apparently called her name several times before she’d noticed.
“Oh. Um, sorry,” she said, blushing a little. “Wasn’t paying attention.”
“Put that book down immediately,” Ginny commanded, sounding very much like her mother. “We’re making plans for the last Hogsmeade trip tomorrow.”
“NEWTs start in two days! I really—”
“Come on, Mione,” Ron said, piling more food on his plate. “It’s the last one of our whole school career and you’ve been ready for NEWTs since we finished our OWLs.”
“Yes, alright, fine. I’ll make some time,” she said finally. She would speak to Severus and see if he could sneak away as well. She’d done nothing but revise for the last two weeks. Even she could admit that she needed a break.
That afternoon in Potions, she and Ginny chatted softly while they worked. Ginny was feeling insecure about Harry again and wanted her opinion.
“He’s just been acting really odd lately. I’m worried.”
“Gin, it’s end-of-the-year stress. I’m sure there’s nothing wrong.” In fact, she was certain of quite the opposite. If Harry was getting awkward, it likely meant he was getting close to proposing. The next day would be the anniversary of Voldemort’s defeat. She wondered if he would do it in Hogsmeade.
Hermione’s thoughts were interrupted by a small explosion in the back of the room. By the time she’d turned around, Severus was already standing near the smoking cauldron. Those same trouble-making boys hadn’t been paying attention again. The boys had gotten out of the way in time, but an unsuspecting Ravenclaw girl was covered in a bluish gel. The effects of the potion weren’t immediate. Severus had just noticed she’d gotten the worst of it when her eyes began to grow wide. He quickly cleaned her clothing, but it was too late. The girl began crying uncontrollably. When he tried to question her regarding her symptoms, she launched herself at him and clung to his robes, sobbing. She couldn’t gather her wits enough to speak so he turned to the culprits.
“How far had you gotten with the potion?”
“Just added the dragon’s tears, sir,” one said, staring at the crying girl buried in the Professor’s chest.
“You fool! Not dragon’s tears,” he yelled. “Dragon tail. Detention with Filch until the end of term for each of you.” He looked down at the girl. “Miss Jones,” he said in a much softer voice. She looked up, still whimpering. “You’ll need to go to the infirmary until I brew you an antidote.”
“No!” she screamed and began sobbing again. “Please, sir. Don’t leave me!” She clutched his robes almost violently.
“You must,” he said, prying her away forcefully, but as gently as possible. “Miss Granger would like to take you upstairs to see Madam Pomfrey,” he said without breaking eye contact with the trembling girl. Hermione quickly threw her things in her bag and joined them. The rest of the class stared at the very odd scene. “Now gather your things. Don’t worry about cleaning up. These two will take care of that.” The girl gave a shaky nod and turned to pack her things.
“Sir?” Hermione said quietly. “What should I tell Madam Pomfrey?” Those around them shifted in slightly to hear his answer.
“These two imbeciles have managed to make a very powerful mood altering potion. It is very unpredictable. Get her upstairs and have Pomfrey give her a sedative until I can brew an antidote.”
“How long?” The girl had joined them and was now clinging to Hermione’s arm, quietly crying into her shoulder.
“An hour at most. Attempt to keep her calm. You’ll have to stay with her. Quite obviously, it causes irrational attachments.”
After another tearful goodbye, Hermione persuaded the girl, Mary Jones, to accompany her to the infirmary. Madam Pomfrey judiciously decided it might be best if she heavily sedated her and let her sleep after the girl became enraged and began throwing bed pans. Hermione stayed and revised until Severus brought the antidote. He was still livid at the boys and lefty quickly after administering it.
Within the hour, the entire school had heard about the incident and rumors began flying. Hermione could only roll her eyes at the absurd stories she heard. One had the boys as innocent bystanders and that she was the cause of the explosion. Another said the girl ran from the room covered in tears and blood after a fight with her boyfriend. The most ridiculous one was oddly the most accurate and the most widespread. According to it, there had been an explosion and the potion caused her to have emotional outbursts. However, the Professor had allegedly held Mary, rocked her, and smoothed her hair to calm her while murmuring soft words. This, in turn, caused wild speculation as to what caused his bizarre behavior. Accusations of an affair, the possibility of a blow to the head, and questions of the Potions Master’s mental stability flew around the school.
By the time Hermione joined the others at the Gryffindor table for dinner, the entire Great Hall was almost in a state of hysteria. As one of those closely involved, she immediately fell under a barrage of questions. The noise level in the room nearly doubled a few minutes later when Mary entered and hurried to her table, clearly mortified at the day’s events. The other Ravenclaws descended upon her and Hermione watched as they questioned her as well. Though she couldn’t hear what was being said, she relaxed slightly when the girl’s face turned very red and she shook her head vehemently.
At precisely 5:30 p.m., Severus strode through the staff entrance. The slam of the door behind him echoed through the hall, leaving an uncomfortable silence in its wake. The students mumbled amongst themselves while trying to furtively glance at the Head Table. Severus’s anger was at a level usually only reserved for Harry and few were willing to test him after that became evident. Even Hermione had hardly spoken to him all day, deciding it best to stay out of his way.
“Reckon it’s true?” Neville whispered loudly. “That he’s gone ‘round the bend?”
“No, I don’t,” Hermione snapped, sharply looking up from her book. “I was there and none of those things happened.” Neville blushed brightly, muttering an apology and something about the library. He wandered away when she turned back to her book.
Severus finished his meal at record speed and then stormed from the Hall without a backwards glance. The open questioning and mocking at the Ravenclaw table was renewed immediately upon his departure. A moment or two later, the girl grabbed her bag and quickly left the hall. Another wave of gossip that she was off to join him for some secret rendezvous washed over the room. Hermione was quite sure that she’d seen tears on her face and rose to follow her.
Unsure which direction to go, she started towards the Ravenclaw common room. She sped up and finally caught sight of the girl rounding a corner at the end of the corridor.
The girl paused at the sound of her name, just as the light of a hex whizzed by her head. A portrait exploded behind her and the girl slid to the floor. Hermione sprinted down the hall with her wand drawn, but there was no sign of anyone.
“Mary, are you okay?” Hermione helped her back up against the wall then dropped to her knees beside her.
Severus! Bring the headmistress. Someone tried to hex Mary Jones.
Where are you?
Near the Ravenclaw Common Room.
“It’s okay, Mary,” Hermione said calmly. “The Headmistress will be here soon.” She’d read somewhere that using a person’s name after a traumatic event was soothing.
“I’m alright,” the girl said finally, shaking her head. “You know, it’s been a bloody awful day.”
Mary was taken back to the infirmary for the second time that day. She was easily persuaded by Madam Pomfrey to take another light sedative and spend the night there where she could get some rest. Severus and Minerva went to inspect the tattered remains of the painting while Hermione went to inform the other Heads of House of an emergency staff meeting. The gathering was short, just long enough to apprise everyone of the situation. By the time it was finished though, it was late and the Professors had to go do their rounds and bed checks. Hermione walked towards Gryffindor tower with the Headmistress.
“Has he noticed?” McGonagall asked quietly when they were alone.
“We haven’t discussed it, but I think so.”
“I’d hoped the first two were just coincidences.”
“Me too, but there’s no denying it now.”
“I just don’t understand why or who would do such a thing.”
“Nor do I,” Hermione said. The two walked in silence for a few moments before she sighed heavily. “He’s come so far and changed so much. Now he’ll be back to his old git self again.”
“I know,” the older woman groaned, “but who could fault him now?”
“We have to figure it out, Minerva. We just have to,” she said quietly. “I know he can be a prat, but why would anyone want to curse people just for being nice to him?”
The two parted ways to finish their rounds separately. Struck with a sudden idea, Hermione hurried to the owlery. Hoping the hour wasn’t too late, she quickly penned a note to Lucius and sent it off with a school owl. It was close to midnight by the time she made it back to her rooms. She changed into her night clothes and stepped into the fire. Whether or not he wanted it, her husband would have company for the night.
Severus was bent over his desk, furiously scribbling scathing comments on essays in red ink. He only spared her a glance before returning to his marking. Hermione took a deep breath, straightened her spine and hoped for the best as she approached him.
“Severus, it’s late. Why don’t you come to bed?” she said softly. “I don’t sleep well without you so I thought I’d stay tonight.” His only answer was silence. She moved around the desk to stand behind him. “Severus?”
She reached out to touch the arm braced on the desk. In the blink of an eye, he jerked his arm away and spun in his chair to face her.
“I said I am busy!” he snarled. They stared at each other for the space of a few seconds before he looked away.
“No,” she said firmly. “You’ll not push me away. I am your wife, Severus.” He stared at the desk for a long time before looking back up at her. His shoulders slumped slightly.
“Not tonight,” she said, pulling him out of the chair. “Let’s just go to bed and we’ll worry about all the rest tomorrow.”