This story is for the mighty and wonderful Subvers, whose stories inspire, delight and amaze. If this fic gives you a tenth of the pleasure your work has given me, I will count myself blessed.
Anti-Litigation Charm: The characters in this story belong to JK Rowling and Warner Brothers, who let my entire reason for reading the Harry Potter books and watching the films die twice—once on a dusty floor of the Shrieking Shack, and later in a boathouse we'd never heard of before. You can tell I'm a little bitter about it, but that's what happens when you mess with my friends.
Special thanks to stgulik - the best beta in the world.
And this story is dedicated to my beloved Dahlra, who is first, last and always, my Father Figure.
In case you haven't already sussed it out, this story contains explicit sexual content.
That's all I wanted, something special, something sacred in your eyes,
For just one moment, to be bold and naked at your side
Sometimes I think that you'll never understand me; maybe this time is forever, say it can be
That's all you wanted, something special, someone sacred in your life
Just for one moment, to be warm and naked at my side
Sometimes I think that you'll never understand me, but something tells me together, we'd be happy
I will be your father figure, put your tiny hand in mine, I will be your preacher teacher
Anything you have in mind. I will be your father figure, I have had enough of crime
I will be the one who loves you, till the end of time
If you are the desert, I'll be the sea. If you ever hunger - hunger for me, Whatever you ask for, that's what I'll be
So when you remember the ones who have lied, who said that they cared but then laughed as you cried, beautiful darling, don't think of me
Because all I ever wanted, it's in your eyes and love can't lie, greet me with the eyes of a child
My love is always telling me so, heaven is a kiss and a smile, Just hold on, hold on, I won't let you go, my baby
I will be your father, I will be your preacher, I'll be your Papa, I'll be your Daddy
I will be the one who loves you, till the end of time
Games lubricate the body and the mind.
"I quite like this game, my dears. We haven't gotten good enough at it to cheat yet," Narcissa Malfoy said, pushing down the lid on the board game they had just finished playing. "No, thank you, dear," she said, refusing another glass of wine from Hermione Granger-Snape. "I'm afraid Lucius has had far too much and I think one of us needs to be compos mentis enough for side-along Apparation home."
"My dear wife, you wound me. Are you impugning my ability to Apparate after a few glasses of this excellent Muggle wine?" Lucius asked, smiling beneficently. He placed an elegant hand on his breast. "I'm hurt. I am as bereft as a leaf blowing in mountain water."
Narcissa smiled complacently, and replied very sweetly, "No, my darling, I would never impugn, but then again, water doesn't blow leaves, no matter how poetic that sounded in your head." She turned to Hermione with a warm smile. "When he's in his cups, no metaphor is safe with him."
Severus Snape caught Lucius' eye, and the two men smiled knowingly. Lucius drew the tattered remnants of his dignity around him and raised his chin. "I might be a couple of sheets to the wind, but there's nothing wrong with my metaphors." He rose to accept his travelling cloak from Hermione and bumped into the end table, sending his other three companions diving to save the breakable items rocking precariously on top.
Hermione looked at her husband, and the deep glint in his eye was a warning not to laugh. It was a futile warning at best, and the quirk of his own lips belied any attempt on his part to quell his own mirth, and the four of them laughed until Hermione felt tears trickle from her eyes.
Finally, Malfoy senior put his arm around his lovely wife and sighed. "I think it's time we were away to pastures anew, love. Our fair-weather friends tease and mock me."
"Yeah, yeah," Hermione nodded, still grinning. "Big bad Death Eater, blah blah blah -"
"You see that, love?" Lucius turned dramatically to his smiling wife. "Reduced to a 'blah'. Severus, may I please remind you that I, Lucius Malfoy, am the product of over a thousand -"
" - years of Wizarding perfection," came the deadpanned answer in unison, from his friends.
"Honestly, Lucius, I'm going to stop giving you wine. You become positively insufferable," Severus drawled. He turned to Narcissa. "Good luck taking him home, Narcissa, and please remind him while he's removing his trousers, one leg at a time, like the rest of us, that he does, in fact, put on and remove his trousers one leg at a time, like the rest of us."
Lucius tried to look offended, but was too pissed. "Enough sordid talk of me removing my trousers." He shook hands with his old friend. "You really need to have a word with your dear wife," he whispered, sotto voce, burnishing Severus with alcohol fumes. "She gives me no respect."
"Oh, I am sorry. I'll try to do better, Rodney Dangerfield," Hermione said, accepting his goodbye kiss. It was a smeary, inoffensive smack, wet with wine.
He pulled back, just as Narcissa put her arms around him. "Rodney who? Is he that new chap on the Wizarding Wireless?"
"Goodnight, Lucius!" Severus and Hermione said in unison, laughing. Narcissa joined them, holding her slightly drunken husband steady.
"Come 'round next week if you can, Hermione dear," she was saying. "I'd really like a second opinion on the colours for the new wing. I can't make up my mind."
"By Merlin, Cissy, you are looking lovely tonight," Lucius declared, the picture of charming, drunken elegance. He turned to his friends with the complacent smile of a comfortably numb, contented man. "I'm the luckiest wizard in Britain, you know."
"Goodnight, old friend," Severus laughed, and put his arm around Hermione as they watched their friends Apparate home.
Severus looked down at his wife, and placed a gentle kiss on her forehead. "Bed?"
She nodded. "We'll tidy in the morning." They walked in companionable silence to their bed chamber and undressed, chatting about the evening.
Hermione watched Severus remove his clothing and felt a sweet contentment. She loved to watch him at the most mundane tasks: shaving, dressing, undressing, dipping his soldiers into a runny egg first thing in the morning. He was graceful in all things. He should be; he'd worked hard enough at becoming so. Hermione loved even that: the desire of the self-proclaimed mill trash boy to better himself and rise above his gauche, working class upbringing.
He caught her watching him, and lowered his head, as he always did while aware of being observed. Even that pleased her. Hermione loved her husband dearly; she admired his strength and courage and the way he'd succeeded against all odds to return to Hogwarts as Headmaster four years after the war.
When Hermione had first returned to Hogwarts, it was to replace an aging Minerva McGonagall as Transfigurations Mistress. However, it became quite obvious to all concerned that Miss Granger also went a long way to relieving the loneliness and sorrow in the heart of the newly-reinstated Headmaster. As for Hermione, she had not planned on Severus Snape falling for her, but she'd been all too happy to catch him.
For the last six years they had been happy, and enjoyed each other's company. Hermione grew more and more fond of her stern, angular husband every day. He had changed; he was not the complete bastard he'd been at school, but she also realized that so much of how she had originally perceived Severus had been through the filter of Harry's intense dislike for the man, as well as his own insecurities and necessities. The night of the final battle, when Hermione had stayed behind in the Shrieking Shack to keep him alive until help could arrive, had changed all of that.
"Tonight was so enjoyable," Hermione said, as she brushed her hair. "I'm glad Narcissa suggested it. Who would have thought the two of them could be so much fun when they let their hair down?"
Severus nodded, hanging up his robes. "Lucius was a right laugh when we were lads. Full of pureblood dogma, of course, but not rabid about it. That only came later." He said the last words with a sigh. He sniffed. "Lucius can be a pain in the arse, but all in all, he's not the monster everyone thought him to be. He likes you very much, and so does Narcissa." He smiled at her as he climbed into bed, and propped himself against the headboard with several pillows. "You're right, though. This was a good idea."
In marrying Severus Snape, Hermione had soon realized that she had also inherited his friends as well. Hermione, who had developed a warm friendship with Draco Malfoy during her Apprenticeship at Wizarding Cambridge, decided to give them the benefit of the doubt at Draco's request, as well as Severus'.
As Draco himself had said, "Mother and Father need friends, Hermione. They've got a lot of work to do to restore any semblance of normality back in their lives. I know you probably don't believe it, but Father still has nightmares about having to stand by and watch my dearly-departed aunt Crucio you on their floor."
Hermione was touched. "Really?"
Draco gave her a look that should have infuriated her. Almost kindly, he said, "How should I know? I don't sleep with him! But if he did, would you like him any more?"
Laughing at Draco's completely Slytherin approach to the problem, Hermione said, "All right, but one word about pureblood supremacy and he's out on his well-bred backside."
"Ah, I knew you wouldn't let me down, Granger!" The blond man sobered. "I know this doesn't sound very tactful, but they went through hell. It was a hell of their own choosing, but they're not bad people. And yes, having Hermione Granger on their side would be an advantage in political terms, but what's the harm in finding out that you might actually like them – I mean, you adore me, so it stands to reason you'll love them!"
"Modest to the last," Hermione had teased, but she saw the honest hope in his eyes, and she felt touched that the once-proud Draco Malfoy was so doting on his parents. It was that concern that made up Hermione's mind. She and Severus welcomed the Malfoys into their home and back into their lives, and they never regretted it.
The couples first met for a round of drinks. The next time it was for dinner at a favourite restaurant. They attended a concert together. Soon, they were meeting at one another's homes for dinner. Hermione often felt a little out of her element, as the three older people had a shared history that had nothing to do with her, but it was obvious the Malfoys tried as hard as Severus to include her as much as possible. After all, she had been the catalyst to bring them all together.
As they toasted the beginning of the New Year, ten years after Hogwarts' final battle and the end of Tom Riddle, Narcissa said, "I think we should make a resolution for the coming year. Let's resolve to do something together once a month, even if it's just to have a lovely dinner together."
Hermione was the one who mentioned board games. "My family used to play them all the time and they were very enjoyable. There are tons on the market now for wizards, and they're much more fun to play with four than with just two."
Narcissa thought it a lovely idea; Lucius, as always, deferred such things to his wife, and Severus scowled. "I'll agree to it on one condition. None of those silly Muggle games like Twister, and I absolutely refuse to play Snakes and Ladders." The other three looked at Severus for a stunned moment before Hermione burst out laughing.
It had turned out to be such an enjoyable pastime that they increased the frequency of their get-togethers to every other weekend, and decided to alternate weeks so that each couple played host once a month. Sometimes Draco and his Amour of the Month would join them, but it was usually just the four of them.
They established a routine of meeting around six in the evening for drinks, then eating a lovely meal, playing whichever game they chose (the guest couple always chose the game), and played until they were all too tired, which (except for one particularly drunken Halloween game of Wizarding Monopoly which lasted the entire weekend except for breaks and sleep) usually ended around midnight.
Severus and Hermione enjoyed Wizarding Scrabble, in which the tiles walked themselves to the appropriate squares and kept their own scores. Lucius hated it because he inevitably tried to cheat and the tiles seem to take great pleasure in screaming abuse at him when he got caught ("nkplazq isn't a word, you ignorant berk!"). He instead preferred Wizarding Cluedo, where the figures pranced around the board wielding weapons and killing each other off with far too much glee for Hermione's tastes.
Trivial Pursuit was fun, but got a little cerebral (Severus once picked the Entertainment question, "Who was Cecilia Warbeck's Great-great-great Aunt and what part did she play in the Treaty of the Wand-Switching Inquisition of 1767?"), and the only one of them any good at Win, Lose or Draw Wands was Narcissa, who had a real talent for art under time constraints.
On this particular June night, it was the Snape family's turn to host, and Hermione had asked the house-elves to help her prepare a really nice dinner, and as usual, they nodded and smiled and said, "Yes, Mistress Headmaster," a great deal. In the end, Hermione gave in and let them make whatever they wanted to make and it was wonderful anyway.
Tonight, the Malfoys had procured a new game called "What Say You?" (A game of Legilimency if you dare!). In spite of its lurid subtitle, it was quite fun. Each player moved on a board of squares toward an end goal by asking the other three a particular question. The questions, while quite innocent on the surface, could actually produce some quite risqué answers.
The object was to try to match your opponent to their answer correctly, and you moved toward the end by how many you correctly matched. Of course, cheating was employed from square one, with each person trying to throw the questor off the scent. Because Severus was the only skilled Legilimens of the four of them, they tended to look away from him during his turn, to level the playing field.
Some of the answers had been hilarious, and some quite telling. The last question of this particular evening had been a fill-in-the-blank. Hermione had been given the question: My breath smells like -?Her helpful fellow gamers had given her the answers: spearmint, fairy farts and magic, and Dumbledore's arse. She'd not gotten a single correct match, but she'd spent a good ten minutes laughing until tears streamed from her eyes.
At the end of the evening, it was decided that this was the game to beat over the next few game nights. "I quite like this new game, don't you?" Hermione asked casually, as she changed into her dressing gown. She was still smiling about Severus' confession that his breath smelled of fairy farts and magic.
"It is quite enjoyable, but I hate that you all look at the floor when it's my turn. I feel like a pariah, or a cheat," Severus replied.
"You mean you wouldn't use Legilimency to discover our answers?" Hermione challenged, teasingly.
Severus smirked. "I would never presume to do something so dishonourable to you, dear. Malfoy, on the other hand -"
Hermione laughed. "I actually wouldn't blame you - he's a terrible cheater! Thank goodness he's not a sore loser, or I wouldn't play jacks with him. He's not even good at hiding it."
"What you must understand about Lucius, my dear, is that he has never felt compelled to hide it. That's why he's so unrepentant when he gets caught." Severus shrugged. "Who knows? Perhaps he wants to get caught so he can use his charms to get out of trouble."
"That sounds more like him."
Severus donned his reading glasses and was just delving into a new book from his bedside table when he felt his wife slide into bed beside him and snuggle close. "Your feet are freezing, Madam Snape," he said to the pages of his book. "Have you been wading in the Black Lake again?"
"Just keeping the Squid company until you got the bed nice and warm," Hermione replied, taking the book from his hands and removing his glasses. She placed them on the bedside table. "By Merlin, Severus, you are looking lovely tonight," she purred in a very credible imitation of Lucius Malfoy. She grinned up at the face of her husband. "I'm the luckiest witch in Wizarding Britain, you know."
Severus looked down at his wife of six years as if inspecting a particularly interesting variety of peach. His large hand slid to her warm breast, and found her nipple pertly erect and waiting for him. He smirked as he lowered his head to hers, and in a voice as soft as sin, replied, "You're about to get very lucky, Madam Snape."
Almost two hours later, Hermione lay wide awake, listening to the quiet almost-snores of her sleeping husband. As always, Severus had been a tender, affectionate, very giving lover. They knew one another's bodies well, and they knew what they liked. Severus had given her two very lovely orgasms, and she'd enjoyed one of her favourite positions, on top, looking down into her husband's face.
She loved watching him make love; he was observant and he paid attention. In all things, even this, Severus held himself in check, using his iron self-discipline to rein himself in. While he obviously enjoyed wringing every cry of pleasure from her, he himself was quiet, almost desperately so, as if afraid of expressing himself vocally.
It was only at the very peak of his pleasure, gasping, pumping up into her shuddering form, that he would sometimes give her the tiniest peek at what it would be like to watch him truly lose control and give himself over to his passions. His face would be taut, beautiful, and the ecstasy would etch across his face like that of a pre-Raphaelite painting, and Hermione would nearly come again at the look of pleasure and pain on his pale features. And then it would be gone so quickly she could be forgiven for thinking she'd dreamed it. He would come gasping, shuddering, turning his face away, or covering with his dark, shining hair. It was the only time in their marriage he was not an open book to her.
He would be very gentle with her afterwards. Sometimes, in the heat of the summer, he would bathe her with compresses saturated with mint to cool her heated skin, or bring her an iced drink to soothe her parched throat. During the winter months he would cuddle her in front of the large open fire and have the house-elves bring hot toddies. He was always caring, warm and giving in their bed, and when they were done, and cleaned and relaxed, he would spoon against her back, put his long arms around her, kiss her shoulder, tell her he loved her, and drift off.
He had suffered from nightmares in their early days of co-habitation, but as time had passed, the nightmares seemed to diminish, and Hermione wanted desperately to believe she had somehow helped to quell them.
Gradually, he slept longer and more deeply, and the haunted, fagged look he'd carried through most of her student days at Hogwarts smoothed and relaxed. She privately thought he looked younger now than he had ten years ago. He certainly took better care of himself and his appearance. He felt it was important to the student body to see a Headmaster looking every inch the part.
Severus twitched in his sleep, and she put a comforting hand on his thigh, and he settled before the dream could take him further into a place he no longer wished to go. He mumbled something in his rich, beguiling voice, kissed her back, and whispered her name. Hermione sighed. She loved her brilliant, complicated husband very much. His astringent personality appealed to her, and they were good together. He was a good husband, a good wizard, a good provider - a good man.
But Hermione remembered too well the angry, bitter, caustic professor of her school days; he was part and parcel of the man she fell in love with, try as he might to eradicate those parts of himself he no longer wished to be.
Hermione felt a pang of something like guilt. Because sometimes, just sometimes, when she was lying next to the good man she married, she wondered what it would be like to lie in the arms of the bad man he once was.