This is a Happy Birthday present to my dear cousin Gwen, published a couple weeks early because I don't know where my time goes these days and I needed to publish before I forgot. Gwen, it seems that my best writing is done for you, so thank you for being the only person I know in RL who willingly accepts fanfiction as a gift. We are separated by an ocean but connected by love.
Thanks so much to Camille, who left some lovely reviews on To Love that started a great PM convo about the nature of love that resulted in this. She was a great help, so I thank her.
Some background: this takes place after the war, with the only difference being that Severus lives. It takes place over an approximately two year period, but a deliberately ambigious time frame after the war. Also, both teach at Hogwarts. I wanted practice writing an established relationship, so there is no explanation of how or why they got together. This is not an origin story, but a love story.
The first time that Severus Snape tells Hermione Granger that he loves her it is not with words but with a gesture. He pauses before kissing her, and captures a curl between two fingers, taking a moment to revel in the texture of her hair before tenderly tucking it behind her ear. His fingers stroke the shell of her ear and she sucks in a breath, the longing in her chest focused entirely on him.
His fingers trail down her cheek and to her lips, the pad of his finger sweeping over her lower lip. His eyes are intense on her face, on her eyes and not just her mouth.
Then, lightly, he presses a kiss to her mouth, a worshipful brush of his mouth, not the deep passionate kiss she was expecting. He lingers over her, breathing in her air, his arms holding her loosely. They've kissed before, twice, and this time she can finally see the disbelief and complete awe in his eyes. He is hers, finally, and Hermione feels tears come to her eyes once she realizes what it means.
His response- a caress and a kiss- to her saying "I love you" means that he loves her too.
The second time he tells her isn't as lovely.
The second time is when she sees him broken and bleeding with tears on his face and liquor on his breath. The damage the Dark Lord brought to Severus did not end with his death at the hands of Harry Potter. Now, five years dead, he comes as a threefold specter: as a ghost in dreams, as pain in old wounds, as invisible scars on a psyche almost beyond repair.
As Hermione bathes him tenderly, she does so in the knowledge that no one else has ever seen him as she sees him now, desperate and needy and utterly shattered by pain. What kind of pain she is not sure; he groans when she moves him and tears are leaking from his eyes and it takes a long time for him to recognize her.
When he does, Severus clutches Hermione to him and refuses to let go.
"You came, you came, you came for me." The sounds he makes form into words so slurred Hermione isn't sure she understands him, but she answers anyway.
"I'll always come for you."
And she will. She will come when he begs her through a Patronus at two in the morning, roused from a sleep rent by her own memories and her own pain. She will go to the dungeons for him, she will lead him away from the chair in front of the long dead fire and recently emptied bottle and to his bathroom.
It is the first time she sees him nude, the first time she can count and catalogue his scars, and Hermione weeps because even this has been taken from them by the Dark Lord.
But she knows that he loves her because it is her name he calls out in the depths of his pain now, not Lily's.
The third time creeps up on him in the dead of the night, when all else is silent and her breathing is so slow it is almost as if she is dead, so deep is her sleep.
"I love you," he whispers, practicing.
Hermione is sleeping, deeply this time, her thighs sticky with her orgasm and his. But she smiles at the rumble of his voice in the quiet of the dark. He knows she does not hear him and she does not comprehend, but it still fills his heart with the particular feeling that only Hermione's smiles can bring.
It makes him feel better about the fact that the words feel foreign in his mouth, that he can only tell her this at night when she is sleeping and not at night when she is awake. Or in the morning when she is awake, or at any other time when her eyes are open and sparkling as she tell him she loves him.
Because it hurts, it hurts when she tells him "I love you," and expects no answering affirmation in return. She has told him in a hundred different ways, whispering it to him like it's a secret, saying it casually as she leaves his rooms in the morning so she can change in her chambers before breakfast in the Great Hall, laughing through each word when she's particularly happy with him, gasping it before biting down on his shoulder as she shudders with her climax.
She assures him that she knows, that he doesn't need to say it for her to know that she is loved, adored, wanted. But still, it hurts.
So he has resolved to practice in the dead of night until the words can fall off his tongue and into her ears and tumble right down into her heart.
"What's this?" Number four, a vial of a pale green potion, is now next to her coffee mug. Hermione looks at the dour man next to her quizzically, despite the pounding in her head and the pain that comes when she uses her voice.
Severus gives her a withering glare that is not missed by the other occupants of the High Table in the Great Hall. "You are sick," he says, as if she's an idiot. "Drink it."
Headmistress McGonagall purses her lips in disapproval. "If Professor Granger needs a cure for her sore throat, that is what the Hospital Wing is for," she says waspishly. The Headmistress, like the rest of the teachers and all of the students, does not know that Hermione spends more nights in the Potions Master's bed than in hers, and on the nights that she is in her chambers by Ravenclaw Tower there is a surly, hook-nosed man sharing her bed with her. She accompanies her words with a significant look at Hermione, silently urging her to turn down the potion.
Hermione, however, has disregarded her and uncorked the vial. She sighs and steels herself for the taste, then knocks it back to bypass the disagreeable taste. The reason she hasn't gone to the Hospital Wing is because she hates the anise and rotten egg taste of the Sore Throat Cure more than she hates being unable to speak or swallow without pain.
But, to her surprise, the potion does not taste of anise seed and rotten eggs, but of rosemary and pine, an odd combination but not an unpleasant one. Instantly, her throat feels soothed and it doesn't hurt to swallow. The taste stays at the back of her throat, and Hermione feels tears burning at the back of her eyes.
"Thank you, Severus," she said finally, impulsively taking the hand that is on the table and squeezing it. She doesn't want to know how many hours he's spent over the three days since she first started complaining of a sore throat trying to brew a cure that didn't taste bad.
He responds to the squeeze, then pulls away from her grip, mumbling something into his own coffee mug. She smiles indulgently and doesn't care, because the taste of his love is still in her mouth.
Five is an entire night in the midst of November, one year from the first time she stretched up and kissed him in his office. Severus makes her dinner in his rooms, and they eat with casual conversation that doesn't quite match the heat in their eyes.
After dinner he takes her hand and pulls her into the bathroom, where he has lit candles that are now half melted and giving off a golden light that glints off the shine in her hair and the buttons on his shirt. A flick of his wand starts the bath. He sets the wand down on the counter, and uses his hands to undress her slowly. Hermione is wearing a button down shirt and for once he is glad of all the buttons because every button means a pause where he can press a kiss to her skin.
The bath fills and stops itself when the water threatens to slosh over the edge. Neither of them notices, because Hermione's gaze is fixed on the mirror, on the way her reflection's mouth is pink and open and the way her breasts are heaving but also on the man kneeling before her. His black hair is so vivid against the golden glow of her skin in candlelight, buried at the apex of her thighs, his strong hands holding her up so that she doesn't fall over.
While she is relearning how to breathe, he quickly sheds his clothes and steps into the bath. He draws her to him in the water, letting her rest against his chest and ignoring his own hardness. They talk for what seems like only seconds and only hours as the candles sink farther and farther into their own wax. One by one they flicker out, leaving long shadows to stretch across her body. When he finally slides into her, there are only two candles left and it is all he needs to see the familiar features of her face and the shapes her mouth makes as she mouths his name over and over and over again.
Only one candle is left when they leave the bath and he dries her tenderly. They sit on his bed, legs crossed like children, and he takes his time combing out her riotous hair. They are silent, both a little dazed by the intensity of their lovemaking. When he is finished with her hair, he plaits it into a clumsy braid and they fall asleep nude, his front pressed to her back.
It is only five days later that Hermione receives the news that her parents are both dead in the staff room, as a fall rain with winter winds whips the sides of the castle, howling a lament for summer as the piece of Hermione's heart that holds her childhood breaks. It is a Saturday, and she is tired and damp from chaperoning a Hogsmeade weekend but she had promised Minerva a game of chess so she is in the staff room when the bird finally finds her, not in her own rooms or Severus'.
The owl that has brought the news huddles close to the fire, a sodden mess, as Hermione unlashes the letter with leaden fingers. There is only one reason someone would send an owl out in such weather, and that reason is bad news. The entire staff room knows it, and looks on with curious horror. Neville Longbottom has just returned from reinforcing the glass of the greenhouses and knows exactly how miserable it is outside; he is an unhealthy grey color and looks almost as nervous as Hermione.
She hates all the eyes on her, and Severus knows it. He watches as she reads the letter and as tears gather in her eyes, as she stands and wavers for a moment.
"My parents," she says dully. "A car crash." He knows that after all that she had done in the war to protect her parents, sacrificing their trust and risking their memories of her all to make sure that they would be safe, to have them die in the most mundane of ways carries the nauseating sucker punch of bitter irony. For years afterward they refused to talk to her, and it has only been a handful of months now that she leaves the castle on the odd Sunday to have a cautious dinner at their house. She had been planning to bring Severus to the next one.
Condolences rain upon her, harder than the rain outside. He sees how each offer of sympathy and sorrow physically hits her, and how her eyes seek him out and beg him for help. She knows it goes against every instinct he has for privacy and how much he hates public displays of affection and the lengths to which he has gone to keep their relationship a secret. Still, her eyes beg and he loves her, and he has no choice but to show it.
He stands, and she goes to him, and he opens his arms to her and she falls into them, sobbing. Glaring at the crowd, daring them to say something, he scoops her into his arms and leaves the staff room.
Questions follow number six, and Severus' response is number seven.
Hermione has left for London to plan her parents' funerals, and Severus walks into the staff room with a heavy heart. He misses her already. She had snatched two hours of precious sleep, tears leaking out of her eyes even in slumber, on his chest. Severus has had none. How could he sleep when she is in such pain? The answer is he doesn't, he simply holds her and wipes the tears away when they come too fast and strokes her hair. Sometimes he practices. The guilt, that he is still unable to say it to her when she is in so much pain, also kept him awake.
Eyes flicker to him the moment he enters the staff room. His eyes go to the abandoned chess game, where Hermione's king is still in checkmate, awaiting his death sentence, then to the Headmistress.
"Hermione will be in London, for at least the next two days," he says finally. "May I have permission to leave the castle tomorrow?"
"I had been planning on covering Hermione's classes," she says faintly. "I don't know who would cover yours-"
"I can," offers Neville Longbottom. Severus' eyebrows snap together, and he looks at the man in surprise. He looks faintly terrified, but sure. "So you can be there for Hermione." Longbottom looks uncomfortable with all the eyes on him. "I wouldn't have them brew anything, just maybe review how plants are used. And um- Headmistress, the rain is supposed to last until Tuesday, so I was planning on cancelling Herbology anyway."
Severus goes over to him, and offers his hand. Neville stands, awkwardly, and shakes it. "Thank you, Professor Longbottom," Severus says, appraising him carefully. "From me, and from Hermione."
"Severus-" begins McGonagall, but her words fail her when the Potions Master's dark eyes turn to her, glittering dangerously. "Um- Severus, why-"
"She needs me," Severus says in a curt voice. "And I am hers, so I will go to her." Acknowledging it in front of the entire room makes him feel slightly sick to his stomach. He gives the entire room his best glare. "If anyone has anything to say about it, you will direct your comments to me and not to her. If I hear of anyone bothering Professor Granger about this, I will personally poison your morning beverage."
The room is silent, the only sound the roaring of the wind outside. Severus sneers at them all, then swoops out of the room. He has Hermione to attend to.
He finds her at her parent's flat in London, and is her shadow for the next two days. It is a testament to her distraught state that she doesn't even question who is taking her classes or his or why he is with her. She just accepts is fact, because it is.
Harry Potter and Ron Weasley are surprised and a little disturbed to find him in her flat when they come to visit, to offer their sympathy and their strength. Weasley bears a casserole prepared by his mother, and Potter a bottle of Firewhiskey. From letters and brief conversations at the Three Broomsticks they know that Hermione had befriended Snape, but they did not expect to see him in her home, wearing a deep green sweater that bears damp spots from Hermione's tears. ("He wears colors?" asks Ron when he thinks he is out of earshot)
Severus is cordial to them, reining in his glares and stubbornly keeping his arm around Hermione's shoulders. He partakes in the Firewhiskey toast, and says nothing when a heated conversation breaks out while he is in the kitchen making tea.
"Um- since when, Hermione?"
"Do you two really think this is the time to question my decisions about my love life?"
"Sorry, really, but Snape?"
"I love him."
"He's Snape, Hermione, he's a Death Eater-"
"Say one more word about that and I'll hex you out of my house."
"Okay, okay. Now isn't the time, I get that-"
"You don't get it, Ronald. He's everything to me."
He figures it's time to make it clear to the wonder prats- to Hermione's friends, they can't be the wonder prats anymore if she and therefore the two of them are going to be a permanent part of his life- that he is serious.
"And I feel the same about her," he says, setting down the tea tray with a pointed look. "So that should be the end of it all." Hermione reclaims his arm, curling into the heat of his body. He smiles down at her, catching the look the two boys exchange. He knows that smiles look odd on his face, but Hermione says she loves them so he smiles for her. Only for her. There is so much that he does that is only for her, and putting up with Harry Potter is going to be one of them.
He shows them to the door when it looks like Hermione is going to fall asleep on the couch. Conversation has grown awkward and stilted anyway, so when they announce that they are leaving it makes everyone breathe a sigh of relief.
They are at the door when they both hesitate, and face him. Severus sighs mentally. He has been expecting this since they showed up at the door.
"Don't hurt her," says Weasley, his chin stubbornly set. Severus is discomfited to know that he has seen the same expression on his lover's face many times, and that he doesn't know if it is something Weasley picked up from her or she from him.
Potter lifts a hand. "Not that we are saying you would," he hastens to say. "But- Hermione, she's-"
"My world," Severus says quietly. "She may not be in the hands of a good man, but she is in the hands of a man who cherishes her."
He had not meant for Hermione to hear him. When her hands slip around his waist, he jumps, and flushes uncomfortably. "You are a good man, Severus," she tells him, and the boys. "I'm okay, boys, really. I'll see you tomorrow."
She drops her arms from him to hug first Weasley, and then Potter, stretching to kiss their cheeks. "Goodnight."
They leave and it is just the two of them in the echoing apartment that Hermione uses when school is not in session. She hugs him again. "I've never heard you say that," she mumbles into his shirt.
"That you cherish me," she whispers.
The guilt tears at him. "I- Hermione-"
She reaches up and kisses him awkwardly, tenderly. "I knew it, of course, but I hadn't realized how nice it was to hear it." Her weeping has made her eyes red and the skin around them puffy. Her hair is drawn back into a ponytail and is a bushy mess. Still, she is beautiful to him and he wants nothing more than to bring a smile back to her face.
Once everyone knows, they don't try to actively hide it anymore. Hermione tells him she loves him in the staffroom, in the Great Hall, in the corridors between classes. She kisses the top of his head (out of sight of the students of course), holds his hand under the table, and admonishes him to eat more.
The rest of the staff watches with curious and then wary eyes, as Severus responds to these gestures. When she kisses him, he just glares at her (but it is the glare that says I love you). When she holds his hand under the table, he says nothing and hardly looks at her, but his thumb strokes the thin skin of the back of her hand. When she admonishes him to eat more, he calls her a nosy, impertinent, insufferable know-it-all who can't keep her nose out of his business, his particular version of pet names and thanks for the concern. She just huffs and calls him a grumpy bastard. But when she tells him she loves him, in plain view of other people, he gives her his crooked half smile and she beams as if he's told her he's taking them away to Paris to get married.
He can't bring himself to say it even then, especially then, with all the eyes watching them and all the ears listening. So instead, he says it in little ways.
Severus brings Hermione a cup of tea in the staffroom, made exactly the way she likes it. Two sugars, and only two or three drops of milk, barely there. He leaves it on the table next to the armchair she has claimed as her own, with a biscuit.
One day she is rubbing the back of her neck because it's been a long, long day full of poorly done Transfigurations and he comes behind her and rubs her neck, digging his thumbs into her muscles until they relax. He jumps back when she makes a breathy noise and sighs his name, drawing attention. She pouts when he moves away, but when he catches her eye from firmly across the room, he promises to finish later.
When there is a platter of tarts for dessert and Minerva takes the last apple one before Hermione has a chance, Severus sighs and places his on her plate, even though apple is also his favorite. He takes a plum tart instead. He would rather eat some rather sour plums while watching Hermione's happy face than eat an apple tart as she mopes. That others notice his gesture does not escape him, but Severus finds he doesn't quite care.
It's all in the little things. How when she's grading essays in the staff room and he notices that her ink jar is low, he fetches her another and leaves it by her right before it runs out. When they arrive at the Great Hall for lunch at the same time, he pulls out her chair for her, sneering at anyone who might dare comment. He takes over the three detentions she's assigned when she has the flu.
That's how he tries to say that he loves her without words, and Severus feels grateful every day that Hermione seems to understand.
Severus doesn't always get it right, and a prime example is the Yule Ball Minerva insists on holding for some reason. It's on Christmas Eve, and Severus would rather be by the fire in the room Hermione insisted on decorating with a tree and tinsel of all things. Still, one tree and some tasteful tinsel are far better than the monstrosity that is the Great Hall decorated for the Yule Ball.
Hermione, however, is having the time of her life. During the feast, she chatters away happily with all the staff members around them, unfazed by Severus' surly expression. She looks beautiful in pale gold dress robes, like a sun goddess or a like the princess from the fairy tale, clothed in a gown made from sunbeams. This time, she enters the Great Hall with her hair in all its curly glory, instead of painstakingly straightened with potions. Now, more than half a decade after the end of the war, she has filled out nicely, and her robes hug her hips and her breasts and show the world how tiny her waist is- Severus isn't sure he likes how closely they fit once they leave his rooms.
His mood grows more dour once the meal is over and the Great Hall is cleared for dancing. Severus sees Hermione look at him with hesitant expectancy, but scowls and stalks away, headed for a place by the wall where he can observe and not dance.
Instead, a gallant Neville Longbottom offers his hand, and a slightly hurt Hermione takes it and they waltz together on the dance floor. The students join them after the first song. Hermione dances with Neville, with Hagrid, with the Head Boy, and, somewhat awkwardly, with Flitwick. With each man's hands on her waist, his scowl grows more fierce.
When she finally joins him at the wall, Severus Snape's face is so black that not a single person has dared to come closer than ten feet to him. Hermione frowns as she approaches, leaving the happy smile at the perimeter. She can do nothing about the flushed cheeks or the quickness of her breath, and so those signs of her exertion remain.
"What's the problem, Severus?" she asks him quietly. "You didn't want to dance with me."
Severus' eyes flicker to the people watching them. "I- I don't dance, Hermione."
She moves closer to him, her voice wheedling and soft. "But it's fun, Severus."
He glares at her, his eyes narrow and more dangerous that she has seen them in a long while. "I do not dance."
Instead of glaring back, like he half expects her to, her frown deepens, and she moves closer to him, leaning against the wall to watch the crowds with him. "Why?" she asks softly. "Do you know how?"
Severus stiffens. "Of course," he snaps. "The last time I was at a ball like this, it was at Malfoy Manor. The Dark Lord liked dancing before revelry."
He hears Hermione sigh, long and low, before linking her arm through his. "It brings back bad memories?" she asks finally.
"Yes," he replies curtly.
She touches his arm, drawing his gaze to her face. Hermione's large brown eyes are both sad and hopeful. "Have you considered trying to replace them with happier ones?"
He does mull it over for a moment. Finally, he offers her his arm- not his hand. She accepts, a bit confused. Severus leads her to the doors leading out to the grounds, where an enchanted rose garden has been set up. He leads her through the garden, as if he knows the maze like the back of his hand.
When they stop they are in the small clearing that is the center of the maze. There is a bench in the way; Severus vanishes it with a wave of his hand. "Dance with me here," he offers.
"There's no more music," Hermione says, but she settles one hand in his, and one hand on his shoulder. His free hand drops to the curve of her waist.
He smiles at her, confident that the darkness hides his face. "We don't need it," he says, drawing her close to him. He bends his head so that his mouth is by her ear and hums a song with a simple rhythm. Their feet move in tandem, and they are dancing.
It is quiet and slightly chilly, although the garden is covered in warming spells. There is just the sound of their breathing and Severus' low, slightly out of key humming. Hermione's eyes are closed in bliss, and she just lets her lover guide her through the steps.
"I want you to be happy," Severus says after a while, when they no longer need the music to dance. "Just- anytime, anywhere, if there is something I can do to make you happy, tell me."
Hermione smiles up at him, stretches to kiss his lips. They stop dancing, letting their mouths slide across the other's lips, no tongue and no teeth, just a simple kiss. "I love you too," says Hermione, smiling against his mouth.
In the summer, Severus and Hermione retreat to a small cottage not far from a beach. There is quiet and sunshine and peace, and no one to intrude if they want to walk around in dressing gowns and make love in the kitchen.
They split tasks evenly. Severus is good at cooking, Hermione is not. He makes meals and cleans the dishes because she hates dishwater. Hermione sweeps the floors and does the shopping in town and does the laundry. It is their second summer in the cottage together, and it is the easiest thing in the world to slip into a routine that lets the rest of the world pass by.
Mornings, they sleep late, legs tangled together. Some mornings they make love quietly, or Severus decides to wake Hermione up with his mouth between her legs, or with kisses that start behind her ear and make their way down the lines of her neck and collarbones to her breasts. Somehow he is always awake before she is. Every morning he spoils her, leaving the warmth of their bed and returning with two cups of dark coffee and the paper. Severus does the crossword and Hermione reads the articles, reading the more interesting ones aloud.
When coffee is finished and the paper and crossword are finished, they make their way to the kitchen for lunch. It is simple fare, simple but good, and most of the time they eat siting on the counters rather than at the little table with its glass vase filled with blue flowers.
Afternoons are spent in lazy reading or brewing or, as August draws to a close, lesson plans and other school related work. There is an old wireless radio, and sometimes if he's in the right mood and the right song is playing, Hermione can convince Severus to dance with her, although it quickly gets lost in kissing.
Although it's technically her job to takes the dry clothes down from the line, nearly every Sunday she finds Severus at the middle of the line, where he quickly folds the last shirt he is holding and kisses her quickly, before disappearing back inside.
Without the pressures of the outside world it is like he is another man, one who smiles easy (it's a crooked half smile but it is an expression of joy on his face and that makes her heart fill with love) and laughs and who doesn't brood as much as he does in the castle. There is peace and there is joy and their little house is filled with love of the sweetest kind.
One day in September, only a handful of days after her birthday, Hermione collapses in her Transfiguration class. One moment she is teaching and the next she wavers and falls to the floor, hitting her head on the corner of her desk in the process. There is blood and there are frantic students, but thankfully one second year has the sense to run for Madam Pomfrey and another to the Headmistress.
Severus is teaching the sixth years to make the Draught of Living Death when Headmistress McGonagall knocks on the door to his dungeon classroom.
"It appears we have a… visitor," he drawls. "Perhaps it is the absent Miss Pickett? Enter!"
But when the Headmistress steps in, a worried look on her old face, something in the vicinity of Severus' chest freezes. Instinctively he knows it has to do with Hermione, before the woman says anything.
"It's Professor Granger," she says, aware of the students around them. Severus isn't aware that her name falls out of his mouth like a stone. The students look at each other, and then at their cauldrons.
Severus stalks up to McGonagall. "Where is she?" he asks, his voice dangerously low.
"Hospital Wing," says the Headmistress. To her credit she is not intimidated by the Potions Master.
With his wand and a few words, Severus Vanishes the contents of every cauldron in the room. "You are all dismissed," he snaps. "Out!"
He is out the door before the students realize that their work of almost two hours is gone. The stairs move for him, the castle aids its old friend as he runs up staircase after staircase and across corridors that seem to shorten for him, unused classrooms disappearing, as he makes his way to the Hospital Wing. The whole time his heart is beating in his ears and nothing but running kept the panic from spilling out of his chest and through his mouth and onto the floor.
When he arrives, eyes wild and chest heaving, he doesn't see her right away. Severus' heart freezes in his chest and drops through the floor before he hears her voice.
"Honestly, Poppy, I'm fine-" and then his heart starts again and he sags against the door frame in weak kneed relief.
He turns the corner and sees Hermione there, stubbornly facing off against the mediwitch. It would have been a funny sight but for the paleness of her cheeks and the traces of blood on her collar and the fact that she was in a bed instead of standing up. Still, her face brightened when she saw him.
"Severus! Tell Poppy that I'm fine and that we've known that Dolohov's curse hurt my heart in my fifth year and that there is no reason to keep me for observation after just one little dizzy spell-" Severus runs his thumb over her bottom lip and presses it over her mouth, reassuring himself that she is alive and warm and breathing before facing Poppy.
"I will do no such thing," he says tartly. "What happened?"
It turns out that it was a simple enough cause- the curse that weakened her heart when she was sixteen still bothers Hermione sometimes, and she had not eaten enough at breakfast, she had not sat down with her dizzy spell, and she had hit her head on her way down. It all combined made the situation more dramatic than Hermione feels it has any right to be, but Severus is taking none of it.
He sits down on her bed and refuses to move until Poppy runs every check she can think of and a few more that he comes up with. Hermione eventually sighs and rests her head on his shoulder and lets the magic and his worry wash over her. She can practically feel the gossip spreading through the school, as evidenced by a brave pair of fourth years who walk into the Hospital Wing and barely squeak when they see her leaning on Severus. His flight through the corridors has already made Hogwarts history.
When he is finally reassured that she is fine, Severus holds her to him and pressed a kiss to her temple. "I can't lose you," he tells her quietly. "Anything else I could do without but not you."
She knows it for what it is, and turns her head so she can give him a chaste peck on the lips. Out of the corner of her eye, she sees Poppy blush.
"I love you, you great silly worrywart," fondness in every line of her face and in the soft inflection of her voice.
It slips out one day, quiet as snow-muffled steps on a winter day. They are in bed, Severus' larger form curled around Hermione's for warmth.
"I love you," he says, his voice a rumble and nothing more in his chest. It's easier this way, when she can't see him and all he can see of her is her hair in his face.
He feels her surprise in the lines of her body. There is little she can hide from him when they are nude like this, pressed against each other until he can feel each breath she takes in his own chest. "I love you too, Severus."
He kisses the back of her neck and holds her closer.
She said it back.
The glow of his happiness settles in his skin and he laughs, low and serious.
Hermione turns over in his arms to look at him. "What's so funny?" she asks. There are something like the beginning of tears in her eyes, but she's trying to not draw attention to his admission.
"That I loved you for years and it's taken me so bloody long to say it," he says, kissing her lips swiftly. "How did you put up with me for so long?"
She stretches her neck to kiss him back. "I knew," she said tenderly. "You've shown me often enough over the last two years."
In the end the moment passes and is brushed over, a footprint that quickly disappears in the blizzard around it. It means everything and nothing at the same time, words that convey a meaning so deep that it feels almost sacrilegious because it can be given more genuinely in in actions rather than in words.
There are more kisses and more sighs and more tender words, but at the end of the night they are still just Severus and Hermione, man and woman, lover and beloved.
Shameless fluff, I know. What can I saw, I'm drowning in angst in all my other fics.
Reviews would be lovely, and if you liked this story I have plenty of other SSHG stories that you can check out! Thanks for reading.