Once again, big thanks to my betas for all their help and support.
I own nothing. Thank you for reading ~Lil~
They'd been married for a little over a week when Draco showed up appearing... remorseful, a look Severus couldn't remember ever seeing on his godson's face. "I want to help," he'd said. Then he explained that if he helped Severus with brewing potions for the school and hospital, then the potions master could focus on research and on Hermione herself. Severus wasn't one for charity, but it was an offer he couldn't really refuse. Besides, he knew the young man was trying to make amends. Oh, not with Severus, they'd mended all their fences long before, but rather to Hermione. Draco had been cruel to her during their time at Hogwarts and he had played the part of blood-purist far too well. Of course, it was how he'd been raised - indoctrinated since birth. But now that Draco had seen the light, so to speak, it seemed that he needed to find some redemption. Severus was happy to aid the young man in that particular journey.
So four days a week Draco Malfoy brewed potions, under Severus' supervision of course, while the Potions master and former Death Eater looked for a cure for his wife's illness. He worked tirelessly combing through any Dark text he could get his hands on. When he'd exhausted all of his own considerable library, he called for one of her companions to sit with her and traveled to The Manor or Hogwarts. So far he'd found nothing. Neither had Bill Weasley, though he was still working on the case as well. Severus had even gone so far as to contact Potions masters in China, Brazil and Indonesia. They had some interesting ideas which he'd adapted and implemented into Hermione's current potion regimen, but nothing had 'cured' her. It was a curse, so of course what he needed was a counter-curse. But without Yaxley or his wand, at the very least, Severus was just buying her time. It was driving him mad.
Why was it driving him mad was a question he asked himself on more than one occasion. Yes, he had been… different since the war. Upon waking up in St. Mungo's, after the initial shock had worn off, he was very much at a loss. All his reasons for being a complete bastard didn't really exist anymore. He was no longer a spy, he didn't need to lie to everyone around him, his Dark Mark was a faded grey smudge. Stranger than everything else, he no longer felt some gaping hole where Lily Evans once existed in his life. Was it some form of 'life debt' repaid? He couldn't answer. But that all-consuming drive to protect her son and see his 'mission' to the end was completely gone. Of course, the deed was done, his part had been played. He'd convinced everyone that he was the ultimate bad guy that they had all wanted him to be. All the plans, all the manipulations had worked.
He really had been enjoying his retirement. Okay, perhaps it was a bit dull compared to his former life, but he told himself that he deserved some quiet time after years of chaos and subterfuge. He found himself finding ways to keep tabs on Lily's son and his friends. Just the occasional inquiry to Kingsley or a scan through the Prophet for their names seemed to satisfy his curiosity. After nearly ten years it was a hard habit to break. He knew Granger had gone into the Auror programme, along with the two nitwits, and frankly, that had puzzled him until one of his obligatory monthly teas with Minerva.
"So, I hear the Golden Trio is at it again," he said as they sat in her office. He'd just read that the famous friends had managed their first arrest.
She sighed. "I suppose so."
"You don't sound pleased," he commented. "I would have thought you'd be proud of your cubs."
"I had higher hopes for Miss Granger. But of course…" she trailed off and tried to cover up whatever she was going to say with a sip of tea.
"What, Minerva?" he pushed.
She looked up, a little surprised. "Do you really care, or are you just interested in gossip about your least favourite former pupils?"
He stiffened. Then remembered that he didn't have to wear that mask, any mask, anymore. He did care, he wasn't sure why, but he did. "Have I ever been one for gossip?" he said with forced softness in his voice.
"You know exactly why they were my least favourite. And Miss Granger, as annoying as she could be as an overachieving young witch, has always had my respect, to some degree. Now, what aren't you telling me?"
Minerva studied him carefully then put her cup on the table between them. "Hermione had no intention of joining the Auror programme. She was considering her options when Harry and Ron went into training, practically dragging her with them."
Severus rolled his eyes. He'd thought better of the young witch than that. When would she learn to think for herself? She was intelligent enough, if perhaps lacking creativity. Although to hear some of the reports from both Phineas and the few 'tall tales' that had drifted his way after the war, Miss Granger seemed to have the ability to be creative when the pressure was on. So why on Earth did she have to blindly follow those two idiots?
"I know that face, Severus. You don't know the whole story, so stop your infernal judging!"
Severus started to speak up but was silenced with a stern look from the older witch. No small feat, but there were few people on the planet that he respected as much as Minerva McGonagall. She was the first person, outside of the staff of the hospital, whom he'd seen upon waking up. Her tearful apology was both sincere and slightly heart-wrenching. Of course, she'd hated him - believed that he'd killed her close friend - that was the whole point, was it not? "You didn't try to fight back, Severus, I should have known," she'd sobbed. "Please forgive me."
Of course, he did, if for no other reason than because she'd managed to convince Potter that Severus would need some time before seeing the boy and having the myriad of questions about Lily thrust in his face. She had kept visitors at bay, well most of them. His second visitor was Miss Granger herself. And the chit had hugged him! Their conversation was short, blessedly so. She had thanked him, and expressed how pleased she was that he'd survived. His responses were clipped and formal. He still felt very off-balance. What was he to do in a world where he wasn't feared - in a world where Gryffindor's thanked him and… hugged him? It required some thought.
"Fine, you might be right. But why did she do it? Why become an Auror if she wanted some other career path?" he asked his friend.
She got a pained look on her face and said, "Because she feared for them and wanted to be close to them. She wanted to make sure they were safe. She's lost so much, Severus… you have no idea. Her parents, she..."
"I know that they were killed." He drew a deep breath. It had happened during his awful time as Headmaster. He'd had nothing to do with it, not even aware of the plans since he was busy trying to keep the Carrows from killing his students. He found out after the fact. Mr. and Mrs. Granger had been found, somewhere in Australia, and brutally murdered. "What did she do?"
The haunted look in Minerva's eyes was bone-chilling. "She Obliviated them before sending them away. They died not knowing they had a daughter or why monsters had come for them."
Hermione knew Severus was spreading himself too thin. Even with the addition of the youngest Malfoy, he was spending all of his time between her, the lab he'd set up in the basement and her parents' old home office (which Severus had converted into his study).
She voiced her concerns to Draco during one of his rare visits with her one late afternoon roughly a month after her wedding. She was actually socialising with Draco Malfoy… what a strange new world. Severus was in his lab working on adjusting her potion, so she took her chance. He agreed that his godfather needed a day off.
"How do we do this?" Hermione asked. "He's not likely to just take a day off. Besides, what does Severus do for… fun?"
Draco looked puzzled for a moment. Hermione imagined that he was just as stumped as she was about the subject of 'Severus Snape having fun'. "Well, I could get Father to take him out for dinner, maybe even drinks," he suggested lamely.
It sounded a bit like torture to her, but it'd have to do. "I'll have to have a babysitter," she said with a roll of her eyes. "Or he'll never agree to it. He's been like a dog with a bone about this whole thing." She bit on her thumbnail. "I'll owl the boys. Do you think dinner and drinks will be enough to help him relax, he's so stressed."
Draco was looking across the room at the time. "No, what he needs is to get laid," he said with his trademark smirk. "Perhaps father knows a high-quality working girl that he could get at the last…" His smile died when he met Hermione's eyes. "Oh fuck, Granger. I'm sorry, I didn't know. I wasn't even thinking."
"What? What didn't you know?"
He didn't answer right away, just looked around uncomfortably. "I mean that... that was insensitive. You are his wife after all."
"First of all, insensitive is your middle name, Draco, and secondly this isn't a real marriage. What Severus does in his free time is his own business. I wouldn't… I have no…" She looked down at the book in her lap. "Talk to your father and let me know."
"Sure," he said as he got up to walk out of the sitting room.
"Draco," she called out as he was leaving. He turned around. "Thank you, for helping and everything."
"Don't mention it… to anyone… ever," he replied with a wink.
Fucking Lucius, Severus thought as he sat in the dark bedroom. They could have spent the evening at Malfoy Manor going through Dark Arts tomes. But no, they'd spent the whole three and a half hours (all Severus would give up) at Nox, one of Lucius' exclusive nightclubs. He leaned back in his chair and recalled one of the more disturbing conversations of the evening…
"You know, I've seen you this obsessed before," the older man said as he took a drink of his whiskey and eyed a beautiful witch passing by their table. "And it always involves a little Muggle-born."
Severus ignored him hoping that Lucius' libido would distract him enough to leave the topic alone.
No such luck…
Once the witch was out of sight, Lucius turned his eyes back to his friend. "So, what's it about this girl? Or are you still searching for redemption?"
"First of all, Hermione is not a girl. She is my wife. You'd do well to remember that and keep your opinions about blood purity to yourself. Secondly, you know better than most that I'm beyond redemption," Severus replied with venom in his voice.
"For Merlin's sake! You act as if I used that word! You know I don't care about all that business... anymore," Lucius defended.
"Sure you don't." Severus sneered, not believing him for a minute. Lucius Malfoy may be putting on a good front - playing by the rules - but he still believed in the Purity of the Blood. Oh, he may not be interested in the torture and killing of Muggle-borns anymore (not that he was ever a huge fan - didn't like to get his hands dirty), but that didn't mean he'd welcome one into his family with open arms. "And I'm not in the mood…"
"Yes, your mood is very apparent," his friend interrupted.
A pregnant silence engulfed the table for several minutes.
"So does she know?" Lucius asked focusing his gaze intently on Severus.
The Potions master huffed. "This evening was her idea, Lucy. Hers and your son's, no doubt. I should have kept him locked safely in the basement."
"No old friend, does she know how you feel?" He paused to allow Severus to answer. When he didn't, the blond continued, "I only ask because I'm not sure I want to watch, once again, as you waste the next twenty years of your life pining away." Lucius took a long drink of his firewhisky. "Though I admit, she must be something special to finally make you forget the Evans girl. Part of me hopes beyond hope that this isn't a lost cause."
"Hey," his wife said, pulling him out of his thoughts.
"Hello," he replied, a bit embarrassed at being caught watching over her while she slept.
"What are you doing here?"
"Checking on you," he lied; he'd been there for more than an hour.
She didn't sit up, just rolled toward him and tucked her hand under her head. "Did you have f-fun?"
He puzzled over her stutter for a moment before answering. "I was forced to spend the evening with Lucius Malfoy. Now I have a headache from his atrocious cologne. What do you think?"
She smiled, that's when he realised that he couldn't see her very well and he very much wanted to. With the wave of a hand, he lit a couple of candles across the room. Not enough to hurt her eyes but he would be able to see her more clearly.
"I can't imagine having a good time with that man. But I do enjoy the occasional conversation with his son. Never thought I'd say that. It seems anything is possible."
"He took me to one of his nightclubs. It was horrible," Severus complained. "I had to listen to him brag about his conquests as he ogled everything with two legs. The man is disgusting. No idea how Cissy put up with him as long as she did."
Hermione suddenly looked uncomfortable. "Did you… did you meet anyone?"
He was taken aback. Did she mean...? "No, Hermione. I… I wasn't on the pull if that's what you're asking. I was forced, against my will, to socialise with a former Death Eater in order to 'get out of the house', your words if you remember?" He leaned closer. "Am I annoying you so much, wife, that you must torture me with that blond peacock?"
"N-no! Of course not! I just… I- I thought Lucius was your friend and…"
"He is. That doesn't mean I want to go to a club and watch him try to pick up every witch and/or wizard that comes in his path. He wasn't very particular this evening."
Once again, she averted her eyes.
"Hermione," he said, getting her attention. "is there something you'd like to say to me?"
"Um, it's only… I know what this is, Severus. If you need… s-someone, I wouldn't blame you."
He leaned down, as close as he dared, and pushed her unruly hair out of her face. "I'm only going to explain this to you once, Hermione Snape. I take my vows very seriously. While I am here, while we are still married and until you ask me to leave, I will not be seeking comfort outside our marriage. I am not an animal and I can control myself."
For some reason, she'd started crying during his explanation. Tears were dripping off of her nose, collecting on her pillow. It caused his chest to ache. He'd never seen her cry unless she was in the middle of a strong seizure or in extreme pain. These tears were completely different.
"Why can't this be over?" she whispered. "One way or the other, I just want…"
"Not one way or the other. You must keep fighting, witch. I can only do so much. I…"
She started sobbing and Severus decided that for better or worse, his wife needed some comfort. At the moment he'd have to do. He gently put one arm around her shoulder and stroked her hair. He let her cry until she calmed. He'd never actually held her before. He'd aided her, made her potions, prepared her food and physically helped move her from room to room, but never just held his wife. Suddenly all the annoyances of his evening with Lucius melted away.
After a few minutes, she pulled back and looked him in the eyes. "Can I ask you a huge favour? I know I shouldn't and I know…"
"What do you need?"
"Will you stay here and h-hold me... just tonight? I won't ask it again, I promise. But the boys wore me out tonight. They were just so..."
"I knew I should have had Draco come over," he interrupted. "He's an irritating little shit but at least he's not maudlin." Those idiots! Of course she was emotionally drained and of course it was their fault! But to hold her all night...? Well, he was her husband, was he not? He stood and started removing his outer robes, though he left on his frock coat.
Hermione looked shocked and happy at the same time. "You're going to stay?"
"What kind of bastard would I be to say no?" Her face fell a little bit and he realised he'd made a mistake, though he wasn't certain what it was. "Besides, that mattress I've been sleeping on seems to be some kind of torture device," he said as he crossed over to the other side of the bed and pulled back the covers. There was nothing wrong with his bed, he just felt the need to distract her. Even a grumpy ex-Death Eater knew that humour was the best method. "Did you recover it from the Dark Lord's dungeon?" With a flick of his wrist, the candles were extinguished.
"I offered you my old room," she said.
He sat on the opposite side of the bed and removed his boots. "And I said I wasn't about to sleep in your childhood bedroom. All those stuffed animals... " He shuddered. "Creepy."
Hermione giggled again, as he positioned himself behind her warm body.
"Nimue's nanny, woman! This bed is a thousand times more comfortable than mine," he said desperate for more of her laughter.
And it worked!
"Mum bought the guest bed just before my sixth year. I don't think anyone ever really used it. You're breaking it in."
He slowly, in case it wasn't what she had in mind, placed his arm around her waist, trying to find the most respectable way to hold her. "I'm honoured."
"You should be," she said with a contented sigh, then she slipped her fingers through his. "Thank you, Severus."
"You are most welcome." He carefully inhaled his wife's scent.
He made sure he was gone before she was up in the morning. Easily accomplished since he was used to waking at six am and Hermione's sleep was never the same, it depended on her pain and potions.
He was incredibly embarrassed to find that his body had reacted to the woman in his arms when he woke up. Not so much shocked as disappointed.
Quick note about weepy Hermione: I'm not a huge fan of Herms crying all the time, or any woman crying all the time, for that matter. But Hermione is in chronic pain, being familiar with it myself, I know from experience that it can be deeply depressing. This may seem OOC, but for the purposes of this story, it's necessary.