I know, two fic updates in one day. We're in feast over famine mode again ;-) Hopefully, this gets a notification! (Chapter 25 was posted last week, if you missed it)
This is a bit transition-y and probably overly fluffy...but I'm in that sort of a mood. *shrug*
Hermione glared at the execrable 'Society Pages' of The Daily Prophet. "Nothing about Malfoy." She ground her teeth in a way her parents would not approve. "Nothing. No hint of it."
She poured Severus his tea as he sat at the breakfast table, Gret bustling around with various breakfast dishes. Severus murmured his thanks, sat opposite to her and inhaled his first cup of the day.
Morning light from the magical windows limned the hard perfection of his face. And Hermione focused back on her toast at the sudden flare of recent memory. The one that jumped her pulse. Severus caught under the shower, his long body slick and wet, head thrown back, every muscle taut with the pleasure that wracked him as she took him into her mouth.
Merlin, she could still taste him…
A thrum of want chased up through her flesh and she stopped herself from wriggling in her chair. He was an addiction. He really was.
Make me not forget you.
Another five words that steamrollered through her thoughts. His words. Almost a mirror of her own. Severus wanted to remember this special time as much as she did.
"The Malfoy name is ascending."
Hermione looked up, dragging her mind from the fate that awaited them. The ending of their binding magic. She didn't have to force her sneer, a mix of her upset and Malfoy loathing. She was sure it was something worthy of the Potions Master himself. "I thought they never dropped below supreme power?"
He narrowed his gaze, a hint of amused censure lurking there. "It's returning to its former glory. But," Severus held up a hand as she huffed a sour breath, "his embarrassment was physically witnessed by his peers. He can't scrub that away." His smile was wry. "Not anymore, anyway."
"How? How can they have his power?" She buttered her toast, quick and angry. "Following Voldemort put him in Azkaban. Twice. At the last battle, he looked, he looked…broken. And why—if his loathsome family is so preeminent—would he follow old Snake Face in the first place?"
Severus ran his thumb over his sleeve and the inner plane of his left arm. His dark eyes were thoughtful. "Tom Riddle marked Lucius as his equal. The offer to share in incredible power." He snorted. "In the beginning we were all…equals. Knights, bound to each other, destined to conquer death." He drew in a long breath and shook his head. "Or so we were led to believe. The Dark Mark made us his slaves. And until he was dead, we could never be free."
Hermione bit her lip, fighting back the plethora of questions that burned on her tongue. That he would share this much with her—so secret a part of himself—felt like the greatest of gifts—
A flash of green fire flared over the fireplace and Severus jerked to his feet, his wand aimed.
"Augusta." He looked to the clock on the mantle. "Exactly on time." His dark eyes slid to Hermione and she could almost read his thoughts. It made her face hot. Yes, they had spent far too long in the shower.
Severus lifted the wards and offered his hand as Augusta stepped through. She cast a gimlet eye around the more informal breakfast room and unpinned her raven-feather hat. Severus helped her to remove her long cloak. A swirl of elf magic swept both away and she huffed a breath.
"I do appreciate a scrupulously clean fireplace, Severus. Compliments to your house-elf."
There was a squeak from the doorway and Gret wrung his long hands, his gleaming eyes wide and glistening. With a faint pop, he disappeared.
"It's rather late for breakfast." Augusta frowned at the table, before her see-everything gaze flicked between them. Hermione was certain her face was even more pink. Another aspect of herself to work on, obviously. "But then it is Sunday. And some of us have had a hard working week."
Severus huffed a soft laugh and pulled out a chair for her beside Hermione. "Is that an unsubtle hint, Augusta? Am I a man of too much leisure?"
She pursed her lips in a mock affront. "Why would you think that? I do not have your sly and cunning nature, Severus Snape."
He snorted in reply. "Tea?"
"Yes. No milk. Four sugars." Augusta flicked her fingers and her obnoxiously red bag slipped under the table to hang itself beside one of the carved legs. Cautiously, she sipped at her tea, let out a breath and placed it back in its saucer. "You did very well last night, Hermione. Lucius Malfoy is a blight. I loathe the man. It was my great pleasure to mock him."
Hermione winced the memory of his words itching over her skin. She pushed down a shudder. "But what can we do to stop him?" Her lips pressed together. "Another witch has already agreed to wear the ribbon. Will he…pursue her too?"
"My coven, as of today, has decided to take a greater interest in social gatherings." Augusta helped herself to a muffin, slathering it in butter. "We are witches in our prime, after all. We have power and the will to wield it."
There was a spark to Augusta's dark eyes and the great beauty she'd held in her youth became obvious. "Also, I believe there is a revived interest in history of the Ribbon and the Ring. I will share the story of my own Family, the Shafiqs. Many a Shafiq has worn the Ring." She looked to Severus. "We are related, I believe?"
Severus inclined his head, a smile playing about his lips. "Distantly. My mother's great uncle was Adiran Shafiq. He wore the Ring for a number of wizards."
Hermione frowned as dates pushed through her thoughts. Augusta Longbottom's son Frank was almost the same age as Lucius. Had Abraxas Malfoy demanded a married witch for his son? "But, Lady Augusta, your husband…"
"I was a widow when that Lucius…creature drew close to being of age." Her lips pressed together in a thin line. "It's always an honour to be asked and I saw in him his inchoate foulness. I thought that he needed the hand of a firm witch. His father simply wanted the cache of a Shafiq Mentoris. It's a Malfoy tradition, you know." She picked up her cup again. "My sons were at Hogwarts, or making their own way. And it is perfectly respectable for a widow or widower to act as either Magister or Mentoris."
A twitch of a smile lifted her mouth. "Preferable. As long as the spouse did not die at their own hand."
Hermione bit her lip to deny a smirk.
"No, a Hufflepuff girl saved him from my very firm hand." Augusta left out a long breath and stared into her cup. She put it back into its saucer. Her voice grew soft. "And the world might have been wholly different if I'd put a ribbon to his throat."
"Lucius Malfoy is rotten to the core." Severus voice was low and sure in the following silence. "Nothing and no one could have curbed his wickedness. Believe me, Augusta."
The elderly with nodded, something slow and sad and Hermione reached out to cover her hand. She gave it a light squeeze.
Augusta straightened in her chair, her chin lifting and she bestowed a stronger smile on Hermione. "So there will be a legion of fierce witches ensuring that Lord Malfoy—and his spawn—do not see it as their foul droit du seigneur to force The Card of any witch."
"We'll make their lives hell." Augusta's smile transformed into a wicked smirk. "Merlin, it'll be fun."
Severus's gaze slid up from his book to watch Hermione squirm in the deep, wingback chair beside his own. And recross her legs. And bite her lip in that deliciously naive way that made his dick twitch. "A witch should never be afraid to ask for what she wants, Hermione."
She flushed that becoming pink that tightened his flesh. So much for being a wizard who demanded experience. Her innocence was addictive. "It's Sunday afternoon."
He glanced to the darkening window of the library, the room lit only by the golden light in the hearth and a few, scattered candles. He nodded and his mouth quirked upwards. "Yes, I believe it is."
"I know that last Sunday we shopped."
Hermione bit out the word, obviously finding it distasteful. Amelia had contributed to her dislike. He would have to speak to his former-fiancée. His gut soured. He owed her more than he could ever repay…but she could not come between his obligation to the Ribbon and the Ring.
"And today we were waiting on Augusta, but I don't want you to think that you have to…entertain me."
They were sitting quietly in the warm library, the only easing sounds being the crack and pop of the fire and the steady turn of pages. Gret had brewed a rather fine pot of tea and perfect little sandwiches and sweet nibbles sat on a tiered plate between their ridiculously comfortable chairs. It was a shot of bibliophile bliss.
Severus frowned. Did she not think so?
"Every Sunday since we were…incarcerated in Grimmauld Place, you've spent the day brewing."
He had. Putting the Ribbon on her and then the mad whirl of his time chasing after balls and dinners…and wanting to wrap himself around her and keep her from the world, had put brewing far, far from his thoughts.
And he had a rather interesting potion from a twelfth century alchemical treatise under stasis at the Mutt's pestilential hole.
It hit him then. She knew his schedule. And that fact pressed into his chest, a warm ache that tugged at his thoughts. The pleasure of it…and the knowledge that any interest she had in him was only inflated by the magic that bound them. As his was for her.
He drew in a breath and pushed the pain of that thought behind the icy shield of occulumency.
"I…" She pressed her lips together. "I don't want to keep you from it. From your work."
Ah... There, in the round about way of hers, was the true meaning. Her real question. It wasn't something carnal. That was a shame... And—surprisingly—it wasn't. "Ask me, Hermione."
She closed her eyes. Did she expect Professor Snape? Snarly. Cantankerous. A wizard who would brow beat her and deny her intelligence and skill? The seconds ticking away her silence proved him right.
Words burst from her. "You're brilliant, Severus. Truly. And I want, I would like to have the opportunity to see you work. Unencumbered by dunderheads."
She stared at him, her face strained, her body tight. Braced for his backlash.
Severus wanted nothing more than to pull her onto his lap and wrap himself around her. Offer comfort and reassurance…but it was a selfish need that made him want to tuck her under his chin. That was not in the purview of a Mentoris. Instead, he stood and offered her his hand.
Her small fingers curled into his without hesitation. "If you so wish," he allowed silk to wrap around his voice and delighted in the warmth to her cheeks, "I have a full, twelfth century copy of Alchamia—"
Her gasp broke his explanation. "In Latin? From Al-Razi?"
"Oh…" Her brown eyes shone and it was as if he'd gifted her the most precious of jewels. "May I…?" She pressed her lips into a thin line again, obviously unsure what she could ask of him.
"Hermione." He allowed himself to brush her cheek and his chest hollowed as she leant into his light touch. "You are brilliant. I will be happy to share my…experiments, my knowledge with you." His smile was wry. "There are no masks now. No games to play." He brushed a kiss to her forehead and almost groaned at the loose display of his increasing affection. "I will happily cater to my insufferable know-it-all."
There was a squeak before she flung herself into his arms, peppering kisses to his throat and squeezing him harder than Devil's Snare.
And if he tucked her under his chin…?
Well, that was simply their difference in height.
I hope to update again at the end of next week
I'm also thinking of a one-shot called Augusta's Big Night Out. That'll be a while off yet. But I think it'd be fun!