Sod the disclaimer!
A/N: I think that, after the comments on the last chapter, I should just change the entire description of this story to the Society of Appreciating Severus' Arse, eh?
Here we are at the end. A very bittersweet thing, as I have enjoyed writing this very, very much. This is a loo-ooo-oong chapter compared to my usual ones; perhaps I should have cut it into two, but I didn't want to make you wait anymore. So it is essentially two chapters in one. Now's the time to say that this entire story was inspired by Ani DiFranco's beautiful song, 'As Is', as well as some other wonderful pieces that I've mentioned at the start of other chapters.
Note: the Wild Atlantic Way is a gorgeous scenic drive around the coast of Ireland. Google it!
I have begun another SS/HG story, though I am not sure when/if I'll pop it up. But do expect to see a few one-shots popping up at some point. Feel free to add me to your Author alert list, as I have fallen down the rabbit hole badly with this pairing, so there will definitely be more to come in the near future. I'm just deciding whether or not I have the balls to continue working on this time travel story, destination 1989. If I do, well, that'll come first. Otherwise, yes, more stuff soon!
As always, I'd love to hear/read your thoughts on the story. The best part of writing this has been interacting with you all, it's bloody wonderful. Thank you. Here be angst, lemons and a boat load of fluff to say just how grateful I am to you all.
Chapter 9: If Not Now, When?
I've got no illusions about you
And guess what? I never did
And when I say, when I say I'll take it,
Severus stared at the spot where his godson had been only moments before. The grass was still slightly flattened from the familiar black dragon hide boots he thought he'd never see again, and even now Draco's scent clung to his clothes.
His jumper was damp at the shoulder, though he'd never admit that it was not only his godson's tears that had been absorbed by the old, knitted garment. How had it come to this? How had it been that only a few short months ago, he believed himself content with quiet existence and self-enforced solitude?
The answer lingered in the air, withstanding the cool, insistent wind – a hint of pomegranate, some rose water and Hermione.
Of all the people in the world - of all the luck in the world, somehow his heart had been ripped out, packaged nicely with a crimson ribbon, and served back to him in the hopes that the woman responsible for his shit eating grin would accept that he was torn between every single wish he could think of: to love her, to be with her, have her for his lover, to marry her, to make her his… It was endless.
What had he done to deserve such a thing? His reward for his exploits was right behind him; a home where no one could follow, no one could find him unless he wished it. But it was far above his desserts to have this. And he knew what 'this' meant: Hermione. An astoundingly intelligent woman, steadfast in her support of him and daring enough to push his boundaries to give him the only other thing his heart desired apart from her: his godson.
Severus wiped a hand over his face, unable to contain his smile. How well she knew him – to give him the boy, to throw her hands up and say 'sod it all' to his reservations and do what she thought he needed anyway.
Beautiful, impertinent woman.
It took him ten minutes to create a plan, then dismiss it as foolhardy, then make another, followed by one more. Eventually he simply changed his jumper to the one he'd worn to take her into the village, waved a hand to extinguish the candles in the cottage and stalked back out to the gate. There were no second thoughts now – fuck the rest of the Wizarding world, Diagon Alley and immersing himself in the population again. If anyone recognised him as he strode down the street that had barely changed in the years since he'd left, no one said a word. Not that he was able to focus on anything else bar the subtle, unobtrusive silver sign above the newly opened apothecary, the only hint that it belonged to her being the smaller cursive letters in the corner underneath the large lettered name: 'HG, GP, LB, DM'.
If anyone noticed that he laughed out loud when seeing his godson's initials on a sign for the first time, they could simply bugger off.
Fuck it all, because he was going to see the woman that he would make his. But not before he could make her see that he was hers, if she'd have him.
The apothecary was almost perfect. There were changes he would make, ingredients that he'd move, bottles that should be here instead of there, but he looked around with pride, knowing that it was his Hermione that had created such a place.
When had she become 'his' Hermione? Severus suspected that it began with the Shrieking Shack. No one had come for him – no one but her. He had been unconscious for the most part, jerking awake in hazy moments of blinding pain and confusion, but he could remember enough to know that his admiration had kick started with a full foot on the pedal when she had physically shielded his body like the lioness she was, demanding that he be treated and if he wasn't then they'd damn well have to kill her first before touching a hair on his head.
He had heard her, of course. Heard her soothing whispers, felt her hands gently pushing his hair away from his forehead. He'd heard it every night since, in the dreams that had haunted him at first, and then simply reminded him that there was a woman out there in this great big world that had cared enough to stay with him. The dreams had left him when she arrived again, but he could still remember her at his bedside.
Afterwards, she inevitably collapsed. Almost as soon as his eyes opened, hers closed and then he was the comforter and she the invalid. There was no forgetting the looks he received from staff and strangers alike while he sat with the girl, holding her hand in a subpar attempt to give her the solace that her own soothing voice had imparted on him.
He'd left when her fingers twitched at the sound of his voice. Why, Severus was still unsure… but he was in the dungeons when she awoke, and if she asked for him then he did not hear her. Instead he spent the following weeks with Auror after Auror while repeating the same story over and over again, tasting Veritaserum on his tongue and suffering through constant headaches while less than adequate investigators took memory after memory for their pensieves.
He'd done his duty afterwards, accepted the Order of Merlin in a private ceremony and nodding grimly instead of glowering. But she hadn't.
Severus knew now that Hermione had packed up and left not long after being given a clean bill of health. But he was unaware at the time, and there was not a small amount of formal functions that he'd attended just to see whether a familiar head of wild, brown curls would appear in the crowd, or if a slender hand found itself on his shoulder, bidding him to turn to greet her. She never came, of course, and with good reason, though it would only be years after the fact that he even knew that at all.
Now, Severus knew about every year that she'd spent away from England, away from him. He knew that she'd found a safe haven in Australia, he knew that she threw herself into her studies and took to it like a duck to water. For all that he'd said she had no instinctual knack for brewing, the war had changed that – now he had an idea that the books in her own collection would have little notes in the margins, just the same way that his own spidery script littered the tomes in the cottage. Hermione had let go of her restraints, in the way he'd wished her to but hadn't had the gall to suggest in the years that he taught her.
There was no such thing separating the two of them now. It was liberating, it was freeing. She was her own woman, and he had no authority over her, no power at all to make her spend time with him. There were no expectations, no obligations. When she came to him, she did it on her own time, of her own accord. And when he thought of her, it was as a woman independent of him, a woman that he could spend time contemplating, pondering the mysteries of her, the ways she moved that enthralled him, the little things that made her his Hermione. The age difference, surprisingly, barely entered into the equation at all. It did not matter – not to him. She was a vision; everything that he didn't understand that he wanted, in a package so small that she'd fit right under his chin if he could just hold her in his arms.
There was another part of her that enticed him, he realised as he looked around at the shelves of the apothecary. It was this part – her knowledge, her intellect. That she'd done what he hadn't managed to in all of his forty five years; she'd gone her own way, on her own terms.
And, fuck – if a man couldn't find that irresistible in a woman, then that man's heart was dead and buried. It was quickly apparent that Severus couldn't reach the apothecary fast enough; he found that he was jogging down the street, eyes fixed on the faint glow from one of the windows on the second floor. Giving himself a second to catch his breath, he reached for the front door handle and pushed with a calmness that he did not feel.
He walked slowly through the store and forced himself to make contact with the two women staring agog, glad that he'd spoken enough about them with Hermione that he could remember to say Miss Brown and Mrs Potter instead of Witch One and Witch Two.
He climbed the stairs with the very secure knowledge that the eyes of his Hermione's friends were firmly fixed on the jeans he was wearing. He knew he looked ridiculous – Diagon Alley in Muggle clothing was a stupid idea, but Severus hadn't worn robes in five years. He wasn't even sure he could operate a full billow at this point in time anyway, considering there were only about seven more steps before he'd reach the door at the top of the stairs. With a deep breath, he closed the distance and raised his fist to knock with three firm raps.
Hermione blinked. "Severus! Oh, god!" Shite!
The man in question narrowed his eyes at the peephole and gave an exasperated sigh that she could barely hear through the door. "Yes… forgive me," he said shortly and turned on his heel. The disappointment on his face was jarring.
She looked down at her Ani D shirt and long silk pyjama pants that had, quite literally, been through wars. There was never a question about it – she could have weighed up the damage that she was about to cause to her previously moderately well-crafted appearance by the fact that she had flung her bra off the minute she'd walked in the door, then flicked her knickers in the corner and pulled on the pants not long after. Her hair was a mess, a veritable nest of knots and haphazard curls, and there had been no attempt to manage it since her shower earlier.
"It doesn't matter, it doesn't matter," she chanted, then flung open the door.
"Severus!" Hermione sagged against the doorway, relieved that he'd only made it a single step away from her door. He was resting a shoulder on the wall, hands in his pockets, staring at a mark on the wooden floorboard. He hadn't shaved that morning; she hadn't noticed it at his home, and his hair was long enough now that it obscured his expression yet he was smiling faintly when he looked up and saw her.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry," she said breathlessly, linking her fingers together so she wouldn't wring them. She wanted to make a self-deprecating remark but all she managed in the end was, "I'm so glad you're here! Really. I'm really glad."
Severus cocked an eyebrow and tilted his head to the side. "You're sure?"
"Gods," she said immediately. "Of course. Now get in before someone sees me like this – I have a flawless and professional reputation to uphold."
His answering reply as he smirked and walked past her almost stopped her heart. "I don't think there's any cause for… complaints."
"Right," she mumbled to his back, smiling at the way he made straight for the sitting room. It wasn't hard to find – the corridor was long and doors branched off it, and it opened out to an old kitchen that was so small she'd had to hang all the pots and pans overhead, and only a few steps away from that were two long couches that faced each other. The entire area was small enough that the one fire heated it; the one indulgence was the floor to ceiling windows that covered the back wall. Charmed, of course – the original flat was far too old for such a thing, but Hermione found that she rather liked having a view.
Severus paused at the end of the hallway, booted feet just before the edge of the thick cream Persian rug that she'd found in Western Sydney. It was large enough to cover the entirety of the sitting area. Looking at her over his shoulder, he toed off his boots and used his foot to push them against the wall before turning around to face her.
"I apologise for coming at such a late hour-"
She interrupted him with a wave of her hand as she approached him slowly. "It's only eight. I meant what I said – I'm glad you're here." Her tone was soft and, to her surprise, sweet. She certainly hadn't intended to flirt (oh sod it, of course she had!) and from the way he dipped his head, he hadn't expected it.
"Right," said Severus. "Well…"
Hermione sensed that her smile was possibly far too wide, given that it seemed that he had no clear way to explain why he'd felt the need to make his first foray into the Wizarding world for her. She herself was not on higher ground – she'd hardly been able to tear her gaze from his mouth since he walked in the door.
"Would you like…" she began hesitantly, padding down the hallway until she was close enough to see the darkening of his eyes, "would you like to stay? For dinner," she amended quickly. "And tea. And dessert. Something to drink, of course. And…"
"And?" He drew a little closer to her, as if curious by the way the words had halted. She watched his eyes move over her face, unsurprised by the tightening it evoked deep within her; what was she to think of him, of Severus? She knew what she felt – there was no mistaking the reaction of her body. But what was she to do about it?
Thinking furiously, she didn't notice when a cool pressure was placed between her eyebrows; her lids flew open to see that he was smiling down at her, index finger on the line that had emerged along with her self-doubt.
"Slow down," he suggested gently. "Dinner, tea, dessert, something to drink."
"Yes," she agreed eagerly, fixated on the way his finger trailed a short line down her nose to pause at her lips. It was too tempting – there was no avoiding it; she pressed a quick kiss to the tip, biting her lower lip when he inhaled sharply. "And a tour, too, I should think," she added. "But dinner first." She moved past him, giving in for a second to press closer to him than she needed to, and walked into the tiny kitchen. "Dinner first, yes?"
"Did you make something?" He walked over to stand on the other side of the wooden island underneath the hanging pots. "I would have brought something if I'd known you hadn't eaten."
"Oh," she flushed and shrugged. "Well… no. I have food, though. You see, you've come to my flat on a Saturday evening – the beginning of our little weekend. I have a time honoured tradition of having a very good quality meal for Saturdays."
"Do you now?" He leaned forward, palms on the wooden surface and smirked. "Really?"
"Mmhm." Bending down, she slid out a thin box and placed it on the island and with a flourish, turned to the fridge and pulled out two cool bottles. "Pizza and beer. Too fancy, do you think?"
"Clever girl," he said approvingly, hands already picking up the box that was still warm from the delivery wizard's stasis charm half an hour before.
She gave a little gurgle of laughter, looping her fingers around the heads of the bottles to hold them in one hand. "Clever girl?"
"Yes," he said, unabashed. "Very. Now lead me to the dinner table, furnished with fine linens and candles no doubt?"
"I'll do you one better."
Hermione led them back down the corridor to the door to her flat, though she opened a thick looking door to the right instead of leaving her home. "Follow me, if you dare," she said over her shoulder and went through the door, ascending the stairs while at the same time trying to stop herself from jumping up them thanks to the myriad of feelings that were swimming in her belly; happiness was chief, and so she gave in and skipped the last few. "Here we are."
The apothecary's greenhouse was a point of pride for her. Neville had spent one gruelling week before the opening to help source and adequately contain any plants she thought she might need, and she'd spent many nights here since. Situated on the roof, the walls and ceiling were clear, providing an uninterrupted view of the night sky and surrounding streets. Lavender, handy with charms work, had spelled the outer walls so that they reflected the view outside – the inside could not be seen from the flats of other inhabitants of the street, or by shoppers down below. The privacy meant that Hermione often found herself on the soft picnic blanket at the very end of the rooftop building and it was there that she led Severus to.
He was new to her, somehow. The ease with which he navigated the conversation was as comforting as it always was, yet now he combined it with touches that left her breathless. When he wandlessly removed the cap on the bottle and returned it, his fingers held onto her wrist, pulling slightly so they sat side by side, knees touching. After he told her of some of his more amusing youthful escapades, he let his palm rest on her knee; when he made to remove it, she covered his hand with hers and left it there. She wasn't sure how many hours they sat together talking, but she treasured each chuckle, each word that left his mouth. They summoned two more beers and the pizza box was gone with a wave of his hand.
"Hermione?" He was so close that the breath that escaped with his words tickled her ear. "Thank you," he said simply.
It was second nature to turn until they were facing, effortless to keep the weight of her hand on his so it stayed on her knee. She folded her legs beneath her until she was kneeling in front of him; their height difference meant that he was level with her, though he was sitting cross legged on the blanket.
"Whatever for? I should be thanking you."
"Me?" He blinked, black eyes shining. "No. I don't think so. But you… thank you for Draco. Thank you for this."
There was that word again. "This?" she questioned, painfully aware of how he swallowed and flicked his eyes to her mouth then back to her.
"All of this." He gestured around the greenhouse. "Inviting me in."
"You came to me," she reminded him. "You invited yourself."
"That I did," he acceded with a bow of his head, a smirk playing on the corner of his mouth. "Am I unwelcome?"
Hermione wasn't sure that she had any courage left – not after bringing him here, to the one place she'd had for herself alone. He was right – she'd invited him, and not just into her house.
Summoning whatever shred of stone she could find, she inched forward on her knees and spoke just loud enough to be heard over the faint sounds from the street below, "Would you mind at all if you knew just how much you are welcome?"
His black eyes stayed on her lips. "I do not believe that I would mind at all," he whispered, not removing his gaze from her face as he took the cool, sweating bottle out of her hand and set it down without a sound. He leaned back until his palms were flat behind him, opening to her, inviting her in.
She moved closer and raised a tentative hand, running her fingers lightly over his lips. They were soft to touch, and, just like hers, they parted slightly, letting the pad of her index finger sink into his lower lip. Risking a glance at his expression, she lost any remark that could have been conjured as she took in his half lidded eyes and dry mouth. Her breaths came faster, knowing now that he wanted her but the touch of him sent a sharp shock through her; it was not enough. She pressed forward and brushed her lips with his, then withdrew, teasing though she did not know it.
Severus stayed where he was. Under the heat of his gaze, she leaned down and kissed him again, then pulled back. This time there was but a sliver of space between their mouths, and their breath mixed in the cool night air. She thought of doing it again – could there have been anything she wished for more in that moment?
He could feel something stirring in her the third time she kissed him. It was exquisite – her pulse was racing, almost matching his. That he did this to her… This time, this third time that he would file away and remember for years to come, struck flint and steel, sparking a fire within him that he was loathe to extinguish. He could not stifle the dark groan that left his lips as soon as her tongue slipped into his mouth, nor would his hands halt from heading to her hair until his fingers were buried in soft, wild curls.
The taste of her was rich; he had imagined her like this, in the darkness of the night in his cottage. The bitter tang of beer, the sweetness of her sugared teas, then something that was uniquely her – heavy and ripe.
She pushed until his back was against the wall and sat astride him, pausing only quickly to laugh in such a way that should have been wicked, sinful, forbidden. Then she was kissing him again, and all he could think was fuck – her mouth, her mouth, her mouth – hips, waist, fuck, I can feel her there, oh gods her mouth, fuck-
This, Severus could do. Remembrance came swiftly – his hands knew to move to her waist, and his body knew that he wanted her closer and so it seemed logical to dig his fingers into the softness of her backside, coaxing her to grind against him.
Her kiss became demanding; her back arched, her breasts teased him when he realised that she wore no undergarments at all. He couldn't resist, he wouldn't resist. After tugging on the hem of her slightly too big shirt, she nodded and pulled away from his mouth, her smiling face only disappearing for an instant while he pulled the cotton covering over her head.
"Oh, Hermione…" He almost crooned her name, lost in letting his hands run up to palm her breasts, his eyes widening to see the already tightened nipples waiting to be touched. She was perfect.
"Exquisite," he mumbled, cupping each breast gently, becoming a schoolboy for just one second as he determined that they were small enough that one of his hands could cover one, and large enough that, no matter how ardently he applied himself to the task, they were less than a mouthful. Abandoning the measuring, he licked the scar that cut a jagged line down her middle.
"Oh –oh," her little sigh almost had him undone right there in the greenhouse, before she dove back to his mouth and slipped her warm hands under his jumper, making him hiss with pleasure to feel such soft little fingers on his skin.
"Stop, stop," he rasped, grabbing onto her hips and keeping her raised above him, snorting with black humour as she tried to overcome his grip to continue her undulations that were all too erotic for the greenhouse. Tonight, anyway. Perhaps later…
"Why?" She was petulant and delightful.
Now was better than ever. "It has been… oh, sod it – it's been a long time for me. Do you really think that you could do this with me and that I could leave it at that?"
"No," she reaffirmed. "I don't think so. I think I'll do this with you, and then I'll want you to put me in your pocket and only let me leave for work or mundane things like the bathroom or a shower or burning our breakfast in the mornings."
Severus let his head fall back against the wall. "You wish for such things?" With me?
She rested her head on his shoulder. "Don't you?"
"No." He tightened his hold on her when she huffed, barely believing that he was the man that was lucky enough to have such a conversation with the beautiful witch in his arms. He'd eat burnt toast every day for the rest of his life if it guaranteed he'd have her beside him. He managed to chuckle and say, "I don't particularly want you to burn our breakfasts. And if you were in my pocket, you might hamper my billow. Tucked into my side, however…"
Light pink lips nipped at his throat, before she placed open mouthed kisses over his scars. "Then what do you want?"
The minx giggled at his question, then slammed down onto his lap. He gasped, pictured swatting at her pert little arse in revenge, but lost his train of thought when her arms snaked around him.
"What are you doing, little temptress?"
"Just a tiny trick," she answered, taking advantage of his mouth that was open in surprise to kiss him fiercely, swallowing his cry of shock when he felt himself falling – he would have flailed if they didn't crash onto the bed a second later.
"Well," he managed when his heart had stopped beating out a military tattoo, "that was clever."
"I'm a clever girl, remember?"
"Yes, I believe we covered that – oh, fuck, Hermione!" The wanton little witch had vanished his clothes! He raised his upper body onto his elbows just in time to see her head of wild hair covering her face as her warm, sweet mouth engulfed him. "Oh, gods, woman, don't," he groaned, falling back onto the pillows. Later he'd inspect where on earth he was, but for now, no; now he was very much focused on the fact that there was a beautiful woman who had kidnapped him to her bed and seemed very intent on showing him just how much he was 'welcome'.
"Careful – I could get used to this," he confessed when her lips closed around him and sucked. The vibrations from her own enjoyment had his eyes rolling back in his head.
She released him with an audible pop, giggling at his half-hearted whine. "That's the point," she said darkly. "To show you everything you can have, so you will be used to it. You'll never want to leave."
"Oh? You do not wish for me to leave?" Fucking hell, he wished he had a wizarding camera – he wanted to see this every day: Hermione slowly stroking the base of his cock while her mouth was right next to it, speaking to him in low undertones that meant it was taking everything in his power not to jerk his hips towards her.
"I'll tie you here if I have to."
She returned to her self-appointed task with aplomb, reducing him to meaningless words when she licked him from base to tip, swirling her tongue around the head, her hands still moving, rolling his balls, curling around the rest of his cock. He could die now, and he'd die a happy man – an ecstatic man. It was that thought that brought his attention to a low tightening in his stomach, pushing through him, just about to-
"Stop!" He reached down and hooked his hands under her arms, pulling her around and under him on the bed. "Clever little witch," he said into her ear, letting his fingers splay possessively over her waist when she arched at the feeling of his breath on her neck. He made to slide down her body, to show her just how much he wanted to taste her, to feel her coming apart under his tongue-
"No," she said clearly, her tone deliciously commanding. "More."
"More?" He was already lining up with her entrance, letting his head glide over her clit. She hissed and dug her nails into his shoulders.
"More," she repeated. "More, more, more."
He was lost in the movements, completely ignorant of anything but his hands on her bare thighs, hearing his own low moan when he began to ease into her, gasping, gripping her arse. She opened her thighs, letting him lift her leg with his elbow, and both shivered with the feeling of consuming and being consumed.
"Severus…" The pleasure was magnificent; her whispered moans would be the end of him. He pushed into her more firmly, only able to groan broken syllables until he was completely buried inside of her, seeing her eyelids flutter closed and a satisfied smile spread over her lips.
"Oh, gods, Hermione, I can't-"
He knew he could not last for her – later, later – and so he shifted to give his fingers room to stroke her, rolling over her clit, moving in time with his thrusts. She clutched his waist, her hands sliding down to his hips, his arse, digging in to keep him hitting right there, "Severus, please, gods, just – fuck!"
As if he were afire within her, he gently raised her hips higher, revelling in sinking into her over and over again as she ground down to meet him. He could feel her tightening around him, could see her body stilling; her hands on his body became snares to willingly entrap him. It was too much too soon, but it was not long before he, too, was slamming into her heat, his fingers moving quicker on her clit, his mouth descending to lick and suck her nipples until she screamed beneath him. He couldn't hold it – he kissed her wailing mouth and held his breath until it came out in growls and shouts and finally, finally, he gave in to her and came with enough force that he lost his sight. He saw nothing but white spots, nothing but little glimpses of his Hermione, her sweat dampened skin and frizzy curls.
He sank down beside her to catch his breath, thrilling inwardly when he reached for her and found her arms already searching for him.
"Come here," he mumbled, using the last of his strength to tuck her into his side, where he wanted her always. "Terrible woman – now look what you've done. Perhaps I will have to put you in my pocket after all."
"Bugger your pocket," she grumbled, rolling until she was half on top of him and summoning a blanket to cover them both. Unbidden, a thought came to him that where she was now, her cheek on his heart, was giving him a pleasant, warm ache in his chest, something that felt a little bit like…
She turned to place a kiss on his skin. "Don't leave in the morning."
"You are overestimating me if you think that I would leave at all," he admitted, grinning into the darkened room when she giggled. He let his fingers trail lightly along her back.
"Good. I meant it. I'll tie you here if I have to. Just give me an hour to get my strength back and then you'll be here and you won't be able to do anything without my permission."
His treacherous cock twitched. "I am warning you, madam – such things may endear you even further to me. You might never get rid of me. You'll ruin me for all others."
"Then I shall endeavour to do such things more often," she answered, smiling against his chest. Her breaths slowed and she burrowed closer until he turned his head to the side and held her tightly, committing to memory what it felt like to have his sweet Hermione in his arms, sated and falling asleep on him.
The thought was lost to him soon after and he too fell asleep, already knowing that he would always be unable to do so without the warm pressure of her body over his.
He woke alone. The pillow barely carried her scent and he sat up in alarm until he realised that his chest was still warm. She must have just left.
The bedroom window showed the dulling of the sky, hinting that it was an hour or two before dawn. A faint light came in through the door and he eased off the bed, shaking his head at the orange patch of fur at each corner of her white bedspread. Wherever her familiar was now, it wasn't here – perhaps it was off terrorising the neighbourhood. He looked around for his clothes, and then remembered she had vanished them. A quick glance around the room showed his jumper and jeans neatly folded on the windowsill.
Having pulled on the jeans, he padded down the hallway and followed the light and heat, stopping at the end to find her perched on a stool in front of one of the kitchen benches, a cup of tea beside her and a pen poised over what looked like a large stack of forms. He stayed there for a long time, taking in the curve of her neck, her little body covered by his grey cotton shirt that he'd been wearing under his jumper. His beautiful, tempting witch. Now that he had her, he didn't know how he had ever managed without her bubbling happiness, her easy smiles, and her simple affection.
The shirt came down to just past her hips, and he found that his eyes were drawn to her smooth, pale thighs peeking out from under the hem.
"You're staring, love," she said, head bent over the forms. He smiled at the domestic scene she made; this was what he wanted. All of this.
He walked over and laid his hands on her shoulders, curling his fingers in and stroking across her back. "You work too hard."
"I couldn't get back to sleep," she replied. "We're going for another contract. The tender is almost done. Now that Draco's here, the possibilities are endless. And I missed you horribly. But you looked so sweet sleeping in my bed."
"Hmm." He shrugged and eyed the bench. Open below, it was exactly the right height for…
He crouched down and knelt under the bench, face to face with her lap. He couldn't see her face, perhaps he didn't need to for her shiver when he slid his hands up her thighs and parted them was more than noticeable. Slowly, he bent forward and pushed the hem of his shirt over her hips, baring her lower body.
He licked her from perineum to clit, revelling in her moan. The taste of her, the sweet and sour note on his tongue along with the cool traces of water from her shower, was intoxicating. He whispered everything he wanted to do to her, puncturing each word with a closed kiss to her folds until she dropped the pen and hissed; with her attention, he turned his mouth on her clit and suckled gently, bringing his hand up to slowly curl a finger inside her.
She came quickly, hands pulling on his hair and shrieks bouncing off the walls. Her work forgotten, she took his hand and led him back into the bedroom where she climbed astride him and sank down onto his length, riding his cock with total abandon until he howled.
He didn't ever want to be without her. Not anymore.
They had spectacular rows. It was to be expected, Hermione thought; they'd dived into each other with all the hesitation of teenagers. But even their arguments left her thinking of just how much she was falling in love with him.
He learnt that she could slam doors loud enough to burst through a silencing charm. He, in turn, grew so quiet that she once heard his thudding heart just after she'd growled at him for making an adjustment on a potion she had been working on.
In turn, they fought and pounced on each other afterwards with enough fury and passion that by the time they were lying together spent on the bed, apologies were made and much kinder words were exchanged.
They sent Sunday mornings together, just how he'd always wanted; both reading, Hermione tucked into his side with her feet up on wherever they found a spot that wasn't covered in books. He cooked unless it was Saturday night, which was reserved solely for pizza and beer. She cleaned, he helped her with orders for the shop and taught her how to say 'no' when she would've said 'yes' and worked late until the night. They certainly did not need the money.
Sometimes, in the dead of night, they would dance together in the sitting room of her flat, or the greenhouse upstairs. He accepted that she liked to make love to Nina Simone but drew the line when she gleefully played Jeff Buckley's 'Live at Sin-é' on full volume. On those nights, he Apparated to Hogwarts and got blindingly drunk with Minerva and Poppy, then toddled home to fall into bed next to his giggling woman. In turn, she danced around in one of his shirts to his INXS CDs, and buffed up his ego by swearing that Michael Hutchence did not even hold a candle to Severus Snape. In saying that, she took long, long walks around Conan's farm with the man himself and Maebh in tow when he worked on the potions for Hogwarts while blasting Janis Joplin.
He did his back in a few months after their first night together, having slipped on a red bra that she'd left on the floor near the entrance. He couldn't move for a week; he settled for berating her for the terrible habit of whipping off the restricting garments as soon as she walked in the door without any thought for anyone else but she shut him up quite effectively by vanishing his clothes and tying him to the bed before kneeling over him to suck his cock, placing her clit just above his mouth. He had the choice of either joining in or continuing in his snit. It was the best oral sex she'd ever had.
Sometimes they stayed in her flat, though she always spent Sundays and Mondays in his cottage. The four poster bed he'd nicked from Hogwarts became her favourite place, as it gave her two beautiful views: her lover's face above her, lost in ecstasy, and the sea roaring under the cliffs below them.
The worst night was when each confessed their dreams to one another. Hermione had thought it romantic, believing that it pointed to their souls and minds knowing what their bodies didn't: that they'd give each other closure and peace. Severus had stormed out of her flat and for once, flung her door shut with a bang. He broke almost all of the tumblers in the cottage, flinging them off the cliffs and calling out his curses into the storm that surged over his head. He wanted her, without any interference from masters; he felt like he'd been on a leash, guided to her by something other than their own feelings.
She turned up at his gate the next evening with a knee length coat. When he walked out with an apologetic grimace and stood in front of her, she untied the coat and stood before him naked.
"This is me," she said, "as is. And there is nothing else that brought you to me, apart from me."
He gathered her up in his arms and took her into the cottage, kissed every inch of her skin and whispered his apology into her ear.
He came to enjoy helping her with the potions she was creating. Some nights would find him with Draco in the laboratory while Hermione nattered on at the blackboard, mostly to herself. Others were filled with wine and music, the two of them brewing late into the night. After the first time, he waved his godson out the door and fucked her on the bench, instructing her with a wicked smirk, "Keep the boots on, please, love."
She took him to meet her parents and he almost fainted in the front yard. It was worse when he was dragged in for tea with Witch One and Witch Two – having learnt that they had a strange fascination with his arse, he was unnerved to see their eyes on the back of his jeans as if he was an object.
"It's flattering, darling," Hermione said one afternoon. "Besides – you do have an amazing arse. You really do. It's a work of art. I'm a very lucky witch."
"Oh?" He thought for a moment, and then cast a stasis charm on the stew bubbling on the stove in her kitchen. "How do I know you're lucky, hm? Perhaps you should show me."
She took his suggestion to heart, though he hadn't quite meant for her to pleasure herself in front of him to display just how much she valued his… attributes. Not that he was complaining. He returned to the stew much later.
One year after he'd first turned up at her door, they drove along the Wild Atlantic Way. He booked the car and overrode the 'Fuck the Wizengamot' that appeared on the back window each time her little arse touched the driver's seat.
When she drove, he stretched his arm out to keep it behind her shoulders. He stared out at the coastline flashing by, the green hills rolling past. When he drove, she took hundreds if not thousands of photos and leaned out of the window so far that he thought she'd tilt the car. She unbuttoned his jeans and took him in her mouth; he pulled over to the side of the road and cast a quick charm to hide their terribly indecent activities, and fumbled until the seat pushed back, then pulled her into his lap, uncaring that her backside made the horn blow. The windows were full of steam by the time he came with a roar that rivalled the sea below.
He realised not long after that he truly loved her, this woman who was fearless and beautiful and smart, and he had loved her for what felt like years. When she murmured the same three words in return, he knew that he'd never smiled so much in his life.
Another year after that found him driving her around again. Hermione watched, perplexed, as he pulled over, got out of the car, strode to look at the view and then fell back into the driver's seat, grumbling unintelligible things under his breath.
"What are you doing?" she asked when he did it for the third time. She didn't even bother to get out of the car, just waited for him to look once, glower, and then get back into the driver's seat.
"Nothing, it seems," he replied and glanced at her with two faint pink spots on his cheeks.
"Severus?" Hermione narrowed her eyes, intrigued as her lover guided the car back onto the road and scoured the coastline. She certainly wasn't about to ask him to stop; whatever he was doing meant that she could look at him and indulge in the chance to examine his profile for as long as she wanted. He was still beautiful to her; he wore his hair tied loosely back most days, and while he hadn't grown the beard back, his cheeks were often rough, all the better to graze on her bare skin. There were a few new streaks of grey amongst the coal black strands of hair, and he wore thin black glasses to drive. Hermione would have been hard pressed indeed to find a time when he had been more attractive. She clenched her thighs together; surely such feelings were meant to have worn off by now? They hadn't – two years since he'd first been in her bed, and she was still reduced to a wet, wanting mess half of the time and a very gentle simmer for the rest.
"I'm looking for something," he ground out between his teeth.
"Looking for what? It's all mostly the same…" It wasn't, but he rewarded her cheek by rolling his eyes and laying a hand on her thigh.
"The same to you, perhaps," he said. "But I'm giving up. You'll just have to make do with what I have."
He ignored her and hours later the old four wheel drive rumbled up the last hill and came to a stop in front of his cottage. She waited while he circled the car and opened her door, accepting her kiss with a smirk of his own.
"What do you have planned, Severus?"
"Hm? Me? Nothing, love."
They sent the bags into the cottage and he tugged on her hand until they both stood near the edge of the cliff. The view always took her breath away, and today was no exception – for once the sky was a pale blue with barely a cloud to be seen. The wind was warm and gentle, but her curls, much longer now, still managed to whip around and splay themselves over her lover's back.
Severus stared out at the ocean, then back at her. His thin black eyebrows were furrowed, as if he was examining her like the potions they now made together.
"Hermione…" He ran a hand through his hair, and then set his shoulders with a nod. She arched an eyebrow when he turned to her and took both of her hands within his grasp.
Another man might have written a speech, or tacked together flowery words until they resembled something from a badly written film. Not her man; not her Severus.
"I'd like to say… No. I would like to ask..." He looked away, then back at her, resolve hardening his black eyes. "Oh, fuck it. Be my wife, Hermione. Marry me."
She burst into laughter, her head thrown back into the wind. "Since you asked so nicely!" she cried, giggling like a mad woman when he swore again and grinned before he let out a loud, disbelieving laugh. There was always going to be only one answer. She had known it from the minute she'd met him again, the very first time her feet had touched the land just steps away from where they stood now.
"Yes, yes, yes!"