Chapter 9: More to the Story
Billy and Ms. Willie were in the kitchen when Hermione and Severus let themselves into the flat.
“Ms. Willie, we're here,” called Hermione as they walked inside.
“Wonderful!” she said, appearing in front of them. “Welcome back. Billy, come out and meet Silvius Gallagher!”
Billy's eyes were drawn to Severus' scars, the worst of which were not even visible through his hair. Billy glanced away quickly as the wizards shook hands.
“Pleasure to meet you, Silvius,” he said.
Severus did not look pleased.
“And you,” he said after a pause.
“Harmony says you make a living selling potions of your own invention,” Billy said. “I must admit, Potions was always my worst subject.”
“A sentiment most students share,” said Severus.
Billy laughed and said, “I can believe that – I wasn't even the worst student in my class and most of the time I had no idea what I was doing.”
One corner of Severus' mouth rose slightly, perhaps as he remembered some of his own terrible students and their mishaps.
“I suppose you're a capable brewer as well,” Billy said to Hermione. “You seem to be an expert on nearly everything.”
Hermione laughed and said, “I'm not an expert, but if Silvius trusts me to help him brew, then I must not be a terrible brewing partner.”
“You are more than adequate,” said Severus, casually resting his hand on Hermione's shoulder and squeezing it lightly. She felt heat rise to her face and hoped nobody would notice. Billy looked from Severus to Hermione.
“How did you two meet?” he asked suddenly.
“Billy!” came Ms. Willie's warning from the kitchen, where she had retreated.
“It's okay, Ms. Willie,” said Hermione, as Severus said, “Potions research.”
Severus gave Billy a look of restrained intensity that Hermione recognized immediately from the Potions classroom. Billy nodded.
“Ah... makes sense. So, Harmony is an expert after all,” he said.
“Oh, no,” she said. “Not at brewing. I'm more of a... theorist. Research is one thing. Brewing is an art.”
Billy glanced between them again.
“Impressive, though,” he said. “I'm happy with my silly Charms – I'm told they will prove a lucrative skill set in the states.”
Hermione smiled and said, “I'm sure they will.”
Severus remained silent. He spoke very little throughout dinner. The three of them listened to Ms. Willie talk about her day in the shop. The conversation must have been exceptionally dull for Billy, who had been with her the entire time. He caught Hermione's eye a few times during the recounting of events. It was during one of these moments that Severus cleared his throat.
“If I may interrupt,” he said. “I believe your pie may be in danger of burning.”
“Oh?” said Ms. Willie. “That can't be right... but let me check. I do smell something off, now that you mention it.”
She got up and hurried to the kitchen.
“Now, I know it shouldn't be done yet,” she said in exasperation. “Oh... but I think it'll taste just fine.”
Hermione gave Severus a disapproving look as Ms. Willie pulled the pie from the oven. He smirked. As Ms. Willie returned to her seat, Severus shifted his leg so that it touched Hermione's. She pressed back, as Ms. Willie asked her whether she was going to go with Billy to visit Persmille the next day.
“Oh, no... I can't,” she said. “The school sounds lovely, though.”
“Of course you can!” said Ms. Willie. “You spend nearly every day out and about the country, surely you have time for a stop at Persmille. Billy's persuaded me to go as well. The last time I was in Sydney was when I dropped Billy off for his second year at school. He insisted on going alone after that.”
Hermione shook her head and said, “I'm so sorry. We, ah... have some important work that can't wait.”
Ms. Willie was very obviously disappointed, and Billy was strangely quiet on the matter.
“Perhaps you might postpone the visit,” Severus said.
“Perhaps we might,” said Ms. Willie. “Billy's here for another week yet. What do you say, Billy?”
Billy shrugged and said, “Yeah, sure. We'll postpone.”
A silence followed.
“Well. Are we ready for dessert?” asked Ms. Willie.
“Actually,” said Hermione, still keenly aware of Severus' thigh pressing against her own. “I don't think I have room this evening – I've eaten far too much already. Thank you so much so dinner.”
“Oh, all right,” said the older witch. “But you must have some tomorrow, then.”
Hermione promised that she would and then she and Severus returned to their tiny flat. Severus shut the door behind them and leaned against it.
“Perhaps we shall leave the country tonight, just to get away from that nattering old fool,” he said.
“You haven't been the one eating meals with her and Billy for the past few days,” said Hermione. “You've been off having fun without me instead.”
“Collecting rare potion ingredients in the wee hours of the morning while on the lookout for a menagerie of wild magical beasts who would enjoy a nice meal of wizard flesh is not a relaxing getaway,” he said.
“You should have let me come,” she said. “It would've been less dangerous.”
“It would not,” he said. “Instead of one of us risking our lives for some dried Devil's Breath, two lives would be in danger.”
“Stop being difficult,” she said, walking over to him.
“It is my nature to be so,” he replied.
They regarded one another intensely for a moment. Then, he reached out and placed a hand on Hermione's waist, pulling her toward him. He kissed her, then locked and warded the door.
“Silencing spells, too,” said Hermione, flourishing her own wand. As soon as she had finished, he took the wand from her and kissed her again, their hands exploring over and under clothes. He placed their wands on the armchair as they passed it on their way to the bed.
“I've wanted this for so long,” she whispered.
He silenced her with a long, deep kiss, then said, “How long?”
“Ah...” Hermione said, closing her eyes as first his breath, then his tongue and lips, tickled her ear and neck. “Since before the battle. After one of our late night talks.”
She turned her head and captured his mouth, pressing herself up against him, letting a soft sound of desire fill her throat.
“What about you?” she asked, pulling away after a minute.
“Mmm... the morning I found you asleep in my bed at Grimmauld Place,” he said.
“But, you were so angry,” she said in disbelief.
“I was surprised,” he corrected her. “I'd never before woken up to a witch in my bed.”
He smirked and kissed her neck again.
“I found it disappointing that even while asleep you kept a seemly distance from me,”he said.
“Oh,” she said, her eyes sliding closed again as his lips trailed down her neck to her collarbone. She started to pull at the buttons on her blouse. In no time it was off so that he could continue his journey over the rest of her body. He made it to her waist before Hermione sat up and undid his shirt buttons as well.
She had seen him shirtless more than a few times in the past years as they grew used to living together. Now, she ran her hands over his body, memorizing every scar, caressing every inch of his torso and shoulders. She brushed the site of Nagini's bite as lightly as possible, her fingers trailing up into his hair. He grabbed her wrist and pulled her closer. She slid her arm around his shoulders and kissed his face, her lips barely touching the scarred skin between jaw and cheekbone.
“I was so afraid that fate would take you from me – that I would lose you that night,” she said, moving to his temple, where it ended. “I already loved you.”
He pulled back and stared at her. It felt as if time stopped for a moment, his face frozen. The only hint that the seconds continued to pass was the telltale growing brightness in his normally guarded eyes.
As his features trembled, he leaned forward and whispered in her ear, “And I you.”
He wrapped her in a crushing embrace. A single whole-body shudder shook the bed. There were no more words spoken between them that night as they acted on their long-held desires.
The next morning, Hermione woke first and lay smiling to herself in the messy bedclothes. Severus was sprawled out next to her on his back. She pushed her hair out of her face and curled up beside him, rubbing one foot over his leg. He woke up with a start.
“Good morning,” she said. He blinked at her and then relaxed against his pillow again. She reached out and touched his shoulder. He brought one hand up and lay it over hers, closing his eyes.
“Good morning,” he mumbled sleepily. He was normally an early-riser, so Hermione was amused by his grogginess.
“I've never seen you sleep in before,” she whispered, wiggling the fingers that were trapped under his hand. He opened his eyes again, rolling his head to the side to look at her.
“I've never slept so well before,” he said.
“Glad I could help,” she said sarcastically, poking him with her foot. He responded by rolling over and trapping her legs under one of his. He slung an arm over her as well for good measure and closed his eyes once again.
After a few minutes, Hermione slipped her arm out from between them and ran her fingers from his bare thigh up to his ribs. He tightened his hold on her.
“Don't,” he said. She giggled.
“You're ticklish?” she gasped.
“Those who live in glass houses shouldn't start things they will regret,” he mumbled into her hair. Hermione pressed her hand into his back instead and scooted even closer.
“I could start something else, instead,” she said as she her pressed her hips into his. He groaned and released her legs. She immediately wrapped one around him.
They did not emerge from their flat until the afternoon. If Ms. Willie had anything to say about it, she did not say it to their faces. Billy had gone out to the next town over with old Mr. Baker, who needed help with a few odd jobs.
Hermione convinced Severus to join her on a day trip to Perth. He had only seen the city once in the past two years and Hermione had not visited recently. They returned late that evening to find Ms. Willie and Billy down in the shop rearranging the shelves.
“Oh, they're still downstairs,” said Hermione, as she saw Billy carefully reposition a shelf under his mother's direction. “Silence the door... I swear she keeps it squeaky on purpose.”
They snuck into their flat and waited for a few minutes. They recast the silencing charms on their room and spelled the door shut. Now free to walk around without the risk of creaking floorboards giving them away, Hermione went to the kitchen for a glass of water. Severus followed her and watched as she downed the glass.
“Today was nice,” she said, walking over and leaning into him for a kiss. He brought his hand up to cup the back of her head, his long, cool fingers creating tingling pressure points on her scalp. Hermione sighed and fully embraced him.
There was a knock at the door.
“Harmony? Mr. Gallagher?” came Ms. Willie's voice.
They stood frozen in silence as she knocked again.
“I could swear I saw them out in the street earlier,” she could be heard saying, presumably to Billy. “I wonder where they've gone.”
Billy's muffled answer was brief.
“Well, I told Minnie I would come by this evening. I'd best get over there before she's gone to bed.”
Severus and Hermione remained frozen in their embrace for a few minutes more, the only sound their breath and the ticking of the clock in the next room.
“It's time we got away from Ms. Willie,” said Hermione. “She's been intolerable ever since Billy came home.”
“She has been intolerable for the past two years,” remarked Severus. “I imagine she's been that way her entire life.”
Hermione sighed and said, “We need a plan if we're going back to Britain. It'll be ten months before I find the Time-Turner.”
Severus looked pensively at the cupboard behind her and said nothing.
“But before we leave Australia, there's something I need to do,” she said. “I'll need your help.”
He looked at her with a softer expression than she had ever seen in his eyes.
“I want to find my parents and restore their memories,” she said. “They are somewhere in the country, living under the names Monica and Wendell Wilkins.”
In typical fashion, he began pacing as he said, “You modified their memories and sent them to Australia to protect them.”
She nodded and said, “I didn't want to know where exactly they ended up, just in case...”
“Which spell did you use?” he asked.
“Obliviate, Novamemora, and Volomotate,” she said. He stopped and raised an eyebrow.
“I see,” he said. He continued pacing again.
“It will be impossible to restore complete remembrance to so many memories,” he said. “If indeed you removed every trace of yourself from their minds.”
“I did,” Hermione said confidently.
“It will be difficult to convince them that certain desires and false memories you planted were never their own,” he said.
“But you can do it,” she said. He stopped and folded his arms.
“It can be done,” he said. “The result will be... imperfect.”
“I know,” she whispered, a lump rising in her throat. “It's why I never tried to find them before.”
“Have you started looking for them?” he asked. Hermione shook her head.
“I'll go tomorrow and begin searching Muggle records for their names,” she said. “I have no idea where they might have ended up. Most likely in one of the larger cities. They may still be working as dentists.”
As it turned out, Hermione did not have to look far to find her parents. They had a successful practice in Melbourne and lived in a nice suburb with a large, floppy-eared dog that her father walked early every morning before work.
Hermione watched them for a full week before reporting their whereabouts to Severus. The next day, he joined her in spying on her parents, who seemed to be living happily without her.
“I can't do this,” she said, as they watched her father return to the house with the dog after his evening walk. Her mother was probably inside cooking dinner.
“You won't be doing it,” he reminded her. “That is why I'm here.”
“I know, but... they're going to be so angry,” she said anxiously. “Look how happy they are. I'm going to ruin their lives as they know it.”
Severus gave her a strange look.
“Would you not want to remember your own daughter, if given the choice?” he asked her.
“I just... don't want to have to explain myself,” said Hermione. “Before that last year, they had already tried to convince me not to return to the magical world. They didn't know even half of what was really going on, but they knew it was dangerous. They were always asking me if strange things happening in the news were actually the result of magic, and usually they were right.”
Severus took her arm and then slid his hand down into hers, holding it for a moment.
“Gather your courage, Gryffindor,” he said. “We are doing this today.”
He let go of her hand and took a few steps toward the street. Hermione reluctantly followed him. They crossed the street. Severus walked straight up to the front door and rang the bell. Hermione felt her breath catch in her throat as they waited. Moments later, the door opened halfway, and her mother peered out.
“Can I help you?” she asked.
With Severus' hand on her back to keep her from running away, Hermione said, “Yes, ma'am. We are looking for Monica Wilkins.”
Her mother frowned and said, “You've found me. Who are you?”
“I'm your daughter,” she said.
Her mother first stared at her, then laughed.
“Darling, you've got the wrong Monica Wilkins. I'm sorry, but I have no children.”
“What's going on?” asked her father, coming to the door as well.
“This young lady is looking for her mother, Monica Wilkins,” said her mother. “Apparently, there's more than one of us.”
Hermione's tears were real in that moment, and her mother immediately sobered.
“Oh, dear... I'm so sorry I laughed, it's just that for a moment I thought, 'I have a long lost daughter' which is ridiculous. That's not something a woman can forget!”
Hermione sniffed and wiped her eyes.
“Oh, come in and sit down for a minute,” said her mother. “I'll pour you a cup of tea.”
She led Hermione and Severus to a nicely furnished sitting room and went to put on the tea. Her father sat down in a chair across from them.
“I'm sorry, I didn't catch your names,” he said politely.
“Hermione Granger,” she said, shaking his hand. Her father glanced at Severus, who remained silent.
“This is my husband, Severus,” said Hermione, smiling as Severus hid his surprise and shook her father's hand.
“Nice to meet you, Severus,” her father said. If he noticed the scars on Severus' face, he did not let on.
Hermione wondered what sort of impression Severus was making on her father. When he wasn't in wizard's attire or wearing a black teaching robe, the intimidating effect of his stern features and the angry scar were lessened. Sitting on her parents beige sofa wearing Muggle clothing and his favorite broken-in boots, he looked more like scruffy university professor on holiday or perhaps a seasoned bartender who once broke up a nasty fight and lived to tell the tale.
“Where are you from?” asked her father.
“Ah, I was born in London,” said Hermione. “I've lived here, there, and everywhere.”
Her mother returned with tea.
“Here we go,” she said. After both Hermione and Severus were settled with their tea and her mother had her own, she sat primly in the chair beside Hermione's father and cleared her throat.
“Now, is there is anything we can do to help you find your Monica Wilkins?” she asked, then paused. “I'm sorry, I haven't even asked your names.”
“This is Hermione and Severus Granger,” said her father. “Hermione was just telling me that she was born in London.”
Her mother's face showed another moment of mental distress as she sipped her tea.
“London, you say?” she murmured. Hermione saw Severus' arm twitch out of the corner of her eye. Her mother's eyes seemed to glaze over as she continued sipping her tea, deep in thought.
“Monica?” asked her father, looking worried.
“I've always wanted a daughter,” said her mother vaguely. “You do look so familiar... and you have Wendell's eyes.”
“What? Monica, what are you saying?”
“Wendell,” said Hermione, casting the spell as he met her eyes. “Look at my eyes. Is she right? Don't they look just like yours?”
“Yes, they do,” he said. He was mesmerized, staring at her face, his mouth hanging open.
“Look at Hermione,” Severus told her mother, who obeyed. Now both of her parents were staring at her as if they had seen a ghost, albeit a very confusing one.
Severus went to work immediately, muttering incantations and waving his wand in gentle, controlled movements above their heads. Then, he lowered his wand and pressed a palm to her mother's forehead, his eyes closed. After some minutes had passed, he did the same to her father.
Her parents now sat with their eyes closed, mouths still hanging open in expressions of shock.
“How long should we wait?” asked Hermione nervously.
“As long as it takes,” Severus replied. He poured himself another cup of tea.
“Relax,” he said. “All seems to have gone according to plan.”
“What did you see in there... in their minds?” she asked.
“You,” he said simply. “That's all I was seeking.”
Hermione grinned and said, “I suppose you know more about me than you ever wanted to know.”
“It was... enlightening,” he said mysteriously.
Her father was the first to snap out of his memory-induced coma. His mouth closed and he sat back in his chair, glaring at Severus.
“Who are you, really?” he asked.
“Dad?” asked Hermione tentatively.
“I'll get to you in a minute, young lady,” her father said. “First, I want to know who this wizard is that you've allowed to mess with my head.”
Hermione sighed and said, “Dad, this is Severus Snape. He used to be one of my professors at Hogwarts. He agreed to help me restore your memories.”
Her father seemed to relax a bit.
“Why would you do such a thing, Hermione?” he asked quietly. “Your mother will never forgive you.”
He glanced over at her mother, who was now swaying slightly, her eyes still closed.
“What is she doing?” he asked.
“Remembering,” said Hermione. Her mother made a sound that started as a whine and ended in a sob. She opened tearful eyes and looked around.
“Hermione?” she whispered.