This is the first piece of any work I've finished in about 18 months. Hugs a scowling Potions Master very carefully...

Hermione woke to a shaft of sunlight warming her bare shoulder and lancing across her face. She frowned, reluctant to open her eyes to the glare. She was warm. Unusually warm and since when had she slept wrapped around a bolster? A long, heated, satin smooth…

She squeaked and pressed her hand to her mouth. She risked opening one eye. The plane of Severus Snape's deliciously bare chest swept out before her. Sunlight warmed his pale skin, making it almost irresistible. So she didn't resist.

Her fingertips traced a slow, light line, teasing through the smattering of chest hair to draw decreasing circles around his nipple. The gold of her ring shone and her heart twisted tight in a welcomed pain. Hers. He was hers. Utterly. Completely.

"Are you not tired, madam?"

His dark voice, deepened and rough after sleep, ran a shivery ripple of pleasure over her skin. She planted her chin on his chest and smirked at him. "I don't need much sleep. One of the benefits of youth, I believe."

Severus growled at her. This jaw was darkened, the hints of bristles breaking through his skin, whilst his hair was messy and rather wonderfully tumbled. In the fresh morning light, he looked completely edible. His obsidian eyes held her. "And what of age and experience. And…stamina?"

"Admirable qualities," her smile was sweet, "in the elderly."

A half yelp burst from her as with a scarily swift flip, Hermione was on her back and Severus had planted himself between her thighs. "I'll add skill, strength and speed to that list."

Her heart in her throat, she scrambled to think of some witty reply and stumbled across, "The S word today then?"

His black eyes glittered and his smile was wicked. He rolled his hips and his morning erection teased against her. Her breath caught. The sudden pulse of need fired through her and she met his slow, sensuous slide. Shit, even she was thinking in S words now…

"Sex," he murmured, his velvet voice wrapping the word in sin. His mouth dipped to hers. "Favourite word of the morning."

"An excellent—"

He eased into the tightness of her body, so slowly that she could ignore the aches in places she never knew she could ache. Severus' arms rippled with tremors, his jaw clenched and his eyes firmly shut. He looked that way the night before, as if she was too much for him. The heat, the power in that moment caught her breath. She stroked his jaw, wanting to ease the pressure.

His eyes opened, bright with want and lust. "You're real," he murmured.

Hermione moved with the undulation of his hips. Sparks of joy danced through her flesh. "I intend to real for a very long time."

Severus let out a low growl and his mouth found hers—

—and in another heartbeat he was ripped away.

"What the fuck!" His wand was in his hand and the red streak of a hex narrowly missed a large eagle owl. It gave out an almost barking cry, dumped its letters onto the rumpled bed and vanished up the wide chimney.

Severus sank back onto the bed and let out a string of curses.

Hermione groaned and pressed her hands to her face. The moment was gone, lost in sudden nerves.

Her heart still pounded. "That was…unexpected."

Severus huffed a soured laugh. "Come here." He wrapped his arm around her and pulled her into the warmth and strength of his body. A long sigh escaped him. He pressed a kiss to her tangled hair. "Letters, breakfast and then I am yours to do with as you please." Another owl swept from the chimney, dumped The Daily Prophet and fled. Obviously owls shared news of dangerous clients. He scowled after the creature. "And this."

The rolling, visible headline tightened her belly. War Hero Severus Snape Caught... In Claws of Hermione Granger. Well, fuck. They hadn't detained Rita Skeeter long in St Mungo's. Why had she ever put air holes in that bloody jar?

Hermione drew in his scent, familiar and overlaid with tantalising reminders of their time together. "We had a whole undisrupted night. I'd say we're doing well."

"True." He held up his hand and the thick packet of letters soared towards him. There was more than one thin line of red in the wedge of envelopes. He frowned. "I have to read them all."

Hermione winced. She wanted nothing more that to hide from the dislike, the distrust of the wizarding world. But she knew that wasn't wise. "I'd rather know what people are saying about me."

"'To know your enemy, you must become your enemy'."

She winced. "Please, Sun Tzu, this early?"

His mouth twitched upwards. "I really did marry the most insufferable know-it-all."

Pressing a kiss to his chest, she grinned up at him. "You did."

"Howlers first?"

Her stomach tensed. Severus gave a comforting squeeze and she nodded. "Howlers first."

At the touch of his wand, the first of the blood-red envelopes burst open. Molly Weasley's strident voice filled the chamber.

"Hermione Granger, how could you? And with your teacher! It's a disgrace. Indecent. I'm appalled.

"You led my Ron on. I was ready to welcome you into the family. Looked forward to the soon-to-be day I would call you my daughter. Ron is devastated. I hope you're happy, making a foul bed with a foul man."

And with a flourish the red parchment tore itself up into tiny pieces before vanishing with a faint pop.

"That was…expected." Hermione pinched the bridge of her nose. Mrs Weasley had always held two ideas of her in her mind. The upstanding Hermione who was just what her son needed. And the other Hermione, the wanton harlot eager for any man who would have her. It had never made sense how Ron's mother could happily hold such divergent views.

"She knows Ron could never keep you," Severus murmured, pressing a kiss to her temple. "Her disappointment shows as anger. She knows your worth, and disparages what has escaped her."

Hermione pressed her face to his chest, his familiar scent easing the knot twisting tight around her heart. "A lucky escape."

"Indeed." Another red envelope hovered over them. "And who do we have next?"

Ron's angry splutterings erupted and Hermione groaned.

"What were you thinking, Mione? Snape? You married…" The sound of low mutterings filled the next few seconds. Was he scared to directly insult the Potions Master? Severus had offered a sharp reminder of exactly who he was, after all. "You led me on. The ring was in my pocket last night. We were meant to be together and you ruined it!"

"I hardly think so," Severus murmured as the howler eviscerated itself.

"It'll be what he's telling his family." She glanced at the rolled newspaper at the foot of the bed with its glaring headlines. "And Rita Skeeter."

"I'm going to enjoy being bound to an evil temptress." Severus squeezed her tight as she snorted a laugh. "It'll make life decidedly less dull."

"And the last one?"

"Are you stringing her along, Severus Snape?"

"Oh, Harry." Hermione closed her eyes and snaked her arm over the warmth of her husband's waist, needing to hold him. Tight. Fuck, The Boy-Who-Lived-To-Make-Her-Life-Difficult was sticking his head in the dragon's mouth. Lily Potter should not be up for discussion when she was happily naked with Severus. She'd wanted, needed time before she had to tackle her. A decade or two had sounded good.

"You told Dumbledore that you'd always love my mother. Always, Snape. That doesn't leave much room for a wife, does it? Let Hermione go. She loves Ron. The romance," Harry gagged on the word, "of the moment caught her. Give her her life back."

The letter vanished and there was silence. Stillness.

Hermione swallowed, wanting to fill that silence, to reassure Severus that it didn't matter, that she knew Lily would always be a part of his heart, his soul. That she was very happy with the little corner that belonged to her…

"Expecto Patronum." The charm was clear and sure. Silvered light burst from Severus' wand and a form moved within the mist before it began to coalesce. A lion, large with a shaggy mane, leapt down from the bed and padded across the carpets. It looked back at them with dark, knowing eyes before Severus vanished the spell. "You saw my memories?"

"No." She swallowed and wet her lips, her mouth too dry. "No. He told me something of them, but I refused to look. They were yours. I made Harry take an Oath not to share them –or what they contained— with anyone after your closed trial." They had cleared him, but some idiot at the ministry had leaked parts of the trial transcripts to the press. The whole wizarding world knew of his unwavering devotion to Lily Evans.

"Harry is referring to the night I showed Albus my patronus. At that time, it was still a reflection of Lily, still a doe. I did love her. For the longest time. She was the only sane memory I had and I clung to it fiercely. Beyond all reason.

"When I awoke this week, my patronus had changed." He tilted her chin up. His voice was soft. "Cast yours for me, Hermione."

Reluctantly, she pulled free of him and reached for her wand. Her patronus was an otter, a playful gamboling little thing. But in that moment, she wanted that lion's mate to burst from her wand. "Cast him again," she murmured and watched the sombre lion flow into the world.

She closed her eyes and drew on her memories. Seeing Severus again, feeling him warm and real in her arms. His skin, his taste, murmuring that he loved her. She spoke the charm.

Its joy leapt from her and she counted seconds before she could open her eyes. A lioness stood on the floor, casting a wary eye on the lion before her. He padded forward and nuzzled the lioness' neck, a look of peace clearing his dark gaze.

Tears stung her eyes. Hermione pressed a hand to her mouth, stopping the half laugh, half sob that broke away. "Don't…don't think this means I'm providing your every meal. You should know now that I really can't cook. Or bring down an antelope."

Severus pulled her too him, laughing as he buried his face in the wildness of her hair. "Believe me, Hermione, I can live happily without ever suffering your over-boiled antelope." He drew in a not-quite-steady breath. "But you see?" His voice sounded oddly choked. "Mr Potter is talking out of his backside."

"They're all against us."


Hermione could practically feel the lift of his oh-so-imperious eyebrow. She wanted to be as strong as him…but she doubted there'd ever been a wizard, a man as unflinchingly strong as Severus Snape.

"You give me strength."

She huffed a breath against his throat to ignore the wrench in her chest. "Slipping into my thoughts again?"

"I don't need to." He eased back. Obsidian eyes held her. "I know you." A smile tugged at the corner of his mouth. "And it's an honour." His half-smile faded. "Yes, there will be howlers and cutting headlines, and things will be said behind your back and to your face. But we… This is worth it."

And for a stretched heartbeat, a flicker of doubt cut through his sure gaze. Guilt stabbed at her. She'd put that there. Fuck. Fuck.

He was right. He was completely right. He was worth any amount of rampant stupidity from friends or strangers. He was hers and she adored him.

Hermione flung herself at her husband. Papers scattered but she didn't care. "Forget the rest of them. All of it. Forget breakfast. I want you. Now. Forever."

Severus dipped his forehead to hers with a soft sigh. "Always, wife. Always."

Woot! It's done! And onto the next unfinished fic... :/

As ever, let me know what you think!